One Man’s Pilgrimage: Mayor O’Neal Goes To Washington

It’s Time to Break It Down!

I’ve written a lot of posts, but I do not recall having ever written one that focused on the town that served as my adopted home during the last eight years of my primary and secondary education. Check; cross that off the list.

In short order, I will introduce you to the Town of Belhaven, NC and its feisty, non-traditional Mayor, Adam O’Neal. To set the stage, Belhaven is one of those poor communities that typically spring to mind when folks discuss the rural South. It is nestled in a small Eastern North Carolina County (Beaufort), and according to the 2010 Census, the population was 1,688. This is a net reduction from 1,968 enumerated in the 2000 Census.

The demographics and politics make for an interesting mix, on its face. The racial mix of the population is split 37% white, 60% black. Native Americans and Asians each comprise less than 1% of the population. Hispanics/Latinos, which may be white or black, account for 2.69% of the residents.

So what makes the demographic-political mix so interesting? The Mayor of this predominantly black town is not only white, but also Republican. But that alone is not what makes this story interesting. In the Age of Obama, we have become accustomed, if not desensitized to the strident nature of partisan politics, on both the local and national level. So much so, that when New Jersey Governor Chris Christy embraced President Obama, and spoke kindly of him when the President visited New Jersey to offer federal assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the vast majority of his GOP colleagues attacked him.

I can honestly say learning that the incumbent Mayor of Belhaven was white did not surprise me. That he took a position in opposition to closing rural hospitals in general, and that he opposed closing Belhaven’s hospital in particular, also didn’t move the dial. However, when I learned there was a Republican politician who was distinguishing himself by challenging the popular GOP position against Medicaid Expansion, and that this GOP pol and the Mayor of Belhaven were one and the same, well now you have my full and complete attention.

I visited Eastern North Carolina 3 out of 4 weekends this month. I was already aware, via home-based connections that Vidant Health planned to close Vidant Pungo Hospital. The scheduled closure was executed on July 1, 2014. The CliffNotes version of the story is Vidant is a Healthcare Conglomerate that operates hospitals and medical facilities in 29 Eastern North Carolina Counties, serving a population of 1.4 million North Carolinians. Vidant bought a number of rural NC medical facilities, including Pungo District Hospital (in 2011).

After two years, Vidant Health announced plans to close what had become Vidant Pungo Hospital because it was losing money. The Vidant administration attempted to negotiate with Belhaven officials to take over operation of hospital. Ultimately, Vidant Health concluded Belhaven was unable to assume responsibility for the facility, and closed it July 1st.

Mayor O’Neal is a passionate advocate for his community. In his version of the big picture, the bottom line is Vidant Health traded the people’s health for profit. To give a stronger, more targeted voice to his principal concerns, on July 14, 2014, he set out on a two-week walk to Washington, DC. In taking his cause to the highways, byways, and streets, he sought to elevate 3 key issues:

  • Medicaid Expansion
  • Endangered Rural Hospitals
  • Vidant Pungo Hospital

In making his case, the Mayor argued before a crowd at a news conference in the nation’s Capital, at the end of his protest march, “The story of Belhaven is bigger than the trials of a single small town.”

In framing the specifics of the matter, he took to task both hospital officials and NC elected officials. He suggested that Vidant put profit above people’s health. He also criticized state officials for their refusal to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid. It is these additional funds that pay the healthcare bills of many of NC’s poor. Without these funds, many North Carolinians are being denied critical health care services.

UNC Chapel Hill researchers studied the economic impact of the 140 rural hospitals that closed in the 1990’s. They found that within a few years, the unemployment rate in those communities rose by 1.6% and that the per capita income fell by more than $700.

Beaufort County’s unemployment rate was 8% in May, compared to 6.4% for the state. Mayor O’Neal emphasized that the fight for the hospital could determine the future economic viability of a community surrounded by rivers and sounds. He noted, “Not only have they taken emergency room services away from our town, they’re also taking every industry we’ve got away – which is retirees moving into our area. They’re not going to come to move into an area without a hospital.”

