Monday, December 8, 2008

Crunch Time

Last week of the semester and I am getting my butt kicked. On the plus side, I've reconnected with God. The positives outweigh the negatives.

I've come back to reality. However, oddly enough, I feel as though I couldn't be further from it. This semester, I went from being fresh out of a relationship, coldy logical and also cynical, to being strong in solitude, warmly sensitive and faithful. Weird. Not to mention, I bounced from hip-hop to reggae to contemporary Christian music as my soundtrack. And also, from seeing myself as a black American, then an African-American, and now finally a Christian above all.

Oh goodness, when this semester is over and the Chevrolet LMA rollout is a bit more under control, do I ever have a story to tell!


Friday, September 26, 2008

God and I

I am an intelligent, liberal, logic-based individual.

But I love God.

My relationship with God is the only thing that has carried me through the most the most difficult of times, and when I stop acknowledging him, things always decline. However, I cannot bring myself to not acknowledge God any more. The only reason I exist, the only thing that has kept my family from disaster, my mother from death, kept my relationship with my father intact, given me the strength to overcome personal hurdles and build bridges of love across the vast divides of differences with others, is God's presence in my life. And it is there for anyone, you just have to ask. You just have to talk to God. It's the only way you maintain any relationship--- Communication.

God's love is the only constant for me. And honestly, I think it is the only constant for anyone. And while you should love others and others will love you for it, draw your love from God. Let God's love regenerate you, because it will, on a consistent basis. God's love will never hurt you, your love for God will never hurt you. That doesn't mean you have to be perfect, it doesn't mean you have to buy into mainline evangelical Christian beliefs, that you have to bend to anything, or talk to anyone you don't want to talk to. Just talk to God, or again, acknowledge him. Just acknowledge God's presence in all that you do, and he will acknowledge you in all that he does.

God is not the human construct we call the church. God is the alpha and the omega. The catalyst for all. Preceding and outlasting any church, anybody who calls themselves Christian. So just talk to God, educate yourself, and figure it out between God and yourself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Golden Oldies

Monday, September 18, 2006

Do White Americans Call Themselves British? A Response To Enhancing Self-Acceptance.

My grandfather Clinton Clarence Collins, Sr. lived in the almost third-world poverty of Jim Crow Mississippi as a youth. Most of his childhood he didn't own a pair of shoes and he didn't know his first name until he lied about his age to join the Army; around the community, he was simply referred to as "Boy." However, he rose from the ashes of those beginnings to become a hero of World War II, a scholar, a politician, a teacher and a father of three college-educated black teachers.

In Toki Wright's essay Enhancing Self-Acceptance (here), which is about Semptember 17th's Buju Banton concert at First Ave., he writes "I am a member of the African Diaspora as well as a Minnesotan." In that regard, I have an identity similar to Toki's however I still have a fundamentally different story and perspective.

My father Clinton Clarence Collins, Jr. grew up predominantly in Denver, Colorado and through his scholarly exploits became the first Black American from Denver to go to Harvard. From there he attended and graduated from the University of Michigan law school (where I was born). During this time he married and conceived a child with a farm-raised blind White American woman, Beverly Jean Collins… This child being myself.

Although born in Ann Arbor, Michigan I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 2. My father, although attaining some political success, never enjoyed a great deal of financial success. To add, my parents' marriage was plagued with separations and they finally divorced when I was about 10. Like 60% percent of Americans, I was raised in a broken home. Due to this, I can state I grew up an average middle-class urban citizen.

Back to Toki's Enhancing Self-Acceptance. He states "When asking, where all the Kenyans were at a loud pocket of response came from one part of the room. The same for Ghanaians, Jamaicans, etc. When it came time to make noise for Minneapolis there was a pitiful response. What that response said to me again was that the preservation of a culture in the state of Minnesota was not a priority or it was not wanted." I believe this is simple, most Black Minnesotans are first generation meaning they are the first of their family to live here. Coupled with the stat that only 3% of Minnesotans are black, the majority of whom are Somali or from other large metropolitan cities. Buju Banton, while great music, is not traditional or mainstream American music.

Which brings me to my final point. Many Black Americans resent our country for good reason after events such as diaspora, slavery, Jim Crow, the Tuskegee Airmen incident, the poor response to the crack epidemic, police brutality, racial profiling, and most recently the horrible events following Hurricane Katrina. Who would want to claim a country that had politically and socially showed disdain and disrespect to them time and time again? But the fact of the matter is, it is OUR country. If you are an American with a similar background to me whereas my roots are traced directly back to slavery, (with my great grandfather being born a slave) your culture and familial identity is made up mainly by American experiences.

