An Announcement on the 66th

66 is bitter sweet as I hang up my cleats in the field of Black Urban Christian Youth Development. I walk away knowing that I gave it my all (my time, my resources and my talent)! I understood from the very beginning that my call was both unique and revolutionary from within the Black Christian community. We knew that we would be serving the most challenged urban youth or those who were on the other side of the cross.

Over my thirty plus year career in the field of Black Christian Urban Youth Development, we sought to bring innovation while attempting to influence the field from both a Christian and the Black church perspective. When I entered the field, I had absolutely no models for which I could emulate so I was forced to carve a path that for many was both weird and completely outside the norm for the Black Christian church particularly the evangelical community.

I am thankful for those who were unashamedly willing to walk beside me regardless of the dark moments. I am thankful for the many individuals in the Detroit area, around the United States and particularly in the African diaspora who God has used me to influenced them to serve Christ beyond the traditional models.

Soon I will announce my successors in this work.  I anticipate them to do even greater works and for them to carve new ground. Someone asked me a few days ago, am I pleased with the things that I have accomplished? The answer to that question is NOT!  When I entered this work, I thought we would be able to significantly move the needle for black youth in all our community-based deficits. The Satanic stronghold on urban system is unbelievable. Do not be deceived we wrestle not against individuals but evil systems and principalities (DT). I just saying….

Nobody Cares: So Eat Drink and be Merry

Today I read a newspaper column by a very prominent black newspaper columnist suggesting the hope for improving and building a quality urban education system is in the hands of Detroit’s corporate leaders. Immediately, I thought, once again no one has faith or confidence in the black community and faith leaders, parents or the citizens who ultimate pay the price for this democratic system.

Perhaps the writer has selected short-term memory and needs to be reminded that for a little over 18 years, the district was under the control of state government, corporate leaders and the behind the scenes of undercover prodding philanthropic leaders and individuals. But maybe we should blame their lack of memory on the JOA which fired, laid off and/or destroyed any concept of institutional newspaper memory within the Detroit journalistic community.  It seemed as if after the JOA, it was open season to destroy black leadership of all kind.

Since the early 80’s, there has been a systematic dismantling of Detroit Pubic Schools under the banner of “school reform”. Our “destructors” have used every excuse from governance, capitalistic charter school infusion to Education Achievement Authority EAA and more. They even convinced the electorate (the citizens of Detroit) that the democratic system of government for the people by the people does not work in Detroit. Less not forget the 18 plus years they used the media to bamboozled us almost daily that they had a better way and appointed individuals who were Black but with little to no educational leadership experience either from a pedagogical perspective, school governance or school finances.  Most had stellar corporate or government backgrounds but no personal investment in both the city or its black children. So the DPS took a dive below the point of hell (if that is even possible).

Now we are hearing again, just when we regain public control that the solution for building a quality educational system rest in the hands of government and corporate leaders. That is CRAP! They don’t give a DAMN about black children and it should be obvious by now. They had 18 years which in educational years represents two generations of children attending a failing school system. When will the people we elect understand that the citizens are quite capable of doing an effective job of restructuring our educational system so that all of our children will both thrive and excel if given both the opportunities and resources.

Yes, we will probably need to have a “come to Jesus meeting” with leaders in the faith and neighborhoods. But we are most capable and willing. Yes, we will need to redefine the priorities of government, churches and the social service systems to make urban children and youth number one. But we can and are very prepared to do it if some of you will stop paying our representatives to carry your water, which is not the agenda and policies of the citizens.

Someone would ask don’t you want the Detroit financial tycoons to be successful and to that question we say yes. But not off the backs of the struggling residents and not without making room for others to enjoy the pleasure of capitalistic success in Detroit. We want policies that are inclusive of more than crumbs of the table and positions beyond Vice Presidents of Diversity and Inclusion or Vice President of Public Affairs. Don’t get me wrong, we are thankful for each of those individuals but the people want and demand more.

One final quick thought, it’s time to stop the bait and switch strategic moves.  We see though the destruction of our neighborhoods costing us billions in exchange for the few millions in gifts, donations and philanthropy. So enjoy the Policy Conference at a Pure Michigan site, enjoy the weather and the drinks and food, but don’t think for one minute that these policies represent the dreams and aspirations of the people of Detroit. I’m just saying. Enjoy!

