“A Flawed System” by Butch Ford

Young black father playing with daughter in the sitting room

“A Flawed System” by Butch Ford

Today’s topic may be a little touchy for some.  But it’s been MY reality for the better part of two decades and it’s a story I’d like to share.  It’s the story of the flawed Child Support System.  It’s known by a plethora of names nationwide, but here in Michigan it’s called Friend of The Court.  As a black man living in a major metropolis in Today’s Amerikkka, I have questions regarding the system’s infrastructure.  For instance…How are the financial parameters established?   What equations are they based on?  Are the rulings even FAIR for all parties involved?  Let’s delve into it a bit, shall we?  Remember…I can only speak about my own experience with FOC (Friend of The Court).  So, this is an isolated instance and doesn’t reflect the hundreds of thousands of cases still currently open locally and afar.

I am a proud father of a college freshman at an HBCU.  She’s a beautiful young lady and an honor student with a bright future ahead.  But it was a struggle financially throughout her childhood, adolescent and teen years working to support her at only a fraction of my earnings.  Her custodial parent was awarded a substantial amount of money to support my daughter, as ordered by the FOC.  In addition to that, I was delegated as to when I could and couldn’t see her.  i.e….every other weekend, alternating holidays, etc.  WAS THAT FAIR TO ANYONE?

Sadly, on several of my designated weekends I had to pick up extra shifts and work overtime to supplement my income due to the monies that were allocated to the custodial parent.  I had responsibilities in my own household which robbed us of valuable, quality time together.  WAS THIS FAIR TO ANYONE?  Her custodial parent is a public educator and has always earned more than I have professionally.  So that’s where my questions regarding the financial parameters of the system stem from.  There were also times when I couldn’t buy that toy, go see that new movie or purchase that certain article of clothing for her…due to the support order and what was being deducted from my earnings.  WAS THAT FAIR TO ANYONE?

Fathers and Children

It’s degrading for a man to work hard on a daily basis and not be able to reliably provide for his offspring.  However, I made sure to instill positive values and morals in her.  Teaching her that life isn’t about monetary gain.  But more about your character and how you represent yourself as a proud, respectful and dignified African American Queen.  These lessons helped shape her into the productive young lady she has become.   She just recently turned eighteen and my case through FOC has been closed.  It was a long, emotional and often grueling journey that saw me pay well over 100K to her custodial parent.  WAS THAT FAIR TO ANYONE?

But who benefited from all of this?  And who suffered from it?  What changes could/should be made to fix this obvious flawed system?  Because changes are needed.  Why does it even take a third party to dictate this process?  And who stands to gain the most from the third party’s involvement?  FOC received thousands of dollars in fees for “mediating” or meddling (whichever way you choose to look at it).  These questions are rhetorical…of course.  And the narrative isn’t about deadbeat parents or those types of situations…but more about hardworking people who simply want what’s best for their child(ren) in a co-parenting partnership.  In my opinion, The Friend of The Court ain’t nobody’s f***in’ friend!  It should be scrapped and overhauled.

 

Butch Ford

 

What in the World are We Walking for? by Chellyz View

Woman Walking With A Fitbit

What in the World are We Walking for?  by Chellyz View

It’s amazing how we are tracking our steps around the world. This phenomenon is contained on our wrists and the apparatus is worn faithfully by many. Personally, I’m too frugal to purchase one. Therefore, I downloaded an app on my phone that records the number of movements I make each day. The problem. I don’t always have my phone on my possession. So, I probably made 5,000 steps in one day instead of 250. Alright, I am stretching the truth a little.

The steps we take are more important than we know. Not because it improves our health, but it provides the directions of how we should live. It shows how productive we can be or become. It gives us the opportunity to choose a path of development or destruction. If you adopt a spiritual voyage, you may be aware of the verses found in Proverbs 3:5-6 King James Version (KJV),” 5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, he shall direct thy paths.” If you look to an African Proverb it tells us, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.” Oh yeah! I’m sure you have been told, “Always walk with your head up, not towards the ground.” You can also conjure up your own sayings about walking. I know that my everyday walk won’t always be pleasant or easy, but I am thankful for the journey.

giphy

Throughout the years, I recalled being lost. There were instances where I couldn’t find my sense of direction. I was preoccupied with everything that was in front of me. I wasn’t preparing myself for the days ahead.   Who really cared about the future?  Not me.  At least not all of the time.  It seemed too far away.  I didn’t focus on how those uncalculated steps would shape my future which left a negative impact on my life.

