Category Archives: Growth

The South’s Heritage Is So Much More Than a Flag

By Patterson HoodConfederate_Rebel_Flag_svg
First off, I love the Southland.

I was born and raised in Florence, Ala., a small town on the northern banks of the Tennessee River in a region known locally as the Shoals. It’s a Bible Belt community; my hometown was “dry” until I was nearly 20 years old. It was also the birthplace of some of the most beloved and important music of the 20th century.

W.C. Handy, sometimes known as the father of the blues and an important early jazz figure — the author of “Beale Street Blues” and “St. Louis Blues,” among other early standards — was born in Florence in 1873. The radical and ingenious producer Sam Phillips was born half a century later in McGee Town, a small farming community about eight miles to the northwest, two farms over from my family’s homestead. He nurtured the invention of rock ’n’ roll, discovering Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Charlie Rich, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others.

On the south side of the river, the neighboring towns of Muscle Shoals and Sheffield hosted recording studios — FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, respectively — that along with Stax Records’ studio in Memphis became the epicenter of the soul and R&B explosion of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, the Staple Singers, Bobby Womack and many other African-American artists crossed racial barriers and recorded classic music with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who happened to be white. Together, they recorded landmark hits that were the soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement.

The four towns that make up the Shoals are deeply religious and politically conservative, but they also hosted a bubbling underground of progressive thought, home to a vibrant minority of freethinkers and idealists. In our own mythology, we weren’t caught up in the bloody violence that will forever haunt the reputations of Birmingham, Memphis and Selma — we were too busy making joyous music. The elementary school I attended had already been integrated (peacefully, as far as I know) by 1970, when I started first grade. I never saw a burning cross or a burning church. That said, I’m sure there has been plenty of frothing at the mouth there recently over last month’s Supreme Court decisions, President Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the rainbow lights at the White House — and of course, the Confederate flag.

When I was growing up, I never thought much about the flag. My father, David Hood, was and still is a session bass player with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. His views on the Civil Rights era were shaped by the time he spent playing with Aretha and the Staple Singers. He looked at George Wallace and Bull Connor with great disdain, and was mortified to think that people around the world believed all Southerners were like that.

My father worked long hours at the studio, and I spent a large part of my childhood with my grandparents and great-uncle. Raised during the Great Depression, they were progressive by the standards of their generation and told me stories about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who the old folks said had saved Florence and the surrounding towns; and Wilson Dam, a World War I-era structure that crossed the Tennessee River just east of Florence, made the river navigable and provided the impetus for Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley Authority, which electrified the region and brought it — sometimes kicking and screaming — into the 20th century. They also told stories about my great-great-grandfather, who fought for the Confederacy at Shiloh during the Civil War. They were always quick to say that he had been poor and never owned slaves, and had simply fought against a conquering army invading his home.

Such is the storytelling that pervades the Southern character. The South loves myths and legends, and while they may have roots in the truth, they often overlook certain complexities. We raise our children steeped in “Gone With the Wind” folklore and pretend that all the things we saw in “12 Years a Slave” didn’t happen.

As a songwriter, I’ve spent the better part of my career trying to capture both the Southern storytelling tradition and the details the tall tales left out, putting this dialectical narrative into the context of rock songs. My band’s best-known work, an album we recorded a decade and a half ago called “Southern Rock Opera,” is an examination of life in the South after the Civil Rights era, in the form of a coming-of-age tale of a Southern boy about my age who grows up to become a famous musician before dying in a plane crash while on tour. The album wrestled with how to be proud of where we came from while acknowledging and condemning the worst parts of our region’s history.

When Drive-By Truckers were recording “Southern Rock Opera,” we were very concerned about how the record would be received. We wanted to back up everything we said with documented facts, lest we be construed as apologists — lest someone not notice that a sympathetic song about George Wallace was written from the Devil’s point of view. And we made a conscious decision not to discuss the so-called rebel flag. We didn’t want our narrative getting bogged down in a debate about an antiquated symbol, one we considered a moot point in any case. My own coming-of-age story revolved around much more important things like going to rock concerts and trying to get a date or hanging out with friends on weekends. The flag might have been a backdrop at Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts, but beyond that it wasn’t really anything any of us thought much about at the time.