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I Love Bill Cosby

unnamed-5I love Bill Cosby and I’m not afraid to tell the world.  My loving Bill Cosby doesn’t mean I am condoning his alleged off-screen behavior. But he has been apart of my family going all the way back to I Spy in 1965. Family never turns their back on another member of the family.  Bill Cosby has been a distant member of my family for years. Face it, if you’re black, Bill has been a distant member of your family as well.

Man in 1965 I Spy represented the indelible hope for a diverse society.  The TV show story line had a brother equal to his white counter part (played by Robert Culp) and he was a legitimate spy. He was a hero doing good, intelligent and a TV superstar. In the sixties it couldn’t get much better and Cosby was politically astute who used his influence and resources to change the quality of life for African-Americans.  I knew some young brothers from 12th Street and Central High School in Detroit who were incredible tennis players but they were stuck in the hood until Bill Cosby sponsored them for several years in the pros. He even moved them to Florida to be coached by one of the world leading tennis professionals and financially sustained their lifestyle without an expectation of ROI. He told them to do your best and keep me informed of your victories and defeats. Well they never rose to the status of the Williams sisters or Arthur Ash but they were all among the top twenty-five in the world. I love Bill Cosby!

Again in the seventies, my friend the late Cookie Cox (The daughter of Dr. Wendall Cox one of the founders of Bell Broadcasting owners of the only black owned and operated radio stations in Detroit) an alumnus of Fisk University was trying to raise money to keep the doors of Fisk University from closing and reached out to many entertainers to help. But no one responded until she connected with Bill Cosby and he assembled probably the most eclectic group of black entertainers ever. He called together the likes of Aretha Franklin, Harry Belafonte, Issac Hayes, Sidney Poitier, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, Flip Wilson, The Staple Singers and many more including politicians like the late Congressman Charles C Diggs Jr,  former Congressman Ronald Dellums and others. If you were somebody you responded to the call. The call didn’t just apply to entertainers and politicians but alumnus and other students from around the country. They raised several thousand dollars and pledges equal to I believe more than a million to save Fisk University. I love Bill Cosby!

Even I responded to support our friend Cookie and Fisk University. So on the next day as we were preparing to check out of the King of the Road hotel in Nashville we discovered something strange all of the rooms had been paid and the front desk clerk told us the donor said donate the money to Fisk University. Well we all rolled up to Fisk only to discover a line of guests that included the Queen of Soul making a donation to the school. We later discovered that the donor was none other than Bill Cosby. Yes, I love Bill Cosby.

He and his lovely wife Camille loved us back with multiple million of dollars in private donations to individuals, institutions, HBCU’s, political causes, black entrepreneurs, politicians and global causes.  I love Bill Cosby but he has never been the moral compass for African-Americans and for that point the African diaspora. We love him as an entertainer, philanthropist, activist and much more but not as the moral purveyor of truth and morality.  A few years ago when the aging comedian was ranting about black parents he was taken to task by leaders in the Black community and scholars including Dr. Michael Eric Dyson for berating black parents without understanding systems of oppression.  We didn’t reject him as a family member we simply corrected him and moved on. After all he was that family member who needed to be corrected.

I’ve been troubled by the way members of the elite blacks have responded to the Cosby’s situation. In fact for me it is very troubling that several leading black academic institutions (Central State University and Spelman College included) who received donations from the Cosby’s removed he and his wife’s name from their buildings. Perhaps they were feeling the pressure of the #me too movement.  I said it was troubling because when did we start allowing the oppressors standards to align or replace the values of our community.   The African-American community has a rich heritage steeped in truth, justice and forgiveness.  We have always loved and care for our wounded. But it seems that are assimilation and integration has allowed others to both guide and redirect who we are as a people.

As a community, we never condoned wrong however we were able to look to the interest of African-Americans and make reconciliation, forgiveness and rehabilitation a hallmark of our truth steeped in biblical formation. Before anyone accuse me of supporting or advocating for the mistreatment of women you are totally wrong. What I am saying is our values are both biblically centered but also community focused. Many of you will disagree but Congressman Adam Clayton Powell and Mayor Marion Berry were good for the African-American residents in their respected cities Washington and New York.  Which is why each one of them were reelected to governmental positions.