Like a lot of high school graduates from the area, I left Belhaven shortly after crossing the stage and turning my tassel. That was 42 years ago. While I currently reside a few hundred miles away, in many ways it is light years. Still, I spent a number of my formative years in that community.

Most of the life lessons that frame my worldview were gleaned during the course of executing my varied household chores, or managing my paper route, or in the course of my summers spent priming and hanging tobacco, or in the too numerous to count church services that every PK (Preacher’s Kid to the uninitiated) is subjected to every Sunday…and many other days and nights.

So, even though I was not born there, in lots of ways, Belhaven will always be a part of me. As such, I dedicate this post to my Homies-in-the-Haven. And in closing, I offer a special thank-you; a shout out, if you will, to Mayor Adam O’Neal. For many across the country, he put Belhaven on the map over the course of these past two weeks. For me, he provided a poignant reminder that the community lives, and always will, in my heart. If you didn’t know, now you know. One Man’s Pilgrimage: Mayor O’Neal Goes To Washington!

I’m done; holla back!

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Highly Seasoned Please; That’s How I’d Like My Crow!

It’s time to Break It Down!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending Decision Part II, and the lack of surprise that LeBron James was opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat. At the time, I really didn’t think it was surprising at all, because, I anticipated LeBron James would work the system, er, ah, I mean, explore his options, and unceremoniously re-sign with the Miami Heat. Boy was I wrong. Not only did The King ditch The Heat, he did what I considered the unthinkable; he returned to Cleveland. And when I say unthinkable, I mean, for me, unthinkable. So much so, that while I opined on a number of options, I did not even list the Cavs as a possible destination

Bloggers, journalists, columnists, and a host of highly opinionated types often regale us with their erstwhile personal prescience. The thing is, none of us is clairvoyant. As a result, on more than a few occasions, those brash and bold predictions are just flat out erroneous…just plain wrong! Such was the case in my “The Decision II” post.

With today’s post, I am defying that egotistical stereotype. Even now I readily admit, I thought LeBron was more likely to do a self-imposed stint in the D-League than return to Cleveland, where majority owner, Dan Gilbert skewered him mercilessly. In a now infamous open letter to Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans, Mr. Gilbert used the following terms to disparage LeBron and his departure:

Former hero
• Deserter
• Self-promoter
• Narcissistic
• Cowardly betrayal
• Selfish
• Shameful display
• Disloyal
• Heartless
• Callous

In addition to that Top Ten list of denigrations, the Cavs’ majority owner noted, of James, “Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.”

And if all that was enough, in an effort to make his position crystal clear, Mr. Gilbert underscored his combination of displeasure and resolve by heaping on the this jewel of a coal lump:


To that all caps slam, the Quicken Loans founder then added the piece de resistance: “You can take that to the bank!”

At the time, I remember thinking, this dude sounds as though he felt LeBron was a slave…rather than a man with a contract, who decided to exercise his options. So yes, forgive me if I thought it unlikely that James would return to the employ of man who had rendered such a scathing review. And I recognize the more enlightened among you may say, let the past be the past. But the letter is hardly the past. Penned July 8, 2010, it was on the team’s website at least until July 6, 2014. That is almost 4 years to the day, and until just 10 days ago.

In my own defense, if I had one, I would note that I made my great prognosticatory blunder a day before the 2014 NBA Draft. Let me hasten to add, even though the Cavs got the 1st pick, and used it to select a young man of whom I am quite fond, I would not endeavor to attempt to deceive you or myself. I would have said the same things the day after the Draft that I said the day before the event.

Though I totally missed my call on the most important aspect of “The Decision, Part II,” where LeBron would take his talents, I was spot on regarding the nature of how he executed his choice. It was everything the 2010 debacle was not. It was low key and understated. It was handled without hype, or at least with as little hype as possible, when the top basketball player in the world changes teams. It was handled without rancor from the team James left, though a number of fans reacted less civilly than the team’s ownership.

