All posts by DLynn

Dana Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter and poet based in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Dana L. Stringer: Ferguson Triggers an Exploration of Institutionalized Cover-Ups and the Abuse of Power

Police Officer *Sporadic aftershocks can still be felt after explosive verbal wars and protests that spanned from New York to Los Angeles to the small Midwestern city of Ferguson, Missouri shook and divided the country along racial lines.  And for those of us who are familiar with America’s brutal treatment of African Americans, it should be no surprise as to why another killing of an unarmed Black man by a white police officer ignited immediate outrage and intense emotional reactions.

It’s hard for us to imagine that race doesn’t play a factor in cases that bear such a striking resemblance in detail and outcome.  For example, an unarmed Black man is targeted by white police officers; white police officers decide that he’s either a suspect or poses a threat, then shoot him multiple times; a black corpse ends up in a body bag while an unapologetic police officer attempts to justify his violent reaction.

Unfortunately, in these cases, history has proven that the pendulum of justice rarely swings in our favor, deepening distrust in law enforcement and lack of confidence in the criminal justice system.  And yet non-Blacks can’t seem to understand why.

Perhaps it’s because we have always bore the brunt of police brutality, and the Blue Code of Silence practiced inside a well-constructed culture of cover-ups legitimizes the abuse of power against those who are at a socio-economic disadvantage.

Wrongdoing persists among individuals in authority because they believe that their authority makes them untouchable and exempt from accountability.  The lack of transparency and accountability creates a pattern of misconduct that is concealed more often than revealed, permitting people in authority to operate with impunity.  Thus, protecting the reputation of an institution, an organization or an individual becomes more important than providing the public with the truth.

For decades, Catholic priests were able to cover-up thousands of claims of child sexual abuse while accused priests were merely reassigned to new parishes as children and families suffered in silence.

Only in recent years has the public been made aware of sexual assault and sexual harassment pervading in the armed forces.  Military personnel who had been victimized were either ignored or faced retaliation for coming forward with allegations, especially with claims against higher ranking personnel.

Corporations are constantly settling class action suits once their fraudulent business practices are uncovered.  And as far as government is concerned, very few people actually trust the government as a result of widespread corruption among politicians elected to serve the public.

In essence, a person doesn’t have to be Black to understand the kind of indignation an individual experiences when people in authority abuse their power and conspire to cover-up wrongdoing with delay and avoidance tactics.  Adding insult to injury, people most vulnerable to the abuse of power are typically low-income minorities, whose concerns, questions and claims get easily dismissed.

Perhaps the greatest misfortune, or what I consider to be an offense, is when good people within the ranks of these institutions and organizations remain silent out of fear of alienation, retribution or job termination.  It takes courage and personal conviction for an individual to overcome the mounting pressure to conform without feeling disloyal or a sense of betrayal. Unfortunately, this rarely occurs because the overall image of the institution or organization seems to take priority over justice and public interest.

It’s perfectly natural to hold individuals in authority to a higher standard. We expect them to operate without bias and prejudice. We expect them to lead by example by acknowledging mistakes and misconduct.  We expect them to accept full responsibility for their actions.

The abuse of power is a grave injustice to anyone regardless of race.  We have a right to expect fair and equal treatment as well as transparency and accountability.  It may not necessarily heal all of the open wounds in this country but it’s certainly essential for rebuilding trust, respect and confidence in authority.

D. L. StringerDana L. Stringer is the author of “In Between Faith.”  She is a writer, playwright, poet and screenwriter based in Atlanta, Georgia.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter:  @danalstringer. You may email her at [email protected]

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Dana Stringer: Hidden Dangers of Being A ‘Strong Black Woman’

black woman*Whenever an African American woman displays qualities synonymous with strength, she is characterized as a “strong Black woman.”

The popular phrase is one of the most highly coveted compliments bestowed upon Black women, yielding a deep sense of pride and validation.

By most accounts, it is considered a virtue to be strong, garnering respect for a race of women whose journey has often been one of struggle and hardship.

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Dana L. Stringer: Unconventional Advice for Graduating Seniors

black male graduate *I started thinking about this year’s high school and college graduates a few days ago, and what advice I could offer them that would serve as a blueprint for their future.  So, here it is.