We the African-American community understood that biblical justice has two sides to the coin and the other side represents reconciliation and rehabilitation. In the oppressors justice it has generally one side of the coin and that’s punishment unless you have the clout of the rulers.  If Dr. Cosby is convicted he will join the long list of Black men who are incarcerated without a chance for rehabilitation, forgiveness or reconciliation. Unfortunately or fortunately his financial resources will be key to his reconciliation. One of the fundamental truths of Christianity is forgiveness. As a people group (Blacks) we have always understood that forgiveness does not negate natural consequences but our search for justice included rehabilitation.

Here is another interesting point as long as we’re doing good and making you proud we are in the family. But the minute are sins are exposed we are castrated and tossed into the sea of none-forgiveness. Our kids see this as performance based love.  Subsequently when we say we love them they don’t believe it because from their perspective our love is based on how well they perform. Some will say I can never live up to their expectations because the performance gap is too wide and too deep so why try.

Cousin Bill Cosby is a symbol of what is wrong with a justice system that only seeks punishment for justice.  It’s time we host a family meeting where we hash out this village value justice. Certainly we can not settle for justice system that has gone wild and produces limited if any results. Over the last several years I’ve met some incredible brothers (yusef Shakur, Rev. Joseph Williams, Shaka Senghor, Van Jones and Bryan Stevenson to name only a few) who live their lives dedicated to transforming our justice system. This situation alone requires us to think outside the box and ask what is the value of incarcerating an 80-year-old man verses extending the long arm of forgiveness and rehabilitation.  Perhaps if we need to open our eyes to a bad justice system that is discriminative, corrupt and dysfunctional. Dr. Bill Cosby will go on trial this week and whether he wins, loses or draws justice will not be served. I’m just saying….

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“Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing”

Several years ago, I walked into a Detroit Public School and noticed a sign hanging in the entrance that read “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing”.  I soon found out it was the new mantra of the former Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Burnley.  So a few days later, I asked Dr. Burnley, what was he trying to communicate to the staff and students since the mantra was ordered to hang throughout every school in the district. His response was  simple, we are educators and we should focus all resources and energy toward educating Detroit kids and not get side tracked.  Interesting!!!!!!

Well let’s fast forward a few years later and that is my message to the church. Brothers and sisters let’s keep the main thing the main thing. However noble it is to fill in the gaps of missing services, our central focus must be evangelism and discipleship. In fact I would say to Black or Urban churches, it is socially and theologically irresponsible when we place anything else above evangelism and discipleship. Our biblical mandate as Christians both individually and the collective body is to GO (Matthew 28: 18-20). It is in our going that verse 20b says “And surely I will be with you even until the end of the age”.  In 1 Corinthians 3: 6-9 The Lord reminds us through the Apostle Paul that if we plant and water God will bring the increase. The evidence is clear we’ve stopped planting and watering.

When I say it is socially and theologically irresponsible not to be fully engaged in evangelism and discipleship it suggest that we no longer believe in the power of God to transform and change people and circumstances. How can we look out of the windows of our churches or drive down the streets and not see the enormous and overwhelming hurt of our people and think that our band-aid solutions can solve these problems. As Believers we should know that only through a personal relationship with the incarnate Christ can ones life truly be transformed. It is when we surrender our sinful spirit to godly renewal that true change takes place.

We have master the art of making things look good. God knows the wickedness of our dreadful minds and even on our good days we are pathetic with good intentions. Recently I made a conscious decision to closely monitor and record the wicked thoughts of my good intentioned mind.  Looking intently throughout the day was completely overwhelming. So I asked myself why would I think that my brilliant and creative intentions would lead to transformations apart from the person (s) I’m seeking to serve surrendering to Christ and growing accordingly.  What I know is a completely surrendered life to Christ at least causes the Holy Spirit to convict and correct (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Sisters and Brothers our boats may be out of the water on dry land.  We are like hamsters in a cage spinning and making no progress but we are working hard. (Revelations 2:2-4).  However noble the cause of reconciliation, feeding the poor, hosting phenomenal music programs with great praise and worship, even our service to children and youth, if it is not accompanied with evangelism and discipleship we are like a boat on the shore or a hamster in a cage.

