Disillusioned Dreams and the President's Party.

Yesterday was a day of shattered dreams, broken promises, obvious disillusionment and outright anger....

Yesterday, the big bossman (President Barack Obama) celebrated his 50th birthday at the Aragon Ballroom; just 2 blocks away from the homeless shelter where I work. Chicago and the new mayor (Rahm Emmanuel) loved the idea. Uptown and the new alderman (James Cappleman) loved the idea. The world's most powerful fella was coming to the diverse Uptown, hoping to promote renewed dreams of a premiere entertainment district, a flourishing economic entity and a tourist destination! It was obviously hyped up and the media loved it.

The elite maneuvered into the Ballroom to eat their $35,800 plates of food and consume their alcoholic beverages. Crowds gathered to witness this mere mortal, helicopters circled, tea party fanatics protested, the Secret Service rotated throughout the neighborhood, streets were blocked, camera crews tried to find exciting snippets, the "blue and white" came from all across this great city and frisked every suspicious looking person that were within several blocks.

This public display of affection and gross mismanagement of money affected our residents at Cornerstone Community Outreach. You see, most of them are deemed "suspicious looking people" because of 2 factors; the color of their skin and their poverty level.

Now some readers may think I'm exaggerating, but this is what happened; we were told by the authorities that our clients needed to stay inside and not wander the streets of Uptown (out-of-sight and out-of-mind). Two Parole Officers came to our location and spent all day checking all parolees in and ensuring they never ventured outside. They told these men and women they had zero movement; stating that if they simply walked the local streets, arrests and incarceration would result!

We also had to keep our men's daytime drop-in center open for an extra 2 hours until 10pm. Why? Because the Authorities didn't want our homeless men to walk past the Aragon Ballroom, to get to their nightly sleeping location further up north. All day and into the night, these poor poverty stricken men and women were seen as a security risk and threat to the president!

The irony struck me when I was chatting to a 43 year old African American parolee. He'd been nicely told, "for your own good; don't dare leave the street, or else!" He complied. He stood on the corner peering around onto Wilson Avenue waiting for his girlfriend to come. He reminded me of when Cyrus and Muriwai would look longingly into the hallway, wishing, wanting and desiring to be able to play with the other kids, but the baby-gate prevented them. Thomas told me "I voted for Obama and got him into office; now I can't even leave the street." Then he managed to find a little humor by stating, "I'm gonna run over there and ask him for a bus card, Obama should, at least, be able to give me that!"

Now I'm going to back track a few years. Obama had just won the election and Uptown was buzzing with excitement. People had the man's name on their caps and his face on their t-shirts. There was a very popular t-shirt sold and worn in the hood which I hardly ever see these days; it had the faces of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Barack Obama. People were visualizing Obama as having the spirit and passion of MLK and being a prophet of hope, justice and change. I celebrated his victory too, but I always struggled with those shirts, because these two men possessed very different vocations.

Martin, as a preacher, prophet and pastor freely obeyed the Kingdom of God and his convictions, while Obama, as a politician, needs to fight against the very powerful institution of politics; namely money, power, Wall Street, lobbyists and so on. Not too many politicians have the strength to resist the power of politics and live by their convictions. As I walked down Wilson that night, Doug told me in his drunkenness that there was going to be a new world order, change was going to happen and black folk were going rise and be dominant, sort of like a Mugabe type revolution. Doug was extreme, too extreme, but most people that night just wanted a little more hope, some change and justice to rise, where MLK's dream would actually be realized. The question that night was; would the new President live up to his hype?

Obama had given those in Uptown wallowing in unbelief and feeling the affects of injustice, something to believe in! On that night, back in late 2008, they had a renewed hope in a new America.

Now, to make myself clear; I am not anti-Obama, in fact, if I could've voted, I would've voted for him. Still would've today. I consider myself apolitical, because I believe all politicians are seduced by the incredible power of politics, making it next to impossible for them to stand by what they actually and sincerely believe. Even King David was seduced by it's power a couple times. I wish I didn't have to deal with politics. Ever! But the reality is; when you work with and advocate for the poor and disenfranchised, decisions made by politicians end up invading, crippling and killing the ones living at the bottom! When this happens, the voiceless need a voice and the invisible must be made visible!

August 3rd, 2011, comes! When Obama arrives in town, reality hits, and it hits hard. The circling helicopters, big black SUVs, police harassment and barricaded streets are constant reminders of those broken promises and shattered dreams. They realize their reality hasn't changed, except for a few subtle changes like the crack powder ratio going from 100:1 to 18:1 and a little more assistance for homeless veterans. They realize that equality and justice are mere illusions, and the gap between the wealthy and poor climbs steadily. They realize the bitter reality of homelessness isn't going to simply disappear. They know about this reality because getting employed is virtually impossible, they are still constantly getting frisked by the police, they are still rotating in and out of jail for non-violent minor offenses, while knowing rich white folk do exactly the same thing and never see the cold hard walls of Cook County Jail. They still see no money coming to help them, while it travels overseas to finance a couple wars they think are unjustified. They still know housing is next to impossible with bad credit, convictions and evictions. They still live in the bitterly painful reality that they cannot get healthcare, despite all the promises.

I could go on illustrating reality after reality, demonstrating how hope became hopeless, change became stagnant and dreams became an ongoing nightmare. I'm not going to do that, because our hope should never placed upon any political empire; it will always disappoint and leave us disillusioned. Our hope needs to be in the Kingdom of God, which contradicts the ways of domination, the blatant quest for power, the hypocrisy of lies and the influence of Mammon to succeed in any political arena. Jesus is our example, because he gave up all power; and in doing so, gave unquestionable hope to the hopeless, irrefutable justice to the oppressed and undeniable liberation to the captives.

As political giants disappoint, it becomes our agenda to follow in our Lord's footsteps. The system will never raise up the disinherited, minorities and the homeless. The system will never provide love, hope, mercy and justice. As dwellers of the Kingdom of God, we need to raise our revolutionary fists in the air and cry the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, trying to bring heaven to earth, a little hope in a world full of shattered dreams, false promises, obvious disillusionment and outright anger......

“I choose to identify with the underprivileged,
I choose to identify with the poor,
I choose to give my life for the hungry,
I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. . .

This is the way I’m going.
If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way.
If it means sacrificing, I’m going that way.
If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice saying “DO SOMETHING FOR OTHERS.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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