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By Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In America.com Staff Writer
 

Let’s start this feature by looking at the numbers.

  • According to the FBI, about 270,000 people of color went missing last year.
  • Blacks are approximately 13 percent of the country’s population, yet they make up more than 33 percent of those reported missing in the FBI’s database.
  • According to the National Crime Information Center, there were almost 30,000 active missing persons cases in the country.
  • Blacks make up almost 12,000 of those cases or about 40 percent.
  • Of the 173 Amber alerts in 2010, 30 percent were for black children.
  • 40 percent of all persons missing in the United States are of color.

This data and the obvious disparity in media coverage between black and white missing persons served as motivation for Derrica and Natalie Wilson to establish the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., (BAM FI) in 2008.  The non-profit foundation’s mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person's families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.

This is where “we” come in.  That’s right, “we.”  “We” have resources.  “We” talk to each other.  “We” have access to a variety of media including print, television and the Internet.  One person can make a difference in the recovery of a missing person.  To date, Black and Missing Foundation has played a role in over 70 reunifications or closures for families.

The most recent example of success in this area came last week (February 27, 2012).  If you watch ABC TV’s daytime talk show “The View,” you saw Derrica Wilson and 16 year-old missing teen Mishell Green’s family talk about Mishell being found and reunited with her family after having her case featured on the popular talk show.

Green disappeared more than five months ago heading to an after-school program in Manhattan, New York.  An anonymous viewer who recognized Green’s profile from the segment on “The View” immediately called Black and Missing Foundation to report Green’s whereabouts, which led to her recovery.  That call that led to the recovery of Mishell Green reportedly happened 15 minutes after the segment aired on the show.  Mishell was recovered a few hours later.  This reunion is a clear example of why “we” need to be involved in the recovery of missing people in our community.

 

Click here to visit Black and Mission Foundation to learn more about this organization and how you can get involved.

 

Earl Anthony Cooper:  Black In Reality 

Earl Anthony Cooper is an impressive young man.  Raised in Wilmington, Delaware, Cooper came to my attention through my friend Mike Stewart, Sr.  Cooper is a graduate of Morehouse College, (Class of 2011), where he earned a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Political Science with a concentration in Philosophy.  In addition, Cooper was Vice–President of The Next American Great Poet, where he was involved in mentoring local Atlanta high school students on the importance of literature and poetry--all at the tender age of 22.

Cooper was the first black All-State golfer for the state of Delaware.  He was awarded a golf scholarship to play for Morehouse College’s golf team where he led the college to their first Division II National Championship in 2010.

Cooper wrote a children’s book called “Hello, Maroon Tiger! “ The book is available at all major online retailers.

We caught up with Earl Cooper over the holidays where he joined us for lunch at a local Washington, DC area restaurant.  You can watch our exclusive interview with Earl on below.

You can contact Earl directly at eac5469@gmail.com.  You can also visit his official web site at www.earldreambig.com.

 

 

 Business Spotlight featuring Janice Fenn

Janice Fenn has over 25 years of human resources and diversity experience. She is the founder and president of the Professional Resources Organization, Inc., a consulting firm known for its innovative and interactive seminars and training tools to enhance Employee Development, Mentoring, Building Trust, Diversity and Inclusive Leadership. Over the years Ms. Fenn has worked with clients such as American Express, The American Cancer Society, ConAgra Foods, DuPont, Gulfstream, Johnson Controls, McDonalds, Microsoft, Northwestern Mutual, and Omaha Public Power District.

Ms. Fenn’s corporate experience includes serving as Senior Director of Global Diversity for Kraft Foods, and positions in human resources, recruitment, succession planning and diversity at Sara Lee Corporation and Quaker Oats.

As Director of Human Resource Development at Sara Lee Corporation, Ms. Fenn was responsible for developing the company’s initial diversity process both domestically and internationally, including South Africa, Spain, The United Kingdom, Holland and France.

Ms. Fenn is co–author of the book Do You See What I See? A Diversity Tale for Retaining People of Color, creator of the Development Ladder Game™ and Reel–Time Scenarios™, and author of the Diversity Fairy Tale Series. She serves on the Board of the Rhea of Hope Foundation, an organization dedicated to mentoring adolescent girls and young women. She is an alumnus of Leadership America and a member of the U.S. women’s delegation to Mexico for the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation.

Ms. Fenn has been honored for achievement by Dollars and Sense Magazine, the United Negro College Fund, YMCA and the NAACP, where she is a lifetime member. Ms. Fenn has been featured in Ebony Magazine, Jet, DiversityInc, Wal–Mart’s Black History month publication, Profiles in Pride, the Black Success Guide and the inaugural publication of Who’s Who In Black Chicago.

Ms. Fenn holds both BS and MS degrees in Biology from Tuskegee University, and an MBA from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Business.

To learn more about the Professional Resources Organization visit the company's official web site at: http://www.prof-resources.com.

 

 

 

The 10 Wealthiest Black People In The World


 

By Natalie Dawson

Billionaires and millionaires aren’t always white or oil barons.  African Americans can also throw down when it comes to wealth.  To prove it, we have listed ten of the wealthiest black people in the world below listed by current estimated worth.

  1. Aliko Dangote – Never heard of him?  Most Americans haven’t.  He is a businessman based in Nigeria and head man for The Dangote Group, which was founded in 1977 as a small firm.  Since then, it has substantially grown and earned Dangote himself an estimated worth of $13.8 billion.
  2. Mike Adenuga – He runs Conoil Producing, the first Nigerian company to strike oil in significant quantities during the early 1990s.  He is also the owner of the second largest mobile company in the country.  A true success story, he made his first million at age 26 by selling lace and soft drinks and is now worth $4.3 billion.
  3. Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe – He is another African and another billionaire.  His company is called African Rainbow Minerals and deals in gold, platinum, and other precious metals.  From South Africa, he was born royalty and became the first black partner in a local law firm in 1994.  His estimated worth is $3.28 billion.
  4. Oprah Winfrey – Her own show and now her own network took this small town reporter’s dreams to places girls of her generation never thought they could go.  By investing in herself and her own show, Oprah was able to create a wealth of $2.7 billion.
  5. Michael Jackson – His estimated worth is sketchy.  Although he made hundreds of millions of dollars from album sales alone, Jackson had a notorious spending habit that was also in the hundreds of millions.  However, he did purchase the rights to many Beatles songs, which are estimated to be worth between $500 million and one billion.  After his death, sales of his own music also spiked into the hundreds of millions.
  6. Jim Ovia – His nickname is “the godfather of Nigerian banking.”  He founded the Zenith Banking Group in 1990, and it became one of the largest financial services provider on the continent.  He also founded a mobile company and is estimated to be worth $775 million.
  7. Robert Johnson – If not for the recession, he would be higher on the list with over one billion dollars in net worth.  However, the founder of the BET network still enjoys a net worth of $550 million.
  8. Michael Jordan – The “air man” is most known for being one of the best players in NBA history.  It also didn’t hurt that his brand of clothing and especially shoes are still a top seller.  Between the endorsements, investments, and more, he is worth $525 million.
  9. Tiger Woods – As with Robert Johnson, if it wasn’t for his divorce and lost proceeds from a scandal, he would be farther up the list.  However, with an annual salary of $85 million, golfing legend Tiger Woods is still worth $500 million and is the youngest person on the list.
  10. Bill Cosby – Proving that you can make money by telling a simple, family oriented story is the legendary Bill Cosby.  Critics believed his show wouldn’t make it past year one when the virtually unknown comedian debuted it in 1984.  Over 25 years later, he is worth $450 million and rising.

Natalie Dawson owns the site Masters Degree. She enjoys writing articles about everything in the education field.

 

Bishop E. Bernard Jordan

 

Bishop E. Bernard Jordan is a man who has been singularly forged by the fire of destiny, which cause his eyes to burn with a vision for the Body of Christ that shall impact the entire world.  

Born a native of Brooklyn, New York, Bishop Jordan received his ultimate calling at the age of 15, when he was summoned to prophesy. By the age of 24, he was recognized nationally as a prophet. Rising from the obscurity of the ghetto to his present and current fame he is known to millions as God’s messenger, the Prophet.  

Bishop Elijah Bernard Jordan is the founder and Senior Pastor of Zoe Ministries since 1983. Zoe Ministries had its beginning in Westfield, New Jersey with 60 people in attendance. A thriving, prophetic church with a vision to impact the world with the gospel, Zoe continued to develop the facets of ministry under Bishop Jordan’s leadership which marked it as a church in pursuit of destiny, called to fulfill the will of the Lord. Armed with the vision of a church resplendent in a glory greater than of Solomon’s Temple, Bishop Jordan has been building a ministry of restoration that would accurately reflect the Biblical pattern, tearing down the constraints of traditionalism and exposing the lies that have led the church into captivity.  

Zoe Ministries touches thousands, both nationally and internationally. Noted primarily for his prophetic ministry and revelatory teaching, Bishop Jordan established the School of the Prophets in 1985. The School is specifically geared towards those who are called to function in prophetic ministry, yet is an invaluable source of ministerial ethics that are applicable to any office of ministry. He is also noted for his uncanny accuracy regarding the prophecies that he ministers. Businessmen, political officials, celebrities and churches are numbered among the thousands who have consulted Bishop Jordan for counsel and direction through the Word of the Lord.  

Bishop Jordan teaches biblical principles and ethics essential to successful living. His life-changing messages on reformation and liberation have sparked acclaim, as well as controversy, as he teaches the unadulterated Word of God. A liberator in his own right, Bishop Jordan is charged with preparing the church for the New Millennium and stands with the heart of a father, acknowledging that he is but one of hundreds of thousands called

by God to prophesy. His teachings have stabilized many who were floundering, with a gift in manifestation of understanding the order of God.  

He has traveled to Swaziland, South Africa, and delivered the Word of the Lord to the Queen and the Royal Family. He has prophesied in many nations, including Germany, Canada, Korea and the Caribbean, bringing an astute word of counsel to the leadership and royalty of those countries. In February 1988, he was invited to address a special assembly of ambassadors and diplomats at the United Nations, concerning the oppressive racism in South Africa. He addressed the assembly again in February 1992, and prophesied of the impending liberation of South Africa, which has come to pass.  

Upon his consecration in 1994 as a cabinet Bishop by His Eminence, Archbishop Roy E. Brown, Bishop Jordan continues to emerge as a leader among leaders, bringing hundreds of pastors into a new awareness of their destiny through motivational teachings and The Word of the Lord.  

Bishop Jordan is in great demand, for he is quite charismatic and personable. He is often featured on various telecasts, both locally and nationally. Most recently, he has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, FOX 5, Good Day New York, CNN, and many, many others. He was also featured in The New York Daily News, New York Times, New York Post and Newsday with some of his congregates as well as in an interview in Billboard Magazine on his views concerning social issues.  

A gifted lecturer and renowned host of “The Power of Prophecy” national telecast, Bishop Jordan’s talents are notably enhanced by his ecumenical calling as a prophet of God. He has also initiated the production of Zoe Ministries’ nationally known album “Come Together,” on Benson Records.  

As stated earlier, Bishop Jordan has impacted governmental officials on many levels. He was awarded proclamations of recognition from Governor Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York, and Mayor David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York, for outstanding leadership and community service for establishing OPERATION: HOPE, designed especially to feed the homeless community in New York. Bishop Jordan has also forged a relationship with the New York State Correctional Commission to help develop and guide the lives of young women assigned to the Riker’s Island Stepsister Program. He has received numerous awards and proclamations from political officials around the world that are too numerous to mention, for he is widely respected as a man of integrity and admired for his generosity.  

Bishop Jordan is a modern-day prophet whose ministry is absolutely astounding! Like Nostradamus, Bishop Pike, and Edgar Cayce, the accuracy of the gift that operates in Bishop Jordan will astound you! He is known to predict exact names, dates, and times of events both individually and globally! His visual perception is so exact that he is able to give accurate descriptions of locations that are pertinent to the recipient of the prophecy! Bishop Jordan differs from those who can operate with extra-sensory perception, for his calling as a prophet endows him with a degree of authority. As a prophet, he can truly decree a thing and see it established---just like the prophets of the Scriptures! He is not one just to give information, but he is also known to create miracles and circumvent events merely by the power of his speech!  

Like any prophet, as indicated in the Scriptures, Bishop Jordan also possesses a phenomenal insight into the universal truths of the Divine, and he has a unique ability to motivate people

to move beyond mediocrity and embrace excellence in their lives. Bishop E. Bernard Jordan lectures extensively, both nationally and internationally. He is frequently called upon to declare his message that all may attain Zoe-which is a Greek word meaning “The God Kind Of Life,” after which the ministry is named. People all over the world have been brought to the sacred truth that they are not victims in life, but “Destiny is not left up to chance, but it’s a matter of choice!”  

Bishop Jordan has made available to the public an extensive library of cassette and video tapes geared to impart the "Zoe --- GOD Kind of Life" Christian philosophy.

Thousands of people attribute their success, prosperity, health and happiness directly to the master teachings of Bishop E. Bernard Jordan. His dynamic teachings bring the inquiring mind principles of living a life that is resplendent with the attributes of wholeness and abundance sought by everyone.  

In 1997, God sparked a new idea in the life of Bishop Mar Elijah Bernard Jordan. God gave him a burden to raise up 300 Prophets (termed "Neophytes") before the turn of the New Millennium. Hence, the Prophetic Order of Mar Elijah was born, and 300 Prophets-in-training called "Neophytes" would become the foundation stones.  

Mar Elijah flows with the wisdom and insight of the prophet Daniel, whom the Bible says understood all the sciences. In their time and season, Moses and Joseph also understood the prophetic sciences of their day, enabling them to overcome their obstacles. The Neophytes under The Prophetic Order of Mar Elijah are trained not only to hear the voice of God and articulate it accurately, but are taught scientific ways of mind renewal and development using the Word of God and proven technique sciences.  

As an author, Bishop Jordan has written over 40 books, encompassing an astounding range of topics. He has written on such subjects as "Mentoring," " Spiritual Protocol," "The Power of Money," "Seed of Destiny," "What Every Woman Needs to Know About a Man," and many others.  

Bishop E. Bernard Jordan earned his doctorate in Religious Studies in 1991, and in 1993, earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religious Studies. He serves as an adjunct professor for several colleges across the country.  

Pastor Debra Jordan, his beautiful and accomplished wife, stands with Bishop Jordan in his global vision for ministry, and serves as Chief Financial Officer of Zoe ministries.

The Jordans are the proud parents of five children: Naomi, Bethany, Joshua, Aaron and Yakim Manasseh. Their vision of liberation shall literally shake the nations of the earth!

 

 

Dynamic Duo Motivating You To Go The Extra Mile

Darrayl and Derrick Miles

Milestone Motivation is a faith-based organization founded by Darrayl and Derrick Miles.  Gifted by God to inspire and motivate, these identical twin brothers travel across the country helping others discover, develop and use their gifts in powerful ways. Through entertaining presentations offering practical tips, personal assessment tools and educational materials, Milestone Motivation helps individuals recover the God-given desires, talents and traits that lay buried within our hearts.

Milestone Motivation offers a wide-range of products and services such as superhuman performance training. 

Milestone Motivation

A Ministry like No Other

Milestone Motivation Incorporated is a ministry. After many years working for Fortune 500 companies and serving in executive leadership roles in the healthcare industry; Darrayl and Derrick Miles; finally got it right; there is more to life than the accumulation of things!

Milestone Media

Radio: A Message for the Masses

The Dynamic Duo “Darrayl and Derrick Miles” (America’s experts of employing your Spiritual Gifts in the marketplace) speak with successful Executives, entrepreneurs, celebrities and spiritual leaders discuss the gifts and techniques they have used to perform at superhuman levels. Our guest roster includes Dr. Mark Chironna, Keith Harrell, George Foreman, Os Hillman, Darlene McCoy, George Fraser, Jay Lowder, Pastor Sunday Adelaja, Wess Morgan and many more.

Television: Reaching the Masses with our Message

Includes interviews with authors of the Milestone Publishing roster and profiled individuals included in it’s books. We also from time to time conduct entertaining street interviews on topics akin to Spiritual Gifts, Destiny and assignments from God.

Publishing: Providing a Platform

Boutique publishing firm specializing in producing books that encourages others to pursue the destiny and/or assignment God has placed in their hearts. While diverse in overall book structure, the multi-author approach with real-life profiles to emotionally attach to the reader is most common. Genres include:

• Christian Life

• Business/Leadership

• Spiritual Growth

• Professional Growth

• Self Help/Motivational and Inspirational

The Dynamic Duo

Darrayl Miles is an influential entrepreneur, devoted father, passionate communicator and mentor. He is co-founder of Milestone Motivation and is co-host of the Milestone Motivation radio show.

Darrayl is also President of the Miles Agency, an Allstate Insurance Agency. In four years under Darrayl’s leadership, the company grew to a $3.6 million agency with over 3,000 customers. Leveraging his expertise in productivity improvement and performance enhancement, Darrayl reduced the company’s loss ratio by 33% and improved customer loyalty by 14% in less than 18 months.

Derrick Miles is a powerful and authoritative leader, dedicated husband and father and leadership mentor. He is co-founder of Milestone Motivation and is co-host of the Milestone Motivation radio show.

Prior to establishing Milestone Motivation, Derrick worked for 12 years in hospital leadership, holding numerous executive level positions in health care organizations throughout the southeast. He handled operations and logistics for facilities with over 140,000 patients and that served more than 40,000 children each year. In his various positions, he had fiscal operating revenue responsibility of $60 to $200 million. His productivity improvement and cost-saving initiatives have added millions of dollars to the top and bottom lines of various health care organizations.

To learn more about Milestone Motivation visit their official web site at:  www.milestonemotivation.com.

 

 

 

3 Minutes with The Man Behind Black Art In America.com

BMIA.com:  What is Black Art In America?

Najee Dorsey:  Black Art in America (BAIA) is the premier online venue for African American Art. BAIA is an online community with artists, collectors, students, teachers, gallerists, curators, critics and art appreciators across the world. It's online community has a blend of highly established contemporary artists as well as newly emerging contemporary artists. BAIA is free and open to all. Members can create a profile of themselves and upload an unlimited quantity of their work including images, audio narration and video.

BMIA.com:  You say that BAIA is the best online network to display, find and share art. Tell us why!

BAIA is totally free and allows you to create an unlimited number of galleries.

Find Art - Find art by browsing featured photographs or view by member, featured or most recent uploaded pictures/art.

Network - Build a valuable network of peers, collectors, art appreciators and others. Keep them informed with your latest shows and online galleries.

Upload - Allow BAIA to introduce you and your art to the world. Upload your art quickly and easily . Currently, you may upload unlimited images.

Participate - BAIA is a dynamic community with messaging, blogs and interviews. Speak up and be heard! Remember, YOU are BAIA...Let your beautiful voice be heard!

Enjoy - This site is so much fun. Post your comments to and suggestions to Najee Dorsey, BAIA Founder.

BAIA was founded by Najee Dorsey and is co-owned by he and Janelle Dowell. Ms. Dowell is responsible for multimedia design and marketing. The Company's (virtual) headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia and Chicago, Illinois.  

 

The John Rivera Story

John Rivera is a multifaceted brother who has a story to tell.  John has been up and he's been down but he's never QUIT!.  John's story is motivating and epitomizes what we are trying to do at Black Men In America.com and that is feature "extraordinary men, doing extraordinary things."   I am proud to call John my friend.

Gary Johnson, Founder & Publisher (Black Men In America.com)

Left to Right:  Gary Johnson and John Rivera in Gary's Kitchen.

John V. Rivera is a new millennium renaissance man, a father, broadcast engineer, inventor, author, photographer, educator, chef, and President of JonJen Creations, LLC. His career in television began at NBC in 1981 at a time when the broadcast industry landscape began to change dramatically with the advent and development of new digital technologies.  Rivera held several positions at NBC over his 22 years with the company, including but not limited to: technical maintenance and repair, Studio Camera Operator for key productions (NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, Saturday Night Live, the Olympics), Senior Videotape Engineer, Editor, Video Engineer, and Technical Director.

Rivera was constantly challenged to learn, design, and implement new technologies. His ability to adapt and envision new ways of doing things kept John on the cutting edge. Along with his engineering duties, Rivera became involved in NBC Diversity Initiatives. He served as the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) first chairperson of the Diversity Council.

It became clear to Rivera that while NBC was growing in the technical areas it was failing to grow and cultivate a culturally diverse, technically skilled workforce. As Chairperson of the Diversity Council, John developed diversity building initiatives presenting several actions to senior management and external organizations including The NAACP, EEOC, and the United States Congress.  Rivera was also responsible for representing employees who came to the Council for help.

Before resigning from NBC in 2002, Rivera filed multiple federal discrimination law suits against NBC and the General Electric Corporation. After defeating summary judgment and clearing all the cases for trial, all the law suites were settled out of court thus removing many of the old discriminatory policies that existed in broadcasting for more than 50 years.

In September of 2002, Rivera relocated to Florida, and became a rescue diver, inventor, student, author, and ultimately an educator. Picking up where he left off 20 years earlier at Boston College, Rivera studied criminal justice and law, all the while refining his inventions and taking them through the patent process.

Rivera is the President and CEO of Sebastian Charter Junior High School in Sebastian, Florida.  The Junior High School is an “A” Plus ranked school, housed in portable trailers with no permanent structure for the last 10 years.  To remedy this situation John has developed and produced a Latin Festival to raise funds to aid in the construction of a permanent building.

John Rivera holding his Tostonera and his cookbook.

Today Rivera has launched a line of cooking devices designed with his cultural heritage in mind. For generations, the preparation of tostones, a twice-fried green plantain and a staple in Latin households, have been prepared in a tedious process one tostone at a time.  Rivera’s Tostonera is the first plantain press that can produce several tostones and plantain cups at the same time. Rivera wrote a cookbook, “The Pleasures of Plantains: Plantain Cuisine” and also took culinary classes under the tutelage of Executive Chef Dario Marquez to accompany his invention. After years of preparation the Rivera’s Tostonera is poised to be a "must have" in every Caribbean kitchen.

Rivera's Tostonera Maker

 

Be sure and get the The Pleasure of Plantains Plaintain Cuisine™ cookbook.

 

Amelia Boynton Robinson’s Journey to the Bridge 

By Julia Cass

Two important civil rights anniversaries will take place in 2010 – the 45th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama (March 7, 1965), when demonstrators heading to Montgomery to protest their lack of voting rights were tear-gassed and beaten by state troopers and a local mounted posse, and the 45th Anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act (August 6, 1965), which passed as a result of public outrage over the unprovoked attack on the bridge.  

One of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday is the photograph of Amelia Boynton Robinson (then Amelia Boynton) lying unconscious on the bridge. She stood on the platform with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the conclusion of the successful March to Montgomery two weeks later and read a petition to then-Governor George Wallace. She was present in Washington when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, a turning point for America.    

Robinson was 53 when she crested the bridge and, as she put it, saw a wall of state troopers “standing so close together an ant would have been mashed to death if it crawled between them.” Today, she is 99 and lives in Tuskegee, Alabama. She is the oldest living veteran of Bloody Sunday and the oldest living alumnus of Tuskegee Institute, from which she graduated in 1928. Mentally sharp, she still drives, travels and gives talks and speeches.   

At 99, she is a repository of first-hand knowledge of a black South now beyond the living memory of most Americans. She grew up as a piano-playing, poetry-reciting daughter of a prosperous family of African, German and Cherokee heritage in Savannah, Georgia, where she did not experience or realize the harsh effects of segregation. At Tuskegee Institute in the 1920s, she became a student of Dr. George Washington Carver and in 1930 took a job as the black home demonstration agent with the U.S. Agricultural Extension Service in Dallas County, Alabama, where she was “flabbergasted” by the feudal world of sharecroppers on the cotton plantations and “appalled” by the exploitation, injustice and outright cruelty she saw and heard about. (Selma is the seat of Dallas County.)   

The county’s black agricultural agent was S.W. Boynton, whom she would marry in 1938. They were early – though not the first – promoters of African-American voting rights in Selma, long before the national spotlight shone on this little town. In 1936, they revived the Dallas County Voters League to promote black voter registration. The League sponsored classes to help people pass the citizenship and other tests required to register but the barriers became higher and many were afraid to try. Boynton died in 1963, the year the first Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker came to Selma. The first mass civil rights meeting in Selma took place right after Boynton’s death as memorial to him. The Voters League invited King to Selma in 1965; he and other civil rights leaders often stayed and held meetings in Robinson’s home. She stood in line day after day in demonstrations outside the voter registration office in the county courthouse. Another of the well-known photographs from that era depicts the infamous Sheriff Jim Clark shoving her. To show Clark’s family that she didn’t have ill feelings towards him anymore, she attended his funeral in Elba, Alabama in 2007. 

Amelia Robinson and President Lyndon Johnson

I interviewed Robinson for two days in August, and she has a good memory going back to 1915. She described her sheltered world in Savannah, where her parents owned the biggest home and only telephone in the black community and her mother, she said, “had power. I saw her shake her finger in the face of a judge and say, ‘I’ll have your job.’ She went door to door in the neighborhood and he was voted out in the next election.” Robinson remembered George Washington Carver’s high pitched voice and paeans to sweet potatoes and peanuts, explained the work of a home demonstration agent in the rural South in the 1930s, described her friendship with a very old woman who had been a slave, analyzed the ways the white community controlled the black community in Dallas County, gave a blow-by-blow account of her experience on Bloody Sunday, and told several hair-raising stories – in one of them, she’s awakened by a rap on the door late at night by three sweating black men who said they’d been forced to bury another black man alive.  

Robinson also has many photographs, letters, clippings and documents collected over the years, including her field reports as a home demonstration agent.               

Over the past 25 years, I have committed serious time and attention to race and the civil rights movement, particularly in Alabama.  As a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1978-1997 and its Southern Bureau Chief from 1982-85, I met J.L. Chestnut Jr., the first black lawyer and a leader in Selma, on a reporting trip and co-wrote with him “Black in Selma, The Uncommon Life of J.L. Chestnut Jr.published by Farrar Straus and Giroux in 1990 and still in print (with a new afterward) in a paperback edition published by the University of Alabama Press. The book won the Lillian Smith Award for writing about the South and the Silver Gavel award of the American Bar Association for writing about the justice system.  

Since becoming a free-lance writer and international journalism trainer in 2002 (following stints as Executive Editor of the Buenos Aires Herald, an English language newspaper in Argentina, and managing editor of the Sunday magazine of the San Jose Mercury News) I have written a number of articles and reports on the topics of civil rights, race, and poverty. Relevant clips include:  

·        Article on Bob Moses, a civil rights leader in Mississippi who later created the Algebra Project and went back to Mississippi to teach math, in Mother Jones Magazine (“The Moses Factor,” May/June 2002) 

·        Article on Katrina’s impact on the black middle class in New Orleans in the Washington Post (“Notable Mardi Gras Absences Reflect Loss of Black Middle Class”, Feb. 25, 2006)  

·        Article on four weekly newspapers in Mississippi focusing in part on their coverage of race for the American Journalism Review (“Wonderful Weeklies,” December 2005/January 2006).

For more information please contact:

Julia Cass
Gateway Educational Foundation, Inc.
2356 Manor Avenue
East Point, GA 30344
(404) 731-9396- local contact [Jim Brown]
gatewayedu@att.net
www.passingthetorchmovie.com

 

 

Bringing Black History Month to Life
By Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell, Ph. D,
Author of Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape

It's Black History Month, when we celebrate and honor those African Americans whose enlightening stories, heroic experiences, amazing discoveries and tremendous contributions are an intricate part of our national fabric.

In the corporate world, there might be speakers who talk about what it means to be an African-American manager or leader. Your reading group might choose a book written by an African-American writer, like Toni Morrison, Edward P. Jones or President Obama, that illuminates the cultural nuances that shape the black experience in America. Or you might catch a television special examining the life of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Shirley Chisholm or, of course, Martin Luther King Jr.

These are the expected kinds of activities that the American public has come to expect every February. Recognizing black heritage is important, but I'd like to suggest a different way of celebrating and appreciating Black History Month. Even as we pay tribute to our ancestors, it's time to take a step forward and incorporate the message and meaning of the month into our day-to-day lives all year long. This is more than just a learning experience, but also a valuable exercise in diversity and inclusion that we can bring into our work lives.

So this Black History Month, take a minute and look at your relationships at work. Think of it this way; ask yourself, "who are your allies?"

Webster's defines an ally as a person who co-operates with another person; a supporter or comrade. At work, they are the collection of people who help each other. They support you when times are tough and celebrate with you when all's good. Having allies in different parts of the company is essential. If you're preparing a presentation on a new product, your friend in R & D can give you the back story, while your ally in marketing can help make your visuals extra snazzy.

Allies in the workplace can be men or women, and it's important to have both. But for women what is critically important -- and often overlooked -- is the importance of female allies. Too often, we don't seek each other out as allies. The situation gets even worse across race and culture lines.

So this month, take a minute to look at your allies. Have you developed relationships with people of other races and cultures? Who are the diverse group of people who are watching your back? And since being an ally is a two-way street, whose back are you watching? Who in your crew is a different color than you? If your posse looks a little monochromatic, there is no better time to reach across the color line and establish truly authentic relationships that move beyond race.

If you dare, after you look at your workplace allies, examine your personal life? Who's at your table for dinner? Who do your kids play with? Do all your friends look like you? Are you being a role model for a diverse world?

So go ahead and celebrate history's African-American stars. But at the same time, put a modern spin and real-time meaning on the month by bringing the spirit of diversity out of history and into your every-day life.

© 2010 Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell, PhD, author of Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape

Author Bio

Ella LJ Edmondson Bell, Ph.D., author of the new book, Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape (Amistad), is the founder and president of ASCENT-Leading Multicultural Women to the Top, as well as an associate professor of business administration, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University. She is considered by industry and the academy to be one of the leading experts in the management of race, gender and class in the workplace. Her clients include: PepsiCo, American Express, Intel, Goldman Sachs, Booze Allen Hamilton, U.S. Department of Labor are among others. She has written several articles for Essence magazine and wrote the monthly "Working It" column. Frequently quoted by journalists, Dr. Bell has been featured in the Wall Street JournalNew York TimesBoston GlobeBlack EnterpriseNewsweekWorking Mother, and Fast Company. Dr. Bell lives with her Jack Russell Terrier, Belle in Hanover, New Hampshire and Charlotte, North Carolina.

For more information, please visit www.CareerGPSthebook.com.

 

The Genius of Ella Curry

Ella Curry

Ella Curry is the best kept secret in publishing.  You heard me.  Sorry Ella, but I could not hold off any longer.  I had to let the cat out of the bag.  Ella is the creative and driving force behind the EDC Creations Media Group.  I have long felt that Ella deserving of wider recognition and finally decided to do my part to get her what I believe is her just due.

As an online magazine publisher, I work with large established publishing houses as well as self-published authors.  Very few people are as committed to helping people succeed as Ella.  She is a literary angel.

If you have a manuscript, book or an idea for one, EDC Creations provides one stop shopping to handle all your needs by offering top-quality marketing services, graphic design, website and image development, event consulting and print production services.

And the most important aspect of the EDC team is that your treated like a loving family member.  Hey don't take my word for it.  Do your own research.

Ella is the host and producer of the Black Authors Network Radio Show; and the publisher of Black Pearls Magazine, a professional blogger and literary reporter on www.ProfilesInBlack.blogspot.com where she publishes her popular Intimate Conversation Interviews with today's hottest authors, business owners and community leaders.

Here's to you Ella.  The best kept secret in publishing (until now).

 

Played in Full - The Marketing Exploitation of Black America 

By Robert L. Gatewood, MBA

Overview

We’ve all heard the exclamations about how much money flows through the Black community.  One day I was driving down the street and I was simply overcome by curiosity (If there had been a cat in the road, he would have certainly been run over on this day). I asked myself, “Why is it that Black America, which has a larger Gross National Product than many sovereign nations, can’t quite seem to get a grip on its financial security.

If you have ever seen one of those B movies where the guy is doing something dastardly and catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror then you can relate to what happened to me. As I set out to solve the financial conundrum of Black America, I was parking my luxury automobile and happened to get a glimpse of myself. What I saw was “exhibit A” looking right back at me.   But I didn’t just see one me, I saw three me’s; me the executive archetype (someone who knows better than most how to connect the dots between and someone’s wallet and a cash register.) I saw me the individual (not the Black American monolith), and it was the last me that scared me …  I saw me the consumer (someone who himself has often spent beyond his means, and is now wearing a big bull’s eye right between his eyes.). Now that’s a revelation for you.

I consider myself a rather smart fellow. Graduated with honors everywhere I went to school, high school, college, MBA you name it. It dawned on me, that if a smart guy like me has a hole in his wallet, this problem just might be bigger than the failure to learn the three R’s.  So as I tackled this problem, I also found myself introspecting.

All of us can’t be marchers or prolific speakers. But as I say in my book, everybody’s good at something. I happen to be an expert marketer, and I have decided to use it to use my skills to right some wrongs.  Hopefully my book will inspire other like-minded people to become fellow wrong-righters, but, in their respective areas of influence.

So I encourage everybody to do what they do best in general for the overall welfare of fellow Blacks but for the purposes of this book and my mission, I’d like to target some those energies on a specific objective. Let’s coalesce around a common goal of plugging the seemingly ceaseless hole in the pocketbook of Black America. If for no other reason, let’s do it so that our children, like so many of the other races, will have some kind of a future when its there turn at bat.

Click On Photo To Enlarge

Many of Us Make Enough Money – We could always use some more but…. If we just put what we already have to better use, you’d be amazed how well-off most of us actually are.

YOU Have Been Trained to Spend Your Money, THE PLAYERS Have Been Trained to Take It

I couldn’t create a less fair fight if I tried. It’s like going fishing where the fish have been trained to jump in your boat.

Nobody Wants to Admit He’s Been Marketed - Reminds of me of what drove Harriet Tubman nuts. She said she could have freed more people if only more people realized they were slaves.

Everybody Plays the Fool, Sometimes - Just like the group Main Ingredient use to sing in their hey-day, we are all game. Some tell-tale signs include: Smoking - Tithing more than saving - Car note as high as house note  –Still paying for last year’s Xmas - And more!

Enlightenment is not retroactive – I used to smoke. It wasn’t the health aspects of it that made me stop. The more familiar I became with marketing, the more I realized that I myself had been marketed… I had been downright played. In fact I remember the time and place the light bulb went off. It was about 12 years ago when I was leaving Tucker Road Park over in Oxon Hill. I just pulled to the side of the road, threw the cigarettes in a trash can and haven’t picked up another one since.

It’s a War on the Wallets of Blacks - It’s an economic struggle that’s not just fought in the store aisles on Christmas Eve. It’s a generational battle that’s fought in the head. The heads of Black consumers are on one side; the heads of institutional forces on the other. In a one-on-one contest, chances for Black America are not the best, but winnable. But over the generations, the Players have coalesced into a virtually invincible foe.  It’s not the individual efforts of the Players that are the threat; it’s the synergistic application of all of them that provides the knockout punch.

The Secret Weapon – Sleeping with the Enemy - The Players employ a secret weapon that makes your chances of winning virtually impossible. This stealth squad does a better job than the Players themselves ever could. It includes General Grandma, Captain Co-worker, Sergeant Spouse, First Lieutenant Father, Major Mom, and an infinite number of Foot-Soldiering Friends.

Like Lambs to the Slaughter - The Players employ some effective tactics that are very difficult to combat. When applied together they provide the perfect storm.

Social Proof - also known as herd mentality, desire to belong or by its common name of “keeping up with the Joneses.

Mental Externalism - a mindset where you believe that you have little or no control over the events in your life

Fear - the trump card that surfaces s when all else fails.  

All Players Are Not Created Equal - The Players don’t the wear a big “P” on their foreheads. Anyone can be a player. There are basically 4 types of Players:

- Pathological Incorrigible Malevolent Player (PIMP) 

- Passive Opportunistic Player (POP)

          - Philanthropic Accidental Player (PAP)

- Positive Enlightened Player (PEP) 

Who Are the Players?

Who are these people who are adept at parting Black Americans from their hard-earned money?

