If you are living in an urban environment pervaded by drugs, prostitution, and rampant crime, it can be difficult to raise children who have not been negatively impacted by their surroundings. But the neighborhood should not make the person. It is possible to teach your children to rise above the influence of drugs and poor decision-making, even when surrounded by poor role models. Illicit influences and corrupt elements in your neighborhood do not have to determine the level of success your children can experience as adults.
Author Wali A. Furqan, founder and president of the nonprofit organization PATOY (Paying Attention to Our Youth) is the father of seven children who overcame the potentially harmful effects of the urban environment and each became successful. In A Free Mind in the City, Furqan tells the story of his family and of how he raised his children in an environment that has a tendency to destroy the best of its denizens.
In this guide, Furqan shares the wisdom he used with his children to help parents take responsibility for their family's success and teach their children fundamental morals and ideals that they otherwise might never learn. With focus on your family and the grace of God, success is inevitable.
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A Free Mind in the City
By Hajji Wali Ahmed Furqan
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Hajji Wali Ahmed Furqan
All rights reserved.
Are You Free Yet?
HAVE YOU EVER QUESTIONED yourself about the many things that you feel obligated to do? Watching the must-see movies, buying the car that you just have to have, playing your favorite lottery numbers daily? In most of our lives, there are many frivolous and some not-so-frivolous must-dos that keep us from realizing freedom of thought and being.
Most baby boomers can remember the saying, "An apple a day will keep the doctor away." Now these same baby boomers see themselves as needing an aspirin a day to keep a heart attack away. We went from natural food products to artificial food products. We went from depending on something that was natural and good to something that our clinicians represent to us as something we must have. Have you ever given thought to the millions of people around the world who feel dependent on a little pill? They see it as a lifesaver. Your health should not be held captive to the pillbox or the latest miracle cure of the day.
Have you noticed people whose lives have become dependent on the pillbox? My sister and I went to visit our nephew in Las Vegas. We were sitting at his breakfast table when my sister produced a black leather bag. I thought she may have brought some food for her flight from Memphis to Las Vegas, but that was not the case. My sister had twelve or fourteen bottles of different prescription medicines she took daily. My sister was using the medicine to be as free as she could from the stress and anxieties in this so-called land of the free and the brave. Freedom is a constant resistance movement fought individually and collectively. The battle is not won from the outside before it is won from the inside. Are you free yet? Or do you still wish you knew what it means to be free?
Today's high-tech environment keeps the mind captivated by an ever-increasing number of mind toys. There are so many high-tech gadgets that keep the average person from having a free moment, a moment when he or she is not engaged with a mind-captivating toy. It is harder and harder to find a free mind in the city, free from all the mind grabbers that keep you from having time to contemplate something greater than just the mundane.
For the masses of people in the modern world, having a free mind can be an enviable achievement. The mind wants to be free, but we're inundated with so many modern-day mind toys that instead of seeking to be independent thinkers, we join the masses that are part and parcel of the culture. Our freedom to think and respond with sincere thought and vision is no longer evident. In many cases, our free will has been replaced by other persons' thoughts.
Our world today is in a war for the minds of the masses. The mass media, primarily the television with its hundreds of channels, can keep a person locked into forty-eight inches of platinum for hours at a time. Tony, a friend of mine, tells his wife that when he gets home from work and sits down to watch his big screen that he is not to be disturbed for anything. His wife allows him to indulge in this.
My friend Rasheed, who lives in Las vegas, said freedom is the ability to think freely for yourself without parroting someone else's ideas. Unfortunately, that is becoming a lost art.
A lot of people follow the path of least resistance. Rather than think objectively or independently, a lot of people simply follow the pied piper. To be a person of contemplative thought is not advocated.
Freedom Comes, Freedom Goes
WE LIVE IN A culture that permits a person to say or do anything. This permission permeates the family and other social groups. Many children are allowed to defy their parents' wishes and are told they have the freedom to do as they please. Many young people will say that you cannot tell them what to do because their parents don't tell them what to do. We need to educate our youth about fact that the authority to demand that they follow business or social protocol is not determined by what their parents said or did or didn't say or do for them. In my many years of work in penal institutions, I've met youth who have told me that it was their parents' fault that they were incarcerated. In one particular case, a young man told me that his mother was one of the biggest antidrug advocates in his community and that he was one of the biggest drug dealers at the same time.
He said, "My mom knew I was in the game and dealing for the green, but she never said anything. She only wanted her share, which I gave her."
Freedom comes at birth, a fresh start with excellent potential for every human. That freedom can be restricted or constricted by individual decisions or environmental restraints. Decisions made by parents or parental influence can help children to become model citizens or those with social issues society at large must address. Parental influence or guidance is necessary for the proper social development of our youth. If we want our youth to be independent thinkers who are not influenced by every rap video or advertisement, we as socially conscious parents should invite our sons and daughters to do what is right.