It was only later, when we started playing songs from the album at shows, that we noticed that fans were bringing rebel flags and waving them during a song called “The Southern Thing.” The song was written to express the contradictions of Southern identity:

It was around that time that I began paying attention to the flag flying at courthouses and state capitals. I started hearing things like “heritage, not hate” from people who were perhaps well-meaning, but were nevertheless ignoring the fact that their beloved Southern Cross flew at Klan rallies — that it was a symbol for a war fought on the principle of one man owning another. Let’s pause to think about that one for a moment: one man owning another. When our kindly Grandpa says “states’ rights,” that’s the “right” he’s talking about. Unfair tariffs? Many of the soldiers in the Civil War probably couldn’t spell “tariff.” But they certainly knew that the South’s economy and very way of life was built upon the backs of men, women and children of color.

Last month, a terrorist with a gun killed nine unarmed men and women in a church in Charleston and woke the people in our country up from sweet dreams of a postracial America, driving home just how far we still have to go. As the city mourned and tried to make sense of its grief, the State House of South Carolina still flew the rebel flag at full staff. Now the tide is turning; the state’s legislature voted to take it down from the Capitol grounds early Thursday morning, and it’s not impossible to think that other Southern states might do the same before long.

It’s high time that a symbol so divisive be removed. The flags coming down symbolize the extent to which those who cry “heritage, not hate” have already lost their argument. Why would we want to fly a symbol that has been used by the K.K.K. and terrorists like Dylann Roof? Why would a people steeped in the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible want to rally around a flag that so many associate with hatred and violence? Why fly a flag that stands for the very things we as Southerners have worked so hard to move beyond?

If we want to truly honor our Southern forefathers, we should do it by moving on from the symbols and prejudices of their time and building on the diversity, the art and the literary traditions we’ve inherited from them. It’s time to study and learn about who we are and where we came from while finding a way forward without the baggage of our ancestors’ fears and superstitions. It’s time to quit rallying around a flag that divides. And it is time for the South to — dare I say it? — rise up and show our nation what a beautiful place our region is, and what more it could become.

Michael Brown Let You Down by dex digital

Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.
So instead, can someone just shoot Jesus Christ already?
For a moment there, things were looking pretty good. A boy shot multiple times with his hands up. College bound. Poor. Innocent. And in response: helicopters and tanks. Maybe this time, we thought, they would believe us.

But that’s all been ruined.

We now have all sorts of reasons to make us doubt Brown’s humanity. He may have stolen some cigarillos. He may have been facing the officer when he was shot. He got shot in the top of the head, which might mean that he was surrendering, or might mean he was being defiant. He made amateur rap songs. Perhaps worst of all, he’s been caught grimacing at a camera making a contorted peace sign, and it turns out that he was pretty tall.

And Fox News has been trying to cast doubt on whether he was actually going to go to college in the first place.

All signs that his life was worth less than we might have hoped.

It’s like what happened with Trayvon Martin, really. Over the course of a few days, he went from an innocent boy holding a bag of Skittles to a vicious, ruthless thug. We found out that he smoked pot. We found out that he said bad words. We found out that he was wearing a hoodie. We saw a picture of him making an angry face. Zimmerman’s lawyers released his text message logs, and we found out that he didn’t speak the Queen’s English.

And with each new revelation about both of these boys — some true, some false — we let out another collective sigh. We had been let down.

Of course, we knew that our reaction was ridiculous. We know that pushing someone at a convenience store, or being a less than stellar student shouldn’t be a death sentence. And hell, if you think that throwing up a contorted peace sign, or even an actual verifiable ‘gang sign’ means that you are in a violent gang, well, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you, and a few thousand thug white women I’d like you to call 911 about, because there’s an epidemic going on.

But still, it was disappointing.

Not because we believed that these were reasons for the boys to die. But because we knew that so many Americans were itching for a reason, any reason, to condemn the boys to death in their minds. To make it all our fault. And by being simply human, these dead spirits gave them that ammunition.

Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant. They failed us all by not being perfect.

One of the most compelling stories ever told is that of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter whether you follow his teachings, or those of his followers — the story is a wonderful one.

