Tag Archives: Literacy

An Unsung Voice Of Our Times

John Henrik Clarke was the most brilliant, profound, and empowering educators of our time. Dr. Clarke was a voracious reader, inspired by Richard Wright’s Black Boy. He has credited, Ms. Harris, his third grade teacher who convinced him that one-day he would be a writer. I found a little know fact about Dr. Clarke; as a youngster Clark caddied for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley “long before they became Generals or President,” Clarke would later recount in describing his upbringing in rural Alabama.

He moved to Harlem and committed himself to a lifelong pursuit of factual knowledge about the history of his people and creative application of that knowledge. Over the years, Clarke became both a major historian and a man of letters. His literary accomplishments including over two hundred short stories written with “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black” is his best known.

Dr. Clarke edited numerous literary and historical anthologies including American Negro Short Stories (1966), an anthology which included nineteenth century writing from writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles Waddell Chestnut, and continued up through the early sixties with writers such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and William Melvin Kelley. This is one of the classic collections of Black fiction.

Reflective of his commitment to his adopted home, Clarke also edited Harlem, A Community in Transition and Harlem, U.S.A. Never one to shy away from the difficult or the controversial, Clarke edited anthologies on Malcolm X and a major collection of essays decrying William Styron’s “portrait” of Nat Turner as a conflicted individual who had a love/hate platonic and sexually-fantasized relationship with Whites. In both cases, Clarke’s work was in defense of the dignity and pride of his beloved Black community rather than an attack on Whites.

What is significant is that Clarke did the necessary and tedious organizing work to bring these volumes into existence. Thereby offer an alternative outlook from the dominant mainstream views on Malcolm X and Nat Turner, both of whom were often characterized as militant hate mongers. What I found to be interesting was that Clarke’s work was never simply focused on investigating history as the past, he also was proactively involved with history in the making.

As a historian Clarke also edited a book on Marcus Garvey and edited Africa, Lost and Found (with Richard Moore and Keith Baird) and African People at the Crossroads, two seminal historical works widely used in History and African American Studies disciplines on college and university campuses. Through the United Nations he published monographs on Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. As an activist-historian he produced the monograph Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust. His most recently published book was Who Betrayed the African Revolution?

In the form of edited books, monographs, major essays and book introductions, John Henrik Clarke produced well over forty major historical and literary documents. Rarely, if ever, has one man delivered so much quality and inspiring literature. Moreover, John Henrik Clarke was also an inquisitive student who became a master teacher.

During his early years in Harlem, Clarke made the most of the rare opportunities to be mentored by many of the great 20th century Black historians and bibliophile. Clarke studied under and learned from men such as Arthur Schomburg, William Leo Hansberry, John G. Jackson, Paul Robeson, Willis Huggins and Charles Seiffert, all of whom, sometimes quietly behind the scenes and other times publicly in the national and international spotlight, were significant movers and shakers, theoreticians and shapers of Black intellectual and social life in the 20th century.

John Henrik Clarke is in many ways exemplary of the American ethos of a self-made man. Indicative of this characteristic is the fact that Clarke changed his given name of John Henry Clark to reflect his aspirations. In an obituary he penned for himself shortly before his death, John Henrik Clarke noted “little black Alabama boys were not fully licensed to imagine themselves as conduits of social and political change. …they called me ‘bubba’ and because I had the mind to do so, I decided to add the ‘e’ to the family name ‘Clark’ and change the spelling of ‘Henry’ to ‘Henrik,’ after the Scandinavian rebel playwright, Henrik Ibsen.”

Body and soul, John Henrik Clarke was a true champion of Black people. He bequeathed us a magnificent legacy of accomplishment and inspiration borne out of the earnest commitment of one irrepressible young man to make a difference in the daily and historical lives of his people. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Viva, John Henrik Clarke!
Resource: Black College Online

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That Literary Lady

yb1

Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant, also known as That Literary Lady, is an author, freelance writer, public speaker and consultant. Yolanda became a published author in 2004, with her debut novel “My Daughter’s Keeper.” She followed up with her sophomore novel in 2005 with “Circumstances.” In 2012 she released “Revelations” and is pegged to release “27 Flagship Cove” in January 2013.

