Black Thought

“We cannot have perfection. We have few saints. But we must have honest men or we die. We must have unselfish, far-seeing leadership or we fail.”

– W.E.B. DuBois

These words were spoken so many decades ago. Nevertheless, these wise words ring with an unmistakable truth and resounding clarity today. Because, unfortunately in these turbulent times, the scarcity of leadership is at once hopelessly disappointing and terribly frightening. At its core, leadership demands honest, decisive action in the service and best interests of a people. The naked, bombastic machismo we witness today – delivered with unflinching dishonest selfishness – fosters a maddening, toxic environment with aimless direction. Today, we stand shakily on the precipice of outright moral anarchy. To be sure, the fallibility of man is an unavoidable consequence of being human. No one can escape being marked with some form of moral blemish. Nevertheless, conscientious ignorance emboldened with manipulative deceit is an enthusiastic embrace of corruption. Leadership begs transparent forthrightness based upon principles and honesty. A leader comprehends and differentiates between right and wrong. His actions are guided by truth, justice, integrity, empathy, and humility. A leader empowers others. A leader communicates clearly and directly. A leader practices gratitude. Certainly we need more leaders today. Time to step up.

Gentlemen’s Review – Sperry – Authentic Original Lug Chukka

Many, many years ago during the maturation of my personal style, Sperry became my preferred shoe brand for warm weather, as boat shoes became progressively heavy in my shoe rotation. Stylish, very comfortable, and available in a myriad of playful hues; Sperry offered great diversity that complemented my wardrobe. To be honest, I never thought about wearing Sperry shoes beyond the summer months. And I never imagined any other Sperry selection beyond my boat shoes. So when presented with an opportunity to choose a pair from Sperry’s collection for review, I decided to select a boot. Given the cold weather on the horizon, it was the perfect time to test some Sperry boots here in Michigan.

The pair I selected is but one of many choices from a special curated, must-have collection of Sperry favorites from none other than John Legend. The awarding winning (Grammy, Emmy, Oscar, Tony), multi-platinum artist, and now 2020 Sperry Global Ambassador John Legend – yes him. It is very ironic that I selected a pair of Sperry boots from his collection of curated favorites. Perhaps we share the same refined taste in style. Okay – I’m wildly speculating here. Nevertheless, the Sperry Lug Chukka was soon express shipped to me for examination and opinion. First impressions right out the box: These boots appeared more than ready to handle the increasingly chilly terrain of Michigan. So, without further delay, lets dive into the intimate details of the Sperry Lug Chukka.

Specifications

  • Waterproof leather uppers
  • Handsewn moccasin construction with a fully impermeable protective layer for dryness in any condition
  • EVA cushioning
  • Non-marking rubber lug outsole with molded Wave-Siping™ provides no-slip traction

Sperry boasts a proprietary line of shoe technology branded Techwave. Touted as a fleet of technology for your feet, it encompasses the following components: Plushwave, Rainwave, Stormwave, and Icewave. The Original Lug Chukka is equipped with Stormwave – meaning it promises a no-slip grip, thermal lining, and waterproofing. The lug chukka itself conveys an old-school, tough aesthetic that aims squarely for rugged good looks. The chukka sports 6 traditional punched eyelets with metal grommets (Sperry engraved on each) for added reinforcement. There are two metal hook eyelets at the very top for secure fastening. Four metal eyelets are also horizontally positioned on each side with the signature squared Sperry shoelaces threaded through each hole.

Now, I would not describe the boot as lightweight, but it definitely isn’t heavy as well. The hard rubber sole is relatively thick with a moderate tread that should stomp through snow and handle slippery terrain fairly well. Stitched inside the leather upper is a warm, flannel-like material that covers all of the inside. Warning: Thick socks may make for a tight fit, so a gentleman may want to choose the appropriate hosiery wisely. The layered, protective cloth covering (in a red/black check pattern) is stitched on top of the insole to shield against moisture and water. Regarding exterior waterproofing, the outer seams and stitching appeared clean and tight. The Original Lug Chukka is a relatively comfortable boot with handsewn moccasin construction. However, I must reiterate, a thick sock may make the boot unpleasantly constrictive. The waterproof leather upper is sufficiently supple and soft. The amaretto color (a burgundy-brown hue) responds well to a good polish.