There is a new movement that suggest the body of Christ should wait for the non-believer to seek The Lord through our witness. I do believe there is wonderful place for that in the growth of the church but our biblical mandate is to GO and MAKE. Acts 1:8 says we (believers) have received power from the Holy Spirit to be His witness in Jerusalem (our communities), Judea (our Country), Samaria (the darkest places in our societies) and the ends of the earth (the world). (The writer’s commentary emphasis.) Our faith must be active and present. Some the best moments in my life are when I am intentional either in my presence, conversation and/or in my loving (agape).

Recently I was visiting with a friend in ministry and he was sharing all of the various ministry endeavors and I told him that his budget would be a reflection of his churches love. That statement stunned him because his church budget was not a true reflection of his ministry desires (Matthew 6:21). (Probably in another blog I will discuss the question, do people make the ministry or does the building?) My point is we need to reevaluate budgets to emulate the desires of Christ and hopefully our hearts.

Perhaps we need a reminder note to hang in our buildings saying” Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing”. As we all reflect on Resurrection Sunday, let us remember that Christ died a brutal death for us and that every one of us sin and fall so short but Christ bridged the gap making our righteousness possible. We must pass this Gospel on to everyone (Romans 1:16) and trust The Lord to bring the increase.  Never let it be said we did not do our part evangelism and discipleship (Matthew 7:21-23). I’m not judging I’m Just Saying….

Stop the Madness – Enough is Enough

Isaiah 11:6D (“and the little ones shall lead them“)… Congratulations to the courageous high school students from Florida and around the world who organized millions to make their voices heard on the issue of violence invading our society and particularly our schools. We are thankful for the parents and adult allies who encouraged, empowered and supported this next generation of leaders. May they remain fearless. 

However as encouraged as I am with this weekends activities it is still reactionary. Yes I said reactionary! Americans are more prone to react to crisis rather than strategically address the root problem that we created and continue to perpetuate. Violence in America is an adult based creation and that includes our fantasy with weapons of all calibers (which I will address in another blog).

Violence is a public health crisis in America! We can neither march, enforce, legislate or negotiate our way out of this problem.  If you didn’t know it we love violence! The news editors would say if it doesn’t bleed it won’t lead. And leading it does, driving the Nielsen ratings higher and higher creating an audience competition for viewers.  Here is an interesting thought for some of my readers, violence wasn’t an issue in America until it came to the front door of suburban schools. We’ve been screaming for years stop the violence. In the urban culture our music, entertainment, news and schools have promoted violence in such a manner that it is now just a way of life.

As a former urban youth pastor, I noticed years ago the difference between the prayers of suburban and urban students. I can honestly say that in over twenty-five years, I probably have never heard an urban student not pray for protection and safety for themselves and their families as they move in and around the cities. While the suburban kids were praying for favor, wisdom in relationship and career direction and ability to pass an exam. Urban kids were traumatized “will I live tomorrow” and will I make it home safe”. I will never forget my first encounter with young man whose name was David who did not believe he would live to see the age of 18. During that period of time I noticed a trend that we are seeing twenty-five plus years later, students who do not believe they will live to reach the age of 21. The trauma of violence is real and it is a public health crisis. 

In 2009 we launched a student led health initiative in collaboration with a few local youth development agencies, the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, Henry Ford Health Systems and the State of Michigan’s then Surgeon General Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom. The program was entitled T.E.A.C.H. (Teens, Educating and Advocating for Community Health) for IMPACT. Over time our students sought to address youth health disparities in youth friendly language and cultural relevant methods. After one year, the students realize and recommended to us that violence be added as a health disparity and we would address it as a public health crisis. (https://youtu.be/mLWyELxsNqw)

At the time I was actively serving students residents in the Brightmoor community. So we developed a concept paper that would provide for every student K-12 and their parents receiving Conflict Resolution Training. We sought to build a collaboration with experts in the Martin Luther King, Jr Non Violence Training.  Outside of Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom who encouraged the students to take our ideas to the highest levels, these kids were laughed at and dehumanized by funders and members of the Detroit City Council.

