52 Weeks of Gratefulness #18 – The Stopping Game

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For My Mom And The Stopping Game

In Week 18 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for a fond memory of my mother and her Stopping Game.

My Mom made everything fun.

When I was learning to drive she made up this game to see who could stop the car most smoothly.

A successful stop was one that was gentle on the passengers and did not cause them to jerk forward in their seats. An excellent stop was one that your passengers barely felt.

On our way to choir rehearsal or Bible class (as church was our most common destination), we’d take turns driving to see who could stop the car better.

My younger brother, though too young to drive at the time, would get in on the game too. We’d all have so much fun exaggerating like we were going to get thrown out of the car when the driver was making a stop.

At the time, I was completely unaware that my mother was teaching me to be calm behind the wheel, gentleness with the pedals, speed management and to better gauge distances in traffic. But even more than that, my mother turned what would have been a loathsome task (going to church) into absolute joy.

My Mom constantly did stuff like this. This is what motherhood looks like to me, she was simultaneously my best teacher and my first friend.

Oh, what a blessing Rosemary Luckett is to me.

I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #13 – Mrs. Cunningham

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Mrs. Cunningham (Twitter)

In Week 13 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Cunningham.

I only remember three things about Mrs. Cunningham:

The first is that she ate these weird looking apples with red jelly covered seeds that she use to suck on at her desk. I’d later come to learn this fruit was called a pomegranate.

The second is this story that she told us in class about someone in her family who was going so fast on a motorcycle that when he crashed the force of the collision hurled him into a telephone phone, sticking him to it by his ribs. It was at that point I decided never to ride a motorcycle.

The third and most important is something she said to me that changed my life forever.

Throughout my life, black women, especially, have had this superpower of perceiving and projecting the best version of who they believed we were destined to become. In the depths of my soul I know that no other voice besides God’s has greater impact in a young black man’s life than that of an affirming black woman.

This wasn’t some Jedi mind trick or some form of psychological manipulation. I believe they earnestly believed in your potential. They seemed to always approach you in the context of the promising view they held of you. Even when they caught you in the midst of wrongdoing, they would say something like, “Now, Mr. Luckett, I know you’re a gentleman and gentleman don’t act like that.” They conveyed an expectation that you wanted to live up to.

One day, Mrs. Cunningham looked intensely at me, to the point I was embarrassed and thought I was in trouble, and she said to me, “Mr. Luckett, you’re a leader. See me after class.” It was that day that she made me a school crossing guard for G.N. Smith Elementary. I remember her walking me to the Principal’s office and giving me my uniform. It was the old fashioned kind, it wasn’t a vest but sort of a reflective belt with a strap that ran diagonally across your chest. I revered that uniform and felt the weight of its responsibility every time I put it on. It was too big for me but I grew into it. My job was helping people to safely get from one point to another. The profundity of that never left me.

I was a crossing guard 5th grade and 6th grade. I went on to my beloved middle school, Bailey Magnet, looking to serve. I was a class representative to the student government “Knights Of The Roundtable” for 7th grade and 8th grade, class president 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade and student body president 12th grade. I became president of the Metro-Jackson Student Council and the student representative to the Jackson Public School Board. Today, I try to serve wherever I can, largely because my 5th grade teacher said, “You’re a leader.”

She believed it, then so did I. I’m grateful. #52WoG #teachers #education #blackwomen #leadership

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #10 – Legacy Of Willie Lee Harris

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For The Legacy Of Willie Lee Harris

In Week 10 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for the legacy of Willie Lee Harris.

His cancer is terminal.

We can see his body weakening. On this particular day, Mr. Harris seems to be doing remarkably well. Where he had been confined mostly to a chair or his bed, he’s walking around, talking, doing stuff. The reason for all this activity is that he wants to make the house more secure. His sons and grandsons are there to help him check locks and install security bars on the windows.

This is the last thing Mr. Harris did before leaving this life: making his wife secure. Mr. Harris knew he was dying, but in the face of death he thought about protecting his wife.

What an awesome legacy. This is the stuff my extended family, my wife and consequently my children are made of. I’m grateful. #52WoG

P.S. This is the day the family traditionally celebrates the birthday of Mr. Willie Lee Harris, even though we learned some years ago, that according to his birth certificate, he was born on March 11. That’s a window into a whole other discussion about the black experience, government and historicity, but suffice it to say we’re glad this man was born and we honor his legacy, especially today.

The Myth Of Black Exceptionalism

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com The Myth Of Black Exceptionalism

A major downfall of my community is our participation in the myth of black exceptionalism.