As I matured, I noticed the footprints of a distorted and disturbed generation. People rather be led by devices that only count the amounts of steps they take. I observed we feel a sense of accomplishment of reaching our walking goals, but what about our lifetime goals. Our ambitions have become limited. Our drive has dwindled to being excited about the brand of shoes we wear on our feet or chasing fast dreams that leads to disappointment.  We want to walk in other people’s shoes.  We concentrate on someone else’s journey instead of being content with our own.

Wait, maybe I should design a gadget that would track the movement of how many steps it takes to accomplish our personal goals and dreams. Oh, that exists already. All we need to do is use our hearts, minds, and the visions that are within us to walk towards success. There’s more to life than recording steps that will take us on a journey of becoming elated about numbers. Let us take strides to becoming better human beings and establishing a better society. Does anyone have time to take a walk for that? Take a count!

 

 

What Could Have Been? by Butch Ford

baseball heroes

What Could Have Been? by Butch Ford

Last night Saturday October 20, 2019…The Houston Astros earned their second World Series berth in three years by defeating “The Evil Empire” better known as The New York Yankees 6-4 in the ALCS (American League Championship Series) on a game winning, walk-off home run by second baseman Jose Altuve.  Houston wins the series 4-2. They will face the Washington Nationals (formerly The Montreal Expos) who are making their first ever World Series appearance after sweeping The St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 last Tuesday.  But what makes this so special, you ask?  Well to us Detroiters it sets up a pitching duel of epic proportions. 

The Astros are led by former Detroit Tigers’ pitching ace Justin Verlander, who won his first World Series championship in 2017 after being traded to Houston from Detroit mid-season for draft picks and prospects in a move to lower the payroll.  While Washington will boast the talents of former Detroit Tigers’ All-Star pitcher Max Scherzer who defected Motown for greener pastures in Our Nation’s capital in 2015.  The pitchers have 4 Cy Young awards between them.  Honoring baseball’s best pitcher in that given year as selected by Managers and Sports writers.  Verlander and Scherzer led Detroit to several American League and Central Division titles but were unsuccessful in bringing home the elusive World Series Championship in two failed attempts while still with the hometown team.

MLB (Major League Baseball) insiders and Tigers’ executives felt that Detroit’s window with that specific group had closed.  So, they decided to move in a new direction.  Hence…breaking the team up and starting from scratch with younger, lower salaried players…after a very competitive and successful yet expensive 9-year run.  But did they react too soon?  Could they have been a little more patient with that group?  Should they have waited a couple more years?  Die-hard Detroit Tigers’ fans can only wonder what if & what could have been…as we all prepare to watch these two former local heroes and behemoths battle it out in The 2019 Fall Classic.  Should be a great one!  Who you got?

Reflections of the Dining Room Table at My Grandparent’s House by Chellyz View

dining table

Reflections of the Dining Room Table at My Grandparent’s House by Chellyz View

I was scrolling through the gallery in my cellphone and the picture featured above held my attention.  A table.  Not just an ordinary table, but a decorated table that reminded me of one of my maternal grandmother’s tablecloths.  Some childhood memories are clear like looking through a freshly wiped window cleaned with window cleaner.  I accurately see the reflection of dinner time at my grandparent’s home.

My grandparents resided in a small modest home with a round dinner table. Dinner at my grandparent’s house was a ritual.  The main course of the day was done by 4:00 p.m.  My grandmother enjoyed working for a brief time, but life circumstances summoned her to become at stay home mom.  I admired my grandma for watching over me while my mom worked.  I am displeased with myself because I didn’t pay attention to her nor my paternal grandmother’s recipes made from scratch.  I felt cooking wasn’t my calling.  Therefore, cereal and grilled cheese sandwiches became my specialty as I grew older, but that’s another story.

