NPR logo 11472335

Speak Your Mind



Starting this week, we're handing over the wheel and letting you — our faithful readers — write about what's on your mind in a new series called (appropriately enough) "Speak Your Mind."

Inasmuch as the Web is an open democracy, the range of topics is totally unrestricted. But remember, all submissions have to adhere to our guidelines. So help us help you "Speak Your Mind."

We start the series with Dan Tres Omi (a.k.a. "Brother Omi") of Norfolk, Va.:

Courtesy Dan Tres Omi

"My wife and I have plenty of single male and female friends. The number one complaint we hear is "there aren't any good black men/women around." Of course we find this notion to be absurd and unfounded. What disturbs me however is the sheer rudeness we display towards one another. Despite the fact that I was born and raised in New York City, I still greet people I pass on and off the street. Of course when I return to my home town, people look at me as if I just arrived from Mars.

Being stationed down south has opened my eyes to the idea that it is okay to greet people. Yet each day I notice that in the small city of Norfolk, Va., which I now call home that people are breaking the wonderful habit of greeting one another. Yet let me take it to another level. When I greet a sister with the word "peace," I am usually rebuffed by looks of disdain. When I hold the door open for a young lady, I am not even acknowledged. I am pelted with rude looks and proverbial rolling of the eyes. When I give a sister a compliment, I am treated as if I was trying to flash her. Sometimes I can hear teeth being sucked. I will admit that I am no Denzel Washington and never claimed to be. I have to point out that my flirting days are way over.

I have to lay blame on the brothers as well. As I give the universal head nod followed by the word "peace," I am greeted with steely eyes. Quite a few act as if I never even said a word. I will say that I do make sure that my voice has a deep baritone to not come off as "fake." I also throw a peace sign onto my heart as I was taught in the Universal Zulu Nation (UZN). When I give a brother a compliment on his parenting skills or the shirt he is wearing, I am treated like a leper. What happened to our cordialness? When I try to transmit positive energy, I am receiving nothing but confusion.

Before we can even discuss the failing relationships of our community, I think that we need to address how we interact with one another on a day to day basis. How can we respect one another on a deeper level of interaction if we don't even say 'hi' or 'wassup' to one another? I can hear the complaints now: "Some of you brothers get upset when someone doesn't reply" or "He might be trying to get me" or several other excuses.

Well, not all of us are trying to sleep with you sister. Not all of us are trying to stick you up for whatever valuable item you possess, brother. It is important however, that we provide a solution to this problem. We can't call ourselves a community if we don't even speak to one another on the street. So I challenge everyone reading this entry to try and meet someone new at least once a week. I don't mean going on Myspace or a chat room to do it either.

I mean when you get on the bus, L train, lunch room, or office building. I challenge everyone to greet at least one person each day. It does not have to be someone of the opposite sex either. I am sure that many of you can come up with better ideas than this. I look forward to greeting one of you on the street one day. Of course, we will have one of those infamous building sessions of mine." — Dan Tres Omi