Tag Archives: Literacy

HAPPY NEW YEAR: Thank You For Your Support

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The year of our lord 2016 has arrived which comes with our new year’s resolutions. Last year was a very bad year regarding justice, civil rights, and what I would describe as a war on black people. My wish for the new year is the same prayer black people have been praying for nearly four-hundred years; STOP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE AND TREAT US FAIR.

Lately, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Happy New Year and to express, humbly, my sincerest appreciation to all of my friends and everyone who follow’s THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVES. This is also to include everyone who reads my words and to all who share my thoughts with others through social media platforms.

THANK YOU!!!

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Thought Provoking Perspectives is designed to be a potent source of empowering knowledge to broaden the information base with those who share my passion for the written word.

Let me offer a personal thought:

“I firmly believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair… You only have a minute. Sixty seconds in it. Didn’t choose it, can’t refuse it, it’s up to you to use it. It’s just a tiny little minute but an eternity in it! You can change the world but first you must change your mind.” @JohnTWills

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A MUST READ!!! copy


Black Music Month: The Last Great Temptation

OLLIEWOODSONRIP Ali Ollie Woodson was born Ollie Creggett on September 12, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan. He is remembered for his one of a kind soulful gospel rooted voice and as the lead singer of the greatest vocal group of all time; The Temptations.

He was the lead singer on such classic tunes; “Treat Her Like a Lady,” Sail Away, and “Lady Soul. I was blessed to have met and known this gentle soul in the mid 1970s and until a few years before his passing our paths would cross, which was always a pleasure. I can recall telling him that he was known the world over, yet he made me feel as if I was his best friend. It was always like we just spoke yesterday.

Ali was not an original member of the Temptations, which had several lineup changes since it started in the 1960s. But he played an integral part in keeping the Temptations from becoming just a nostalgia act. I would refer to him as the Temptations Temptation. I mean this in the sense that by the early 1980s the Temptations were no longer posting hit after hit as they had in the 1960s and ’70s with songs like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.”

Enter Ali Woodson! The group had lost original members, and Ali was brought in to replace Dennis Edwards, whose voice had defined the group in the 1970s. He added a distinctive flavor to the group during his tenure that was like a playful stamp on several Temptations’ standards with his tricky punctuation, sassy humor and inventive acrobatics. I say this with great reverence because he could do a David Ruffin better than David Ruffin.

In a review of a concert featuring the Temptations and the Four Tops in 1985, Stephen Holden of The New York Times described Ali as “a charismatic young pop-funk singer with a husky, agile voice that breaks into unexpected falsetto riffs.” Frankly, I have yet to find a singer of any era comparable to the elegance of his sound. If you heard him sing – you loved what he sung!

Ali went on the road at the age of 19 with Bill Pinkney who gave him a job as a musician and then vocalist for the Original Drifters in the early 1970s. He would return to lead The Original Drifters’ gospel song “True Love” in 1996 on the CD “Peace in the Valley” (Malaco). He always referred to Pinkney as his Father in the music business and sang “Walk Around Heaven All Day” at Pinkney’s home-going service in July 2007.

Most don’t know it but when Teddy Pendergrass left Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes it was Ali who got the call. He was called upon throughout his career to be the voice to accompany many of the great artists. But he was most notable for being lead singer of the Temptations from 1984 to 1986, and from 1988 to 1996. He first recorded with The Temptations in 1983 on their “Back to Basics” album, when he was invited to perform lead vocals on the album track, “Stop the World Right Here (I Wanna Get Off),” filling in for an exhausted Dennis Edwards. The following year, he replaced Edwards and officially became a Temptation.

He began his tenure in the group on a high note with a song he co-wrote, co-produced, sang lead, and played keyboards on the 1984 Temptations single “Treat Her Like a Lady”. A song that appeared on his first full album with the group “Truly for you” and was a #2 hit on the U.S. R&B charts. He continued to compose and sing lead on other moderate hits with The Temptations throughout the mid-1980s, up until his first departure from the group in 1987.

However, he would rejoin the group the following year and remained with them up through their 1995 album For Lovers Only. Since leaving the group, Woodson began a solo career and often toured with a Temptations-like revue called Ali Ollie Woodson & the Emperors of Soul and the Temptations Revue featuring Dennis Edwards. His last tour was with none other than the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklin – and I think that says it all. I have lived long enough to know that it is rare and only once in a lifetime that God gives us an Ali Woodson. I am honored and truly blessed to have known him.

