Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mexicans of African Descent Established Los Angeles on This Day in 1781

A picture of the Old West we're not used to seeing (photo from Face2FaceAfrica.com)

Pride. This Mexican American of African descent - fourth generation in the U.S. - who has never even been to L.A., has nothing, but, pride, over here...

Friday, June 12, 2015

One, Big, Little Living Room That's Big Enough For All Of Us..And Coffee!

There're a lot of empty living rooms in Silver Spring. (Photo from ZedsCafe.com)

I like coffee, and THIS is the BEST COFFEE in the entire WESTERN WORLD!

I wrote a review of Zed's Café and One Big Living Room, many years ago, on a now defunct WordPress blog, and I might have described little else, but, the coffee, ..which is phenomenal. So, this time, while there is much to praise about this legend of Silver Spring hospitality, I don't want to diminish that one, indisputable fact. Phenomenal coffee! Go anywhere else, where you are poured a cup of coffee, and the quality of the coffee that you will find at Zed's Café will surpass it, every time and at every hour of the day. How does proprietor, Zed Mekonnen, do it?

He has a gold standard.

Zed's Café, in Downtown Silver Spring, delivers the promise of what a cafe serves, coffee, and that standard is never compromised. Ever. The quality of the coffee - a cup of Nirvana, every time - and the paninis and wraps and French, Swiss and Italian pastries and the cheesecake (my favorite) is always deliciously, sensually exceptional. What brings me back to Zed's, however, is more than fine coffee and cheesecake and beautiful, Ethiopian and European women. Yes, these are considerations, ..but, what Mr. Mekonnen has created here - what the local press has consistently lauded - is an experience. Zed's Café is an experience, ..and that, in my opinion, has always been the mark of the most celebrated bistros, bars, and restaurants.

The first thing that strikes you about Zed's is the decidedly Bohemian décor, which is classic coffeehouse vibe - a funky, eclectic mix of mismatched steel-frame dinette chairs, vinyl easy chairs, tufted wingback chairs, elegantly appointed mahogany chairs and tables ..and broad, cushy, soul-hugging loveseats. Wi-Fi is free. The genius of local artists is exhibited on the walls, mixed in with small, framed paintings of exotic places, around the world. There are books, everywhere - shelved on every wall, resting on cocktail tables and end tables, between chairs. Between and around the books, there are colorful figurines and other knick-knacks, scattering the scene, ..as if by a favorite uncle. Somewhat on the small and cozy side - it's not a kiosk, at Safeway - Zed's Cafe looks and feels lived in and loved, as if it's been here, forever, ..and welcoming you to drop by, whenever!

Peep in, at any time of the day, and you will find silver-haired friends chatting, yuppies and bootstrappers tapping away on laptops and flawlessly beautiful East African women doing something, ..beautifully. It's where community groups meet. It's where young couples cuddle. It's where new mothers take a break, with their babies. It's where brilliant protest poetry is written and LIVE blues, jazz and indie music is played. It's where college buddies quietly argue over what's going on in a comic book. The 'friend', whose generosity they've all gathered to enjoy, ..more than the ruggedly handsome bloke, quietly pouring coffee, behind the counter, ..is an authentic feeling of belonging and being welcome, in a familiar place...

And that is a stroke of commercial genius.

Whoever you are, you will not be kept waiting for what you came for, because service, here, is consistently fast and efficient - another standard that is never compromised.

More than Starbucks, and with none of the corporate, mass-marketed artificiality of Starbucks's wannabees, Zed's Cafe is an authentic experience ..that can be as brief, intimate, memorable, amusing or lazy and irreverent, as you like. Whether you are sending in kids for carryout coffee, while you're double-parked on Georgia Avenue, ..or you are digging in, with friends, for light eats and live music, ..you leave Zed's, feeling glad that you dropped by.

Isn't that how dropping by a friend's 'Living Room' should feel?

Zed's Café and One, Big Living Room is located at 8225 Georgia Avenue, in Silver Spring, Maryland, ..at the very gateway of the Downtown district. Go. Linger. Double-park. Carry-out. Taste. Love.
 
