Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mi Familia/Christmas Pose

Here's my family at Christmas time!

Left to right: Mary (My mommy), Auntie T, Uncle Noonie, Auntie Dot, and Auntie Chicken.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Know I've Been Changed

I know I've been Changed.
The angels in heaven done signed my name.

Honesty is More than Just a Word

If you're not honest with yourself, then it's impossible for you to be honest with anybody else.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This Train is Bound for Glory/Oh, Mary Don't You Weep

This Train Is Bound For Glory

This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory,
Don't carry nothing but the righteous and the holy.
This train is bound for glory, this train.

This train don't carry no gamblers, this train;
This train don't carry no gamblers, this train;
This train don't carry no gamblers,
Liars, thieves, nor big shot ramblers,
This train is bound for glory, this train.

This train don't carry no liars, this train;
This train don't carry no liars, this train;
This train don't carry no liars,
She's streamlined and a midnight flyer,
This train don't carry no liars, this train.

This train don't carry no smokers, this train;
This train don't carry no smokers, this train
This train don't carry no smokers,
Two bit liars, small time jokers,
This train don't carry no smokers, this train.

This train don't carry no con men, this train;
This train don't carry no con men, this train;
This train don't carry no con men,
No wheeler dealers, here and gone men,
This train don't carry no con men, this train.

This train don't carry no rustlers, this train;
This train don't carry no rustlers, this train;
This train don't carry no rustlers,
Sidestreet walkers, two bit hustlers,
This train is bound for glory, this train.

And here are The Caravans singing, Oh Mary Don't You Weep

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ruined: A Play about War and Prostitution

"You will not fight your battles on my body anymore."

You'll hear these words spoken by Salima, a character in the play "Ruined," if you get to see this production at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York next month. In the piece, Salima and some other women in the Democratic Rebublic of Congo have become prostitutes in order to survive, after being tortured and raped by soldiers fighting in a civil war Republic of Congo.

Playwright Lynn Nottage based "Ruined" on the present-day plight of the women and girls in the Congo who are defiled everyday in this region. In the play, Mama Nadi, the owner of a bar and brothel in the rainforest jungle of the Congo, purchases women for prostitution. She offers the women what she sees as the lesser of two evils -- they can sell their bodies for money or continue to be tortured and raped by monstrous fighters.

"In this world, the circumstance that draws the greatest alarm is women who are, as the title tells us, "ruined," who have been raped so horribly that prostitution is an impossibility," writes Steven Oxman in the November 17 issue of Variety. The play begins with a Congolese man talking Mama Nadi into accepting his "ruined" niece Sophie into her brothel in an attempt to protect her from the vultures outside the doors of her establishment.

Salima has come to Mama Nadi's place seeking refuge from the rape and her unsympathetic husband who threw her out after she was violated. Salima, whose husband now sees her as "ruined," ends her inner angst by killing herself.

Alexis Greene writes this about the play and its subject matter in the summer 2008 issue of On the Issues: A Progressive Woman's Magazine

Nottage, who received the MacArthur Foundation’s so-called “genius” award in 2007, believes it’s her “social responsibility” to shine a light on issues and situations that often do not make the headlines.

Nottage and Kate Whoriskey, the play's director, could not enter the Congo, which was still in the middle of its own (ten-year) war. But they flew into Uganda, where Amnesty International, for which Nottage had once worked, set up interviews with Congolese refugee women.

The stories the women told were horrific.

“Regardless of age, social status or race—in one case we interviewed a white woman who was a refugee—they all had one thing in common,” says Nottage. “They had been raped. [They were violated brutally] with things like bayonets,” she said.

Mutilated and shamed, the women found themselves to be outcasts. “Their husbands had rejected them,” says Nottage. “Their communities had rejected them. Friends didn’t want to take them in, because they had leakage and smelled of urine. They needed money for medical expenses and operations, and the only thing they could do was turn to prostitution.”

"Ruined" will begin limited previews at the Manhattan Theatre Club, 131 West 55th Street, on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 and open Tuesday, February 10. See it if you can.

Below: Lynn Nottage, author of "Ruined"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Using Celebrity to Stop Killing and Violence

Some people criticize celebrities for speaking out about issues and political concerns that they champion, but I say, what's the point of being a celebrity or any famous person if you can't put that fame to good use?

Mia Farrow is one celebrity that's using her notoriety to help bring justice to a part of Africa that's in deep turmoil. She has spoken out about the atrocities happening in the North Kivu area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where people are being killed, displaced, and women and girls (as young as one) are being tortured and raped.

In September fighting resumed in the Congo’s North Kivu province between the rebel group led by Laurent Nkunda and government forces, in violation of a peace accord signed in January. As many as 250,000 people have been displaced since the violent conflict re-ignited in August, bringing the region’s total displacement figure to over 2 million.

After a 3-day mission to North Kivu, Farrow, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, told United Nations Radio that, "In their own homes, people are raped, tortured, mutilated, murdered and abducted. Everyone is in flight mode. People are moving from place to place as the fighting erupts. Some people have fled more than 10 times but in fact nowhere is safe."

Farrow talked particularly about the women and girls who are victims of rampage.

The United Nations Radio division reports:

[Farrow] gives an example. Here's the story of one woman, Bernadette:

Mia: She said my life..has been completely destroyed. My insides are destroyed. They came into my home in the night. They forced the door open. My husband was away. I was pregnant. They raped me. I lost the baby and developed fistula. I became very sick. My husband left me. Aid workers brought me here.

Narrator: One woman reported to Ms. Farrow that soldiers came every afternoon to rape women and girls, some as young as one year old. That woman asked Ms. Farrow to convey this message:

Mia: We are terrified of the military groups. We are all scared. To you who have the means, please tell the world we need protection. We need peace. Those who are fighting must be made to stop. Those who support them should be made to stop. We have been waiting for protection but no one is coming.

I'm praying that President-Elect Obama, with his close ties to the African continent will take a keen interest in stopping these atrocities that are happening to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If you're planning to write letters to the President after he's in office, why not pen one that calls for the U.S. to help stop this evil.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Right to be Children of God

John 1:10-13 (New International Version)

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.


We may wonder whom can I love and serve?
Where is the face of God to whom I can pray?
The answer is simple. That naked one. That lonely
one. That unwanted one is my brother and my sister.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten
that we belong to each other.

-- Mother Teresa

Friday, December 12, 2008

Coded Language and the Drug World

New York's Daily News reveals a disturbing practice that's happening on Craigslist. The newspaper highlights some shady deals on Craigslist New York, but I would venture to say that these same tricky posts have landed on Craigslists from various cities in the country and perhaps even the world.

Special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan has enlisted prosecutors from around the country and has also requested that Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster help with an investigation into the drug dealing capers on Craigslist, the Daily News reports.