Perhaps because LeBron is not from South Beach, maybe because The Heat expected him to leave anyway, or just possibly because Micky Arison is, at his core, a better human being than Dan Gilbert, in contrast to the Cavs owner’s diatribe from 4 years ago, Mr. Arison issued a simple tweet expressing his thoughts:

“I am shocked & disappointed in today’s news. However I will never forget what LeBron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories ‪@KingJames‬.”

So, how was the chasm bridged that was created by Dan Gilbert’s letter? Apparently, Mr. Gilbert flew to Miami where he met with LeBron and apologized (in private). The “In private” part is significant, if for no other reason, because the letter was so very public.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, of Yahoo Sports, Gilbert told James:

“We had five great years together and one terrible night,” “I told him how sorry I was, expressed regret for how that night went and how I let all the emotion and passion for situation carry me away. I told him I wish had never done it, that I wish I could take it back.”

In the end, James established that he was the bigger man. Undoubtedly, he could have leveraged a more public pronouncement, and he might have drawn the process out at least for the balance of the weekend. But he did not. He has grown in the past 4 years, and that was evident. This time he opted to let Dan Gilbert’s wallet do the talking. Aside from that, he of course recognizes that despite Gilbert’s braggadocio in the wake of him leaving Cleveland, over the past 4 years, while he was going to 4 NBA Finals and winning 2 Titles. The Cavs, in contrast, were so woeful (How woeful were they?), they received the 1st Draft pick in 2011, 2013, and 2014. Oh yeah, in 2012, they got the 4th pick. I can only imagine, in a Karma-like way, LeBron felt that Gilbert, The Cavs, and their fans have suffered enough.

I also surmise that LeBron had his own motivations for returning home. Sure, his legacy is important, and he felt he owed the fans. But he also has a wife, a mother, and two, soon to be three kids, and their vote and influence was pivotal, I suspect. Also don’t forget his homies in Akron. They have to be thrilled. And now that The King has actually conquered, by winning two Titles, his reign in Cleveland shall resume. So, Thomas Wolfe, take that…“You Can Go Home Again!”

Since apology seems to be the word-of-the-day, I apologize Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles (Lakers and Clippers), Dallas, Charlotte, Phoenix, Washington, and especially MIA. Congratulations Cleveland!

“Highly Seasoned Please; That’s How I’d Like My Crow!” I’m done; holla back!”

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The N____r in the White House

It’s time to Break It Down!

In July edition of The WestView NewsJames Lincoln Collier wrote a piece he calls “THE NIGGER IN THE WHITE HOUSE.”  I used all caps, not to scream at you the reader, but because that is how the title appears in the heading.  Often, titles are not the purview of the writer, but some editor.  In this particular instance, that is not the case.  Collier successfully fought to get the title he wanted.

Mr. Collier suggested this topic to the editorial staff of the paper.  He was initially rejected.  But he persevered, and eventually he won out because, among other things, he pointed the New York Times refuses to use the N-word.  Good, bad, or indifferent, that was the Jedi Mind Trick that proved crucial in getting the title Collier wanted in print.

To take the edge off this post, I will reveal a few things up front:

  • The WestView News, a monthly publication, is a liberal voice
  • The story that follows the headline is pro-Obama
  • Alvin Hall wrote a column appearing on the same page, entitled, “The Headline Offends Me”

Upon seeing the headline, at first blush, one might be inclined to think, with friends like this, who needs enemies.  Yet, the gist of the column suggests that a significant portion of the resistance that President Obama receives is due to racism.  Mr. Collier cites the recent defeat of Congressman Eric Cantor as evidence of this contemporary racism, thinly veiled by the veneer of politics.  In Mr. Cantor’s case, Collier argues among other things, Cantor had taken a position on Immigration that allowed his opponent to tie him too closely to the President, which ultimately was enough to leverage a stunning defeat of the House Majority Leader.