A man was born under magical circumstances, lived among the poor and sick, and performed miracles. He was sentenced to a brutal and unjust death, which he accepted, because it was for the good of his neighbors — even those that hated him. He was, literally, perfect.

Maybe that’s why the recent revelation that Jesus may have had a wife is so controversial. People are angry about this, but they shouldn’t be. After all, what’s the matter with having a wife? If you believe, it doesn’t change anything, at all. He still performed miracles. He still died. He still came back. He’s still God’s son. You can still pray to him.

But maybe the issue is that as a (formerly) Puritan society, we need our saviors to be spotless, to be clean. Perhaps that’s what all the fuss is about.

So maybe what all of these terrified racists need is someone that, no matter how hard they try, cannot be dehumanized. Someone beyond human. Someone Christlike.

Someone that can save them from themselves, and wash their souls of fear and hate and judgement. Someone that can bring them into the light of humanity and love and logic.

Maybe what we need is a 5’8, light-skinned, Harvard-bound, star tennis player/violinist/poet that volunteers at the local pet shelter, bakes amazing blueberry muffins, speaks with a Mid-Atlantic accent, has a white name, who has never taken a photo with anything other than a thumbs up and a smile, and just recently published a groundbreaking cure for cancer in Science.

And we need him to die. Someone needs to find this boy, and kill him in public. It’s our only hope.

I’d offer myself, honestly. I would. But I got a D in Calculus once, so I don’t think I qualify. I’m not good enough.

A good friend wrote recently about how, whenever he got pulled over, he would slip his college ID over his driver’s license and hand it to the officer. Yes, some of us deserve to be shot in the street, he was saying silently, but this ID proves that I’m not one of them. He feels guilty about this now.

I used to do something similar — I’d ‘accidentally’ hand the officer my college ID, and feign absentmindedness and chuckle over-conspicuously when he reminded me that he needed my driver’s license. It worked sometimes. I don’t feel so guilty about it.

Because thinking back, I realize that this ritual, repeated every few weeks or so, was as much for my soul as it was for my safety. Looking down at that college ID reminded me that I was a ‘good’ human. I was assuring myself that if something went wrong, at least I’d be a pretty decent martyr. I was no Jesus, but at least I could be an extreme Rosa Parks. Better than Claudette Colvin, anyway.

I think that’s also what #IfTheyGunnedMeDown was about. It wasn’t only a criticism of the media. I think somewhere in there, we were all calculating our human worth – on their terms. We were reducing our life story down to a series of numbers, achievements, and soundbites. Ones and zeros. High school graduate, but smoked a cigarette once. Army officer, but likes gold chains. Great big sister, but makes frowny faces in pictures.

Evaluating our humanity on an unfairly weighted scale. Their scale.

Because we know that it’s common knowledge that white killers get treated like little lost lambs, while black victims are immediately demonized. Hell, there are now even listicles about this sort of thing. But we also know that any small flaw, any trace of humanity, will ruin the whole thing. That people, too many people, will be positively giddy at the sight of our blood.

That some people will take the opportunity to lecture us on interacting with police, as if it was failsafe or we didn’t already know.

That some people will collectively donate $150,000 to demonstrate how much they hate us.

That is why #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, like everything else we’ve tried thus far, has ended in failure. That’s why there were so many white kids doing it. It’s not their fault that they didn’t understand.

We uploaded those pictures, but we were just fooling ourselves. We were preaching to the choir, and we knew that it wouldn’t make a difference.

None of us are good enough to die on that cross.

Be warned: this is a graphic video. A man commits suicide on camera. Read about it here instead.
There’s something I’d like you to understand about black people: we’re like everyone else. We want to leave the world a better place than we found it. So the prospect of leaving unexpectedly, and having your story twisted in such a way as to actually steel the hearts of racists — is a terrifying thought.

I didn’t know Michael Brown, and I don’t know his family. I don’t know what happened on that day (only one of us does). But I do know that he couldn’t be the Christ that White America so desperately needed.

And they do need him. Perhaps more than anyone else in the world right now, they need Jesus.

But, even if we did get our Jesus — even if Michael Brown were that impossibly perfect martyr, even if we had that mythical savior black boy — it probably wouldn’t have helped.