Secret Language has been used to solicit drugs on the popular Web site. Here are some of the coded posts from New York City that the December 8 issue of New York magazine brought to readers' attention. See if you can decipher the codes:

I need to catch the 420 train - can you help?? -420 (Inwood/Wash. Heights)

Where's Tina?
I want my boyfriend to meet Tina. It'll be his first time meeting her. Actually it would only be my second. We prefer to get together before 8. Earlier would be better ... but whatever's good for you ...

Snow flurries on sale (East Village)
I have snow flurries on sale if you're interested reply back with your email

If you haven't guessed -- "snow" means cocaine, "tina" means crystal meth, and "420" means marijuana.

Here's an excerpt from last month's Daily News story by Patrice O'Shaughnessy about this activity:

Drug dealing on craigslist has become so rampant that the city's special narcotics prosecutor has asked the online trading post to curb the ads, the Daily News has learned.

Bridget Brennan's undercover investigators have bought drugs offered on craigslist personals from dealers ranging from a Citigroup banker to an Ivy Leaguer to a violent felon using a halfway house computer. In the past four years, her office has prosecuted dozens of dealers ...

"Despite devoting considerable resources to prosecuting these cases, drug dealing is still thriving on craigslist," Brennan wrote craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. Brennan said she was inspired to act by a recent agreement between craigslist and attorneys general from 40 states to curb prostitution ads ...

Ten days ago, craigslist unveiled sweeping new measures, in partnership with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to stop its ads from being used for prostitution, child exploitation and other illegal activities.

Craigslist will require "erotic services" providers to pay $10 for each listing and pay with a credit card, which the police will be able to subpoena.

Brennan says the idea could be applied to drug ads.

"I would like members of my staff who have an expertise in prosecuting Internet drug sales to meet with you and explore ways to curb drug dealing on your Web site," her letter says.

In an interview, Brennan said the best course is "to work with them to screen out sellers. They would have to focus on commonly used terms and develop screening mechanisms.

"They'll offer ski tickets in July in New York, and Tina Turner tickets when she's not performing in town." Marijuana ads are more, er, blunt. It is usually referred to by name or as "420."

"We see lots of professionals, people with good jobs, doing it," Brennan said. "They are shocked to get caught."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Developing International Scholars in Our Schools

I’m glad to say that my daughter attends an International Baccalaureate school which works to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to the International Baccalaureate Organization.

In a country, such as ours, which is becoming more and more culturally diverse everyday (thank God), we need such programs to prepare our children for the changing nation and world developing before us.

IB instruction, which many times includes a Character Education component, nurtures students' curiosity about the world and instills in them positive expression and attitudes. The IB Attitude for December is EMPATHY. This is defined as “Imaginatively projecting yourself into another’s situation, in order to understand his/her thoughts, reasoning, and emotions. Caring for and showing concern for the well being of others.”

Let’s all make an oath to practice this attitude, not just for December, but for life –- what do you say?

The International Baccalaureate Organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate, and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why Doesn't She Have Something Else On?

I was pleased to know that my 6-year-old daughter is turned off by certain television images that she herself considers too risque or provocative, not just for her, but period. When she sees a scantily-clad woman exercising or advertising some weight loss program, she runs to me and says, "Mommy, why doesn't she have something else on?" or "Mommy, why are they showing her like that?" I can only tell her that I too think certain images are inappropriate. I usually say something like, "That's not right is it?" scrunch up my face and change the channel.

My daughter has also pointed to pictures in books or magazines that she deems "not right." I have a copy of the book "Confessions of a Video Vixen" by Karrine Steffans that Gigi spotted on the book shelf. (Steffans' book is one of the most depressing books I think I've ever read.)

In it, the former hip hop music video "star" includes revealing pictures of herself, mostly taken on the video shoots. Gigi pointed to one of the pictures and said, "Why do you have this book?" and "Why is she dressed like that?" I had to explain to her that I bought the book so that I could read the woman's story and that the lady chose to pose like that for pictures.

I'm thankful that my daughter knows what's suitable and acceptable in the eyes of the people she spends most of her time with and what some other people -- who have more relaxed views about what's considered appropriate and inappropriate attire -- accept as appropriate.

As I was reading the New York Times online recently, I was pleased to discover this opening sentence from a blog entry by Tara-Parker Pope:

When Addie Swartz was shopping with her 9-year-old daughter and friends, one of the girls noticed a scantily clad model at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. “Why do they have to do that?” one of the girls asked.

Pope then goes on to talk about a book series called Beacon Street Girls that offer young ladies a more healthy option of literature than novels such as “Clique,"
“Gossip Girl" and "A-List" that feature high school girls who obsess about fashion, status and casual sex.

Oh, the horror.

Let's give our young women some inspiring, uplifting, and self-esteem promoting literature to read. They'll thank us for it later, I'm sure.

Here's the rest of Pope's blog entry about the Beacon Street Girls series:

Lake Rescue, one of the books in the series, offers inspiration to overweight girls.

Ms. Swartz describes it as an “aha” moment when the idea for a new book series came to her.

“It made me feel like the world is making them grow up so, so fast,” says Ms. Swartz. “It felt like there were so many messages out there that were bombarding her and her friends and girls her age.”

As a result, Ms. Swartz created the Beacon Street Girls book series. The stories, which revolve around five middle-school girls in Brookline, Mass., are shaped by leading experts in adolescent development, with the goal of helping girls build self-esteem and coping skills. Pictures include the problems of an overweight girl and cyber bullying. This month the series will launch its latest book, “Green Algae and Bubblegum Wars,” a novel aimed at encouraging girls in science. The book is the result of a collaboration with Sally Ride, an astronaut who was the first American woman to orbit Earth.

But can expert health advice wrapped up as fiction really make a difference for the books’ young readers? A surprising new study suggests that for some girls, it can. To learn more, read Pope's full New York Times article here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Toni Morrison and Creative Imagination

Toni Morrison gives a stimulating interview in The Nation's November issue. She talks a bit about her admiration of Barack Obama and her new novel, A Mercy. I love Toni Morrison. Like a few other female writers and performers, including Mariama Ba, Gloria Naylor and Nina Simone -- Ms. Morrison feels like a member of my family. I've learned so much from her about the arts, life, and spiritual matters. She is simply a Queen.

Here's a small excerpt from her recent interview feature in The Nation. I'm looking for more commentaries on Obama from Black women and other women of color that don't trivialize or sexualize Mr. Obama. This country is overflowing with that kind of sentiment -- sexual exploitation and overstimulation. We don't need more of that kind of treatment of Obama, especially among those of us who have been objectified and sexualized over and over, and many times, inappropriately. Let's give some reverence and respect to the man who will be our leader. Check out what Ms. Morrison has to say about Mr. Obama:

Christine Smallwood (The Nation):

Last year, in your letter endorsing Barack Obama, you specifically cited his "creative imagination." What do you think of him as a writer?