Pro

  • Robust design with thick rubber sole that should handle snow and slush sufficiently
  • Supple and soft leather that readily absorbs quality polish
  • Handsome design constructed for rugged outdoor commutes
  • Comfortable fit and feel that does not require breaking in; springy, removable insert for added comfort

Con

  • The flannel-like cloth lining inside the boot may cause a tighter than expected fit if worn with thick socks
  • Squared shoe laces sometimes have the habit of frequently becoming untied
  • Strictly constructed for casual environments, this chukka cannot perform double duty and migrate into the boardroom

The Sperry Original Lug Chukka is designed for the gentleman that favors a rugged, outdoorsy aesthetic. To be sure, this boot certainly has a casual feel and is not built for purposes of a boardroom. This chukka should be paired with denim jeans, khaki pants, and corduroy slacks. The lug chukka is competitively priced at $149.95 along with other boots within the same market. The Gentlemen’s Standard considers this a great investment for a quality, everyday boot when faced with cold temperatures and moderate snow.

For more information, please visit SPERRY for details. For specific ordering details about the Original Lug Chukka, please visit HERE.

Daddy Diary – Superman Is a Fictional Character, Kryptonite Is Real and Super Dads Are Mortal

Stubbornly, I awkwardly stumbled my way down the driveway to my Ford Fusion and plopped down in the driver’s seat. I placed the key in the ignition to start the engine, shifted into reverse, looked over my right shoulder to confirm clearance – nothing. I looked over my left shoulder – nothing. I shifted the car back into park, removed my keys from the ignition, stumbled to my porch bench and sat there defeated. Nothing. As I had previously peered over my shoulders to perform the ritual of ensuring clearance of stray objects or pedestrians, the nothingness wasn’t the absence of things I may run over, rather it was my vision. I could not clearly make out anything. And so, I sat on my porch bench, defeated, and phoned my wife inside the house to verify if she was going to pick up our son from school. Stubbornly, I was trying to perform the role of Superman, but I failed.

My health issues started the day before on August 4, 2020. I remember that day because I was driving to the polls to vote. As I made a left turn on Evergreen Road, I noticed my vision momentarily blurred as I entered the turn. As I made a mental note of the occurrence, I figured it perhaps a consequence of motion sickness as I sometimes suffer from time to time. However, this time was different because I was the driver and not the passenger. I noted the strange occurrence and continued on to vote with no problems. However, later that evening, I suffered a dizzy spell as I was bringing dinner to the table for the kids. It stopped me dead in my tracks and I had to find my bearings.

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Gentlemen’s Review – Hush Puppies – The Bennet

It has been quite a long time since I owned a pair of Hush Puppies footwear. Decades ago, looking for an appropriate shoe for the office, I purchased a pair at a local DSW. A dark brown cap toe blucher, it immediately became my preferred business casual shoe for work and social settings. Extremely comfortable, I thoroughly ran those poor shoes into the ground. They did, however, provide many years of incredible service until we had to go our separate ways. I desperately searched for another pair that was similar in style, but my attempts were unsuccessful. Thereafter, admittedly, the Hush Puppies brand quietly dropped from my radar over the years. And then, approximately a month ago, I was offered the opportunity to reunite with the brand and review one of their newest arrivals – the Bennet.

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The Standard #55

The current national climate of uncertainty has undoubtedly reinforced an absolute certainty; power openly divulges intimate details of an individual’s character through a stark magnification of personal attributes. Power is influence and authority. Power absent good ethics and accountability will most certainly lead to unfortunate, perhaps even dangerous consequences. Furnished with said power; how does a man commence to abuse it? The answer begs an exploration of a man’s origins. What becomes of a child not reared to become a man?

Skillfully schooled to subjugate with a superficial sense of superiority and supremacy; relieved of responsibility and rectitude. Insulated from individual ineptitude and inadequacy; absolved of arrogance and amorality. Deprived of necessary growth and development opportunities, this child physically matures as an adult but lacks the emotional and mental intelligence to function as one. It is the making of mock manhood molded in magnificent mediocrity and manufactured masculinity. What becomes of a child not reared to become a man, yet now is imbued with power?

What stands is a man that abdicates any modicum of morality, decency, responsibility, and empathy. He consistently constructs imaginary slights as motivation to humiliate and demean individuals. He accumulates and consolidates power for selfish benefit and gain. Yet shrouded beneath a flimsy veneer of authority is a gross overestimation of ability and overcompensation of might to mask his own deficiencies. Isolated within a self-imposed power vacuum, he gradually suffocates from the lack of respect, love, and confidence. Thrashing about, starved of those key human necessities, he hurts people either directly or indirectly.

