Ontario


Whatever in the world can be done, will be done. The question is whether it will be done by you or to you?

Coming soon to the AfroSphere.

“GOD IS GOOD!”

“ALL THE TIME!”

I started blogging about a year ago after the 2005 Oscars. My first post ever was on some thoughts I had about Three 6 Mafia winning the Oscar for Best Song, George Clooney’s acceptance speech for winning best supporting actor for “Syriana”, and on the winner of the best picture… who can remember? “CRASH”. (first post) I was new to the blogging game and wanted to see where my voice would take me out into the blogosphere.

 

John Smulo

 

This week, I have been featured in a 2-part interview on the blog page of John Smulo, called SmuloSpace. John is a Christian blogger whose page I read frequently because he expands my thinking and brought a different perspective to the “Christian” experience for me. He is one of very few bloggers from the “Christosphere”, that I link to my page. The others are Gruntled Center, Imitatio Christi, The Church Boy and God’s Politics (which is a site of “white” progressive Christian bloggers developed by Jim Wallis). This is not to say that there aren’t others linked to this page who consider themselves Christians. However these specific blogs primarily discuss religious themes and look at other topics from a “Christian” perspective, whatever that may mean to the authors, which is why I refer to them as the “Christosphere”.

 

I found it very difficult finding Christian bloggers to read. It wasn’t due to there not being many of them out in the blogosphere, but I prefer to become engaged in discussions that will challenge my thinking and beliefs, that will expand my knowledge and not spew the same “ole time religion”. These blogs do that to some extent and SmuloSpace is my favourite. I cannot remember how I found his page but I started reading it in January 2007. What attracted me most is that I found John to be a sincere listener…. and that is a rare quality in a person. I started reading and commenting on his page and visa versa. A couple weeks ago he asked if he could interview me for his page. I was pleasantly surprised! He was primarily interested in the process I went through to adopt my African/Spiritual name: “Asabagna Alatentou” and my self-definition as an “Afrocentric Pentecostal”. I felt honored and gladly said “yes”. Here are the links to both interviews:

It is my hope that those of you who frequent this page may not just read the interviews, but will also read some of John’s other posts, and be inspired to become engaged in conversations and be regular commentators there. I also hope that those who frequent John’s page, through the interviews, may discover our community and engage with us also. Isn’t that the beauty of the internet? To discover, communicate and learn from those of other countries, cultures and beliefs. To transcend borders, barriers and build bridges of understanding through dialogue, discussion and debate. To make friends. It’s not a “pipe dream”. It’s possible. I’ve done it with all of you.

 

I wish you heaven.

Asa.

Friday (03-23-07), I’m at the gym doing my “cardio thing” and watching the news, when I see a story concerning a polar bear cub by the name of “KNUT” in Berlin Germany. Apparently this cub, which was born about 4 months ago, was rejected by it’s mother, a circus bear. The Berlin Zoo decided to raise it and a national furor was caused when an animal rights activist stated that the cub should be put to death rather than be raised in captivity. According to a variety of news reports (see one here), school children took to the streets chanting “Knut must live”; news headlines read “ The Polar Bear of our Hearts”; t-shirts were printed; websites were launched, including his own personal one (see here); soccer fans chanted for him instead of their teams and a CD of songs about him was produced. He has been adopted by the German Environment Minister and is now a symbol of the effects of global climate change. The cub had made it’s public debut on Friday amid hundreds of reporters from around the world as well as thousands of supporters.

Friday, I also read a story on the blog page of Francis L. Holland on the case of Shaquanda Cotton in Paris, Texas (see here). This 14 year-old African-American girl was sentenced in March 2006, to 7 years in a Texas juvenile correctional center for pushing a 58 year old teacher’s aid. As I read the story, I thought there was no way this could be true! This must be some sort of internet hoax. I did a little internet research myself and read some news accounts of this situation. The more I read, the more I became stupefied and enraged as the truth of this injustice crystallized in my psyche (see here). The accounts of the blatant separate and unequal treatment of the Black community to the obvious targeting and retaliation against Shaquanda because her mother frequently accused school officials of racism.

 

 

BUT what enraged me the most was that I had not heard of this before. Had I really missed this? AND if I had: Where is the national furor? Where are the other school children taking to the streets for her cause? Where are the news reports and headlines? Where are the t-shirts? She does have a blog page (see here) but where are the other blog posts heating up the Afrosphere for her cause? Where are the sport fans chanting her name? Where is the national political and/or government official, regardless of party affiliation, who has adopted her cause as a symbol of the fight against the continual racial discrimination and judicial injustice faced by those of African descent in America? AND when I ask all these questions of “where?”, I am not asking society at large! I am asking the Black/African community itself!

