For Those Who Are Sad

Photo by Ye Fung Tchen on Unsplash

Can I cradle you in the nook of my arms? If you were here, would you let me? Hold you I mean? I don’t just want a hug. I want to hold you so we cry together. Kiss the top of your forehead like a mother would. On the shoulder of comfort, let your tears drench my shirt and I will love you like an infant. Can these words hold your head up? I do not want the soft spot of your pain to blemish the fragile newness of the warrior you are becoming. Your critics will look at what you are, but I see what you can become. But you’ve got to let me do my job. Let me hold you. Cradle you in my arms. This is not a blog. Not today. Today this is air. This is breath. This is the permission to breathe. This is words wooing lullabies for the exhausted spirits of the broken.

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Because it Fits You

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Everything you have is yours. It is yours because it is in perfect sync with your life. You have a big family because it’s fitting for you. You have a small family because it’s fitting for you. You have gifts and talents because it is fitting for you. You have a good career or job because it is fitting for you. It works. And why is it fitting for you? Because everything you have is everything, you need in the moment you need it. When you think of it this way, even the things you don’t have that you may want or need start to take on new meaning. Gratitude starts to take on new meaning. What you don’t have is not fit for you and it doesn’t matter how much you think it is, the fact you do not have it means it is not fitting. Not at this moment. Maybe it will fit later but it does not fit now. “Why can’t I have?” Because it doesn’t fit you. “Why is this happening?” Because it is fitting for your strength. “Why won’t they?” Because they aren’t fit for you. Everything you do have is for your purpose and is tailor-made to fit your life perfectly and no one can take that away from you.

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Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Short Violent Life of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer: So Young to Kill, So Young to Die.

On Wednesday, August 31, 1994, Yummy “Robert” Sadifier was shot in the back of the head with a .25 caliber pistol at a viaduct at 108th & Dauphin Avenue in Roseland, Chicago, IL. At 12:30 am police found him lying on dirt and bits of broken glass according to newspaper reports. They pronounced him dead at 2:20 am, on Thursday, September 1, 1994. He was the city’s 637th murder victim of the year.

On January 3, 1993, The Chicago Tribune ran a headline, “Killing Our children,” that read: “In 1992, 57 children age 14 or under were murdered in the Chicago area, felled by snipers, sacrificed by gangs, killed by parents. It was a year for burying the young.”

In early ‘94, when I was just in the second grade and we lived in the Robert Taylor Projects on Chicago’s south side, my uncle came to pick us up from school early because the gangs were at war and there was a lot of shooting. We had to run to our building, shielded by our uncle.

This is the kind of environment Yummy’s growing up in.

Robert “Yummy” Sandifer was born on March 12, 1983, the fourth of ten children born to Lorina Sandifer. His father, Robert Atkins, went to prison three months before he was born and Lorina was a prostitute who neglected her children, according to news reports. On January 19, 1986, they removed Robert Jr. from his mother’s home when police found him and his older siblings in the house alone. DCFS, the Department of Children and Family Services, intervened in August 1986 and turned Robert and his siblings over to their grandmother Jannie Fields. But a Cook County Probation Officer, according to Time Magazine, said that Field’s home was not a nurturing place for Robert. The young Robert found refuge in the streets among gang members as most young black males do who grow up poor, no family, no friends, no education and little opportunity. Yummy joined the gang and racked up a record too long for his young age.
  • January, ’92 – Arrested
  • July ’92 – Prosecuted for robbery, case dropped, witness doesn’t show
  • January ’93 – Attempted robbery, trying to steal jacket, witness doesn’t show, case dropped
  • May, ’93 – Attempted Robbery, key witness doesn’t appear
  • June, ’93 –  Robbery Charge, sentenced 2 yrs probation, he is only ten

Yummy was charged with 23 felonies and 5 misdemeanors in his short life. He was prosecuted on eight felonies and convicted twice; sentenced to probation – the most punitive penalty available under state law, at the time, for children under 13. Even for murder, state law barred jailing children under 13 in an Illinois Department of Corrections youth facility.” – https://newafrikan77.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-forgotten-story-of-robert-yummy-sandifer/

Yummy also used guns, allegedly killing Shavon Dean, a 14-year-old girl who lived next door to him two weeks before his own murder.