          Man or woman - Any race, culture or nationality - Person, institution or government – Needs someone to play - And more! 

Specific Players: The Government, Politicians, Military, the Courts, Schools, Employers, Schools,

Santa Claus, the Church and Others!         

You Already Have the Answer!

Is the fate of Black America resigned to that of being fodder for the Players of the world? Is the purse of Black America an irreparable sieve? The answer lies within.  Breaking the grip of economic dependency and derelict spending takes an individual effort. 

Our Children Are Watching – I'm doing this for the next generation. I’ve wasted enough money for a three lifetimes. So this is no longer about me. I’m gladly throwing myself on the grenade for our Black children who are on deck to be played by the next generation of Players … if we fail to act now!   

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Robert Gatewood at www.playedinfull.com/25 or 866-292-4800.

 

 

 

Filmmaker Jordan Coleman

By Vanessa Werts

Nickelodeon voiceover actor Jordan Coleman is no ordinary 12-year-old.  While most boys his age spent the summer playing sports, relaxing, or hanging out at the mall, Jordan was on a seven city tour screening his debut film, Say It Loud! 

The pre-teen dynamo, wrote, directed and produced the Say it Loud! film, which explores the importance of education for African-American boys.  Even more impressive, the young filmmaker started the project when he was only 10-years old. 

Inspired by a challenge from his mother to give back to the community, the idea for Say It Loud! was born.  Based on Jordan’s perception of boys, and their lack of interest in school, particularly African-American boys, Jordan decided to make a movie to encourage his peers. 

Jordan used his earnings from his job as the voice of Tyrone the Moose on Nick Jr.’s the Backyardigans, to fund the film.  

A year and a half in the making, Say it Loud! features interviews with professional athletes, entertainers, politicians, educators, police officers, friends of Jordan and men who wish they had studied harder when they were his age.  A list of those interviewed includes:  Kobe Bryant, Michael Strahan, Vince Carter, Ludacris, Yung Joc, Master P, Al Sharpton, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and many others. 

           

Photos from left to right:  Photo #1:  Jordan with Rev. Al Sharpton, Photo #2:  Michael Strahan, Photo#3:  Yung Joc  Photo #4:  Master P

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Say it Loud! Promotes having a “Plan B.”  When dreams of becoming a professional athlete, rapper or superstar fall short of the goal, having an education is more than just something to fall back on.  The film also addresses what is called the “Fourth Grade Syndrome.”  A point educationally, where many African-American boys lack the basic skills to perform on or above grade level, so many give up and become behavioral problems. 

Jordan Coleman is a spectacular young man with an infectious personality, and enough wisdom for a lifetime.  This ambitious young filmmaker is well on his way to greatness. 

Move over Spike Lee!  Make room for Jordan Coleman!

 

The Jordan Coleman Interview 

BMIA: I understand you’ve been traveling to cities across the country screening the film.  What has that been like? 

Jordan: Yes.  And I actually just came back from a seven city tour around the United States.  I had some of my friends come on the tour with me, we explored different things, I signed autographs, met new people and just hung out.  It was fantastic! 

BMIA: Where did you get the idea to do a film on African-American boys and education? 

Jordan: Um from school.  I felt a little bit that in school boys don’t really care for school, they just want to be the next basketball or football star.  They want to be a rapper or the next superstar.  They don’t know that school plays an important role in being a superstar. 

BMIA: I see that you interviewed quite a few celebrities.  What was that like? 

Jordan: It was great!  I mean my eyes and my mouth opened actually when I saw the celebrities in real life. I actually interviewed Kobe [Bryant] in Los Angeles during the seven city tour.  He sent me and my brother a pair of sneakers.  That was pretty cool. 

   
Kobe Bryant and Ludacris with Jordan
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BMIA: How have your peers received the film? 

Jordan: They loved the film.  And they want to be in my next film if I make another one.  But they just love it.  They ask me questions all the time about it.  

BMIA: Why do you personally think boys blow off their education and think that it’s not important? 

Jordan: I personally think they blow off their education because they’re kind of lazy in a way.  They don’t want to work as hard as other boys do.  They just want to play sports, hang around, play video games, go to the mall and do stuff like that. 

BMIA: What motivates you for education? 

Jordan: My mom.  She’s a hard knock.  She loves school, and she pushes me hard to do well in school. 

BMIA: What is your favorite subject? 

Jordan: My favorite subjects are Math and Science. 

BMIA: What do you like to do when you’re not working or in school? 

Jordan: Ahh man...when I’m not in school and not working, I’m usually at football practice.  I love football.  It’s my favorite sport.  I eat, drink, sleep, go to school, work, and play football.  Me and my dad talk about football all the time.  And I like to go to the movies, hang out, go to the beach and play video games. 

BMIA: What are your plans for the future? 

Jordan: I want to be a sports broadcaster.  That’s my biggest dream and to play college football. 

BMIA: Do you realize how special you are? 

Jordan: Yes, I do.  (Modestly said)

BMIA: Do you have plans for any more movies? 

Jordan: Yes.  Actually I made a reality show treatment for television.  Hopefully I’m making another movie coming out about sports. 

Interviewer’s Notes: 

Say It Loud! was featured as part of AMC Theatres 2008 Summer Movie Camp.  Jordan is the first independent filmmaker to partner with the national movie chain.  The film was screened in New York City, Washington DC, Kansas City, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. 

When I asked Jordan who his favorite interviews were with, he said, “Kobe Bryant, definitely.  He was the best.”  Kobe played basketball with Jordan and even sent him and his brother, Justin, a pair of snickers.  Jordan also enjoyed his interview with Michael Strahan.  “He was a lot of fun.  He was hilarious,” says Jordan.  After the taping the two talked football. 

With the Say It Loud! Film, Jordan may have stumbled upon the key ingredient in reaching our youth as he encourages and relates from a child’s perspective. 

If you missed the screening, the Say It Loud! Book is available free online at www.sayitloudfilm.com with a $15 donation. You can also make donations on the Web site and book private screenings for your church or school.  Jordan’s goal is to show his film to 100,000 people by the end of the year.


This interview was conducted on August 27, 2008 by Vanessa Werts.  Thank you Mary L. Moore from So Much Moore Communications for making this interview possible.


Black Inventors Develop Autopsy Apparatus

Inventors James Gary and Sam Merrill

Our “Black In Reality” features two black inventors, Sam Merrill and James Gary of S & J Scientific Association, Inc.  We spent some time with Sam and Jim discussing their autopsy apparatus invention.  Read our exclusive interview with them below. 

BMIA.com:  Tell us about S & J Scientific Association, Inc. and the autopsy apparatus invention? 

Sam & Jim:  We were both working our way through school at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland assisting with autopsies.  We were looking for a better, faster and safer way to remove the brain during autopsy.  When we received our patent we needed a name for a company and came up with S & J Scientific Association (Sam & Jim). At the time of the invention we had been working in the medical field for approximately 20 years. 

BMIA.com:  Did you guys set out to be inventors or did this invention evolve out of necessity? 

Sam & Jim:  No we didn’t set out to be inventors. We both worked at a major hospital in Bethesda, Maryland and we both assisted the Pathologist in performing autopsies.  It was our responsibility to remove the brain which was a very tedious process and we said there has to be a better way and that is how we became inventors. 

BMIA.com:  How long did it take for you to get your invention developed and legally protected?  Was the process difficult?   

Sam & Jim:  The entire process took approximately 7 years from idea to patent.  To us the process was not difficult but was more time consuming.  We knew what we wanted the instrument to do and how to design it for that purpose.  However, when our design was laid out on paper to build the prototype we were told by Associated Design and Engineering that it would not work as we designed it and they wanted to make changes to make it work properly.  They went forward with their design only to find out that their design would not work.  They then went back to our original design to make the prototype and it worked properly. 

BMIA.com:  What makes your invention unique? 

Sam & Jim:  When conducting an autopsy: This tool has an automatic depth control and an ability to adjust cutting speed from a minimum of 30 seconds to 4 minutes.  The automatic depth control prevents damage to the brain tissue.  The cutter is designed to cut only bone. 

The apparatus’ cutter is mounted on a carrier to move radically toward and away from the axis of the skull.  As the cutter is moved around the skull, it maintains its position despite the irregular contour of the skull. 

The casting of the cutting head can take the form of a hand piece of a cable driven power tool.  The circular blade saw is driven from a remotely located motor to minimize the weight and bulk of the cutting head when mounted on the carrier or when it is used manually. 

The cutting head of the apparatus can also be used manually to cut the entire skullcap without using the carrier.

More importantly, other cuttings can be done manually during autopsy, such as cutting of the skullcap with minimal manual assistance. This apparatus can be wheel mounted for easy mobility and can be quickly moved from cadaver to cadaver.

 

BMIA.com:  Without being too technical, what are the benefits to the medical and health community? 

Sam & Jim:  The autopsy apparatus saves valuable time during an autopsy procedure.  It does not require that a person hold the cutting saw manually.  It is designed to minimize the spread of bone dust that can contaminate the work environment, especially if the patient had a communicable disease such as, but not limited to: hepatitis, AIDS, and tuberculosis. The apparatus is designed to protect the user from bodily injury. 

BMIA.com:  What is the target market for your invention? 

Sam & Jim:  This apparatus’ targeted markets are:  Medical Examiners, Hospitals, Medical Schools and Veterinaries. 

BMIA.com:  Your inventions seems like it is geared toward a very specific market.  Have you had any buyers for your product?   

Sam & Jim:  Our instrument is geared for a specific highly specialized area of medicine.  It is used to speed up the process of removing the brain during autopsy to determine the cause of death.  Autopsies are mandatory in certain situations.  We have had some interest in our product, but no buyer yet.  We believe this is because the individuals that make the decision in the research and purchase of this instrument are not the ones to use it, so it does not matter to them. 

BMIA.com:  What are some of the challenges facing inventors and how have you managed those challenges of being an inventor?   

Sam & Jim:  First of all you cannot let rejection deter you because there will be many during the planning and development stages and the patent process.  Because of this, one must have a lot of patience, tenacity and perseverance.  You must make sure your invention will theoretical work as planned. Finding a company with enough medical knowledge and engineering skills to produce a highly specific working prototype was a major challenge.  Another challenge was finding a Patent Attorney specializing in medical instrumentation who could conduct a patent search to see if your invention is patentable and that something similar to your invention is not already on file in the patent office.  The attorney must also be able to respond to the patent examiner and be able to move your idea through the process to obtain a patent.  One of the biggest challenges was that some of the companies that were interested in the invention did not want to sign a non-disclosure statement. 

BMIA.com:  Do black inventors face different challenges?

Sam & Jim:  We are certain that Black inventors would face all kinds of challenges if they tried to patent a different product because they would have to be out front more often.  However, our invention is such a highly specialized medical instrument that companies would never believe that we are black because they don’t think blacks would have the intellectual ability or knowledge to invent such a highly specialized medical instrument. Our patent attorney told us that she wants to take the up front lead when communicating with companies that wanted to talk with us about our invention and she would bring us in at the right time. So what does that tell you?  We do all of the email and phone communications.  

BMIA.com:  What advice would you give to people who want to be inventors?   

Sam & Jim:  Protect yourself and your invention from day one. Be careful who you discuss your idea with.  Pursue your idea and don’t let obstacles stop you.  Be aware of and have knowledge of the long process from idea to prototype to patent.  Have the financial resources or make arrangements for them if needed.  Have a lot of patience. Do not communicate with companies or anyone that is not willing to sign a non-disclosure statement. 

BMIA.com:  How can anyone reading this article learn more and help you?   

Sam & Jim:  They can contact us directly for more information and any questions.  There is a very small target market because of the highly specialized medical instrument.  However, a company or manufacturer that has the ability to mass produce the instrument at a good price and know the advantages of this product compared to what is on the market now will be able to help us and themselves a great deal.  Any interested party can visit our web site at:  http://www.autopsysandj.com.

 

THE GODFATHER: IN SPORTS TALK AND THE COMMUNITY

Tackling a new frontier…obesity in our children!

By Maggie Linton

Harold and Hattie Bell founded Kids In Trouble (KIT) during the 1968 riots in Washington, DC.  It became an official non-profit volunteer organization in 1986.  For over 40 years the program has worked closely with school principals, administrators, parents, teachers, counselors, youth advocates and community support staff.  Kids In Trouble, Inc. is one of the most successful independent self-help organizations in America.  The program has benefited thousands of inner-children.  It has survived with in-kind donations from friends and quite often using money from their own pockets.  They have sent kids to camp and obtained college scholarships, helped kids attend national sporting events, plus coordinated clothing and toy drives for flood victims in North Carolina.  KIT has also hosted youth gang and Black History Month conferences and provided mentors and motivational speakers.  These services are all a part of the program’s long and storied history.  

Harold was once a kid in trouble and was “going to hell in a hurry” according to his middle school Principal William B. Stinson.  He boldly predicted to Harold’s mother Mattie Bell…“Your son will not live to get out of high school.”  Harold was saved by an earth angel, Spingarn High School’s legendary Coach Dave Brown and the rest is community and sports talk radio history. 

Harold and his heroes, Mayor Walter Washington and Coach Dave Brown 

In 1997 Kids In Trouble, Inc. coordinated a youth gang conference at Bible Way Church in NW Washington, DC.  The conference’s host was Pastor James Silverman and co-chaired by Jim Brown (NFL) and Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA).  Gang members from New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, DC, Virginia and as far away as Los Angeles were in attendance.  It was during this conference Congressman Davis was first forewarned that MS-13 was moving into his Fairfax jurisdiction.  Since that warning MS-13 has become one of the most feared gangs in America. 

KIT Conference Celebrity participants: Sam Jones (NBA), Jim Brown (NFL), Tom Davis (R-Vir), Spencer Haywood (NBA) and Sonny Hill (NBA) 

There are 2.1 million people in jail in America, the largest inmate population in the world.  Blacks make up only 12% of the American population. However 42% of American Black men between the ages of 15-29 are either in custody of the courts or are incarcerated.  Many new jails are underground and many of the white wardens are millionaires, sound familiar?  Minority youth are dropping out of school at twice the rate of White children.  Youth gun violence is also off the charts.   

The KIT toy party for needy children is the crown-jewel of the program.  This year Harold and Hattie Bell will celebrate 40 years of marriage and toy parties in November and December respectively.  The toy party is the longest on going community based program in America.  Their community programs have also being copied around the country by the media and pro sports teams.  In the NBA it is called “The NBA CARES.” 

     

Living Legends, Harold, Hattie T & Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams While in DC Doug wore two hats ---he was Santa Claus for the KIT toy party  

The Health is Wealth tour is just one of many efforts used by KIT to reach at risk youth.  The program includes introducing people who have managed to break away from the violence.  For example; Rappers (Poetry & Gospel) Alvin Bowman and Kevin Megginson are two young men from the streets of Baltimore.  They bring messages of hope such as, “I have been there and done that and it ain’t worth the trip.”  Their words of wisdom should be heard by every minority child in America.  Their unique presentations and messages about “The Game Called Life” leave young audiences spellbound.  The young men’s backgrounds are as different as day and night.  Alvin is college educated and had both parents at home.  Kevin is from a dysfunctional family and a high school drop-out.  Despite their differences they have a lot in common both have PhDs when it comes to the ABC’s of survival on the ‘mean streets’ of America. 

Alvin aka “Testimony” is in the process of completing his second solo project titled ‘Testimony…Somebody Prayed For Me.’  He was a finalist in the 2001 Russell Simmons HBO Def Jam Poetry competition held at Security Mall in Baltimore, MD.  He is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. 

Kevin, aka “Da Fisherman,” his words are heart felt, real and anointed.  He has been where he wants none of his young listeners to ever go---jail.  He has spent the majority of his life there.  His life experiences, often heard in his lyrics, are his living testimony. In 2001, he surrendered and vowed to give his life totally to Christ.  His promise was to spread the gospel about his life and death experiences.  He hopes his message will help other young people avoid the pitfalls and often man made obstacles that almost took away his freedom for good.  Kevin has traveled up and down the East Coast and was a finalist at the McDonald’s Gospel Fest in 2003 and 2004.  He has also performed at the Apollo Theatre.  Alvin and Kevin’s messages are roadmaps for young people to travel for a better way of life.  The only requirement is for them is to listen and hopefully heed their advice. 

Da Fisherman & Testimony testify before a group of high school students

Hattie and Harold’s new initiative obesity in our children is a national health crisis.  The tour will travel throughout communities, working to instill the values of life and encourage healthy eating and exercise habits.  They hope the tour will heighten awareness in children’s mental and physical health.  Their goal is to save one child at a time.

According to data compiled from the University of South Carolina, Rural vs. Urban, 30 percent of America’s children between the ages of 10-17 are overweight, 14.8 percent are obese.  Urban minority children are more likely to be overweight than rural children.  Black children (41.2 percent) are more likely to be overweight than Hispanic (38 percent) and white children (26.7 percent).  The DC metropolitan area has the highest proportion of overweight children.  Kids In Trouble has had the opportunity to observe young people on playgrounds, in schools and churches.  The imagines they see are astonishing.  One can estimate for each child obesity effects it will touch between 5-7 friends, neighbors, students, teachers, teammates and others out side of the family.  These children will be bullied and picked on because of their overweight issues.  Being overweight can cause sadness, stress, self-hate and suicide.  It can also lead young people to drop out of school.  Many will seek gangs as a refuge and can lead to unwanted pregnancy among females looking for love in all the wrong places.  This is just some of the many destructive elements and obstacles facing our diverse community and affecting minority young people in particular.  “Where’s the beef?”  You have to look no further than our children.  Hattie and Harold say, “Sitting around and doing nothing is not an option.” 

Harold is also a legendary and award winning sports talk show host.  His ‘Inside Sports’ talk format has been used to defend the likes of legendary fight promoter Don King, the NFL’s greatest football player, Jim Brown, former Georgetown basketball Coach John Thompson, and boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard.  Against an often hostile media, he stood up for them when they could not stand up for themselves.  The Inside Sports format has being copied on sports talk radio and television around the world.  Harold was the first sports media personality to be named “Washingtonian of the Year.”  In 2008 the Pigskin Club of DC honored him with a Living Legends Award.  On October 10, 2007 he added another chapter to his legendary community career.  He helped save a 16-year old autistic child from a certain death.  Denise Coleman had fallen onto the tracks at the Potomac Avenue subway station in SE Washington, DC.  Harold, with help from two metro workers, Adrian Avant and Michael Banks pulled the child from the tracks seconds before an on-coming train arrived.  She was definitely a kid in trouble.

Harold Bell and Jim Brown 

Some of Kids In Trouble, Inc. and Inside Sports program’s benefactors read like a Who’s Who in the world of black media, James Brown (CBS), John Thompson (ESPN), Michael Wilbon (ESPN), Dave Aldridge (TNT), Sugar Ray Leonard (ESPN), Adrian Branch (ESPN), Cathy Hughes, Alfred Liggins, Jeff Majors and Butch McAdams (Radio One), Glenn Harris (TV 8 sports talk), Jamie Foster Brown (Sister to Sister Magazine), and Omar Tyree (best selling author).  Sports columnist Dick Heller of the Washington Times says “Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports talk radio—the good kind.” 

The KIT team also includes, Ms. Julia Dunkins (founder of Survivors of Homicide), Ms. LaShonne Williams (The Center for True Justice and Healing, Inc.).  These two ladies both lost children to gun violence.  Ms. Dunkins in 1993 and Ms. Williams in 2007.  Rounding out the team is: original member Andrew Johnson, a former DC Homicide Detective and agent for the DEA; Theo Brooks, a Roving Leader for the DC Recreation Department and a leading authority on youth gangs in the DC Metropolitan area.  Theo has written a book entitled “Gangs in the Shadows of the White House.”  During his high school days at Cardozo, Hattie taught him and Harold coached him in football.  It looks like they taught and coached him well.  Like his mentors he has become a legend in the inner-city for his work with at-risk children. 

To volunteer or make a donation to Kids In Trouble, Inc. e-mail Harold Bell at: hkbell@comcast.net or call 240-245-3008. 

Maggie Linton is a pioneer in sports talk radio and television.  She was the first woman Sports Anchor on TV in Wichita, KS, St. Louis and Washington, DC.  Maggie has also worked on Network TV and in feature films.  She hosts a radio talk show on XM Satellite Radio, Saturday nights at 10:00 pm on XM 169.

The Game Of Tennis: An African American Journey by Bernard A. Chavis is an interesting account of a man who has seen a lot of problems in terms of race and inequality. It really makes you wonder why more African Americans don't have an interest in the game of tennis. It will really get you thinking of a solution to improve African American participation in the sport.

Mr. Chavis was a standout basketball and football player growing up in Washington, DC, but never seriously considered playing tennis when he was young.  In a recent interview with Tennis Week magazine, Chavis stated:  "During my youth, playing tennis was out of the question," Chavis says. "It was not considered a manly sport and if any of my friends saw a Negro youngster even pick up a racket, that unfortunate youngster would be teased and ridiculed for days on end."

Chavis went to college (Villanova University) on a basketball scholarship.  He taught himself how to play tennis and went on to serve as national president of the American Tennis Association.

In his book Mr. Chavis examines the barriers that prevented blacks and other minorities from playing and enjoying the game of tennis.  As an administrator and ambassador of the game Mr. Chavis is sharing his experiences to level the playing game for the sport that he loves so that young men like me won’t be denied the physical and business rewards associated with the game of tennis.

To learn more about Bernard A. Chavis visit:  http://chavisinfo.com.

  • Publisher: Buy Books on the Web.Com
  • Pub. Date: December 2007
  • ISBN-13: 9780741442901
  • 210 pages

Review written by Christopher and Gary Johnson.

GM's Corvette Plant Manager Honored by the Engineering Deans of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Unique Award Created to Recognize Wilmer Cooksey's Longtime Dedication to African-American Education

http://www.BlackNews.com/images/wilmer-cooksey.jpg
Wilmer Cooksey

Detroit, MI (BlackNews.com) - The Council of Engineering Deans of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities will recognize GM Corvette plant manager Wilmer Cooksey with its Lifetime Service award for his longtime dedication to education for African Americans. The group will present the prestigious award to Cooksey, a former college professor, on Saturday, Feb. 16 during the Black Engineer of the Year Award program in Baltimore.

"Many people leave the workplace for academia, but Wil did the opposite: he brought his advanced academic knowledge to the shop floor," said Gary Cowger, GM group vice president of Global Manufacturing and Labor Relations, who will speak about Cooksey 's achievements during the award ceremony. "We are grateful for the leadership he has brought to GM manufacturing, and we're proud of his lifetime commitment to education."

The award was created especially for Cooksey, who was an assistant professor in industrial engineering at General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich. before taking his first job GM manufacturing job in 1976. Cooksey held leadership positions at GM plants in St. Louis, Atlanta and Fairfax, Kan. before being named plant manager of GM's only Chevy Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky. in 1993. Under Cooksey's direction, the Corvette and the plant have won numerous awards. Cooksey, who has called running the Corvette plant his "dream job," announced his retirement effective March 1.

Cooksey serves on the Tennessee State University Foundation Board of Trustees, the Western Kentucky University School of Business Advisory Board, the Western Kentucky University College of Education and Behavioral Science, Drug Abuse Resistance Education Advisory Council and the Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering (AMIE) Board of Directors.

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Cooksey earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee State University in 1965 and a master's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Toledo in 1972. He completed postgraduate work in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University.


General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the annual global industry sales leader for 77 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 280,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 35 countries. In 2007, nearly 9.37 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at
www.gm.com


CONTACT(S):
Edd Snyder
GM Communications
Phone: 313-665-4266
Email: edd.snyder@gm.com

Brenda Rios
GM Communications
Phone: (313) 655-3165
Email: brenda.rios@gm.com

Many of you were introduced to Wilmer “Wil” Cooksey, Jr., through our exclusive interview with him in 2003.  Mr. Cooksey was named manager of the world's only Corvette plant in February of 1993. As a lifelong fan of the car, it was a dream job come true.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Mr. Cooksey received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee State University in 1965. He earned a Master's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Toledo in 1972 and completed post graduate work in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University.

A Distinguished Graduate of the Officer's Training School, Cooksey served as an executive officer in the U.S. Army Artillery, 1st Lieutenant. His last assignment was a year in Vietnam. For his efforts while in Vietnam, he was awarded the bronze medal.

Mr. Cooksey's General Motors career is the epitome of achievement beginning with his first job as an assistant professor in industrial engineering at GMI in Flint, Michigan to his current position.

Mr. Cooksey’s accomplishments are long and historic.  In 1997 Cooksey received the "Black Engineer of the Year President's Award." Also in 1997, Austin Peay University named him "Achiever of the Year" in their Focus Program.  He also received a Presidential Citation from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in recognition of exemplary experience that honors Tennessee State University. Dollars & Sense Magazine honored Cooksey in their 1998 "Salute to America's Best & Brightest Business and Professional Men and Women." Cooksey is featured on the cover of African Americans on Wheels magazine as they named the Corvette the "Best Urban Car of the Year." He has been honored as an Outstanding Graduate of Tennessee State and named a "Black Achiever in the Industry" by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

You can read Gary Johnson’s exclusive 2003 interview with Mr. Cooksey below. 

BMIA.com:  How important of a factor was education in your accomplishments? 

Education has been critical to my success.  In the 1950’s and 60’s you couldn’t expect or dream about opportunities if you didn’t further your education.  The same holds true today.  Growing up I saw so many people who were not given the professional opportunities available because of a lack of education.  My mother taught my siblings as well as myself the importance of education.  In fact, all eight of us went to college.  An education is something no one can ever take away from you. 

BMIA.com:  You’re involved in a lot of community service work.  Were you taught as a child to be a good citizen or is this something that you learned later in life in the work world? 

Growing up in a lower-income, blue-collar family in Texas, we depended on services to help us out during certain times.  Even though my mom worked full-time in a hospital, money was very tight.  There were quite a few times when services would bring food or Christmas presents to the house for us kids. 

Now I am in a position to return the favor and help others.  Supporting my community through the United Way and educational institutions, like Tennessee State University (TSU), are very important to our workplace and to me.   

BMIA.com:  Who influenced you the most? 

Wil Cooksey:  My mother always had her sights set on earning a college education.  However, she was burdened by taking care of our family and working full-time.  She took night courses and always kept trying.  She was absolutely delighted when I as well as my siblings earned our college degrees.  It was her focus and determination that influenced me the most growing up. 

My wife, Dr. Elizabeth Cooksey, has also been a great influence in my life.  We met while we were in college at TSU.  It was with her guidance and example that I saw the importance of getting a great education as well as having a good social life.  She’s been a guiding light ever since.  This year we’ll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. 

BMIA.com:  What’s your position on Affirmative Action in the workplace? 

Wil Cooksey:  Affirmative Action is absolutely necessary.  I believe that organizations are aware of the importance of diversity.  However, many do not have the action steps behind it to support creating a diverse workforce.  Unfortunately, you are not going to get the right mix of people automatically.

In today’s competitive market it is very difficult to recruit the best and brightest.  It takes a good recruiting program to attract the talent and diversity that companies need to be successful.  It requires mentoring, training and hiring practices that bring in people who are going to continue to grow and challenge traditional thought. 

BMIA.com:  Based on your experiences, how does someone fight racism and sexism in America? 

Wil Cooksey:  The most important way to fight racism or sexism is not to feed or perpetuate it.  You cannot win if you use racism to fight racism.  Every individual has to walk the talk and set the example of how you as an individual want to be treated. 

Education is the key.  I believe that ignorance is the basis for most of the racism and sexism that we see in our society.  We will all have a greater understanding of one another if we support educational programs and opportunities for all different kinds of people. 

BMIA.com:  What was your earliest or most vivid recollection of being “different?” 

Wil Cooksey:  I never really realized that I was different until I started wanting to go to the movies with my friends.  Not only was I black and had to sit in the upper balcony but I was also tall.  In fact I was so tall for my age that I had to carry my birth certificate with me so the movie attendants would believe that I was 10 years old.  Otherwise, I would have had to pay more than 10 cents to see some of the greatest westerns ever made. 

It is at that age that I realized the inequities between the races.  By working and being surrounded by all types of people, I quickly learned that if I was going to be successful you have to have a better understanding of all people. 

BMIA.com:  What would you say has been your biggest success to date? (Personal and/or business). 

Wil Cooksey:  My entire career I have focused on becoming the plant manager of the world’s greatest sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette.  The success that the car and the plant have had – winning more than 55 industry awards – in the past 5 years and launching the brand new Cadillac XLR means a great deal to me.  It has taken the teamwork and focus of everyone at Bowling Green Assembly. 

Personally, my greatest success is being happily married to my wife for forty years.  We’ve been together through degrees, moves, wars, children and careers.  I am very proud of her and her accomplishments.  Most recently she earned her doctorate in secondary education.  It is with her unending support that I am most successful. 

BMIA.com:  Did you have any mentors growing up? 

Wil Cooksey:  When I first hired into General Motors your mentors were people you didn’t even know.  They worked behind the scenes making sure that you were given opportunities that you would traditionally be looked over for.  I began my career as a professor at GMI, now Kettering University, and teaching statistics.  However, my goal was to get back into production management and to become a plant manager. At that time GM’s Chairman of the Board was Dick Terrell.  It was as a faculty member that I met Mr. Terrell.  The board used to come and have lunches with the faculty quite frequently.  He took an interest in my career and helped me transition to a career in manufacturing where I eventually became a plant manager.  Little did I know that he was pushing my career from behind the scenes. 

Now I serve as a mentor to many students at TSU and I can proudly look at the careers of employees who have grown up through my ranks.  It is my pleasure and greatest achievement to help mentor those who have ambition, talent and a drive to succeed.

BMIA.com:  What makes the Corvette so special? 

Wil Cooksey:  There is no one thing that makes Corvettes so special.  I could talk about all the specific reasons for hours.   

Corvettes have to be in your blood.  When I lived in Atlanta I decided that it would be for the best to sell my Corvettes since I had so many different interests.  It didn’t take long before a sense of loneliness and emptiness set in deep inside me.  Corvettes take a place in your life whether you are driving, washing or showing them.  Very quickly I went to Tom Juniper Chevrolet because I was having Corvette withdrawal.  He let me take a two-toned white and silver ’82 home right off the lot.  I was happy once again.  Since that day I have never been without a Corvette. 

Basically Corvettes end up being members of your family.  It doesn’t matter the year or body style, they are all special.  You depend on them and they take car of you. 

BMIA.com:   Under your leadership, Corvette has won a number of prestigious awards.  What did you do to re-establish the Vette and win these awards? 

Wil Cooksey:  Bowling Green Assembly has been very successful due to entire team working together to achieve one common goal.  And, that is to be the best assembly plant in the world.  Our organization had to improve its productivity, performance and quality in order to be more competitive.  It took the partnership of the local UAW to take some bold steps and training of the entire workforce. We focused on safety and quality. 

We also created enthusiasm by listening closely to our customers.  We started to use customer feedback from JD Power, Corvette shows and other mechanisms to solve quality problems.  It took teams of engineers, management and UAW members working together to get our quality where it is today.  We have learned that if you develop close relationships and listen to your customers you will be successful. 

BMIA.com:  How important is diversity in today’s workplace? 

Wil Cooksey:  Diversity is essential.  In fact it’s mandatory if you are going to be successful. Our customers are diverse just as the people would build our products are diverse.  Companies today will not meet the needs of their customer base if they don’t have the same diversity in the workplace. 

There’s strength in diversity, which means there is more than one way to always look at something. As a leader, if you have a diverse organization there is a greater probability that you will make the best decisions for the entire workforce.  

BMIA.com:   As you climbed the corporate ladder was it difficult to find a happy balance between work and family? 

Wil Cooksey:  Unfortunately, you sacrifice a little bit of your time.  However, you have to take on the challenge to support your career as well as your family.  I didn’t get to go to all of my son’s track meets or my daughter’s band activities as they were growing up, but I did go to a majority of them.   

It has helped that my wife is a professor and has a demanding schedule as well.  It is important that we both remain flexible and know one another’s schedule. 

BMIA.com:  You are a trailblazer.  What advise would you give to someone who wanted to make a career in corporate America? 

Wil Cooksey:  Here’s the advice that I would give any young professional wanting to make a career in corporate America:

-          It is important to have an excellent education.   Excel in your studies and take educational opportunities such as internships and work programs that will give you professional experience in your field. 

-          As a student, make sure that you attract company representatives that can give you good advice and take on a mentorship role.  As a student or young professional, you are going to have to help navigating your career.

-          If you are going to be successful it is imperative that you have strong people skills.  Essentially, all people want to do the right thing. When entering a new organization you need to be part of the team and not come in a threatening manner.

-          Always show initiative.  Remember, it is deeds not words that get the job done.  You have to be known for getting the job done successfully.

-          Finally, no matter what the job is remember to always do your best.  Never let anyone see your displeasure with a certain job or let them see you sweat.  Go into each job to make the most of it.  If you always do your best, no one including yourself, will ever be able to question your integrity. 

BMIA.com:  What’s next for Corvette?

Wil Cooksey:  We’re very excited about the future of Corvette both with the 2004 model and the upcoming C6.  It has been a great pleasure to be involved and contribute to three generations of Corvettes. 

BMIA.com:   What’s next for Wil Cooksey? 

Wil Cooksey:  It’s my goal to have a pleasant and enjoyable end of my career.  The most rewarding thing is to see the people’s lives that I’ve touched as they go on ahead and achieve great things.   There’s never a dull moment in my life.  I am always ready for the next challenge. 

BMIA.com:  Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers that I didn’t ask? 

Wil Cooksey:  People are your greatest resource.  It’s amazing what you can achieve when everyone works together.  You’re greatest strength is those who surround and support you.

Leonard Rowe

“The Man Behind The Tour”

Leonard Rowe is a soldier in an industry that can be cut throat, racially discriminatory and relentlessly unyielding.  His work provides jobs to communities across the country and many don't even know to credit him or his kind for bringing money into black communities. 

His work may seem like a fun and glamorous career, but he is quick to pull the sheet back on the scathing bed of corruption that holds the deep dark secrets of this field.

Despite the many drawbacks and situations that occur as he pushes forward he finds enjoyment in his work and feels he has not only a right but a purpose in staying.  His staying power is quickly credited to God and those who have supported him.  Leonard Rowe sees beyond the concerns and problems and realizes that giving up will not make the path any easier for his predecessors, nor will his fight for justice be one that is fought with any more ease for those who remain behind.

So who is Leonard Rowe and what does he do?  Is he a literal soldier in the armed forces?  Does he work in the corporate world and bang his head on the glass ceiling we all have heard of?  Is he out there fighting the “good ol’ boy” system of politics? No…he's a top flight concert promoter.  And yet he manages to shed light on an industry that still has deep roots in a racist thrust toward monetary power shifts within the entertainment industry.

I asked Mr. Rowe if he knew a lot about promoting and just how he got started and he began to recant his genesis.  “I started promoting in 1975.  And it was on a whim that I started promoting.  I was in love with a group at the time called The Spinners.  I wasn’t thinking about entering into the industry at all.  I just wanted to see The Spinners perform.  So a friend of mine and I flew out of Atlanta to Newark, New Jersey to see the Spinners.  We got up there around noon and we decided to go downtown to Symphony Hall to where they were playing.  I went down to the building and the line was two blocks long.  At that particular time, the tickets were seven dollars [in Newark] which was high because down South the tickets are traditionally lower than they are up North.  So that seven dollars was extremely high and I thought it was a lot of money.  As I stood in that line about a block away from the building, I mumbled out to myself, talking out loud “I wonder who’s getting all these seven dollars.”  And some guy who was standing in line said, “The promoter gets these seven dollars.”  I didn’t know what a promoter was or what he did but I made up in my mind that that was what I was gonna be and here I am some 32 years later.  So basically that is how I got interested and into the industry.”