Yolanda began writing at an early age. She wrote poetry as a child and wrote lyrics to songs performed by her high school girl band. She knew this writing thing was more than just a hobby when, in 1999, she entered a short story contest sponsored by Playboy Magazine and Fastweb.com. Yolanda won the first place prize of $1500. From there she started her first manuscript and nearly a dozen story lines were created.

After sending letters to agents and getting a rejection letter from one agent and no response at all from another, Yolanda set out to learn everything she could about the publishing and literary industry and decided to self-publish her work. After experiencing various growing pangs in the industry, she decided to be a resource and help other writers and authors who sought to self-publish. She consults writers in the processes of self-publishing, marketing, social media and entrepreneurship.

Having an educational background in computer sciences and information technology, Yolanda has also been fascinated with the evolution and advances of technology and social media venues. She always strives to be on the cutting edge of technology and social promotion.

Yolanda often offers consultation, workshops and classes advocating both youth and adult literacy. Through her company, Literary Wonders! and Literary Wonders Kids!, she conducts scholarship and anthology projects and considers herself a valuable resource to the literary and publishing communities.

Yolanda gives workshops and classes in the community to promote literacy and entrepreneurship. She has participated with such organizations as the Greensboro Public Library, Christians in the Marketplace, The Nussbaum Center of Entrepreneurship and Women’s Entrepreneurship Learning and Leading, (W.E.L.L.). She currently volunteers with Junior Achievement, the Volunteer Center of Greensboro and is a mentor for The Women’s Resource Center’s New Choices Program.

Yolanda is the Area 42 Governor for North Carolina District 37, Division E Toastmasters. She serves as Vice President of Education for Speakerpreneur Toastmasters, is a current and charter member of MprovMasters Toastmasters and is the Assistant Division Governor of PR for Division E Toastmasters.

Connect with Yolanda on these social networks:

Facebook Fan Pages – https://www.facebook.com/YolandaJohnsonBryant, https://www.facebook.com/ThatLiteraryLady
Twitter – @ymjauthor, @thtliterarylady
Blog: http://lwtheauthorshideaway.blogspot.com/
Podcast/Radio Show – http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/on-the-air-with-that-literary/id498160831

Websites:
www.yolandamjohnson.com
www.thatliterarylady.com
www.bryantconsultingonline.com
www.lwmediagroup.com
www.literarywonders.com
www.literarywonderskids.com
www.sweetheartsofthetriad.rr.com

Author Interview

Would you like to introduce yourself to readers?

Hello all! I am Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant, also known as that Literary Lady. I’m originally from Denver, Colorado but currently live in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina with my wonderful husband. I am the author of several books, the latest being Revelations. I am currently working on a few titles due out in 2013. I am a freelance writer and columnist. I am also the host of “On the Air With That Literary Lady” which is podcasted on iTunes. I am the mother of two grown children and three beautiful grandchildren.

What is your current or most recent project?

I have several projects in the works. I recently created Sweethearts of the Triad, an organization that recognizes women entrepreneurs and community servers. We will be having our first annual Sweetheart of the Year Luncheon in December. I am working on 27 Flagship Cove, my first novel in the Tommie Lane Christian Thriller Series; Someone to Watch Over Me, my first teen book and the first book in my That Literary Lady Knows Series, that will address everything from public speaking to publishing, to social media.

What are you planning to write next?

I will continue with my Tommie Lane Christian Thriller Series, the That Literary Lady Knows Series, and a novel about domestic violence. In addition, readers have told me they’d like to see more of Renee Matthews, so I will be penning that at the end of 2013.

Are you a member of a writers group? Have you attended writing courses or seminars? Have these been helpful to you?

Currently, I a member of several online writing groups. I have weaned off most of my offline writing groups due to my busy schedule. I attend writing workshop on a regular as well as conduct them. I find that some are helpful, while others aren’t helpful. That isn’t to say they are not helpful to someone that is less experienced.

Have you other interests outside of writing? What do you do with your spare time?

I know this is an oxymoron for a writer to say, but I also love to read. In addition, I love to spend time with my husband, talking trash about sports—he’s a Broncos fan and I’m a Cowboys fan. I love interior decorating, so I’m always doing something around the house. I also do a lot of community work.

What’s the most useful ‘how to’ advice you’ve encountered?