“Police hunted Yummy, putting descriptions of him in the paper and pounding the streets for the eleven-year-old on the run. By midnight, August 29, 1994, the Chicago Police were working with FBI agents with 20-30 officers involved (Detective Cornelius Spencer). “Dozens of police officers – tactical units, gang crimes officers and detectives –joined by members of the FBI’s Fugitive Task Force fanned out searching for the boy as far away as Milwaukee, nearly two hours away, where Yummy had a relative, Nevels told The Chicago Sun-Times. The case was discussed at roll calls at every police district in the city.” – https://newafrikan77.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-forgotten-story-of-robert-yummy-sandifer/

Grandmother fields also searched for her grandson. She received a call from him asking why the police were looking for him. He was ready to come home. They agreed to meet on 95th Street but when she got there Yummy was gone. She waited until 10:00pm. The boy never showed. Yummy was murdered at 12am, a sad end to a 77-hour boy-hunt that put Chicago on the map for its violence.

Robert had no mother, no father, and no family to nurture him. In fact, he was abused. He was taken to the hospital at 22 months with cigarette burns on his body.

“There were 49 scars,” said Donoghue at the trial of Derrick Hardaway. “I had to use two diagrams.” There were so many scars on Yummy’s body he could not use the one chart typically used by medical examiners.”

He turned to the streets and was said to be an impressionable kid. He looked up to gang members and was a member of the BDs or Black Disciples. Based on the descriptions of the robbery charges and the witnesses “not showing,” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that the crimes Robert committed were being ordered by older and higher-ranking members of the gang. They had to silence him before the police got to him. “Dead men tell no tales,” said a 37-year-old uncle of Robert. “They put him to sleep.”

How does one judge the criminal life of an eleven-year-old with no stability? I can only imagine how scared he must have been with the FBI and police looking for him.

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As a kid, Robert was small for his age. He loved to swim, draw, and loved cars. He loved Gyros, Chocolate Chip and Oreo cookies. He loved cookies so much so that it gave him the nickname Yummy. A neighbor interviewed says he was bad, fought and broke into people’s houses.

The mayor of Chicago admitted that Yummy had slipped through the cracks. Just what cracks were those? The sharp crevices that trap children and break them into cruel little pieces. Chicago’s authorities had known about Yummy for years. He was born to a teenage addict mother and a father now in jail. As a baby he was burned and beaten. As a student he often missed more days of school than he attended. As a ripening thug he shuttled between homes and detention centers and the safe houses maintained by his gang. The police arrested him again and again and again; but the most they could do under Illinois law was put him on probation. Thirteen local juvenile homes wouldn’t take him because he was too young.

-Nancy Gibbs, Time Magazine

“Nobody didn’t like that boy. Nobody gonna miss him,” said Morris Anderson, 13. Anderson used to get into fistfights with Yummy. “He was a crooked son of a___,” said a local grocer, who had barred him from the store for stealing so much. “Always in trouble. He stood out there on the corner and strong- armed other kids.” (Murder in Miniature, Time Magazine)

“Everyone thinks he was a bad person, but he respected my mom, who’s got cancer,” says Kenyata Jones, 12. Yummy used to come over to Jones’ house several times a month for sleep-overs. “We’d bake cookies and brownies and rent movies like the old Little Rascals in black and white,” says Jones. “He was my friend, you know? I just cried and cried at school when I heard about what happened,” he says, plowing both hands into his pants pockets for comfort before returning to his house to take care of his mother. “And I’m gonna cry some more today, and I’m gonna cry some more tomorrow too.”

According to Yummy’s aunt:

“He wasn’t violent and he wasn’t bad. The way they talkin bout now, that’s not true. He was this and he was that and I know that he was not. He was very short to be his age, he was real short. He was very smart he could draw, he could read, he could write.”