Rowe continues with the story, telling of his first loss and how important it was to have a strong support system.  “I went from there and started learning as much as I could learn on my own because, no one helps you in this business.  No one volunteers advice.  I went from there and met a good banker who was my friend, and is my friend today.  He went out on a limb and loaned me a few thousand dollars, which I lost, but I was able to keep going doing about two shows a year.  So with him on my side, and by the grace of God, I was always able to keep going.  But, to get ahead, I always tell people it’s like obtaining credit.  You could be a person coming out of college with no credit…never had bad credit and never had good credit.  You walk into a bank and ask for a Visa and that banker will deny you nine times out of ten; not because you have bad credit but because you have no credit at all.  You can go across the street to another bank and ask for a Master Charge and a banker there might see something in you and take a chance with you and say, ‘Come on…I ain’t supposed to do this but I will issue you a Master Charge.’”  Once he gives you that Master Charge you can go immediately back across the street and ask for a Visa and they will give it to you, so it’s like that in promoting.”

I couldn’t help but wonder who the first act was that gave him a chance.  Rowe affectionately talks about that break like it was yesterday.  “I was able [to get a big act] a few years after I started, I was never able to get a real superstar artist, to talk to one of the biggest groups in the country at the time. The O’Jays.  The O’Jays gave me about half of their tour.  For some reason they liked me.  I don’t know why, but they did and I got half of their tour and it was all successful.  All of the shows sold out in every major arena that we played and from that point on I began to book every major artist n the country from Michael Jackson on down.  So I give a lot of credit to The O’Jays for going out on a limb and taking a chance with me.  I am thankful today to them for that.”

I read about the struggles and problems Rowe has had in the industry.  He was the man behind a major class action lawsuit against the concert industry.  The lawsuit was dismissed, a major setback for Rowe, but he continues the fight and is not giving up on pursuing equality.  I needed to know more about the injustice he fights because so far, things seem as though every day hard knocks we all must deal with when starting a new business.  Leonard Rowe then gave me a history lesson full of insight that made me feel privileged to be privy to such a wealth of knowledge.

“Being a concert promoter is a very highly stressful job.  They are responsible for all costs.  If people decide not to come to your show, you are still responsible for the costs.  Its very stressful not only to play one show, but to launch a national tour like an R. Kelly tour when you are hitting every major city in the US it becomes very highly stress.  Especially in these days; Black promoters are becoming extinct.  They are basically gone.  That’s due to the racism and discrimination in this industry, they have basically eliminated us.  So, it’s very hard for Black Promoter to maintain.  Yes, I have been blessed.  I know I have to stay around as long as I have.  It’s the way the industry treats us.  A black promoter is not given the opportunity to promote a White act like an Elton John or a U2 or The Rolling Stones.  The White promoters, and I know all of ‘em that came into the industry with me, are able to promote any and all acts be it Black or White.  If I call the booking agency and ask them what’s available for me, they’ll only go down the Black roster.  If a White promoter calls that same booking agency and asks what’s available, they’ll go down both the Black and White roster.  So it’s very hard for a Black promoter to maintain in this industry, no matter whether he has the wherewithal or the knowledge…that doesn’t matter.  They will not sell me a date on U2 and they make no exceptions for that.  So, it’s difficult.  But, I have to keep going and fighting for what is right, which I intend to do.”

The obvious injustice is apparent in that equality is not practiced, but it runs deeper.  He shifts gears and talks about the turn around benefits of supporting African American promoted concerts.

“R. Kelly should be commended for what he has done.  He stepped forward to fight against that type of racism and gave his whole tour to a Black promoter.  And see, many people don’t know what all that entails and what is the significance of that.  So, let me tell you the significance of that.  A promoter, be it Black or White, sits at the helm of the distribution of that concert dollar.  That promoter is the person that hires the catering service, the limo service, the production service, the security company and the list goes on and on for a tour of this magnitude.  So, when a Black promoter sits at the helm, all of a sudden, Black security companies profit.  Black production companies profit.  Black catering companies profit.  And, the list goes on and on.  So instead of that concert dollar fertilizing Beverly Hills and commercial districts like Rodeo drive, that dollar is brought back to our community.  That is something that the ticket buyer is not aware of when they go to that glass window and stick their money through that hole and think they are just goin’ to see Janet Jackson or think they are just goin to see Prince.  That wealth is a lot of money being taken away from them by the White promoter who is putting that money back into the White companies and White business districts of this country.  But, when a Black promoter is aware of that and an artist is aware of that, they and try to take that wealth and redistribute it into our own communities like the White promoters do.  We are just trying to do what’s right with the concert dollar and make sure that Black America sees their money again that they stick through that glass hole.”

When asked if the artist has much control over the promoter they choose for their concert, he quickly responds “All of it!  All of it!  I stick it on them.   All of it!”  He takes a moment, however, ad gives the artist some grace… “But, I will say this; the booking agency is paid a lot of money to give them advice, but when they [the booking agency] do not even recognize Black promoters, the artist has no knowledge of the Black promoter.  It’s like this:  before the fair housing bill was passed they didn’t know that real estate agents did what is called “steering.”  If you call a real estate company and say “I’m looking for a house for two hundred thousand dollars, I want x amount of bedrooms and one and a half baths.”  If they only show you what’s up for sale in the Black neighborhoods then you don’t even know what’s for sale in the White neighborhoods and that’s how they kept segregation going.  The same thing exists in the concert industry.”

Many have discussed the strength in numbers.  Why is their not a union of form of unity amongst the Black promoters in America?  Wouldn’t that increase the power and booking ability of the Black promoter?  “Black concert promoters are a limited breed.  Those that work on a national level are down to about five.  Not the local ones doing club concerts, but on a national level.  It’s an industry that is difficult to break into, no matter how much money you have.  I have you guys come up to me all of the time and ask me how to get started.  Every time they ask me that question, I cringe because it is so hard for them to get started.  It’s a hard question for me to answer.  It really is.”

Rowe takes a moment to reflect on those he has worked with and who he really enjoyed.  “Who have I enjoyed?  Because of my relationship with him; Michael Jackson.  He was not difficult at all to work with.  I also enjoyed working with The Temptations.  God gave them a gift and they just had what it takes.  There are so many that I enjoyed working with…Patti Labelle, Stevie Wonder and I am now enjoying working with R. Kelly.  But relationship wise, I am very close to the Jackson family and I really enjoyed working with Michael.  And, I’m looking to work with him again.  I have been talking to him and trying to get him ready to go.  Hopefully I will be able to get him ready for next year.  I talked to him earlier this year and he said he wanted to do it next year.  So, hopefully, we’ll tour the world real soon.” Although he has proven he has staying power, there are still artists he would love to work with.  “I have worked with just about all of the African American acts, but I would love to be able to work with a  U2 or ‘The Rolling Stones’, but the industry would have a fit.  Maybe one day that’ll happen.”

One day…maybe…if the concertgoer and artists begin to support and demand tours promoted by Black promoters.  And, just why should they support the Black promoters?  Rowe says it best when discussing the current R. Kelly tour that features J. Holiday and Keyshia Cole.  “This tour is a tour that is produced, organized and controlled by African Americans and we ask that they come out to support us ‘cause we are trying to support them as well.”

"DOUBLE UP" TOUR STARRING  R. KELLY, WITH KEYSHIA COLE & J. HOLIDAY

This interview was conducted by Lawrence "el-Train" Evans for Black Men In America.com.

Posted 12/3/2007  Leonard Rowe Photo credit:  Renee Hannans Henry, Access Atlanta

Special thanks to Juanita Stephens of J. S. Media Relations for arranging this interview.

 

FATHERLESS BOYS: A Single-Mom Watches Her Teenage Son Struggle with Impending Manhood

By Vanessa Werts

Across America, in the inner-city and in suburbia, fathers are silently disappearing from their sons’ lives. Over the last decade, fatherlessness has emerged as one of the most consequential trends facing society.  What was long thought to be primarily an African-American problem, stemming from poverty and poor education, has become an issue that crosses both racial and class lines.   

Fatherless boys are crying out for affirmation, attention, and the unconditional love of their absent fathers.  Too often they flounder about life with no real sense of self and a wounded heart. Unfortunately, for society and for many boys without fathers, feelings of awkwardness, confusion, and hurt play out in staggering statistics of violence, crime, and imprisonment.   

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), a non profit organization established to combat father absence and promote responsible fatherhood, violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up without fathers, including 72 percent of adolescent murderers and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates.¹  

Nonetheless, not all boys without fathers display deviant behavior.  Some internalize the weight of their emotions and silently struggle with who they are and what they will become.  Much like my 16-year-old son, Marcus, who besides a few undesirable grades, gives the impression of being well adjusted. 

Although we have our parent-teen challenges, Marcus is mostly reserved and predictable.  I can always count on him to have a fervent opinion, even when he’s wrong.  Yet he’s timid and uncertain in social settings. Teachers often compliment his respectful demeanor saying how pleasant it is to have him in their class.  One time a friend of mine referred to him as the “gentle giant,” comparing his kind spirit to his tall stature.  Considering everything I know about my son, nothing could have prepared me for his reaction to a disagreement between us or his eventual melt-down. 

That Saturday morning started out as many of our weekends do.  I went out for an early morning walk and returned to the sound of video games and cartoons blasting from the televisions.  As I walked across the living room floor, I noticed there were potato chips lying in the carpet next to the sofa.  When I questioned Marcus and his younger brother, Deon, neither of them admitted to being responsible.  So I gave them an ultimatum to tell the truth or deal with the consequences.  This sparked a bit of defiance in Marcus.  From there, a difference of opinion escalated to his breaking point. 

Frustrated with me, Marcus slammed his hand against the bathroom wall.  The sound and the eruption of emotions that followed confirmed that his reaction was about something much deeper than our confrontation.  Finding release, Marcus sobbed well over an hour. Pain and sadness were etched in his face as warm tears trickled over his cheeks.  Each time I asked what was wrong, he cried louder – harder.  “I’m tired of everything and everybody,” he finally exclaimed between gasps.  “It’s all my dad’s fault.  I just don’t think he appreciates me.” 

Memories of my own fatherless childhood washed over me as I consoled and wept for my son that day and for the millions of fatherless boys who want more than anything to have a father who cares. 

After my ex-husband and I divorced twelve years ago, his relationship with Marcus settled into a pattern of random calls and sporadic visits.  Though rough at first, Marcus eventually adjusted to the new arrangement, expecting me to be there to tuck him in bed at night, and for dad to call and make arrangements to pick him up for a trip to ToysRUs.  Back then, their relationship was amicable. 

Now, with puberty and an awakened consciousness as factors, careless fathering has become a futile distraction in Marcus’s mind.  Broken promises and inconsistent communication caused a wedge in his relationship with his father.  “At 12-years-old, I was on the fence about him,” says Marcus.  “I began to loose faith in him when I was in 6th grade.”  By the time he turned 14; Marcus claimed not to care whether he saw or heard from his father at all. 

Sadly, Marcus thinks he doesn’t need his father or guidance from any man.  His belief: “I will become a man based on my own experience and instincts.  And I’ll use what I’ve learned from my mom and other adults – mainly family - who have given me advice or life lessons.” 

When fatherless boys quit expecting and stop hoping, something terrible happens to them, and to society.  “The absence of a father can shatter a child’s world,” President George Bush said at the Forth National Summit on Fatherhood in 2001.  “We know that children who grow up with absent fathers can suffer lasting damage.”  President Bush went on to say, “Nearly every man who has a child wants to be a good father, I truly believe that.  It’s a natural longing of the human heart to care for and cherish your child.  But this longing must find concrete expression.”²  

Undeniable facts: there were 12.9 million one-parent families in 2006 – 10.4 million were single-mother families, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Families and Living Arrangements: 2006.  “Court and school officials report that many children do not even know what to put in the ‘Father’s Name’ blank on printed forms,” David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, wrote in his 1995 book Fatherless America  

Supporters of responsible fatherhood initiatives are as varied as the reasons for father-absence.  From pro-fatherhood groups to public officials to the federal government, they all weigh in on how to address fatherlessness.  Expectedly, opinions differ on the reasons why fathers abandon their children and the methods used to address the problem.  Nevertheless, the resounding truth we all agree on is: children need their dads. 

Federal funding and grants are available for programs designed to strengthen fatherhood.  Like the NFI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services joined the fatherhood movement last year and launched a national initiative, the 2006 Promoting National Fatherhood Initiative.  The program is currently on-going and enables fathers to improve relationships and reconnect with their children. 

It’s widely believed that manhood must be learned, that it’s not a birth right.  I agree.  Yet for Marcus, past experiences with men have been synonymous with disappointment and rejection.  Promises are continually broken by his father, and calls are infrequent at best.  On the occasion his father does call, Marcus makes excuses not to spend time with him.  I used to make him go with his dad.  Not any more.  Disturbing as it is to think, considering his attitude towards his father, I often wonder if it’s too late to reach him. 

“It’s never too late!” says Marvin Dickerson, President of the Greater Washington DC Chapter of 100 Black Men, a non profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for African-American youth, particularly males.  “I think it’s harder as time goes on because their options diminish.  Methods have to change with the age range.” 

Because Dickerson’s father passed away when he was only 10-years-old, he knows all too well what its like to grow up without a father.  Remembering life after his father’s death, Dickerson says, “I had a lot of positive people around me who thought I was special and went out of their way to take care of me.”  Even so, he admits that his fondest memory is of his dad coming to see him play in a youth All-Star Baseball game.  Coming off the field after making a major play, Dickerson recalls looking into the stands at his father.  He says the proud that’s-my-boy smirk on his father’s face was priceless.  “It was the best feeling.” 

Recently, I registered Marcus for a group-based mentoring program operated by 100 Black Men of Greater Washington DC, Inc.  The program inspires youth to identify personal dreams or goals and build action plans toward achieving them.  “The realization of seeing them when they start to dream,” says Dickerson, “when they start thinking about the future, I know it’s worth it.”  There is no substitute for dad.  However, mentoring programs give fatherless boys and their families a ray of hope. 

Through mentorship, I hope Marcus will begin to value his life regardless of feeling unappreciated by his father.  And that he will discover his personal greatness.  But mostly, I hope being mentored by committed caring men will help fill the void created by his father’s absence. 

Riding along in the car one afternoon Deon said, “Mom, I’m a happy soul.” He flashed his signature smile.  Imagine that.  Astonished, I turned to look at him and asked what he meant.  Pondering his answer, he finally said he was just happy. At 8-years-old the soul knows when it is nurtured and loved completely.  Marcus once felt that way.  Before maturity and the realities of life began to whisper that life is about choices and sometimes you’re not the chosen one. 

What will become of America’s fatherless boys?  What price will society ultimately pay if this trend continues?  The clock is ticking. 

¹National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), Aug. 1, 2007 http//www.fatherhood.org/prezwel.asp.

²President George W. Bush, President Bush Speaks at the Forth National Summit on Fatherhood at the Hyatt Regency Capital Hill, Washington, D.C., June 7, 2001. 

³David Blankenhorn, “Fatherless America: Confronting our Most Current Social Problem" (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 10.

Vanessa Werts is a freelance writer currently working on her first novel.  She is an optimistic contemporary, compelled to write articles that voice true expression of those directly impacted by negative social trends in the Black community. Vanessa lives in the Washington D.C. area.


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Mighty Sam McClain and Bon Jovi Finalist In International Songwriting Competition

"Congratulations, your song "I Wish You Well" is a Finalist. Only 287 songs out of over 15,500 songs have reached this status."    (This song is on the new "Too Much Jesus" (Not Enough Whiskey) CD, which, as yet, is unreleased, but available at www.mightysam.com).

"Congratulations again, your song "Show Me The Way" is a Finalist." (this song performed as a duet with Jon Bon Jovi on the "Give US Your Poor" CD)

  • "I Wish You Well" -- Blues Category
  •  "Show Me The Way" -- Blues Category

Also, just a quick reminder...there is only a limited time to get your friends and fans out to vote for your song on People's Voice (deadline is March 31). This competition is separate, and in addition to, to the regular ISC competition which is judged by our amazing panel of judges.

Vote in the People's Voice! You be the judge.....but vote for Mighty Sam McClain and his two songs!!!!

http://www.sonicbids.com/voting/default.asp?poll_id=277%20

Team Up To Help The Homeless

Jon Bon Jovi representing the "arena rock" camp, pairing up with the formerly indigent Mighty Sam McClain on the rousing, gospel-inflected "Show Me the Way" (not the Peter Frampton song).

Jon Bon Jovi the Rock Icon continues his commitment to homelessness all around the world by recording for the CD and video for Give Us Your  Poor. Jon Bon Jovi, who has since been named Habitat For Humanity's first-ever Ambassador.  In December 2006, Jon recorded a song by Mighty Sam McClain with Mighty Sam's band backing. Mighty Sam wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music with band member Donn Scott Shetler

Check out our exclusive interview with Mighty Sam McClain.

Mighty Sam McClain:  "The Soul of America"

God Is His Reason For Living (And Singing Too!)

Click here to watch a live performance of Mighty Sam singing "Betcha Didn't Know performed in Halle, Germany 

 

Black Men In America.com routinely receives a lot of books and CD’s.  A couple of years ago while going through the mail I ran across a CD by an artist named Mighty Sam McClain.  I decided to listen to the CD.  Mighty Sam McClain is a bluesman.  Mighty Sam’s voice was strong and his band was kicking it.  In fact, his band reminded me of the legendary Memphis STAX band from the 60’s.  After listening to the entire CD, I decided to find Mighty Sam McClain and make him the first blues artist interviewed on Black Men In America.com.

Also, Sam has had a tribute song written for him by Mark Stepakoff, an outstanding Boston singer-songwriter, which he recorded on one of his CD's. According to Mighty Same, Mark really tells Sam’s my life story in song.  

On June 24, 2006 at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH,  Sam hosted the Mighty Sam Music Festival, another dream come true for the singer.
 
A few years ago Mighty Sam returned from a seven week tour of both Russia & Turkey, headlining the Efes Pilsen International Blues Festival, where he brought his unique, soulful sound to  thousands in the sold out performances. Backed by a strong horn section, including Massachusetts local, Scott Shetler on sax, Mighty Same delivered the funk, the soulful blues, the country flavor and the emotional intensity which characterize his style...and he was welcomed with love. The audiences were wildly enthusiastic! Also included in the lineup were "Little Charlie and the Nightcats", Fruteland Jackson and "Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks.

After a few moments talking with Mighty Sam it became very clear that Mighty Sam McClain is a God fearing man who is virtually unknown in the black music community.

While studying for this interview I didn’t meet one black person who had heard of Sam McClain.  I found Mighty Sam to be a gracious and humble man.  I also found Mighty Sam to be a masterful storyteller.  There were times when I was mesmerized listening to this man talk about his experiences.  His life has been a rollercoaster ride.  Raised as one of 13 children, McClain first began singing gospel music in his mother’s church on the northern edge of the “Bible Belt” in Monroe, Louisiana in the early 1940’s.  He left home at the age of 13 before starting work as a cotton picker to escape an abusive stepfather.  He later found employment with local R & B guitarist, "Little Melvin" Underwood and followed him through the “Chitlin Circuit,” first as his valet and then as a lead vocalist.

McClain subsequently built his reputation as a vocalist recording for Malaco and Atlantic Records.  He also appeared three times at the Apollo Theatre.  Afterwards, however, his career went into freefall, and through much of the 70s and 80s he subsisted on the streets of Penascola, Florida.  It was only in 1983 that he made a comeback, when producer Carlo Ditta invited him to return to the studio and record Pray.  With interest in his lost career reborn, the Japanese label Dead Ball followed that release with a live recording of one of his shows in Tokyo.  McClain also made a series of guest appearances on an album recorded by Hubert Sumlin for Black Top Records in 1987, before spending the next five years working on a failed real estate venture with his third wife in Houston.

Sam McClain had dropped off the face of the earth it seemed until he re-emerged on AudioQuest Records in 1993 with a stunning new album, Give It Up to Love with McClain originals alongside two cover versions of Al Green and Carlene Carter. This new recording attracted rave reviews in the soul and R&B music press, and was followed up two years later by Keep On Moving, as McClain at last began to enjoy the fruits of his labors and talent.  Over the next three years, as the momentum continued to build, McClain released four albums, including Soul Survivor, which included the track New Man In Town, featured on the FOX TV show "Ally McBeal.”  The song was used in 11 episodes of the popular television show and put some nice “change” in McClain’s pocket.

Grammy nominated Mighty Sam McClain has also been nominated for numerous W.C. Handy awards in the Soul/Blues vocalist category. Real Blues magazine awarded McClain as the Soul/Blues Entertainer of the Year for three years in a row.  Rolling Stone magazine has called him "The Great Torchbearer of Soul" and Pulse magazine has referred to him as "America's best purveyor of red-clay soul/blues."

Black Men In America.com has dubbed Mighty Sam McClain as a living legend of soul music, gospel and blues.  That’s right, soul music.  Sam McClain is so diverse that he reminds me of Little Milton, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Z.Z. Hill and Bobby Blue Bland.  If you want to hear good soul music with a gospel and blues edge click here and order Mighty Sam’s music.

For those of you who are not familiar with Sam McClain I hope this interview introduces his music to a new audience of fans who will support him by purchasing his music and attending his shows.

  

The Mighty Sam McClain Interview  

Mighty Sam McClain:  Gary, Sam McClain here man. Listen, thank you my brother, so much for your heart-felt attitude towards Sam McClain and this music. I am so grateful my friend. Eternally grateful.  Always.  

BMIA.com:  Mighty Sam, it is a pleasure to finally connect with you.  My late mother-in-law introduced me to the blues 20 years ago.  So when I had the opportunity to interview a real blues man, you know I had to jump on it.  I just want to ask you some questions. 

Sam McClain:  I’m going to try and answer your questions.  I might get to talking too fast (laughing).  You know, I tend to run on, like I’m doing right now. You know what I mean? (Laughing) But, listen man, I thank you so much my brother. This is great; I just heard some good news about my wife yesterday. We took her in for an operation and the doctor went in just before he got ready to operate on her. He had put her to sleep, but just before they got ready to do the surgery they went in to look again and it wasn’t there.  Good Lord had removed it man. God is so good. God is so good. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m here. (Laughter)  I know you always ask people like me, what advice would you give someone who wants to make it in the music business. That’s the first thing I’d tell them – put God first. Put God first.  Put everything in its right perspective and you got success right there. But, anyway, I’m going on and on here. So, my wife is back home and we took her in yesterday at about 4:30 and we brought her back home around noon.  It was a blessing. It was an absolute blessing. God is so good. Whatever that doctor saw; it’s gone. Good Lord moved it.  

BMIA.com:  I’m very glad to hear the good news about your wife. 

Sam McClain:  All right, now back to the business of the Mighty Sam McClain interview. 

BMIA.com:  OK.  How long have you been in the music business?”  

Sam McClain:  Well I’ve been in the music business for a long time, man, I started singing when I was five years old, as you know a little bit about my background. I started making money – the first time I made money was in elementary school. I was in the 7th grade – my Physical Ed teacher put together a little local band there for us and we made a little money, then. And so I guess I considered myself in the music business at that time, you know. (There’s a little noise going off in the background.  Forgive that. It’s just my other phone going on.) But, that’s when I first made any money – so I guess that’s what being in the music business is about to a lot of people – being able to make a living at it as well as being in your craft and something that you truly love. So, I guess I’ve really been doing it now on – from that point I started working with Little Melvin – a little while later on -- Little Melvin Underwood. I worked with him as his valet, and I worked from valet up to background singer and then I worked from background up to lead singer. And, so, you know, putting the years together, I’m that kind of figuring as I’m talking here. I guess I been in the business for fifty years. Yes, forty-five years. That‘s question number one.  It took me a long time – I hope I have enough tape.  

BMIA.com:  “How did you get into the business?”  

Sam McClain:  Well, I think I just answered that, pretty much. Really getting on the road, I was on the road with Little Melvin, and, as his valet – toting his guitar and his amplifier and stuff like that and just kept on doing whatever little chores that need to be done.  I was the gofer man. You know. And from that I started getting more and more into the business.  You know, as time went on I started learning about the business. You know, as time went on I started taking over my own career and in the late years, like now, my label, etc.  As time went on I started learning more about the business and the music and whole trip.  

BMIA.com:  Did you think you would last this long?

Sam McClain:  There was time when I definite thought, I was about to give up on myself and give up on God and everything else. And I know a lot of people that didn’t think I would last this long. Well, didn’t think I would last, period -- (laughter) Much less this long.  My stepfather used to tell me – even before I left home – you know, I left home when I was thirteen years old – and my stepfather used to tell me that I would never amount to shit. This is even before I left home, you know.  I was a child.  I mean this guy, he was what he was. I loved him, I really wanted him to be my father, but that‘s the way it was. So, there was time when I thought I wasn’t going to last and there was time when other people didn’t think I was gonna last. (Laughter) But, praise be to God, here I am.  And we’re trucking on.  God gave me this voice, that’s why I’m still here. I’ve always had this to hang on to.  When everybody leave – when there was nobody else around the voice has always been here. The music has always been here. So, that’s where we are with number three – Did you think you would last this long.  Alright. 

BMIA.com:  “Who are some the artist that inspired you? And, who influenced you the most?”  

Sam McClain:  Early on, there was, all of the older cats, you know, from Little Willie John, Ruth Brown, Clyde McFadden, Big Joe Turner, Ivan Joe Hunter – all of those people back in those days – and B.B. King, cause we used to listen to a lot of radio out of Nashville Tennessee.  Enjoying Rich Byrd and all those guys.  That’s the kind of music we played, you know. But my biggest influence became, Bobby Blue Bland.  

BMIA.com:  What was it about Bobby Blue Bland that made him you’re biggest influence? 

Sam McClain:  When I first heard Bobby Blue Bland – it’s like, man, it’s like heaven opened up.  “There it is, there it is – right there.” That’s what I want to be. And right now Bobby and I are considered to be – I consider us friends – we can run across each other quite a bit.  And, I lived to see that dream come true – I used to say, “One of these days I’m going to have me a tour bus.  I’m gonna drive right up side Bobby’s bus and get off my bus and get on his bus.”  Well God has let me live long enough to see that happen. Man, I tell you. You know, this little cotton picker from Montgomery Louisiana. The very first time I saw Bobby, I couldn’t even get in the event because I was too young and didn’t have the money either. You know, and God has let me live long enough to where I followed this man all my life and now he calls me up on stage just like – every time he see me he won’t wait till I get up on the stage with him.  You know – that’s a dream, I mean that’s a dream. So, I would have to say Bobby’s been one of my biggest influences – still is. Today, I love that man so much, he is a sweet and kind man -- very kind to me, very very gracious. I feel very blessed to have got chance to meet him and be in his company and consider him my friend. So, he’s one of my biggest influences. Now moving down the line, I love Al Green. I think Al Green is one of the soulful cats out there. 

BMIA.com:  Do you get a chance to hang out with Bobby? 

Sam McClain:  As a matter of fact I’m going to see Bobby this Thursday. They’re playing at a club in Boston called “Scullers.”  And, Joe Harden just called me a little while back.  Joe Harden is Bobby Blue Bland’s trumpet player – who married my first cousin, Gladys. And the first song on “One More Bridge To Cross” was the one you said you liked – Joe wrote that first song – he wrote it to my cousin – “Why Do We Have To Say Goodbye?”  Oh Gladys wanted a divorce and Joe didn’t want any divorce. You know what I mean?  So, that’s where that song came from. It was given to Bobby. But, Bobby and them, they couldn’t hear it. So Joe passed it on to me and I could hear it. So I went on did it for him. But, yea man, I see Bobby and Joe all the time – I mean, cause like Joe is my first – he married my first cousin, so he’s family and he’s been with Bobby Bland for thirty years or more and he’s the bandleader/trumpet player. So, you know, yes, I’m very close to the family. I feel very blessed to have lived to see this. 

BMIA.com:  I really like you’re latest CD –“ Sweet Dreams” – it really tells a story.  It has a classic down home blues feeling.  The horn section is tight and the guitar is strong.  And, of course your voice is classic. How has the CD been received?”  

Sam McClain:  Well the CD has been received very well. Where it has reached, it’s just so hard to get this music anywhere – into the right hands, man, its tough, and even to my black people – that’s another reason I am honored, so honored that you are calling and asking me to be a part of what you and your people have going. Because it seems like God just snatched me up and put me on this side of the track, ‘cause this one the only place I could survive because my black people just wasn’t accepting nothing I had to say and if this side of the track didn’t exist I don’t know what in the hell I’d be right now.  The CD has been received very well from people of which they have heard it. Or had a chance to hear it. But that’s the hard part – getting it played, you know, and having the promotion. I did it all myself – my wife and I – and we spent quite a bit of money.   

BMIA.com:  Has it been difficult to generate publicity and promote your music? 

Sam McClain:  Man, we bought a full-page ad in magazines, Living Blues and Blues Review, and every time you buy a full-page ad in Blues Review, I mean that’s $1700, you know.  So we bought a half a year in that magazine.  That’s just one magazine.  Same thing with Living Blues – full-page ad, you know.  So, we did the best we could on promoting. But that still was nothing – that was nothing.  

Click On Photo To Enlarge

BMIA.com:  What do you mean that was nothing? 

Sam McClain:  Just what I said, that was nothing.  The CDs don’t get, don’t get no airplay, we don’t have radio stations playing – not no big radio stations, I mean – you know – it’s just, it’s tough.  But under the circumstances, it was very well received.  You know and certainly one of my most proudest projects. Because it’s the first time I had to take on the whole ball of wax myself.  

BMIA.com:  What do you mean by that? 

Sam McClain:  I wrote the music, produced the music, and etc., etc.  I mixed the music, edited the music and that was a first for me. And I was the first one at the studio and the last one to leave. And before that, it was just the opposite. I’d usually be the last one to the studio and the first one to leave. (Laughing)  You know – the responsibility got bigger, you know. When you say, “I’m going to do it myself.” Well, okay, well you got to be responsible as well.  So, it’s been received very well. 

BMIA.com:  “Where do you find your inspiration to write songs?”   

Sam McClain:  From life – just life in general man.  Life in general.  And since I’ve gotten to know God, or since I’m getting to know God, from that place as well, from a very deep spiritual well.  Everything comes from there.  Everything springs from there – my spiritual life.  And, the life that I see as I live here on this earth with my brothers and sisters here. And the work that I have to do now – that’s why I have this voice. God gave me this voice – no formal training, no education, no anything like that, you know.  Just open my mouth and this voice came out and it still comes out.  And God has taken care of it through all the years when I drank and smoked and did all that stuff. I mean, God has taken care of me.  You know, I mean I slept outdoors, went hungry, I mean, you know the story. And my voice is still here – stronger and better than ever. You know. It’s amazing what God can do, you know.  So that’s what my inspiration comes from. 

BMIA.com:  You really do come across as some who believes that he is truly blessed. 

Sam McClain:  Man – (laughing) – every time I look around I realize what a miracle I am, you know – I know I am a walking miracle.  And then my wife just had another one [miracle] just Monday, as I told you about.  And it’s amazing – everybody in my band is very well educated pretty much.  Some of them got degrees hanging on their walls and stuff.  That’s amazing.  And, they all white, (laughing) and this little black boy from Louisiana, from the cotton field, writes the check.  That’s what the good Lord can do man.  It just never ceased to amaze me.  (Laughing) It just makes me smile.  It’s good.  It’s good, man.  But that’s where the inspiration comes from – life and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

BMIA.com:  Mighty Sam, how many albums and CDs have you recorded during your career? 

Sam McClain:  Oh, it is quite a number.  Quite a number.  Off the top of my head I would say, (pause) twelve, maybe, ten or twelve, twelve. But there’s been more than that released – there were some bootlegs out and there were some singles – there was about twenty-two singles that got released – well eleven singles/twenty-two sides.  It’s somewhere in that number. 

BMIA.com:  Tell us about the people who come to see you.  My sense is that you seem to be more popular among white audiences and virtually unknown among black folks.  Is that true?

Sam McClain:  That is so true. That is so true. You see it very well. And why?  Like I just told you. I didn’t have no choice.  I was forced to leave home.  It was like all my life I been having to run just for survival. But, in the same sense, that’s what God wanted me to do. Cause God was bringing me in through the back door. I don’t know why, man.  And it is painful too. I mean, cause I don’t even get a chance to go back home much. And I think about home. I love that country, Louisiana. I just love the smell of it.  I can smell it as I talk it about right now to you. But, I can’t find what I need and look for there on the physical side or the spiritual side. So, I was forced to leave. And, but it’s been a blessing as well. But, yes, most of my audience is white and I go out right now. We’re starting to go all over the world.  I just got back from Europe the 15th of this month. We’ve been over there three weeks. And I go to Europe often.  I been going to Europe now for the past eight years, quite often, some times three or four times a year. And we spreading – going further and further out as we go.  I am scheduled to go to Russia and Turkey this year, October 26th, we leave here to go do a tour in Russia and Turkey.  We’ll be over there from October 26th through December 16th. So, that’s what, a good seven weeks over there. It’s a great thing.  I’m very thankful that God let me live it see this.  And, why am I going on this tour?  Because of this voice. God gave me this voice.  This voice is taking me to Russia. Its amazing. This little black boy from Monroe, Louisiana out of the cotton fields. (Laughing)  You know. But anyway. That’s virtually, that’s pretty much my audience – pretty much white. But we’re starting to reach a few black people.

We're starting to come around.  You know there’s this program – Soul Patrol – you probably know about Bob Davis – he’s on Internet Soul Patrol – if not, check him out.  He’s got a great connection into the black scene. And we been connected with Bob for some years and he tries to bring us together as much as he possibly can. Tries to get us to support one another etc., etc. Bob’s got a thing coming up the last of this month – the 30th and the 31st  and in Pittsburgh or right outside of Philadelphia somewhere right there in the area. So you go to his sight and check it out. Soul Patrol – Bob Davis – lot of information there man. He’s grown, he gets about 2 or 3 million hits a month. And I guess he’s been established now for about 4 or 5 years. He did well, he’s coming on strong. Anyway, he’s part of the connection that kind of keeps a little bit tied to the blacks. But we’re starving for black people over here man. But, we got a few. And the few we have we’re thankful.  And they’re great. (Laughter) But anyway – that’s what I think about the case.  I just don’t know exactly why the black people don’t come. Sometimes black people don’t get out there – they don’t want to be social – they don’t want to go on the other side of the track – and sometime its because of all kinds of reasons – they don’t want to financially – one thing or another. I don’t have all the answers man.  I just like to see it get fixed. I got this song I just wrote called, “Just Want To Be” and I don’t want to wrong, don’t want to be right – I just don’t to be what ever it takes -- (Laughing) to make this shit work, you know. I just want to be whatever you need, Darling.  Ain’t no more fighting, ain’t no more right or wrong, I just want to be whatever it takes to make it work.  You know.  Any way. 

BMIA.com:  When you think about some of the artists of today’s generation, who do you listen to and like the most?”   

Sam McClain:  Well, there’s a few artists I like, man.  I like Johnny Lane, he’s a fiery young artist, guitar singer. He’s got a great voice. His voice sounds like he’s about ninety years old – deep soul.  I like Bernard Allison, Susan, Shameeka Copeland, Shameeka Copeland, she’s ah, she’s deep.  She’s got a strong voice.  She sings a lot of blues, but I hear here sing a lot of other stuff and all that voice she’s got.  But, I like her, she’s a great person. And I know her father too, you know. But, I get to see her every now and then. But, that’s a few artists you know (pause), I like Eric Bibbs. There’s a few, there’s a few. 

BMIA.com:  How did I get the name Mighty Sam? 

Sam McClain:  Wow, boy.  That came from a mistake. I was leaving in Pensacola Florida, I just went to Pensacola and I was with the group, The Dophine Sextets and at that time I was going by the name of “Good Rocking Sam,” (laughter). Can you believe it?  Don’t tell nobody I told you this shit – (laughter) – Good Rocking Sam.  (Laughter) And one day the club owner made a mistake and put up “Mighty Sam” and the band started teasing me about that shit, man.  They rode me, they rode me, Gary, they rode my ass. (Laughter) Hey, Mighty, Mighty, Mighty.  And it stuck, man, they wouldn’t let it go, man. And most of my friends, right today, most of my real friends, they call me “Mighty.” “Hey there Mighty, what’s up Mighty?”  (Laughing)  So that’s how that came by.  It was given to me.  It was just – it stuck. Yep. Alright. 

BMIA.com:  Sam, the music and entertainment business is a tough business.  A lot of folks don’t last long or make it at all. I’m sure you’ve experienced your fair share of rejection and hardship.  How have you managed to survive and strive?” 