And so I say to the audience, to those of us still grounded with integrity, righteousness and dignity: We must use our platform, our voice, our power to speak against such dangers to society. Such naked displays of corrupt power must be fervently opposed and defeated –  for our collective humanity demands it. It cries out for it. Corrupt power cannot be rewarded with indifference or silence because that is tantamount to complicity. Do not be complicit in your society’s demise. I implore you to embrace the mantle of righteous leadership in a time where there are far too many voids. Righteous leadership begs the ability to appeal to the intelligence, emotion and resolve of people – absent manipulative agitation and fear. So, what becomes of a child properly reared through adolescence to adulthood? Hopefully, they become the person I am speaking to now. Rise up!

Gentlemen’s Review – Grill Mark – Electric Charcoal Fire Starter

So, we have enjoyed a couple of months of warm weather (sometimes downright hot) here in Michigan. Generally, the arrival of warm weather signals the commencement of outdoor grilling. Now, I am certainly not a grilling aficionado, but I attempt to put forth an honest effort for a properly grilled meal. Over the years, I have experimented with various grilling accessories to enhance my grilling experience. One evening while searching the Internet for grilling advice, I discovered an interesting accessory constructed to ignite charcoal briquettes via an electric current. The design is quite simple. A looped metal wand, it is activated by plugging it into an outlet. The cord is fairly short, so an extension cord is highly recommended. Fortunately, I not only have an outdoor extension cord  – a heavy-duty 100 foot cord to be exact – but I am lucky to have a nearby outdoor electric outlet.

For years, my preferred method of igniting charcoal briquettes was employing the service of a chimney charcoal starter. However, I had grown tired of the fuss related to stuffing the chimney starter with newspaper and igniting it with a long stick lighter. Sometimes I had to deal with a pesky breeze and the ash produced from the burned newspaper irritated me. It took longer than I desired for all the charcoal briquettes to eventually become aflame, and I was not a fan of the smoke. The videos related to the electric charcoal starter seemed relatively easy and cleaner. And so, for $20.00 I was willing to evaluate its performance. The set-up was simple enough. I laid a briquette base inside my grill, inserted my electric wand, stacked more briquette in the form of an irregular pyramid, and finally plugged it into my outlet.

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The Professional – 10 Highly Effective Work Habits That Will Help You Succeed – Webex Webinar

Well, I am stepping out of my comfort zone and I am stepping out on faith as I launch my first webinar series. I have been writing material for this blog since 2008, and maintaining a passion for writing is very challenging. I have long desired to expand the scope of this site. Specifically, I have held dreams of establishing a mentoring program for under-served and at-risk youth in the community. I wholeheartedly admit that the courage required to undertake such an objective has been weak on my behalf. However, there has been a dramatic shift in our societal landscape. The current global pandemic and cries for racial justice has presented an opportunity to expand the mission and vision of this blog. I had become increasingly irritated by individuals that utilize social media to complain or spread negativity yet offer no solutions or ideas that will add positive value to our shared dilemma. And so, I began to prepare material to help displaced workers, aspiring employees, new employees, and seasoned colleagues find footing in this uncertain job market. Working from home, I use Cisco Webex nearly every day, so I determined this platform would be perfect to host webinars. My first topic – 10 Highly Effective Work Habits That Will Help You Succeed – is designed to help an individual develop the best strategies to maximize success in the workplace. I am very nervous, as this is my first webinar, although I am no stranger to presentations or leading meetings. Nevertheless, I could not sit idly by without adding my voice to the conversation. I just hope people care to hear what I have to say.

Join me for an interactive webinar August 15, 2020 at 11 a.m. EST. I will be discussing strategies that have helped me navigate the workplace over the last 20 years. I am a health care professional working in supply chain management (procurement). I started my career as a lab technician and now I am supervisor that has led a team of 15-18 direct reports with the responsibility of 4-7 major hospital systems and their corresponding off-sites. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two. E-mail me at gentlestandard08@gmail.com if you plan to attend. A link to the webinar will be sent to you prior to the presentation.