In the Temptations movie David and Eddie would say “we were the voices.” With all due respect, Ali should also be called one of “the voices”. Rest In Peace my friend and that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


A MESSAGE TO THE GRASSROOTS

1aListen to the message from the Prophet. Brother Malcolm’s words spoken fifty years ago to the grass roots. Education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair.

 

 


IMAGINE

QU601ImagineJohnLennonI can recall a song written by John Lennon, who in my opinion had a depth that few men dared to explore. He caused me to “Imagine”. When you do open your mind you can realize possibilities. A wise man once told me that faith is believing what is unseen to be true. I have always imagined that people could live in peace and the world could live as one. No pain, no sorry, no racism, and above all “study war no more”.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

And that’s my message and Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Our Continued Existence

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I have written thousands of articles and a few books with the intent to empower minds with the hope of enlightening the consciousness of mankind. For those who follow my words you know I firmly believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. It is the opposition to the system of survival that has been intent on making sure education is limited and poverty in considerable.

 It was the Englishman Francis Beacon, who is credited with being the first to record the phase “knowledge is power”. I am probably not as intelligent as he but I say “knowing what to do with that knowledge is where the power of your strength rest”.

I recently had what you might call an epiphany. I was being interviewed on a radio show for a segment called “For Women Only”. As the conversation progressed, we talked about Big Mamma, the community, the children, and African American issues. For clarity, most refer to their community as a “Hood”. What is a hood? A hood is something you “hide”. So, if “it takes a village”, we must empower the community, that have become non-existent or at least hidden, to rise from its designed despair.

After making that remark the host asked, “what happened to us and John, what can we do to make it right”. If I recall I responded with an answer, something like, it was televisions fault. While in my mind I was feeling the power of the question, which really gave me a chill thinking about the question. “What Happened?”

I will start with the first question, which is sure to be a Cosby moment for many. What happened was us? After the scam called integration, we began to believe we were accepted as equal citizens of these United States. For many African Americans, we forgot about one another partaking in the false reality of assimilation and followed white flight running from our communities. We allowed anyone to come into our community, setup shops, we stopped supporting our own businesses, and let our dollars, some say is nearly a trillion annually, go elsewhere. But the biggest problem was we STOPPED PARENTING!

The institutional aspects are systemic. The unemployment rate is double for blacks than for whites, we’ve lost more homes to foreclosure than whites and we’ve lost more wealth than whites”. To any reasonable person this is not equal! If we had listen to the great minds like Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois told us how to build our community. Marcus Garvey told us how to be self-sufficient and to take care of our own needs. Elijah Muhammad taught us how to carry ourselves with dignity and respect. Dr. King gave us faith and Brother Malcolm told us to do it by “Any Means Necessary!

With that said, I have been troubled, as I am sure many of you as well and struggled with the second question, which was what do we do. We are the most religious people on earth; we marched, prayed, and wait for Jesus to come to our rescue.  I hope you feel my passion here, as tears flow, and it hurts to say this but the problem rests with the person you look at each day in the mirror.

People we are still in slavery, mentally, slaves to our debt, and in slaved within the jails and prisons systems. Now, Ray Charles can see – through death and imprisonment we are becoming extinct! Add to that black women have forgotten and in many cases have no desire for black men as the image of her man has been destroyed. The reality is this: if there are no black men to procreate – we all die!

Maybe the answer to the second question is to be the people we were created to be and when you look in the mirror each day; ask yourself what have you done to benefit someone or the world. You have a choice to live or die, yet more important to continue the species. If not now “when”? If not “YOU”, then who! Well I’ll tell you – “us”! Why, because we are the keepers of the faith.

Therefore, we can change the world but first we must change ourselves! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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A Created People

2These stolen people, the so-called Negro, was created to be a people without hope, submissive, and robbed mentally of his heritage to be used to for the purpose of building a nation. While all these people have ever desired since being removed from Africa was to be treated as human being and to obtain the basic human right – equality –  simply put for America to honor the promise of freedom that it claims comes with liberty. I’ll quote Dr. King who said, “We were given a blank check” and we would like to cash it – paid in full.