Mighty Sam and the Band

Sam McClain:  Well, just what I told you a while back.  It’s all about God man.  God will be the first thing you ever hear come out of my mouth. When you ask me about any of these kinds of questions that’s far beyond my explanation and the complexity of it. I have turn it to God. ‘Cause all this stuff is bigger than me. And I realize that.  I realize that there’s a Creator. You know, somebody created this and I thank God that I got sense enough to see that. And, that’s where everything comes from. That’s why I’ve hung on because I believe in the Lord with all my heart and I pray and I try to be a good person – the best I can be.  I fall short everyday – I get up everyday and want to kick my own but and I thank God that he has a sense of forgiveness and sense of humor. And because it would be tough. But that’s how I survive, man. It’s the Lord. I trust in the Lord with all my heart and he takes care of me.  He always has – he gave me this voice and he’s leading me through here, in spite of my self – because I’ve did some foolish, crazy things and God has taken care. And that’s why I am still here, man. It’s the good Lord. 

BMIA.com:  You hung around a lot of folks that fell short to victims of drugs, alcohol. How did you manage to survive? 

Sam McClain:  Same thing. Same thing. Cause I got involved with drugs, and alcohol myself. I mean, I drank like a fish. I started smoking cigarettes before I left home. I used to light my mother’s cigarettes and I smoked cigarettes up until about fifteen years ago. About thirteen years, I guess. And I drank up until about nine, nine years ago. And, you know, so how did I survive that man?  It’s all by the grace of God. You know.  And, of course, I’m sure I helped because I wanted to. When I got ready to stop drinking I told my wife, I said, “Honey, I’m not drinking this crap anymore.” And she smiled.  Because I kept a house full of booze all the time. I’d go to the store and I’d get a basket or cart just like we got a grocery cart. I’d buy a couple cases of beer, a couple gallons of cognac, or whatever the stuff we was drinking. I moved up to cognac in my late days. You know, I started making a couple of dollars (laughter) – I went from wine to cognac. And it’s all with the same drunk. (Laughing) Didn’t make any difference. (Laughing) I found out its all the same old drunk. You know. (Laughing) Oh well. But anyway, God, man.  God is the one that help me through all that crap.  That’s it.

BMIA.com:  Just like that? 

Sam McClain:  Just like that. 

BMIA.com:  Tell me something interesting about you that most people don’t know. 

Sam McClain:  Probably how great a sense of humor I have about life.  (Laughing) I’m learning to laugh. I didn’t know how great a sense of humor I had myself until I stopped drinking and started get the cob webs and shit cleaned up and I started realizing how much fun – I have more fun – I laugh more now than I ever laughed in my life.  

BMIA.com:  I can see that.  You’ve been laughing quite a bit during this interview.  So that’s it?  People don’t know that you have a sense of humor? 

Sam McClain:  I don’t know what’s too interesting about me that most people don’t know, man.  I don’t know what that could be. Most people that know about me, they got an idea that I believe and love the Lord with all my heart.  And that’s my top priority.  And everything follows that for me.  But, I don’t know man.  I got a great sense of humor. (Laughing) I love to laugh.  I love laughter.  Let’s move on to the next question. 

BMIA.com:  OK, how about this one.  What’s the best part of being Mighty Sam McClain? 

Sam McClain:  (Whew) Knowing that I’m a child of the living God – the living Creator of this universe.  That’s the best part about anything.  And all of the joy and all of the hopes and all the aspirations and all of everything follows that – in its right perspective. So, I guess the best part about being anything – if I wasn’t Mighty Sam and know what I know now; I’d give you the same answer.  I could be Mighty Joe, Who Diddy, don’t make no difference.  People ask me about success – that’s when I became successful.  When God looked down and smiled upon me and manifested himself to me.  So that’s the best part of being Mighty Sam, man.  Just being aware of the living Holy Father.  ‘Cause it makes me a better person, makes me try to be a better person. I want to help make this world a better place than when I found it.  And I think I do that in some way with my music and hopefully with way I live. 

BMIA.com:  Why do you do what you do? 

Sam McClain:  Because it’s my destiny.  I love it, but it’s also my destiny.  I tell people all the time, its like a blessing and curse sometime.  I have to sing – if I don’t sing, I die spiritually.  I die. So, this is my chosen profession. God gave me this voice and he wants me to sing. He wants me to use it ‘cause I draw people to God through my voice. And I know that because they tell me.  They come up to my concerts, they stand up in lines, they wait for hours to tell me. They write from all over the world. I just got a letter two days ago from a lady from Macedonia – we just left this poor country over there. This lady wrote me the sweetest little letter thanking me for coming to her country and that the country needed me and this music and it helped lead her back to God.  You know, that’s what makes it all worthwhile, man. You know, but I had to get to a place where God could show me that – he owned everything, he owned me, he owned my voice so I should be singing and being a positive light for people to see. You know. So that’s what God has done. He’s bringing me back from the dust of hell so people can see what he can do with something that most people had counted out and left for dead. You know, and here we are walking round. (Laughing) Walking right on. 

BMIA.com:  Wow!  Destiny.  Singing is your destiny as determined by God. 

Sam McClain:  Alright Gary, its just my destiny man. – It’s what I’m supposed to do.  I’m a singer.  Like the song says, “I’m a singer, I’m a man with a song.” This is my way of letting people know that God is alive, cause I don’t hesitate to tell people all over the world.  Everywhere I go I mention the Lord Jesus Christ.  I don’t hesitate, that’s my duty.  And that’s why God gave me this voice and he knew I had the balls to do it cause it tough.  People don’t want to hear about that, but they meet and greet me then that’s what they gonna hear cause I don’t know any other way to talk.  Because I live everyday and breathe – my faith in God.  I wouldn’t be having this conversation right now if I didn’t believe that.  It would be useless to me cause I see how fallible man is and how useless and helpless he can be. I’ve got to have something bigger than man to believe in, son.  (Laughing) This ole boy do. 

I didn’t finish Yale (laughing) but I ain’t no damned fool.  God is my shield; he’s my rock, man.  I love the Lord.  And I’m glad he loves me.  And God bless you too man.  I really appreciate you Gary.  And I hope you enjoy this thing man.  I’m looking forward to a relationship.  And I appreciate you helping me out and trying to support this music, this ministry.  

BMIA.com:  Sam, I’m very excited to help you promote your music, which leads me to my next question.  How can people reading this article support Mighty Sam McClain? 

Sam McClain:  Go to the web site (www.mightysam.com), write me, call me, buy this music if you can.  Come to the shows, tell people about it.  There’s so many ways.  So many ways.  And not only support Mighty Sam McClain, but also support any good live music out there because that’s the only way it’s going to survive.  People have to support it – not just with talk but by spending the money to buy the music from the artist.  Because it’s such a rip off – it’s hard for the artist to get their money.  So if you can buy it directly from the artist – that’s always best.  But any way you can it’s a help to the artist.  But I appreciate anything you do for Might Sam – I mean tell somebody about it.  Go to the web site, check it out, listen to the music, go buy the music, write me, I’ll send you the music, everything is right there on the web site, my e-mail, my phone number, everything is right there.  So, drop me a line – let me know what you think. I’ll certainly get back to you – that’s a promise.  

BMIA.com:  I’m getting ready to wrap up Mighty Sam, but I have to ask you the following question.  What advice would you give to someone who wants to make it in the music business? 

Sam McClain:  Well, first of all I go back to believing in God, believing in yourself, be talented, and love it – love it man, you got to be sure this is what you want to do because it’s tough.  You got to love it with all your heart. The Bible said, if you don’t love something enough to lay down your life for it, you don’t (laughing) really love it, and see that’s what I’ve had to do, literally, for music.  

BMIA.com:  What do you mean by that? 

Sam McClain:  I’ve had to sleep outdoors, eat out of garbage cans, I been married four or five times.  I mean I’ve sacrificed everything for this music.  You know.  Because I love it. And it loves me back. (Laughing).  So my advice would be to definitely make sure you love this stuff because it’s a tough tough business.  And then, educate yourself.  Educate yourself as much as you possibly can about this business because you will need it to know what’s going on about the business.  Even when you have people working for you, you need to know what they’ve done and not supposed to be doing and should be doing about your business and your career. If you don’t know what they should or should not be doing; you don’t know whether they doing right or wrong.  I learned late, but I am still learning.  But, I thank God that I’ve come far enough to learn to where I’ve got as much control as God would allow me have now in my career, in my own publishing, my own label, my own production company, my own agency, my own band, my own tour bus (laughing). 

BMIA.com:  Like I told you earlier, you’re a blessed man. 

Sam McClain:  You know I’m very blessed.  But I had to learn this over the years.  And that’s what I would advice anybody to do – to love this business with all your heart; love the Lord with all your heart; love people with all your heart; treat people like you wish to be treated; and be true to yourself.  Be true to yourself and to the music and love it and it will love you back.  It will take you someplace.  I love you.  God bless you.  And I sure thank you man for this opportunity to share this with you and your fans, your listeners, your viewers.  And you saying its an honor, its an honor for me, Gary, it really is.

BMIA.com:  Thank you Sam.  I’ll call you on the road in a couple of weeks. 

Sam McClain:  You got the phone number here.  If you want me to answer some more questions or clear something up just give me shout and I’ll see if I can straighten you out, son and get you on the right route.  Thank you again.  God bless you and I look forward to talking to you again.  Thanks Gary. 

BMIA.com:  Thank you Sam.

Folks show your support for Mighty Sam McClain by visiting his web site and purchasing his CD's.  Click here to go there now.

Sam's latest CD is "Sweet Dreams."  Click here to check out the review by "Soul Patrol" the web site of classic soul and rhythm and blues.

You can learn more about Mighty Sam McClain by visiting the following links:

Click here to watch a live performance of Mighty Sam singing "Betcha Didn't Know" performed in Halle, Germany 

www.mightysam.com

www.myspace.com/mightysammcclain

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mighty+sam+mcclain

Publisher's noteThis interview was updated on March 9, 2008.  The previous feature was posted on September 8, 2007.  The original interview was posted in September 2005.

So what do you think?  If you would like to comment or respond to any of our content on this page or web site click here and sign our Guestbook to leave a public or private statement, comment or reaction. 

 

Former NFL Player Rick “Doc” Walker Proves That Hard Work and Preparation Leads To Winning 

Rick "Doc" Walker, a veteran of nine NFL seasons, distinguished himself on the football field with his blocking and timely pass catching. "Doc" was a starting tight end for Coach Joe Gibbs’ 1982 World Champion Washington Redskins. He developed the concept of the Skins’ "Fun Bunch" and was an original member of the famed offensive linemen known as the "HOGS." Playing for coach Dick Vermeil's UCLA Bruins, Rick received Lineman of the Year honors in 1977 and became a Rose Bowl champion. Also that year, the Associated Press (AP) selected Rick as an All American. 

As a broadcaster, Rick currently delivers color commentary for the ACC College Football Game of the Week aired on Lincoln Financial Sports. He is host of "The Doc Walker Show" weekdays from 9am - 11am on SportsTalk980 WTEM (Washington DC) and is the host of Doc Walker's Proview on Comcast SportsNet.

Selling Power Magazine chose Rick "Doc" Walker as one of the region’s top motivational speakers.  For speaking engagements, Rick specializes in corporate team building and sales training.

Rick serves on the board of directors for The Touchdown Club Charities and The Spencer Foundation.  As an event chairman he has helped Providence Health Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the YMCA. He currently hosts the annual Doc Walker Alzheimer's Golf Tournament, now in it's 9th year.

Rick "Doc" Walker #88

Click On Photo To Enlarge

Doc knows a lot about winning.  In college he played for coach Dick Vermeil's UCLA Bruins.  He also received Lineman of the Year honors in 1977 and became a Rose Bowl champion.  Also that year, the Associated Press (AP) selected Doc as a college All American.

Doc was preparing for life after football while he was playing football.  Like many others before him, Doc leveraged being a Redskin and a world champion to his benefit and transitioned in to broadcasting when his playing days were over. 

As a broadcaster, Doc currently delivers color commentary for the NFL on CBS-Westwood One Radio.  He also serves as color analyst for the ACC College Football Game of the Week aired on Jefferson Pilot Sports.  

If you live in the Washington, DC area, you can hear Doc on the radio, every weekday from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm on the John Thompson Show on ESPN 980.  Doc is also the host of Doc Walker's Proview on NEWSCHANNEL 8 in Washington, D.C.  You can also listen to Doc online at http://www.sportstalk980.com/main.html.

The Rick “Doc” Walker Interview

 

BMIA.com:  Hey Doc.  Thanks for taking time out for this interview.  You played 9 seasons in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals and on the 1982 World Championship Washington Redskins.  You were also a college All American and a Rose Bowl Champion.  You know what winning looks like.  What lessons have you learned from sports that you’ve been able to transfer in your life? 

Doc Walker:  The best lesson I’ve learned is you don’t always win, but you must always give a winning effort.  Success starts at the top, all great teams have strong leadership, owners that are smart enough to hire the best people available and allow them to do their jobs.  In Corporate American ego remains the number one threat to building strong relationships biased on trust and respect. You can’t have a great team without great teammates.

BMIA.com:  Let’s talk about your background.  What part of the country did you grow up? 

Doc Walker:  I was born in North Carolina but raised in Southern California.  My Father was a Marine.  

BMIA.com:  When you were growing up, how important was it for you to get a good education? 

Doc Walker:  My mother made it very clear that education was the foundation to success in America. 

BMIA.com:  You’re involved in a lot of community service work.  Were you taught as a child to be a good citizen or is this something you learned later in life in the work world? 

Doc Walker:  Being a product of the 60’s I grew up with the understanding that being a good citizen was mandatory. Lying, cheating, stealing, and robbing were not tolerated. Despite the social injustices of our country I was encouraged to learn the system and compete in it at the highest level. 

BMIA.com:  You’ve always seemed to have an entrepreneurial spirit.  When you arrived in DC, you were an officer with a company called the Record Den.  You also became associated with solid DC area businesses.  Was this part of your preparation for life after football?

Doc Walker:  I was very lucky to have met professional athletes in college that talked to me about life after playing. I tried to never live too close to work in an effort to build relationships with people in the community.  I totally enjoyed my experience with my teammates.  There is nothing like working and winning a championship, but it’s short lived and often unrealistic to mainstream life in America.  The best way to make a smooth transition to the real world is to never allow yourself to leave it! 

BMIA.com:  Who influenced you the most? 

Doc Walker:  The biggest influence in my life has been my mother. She introduced me to law and order.  She strongly encouraged me to be active in church, to volunteer and to never limit my goals because of the color of my skin. 

BMIA.com:  You do a lot of motivational speaking in corporations.  There are many folks who feel that they cannot climb the corporate ladder because of racism.  Based on your experiences, how does someone fight racism in the workplace? 

Doc Walker:  Like I was taught. Your race is not going to change so you better learn how to expand your mind and find a way to be the best you can be.  It may never be a level playing field, but it’s a disgrace to our forefathers to blame "the man” for your failures.  Look at what our great grandparents had to deal with and overcome!  As Hall of Fame coach John Thompson says, “You can’t schedule opportunity.  The question is will you be ready to take advantage of an opportunity if and when it comes?” 

BMIA.com:  How important is diversity in today’s workplace? 

Doc Walker:  Diversity is very important in today’s workplace.  America is a melting pot of cultures.   Smart companies look for people that give them the best means to understand the marketplace and deliver products that people want to buy.  On the management side you can’t manage people you don’t understand.  Good managers make it their business to accept our differences and blend our talents to make a great company.

BMIA.com:  What would you say has been your biggest success to date? 

Doc Walker My biggest success personally is my family. Watching my wife build her real-estate business, helping our boys grow into young men, while maintaining good relationships with my friends and co-workers.  Winning a high school league championship, a Rose Bowl championship and a Super Bowl championship was wonderful.  Being a part of a top rated radio show on Sports Talk 980, and the development of ProView tops it all.

BMIA.com:  Tell us about your cable show Doc Walker's ProView. 

Doc Walker Doc Walker’s ProView is an interview show that showcases some of the sports world’s greatest performers.  We are entering our 4th year on the air, every Tuesday night at 8pm and Saturday’s at 6am on News Channel 8. Visit www.docwalker.com for a preview of our shows, contests and business networking opportunities. 

BMIA.com:  When you speak to youth, what is your most popular message or theme? 

Doc Walker Most of my business as a speaker involves me with corporate America.  When I have a youth audience I stress the importance of making a good first impression, setting realistic goals and building sound fundamentals. Young people have a great opportunity to write their own script.  If only they understood what the person who wants to hire them is looking for. 

BMIA.com:  What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make a career in sports? 

Doc Walker:  Anyone looking to make a career in sports must first love sports!  As Albert Einstein said, “Love is a better master than duty.”  Sports are not as easy as it appears.  You have to watch and listen to hours and hours of games and read and talk to as many people in the business as possible.  My advice is to start covering high school sports, writing, filming, coaching or joining the training staff is a good way to get involved in sports. It's a long road, but as far as I’m concerned it beats work!

BMIA.com:  You are seasoned broadcaster, with shows on TV and radio.  You’re also a family man.  How difficult is it for you to maintain a happy balance between work and family? 

Doc Walker:  Any successful person needs an understanding family.  Most people want the spoils of success but don’t understand the price you pay in being absent. The more you travel the less time you spend with love ones.  Everybody has to chip in and help.  The hours are long and you work on most holidays. The benefits are worth it as long as you don’t lose you perspective of what makes you happy. 

BMIA.com:  What’s the best part of being Doc Walker? 

Doc Walker:  The best part of being Doc Walker is having no barriers and doing what others say can’t be done.  Not being afraid to fail. 

BMIA.com:  Fill in the blank.  “If I didn’t play sports, I would ____________.” 

Doc Walker:  If I didn’t play sports I would have been involved in the music industry. 

BMIA.com:  Thank you Doc. 

Doc Walker:  You’re welcome. 

       

Left to Right:  Photo #1:  Veteran broadcaster Smokin' Al Koken, Doc and Hall of Fame Coach John Thompson on location.  Photo #2:  Doc, Clay Goldsborough and Derek Walker on the networking scene.  Photo #3:  Doc delivering a keynote address.

 

Jackie Robinson - An American Hero

 

It's been six decades since Jackie Robinson took the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier. And all around baseball, players, managers and coaches are honoring the Hall of Famer by wearing his retired No. 42.  Click here to learn more about this American hero who epitomized courage and made life better for all of us.

 

Change Your Game Plan:  The Randy Kearse Interview

By Gary A. Johnson 

Randy Kearse is a very strong willed, talented and unique brother.  Randy is the author of “Slanguage” and “Changin’ Your Game Plan.”  Randy was arrested when he was a teenager for attempted murder and sent to Rikers Island.  After serving four month and six months on probation, Randy was release and tried to stay out of trouble.  His Uncle arranged for him to get a good job in the garment district in New York. 

About two years later Randy got caught up in the whirlwind of the crack epidemic.  Randy was making fast money in the illegal drug trade.  Randy was an above average student.  He did his street homework and used his smarts and ascended to the higher ranks of known drug dealers from Brooklyn. With his partners in crime they hustled their way from the mean streets of Brooklyn to the too sweet and ripe state of North Carolina. At the height of his hustle Randy was part of a team of 25 “associates” spread across three cities. 

In 1992 after a six-year run, Randy got comfortable, made a mistake and became a wanted man.  The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Raleigh, NC, police were looking to bring him and his cohorts to justice for their “last dance.” 

Randy Kearse went to prison and served his time.  He went to prison in his 20’s and came out in his 40’s.  He is a different man, with a compelling and inspiring story.  Last month, Randy stopped by the Black Men In America.com office and spent most of the day with us.  This is a story that every brother should read.

The Randy Kearse Interview

 

BMIA.com You served time in a federal prison.  How much time did you serve and what did you do to get there? 

Randy Kearse I was sentenced to 15 years in Federal Prison. Being there’s no parole in the Federal system I had to do 85% of that, which amounted to me doing 13 years 6 months and 2 days. I went to prison for a federal drug conspiracy. From 1986 up until I basically got caught, I had been trafficking narcotics from New York to North Carolina. In 1992 I was indicted, arrested and convicted.  

BMIA.com How old were you when you went to prison? 

Randy Kearse When I went to prison I was 27 years old.  

BMIA.com When you were serving time in prison, what did you do to pass the time? 

Randy Kearse I spent a lot of time thinking, and planning for my future. I read a lot.  I’d read any and every newspaper I could get my hands on. I watched all the informative TV I could. I exercised and stayed to myself mostly. 

BMIA.com What was a typical day like for you? 

Randy Kearse A typical day for me would be getting up about 5:00 am in the morning and preparing for breakfast. By 6:00 a.m., I was out of my cell on my way to eat breakfast. In the federal eating breakfast isn’t mandatory like it is in some other prisons.  The job I had didn’t call for me to get up early but I did anyway. I was looking forward to when I would be released.  I knew when I got out prison I had to work so I got myself into the habit of “early to bed, early to rise.”  You can’t accomplish too much lying in the bed half the day. 

After breakfast I’d watch the news for about an hour and then return to my cell and straighten it up. It would be about 9am by now. I’d go downstairs and exercise for about an hour and a half. After exercising I’d go back to my cell take me a shower and prepare for the noon meal. During the down time I had waiting to go to the noon meal, I’d be reading or writing something. Sometimes I’d have a stack of newspapers that were a week old. After the noon meal I headed to the “office” (ha-ha-ha). That’s what people used to say about me when they’d see me making my way across the prison compound to the library. Sometimes I’d go to the library at 9:00 am right after watching the news and skip exercising, but most times I’d be in the library right after the noon meal up until the jail had re-call.  

BMIA.com Re-call?  What’s recall? 

Randy Kearse Re-call is when the prison makes everyone return to their respective housing units so they can conduct a count of every inmate in the prison. Normally re-call is 3:30 pm. When we returned to the housing unit I’d watch the news until we had to go to our cells for the actual count. Once the count cleared I would go back downstairs to watch more news until the evening meal was called. The evening meal was normally called about 5:30 pm. Once I ate, I went to the job I had, which was ground maintenance where I was supposed to walk around picking up cigarette butts. Though this job was the lowest paying job in the prison, paying $5.00 dollars a month, it was the perfect job for individuals like myself who really didn’t want to work at all. We’d sign in at 6:00 pm and then we were sent off to pick up cigarette butts, but of course nobody ever did their job. Once you signed in you were basically on your own to do what you wanted until the time you had to sign back in at 8:45 pm. After signing in I would go back to the library or “the office.”   

I’d stay at the library until it was time to sign out. I spent a lot of time in the library for a few reason. One, because it was one of the few places you could go and think. The library and the chapel were the only places in the prison you could go and escape the madness that surrounded you. Most people who came to the library usually had something on their mind. There would be brothers trying to fight their cases, some writing books and others reading and going to school. You very rarely had any drama jumpin’ off in the library. I had some typing skills so I’d make a little money typing for some guys.   

Around 8:45 pm I signed checked out of the library and had to return to the housing unit for the evening head count. That count normally didn’t clear until after 10:20pm. By that time I’d stay in my cell and read or write for the remainder of the night. Very rarely would I come out my cell after the evening count cleared. This was basically my routine for a large part of my incarceration. Let me add this, the reason I didn’t want to work is I needed all my time to work on the plans I had for the future. 

BMIA.com So you your focus was on planning for life after prison? 

Randy Kearse Yes.  I made it my business to stay connected to what was going on in society.  There were guys who watched BET all day.  Other would workout and play basketball.  That was not the routine for me.  The only thing that can help you when you get out is to prepare for the future when you get out of jail. 

BMIA.com:  What made you different? 

Randy Kearse:  I refused to let society write the last chapter of my life.  I accepted responsibility for what I did wrong.  I was guilty as charged and accepted that.  Once I did that I was FREE to think about where I was going.  Time is your life and you have plenty of time in prison. 

BMIA.com:  Tell us about some of the guys you met in prison. 

Randy Kearse:  You have a lot of smart guys in prison.  Do you hear me?  In my case, if I took the same energy that I used to beat the law into doing something positive, the sky is the limit.  If criminals use the same work ethic in a positive way they can be successful in society. 

BMIA.com:  How did you get caught? 

Randy Kearse:  I got comfortable.  I was doing the same thing for so long, that I just slipped up. 

BMIA.com:  We were talking about our young people and music before we started the interview.  Share with our readers how you think young people have been sold an illusion.  

Randy Kearse:  Young people need to be aware.  Young people are in trouble.  It is our responsibility as older black men to show them the way.  A lot of rappers are putting out a lot of negative images and selling our young people down the drain.  Young people are in trouble.  Rappers are talking about what he does from the safety of his studio and gets paid a million dollars.  You go out and follow what he says and you get a million years.  Think about it.  Young people have bought into what rappers say the streets are about.  I know what the streets are about.  The streets are about NOTHING! 

BMIA.com Let’s talk about your background.  What kind of environment did you grow up in? 

Randy Kearse I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., came from a good home. Both parents at home, both worked. My mother was a schoolteacher, my Pops worked for transit. We lived in the projects but the projects I grew up in wasn’t buck wild. At that time most the guys I grew up with had their mother and father at home. All the parents worked. There’s nothing in my background that could possibly attribute to the negative path that I took. I was an above average student all through school.  I got bored with school and dropped out. Instead of going right, I chose to go left. 

I received my GED without even studying for it. I went in, took the test and passed it 1-2-3. My parents instilled a lot of good values in me. They stressed education, making an honest living, respecting women, and things like that. They also did their best to show me that there was life outside of the projects so I had a good upbringing. The neighborhood I grew up in wasn’t what most people would consider to be poverty stricken, so you can’t attribute being surrounded by poverty to my decision to get involved in the drug trade. 

People have this image of the brothers who choose to run the streets as coming from broken homes and growing up in poverty, when that’s not the case for a lot of folks.  Most brothers come from good homes even if they came from single parent households. 

BMIA.com What is it about you that made you say, “I’m going to turn my life around?” 

Randy Kearse For me, it wasn’t saying “I going to change my life around.” It was more like saying, “I have to change my life around.” When you don’t have nothing but time to think about your life, your past, your present and your future somewhere during those reflections you should be saying to yourself that you don’t wanna spend the rest of your life living the life you’ve been living. When you’re young and doing your dirt in the streets you tend not to think about getting old. You’re out there running the streets caught up in your own hype, basking in the glow of being a ghetto celebrity so you’re just living for the moment. Once all that comes to end and you’re faced with the fact that you won’t be getting out of prison until you’re 40, 45 or 50 years old, reality sets in and you start thinking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.  

You know you can’t get out and run the streets again, so in a way you’re forced to change. If you can accept, embrace and grow with change you have a better chance of making it when you get out of prison. If you reject and deny that you have to change, more then likely you’ll keep living the kind of lifestyle that leads to prison or worse, death. I seen so many elderly men in prison and I knew I didn’t wanna spend the rest of my life incarcerated. The life I was living had taken its toll on me.  When it all came to an end I was financially broke and emotionally drained. I didn’t wanna live like that again.  

BMIA.com:  What drives you to succeed and be the best? 

Randy Kearse What drives me to be my best is my desire to show society that I’m bigger then the stereotype they have for brothers like myself. Let society tell it, after spending 13 and half years in prison I can’t come home and be successful. Statistics say that 78% of individuals released from prison return within three years. I come home to tear holes in that statistic. I’m on a mission to show all the people who stood by me and supported me during my incarceration that their support and sacrifices weren’t in vain. Even in my darkest moments I had people still believing in me, so I owe them and payment for them is seeing me be the best I can possibly be. What also drives me is my desire to be an example for all the brother and sisters still locked up in the system. To show them that someone who came from where they are, still managed to come home and live a positive, productive and successful life. That’s very important for me. I represent all the brothers and sisters who have to walk the road that I’m walking now.  

BMIA.com How would you assess your role and level of responsibility for the things that have happened in your life? 

Randy Kearse I only have myself to blame for the things that have happened in my life. I’m not one of those dudes who blame everything and everybody for going to prison. I did what I did.  I was guilty. I broke the law. No matter how unfair that law may have been, when I chose to break it I left myself open to be treated anyway the system wanted to treat me. In life we all have choices, if you choose to make bad choices you can’t cry foul when those choices come back and bite you in the butt. You have to take responsibility for making those bad choices and begin to make better choices. No one promised me the system was gonna treat me fair if I broke the law. Whatever role you play in a crime, once you consciously break a law whatever happens to you is of your own doing. One of the biggest problems people have when they’re incarcerated is not taking responsibility for being there. In my book I speak about that.  

BMIA.com Who motivates and inspires you? 

Randy Kearse I’m deeply motivated by the memories of all the friends and love ones who’ve passed away. I lost a lot of good people while I was away. The memory of my brother Dee Kay who passed away in 2000 is a major source of motivational fuel for me. He’d never accept that I didn’t rise to the occasion when it was time to rise up. Brothers like Malcolm X, Don King, and the actor Charles Dutton, brothers who spent time in prison and came home with a changed game plan, inspire me. Lesser-known individuals like Tony Reid, Kelvin ‘Toast’ Hopkins and Daniel ‘Danny’ Gonzalez who’ve kept their vow to stay out of prison also inspire me.  

BMIA.com Has serving time in prison changed your outlook on life?  If so, how? 

Randy Kearse Doing time has definitely changed my outlook on life. While I was running around playing the so-called ‘game’, little did I realize that society wasn’t playing games with me. It wasn’t until I was behind bars did I truly realize the seriousness of my actions. Even if you take away the prison aspect of the lifestyle, how many times did I actually put my life on the line being in the drug trade? How many times do we hear stories about people being murdered in a drug deal gone wrong or during a robbery? Where is the ‘game’ in that? I have no idea. Doing time taught me how to appreciate what life truly has to offer. Time has a way of humbling you if you allow it to. I was able to put my priorities in order. I no longer take life for granted. My mother used to always tell me, “You get out of life what you put in to it.” Your prison experience can be a stepping-stone or it can be a crutch. I chose the stepping-stone. I believe that regardless of what you go through you can overcome it if you want to. When you hit rock bottom you can stay there, or you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep it moving.  

BMIA.com How long have you been out of prison? 

Randy Kearse I’ve been out 1 year 3 months in December and I’m loving it. (Ha-Ha-Ha). 

BMIA.com Did you find the transition difficult?  If so, how so. 

Randy Kearse The first week or two I had to get my bearings but for the most part I fell right into the swing of things extremely quick. Within the first week I was surfing the Internet, had an e-mail address and preparing to self publish my first book. By the end of the second week I was employed so I didn’t waste any time putting the plans I had into effect. I stayed abreast of everything that was going on in the world so I didn’t come home still thinking it was 1992. Things like seeing everyone talking on cell phones tripped me out.  I pretty much left prison prepared for the next part of life’s journey. I came home on a mission. I had a solid family support system when I reached home so that also made the transition painless. I knew when I left prison what I had to do, so as soon as I got out I got right to it. I wouldn’t say that my transition was hard at all. I didn’t come home with all the prison mannerism, vernacular or pent up anger that a lot of people bring back to society so you would have never known I did time unless I shared that with you. 

BMIA.com What was the first thing you did when you got out of prison? 

Randy Kearse The very first thing I did when I walked into freedom was thank God for bringing me through my journey. I thanked him for giving me the strength to make the necessary changes in my life to lead a positive life. I went straight to see my mother and I gave her a long hug. After that we sat and talked for a long time. My mother has been my number one supporter and friend through my prison journey. Then she tried to make me eat one of her turkey burgers (Ha-ha-ha).  

BMIA.com Have you learned anything about yourself as a result of serving time in prison? 

Randy Kearse Yeah I learned I don’t have a criminal bone left in my body (Ha-ha-ha). When the judge hit me in the head with those 15 years, he knocked the thug, the gangster and the street mentality right out of my head for real.  I learned that I have the ability to bounce back from this experience if I believed in myself. I also learned that my prison experience doesn’t define me, but it helps make me the man I am today. 

BMIA.com Do you have any advice for women and family members who are waiting on their man or their father to return home from prison? 

Randy Kearse Encourage and challenge your love one to create a vision for his future. Then encourage, challenge and support that vision as much as possible. Repeatedly ask him what his plans are when he gets out. Don’t accept anything but a detailed plan. Show your love one tough love too.  No one needs to be running around prison with three or four pairs of brand new sneakers. There’s no need to send a love hundreds of your hard earned money so they can live comfortable in prison. The kind of support you give your love can handicap him, because you can make him so comfortable he might feel he doesn’t have to change. He’ll think if goes to prison again, he’ll be just as comfortable as he was the first time. And lastly, be mindful of the reading material you send him, if all you send him is urban street novels how can you expect him to break away from that kind off mentality? 

BMIA.com Let’s talk about your books.  Tell us about “Slanguage” and “Changin’ Your Game Plan.” 

Randy Kearse “Street Talk: Da Official Guide to Hip & Urban Slanguage,is not only a 700 plus page dictionary/guide that interprets the whole hip-hop and urban slang vernacular, it’s also a documentation of the unique language that we as African-Americans use to communicate. I wanted to show the world that our language was more extensive then the couple of catchy words or phrases that make it into the mainstream.  

Randy Kearse “Changin’ Your Game Plan!  How to use incarceration as a stepping stone for SUCCESS,” is about the journey of change that one should embark on while locked up in order to come home and lead a positive, productive and successful life after prison. This is the blueprint for turning a negative situation into a positive opportunity. I’ve seen too many brothers return to prison because they refused to change their game plan. 

BMIA.com What do you want people to learn or get as a result of reading your books? 

Randy Kearse With Street Talk I just want people from our community to celebrate that we have a unique language. And I want mainstream America to respect that uniqueness. They’ll get a hold of a word from our culture and run it into the hole and before you know it’s like they invented the word or term. Bling bling is a prime example.  With Changin’ Your Game Plan! I want brothers and sisters to know that there’s life after prison. Prepare for your future while you’re away so you can have a future when you get out.

BMIA.com In your opinion what’s the biggest challenge facing black men in America?

Randy Kearse There are many challenges facing black men in America but if I had to pick the biggest challenge it would be breaking away from this ‘street mentality’ that has so many of us stagnant and unable to reach our full potential in life. That mentality that has us looking at the reckless lifestyle we live as ‘the game.’  That mentality that will make us kill one another over something as petty as a stare or bump. That mentality that says the only way to succeed is to sell drugs, the only way to get respect is to pick up a gun, and the only way to be a man is to bed as many women as we can. That mentality that makes us see women as nothing more then sexual objects and not to be respected. It’s erasing that mentality to me that is black men’s biggest challenge in this country.

BMIA.com How can people reading this feature support you?

Randy Kearse They can support me in two ways, of course by picking up both books, but more importantly by doing what they can do to teardown these negative images that society has of black people, in particularly black males. And one of the ways of doing that is being a positive example for others to follow. Get out in the community and talk to these young people, one on one or in a group, they need help.

BMIA.com What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow their dream and turn their life around?

Randy Kearse Don’t be afraid to step away from the crowd. Being different is the true measure of a leader. Believe in yourself, in your vision and in your dreams even when no one else does. And remember, we all mistakes in life but it is what we learn from those mistakes and how we apply those lessons to our lives that help make us who we are.

BMIA.com Anything else that you want to share that I haven’t asked about?

Randy Kearse One thing, if you have a friend or love one who’s incarcerated, all it takes sometimes is an encouraging letter or card to set that person on the journey of change. You might not wanna deal with someone because they’re in prison but these are the same people who will be returning to our communities one day, think about that.  I can only wonder what life would have been like for me if my family and few friends had given up on me.

BMIA.com Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.  If you have any questions for Randy you can hit him up at randykearse@yahoo.com or visit his web site for his book www.randykearse.comAlso check out Randy's other site My Prison Journal.com.

Randy Kearse No, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to get my message out there. We need more people like you and media outlets like Black Men In America.com to counter the negative images of our BLACK MEN IN AMERICA.

Gary Johnson conducted this interview in November 2006 for Black Men In America.com.