 
 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Memorial Park Spring Clean-up In Penn Branch

Bring rakes. Bring bottled water. Bring lawnmowers...and, for God'sake, bring your KIDS.

Give our young Penn Branchers a sense of pride and purpose, the foundation for true self esteem, by enlisting them in the work of keeping our neighborhood clean and beautiful, ..and they will appreciate, as much as we do, what a special place Penn Branch is to all of us. They have a right to feel proud of where they live ..and the hard work it takes to keep Penn Branch worthy of that pride.

I grew up in Penn Branch, ..and I am still very, very proud of that.

Bring your kids to Memorial Park Spring Clean-up. God bless all of you.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fighting racial fanaticism on TWO fronts, while honorably serving our nation in World War II, and THEY never gave up. Their proud standard has been cast in blood, sweat and hope. We are still here, because they never gave up. Neither can we...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Carl Nelson's Power Talk Two Is Coming--Will River East Get Serious And Show Up?

[Photo from Nigerianwatch.com]
 
A 2008-2012 report by the U.S. Census Bureau states that Nigerians are the most highly educated immigrants in the United States, with post-graduate degrees in various, relevant fields, ..but are also the least employed of these immigrants. So, Nigerians are starting small businesses and not-so-small businesses and employing each other.

It's happening with Russians, Dominicans, Italians, Irish, Koreans and Mexicans. This has been the trend with so many ethnic groups, over the years - especially, black pe...ople from the West Indies, Latin America and the Continent - coming to America in the past hundred-plus years. Afro-Americans, some of whom are survivors of ..and proud descendants of survivors of abduction and enslavement in the United States, have faced a unique array of challenges, when we have attempted to create a viable, economically independent reality, here in America - challenges that other ethnic groups have not faced and may find difficult to understand.

Look up the 'Greenwood riots' of Tulsa, Oklahoma (admittedly, an extreme example), if you want to understand that better.

I think the time to set a new standard is now. The socioeconomic reality of Afro-Americans must change, ..and that is what I hope 'PowerTalk Two' will be about. If you are tired of hearing all of the reasons that River East can't be better, ..you need to quit whining about all of the above and join me, Carl Nelson, Baba Dick Gregory and Dr. Claud Anderson (author of Black Labor, White Wealth), on June 19th and 20th, at Power Talk Two.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Crime Against The Laws Of The Nation, ..Unfolding In Baltimore?

Marcus Garvey believed 'We can', before President Obama. [photo from 'The Guardian']
 
Baltimore City, Maryland has problems. Big problems.

If you have been watching the news or reading the paper, over the past day or so, you may be wondering how Baltimore's government and the people, who live there, will ever solve them. Mixed in with the problems that government CAN solve in Baltimore, ..the disenfranchised young residents, burning everything down, over there, have problems that the government and the mayor cannot solve, even with billions of dollars investment in ..and subsequent development of their communities.

Government can give tax incentives to entrepreneurs, who open businesses in the economically depressed communities, where many of us live. The Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation is offering expedition of permits, tax abatements and workforce assistance to people, starting new businesses in depressed areas of Hyattsville, Maryland. Government can regulate the racist lending practices of banks, who give loans to white and Asian entrepeneurs, with unremarkable backgrounds, ..while turning down black entrepeneurs, who are equally or better prepared to start and run successful businesses. In the 1990s, the Clinton Administration strengthened the anti-redlining code of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), and Attorney General Janet Reno successfully prosecuted several big banks for racially discriminatory lending practices, as a result. Starting here, government can begin unraveling the legacy of institutional racism of America's Jim Crow laws ..and clearing the path for the Afro-American economic independence that so many conservatives claim they want to see happen.

Government can do these things.

Government can sentence men - and particularly black men - presently rotting in prison for non-violent crimes, to go home and be fathers to their children...husbands to the mothers, if possible. Government can shave two years off their original sentences, if they can give a good spanking and encourage their kid to make straight 'As'. Government can sentence others to learning a useful, marketable trade and starting their own legitimate, licensible businesses, ..creating viable economies in their communities, that can employ the Afro-American people living in them, so that they aren't dependent on that employment from people, outside those communities.