Toni Morrison:

I think my introduction to him was the speech at the Democratic National Convention, you know, back in 2004. And then I read his book Dreams From My Father, and I was amazed because he writes so well. Really well, with really nice big, strong, artful sentences. But equally important was his reflection. You know, I'm not accustomed to that. I've read memoirs where people talk about their lives, and sometimes they're modest. Sometimes they excuse themselves--you know, the big ones, like My Life by Bill Clinton. They're very interesting books, but nobody was a writer, with reflection and change and meditation and strength. Dreams From My Father was very, very compelling. So I got interested in him.

Read the entire article, "Back Talk: Toni Morrison," in The Nation here.

And here's an excerpt from Toni Morrison's Letter to Barack Obama, in which she edorsed the Illinois Senator during the Democratic primary season:

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Editing Project: Killing Stereotypes

This week I finished editing my first in-class project using Final Cut Pro. We used footage given to us by our instructor, along with some of Rza’s music from the Kill Bill soundtrack. The video clips featured apparent Latino gang members who are meeting up at some back alley to perhaps go to war. But when they go to pull out their weapons (baby bottles filled with milk), you realize they are only teasing us and are actually fathers who are meeting up at a picnic gathering with their children and other family members.

The goal of the project was to build the intensity of the scene and reveal the surprise at the end (it also makes a commentary on certain stereotypes about young Latino men). The Kill Bill music helps, as does the way one might choose to piece the clips together.

I worked hard on it y’all. I’m pleased to say that after I showed mine to the class, they all applauded. What a thrill! I can’t wait to actually edit my first real project using my own footage. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s a trailer from Kill Bill that includes the music that I used for my assignment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba: Musical Mother of South Africa

Mail and Guardian

Nelson Mandela praised Miriam Makeba as a "mother" of modern South Africa, who gave voice to the anti-apartheid struggle, as tributes poured in on Monday for the legendary singer.

Makeba (76), who was widely known as "Mama Africa," collapsed on Sunday after a concert in Italy. She later died of a heart attack in hospital.

"She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Africa. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours," Mandela said in a statement.

"Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation, which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us," he said.

The African National Congress, which spearheaded the anti-apartheid struggle, hailed her musical contribution to the fight against the white-minority government.

"The passing of this African songstress leaves a gaping hole in the cultural life of our country and the African continent," said party leader Jacob Zuma.

"Miriam Makeba used her voice, not merely to entertain, but to give a voice to the millions of oppressed South Africans under the yoke of apartheid," said Zuma.

"Miriam was an indefatigable African patriot who used her immense talent in the service of her people and the struggle for freedom and democracy, not only in South Africa, but in the continent as a whole."

Fellow African musical giant Youssou Ndour mourned her death as a loss to the world's music.

"It really is a great loss for Africa, for African music and all music," he told a Senegalese radio station. "She was somebody who did a lot for Africa, and in general for black people. It is a great loss."

In Sierra Leone, where Makeba was well known for frequent weekend shopping trips or playing concerts when she lived in neighbouring Guinea in the early 1990s, radio stations played her songs, including her famous hit Pata Pata.

"We have received the death with shock as she has no comparison," said Samuel Richards, a senior Culture Ministry official.

'We will surely miss her'

Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo said one of the continent's finest voices had disappeared, while the South African government also mourned her.

"One of the greatest songstresses of our time, Miriam Makeba has ceased to sing," said Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Fellow artists remembered her as someone who nurtured young musicians.

"She is a legend. We will surely, surely miss her," South African diva Yvonne Chaka Chaka said.

"She was a mother, a friend, an extraordinary woman who survived many tribulations in her life. She was an icon," said Gugu Sibiya, the arts and entertainment editor of the Sowetan

Veteran Congolese musician Ray Lema praised her for taking African music to the world.

"She was the first great African singer to take the voice of Africa beyond Africa. She was a passionate artist and a great activist," the 62-year-old jazz pioneer said in Paris.

"It was a beautiful death, worthy of her memory. I would be proud to go like that," he said.

Makeba, famed for hits such as Pata Pata and The Click Song, died of a heart attack in a Naples hospital after she collapsed as she left the stage at a benefit concert in Castel Volturno on Sunday.

Born in Johannesburg on March 4 1932, Makeba was one of Africa's best known singers. While Mandela was in prison, she took up the battle against apartheid through her music.

South Africa revoked her citizenship in 1960 and even refused to let her return for her mother's funeral. Makeba spent more than three decades in exile, living in the United States, Guinea and Europe.

Click here to listen to Miriam sing "Khawuleza," recorded in 1966.

Dispelling Myths about Islam and Muslims

Does the mere sight or sound of words like Ramadan, jihad, Muslim or terrorism cause you anxiety? If so, you could be suffering from "Islamophobia."

In an effort to develop tolerance and respect for each other's culture, religion and heritage, Central Piedmont Community College invites you to a special presentation and discussion on dispelling age-old myths, misconceptions and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.

Following an introduction on the importance of religious understanding by Dr. Chris Brawley, CPCC students Abrar Alkusaimi and Shaista Balqees will discuss common stereotypes and share personal experiences associated with being Muslim in the U.S.

The presentation and discussion will be held on Tuesday, November 11, 2008, from 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. in in the Hall Professional Development Building, 1112 Charlottetowne Avenue, Room 304.

A coordinating exhibit featuring Islamic clothing, cultural artifacts, information and books about Islam will be on display in the Central Campus library until the end of the semester.

This program is being sponsored in collaboration with the CPCC Libraries. For more information, contact Retha Hall at 704-330-6113. Free admission.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For His People, Everywhere

For a poetic man like President Elect Barack Obama, it is only fitting that I honor him here on my blog with a dynamic and epic poem from a great African American writer, Margaret Walker.

"For My People" was the title poem in a volume that served as Walker’s master's thesis for the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. Walker earned her Ph.D. from that university in 1965. “Her World War II-era poem, "For My People," won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1942. Dr. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander was born on July 6, 1915 and died November 30, 1998. She would undoubtedly have been immensely proud of this heroic and fearless American son, Barack Obama.

For My People
by Margaret Walker

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties, their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years, washing, ironing, cooking, scrubbing, sewing, mending, hoeing, plowing, digging, planting, pruning, patching, dragging along, never gaining, never reaping, never knowing, and never understanding.

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama backyards, playing and baptizing and preaching and doctor and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn to know the reasons why, and the answers to, and the people who, and the places where, and the days when, in memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we were black and poor and small and different, and nobody cared, and nobody wondered, and nobody understood.

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to be Man and Woman, to laugh and dance and sing and play and drink their wine and religion and success, to marry their playmates and bear children and then die of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy people filling the cabarets and taverns and other people's pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people, walking blindly, spreading joy, losing time, being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied and shackled and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people, blundering and groping and floundering in the dark of churches and schools and clubs and societies, associations and councils and committees and conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches, preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by false prophet and holy believer.