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Black Business Is Serious Business 

I first learned of Martin K. Hunt through his brother Ken, who suggested that I might want to interview his brother for Black Men In America.com.  Ken explained that his brother and sister-in-law Jacqueline wrote a book called “The History of Black Business:  The Coming of America's Largest African-American-Owned Businesses.”  The thought of a book on black business was appealing, so I asked for a copy of the book. 

Once I read the book, I immediately knew that this was a gem, a Black Men In America.com “must buy.”  I contacted Martin set up the interview. 

Folks, this is one of the most comprehensive books on black business that I have ever read.  Martin and Jacqueline (two Harvard educated professionals) have accomplished something that other authors failed to do, and that is give an inspiring and historical account of black business in America.  The case-based approach of this book uncovers the forces that have affected America's largest Black-owned businesses before and after 1970.  This book also paints a picture of the business environments that promoted or discouraged the most successful Black businesses over time.  If you are in business or want to get into business, this is a “must read.” 

Gary Johnson recently interviewed Martin Hunt.  Here’s the result of that interview. 

  

The Martin K. Hunt Interview

BMIA.com:  First things first.  Martin thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview.  I am very impressed with your book.  I’ve never read anything like it. 

Martin Hunt:  Thank you.

BMIA.com:  What made you want to write a book about the history of black business?

Martin Hunt:  The book was a labor of love.  During my second year at Harvard Business School, I was asked to write a summary overview of minority business for Michael Porter, a strategy professor, as part of a summer internship.  What started out as a brief summary, I realized would be valuable as a book on Black Business because there was no one source that summarized this important information.

As a student of Black business and business in general throughout my life, I read Black Enterprise magazine religiously, yet still it did not give me one unified vision of the history of Black business.

That is where I felt my book, The History of Business, would fill a void for the average reader.  I am not a PH.D. or academic.  I am a business executive that loves business.  As such, I felt that I could write a book that was fun, enjoyable, and enlightening, so that people would want to read it.

BMIA.com:  This is a “joint venture” with your wife Jacqueline E. Hunt.  Did you two have a strategy or game plan for writing the book?

Martin Hunt:  I provided business frameworks and she provided the educational rigor of what would get through to the reader.  I thought that would be a perfect combination.

BMIA.com:  Which entrepreneurs in your book impressed you the most?

Martin HuntJohn Johnson, Reginald Lewis and Bob Johnson are my favorites; we met John Johnson in a drug store in Chicago by accident.  He was informed of our project and promised to endorse our book.  We were impressed that he had read the work personally and by the fact that he had a review written in Ebony, as promised.  For a man worth a few hundred million dollars to meet you in drug store and remember your book and then review it was amazing.

BMIA.com:  Let’s stick with these pioneers for a moment.  What’s your impression of these men?

Martin HuntJohn Johnson is a hero for Black Business because he told a story with pictures that made us proud.  At a time when there were few publishing outlets for African-Americans, he stood large and is a wonderful example of the American dream.

Reginald Lewis is the most provocative entrepreneur of the twentieth century for the history of black business.  Reggie grew-up in Baltimore, was a lawyer, worked on mergers and acquisitions and used private equity as a tool for business like no other African-American prior.  He predicted that others would follow and they have.

Bob Johnson is a great example of Reggie’s vision.  He made his money with Black Enterprise television (BET), but more importantly used private equity to take BET public, then take it private and then sell it.  He gained three billion dollars personally.

With that money, he is now leveraging his wealth to create more enterprises with his ownership in the Charlotte Bob Cats and RLJ Holdings in real estate, private equity, hedge funds and other ventures.  Business is business.  We will see many African-Americans play these new roles throughout all aspect of American business.

And so the goal of the book is to open ourselves to those possibilities and make sure the next generation can see these great examples so that they can elevate their dreams to become major players in American business. 

BMIA.com:  Can you talk about the research process?

Martin Hunt:  We researched the book on night and on weekends.  I was working at first for Michael Porter at Harvard Business School in the beginnings of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner-city (ICIC).  I then worked for a large consulting firm and then at a large utility doing merger and acquisitions.

We used the Harvard Business School library, the Library of Congress and every library where I had major projects when I was consulting.  Jacque was a high school biology teacher and then an Academic advisor at the University of Chicago.  She took some time off when I was traveling to put the finishing touches on the book.

After the book was completed, we then formed the Knowledge Express Company and published the book.  We used R.R. Donnelley & Sons in Chicago to print the book and marketed the book through major distributors, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

BMIA.com:  I love the way the book is written.  You give the reader a history tour of black businesses going back over 100 years.  What were some of the key things that you learned about black businesses while researching and writing this book?

Martin Hunt:  We learned that there have always been African-American entrepreneurs since before America was America.  We also learned that there were always thousands of African-American-owned business as far back as the number of African-American was recorded in 1863.

During Slavery and after we saw four types of businesses, which the book explains in four categories: adventurers, inventors, bankers and insurance companies. They were generally sole proprietor, mom and pop businesses.  We also saw founders of new United States expansions that were more liberal to African-Americans like Jean Bapist DuSable, a fur trader and original settler of Chicago.

After Slavery, we had Apartheid in the United States and African-American businesses focused on the African-American community for their customers.  The ‘History of Black Business” explains this phenomena with the Black Diamond which explains the forces that made Black business grow during this time.  Many companies started prior to 1970 like Motown, Johnson Publishing, and banks and insurance companies like Carver Federal Saving Bank and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.  Some of them exist today.

After the 1960s, as the forces of Apartheid were dampened with Civil Rights laws, Black businesses began to get larger and more diversified with some linkages to Fortune 500 companies and automakers.  The largest Black businesses rose from having over nearly $500 million is sales in 1973 to over $20 billion today.

African-American businesses now are more fully diversified and that trend will grow.  Black business can be global.  Financing is better and the use of the stock market and other equity sources are available more now than before.

We see a push into private equity, large real estate deals, money management and venture capital and technology.  Black business will continue to look more like the distribution of majority businesses in America.

‘The History of Black Business’, explains this evolution and gives you framework to view the future.   It is important that more people of our kids become part of this new business opportunity.  We should think of business ownership as deeply rooted into our culture, positive for our communities and critical to providing resources for our future.

BMIA.com:  This is a great history lesson.  When you look at black businesses at the turn of the century and black businesses today, what are the major differences?

Martin Hunt:  Black businesses in 1900 were constrained by the denial of basic constitutional rights.  Businesses in 2000 were gaining steam into new and different fields with new techniques to get there.  Black businesses today exhibit some of the same characteristics, as earlier, but also have new possibilities.

Going public, going private, venture capital, private equity, Fortune 500 experience, new connections to Fortune 500 companies at the highest levels and the concept of the serial entrepreneur all are now a reality.

The concept that ownership through equity is important and that the public markets can be accessed is more possible now than ever.

BMIA.com:  What do you want people to learn as a result of reading your book?

Martin Hunt:  That everything is possible – they can be Oprah, Bob, John or Reggie and know what each of them did to open new doors for all of us to benefit from.  There is a paved road for entrepreneurial success.

Too many times the definition of African-American business is limited to what some thought in the past.  African-American businesses can be global, multi-lingual, great employers and vehicles for tremendous growth.  Reginald Lewis’ Beatrice International was a good example of this in the 80s and early 90s.

BMIA.com:  How important has education been in your life?

Martin Hunt:  Education has always been very important.  I am the son of two educators, Kenneth and Virginia Hunt.  Education was a valuable commodity in our house.  Diversity of thought and the ability to create are the most important things in business.  These can be gained through education.

BMIA.com:  Tell us about your background.

Martin Hunt:  I am the second of four kids.  Ken, Janine and Karen are my siblings.  I was a middle child in a group of extraordinary talented kids.  I worked hard both in school and in athletics and never gave up.  We were raised in New Castle, Delaware and my family is from Chester, Pennsylvania.

I went to Media Friends School in Media, Pennsylvania until 6th grade and then went to Delaware public schools.  I graduated from William Penn High School and then Swarthmore College.  After working for a few years, I went to Harvard Business School.

My wife is half Chilean and Dutch and lived all over the world.  She speaks five languages fluently and considers Spanish as her native tongue. She came to the United States for college and graduated from Southern Methodist University.  We met when she was completing her masters in Education at Harvard.

BMIA.com:  Based on your research, who would be in YOUR black business Hall of Fame?

Martin Hunt:  They are listed in the book.  There are so many great African-Americans it would be hard to choose.  Surely James Forten, Madam C.J. Walker, John Johnson, Don Barden, Dave Bing, Bruce Llewellyn, Reginald Lewis, H.J. Russell, Oprah and Bob Johnson would be among them.

BMIA.com:  What’s the state of black business today?  Do we need more black businesses in our community?

Martin Hunt:  The state of Black business today is growing.

I believe that African-American businesses are growing faster than what statistics can tell you.  There is a framework in ‘The History of Black Business” called the Black Diamond which is an analogy to Michael Porter’s Diamond framework.  The Diamond framework explains how location, cities, countries and regions become and stay competitive.

As the factors of my Black Diamond framework grow closer to Professor Porter’s Diamond framework for America, African-American-owned businesses will create sustainable competitive advantages at the same level of any other business.

That will take the form of ownership stakes in Fortune 500 companies, controlling interests in private equity funds and as stewards of the public markets and pension funds.

Yes, we still need more African-American businesses in our communities and in general.  Businesses employ people, provide wealth to owners and drive investment into a community.

BMIA.com:  What role do you see entrepreneurship playing in the black community?

Martin Hunt:  Sustainable economic bases drive resources into any community.  The ability for America to sustain its competitiveness is tied to how well African-Americans, as well as any other American group, can access the promise of inventiveness and opportunity that makes America so special.

BMIA.com:  Are black businesses held to a higher standard?  Should they be?

Martin Hunt:  Black businesses, as all businesses should build sustainable competitive advantages to win in the market place.  They should also be great corporate citizens.  If they can do that, then they will make our society stronger.

BMIA.com:  There is a widely held perception that black businesses fall short when dealing with black people.  As a result, black businesses complain that black people don’t support them.  I call it “the white man’s ice is colder” syndrome.  What’s your reaction to this?

Martin Hunt:  That thinking comes from an old paradigm.  This book presents a new paradigm that I think serves every community well.  Business should win in the market place and ensure they serve the community well.  We must do both.

BMIA.com:  How has the Internet changed life for black business?

Martin Hunt:  The Internet has the potential to bring the world into your living room and make knowledge readily available.  I believe that the Internet holds great promise in the development of great African-American-owned businesses.

BMIA.com:  Why is it important to have black owned businesses in our community?

Martin Hunt:  Ownership provides the ability to create sustainable economic bases that can pay for schools, invest in new technology and provide access to the thoughts and ideas of tomorrow.

BMIA.com:  In your opinion what’s the biggest challenge facing black men in America?

Martin Hunt:  The ability to change the perception of what is possible is our most important initiative.  I believe adversity will be what it may.  Your reaction to it, especially in America, can provide the key to overcoming that adversity and prospering.

BMIA.com:  How can people reading this article support you?

Martin Hunt:  Buy the book and then talk about it.  For books like “The History of Black Business” to be written, they must be purchased.  For ‘The History of Black Business” to improve the future for America, it must be read and talked about.  Enjoy the book and share.

BMIA.com:  What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?

Martin Hunt:  You can start now.

(1)   Decide what need or want your business will fill.

(2)   Assess how you will make money and compete.  Answer why your business will have a competitive advantage that you can maintain.

(3)   Make a written plan to articulate your idea with investors, if you need investors. Then detail when your investors will get their money back plus a profit return.

(4)   Make a plan that starts today.

(5)   Add to your plan everyday with milestones and goals until you are ready to launch your business.

Good luck.

BMIA.comThank you Martin.  This has been a great interview. 

Martin Hunt:  Thank you.  

Gary Johnson conducted this interview in August 2006 for Black Men In America.com.


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Hill Harper
A Phenomenal Man in His Own Right
By Jessica Tilles

 

“For the first time ever, I witnessed Jessica Tilles at a loss for words,” noted Gary Johnson, publisher of Black Men In America.com. “I can’t believe it. This is truly a first!” 

Yes, it was definitely a first. I was at a loss for words. My favorite, actor said, “Hello, Jessica. How are you?” and I couldn’t respond. Hill Harper, the man I have adored from afar, every since the first time I saw him on the TV show “City of Angels.” 

I’ve met a lot of people in my life: celebrities, best-selling authors, millionaires, and the like, and I’ve never been so enamored by them, and definitely not at a loss for words. I had always been known as the woman who couldn’t keep her mouth shut, the one with the quick comebacks. But not today! 

My being speechless didn’t even make the top of list. What ranked #1 on the All Time Stupidity List was my running around the office like a complete idiotic fool, because the phone had rung and I knew exactly whom it was. Hill Harper! 

I ran around the office, mind all boggled up, unable to breathe, on the verge of a nervous breakdown because Hill Harper was on the phone, and he was going to have a conversation with me! The thought of speaking to Hill Harper was much better than the threesome fantasy I had in my dreams with Blair Underwood and Michael Beach. Well, wait…hmmm. 

Finally, I had regained my composure; turned on the digital recorder my brother had given me as a gift, and sat down to receive the mental orgasm of my life. Did I say I loved me some Hill Harper? 

Hill Harper, an Ivy League educated, award-winning actor and entrepreneur, has made it his life’s purpose to help instill self-confidence, tolerance, morality and humility into young men. 

Harper saw first hand while mentoring, that today’s youth are at a loss for positive role models, constructive outlets, and the motivation to dream big and accomplish anything they set their minds to. In his New York Times bestselling book, Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny, he provides uplifting wisdom that encourages, empowers, and provides alternative views of what it truly means to strive to be a successful man. 

Letters to a Young Brother, a series of letters written from a brother-to-brother point of view, is based on questions that young men have personally asked Harper. In the book, Hill addresses many of the tough issues by providing his own personal insights along with those of various successful men and women.  

The book is literally a roadmap for mentors, targeting young males lacking positive role models. Harper offers uplifting wisdom and constructive outlets that encourage, empower, and provide alternative e views of what it truly means to strive to be a successful male. The book touches on topics such as building solid foundations with friends and family; mining our resources with school, work and money; girls, sex and relationships, dreams and aspirations, as well as Harper shares personal life occurrences, offering advice and a “way out.” 

In today’s society, there seems to be a lack of mentoring for our young brothers (and sisters too). Hill’s inspiration comes from deep within, a strong family background, and high morals and values. “We are in crisis mode,” said Harper. “Metaphorically speaking, our young men are lying in the streets injured and we, as men, need to stop right now, look at ourselves in the mirror and say that we have to do something.” 

Letters to a Young Brother is written with a sophisticated theme, but is accessible to even the most reluctant reader, “because that is whom I wanted to reach. You see the tone, style and writing content is critically important, which is why I included the pictures in the book of me with different people,” said Harper. He feels it’s all about caring, trying to bring the reader into the book, showing that this is not an academic book or an assignment from school, but rather something you would want to read because you want to read it, and the response has been overwhelming. Harper receives hundreds of e-mails a day. 

Harper’s initial experience with trying to get his book published was disheartening. Several of the publishers indicated that “It’s a great idea but we don’t believe young boys read, and if they do, we don’t know how to reach them.” In one book pitch meeting, he was told, “Hill, please don’t write a book for this population; we want to do a book with you, but please not this book, you are proposing a book for a population that doesn’t read.”  

Harper proved the naysayer wrong, by sending out a personal plea asking for support in promoting Letters to a Young Brother, requesting people to buy multiple copies and gift them to any young men or parents of young men. Prior to the April 20, 2006 release date, 10,000 copies were sold via pre-orders. 

   
Click On Photos To Enlarge

All proceeds from the sale of Letters to a Young Brother will go towards The MANifest Your Destiny Foundation, a non-profit youth organization, established by Harper, dedicated to empowering, encouraging, and inspiring underserved males to succeed. The philosophy behind the organization is to provide young men with nurturing support systems, resources, encouragement, and guidance though mentorship, scholarship and grant programs. 

The MANifest Your Destiny Foundation provides financial resources and practical experience to support young men’s academic or professional field of interest. Internships and/or apprenticeships are awarded to eligible young people who have demonstrated their passions and commitment to furthering their education through academic achievement and community service, much like the founder Hill Harper. In addition, the organization awards grants to deserving young men seeking to start their own business. 

This interview was the most fulfilling and intriguing I’ve ever done. Hill Harper is my favorite actor, and he’s not bad on the eyes either. I am a huge fan of CSI: New York and I make it my business to catch every role he has portrayed. But, what people say is true. You really don’t know someone until you sit and have a conversation. He is truly God’s gift and I feel richer having been in his presence. 

Hill, thank you for a wonderful interview and making this fan’s dream come true. Oh yeah, and thanks for one hell of a…well you know.  :::Wink:::: 


To learn more about Hill Harper and The MANifest Your Destiny Foundation visit his web site at www.manifestyourdestiny.net.

Jessica Tilles is the best-selling author of Anything Goes, In My Sisters’ Corner, Apple Tree, Sweet Revenge, Fatal Desire and Unfinished Business, co-founder of J.T.’s Book Corner and columnist for Black Men In America.com.


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George E. Curry Continues To Be One Of The Great Voices In Black America

I think that George E. Curry is one of the great “voices” in journalism and in black America.  If you have not heard of him or read his work, here is your opportunity. 

I became aware of George’s work about 18 years ago.  I read one of his newspaper articles in the late 1980’s and was drawn to his “tell it like it is” style of writing.  George E. Curry was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2003 and is listed by the organization as one of the most influential Black journalists of the 20th Century.  He was president of the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME), the first African-American to hold the group’s top position.  Curry has been in journalism for 36 years, starting as a reporter for Sports Illustrated, working as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune, Editor-in-Chief of Emerge: Black America’s Newsmagazine and now as a syndicated columnist and Editor-in-Chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) News Service. He is frequently in demand as a public speaker and appears frequently as a commentator on radio and TV. 

Last week George Curry and I met in downtown Washington, D.C.  In addition to having a great time, I walked away with some additional “life lessons.”  In fact, I seem to always get one of those “a-ha or light bulb” moments after talking with George.  One of the great things about George is that he is willing to share his vast knowledge and experience with folks who are willing to listen and take action. 

Here is my exclusive interview with George E. Curry.

 

George E. Curry:  A Voice That Needs To Be Heard

 

BMIA:  First of all, George, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview.  How important has education been in your life?

GEC: Thank you for this opportunity. Education is and has always been the passport out of poverty. That was true when I was growing up in segregated Tuscaloosa, Ala. and that’s true today. More than any other factor, education determines what kind of life you, your children and grandchildren will have. In addition, it provides broad knowledge that is so necessary in everyday life.

BMIA:  Tell us about your background.

GEC: As I mentioned, I grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the oldest of four children and the only son. My mother did domestic work and my stepfather drove at dump truck at the University of Alabama during a period when African-Americans were not allowed to enroll. Neither of my parents completed high school, but they emphasized the importance of getting a sound education. Even growing up in public housing, we had subscriptions to The Tuscaloosa News, the local daily, and the Pittsburgh Courier, the Black newspaper that opened up a whole new world for me. I learned so much about Black history and Black accomplishments from the Pittsburgh Courier.

BMIA:  That’s a great testimony to the importance of black newspapers in our communities.  Do you have any other strong childhood memories?

GEC: Yes, I mentioned my mother doing domestic work. When she returned home from work, she had to ride in the back seat of the car. That angered me and it angers me to this day. As a boy and I told my three sisters, “They better enjoy this one because the only time any of us are going to be in anyone’s back seat is when we are being chauffeured.”  Racism can cause you to react two ways: it can crush you or it can serve as a motivator. It motivated me. It made me more determined to succeed.

BMIA:  How did you get into the newspaper business?

GEC: I’ve known since the 8th grade that I wanted to become a journalist.

BMIA:  Since the 8th grade?

GEC:  Yes.  At the time, I had never met a Black journalist and the only way African-Americans appeared in the local newspaper was if they were athletes, entertainers or suspected of committing a crime. I knew there were many more stories in our community and I wanted to tell them. Ironically, I could and did get a job directly out of Knoxville College as a reporter for Sports Illustrated, the largest sports magazine in the world, but couldn’t get a job with my hometown newspaper. Looking back, they probably did me a favor. I should send them a thank-you note.

BMIA:  What prompted you to become editor of EMERGE magazine?

GEC: That was in 1993 and by then I had worked at Sports Illustrated, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and for the Chicago Tribune, both as a Washington correspondent and as the New York bureau chief.  When Bob Johnson, CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET), offered me the job as editor-in-chief, I jumped at the opportunity. I felt I could draw on all of my past professional experience and develop Emerge into a true, cutting-edge, take-no-prisoners newsmagazine. And we did just that, winning more than 40 national journalism awards. It was the best job I’ve ever had.

When I took the job, my stepfather, William Polk, said, “George, you’re doing the opposite of what White people have done. They have usually raided the Black Press to hire reporters for White papers. But you have done the reverse, you’re taking Blacks from White papers and bringing them home.” I hadn’t really looked at it that way.

BMIA:  How hard is it to operate and manage a print magazine?

GEC: Journalistically, it was no different from operating at any other place. The challenge was that because it was a monthly, there was always a struggle to remain timely. Most people don’t know this, but there is a three-month lead time in magazines. That means I had to look three months into the future and predict, as best I could, what the world would look like when that issue would be published. So we would time our Clarence Thomas stories, for example, to the opening session of the Supreme Court. Our Kemba Smith story was first published in May, when students were graduating. In fact, our first cover story on Kemba featured her in a cap and gown. It wasn’t always easy – sometimes we were good and at other times, we lucked out.

BMIA:  What were the challenges that led to the demise of EMERGE magazine?

GEC: How much time do you have? Where shall I begin? Let me begin by stating that for the seven years that I was editor of Emerge, Bob Johnson and Debra Lee, the publisher, granted me complete freedom to run the magazine as I saw fit. As you know, we were pretty controversial.  We ran Clarence Thomas on the cover with an Aunt Jemima-style handkerchief on his head and depicted affirmative action foe Ward Connerly as a puppet, replete with the strings. At no point did Bob or Deb say, “Tone it down” or ask me to go easy on anyone. I think it’s important to state that for the record.

Emerge was closed in the summer of 2000 to make way for Savoy magazine. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but I am going to say it anyway – Savoy was nothing but Ebony on steroids. It was a fluff magazine. At the time, Bob Johnson was in the process of selling BET to Viacom and essentially farmed out the company’s magazines to Keith Clinkscales, whose plan was to kill Emerge and start Savoy. What eventually happened was that Keith killed at least five Black magazines over a two-year period – Emerge, Heart & Soul, BET Weekend, Honey and a couple of others. That’s his legacy.

What irked me more than anything else was that Emerge was on the verge of making money; we were close to breaking even. In the magazine industry, it often takes a while to earn a profit, but once magazines turn the corner, they can earn millions every year. At the time they killed Emerge, our circulation was larger than the Nation, the New Republic and the Weekly Standard, all magazines that had been publishing longer than Emerge. But they had owners sensitive to how long it would take to make a profit and they were supported. We didn’t enjoy that support and, hence, the closing of Emerge.

BMIA:  What was the most important lesson you learned when you were running EMERGE magazine?

GEC:  A.J. Liebling, the famous media critic, said: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”  My next step will be to own a media entity, not working for someone else. If I own it, I can determine its fate. I never want to go through the experience I went through with the shutdown of Emerge.

BMIA:  I understand that EMERGE may be on its way back to the newsstands.  Is this true?

GEC:  Let me put it this way: I will not be happy until I own a news outlet and that may or may not be in the form of Emerge. I am determined to come back out with something that does not insult the intelligence of our people. That’s the most I wish to say about it at this point, but stay tuned.

BMIA:  You’ve written three books.  Although, they’re somewhat different, what do you want readers to learn or “get” from your work?

GEC:  You’re right, all three are different. The first, written when I was 29-years-old, was about Jake Gaither, the legendary former football coach at Florida A&M University who won 85 percent of his games over 25 years and never had a losing season. The second was, “The Affirmative Action Debate” and the last one was, “The Best of Emerge Magazine.” I am at work on book #4, which I will discuss once I’ve finished writing it.

More than anything else, I want readers to appreciate the enormous contributions of African-Americans. I hear many African-Americans complain about Whites writing about Black history. Two of them --David Garrow and Taylor Branch – have won Pulitzer Prizes for books they wrote on the Civil Rights Movement. But if we don’t write our own history, we forfeit our right to complain.

BMIA:  Who are some of the people that you admire?

GEC: Historically, W.E. DuBois is my all-time favorite. I also admire William Monroe Trotter, Paul Robeson and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. As an adult, Nelson Mandela is clearly in a class by himself. I am also a huge fan of Mary Frances Berry, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The people who influenced me the most growing up are not nationally-known: Robert L. Glynn, the head of McKenzie Court, my housing project in Tuscaloosa; Mr. Robert Wade and his family were considered the First Family of our housing projects and set some pretty high standards for all of us; my high school principal, McDonald Hughes, was legendary and influenced thousands of us; Mrs. Johnnie Giglio, my first-grade teacher; Mrs. Hazel Hackett, my homeroom teacher and high school guidance counselor; Mrs. Dorothy Smith or Miss Dot, as she is known, a neighbor who knew me before I knew myself; Henry Holbert, my high school football coach, and my football coach at Knoxville College, I.G. Brown. Dr. Robert Owens, the president of Knoxville College at the time, impacted me greatly. Of course, my mother and stepfather as well as my uncles and aunts had more influence on me than anyone. 

BMIA:  What role did they play in your personal and/or professional development?

GEC:  Each of them, in his or her own way, gave me guidance, inspiration, encouragement and tenacity. Amid rigid segregation, they told us that we could excel and accomplish anything we desired. They didn’t place limitations on our dreams and made sure no one else did, either. Remember, I attended all-Black schools in Tuscaloosa. When the school system was finally desegregated, the down side of integration was that the best Black teachers were often assigned to the predominantly White schools and the worst White teachers were assigned to the Black schools. I am so blessed to have attended school under the care of loving, caring and demanding Black teachers. 

BMIA:  How do you define success?

GEC:  I define success as what you do for others, not what you do for yourself. What have you done to impact and uplift the people who need it the most? That’s the test, that’s the yardstick.

BMIA:  What has been your greatest success?

GEC:  That’s an easy one. In 1977, I, along with my friends in the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists, began a workshop for Black high school students. We held intense, daylong sessions for seven or eight consecutive Saturdays. With the help of local chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists, I started similar workshops in Washington, D.C. and New York. Overall, there are about 15 workshops, all of them still running, patterned after the St. Louis model.

Working with Northwestern University, I also taught in a special Washington-based program for students from historically Black colleges. Prior to that, I taught summers at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. At different points, I have been able to read an Associated Press story by Bennie Currie or a Chicago Tribune story by his wife, Celeste Garrett, whom he met in the St. Louis program. I can turn on CBS-TV and see Russ Mitchell, one of my former students, or BET and see Jacqui Reed, another former student. If I travel to Nashville, I can stop by to see E.J. Mitchell, the editor of the Tennesseean. If I go to Columbus, Ga., Ben Holden is the top editor there. If I am in Orlando, Mark Russell is managing editor of the Orlando Sentinel. Another former student, Ann Scales, used to cover the White House for the Boston Globe. My former students have worked for the Wall Street Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the New York Daily News, the Newark Star-Ledger, the Atlanta Constitution, the Philadelphia Inquirer, ESPN magazine, TV and radio stations and too many other places to name.

Of course, these students probably would have made it anyway, but I am delighted to have helped them along the way.

Even more satisfying than having my former students become my colleagues is that some of them started their own workshops. There is nothing more satisfying than that. Nothing. Not only did they appreciate what we had done for them when they were young, they understood that they have an obligation to train the next generation of Black journalists. It doesn’t get any better than that.

BMIA:  Tell us about Black Press USA?

GEC: www.BlackPressUSA.com is the official Web site of the NNPA, the National Newspaper Publishers Association. It is actually administered by the NNPA Foundation and contains stories published in our member newspapers.

BMIA:  How many people do you “reach” through your various media outlets?

GEC: More than 15 million.

BMIA:  What’s the state of Black journalism?  Do we need more journalist of color in our community?

GEC:  As I mentioned in my speech at the Millions More Movement, my fear is that Black-owned media is at risk of being taken over by White-owned companies. Look at what’s been happening to Black businesses in general. Motown Records was sold. Johnson Hair Products in Chicago was sold. BET was sold to Viacom. Essence was sold to Time, Inc. Black Voices.com is owned and operated by AOL, a Time-Warner subsidiary. Over the next 50 years, the U.S. population is expected to grow by 50 percent. During that period, the White segment of the population is expected to increase only by 7 percent. Shortly after the year 2050, Whites will be a minority in this country. So, there is nowhere else to expand except to purchase our valued Black institutions and businesses. To avoid that, some Black papers and broadcast outlets may need to merge in order to become stronger.

As for journalists, yes, we need greater and broader representation, but not representation simply for representation’s sake. It’s not enough to hire someone with a Black skin and a White mind. We should have learned that from the Clarence Thomas experience. We need journalists of color in these newsrooms who know that they bring different perspectives to the table and are not afraid of defending those perspectives. They must not be what Nathan Hare calls “Black Anglo-Saxons.”

BMIA:  What role does journalism play in today’s political process?

GEC:  Journalists should be watchdogs for the public. But too many of them have become lapdogs for those in power. Some are nothing more than glorified stenographers.

BMIA:  Are Black journalists held to a higher standard?  Should they be?

GEC:  Not just Black journalists, generally most Blacks in all walks of life are held to a higher standard. Is it fair? No, but it is reality. What we must do, particularly with our young people, is to remind them that despite that double standard, they can still be successful. We don’t tell them that enough.

BMIA:  How has the Internet changed life for Black folks?

GEC:  The Internet has produced an information explosion. It is a weapon of mass instruction – for everyone. Unfortunately, there is a gap between computer ownership among Whites and Blacks, but we’re closing that gap. The Internet provides a unique opportunity to close the information and education gap between Whites and people of color.

BMIA:  Why is it important to have Black-owned and Black interest media in our society?

GEC:  In 1827, Freedom’s Journal, the first Black newspaper, proclaimed: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” This is just as true today as it was in 1827.  Now matter how you look at it  -- and I spent almost a quarter of a century in the White-owned press  – White publications are not going to reflect the goals, aspirations, and perspectives of African-Americans or people of color.  As I mentioned earlier, an increasing number of conglomerates are buying Black businesses and we risk losing the few voices that we have.

BMIA:  What’s the best thing about being George Curry?

GEC:  I’ve never been asked that question. Miss Dot, a family friend back in Tuscaloosa, told someone who was surprised that she knew me, “I knew George Curry before George Curry was George Curry.” And she did.

I never think about being George Curry, as such, but I do recognize that I have media platforms that most people don’t enjoy. The military can strike by land, air or sea. I can voice my opinions in print, on radio, on TV or over the Internet. Because I have that access, I feel a special obligation to voice the concerns of the voiceless. When you see me on TV, whether it’s on the Today Show, Nightline, C-SPAN, Good Morning America, BET or wherever, you better believe that I have thoroughly prepared for that appearance. Too many people are counting on me to represent, as young people like to say, and I can’t let them down. I’m not just representing George Curry. I’m just the conduit, representing millions who will never have access to national TV.

BMIA:  In your opinion what’s the biggest challenge facing Black men in America?

GEC:  Let me start with the general and move to the specific. Over the years, the fundamental issues for Black people have, for the most part, remained unchanged: education, employment, economic development, access to health care, political empowerment or what some call civic engagement and more recently, the prison industrial complex. Racism is the common denominator that runs through all of those.

As for men, we’ve all read the dreary statistics about more men in their 20’s being imprisoned than enrolled in college. I do a lot of speaking around the country each month, especially on college campuses, and I am appalled by the number of women in college compared to the paucity of Black men. That has tremendous ramifications for the future of Black families and our community, if we are to continue as a community.

I edited the National Urban League’s “State of Black America 2006” report and it was pointed out in one chapter that America spends $10 billion a year to lock up Black males and only $2.8 billion to educate them. For the past two decades, virtually every state has spent more on prison construction than building new colleges. From 1985-2000, state spending on higher education increased by 29 percent. Over that same period, state spending on corrections increased by 175 percent. Clearly, we need a change in public policy.

From a community standpoint, we must reclaim our Black males, even if we have to do it one male at a time. We must go back to the things that worked for us – Scouting, the village approach to rearing children, church involvement, etc. – and realize they can still work today.

Finally, we have to adjust some attitudes. I remember speaking at North Carolina A&T one time and afterwards some young brother came up to me in tears because I addressed an issue that had been heavy on their hearts. Because their fathers weren’t home, they had been carrying this baggage around all of their lives. In my speech, I noted that my father wasn’t home. And I listed many others whose father weren’t home:  Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Barack Obama, Alexis Herman. I said, “Welcome to the club. Now, let’s move on.” We must turn a negative into a positive.

BMIA:  How can people reading this article support you?

GEC:  First, I think we need to support our Black colleges, our Black media outlets and our Black businesses. Secondly, I mentioned that I do a lot of public speaking. Organizations can book me by going to my Web site, www.georgecurry.com. I also have a weekly newsletter – it’s free – and people can sign up for it by going to my blog, (There’s no www) curryingfavor.blogsport.com. You’ve already mentioned my three books. I write a syndicated column that runs in Black newspapers each week. We definitely need to support the Black Press.

BMIA:  What advice would you give to someone who aspires to serve in the community?

GEC:  Nike put it best: Just do it.

BMIA:  Thank you George Curry.

GEC:  Thank you.

This interview was conducted by Gary A. Johnson for Black Men In America.com and posted July 2006.


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MS. CATHY HARRIS:  A WOMAN IN THE BUSINESS OF EMPOWERING AND UPLIFTING HER COMMUNITY

Creativity, unbridled talent, ingenuity and profound thought is in abundance in the African American community and are a mere sampling of the  gifts that the African American community brings to the Table of Humanity.  Ms. Cathy Harris is an individual whose creativity, unbridled talent, ingenuity, strong sense of justice and profound thought is helping others to transcend boundaries and create options. She is a woman who is in the business of uplifting and empowering her community.   Harris is an author, lecturer, consultant and a mother who came to my attention on an evening in April 2006.  I was working late in my office and listening to WURD 900 AM, a radio talk show station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which is taking “community radio” to a whole new level, when I heard Ms. Harris’ dynamic voice.   Her message was so compelling that I stopped working on my project.  Instead, I listened intently to what she had to say and began taking notes.   And after hearing what she had to say, I decided that Ms. Cathy Harris was a person that as many people as possible needed to know about. 

So, who is Cathy Harris?  Who were her role models?  Where was she born? 

“I came from humble beginnings. I was raised in rural Georgia – Bowdon, Georgia – the middle child of nine siblings. My role models were my mother, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman and other women whom I thought were absolutely great. My mom told me that as I go out into the world to treat everyone right -- treat others like you want to be treated.  Respect others especially your elders,” Ms. Harris stated. 

Mindful of the fact that Ms. Harris is a community organizer, entrepreneur, author, publisher, lecturer, consultant and mother, I wanted to know how she was able to maintain balance in her life in view of the fact that she had become “all things to all people” outside of her family circle.  Ms. Harris offered the following:

“I count my blessings everyday. I know I have been fortunate. Despite the pain I have felt in my life, I have learned to also count my victories. I raised two daughters from the ages of four and five who are now graduate students.   I told myself a long time ago that I was going to be happy no matter what.  I retired from my federal government job in 2005 after going through ten years of workplace abuse. After spending fifteen months out of work on unpaid stress leave, I was in a bad place. I often wonder, ‘Why did I get better?’ So many women who had gone through workplace abuse never got better. I asked myself ‘Why Me?’  I realized after returning to work that I had a true purpose in life and that I would uphold my purpose to educate, inform and empower others to take control of their own lives.” 

For twenty-seven years, the federal government employed Ms. Harris. During the course of her employment, she was moved by certain circumstances to become a “whistleblower” to form the Customs Employees Against Discrimination Association (“CEADA”).  Why did Harris become a “whistleblower”?  Why did she create CEADA? 

