Why Life Stations Declined to join protests on #Skid Row

I’m sharing this email publicly to explain why Life Stations declined to March following the death of the man on Skid Row. Our director, Ron Smith has been actively working with officials and residents of Skid Row to improve the quality of life there for more than two years. Our explanation is below.

My dear brother in Christ.

I got your message. I’m writing this email in hopes of explaining my reason for declining your invitation to join the protests in Skid Row.

First, let me say that I am with you in being both outraged and heartbroken to learn of yet another killing. I too am compelled to action and agree that solidarity is necessary to achieve our goals. But it seems that the marches have become a distraction from the very causes we seek to highlight and wipe out.

Much of the nation is in agreement that there exists for black men, a struggle against overt cruelty and excessive brutality. Many are outraged at the indecent social treatment that keeps jumping up in the news. But as we all sit mesmerized by these unopposed oppressive forces of police brutality against black men and our governments unwillingness to punish it, we are at the same time not seeing the big picture of the cancers of second-rate living in urban communities across America where people continue to suffer from hunger and poverty, and unemployment, and drug addictions and abuse and a continual parade of black men being carted off to jail like cattle.

Aren’t these symptoms of the same disease? When do we get to the point that all of these are the conditions that public opinion is incensed by? Why is our righteous indignation limited to the sting of a bullet and when will our collective moral consciences strongly affirm the dignity of every person created in God’s image, the unity of humankind in His plan?

These are not separate but equal issues. They are one in the same. Together they are the right to live. I insist that we cannot oppose one and ignore the others.

In the two years that our director, Ron has been on Skid Row and we have been building Life Stations Centers we have met with many people who claim to be committed to social justice− strong on doctrine but week in action. We have spoken to those who clearly articulate the plight of the black man, but stop short of doing the works, preaching of rebuilding the spirit of the people but lacking the integrity it takes to do it. And none of them willing to put their backs in the fight long enough to make a difference.

Some have even hinted that we are ourselves to blame for the issues that exist within our community; that if we wear khakis and not sag our pants or polos and not hoodies… Yet none of them can recall what Emmett Till was wearing the day he was killed so many years ago. Clothes are not the issue.

And while I do agree that it is the responsibility of every black man and woman to own this battle, it is an outright lie to even suggest that we have not already lifted ourselves up from the muck and mire that was our beginning.

What other people came to this great America in bondage? What other race of man is more hated by other races than the black man? There is no parallel or a more continual opposition of a people and yet, as a people we have progressed so far … and with clean hands.

Since 9.11, God has placed in my belly a determination to help change this world−to make things right for my children and my children’s children. To give back even just a few minutes of sleep to those mothers who lay wait at night on baited breath for their sons to return home safely, and those fathers whose self esteem has suffered because they cannot bring home a decent wage to support their families and those children who go to bed most nights on empty stomachs. And with every shooting, that determination burns in me that much hotter.

Sadly, the brutal killings of our young men are not new to our community. Racially motivated killings have long been the “matter of fact” in our lives like the elephant in the room. And it will continue to be that way until we get to the real heart of the matter and confront the symptoms in their entirety. Indeed this is but one fight!

So, as much as I believe in the cause that you have chosen to fight for, I strongly disagree with the means by which you have chosen to fight. Every time we slow down too long to respond to individual killings, our fight becomes about that particular killing and ultimately our struggle is reduced to ambulance chasing, we become mere eulogists and the conditions within our communities go unchanged.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am all in on the fight for justice and for the improved quality of life for black men and their families. Trust me; I will not rest without it. But it’s time to stop marching and start doing!

Years have gone by and there is now so much more at our disposal. But we’re still using the same strategies that we did in the 60’s. And in the meantime, our sons are dying in record numbers. It’s like bringing knives to a gun fight and hoping for change.
But hope is not a strategy. Nor is it a plan!

I insist that all of us in leadership positions take the gloves off, roll up our sleeves and get this done. Our works MUST be labor intensive, directed, and intentional … intervening in the streets, the courtrooms, the school systems, in our local government and in our own homes. We need to pool our resources of friend’s family, churches and neighbors who believe in the common good to force a society that is humane for all humankind where each of us leads decent lives; attaining the kind of peace that extends outside of our communities and into our world. We should settle for nothing less.

Now is the time and the way has been found for those who truly seek it.

I hope you understand my position.

Be well my brother. And in whatever you decide to do, go with God!