The notion fed by a pitiful desire for proximity to whiteness that suggests those blacks who have somehow made it to the table (irrespective of how dubious the means) are somehow “different” than other blacks, a “credit to my race” -exceptional, but as evidenced by the limits imposed on our influence while at the table, still inferior.

I, however, am not exceptional in any way. I am what happens with a semi-stable, home-owning, two parent family and very modest resources.

I went to an elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia, that exposed me to a second language, German, in the second and third grade.

My parents could afford to supplement my education with activities such as piano lessons.

I was afforded opportunities in a well funded Jackson Public School District who could recruit exceptional teachers and offer programs such as Bailey Magnet School and the Jackson Academic and Performing Arts Complex.

I had opportunity through APAC to participate and compete in the visual arts and classical voice (what some think of as Opera, but its a little different).

I had opportunity at my high school, Bailey Magnet, to participate in string orchestra (violin), debate, forensics, student government, etc. etc.

See, I am not exceptional, I am an average person that is a confluence of those investments. People, by in large, are products of our investments. So, if we want different outcomes, we must make different investments.

What’s most needed in the black community, in my opinion, is not welfare but wealth.

The outcomes we find undesirable; crime, teenage pregnancy, and other ills of poverty are not because my people are deficient or broken, it is because of a broken system that artificially constricts the flow of resources to protect the advantage of some by starving the investments in others that are necessary to produce the outcomes we claim we want.

One of the most poignant examples of this “artificial constriction” was made during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, where the FEDERAL Housing Administration (not some backwater town in the deep South, mind you, but the federal government) adopted a documented policy to extend credit to whites, irrespective of their credit worthiness (they were essentially begged to take the loans) while creating racially restrictive conditions, where blacks were not only excluded from the loan program but were barred from even renting homes subsidized by FHA loans. It is to this day, one of the most significant contributors to the wealth gap. Many whites who were languishing in poverty as a result of the Great Depression, were lifted out by one of the largest government interventions (welfare program, if you like) in U.S. history -being given an appreciable asset, homes, while blacks were pushed further to the margins.

Beginning to address the problems we face today will require interventions on the scale of those that contributed to them. As much as it was true for whites during the depression, it is true for blacks today: the path out of poverty begins with possessing an asset that reliably appreciates in value. And, education ain’t it. It’s what we’ve been peddled -straddling us with enormous debt and very often useless parchment. But, in my opinion, that’s putting the cart before the horse. Education is important, but generally education should be profitable. It’s not alchemy. Education cannot create something out of nothing. At a societal level, education is a means of growing production and profit. What good is knowing without the wherewithal to do? What good is know how when we have no where to apply it? Therefore, education follows wealth.

Everything I do is driven by a God given love of my community as a whole and a desire for all of it to thrive. Blacks are a part of that community and we’ve got a tourniquet constricting the flow of vital resources throughout the body. So my efforts to eliminate these restrictions are not merely to benefit blacks but for the well being of us all. So, you want to stop kids from breaking in your truck? You want to deal with the issue of crime sustainably? It’s not more prisons. We’ve tried that. Making the long-term, positive investments for the outcomes we want is where we start.

So blacks, especially, who have achieved some affluency must stop perpetuating this lie that we’re special and that other blacks are in their predicament because they lack some innate quality that we, who have “made it”, have. We’re harming ourselves by deflecting from the real conversation to be had – how we’re going to accomplish wealth at scale. When the conversation drifts to a symptom, we must bring it back to the system.

I love you.

Originally posted on Facebook on February 14, 2021.

Black History: We Are Not Victims

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Black History: We Are Not Victims

I reject constant depictions of black history that mischaracterizes us as perpetual victims.

Despite the popular, whitewashed depiction of our people, we are not victims but combatants.

We are and always have been active participants in the fight to live free, with dignity as a people, to control our own destiny, to both contribute to and benefit from the progress of every place our diaspora dwells.

Victims wait for justice from another.

Combatants seize it.

We employ strategy, take ownership of our losses and regroup to win the next battle.

Don’t be deceived, we’ve been fighting from the beginning. Our remarkable progress was not given but blood bought.

And, we will continue to fight until every chain is broken.

This is #blackhistory.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #6 – Lessons From My Father About Work

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Lessons From My Father About Work

In 6 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for lessons from my father about work.

No one in the world works harder than my father, Rev. Paul Luckett. No one.

I remember when my Dad was a student in seminary, he was a full time student, paying his way through school as a custodian for our apartment building in Atlanta, Georgia, pastoring two churches and driving between school in Atlanta and the churches in Jackson, Mississippi every weekend.

I remember spending countless summer days with him and my little brother Nehemiah Luckett, cutting yards, painting houses, buffing floors, hanging shingles, etc.