“After witnessing first-hand for many years unethical practices against international travelers, I knew it would be me that came forward.  I had spoken to several co-workers all over the United States, who too, confirmed that the racial profiling was taking place at their port -- but I knew since I lived in the hometown of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that it would be me who came forward. I knew I had to blow the whistle on the United States Customs Office.  I took three steps.  One:  I formed Customs Employees Against Discrimination Association because being a part of an organization is powerful. Two:  I went to the National Newspapers Publishers Association – the NNPA -- (www.nnpa.org) and asked then-President Dorothy Leavell who was also the founder of the Chicago Crusader to give my organization a reporter who could help us expose the United States Customs Office. She gave us Professor Linn Washington from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who put out stories every two weeks for six months on the abuses of Black women international travelers committed by Customs employees.  Three:  I went to a media attorney. The attorney took my story to a local investigative news team  -- Fox 5 in Atlanta, Georgia -- which later won the Peabody Award for my story Singled Out by U.S. Customs.”  So who or what inspires Ms. Harris?  How is she able to “step out on faith”? 

“I am inspired by other activists and advocates who have done much more than me. They have stood on the front lines and spoke for those who had no voice. It’s also my calling to do the same.  So many people have lost their way because of the current administration, the outsourcing of jobs and the downsizing of corporations,” Harris remarked. 

The discussion moved to the number of books Ms. Harris has authored which include, Flying While Black; a three-book series entitled, How To Take Control Of Your Life; The Failure of Homeland In-Security; The Cathy Harris Story; and Discrimination 101. What motivated Harris to write these books?  

“The only books that have been out is Flying While Black and How To Take Control of Your Own Life. The other three books will come out this year though. I wrote all the books because the stories had to be told so others could learn from my struggles.  How To Take Control Of Your Own Life is available at www.HowToTakeControl.com.  My other books are available on www.angelspress.com or on www.amazon.com,” explained Ms. Harris. 

Cathy Harris is fearless.  She has no qualms about “walking through fire” or daring to “go where Angels fear to tread.”. And she has a very low threshold for injustice. What makes Cathy Harris fearless?  What makes Cathy Harris not have any trepidation about “walking through fire” or daring to “go where Angels”? 

“Leaving home and joining the military was my first introduction to injustice. I learned at an early age that there was a lot of wickedness in the world. I witnessed first-hand several acts of racism against minority soldiers and sexual harassment and sexism against women. Being a mom of two daughters, it made

me very uncomfortable. I thought of my daughters being in these predicaments and not knowing what to do. From the very beginning, my conscience told me that eventually I would have to make a stand against injustice. I had no idea that a country girl from rural Georgia would one day stand up against the government and make them make many changes.” 

So, why did Harris decide to empower others by sharing her experiences, skills and knowledge? 

“How will our kids know they must step up to the plate if they don’t know the stories of their ancestors?  Young people who know about their history will go further in life. Our kids must know that we stood up and they must too. Too many people are taking their stories to the graves and no one will ever know their legacy. I was determined to leave something behind not just for my family but for others faced with some type of atrocity in their lives.” 

And what is Ms. Harris’ key message? 

My key message is that everyone must be in the business of taking care of people. We must be committed to uplifting and empowering the community. Sometimes in life we will come to a crossroad in our lives. The real test is:  ‘Which road will we take?’”

Note:  The publisher would like to publicly acknowledge D. A. Sears for conducting this interview.


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Tom Morris, Jr.:  Fighting Crime with Style, One Story At A Time

Tom Morris, Jr., epitomizes everything that this web site is about.  Tom started from the same place that most of us did, maximized his opportunities and is making a positive difference in the community.  Tom is seen by millions of people every week.  He may not be a household name, but I guarantee you’ve heard his distinct voice and have seen his stories on television. 

After graduating from Norfolk State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications, Tom began his career in Washington, D.C., as a member of The White House Press Corps and the U.S. Senate and House Radio and Television Galleries.  During the early 1980’s, Tom also covered national news events for Independent Network News and CNN.  After covering the first Reagan administration, Tom took a hiatus from broadcasting to put his communications skills to work for the Prince George’s County Maryland Economic Development Corporation. 

In 1987, Tom seized an opportunity to pursue a life-long dream of working abroad.  He was hired by the Virginia-based Sverdrup Corporation and trained as an anti-terrorism security specialist on a contract assignment to the U.S. State Department’s newly formed Embassy Task Group (ETG).  The task group was charged with implementing new, high-security protocols at U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe as mandated under the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986.  Tom Morris was the first person accepted into the ETG to become a "Cleared American Security Specialist" who did not have any prior military or law enforcement background. After receiving training at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Anti-Terrorism Institute, Quantico U.S. Marine Base, and from U.S. Army Special Forces instructors, Tom was issued a Top Secret clearance by the State Department and was subsequently deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia east Africa.  Tom arrived in Somalia in March 1988, just three weeks before the Somali civil war erupted.  He fulfilled his one-year contract there assigned to the U.S. Embassy. 

In 1993, Tom returned to his broadcasting career as a segment producer with the FOX television network crime show, “America's Most Wanted.”  Tom is the Senior Correspondent on “America’s Most Wanted” (AMW), one of the five longest running prime time shows on television.  In his interview with Gary Johnson, Tom discusses his diverse background, black-on-black crime, how he defines success, mentoring, education and more.  When he’s not fighting crime, Tom is also a Hip Hop DJ, pianist, and award-winning poet.  If you’re looking for an inspiring and motivating feature, this is a “must read” article.

The Tom Morris, Jr. Interview 

BMIA.com:  Hey Tom.  How ya’ doing today?  Tell us a little bit about your background.  Many people are familiar with your voice, but they don’t know about the man behind the voice. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  I was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1956 in a segregated hospital.  My father is a Baptist minister, as was his father, so I was raised a 'preacher's son' and immersed in religion from birth.  When I was a child, my father was an ambitious young minister devoted to serving humanity through Christ, and we moved pretty much every five years throughout my childhood as he took on different assignments.  I grew up in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Northumberland County, Virginia.  After high school, I enrolled in Virginia Union University (VUU) in Richmond.  Both of my paternal grandparents, Mom, Dad and various aunts and uncles had graduated from 'Union and attending that historically Black college was almost an automatic decision for me.  I don't think I ever really considered going anywhere else.  A VUU, I actually had one professor who taught my grandfather, my father, my mother and finally me!  

BMIA.com:  You graduated from Norfolk State University, with a Bachelor of Science Mass Communications.  I get the sense that education was important to you when you were growing up.  What were you taught about education?

Tom Morris, Jr.:  I majored in print journalism and thought I wanted to work at a newspaper, but by the end of my junior year, I began to look at television or radio as better career options and transferred to Norfolk State University to continue my undergrad studies there as a Mass Communications major.  I actually began my television career while still in undergrad at WVEC Channel 13 in Norfolk, Virginia, so when I graduated in 1980; I came out of college with a year and a half of actual TV Newsroom experience. 

Education was always important in my family.  To this day, at my parents' house a college diploma hangs on the wall that belonged to one of my great-aunts who graduated in 1898 or thereabouts.  My father explained to me when I was a boy that I would be the fifth generation of my family to attend college and he helped me understand the legacy and benefits that history meant.  Growing up in the 1960's with parents who were on the front line of the civil rights movement meant never taking for granted the opportunity that Black people were dying and getting beaten down in the streets for, and my parents made sure that my brother, sister and I understood what it meant to be able to contribute to the world as a professional in one's chosen area of endeavor.  My mother and father never told us 'what' be.  They just stressed that whatever we strove to do, that we should do our very best at it, and make every effort when possible to use our talents to make the world a better place, while making a living. 

BMIA.com:  Tom, you have a lot of different jobs in a variety of disciplines.  Can you briefly talk about some of the jobs that you had and how they may have helped you in your current position at AMW? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  I've been doing some kind of job since I was 12 or so.  From riding a Huffy bike slinging newspapers out of the baskets, to cutting grass and selling fresh fish out of the trunk of a car when I was 17.  During a couple of my college summers, I worked for the National Park Service Maintenance division doing construction on various federal concrete projects in Washington.  So, I learned what it meant to work hard with your hands and I learned to respect those who do that for a living.  After college, I started my television career working on camera crews covering the White House and Congress in 1991 for Independent Network News and CNN.  Both started up around the same time around 1980, but only CNN survived for the long haul.  After about four years covering the national news scene as a cameraman, soundman, and sometime field producer, I was ready to do something different.   So, I left television to go to work for Prince George's County Maryland's Economic Development Corporation to help do outreach to minority entrepreneurs in the rapidly growing and affluent Black suburb. 

After accomplishing a few things there, I set off for what would be my ultimate career departure, or so I thought at the time.  I talked my way into an anti-terrorism security program called the Embassy Task Group under the U.S. State Department.  This was in 1987.  The fact that I was let into the program at all was pretty incredible, because they were only hiring men with military or police backgrounds and I had neither. 

The primary attraction for me was the promise of travel and adventure, romance and maybe even danger abroad.  It was my chance, or so I thought, to live a life of international adventure like my literary hero, Ernest Hemmingway.  The company with the State Department contract was SVERDRUP.  It's one of those companies where the military-industrial complex is like a hand and glove. I went through a series of interviews with retired Generals, Colonels, and execs before they made reached a consensus and granted the exception to let me into the program.   

After six months of anti-terrorism training in Rosslyn, Virginia, and at the U.S. Marine Base Quantico, I received a Top-Secret clearance and was deployed as part of an 8-man security team to the embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia.  I arrived in country in March of 1988, just two months before the Somali Civil War erupted.  After spending a year in Somalia I decided not to renew my contract for a second year because it was clear to me that the country was headed for collapse.  Today, Somalia is one of, if not the only country on the planet that has not had a government since 1991.  It remains a lawless rogue-land.  I arrived home in the states on January 2, 1989.  

I wanted to continue in the high-level anti-terrorism field at first and went to work for another security agency assigned to the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington.  After a year and a half there, I decided to return to media work and took a job as an account executive with a British stock photography agency in their Georgetown office.  In 1993, one of my clients from the agency gave my resume to his neighbor, a man named Lance Heflin.  He would be the man who would change my life in so many ways.

Lance Heflin is the executive producer of AMERICA'S MOST WANTED.  Three weeks after he got my resume, I was called in to start freelancing as a research reporter producing crime reenactment stories for AMW.  I did good work, had strong descriptive writing skills, and after producing stories for about six months as a freelancer, AMW hired me.   

In 1996, Lance gave me the ultimate shot in the television game.    He'd decided that I might be a natural on camera.  So, he let me step in front of the camera (with no previous experience) on prime-time television no less, and start reporting crime stories.  I never looked back after that.  Today, in 2006, I'm 13 years deep into AMW and am the show's senior correspondent and producer. 

So, I've had what I would call a 'varied, but consistent' background.  By varied, I mean that I've done several different things in the professional world, but always consistently tried to conduct myself with a level of competence regardless of the particular career endeavor and keep moving forward. 

BMIA.com:  How do you define success? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  I define success as first and foremost being able to support oneself and one's family adequately and progressively.  That's the first measure of success to me.  Secondly, I define personal success as being able to do work for a living that gives emotional and tangible enjoyment.  Many people have jobs they hate.  I've had very few of those and I'm not exactly sure why that is, but the fact is, I've had my professional and personal ups and downs in the his life of hard knocks, but I've always been blessed to see a better day.  

BMIA.com:  Your accomplishments are impressive.  What’s the best part of being Tom Morris? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  The best part of being Tom Morris, is getting home at the end of a day at the office, or from the airport and walking into my house and seeing the people, (and pets) that I love healthy, safe and content.  My youngest son's name is Justice.  You can guess why I chose his name.  It's what I've worked for since before he was born.  Just seeing his face makes my life all right instantly.  The other good things about being Tom Morris are having the respect of my family and colleagues, and the public that appreciates the work I do on television working for justice for victims of violent crime, being healthy, and continually seeking knowledge.  I love to read and I love my work, because what we do at AMW makes our society a little bit safer in some way, by taking one criminal off the street at a time.

BMIA.com:  Clearly a lot of work goes into AMW.  How do you explain the success of the show?

Tom Morris, Jr.:  AMW has been on television since February 1988.  It is today one of the five longest running prime time shows on television.  The main reason it's been successful is because it allows the audience to potentially interact with it by calling 1-800-CRIME and get results.  When you watch AMW, you never know if you'll be the person who spots that fugitive, or recovers that missing child we showed you.  And almost every week that magic happens somewhere in America or abroad as a result of our viewers.  Now we've got AMW.com as an additional tool, so you can look up that suspicious person in an instant and get more details too. 

BMIA.com:  What percentage of the folks featured on your show are captured? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  As of April 3, 2006, we have aired 844 episodes and we've caught 879 fugitives.  So we average one capture per show. 

BMIA.com:  What changes have had the most impact on the show over the years? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  AMW is always improving the quality of the show itself.  In the early days, the show was all film reenactments.  Today we still do those, but there's a lot more news, breaking stories, high-tech graphics, music scores and of course the ever-passionate man-hunter himself, our host, heart and soul of the show…John Walsh.  He's an amazing man who will fight the fight for all of the victims of crime to the end.   John holds it down strong for the kids and everyone else who's been a victim.  I love that guy.  Walsh is the man! 

BMIA.com:  What’s your biggest challenge working on the show? 

My biggest challenge working on AMW after 13 years is keeping my on-camera game tight, fresh and evolving. Because I never did local news on camera before AMW gave me a shot at it, my style is loose and relaxed in front of the camera.  This show has allowed me to do some uniquely creative things and I've sort of blazed my own trail creatively with a long string of unique stand ups in my stories that are almost theatrical in their style of reporting.  This show lets its producers push the creative envelope visually and stylistically in ways that you'll never see on any other serious news magazine show. 

BMIA.com:  How important is it for black men to see someone who looks like them achieving success?

Tom Morris, Jr.:  It is incredibly important for young Black boys growing up to see successful Black men.  But there's more to it than just seeing them.  We see them on television and in movies.  We see them in magazines, and on the athletic fields.  But something is going terribly wrong these days with the state of our young men and it's partly because of the increase in homes without fathers, but also because the way many of them are measuring success has nothing to do with achievement…it's all about the fast money and getting it any way they can.  Even a lot of the kids who do have good father figures are following the rappers of this day and age and not their father's examples.  We are in a war for the minds of our Black males and I am afraid that we're losing rapidly.  The prison system seems to be the winner these days, not the college campus.  If we don't find a way to reverse it, and that is going to mean getting the Black, young entertainers and music industry execs to develop a conscience about what they're feeding kids. 

BMIA.com:  Do you feel a sense of responsibility to the black community and do you see yourself as a role model? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  I've tried to be a man who kids will see as a normal guy, who loves God, hip hop, basketball, cars, likes the fine watches, fresh threads and the diamonds too, but takes care of his family, earns a good and honest living, and respects women.  That's who I am.  I do a lot of my interaction with kids on various basketball courts during pick up games and I try to strike up a dialogue with them when I can to see where they're headed, what they want to do with their lives and give them advice.  Whenever time permits, I go to schools and talk to kids about my job, life, the future and the real world.  My time is always at the mercy of the show and I'm on the road a lot, so planning things is difficult, but I fully intend to do more when time permits. 

BMIA.com:  Did you have mentors along your road to success? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  My first mentor was without a doubt my Mother, Eleanor Robinson Morris.  Mom is an amazing woman and she nurtured my talents as a writer from an early age, got me involved with music lessons, encouraged me to hunt and fish, took me and my brother and sister to museums, plays, movies, historic sites and made sure that we had a well-exposed childhood that opened our minds up to the wonders and possibilities of life.  We went places, took many trips, saw many things of wonder and awe.  My parents both led by example, and as early as the 1970's, they were traveling to places like communist Russia to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ at the height of the cold war.  They always taught us that we were not only Virginians, or Americans, but instilled in us that we were citizens of the world, equal to all, humble among millions, and capable as any.  Outside of my family, my blood, the people who have helped me the most professionally have all been 'other than Black.' 

I say to that to point out to the brothers who are paranoid about 'the man,' that White people aren't all trying to keep a brother down.  In my experience, a few are racist, (and one time in my career, I've sued 'em to prove it when they came at me wrong) but most of them aren't.  They want the job done right and they want 150% effort with a good attitude. When it gets down to climbing the ladder in a career, you never know who is going to help you up, or give you an opportunity, but a lot of times you'll find yourself in a situation where the hand that pulls you up, may often not be same color as yours, so getting along with people in addition to having ability is important. 

As Black people in the 21st century, I believe that we obviously have to help each other just as we have always had to.  However, I also believe that seeing ourselves as equal in this society and in the workplace no matter where we work, leads to progress.  But, when racism rears it's ugly head in your life you can fight back legally, and intelligently, and you can prevail. 

I've had the great fortune to have professors and bosses who were White who believed in me and went out of their way, and sometimes out on a professional limb to give me a fair shot at my dreams.  And I never had to compromise my beliefs or integrity to get that shot.  I just had to deliver the goods when the time came and do good work. 

BMIA.com:  How important is networking? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  Networking is important because you never know who you know now and what position they may be in tomorrow.  Don't burn bridges with your tongue or your negligence.  Build a network of the people you meet and treat them all with dignity and respect, and remember, a little kindness and personality can go a long way to opening a door someday because someone remembers something good about you. 

BMIA.com:  OK Tom, this is the part of the interview where we “strap” you in the Black Men In America.com Hot Seat.  This is our version of “Call and Response,” where we say something and you call out the first thing that comes to mind.  Are you ready? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  Ready!

BMIA.com:  Great. Black-on-Black crime.

Tom Morris, Jr.:  Black on Black Crime:  We have a serious problem and everybody in America that is paying attention or watching the news knows it.  It's getting worse every day and our young men seen hell bent to keep America's criminal justice system chock full of brothers.  The problem lies not just with the kids though.  When a block is terrorized by it's own sons…the parents on that block have abdicated their leadership and lost their courage.  Black neighborhoods and Hispanic communities are not terrorized by White kids.  They are terrorized by their own.  Unfortunately with the high school drop out rate for young Black males at an all-time high and rising, turning this problem around is going to be a daunting, if not impossible task.   

BMIA.com:  A good book or a good movie? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  A good book or a good movie can both be good entertainment for me. 

BMIA.com:  Favorite female artists. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  Too many to narrow down like that… too many great ones…I miss Phyllis Hyman.  God rest her soul. 

BMIA.com:  Favorite male artist. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  Two Michaels.  Jazz crooner Michael Franks is my favorite male singer and revolutionary rapper/singer Michael Franti of SPEARHEAD is an inspiration to me too. 

BMIA.com:  Favorite charity or cause. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  My church, which knows better than I do where the money is needed for missions. 

BMIA.com:  Favorite way to relax. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  By my fireplace with a good Merlot. 

BMIA.com:  Favorite song of all time. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  'Every Single Soul' by Michael Franti on the Spearhead album "Stay Human." 

BMIA.com:  Top 3 things you must do to be successful in life. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  1. Never believe that nothing bad will happen to you, so be prepared spiritually and emotionally for the unexpected setbacks.  2.  Believe in God and let him work through you by acknowledging that YOU are not the center of the universe.  3.  Handle your business as thoroughly as you can.  Work hard and love the work you do no matter what it is. 

BMIA.com:  Biggest challenge facing black men today. 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  The biggest challenge facing Black Men in America today is Black men in America today.  It used to be the Klan.  Then it was 'THE MAN.”  Now it's us on us fighting on the same bus.  It's got to stop.  We can't survive and improve our children's futures by killing each other every day. 

BMIA.com:  Where do you see yourself five years from now? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  Five years from now I hope to be hosting a show and continuing to use my talents as a communicator to make a difference in this world. 

BMIA.com:  Anything else you want to share with the BMIA family? 

Tom Morris, Jr.:  Thank you BMIA.com for wanting to write about me.  You're actually the first magazine to ever do an article on me.  I've been seen on television by millions for years, but you are the first to ever do a feature on me.  Thanks! 

BMIA.com:  It's our pleasure!

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Shani Davis Wins The Gold and The Silver

1500 Meters Gold medalist Enrico Fabris (center), Silver medalist Shani Davis and Bronze medalist Chad Hedricks on the medal stand

February 21, 2006

Davis became the first black athlete to claim an individual gold medal in Winter Olympic history Saturday, winning the 1,000-meter speedskating race and justifying his decision to focus on himself first, his team second. 

“I’m one of a kind,” Davis said, fully aware of how much he stands out in the mostly white sport. “I’m a different type of person. I have a different charisma. A lot of people don’t understand me.” 

That much was clear from the racially charged messages to his personal Web site — “people saying they hoped I would fall, break my leg, using the N-word,” he said. 

Davis showed no immediate emotion after the last two skaters failed to beat his time. He was cooling down in the warm up lane, skating slowly with his arms behind his back.

Finally, he smiled and waved to the crowd, picking up a stuffed bear that a fan tossed on the ice. As he came to the other end of the rink, Davis found Wennemars waiting. The friendly rivals gave each other a big hug in front of the orange-clad, predominantly Dutch crowd, prompting the biggest cheer of the night.

On February 21, 2006, Davis skated to a silver medal in the 1500 meter race beating his selfish "teammate," crybaby Chad Hedricks. 

This 23-year-old phenomenon began making history at age 17 when he became the first U.S. skater to earn spots on both the short track and long track Junior World Teams and accomplished that feat three years in a row in 2000, 2001 and 2002.  Davis has traveled all over the world competing in Canada, Hungary, Italy, Finland, Poland, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Korea, and China. 

American Shani Davis, left, is congratulate by the Netherlands' Erben Wennemars after winning the gold medal in the men's 1,000 speedskating final.  (Photo courtesy Brian Bahr / Getty Images)

On February 5, 2006, Gary Johnson interviewed longtime supporter and family friend April Hill, who was on her way to Torino, Italy, to support Davis.  Hill, who has known Shani for years explained, “There are some great competitors out there but Shani is a gifted athlete who has the right frame of mind and determination to bring back the gold.”

Shani has a tight-knit group of supporters.  A few years ago I had dinner with Bob Fenn, Shani's coach.  Fenn firmly believes that Shani is capable of winning a gold medal.

Shani raised by his mother Cherie on the south side of Chicago, IL.  He started roller-skating at local rinks at age two.  At age three, Shani used to dart around the roller rink so fast that many times the skate guards would chase him just to ask him to slow down.  Seeming to become bored with roller-skating, by age six, it was suggested by a coach that Shani switch to ice.  Shortly thereafter, his mother started working for an attorney, Fred Benjamin, whose son, Jeff, just happened to be involved in speed skating at an elite level.  It was at that time that Benjamin suggested that Shani give speedskating a try.

Shani joined the Evanston Speedskating Club at age six and within two months started competing locally.  By the time he was 8 years old, Shani was winning regional competitions in his age group. 

As remarkable as Shani has been, so has his mother Cherie.  Think about it?  Cherie Davis has done a remarkable job with this young man.  She learned the rules of speedskating early on helped navigate her son's career.  In an effort to build his endurance Cherie would wake Shani to run a mile on a track close to their home.  There were no speed skating clubs in the inner city of Chicago.  Cherie and Shani later moved to the far north side of the city to be closer to the rink.  Cherie Davis always taught Shani to be a leader, and not a follower.  Now her “free spirit” son is making history.

"My mom never thought of herself first, and I credit most of my success to her.  She continues to manage my career and is always there for me," says Shani.

Shani and Coach Bob Fenn
You can more about Shani by visiting his web site:  www.shanidavis.org.

This interview was conducted by Gary Johnson and posted on February 5, 2006. 

Photo Credits:  Shani Davis/Bob Fenn (www.socalspeedskating.org), Shani Davis Pic:  http://frontpage.fok.nl/nieuws/50989


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Who is Reginald Ware and what is Blackdoctor.org?  Reginald Ware is another example of what this web site is all about.  He’s an ordinary man, doing extraordinary things.  Ware is the visionary and driving force behind www.blackdoctor.org

Blackdoctor.org is the definitive health portal for African Americans.  It is the only resource where Blacks can go to get current, accurate information on how to manage their health and their lives.  Blackdoctor.org is committed to providing better access to quality healthcare for African Americans by delivering targeted, searchable information and dynamic interactive health content for African Americans as well as a unique referral service to find qualified Black doctors.  

When it comes to healthcare, our research has shown that the ability to access quality healthcare and information in America is different, and in many cases inferior and with fewer options than that for white Americans.  That’s one of the reasons that we started offering our Upbeat…Downbeat and Healthy Living columns. 

The latest research speaks to “Evidence Based Medicine” and how Blacks are different due to such factors as genetics, culture and lifestyle.  Ware saw the need for a dedicated web site that deals specifically with Black healthy lifestyle issues. And BlackDoctor.org is that site.  Simply stated, BlackDoctor.org is designed to educate, inform and motivate all Americans to take better care of themselves and their families. 

Now, back to Mr. Ware.  Ware founded Heart & Soul Magazine, which was the first healthy lifestyle magazine for African American women.  In its prime, Heart & Soul touched the lives of over one million African American women and served as a unique lifestyle guide who’s central theme was “You can do it.”  Although another company publishes the magazine, it shares Ware’s commitment of improving the quality of life for African Americans. 

Ware’s list of achievements include developing a leading gaming portal on the Internet called “winhourly.com” and working with major media companies, however, BlackDoctor.org is clearly his passion.  BlackDoctor.org provides African Americans the ability to find answers to all of their healthcare questions and concerns.  While BlackDoctor.org is not the total solution to eradicating the healthcare gap, it clearly is a step in the right direction. 

We sat down with Reggie Ware in his office in Chicago to learn more about him and BlackDoctor.org.  

The Reginald Ware Interview

Click On Photo To Enlarge

BMIA.com:  You have a diverse background.  Where did you grow up?  Go to school? 

R. Ware:  I grew up in Cincinnati, OH and attended the University of Arizona on a football scholarship.  I graduated with a BS degree in Marketing from the U of A. 

BMIA.com:  What lead you to develop Heart & Soul Magazine and develop a leading game portal on the Internet? 

R. Ware:  Heart & Soul grew out of a health care public relations firm that I owned at the time.  We had developed a database of great health articles and Heart & Soul was created to be an ongoing outlet for targeted health information.  The gaming portal was a fun business that allowed me to learn the ins and outs of Internet marketing.  It seems now that everything has led me to do BlackDoctor.org. 

BMIA.com:  How long has BlackDoctor.org been online?  BlackDoctor.org was officially launched on Nov 15. 2005. 

BMIA.com:  Why did you develop BlackDoctor.org? 

R. Ware:  Research shows that the general population guidelines for annual exams and check ups don’t necessarily apply to African Americans.  We tend to develop diseases at a much younger age than the general population.  Consequently, we need a different game plan and BlackDoctor.org leads that charge.  Our goal is to be the first point of call whenever an African American needs anything related to health, fitness, and nutrition and weight loss.  We also provide a free referral service to help locate qualified Black doctors.  We presently have the largest database of black doctors online so people who prefer Black doctors can come to BlackDoctor.org for a free referral. 

BMIA.com:  We know that there is a “gap” between blacks and Latinos getting healthcare and information compared to whites and other cultures? How big is that gap?  Can you share some data and help put this in perspective for us? 

R. Ware:  The disparities in healthcare are well documented for most of your major diseases.  Let’s look at Asthma.  In 2002, the current asthma prevalence rate among Blacks was 38 percent higher than that for Whites.  African Americans accounted for 26 percent of the 4,200 deaths attributed to asthma in 2001.  Lastly, African Americans were three times more likely to die from asthma than Whites.  BlackDoctor.org shares African American health statistics for most diseases on our web site.  That is one of the reasons we feel our site is invaluable. 

BMIA.com:  Wow.  That was helpful.  Why is there such a gap? 

R. Ware:  The gap, in my opinion is caused by genetics, environment and culture. 

BMIA.com:  What do you mean by environment? 

R. Ware:  Environment includes access to health care. 

BMIA.com:  How can black people close the gap? 

R. Ware:  We first need to have access to healthy lifestyle information on a continual basis.  Secondly, because we tend to develop diseases at earlier ages, diet and exercise is very important for preventative measures.  Thirdly, we need to see our doctors more often for exams, etc.  Blacks have higher infant mortality rates simply because Black women may not see a doctor in her first trimester.  We hope our FREE doctor referral service on BlackDoctor.org will help solve this problem.

BMIA.com:  What are some of the most critical health or medical needs that need to be addressed in the black community? 

  • Heart Disease: The leading cause of death for all racial and ethnic groups. African Americans are 30 percent more likely to die of heart disease than Whites.
  • Cancer: African Americans are 30 percent more likely to die of cancer than Whites.
  • Stroke: African Americans were 40 percent more likely to die of stroke than Whites.
  • Diabetes: The African American death rate due to diabetes was more than twice that for Whites
  • Infant Mortality:  Infant mortality rates are more than twice as high for African Americans than for Whites.
  • HIV/AIDS: In 2000, 47 percent of all cases reported in the U.S. were among African Americans, and the rate of new AIDS cases among African Americans was almost 10 times higher than among non- Hispanic Whites.

All of this information is on BlackDoctor.org.

BMIA.com:  Has BlackDoctor.org helped to address some of those needs?  If so, how? 

R. Ware:  Our mission is to inform, educate and motivate.  The most significant thing we have done is to create this dynamic health portal where African Americans can conveniently get timely, accurate health information.  That is why we are so pleased that Black Men In America.com is writing about us to help get the word out.  Awareness is key. 

BMIA.com:  Why should black folks log on to BlackDoctor.org instead of WebMD or another medical site? 

R. Ware WebMD is a phenomenal web site.  They do an excellent job of delivering general population health information.  However, you can’t find targeted content for African Americans on their site. 

BMIA.com:  How do you define success? 

R. Ware:  First phase of success is when everyone knows we exist and understand that we have their best interest at heart.  The second phase is when our users start taking our advice and using it to improve their lives. 

BMIA.com:  Who are some of the people that inspired you to achieve? 

R. Ware:  My parents were the most influential.  They were both in education and they taught me that knowledge is power.  I guess that is part of my passion with BlackDoctor.org.  We want to empower people to change their lives for the better through information and education. 

BMIA.com:  If you could share one piece of advice with the black community, what would that be?

R. Ware:  I have so much advice that it would take another interview to get it all in.  My advice at this moment is to check out BlackDoctor.org and stick with us and we evolve into everything that we say we are, which is the complete resource for Black health and fitness information.

Note:  This interview was conducted by Staceé L. H. -- BMIA.com Midwest correspondent and posted on January 6, 2005.

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Joel Austin:  Changing The World, One Father At A Time

Joel Austin drove down from Philly and spent the entire day with Gary Johnson and other male members of the Black Men In America.com team.  We taped hours of conversation for this interview, much of it sounding as if we were in any barber shop in America.  The more I listened to Joel Austin, the more I was convinced that he should write a book.  The brother is “unconsciously competent” in matters of fatherhood.  When I say fatherhood, I mean custody, parental rights, discipline, and overall engagement.  This man loves being a father. 

He has made a commitment to his children--to teach them and to mentor them.  He understands that being a father is not a short-term goal.  Good fathers are in it for the long haul.  Joel made a distinction between fatherhood and manhood.  According to Joel, in manhood money is a common component.  In fatherhood, time spent with your children is the main component. 

Joel posed the question:  How much does it cost to play catch with you son?  When he began to explain the process of engagement with your children and how that interaction pays dividends throughout the child’s formative years, it underscores, the manhood vs. fatherhood comparison.  Quality time spent with your children doesn’t cost you a thing.  Think about it. 

Many studies reflect that the withdrawal of love by either the father or the mother is equally influential in predicting a child’s emotional instability, lack of self-esteem, depression, social welfare and level of aggression.  As I look back on my childhood, when my father came home from work, things changed.  My sister and I got our act together because Daddy made sure that things got done. 

According to Austin, children who live absent of their biological father on average, are two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems.  In addition, these children are also more likely to be victims of child abuse and to engage in more criminal behavior than their peers who are in contact with their biological fathers.  Joel noted that that doesn’t necessarily mean that the fathers have to be in the home.  When the fathers were consistently engaged in their children’s lives, even from a distance, statistically, the children are much better off. 

To be such a young guy, Joel Austin “gets it.”  What’s “it?”  Joel Austin realizes that God has given him a gift.  He understands what his passion and purpose for life is.  Joel Austin is on this earth to teach, train and show people how great it is to positively change a life.  These are his words, not mine. 

“As a father, I’m trying to get my children to understand that by not working a typical 9 to 5 job, that I can still make a positive difference in their lives and to explain to them that money is not everything.”  Joel says, success is being content with his life.  “Success to me is being able to make a change and being humble before I die,” says Austin.

Joel Austin epitomizes what this web site is about—ordinary men doing extraordinary things. 

 

Joel Showing the Daddy Bag (Click On Photo To Enlarge)

 

The Joel Austin Interview

 BMIA.com:  First of all, Joel, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview and for driving down from Philly to visit us.   

Joel Austin:  Gary it was my pleasure.  It is an honor to be here in your office. 

BMIA.comGreat.  Let’s get started.  How important has education been in your life? 

Joel Austin:  Gary, education has helped mold me to become the person I am today. Socially conscious, morally grounded, humble, fair, content and happy with life itself. I have found that education outside the classroom is more important than inside. It is exposing our children to the world around them that will help them make good decisions about their personal goals. It is this same exposure (education) that instills moral judgment inside each of us. Through our own personal experiences are we able to make positive decisions, and stray away from wrongdoing.  Education helps mold our conscious. Our own education is the divide between the moral and immoral choices we all make and the responsibility of our choices and actions.  

BMIA.comTell us about your background. 

Joel Austin:  I am from a family of four. Two older brothers (Jay and Jerome), and one older sister (Tonita). My Mother was Ethel Vaughn and my Father is Jabez Austin.  We grew up in a world filled with music, humor, sarcasm, and loyalty. My Parents both held GED’s and thus became education Nazi's.  I grew up in a poor part of West Philly. We were having so much fun that I did not realize we were poor. I grew up with the same friends I have today. We are still together, like the little rascals of the hood. I went into the Army reserve to pay for college, and then was called out of college to go fight in Desert Storm. Graduated with a B.S. from Cheyney University (The living legend). Married my children’s mother in 1996, was divorced in 2004. Single Father of four, Fatherhood Activist, Speaker, advisor, writer, and Playstation champion.

BMIA.comWhat is Daddy UniversCity and how did it come to be?

Joel Austin:  Daddy UniverseCity is a company that provides information, resources, and training to Fathers. Our mission is to empower fathers with the knowledge, and support they need to produce change in the Family, the community, and the world.  Fathers have the ability to change lives! Currently we outsource our services to all organizations that deal with male parenting. The goal of Daddy UniverseCity is to build a facility/center that will house several agencies, which will teach different subjects on Fatherhood. We will create a standing university for Fatherhood, a place were classes can be taken from diaper changing to, child neglect, to fatherhood roles, and to child development. We actively seek organizations that we can partner with. We seek investors, grants, and funding from anyone that understands or wants Fatherhood involvement in each home.  Daddy UniverseCity came from my personal frustration of being an active father with little to no support. I continuously searched for answers but came up with no results. It took me a considerable amount of time to find different ways of child rearing. I wanted to be involved. I ended up going to a lot of motherhood sites, but the information and language does not connect the same. So with the help of Edward McGee, (Vice President) we built the answer.  Daddy UniverseCity was launched, on July 16th, 2004. The best way to find out about the site is to visit at www.daddyuniv.com. We tell all Fathers to visit, join, and tell a friend. It is full of Fatherhood advice, opinions, and tricks of the trade, information, and resources.

BMIA.comTalk to me about fatherhood.  Are you a male parent?  How many children?

Joel Austin:  My definition of Fatherhood is the obsession to accept your position or role as a male parent as an ordainment. Parenting is Absolute humility. It is the exchange of your life for another’s, your dreams for another’s, and your goals so another may be rewarded with their dream, life, and goals. This is Fatherhood. A never-ending struggle up hill that has only the reward of being proud of your own commitment and diligence. I have four children which means I get to live my life over four more times. 

BMIA.comWhat does it mean to you and explain how important it is for children to have fathers active and present in their lives?