For my people, standing, staring, trying to fashion a better way from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding, trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people, all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirit and our blood. Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now rise and take control.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Condoleezza Running Behind Bush

I saw something on CNN last weekend and I can’t seem to get the image out of my mind. President George W. Bush was walking briskly (carefree and maybe even whistling) across the White House lawn and U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, was following a few steps behind him. What struck me was how Condolezza was struggling to carry several bags. One was strapped over her shoulder and she was carrying the other luggage with her hands. It made me wonder, “Is she carrying George Bush’s bags?” Maybe they were her own bags, but that’s just as bad. Couldn’t he have seen that she was struggling and helped her? Wasn’t his staff looking at this scene and recognizing the absurdity of it?

Then I started thinking about how brilliant Condoleezza is and how she could easily be President of the United States. She has a Ph.D in political science, she’s a Soviet Union specialist, speaks fluent French and Russian, and she’s also an accomplished pianist. Now she has served eight years in the Bush administration as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. She's well qualified to run a country.

Somebody help me with this. Why in the world would Bush’s administration allow this image to go over the airwaves? This woman deserves more than to have to struggle along behind George Bush across the White House lawn carrying lots of baggage.

Did anybody else see this travesty?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Teaching Children to Participate and Vote!

My 6-year-old daughter voted yesterday! Yes, that's right, she boldly and definitively cast her vote for Barack Obama. Don't worry. We didn't break the law. I'm well aware that you have to be 18 years old to vote in this country. My little lady participated in the Kids Voting initiative that prepares children for a lifetime of active civic participation.

So, while we were at the library yesterday and the adults were standing in the long early voting line -- and believe me, that line was long -- she walked over to the Kids Voting booth to cast her vote. Like a big girl, she went into the makeshift voting booth, wrote her name, the name of her elementary school, and indicated her grade level on the ballot. Then she checked the box next to the picture of Barack Obama -- without hesitation. She placed her ballot in the box and received her "I Just Voted" sticker, which she immediately put on her shirt. I gave her a high five and we grinned.

Here's some information about Kids Voting from the organization's Web site.

After classroom preparation, students take part in a voting experience using a ballot that mirrors that of the adults with the same candidates and issues. This “real life” practice dispels the mysteries of the voting process and reinforces the knowledge and skills gained through Kids Voting classroom activities.

Look for the Kids Voting polling places in your town and let your children feel what it's like to engage in civic participation!

Kids Voting NC Public Service Announcement

Thursday, October 23, 2008

So Long, So Long Bush. Hello, Hello Obama!

This is the theme song that I used as inspiration to drive over to my neighborhood library in Charlotte, N.C. and cast my vote for Barack Obama and Joseph Biden. The title "Tanto Tempo," which means "So Long" in Portuguese can mean a lot of things, but for me it conjured up images of George W. Bush leaving the White House and the inauguration of the great Obama.

Bebel Gilberto, the woman who sings this lush and sublime number, actually sings in Portuguese so I had to look up the lyrics to this song in English. Even though the lyrics don't fit the theme of my post here, I still LOVE this song. It makes me think of beautiful Brazil and the warm breezes that I'm sure blow through that magical country. "Tanto Tempo" takes me to another place -- a place filled with promise, vibrant colors, hope, and tranquility. Please take us to that place Obama and Biden. We need that revolutionary change that you've been promising on the campaign trail.

So long, so long Bush. Hello, hello Obama!

Also, here's a note about "straight party" voting that they gave us at my voting place that all voters should keep in mind. We don't want anything to trip us up!

A "straight" vote does not include the office of president or any nonpartisan race or issue. You must vote for president/vice president seperately from the other offices.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Little Lower Eastside in My Ride

The Klezmatics recording called “Shvaygn=Toyt” is what I listen to now as I’m driving to and fro these days. It’s a great find from one of my neighborhood libraries (that’s right, I have two libraries that are near me).

A CD selection playing in my car has to be above average in quality because I’ll listen to the recording for days or sometimes weeks before I go on to the next CD. (My daughter also has to approve because she simply won’t stand for listening to poorly made, uninspiring music as she sits in the back seat of the car and hums or sings along.)

This group of Manhattan musicians infuse strong klezmer, mazltov, Eastern European, and some American musical influences into their artistry. In their music, you hear jazz in one number, traditional Yiddish clarinet riffs and trills in another, Russian songs, and even some touches of rock in other tunes.

The harmonies, dance rhythms, and cries of instruments make for a spiritual-klezmer delightful treat. I’m simply taken away to another land (or at least the Lower East Side) when these people play. The musicians on “Shavaygn-Toyt” include: Kurt Bjorling on clarinet, David Licht on drums, Frank London on trumpet, Paul Morrissett on bass, Lorin Sklamberg on piano, accordion, and vocals; and Alicia Svigals on violin.

I like to check out music from the library to test out the sounds before I go out and buy the CD. This is a selection that I simply must have.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Think on These Things (Gullah Version)

Philippians 4:8-9 (Gullah version from De Nyew Testament)

Here Paul is speaking to the people:

Me Christian bredren, las ob all, A da tell ya, mus keep on da study bout jes dem ting wa good mo den all an wa people oughta gii praise fa. Study bout dem ting wa true, dem ting wa honorable, dem ting wa right een God eye, dem ting wa ain neba mek people sin, dem ting wa mek ya wahn fa lob um, an dem ting wa people know fa be good fa true. Do dem ting A done laan oona. Mus do wa A beena tell ya fa do an wa ya see dat A da do. An God wa da gii we peace, e gwine be dey wid oona.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Clemmie Greenlee: A True Street Angel

USA Today reporter Clay Carey said that Clemmie Greenlee is an angel that rose from the streets and he's right.

I know this lady. I met her when I was living in Nashville and could feel how special she was when I was talking to her. I knew that she had been formally homeless and was working as an advocate for the homeless with the Nashville Homeless Power Project, but I didn't know all the details about her story.

What I didn't know until I read a little about her history is that Clemmie started having trouble with the law when she was 12. She was a drug addict, alcoholic, prostitute, and was prone to violent behavior. But after she found her way to Nashville's Magdalene home, a two-year residential community for women with a history of prostitution and drug abuse, she said God chose her to minister to others. Clemmie also had to deal with the killing of her 29-year-old son, Roderiquez in 2003 when a rival gang member shot him in the neck.

Clemmie has found a way to use her past turmoil and grief to help other people. She is an advocate for the homeless in Nashville, and she also runs Galaxy Star Drug Awareness -- an organization that works with youth and adults to stop violent behavior and drug use.

Last year, the Nashville Scene named Clemmie, Nashvillian of the Year and this week, USA Today featured Clemmie in a telling article and compelling photo layout.

The USA Today article and photo gallery that ran Tuesday, reveals Clemmie at work helping the homeless in Nashville. Please click on the links and read about her story. Maybe she'll inspire you to get out there and do something for somebody. She certainly has done that for me.