Being a business owner, my writing often takes a backseat to my clients. With that being said, the most useful advice, not necessarily how-to, came from my husband recently. He said, “Babe, you’re always helping everyone else. You’ve helped people that were less experienced than you, now they have more books out than you. You need to take some time to do you.” And, this is so true. It’s okay to help others, but not at the risk of losing your dream.

Tell us a little about your book(s).

Circumstances – Renee Matthews is desperately searching for inner peace and her rightful place in life. She is daunted by a mentally abusive, self-proclaimed spiritual mother—Barbara Jean Jackson—who keeps her torn between her personal insecurities and her desire to love and to be loved.

She succumbs to fear as she turns down the proposal of long-time friend, Charlie Thatcher, in fear of his racist mother. Trying to reclaim her life, Renee falls in love with Stuart Humphries, a man she met over the Internet. Within Stuart’s past, lies a secret that even he has yet to learn while within Renee’s past, a secret lies in wait for its resurrection, with hopes of destroying everyone, including Renee.

Revelations – In Circumstances, Renee Matthews left behind the painful memories of Denver and her mother, Barbara Jean, for promises of happiness in San Diego. With a prominent position at one of the country’s largest securities firm, Renee has found financial security, self-acceptance, friendship, and love with Stuart Humphries—this is until Barbara Jean interrupts her wedding with a bombshell of a secret that will change everyone’s life forever.

Now, the tables have turned. Barbara Jean has fallen ill, and the only person she can count on is her daughter. In spite of all Barbara Jean has done to destroy Renee, she is at her mother’s side. Being ill doesn’t change Barbara Jean’s feelings for her daughter and Renee soon finds out why it is that her mother despises her so much.

The more time Renee spends in Denver with her ailing mother and her family, the more family secrets are revealed. Renee wonders if she will survive the revelations that make up her world, or if her mother will ultimately destroy her.

27 Flagship Cove – Detective Tommie Lane is a veteran of the Greensboro Police Department and following in her father’s footsteps. A serial killer is on the loose and he’s targeting prominent Christian women and leaving a trail all the way from Denver to Greensboro. Det. Lane and her crew must catch the killer before she becomes one of the “Holy Roller” killer’s victims.

What genre do you consider yourself?

I hate putting myself in a box because you’ll never know which direction I’ll come from, but if I absolutely had to put myself in a category, it would simply be women’s issues. Everything I write is geared towards women, whether it is a fiction title, a non-fiction title or a business title, but it can be utilized by all.

Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?

I write because it enables me to express myself and be creative. In the interim, I am able to help others. God has given me many revelations and things to write about, not to mention, my life is full of great material. If I could do nothing else, I would write. If I didn’t get paid for it, I’d still write. Writing is who and what I am.

Where can we purchase your books?

My books can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and on my websites: www.yolandamjohnson.com, www.thatliterarylady.com.

For other outlets, just “Google me!”

http://johntwills.com


The One And Only

lenaLena Horne, the electrifying beauty and uncompromising performer, shattered racial boundaries by changing the way Hollywood presented black women for six-decades through a singing career on stage, television and in films.

She is best described in her own words saying “my identity was clear because I no longer have to be a ‘credit,’ I don’t have to be a ‘symbol’ to anybody. I don’t have to be a ‘first’ to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her father was a civil servant and gambler who largely abandoned the family. Her mother, an actress, was largely absent from Ms. Horne’s early life because of work on the black theater circuit. Shifted at first among friends and relatives, Ms. Horne was raised mostly by her maternal grandmother, a stern social worker and suffragette in Bedford-Stuyvesant; then a middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood. Ms. Horne said she was influenced by her grandmother’s “polite ferocity.”

She was the first black woman to sign a meaningful long-term contract with a major studio, a contract that said she would never have to play a maid. This single act transformed the image of the African American woman in Hollywood. As film historian Donald Bogle said, “Movies are a powerful medium and always depicted African American women before Lena Horne as hefty, mammy-like maids who were ditzy and giggling… Lena Horne becomes the first one the studios begin to look at differently… Really just by being there, being composed and onscreen with her dignity intact paved the way for a new day” for black actresses.