Leslie Haskin
Chief Executive Officer
Life Stations Centers of Excellence

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A New light of Hope across America! – Celebrating Black History Month w/Forgiveness (the death of racial bias)

all lives matterIt was evident in 1865 when Racism enacted laws that governed freed slaves. These laws, called Black Codes arrested homeless and unemployed black people and fined them as vagrant. Because the vast majority could not afford to pay the fines, they either went to jail or were forced to “work off” the offense. As time went on, poor black men filled the prisons until the majority of criminals were black and most poor blacks were criminals.

In essence, racism created laws that made black men and criminality the same thing.

In the 1920s and 30’s, Racism dressed in white hoods, called black people “niggers” and found southern trees to bare its trophies. It burned down homes, churches, business, schools and killed little black girls and boys— leaving their broken bodies on the sides of river banks like trash.

In the 40’s and 50’s Racism evolved. It changed its name to discrimination and segregation, changed ours to “Colored” and was a bit more tolerant of our visionaries and white advocates who joined forces with us in the military, politics and social reform.

Racism pushed back on us when we dared to dream and march and demand equality. It publicly brutalized us with hoses and gases and dogs. But we persevered. Focused and unrelenting, our efforts enacted laws that gave us the rights to vote and learn and lift our heads in public and yes, even ride a bus. We demonstrated and prayed until our men became leaders and heroes and eventually martyrs for our causes.

Then Racism retreated. Wounded, but still alive, it laid low and reinvented itself. And while the black community, bent over and carrying 300 years of pain as if it didn’t exist, found pride in black power, black panthers, Shaft and afros, Racism became Racial Bias and we became Black.

Racial Bias is trendy and it sounds nicer. It’s subtle, institutionalized and on its surface, it’s even nonracial. Giving us reason to be newly suspect of our friends next door, it widens the racial divide; instigating accusation and promoting new fears.  And instead of using southern trees, Bias decorates urban sidewalks with the bodies of black men and police stations with the hoodies of non-aggressives. It assigns our daughters to systemic living but boasts of its tolerance to interracial marriage, integrated schools, communities and church…all the time ignoring our liked-minded Caucasian friends and keeping true equality just beyond reach.

And like some ancient demigod, it works in mysterious ways … existing just beneath the surface of truth and infusing our conversations with so much passion that they’ve become unproductive.

It has created racial divides so vast they’re impassable. It has laid for itself a foundation so strong with micro aggressive laws, pointed fingers, behavioral slights, snubs and insults embedded so deep in our society, they’re unreachable.

But what if finally, we did something different?

20120513053600!PickaxeWhat would happen to racism, if regardless of race, every one of us who REALLY cared grabbed a pic axe and started to dig?

What if we changed the game?

Who would we become if we accepted our differences and forgave the past… what if we took away its excuses?

Let’s do it!

Join me in a show of solidarity throughout the month of February, Black History month, by putting a green light on your front porch, in your window or on your steps; symbolizing healing, forgiveness and new beginnings for all people!!

Our position should be that our issues are not limited to one race of people because they are so big that they impact the quality of life for all people.

Share this blog. Spread the word…

Let’s shine a new light of hope across America!




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RACISM STOPS WITH ME – Support Legislation to Punish Race Related Acts of Violence

GTY_martin_luther_king_nt_130823_16x9_992Martin Luther King would have been 86 years old on this upcoming January 15, 2015. His legacy is a civil rights fight that won black people the right to life in America.

And almost 50 years after his racism-related death, our sons continue to be sacrificed for the equality that we’re still being denied.

As black Americans, we are forced to accept behavior that is unacceptable in today’s global world. We’re denied credit because of our address, followed around in stores and suspect in high-end restaurants. We must teach our sons to hold both hands out of the car window when pulled over by the police and not to have too many friends in the car at once…. just as a matter of survival.

Our mothers still lay awake praying all night, watching the door, terrified that the phone might ring with bad news that the son she loves, because his pants fell below the belt line, was shot and killed during his short three block walk home from his night shift at work.

The truth is that while many people still deny the deep-rooted issues and the legacy of historical injustices in the black community, recent events in the news are forcing the blinders to come off and stand as the most visceral acts of racism today.

So where do we go from here?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

black lives matterLife Stations Centers of Excellence is leading the charge for equality…taking our fight to the men and women who we elected to office believing that they would serve and protect us.

We’re lobbying for legislation that punishes overt and subtle acts of racism which directly and indirectly causes the death of any individual; with stricter punishment for acts which result in the death of individuals under the age of 25.

STAND WITH US.  As our voices united together deliver a clear message that it is not okay to kill our sons, husbands and brothers. And we will no longer stand on the sidelines taking pictures of the injustice while injustice prevails.