Gloria, Robert’s Aunt, Weekend TV, September, 1994

According to news reports though, Robert was illiterate and personally, I believe it. I think he was smart (as his friends says he used to invent stuff and at 11 he already knew how to drive cars), but I also believe he had no guidance and no one there to nurture him. I believe his aunt that he was smart but I also believe he struggled in school. Coming from a broken home and struggling as he did goes hand in hand with not excelling academically. I wish there was someone there to nurture his intellect. It makes me sad to think he had no one.

Shavon’s aunt, the teen Robert killed by stray bullet, also says in the same video that she never had a problem out of Robert. “He respects me,” she said in the film. She has even taken him on a trip with her. She says, “I can’t say that he killed my niece because I wasn’t there. It was at nighttime and nighttime has no eyes and bullets have no direction.”

Was Yummy innocent or guilty? Did his age make him innocent or did his murders make him guilty? How does one judge the criminal life of an eleven-year-old who was about to turn himself in when he was shot in the head? And what of the two young brothers found guilty of his murder? They were young too and ordered to kill Yummy by the same gang in exchange for their own lives. This story is sad because ultimately, four babies lost their lives: Shavon Dean (14), Cragg and Derrick Hardaway (16 and 14, currently spending their lives behind bars for Yummy’s murder), and Robert “Yummy” Sandifer.

Only Yah can judge them.

 

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On September 2nd, the Chicago Tribune ran an article called Robert: Executed at 11, calling Yummy a Victim and Victimizer. September 19, 1994, Yummy stared out at the country on the front cover of the September edition of Time Magazine with the headline:

“The Short Violent Life of Robert ‘Yummy‘ Sandifer: So Young to Kill So Young to Die.”

Grief

 

it came in waves today

grief did

the sound of Yolanda Adams opening her heart

did it

I was wrong to listen

her voice was a gun

her lyrics, a trigger

me, the victim

she was thunder

my tears

rain

Yolanda knows I can’t listen to that song

it hoola hooped on the radio in ’99

the year we lived with him

and I combed my Barbie’s hair to her voice

as my Dad’s memory rode on the backs of those lyrics

a warrior

the knight and shining armor

of my adolescents

invisible crown on his head

he is bald now

cancer ate away his hair

and I rubbed Witch Hazel on his foot

I kissed his forehead

I am thirteen again and my heart is inexperienced

I am not ready for the lightening on its way to me

My hands are too small to hold the weight of what’s about to happen

“What if I choose the wrong thing to do?”

she sings

and in my warrior walks

the cab driver in nice suits

his words are “hip” like his style and his commandments

“don’t sleep ready rose,” meaning,

“don’t sleep in your outside clothes”

“I feel so lost, I don’t know what to do,”

in he walks

tight-roping Yolanda’s lyrics

In those sharp suits

riding on the back of my preteen memories

and I curl my small fingers into a fist

and fit them inside the center of my Dad’s palm

the way we used to do

the way his hand covered my entire fist

the way he’s tight-roping on my heart strings

the way memory crawled its way into my throat this morning

“I just need to hear one word from you,” 

Yolanda’s voice penetrates the clouds

the thunder growls

the lightning strikes

and I am thirteen again and the year is 2000

the final moan of a passing storm

and James walks out of the door

his name planting kisses on my forehead

and anointing my eyes

with grief

Black History Fun Fact Friday – How the Election of 1960 Changed the Majority Black Vote

On the tail-end of his TMZ interview, Kanye West posed a question, “is it true that blacks used to be Republican?” He went on to say, “the majority of African Americans used to be Republican….what was the reason that majority of blacks went from being Republican to being Democrats?”

I thought it would be a good time to merge current events with a fun fact for anyone who may have been left confused. While I won’t say that every black American did so (that wouldn’t be accurate), it is true that until the 1960s, the majority black American voted Republican. And for the record, let me be crystal clear: I am not a Republican and I am not a Democrat. They are two wings of the same bird as far as I am concerned. Malcolm X said it best:

I’m no politician. I’m not even a student of politics. I’m not a Republican, nor a Democrat, nor an American – and got sense enough to know it. I’m one of the 22 million black victims of the Democrats. One of the 22 million black victims of the Republicans and one of the 22 million black victims of Americanism. And when I speak, I don’t speak as a Democrat or a Republican, nor an American.