Her reputation in Hollywood rested on a handful of classic musical films. Among the best were two all-black musicals from 1943: “Cabin in the Sky,” as a small-town temptress who pursues Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and “Stormy Weather,” in which she played a career-obsessed singer opposite Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. She shared billing with hugely famous white entertainers such as Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney and Red Skelton but was segregated onscreen so producers could clip out her singing when the movies ran in the South.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios featured Ms. Horne in movies and advertisements as glamorously as white beauties including Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. James Gavin, who has written a biography of Ms. Horne, said: “Given the horrible restrictions of the time, MGM bent over backward to do everything they could. After MGM, she was an international star, and that made her later career possible, made her a superstar.”

Ms. Horne appeared on television and at major concerts halls in New York, London and Paris. She starred on Broadway twice, and her 1981 revue, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” set the standard for the one-person musical show, reviewers said. The performance also netted her a special Tony Award and two Grammy Awards. She was formidable and the first black cabaret star for white society.

As a songstress her repertoire consisted of sophisticated ballads of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Billy Strayhorn. She loved the music but also said she liked surprising the white audience who expected black entertainers to sing hot jazz or blues and dance wildly. In her singing, Ms. Horne showed great range and could convincingly shift between jazz, blues and cabaret ballads. New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett praised her “sense of dynamics that allowed her to whisper and wheedle and shout.”

In 1963, Ms. Horne appeared at the civil rights March on Washington with Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory and was part of a group, which included authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry that met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to urge a more active approach to desegregation.

Ms. Horne also used her celebrity to rally front-line civil rights activists in the South and was a fundraiser for civil right groups including the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women. After the triumph of her 1981 Broadway show, she led an increasingly isolated life in her Manhattan apartment.

Over my lifetime I have seen and known giants who have illuminated the world. No star has shined brighter than “The Horne”. Ms. Horne as you take your rest among the ghost of the greats now belong to the ages. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com


Racism Is Alive

racimHave you asked yourself “What is Racism?” Webster says it is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and racial differences that produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. This does not adequately explain or represent the reality of what we’re witnessing in today’s political and social environments. I believe racism is a misunderstood psychology, and yes there is a psychology to racism, which causes the confusion in the minds of many.

Today we see that racial prejudice or discrimination, which is a prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment is somehow believed to be directed toward people of the dominate race that they’re calling reverse discrimination. Yet, those same people enjoy the wealth built on the backs of those who were truly discriminated against as a result of racism. Case in point, every so many years the Voting Rights Act must be reauthorized so African Americans can have the right to vote. Shouldn’t it be permanent as the founding documents claim that “All men are created equal”!

The legacy of dependency, apathy, and entrenchment of the American social order from the beginning provides clear evidence of its diabolical intent to bankrupt the souls of African Americans based on an ideology of supremacy. We are the descendents of stolen souls who bear the burden of a system that perpetrated, in the name of God, the greatest crime known to man. Hence, from the beginning, people of African descent were intended to be a nation of people living within a nation without a nationality.

~ “Law and Order” music plays ~

I read an article, “When Racists Speak Their Unspoken Truths” by Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., who made a statement that speaks loudly to this issue. “It’s what racists claimed for 235 years that American society is about rights (mainly theirs, everybody else’s can be stepped on) and not about race. It’s why racists wore hoods and sheets in public, and why their powerful societies that controlled political and economic affairs were always secret. The less you know about what they think, the less you can respond to how they think, even though the social, political and economic outcomes will tell you what they think.” It seems that those who claim racism, or not, are active participants in the continuance of this ideology and (in their minds) think they are now subjected to it.

I think we should understand the sub-text of what we are seeing today, at least from a power and political perspective. Let look at, for example, the strategic effort to marginalize a black President, which is consistent with the Republican Party’s objective of marginalizing the Democratic Party because of its large minority support. Now just like back in the days of segregation, its staunchest supporters were Southerners, Mid-Westerners and poor whites, and those people of that mindset didn’t vote for President Obama anyway. They are probably in a state of shock because much of the country overcame their racial insensibilities to elect a black President in the first place. We see how far and deep racism is within certain elements of society as a result.

African American’s, and other minorities, must understand that many blacks still bear the scars of a despicable history and the untreated wounds of our forefather’s bondage. As you have traveled with me though my chronicles, my purpose is to simply offer explanations causing people to look at and understand the root cause of the asymptomatic behaviors, and that this is the result of conditioning by a system that never viewed us as equal.