The idea was in my opinion simple and cost effective but the community impact had the potential of transforming the lives of thousands of students, decrease the number of juvenile offenders from Brightmoor and create a national model. Here’s the Readers Digest version (old folks language):  The first week of school in the fall would be completely devoted to addressing violence in every school and in every classroom. We would secure volunteers college students from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University who would receive facilitation training from the King Center in Atlanta. Students would develop a plethora of activities in addition to the classroom lessons that highlight best methods for resolving conflicts in school, home and community.  The activities would include everything from student school-based poster campaigns to in-school hip-hop concerts and the implementation of the T.E.A.C.H.for IMPACT clubs in every school empowering students to be spokespersons and continue the campaign long after the first week of school.

As I sit and think about the ideas of Nick, Veronica, Kendall, Darius, Stormy, Chris, Angelo, Brandon, Kelly, Alexis, Cassie, Carman, Taylor, Chelsey, Raymond, Napolean and others I am still in awe. (1 Timothy 4:12). But wait a minute, TEACH for IMPACT is still going and the concept paper can be resurrected now the question is who is willing (Isaiah 6:8).

Brothers and sisters we don’t have to be reactionaries. We are smart enough to strategize and create transformational change in our schools and community. I’m just saying… If you’re interested in being a revolutionary let me know at bemoorradio@gmail.com because 2018 is the year of transformation. I’m just saying…. (Philippians 4:13)Dennis Photo Christmas

Get Ready… Dennis Talbert is Blogging

Blogging has been on my drawing board for years. But cropped-img_0762a couple of weeks ago, Pastor Haman Cross, Jr  said to me “you should blog” and suddenly a fire began to re-bubble in my spirit and finally I said YES. Special thanks to the soon to be Dr. James Holly, Jr for laying the ground work for the blog site.

I Just Saying – some may asked, what will you be blogging about? I’ll take a stab at sharing my thoughts within the context of my values as a Christian in the middle of a world culture that rejects and/or clashes with my prescribed values. But for some my Christian narrative/viewpoint may conflict with many particularly those who identify with the evangelical community a group with whom I have been affiliated since 1985 through my church Rosedale Park Baptist Church. Why the conflict? Because for me growing in Christ has been more than just memorization and doctrine like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) I explored the scriptures daily in search of both truth and understanding with an expected outcome of an informed theology that would ultimately be transformative personally, professionally and globally through my work.

As a blogger, my task will be to create a theological pathway for Christian critical thinkers that would ultimate lead to community change. I am thankful for the many men and women who crossed my path. Some of these individuals do not share my theological journey, but who allowed me a first hand view and the opportunity even as a child to participate in their spiritual journeys and afforded me the honor and privilege to THINK without condemnation (Romans 8:1) and create my own spiritual path to following Jesus Christ.  Regularly this blog will honor men and women who are or have been critical thinkers to my chosen blogging topic. But I must start by honoring those men and women who were and are extremely critical along my spiritual pathway. They are: the late Mr. John Wesley Talbert (my father), Pastor Phillip Nelson (my youth pastor), the late William Carleton Audrey, the late Dr. Isaiah Scipio, Pastor Haman Cross, Jr. and Pastor Gregory Alexander. There were also phenomenal women (Romans 16) who were beneficial to my growth Mrs. Edna Hillard, Ms. Lovett, Mrs. Fannie Norman and finally Mrs. Queen Ann Lamar and my loving and devoted mother Mrs. Nettie Talbert all of whom are in the presence in Jesus.  Their love is an living epistle of one of my ministry verses (Galatians 4:19 NIV).  Thank you!

I’m Just Saying will cover a wide variety of topics including economics, violence, public health, culture, theology, reconcilation, education and politics to name a few through the lens of urban youth development. And don’t think I’m Just Saying won’t have a lot to say about the black church. As a professional urban youth development specialist and former youth pastor I have maintained for years that “we don’t love urban children”. Every issue urban children and youth face sit at the feet of the adult population (Matthew 27:28). Now the real question that faces us is have we allowed this problem to mushroom so big that we can not reverse and change. It’s like asking a second amendment person this question; if we could save American’s children, would you be willing to give up your gun? Or asking the bible believing church going member; what’s more important Sunday morning worship or the Great Commission in the eyes of God?

I invite you to take this ride with me and invite your friends not to just engage in conversations, but I hope we together will produce critical thinking that will ultimately lead to transformational change in urban communities around the world.  Pastor Cross might regret the day he reignited the desire to blog but I won’t. It might even be therapeutic for me and you but for now I’m Just Saying….