Congress: Biting the Bullet On Gun Control

The state of America is in shambles. The number of mass shootings from 2016 to the present are absolutely alarming. On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and mortally wounded 53 others in Orlando, Florida. Since that cataclysmic night, over 200 more mass shootings occurred; and that’s just the number for 2016! A staggering 273 mass shootings have ensued in America. 
According to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, an average of more than 100,000 people are shot every year in the U.S. Also, an average of 289 people are shot. The Brady Campaign also reports that Eighty-Six of them die: 30 are murdered, 53 kill themselves, two die accidentally, and one is shot in a police intervention. One person is killed by a gun every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week. 

Many people are losing their lives behind senseless acts of violence, freak accidents, and, unfortunately, a constitutional right that allows Americans in all 50 states “to possess firearms for self-defense.” I believe everyone should know how to defend themselves, but some people don’t know the difference between defending and destroying. How many tragedies must we face before action is taken against guns?

Now that I have presented the statistics, let’s ask ourselves why Congress hasn’t taken action to find a solution? There are moments I get anxiety about being in a crowded area because I’m afraid someone is going to spray bullets across the room. We shouldn’t fear for our lives going to movie theaters, nightclubs, concerts and churches. This asinine violence is incomprehensible. I respect the Second Amendment and the rights of individuals, but we absolutely need to take action and be cautious of those we allow to carry firearms. 

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#MeToo

Every morning I wake up to the news. It’s difficult not to begin my day without Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Michael Strahan and the rest of the “Good Morning America” family. I wouldn’t describe myself as a “news junkie” yet I still find it important to stay abreast on current events. Between our local news stations in Oklahoma City and the reports coming in from around the world, there are certain stories that stick with you. Amidst the deadly hurricanes and intractable wildfires (my thoughts and prayers are with the victims), the exposing of Hollywood film producer and movie magnate, Harvey Weinstein, and his history of sexual abuse have me reeling.

Some of Hollywood’s most revered actresses have gone public accusing Weinstein of sexual assault. Social media has erupted with think-pieces and emotional confessions from sexual assault victims using the tending topic “#MeToo”, a campaign started by Youth activist Tarana Burke in 2007. America Ferrara, Gabrielle Union, Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and a host of other A-List actresses have broken their silence on sexual abuse and the effect it has on women and children. These revelations are so powerful and inspiring that I’m seeing stories shared from friends and family on Facebook.

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Actress and author, Gabrielle Union, has been transparent about surviing sexaul abuse. She shares this and more in her book “We’re Going To Need More Wine“.

The stories being revealed by sexual assault survivors about their abusers are harrowing. Ever since the scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein came to light, the floor for this conversation has been opened. Many women, and men, have been shamed or threatened into keeping a secret that they don’t want to keep. Sexual abuse, assault and exploitation happen every day to people of all ages, races, and gender. According to Twitter, the #MeToo hashtag has been used over 825,000 times since Sunday.

Sunday, Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted:

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She couldn’t have been more right. The confessions haven’t ceased since. When I’m listening to the radio, it’s the first topic of conversation. Have we looked over sexual abuse for so long that we’ve turned a blind eye and ear to it?

Sexual violence is an epidemic we must take more earnestly as a society. Acknowledging and understanding sexual assault is the first step toward working to end it. The list of effects of sexual violence has on a survivor are endless. We can advance towards a future where this reality ceases to be. Our community’s ethical/moral principles should be evolving toward paying growing attention to the emotional aftereffects of all sexual encounters.

Mental Health and the Black Community

The topic of mental health as it pertains to Black people is one that is rarely discussed. I needed to conduct some research prior to writing this to further educate myself on the matter. Over the years, I have had family and friends suffering from a mental illness that they weren’t aware of. It wasn’t always discussed openly amongst family. After perusing multiple articles, my eyes were opened to a bevy of information.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Service, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic Whites. Life-altering events like the death of a loved one, illness; and “psycho-social” issues such as unemployment, crime in our communities, and racism just to name a few, contribute to psychological distress. With everything going on in our world today, just imagine how many of us are suffering mentally. A lot of us are suffering in silence because of how we were raised. In some cases, we don’t feel comfortable disclosing how we’re feeling because we don’t want to hear “just pray about it” or “you just need to man up”.

