In this world we live in, there are stances that many people of various financial stabilities have taken on. The LGBTQ Movement, The Anti-Islamophobia Movement, The Feminist Pro-Choice Movement, The Sanctuary Campus Movement, The Transgender Movement, Black Lives Matter and Anti-Trump movements are a few of many operations that people are completely consumed by. However, in places like this…
Nobody gives a damn about any of that. In places like this, it has never mattered who is the president, the governor, the mayor or who sits on the city council. Because the same conditions have existed for decades and will more than likely not change. Well…that is until the gentrification movement slow rolls into the entirety of this zip code as well. Why Religion? Why Awareness?
Meanwhile, life in a place like this is literally akin to living in another world or perhaps on a distant planet. This deteriorating, mind-numbing, Elysium like existence, is far away from the multi-million dollar business deals, endless new construction, expensive “coming of age” universities and chic metropolis of the great circle, Atlanta, GA.
The picture above is part of many such areas of Atlanta that many ATL rappers have had an obsession with boasting about for years. This area is known as Zone 1 in the city or "the Trap." Between the years of 1999-2001 I lived in a small white and green house with four friends from college, as roommates on 2066 Bethel Drive, which is only a block away from what used to be known as Simpson Road.
Simpson, like so many other streets in largely Black neighborhoods in the area, has been given a pseudo distinguished gloss, by re-naming it after a prominent civil rights activist, organizer, or participant who worked in some capacity with Martin Luther King Jr. Ironically, most of the people of the 30314 who are supposedly the beneficiaries of “the Dream,” are living a goddamn nightmare. Why Religion? Why Awareness?
The streets that surround Bethel Drive are the afore mentioned, Joseph E. Boone Boulevard (Simpson Road), Bankhead Highway (Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway), Anderson Avenue, Waterbury Drive, Tiger Flowers Drive, Croesus Drive, Morehouse Drive, Spellman Drive. These places contain a mixture of homes that were notable in their heyday, but upon closer examination, are not what they were. Yet, the grass and weeds stay freshly cut with pride.
Other areas look like a flash back to the 1980’s crack era. Wretched, disfigured low income housing apartments dot this area sporadically, with a mixture of units lived in and others boarded up within the same complex; apartments circled by beat up vehicles with missing hubcaps, mismatched tires, abandoned houses overlaid with uncut shrubbery, discount bar-b-que grills, satellite dishes, overrun garbage pails and the sound of grandmas watching groups of elementary aged children, dancing to trap music, while looking at Grand Hustle stickers on the telephone poles. Why Religion? Why Awareness?
My friends and I were not living in Bankhead because we wanted to get our street cred up, we lived there because we were four degreed young Black Men, living in the Black Mecca of the South. Yet, even with our degrees, we could not get a taste of the good life that existed, no more than a 15 minute drive away.
We were unlikely members of that club Tyler Durden talked about, the security guard, forklift driver, smoothie maker and the insurance claims processor, working jobs we hated, but couldn’t afford to buy shit we didn’t need. We barely could afford the basic living necessities and still, we were better off than the majority of our neighbors. My worst problem at that time was ducking the repo man, whom I knew was looking for my car with late payments due and often expired tag and insurance. Compare that to the sight of a crack head walking up and down the street, the brown bagger (alcoholic), baby mama, broken old man, tired old lady waiting for jesus and grave yards, unconditionally surrounded by the dope boy and the red dawg police, we were alright, we were all…right.
The true controllers of the Bankhead way of life are the church. There was at the time I was living in Bankhead and still to this day, 13 churches that are spread out in all four cardinal directions, surrounding Bethel Drive, amidst all of this bedlam. Within these group of churches, at least six of them are next to each other, sharing a 40 yard radius. Four churches actually occupy the three intersection corner of Simpson Road (Joseph E. Boone Boulevard) and Hamilton E. Holmes Drive. Why Religion? Why Awareness?