Joel Austin:  To have a father present and active in a child’s life is the same as saving a life. Here at daddy UniverseCity we believe that the mere presence of a father in the life of a child changes that child’s family, their community, and the world as a whole.  Here are some statistics about the importance of a father’s role.*  Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least 2 to 3 times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological parents. * Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers. Having Fathers or a male role model present in the lives of children will change the world as we see it.

BMIA.comYou describe DU as a company.  Why is that?

Joel Austin:  We describe D.U as a company because we are social-entrepreneurs involved in a for profit business. We offer child-rearing consulting services to all fathers at all ages. We also offer products to our fathers to help them stay in the presence of their children. We offer the Daddy bag to our fathers. The Daddy bag is a diaper bag, which is designed for men. It is modeled like a backpack. It comes in non-wimpy colors and with plenty of compartments. We also offer the Daddy Delivery Room Bag to our Fathers. This bag is taken into the delivery room for the biggest day of their life. It has everything a new father needs and everything the mother wishes they had.  These products are becoming the best gift for Fathers day and baby showers. We usually give nothing to the father and expect him to jump into the child rearing without any knowledge or training. How dare we expect a boy that has played with nothing but trucks, war toys, and dirt to hold a baby properly? We need to aid this man in this task. Send him to Daddy UniverseCity IncOur goal is to empower Fathers with the knowledge that there presence changes lives.

BMIA.comDo you have anyone in your life that influenced you in the area of parenting or fatherhood?

Joel Austin:  My Father was not able to influence me in Fatherhood, but he did rear me in manhood. His generation did not know the importance of Fatherhood. My brothers and family helped influence me in the area of Fatherhood.  Our Family gatherings helped me realize how important the male role is. Just imagine all the parties, the events, and the cookouts without your uncles, grandfathers, and Father. Just imagine.

BMIA.comWhat makes a good father?  Specifically, what should a “good” father being doing?

Joel Austin:  What makes a good Father is commitment to the welfare, quality of life, morality, education, unconditional love of his children and respect for their mother. This happens whether he is locked up, divorced, married, separated, or away. His is consistent in his child’s life. Who his child plays with, what sports they play, their grades, their moral outlook and their structure, should be his world. Money is the least characteristic in the making of a good Father. Quality time is one of the most important things in a child’s life. We must remember that it costs nothing to play catch. It costs nothing to ask questions. It costs nothing to say I love you! In turn you will gain all the riches the world has to give. Be involved!

BMIA.comIs it ever appropriate to spank or “whip” a child?

Joel Austin:  I believe that discipline is very important in a child’s life. It develops their moral fiber. Discipline shows a child what is wrong and right. Discipline shows a child what is good what is bad, what is harmful, and what is acceptable behavior. In the beginning I spanked my children. I don’t anymore. I found that my true message was not getting across at all. I just left the message that I am bigger than you and can hit you harder than you can hit me that was it. I became more effective in my discipline. I had to show and prove, just like in the real world. I started to take away the very things that they held dear and use them as tools to get a stronger message across. When I was in college, my car was repossessed. They were calling my house, and my last addresses and I chilled on campus laughing” find me if you can.” They found me!” Walking out into the parking lot with no car in front of me left me a strong message.

BMIA.comWhat other strategies have you used?

Joel Austin:  One day my son and I returned from a report card conference, and the car was silent. I was upset and he knew it, I was busy plotting. So into the house I enter, I send him to his room, where he prepares for a spanking.  I enter his room without a belt and carrying, just a game boy, and one PlayStation controller. I thru the controller into the trash, and began to rant and rave about his grades, about 30 minutes later, I called in his 3 yr old brother into the room. I handed the Gameboy to him and said play well my son, My son jumped up, Dad, You know I am at the highest level and he will mess up all that I have saved, all my time and effort! I said son, now you understand me. If you don’t take your education seriously, you will lose out on something we are both working hard to save, your life. Your life is more important to me that any toy or gadget. One son sat with his head in his hand, another son giggled the rest of the day. I believe in punishment, in discipline, because it provides structure, but not with our hands and harsh words. Without good communication it is just degrading.

BMIA.comHow do you discipline your children?

Joel Austin:  I discipline my children by showing they and telling them that I am not happy with their action. I discipline them by telling them that I don’t approve of an action or manner, and because of it the some punishment is going to occur. I always back up what I say. That is the number one way to discipline your child. It is not a hands on event, it is more of a mental battleground. If I say whoever acts up in the store will not get ice cream, that is what is going to happen. Guess what, after I get out of the store I will go out of my way to get ice cream for a few. I don’t need to strangle the son who acted up (even thought I want to) because getting his brothers ice cream and sitting next to them is punishment enough. Can you imagine sitting in the back seat and EVERYONE has ice cream but you! I never had a problem again.

BMIA.comWhen it comes to father’s rights, is the playing field level in society and in the courtroom?

Joel Austin:  When it comes to father’s rights the playing field is not level in the courtroom, in our culture, and in America. What we deal with in the courtroom is an oxymoron. It is our responsibility to supply discipline, to fulfill needs, and to show consistency in a child’s life. What has happened is the courts are set up to protect the future of the mother and child from a father that does not choose to accept his role. What we encounter now is that there is no white or gray area for the fathers who pray to be involved. They are put on part time status, and subjected to pay large amounts of their pay, but still told that the child’s outcome is their responsibility. I have always thought, that it is like chaining a dog to a fence, and then chastise him for not protecting your children. What has happened with our relationships is that we are spending so much time fighting to be equal that our children become casualties of our war?  These days because of the independence in women, they have battled for respect in the household. What we are doing is challenging the rights to head of household. We are psychologically damaging them, their husbands, and their children’s future by not accepting an equal role in the home. Men will always be kings by gender, and women will always be queens by gender. This difference in gender brings about different necessities in the family. 

Children need both parents. If you take away a women’s ability to parent, you will not have a whole child. It is a cruel, dangerous sin for us to feel that our children will be fine without a male parent in their lives. It is like starving a child, slowly. So our court system was written for the uninvolved father. The children are dying because the fathers who want to make a change in your sons or daughters lives are chained to debt, to a court order stating just weekends, emotionally damaged, confused, and burdened with failure. Society does not see each parent as an equal factor in raising a child. The truth is that they are.  We as parents must respect and learn from each other so that we can understand how to raise this child. Parents married or separate have to respect the individual part of that child that comes from the other. Why is it that we don’t understand our children? Because that is not our part! That is the part of the other parent that you do not recognize, but try to stop. This just pushes the child into a corner. Parents open up the door to equality in parenting. Mothers are not perfect parents, Fathers are not perfect parents, but together they can bring up a perfect child through respect for one another! Don’t trust the court system to raise your children, because they get paid to lock them up!

BMIA.comAre there resources that fathers need that are not readily available?

Joel Austin:  What is not readily available is to connect fathers to their role and responsibility from the beginning. What is not available in our community is access to a right of passage, directed towards parenting as well. There are programs out in the world, but we don’t know how important these programs are until it is to late. How many men have been taught how to choose the right mate, about dating, about manhood, about choices and decisions. This will decrease the number of divorces, and the number of Fatherless homes. If your foundation is laid deep, then your child has a much better chance for survival. I show Fathers, that by telling your daughter everyday that you love them will reduce her chances of teenage pregnancy by 50%. They are shocked, and it is true.  What we need is to instill Fatherhood classes in high schools, in hospitals, and in the military.  Lets not wait till it is too late. If anyone is interested in Daddy UniverseCity conducting these classes at their location please contact info@daddyuniv.com.

BMIA.comWhat support does DU provide to fathers?

Joel Austin:  Daddy UniverseCity Consulting provides a 12-week curriculum course for fatherhood. This program offers classes such as Fatherhood 101, Parenting Roles 202, Controlling Conflict 102, and the Value of communication. 

Daddy UniverseCity Web site provides a chat room, a place to tell your story, a resource library, articles, parenting information, and a fatherhood roundtable. 

Daddy UniverseCity Retail Products provide Fathers with their own place to shop. We compiled many Fatherhood gifts into one place. For moms and dads. It is the perfect place to get a gift that will help him feel comfortable and involved about his parenting role.

BMIA.com:  What is the single most important message that you want people to know about fatherhood and parenting?

Joel Austin:  The single most important message I would like people to know is also our mission statement. “ Empowering Fathers with the knowledge that their mere presence changes lives, in the family, in the community, and in the world.  Parents you must understand that since a child is now involved in your relationship, It is now all about the child. She is no longer your woman, he no longer your man, so you need to see each other as an important part in your child. You must see each for who you truly are “Fallen saints Angels”, and your child is the ticket to salvation.

BMIA.comYou’ve invented some products for Dad’s.  Tell us about your products.

Joel Austin:  We invented a bag called the Daddy Delivery Room Bag.  We also partnered with a company and came out with the Daddy Bag.   The Daddy Delivery Room Bag is a bag, which is produced and manufactured to make sure are prepared to rushing into the maternity ward. We found that most fathers are not worried or concerned about what they take, so we got together a bunch of fathers to tell us what they wish they had taken. We compiled this into the D.D.R.B. This bag is full of toiletries, a joke book, instructions, doctor vocabulary words, and soft toilet paper (you don’t want her to have to wipe with hospital paper). This is not just to have soap and water; they are made so that everyman will have what he needs, and what the mother needs also. We include a massage roller, lip balm, and scented cocoa butter.  Our Daddy Bag is the best diaper bag on the market. It is the largest diaper bag available. It is called a Daddy Bag, because is comes with a sling friendly cross strap, no shoulder straps. It also comes in blues, black, greens, and other solid colors. There are no elephants, sheep, or characters on the bags. What these bags do is get the father involved as well. This does two things, one: it gives the mother some important downtime, which is needed during the first years of infancy. Two: it gets a father comfortable enough with a child that it sets a standard and relationship that will not be broken. It is time for us to stop expecting so much out of a gender that is pushed towards playing rough. It is time for us to let them in slowly with products and a language that will keep them there.

BMIA.comWhere and how do you draw your strength?

Joel Austin:  I draw my strength from my ancestors, my family, my children, and a strong belief in GOD. My children mentally push me because I want so much for them. My ancestors make me realize that the road has been uneven for all of us for so long. Also, That it can be tackled and that it can be changed. Life will not be easy for my sons or my daughter, because it is not supposed to be. “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed” Booker T Washington.  It is supposed to rain sometime.   When it does rain, my brothers and sister are there to show me that you can play and laugh in the rain, just like you can in the sunshine.

BMIA.comWhat’s the best thing about being Joel Austin?

Joel Austin:  The best thing about being Joel Austin is his passion to help people in need. It is his passion for doing his best while knowing he is not perfect. Understanding, that we are not villains and heroes, we are just people. Just people.  This statement helps you forgive people for their shortcomings, and that is a great thing. The best thing is having my children; they have brought purpose and meaning to my life.  The best thing is my family, my friends that have brought so much enlightenment to my world.

BMIA.comWhat’s the hardest thing about being Joel Austin?

Joel Austin:  The hardest thing about being Joel Austin is his passion to help people in need.  You will not become an overnight sensation by helping people in need. The yacht, planes and diamonds are not at your feet. You must enjoy that you make a change, because people will tell you that you do. It is hard to stay grounded when you work from the heart. Sometimes it gets week and that can affect your entire company. 

BMIA.comIn your opinion what’s the biggest challenge facing black men in America?

Joel Austin:  The biggest challenge facing black men in America is our family structure. We are letting our society tear it apart. Strangers are raising our children, our mothers cannot control our youth, our boys are killing each other, our grandparents get no respect, and we still only come together for funerals and weddings. We don’t even sit at the same table for dinner. We run to our lawyer, to court, to the man to solve any problem we have with each other. Just like we ran to Massa’s house to settle an argument about table scraps. Massa’s still feels the same way when we are in front of him. Poor, dumb, Negroes. When are they going to settle their own problems and start talking and listening to one another? Our women are settling arguments by moving their sons away from the fathers like pawns in a chess game. While they argue about who says who can see whom, the funeral homes are taking our seeds back into the ground, because our sons need fathers. They are going to have a father, and you can select his father or the streets will. But either way, hear me, he/she will have a father/ father figure/male-role model in his/her life.

BMIA.comHow can people reading this article support you?

Joel Austin:  People can support us by contacting us and providing us with helpful information. You can invest in Daddy UniverseCity thru time, money, and connections to our needs. We are in need of contracts to teach, speak, and train on fatherhood issues. We are in need of legal help in the field of Child Support and Child custody. We seek investors to help us fund our first bldg, or establish a grant.  Also by logging onto our web site www.daddyuniv.com and donating thru our support the universeCity button. We can be supported by sales from our On-line retail store, or by just spreading the word that we are here to help. For more information: please contact me at info@daddyuniv.com or for brochures or products visit customerservice@daddyuniv.com please write us at 2526 Green Street, Suite 100, Feltonville Pa, 19013.

BMIA.comWhat advice would you give to young single fathers?

Joel Austin:  My advice for young single Fathers is just remember that by being in the room you are changing their life for the better. I would like to add, that this is not a hardship it is an ordainment that was given to you to deal with, to accomplish. You have to realize that you possess love for your child, and that will get you through. The love that you have must prevent you from doing wrong deeds, it should push you to ask for help.  You find comfort in going to a doctor because he has read many books or studied about medicine. There are men in the field of fatherhood and parenting that have done the same. For your sake and your child’s sake, don’t give up, and reach out and ask for help. We will be that safe passage.

BMIA.comFinal question.  I just got off the phone with a major Hollywood motion picture studio.  They want to make a film about your life story.  What should they call the movie? 

Joel Austin:  Never give up and never surrender, by any means necessary. 

BMIA.comThank you Joel Austin.  It has been a pleasure. 

Joel Austin:  No, thank you.  You all have treated me like royalty and I really appreciate it.

This interview posted on November 7, 2005.


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Joel Austin and Gary Johnson

The Power of Words:  An Interview with Khari Enaharo

If you don’t think that words have power, consider the following: 

  • There are more than 200 negative words associated with the word black.
  • There are more than 100 positive meanings or synonyms attributed to the word white.

This analysis of semantics and semiotics illustrates how words are not racially neutral and can convey negative values within the African American community or any community of color. 

Have you thought about the impact of the images that bombard us on a daily basis?  Don’t worry; if you haven’t thought about it author and radio talk show host Khari Enahro has already done the “intellectual heavy lifting” for you.  In his book, "Race Code War:  The Power of Words, Images and Symbols on the Black Psyche," Enaharo examines the impact of images from paintings of Jesus to images of Santa Claus, and how those images have shaped the way blacks are viewed and how they view themselves. 

Some of you reading this article may try to label Enaharo’s analysis as being politically correct.  You can think whatever you want to think, but all of us need to be more aware of and sensitive to the impact that words and images can have on the psyche.  You only need to have one conversation with Khari to understand that the brother is serious about his craft and his mission to uplift and educated people.  To say that this brother is “deep” is an understatement.  This man is a submarine.  Talking to him will take you deep beneath the surface of of words and how to understand the psychology of racism. 

There are a number of people who view the world through a pre-1960’s mentality or through a Civil Rights prism.  Many of us have never been taught to study language.  Talking to Khari reminded me that as a culture, many black people have been taught to ignore things that other cultures study and learn from.  It is time for us to teach our children how to think and reason.  This is probably the most effective way to counter the negative effects of racism on our culture. 

I don’t blame racism for all of the woes affecting the black community.  For me racism is like rain.  When it rains I carry an umbrella.  That’s how I deal with it.  In the professional work world, when I’m confronted with what I believe to be racism, I counter it with sustained superior performance.  But that’s me.  There are some other folks who aren’t there yet and the lines of racism, negative treatment and life become blurred.  So you have some folks who see everything through a racial prism and blame racism for their woes, when in fact they are unwilling or unable to do what is necessary to improve their situation. 

Make no mistake—racism is real.  The more we understand it, the better equipped we are to overcome its negative consequences on our life.  The consistent messaging system of symbol and images are real.  This is not some radical way of making excuses.   

I'm one of those people who views much of the world through a a racial prism, but I don’t let that consume me.  I believe the legacy of slavery has crippled aspects of black culture.  So you can argue that I am predisposed to being receptive to Khari's views.  I won’t argue with that.  After several conversations with Khari Enaharo, I am convinced that we need to study the language and learn to recognize the symbols of racism and what the mean.  I think we also need to make a commitment as a culture to change the psychology of people—all people, the oppressed and the oppressors. 

Khari Enaharo has courage.  My mentor, Floyd Dickens, Jr., defined courage as "the willingness to act on what you believe to be true."  The book, Race Code War is nothing but the truth.  Don't take my word for it.  In fact, I would suggest that you not believe a word that I've said...just because I told you.  Read this interview with Khari Enaharo and make your own decision.  After reading the interview you can post any comments about him, the interview or his book in our Guestbook. 

 

The Khari Enaharo Interview


BMIA.com:  Khari thanks for taking time out for this interview.  Let me start by saying that your book, Race Code War
is a “must read” for all citizens of the United States. I want to start by asking you about your book.  What has been the reaction to your book?

KE:  No problem my brother.  So far my book has been received very well.  I am often surprised how many people say that they have read the book.

BMIA.com:  What is the perception of you by both the black and mainstream media?

KE:  Some members of the black media have a good understanding of how language is used to frame issues and images. However, very few seem to understand or want to realize the significance and power of racially coded language. They have not fully comprehended or they refuse to recognize how widespread the practice is and how dramatic the impact is on the black psyche. The mainstream decoded the white media chooses not to address the issue, because Race Code War exposes their behavior by pointing the finger squarely at them and what they do. When a racist man or woman is cornered or exposed, rather than admit or accept the truth, they will use logical arguments to deflect, defend or excuse their actions or the behavior of other racist. This is one of the basic techniques to determine who is and who is not a racist.

BMIA.com:  OK, see your answer got me all pumped up.  There are so many places that I want to take this interview.  What prompted you to write this book?

KE:  This book was written to reveal how modern racism has mutated into racial code language and behavior. The goal of a modern racist is to not be exposed. Black people are still baffled as to how racism can continue to exist when there are laws, integration policies and diversity programs established to abolish the practice. What we fail to understand is that many of the laws and programs, while well intentioned, are used to hide and shield the practice of modern racism.

It is very important to understand that racism has gone thru several versions since its introduction in 1492. Black people often mistake changes in the practice of racism to mean that it is on the verge of being eliminated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chattel slavery, Jim Crow and apartheid were simply versions of racial domination that were either forced out of existence or proven to be no longer useful or effective. Versions are discarded, discontinued or shelved when no longer effective as racial management systems.  While versions of racism are dismantled, white supremacy domination has not gone out of business. Like the AIDS virus, it mutates to prevent detection and elimination.

In addition we must realize that modern racism is a business and its chief product is injustice. This is why it is practiced with businesslike efficiency. Black people have not studied racism from the correct viewpoint.

BMIA.com:  What do you mean by that statement?  Say more about that.

KEWhat I mean is that black people have overlooked our racism’s ability to adapt to change, to deceive and to confuse.

BMIA.com:  OK, I understand now.  Tell us about your background.  Where were you born and raised?

KE:  I am one of seven children born to Walter and Isabelle McCrimmon in Dayton, Ohio. I am a graduate of Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics/Political Science and hold a Masters Degree in Education from Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I have an extensive background in housing, community development, communications, media, economics, politics and religion. I have organized a number of black empowerment activities including the 2005 Columbus Black Political Convention, the Black Anti-Defamation Council, The Black Voters League, The Driving Park Area Commission, The Emerging Markets Consortium and so forth

BMIA.com:  Tell me about your radio show.  What kind of show is it?

KE:  The name of the show is Straight Talk Live on Power 107.5 FM Radio One Broadcasting. The show airs every Sunday morning from 8-10 AM.  We cover the most controversial issues impacting the local, state, national and international level. It is a top rated, fast paced, high energy; no holds barred issues based talk show. I have been serving as host of Straight Talk Live since 1993.

BMIA.com:  Who influenced you the most?

KE:  The first and greatest influences were my parents Walter and Isabelle McCrimmon and siblings, Charles, Walter, Arletta, Arvetta, Martha and Devoylia. The works of many giant thinkers including Marcus Garvey, Neely Fuller, Chancellor Williams, John Henrik Clarke, Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X have also greatly inspired me. And of course the Creator of the universe is the most powerful source of inspiration, direction and purpose.

BMIA.com:  OK, let’s get right to it.  How important is it for people to be cognizant of the language that we use?

KE:  Words are extremely important. In the early years Black parents taught their children that words could not hurt them. Cute little sayings like sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us, served as deterrents against the daily horrors of racism. Black children were cautioned not to pay attention to words but to focus their energy on actions and deeds. This practice while well intentioned has been passed down from generation to generation and is one of the reasons that Black people do not pay enough attention to words. As a result we are not fully prepared to deal with the extremely damaging impact of racial code propaganda. One day we will come to understand like the Jews of Nazi Germany, that words can kill and dehumanize whole populations.

BMIA.com:  In your book you wrote, “White people interact with Black people from a command and control position.”  From a communications perspective, what does this mean?

KE:  In the year 2005 White people still tell Black people what to do twenty-four hours a day. They decide what, when, where and how things will happen.  The effective majority of Black people still go to White people for loans, housing, cars, food, employment and so forth. White people reflect the power of their position by the language they speak. It is a language of command and control. It is a language that gives orders and directions, makes demands and makes decisions. Even in situations where it appears that they are not in charge, the language that they speak indicates just the opposite.

BMIA.com:  What is racially coded communications?

KE:  Racial communications is the language of control and domination based on the notion of white superiority and black inferiority. It is the dialogue between a racial population in charge and a racial population that follows orders. This is why communications between unequal people can never be equal within the framework of the existing racial order. Race code communications defines White people as the standard of authority and Black people as social problems that must be contained or eventually discarded.

BMIA.com:  Whew!  Man you got my head spinning.  In your book you wrote, “The basic creed of a racist is that Black people must be fooled, managed and kept at a controllable level.”  How pervasive is this paradigm in everyday black life?  I guess a better way of saying this is:  What does it look like?

KE:  Modern racism is based on deception and confusion. In order to maintain control, racially codified behavior must be implemented from sunrise to sunset in all areas of social interaction. Too many Black people follow a white oriented analysis and interpretation of racism. In the process miss things about racist thinking and racist behavior that they ought to be catching. The practice of fooling Black people is standard text in the school of racial management. Red people say that the racist “speaks with a fork tongue.” When decoded it means that racist man and woman use words and behaviors to deceive people of color. We must ask ourselves what have we missed, or completely misunderstood about the deceptive nature of racism?

BMIA.com:  Most folks would acknowledge that much of the racism today is passive or hidden.  You refer to it as “hidden in plain sight.”  What does that mean and can you give us some examples of what you mean?

KE:  It is racism is in full view. Everyone sees it and some even acknowledge it, but very few know what to do about it or how to decode it when they see it. Many have been mentally conditioned to look the other way or to incorrectly interpret what they see as something other than racism. Modern racism is often hard to detect because it is deeply embedded and interwoven in the language. Racist use racial code words to talk to each other right in the physical presence of Black people and it goes largely undetected. We do not know or understand is that it is practiced and how it is practiced therefore in most instances it goes right over our heads.

BMIA.com:  What are some common code words and phrases used to describe black people?

KE:  Code words make life that much better for a smart racist. He/she can talk about and control Black people without them raising hell or knowing what to do about it. Code talkers can use code language to call a Black man a nigger to his face and get him to laugh about it and accept it. One example of race code is found in the way the print media handles stories about drug busts that occur in the neighborhoods largely populated by Black people. The use of certain code words like drug-infested tells the readers what racial group was involved in the incident. In my book there are hundreds of examples of racial code words, racial symbols, racial images, hidden race/sex codes in movies, music videos, education, politics, war, entertainment, business, sex, religion, food, color-coded images, word bombs and so forth.

BMIA.com:  What must be done to counter the hidden and overt images of black people in television and movies?

KE:  We must impact the mediums that transmit messages about and to our people. In my book I recommend that Black people establish Black Anti-Defamation Councils in every city to monitor, challenge and correct derogatory images. We are the only people on the planet who have no organizations that are strictly dedicated to the protection of our image. In this social order image determines how people are viewed and treated. If you are imaged as a criminal or as crime in the streets, actions such as racial profiling, driving while black, shopping while black and so forth will continue to happen on a regular basis.

BMIA.com:  Why?

KE:  Racial imaging is why 80% of the individuals arrested for crack cocaine are Black people. According to organizations such as Human Rights Watch, White people account for nearly 80% of the sale, purchase and consumption of crack cocaine. This is the exact opposite of the images that are associated with crack cocaine and portrayed in most white media. Racial imaging is used to set-up and justifies the massive incarceration of Black males and drives the growth of the prison/industrial complex.

BMIA.com:  One of the things that I love about your book is that you offer solutions.  You provide tangible things that we can do to counter the negative messages that we are bombarded with.  For example, your recommended list of movies and television shows to watch and study is outstanding.  Specifically, when we watch movies and television, what should we be looking for?

KE:  The goal of the racist is to portray Black men and women as sub-humans, sexual freaks, and hot bitches and they will use any venue to achieve that goal. The saddest part of this equation is that far too many Black people glorify these kinds of highly degrading images. Many do not understand how a racist really thinks. A racist will pay Black people big money to be degraded. We must learn that movies and to some extent music videos are propaganda vehicles and not simply entertainment venues. The entertainment idea is part of the “crap” that the movie industry pushes to keep people unaware of how motion pictures have for years be used to send coded racial, political, sexual, religious, economic, war and cultural messages. We must learn to study movies and not get caught up in the emotional hype created by the mind-altering music, color flashes, reverse speech, code words and so forth. The first rule of thumb is to always study the image(s) of Black people whenever or wherever they appear in the film. The second rule is to understand how racial messages are transmitted even when Black people do not have a significant or any presence in the movie.

BMIA.com:  That’s an important piece of data.  We should all study television and movies.  That’s a great insight.

KE:  Thank you.

BMIA.com:  I want to talk about racial symbols.  I thought the example cited in your book about bar soap and toothpaste was very powerful.  Can you say more about that?

KE:  The marketing of whitening toothpaste is a classic example of how symbols are racialized to send subconscious racial messages. The marketing of products such as Advance Whitening clearly sends a subliminal color-coded message. The word advance means to accelerate the growth or progress. When combined with the word whitening it sends an unmistakable message to accelerate the growth or progress of being white or helping Whites to advance. This is called hiding the message in plain sight.

BMIA.com:  OK, let’s pump the brakes for a minute.  Hiding the message in plain sight?  What do you mean?

KE:  If the same product were named Advance Blackening what kind of reaction would this create?  Some readers might say Khari you have gone too far. My response is no I have not gone too far. The racist has gone that far. They are deadly serious about maintaining white supremacy and will use any person, place or thing to communicate a racist idea, message, behavior or action.

BMIA.com:  OK, this is the part of the interview where we strap you in the Black Men In America.com Hot Seat.  This is our version of “Call and Response,” where I call out a word or a phrase and you respond with the first thing that comes to your mind.  Are you ready? 

KE:  I’m ready Brother Gary! 

BMIA.com:  Great!  Here we go.  Andrew Hacker (Political Science professor at Queens College, NY). 

KE:  He revealed information about racist behavior that many racists wanted to keep in the closet.

BMIA.com:  Spike Lee

KE:  A conscious genius that attempts in his own way to use the media to expose aspects of modern racism.

BMIA.com:  Whoppi Goldberg

KE:  A very intelligent and beautiful dark skin woman, who in my opinion and if media clippings are to be believed, appears to exhibit from time to time signs of racial alienation.

BMIA.com:  Rush Limbaugh

KE:  A highly effective propagandist for targeted groups of white people.

BMIA.com:  The Barbershop Movie Series

KE:  A movie with racially confusing themes and damaging messages targeted for younger Black people.

BMIA.com:  The movie “Monsters Ball” starring Halle Berry

KE:  Why would such a highly talented and gifted actress choose such a racially degrading role?  And isn’t it very revealing that White people selected this piece of garbage as her best work?  What messages were they trying to send about how Black people should be viewed?

BMIA.com:  The movie “Training Day” starring Denzel Washington

KE:  Why would such a highly talented and gifted actor choose such a racially degrading role?  And isn’t it very revealing that White people selected this piece of garbage as his best work while overlooking his towering performance in Malcolm X.  What messages were they trying to send about how Black people should be viewed?

BMIA.com:  Martin Luther King Jr.

KE:  A brilliant, brave and courageous giant of a man who loved his people so deeply that he made the supreme sacrifice in the fight against white supremacy.  We must always honor his work and his memory.

BMIA.com:  Malcolm X

KE:  A brilliant, brave and courageous giant of a man who loved his people so deeply that he made the supreme sacrifice in the fight against white supremacy. We must always honor his work and his memory.

BMIA.com:  White Women

KE:  The co-power broker and partner in the development of white civilization.

BMIA.com:  Black Women

KE:  The best and the most beautiful females in the known universe.

BMIA.com:  Rap and  Hip Hop Music

KE:  Largely ineffective responses to the conditions of white supremacy domination.

BMIA.com:  Bob Johnson (Founder of BET)

KE:  I wonder if he knows that he blew the chance of a lifetime to do a greater work for the liberation of Black people?

BMIA.com:  Condoleezza Rice

KE:  A brilliant individual who appears to be a carrier of messages to powerful white people.

BMIA.com:  The Confederate Flag

KE:  It is the symbol of hardcore racism and should like the Nazi Flag not be sold in stores or anywhere else.

BMIA.com:  What’s best part of being Khari Enaharo

KE:  Working for the empowerment and liberation of Black people both here and abroad.

BMIA.com:  What's the worst part of being Khari Enaharo

KE:  Being misunderstood and misinterpreted

BMIA.com:  In your opinion what is the biggest challenge facing Black men in America

KE:  The Black man will come to believe in his own inferiority, degradation and slave like status. He will act against himself and his people with self destructive-and-race destructive behaviors. He will never know what triggers this destructive behavior.
He will not understand the nature of this oppression until the images, words, colors, symbols and messages that are deeply embedded in his psyche are decoded and unscrambled to reveal their hidden derogatory racial and color meaning.
The biggest challenge facing Black men is to decode and win hidden race war, which is multi-generational and psychologically traumatic.

How can people reading this interview support you?

KE:  The revelation of the existence of modern racism driven by racial code requires that changes must be made if we are to achieve a world based on justice. If the world is to live racism must die. I would suggest that individuals set up study groups and then move forward to establish Black Anti-Defamation Councils as recommended in Race Code War. These organizations will be able to counter racism by monitoring the mediums that convey the images of Black people. These mediums are massive weapons of propaganda that can demonize any population so long as it not prepared and organize to protect its interest. We have great work that must be done. Let’s get busy. Thanks Gary for the great work that you do.  Thank you Gary for this great exposure and opportunity.

BMIA.com:  My pleasure.  Thank you for the enlightenment.

If you would like to have Khari speak to your group contact:
Rhonda D. Robinson, CEO
Starr Communications USA
rdr@columbus.rr.com

614 –231-7827 or 614-231-Star

To purchase Race Code War by Khari Enaharo
Call 1-800-552-1991.  African American Images, Inc.,
or write to African American Images Inc 1909 West 95th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60643 or go to
www.africanamericanimages.com.

Note:  A special thanks goes out to Rhonda D. Robinson of STARR Communications USA for arranging this interview.

This interview was conducted by Gary A. Johnson, for Black Men In America.com and posted on 9-1-05.

So what do you think?  If you would like to comment or respond to any of our content on this page or web site click here and sign our Guestbook to leave a public or private statement, comment or reaction. 


The Wonderful World of Educator David Holloway

I first heard about author and educator David Hollaway through singer/songwriter now turned entrepreneur Kashif.  Kashif thought that David fit with the theme of the site, “ordinary men, doing extraordinary things.”  I took the advice of a guy who had his hand in the sale of over 70 million records.  Guess what?  He was right. 

Former school teacher and first time author David Hollaway understands how important it is to nurture and develop the talent in children.  As a child, David dislike reading.  Today the former college basketball player is president of Quackenworth Publishing Company in Los Angeles, CA.  After weeks of trying to get their schedules together, Gary Johnson connected with David to find out more about his creative and imaginative approaches to educating children through his QuigleyMcCormick stories. 

The David Hollaway Interview

  

BMIA.com:  How did you get started writing for children? 

David Hollaway:  I became a writer by accident. A few years ago, I was working in a job where I felt like my I wasn’t using all of my talents. So, I decided that I wanted to start my own publishing company. My first idea was to take a project that I had completed for my master’s degree (in computer-based education) and use it as the first product for the company. It was a geometry software program that taught elementary concepts in geometry. After contemplating my resources and the time frame involved for development and production, I decided against it. Then I thought about a book. Since I had had a lot of experience working with children as a teacher, I decided that writing children’s books would be appropriate. Plus, I had a lot of adventurous childhood experiences to write about. 

BMIA.com:  Tell us about your background. 

D. H.:  I grew up in the Del Amo section of Carson, Ca. Del Amo was a mixture of middle and working class folk, mainly African-American. My mother was a teacher and my father, a former UCLA football and track athlete, coached various sports at a local community college. They divorced when I was two years of age.

The majority of my early life was consumed by amateur athletics. At the time, Carson, at the time, was known for turning out, excellent athletes, specifically football players. As such, as a child I followed the community tradition, playing football, basketball, and baseball. By my ninth grade year I decided to focus on basketball and football, eventually earning a earning a basketball scholarship to U.C. Irvine. When I graduated from college, somehow the NBA misplaced my phone number and I ended up becoming an elementary school teacher, a job I truly loved and appreciated. After five years in the classroom I decided to switch professions, eventually, working in sales for two Fortune 500 corporations and in project management for a small start-up technology firm. I started Quackenworth Publishing about two years ago. 

BMIA.com:  Let’s talk about Quigley McCormick and how that came to be. 

D. H.:  The name “Quigley McCormick” came to be while I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out a storyline. I knew that I wanted to write a children’s story, but I didn’t have any idea what kind of story for the book. After developing a shell of a story, I named the main character, Tubby Nelson. The name was kind of catchy but I didn’t like it enough to keep it. One day I decided to brainstorm for names. Believe it or not, I looked at the keyboard and the first letter I came upon was the letter “q”. So I typed “q”. Then I needed a vowel, so I scanned the keyboard past “a”,”e”,”i”, and “o”, finally settling on “u” for the second letter. From there, the first name came to me, “Quigley.” Then, I needed a last name and “Quigley Nelson” wasn’t gett’n it. Within seconds, as if God himself handed me the name, “McCormick” came to mind. ‘Quigley McCormick,’ Yeah, I kind of like that name, I thought to myself. After repeating the name about ten times I felt comfortable of enough to go with the name “Quigley McCormick” for the main character. Tubby Nelson became Papadoskee or “Oskee” Nelson, Quigley’s best friend. From there, other names started flowing, Moxy McCormick, Quigley’s sister and Flip Stuperton, one of Quigley’s so-called friends, just to name a few. 

BMIA.com:  Your book is great and web site is very “kid-friendly.”  They’re both quite clever.  What do you want people to learn as a result of reading your material? 

D. H.:  My primary goal is to write books that are fun to read. In all of my writings I picture myself as a ten-year-old, reading the book. Would I have liked Quigley McCormick? I chose myself because as a ten-year-old boy, I was a tough customer, a very reluctant reader. I didn’t like to read and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (the abridged version) was the only book that I really enjoyed reading. When I had a book report due I usually skimmed the book or found someone who read the story and asked them questions. I truly despised reading.

The website was created to provide the reader with a closer connection to the story and its characters. I try my best to find strategies (i.e. the website, the theme song, packaging of the book and the story itself) that encourage the reluctant reader to read Quigley McCormick books. 

BMIA.com:  Who are some of the people who motivated and inspired you as a kid? 

D. H.:  Besides the fly-by-night professional athletes, my father was the biggest influence in my life. I always admired him for his athletic accomplishments. I used to love looking at his scrapbooks. They were filled with old newspaper articles, box scores, 1950’s style caricatures and photographs. He was from Detroit, MI and was one of the best high school athletes to have ever come out of the city. He made the All City team in football, basketball, baseball, and track, as a sophomore! He eventually earned a football and track scholarship to UCLA (in the 1950’s). It was through sports that I was introduced to the idea of going to college. Throughout my childhood my father and I watched and attended numerous football and basketball games and track meets (he was a track coach for 15 years). It was also through sports that I gained the motivation to do well in school. My father always had a way of encouraging me through some sort of sports analogy.  