Thank you Ms. Clemmie -- I can feel the fire!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Celebrating Each New Day

I asked my daughter yesterday why she draws stars and checks on each day of the Tinker Bell calendar in her room. She said that she wants to mark every day. “I celebrate every new day mommy,” she said. What a wonderful practice, I thought. I need to start making a conscious effort to do the same.

“This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” I said to her. “That’s in the Bible.”

“You know what else is in the Bible?” she asked me.

“What little lady?”

“The Lord is my Shepherd ….,” she said.

“Yes He is!” I said. “Excellent babe.”

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Balm for Your Soul

Philippians 4:8

Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Things I Did Well This Week

-- I helped my daughter go back to sleep last night after she woke up because of bad dreams. I told her that the people singing on “The Benedictine Monks Of Santo Domingo De Silos,” were praying for her. She told me that she can hear in her mind when people are praying for her.

-- I braided her hair very nicely and used some very colorful hairbows that highlight her beautiful brown skin.

-- I read stories to her at bedtime and listened to her read. (She’s such a good reader!)

-- I praised her writing and drawing.

-- I persuaded her to eat some spinach even though she was reluctant to do so.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarah Palin's Mouth

I'm starting to feel a little sorry for Sarah Palin. Everytime she opens her mouth to speak, her words ring more and more like an out-of-tune bell -- I mean like a bell the size of the one in Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

Some people think Michelle Obama was referencing Palin last month when she spoke at an L.A. fundraiser about Barack's vice-presidential choice. "I think it was a really good pick -- Senator Joe Biden ....What you learn about Barack from his choice is that he’s not afraid of smart people,” Obama is quoted as saying in the Sept. 4 edition of the LA Weekly. After her remark about Biden's intelligence, the crowd softly chuckled, the paper reported.

Why did the crowd chuckle? Were they comparing Obama's V.P. choice to McCain's choice? Did Michelle mean to imply that Palin is not too bright, or did the crowd just assume this, given all the media coverage about her snafus and ill-informed comments? I think the crowd had their own thoughts in their head which made them laugh.

Here are some Palin goodies, just for the fun of it:

When Katie Couric asked Palin to name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade in an interview with the Alaska Governor this week, Palin couldn't name one. (Ask any middle school or high school student to name some Supreme Court cases and many would tell you about Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Dred Scott decision.)

"The fact is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." --Sarah Palin, on the two companies which are in fact private entities, Colorado Springs, CO, Sept. 13, 2008

"They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." --Sarah Palin, on her foreign policy insights into Russia, ABC News interview, Sept. 11, 2008

Are those as bad as some of former Vice President Dan Quayle's cringe-inducing quotes? Let's see. Here are a few of Dan Quayle's delicious gaffes. I'll let you decide.

“It isn’t pollution that is hurting the environment, it’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”

"The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. I mean in this century's history. But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century."

"The future will be better tomorrow."

"We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe."

And here's my favorite Quayle quote. He was trying to restate the United Negro College Fund's slogan -- "The mind is a terrible thing to waste." This is what he came up with:

What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.

How true, Dan, how true.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why Should You Kiss Your Children?

Do not kiss your children so they will kiss you back,
but so they will kiss their children,
and their children's children.

-- Noah benShea, poet, philosopher and author

How Do You Know

How do you know when someone is lying to you? Any clues?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Running on Empty: Where's the Gas?

It's gettin' kinda hectic out there and I'm just about to lose my head because from day to day I don't know where in Charlotte I can find a gas station that's actually selling gas. From what I understand, the same is happening in other states like Kentucky, Atlanta, and South Carolina.

Can anyone in Charlotte please give me a list of a few gas stations in the city that still have gas for sale? If you could see some of the lines forming at the gas stations in some parts of the city you'd think we're actually in a crisis -- well, actually we are, it's just that some of us don't want to admit it.

The Charlotte Observer today featured this caption under a photo of long lines at a gas station in the city:
Hundreds of cars lined streets this morning as motorists in the Charlotte metro region tried to cope with an ever-worsening gasoline shortage.

OK, after a quick read of the article just now I see that they had the good sense and foresight to ask readers if they've spotted gas for sale. Click HERE to see that list.

I've decided not to wait until I'm just about out of gas to fill up. I'm treating the halfway empty mark like the RED area indicating that I'm almost out of gas. I see some people in Atlanta are doing the same thing. This Atlanta-Journal Constitution article talks about the panic that some of residents of that city are feeling about the gas shortage.
Many drivers were stopping to buy just a few gallons or, in some cases, filling up gas cans, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

“People don’t want to be left out,” economist James Bradfield of Hamilton College told the paper. “I don’t think it’s irrational; people don’t want to take the risk of not having gas.”

The AJC reports today that more than a week after Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf, seven refineries have were not yet back to full production. This is according to the most recent report from the Minerals Management Service.
"Meanwhile, the Colonial and Plantation pipelines, which fuel Atlanta, were likewise pumping less than normal volumes," according to the AJC.

But why is it that my people in Delaware and Los Angeles say that they are not having any problems finding gas? What's going on folks? Are some of you in other parts of the country having problems too? Anybody in Michigan, Massachusetts, or Maryland having problems? Can you write me a quick note and let me know how you're doing in the other parts of the U.S.?

I asked one of my students from Colombia if this crisis has made her consider going back home. She laughed and said, "Yes!"

It might be time to get those passports that I said I'd get for me and my daughter, if a certain Presidential candidate wins the election. I don't even know if I can wait until then! What's this country coming to?

Spiritual Weapons

2 Corinthians 10 (from the New International Version)

By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—-I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.

I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ.

Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory. But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 10:1-18 (from The Message Bible)

And now a personal but most urgent matter; I [Paul] write in the gentle but firm spirit of Christ. I hear that I'm being painted as cringing and wishy-washy when I'm with you, but harsh and demanding when at a safe distance writing letters. Please don't force me to take a hard line when I'm present with you. Don't think that I'll hesitate a single minute to stand up to those who say I'm an unprincipled opportunist. Then they'll have to eat their words.

The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way—-never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

You stare and stare at the obvious, but you can't see the forest for the trees. If you're looking for a clear example of someone on Christ's side, why do you so quickly cut me out? Believe me, I am quite sure of my standing with Christ. You may think I overstate the authority he gave me, but I'm not backing off. Every bit of my commitment is for the purpose of building you up, after all, not tearing you down.

And what's this talk about me bullying you with my letters? "His letters are brawny and potent, but in person he's a weakling and mumbles when he talks." Such talk won't survive scrutiny. What we write when away, we do when present. We're the exact same people, absent or present, in letter or in person.

We're not, understand, putting ourselves in a league with those who boast that they're our superiors. We wouldn't dare do that. But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.

We aren't making outrageous claims here. We're sticking to the limits of what God has set for us. But there can be no question that those limits reach to and include you. We're not moving into someone else's "territory." We were already there with you, weren't we? We were the first ones to get there with the Message of Christ, right? So how can there be any question of overstepping our bounds by writing or visiting you?