After all, Jesus died an awful long time ago, and things didn’t quite pick up for us. Those who say they love him most do not love us, their neighbors. They reject and fear us. Somewhere, in between the Bible, the politics, and the sermons, the message has been lost.

So, friends: if praying is your thing, go for it. Keep it up. We need all the positive energy we can get. But I’m not sure it’s going to help.

Because if this is how we treat ourselves, I’m not sure if even God can save us now.

talk to me if you like: @dexdigi


Four days after I posted this, the NYT published the article on the left. Compare with the right. [original]
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Cover photo: Amanda Wills, Mashable

Stephen A. Smith Comments

StephenSmithI listen to Steven A. Smith comments today and I am not sure what the up roar is all about. I did not find anything that he said terrible. He actually spoke the truth. He said, “No man should ever hit a woman, but a woman should do everything that she can do not to provoke him.” I have written about this before. A woman should never hit a man, I mean ever. I do not care what the circumstances are. Just because you are a smaller person and you hit a man it does not suggest that a man will not hit you back. There is no need for anyone to hit anyone.

As much as we teach boys growing up you do not hit a woman, we have to start teaching our girls the same thing. You should not hit a man unless he hits you or you feel your life is in danger. I have been slapped and scratched by a woman and I am here to tell you it does not feel good at all. It will almost make you forget that she is a woman for a split second. Now I have never hit a young lady but if I was that guy, it could have been a real problem.

We have become so sensitive to the truth that it is sad. When I read the headlines and seen everything trending title “Stephen A. Smith Rant” I thought I was really about to hear something terrible. I stand behind what he said. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Some women need to take responsibility for their actions as well. Let’s be clear there are men that hit women because they are animals.

There are too many videos out there where a woman is hitting a man spitting on him and he gets fed up and hits her. I think he is talking about those situations. Please let’s all practice not hitting the opposite sex. Nothing good comes out of it!

Adrian “GC Smooth” Taylor

It’s Not Me

Have you ever been doing things that were wrong and not having no feelings of what you
were doing and no way to Stop? And during that time have you had to stop and ask yourself why
am I doing this? Or what is going on with Me? well in these scriptures here we find that Paul is
going through something similar himself. Paul has come to a dilemma within himself much like
most of us in our everyday life. He is struggling with the war within himself, his flesh is fighting
against his spirit. We are all carnal sold under sin, but the law is spiritual, see right the is the first
dilemma trying to live out a spiritual law in a carnal body. Just like oil and water don’t mix carnality
and spiritual laws don’t mix. When you have an environment like this you deal with things that
you may not understand, (verse 15 for that which I do I allow not), now how is this Possible?
what he is saying is that what he does, the things that he is doing, he allows not, then that’s
almost like he is in a trans or he is being controlled by another force. Now his body is fighting him
doing the things that he does not allow it to do, ,then he say the things that I would that I do not,
now he is fighting his body trying to get his mind and body to do what he wants and need it to do,
(the good things) , and the things that I hate (the bad things), that is what I end up doing. What is
it that has the man of God doing these Things? Well when you are doing the will of God there is
always evil present putting pressure on you to do the wrong thing. When you are in a bad state
you are in a trans like a puppet on a string wandering aimlessly out of the will of God. He is in a
spiritual tug of War from within and he has this struggle daily, and that’s why we have to ask for
forgiveness daily we need to be renewed constantly from minute to minute hour to hour and from
day to day. We can’t just walk around aimlessly without getting ourselves together. Verse 16
goes on to say that if I am doing the things that I would not then I consent it under the law that it is
good, but now that is one of the tricks of the devil, and making you think or feel that just because
you a mighty man of God or you are called to do a thing that when you Tripp up that if you do it it
must be good under the law. Also just because you have a good heart to do good it is not OK.
God don’t judge you by your intentions, and but he judges by your actions. Verse 17 goes to
conclude that (it’s not Me!) somebody say it’s not Me! Now then it is no more that I , but the sin
that dwelled in me, the conclusion is that if I am doing the will of God and I am trying to do good
then it must not be me doing these things but the sin on the inside of me, because my heart is
good, but my motives are good, but my actions don’t reflect, so what are you saying man of
God? What I am saying is This! You have to put on the whole armor of God so that you will be
able to stand against the wiles of the devil and having that being said you also have to stay
prayed up at all times because the devil is out there tempting your flesh, and he knows what you
like so he does what he know to trip you up. Having being a spiritual being, trapped inside this
earthly vessel there is always a war going on inside you, and how to perform that which is good I
find not. In my flesh dwelled no good things, It is hard to get your sinful body to perform good
deeds(verse 18). In closing we find that when you do well for God there is always evil present
inside of you even when you delight in the law of God and the devil tries to use sin to bring you in
captivity in your mind by constantly trying to bring you down the road to destruction!