This intolerance or behavior was 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, African American, and worst. All were polite terms assigned to make known that people who of color were not American citizens. Remember the statement in the country’s blueprint that says clearly “3/5 a man” and did not mention women at all.

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 include the age old practice, that has been very effective, “divide and conquer” because this form of thinking has one purpose; the system is designed to protect the system. Therefore, when you look at the facts of what we have experienced and what they imply relating to this new phenomenon is as far apart as the vastness of the universe.

As tenacious beings, we must understand that there is no such thing as an inferior mind unless you listen to the untruth. 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. So I say it’s time for an awakening, if for no other reason than to honor those who sacrificed so much in order that we could live life in abundance. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com


Christians with Pervasive Issues

book coverAbout The Book

Even as a faithful Christian, there may be times when you feel that there is no hope of escaping issues and themes in your life that ensnare and trip you up time and time again. When a certain pattern of behavior or type of suffering has been following you all your life, it’s hard to believe that you can ever escape from it. Christians with Pervasive Issues shows us that every child of God can be delivered from issues that cause them to be a victim, rather than walking in victory. In compassionate, no-nonsense language, Annie Brown demonstrates that with genuine repentance, using God’s principles, and the right counseling/support, you can overcome anything. Christians with Pervasive Issues gives you the ray of hope you need in order to heal your life, and get closer to God.

About The Author

photoAnnie Brown is the mother of four adult children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. She is a licensed minister and social worker. As a social worker, Annie works the terminally ill, providing emotional support at the most critical time in an individual’s life. It is Annie’s desire that Christians work through their pervasive issues before the end of life, so that the transition between death and eternity can be smooth, and not cluttered with unresolved conflicts.

The Meaning of Pervasive Issues

I WAS GETTING ready for work and suddenly the words “Pervasive Issues” were dropped into my spirit. Can you imagine someone who is not normally a morning person having something so important to deal with? I could not even think of the meaning of “pervasive,” so I could not comprehend what was being said to me. I went on to work, but it did not leave me. I shared what had been dropped into my spirit with my co-worker who is an encourager. He gave me a push to pursue the message the Spirit was conveying, and to understand what God wanted me to write. I could not begin until I did some preliminary homework. I had to figure out what part of speech that “pervasive” was. “Pervasive” is an adjective, which served as a modifier to the noun (issue). Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined it as “spreading through every part.” If an issue is pervasive, it permeates the whole of something. Pervasive issues need to be dealt with within the Body of Christ.

Book Excerpt

A Remedy to Get to the Root of the Problem

WHAT IS NEEDED is that the people of God “must” clean out their secret compartments and confess that they need the Lord to deliver them. Confession is made unto salvation (deliverance). If we confess our faults, the Lord is faithful in forgiving us. You may ask, “Why do I have to confess if I was not responsible for what happened to me?”

The issue then becomes whether you have forgiven the person that caused me this harm. If there is no forgiveness, then you become a victim twice: a victim of circumstance, and a victim of bondage. This can be in some ways more dangerous than cancer. This will always be eating away at you. With cancer, at least you know what is going on in your body. Being a victim of circumstance and having an unforgiving heart bring torment. This torment becomes a part of you in such a way that it eats through your mind, destroys your inner peace, and puts your soul in jeopardy because it becomes a heart matter of sin.

Recognizing There Is a Need

EVERY INDIVIDUAL IN the Body of Christ has strengths and needs. Most times the two words strength and weakness are used to describe parts of your abilities to cope. I like the word needs instead of weakness, because weakness denotes that I just cannot help it.

However, the word need helps me to understand that I am insufficient within myself to furnish the supply. In other words, I don’t have what it takes to get this matter taken care of and I “need” help. Help, Lord! The Word of God has declared that God will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory. Denying our helplessness and unwillingness to take the need to God only prolongs getting deliverance and healing. The Lord revealed that the Body of Christ was compared to harvest time when it is gone and the people are left in dire need.

Let us look at Jeremiah 8:20, which stated, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved [delivered].”