We're not barging in on the rightful work of others, interfering with their ministries, demanding a place in the sun with them. What we're hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you'll play a part within our expanding work. And we'll all still be within the limits God sets as we proclaim the Message in countries beyond Corinth. But we have no intention of moving in on what others have done and taking credit for it. "If you want to claim credit, claim it for God." What you say about yourself means nothing in God's work. It's what God says about you that makes the difference.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hard Times Are Comin' to Your Town

Here are some Run DMC lyrics from back in the day for the hard times we're all experiencing now in this country. Keep your head up family!

Hard Times

Hard times spreading just like the flu
Watch out homeboy, don't let it catch you
P-p-prices go up, don't let your pocket go down
When you got short money you're stuck on the ground
Turn around, get ready, keep your eye on the prize
And be on point for the future shock

Hard times [repeat 2x]

Hard times are coming to your town
So stay alert, don't let them get you down
They tell you times are tough, you hear that times are hard
But when you work for that ace you know you pulled the right card
Hard times got our pockets all in chains
I'll tell you what, homeboy, it don't have my brain
All day I have to work at my peak
Because I need that dollar every day of the weak

Hard times

Hard times can take you on a natural trip
So keep your balance, and don't you slip
Hard times is nothing new on me
I'm gonna use my strong mentality
Like the cream of the crop, like the crop of the cream
B-b-beating hard times, that is my theme
Hard times in life, hard times in death
I'm gonna keep on fighting to my very last breath

Hard times [repeat 6x]

(or say it as many times as you need to feel better)

Listen to Run DMC sing this song on YouTube.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Little Pat on the Back

Here are some of the things I've done well recently:

I convinced a man to buy my old Honda, even though it had a little smoke coming out of the hood, a bit of rust on the side, and the air conditioner was making a considerable amount of noise. And man oh man, did I need the money!

I successfully drove my daughter to a sitter's house in the pouring rain as my 1986 stick shift Volvo was acting up in a bad way. Then I drove to work, back to the sitters to pick up my daughter, and made it all the way home in a failing car, in the heavy rain.

Even though I'm not technically savvy, I'm grasping the concepts taught in my Final Cut Pro Video Editing class and taking some very meticulous notes. (I also have to say that I have a great teacher.)

I drew two attractive sketches -- one of a penguin and one of a butterfly and some flowers.

I reminded my daughter of the many things that she does well, as she seemed to dwell a bit on some things she doesn't think she does well. (I frequently tell her how proud I am of her. She's a brave and smart little cookie.)

I'll stop here....

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Father Recalls the Death of His Little Girl

This is the anniversary of the horrendous bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four young girls -- Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. I heard a report on NPR today that I couldn't finish listening to. The report was titled "Father Recalls Deadly Blast At Ala. Baptist Church," and as the title suggests the father of one of the girls, Denise McNair, was interviewed.

"Do you mind if I ask you about that day?" the reporter asked McNair.
"No, I don't mind," he says quietly.

I can't imagine being able to think about it as a parent, much less talk about it. But this man bravely told what he remembered about that day. He talked about how the four girls were in the morgue, "side by side, on the table."

I don't even want to imagine what that looked like.

McNair and his wife Maxine are the last surviving parents of the girls that were killed in the tragic crime.

To listen to the NPR report, click here.

Here's a bit of what Wikipedia says about the tragedy:

During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church served as an organizational headquarters, site of mass meetings and rallying point for blacks protesting widespread institutionalized racism in Birmingham, Alabama and the South. The reverends Fred Shuttlesworth, who was the chief local organizer, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were frequent speakers at the church and led the movement.

On Sunday, September 15, 1963, Thomas Blanton, Bobby Frank Cherry and Robert Edward Chambliss, members of the Ku Klux Klan, planted 19 sticks of dynamite outside the basement of the church. At 10:22 a.m., they exploded, killing four young girls–Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair–and injuring 22 others. They were there preparing for the church's "Youth Day". A funeral for three of the four victims was attended by more than 8,000 mourners, white and black, but no city officials.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Will Not Fear What Man Shall Do

Hebrews 13:5-6 (King James version)

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

And here's the Gullah version that I love so much:

Stay way fom de lob ob money. Mus be sattify wid wa oona got, cause God say, "A ain neba gwine lef ya. A gwine stay wid ya all de time fa hep ya." Dat mek we know fa sho wa we da taak bout wen we say,

"De Lawd de one wa da hep me.
Ain nottin gwine mek me scaid.
Cause ain nobody got mo powa
fa do me bad,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Give the People What They Want

It disturbs me that certain people have tried to belittle Barack Obama's Community Organizing experience. It turns out that his ideas about running the country have come directly from his community organizing days. Obama wants the people of the country to take an active role in making positive changes in this country. Community organizers encourage and empower people to come together and help themselves. In tribute to Obama and his activist spirit, I'm reposting this piece that I wrote in the Fall of 2006 after I took a Leadership Workshop at the Nashville Peace and Justice Center. I'm also giving a shout out to my community organizer friends in Nashville, Matt Leber and Megan Macaraeg. Keep on doin' it yall!

The Art of Organizing: Giving Power to the People

Recently I had the privilege of participating in the Nashville Peace and Justice Center’s Leadership Institute. It was an amazing experience and inspired me to become more active in social justice issues. Before I enrolled in the Leadership Institute, I didn’t have the confidence to stand before people and make the following brief speech:

Did you know that across the country prisons often shackle pregnant inmates in labor or chain them to a bed? When a woman is in labor, it helps the process if she can move around, walk or squat. What real danger does a pregnant woman, screaming in pain, cause to anyone? Every woman deserves the right to give birth the way nature intended. Not with her legs shackled together like some wild animal. This practice of shackling and putting chains on pregnant inmates in labor is UNJUST and we need to fight to make it ILLEGAL.

This speech, which takes about one minute to deliver, was my homework for the public speaking portion of the workshop. Actually, I forgot some of the words as I was giving the speech. I looked at the floor and couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say next. But the encouragement that I received during my brief lapse of memory motivated me to gain my composure and finish.

I truly hope I’ll be able to one day say these words to people who can make a difference in the prison system. My anger and frustration with the way all prisoners are oftentimes mistreated was one of my motivations for attending the Institute. I’m also looking forward to working with such groups as the Nashville Homeless Power Project. My friend Matt Leber, who persistently encouraged me to participate in the Leadership Institute training, John Zirker, and the other NHPP organizers, have been tirelessly working to empower Nashville’s homeless community and erase homelessness in Nashville. I hope I live to see the day when all homeless people find and keep safe affordable housing.

When I see homeless people in Nashville, I’m reminded of the homeless family that I saw in New York City shortly after I had moved there. I saw a mother and father with three young children sleeping under dirty blankets at the World Trade Center subway station. I was appalled that whole families were so unprotected and vulnerable in such a harsh environment.