 

Or am I asking the wrong questions. Maybe I should be asking: are we so caught up in who will be dismissed from this week’s episode of American Idol and Survivor to care? Has our desire for justice and equality been replaced by a craving for the new Three 6 Mafia “joint”, the latest dance craze and the next McDeath “Happy Meal”? Have we become so bamboozled by the media, that our attention has been captivated by who is the “baby daddy” of a dead, white, fat, drug and alcohol addicted slut, to even see the injustices that are visited upon our young? Are we so entranced by the circus performances of Obama, Hillary and John that real life wrongs pass under our radar? Have we completely sold out the birthright of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for our children, to feast on the pottage provided at the back door of the white women empowerment movement (feminism), gay marriage and other gay rights issues?  Have we become so mis-educated as a community that our time and energy is focused on rallying against the plight of illegal immigrants, the atrocities perpetrated by the Iraqis against themselves and the empowerment of Afghani women while our own young are dehumanized?

 

There is a call for the Black community to write and/or telephone the Judge and Governor of Texas to “voice” our displeasure and disappointment at the treatment of Shaquanda Cotton. Hmmmm. ‘nuff said.

 

My sister Aulelia recently pondered: “Perhaps celluloid exposure is needed for more people to care about Africa?” Along with the numerous movies featuring Africa, Africans and African-Americans that we have been recently exposed to, there has also been a deluge of cartoon or digital animated films featuring animals. The animals are portrayed more like humans. The Blacks/Africans are represented as less than animals. Ironically, I think we now have an answer to her question.

 

Asabagna                   

 

This was on the wall of Mother Theresa’s Calcutta office. It written by Kent M. Keith.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered: Forgive them anyway…

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives: Be kind anyway…

If you are successful you will win some false friends and some true enemies: Succeed anyway…

If you are honest and frank people may cheat you: Be honest and frank anyway…

What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight: Build anyway…

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous: Be happy anyway…

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow: Do good anyway…

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough: Give the world the best you have anyway…

You see, in the final analysis, it`s all between you and God: It was never between you and them anyway…

There is so much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr. – one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death.

As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs. 

We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

Excerpts from Elie Wiesel Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1986

I was reflecting on some of the events in my past recently and I remembered this episode which I’ve had a burning desire to share. Back in the day, when I returned to Toronto, Canada from Jamaica in my late teens, there was a guy in the neighbourhood by the name of Johnny Denton. Now Johnny was known as the “bad” guy of the ‘hood. Not so much as a “thug” in the way it means today, but a guy you didn’t mess with. More importantly, you never, and I mean n-e-v-e-r messed with his family, especially his sisters. There was a story that he beat a guy to a pulp for hitting one of his sisters, but I don’t know if this was true.

 

First off don’t get it twisted. This was your typical Toronto neighbourhood in the late 70’s, early 80’s. It was a clean, safe middle-class neighbourhood, mixed with all races and cultures. There was no violence, drug dealing/using, rival gangs or racial/cultural tensions among us. Everyone just hung out, played sports, raced our bikes, listened to music, and we were just starting to get interested in the opposite sex. Johnny was much older than the rest of us, in his mid to late 20’s, about 6’ 4”, over 200lbs, dark, muscular and always had a scowl. I don’t ever remember seeing him smile or laugh. He didn’t really hang out in the neighbourhood that much, although he lived with his Mother and other siblings. He drove a Cadillac and the word on the street was that he was a pimp and a drug dealer. He never did any of this rumored business in our neighbourhood, so I don’t know if this was true. However, he had a reputation and that was enough for us not to mess with him or his blood. One of his sisters Patricia and I were in the same grade, so we studied a few times together, but there was nothing romantic between us. It wasn’t because I had a fear of Johnny…. we were just cool like that and assisted each other with homework. I don’t ever remember having a conversation with Johnny back in those days. I would greet him with a “wassup” nod and he would return one as an acknowledgment. A couple of years after I was in Toronto, his brother Huey “came up” from Jamaica to Toronto also and we hung out for a minute. But Huey wasn’t into school and studying as I was back then, so after a while he dropped out and hung with Johnny. It was rumored that he also got into the pimping and drug game with his brother, but I don’t know if this was true.

 

When I went to university, I lost touch, or to be honest, lost interest, in what Johnny and Huey were doing. After a couple years of university life, due to personal and family reasons I had to drop out and I started drifting into the wild party lifestyle. I had a dead end job as a short order cook and was living with a buddy of mine named Walter and his girlfriend. Walter and I were hard, and I mean h-a-r-d partiers. We also worked at the same restaurant, so our normal routine would be to work from 4pm until around midnight, then party until around 5 –6am, sleep during the day and head back to work for 4 pm. We would do this practically 7 days a week. At work we would take “smoking weed” breaks. Sometimes after work we would head to this after hours bar, a “speakeasy” that opened at 1am. It was like the ones you see in movies, where you had to knock on this steel door, a window would slide open and if the bouncer knew you or someone who could vouch that you weren’t Five-0, then you could come in. Walter and I would go there, drink, smoke weed and dance to music all night while hanging with the pimps, hookers, drug dealers and other hustlers. Every so often I would see Johnny and Huey there. I would nod to Johnny, while Huey and I would talk for a moment and/or share a joint. I remember having this uncomfortable feeling on occasion when I would nod at Johnny. He would give me this “hard” look and then after a while give me a nod. I didn’t dwell on it though and dismissed it quickly as I partied on.