Yes, the dinner table at my grandparent’s house was sacred.  Hands washed.   Fresh produce.  Homemade Ingredients.  Life was at a slower pace back in the day.  At least that is how I envision grandma’s kitchen.  I can recall the aroma of greens, black eyed peas, the snapping of peas or green beans, and sweet potato pies (no strings found).  Watching flour and yeast being rolled by hand with a wooden rolling pin then left to rise a few times before being baked in the oven left me amazed.  The scent of roast beef or a whole chicken that appeared to be roasted without the rotisserie machine contraption lingered in the air.  This was a time before anyone thought or knew the definition or lifestyle of veganism or gluten free.

The most important part of the dinner routine was setting the table.  My grandpa would become irritated at times because I would start singing at the table.  I didn’t sing on key, but I always had a song.  I don’t know if this was a habit because the food was so good or I just felt like hearing him telling me to stop all that sangin’.  I knew we were to sit down at the table together.  No eating in the room.  No preparing separate meals.  Whatever was cooked you ate or you starved. Currently, I don’t know if that would be considered unfair treatment to children or not.  Paper plates, and plastic ware was not allowed at the dinner table.  Cups made of foam, oh no!  My grandma said she felt like she was about to choke when she drank out of a foam cup.  When she did finally break down and accepted paper or plastic goods at her dinner table, you were only to purchase Chinet or some other brand that resembled resilience.

Today, I feel guilty as a mother.  Don’t get me wrong, my children don’t starve.  However, they didn’t experience the same dinner time rituals I did as a child.   I am thankful their dad has mad skills in the kitchen.  So, they always get excited when dad prepares the meals.  We don’t always consume our dinner at the same time due to work schedules or extracurricular activities.  I am known for stocking up on paper and plastic goods because it’s an “easy” way of life in my home, but I know it isn’t good for the environment.  There are times when we have carry-out meals a little too often or the frozen section in the market conveniently saves time instead of having everything freshly prepared.  Electronics such as tablets and phones are supposed to be banned at the table when we have an opportunity to dine together.  The children ask, “Why?”  I respond, “Cause my grandpa said no singing at the table.”  Also, I tell them it’s important because it gives us a chance to talk about life.

A few years ago, before I realized the impact dementia was having on my grandmother we got into an argument.  It was about the details of the dining room table.  I wasn’t folding the dinner napkins correctly.  Grandma exploded and I left the room muttering, “I ain’t having another holiday dinner over here.”  I think she felt it would be one of her last holidays preparing a home cooked meal at the sacred dinner table.  A sadness overwhelmed me because I knew grandma was changing and this portion of our lives wouldn’t be the same.  Now, she enjoys the meals my mom and aunt prepare for her. She always sit by the window in her comfy chair.  Her dinner table consists of a small foldable wooden dinner tray.  Of course, she asks what time it is throughout the day, because she never wants to eat dinner after 5:00 p.m.

As families we need to find time to gather more at the table.  Even if time doesn’t allow for it to occur every day, we should commit to making the time at least three to four times a week.  It might not even be dinner, but maybe you could enjoy preparing an evening snack or dessert together.  Have at least one “good tablecloth” and a set of nice dinnerware you can find on sale.  Maybe even splurge on the fancy paper ware but remember to recycle.  LOL, I even invite singing to the dinner table as long it is a song, we can all sing and is appropriate.  Yes, our schedules can be rigorous at times.  Yes, we often find ourselves overworked and trying to manage the bills.  However, try to find a few moments to create some reflective and comforting memories at the dinner table .

“Today’s Amerikkka” by Butch Ford

Amerikka

“Today’s Amerikkka” by Butch Ford

Today, I experienced something very disturbing and disheartening.  My own personal bout with racism.  We’ve all read about it, have seen it in the headlines, and watched live posts on social media.  But the feeling is totally different when you go through it personally.