Daniel Evans

The Reality is………..

I was having a serious conversation with a friend about life’s struggles, relationships, and family. She then revealed to me that a couple of years ago she reached her lowest point in life and wanted to commit suicide. I will be honest, when she told me, I was not shocked. I thought she was going to tell me she had been raped or stabbed a guy; just something tragic. In somewhat of a jerk way I simply said, “That’s it? I thought you were about to tell me something crazy. “
Yeah, you did not read that wrong. That is exactly what happened! I told her I wanted to kill myself twice in my teen years. So, I really did not see the big deal about her lowest point. Then I thought about it and I had to really look at myself and say man, how can my mind be so twisted to think that someone committing suicide is not a big deal? Or, could it be that I actually feel like everyone, at some point in time, has thought about killing themselves. I really do not care how strong you are, the thought has popped into your mind of how would the world be without you living in it anymore.
Suicide is a serious matter; more and more people are taking their lives everyday. In my teen years, I did not feel loved. It is funny how people just do not know the mentality of the people that they are around. You try to be this person in the public eye. People think that you are living the good life, when they have no clue that you are struggling everyday with daily life.
So my friend, please excuse my insensitivity when you told me. I do not know your story and I was not there when you were going through your problems. In fact, as a friend I need to be more understanding and uplift you. We should never down play each other’s problems, because everyone is not built the same way. So the next time you look at your life and compare someone else’s struggles to yours stop, because they are not you!
Remember to Keep it GC,

Adrian”GC Smooth” Taylor

Pharrell Reaction to Happy on Oprah

When you have a craft and you are able to make an impact for not only the people around you but the people around the world. This is truly awesome and I applaud this GENTLEMAN for making such a positive song. If this song does not put you in a better mode after listening to it, I do not know what to tell you. I love what this songs stands for. How says positivity does not sell?

Adrian “GC Smooth” Taylor

Can You Stand to be Blessed!

Often times we as Christians always want to be blessed above what we can handle. Please understand that God is not crazy and he will not bless you above what you can handle. When it comes to the things of God you don’t get what you study for, you don’t even get what you think you deserve, you only get what you can handle and manage. So if you have been asking God to take you to a certain level in your life and you haven’t received it yet then quit praying and asking God to take you higher, just simply ask him to help you manage and master your life on your current level. Let me break it down for you! If you are already having money issues now, living from check to check, plus you are not tithing, understand that God will not bless you with money if you can’t handle the little that you have. The Bible says that if you are faithful over the few I will make you ruler over the many. So until you learn how to manage things on your present level promotion will never come your way. The bible says that God will not put more on you than you can bare, most people think that’s only talking about heartache, but it is also talking about blessings as well, he will not bless you above what you can handle. What is meant for a blessing if it is mishandled could become a burden or a curse. Why would God bless you with another child if you are barely taking care of the one that you have? Why would he promote you on your job if you are barely handling your current workload? Why would he bless you with more money only knowing that you will create more debt and you will dig yourself into a deeper hole? God will not continue to add to a unfruitful lifestyle that you are already in, and continue to ask for more and more Help? So the question is can you stand to be blessed? Can you stand for God to take you Higher? Are you doing what it takes at your current level for God to be able to trust you with more? The truth is that devil is not blocking your blessings, you are blocking your own blessing by not being a good steward over what you already have. Even grandma told us as a child to waste not, want not! So if you are wasting the things that God has provided for you, how do you ever expect for God to take you to the next level?

Daniel Evans