Everyday we’re losing people due to suicide because they don’t know what else to do. By not investing in our mental health and the mental health of those closest to us, we do ourselves a great disservice.  The topic of mental health in regards to Black people is so taboo and the stigma is damaging.

A piece in Ebony magazineA piece in Ebony magazine featured Simone Sneed, Director of Development and External Affairs for Inwood House. Sneed has also suffered from bipolar disorder. She considers herself “episode free, med-free and hospital free for over three years”. In the piece she credited her mother with investing in her mental health. What stood out to me was what she said about why the Black community approaches mental health the way we do:

“Historically, African Americans have normalized our own suffering. During slavery, mental illness often resulted in a more inhumane lifestyle including frequent beatings and abuse, which forced many slaves to hide their issues. Over time, strength became equated with survival and weakness (including mental illness) meant you might not survive.”

I have heard this before and it still makes me shiver when I think about it. What our ancestors endured all of those years ago has evolved into a self-harming way of thinking. As a strong and resilient people, we have to learn how to lean on each other more. Having a mental illness is not a weakness. If you or someone you know feels like they need to seek professional help, don’t take it lightly or be embarrassed. This is not a “White person’s disease”, it affects us all.  We are entitled to our feelings, good and bad. No one’s feelings are invalid. We must address this issue head on and end the stigma of mental illness.

Save Classen Circle

The history of the Donnay Building stretches far beyond my 29 years of life. The building was commissioned by architect and its namesake, Matt Donnay, in 1948. Over the years, this landmark became home to many well-known establishments like the Patio Restaurant, the Drunken Fry, and the fabulous Hi Lo Club. Sadly, just a few months ago Braum’s announced their plan to demolish the iconic Donnay Building and the building where Classen Grill is located. Many Oklahomans are outraged and are doing everything they can to counter this plan.

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The Classen Circle at NW 50th and Classen Blvd. in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

In July, protestors gathered in front of the Donnay Building to protest. Generations of people showed up. I have read accounts from people who ate at the Patio Restaurant and others who have had their first drink at the Hi Lo Club. I absolutely love Classen Grill. The food is delicious and the staff is always welcoming. I had no idea that they’ve been operating there since 1980! I have passed through Classen Circle all my life and I always wondered why the ugly building in the middle was so popular. As an adult, I have enjoyed Classen Circle favorites like Edna’s, SpeakEasy, and of course, the Hi Lo Club.

A good friend of mine introduced me to the Hi Lo Club last year. I had never heard of the place, but I really enjoyed myself and met some pretty awesome people. Soon after I learned that the Hi Lo Club is more than an average “hole-in-the-wall”. This establishment has served as a place of refuge for LGBT individuals since 1956 and is historic to the entire OKC community. To wipe away something so special to so many people is unethical and contemptible. To make matters worse, there is another Braum’s that already exists on NW 17th and Classen, less than ten minutes up the street from the Donnay Building! How many Braum’s locations do we need? The food really isn’t THAT good and they always seem to be out of Butter Pecan and Rocky Road!

I’m asking all of you reading this to help us save the Donnay Building and Classen Circle. This space means a lot to so many people in our community, especially those who work there. So many compassionate and hard-working people would lose their jobs and plenty of warm memories. Braum’s isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t believe we need yet ANOTHER location here in Oklahoma City.

For more information on how you can help save this historical landmark visit facebook.com/SaveClassenCircle. I will also provide information on my Facebook page facebook.com/LandonsViewsOn, as well. Or you can contact Braum’s directly at 405-478-1656 or send a message at www.braums.com/contact-us/general.

Being Resilient

Life can get a little crazy. Situations, good and bad, have a tendency to pop up without warning. I’m grateful for the good times and my hardships make me better and stronger. Some people seem to be born with the ability to overcome setbacks with relative ease. The rest of us work very hard to prosper.

Either way, the struggle to succeed isn’t always easy. Every day we wake up is a challenge. All of us have goals we want to accomplish and dreams we want to see realized. Ask any successful person “at the top of the ladder” and they’ll tell you that the battle never ends. We have to fight tooth and nail to triumph. The people who manipulate you into thinking you’ll never reach your goals are irrelevant. Use these naysayers as motivation. The more they deny your ability and doubt you, show them how wrong they are. Nurture your relationships with friends and family. When you hit a rough patch, don’t shy away from other people. Accept help from those who love and care about you.

When people are weak, they will say and do anything to take out the strong. Misery loves company. With a strong mind and resilient heart, you can and will overcome. Being true to yourself and fighting passionately for what you believe in will get you to wherever you want to be in life. God didn’t promise us a destiny we will never see. It’s up to us to reach that destiny. The road may be long and full of obstacles, but once we reach our destination, the journey will have been totally worth it.

Finding Inspiration

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired? Are you the type to lay there until something happens or do you get up and seek out inspiration? Finding that light of inspiration is frustrating when your mind is cloudy. All those thoughts floating around, bumping into each other, screaming deadlines and dates at you; it’s very annoying among other things. For a lot of us, creativity is just around the corner and we don’t know how to reach it. Finding your source of creativity doesn’t always have to lie in a dramatic, life-altering event. I found my inspiration for this topic by asking myself the same questions I opened with. Inspiration can be found anywhere!

 

So how do we find inspiration? My advice is to be in the moment.  What are you doing right now? What’s on your mind? Right these things down and that inspiration will come to you. Sometimes that little voice of inspiration will come to you when you’re doing chores or working out. I usually get my best ideas when I’m listening to a podcast or when I’m in the shower playing music. Everyone has a unique way of finding their inspiration. The key is to not stand still. The moment you become idle, is the moment you give up. I don’t know where I heard this quote, but it has stuck with me for years: “You can’t make footprints on the sands of time by sitting on your butt. Who wants to make butt prints”? Silly, I know, but it makes my point.

 

No matter how you choose to find your source of inspiration, never give up. Just because your mind is a little fuzzy now, does not mean you’re incapable of being successful. By keeping your mind and body active, you take a huge leap forward to finding that light.

Good Morning

Today, I made the decision to free myself from alcohol. I’ve tried being sober before, but this time is very different. I have an addiction to alcohol and I need to recover. Just this morning, I have repeated that sentence to myself about a hundred times. In the past, I have made excuses for my drinking because I enjoyed it. If you love something, why would you want to give it up?

My relationship with alcohol is toxic and, at times, disturbing. When I wake up in the morning, I want to drink. Most nights, I can’t fall asleep without a drink. I have found any reason to drink; be it happiness, sadness, boredom, or just to end the day. I have fooled myself into thinking I was so stressed out that I NEEDED to have a drink. Sadly, my body can’t handle the abuse anymore. I have waken up in pain with no clue of what I had done the night before, constantly feeling sick because I had drank my weight in alcohol instead of eating properly, and hurt the people close to  me with my erratic and obnoxious behavior. I can’t live this way anymore and I don’t want alcohol to be an identifying factor for me.

A lot of my friends know me to always have the drinks flowing. I don’t believe some of them have even seen me sober. It took a while to realize that I need to rise above this disease or that is the legacy I’ll be leaving behind. TO my family and friends, I apologize for the pain and worry I have caused you by allowing alcohol to take full reign over my life. I have put poison ahead of what’s most important to me and I’m ready to make a change. Your love and support would mean so much to me as I take this journey.

The Power Of Love

As living and breathing human beings, we all have needs and wants. As different as these things are, we all have one in common: Love.

Love is a desire that no one can suppress. It’s like food or air. Living without it can bring about severe, even dangerous consequences. The loss of love can result in a double-edged sword of emotions. We either grow stronger or fall into the cold abyss left in our hearts.

Millions of human beings inhabit this earth, but just one can have a huge impact on our lives. Love is in our music, our books and even present in history. It is a motivating force that gives us reason to wake up every morning; and at night when we lay down to sleep, we hope to find it in our dreams. At our core, we need love to survive and we will do anything for it; even if it means giving our lives. Let love rule by showing kindness and generosity, not only to one another but to ourselves as well!

Loving yourself is the greatest gift that you could ever give to yourself. There are so many people that punish themselves for being who they are because they don’t know what love is. By loving yourself and those around you, you give those ignorant to love a gift that’s beyond amazing.

Positive Is A State Of Mind

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Living your best life is easier than you think. I used to identify as not being a “morning person”. Rolling out of bed to start yet another mundane, routine day felt exhausting. The negative thoughts I would have before 9:00am weighed so heavy on me, making it much more difficult for me to get the day started. Waking up just get the day over with is not a healthy way of living life. This process of waking up in a grateful and happy state of mind has taken some getting used to. I haven’t mastered it quite yet. A cup or two of coffee is still needed most mornings; but I am learning how to exude positive energy into my life. Those positive affirmations should begin from the moment we open our eyes. Life may get a little crazy, but know there is nothing we can not overcome.

We all have goals we want to accomplish and dreams we want to see realized. Why not speak that success into existence? There is nothing too big or too difficult for us to achieve. Most of life’s problems exist only in our minds. There are moments when I mentally drive myself crazy thinking about “what if”. These thoughts can sometimes govern my entire body and I end up creating a situation that didn’t exist before. Overthinking is the work of the enemy. Always trust your gut, but don’t allow your mind to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Don’t stand in the way of your progress.

Positivity may seem like wishful thinking to some, but keep in mind that the more you subscribe to positive thoughts, you’ll find that those thoughts become real. Our lives depend on the power of positive thinking. Stress and anxiety only serve to torture us. Train your mind to focus on the good things and not the bad. I promise you’ll be a lot happier! Stay encouraged!

Send any questions or feedback to landonlpayne1@gmail.com or on Facebook: Landon Payne. As always, thank you for your support!

Ask Landon: The Working Wife

Hello everyone!

I’ve received lots of feedback from you all and I wanted to share it with the rest of my readers. The messages, topic ideas, and feedback has helped me grow as a writer. I can’t get enough. Send any questions or feedback to landonlpayne1@gmail.com or on Facebook: Landon Payne. As always, thank you for your support! Enjoy!

Dear Landon,

How do you feel regarding couples that live together and how they handle their household finances? Traditionally, the man takes care of the majority, if not all, of the bills while the wife stays home to cook, clean, take care of the kids, etc. Now that we have reached a time where most households consist of both parents working and splitting the bills, should the man be responsible for taking care of most of the bills? I guess this also depends on if he is financially stable as well.

 

-Working Wife In OKC

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Dear Working Wife,

Most of the women I know have said they wanted to be with a man that can provide and care for them. These same women also work harder than most men I know! It all depends on the dynamic of the relationship and, as you stated, the stability of the man’s finances. In this economic climate, it’s normal for both parties to be contributing equally to the house hold. If you’re in the same income bracket, it would be unfair to let the other cover all the household expenses.

Traditionally, the woman is supposed to be accommodating to the man, the man is in control and is not necessarily accountable to her for his actions. To maintain this position, a man is required to pay all the bills. The woman’s responsibility is to take care of him and the home front, prepare the meals, raise the children, respect and honor him, and defer to him, even. To women, when a man takes care of the finances, it makes it easier for them to submit and revere him as tradition/society requires.  Some women are fine with this, other women would prefer to be equal with their mates. Lest we not forget, those fragile men who can’t be with women who make more than them. That’s another topic for another time. How couples deal with their finances heavily depends on the couple, their financial standing, and their collective ideals.

In my opinion, times have most definitely changed. Feeling like the half of a union that’s responsible for carrying the financial burden can lead to resentment. Marriage is all about teamwork. The best couples learn how to function as a team and lean on one another’s strengths. If one is better at handling the finances, then that’s who should take charge of the budget. If the other is better with planning, then that’s who will oversee planning trips, date night, etc. When someone tries to do it all, the team suffers.