The Standard #54

To be absolutely certain, the emotional and mental anguish is undeniable. And sometimes the anguish manifests itself physically – scars indelibly, indiscriminately tattooing the body. It is a pain that enjoys a perpetual downpour of torrential hate; roots strengthening its grasp within the fertile soil of the human spirit, rendering it barren of dignity or hope. Starved of equality and justice, our humanity has become emaciated from being forcibly fed prejudice, privilege, and hate. To be absolutely certain, it is an exhausting exercise of suffering. However, we should never allow ourselves to become so starved for justice and equality that we become equal participants in the deprivation of our own humanity. The oppressed should never adopt the identity or ideology of the oppressor. We should never debase our ethics and morality to achieve a perceived modicum of equal footing. Because, once that choice is made, the reason behind the mission is compromised. To be unambiguous, we should never acquiesce to indignant ignorance, idiocy, and ill will. The expectation is daunting, and honestly, the burden of righteousness and virtue should not lie with the persecuted. Yet, I call upon you to stand fierce in righteousness, honor, and goodness. Do not be mistaken, moral strength and conviction can be righteously weaponized to strike down animus, and dismantle systemic injustice that is intentionally injurious to the under-served and disenfranchised. Hold firm to your integrity and values, as our will must be stronger than the status quo of moral corruption, we stand steadfast and will overcome.

The Gentlemen’s Standard – Community Outreach – Mentoring

I have struggled tremendously over the past few weeks; desperately flailing in a sea of words, unable to find the necessary stillness and bearings to form meaningful sentences. In terms of blog content, returning to normal did not feel at all normal. A return to writing about shoes, cologne, or neckties felt painfully tone-deaf and superficial at this point in time. I wanted to add something substantive to the current conversation. In the midst of the pandemic and civil unrest, I wanted to be more than an angry voice on social media, albeit absent action. And so, I decided to dust off an idea conjured up perhaps over a decade ago. I always wanted to establish a support group that mentored young men, specifically young black men that were underserved and marginalized in the community. That concept never arrived to fruition. However, the overload of current events has renewed that old passion within me. So, I have not been writing because I have dedicated my time to developing material for informational webinars. Working remotely has basically forced me to communicate with my team 100% of the time. Combining this new skill with more than a decade of  new experiences in life (fatherhood, management, etc.), the hope is to virtually mentor men. Of course, more information is on the horizon as I work out details. The main focus of the group will revolve around scholarship, style, service, and embody the overall theme of this website. I hope you follow me on this journey as I am excited and nervous. Wish me luck.

My Skin is My Sin – The Mental, Emotional, and Physical Exhaustion of This Particular Black Male in America

True story. Short post (not really). I was driving to Taco Bell one evening to order and pick up dinner. I am somewhat of a defensive driver. I barely graze the upper ceiling of speed limits. I am cautious of my surroundings. I respect the rules of the road. I have never been issued a traffic ticket. So, this particular evening was nothing out of the ordinary. I was in the middle turning lane when I realized a dark SUV had suddenly appeared behind me. As I completed my left turn – the light was changing from yellow to red – the SUV sped through the light and closed in tightly to my rear end. It startled me. At first I thought it was just another impatient idiot on the road, and then the police lights flashed brightly in my rear view mirror. Damn. I had absolutely no clue why I was being stopped. Taco Bell is literally 5 minutes from my home. I wasn’t speeding. I had used my turn signal. My plates were legit. I pulled into the Taco Bell parking lot. Suddenly, another SUV appeared out of the darkness.

Now, I have been stopped by police before, so I am not foreign to traffic stops. However, this moment felt different, I had never had 2 police SUVs swoop in with such velocity and basically box me in where I had parked. Lord. Did I fit the description of someone that ignited their aggressive pursuit? Generally, I have a personal protocol that I follow when being stopped by law enforcement. License and registration are already out so I don’t have to reach for anything in the car or on my person. I shut the car off and place the keys on the dashboard. I keep both hands on the steering wheel in clear sight. And I never enter into any excessive banter with the police. They ask a question and I answer. This night I was so shook, I am not even sure if I followed all my own rules. Of course, the police offered the usual line of questioning: Do you know why we stopped you? My reply was an honest no. They performed their due diligence and checked my license and registration. Everything was square. And then the officer offered the reason why I was stopped: He couldn’t read my license plate.

This incident happened months ago, and I have since procured new plates, so I am comfortable showing my old plates above. Take a look. A little worn, but clearly visible – 4FFZ24. I did not argue. I was instructed to buy new plates. I nodded in agreement and we parted ways. I carried on with the original plan and secured my take-out from Taco Bell. On my way back home, I stopped at a well-lit gas station to inspect my license plate. I took a picture, showed it to the gas station attendant, and asked him to repeat the plate numbers/letters back to me. He performed the exercise – surely thinking why am I doing this. I told him I was just stopped by the police because it was allegedly unreadable. He just shook his head in disbelief. I was irritated. I was rattled. But I was alive. Nevertheless, no matter how clean-cut I believe I am, no matter how by-the-book I carry myself; in the back of my mind is that nagging fear – what if I encounter that wrong one? What if on some indiscriminate day, my melanin is justification enough to trigger someone’s racial unconscious bias, leaving in the wake of my death a carousel of anger, anguish, ambivalence, and apathy? Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Yet, the stain of black blood on the fabric of America cannot be purged so simply. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Botham Jean.

Once while pulling out of a parking space, an older white woman started screaming that I almost and was trying to hit her with my car. I rolled down my window to see what the commotion was and she started screaming and screaming. I tried to reason with her – that I wasn’t even in the proximity of hitting her. A guy walking by glanced at me and offered a “what is wrong with this lady” look at me. And then she started screaming for help from someone that was out of view. The last thing I needed was someone to appear out of the shadows with guns blazing. I peeled off and got the hell out of there. I have more examples if you have the time. But I digress, don’t mind me. I just needed to write. I’m exhausted. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m on edge. I can’t begin to put my feelings into words, but I had to try to put my feelings into words. Don’t mind me, I just needed to write.

The Gentleman’s Kitchen – Coronavirus Chronicles: Glorious Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes w/ Homemade Tartar Sauce

As previously documented in my latest Daddy Diary post – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 10 True Confessions of a Parent Working From Home – fulfilling one’s job responsibilities remotely has been quite the challenge. Nevertheless, there have been some surprising, positive consequences as a result from working from home. Under normal circumstances, I would arrive home from work in the evening after the children’s dinner time. However, in the current world of SARS-CoV-2, my work hours have shifted, thus allowing me to enjoy dinner with the family. Also, it affords me the opportunity to cook more meals. It is a great opportunity for the kids to see Dad putting in work and serving up some delicious eats. It’s at the point now that I am receiving special requests, so I guess the hush puppies (Ava) and sweet corn bread (Miles) were a hit. Accompanied by some classic rhythm and blues music (Stevie Wonder Superwoman anyone?) gently playing in the background, the interactive vibe combines two activities that I enjoy – good music and cooking. And bonus: I was able to dust off my Canon Rebel T3i and take some great pictures (a few with my Samsung Galaxy S9 as well). The normal work grind was simply not conducive to that feel-good flow.

With newfound freedom to burn in the kitchen, I thought it would be fun to explore some new material here on the site. Because, of all the listed skills that a gentleman should possess, cooking a proper meal should definitely be included on list. My introduction to the kitchen began in college when this brother had to fend for himself. Along with my close friend and roommate, we cooked up some good meals with the means that we possessed. As my cooking evolved, I began to rely on three key components that would result as a delicious dish: time, temperature, and technique. Time is two-fold. Unless a gentleman is a skilled chef competing on Iron Chef; rushing through preparing a meal may not yield the best work. Moreover, a gentleman should grant studious attention to cooking time for his designated items. There can be fine lines that separate perfectly cooked, undercooked, and overcooked. And those three outcomes can hinge on the correct temperature being selected during cooking. Technique is self-explanatory. I enjoy watching videos online; absorbing cooking methods and adding my own variations. For certain, I am not professionally trained in culinary arts, but I am skilled enough to cook an above average meal.

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The Standard #53

Despite modern, progressive viewpoints regarding the construct of masculinity here in America; society at large is sometimes guilty of perpetuating and reinforcing stereotypes that it seemingly discourages. It is an interesting bit of hypocrisy. I found it particularly amusing when popular men’s magazines – looking at you GQ – had the temerity to lecture men about the perceived current disrepair of manhood while completely ignoring their culpability and literary sins regarding the topic. It wasn’t long ago that men’s fashion didn’t fawn over the wildly popular show Mad Men and its resident alpha male Don Draper. Mad Men – toxic masculinity personified but stylishly portrayed with critical acclaim. From the appearance of the latest GQ offerings, I surmise that it isn’t trendy anymore. Oh, how soon they forget. Now, I won’t pretend there aren’t bad actors out there that don’t represent the best of the male population. They are great in number. Yet those men have become the archetype for all things toxic, negative, and dysfunctional about men as a whole. Lost in the shuffle of a culture war (waged across social media, television, publications, etc.) revolving around gender roles and expectations; we are ignorant of a sect of regular gentlemen that is perhaps more indicative of manhood than what is portrayed in the mainstream – invisible to the general public.

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