Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Xmas from this Blogger, Activist, Musician, and Lyft Driver

Last night's Lyft driving got really under my skin, seeped into my heart.  So much pain, so much story, so much humanity out here on these streets.

Those who pray: please pray for Alejandro as he flies back to Sonora, Mexico to help his family in a hard time, leaving a good paying job in Birmingham.  He was intrigued that I knew people in Agua Prieta, near where he lives, as most people in Birmingham, MI only know about Cancun.  Lyfted him to the airport last night.

Pray for David who left his drug dealing after time in county jail but has had to move away from his children out to Romulus to be close to his job in Ypsilanti. He tried to find work aside from drug dealing for years, but nothing came in Detroit. 

Pray for Ruby: she broke my heart tonight. As I drove her down 8 mile where she used to make $1,000 a weekend at the strip clubs 10 years ago, she's angry at Jesus for not showing up for her, yet. 8 years ago her brother was murdered while she was in nursing school, and it threw her life off course. She knows her Bible, has been hurt by a greedy pastor, and she just preached a half hour in my car, holding all the wrapping paper she just got at the dollar store and called Lyft because the Detroit bus didn't come for 3 of the times it was posted that it would.

Pray for Gail: after her divorce, she's been raising her three college-aged kids on her own.  She needed a Lyft because she let her oldest child have her one car.  She lives in the Suburbs of Wayne County, so her car insurance is very high, just like my more immediate neighbors.  Her job is set to expire in early 2017, so at this stage in her life, she's still living paycheck to paycheck and nervous about her resume.  

A few nights ago, I got to drive Gary, the owner of a liquor store in my neighborhood, back to his home in West Bloomfield.  He's been the owner for decades, and is proud that he's made peace with the African-American community he serves, hires from, and I wanted to say, probably overcharges them for groceries.  He talked about voting for Trump, and I verbally disagreed with his logic, but I had to humble myself and listen to his life as a Chaldean boy in Iraq, his family feeling forced to leave as Christians.  He said he would hook me up with my favorite whiskey if I stop by again.   

These were not passengers in the surge zones, but I'm glad I didn't chase the money tonight. I drive people to bars sometimes, and sometimes I get the honor of driving people at a very critical moment in their life.

Before you judge our neighbors living south of 8 mile, drive a few miles with them and listen. 

Please support The Table Setters in our launch mode

Peace by peace by silent nights and heartfelt prayers,
+Matthew John Schmitt @matthewjschmitt

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Table Setters Needs Your Support!

Come to the Table. 
Share at the Table.  Stay at the Table.

Come Back to the Table. 

We are asking for financial support for our 2017 launch. We need to support our families as we build the components and create opportunities for schools and churches who otherwise would not be able to afford our visit, workshops, and consulting.

We are also poised to write a book we believe is critically important, but we need real time and space to actually author it:
How is that a 58 year old African-American is friends with a 39 year old European-American? Why is this friendship, filled with love and constant disagreement, important as a model for the type of relationships needed in our country in 2017?

You have been sampling my writing on this blog for almost a year, and you can check out Marvin's at Paid In Full.

The Table Setters is a faith-based non-profit (pending) that produces improved relationships across humanly created racial, socio-economic, political, and religious lines. We combine launch events in churches, schools, and civic institutions with customized plans for ongoing cultural accountability. Diversity training days are never enough. Ongoing relationships that nurture connections and share brokenness, hopes and dreams, can be mutually healing and productive.

Founded through the deep friendship of Marvin Wadlow Jr., an African-American Baby Boomer, and Matthew John Schmitt, a European-American Generation X-er, the Table Setters exist to remember that we are all invited to God's Table through Christ, with none of us over or under-welcomed. Both founders lament that though Jesus shares stories and parables through setting a variety of tables across cultures and classes, most of our country, including Christians, have a hard time stepping outside their zip codes. The Table Setters believe that reality is greater understood when we fully appreciate differences across the divisions of humankind, and we aim to start a movement of courageous and ongoing Table Setting: individuals, businesses, and congregations who are willing to continually meet with "the others.” We are called to mutually learn, question, and share experiences in vulnerable storytelling that ultimately moves us towards making better decisions together.

How YOUR Giving will Matter to The Table Setters Launch:

$100 - Covers Lyft rides to and from airports
$500 - Covers our internet connection for one year as we create social media content
$1000 - Covers airfare for Matthew & Marvin to visit schools or churches with limited budgets
$4000 - Covers the costs associated with Marvin & Matthew to offer a workshop series
$6000 - Affords us each one month to write, research, and develop our book concept in 2017.