Yes, our past is full of struggle and sorrows, but it is not as if we don't have something to be proud of and to draw upon for strength in unity. Black Americans have made more leaps and bounds socially and economically than any other racial group in America. We've had amazing leaders in the likes of Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. We've had artisans, entrepreneurs, musicians, politicians, athletes, models, actors and philosophers.

Both my grandfather and my father always said "do not blame the white man." As I've grown older, I understand why. Hitler blamed Jews, the Klan blamed Blacks, Saddam Hussein blamed the Kurds… Hate-mongering only generates more hate, more problems, and ultimately weakens the blamers' making them subject to that hate.

Before my grandfather died, I asked him and my father what I was ethnically and culturally. Their response…? American. Even more specifically, "the future of America." So why not make our allegiances and decisions based on the truly American ideal of Common Sense and channel our emotions of anger from injustice into the reaffirmament of Black American capability, talent, and legitimacy?

I understand this view is not popular and not comforting to those who'd rather practice escapism over realism. But the world is not an cushy place, despite what our American luxuries make it seem to be. What my Jr. High homeroom teacher said about studying can steadily be applied to our collective thought, "Sometimes the difference between good work and bad work can be affected by the chair you're sitting in. Are you going to want study laying back on a couch?" In conclusion, who would deny wisdom comes from struggle? Who would deny knowledge of self comes from struggle with self?

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Who We Are" - A free verse poem.

We are called the beautiful ones
Is it because of that we aren't "real?"
We are called on to have multiple identities
Is that why we always second-guess ourselves?
We have suffered for our blood
Though we're never given credit for the pain
We're the ones who are seen but not heard
Even though we are the first of the future
Why does mother America weep?
Because her children do not know themselves
They never listen to her, we children of Cain
The only ones who could ever perverse a King's dream

"Maternity" - A free verse poem.

We dwell in the womb
And some days are better than others
Our existence is dark and confusing
And constantly we are self-exploring
We do not even know why

When we suffer
And we cry out for our father
He uses his voice and motions to soothe us
But how much can he really do,
When we consume our mother from within?

Everyday he's there
And he attends to our mother
Though they both love us deeply
It is us who must choose
When we will be born

And if we'll be ready.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back to School

Well, it has begun. However, this time, I'm focused. I know precisely what I want to do, and what it is going to take.

For those who are not aware, I have decided I want to become a Certified Public Accountant. If you could not tell by the previous posts, I have finally begun to intellectualize a subject once foreign to me; the economy and financial theory.

I feel content. At peace. The subject has enough cross-over potential to satiate my need to do new things, enough employment potential to take care of my family and I, is fulfilling in that I can help others to keep themselves from being enslaved, and also, is not subject to a whole lot of debate.

Another added bonus is how it may assist me politically. It has been a long journey for the man-child who once declared himself a socialist. But I figure if you are going to lean to the left, take it to the right by way of their main subject of concern, finance.

But as I sat and observed my fellow classmates at MCTC and juxtaposed them to my experiences at University of Minnesota. There were several stark contrasts but also, massive similarities.

You can already imagine the disparity in socio-economic backgrounds. The University being pre-dominantly young white adults with parents paying for their education. MCTC being a diverse group in age, color, socio-economic background; but far more on financial aid, far more with children (60-70% in my English course), many more outside of the general college age.

But one thing was similar in both of my experiences, neither groups of students really had a whole lot of work experience within corporate/wannabe corporate offices. Many never have been financially independent, even fewer are financially literate.

The words of Asheru rattle around in my mind, "Only time will tell what this new world brings. Revolutions in order, let the mood swing, swing."

This time I have to get it right. I have come to the conclusion that I will never fit in. I am done trying to please people. I know what I want and right now, I need to please myself, my family, and my friends who I know I can trust to want the best for me. The friends that I can count on one hand.

God, give me strength to do what I need to do in school as well as in my career. And give me the courage, love, and compassion to stay humble.

The new mantra: "One day at a time."

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Mutual Appreciation Society

If Quantum Physics teaches us anything, life is chance.