Government can do these things, also. Government can pave the way for progress.

Government programs cannot put a selfish, uncaring, irresponsible father in a fatherless home. Government programs can't forgive bitter, selfish, neglectful mothers, who became mothers, before they were old enough to be good mothers. Government programs cannot make me, single and child-free at forty-five (and LOVING it), want to mentor or teach some anti-social fool's nasty, disrespectful, sociopathic kids. Government programs can't make you see beyond the ugly, inconvenient circumstances of your birth and your family history ..to make you love and respect, who you are, ..and who and where you come from.

It's right about here that I find myself asking, what the late Dr. Marcus Garvey, a proponent of Afro-American self-reliance and economic independence, would think about all of this. On July 8th, 1917, the UNIA President called the East St. Louis race riots of 1917, "a crime against the laws of the nation", ..but, what would he make of the violent uprising in West Baltimore, today, ..or the conditions that created it?

When 96.5% of Black America are working for themselves, their families or Afro-American-owned businesses in their towns and neighborhoods, ..I imagine Dr. Garvey, were he still with us, might call that progress. When my nephew doesn't care what you think of his dreds, his sagging pants, his atrocious taste in rap music and his proud heritage, as the son of African survivors of the worst slavery that this world has ever seen, ..because he's been working for his mom's Bohemian cafe-grill and is preparing to run it, when she retires - I think Dr. Garvey would call that true progress! When Black America can tell the world to kiss its natural, black behind, because it's running its own 'thing', ..and without the approval of anyone, but, Grandma and Grandpa, ..maybe, some of us won't feel the need to burn down the neighborhoods that our grandparents worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get us into.

Maybe, the people at City Hall will have a little more respect for our tax dollars ..and the revenue they generate. Maybe, the bad beat cops - most police officers are GOOD ones - will save their 'beatings' for someone else. I think Marcus Garvey would find all of that, very progressive, indeed.

Until that happens, ..I think we're ALL just treading water.

Most people outside Afro-American communities, struggling ones and prosperous ones, are too busy keeping their own heads above-water to be bothered, worrying about how we and our kids are doing. In West African Senegambia, there might be a sense of communal obligation or concern - something called 'Teranga', over there. Here, in the Western World, however...no Teranga. How well we are doing or not doing is our problem, ..and, ultimately, our responsibility.

If truly there can be "a crime against the laws of the nation" - this great nation - in consideration of what is presently transpiring in Baltimore, I think it would be to neglect the work that Dr. Marcus Garvey left us to do - namely, the creation of a sustainable, economically independent reality for the survivors of American slavery and of Jim Crow ..and, we, their descendants. I think we will find something liberating, empowering and optimistic about that work.

Now, read...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Optimism Keeps Us Flying!

 
Capicostia's Laughing Airman, ..my Uncle Stanley!
 
In his life, he was a warrior - a veteran of the Viet Nam War - a scholar and an artist, and he was always there for the people he cared about, when they needed them.  In the 1970s and 80s, he worked, side by side, with a Penn Brancher of long-standing - the late Mrs. Barbara Jean Harvey - in D.C.'s Department of Mental Health, bringing economically challenged citizens closer to the psychiatric care and social services that they so desperately needed to live. After living half of his life in Northwest Washington, he eventually settled into a small house in Marshall Heights and frequently visited us - his nephew, niece, his sister (my mother) and our Coyote-hatin' Goldiweiller, Kirby - and we will always remember how much laughter and wisdom he brought us, right here in the Naylor Duponts.
 
I think this photo captures the enduring pluck and ambition of the generation that settled in ANC-7B, back in the 60s! They gave us so much - family values, self esteem, safe, clean streets and the optimism to keep all of that going. We live in a more hopeful, optimistic and proud place, because of them.
 
Their optimism keeps us flying!
 
Where would our community be, today, without them?