JOIN US on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday; Thursday, January 15, 2015 in areas across the United States. We are gathering in Washington DC, in Albany New York, Canton Ohio, Chicago Illinois and in front of local and regional town halls across the United States  demanding new laws to protect all people, especially black men, from racists acts of violence.

I realize that time in short. But that only means that there is no time to waste. Everyday that we delay, is another possibility of loss of life.

When history looks back on these days and at the collective deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and what appears to be a growing list of others, it must be taught as the turning point. It must be said that the opportunity presented itself for society to finally evolve beyond color, and we took it!

For more details about demonstrations in your area, please join our mailing list and follow us on Twitter and Facebook fro daily updates.

  • To join in the following areas, contact:
  • To join us in Washington, contact Leslie Haskin
  • In the Ohio area, contact Harvey Jeter
  • In the Los Angeles Area: Councilman Ron Smith

CHANGE THE WORLD WITH US . If you would can organize a satellite group in your local area, please contact our office for more details info@lifecoe.org or call (845)401- 4118.

Check out our website at Life Stations Centers of Excellence for more campaigns and ways that you can partner with us in this dynamic movement to end racism.




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Cussin Christians – What would Jesus say?

churchI was sitting with a few Christians the other day, enjoying conversation and sharing the sweetness of God, when in the middle of a perfectly good sentence, one of the people I was talking with…cussed.

My jaw dropped. Then another person sitting with us climbed on board…repeating the language as if nothing was wrong. I was stunned. Shaking my head as I walked away, I’m sure they sensed my disapproval.

What happened to the pursuit of holiness in our Christian walk and in our conversations? Have we become so comfortable in our salvation and in our perception of God’s grace that we have forgotten about His judgment? Has our felt need to be seen as “real” and “relevant” become our priority and so now we are irreverent to the Holy Spirit of God? How can such ugly words come from the same mouth that brings forth praise?

I’m disappointed in us. Ungodly language is more and more widespread in churches and few Christians are disturbed by a growing population of believers who have abandoned biblical instruction and the pursuit of holiness. And abandoned it they have… because no matter how commonplace profanity is, as Christians, the Bible tells us to be sanctified and set apart from the world.

Praise leaders, teachers and pastors alike are “fitting in” to a society that is increasingly irreverent. We are Christians, not Chameleons, changing colors to blend into our surroundings.  We are to be lights in the world, noticed, and set apart, through our actions AND our words. We can and should, make our points clear without using profanity. Matthew Henry said, “Filthy words proceed from corruption in the speaker, and they corrupt the minds and manners of those who hear them: Christians should beware of all such discourse. It is our duty to seek, by the blessing of God, to bring persons to think seriously, and to encourage and warn believers by their conversation.”

You see, whether we live aware of it our not, we are the face AND THE VOICE of Christ to the world and it is our actions that persuade or dissuade people toward God. What one says, we all say. We represent God and when we speak to others without seasoning our words with grace to honor the Lord, we have wasted those words and misrepresented our Holy Father.

elementsThere is no ministry of grace in cussing.  

Even the occasional and so called “harmless” little words discourage unbelievers from Christ and there is nothing harmless about that. The Word of God tells us to “…gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy. (1st Peter 1:13-16)

Being good disciples of Jesus Christ demands disciplined and intentional conversation.

Ephesians 4:29, it says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers. Our words should be:

  • Edifying. It should result in building up the hearers.
  • Appropriate. It should be suitable to the occasion.
  • Gracious. It should impart grace to the hearers.
  • Honest and integral. It should be clean and true.

And that’s the truth. It doesn’t change because we desire be “cool.” It doesn’t relent because want to hip and modern.

“…may the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight”

Maybe I’m just old fashioned… maybe I’m making a big deal of nothing. But if God is so meticulous as to instruct us that our words should hold forth the word of life which draws unbelievers into His body, (Romans 1:16) and to warn us that we will give account for EVERY IDLE WORD that we speak, is cussing still harmless? Is it still nothing?

hmmm….what would Jesus say?

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Living Single – Worth the wait

imagesThe dynamics of my closest friendships are interesting…my friends are all married. And every one of them agree that they could never be single these days. My friend Carrie once told me that she’d rather have no arms than be single. And I get it, being single is okay, it’s trying not to be single that’s exhausting.

People don’t meet organically anymore, they tweet. Nobody sends cards, they post. If you want to talk, you update your status. If you want to meet someone nice, you update your profile on five different social networking sites and hope someone gets twitter-pated and follows you. Once upon a time following anyone would have been considered felony stalking… now it’s just a relationship status…and it’s complicated.