Connect with the Author

Email Address: aclara2002@yahoo.com
Website www.outskirtspress.com/christianswithpervasiveissues
Facebook link

Order a copy

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Christians-with-Pervasive-Issues-ebook/dp/B005IAAPMK/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Outskirts Press: http://outskirtspress.com/webpage.php?ISBN=9781432775766

Tour Schedule: Write Now Literary Virtual Book Tour http://wnlbooktours.com/annie-brown/

http://johntwills.com


The Snake

sMy Granddaddy would tell me fascinating stories designed to develop and guide me into manhood. In fact, he would specifically use the phrase: “I raised you to be a man and as a man, you don’t know what you may have to do but when the time comes, you do it.” I heard this that even today it brings a warm smile – “when I have to do it”. He said it so often throughout my youth that to me it was more like a commandment.

I loved Granddaddy more than life itself. I knew, even then, his teachings were an inspired declaration of his celestial will or more simply put – his vision that shaped my destiny defining my purpose. Pop’s would teach me lessons, often times, like an Aesop Fables to make me think and it was my job to figure out the moral of the story.

This is my favorite:

The way the story was told to me, Granddaddy’s friend, Mr. Bob whose job was to offer a prayer every Sunday morning at church during the service prior to the preacher’s sermon, a job he had held for years. Sunday was a special day for the community, and for him to have a position where he would have the attention of everyone was a big deal. More accurately stated it was a platform for him to perform. He would have been a great entertainer.

Mr. Bob would walk to church every Sunday morning, rain or shine, from his home. The trip was several miles up and down hills and around curves, and he would be dressed in his best suit for the morning service. During the walk he would practice his part for the service, the prayer, with the intention of making it a show complete with screams and tears. This show would sometimes last thirty minutes. There were many Sundays one would wonder how one man could have so much to ask of the Lord and maybe say, please, let somebody else get a blessing.

On his way to church this particular Sunday, Mr. Bob came across an injured snake. In what he perceived as divine intervention, God said to him, help this poor creature. He realized he did not have a prayer for that day’s service, so he thought, wow, if I help the snake I can pray for us to have the strength to help all of God’s creatures. Since the snake is the lowliest of all creatures, this would really inspire the congregation and hopefully give them the encouragement to do the same at least until next Sunday’s message. So he picked up the badly injured snake and placed him in a safe place until he could return from church.

With great energy, and now inspired, Mr. Bob went on his way. He planned and practiced his prayer as he marched on to church. After he arrived and exchanged a few greetings, the service began with a joyful noise, as they say, meaning full of song. Then it was his turn to pray. He began to pray with a powerful tone, full of emotion. He asked God to give each person within the sound of his voice the strength to reach out and help all God’s creatures, from the loving dove to the lowly snake. His message had many in the tiny church standing with shouts of Amen. He felt he had done his job as he closed, asking God to bless the church and said Amen. In his usual style this took about a half hour.

To his surprise, the pastor also chose a sermon nearly identical to his message which took about another hour and a half, talking about helping all of God’s creatures. What a great day it was, Mr. Bob thought. Normally after the service ended everyone hung around and fellowshipped as it was one of the few chances they had to socialize. Mr. Bob would not hang around on this day – he had a mission and left church in a hurry. He rushed back to the spot where his injured snake was placed hoping it would still be there. He was very excited when he arrived to find it was where he left it. He put his snake in a burlap bag he had gotten from the church and took the snake home.

Over the next several weeks Mr. Bob cared for this creature, desperately trying to save the snake and nursing it back to health. About three weeks later he thought it was time to take his snake back to where he found it, thinking it was well enough to be set free. The following Sunday, he put on his best suit and started his journey to church with snake in hand. As he arrived at the spot where he had found it, he thought, what a wonderful thing he had done. He was sure to receive God’s blessing for this act of kindness.

He rubbed the snake gently and said goodbye. However, when he reached into the bag to grab it, suddenly the snake raised his head and bit him. Then bit him again and again. Mr. Bob cried out, “Why would you bite me after all I’ve done for you? My God why?” I guess he was expecting an answer from God, but none came. He repeated his cry once more. Then the snake stuck his head out of the bag and said, “I am a snake and that’s what we do.”After hearing this story over and over again, I finally figured out what it meant. It was a lesson that would prove to be invaluable.