Institute facilitators taught me that the role of community organizers is to challenge people to act on behalf of their common interests. Organizers identify leaders and enhance those leaders’ skills and commitment to their cause. In other words, organizers give people the power to help themselves. Imagine that entire family in New York City visiting their City Council representative and requesting that he or she vote yes for a resolution to build affordable housing clusters for homeless families. Imagine a group of single mothers lobbying their state representative to vote yes on a bill to increase the minimum wage rate in the state.

Organizers can give folks like the homeless, single working mothers, pregnant female inmates, and many others the education, advice, and encouragement to stand up and fight for their rights. This is the work that I’m hoping to accomplish and the Nashville Peace and Justice Center Leadership Institute has given me the tools to send me on my way.

A luta continua.(The struggle continues.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Can Sing a Rainbow

I asked my students to answer a series of questions yesterday in class to encourage them to use complete sentences when talking. I asked questions like:

Where were you born?
When did you come to America?
Where do you live?
What language do you speak at home?
(and several other questions)

But some of my students wanted to ask their own questions of each other, like:

What is your dream?
What kind of music do you like?
What's your favorite song from childhood?

Here are some of their answers:

I dream about being happy.
I dream of becoming a U.S. citizen.
My dream is to end my life being loyal to Jesus Christ.

I was impressed.

One student asked me to name my favorite song from childhood. I had to think only a few seconds before I remembered this one:

I Can Sing a Rainbow
(by Arthur Hamilton)

Red and yellow and pink and green,
Purple and orange and blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow too!
Listen to your heart,
Listen to your heart,
And sing everything you feel,

I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing along with me!
Red and yellow...

I wish I could sing it for you. It's really cute and touching.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Coney Island: How Sweet It Is

"How Sweet It Is" -- This is what Brooklyn whispers to you as you cross over the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge into the borough. The bridge is named for Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first known European navigator to enter New York Harbor and the Hudson River.

This was my first time back in Brooklyn in many years, but Brooklyn is still Brooklyn -- lots of people, densely populated, lots of different languages and colorful people. I love it! My daughter thought it was pretty special too. After we passed the bridge and began to see the buildings and people I said, "There it is babe. There's Brooklyn!" She paused and sighed, "It's beautiful."

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

We headed for our destination -- Coney Island -- a place my daughter has been excited about since she heard about it on one of her favorite children's television programs. Since my parents live only 2 hours from the fabulous City of Rocks as it is also known, I decided to trek on up to Brooklyn from Delaware last Saturday with my little lady.

We had a blast. We rode on many rides, and put our feet in the sand and water. We also tasted a bit of the Coney Island cuisine, which includes Nathan's Famous, Regazzi pizza, and Gino's delicious Italian Ices.

We also got to check out the regal statue of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson by sculptor William Behrends, which was unveileved at KeySpan Park (home of the Brooklyn Cyclones) on November 1, 2005.

The monument consists of two 8-foot-tall bronze figures that stand on a six-sided pedestal inscribed with the following words:
This monument honors Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese: teammates, friends, and men of courage and conviction. Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Reese supported him, and together they made history. In May 1947, on Cincinnati's Crosley Field, Robinson endured racist taunts, jeers, and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. Reese, captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, walked over to his teammate Robinson and stood by his side, silencing the taunts of the crowd. This simple gesture challenged prejudice and created a powerful and enduring friendship.

Ahhhhh, Brooklyn. How lovely you are. We'll be back ...........

Monday, September 01, 2008

You Are What You Do

Here are some wise and helpful quotes from my Dad, Bobby Benjamin:

God gives us choices and we choose what path we go down. You either do it God's way or you do it the way you want to do it.

You are what you do. What you do has already spoken of what you are.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hillary Says Vote Obama for a Taste of Freedom

You can say what you wanna say about Hillary Clinton but she gave a very passionate and moving speech last night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in support of Barack Obama, and in an effort to get her supporters to vote for Obama in November.

She plainly told all Democrats, including her reluctant supporters, to go out and vote for Obama. "Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president," she said. She seemed to be so emphatic about encouraging -- no -- insisting that people vote for Barack that I almost thought she was going to say something like:

"When you get up on Election Day, don't bother to take a shower or brush your teeth. Throw anything on and RUN to the polls. If you don't know how to spell his name, it's B-A-R-A-C-K, O-B-A-M-A. If you need a ride to the polls, Chelsea and I will make sure that you get there. Here's my number. Call me if you need a ride. I'll make sure to get you there so that you can cast this most CRUCIAL vote .... Do I need to repeat anything I've said here tonight?"

I was also genuinely moved by Hillary's references to women's voting rights, her own historical campaign, her concern that we all have access to healthcare and financial security, and her recalling of a fierce abolitionist -- Harriet Tubman.

I could see the visuals when Hillary told the Democrats that we need to follow Harriet Tubman's advice:

On that path to freedom, Harriet Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.

If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they're shouting after you, keep going.

Don't ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Please let's keep on going to the polls in November and let's make sure we get the Obama-Biden team in the White House!

Click here to read about Harriet Tubman's life and her struggle to help free the slaves.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Delaware is in the House!

OK, I can hardly believe it. Barack Obama has chosen Senator Joseph Biden, my boy from Delaware, as his Vice Presidential running mate. Needless to say, I want the Obama-Biden bumper sticker, cup, T-shirt and yard sign (even though I don't have a yard yet).
I've written on Cappuccino Soul before about Biden and his passionate advocacy as a U.S. Senator. This is what I said about him last year:
One image that sticks in my mind about the senator is some television footage that must have been shot in the late 80s when South Africa was still openly practicing its evil apartheid system. Biden spoke on the Senate floor supporting sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid practices and passionately banged on the podium and called for chastisement of the South African evil “racist apartheid regime.” He seemed to be genuinely outraged.

Now, I've read about Biden's Violence Against Women Act and I'm even more impressed with this fella from Delaware (my home state). Let's kick some butt in November Obama and Biden! This country needs you two, more than ever before, to lead us out of the muck.

Here's some info. from Biden's Web site about his Violence Against Women Act:

Senator Biden wrote the ground-breaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the 1990s that set the national agenda on criminalizing violence against women and holding batterers truly accountable. It encouraged states to set up coordinated community responses to domestic violence and rape; was the catalyst for passage of hundreds of state laws prohibiting family violence; and provided resources to set up shelters so battered women abused by husbands and boyfriends had a place to go. The law also established the national hotline that over 1.5 million abused women have called for help. By empowering women to make changes in their lives, and by training police and prosecutors to arrest and convict abusive husbands instead of telling them to take a walk around the block, domestic violence is down 50 percent and rape is down 60 percent nationwide.