Let’s be very clear, people of African descent are the only immigrates to come to this country against their will – then to be forced into a life of bondage was then and is now amoral. It is also worth mentioning, for the record, that “A Negro” was created by the wretched souls who arrived in America to lay claim to land that wasn’t even theirs. When I say, created I mean there was no such culture or nationality anywhere on earth before Europeans took the captives from Africa and brought them to America. The result was creating a nation of people placed in a strange land to live without a nationality. This was done specifically through the constitution and legislative laws sanctioned by the government.

From the very beginning, the Africans resisted their captivity and bondage which was to include during the ungodly trip across the Atlantic that history calls the Mid-Passage. Once the captives arrived on land, be it in America or the Caribbean, there was rebellion. There were many movements to obtain the promise of freedom like the Abolitionist Movement and Civil Rights Movements in varying forms. Not to mention, the many-many great leaders born to affect change but killed by the wretched system of slavery and/or during the period of segregation. I won’t say they all failed, but I will say they did not succeed because equal treatment, particularly under the law, and freedom is still absent today.

Many African Americans continue to suffer from the untreated wounds of America’s forefathers and their asymptomatic behaviors. These behaviors were never unlearned and have been passed down from generation to generation. Over my relatively short lifetime, I have been referred to as Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black, and an African American, which were all polite terms assigned to make known that people of African descent were not American citizens.

This legacy of dependency, apathy, and entrenchment of the American social order from the beginning provides clear evidence of those with a diabolical intent to bankrupt the souls of a people based on an ideology of supremacy. These stolen souls that exist today are people who bear the burden of a system that perpetrated, in the name of God, the greatest crime known to man.

The concept of African Americans being slaves, physically or mentally, is as old as the nation itself, designed to deprive a people of its culture and knowledge through sustained policies of control. To overcome these indignities we must realize that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize the forces that breed poverty and despair.

Regardless of how much we are held down, it is our responsibility to find a way to get up, even if the system is designed to protect the system. The great Bob Marley reminded us to “Stand-up – Stand-up for your rights”. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


A Teaching Moment

2Seems like once a week, particularly when it comes to matter’s of race, we hear pleas or some fool say, “It’s a Teaching Moment”! I am not just talking about the talking heads in the media, but those fools who have proclaimed themselves black leaders who make such statements with no remorse. My question is: are people, those folks, that dumb to ask us to believe that after 400 year of the same that we should learn from what I would call standard operating procedure.

Two instances in particular raised my blood presser! Dr. Kings son, Marty, went on MSNBC and argued the point that black people and their leaders should open a dialog with the Tea Party. Is that not like the chicken trying to appease the fox? First, everybody knows the Tea Party are simply the KKK in suits! Let me add, I don’t know anyone who voted for this guy to replace the “King” or any of them, who claim to be our voice. Seems to me, he has enough trouble in his our house [family] then to offer ANY advice to the black community at large. In fact, his mother and father are rolling over in their graves for their despicable behavior!

The other thing is, and I have to ask: why are black people or anyone for that matter shocked by the remarks made by Donald Sterling owner of the LA Clippers. There has never been a veil of secrecy surrounding the views of rich people with privilege and power. It is the mentality of these people to be bigots. Their privilege dictates as much. This old fool has benefited on the backs of his million dollar slave that resided on his plantation, and he will benefit to the tune of about a BILLION dollars.

Another owner made statements to suggest, he and all of the other owner are bigoted to some degree, and this guy was supposed to be the cool guy. Get real people – no one cares about you. Not these folks who rob you or pretend to support a cause that might benefit you. All of these folk who are suppose to speak for you are “paid well” to promulgate the same nonsense. Or as Brother Malcolm would say, you’ve been “hoodwinked”! You are supporting these folk and you have never been to a meeting or dare I say, never made a contribution to the cause in any way. Much in the same way most of you do every Sunday when you profess wanting to go to heaven but make sure you are nowhere near the front of the line.

Here is the teaching moment: Teach your kids, and if you believe so strongly in whomever the massager is – give them this message. Put their energy into efforts to improve the education that your kids should get because only then will they make a difference in the world. I am sure you know the old cliché “There’s a sucker born every day.” Does that me today is your birthday!

As in the recent situation involving the NAACP, who sold out for money under the guise of helping black children! What makes you think the rest of them aren’t doing same, as well? When you can name ONE THING these so-called black leaders have done for their people, except take your money, let me know. I am going to be frank, “I would rather go to hell along, than to follow a fool to heaven because if some of these so-called leaders make it to haven – I know I went to the wrong place”.