 “I miss the days when you had one phone number, and one answering machine; and that one answering machine had one cassette tape, and that one cassette tape either had a message from the guy or it didn’t. Now, you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.” (From the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, 2010)

Just ONCE I want courtship to be like one of those old black and white movies, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason, and then the next thing I know, the doors fling open and I’m ducking rice while leaving a huge church in a really big and beautiful wedding gown. The End.

But the reality of living single today is brutal. The process is skewed and even simple communication is confusing. Saying you’re not single today doesn’t necessarily mean you’re married, it can mean you’re in a relationship. Saying that you’re going out with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re actually going anywhere at all. We’ve turned what it means to be single over to the hands of our younger generation and they’ve ruined it.

I remember back in the day when guys actually courted a girl. They were deliberate and took their time; bought flowers, dinner and even met the family for approval.

These days, social networking and internet dating sites speed things up until it’s almost impossible to know what you’re getting until after he sleeps with your friend or she boils the rabbit.

And who does a single Christian date in a world where you can’t tell who’s actually single and how do we “wait” in a world of compromise? 

Sure, it would be a lot easier if the Bible spelled it all out for us and said something like, “if he is firm to date thee, he must first put expose his character before a council of great witness” or “Thou shall have but one boyfriend, and it is he who shall taketh thee out on three dates, and then after a fortnight, he must proposeth marriage to thee . . . and with thy lips together thou may kiss, but with thy lips parted thou shalt not kiss. Moreover, above the shoulders you shall touch freely, but below the shoulders you shall not touch.”

 But it doesn’t work like that. Although the bible gives us good biblical principles that we should live by; instructing us to be Holy (1 Peter 1:16), to keep our bodies as temples and not pollute them with sin, to have control over ourselves and to flee from sexual immorality, (1 Corinthians 6:18–19) there are no ten commandments for dating.

 We must follow godly standards and honor God in our lives and in our bodies as well. Anything less than that damages the soul and puts us at the mercy of sin’s consequences; compromising ourselves and lying to cover it up, hoping we didn’t get a disease, feeling used and ugly, feeling shame before God and becoming bitter and more impatient in the wait. Then just like that, the dream of a happily ever after begins its slow walk down the long green mile. And the longer the walk, the easier it gets to stop dreaming and stop hoping and stop waiting.

 Meanwhile…this is the part in the movie when I’m crying for the woman who wants so desperately to be in love, and the man of her dreams, who she doesn’t see, but is buying his ticket to get to where she is.  I’m sitting up in my seat by now, cheering him on and yelling at the screen to tell her to “wait, he’s coming.”

 Come on, you know what I mean. We all enjoy that rush that comes with the happy ending. We all want the warm fuzzy feeling you get on that first chance encounter or the awkward moments just before the first kiss.  And for me, it’s worth waiting for…waiting to share frozen pizza while cuddling under a blanket in front of James Cagney movies and sleeping peacefully with someone who loves me…resting to the sounds of, well, you know….

 And despite the winding down of the grandfather clock that threatens more than a few of us, I totally get the gradual decay of timing. I myself have another two, maybe three muscles still holding up without the help of Spanx. But my prayer to God for a husband is not just about the timing, it’s about finding a good balance between the desire and the wait…  in a way that honors my body, my family, and my God.

 I’m waiting for the knight in shining armor with a heart like God’s heart, shoulders like the actor Bill Denum, and eyes that only see me. I’m waiting for flowers and long conversations with someone who will pray with me, fast with me, cook with me and make me laugh.

 And so here goes nothing, while I’m waiting for everything!

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Faith + (E = MC2) ….There is no mountain

 faithFor verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, But shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, He shall have whatsoever he saith (Mark 11:23 KJV).

When most of us read this passage, we gloss over its literal meaning because we can’t imagine how beliefs and words can move gigantic, solid things like mountains. For us, they’re huge immoveable barriers, both literally and figuratively. They represent problems to be solved, troubles to be triumphed over and difficulties to be dealt with. Death is a mountain, sickness is a mountain, unpaid bills are mountains, wayward children, unemployment and everything that overwhelms us is a mountain. And we face them all “hoping” that its God’s will to move them.

But what if God has provided a way for us to see things differently? What if we could look beyond what is apparent to the naked eye and understand that in reality, mountains are actually just vibrating, subatomic particles that are no more significant than steam?  …easily moved.

In his equation, E = MC2, Einstein said that solid matter, accelerated to a high rate of speed becomes pure energy, and that a solid object differs from fluid energy only in the rate at which the atoms are moving. For example, water, at a low energy level, freezes into ice. Add energy to the ice, and the water molecules vibrate faster and the ice melts to a liquid. Continue to add energy and the fast moving molecules break apart and float off as steam.