Each time the Senator renewed the Act –- in 2000 and 2005 -– he pushed for new initiatives. In 2000, the Act was attached to ground-breaking laws on human trafficking –- crimes where over 80% of the victims are women. In 2005, the Violence Against Women Act tackled issues like domestic violence in public housing and treating children witnesses of family violence.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Roses from Russia

I think today was the first time I've ever received roses for my birthday (which is coming up in a few days!). I was pleasantly surprised when one group of my students (mostly from Russia) presented me with a beautiful bouquet of red roses. What a treat! And the card and generous gift card really made my day. They never cease to amaze me. The birthday card says that I am "A Gift from God." If they only knew how heaven-sent they've been to me. I dreamed about them years before I met them. They have been a spiritual blessing.

God is good ..... all the time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Run, If You Can

I've been taking martial arts classes for about a month now with my 6-year-old daughter and just recently found out that the style we're using is called American Freestyle Karate.

Of course, I had never heard of this, so I did a little research.

The word karate means "empty hand" in Japanese. This clarifies some things I'm learning about what the martial arts are all about -- self defense. The most important thing to remember about self defense is that the best thing to do when danger comes is to RUN or GET OUT OF THE WAY, if you can. The other blocks, kicks, and other techniques are tools to use if you simply MUST fight.

One of the teachers in the class, who has earned a black belt, told me that he has actually never been in a fight. Imagine having all that skill and discipline and never having the necessity to use it. That's a wonderful thought.

I, on the other hand, have been in a couple of fights. I know the value of being able to protect yourself from harm -- I wasn't always able to do it.

One of my fights was a childhood tussle and the other also happened when I was a child. It was a dreadfully serious situation in which I had to fight off an attacker. It's not a pleasant memory but everytime I think about that situation I'm reminded of my strength and will to survive. This is perhaps one of my reasons for being so interested in the martial arts.

The style that we're studying -- American Freestyle karate -- includes techniques from various cultures including Japan, China, Korea and The Philippines. Work with the sword comes from Japan. They also stress hard punching with the fists. Korea emphasizes kicking and the Filipino style involves highly proficient stick fighting. The American style uses all techniques or whatever works in the given situation -- punching, kicking, grabbing, pulling, weapon techniques, etc.

The important thing is to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Jonathan Green and Diego Rivera at the Thrift Store

I couldn't believe my luck this week as I went hunting for art at area thrift stores. I wrote about a Jonathan Green piece that I found at The Salvation Army last December on Central Avenue and now I've found two more really great pieces. One is another Jonathan Green print of two Gullah children fishing by the water, and the other is a Diego Rivera piece of a woman holding a bunch of gorgeous white Calla Lilies.

One of the Rivera prints that I found is on this page. I can't find a picture of the exact Green print that I found but here are some examples of his brilliance.

I found the Diego Rivera print for $3.99 at the Salvation Army and the Jonathan Green print was a mere $3.00 at the Habitat for Humanity Restore on Wendover Road. I'm still smiling ...................

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making a Difference

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."

~ William James

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's Not Always Easy

Think of all the betrayals and evil deeds that have occurred with cell phones -- voice mail, text messages, corrupt and pornographic pictures. Now think of all the lives that have been saved by cell phones -- calls for help, text messages, on-the-spot photographs of criminal acts. God is in all things, but so too may the devil be. We must learn to discern between the two. It's not always easy ...........

Monday, July 21, 2008

North Carolina: First in Flight

I've been wondering since I moved to North Carolina what the "First in Flight" reference on the license plates means. After searching a bit I found a good explanation on a Web site created by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., called America's story from America's Library.

They've got an array of information about America from a feature on Billie Holiday to a treasure chest of material about each of the 50 states.

Here's what the Library of Congress tells us about the "first in flight" reference:

The Wright brothers were from Ohio, but they achieved most of their successes in North Carolina. Do you know why they decided to do their flying experiments there?

To find a better location for their pioneering aeronautical (aircraft) experiments than their home in Dayton, Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright consulted the U.S. Weather Bureau. The brothers found that the town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, offered the sand dunes and high winds that they hoped would help them in their attempts at powered flight.

The Wrights spent months in North Carolina working toward their goal. On December 17, 1903, they finally succeeded. Orville flew the powered glider first, then Wilbur, then each once more. The brothers had achieved the first powered, controlled, sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Messy Love

Sometimes when I'm teaching English to my students from other countries, they'll come up with sentences or phrases that are grammatically incorrect but make the point beautifully anyway. And sometimes they put words together that any poet would appreciate.

Yesterday I was teaching my Eastern European students about opposites -- same vs. different, fancy vs. plain, smooth vs. rough. I asked them to write sentences using some of the words so that they could learn the meanings more clearly. We discussed the difference between the words "messy" and "tidy." Here's the sentence that my student Emilia came up with:

I don't like messy love.

I hardly knew what to say. It was so eloquent and the expression on Emilia's face said it all.

"Very good Emilia! I don't like messy love either," I told her. "Thank you."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

And If You Don't Believe in Me ...

On rare occasions I receive sort of psychic messages to write about certain artists. So here she is -- Mary J. Blige. After doing a bit of research on her life -- I can see why she would make a good post for my blog and why I could be inspired by her.

I've always thought that Mary was one of the most down-to-earth and ernest singers around. She has a couple of songs that have really connected with me in the past. I read a recent article about her in the USA Weekend magazine and found her story to be quite intriguing. Her song "My Life" is my favorite from her repertoire. If I had to choose an anthem for certain times in my life -- this would be it! Her wordless humming which opens the piece, embodies all of the pain and beauty of the song's message -- whenever you're feeling pain, turn to God and God will make it alright.

Here are the lyrics to:

My Life
(with samples from "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" by Roy Ayers)

If you looked in my life
And see what I've seen...
If you looked in my life
And see what I've seen...

[Verse 1]
Life can be only what you make it
When you're feelin down
You should never fake it
Say what's on your mind
And you'll find in time
That all the negative energy
It would all cease

And you'll be at peace with yourself
You won't really need no one else
Except for the man up above
Because He'll give you love


[Verse 2]
Take your time
Baby don't you rush a thing
Don't you know, I know
We all are struggling
I know it is hard
But we will get by
And if you don't believe in me
Just believe in "He"

Cause He'll give you peace of mind
Yes He will
And you'll see the sunshine
For real, yes you would
And you'll get to free your mind
And things will turn out fine
Oh, I know that things will turn out fine
Yes they would, yes they would


All you gotta do is take your time,
One day at a time
It's all on you
what you gonna do?

Oh you will see I'm so down and out
Cryin' every day
Don't know what to do or to say

Here's Mary singing My Life on YouTube.

Check out the June 22 article about Blige in the USA Weekend magazine:

On the chart-topping single "Real Love," from her 1992 debut album, a raw and emotionally ravaged Mary J. Blige begged the heavens for a boon: "Send me someone real / to caress me and to guide me / towards a love my heart can feel." For years, the universe denied her. Tumultuous relationships, self-acknowledged substance abuse and deep insecurities mounted. Blige sang about them all, and even though her pain brought her stardom, it also threatened to destroy her.