Lastly, while most of you are facinated with J-Z & B or Kemye who does nothing for the broader culture but lend to destroying it. Yes, when I re-posted an article called “The Case For Reparations” I got the most negative comments. In fact, appalling  were appealing! Every other culture that was wronged was compensated when their injury was not near a great as that of Black People. If you want to do something, ask these so-called leaders to take a stand on this issue. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

The Case for Reparations


The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy

2THIS IS A MUST READ!

This is the exact article written by TA-NEHISI COATES a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. I want to give proper credit, as I was unable to reblog this post. However, this is a very interesting read and has been viral. _________________________________________________

The best thing about writing a blog is the presence of a live and dynamic journal of one’s own thinking. Some portion of the reporter’s notebook is out there for you to scrutinize and think about as the longer article develops. For me, this current article—an argument in support of reparations—began four years ago when I opposed reparations. A lot has happened since then. I’ve read a lot, talked to a lot of people, and spent a lot of time in Chicago where the history, somehow, feels especially present.

I think I owe you a walk-through on how my thinking evolved. When I wrote opposing reparations I was about halfway through my deep-dive into the Civil War. I roughly understood then that the Civil War—the most lethal conflict in American history—boiled down to the right to raise an empire based on slaveholding and white supremacy. What had not yet clicked for me was precisely how essential enslavement was to America, that its foundational nature explained the Civil War’s body count.  The sheer value of enslaved African-Americans is just astounding. And looking at this recent piece by Chris Hayes, I’m wondering if my numbers are short (emphasis added):

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion.

Ten trillion dollars is already a number much too large to comprehend, but remember that wealth was intensely geographically focused. According to calculations made by economic historian Gavin Wright, slaves represented nearly half the total wealth of the South on the eve of secession. “In 1860, slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” civil war historian Eric Foner tells me. “Think what would happen if you liquidated the banks, factories and railroads with no compensation.”

As with any economic institution of that size, enslavement grew from simply a question of money to a question of societal, even theological, importance. I got that in 2011, from Jim McPherson (emphasis again added):

“The conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death,” a South Carolina commissioner told Virginians in February 1861. “The South cannot exist without African slavery.” Mississippi’s commissioner to Maryland insisted that “slavery was ordained by God and sanctioned by humanity.” If slave states remained in a Union ruled by Lincoln and his party, “the safety of the rights of the South will be entirely gone.” If these warnings were not sufficient to frighten hesitating Southerners into secession, commissioners played the race card. A Mississippi commissioner told Georgians that Republicans intended not only to abolish slavery but also to “substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.” Georgia’s commissioner to Virginia dutifully assured his listeners that if Southern states stayed in the Union, “we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.”

An Alabamian born in Kentucky tried to persuade his native state to secede by portraying Lincoln’s election as “nothing less than an open declaration of war” by Yankee fanatics who intended to force the “sons and daughters” of the South to associate “with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality,” thus “consigning her [the South’s] citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans…” This argument appealed as powerfully to nonslaveholders as to slaveholders. Whites of both classes considered the bondage of blacks to be the basis of liberty for whites. Slavery, they declared, elevated all whites to an equality of status by confining menial labor and caste subordination to blacks. “If slaves are freed,” maintained proslavery spokesmen, whites “will become menials. We will lose every right and liberty which belongs to the name of freemen.”

Enslavement is kind of a big deal—so much so that it is impossible to imagine America without it. At the time I was reading this I was thinking about an essay (which I eventually wrote) arguing against the idea of the Civil War as tragedy. My argument was that the Civil War was basically the spectacular end of a much longer war extending back into the 17th century—a war against black people, their families, institutions and their labor. We call the war “slavery.” John Locke helped me with that. This was all swirling in my head about the time I saw this article in the Times:

On Saturday, more than 15,000 students are expected to file into classrooms to take a grueling 95-question test for admission to New York City’s elite public high schools. (The exam on Sunday, for about 14,000 students, was postponed until Nov. 18 because of Hurricane Sandy.) No one will be surprised if Asian students, who make up 14 percent of the city’s public school students, once again win most of the seats, and if black and Hispanic students win few.

Last school year, of the 14,415 students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools that require a test for admissions, 8,549 were Asian. Because of the disparity, some have begun calling for an end to the policy of using the test as the sole basis of admission to the schools, and last month, civil rights groups filed a complaint with the federal government, contending that the policy discriminated against students, many of whom are black or Hispanic, who cannot afford the score-raising tutoring that other students can. The Shis, like other Asian families who spoke about the exam in interviews in the past month, did not deny engaging in extensive test preparation. To the contrary, they seemed to discuss their efforts with pride.