No matter how rich, how powerful, how strong; everyone falls from grace. We are all human and it is our inescapable fate. As Outkast wrote, "Even the sun goes down, heroes eventually die, horoscopes often lie, and sometimes why? Nothing is for sure, nothing is for certain, nothing last forever, but until [he] close that curtain, it's [them] and I, Aquemini." Excuse my edits, but there is a point to made.

For as well as you may compete and rise to the pinnacle of power, the imperfect side of you will bubble to the surface like oil through water. The fact of the matter is, as beings of the universe, we are drawn to the truth as much as the truth is drawn to us, no matter how hard we try to run. Why do you think those who have known too much in history have died prematurely? This is human nature 101.

It is far too easy, especially in the reach for power, which is necessary for change, to get your legs cut out from under you. Peter Tosh knew this full well when he channeled the words of the American visionary Benjamin Franklin in a song, "If you live in a glass house, don't throw stones." The key to survivability in a competitive world is to join a Mutual Appreciation Society.

Look at the likes of George W. Bush, Elliott Spitzer, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Jack Ryan, Enron executives, Michael Jackson, Robert Kelly, and many more politicians, businessmen, and celebrities. All of them, with severe character flaws and yet, they are going to be financially and politically okay, and why? Because their friends as well as enemies do not have it in their best interest to start airing dirty laundry or pointing out character flaws.

How does one join a Mutual Appreciation Society? Very simple, start small.

Now, I'll admit this is probably my worst quality; I am far too open and far too honest. However, I know adopting this concept as a personal policy is a key to my success and I have enviously seen others utilize this practice with incredible results. Simply edify those around you, if they are unedifiable, find others to be around and edify them. Choose the ones who have the intellect, maturity, wisdom, power or resources to do something beyond the norm either now, in the near future, or even further down the line.

Why do you think every U.S. President and almost every Fortune 500 executive went to college? Now, did I say graduate? No. But it is institutions and organizations that encourage great thought that will attract great thinkers and great talent. First, make sure you can take care of yourself, then watch these people's backs, show them a good time, let them confide in you. And try as you might, let not a word of judgement pass from your mouth. Even if they ask, tell the truth, but in the most respectful way possible. But don't be phony, mean everything you do and the more you do these things in service, the more you will understand the personal benefits.

It was the most painful lesson in life for me to learn that anyone can be great, but not everyone can be great. And even the greatest, without a social network of people who truly respect them on a certain level, will never attain their full potential.

Choose your friends widely, but wisely. And don't kick people while they're down; because what goes around comes around, my friend.

Playing the Percentages (an addendum to Getting Grown)

One thing I have always been pretty decent at is Texas Hold 'em.

I used to watch Celebrity Hold 'em every night before I went to sleep, as nothing else was on, and to see how certain artists of all kinds went about their game, as I felt it gave me insight into their character. Plus, it was fun to see which ones got plastered as they watched the game from the Loser's Lounge.

This game, however, is a fantastic metaphor for human competition in a capitalistic society. Willie Nelson sung, "You better know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to when to run." And what Willie was describing was playing your percentages, playing the odds.

You never know what the river will show, but if you start out pretty well (ie. a King and Nine suited) and you can afford it (ie. are in the chip lead), drop 1/10th of your chips before the first card is flipped. In games like poker and capitalism, controlled and calculated aggression is well rewarded. If you've got cards, make your opponent(s) bet to stay in. Never show fear.

However, rule #1 and #2 remain. Never buy more chips than the game is worth and always, ALWAYS know your odds.

Getting Grown



Legal full adulthood.


Being 21 (almost 22), my life is so dramatically different than it has ever been and honestly, I personally never knew the possibilities of where diligence could take you until now. My academic past as well as former personal path was me simply trying to find the right fit; I've switched schools 9 times, I've been a serial boyfriend (in one relationship after the other), always looking at my skills and trying to plug those abilities into whatever seemed to be the most accessible outlet.

However, the truth of the matter is, there is no easy road to success and no shortcut to happiness. I've come to the realization that you have to look at your life as a timeline in the span of the existence of an organization, business, or civilization. Your present is shaped by your past, and your future is shaped by the present.

Granted there are serious situational advantages and disadvantages for everyone. In present-day America, if you do enough in the present, you can catch up to or fly past those with the advantage, even though the rich definitely have a leg up in the power and resource department. However, given the right teaching in a world of hardship, those who have a history of struggle can be much more physically and mentally tougher. The bottom line is, as Ghandi said, YOU have to make the change YOU wish to see in the world; and it is generally more profitable and influential if you do so.