We live in a highly competitive media savvy age.  An age in which it is fairly common for media outlets to resort to using unconventional means to attract viewers, newspaper sales, Internet clicks, and so forth.  While I find the article interesting enough, it was not a particularly exhaustive treatment to a complex and highly volatile issue.  When Don Lemon of CNN challenged Mr. Collier for not referencing or explaining his use of the word “Nigger” in the article, Collier noted that he bore no onus for people not reading the entire article in order to glean the connection between the title and the meat of the story.  He went on to say that it was not everyday that CNN called him to discuss something he’d written.

Bingo!  Therein lies the rub.  Mr. Collier apparently did not feel compelled to labor under the burden of establishing the nexus between his title and the subsequent assertion that a substantial number of persons who oppose the President do so because of racial animus.  That may indeed be the case.  However, the writer seemed satisfied to have garnered a fleeting, Warhol coined, 15 minutes of fame.

Lacking a stream of evidence, Mr. Collier’s story fails to discernibly move the dial in a prove-it-to-me world.  I believe the premise holds merit.  Moreover, there is a variety of readily available evidence to support the argument.  Some of that evidence includes, but is by no means limited to the 25 examples that follow:

  1. ·      Don’t Re-Nig Bumper Sticker
  2. ·      The Birther Claim
  3. ·      The Muslim Issue
  4. ·      Kenyan Depiction
  5. ·      African Tribal Chief Obama likeness
  6. ·      New Hampshire Police Commissioner Racist Obama Rant
  7. ·      Phoenix Protesters sing Bye-Bye Black Sheep/
  8. ·      Impeach the half-white Muslim
  9. ·      California GOP claims that Food stamps would become “Obama Bucks”
  10. ·      Assassination Threats
  11. ·      African Witch Doctor w/Bone in Nose
  12. ·      Limbaugh/Beck – Healthcare Act = Reparations
  13. ·      Healthcare Legislation will lead to Affirmative Action
  14. ·      Impeachment drive challenging President’s citizenship
  15. ·      Welfare President
  16. ·      Food stamp President
  17. ·      Rodeo Clown/Obama likeness run down by bull
  18. ·      Kenyan Go Home placards
  19. ·      Nigger President threat
  20. ·      47 Percent Negro
  21. ·      Voter ID legislation to counteract the minority vote
  22. ·      Voter roll purges
  23. ·      Voiding key provisions of the Voting Rights Act
  24. ·      Jimmy Carter: “An overwhelming portion of those opposing President Obama’s policies are racist”
  25. ·      Colin Powell: “There is still a dark vein of intolerance in the GOP”

There are many Americans who reject the fact that racism still exists in this country.  Many of those same individuals point to President Obama’s election as the reason why such claims are null and void.  They argue that the vast majority of people who oppose President Obama and his policies do so because they want less, not more government, or some similar high-minded ideological ideal.  Undoubtedly, some really do believe that’s true.

In the mean time, they conveniently overlook, or just flat deny the existence of the numerated items above…and many more.  That friends, is why they say, “The Nile (denial) is much more than a river.

In summation, this story could have been so much more.  But In the end, Mr. Collier’s column, “The N____r in the White House,” will likely be remembered as the story that wasn’t…if, it is remembered at all.

I’m done; holla back!

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Men’s Health: A Compelling Quality of Life Issue

(Disclaimer: This post appeared originally on June 29, 2011.  It contains references that are graphic in nature, and which may be considered offensive; reader discretion is advised.  The initial catalyst for posting this information was my 2011 Colonoscopy.  I had a second procedure recently, and it seemed like a perfect time to reprise this post).

A couple of days ago I had a Colonoscopy, which is the endoscopic test of the colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a camera.  The procedure is recommended for men over age 50, on a periodic basis; every 10 years if no irregularities are found, and more frequently if non-benign polyps or other issues arise during the test.  Mine was scheduled as a regular sequential step in my Annual Physical regimen, not from any kind of alert or scare.  That is as it should be.