Initially I was startled…followed by feelings of disbelief, confusion and then extreme rage.  I quickly remembered I was at work, as I gathered myself.  But couldn’t believe it was happening to me.  Mind you, I drive commercially for our region’s primary suburban transportation service.  And I had just finished dropping off a passenger at his home in a modest subdivision in an older neighborhood in Farmington, MI.  I parked at the end of the block to review my paperwork and to go over some notes when I noticed an elderly Caucasian man in my rear view mirror backing out of his driveway a few houses away.

I didn’t pay it much attention because I was working and minding my job-related business.  He pulled alongside of my vehicle, gestured for me to roll my window down and demanded that I leave immediately.  He said I wasn’t allowed to park on the street.  I looked away while halfheartedly replying “okay.”  He obviously wasn’t pleased with my response and lack of compliance.  So, he angrily pulled into the next driveway, turned around and headed back towards me.  He got my attention once again and informed me that if I wasn’t gone in 10 minutes that he’d call the police.  I told the gentleman that I was a commercial driver parked on a public road.  And although not obligated to, I reiterated that I had just dropped a passenger off and had every right to be there.  Besides…I wasn’t breaking any laws.  He again yelled angrily and aggressively, “I don’t care!  You can’t park here!  Leave now or I’m calling the police!”  What was the root of his anger?  I’m still not quite sure.  My vehicle was marked and visibly distinguished who my employer was.  I wasn’t making any noise or disturbing the peace, nor was I bothering anyone.  The only conclusion I could draw was that this man didn’t want anyone African American in his neighborhood any longer than they had to be.

Professionalism outweighed all personal feelings at the time.  Thank God.  Because things could have taken an ugly turn.  I thought back to my grandparents and the stories they told me of entitlement, inequality, social injustice and other similar instances.  I remember their deep disdain crystal clear.  But as a child I didn’t fully understand.  Maybe I wasn’t meant to at that time.  And for decades things seemed to have taken a more positive swing.  At least here in the north.  I don’t recall ever being a target of anyone’s prejudices, but it was extremely unpleasant to say the least.

Throughout the day as I reflected on this incident, I felt a myriad of other feelings.  Sadness, shame and pity came to mind.  I thought about the younger generation and the things that they will have to endure in their lifetime.  Especially with the climate of today’s society and the insensitivity of the world today.  Yet again…I’m back to the same question…what can we do to make it better?  Things must change!  I want to see my kids and grand baby grow up to live happy and productive lives.  “Today’s America” is not what our forefathers fought and died for.  I have stronger thoughts and opinions regarding this occurrence, but they’re better left unsaid at the time.

Thanks for taking a second to listen,

 

Butch Ford

 

Photo Cred:  Matthis Volquardsen from Pexels

 

MOTOWN: Yo Town & My Town by Butch Ford

motown

MOTOWN: Yo Town & My Town by Butch Ford

What is Motown?  Now that’s a loaded question.  And we’d probably hear several dozen responses of varied degree, I suppose.  Some may agree that it’s a majestic little white house at 2648 W. Grand Blvd. on the west side of Detroit.  While others may take the “hit making factory” approach.  If you answered either way, you’re definitely not wrong.  But that’s not the narrative this time.  The journey for me started towards the latter part of the 60’s, continued throughout the 70’s and was nurtured in the 80’s.  These were times where society put emphasis on family, love and unity.  Churches, schools, neighborhoods and community centers all had a hand in our upbringing.

“It takes a village” right?  Maybe it was a naive perspective, on my part?  Or was I just looking at things through rose colored lenses?  But something happened.  In fact…several things happened.  We could talk for hours about the collapse of the African American family, the failed education system, or the lack of pride and self-respect as “a people.”  But I’m more interested in solutions to these problems.  What can we do to right these wrongs?  Where do we even begin?

I don’t like to speak on politics or religion publicly.  My grandmother Mattie Mae taught me that at a young age.  But something has to change.  And I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself here.  It’s going to take a village AGAIN…if we want our pride back.  If we want our self-respect back.  If we want our dignity back.  And if we want our Motown back!  Let’s make a change my people!