M.I.A. has been a perfect example of this in the music world. A child of Sri Lankan political conflict, she embraced all things danceable but not altogether related: Dancehall, Electro and Hip-Hop. And also, added her own political belief and "fight the power" mantras from a cultural minority rarely heard from. Now, she is everywhere; radio, movies, clubs, and television.

The economic law of supply and demand applies to original thought. The rarity of truly original thinking, that is embraced by the mainstream world consumer, yields the highest returns monetarily and influentially, as you have the most intellectual property ownership, control on the supply (unless you have signed this away), and you have begun a new trend in consumerism; which if sustainable, will be built upon.

However, there is a problem with the simple equation of O(riginality) + D(emand) = R(eturn on investment). Without the right exposure; the resources for promotion and marketing, the "hook-ups" from your social network, this equation falls flat. Also, you have to add in the costs for producing your product. Therefore, it really is A(wareness) x (O + D) - C(ost) = R; simplified, A(O + D) - C = R.

All of this being said, you have to start with building your financial backing far before you have your idea formalized, and this same formula can be applied to how you attain that backing from an employer. This part I truly wish I had understood sooner. The more connections you have, times specialized experience or training, plus the demand for that skill set, minus the cost of keeping you on, is the basis on which employers will hire and fire you. If any of your fellow employees start beating you in one of these areas, that is a loss in job security, and makes it much harder to earn that next promotion.

Sounds simple, right? But as I look at my fellow deuce-and-a-singles, as well as people who are older, I am astonished at how many people do not realize this. Or maybe they are missing the final major component.

Socrates wrote, "Let him who would move the world, first move himself." Motivation. Without motivation, we can throw everything else out the window, because it won't be completed. And for all the skills you have, if you do nothing at a job long enough, you will get fired in the modern American economy. M(otivation) x [A(O+D)] - C = R.

Everybody, somewhere along the line, has a dream. And if you read, or listen to every American success story, we hear what? "It began with a dream." This equation, in my limited experience, separates success stories from just, well, stories. If you have love in your heart, please take heed and pass it along.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Music of the Twenty-Teens

You heard it here first; Electro Pop, House, and Fusion, will be the next big music trend. It's going to be the 1980s again, where the American teenager thinks they are so unbelievably modern and afterwords, we will all look back in fondness but yet, in ridicule.

The State of Babylon

An art exhibit was being held showing art pieces featuring currency. Three men, at different points in time, walked by and looked at a painting of a United States one dollar bill that focused on the "In God We Trust" printed on the bill.

The first man said, "I am so proud of the Christian roots of this country, that we would show our faith even on our currency." This man felt justified and quickly moved on to the next piece of art and upon leaving the museum, went back to his life as usual.

The second man said, "Money is the root of all evil, the United States dollar reflects the hypocrisy of the American capitalistic system." This man also felt justified and quickly moved on to the next piece of art and upon leaving the museum, went back to his life as usual.

The third man, an inquisitive type, thought of the past, present and future of the featured symbolism:

"Currency has been important for the human economy, we need representative value to be able to calculate abstract economic gains, losses, and worth.

God has been important, is still important, and will continue to be important in baseline human culture.

The American forefathers were considerate of both of these facts.

However, as a Jew/Christian/Muslim myself, when utilizing currency, which has no value outside of the trust of value we place in it; what are we trusting? Does this statement infer that God is money?

Or that money is God?"

This man did not stir from this concept as it rocked him to his core as a believing Jew/Christian/Muslim. He had to be ushered out by the art museum staff.

To this day, no one knows what became of him.

So Here Goes!

Welcome to the first installment of the Neoteric American.

This blog will simply be a collection of thoughts by me, Joseph Clinton Collins, son of a family of perservering educators who overcame the entrapments of our imperfected American democracy to become successful in their pursuit of truth and affecting many lives along the way.

I cannot promise that this blog will be chronological or even always all that exciting. Actually, I promise you it won't. But it will be honest, come from a background of multiple perspectives, and provide you with information that you may have not acquired from other sources. In order to preserve my journalistic integrity, I will try to do as much research as possible to substantiate my words; but in all fairness, this is my blog, so you as an enlightened individual should expect bias and opinion -- even when I say I will try to keep it to a minimum.