Be careful in your dealings with people because people, just like the snake, will hurt you – that’s what they do. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Just a Season Excerptjust a season large book cover © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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His-Story: The Bush Library

amd-bush-pet-goat-jpgHistory has repeatedly shown that, as it is written, it is generally a pack of lies. Well “W” is in the spotlight as he gets to reinvent a narrative to reflect his presidency. This is always a good thing, if there was something positive or meaningful to say. I seriously doubt there will be anything that reflects what most of us view as a disaster. The first clue was choosing “Shooter” as Vice President!

In my view there were several issues or failures of his two terms as president. One was the lasting image of his continuing to read a picture book to grade-schoolers after his top aides told him that the World Trade Center’s had been attacked on 9/11. The second thing that stands out is his response to hurricane Katrina. Can’t you still see him smiling as he looked out of the window of Air Force One during his “fly-bye” or over of New Orleans and when he finally showed-up all the heaping praise he gave Brownie for doing a “heck of a job”?

I understand that history is written by the victors and long after those who witnessed the events are dead – the story will change and a very different rendition will be installed. We should have known his presidency would be a disaster from the very start when he stole the election. He came into office with a sizeable surplus and left America with the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. Of course we should remember “No Child Left Behind” where every child was left behind.

On his watch the worst attack ever on American soil occurred which caused him to take us into two unfunded wars where we are still fighting ten years later. Not to mention all of the deaths and carnage from them during his reign. Surely we cannot forget the “tax cuts” for the rich. He is in most circles known as the biggest spender of any president. Ok, just hold on I am going to get to something good!

Here is the good part: it is much easier to honor, respect and even like the man — now that he’s no longer in the White House. The other good thing is that his presidency will fall behind Nixon and Andrew Johnson who distinctively said, “”This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.” — Andrew Johnson, 1866

Many will remember Bush as a contender for the “worst president ever”. More might argue that he more aptly deserves a multi-million-dollar prison cell for a litany of war crimes and not a structure filled with misgivings, he calls a presidential library. With this he can now say “Mission Accomplished”. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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R.I.P Richie Havens “Freedom”

th 11To mark the passing of legendary protest singer Richie Havens.  I share his performance of “Freedom” in memory of his protest against the Iraq War. You may recall the song from Havens’ performance at Woodstock, where he was the first act to take the stage, and did so quite dramatically. After a nearly 50-year career, Havens died Monday at age 72 in his New Jersey home after a sudden heart attack.

Rest In Peace my brother! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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The Apollo Theater Connection

FotoFlexer_PhotoIn the early 70s a new breed of gangsters appeared in the hamlet of Harlem who were very different from the legendary figures of old, such as Madam Queen and Bumpy Johnson. We’ve all heard of Frank Lucas whose power derived from cutting out the middle man and Nicky Barnes who came to be known as “Mr. Untouchable” who established the mafia like “Council”.

There have been books and movies about these guys, deserved or not, but their stature has gained near legendary status. But there was one member of the notorious or so-called Council that is seldom mentioned. He is Guy Fisher who is the only BLACK MAN to own an icon of our culture “The Apollo Theater”. That’s right, the world renowned and legendary Apollo Theater throughout its existence has only been owned by one BLACK MAN. I found this amazing!

Fisher saw his narrow escape from prison as a second lease on life after a case that ended in a huge jury and decided to become a legitimate businessman. In early 1978, using monies he’d earned through the heroin trade, Fisher purchased the crumbling Apollo Theater in Harlem. He placed the deed in his half brother’s name, and began employing members of the neighborhood to help in its rehabilitation. In May of that year, the new Apollo was unveiled to the community, drawing Motown acts such as Gladys Knight, The Temptations, and other legends.

By 1973, at the age of 25, Fisher made it into Barnes’ exclusive underground organization, The Council, which consisted of a seven-member circle of trusted associates. Each of the individual partners in Barnes’ syndicate had their own crew of men to distribute heroin to smaller dealers. They would then collect the drug money, and distribute the profits accordingly. Through these dealings, Barnes and Fisher became close friends and confidantes. They also began investing in businesses together, including two, multi-million dollar housing complexes.

A year later, local police stopped Fisher for a routine traffic violation. Fisher was using a false driver’s license, and attempted to evade arrest by bribing law enforcement agents with $100,000 he had stashed in his trunk. The officials refused the money, and the incident landed Fisher in prison for nine months. While serving his time, The Council was under close investigation by undercover law enforcement agents for their dealings in the heroin trade.