I was sort of horrified by this piece, because what the complaint seemed to be basically arguing for was punishing a group of people (Asian immigrants) who were working their asses off. It struck me that these were exactly the kind of people you want if you’re building a country. Even though I am arguing for reparations, I actually believe in a playing field—a level playing field, no doubt—but one with actual competition. It struck me as wrong to punish people for working really hard to succeed in that competition. This paragraph, in particular, got me:

Others take issue with the exam on philosophical grounds. “You shouldn’t have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school,” said Melissa Santana, a legal secretary whose daughter Dejanellie Falette has been prepping this fall for the exam. “That’s extreme.”

I was stewing reading this. It offended some of my latent nationalism—the basic sense that you want everyone on your “team” to go out there and fight. But as I thought about it I felt that there was something underneath the mother’s point. In fact there are people who don’t “have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school.” But they tend to live in neighborhoods that have historically excluded children with names like Dejanellie. Why is that? Housing policy. What are the roots of our housing policy? White supremacy. What are the roots of white supremacy in America? Justification for enslavement. A few days later I sent the following rambling memo to my editor, Scott Stossel:

Hey Scott. I have an essay that’s starting to brew in me that I’ve been thinking a lot about. Are you at all interested in a piece that makes the case for reparations? This is totally pie in the sky, but it’s my take on the Atlantic as a journal of “Big Ideas.” There’s this great piece in the Times a few weeks back about selective schools in New York and how Asian immigrants are dominating the process.

I found myself really compelled by a lot of the stories and actually in more sympathy with the Asians (now Asian-Americans) than with the blacks who were protesting. A lot of what they were saying reminded me of the sort of stuff my own parents said. And then something occurred to me. The reason why a lot of these black parents are upset is because the schools are basically credentialing machines for the corridors of power. By not going to a Stuyvesant you miss out on that corridor, so the thinking goes. And moreso the feeling is (though never explicitly said) that black people deserve special consideration, given our history in this country.

The result is that you have black parents basically lobbying for Asian-American kids to be punished because the country at large has never given much remedy for what it did to black people. I’ve thought the same before in reference to gentrification. The notion that DC should remain “black” has always struck me as really bizarre. Very little in America ever stays anything. Change is the nature of things. It only makes sense if you buy that black people are “owed” something. I.E. Since we never got anything for slavery, Jim Crow, red-lining, block-busting, segregation, housing and job discrimination, we at least deserve the stability of neighborhoods and cities we can call home.

I’m thinking about it with the Supreme Court set to dismantle Affirmative Action. Isn’t the “diversity” argument actually kind of weak? Isn’t the recompensation argument actually much more compelling? Except this was outlawed with Bakke. What I am thinking is right now, at this moment, American institutions (especially its schools) are being asked to answer for the fact that country lacked the courage to do the right thing. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision coming down, in the wake of (what looks like) a second Obama term, we could make a really strong case that now is the time renew a serious discussion about Reparations.

And we could move it beyond “Check in hand” discussion to something more sophisticated. Does this interest you? I actually could see us arguing that Obama has nothing to lose, and should explicitly support such a policy. He ain’t gonna do it. But we might–might–be able to make a good faith argument for it. Any interest?

All of this did not stick. (I don’t, for instance, think it would be a good idea for Obama to support reparations. That would actually be a horrible idea.) But by then I had it fully established in my head that we are asking other institutions to answer for something major in our history and culture. The final piece of this was the uptick in cultural pathology critiques extending from the White House on down. There is massive, overwhelming evidence for the proposition that white supremacy is the only thing wrong with black people.

There is significantly less evidence for the proposition that culture is a major part of what’s wrong with black people. But we don’t really talk about white supremacy. We talk about inequality, vestigial racism, and culture. Our conversation omits a major portion of the evidence. The final thing that happened was I became convinced that an unfortunate swath of  popular writers/pundits/intellectuals are deeply ignorant of American history. For the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to directly interact with a number of historians, anthropologists, economists, and sociologists in the academy.