Simply click DONATE to make your tax-deductible contribution, or mail a check to:

The Table Setters
c/o Dan Selock
70 Sandy Point
Goreville, IL 62939

Peace by peace by peace,
Matthew, Marvin, Dan, Susie, Darcie and all the future Table Setters who will be impacted by this launch......

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Forgiveness Table, by Marvin Wadlow Jr.

Matthew John Schmitt, my co-founder in The Table Setters, shared this post on Facebook already about the apology to Dakota Native Americans from a host of retired US military soldiers in regards to the oil pipeline recently temporarily halted. It’s awesome in it’s written form. God has gifted me with the ability of stories in film. This is a powerful 2.30 second visual of what real forgiveness looks like.

Not yelling and pontificating on CNN, Fox, or MSNBC, or even Facebook. Real Forgiveness means a real apology. It also requires both parties to come to The Table of Forgiveness and to be specific of the injustices perpetrated on each other. Or, by one to another. For this country, that’s broad brushes of paint filled with blood! The blood of Native Americans, the Blood of Mexican-Americans, the blood of African-Americans, and yes, blood of my Asian-Americans (including Pacific Islanders) brothters and sisters ancestors. Ancestory from my good friends in the Asian community like Diane Ujiiye, and Jason Chu! I mention my Asian brothers and sisters because they need some upfront acknowledgement to their ancestral sacrifices. The history books overlook horrible injustices to them, me, and all previouly mentioned groups above.

Let’s not bullshit, where does that leave all my pink (white) brothers and sisters of a different hue in terms of forgiveness, apologies, and real listening? Real listening means not playing chess with people of color that have deep wounds. No, “Yeah but’s”. It means just taking the time to hear our seemingly drawn out historically convoluted stories of our history in the context of being a person of color in America! It means, actually listening at a few Table Settings before you point-counter-point. If you haven’t been told, I’m telling you now, it pisses us off so much. Just simply listen. Listening requires no response. And, when and if you feel the need to apologize, be real. See this video, that’s a real f’ing apology. And for the record, my father served in a racist, seperatist WWII military with honor for his country and him regardless of the injustices he experienced (watch the movie Solder’s Story). Members of my family serve and honorably served in in all wars, other members of my family serve and have served as police (that’s black and white officers in my family), fire, and EMT; doctors, nurses, etc. So any unconstructive (no other form of protest for him to use) critique of Kaepernick (NFL) excuses of what he’s doing by taking a knee is redundent and hypocritical! The exact reason you’re fighting against what he’s doing is the reason all soliders fight for his ability to protest in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Look at King, Ali, Tommy Smith and John Carlos (68' Olympics); look at The Woolworth lunch counter participants, look at water hose victims in 64', watch Bloody Sunday participants on the bridge in Selma, read the bios of Don Cornelious of Soul Train, watch Michael Jackson who stood his ground with MTV, or I personally might not have had a career, and ask countless others in Dakota. The list could go on and on.

This apology was beyond, “heart felt”. My pink brother laid it on the line, spoke clearly, specifically, and succinctly about what the wrongs were. Paused. Bowed.

And then he lowered his head in asking for full forgiveness in front of a tribal leader.

You can hear it in his voice as the speaker wears the uniform of still the most brutal war in our US history, our own civil war; and in that uniform, he apologizes. You can see it on the faces of other soldiers who kneel with him and ask for forgiveness under his representation. And, you can hear it in the accepting of his apology by the tribal leader saying wisely, “ this is a 1st step” in that forgiveness process. Most, not all Americans, so let me be clear: my brothers and sisters of European Anglo descent want this quick fix. 400 years is not a quick fix, the land we took is not a quick fix. The pain exhibited by most people of color from 400 years of mental, physical, and emotional harm will not be fixed overnight as we did not take this land peacefully overnight. And the fruit enjoyed by many came at the cost of people with skin that looks like mine or a derivative of: Asians, African, Native, Pacific Islanders, and Latinos who paid a heavy cost for “this land is your land, this land is my land” song, but did not reap that fruit. Instead they picked the fruit and reaped no rewards except systematic ghettos strategically placed in cities, reservations, and some rural areas all over the nation! So, even though that song is a folk song as a protest song with an ironic twist that we know that’s not qute true!