 

One night when I was in this speakeasy, I saw Johnny Denton and did my customary nod “hello”. I was just about to spark my joint when he walked up to me. We had a conversation which went something like this:

 

J.D.: What you doing here?

Asa: Hey Johnny. I’m here with my buddy…. we’re just hanging out.

J.D.: Why you hanging out here? This is not the place for you to be.

Asa: (incredulous look and silence)

J.D.: I remember you from the neighbourhood as a smart guy. You studied with Pat (his sister) and I know you got brains. You’ve got something I don’t have and a lot of other people here…. an opportunity to make something of yourself…. and you are wasting it hanging out here. I never would have thought you would be wasting your life here. I always thought you would be a success and I am disappointed seeing you here. Hanging out with these hustlers, pimps and doing drugs isn’t what you should be about…. you’re better than this. So I don’t want to see you here again…. and if I never see you again, that will be a good thing. I will know that it’s because you are doing okay, better than this….

Asa: (hanging my head in silence)

 

He then walked away. I told Walter that we had to go. I never went there again. In time I turned my life around, stopped partying, went back to school and accomplished some positive things in my life. 

 

Many years later I saw Johnny Denton at a clothing store. He was with a woman and some young children who I assumed were his wife and kids. I don’t know if he saw me or would have even recognized me. I didn’t go up to him. I don’t know why. I had heard that he had found God and had become a preacher and was doing positive things with troubled teenagers in the black community. I don’t know if this was true. But I do know this. Looking back, my life started to change for the better, after Johnny Denton spoke to me for the very first time…. on that night.

 

Blessings.

Asabagna. 

I had already planned my next blog topic when I was catching up on some of my blog reading and I saw that I had been tagged by Tafari aka Bygbaby. I am now required to reveal 5 facts about myself that are not known to the readership. Well I had to think real long and hard. My dilemma wasn’t finding the 5 things, it was deciding which 5 to reveal. You see first, I want to stay married…. plus if I ever decide to run for public office, I don’t want my “mess” out there for my rivals to throw at me during the televised debate! Or on “Nancy Grace” for that matter! LOL!!!! So after much deliberation here goes (sigh):

 

1. I haven’t completed my university degree as yet. At 20 yrs. old, I got kicked out of my mother’s house and she refused to sign the papers for me to get student assistance to continue my 3rd year. Although I returned years later part-time in an attempt to complete it, I got transferred to Windsor and the program was not offered at the university there. I did a few more courses through correspondence but to complete the program I had to be in Toronto. I am always being asked what I have my Masters in or how many degrees I have. People are somewhat surprised when I tell them that I have no degree. I tell them I am just opinionated and I have a BIG mouth! LOL!!! I will complete it someday.

 

2. In high school I had no game with the girls. NONE! I was P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C!!! I didn’t go to my senior prom because I didn’t have the gonads to ask a girl to go with me. I was somewhat of a nerd in school, not athletic and certainly had no juice! I don’t think I had a girlfriend all through high school, BUT I did have “dungeons and dragons” buddies! LOL!!!!

 

3. I once passed out in the nastiest, filthiest and most disgusting bathroom in Toronto! A friend and I had gone to this 3rd rate strip joint one afternoon. This place was real dreadful and the women were coyote ugly and had more rolls than the Michelin Man! BUT this bar had one-dollar draft beers and that was the appeal for us back then. Anywayzzz I wasn’t much of a drinker then (and not now either) and I remember vaguely getting there at around noon. We started drinking and at around 6 pm after numerous drafts, I stumbled to the bathroom and puked my guts out! You know the kind of puking that when you have nothing left to spew out, you dry heave! Well I must of dry heaved for about a good hour and then I just laid on the smelly, sticky, dirty floor, hugging that filthy toilet like my life depended on it (it felt so cool though), and begged God to end my suffering. I passed out and at around 9-10pm, my friend came to get me. I remember he put me on the subway and I passed out again and woke up at my stop. I went to wait for the bus, and a dude came up to me and asked me if I wanted to smoke a joint with him. LOL!!!!

 

4. I trained for 2 years at a drama school (this was after my university stint) and worked as an actor for about 7 years. I did some low budget Canadian films (which means you will never ever see them… THANK GOD!) and a couple t.v shows, but my main forte’ was the theatre. I acted in quite a few productions in Toronto. I also traveled around the province a couple of times doing a children’s variety show, as well as a summer stock production of Hamlet where I played his cousin “Benvolio”.

 

5. I got stalked by this crazy woman for a couple months. It got so bad that I had to change my phone number and lay a complaint with the police to get her to leave me alone. It was not cool!

WHEW!!! That wasn’t too painful at all. Now I guess I gotta tag Bliss, On Purpose, Field Negro and Lubangakene aka thefreeslave.  

A Bientot!

Asa.

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