The debates I’ve encountered at Brandeis, Virginia Commonwealth, Yale, Northwestern, Rhodes, and Duke have been some of the most challenging and enlightening since I left Howard University. The difference in tenor between those conversations and the ones I have in the broader world, are disturbing. What is considered to be a “blue period” on this blog, is considered to be a survey course among academics. Which is not to say everyone, or even mostly everyone, agrees with me in the academy. It is to say that I’ve yet to engage a historian or sociologist who’s requested that I not be such a downer.

This process was not as linear as I’m making it out to be. But it all combined to make me feel that mainstream liberal discourse was getting it wrong. The relentless focus on explanations which are hard to quantify, while ignoring those which are not, the subsequent need to believe that America triumphs in the end, led me to believe that we were hiding something, that there was something about ourselves which were loath to say out in public. Perhaps the answer was somewhere else, out there on the ostensibly radical fringes, something dismissed by people who should know better. People like me.


“Just a Season”

A MUST READ!!! Just a Season is a luminous story into the life of a man who, in the midst of pain and loss, journeys back in time to reexamine all the important people, circumstances, and intellectual fervor that contributed to the richness of his life.

It is a must read novel that will cause you to see the world through new eyes. One reviewer said, “This is the stuff movies are made of… not since “Roots” have I read a story that so succinctly chronicles an African American story!” Another said, “Not since The Color Purple have I read a book that evoked such emotions…[more reviews below]

PRELUDE 

A season is a time characterized by a particular circumstance, suitable to an indefinite period of time associated with a divine phenomenon that some call life. One of the first things I learned in this life was that it is a journey. During this passage through time I have come to realize that there are milestones, mountains, and valleys that everyone will encounter. Today, I have to face a valley and it’s excruciating. It’s June 28th, a day that I once celebrated as a very special day. Now, it’s filled with sorrow. The reason this day is different from all others is because I have come to the cemetery at Friendly Church. 

Normally it’s hot and humid as summer begins, but not so today. It’s a cool gray day with the sky slightly overcast. I hear the echo of birds chirping from a distance. There is also a mist or a light fog hovering very near the ground that gives the aura of a mystical setting.  This is a place where many of my family members who have passed away rest for eternity.  Some have been resting here for over a hundred years. I have grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, a sister, and many friends here as well. The cemetery is in the most tranquil of places secluded from the rest of the world, very peaceful and beautiful, almost like being near the gateway of heaven.

My heart aches today because I have come here on what would have been my son’s birthday. This is a very hard thing for me to do as the natural order suggests it should be the other way around. Another difficulty is that this is the first time I will see his headstone that was put in place just a few days ago. Although I know what it should look like, it’s going to be hard to actually see it. It will indicate the finality of losing the dearest of all human beings.  It’s hard to imagine what the rest of my life will be like without my precious son.

As I pass Granddaddy’s gravesite, I stop to say hello. After a brief moment, I continue in the direction of my son’s resting place. As I get closer, I begin to receive a rush of emotion to the point that my movements slow as the sight comes into view. I can now see his name clearly and I whisper “God why did you take him?” I become numb as I finally arrive at his gravesite, overwhelmed with this never before known emotion. This is something I never thought I would ever have to do, but here I am!!!

Suddenly, the sky begins to clear somewhat, as I now feel the sun’s rays from above.  At this very moment, I receive an epiphany upon reading the dates inscribed on the stone.  1981 – 2001. What does this really mean? The beginning and the end, surely, but in the final analysis it is just a tiny little dash that represents the whole life of a person. I fall to my knees realizing the profound impact of that thought causing me to look to the heavens and wonder. If someone, for whatever reason, were to tell the story concealed within my dash.   What might they say?

Chapter One

The story begins in late November 1951 on a clear sunny Sunday afternoon. It was fairly cool for an autumn day and as it was the custom in the Reid family, everyone had gone to church early to give praise to the Lord. This was a special day for this family. It was a special day because of their anticipation of a new member into the family. So it was a great, great feeling of joy and excitement that filled their home. Ruth and Josie did not attend church this day, because Josie was overdue and expecting to give birth at anytime…

Praise for “Just a Season”

And the journey continues with “Legacy – A New Season”…

book 1

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Brownsville Series: The Black Mecca

This is another installment of the “Brownsville Series”, which is my way of resurrecting the memory of those areas designated for “Coloreds” during the era of segregation; you know across the tracks – the other side of town. But this place is fittingly proper as I will refer to it as the Black Mecca – Harlem USA or as some have referred to it as the “Capital of Black America”.

