America: What Have We Become?

Pray For Orlando

I woke up this morning thinking about my Country, my children, and the next generation. Last thing I knew we, as a universal collective and mindset, were trying to make this world a better place. I knew what my grandparents and parents had been through during their era of time. I watched life progress out of the old and into the new. And the new was not just the latest way to look at things. It was a change of heart, words and actions that gave me hope for both my generation and the next. That hope is now lacking in light of the current events I have seen online lately.

The value of human life is lessening. When I woke up, I took a look at Facebook and read about the mass shooting in Orlando Florida, at Club Pulse. A gunman had entered the gay club and shot over 100 people in what is now called “The Worst Mass Shooting In U.S. History.” The father of the gunman had said that the shooter saw two men kissing recently in Miami, in front of his son, and became extremely angry. Maybe a fuse was lit in a person who was a walking timebomb. Now police have released information that the shooter had called them to pledge his fealty to ISIS. These types of things do not suddenly happen. A seed of hatred was planted in this man, and then grew more and more as time passed; eventually costing many people their lives including his own.

Then just hours later a man was arrested for being in possession of assault weapons, and on his way to the Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles to supposedly find a friend. Who is flooding the minds of these people that they think it is okay to attack and kill someone because they do not agree with a certain lifestyle or religion? Have we seriously gone from Live & Let Live, to Live & Let Die, to Live & Kill? Do two men or two women have to be cautious walking down the street nowadays, in fear of someone retaliating against them simply because they seemed gay?

I remember walking into a church in the Asheville area years ago, and then suddenly I was rushed into a van with a bunch of other folks. They said their was a problem downtown and they needed my help. We arrived on the scene, which was a gay pride parade, and I was handed a sign to hold. I took one look at the sign which said “God Hates Queers” and I immediately put it down. I stood there for a second wondering what was going on, and then I looked over to see a Pastor that had helped me and my family tremendously, turn into a raging maniac, yelling to these people that they were going to hell. I knew this was not the God I signed up for, so I walked away and went home. But this is what so many people are allowing themselves and their children to be indoctrinated with. Nobody is born a racist or a bigot. There is not one person who comes into this world prejudiced and hating another person. It is something that we are taught, programmed with, and then we eventually act on; whether in an extreme situation or not. As far as I’m concerned, the only sign I need to hold up and enforce is to Love One Another.

The definition of humanity is fading. September 11, 2001 was a day that I will remember forever. Not only did I lose one of my closest teenage friends, but my Mom who was a FDNY Firefighter, also lost so many of her friends and co-workers. After years of suffering, there are still some days that make it feel like yesterday. When did using someone else’s grief ever become a conduit to express your hate? For people in my own community to use the “9/11 Never Forget” graphic as a subtle way to communicate their Islamophobia, their hatred for another human being, or of anyone that is not like them, is so abhorrent.

Brock Turner is a person who was seemingly taught by his family and society to take what he wanted, never being aware of something called consequences. Brock raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, was caught in the act, and was convicted. But now a Judge has contributed to the rape culture mentality by sentencing him to only 6 months in a city jail, with early release in about 4 months. All of this while another athlete named Cory Batey recently received 15-25 years for a similar crime. The difference? Brock was white, Cory was black. Brock was pictured as a great kid who made a little mistake, while Cory rightly had the book thrown at him. The victim? Well our society has already forgotten about her. What type of distorted message is they sending to our communities and to our children? How can victims feel justified after something as horrific as this? How can anyone in our society feel safe after watching such a heinous crime and then injustice orchestrated right before our eyes? Please pray for our sons and daughters.

We are creating monsters. This starts with us… grandparents, parents, teachers, leaders, and our whole society. A monster does not just appear, it is created. A little here, a little there, a little from everywhere. A racist story between close family, an anti-gay slur among a few friends, a bigoted joke at work, a message of intolerance instead of love & acceptance at a local church. It happens everywhere unfortunately, behind closed doors and among “trusted” individuals. You, me, and we can put an end to it; moving forward and giving the next generation a renewed hope that can and will make this world a better place. The first step is awareness, finding out who you really are as an individual, and what is really in your heart. The next step is education, understanding how you have come to this point in life, and how to reset course in the right direction. Then we need to take action, making a positive change and better difference every moment of every day. America, what have we become? Or better yet, ask yourself… “who have I become?”

A Credit Card Skimming Story in Asheville Involving Wells Fargo, Visa, Shell, Uber & Netflix

You always hear about the credit card fraud stories in bigger cities, how someone used their card to pay for something and then the next thing you know, Christmas has come early for a thief of two. I remember my Aunt went out to eat at an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn New York, gave her card to the waiter, he went to give it back to her, but she told him to “just hold it.” The next thing you know, her American Express card had over $20,000 in charges, along with video of the culprit using my Aunt’s credit card at a jewelry store. She jumped into CSI mode and was ready to help figure out where all of these charges came from and who was ultimately responsible. But to her amazement, the credit card company did not care. She was outraged. She was ready to find the lady and bring her to justice. But no. They simply wanted to make sure that she did not make the purchases and incur the charges herself, and pretty much told her to resume her life while they handle it.

