Say what you mean and mean what you say

And yet another blog I wrote in 2012. How appropriate is this for today’s political and social environments? CHII

May 2012, Say what you mean and mean what you say                                                                                   

There is an ‘old Negro saying’ that reads like this, “Say what you mean and mean what you say”. Well, maybe it’s not an ‘old Negro saying’ because my father was not an old Negro when I first heard him say it. I can’t tell you exactly how old he was or when I first heard him say it. He might have gotten it from the slang of the time or some other old Negro. I’m not sure, but I do know it was a favorite phrase of my father.  He would repeat it continuously to anyone who didn’t quite know how to put a particular thought into words or was telling an outright lie.

Needless to say, he used the phrase often when counseling me. Especially during those times when I’d did something wrong and was trying to figure out how to put into words an excuse of why I did it. He knew there was no excuse. I kept trying to justify why I did something I knew was wrong to the man who was in charge of punishing or counseling me for that error in judgment. I always felt that if I could justify it in my immature way, then the punishment would be light. Hell, if I could make him laugh about it, I may even get off with a warning. At least it was a nice thought.

Let me tell you, those mental games I tried to play with my father?  If I had succeeded once, I don’t remember it. I always thought, even today, that old man had a master’s degree in life itself. Back in those days, black people felt that sending their kids to a Catholic school would ensure their child would get a good education. Well, I remember thinking while walking to and from St Benedict de Moor in Milwaukee; I wanted to go to the same school as my father. Why? Why because that man knew something about everything.  And another thing, he was no fool.  That was another one of his favorite sayings.  He would say, “I ain’t no fool so don’t play me cheap.”  I never did understand how the words ‘fool’ and ‘cheap’ related to each other. But I (as a kid and adult) and most people around him got the message and agreed with his statement.

I thought about my dad the other day, when my cousin Kelly, who did a tremendous job of researching her roots, located and identified some of our ancestors as far back as pre-civil war and beyond.

The thought, as it always does, stir up those memories I had of growing up in a household where ninety percent of the people who came to your house was a relative. And the other five percent were your play-cousins.  I’m telling you, up until I was approaching thirteen years of age.  I thought half the black people, a few Puerto Ricans and a couple of white people in Milwaukee was all related to me in some way.

It was the values we were taught as children. Our parents, who were originally farmland country folk, may not have had a high school diploma. Back in the late forties and fifties, they moved north, west, and east to get away from the segregated south. They arrived in places like California, New York, Chicago and yes, Milwaukee looking for jobs and a place to raise a family. My mother and father left Arkansas heading for Milwaukee four months after I was born.

They knew how to make ends meet. We never felt poor or were never hungry as a kid growing up. No, we were not rich with dollars, but rich in community and love. And no matter what adult in that community a kid was talking to, there were rules. You didn’t lie to an adult, you didn’t say bad words, you didn’t steal, and one that will probably make young parents of today wish for those old days. You didn’t speak while grown people spoke. After the initial hello to a visitor, the kids didn’t stay in the same room, sitting on Aunties lap listening to grown folk conversations.

Oh, the kids would be present upon the visitor arrival, get their attention time, you know.  “Ain’t she cute?”  “Boy, you getting big like your daddy.”  “Whoa Rosalie, what are you feeding that boy?”  “Naw, I think she looks like Aunt Peggy.” “Oh man, let me tell you what I heard about Peggy.”  At that point, one of the parents would say, “hold on,” And you as a kid knew what was coming next. “You all go on in the back room and play. You all don’t need to hear grown folk business.”  Just when the conversation was about to be good, I always thought.  Some of you remember those days.

Back in the day, people didn’t use a lot of unnecessary and phony descriptive words during their conversation.  Most were short and to the point. There was no room for misinterpreting what was meant by someone. And usually, if you were dealing with a down-home person, as they use to call themselves, they meant what they were saying.  If they said they were going to slap the mess out of you, you better duck or get hit.

Nowadays there is a lot of talk or rapping. Everybody is talking. The children are talking. The teenagers are talking. The grown-ups are talking. The people on the TV, in the grocery store, at the bank, gas station are talking about…stuff.  The President and other politicians, the commentators and analyst on the radio, sports reports on ESPN, CNN, ABC, CBS, you name it, everybody has something to say about something or even nothing. At least they think they do.

When it comes down to it, the kid’s parents should be more like those in our past. Sometimes being seen and not heard is a good thing. Our children should learn the first rule of speaking, and that is to respect the other person right to speak. Another rule I was told to remember was that if I was talking all of the time, when would I listen? And surprise, surprise you learn more by listening.

All of the other people, especially during this political season, should ask Evernybody is talking - Copythemselves before they say a word, Is what I am about to say the truth? Or is it something I heard or read on the internet? Is it relevant? Will it help my brother man? Is it meaningful within this conversation?  Do I really need to say this now? Will people or the person for whom this conversation is directed understand me?

Don’t get me wrong, the act of rapping or jiving is still part of my personal repertoire. We do it for fun. That is what we called ‘taking mess’ back in the day. My friends and I could sit around spinning stories, stretching the truth, laughing and joking about each other’s lack of whatever with whomever.  Talking about family, neighbors, our bosses, and the finest lady on the block until the wee hours of the morning.  Add beer or some wine to the equation and you got a party. Sometimes girlfriends would join in while sitting on the porch gazing at the moon and stars on a hot and humid summer night. The radio would be playing the latest R&B. That’s how I remember the sixties, just before and right after I got out of the Army. But, as you may have guessed, there is a time for that and a time to get serious.

A lot of these people showing up on our TV’s as experts or people who are supposedly speaking the truth are like carnival barkers. They are just trying to sell something, either a product, or themselves, and even worse spouting some political line they know is false. Do you hear me, Trump?

Just think about it. If there were some truth litmus test before people started taking, we would all be better off in a more silent world. My mantra would be more music and less talk.  I just wish some of them would remember that “old Negro saying” used by my father and others.  “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”  And I would add to that; if not, sit your butt down and shut the hell up because nobody wants to hear your crap.

Peace, make it a day in which Jesus Christ would be proud of you,

Codis Hampton II

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