Harlem began as a European settlement established in July 1639 in what was then known as New Harlem. It was formalized in 1658, when the English took control of the colony changing the hamlets name to Harlem. At that time, it was merely a small agricultural town just outside of New York City. The name Harlem was a synonym for elegant living through a good part of the nineteenth century. For example, the estate of Alexander Hamilton was located in Harlem.

In 1893, the Harlem Monthly Magazine wrote, “it is evident to the most superficial observer that the centre of fashion, wealth, culture, and intelligence, must, in the near future, be found in the ancient and honorable village of Harlem.” Even then Harlem seemed ordained to be the center of cultural significance but it was not until the mass migration of blacks in 1904 that it began to flourish as a predominantly Black enclave. It was because of a real estate crash that caused worsening conditions for blacks throughout New York City. Prompting Philip Payton, owner of the Afro-American Realty Company, to almost single-handedly created the migration of blacks from their previous neighborhoods establishing Black Harlem or Uptown as it came to be known.

Then black churches began to move uptown. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, for one, purchased a block of buildings on West 135th Street to rent to members of its congregation. Black Harlem has always been a religious community with over 400 churches of every faith becoming very influential because of their large congregations and wealth as a result of its extensive real estate holdings. However, many as do today, operated what is known as storefronts from an empty stores, building’s basements or converted brownstone townhouses.

At the same time, blacks were migrating to northern industrial cities fueled by their desire to leave behind the Jim Crow South seeking better jobs and education for their children. Jobs were abundant, and many blacks were able to obtain work because expanding industries recruited black laborers to fill new jobs as a result of the war effort. Another reason was to escape the culture of lynching and violence.

By 1920,, in a mere twenty years, Harlem became the center of a flowering black culture that became known as the Harlem Renaissance. This period witnessed the greatest collection of artistic production creating the sound and entertainment of the “Roaring Twenties”, but blacks were sometimes excluded from viewing what their peers were creating. Some jazz venues, including the famed Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington played, or Connie’s Inn were restricted to whites only, although some uptown clubs were integrated.

The most famous venue in Harlem and world renowned was the Apollo Theater that opened on 125th Street on January 26, 1934 in what was a burlesque house. Best known for its “Amateur Night at the Apollo” that continues to this very day. The Apollo was a proving ground, of sorts; if you could make it there you could make it anywhere. Every black performer or artist was ordained by its audience in one way or another. I don’t have enough space to list all of the greats that graced the Apollo stage. If they were successful, they played the Apollo Theater. Another famous spot was the Savoy Ballroom, on Lenox Avenue, was a renowned venue for swing dancing immortalized in a popular song of the era “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in central Harlem had over 125 entertainment places operating. Such as speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills. Throughout the twentieth century, particularly during the “Harlem Renaissance”, Harlem served as the home and key inspiration to generations of novelists, poets, musicians, and actors. It was because of the city’s pace, the blend of their backgrounds, the difficulties associated with living in Harlem and their experiences that found expression in theater, fiction, and music, among other art forms.

Some of the luminaries produced by Harlem were Paul Robeson, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes just to name a few. Though Harlem musicians and writers are particularly well remembered, the community has also hosted numerous actors and theater companies, including the New Heritage Repertory Theater, National Black Theater, Lafayette Players, Harlem Suitcase Theater, The Negro Playwrights, American Negro Theater, and the Rose McClendon Players. Arthur Mitchell, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, established Dance Theatre of Harlem as a school and company for classical ballet and theater training in the late 1960’s.

Harlem is also home to notable contemporary artists such as the Harlem Boys Choir, a famous touring choir and education program for young boys, most of whom are black. There is also a Girls’ Choir of Harlem and both companies have toured both nationally and internationally. Harlem is also credited with the creation of Hip-Hop and many hip-hop dances associated with this genre. It is also known for producing Rappers such as Kurtis Blow and Hip Hop Mogul P. Diddy.

After the romantic era of the Harlem Renaissance, Harlem ceased to be home to the majority of NYC’s blacks and the character of the community changed in the years after the war, as middle-class blacks left for the outer boroughs and suburbs. With the increase in a poor population, it was also a time when the neighborhood began to deteriorate, and some of the storied traditions of the Harlem Renaissance were driven by poverty, crime, or other social ills. However, as of the writing Harlem is being resurrected, and its future is brighter. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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