Stolen Credit Card Skimming Asheville

Now just in the past few days, another family member had a credit card fraud experience in Asheville North Carolina. She stopped at the Shell Gas Station, used her debit card to pay for her gas, and went on her merry way. About a month later, she was notified by Visa that the owner of the gas station had reported a “skimmer” credit card scanner on one of his gas pumps. So Visa notified everyone that had ran their card through that pump during a certain time frame. At the time, she had a gripe that the credit card company and bank insisted was issuing a new card because of some potential fraud. She had this card for years, remembered the number, and did not want to change it. But Wells Fargo said that she was required to do so. She delayed them and is now a victim of fraud, but she is glad they warned her so she was prompted to watch her account more closely.

Stolen Credit Card Transactions Asheville

Then suddenly the charges started appearing. The first was a recurring payment set up with Netflix for a premium package of $20.78 per month. The next was 23 rides with Uber and Lyft during a 24 hour period on May 31, 2016. Then they opened and closed an account on PeopleSmart.com. So we are most likely dealing with one of Asheville’s Dumbest Criminals, who has an Uber Driver Account and is charging the card to their own or a friend’s account so they can collect the money. And to subscribe to a Netflix package? How dumb is that? Do they not know about the ability to track IP Addresses nowadays? I guess not.

Anyway, so now to the Asheville Police Department they go, to trace this crime and press charges on the culprit. I told her not to worry about it, it has probably happened to a hundred other people around town, but she wants to find the person who skimmed her credit card and make them pay for the theft. Good luck to her, and to you I would say be careful where you use your credit cards and who has access to them. The next victim may be you or me.

You Gotta Be In It To Win It

Powerball Lottery 2016

I was pretty much born and raised around the lottery. I mean it was even kind of a gamble for my mother to give birth to me considering the circumstances at the time. She was a single mom with very little help and support, and many of her friends told her not to have a baby. And I have to be honest, during my teenage years she definitely must of wished at one time or another that she listened to them. You see we grew up in Brooklyn and as little kids we had to either fight to survive or get taken advantage of. I remember having to fight to keep my new sneakers on in middle school. They wanted to “trade” with me; in other words give me their old sneakers for my new ones. Not long after, I joined a small gang in my school and I began to win. You gotta be in it to win it, right?! I won friendship, respect, and a team of kids around me… that if you messed with one of us, you messed with us all. This was years before Giuliani showed up on the scene and did “Operation Clean-Up” on the streets. I am telling you, it was a free-for-all back then.

Growing up I remember my Grandmother Josephine who used to get a ticket or two for a chance to win the jackpot. When she purchased the ticket, she would hold onto it like gold. When it was time for the numbers to be drawn on TV, she gave us that look where we had two choices… shut up or die. Then as each number was called out, she would either scream happily that she got it or suck her teeth in disappointment. My mother and step-dad were big on the lotto too. She would buy a bunch of tickets for every drawing, and he would buy even more. He had a system down where he played the same numbers over and over, changing one or two every once in a awhile; while she depended on “lucky numbers” she had in her life including birthdays. Every once in awhile, my mom would win a few hundred dollars, and my step-dad would win a few thousand, sometimes even as much as five.

I grew up knowing that you gotta be in it to win it. Those who did not play that lotto did not lose any money playing it, but they also did not win any either. Paying a few bucks toward our luck and dreams was a small tab compared to the amount of hope we were given and the chance to win millions. Did anyone in our family ever hit it big? No. But we heard the stories and saw the people who did. So we kept betting against all odds.

Recently, with the stakes up to $900 Million on the Powerball Lottery, my family has been pretty much “investing” in a chance to win. Everything from calculating number patterns from the past few months of drawings, to going to several different stores to get tickets, to asking the little ones their favorite number from 1 – 69. After the drawing, we had all of the winning numbers, but they were all on different tickets. So now the time comes again where the jackpot is over $1 Billion Dollars and everybody wants a piece of the pie.

I now think about life, business, and relationships; and how you definitely gotta be in it to win it. Being alive and living are two different things. How many times have we all been somewhere, but we are not really there in heart and soul? So many times for me. I have been hiking the mountains, looking at my smartphone every moment to see if I have gotten reception already; missing the peace, fresh air and chance to clear my mind. How many times have we been at work, but we were still on vacation; and did not apply ourselves to the maximum extent for the sake of the whole team? Is your company losing because you work there, but you are not in it to win it? How many times have we given half of ourselves because that was enough to at least get by?

Then I think about relationships and how many beautiful people are out there. I meet them all of the time. I talk to people who gave their all when it came to love, only to end up hurt and even hateful sometimes when the dust settles. Why? Because for whatever reason, one of the two were not in it to win it. Maybe they did not want to have a successful relationship with this person? Or they never had a good relationship, so when it presented itself, they rejected it. Or maybe they simply didn’t know how to truly love someone, so they were only giving the type of love they received in life, which was none. Or maybe my friend, the person I was talking to, was not in it to win at the start; and then when they finally realized their shortcomings, it was too late.

What type of person do you want to be in life? How do you want to live? Do you want to hate? Then haters may be the crowd you are looking for. Do you want to lose? Then it is not hard to find a few folks that always think they are losing out on something. Do you want to win? Then align yourself with winners and people of that mindset! The time has come for many of us to let our failures go, chase our passions like never before, and open up to love again! You gotta be in it to win it!