This is not intended to provide a by blow-by-blow of my procedure.  I am addressing this topic to provide a public service.  I have observed both anecdotally and from numerous data streams, men in general and African American men in particular, are notorious for neglecting our health.  There are too many reasons to enumerate, but a few include:

  • Distrust of doctors (Some black men still reference the Tuskegee Experiment)
  •  Fear…of doctors, of medicine, bad news, of pain, of surgery, of anesthesia, the


  • Unawareness of early warning signs
  • No regular doctor
  • Lack of health care benefits (African Americans are more likely to be

Unemployed or Underemployed, and therefore less likely to have insurance)

  • Misplaced priorities (some men take better care of their homes and/or cars than

they do their personal health)

  • Good intentions; bad execution (Many of us “intend” to” schedule an appointment

to see a doctor, but don’t)

  • Procrastination (Delay, delay, delay)
  • Superman complex (The perception that one is young, healthy, and totally bullet


  • We are on a super secret suicide mission (No, we just act like it)

Those are 10 of my own very unscientific, totally straight off the top of my head reasons.  After setting them to paper, I decided to look for an expert opinion…OK; I checked to see what a doctor thought.  Not surprisingly (to me anyway), there was a fair amount of overlap.

Dr.Sharon OrrangeAssistant Professor of Clinical General Internal Medicine at the University of Southern California has weighed in with what she believes are “The 10 Real Reasons Men Don’t Go to the Doctor.”  Since she actually practices medicine, I will allocate more weight to her opinion than mine…though keep in mind, I do have the inherent advantage of being a man.  Dr. Orrange’s 10 most compelling (or real, as she puts it) reasons are:


  1. You are afraid we will put our finger up your butt.  We will, especially if you are over 40 or have any complaints related to your bowel movements.  Yes, you get a rectal exam after the age of 40 once a year for a feel of your prostate and so we can check your stool for microscopic blood that you can’t see.
  2. You are afraid we will examine your balls.  We will, if you are 40 or younger. The peak age for testicular cancer is 18-40 so guidelines recommend you get a once a year testicular exam. Don’t worry it won’t hurt at all.
  3.  I feel FINE.  I am glad you feel fine, but you can feel FINE with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugars.  Your mother or wife won’t feel fine when they are taking care of you after you have a stroke.  Don’t wait until you feel awful to come see us.
  4. Going to the Doctor is a chick thing.  Many of you feel this way but remember we live longer than you do.  If doctor visits are a chick thing well, then, nursing homes are a guy thing.  You have to get over this.  It’s true, the waiting room magazines are not for guys but when you come see us you will see that many of the medical assistants, doctors, phlebotomists and medical records folks are men.  Real men go to doctors.
  5. You are embarrassed to talk about what’s going on with you.  The bright red blood on the toilet paper when you wipe, the red itchy rash in your groin and on your feet, the problems you have at times getting a boner, getting up at night a few times to pee, we hear it all the time.  You are not alone and our job is to show you how common this is and help fix it for you.
  6. You don’t find the office hours convenient.  I get this and urge you to find a doctor who is accessible and can work around your office hours.  Seriously though. The average guy watches 16 hours of TV a week, you can come for a 30 minute visit once a year and maybe a couple of follow-up visits as needed.
  7. Going to the Doctor is giving in to your nagging wife.  I had a patient who gave his wife for her 20th anniversary a copy of his Lipitor prescription, thinking this was a GIFT to his wife that he was taking care of his medical issues.  It is true, women rightly so nag their dads, brothers, and husbands to go to the doctor because they are tired of square dancing with women at the assisted living facilities.
  8. You don’t realize we are here for prevention.  You don’t have to be sick to come see us and if you establish a relationship with us you have easy access when you do get sick.  Once a year we can touch base with you to discuss age appropriate screening which we KNOW helps keep you well.
  9. You don’t have a relationship with a physician.  If you are not attached to a regular physician by the age of 40 you are more likely to get in trouble.  Unlike women who need annual pap smears and contraception, you haven’t had to see someone regularly from the age of 18-30.  Find someone your friends use or enlist your partners help to find someone that might be a connection.  You want someone accessible and younger physicians are much more likely to e-mail so look until you find the right match.
  10. You think we will pick on you for your habits.  Drinking a 12-pack on the weekends, not exercising and eating bad foods, among other things.  These things are not as uncommon as you might expect.  We will put you on a long leash and let you pick and choose the habits to get rid of as needed.