– Malcolm X, (1964). Speech, The Ballot or the Bullet. Retrieved from http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/mx.html

Due the African American experience in this country (U.S.), most black voters I’ve spoken to support the party they feel are in the best interest of black people (even if they really aren’t, ijs) and back then this party was the Republican party. It was the party of Lincoln, who many blacks saw as a hero because of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the enslaved in certain states.

A little-known fact is that Martin Luther King Dr. was closer to Republican candidate Richard Nixon than he was Kennedy. King and Nixon were friends. They met in Ghana in March 1957 and agreed to stay in touch. That summer, Nixon worked with King to strengthen the 1957 Civil Rights Bill.

Nixon and MLK

“I will long remember the rich fellowship which we shared together and the fruitful discussion that we had,” Dr. King later wrote to the vice president, telling him “how deeply grateful all people of goodwill are to you for your assiduous labor and dauntless courage in seeking to make the Civil Rights Bill a reality… This is certainly an expression of your devotion to the highest mandates of the moral law.” – MLK

Nixon replied, “I am sure you know how much I appreciate your generous comments. My only regret is that I have been unable to do more than I have. Progress is understandably slow in this field, but we at least can be sure that we are moving steadily and surely ahead.” (Read Nixon’s full letter to King Here.)

King and Nixon talked often and after a black woman in Harlem stabbed Dr. King at his book signing in September 1958, Nixon was among the first to write to him.

Why are we talking about this?

Because what halted their friendship had a lot to do with what also ultimately halted the majority black vote of the Republican Party.

In his fiery inaugural speech in January of 1963, the new governor of Alabama, George Wallace had pledged, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” (you know, the clip used in every documentary about the civil rights movement) This launched civil rights protests throughout the city of Birmingham, Alabama.

Birmingham at the time was already a very racists city. It was where lots of Civil Rights activity took place that was met with violence and the city was nicknamed Bomingham because of the number of bombings that took place on a regular basis from people in opposition to integration. Such bombings resulted in the bombing of homes and lead to such tragedies as the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963 killing four little girls. The church stood in an area common for such attacks.

When King was arrested on October 19, 1960 during a sit-in protest of lunch counters in Atlanta and sentenced to hard labor, Civil Rights Activists approached both sides, Democratic and Republican, rallying for someone to do something to get King out of jail. Nixon even got a visit from Jackie Robinson, asking him to help with getting Dr. King out. Robinson was opposed to John F. Kennedy as President because he thought he was weak on Civil Rights and so did many black Americans at that time. It was common knowledge that the Democrats had the support of Southern racists. During the campaign, Kennedy raised suspicions in the black community by his support of Southerners, meeting privately with them and promising Governor Vandiver that as president he would never use federal troops to force Georgia to desegregate its schools.

Long story short, Nixon shot Robinson down, saying, it would be “grandstanding” to speak out in defense of King, according to his aide William Safire. This forever changed Nixon and King’s relationship….and King’s endorsement.

“I always felt that Nixon lost a real opportunity to express … support of something much larger than an individual, because this expressed support of the movement for civil rights in a way. And I had known Nixon longer. He had been supposedly close to me, and he would call me frequently about things, getting, seeking my advice. And yet, when this moment came, it was like he had never heard of me, you see.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It is my opinion that Nixon withdrew because he had ulterior motives with starting Cointel Pro, the Counter Intelligence Program that destroyed such black revolutionary organizations as The Black Panthers.

Meanwhile, Bobby and Jack Kennedy discussed the political ramifications of getting King out of jail. Senator Kennedy phoned Governor Vandiver asking if there was anything the Governor could do to get King out. (Thomas, Evans (2013). Robert Kennedy: His Life. pp 103.) Vandiver didn’t want to do it but he wanted Kennedy to win the presidency. A call was made to Coretta Scott King, word got out about the phone call, rumors spread, and shortly afterward, King was released from jail. Upon landing in Atlanta, King endorsed Kennedy and because blacks supported King, they supported Kennedy in mass.

While I cannot say for sure this swung the black vote in the Democrats favor 100% (there’s no way to provide proof of this on my part), I do know it had a LOT to do with it.