This is absolutely ridiculous. Let me repeat…set the scene one more time before I dissect…Why Religion? Why Awareness? There are several streets within the Bankhead area that are named after Black Men…prominent civil rights activist, organizers, or participants who worked in some capacity with Martin Luther King Jr. Yet, the area in which these green and white street signs lay on, represent nothing that is obliging or kind, which is a definition of civil. Clearly the setting of these beat down neighborhoods are a portrayal of the internal affairs of the state and the churches. State meaning, to set in a position, circumstances, position in society or to make an arrangement…
I do not have to assume that most of the people in Bankhead, especially the children, have no clue about who those streets are named after…the same streets that are decorated with churches chicken bags, broken bottles and used condoms. Why Religion? Why Awareness?
An early 17th century phrase was "hungry as a church mouse." European church buildings in the 17th century and earlier did not store or provide food, also known as sustenance. Furthermore, mice in such buildings were utterly destitute. Sustenance defined is, a means of living or livelihood.
In my twisted mind, if I go to listen to someone speak for almost two hours, I want to leave with new found knowledge and what does knowledge mean? It is defined as a capacity for knowing, understanding; familiarity, awareness of a fact. Why Religion? Why Awareness? I would prefer to leave with sustenance and knowledge. Knowledge also means "sexual intercourse." Oooh-wee I can’t wait to get me some knowledge!
Based on most of the headlines about church members and those within positions of authority, they are getting an overdose of knowledge! Which leads to the fact that there is no clear cut meaning for the word church, as it has been used in its current state. The term has been used in its state as a theme of convenience, not true meaning.
The English word, church, comes from the German word Kircke, which is defined as circle. The English word, circus, is a derivative of the word, circle. Circle-Circus like “three ring,” as in a “three ring circus.” Which is what you find in most churches, again there are 13 churches surrounding Bethel Drive, which is surrounded by poverty and ignorance. This told me then and tells me now that, something is not right. Taking notice of such and wanting to know why, leads to Awareness. Most of the citizens of Bankhead are not being provided with food or sustenance. Thus, they are literally "hungry as a church mouse." Why Religion? Why Awareness?
TRAUMA AS A SPIRITUAL SUPERPOWER
I want to acknowledge the MC known as Princess Nokia for the phrase “trauma as a spiritual superpower.” I mention this because, prior to my studying various sciences under the banner of spirituality, metaphysics and the occult. I was just simply aware that something was not right. Two of my friends whom I was rooming with in Bankhead, had long kicked off Christianity and were studying Islam off and on. My other friend was straight atheist, telling jesus to kiss his ass. Just not dealing with any higher power energy at all.
Amid this vibe there I was, between 1999-2001, dealing with a heavy dose of anger, unknowingly depression and out write disbelief. I was fresh off of working for a gospel record label, doing a descent amount of traveling with them, meeting Bobby Jones, T.D. Jakes, Tonex (B Slade), Shirley Ceasar and on and on. However, after discovering that the gospel music industry is just like rock, hip-hop, jazz, r&b etc, in regards to drug use, sex, and other debauchery, all the Christian teachings I passively accepted as a youth, were being confronted…my then 26 year old self and mind ended up being fired or done a favor. I unassed that religious monstrosity.
Throughout my life I have always been curious about what is really going on. However, I cannot say the same for the people and yes they are still people, who live in Bankhead and some other “Hoods” in Atlanta I had to live in, before I got myself together. Key word being “I,” as in independent and finding that which is a "connective" element, that plugs me into THE MIND, that allowed me to find out who I am, why I exist and who I will come to be. Plugging into my Awareness.
But at that time, I was a bump on Bankhead’s ass. I can remember the daily and nightly menu based on delicious store brand grits, pancakes, eggs, white rice and top ramen noodles. Occasionally we might hook up some chicken, steaks, turkey bacon, or vegan sausage. Cereal was always a nice appetizer. It was smothered over nicely with police stopping directly in front of my home after a 12 hour day shift driving a forklift, to excitedly give me a ticket for supposedly running a stop sign. Buttered on the side with having to keep a cobra hand gun on me in case a dope fiend or somebody on the come up, was hiding in the garage that was in place at the time, as I was preparing to park. Finally…sitting on a desert plate…with a chocolate glaze…was opportunity. Opportunity carried with it, the sweet smell of making more money, so we could get off Simpson road for good. Yes, trauma can be spiritual superpower!