Find your gift and give it to the world.

Whether you discover your natural talents and gifts early in life or later in life, commit yourself to mastering them and sharing them with the world.  The world is waiting for your gifts and talents.

Find your passion and pursue it.

Unfortunately, far too many people rely upon a job to give them a false sense of purpose.   But purpose is fueled by your passion.  If you’re not passionate about what you do, then it probably has very little to do with your true purpose.

Also, the stress of finding a job in order to repay student loans and/or monthly expenses can pressure you into settling for an unfulfilling job outside of your field of interest. The sense of purpose either gets lost or remains undiscovered once you’re launched out into the real world and are faced with the need to survive. 

However, don’t allow the “rat race” or the quest for the proverbial “American Dream” to distract you from identifying and living out your true purpose.  The key is to find out what you’re deeply passionate about, and what it is that gives you a sense of meaning and fulfillment and pursue that.

Find a cause and be willing to die for it.

Unlike the previous two centuries when fighting on the front lines for what one believed in could mean a matter of life and death, the chances of being killed or having to die fighting for certain rights are unlikely nowadays.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean there are no causes worth fighting and dying for anymore.

Be careful not to be lulled into indifference and complacency because life is good for you and yours.  You don’t have to be a hostile agitator protesting and boycotting in the streets, but at least find out what’s deeply important to you and be willing to sacrifice your reputation, your life and your image serving that purpose.

Find your voice and tell us something we haven’t already heard.

There are both pros and cons to the surge in content online, on mobile devices, on air and in print.   One of the pros is that you have free and unlimited access to content and information whenever you want it.   The con is that much of what you read and hear has been said for the last few decades.  It can be a challenge to find a fresh voice with fresh insight because the majority of people simply recite what others have previously said. 

Avoid the temptation to parrot the words, thoughts and opinions of everyone else.  Find your own voice and tell us something new in your own unique way. 

Find your God-given place in the world and occupy it without fear.

There is a place designed just for you.  And you are individually designed for that place.   Your personal power and influence is in that particular place. 

Don’t allow anyone to dissuade nor discourage you from operating fearlessly in your place in the world.

Find at least one person who truly believes in you.

Finding people who genuinely believe in you and who authentically support your aspirations can be a challenge. 

Although family members and friends love you dearly, they are often too familiar with you and sometimes minimize and discount your ability to achieve the impossible.  Or they want to lock you into what they feel is a “safe” place for you.

The key is to find at least one person who truly believes in you—someone who will support your goals and encourage you during periods of self-doubt.

Find the good in every living soul.

Human beings are fully flawed and consistently imperfect.   But regardless of the vices and misdeeds of others, nobody is all bad. 

Passing judgment has always been too easy.  Therefore, it is important to take into consideration the life experiences of each individual.  The key is to exercise mercy and strive to identify the good in others.

Find the courage to be different.

God created individuals not clones.  There will always be an expectation to conform to the majority and the norm.  There is comfort and safety in familiarity and similarity. 

However, if you don’t fit in with a certain group or crowd, don’t attempt to change who you are for the sake of “belonging.”  Value your uniqueness.  Your difference is an asset.

Find people who know more than you and allow them to either mentor you or help you.

It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, there is always someone who knows more.  They have either been where you aspire to go, or they know a little something about how to help you get there.  Be humble enough to listen.  And realize there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom.   You will need a blend of both to accomplish your goals and fulfill your dreams.

Find personal integrity and be true to your convictions.

Be who you are and stand for what you believe.  Don’t allow ideologies or the opinions of others and the quest for the ideal to cause you to lie about your reality. 

Good advice, accountability and wise counsel are important.  However, don’t allow any individual, organization or institution to dictate to you what decisions to make and what actions to take.  Trust your conscience and follow it.

Find solutions.

There’s more than enough to complain about in the world.  And there’s certainly enough blame to go around.  Needless to say, there are countless books, articles, blogs, news programs and documentaries that are dedicated to highlighting the plethora of problems that plague our society.    But you have an opportunity to bring 21st Century solutions to the world.

Whether people listen to you or not, be determined to bring either an answer or an alternative to the table.

Find the heart to always forgive.

The likelihood that you’ll be hurt or disappointed by those closest to you is high.   And depending upon what exactly it is, it could leave you emotionally, psychologically or even spiritually wounded. 

The key is to forgive quickly so that hurt, bitterness and resentment don’t fester within your heart and reflect negatively in your attitude. 

Forgiving is simply letting it go so that you can become the best you that you can be. 

Dana L. Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.

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Dana L. Stringer

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Fantasia: Winning at Gay Pride Festival

fantasia barrino*The R&B diva and Grammy award winning female vocalist is certainly no stranger to controversy and criticism.

But a resilient and liberated Fantasia took to the stage at the 30th Annual Long Beach Gay Pride Festival on Saturday night in Long Beach, California, rendering a passionate performance.

Audaciously fierce and more confident than ever, “Tasia” boldly proclaimed, “I am doin’ me and I don’t care what nobody has to say,” before kicking off her heels onstage.

Dressed in a white, tightly fitted cutout party dress, and revealing a much more slender and toned figure, the exceptional vocalist pumped up the crowd with her brief rendition of Drake’s “Started From The Bottom.”

If the relationship between Fantasia and the LGBT community was strained by her seemingly disapproving comment about gay marriage posted on Instagram in late December of last year, there was certainly no evidence of that as the crowd of thousands eagerly welcomed and embraced her.

To further demonstrate her affection for the supportive attendees, she spent several minutes stating, “I hate the gates” and requested venue workers to “open the gates” that were serving as a barrier between the stage and the front row of the audience.  She went on to clarify that she needed to “feel some people”—a gesture in alignment with her personable and down-to-earth reputation.

But after a bit of housekeeping, ‘Tasia didn’t waste any time kicking into high vocal gear with crowd favorites like “Man of the House,” “Free Yourself” and “Collards and Cornbread.”

Moments after confessing that she was a “music baby” who grew up on the “meat and potatoes” music from the 80s, Fantasia and her band brought the crowd to its feet with an invigorating throwback performance of “Nasty Girl” by Vanity 6, “In My House” by the Mary Jane Girls, Shelia E’s “The Glamorous Life” and “The Bird” by Morris Day & The Time.

Visibly empowered and energized, ‘Tasia continued to walk the crowd down memory lane with her rendition of “If I Ruled The World.”

Although concert goers got a strong sense of Fantasia’s reawakening as an individual and as an artist, when she performed “Bittersweet” and “Even Angels,” humbly stating, “Guess I gotta’ let it go, the situation wasn’t good for me,” we got a sense that Ms. Barrino is still in the process of recovering from the effects of failed relationships and disappointments.  And this could be no clearer than in her hit song, “Lose to Win” which she sang near the close of her performance.

Fantasia’s success with her newly released fourth album, Side Effects of You, and her recent Pride appearance certainly indicates that she’s on the upswing in her career.  Her performance of “Lighthouse” revealed that she remains undaunted by her critics and is determined to continue recording and performing with a greater sense of purpose.   In a nutshell, she’s finally “winning” again.

 Dana Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.

dana l. stringer

Dana L. Stringer

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Dana Stringer: Sports, Injuries and the Will to Win

kevin ware (injury)*For die hard basketball fans like me, this is the time of year when our productivity levels typically decline because the majority of our waking hours are spent consuming March Madness basketball and the beginning of the NBA Playoffs.

Being a native of Louisville, Kentucky, it is no surprise that I spent Easter Sunday afternoon with my eyes glued to the television, watching the number one seeded Louisville Cardinals battle it out with the number two seed, Duke Blue Devils.  They were competing for a spot in the illustrious NCAA Final Four tournament.

Unfortunately, with roughly six and a half minutes left in the game’s first half, guard Kevin Ware went up to contest a 3-point shot but came down wrong on his right leg and broke his tibia. The force of the impact was so great till the broken bone literally punctured and protruded through his skin.  For nearly ten intense minutes, basketball fans, players, coaches and television viewers were completely transfixed and aghast by the severity of the injury.

As several teammates stood by and tearfully watched Ware lay courtside, patiently waiting for personnel to hoist him onto a gurney, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said that even through his pain and likely shock, Ware urged his teammates to just “win the game” …  and they did.

I have to admit, I initially thought it would be difficult for the Cardinals to gather their emotions and win the contest, but they successfully refocused and went on to secure an 85-63 bittersweet victory over the Blue Devils.

Sports commentators and analysts all agree that Ware’s injury was perhaps one of the most atrocious ever witnessed during a game in real time and I’m sure viewers still cringing from having seen the incident would agree.   But, for those of us who play, have played or frequently watch contact sports, we know that the risk of injury is high, especially in basketball.  It’s a sport where athletes often sacrifice their bodies, taking hard blows from opponents, diving for loose balls or chasing one down that’s headed out of bounds, and enduring hard falls plunging into cameramen or fans sitting courtside.  It’s par for the course.

That being said, the high stakes of competing, including risking devastating injuries such as Ware’s is perhaps part of our deep fascination and obsession with sports.  Witnessing such daring passion – along with talent – on display turns us from mere spectators, to emotionally invested fans awed by the players’ resilience, love for the game and their drive to compete and win at all costs.  It’s infectious and speaks to the character of those who play the game.

In the past, there was controversy on whether or not athletes should be regarded as role models, but watching Ware urge his team to victory while in the midst of the agony of his injury favors the former.  Despite being far from perfect, athletes are deserved of a degree of respect merely for being disciplined and enduring the training, practice regimen, teamwork and at times harsh criticism in order to not only achieve their personal and team goals, but to entertain us, the fans – even through horrific setbacks.

Athletes’ ability to persevere and stay focused amid pressure and adversity, finding the will to remain committed to winning as did the Louisville Cardinals on that fateful Easter Sunday, is a life lesson for all of us

Dana Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may reach her at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.

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Dana L. Stringer

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By Dana L. Stringer: The Secret Life of Sandy: A Nonpartisan Disaster

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Dana L. Stringer

*Mother Nature always has a way of reminding us that we are merely humans, and natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy have a way of exposing the fragility of man-made things and testing the quality of man apart from the things that he has built.

I’ve been watching the news coverage on the aftermath of Sandy but I can only watch it in small doses.  After a while I find myself becoming emotionally and mentally overwhelmed by the magnitude of loss and devastation that the hurricane left behind.

However, on last Tuesday, when I heard Republican Governor Chris Christie publicly commend President Obama for effectively handling the situation, and the President vowing to stand with Gov. Christie as New Jersey starts to rebuild, the exchange went beyond the typical perfunctory gestures that elected officials from opposing sides often do for political purposes.   It seemed far more authentic and sincere.   And for those of us who are familiar with Gov. Christie’s leadership style, we know that he’s not afraid to speak his mind, and that he is anything but pretentious.

With Election Day drawing near and the race being so close, Gov. Christie certainly had an opportunity to play politics by criticizing President Obama’s execution of relief for affected areas.    However, when Gov. Christie began speaking from his heart about his personal experience with President Obama, we finally got a rare glimpse of bipartisanship at work.   It was refreshing to see politicians stop slinging mud, finding a common ground and working together for hurricane victims.  Natural disasters are simply nonpartisan.   Democrats, Republicans, Christians, non-Christians, conservatives, liberals¸ immigrants, blacks, whites, the middle-class, the poor and the rich living along the upper Eastern coast where all impacted.

Unfortunately, in the coming days and weeks, the President, FEMA, the Red Cross, relief workers, and city and state officials will not be able to act as swiftly as most people expect them to act.   And some of America’s inequities regarding class and race might become evident as we witness the timeliness in which aid and assistance is distributed to certain communities.   The stress of not having basic necessities and being immobilized will shorten tempers, create tension, and impatience will increase.  But disasters provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon our lives, reevaluate our priorities and redefine who we are and what’s truly important to us.

And buried beneath the debris and rubble, the same important lesson can be found—during moments of pain, suffering and loss, transcending differences and shifting toward interdependence makes us better.  The sacrifices that will be made among neighbors and the support that will come from fellow citizens will be the experiences and stories that might actually restore our hope in this country.

Dana Stringer is a writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.