“Nixon in 1960 won just 32 percent… Four years later, facing Barry Goldwater, Lyndon Johnson won 94 percent of the black vote, which set a demographic pattern that endures.”

(Frank, J (2013, 21 January). When Martin Luther King Jr. and Richard Nixon Were Friends. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-martin-luther-king-jr-and-richard-nixon-were-friends)

Meanwhile, Kennedy had been in the White House for years and had not delivered on his promise to support new anti-discrimination measures. When he was a Senator, he had promised that he would which resulted in a ton of support from African American voters.

“The first thing the cracker does when he comes in power, he takes all the Negro leaders and invites them for coffee. To show that he’s all right. And those Uncle Toms can’t pass up the coffee. They come away from the coffee table telling you and me that this man is all right. Oh, I say you been misled. You been had. You been took.”

– Malcolm X

Malcolm X, By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X Speeches and Writings (Atlanta, GA: Pathfinder Press, 1992), 59

It wasn’t until violent protests forced Kennedy to act that he did act. Racial tensions had reached a fever pitch. American citizens were horrified to see blacks being bitten by dogs, beaten with clubs, and drowned with water-hoses. Protests were getting more violent. All of this led up to the signing of the Civil Rights Act.  John F. Kennedy proposed and Lyndon B Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement

…and many blacks have been voting Democratic ever since.

“He was sentenced to six months at hard labor, but presidential candidate John F. Kennedy reached out to the King family and helped secure Dr. King’s release, earning him pivotal black votes that would help him win the presidency that year.”

Black Then, (2017, 25 August) October 19, 1960 – Martin Luther King Arrested in Atlanta Sit-In Protest. Retrieved from https://blackthen.com/october-19-1960-martin-luther-king-arrested-in-atlanta-sit-in-protest-video/

“The government itself has failed us. And once we see that all of these other sources to which we’ve turned have failed, we stop turning to them and turn to ourselves. We need a self-help program, a do-it-yourself philosophy, a do-it-right-now philosophy, a it’s-already-too-late philosophy. This is what you and I need to get with. And the only time – the only way we’re going to solve our problem is with a self-help program. Before we can get a self-help program started, we have to have a self-help philosophy.”

– Malcolm X

You’re Invited!

I am celebrating another mini milestone. On Sunday, October 7th, I got two of my books approved to be carried at another bookstore, making the 3rd Bookstore in Atlanta carrying at least one of my books (Nubian Books and the Medubookstore are the other two.)

The Road to Freedom – Joseph’s Story* is on shelves now and my newest release Even Salt Looks Like Sugar will be available at Tall Tales Book Shop within a week or so.

For those of you who do not have the new book, I am offering you an opportunity to come out to this event and celebrate with me. I will have signed paperback copies of Even Salt Looks Like Sugar and I’ll also be reading from the book. This is also a great time for a Q&A session. Is there something you would have liked to see happen in the story? Do you have a favorite part? Least favorite part? Ask me all the questions you want!

There will be light refreshments available so you can get your snack on too while I tell you a story (and then we can go out to dinner afterwards for some real food…. tee hee). Get a picture with me, or bring another book of mine you have to be signed. Either way, come on out and show some love! If you have not been to one of my signings yet, this is your chance! You know they be lit! It doesn’t matter which of my books you have, bring them to be signed!

Not Subscribed to my email list? You may want to go ahead and do that before December. In our December issue, I am revealing my strategy for getting my books into stores as an Indie Author. We’ll discuss consignment, distribution through Ingram Spark or other platforms, and the review process if the store requires one. CLICK HERE TO SIGN-UP. You will get an automatic welcome email. Please check your Spam and Junk folder for it.


ATL, don’t forget to stop through next week for Tinzley Bradford’s 4th Quarterly Settle-free Mixer! The time has come and I am honored to be among such talented professionals. Self-care and self-love is soo important and we are talking about that and so much more. 

If you have read Even Salt Looks Like Sugar, please remember to leave a review if you’re feeling so obliged! Thanks so much!! As usual, your time and attention is most appreciated.