At least we had the presence of mind to look at the plate of opportunity. Most people that lived on Bethel Drive and still live there, can’t even bring themselves to believe that they deserve opportunity. They are too busy listening to a pastor tell them to pray and trust in “Da Lawd,” and that everything will then be alright. It sounds absurd when looking at a place like this…
But, people in the lowest income areas arguably have the strongest faith in jesus and yet the least to show for it. The pastors are giving and painting pictures that things are going to be all right, to people who very likely are participants in what is known as generational poverty. This is the situation that exist involving families where at least two generations or more have been born into poverty. This explains why it is not difficult to see two very old women, of which one is much older than the other, a younger women perhaps in her 20s or 30s and two or more small children sitting on a porch or walking down the street.
Old men on Simpson road are not absent, neither are younger men, both trying to scrap up a living as best as they can. It is also not uncommon as I mentioned before, to see the dope boys who could be as old as 30 or as young as 10, moving through the streets having had enough of being broke and doing whatever it takes to have the good life. Even if all it involves, is wearing fresh new clothes, “riding old school” with a “bad female,” eating high greased food and blowing money at the strip club. It also could mean taking the life of someone who looks just like them, in the same block radius, without a blinking of an eye.
Furthermore, Black Lives Matter aint marching through Bankhead, yelling for more opportunity in the form of job training, better housing, quality health care or mental health examinations and treatment.
I can also bet, that they are not looking to help young Black Men living there, who have college degrees, but are working chicken feed paying jobs. Like Sean P. used to say, GTFOH!!
The focus and determination to better myself and get out, is what drove my friends to do the same. In addition we knew and believed that in spite of what we saw on a daily and nightly basis, we deserved better. Not like the begging or the praying that many Black people partake of in the privacy of their homes or in the walls of the church. Something akin to “Lord I just come to you on this day lord. I am just so thankful to be here in the church today lord. We could have been dead this morning lord, but you made a way for us to be here and praise your holy name.” The crowd saying AMEN, AMEN. “Lord you know we don’t deserve it (THEN WHY SHOULD I GIVE IT TO YOU THEN?) but could you please lord, just make our way a little easier…… Why Religion? Why Awareness?
Generation after generation are being taught in this manner. Being taught to be happy with moderate success, a middle class working life, a low income continuation of life or outright poverty, all while the pastor is sliding around a collection plate. Then after the service he or she glides off in a Cadillac on the way to a 6000 square foot home on the other side of town. Meanwhile, you have church members getting back on a MARTA bus (The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) for the ride home or walking back down the street, all laughing and talking joyously in unison, saying “Pastor shole’ preached today!”
The sadder thing is that, this will always be. These folk and millions more like them all across the U.S. and other places around the world, will never take a moment, look up and allow a new thought to come through in the form of intuition. They will never take a moment to do a thorough examination of themselves, their surroundings and ask the question, Why? They actually believe that it is a badge of honor to suffer. It has been said that you will never learn simply by reading a book.
However, if they would study other parts of the bible other than what the pastor told them to read. They could actually receive plenty of wise nuggets, like the books of Solomon, Psalms and Proverbs…then perhaps some long inactive brain, cells could snap back on line. Otherwise, they will continue living in the self-imposed “Trap” that these rappers who “Got Love for the Hood,” keep mouthing about. Why Awareness?
As far as they are concerned, Bankhead and every area like it in Metro Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, London, et cetera, will continue to believe that life is what it is. Thinking it is, when it ain’t all peaches and cream, that’s why they keep floating face down in the MAINSTREAM….
KNOW THY SELF…
COPYRIGHT 2018 JASSIRI NASSOR/THE SPIRITUAL SATIRE
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