If you are a Doctor Dodger, the reality is, it is of little consequence whether your reasons for doing so more closely resemble Dr. Orrange’s list or mine.  If your recalcitrance leads to a preventable heart attack, some form of cancer, or a stroke, you will have contributed directly to reducing your quality of life, as well as that of your family members.  Such actions could also lead to premature death.  It really is pretty simple; fear, embarrassment, death (sooner rather than later)…pick one dude!

Let’s be clear here, human beings are not immortal.  Psalms 90:10 advises us: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”  Proponents of the Bill Maher School of Thought dismiss such biblical advisory as akin to magic, wizardry, or witchcraft.  But I am reasonably certain even Mr. Maher would concede that we all will die.  Moreover, I wouldn’t bet the farm that he doesn’t have a regular physician, regardless of his rationale.

The point of seeing health professionals on a regular basis is not to live forever; none of us will.  Rather, the idea is to leverage the best possible existence out of our all too brief time here on earth.

As most of us know, women live longer than men.  Once upon a time, this was largely attributable to the rigors of backbreaking manual labor, and long before that, due to the results of men losing too many battles with the lions or other members of the Wild Kingdom, in the quest to determine who would eat…and who would be dinner.

Neither of those historical tableaus aligns with today’s American reality.  No, the underlying contemporary contributory factors for those of us now living in the USA are that poor exercise habits, irresponsible dietary choices, too much smoking and drinking, and eschewing regular checkups and prevention screenings combine to lead to a lower quality of life (health wise), and ultimately, to a shortened lifespan; on average five years less than for women.

According to a 2007 Harris Interactive survey that included over 1,100 men, the American Academyof Family Physicians found that:

  • Many men go to the Doctor only when they are very sick
  • Before they did, many of these men waited several days to see if they felt better
  • Most of these men had a regular doctor
  • Most had currently active health insurance
  • Most said they felt comfortable talking to their physician

In an even more recent survey, conducted by Esquire magazine in January of 2011, researchers found that:

  • Roughly half of American men ages 18-50 had no primary care physician
  • One third had not had a check-up in more than a year
  • More than 40% had never had their cholesterol checked
  • 70% had never had a prostate exam

Do you perchance know the leading causes of death in America?  According to the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC), complete information available in 2007, broke down like this:

Number of deaths for leading causes of death:

  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
  • Diabetes: 71,382
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  • Septicemia: 34,828

Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2007

Based on CDC research, Heart Disease and Cancer, the top two causes of death in the United States in 2007, led to nearly twice as many deaths as the cumulative totals of causes 3 through 10.  In fact, the number of deaths attributable to Heart Disease alone, (616,067), nearly equaled the total for causes 3 through 10 (667,589).

It is important to recognize that the relative death rate for men is higher than that for women for all of the Top 10 causes.  While there are hereditary factors that contribute to individual proclivity to develop Heart Disease, a timely and committed change in lifestyle in concert with an appropriate medical remediationprevention, and/or maintenance strategy can help most men (and women) live a relatively normal life.

In summary, this post is a cry for help on behalf of men.  Perhaps, more aptly stated, it is a call for men to step up and help themselves.  As a general rule, ours is an interdependent society.  That means, someone, somewhere relies upon you.  So men, I urge you to unite on behalf of a cause that intuitively selfish, but intellectually selfless.  I entreat you to recognize this undeniable truth; Men’s Health: A Compelling Quality of Life Issue!”  Yes, this is a cause that requires you to think of (and act) for yourself first.  But in doing so, your wife, or significant other, your children, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your co-workers, your career, your civic association, your fraternity, and yes, your state of mind, will all benefit.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link  A new post is published each Wednesday.  For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below: