How You Gonna Win When You Ain’t Right Within?

I am a fan of music. Yes…all kinds of music, but when it comes to female R&B artists, my favorite singer has to be Lauryn Hill. There is something so real about Lauryn Hill that has always stood out to me – from her ability to command your attention with her unique voice to her deep lyrics that she delivers with such raw passion. Her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, is a classic, and in my opinion, one of the best albums of all time.

You may remember her debut hit single from that album called “Doo Wop (That Thing)” that won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 1999 Grammy Awards. In that song, she delivers a line at the end of her second verse in the form of a question; a verse that she says in the song is dedicated to the men. The line goes: How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?

When I think about that question, it forces me to look at myself to see if I’m winning, but it forces me to also look within myself to see if I’m still right within. It is deep, because I am constantly doing a self-inspection to see if I’m living my life in a way to be a better me.

Not everyone is the same way though, and it is evident the more I hear story after story of someone who made a decision to commit a crime or some sort of brazen act of hate within our own community.

I am often amazed at the brazen audacity that many people have, that allows them to tell themselves that it is okay to deliberately seek out and harm another person.

Police killings of unarmed Black people, coupled with the election of Donald J. Trump, have opened up a wound that has never healed in this country between Whites and Blacks, causing everyone to revisit an ugly past full of ugly actions toward Blacks in this country – the wound of racism.

However, although Black people have historically suffered as a result of racism, there have been many in our own community, through their personal greed, pride and hatred, who have caused many of us in the community to become victims and fall prey to our own worst oppressors – other Black people.

Sadly, many of the issues we are dealing with get swept under the rug and either ignored or treated as it is normal. There is nothing normal about it, however, and the thing that concerns me the most is the current mindset of our people. Remember….How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?

If the mindset of Black people is right, then the collective Black community will win – producing more positive Black reports and positive Black outcomes.

We are so quick to blame the media; the White man; the system; the government; or anyone/anything else that we can blame, instead of looking in the mirror at ourselves. We need to stop lying to ourselves about where we are and face it head on. We need to stop pacifying one another and tell the truth about things, so we can acknowledge those things and address those things. Many of us turn a blind eye to the realities we are faced with and look for other people outside the Black community to deal with issues that we ourselves should be dealing with head on.

Black on Black murders continue to plague our communities. Every day, we hear about senseless killings over senseless things. Many of our people find themselves ego-tripping to prove a point or to try to somehow prove who the bigger man or woman is, which tends to lead to pretty much the same outcomes – fights, injuries, arrests or even worse – death. We just heard about a senseless killing that took place this past weekend in Houston’s historic Third Ward over what many are calling a petty disagreement that led to the shooting death of a Black male, and no one being arrested or identified at the time of this article being written. Sadly, this is not the first story of its kind, and I hate to be the one to say that it won’t be the last; but that will be the case the more we, as Black people, continue to ignore and collectively allow this activity to remain a regular and consistent part of our communities.

This epidemic, that continues to plague the Black community, must be eradicated immediately if we wish to survive as a people and not become extinct. But, are we truly willing to deal with the problems and issues caused by our own Black brothers and sisters, in the same way we deal with those outside the Black community we have an issue with when we feel they’ve harmed one of our own Black brothers and sisters? Let’s take Chad Holley for instance.

Holley was a 15-year-old teenage Black male, when surveillance video was uncovered of him being relentlessly beat, kicked and stomped by several Houston police officers after he fled the scene of a burglary back in 2010. Holley was wrong as two left shoes, but the emphasis from many in the Black community was never about dealing with the error of his ways, but dealing with the external forces that wrongfully and blatantly brutalized this young teen.

Fact is…the police officers were wrong, but so was Holley. But, who in the Black community embraced this wayward young Black teenager and sought to ensure he was right within, as opposed to just trying to show how jacked up the Houston Police Department (HPD) was? I venture to say, hardly anyone.

How do I come to that conclusion, you may ask?

Simple…let’s look at his life six years later from 2010 to 2016.

Two full years after Holley was found guilty and put on probation for stealing cash, jewelry and a keyboard from the Houston townhouse that led to the police beating caught on surveillance video, Holley got caught burglarizing another home again, with some friends, and was charged and sentenced to another 7 years of probation. Who was in his life during those two years?

Where were the Black activists and concerned Black citizens who had a major issue with how the external forces dealt with him, but not the internal issues of how Holley, and many other Black youth like him, dealt harshly and criminally with others?

You would have thought that was enough and that Holley had somehow ‘learned his lesson’, but if you don’t have anyone to teach you a lesson when you ‘ain’t right within’ then you will see outcomes like his. A little over four years since Holley had his last brush with the law for the same crime, he has found himself having to deal with a much more serious offense – capital murder.

That’s right…Holley has been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of David Trejo-Gonzalez, 42, during a robbery back in September of this year. Police suspect that Trejo-Gonzalez was shot by Holley as he was walking from the parking lot of his apartment, and during an attempted robbery was shot during a scuffle. Who has been in his life during these past four years or do any of you even care? Has Holley become so worthless of a Black man in your view, that he wasn’t worthy of your care or concern? Or did it only matter when someone who wasn’t Black hurt and harmed him?

I see many of you now, shaking your head and spewing your condescending rhetoric about Holley. Sadly, Holley isn’t the only Black person you feel that way about or say those things about.

For far too long, many of us in the Black community have abandoned their responsibility as village leaders and have turned a blind-eye to the social ills that have been allowed to ravage our communities; especially as it relates to our responsibilities of dealing with our Black youth. Many of us in the Black community have chosen to run away from our social ills, thinking that if we just move to the suburbs, that we can escape the realities we face as a people, but those social ills can follow you no matter where you try to go. We have seemingly abandoned our traditional philosophy of having a village full of Black adults, who made it their primary responsibility to raise Black children in a way that ensured those Black children were ‘right within’ so they could win in a country that wasn’t set up for them to win.

Instead, we have collectively allowed many of our Black children to run wild in the village, without providing them with the support and knowledge they need to be productive community citizens.

Shame on us.

I am not sure what will happen to Chad Holley from this point forward, but what I do know is that our Black youth need mentors and Black adults who are not afraid to speak up to challenge them; show them that they believe in them; and set a solid example for them to follow.

Let’s hope our Black community gets its act together so that we don’t have to worry about our Black youth failing to win because they ain’t right within.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey has been a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield. Jeffrey has a national daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney, and is a dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at