Interesting isn’t it—that even though our eyes see a frozen ice cube, in actuality, we’re looking at nothing more than steam so tiny that we can blow it away in a single breath. Mind blowing isn’t it?

But, wait, there’s more. Get a load of this! What happens when a hammer strikes a nail?  Quantum physics teaches that because two atoms never touch, the hammer never touches the nail. It’s in fact only the energy field of the atoms from the hammer that makes contact with the nail and creates the force. Much like when you hold the repelling poles of two magnets together in your hands. Though you can’t see it, you can actually feel the force of energy.

By now you must be wondering what all of that has to do with faith. You must be questioning whether it was you or me who took that red pill instead of the blue one like they did in the movie The Matrix.

But what if faith really is the evidence of things unseen? What if God designed the world and things in it so that we could actually manipulate our outcomes based on the energy that we apply to them? Would that be faith?  In fact, the bible says: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that which is seen was made by that which was not visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

Hmmm… So then faith is the force, that moves the energy, that changes things. Faith is visibility past what we perceive with our eyes and into God’s reality…where mountains are just energy that responds to words and breath and power…just as God intended; which means that our huge scary obstacles are nothing more than blowing steam.

One of my favorite movies is the Matrix. The hero, Neo, is on a journey to understand the difference between the reality that he sees and the one that he lives. In one scene, Neo meets a young boy with supernatural abilities. The boy is causing a spoon to float in mid air and is bending it without physical force. Intrigued by what he sees, Neo asks how it’s done. The boy replies, “Do not try to bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead, only realize that there is no spoon.

Yea… just like that! In the vastness of life, beyond our circumstance, outside of what we can see…limitless…bigger than what our minds can even grasp….faith really does move mountains because in reality, there is no mountain!

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Faith takes you out on the water… or does it?


See if you recognize yourself in this story:

Twelve men are in a little boat during a storm and being battered by waves. They see Jesus walking toward them…on the water. At first, none of them move because they are afraid, confused and shocked by what they see. Then, in a show of amazing faith, one of them becomes the hero when he steps out of the boat and actually walks on the water…just like Jesus.

Then the wind blows hard, and seized again by fear, the man looks down and begins to sink.  As he does, he calls out to Jesus for help. Jesus immediately catches him and says, “O ye of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mark 14:31).

And the moral of the story is…drum roll please…. “If you have faith and don’t look down or doubt, keeping your eyes on Jesus at all times, you too can be the hero who walks on water, just like “Peter” did. 

But what if you are not as heroic as Peter?

What if you are one of the ones who remain in the boat frozen in uncertainty? What if you are the one shocked, confused or content to just watch it all unfold? Afterall, we’re only human and there is a “man walking” on water.

Then again, maybe you are brave enough to step out of the boat and into the unknown – a new relationship, new job, or new direction in life. Maybe you are heroic enough to defy the storms of cancer, lupus and other illness or disease. Maybe you’ve taken that first step, but doubt got the better of you and now you’re sinking -in debt, relationship problems or loneliness.

Truth is, I’ve been every one of those characters at one time or another in my life. And I’ve heard all the lessons taught using this story and so many others that emphasize, not who I am, but who I should be. 

I should be the one with amazing faith to walk on water… the one who overcomes faster than a speeding bullet, who prospers financially, casts out demons and leaps tall buildings in a single bound.  I should be the one whose eyes are always, always, always fixed on Jesus. I should be the one who makes my way to Him every time without delay. With no second thoughts or murmurings, my faith should take me boldly out on that water and I should stand tall…cause that’s what faith does, right?

Wrong. Faith is not an all or nothing deal and doubt is not the same as unbelief.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say that Peter had no faith; He said that Peter’s faith was little. He didn’t ask Peter, “Why didn’t you believe?”  He asked, why did you doubt?

Each of us will at one time or another experience varying degrees of faith, uncertainty and times when we cry out to God to save us. And it’s ALL good!  Because although walking on water at any time is pretty cool, what’s missing from our lessons is what happens on either side of Peter’s little stroll…it’s that Jesus came toward HIM…to save him.

And so the moral of the story is not that we need enough faith to walk on water without doubt. It is that whether we are in abundance of faith or in doubt, whether we are in a boat on the water, walking on the water or sinking under it, no situation or circumstance will deter God from drawing close to us. The hand of God will find you in even the darkest waters. 

This is a story, not of heroes of faith making their way to Christ but of Christ drawing near to each of us in the midst of our storms … FAITH you see, is the confidence that GOD WILL draw near to us, and save us…every time!

And that my friends, makes quite a splash!

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