My youngest brother James recently told my Dad, “Whew, you’re a hard worker, Daddy. That’s a good thing to be. But, don’t you think it’s time to go home now?”

With my Dad having such a strong work ethic, naturally he had lessons to pass along to us. Here are a few I hope to pay forward:

A want is something you work for. A gift is something you’re given.

No one is obliged to give you what you want –or anything for that matter.

If there’s something you want that you feel you’re owed, it’s no longer a gift but wages.

Wages require that you be hired. To be hired requires at least an informal contract that’s been expressed for work in exchange for wages.

Are you feeling like someone owes you something? Well, were you hired for the task that you think you’re owed for?

No one owes you for work you weren’t hired to do.

And, no one owes you for being a ‘good’ person. If your goodness is contingent on being compensated for it, you’re not a good person but a faker-for-hire.

Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. If anyone gives you anything, be grateful -you don’t get to place demands on a gift. If you have demands, if you want something, work as hard as it takes to get it. Wants aren’t owed but earned.

This is treasured wisdom from my father that is still ministering to me today. Thanks, Dad. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #7 – Dr. Athelia and Placid Eze

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze

In 7 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze.

I was in my MR COMPUTER MAN service truck on Highway 82, headed back from a service appointment in Columbus to Starkville, when a tan 2001 Lincoln Town Car flew past me. As the car advanced ahead of me, the driver glanced over in my direction and suddenly the car’s speed dropped precipitously to match my own, our vehicles side-by-side on the highway. The driver locked her eyes on me, nodding her head, then pointing in my direction and afterward sped off. I was perplexed and slightly unnerved by the encounter, but little did I know that moment would mark the beginning of one of the most meaningful relationships of my career. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from Dr. Athelia Eze to provide IT services for her practice and that began a 20 year relationship with her and Dr. Placid Eze of Eze Family Medical Clinic.

I’ll jump straight to the punch line and say that Dr. Athelia Eze and Dr. Placid Eze are unsung heroes in the black community, not only here in Starkville or in North Mississippi, but arguably throughout the southeast, having had clinics and pharmacies in (including, but not limited to) Starkville, Columbus and East Point, Georgia. No one has done more in this area to identify, recruit, educate and produce black medical professionals than Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze. They gave minorities a chance and an onramp into medical professions when no one else would.

This is not something I’ve heard about, the Eze’s themselves don’t even talk about it, it’s something I’ve watched them do quietly and purposefully. I would add that it’s also something they’ve paid dearly to do. I’ve watched them take people with little to no background in a professional setting, with next to zero experience in the medical field and in many cases pay to have them educated, personally study with them for exams and certifications to help them along the path to attain a meaningful and gainful career. It’s an absolute slough of trial and error, frustration, candidates quitting, spectacular failure, betrayal, disappointment, considerable expense, but always love.

Love characterizes their practice. You can hear it in Dr. Placid’s laugh and bedside manner with his patients. You can see it as Dr. Athelia would greet her customer’s children by name, knowing the candy each child preferred. It is a safe place, sadly still needed in 2022, where blacks can come and not get strange looks or funny treatment for the kind of insurance they have, for not having insurance, or for not looking like a ‘good client’ –whatever that means. Sure, as an I.T. professional I’m there installing network equipment or servicing computers but I’m always paying attention. And, when people came through those clinic doors or pulled up to the pharmacy drive-thru window they were treated as though they belonged there, as though they were wanted there. For better or worse the Eze’s focused on care first and would often work with their patients to figure out how to take care of the cost later.

Care for your people even when it costs you is the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.

Dr. Placid is from Nigeria and Dr. Athelia is from the coast, so they didn’t even know many of the people here that they would come to make investments in. As graduates of Morehouse College and Mercer University, respectively, as well as being members of the black greek letter organizations Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Kappa Alpha, they were steeped in an African-American culture that prioritized collective progress and embraced education not for education’s sake but as a tool for empowerment. So, in all that they do and everywhere they go, they’re always looking out for black people they can invest in -even if it costs them –because they love them. Again, the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.

I can hear the question, “Wait. Isn’t this just reverse racism?”

No.

Dr. Placid and Dr. Athelia love all people. In watching them serve, hire and work with people of all backgrounds, that would be clear to anyone.

They simply made it a point to focus love where love was lacking. You should too.

This is black history. I am inspired by the Eze’s commitment not only to offer compassionate medical care for their community but also to increase its economic capacity. While it doesn’t always look great for the bottom line, it always yields a profit because love never fails. Their love has born fruit in my life that I’m eager to bear in the lives of others. I’m grateful. #52WoG #BlackHistory