Freedom comes, and freedom goes. I heard an inmate recently released from a federal prison say that he realized while incarcerated that the most important thing in his life was his freedom—the freedom to come, go, and express himself without undo constraints. A mind is a terrible thing when it is not free. There is an old saying that if you free the mind, the body will follow. Take some time to relax, contemplate, and educate and let your mind become what it was meant to be: a mind growing intelligently with unlimited potential.
In my work in the city and state correctional facilities in Illinois and Missouri, I have met some outstanding individuals. Kasan (not his real name) was one of those individuals. He died while incarcerated in an Illinois state prison. Kasan helped me and another chaplain in our duties assisting inmates in religious services. In this particular institution, the warden allowed the inmates to have a picnic each spring, and the inmates could invite their families. This was an annual event in the 1990s at this prison.
I was to give the sermon one year at the picnic. I had volunteered at this prison for years, but this was my first picnic. I arrived early that Saturday morning to go through security so as not to be late for my talk. As I was in line waiting for my turn to be searched, there was a young African American female in front of me. I heard the female guard tell her, "Young lady, you cannot enter the prison without underwear." I should have taken this remark as an indication of things to come.
I gave my talk on the duty of believers to be faithful to their religious precepts. My talk lasted about forty-five minutes. After my talk, food was served, games were played, and family members were allowed to be with each other. On this day, I saw more sexual activities between the inmates and their female guests and wives than I thought that I would ever witness in a prison or public facility. Kasan also had a lady friend visiting him, but he didn't disrespect her like a lot of the other inmates did. I saw a lot of those inmates disrespecting their female guests in any way they could. Kasan stayed true to his religious concepts, and he walked his female guest around the perimeter of the grounds, holding her hand and talking. Kasan showed me, the prison guards, and other visitors at this picnic that he was free to be moral in an immoral environment.
At another state prison in Illinois, an incident happened with one of the inmates named Tony (not his real name)
Tony was on death row, and I was one of the chaplains who provided religious services for the death row inmates. Tony was being escorted to the prison medical facility. He told me that he had not felt the grass on his body in a long time and that he wanted to feel the grass on his body. So he said to the guard, "Say, Officer, please let me roll around on the grass a bit and ask those tower guards not to shoot me."
The guard did as Tony asked, and Tony rolled around for about two minutes. "It was a brief taste of freedom," he said.
Tony and I got to be good friends during his incarceration. He became an accomplished artist, and I have one of his paintings in my home. Tony and Kasan both died while they were incarcerated, but they influenced me to become a better person, and I appreciate the opportunity to have met these men, both of whom had free minds in environments that had other inmates' minds and bodies locked up.
Freedom is an inherent right given to every human being by his Creator. You lose that right only when you give up the responsibility to struggle to maintain your free mind. Any person who has the authority to lock up another human being may do so, but only you can decide to lock your own mind.
Freedom from the Lottery and Gambling
FREEDOM IS A TERRIBLE thing to waste. When you choose to be a free thinker and think for yourself, you take on a tremendous responsibility to educate yourself. Most individuals don't want to take on this role. It involves time for research and observation of various issues and people. But who said having a free mind in the city is easy?
Once upon a time in our not-so-distant history, there was only one state that had legalized gambling: Nevada. In other places, public gambling and games of chance, such as the lottery, were illegal and participation in them could result in incarceration in state or federal prison.
There are many influences that rob the minds of the young and the old; these influences are gender- and race-neutral. The greatest of these influences is the opportunity to involve people in immoral activities. In my long tenure of prison ministry, I have met individuals whose personalities were identified by the city in which they committed their crimes. These individuals saw themselves as being kingpins of crime in their cities. Some of them were into the gambling racket.
Casino gambling is legal in many states today, but there are men and women who are in prison today because they played the numbers in their state before it became legal. However, making it legal has not lessened the financial and moral damage gambling can cause.
Several years ago, I was purchasing gas at a local station when I noticed that the lady in front of me had a handful of lottery cards.
"Won anything yet?" I asked her.
This was a young African American female dressed in the latest fashion apparel. She replied, "I win some; I lose some. It's my job. If I didn't play, I wouldn't have anything to do. I wouldn't have any cash either."
At some of these gas stations, I am sure there are more lottery tickets purchased than gallons of gas. In another incident, an older African American female came onto the gas station lot. The way in which she was dressed indicated that she could use a clothing overhaul. This lady was carrying a plastic bag with some aluminum cans in it; evidently, she was collecting these cans to sell. She left her cans outside the station as she went inside. (I followed her into the building.) She went to the checkout counter and gave the cashier her lottery ticket; it was a two-dollar winner.
"Give me two more one-dollar tickets," she told the cashier. Taking the tickets, she thanked the man, stuck them in her pocket, and left the station. I assume she waited until she got home to do the scratch-off.
Unfortunately, those who play the lottery and other games of chance are often the individuals who can least afford to. They give their minds over to the illusion that they are the one out of ten million who is going to win. I think this is one of the greatest marketing schemes of our day. But in African American and other poor communities throughout our land of plenty, people are forever praying to be that lucky one. "If you don't play, you can't win" is the mantra of these wizards of advertising.
The Yusef Ali edition of the Holy quran says, "They ask you about drinking and gambling. Tell them: 'There is great sin in both, although they have some benefit for men; but their sin is greater than the benefit'" (S.X1.219).
The lottery advertising geniuses have sold the average lottery players on the idea that their odds of winning are great and that they will never have the experience of winning if they don't play. However, the odds of winning are not good. Analysts have calculated that a person is twenty thousand times more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the Mega Millions jackpot. Analysis of other games suggests that a person is one hundred times more likely to die of a flesh-eating bacteria than to win. In the $338 million New Jersey Powerball, the chances of winning were only one in 75 million. This is in contrast to one of 11.5 million people who owe back child support. Likewise, one of 12.5 million are owed back child support to the tune of a collective $100 billion.
The lottery is a fantasy drama sold to the poor and middle-class working poor who buy these drama dreams for one dollar per episode. Savvy investors who analyze the best gambling stock and invest in the stock of lottery companies make a 3 to 4 percent annual return or better and are pleased with the modest return because their principal or initial investment is secure. The consistent return and the multiplying effect on their investment will secure their future and the future of their children and grandchildren.
The poor and working poor are sold the dream of instant wealth. The reality is that to secure wealth, you must have a plan of investment by which the return on your principal is greater than the loss. A secure investment with modest, consistent returns is the prudent way to secure your financial well-being.
Here's a method of saving that was suggested to me later in life. This is only one method of saving for a special occasion. Each January, open a savings account and set aside any amount that you can save on a weekly or monthly basis without any financial difficulty. Have your employer deposit that money directly into your savings account through direct deposit at your bank or credit union. At the end of the year, you can withdraw this saved amount and use the funds to invest in something that will give you a good return on your investment, or you can use the monies for you and your family to go on a vacation. I used this method to take my family on a four-day Caribbean cruise. I had my part-time employer make direct deposits into my savings account. I would take most of the money from my part-time job and put that amount into my savings account.
The best investment I made for my family and me was my home, and the second best was to purchase some rundown investment real estate. When bought at a price you can afford, investment property can give you consistent supplemental income. I'm constantly trying to interest friends and family members in investing in properties in which other people might not want to. These properties have excellent potential investment opportunity if the buyers have sufficient funds to make the properties viable places to reside in.
The lottery and other games of chance are just another way to keep the poor dreaming of their lucky number one day becoming a reality. In reality, the best way of accumulating wealth is a plan of saving and investing at a modest and consistent rate.
The Story of the Traveling Man
I AM SURE MOST of us have heard the Bible story about the prodigal son. The gist of the story is about two sons whose father is a king. One of the two sons wants to go out into the world to experience what life is like outside his father's kingdom.
The narrative states that the younger son leaves his father's kingdom, and in his travels, he has many perverse and degrading experiences. Some of his experiences are so degrading that they eventually lead him to wallow in the mud with the pigs. The son becomes tired of the degrading and humiliating experiences of travels and sends a message to his father saying that he wants to come home. His father, happy about the return of his younger son, asks his servants to prepare a feast for the homecoming of his lost son. The older son, who stayed home, asks his father why he is treating the brother with such honor when the brother disrespected him and left home while he remained, did whatever was asked of him, and was never treated with a feast.
The father replied to the faithful son who remained at home that all he has belongs to him, but that he was joyous to see the lost son return home.
Excerpted from A Free Mind in the City by Hajji Wali Ahmed Furqan. Copyright © 2013 Hajji Wali Ahmed Furqan. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Prologue A Reflective Memory.................... ix
Chapter 1 Are You Free Yet?.................... 1
Chapter 2 Freedom Comes, Freedom Goes.................... 5
Chapter 3 Freedom from the Lottery and Gambling.................... 11
Chapter 4 The Story of the Traveling Man.................... 17
Chapter 5 Momma Stein Was a Free Woman with a Free Mind.................... 19
Chapter 6 Freedom from Excessive Material Possessions.................... 25
Chapter 7 "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free".................... 29
Chapter 8 Freedom from a Salty Tongue.................... 31
Chapter 9 Free from Perception: Why Do You Let Your Pants Sag?............. 39
Chapter 10 Freedom from Sex in the Inner City.................... 43
Chapter 11 Freedom from Drugs in Your Neighborhood and the Drug Pushers.... 47
Chapter 12 Damaged Goods: Recognized, Repaired, and Free................... 55
Chapter 13 Free to Shoot or Not to Shoot.................... 59
Chapter 14 The Would-Be Ambusher Is Ambushed.................... 65
Chapter 15 One Step to Freedom.................... 71
Chapter 16 A Free Mind in the Community.................... 77
Chapter 17 Caregivers Are G-d's Helpers.................... 81
Chapter 18 Giving Back.................... 83