History tells us that certain lands are my land, certain areas are my areas, and certain schools are my schools, but not all! So this is a heavy price that we are baring the fruit of after years of ignorance in regards to how we avoid and ignore the injustices. And now, that price is upon us as a nation to be Paid in Full. So, what will we do? Will we continue to scream and shout. Or, will we follow the lead of the Dakota tribe and stand strong? And, will we follow the lead of this amazing group of people who came to ask forgiveness? Or, will we continue to teach generation after generation on what it means to be separate in church under God, in school under tax dollars, and in zip codes under city codes? I say, we are collectively better.I say I have hope in all Tables set regardless if I’m sitting with a Klan member, black lives matter activist, or whomever comes humbly to the table, ready to listen. Just like this video sets the example…..

The people who came to build the railroads, yes, my Asian brothers and sisters, ancestors of Jason Garreth Loke and Diane Ujiiye, is not a quick fix! In my humble opinion, I learned from this Native American wiseman that it’s the 1st steps that count! Now at Table Setters, we wanna come take 1st steps with you. As Thelonious Monk said in his famous jazz piece: This is Straight, No Chaser! It’s a hard pill to swallow, but this is the fruit of our good old country. We truly earned the Red, the white, and the blue stripes as if they were on our backs for (all) of our our past injustices whether brown, pink, and shades there in-between as people of color, and pink people. :) There has been a sacrifice made in this country. And not all those sacrifices have been acknowledged!

My Table has many cups that runeth over for many pieces of bread to be broken. Here, take this in remembrance of what we all participated in. Drink this in solidarity with me as to not repeat those actions and to take responsibility for the injustices of the past. Write with me the New history books so it reflects the real colors of our flag from the truth! Not one man’s truth. But the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God. Please, Please Help us God.

-Marvin Wadlow Jr

Son of Marvin Wadlow Sr., a WWII Honored Vet

Son of Virginia Lee Wadlow who built fuselages for WWII bombers after suffering through racial injustices in the workplace that she built them.

I am Father to Marvin Pulefaasaasina Wadlow III, Morgan Malosi Wadlow, and Malcolm Alofa Wadlow.

My father, probably is a descendant of Ghanaian or Nigerian slaves stolen from Africa and brought through the middle passage to America.

My sons are descendants of African and Polynesian Blood from my brothers and sisters of Pacific Islander Asians who’s land was also taken from them! I’m so proud of my sons’ Asian blood!

In honor of my ancestors’ ability to create music that has “Always and Forever” changed the world everytime we create something out of nothing, here’s Thelonious Monk’s Masterpiece, “Straight, No Chaser”

And closing out with some solid journalism ABOUT the forgiveness moment...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dear Suburban Detroit Passengers,

Dear Suburban Detroiters,

I love you, I grew up on your turf. Most of you are incredible people. As a #Lyft driver, though, I have to set the record straight. When you ask me if I pick up "crazy hood people" in the city, I ask you if you mean my neighbors? Did you know that car insurance south of 8 mile is 3-6 times what you pay in the suburbs, just from the get go? Many of my neighbors say it's much less expensive to take Lyft from time to time to work than it is to own a car.

And, now having driven 400 people in the past 3 months, I can say this. I've only had 5 terrible experiences (thank God.) All 5 of them were north of 9 mile road. The passenger who yelled at me for not allowing him to smoke in my car. The passenger who was so hopped up on cocaine and Cialis that I had to report him, not so much for me, but for fear that he might sexually assault a female driver (he kept bragging about how he can always score with any woman, though he was angry because he had just been rejected in the bathroom of a club.) The passengers who wouldn't get out of my car because they were mad that I didn't drive them to places that they had not entered into the route, nor had they communicated in any way. The passenger group who kept aggressively asking me if I was afraid of getting mugged...and when I asked them, tongue in cheek, "should I be worried," one of them was not amused (the others laughed uproariously, because the one dude would NOT let it go.) They were pretty insulting, though. They threw a dollar bill at me as they got out of the car.

Suburban Detroiters, most of you are incredible and wonderful passengers. But if you find yourself assuming that my neighbors in Detroit are all dangerous and threatening, you are fiercely incorrect. I urge you to rethink that notion, and if you are taking Lyft or Uber, be kind. You are not better than any of us because of where you live. You are not entitled to do whatever you feel like just because you might see yourself as more valuable than me or my neighbors since you've earned more money in life, or had more to begin with.

I love this job, because many times, I get to engage in mini Table Settings a la The Table Setters I get to deflate trumped up fears and misconceptions, and I get to hear from real Detroit folks in the city, downriver, in the suburbs, about real life here in Southeastern Michigan. This is a great place.

I'm glad to be home.

And we've got a ton of tables to set for the long haul towards greater understanding, compassion, and equality.

And miles to go before we sleep, and miles to go before we sleep.

God help us learn to actually listen to each other, and not just assume.