In 1977, sparked by an article in The New York Times magazine naming Barnes “Mr. Untouchable,” then-President Jimmy Carter placed enormous pressure on federal agents to dismantle The Council. That September, Barnes and The Council were placed on trial. Much of the federal law enforcement’s undercover surveillance of Barnes and his group occurred while Fisher was imprisoned.

Because of this fact, Fisher’s lawyer was able to argue that his client did not participate in the conspiracy mentioned in the federal case. This fact led to a hung jury in Fisher’s trial, and he became the only member to escape sentencing. Despite his legitimate success, Fisher resumed the heroin trade as head of The Council with Barnes’ help. But after money for Barnes’ legal fees started to disappear, the former drug kingpin grew resentful of Fisher’s success on the outside. The final straw came when Fisher began an affair with one of Barnes’ girlfriends. Feeling betrayed, Barnes broke the code of The Council and turned informant in the early 80s.

In March of 1983, using information Barnes supplied, federal agents finally gathered enough evidence to put Fisher and several of his associates on trial. He was sentenced to life without parole for his role in running a criminal enterprise, and was sent to Marion Federal Prison in Illinois. While in prison, Fisher wrote several novels, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and began mentoring inmates. In 2008, he completed his Ph.D. in sociology. He continues to serve his life sentence, despite several appeals, at the United States Penitentiary, Tucson in Arizona..

Despite how the ill gotten gains were obtained I wondered how many people knew that we never owned one of the African American community’s most recognizable and distinguished icons. Maybe I’ll just call this a little known fact hidden in black history. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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The State Of Black America

 State-of-Black-America

We will soon commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was a watershed moment in our history. However, we must be mindful that it was not a welcomed event as most of white America and the Kennedy Administration were very much against such a gathering of blacks in the nation’s capital. I am saddened to say that as a community, we are not much better off today than we were fifty years ago.

I’m not saying that there has not been significant and important progress in the last 50 years. Surely for some, but if Dr. King were to have an opinion – he would be very displeased. Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, believes there’s a decrease in poverty, increases in high school graduation rates and enrollment rates”. This may well be true but I wonder what statistics has he’s seen to come to this conclusion.

I don’t profess to be as honorable or noteworthy as some of our so-called leaders but the disparity between black Americans and white Americans when it comes to jobs, income, healthcare and wealth remains vast and much too large. When you look at the urban communities – the African American plight is worse than ever in most of these categories.

Recently, several organizations gathered for the release of the annual “State of Black America” report, which highlighted the economic forecast for African Americans. Although the report is presented annually, this year, the Urban League commissioned a half-century study to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia Fudge reported that “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”. Yet, they say the percentage of blacks living in poverty has declined 23 points and the percentage of black children living in poverty is down by 22 points since 1963.

It is worth mentioning that the march was prior to the signing of any of the landmark civil rights legislation which adds little credibility to that statement. It is also noteworthy to remember that at that time, in 1963, Jim Crow was the law of the land and its restrictions did not allow us to use the same bathrooms or eat at lunch counters. So, if you consider this environment – minimal gains have been made to be viewed as great progress.  

The report credits the civil rights measures that were enacted to open the doors of opportunity for blacks in education and standards of living. Rep. Chaka Fattah said, “It is without contradiction that African Americans have made extraordinary progress in the report… But, compared to the majority, we still have some room to grow”. I wonder if his constituents would agree in Philadelphia?

Morial then said, as the budget debate continues in Washington on whether to cut critical program funding, the “State of Black America 2013” highlights a harsh reality. “Budget cutting fever will cause economic pneumonia. If we are to move toward a lasting economic recovery, full equality and empowerment, we must apply sustainable solutions keenly focusing on jobs for all Americans and closing the gaps that result in a tale of two Americas”.

 I will tell you that I have lived long enough to have witnessed and know that people will say anything, regardless of complication, on any subject. Many will say “there is no race problem. There’s a black president”. Or they will point to the few, out 42 million, successful African Americans, and I am proud of them.

However, as we commemorate the March that produced the famous “I have a Dream Speech” I believe it is fair to say that most African Americans will see the remnants of the “Dream” more as a “Nightmare”. I have to say from my vantage point the forecast looks GRIM! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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