The other two male influences in my life were my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Gilmore, and my cousin John Hollaway. Both were instrumental in providing the additional guidance that young boys need. 

BMIA.com:  Why did you want to be a teacher? 

D. H.:  I never intended to become a teacher. Just like writing, I stumbled into teaching. After college I still wanted to play basketball (overseas or the NBA) so I figured that I could be a substitute teacher in the interim. This gave me the time and flexibility I needed to stay in shape or leave suddenly. But the funny thing is, the first classroom I had, I ended up keeping them the whole year. It was the first time in my life that I really liked something other than basketball. The rapport that I built with my students was, at the time, the most rewarding experience in my life. Ironically, about four months into the assignment, I had an offer to play on a basketball team in Brazil (Brazil? I know!). After a great deal of contemplation, I chose to stay with my class and ultimately, decided against pursuing a professional basketball career overseas.

BMIA.com:  From a personal standpoint, what do you get out of helping others? 

D. H.:  Personal fulfillment is probably the biggest reward I get from helping others, particularly young people. It’s a feeling that can only be felt by imparting knowledge or providing assistance to another person. 

BMIA.com:  Is it difficult to form business alliances and partnerships to help educate children? 

D. H.:  I have found that most people are more than willing to help educate children. 

BMIA.com:  What’s next for Quigley McCormick? 

D. H.:  We will be releasing another Quigley McCormick book in November of 2005, Quigley McCormick and the Stuperton Conspiracy. We are also actively shopping the movie and video game rights to the book series. 

BMIA.com:  Are any of the characters and stories based on your personal experiences? 

D. H.:  Absolutely! As I write the Quigley McCormick series I have a constant image of my childhood friends in each scenario. I think back to the crazy things we used to do, especially during the summer. We were part of a generation that was sociable, actually playing outside (not playing video games). So, it seemed that each day was an adventure; riding bikes, fighting and wrestling, playing street football and basketball, building club houses and go carts, popping fire crackers and various fireworks in the summer. Our walks to school were even an adventure. As far as the Quigley McCormick series, there are elements of each of my friends in the character. One character in particular, Flip Stuperton, is representative of a friend who I despised on one level and admired on another. He was my rival and we often got into fights because he always “played too much.” Unfortunately, he is no longer living, having succumbed to gunshot wounds at a house party a few years ago. That was strange because he had really straightened his life out and was a responsible citizen. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

BMIA.com:  What awards have you/Quigley won? 

D. H.:  We have been fortunate enough, in the short time, to win two significant awards. The first award was for the Best Writer’s Website Contest that was given by Writer’s Digest Magazine. Our website, www.quigleymccormick.com, won third place in the contest and was featured in the October 2004 edition of Writer’s Digest magazine. This was six months before Quigley McCormick and the Curse of the Polka Dotted Pig was released. It helped generate a lot of publicity about Quigley McCormick. The second award was given by the Los Angeles Black Book Expo and was for the Best Children’s Fiction. Awards and recognition help encourage the belief that we (the company) must be doing something right. 

BMIA.com:  How do you feel about the success of your work? 

D. H.:  I’m happy with the progression of my company and its body of works. But we do have high expectations and feel that this is just the beginning of the construction of a highly successful and influential publishing company.   

BMIA.com:  As a former educator, how would you grade this country in our ability to educate and properly prepare our children to be productive citizens in society? 

D. H.:  More than anything else, the state of America’s educational system is a reflection of what’s happening in the general community and in homes. In comparison to other countries, the educational infrastructure (teachers, administration, schools, technology, and text books etc.) is adequate to good. At the end of the day it is up to the individual to decide how far they want to go in life. A person who is motivated to succeed will find a way to make positive things happen in their life, no matter what their circumstances are. As this relates to African-Americans, if we were able to succeed under historically insurmountable odds (slavery and Jim Crow), we should easily be able to make significant educational progress in the current world we live in. 

The real problem is how do we motivate children, in particular black boys and girls, to learn? How can we get them to understand and appreciate the value of an education? It seems that much of the focus in the young black media culture is on fulfilling immediate needs; sex, jewelry, women, clothes etc.  Education, on the other hand, is something that takes time, and is not immediately evident. Music and video play a significant role in promoting the belief that the way to live life is to wear excessive amounts of jewelry, have a party every night with lots of beautiful women, spend money on material things that don’t matter etc. That’s not a way to build a community that values education. Unfortunately, I see this trend getting worse with many of our disadvantaged black youth who typically don’t have an adequate financial, emotional, and social support system in place to combat such stereotypical images. 

Our biggest challenge is that we are fighting against a media culture that promotes inconspicuous consumption and dispels any notion of patience, sacrifice, and the value of education. A community that values information (books, libraries, reading, academic accomplishments, personal development) will find a way to fulfill that need. A community that appreciates instant gratification will act appropriately by fulfilling those short-term impulses (buying cars, jewelry, clothes etc.). However, fulfilling short-term impulses is no way to build a long-term strategy for equality. 

An easier way of looking at this is by looking at the course of two hypothetical kids. Over the course of five years, one of those kids buys fifty pairs of gym shoes at $100 per pair, for a grand total of $5,000. The other kid, for the same amount of money, assuming books are $20.00 apiece, can buy 250 books. Throughout that five-year period, given the current community values, who would be most admired? The kid with the latest and greatest gym shoes, or the kid who has read 250 books on various subjects? More importantly, what would be most valued over a lifetime, 50 pairs of gym shoes or information from 250 different sources? 

BMIA.com:  What’s missing or needs to be done? 

D. H.:  A culture that values education needs to be created through the mass media outlets. Currently, as I stated in the question above, the media culture supports instant gratification through music and video images. Music and video, along with food, morals, history, stories, etc., are all elements of a culture. We are seriously in need of a general positive message in our music and video images. This is particularly dangerous because statistics show that African-Americans watch the most television. This makes us more likely to be influence by what we see on the tube.  

To put this notion into perspective, the one organization that truly appreciates the power of mass communication is the military. Whenever a modern military power goes to war one of the first objectives is take out the enemy’s ability to communicate to the masses. These mass communication vehicles include broadcast radio and television. Without this ability to communicate, the enemy is confused and seriously hindered. However, with the ability to communicate, the enemy commanders can send messages to soldiers in the field. This was particularly a problem in Rwanda where the opposing forces were able to communicate a message of death to comrades in the field via a radio station. These broadcasts went on for months and were basically free, uninterrupted advertising for the killing of the innocent people. As result of having access to the radio station, the killers we able to better communicate how, who, and when to kill.

In current American media culture, negative messages and images are the rule, not the exception. The constant bombardment of the “now”, helps add to the de-valuing of education.

Mentoring is also another strategy for improving our situation. We must keep our hands stretched out to those in need of social, professional, financial, and personal assistance. For example, there should be a constant link of mentoring relationships where; the fifty-old attorney mentors the thirty-old attorney, who mentors the first year law student, who, in turn, mentors the high school senior, who then mentors the seventh grader, who, finally, encourages his six year old brother. This is the kind of community encouragement that builds value in the things that matter in life. 

BMIA.com:  Who had the most influence on you? 

D. H.:  My father, by far, had the most influence on me. 

BMIA.com:  What’s your definition of leadership? 

D. H.:  I’ve had the good fortune of being under the stewardship of good and bad leadership. In the case of the bad leader, I learned that the person is still a leader, albeit not a very good one. There was something about that person that made people want to follow whether it was personality, charisma, money, or power etc. However, the end result was always confusion and miscommunication. From my experience, good leadership involves three important elements. One, which I think is the most important, is the ability communicate your vision to those around you. That way, the people that are following you have all of the information they need to make an informed decision as to whether they want to support your vision. Secondly, a leader has to be a motivated, self-starter. The leader must be the most passionate person in the organization. A passionate attitude at the very top of an organization will filter down toward the bottom of that organization. And finally, a good leader must have courage. They must be able to withstand criticism when things aren’t going smoothly (if they truly believe in their cause). They must also have the courage to believe when no else believes in the cause. 

BMIA.com:  Do you consider yourself a leader? 

D. H.:  I consider myself a leader. I also understand that the most effective leaders become better over time. For example, Sir Winston Churchill experienced humiliation and defeat (Battle of Gallipoli) in WWI. However, by 1940, he had rallied the British Empire, in its darkest hour, against the greatest threat the free world had ever known, Nazi Germany.  

As a result of my study of leaders in history, I have a better understanding of the process of leadership. As a result, I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my professional and leadership abilities, whether it be spending time with older, more experienced executives or reading about successful business and military leaders. 

BMIA.com:  What’s the biggest challenge facing black men in America? 

D. H.:  From my perspective and personal experience, the biggest challenge for black men in America is gaining control of the black family. As we all know, statistics show most black children (more than 60%) are born out of wedlock and many black children, during their most formative years, seldom see their fathers. This adversely affects both young boys and girls. Boys are affected because they have no behavior model for manhood. Left unchecked, a boy will perceive manhood as mainly chest pounding behavior. In girls, the absence of a father breeds anger towards men. Having absentee fathers and fragmented families are not healthy approaches for building strong communities. In the meantime, black men that care and are able must reach out to youngsters who are missing the positive male influence. 

BMIA.com:  Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? 

D. H.:  Personally, in the next five years, I would like to get married and have lots of children. Professionally, I envision Quackenworth Publishing as a multi-million dollar, global publishing company with strong brand recognition. 

BMIA.com:  Is there anything you would like to share before we end this interview? 

D. H.:  I just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview with Black Men In America.com.  Keep up the good work and continue the positive information flow!

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Calvin Mackie Is Changing Lives and Reality

This is one of the most important interviews conducted on this web site.

Dr. Calvin Mackie is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Tulane University.  After graduating from high school in New Orleans, LA in 1985, Calvin Mackie was conditionally accepted into Morehouse College where he began his college career in remedial reading after attaining a weak score on the SAT college entrance examination. Over the next eleven years, Mackie embarked on an unbelievable journey of academic and personal achievement that no man-made test could have predicted. 

As an undergraduate, Mackie was a dual-degree achiever.  In 1990, he earned a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from Georgia Tech and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Morehouse College, where he graduated magna cum laude.  Two years later, he earned a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech. In March 1996, he was conferred the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mechanical Engineering.  

A member of the Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Tau Sigma and Tau Beta Pi National Honor Societies, his passion for scholarship is well established.  While pursuing his doctorate degree, he served as an instructor of mathematics at Morehouse College. Committed to community service, Mackie is an active member of the National Speaker Association, the 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans, and a board member of New Orleans Computer Access Program (NOCAP); a nonprofit organization that places computers in the homes of New Orleans Public School first graders. 

In 1992, he co-founded Channel ZerO, an educational and motivational consulting company and has been active on the public speaking circuit for over ten years giving motivational presentations to numerous educational, civic and corporate institutions.  Mackie is also a tenured associate professor of mechanical engineering at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, specializing in heat transfer and fluid dynamics. Recently, President Bush honored Dr. Mackie with the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. He has won numerous awards including the 2003 National Title One Distinguished Graduate for Louisiana, 2002 Black Engineer of the Year Award for College Level Educator, 2002 New Orleans Data News Weekly Trailblazer Award, and the Pi Tau Sigma/ASME Excellence in Teaching Award in Mechanical Engineering for 2000 and 2002. In November 1999, he received a patent on a device to retrofit luggage stowbins on 737 and 757 Boeing commercial airliners. Furthermore, he authors a motivational column entitled, “Think About It!” for the Black Collegian Magazine and is married to the former Miss Tracy Ransom and has two sons. 

Dr. Mackie epitomizes what this web site is all about.  He is consistent with our vision—an ordinary man, doing extraordinary things—every day.  Check out this incredible brother and what drives him to serve and be the best that he can be. 

 

The Calvin Mackie Interview 

BMIA.com:  First of all, Dr. Mackie, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview.  How important has education been in your life?

Dr. Mackie:  My pleasure.  Education has been the single most important entity in my life outside of God and my family. Education literally means, “to come out of the darkness and into the light”. I always looked around at things I wanted to accomplish and places I wanted to go and education appeared to be the route that could take me there.

BMIA.com:  Can you tell us a little bit about your background.

Dr. Mackie:  My father, Willie Mackie, dropped out of school in the 8th grade to pick cotton in West Felicia Parish in Louisiana. My late mother, Martha, graduated from a state approved Negro high school. Together for 32 years, they gave birth and raised 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. We grew up in the inner city of New Orleans and all of us attended public schools all of our lives. I was born in a section of New Orleans called Back of Town or Gert Town, which was the section where slaves and Indians were relegated after the Slave Revolution of 1811. Still to this day, it would be called some of the roughest parts of city. Eventually, while in elementary school, we moved to the 7th ward of New Orleans, which was definitely so-called middle class during that time. Our family never really needed for anything and was never told that we were poor or in poverty. We never received what we wanted but had everything we needed. My mother was very practical and never moved or impressed with the material or name brands.

BMIA.com:  Great.  What about school?  Were you a good student in grade school?

Dr. Mackie:  I was always a good student because my older cousins would not take me to the park to play basketball unless I had done my homework. I loved playing sports and that was the carrot my cousins held over my head.

BMIA.com:  What happened that made you excel at the college level?

Dr. Mackie:  When I arrived at Morehouse College during the summer of 1985, I met young Black men speaking words I had never heard and aspiring to things I had never thought of before. They laughed at the way we (my roommate and I) talked being from New Orleans and called us Louisiana dummies. We accepted the challenge and set out to show everyone else that we belong. Simply, we looked at them and said, “Why not us?”

BMIA.com:  Dr. Mackie, what prompted you to start Channel ZerO?  Tell us more about that.

Dr. Mackie:  In 1987, my partner and I started to go to middle schools to speak to students about science, math and technology. The young people seemed very uninterested so we eventually began to speak about our lives and students began to respond. We continued to pursue this form of engaging students.

From the web site: “Channel ZerO, an educational and motivational consulting company, was founded in 1992 by Drs. Jimmie L. Davis and Calvin Mackie. Channel ZerO's primary goal is to provide in-house seminars to corporations, institutions of higher learning, school systems and other civic organizations to increase educational and career success rates.  The founders operate under the premise that exposure and experience are two important parameters of educational success and their approach to working with people is simple and practical, using unique strategies and methodologies to motivate and inspire.  

Channel ZerO's purpose is to put forth simple, practical, common sense approaches that may inspire the youngest or the most seasoned individual to achieve success. Operating under the premise that exposure and experience are two important parameters of personal, educational and professional success, Channel ZerO employs proven stories, philosophies and tools of individuals that have overcome insurmountable odds and historical barriers to achieve where most others have failed. 

Over the last 13 years, Channel ZerO has presented to school districts, corporation, and community groups across America. Most recently, Managing Partner, Dr. Calvin Mackie served as a featured speaker for the six regional forums for The College Board.”

BMIA.com:  That’s a great concept.  Who are some of the people in your life that you admire?

Dr. Mackie:  Beyond my mother, father and family, everywhere I have been in my life there was someone who grabbed my hand and showed me what I was capable of. These are not celebrity or household name people. These are people who have committed their lives to showing young people the way; they helped me and I know they have helped many. Their touched changed my life: Morris F. X. Jeff, Jr., Thomas Blocker and Henry Gore at Morehouse College, DaLinda Brown-Clark of the Atlanta University Center Engineering Office, Carolyn Meyers of North Carolina A&T, and Don Baker.

BMIA.com:  What role did they play in your personal and/or professional development?

Dr. Mackie:  These people encouraged me and held expectations for me that they knew I could reach and didn’t accept anything less than that. They gave me lessons and directions and exposed me to things and places that my mother and father never could. They pushed me and scolded me when I didn’t measure up or slacked off. This occurred professionally and personally. They say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear, and every time I humbled myself and asked God for direction, the teacher has appeared. The teacher appeared in the name of these people. I founded Channel ZerO to give to our children what these people gave me and other children. They have lived their life so that others, like me, can live.

BMIA.com:  Having people in your life that is very important to one’s success.  Speaking of success, how do you define success?

Dr. Mackie:  I often say that Happiness is Having Dreams but Success is making those Dreams come true. My mother and father defined success as the ability for their children to eventually be able to care for themselves. I agree with both definitions and aspire to both.

BMIA.com:  What is the single most important message that black people need to hear?

Dr. Mackie:  We control our destiny and education is the single most important thing we can pass on to our children. Education to many of our children now is like Kryptonite to Superman. We have to learn how to read, write, articulate our thoughts, count and critically think and that is Education.

We have a serious anti-intellectual culture in our community that is killing the potential of our children and placing our future as a race in peril. In essence, I am not here to eradicate racism; I awake everyday with the goal that racism will not eradicate me. So, I must educate myself to the fullest to make it in a world regardless of what it may throw at me. Our inability to read, write and critically think places us in the cross hair of a self-created machine gun. We have become co-conspirators in our own self-destruction.

BMIA.com:  Your views on education and racism are so true.  I want everyone reading this article to focus on how important education is as a tool to success.  How long did it take you to write your new book, “View from the Roof—Lessons for Life & Business”?

Dr. Mackie:  It took approximately 9 months to write the book, as I worked on it almost every night from midnight to 4 AM.

BMIA.com:  What do you want people to learn or get as a result of reading your books and articles or listening to your presentations?

Dr. Mackie:  I want people to become inspired, encouraged and empowered. All of us have a story, all of us have obstacles but ALL of us can and must overcome what the world has dealt us. Do what must be done for your children, even those yet unborn, are depending on us. That’s what my father understood even with his 8th grade education and lack of skills. Learn something, master it and pass it on to our children.

BMIA.com:  Well said.  Did you always want to be a motivational speaker and writer or did other circumstances bring you to this time and place?

Dr. Mackie:  No, I never even thought of being a motivational speaker and never considered it. Furthermore, I still reject the term but it is the only box people can seemed to understand in terms of what I do.

BMIA.com:  What do you mean?

Dr. Mackie:  I just speak from the heart about the life that I have lived and live the life I speak about. Everything I speak about is tested and proven with accomplishment. Many speakers are talking heads and have never employed the theories they profess. I am a DOER that happened to be caught up in a Thinker World. So, I speak from a DOER and THINKER perspective, which I believe is much more than just a motivational speaker, as we know it.

Serving my community created the circumstances and time for me to hone my speaking skills and enter the speaker profession. I often say that I am only the mailman, the mail I am delivering was written by GOD because only he has the ability to impact people the way my words, tapes and books have been reported to touch the soul of people and alter their lives.

BMIA.com:  Your references to God make me think about strength.  Where and how do you draw your strength?

Dr. Mackie:  I draw strength from my family and especially my wife and two sons. Every time I awake in the middle of the night and look at them sleeping I am inspired to make this world a better place for them. If I die tomorrow, I want my sons to know that I lived and they will know what is eventually expected of them.  I also draw strength from people I meet across this country who refuse to succumb to the obstacles and setbacks that they have experienced in this world.  We must go forward!

BMIA.com:  What’s the best thing about being Calvin Mackie?

Dr. Mackie:  The best thing about being Calvin Mackie is that I don’t have to apologize for being someone else. I get up everyday and work to become a better human being ad creation. I love who I am and who I am becoming. Everyday is never the same.

BMIA.com:  I love it!  What’s the hardest thing about being Calvin Mackie?

Dr. Mackie:  The hardest thing about being Calvin Mackie is that I am always pushing myself forward, so the expectations grow. Calvin never has time to rest on his accomplishments because this is a journey and not a destination.

BMIA.com:  In your opinion what’s the biggest challenge facing black men in America?

Dr. Mackie:  In my opinion, the biggest obstacle facing Black Men in America is not racism, sexism or classism even though they exist. The biggest obstacle is that we have bought into a paradigm of life that is not only anti-intellectual but also self-destructive. The mainstreaming of street culture has swallowed so much of Black male potential in this country. We now honor pimps, pushers and players and the end game for all of those professions is mental, spiritual and physical death. The mentally is now so widely marketed and accepted that our black boys think that is their lot, so they live “down” to the stereotypes rather than living “up” to their god giving destiny and potential. Crass consumerism and narcissistic materialism is rampant and promoted even by the most spiritually gifted in our community. Our Black children especially our young men see and are confused by our hypocrisy. The world is moving forward in a knowledge economy without the Black male.

BMIA.com:  You know that’s one of the most intelligent answers to that question that I’ve ever heard.  That’s great, I hope that people reading this interview really focus on what you’re saying.  Let me move on to another aspect of your life.  In November 1999, you were awarded a patent on a device to retrofit luggage stowbins on 737 and 757 Boeing commercial airliners.  How did that come about?

Dr. Mackie:  On a trip to Boston in 1996, I saw a piece of luggage fall from the overhead bin and hit someone. After a little research, I realized that this was a serious problem. I thought of a possible solution and began to work towards a remedy. The result was an elegant self-contained device that received a patent on the first attempt.  (Click here to hear Dr. Mackie discuss his invention).

BMIA.com:  Let me get back to your book for a minute.  Did you learn anything as a result of writing your books?

Dr. Mackie:  Yes, writing my book forced me to reflect on my life and the influence that my father has played in my development. After considering the totality of his life, good and bad, and seeing from where he has come to where he has arrived, I am convinced that he is a bigger man than I would ever be.

His story and others like his deserved to be told and shared. Our Black men need to know about such men. In essence, I learned that I have a long way to go in terms of becoming a man.

BMIA.com:  How can people reading this article support you?

Dr. Mackie:  The simple way would be to say buy my book and product; but, they can support me by living a life worth replicating; living life that is about growth, development and determination; living life that touches the life of a child in a positive way. If I or my books and tapes can support them in that effort then great, if not, find others books, tapes and people who can. Either way, WE ARE ALL BETTER FOR IT!

BMIA.com:  What advice would you give to someone who aspires to serve?  

Simply, SERVE! You don’t need anyone’s approval or permission to serve. Dr. King said it best when he said, “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve.  You don't have to have a college degree to serve.  You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.” 

BMIA.com:  Dr. Mackie, this may be one of the single most important interviews that we’ve ever conducted.  On behalf of Black Men In America.com, thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. 

Dr. Mackie:  You’re welcome. 

You can learn more about Dr. Mackie by visiting his web site at http://www.channelzro.com/home.html.   

Thanks to Mike Black of The Ictus Initiative for arranging this interview.

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Taking It To “The Bridge” with Darryl James

Whenever I hear the phrase “Keepin’ It Real,” I usually think about syndicated columnist Darryl James.  Brother James is the author of “Bridging The Black Gender Gap,” which is also the basis of a national seminar series.  James was awarded the 2004 Non-fiction Award for his book on the Los Angeles Riots at the Seventh Annual Black History Month Book Fair and Conference in Chicago.  We recently caught up with James to get some insights about the man who many see as a controversial, incendiary and polarizing figure in our community. 

BMIA.com:  Darryl thanks for taking time out for this interview.  We really love your work on the site.  I want to start by asking you if you see yourself as controversial. 

D. James:  Well, yes.  The definition of controversial is expressing a view that will be greatly opposed, and oh boy, some of my views are greatly opposed and stir intense reactions.

BMIA.com:  What is it about you that make people perceive you as controversial?

D. James:  People have become accustomed to either accepting something less than the truth, or a sugarcoated version of the truth.  I deliver what I believe to be the truth without sugar, without fail, without flinching and without concern for people who can’t handle it.  “You want the truth?  You can’t handle the truth.”—Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men.

BMIA.com:  Do you go out of your way to be provocative?

D. James:  I know some people think that, but no.  I have always thought outside of the box, and my work is an expression of critical thinking—the result of research and careful thought.  The truth provokes people, particularly when it is delivered without sugar.

BMIA.com:  Where do you get your motivation and inspiration to write?

D. James:  I am motivated by life.  That may sound simplistic, but I write about things that I have lived through, or things that I have seen a great deal of.  I may have a conversation with someone and find a spark of inspiration, or I may read a book or article that moves me, but mostly, my inspiration comes from real living.

BMIA.com:  Tell us about your background.  Where were you born and raised?

D. James:  I was born and raised in Chicago.  Growing up in what was one of the most segregated cities in the nation showed me some things about my people as well as white people.

BMIA.com:  Is writing your full-time gig?

D. James:  Yes. Thank God.

BMIA.com:  What is your favorite topic to write about?

D. James:  I don’t really have a favorite.  My column is non-fiction and ranges from politics to religion, and of course, relationships, but I also wrote a murder mystery novel.  For ten years, I was the editor of a rap music magazine.  I just like writing.

BMIA.com:  Do you have a favorite column?  If so, tell us about the column and what it’s about.

D. James:  “Where The Black Men Are:  The Simple Truth.”  This is a response to Black women complaining that they can’t find a man, yet failing to place themselves in a position where they can actually find us, or where we can find them.  It also breaks down some of the reasons why Black men and women have difficulty finding each other.

BMIA.com:  Why is this your favorite?

D. James:  It’s my favorite because it’s one of the first columns I started working on when I decided to do a syndicated column and because, as a single Black man, it’s voicing an issue from our perspective that is rarely heard.  We hear how horrible we are and how bad Black women have it, but we rarely hear that the good ones of us really aren’t as scarce as people say and that we have it bad as well because society has changed.

BMIA.com:  Do you have any mentors?

D. James:  Certainly. I am channeling Langston Hughes and I am spiritually connected to Maya Angelou.

BMIA.com:  Who influenced you the most?

D. James:  I’d have to say Maya Angelou.  I had read several of her books and had the chance to meet her when I was a teenager.  She actually took the time to talk to me and sent my first manuscript to her editor at Random House.  It was garbage and they rejected it, but I learned a lot from the process and I learned a lot from her.

BMIA.com:  How do you deal with adversity and failure?

D. James:  It fuels me.  Much of my life has been filled with adversity, so I embrace it and stay ready for it.  As for failure, I have failed before and it didn’t feel good, so I work myself hard to avoid that feeling. "The heights of my successes are determined by the depths of my downfalls" -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

BMIA.com:  How hard has it been for you to get where you are now? 

D. James:  To quote Langston Hughes:  “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”  It’s still rough at times.

BMIA.com:  What keeps you motivated?

D. James:  I’m motivated by the fact that my voice is being heard by millions, literally, and that people are talking about real issues based on my work. I’m motivated that as a result, my work is going into more places.  I’m motivated because I’ve succeeded before, so I know how to make it happen.

BMIA.com:  How important has networking and building relationships been to your success?

D. James:  Very.  Some of the people I built relationships with years ago, have come back around to either be a powerful contact or lead me to one.

BMIA.com:  What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

D. James:  Rap Sheet.  It was the second largest rap music publication and the only one that was Black owned.  I built it from the ground up.  I’m currently working on two programs to top that achievement.

BMIA.com:  When you write a commentary or column, what do you want people to “get” or “take away” as a result of reading your work?

D. James:  That it is a real and valid point of view, even if they don’t agree with it.  Many times, ignorant people think that if they disagree with you, they have to smash you to bits and tear you down.  A simpler method would be to engage in a discussion on the divergences or to simple ignore me.

BMIA.com:  Tell us about “Bridging The Black Gender Gap.”  What prompted you to write that?

D. James:  For more than twenty years, Black women have been expressing their dissatisfaction with relationships and with Black men, trying to make sense and purpose for themselves out of the feminist movement.  By the early 1990’s, it began to morph into something really ugly.  Not that all or even most Black women are on that program, but it became wildly popular to be anti-man and there were very few male voices speaking, except some bonehead rappers who weren’t that bright anyway.  I wanted to address the real issues from a man’s perspective, but based on research and steeped in love.  Sisters don’t always want to hear it, but it is always the truth. 

I did research for ten years, targeting ten cities.  The original focus was for another book I’m writing, but I launched this book as a mini-book series.

It’s a topic that is deeply personal for me, because I am a single Black man who has watched good relationships fall apart based on reaction to public propaganda.

BMIA.com:  What do you see yourself doing 5 years from now?

D. James:  Talking to my beautiful Black wife, holding Darryl, Jr., dusting off my Pulitzer Prize on my way to the den to work on the newest best-selling novel, which will be a box office smash as a film.

BMIA.com:  OK, this is the part of the interview where we strap you in the Black Men In America.com Hot Seat.  This is our version of “Call and Response,” where we say something and you call out the first thing that comes to mind.  Are you ready?

D. James:  I’m ready.

BMIA.com:  Great!  Let’s get started.  Lee Bailey.

D. James:  Enduring Black man.  He gave me my first job writing a syndicated radio show.  He’s been doing his thing since the Eighties and won’t stop.

BMIA.com:  Spike Lee

D. James:  A lot like me—he makes his statements and doesn’t give a damn what people think.  He’s arrogant to people who hate that he doesn’t care, but he’s brilliant to people who aren’t afraid of genius with conviction.

BMIA.com:  Whoopi Goldberg

D. James:  Confused psuedo-feminist who needs to grow some eyebrows and have some real dialogue with Black men.

BMIA.com:  Which is your preference, donating your money to a cause or volunteering your time

D. James:  The time is more important because there are plenty of rich people who won’t do anything—let’s get their money and I’ll roll up my sleeves.

BMIA.com:  When you think about your preference in a mate, what is more important, brains or beauty?

D. James:  It may seem shallow, but I can’t get with a less than beautiful work of art.  I’m a lover of fine wine, women and song. As long as she’s not a dummy, I can bring her up mentally, but you can’t polish a brittle stone.  She can be a stone genius but at the end of the day, I love beautiful women.  She doesn’t have to be Halle Berry or Nia Long pretty, but I have to be thrilled to look at her. "No woman can be handsome by the force of features alone, anymore that she can be witty by only the help of speech."--Langston Hughes

BMIA.com:  Martin Luther King, Jr.

D. James:  A man of conviction who loved his people so much he stood and took the weight for people who didn’t get it then and didn’t do much when he died.

BMIA.com:  Malcolm X

D. James:  A man of conviction who loved his people so much he stood and took the weight for people who didn’t get it then and didn’t do much when he died. So misunderstood.

BMIA.com:  Bob Johnson (BET/NBA Bobcats Owner)

D. James:  Out strictly for Bob Johnson.  Needs to take some young sisters or brothers under his wing and show them how to make some money so they can take it back to the community.

BMIA.com:  Tavis Smiley

D. James:  Shining young warrior.

BMIA.com:  Condoleezza Rice

D. James:  Poor confused little girl.

BMIA.com:  Tom Joyner

D. James:  Damn, how many stations is he on?

BMIA.com:  George Bush

D. James:  The devil’s retarded spawn.

BMIA.com:  Black Politicians

D. James:  Puffed up, over hyped nothings. Except Maxine Waters and Barack Obama.

BMIA.com:  Great.  You are officially out of the Hot Seat.  Just a few more questions.  What are the biggest challenges facing black men in America?

D. James:  Some of the same ones that have been plaguing us for a while—poverty, racism on the job, dwindling resources to improve our condition when we are on the bottom, and some new ones—misunderstanding and hatred coming from Black women, plus a serious PR problem.  Our image is so horrible that it is hard for us to garner respect, even from ourselves.

BMIA.com:  What’s the best part of being Darryl James?

D. James:  I’m free.  Have been for more than ten years.  It’ not always easy, but it’s always best.  I do what I believe makes the most sense and don’t bother with what lesser minds think of my actions.  If you’re free, or trying to be, you get it even if you don’t agree.  If you are not free, my actions probably confuse and anger you. "If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary."  --Malcolm X

Darryl James can be reached at djames@TheBlackGenderGap.com  Click here to check out his web site "The Bridge."

So what do you think?  If you would like to comment or respond to any of our content on this page or web site click here and sign our Guestbook to leave a public or private statement, comment or reaction. 


 

 

Arthur Takeall:  You Got The Right One Baby, Uh-Huh!

For that past month or so I’ve conducted a very informal poll about black ventriloquists.  I’ve asked people to name a black ventriloquist.  About half of the folks polled could not name a black ventriloquist.  (One person didn’t know what a ventriloquist was.  This brother thought a ventriloquist was a member of the UniverSoul Circus).  The remaining folks all named Willie Tyler and Lester.  No one named Arthur Takeall and Scooter.  That’s right, Arthur Takeall and his “partner” Scooter.

Get your pens and pencils out folks, we’re getting ready to learn a Black History fact.  Arthur Takeall is a professional ventriloquist, radio and television personality and community activist.  When you think of black ventriloquists, Arthur Takeall is the “right one baby.”

Where have you heard the phrase, “You got the right one baby?…”  There was a Pepsi commercial about 10 years ago featuring the late great Ray Charles.  Guess who wrote that song?  None other than Arthur Takeall.  Guess who got credit for that very successful song lyric at that time?  PepsiCo, the corporation.  Takeall spent many years and many dollars fighting a legal battle to get what was rightfully his all along.  This brother took a multinational corporation to court and won.  That doesn’t happen too often.  Today, You Got The Right One Baby, Uh-Huh™ is a federal registered trademark and copyright of Arthur Takeall.

Arthur Takeall and Scooter have become international experts in crime prevention, drug abuse prevention and street survival education.  Three United States Presidents have honored Takeall with proclamations and Presidential awards, including a Certificate of Merit.  In addition, two Maryland governors honored Takeall and Scooter with The State of Maryland Governor’s Citation.

So why haven’t we heard about Arthur Takeall?  What’s his story?  Over the past several weeks, Gary Johnson spent time with Takeall to learn more about this multi-dimensional talent.  The two have dined together, had countless telephone conversations and Takeall has visited the Black Men In America.com office.  Arthur Takeall is another example of what this web site is all about.  He’s another ordinary man, doing extraordinary things.  More people need to know that men like Takeall exist.  Brothers like Takeall have always been out in the public; they’ve also had difficulty getting noticed by the mainstream media.

At Black Men In America.com, we look for people like Arthur Takeall.  We want to share his story with you because someone will read this story and be motivated and inspired to be the best that they can be and add value to our community and the world at large.  We are very proud to share Gary’s interview with “the right one baby,” the one and only Arthur Takeall.

The Arthur Takeall Interview

JOHNSON: Arthur, how long have you been in show business? And, how did you get started?

TAKEALL:  Professionally, since 1963 and I started really about 1960 or 1961, when I was in elementary school.

JOHNSON: How did you become a ventriloquist? What made you start, or want to be a ventriloquist?

Takeall: Well, actually when I was old enough to remember, probably the age of eight or nine I realized that I was not speaking correctly like the other kids. And, I later learned that I had a speech impediment, which is called stuttering. I was a stutterer. And, I just started using everything that I heard, everything that I saw. Television was only on for several hours during my early years. Television used to be a thing where it would come on for about seven hours a day and that was about it. And the favorite programs of mine included puppeteers – Howdy Dowdy, Edgar Bergman, Charlie McCarthy, and later, Jerry Lewis. And Jerry Lewis as a stand up comedian, but there was a guy called Tom and Jerry – there were all kinds of puppeteer type shows that I liked.

JOHNSON: How did you overcome being a stutterer? Listening to you now and watching you, I would never know that you stuttered had you not said anything.

TAKEALL: Most people don’t know about my stuttering, except those I grew up with, but stuttering seemed to have been clarified by people in medicine as being something of a nervous condition and it becomes – what they tag as a disorder – and I was able to learn vocal control and voice control and able to overcome the stuttering. But at the age of 8, 9, 10 and going into 11, I could not say any more than probably 8 words without getting hung up on a word, actually a letter of a word which meant, I stuttered.

JOHNSON: So, you were able to take what was then, called a disability, or challenge and turn that into some type of motivation to just be different.

TAKEALL:  Right.  I, in my interviews now tell people that disability became “an ability.” And whereas I was cumbersome with being able to talk -- now I have been able to go into schools for the impaired and people who stutter and able to give them some hints and very, very helpful insight as to how their stuttering can be controlled.

JOHNSON:  Your partner, Scooter, if you will, has had various evolutions. Tell me about him.

TAKEALL:  My partner early on was called “Little Brother” because my partner who is known as “Scooter”, the world famous Scooter. Scooter was just a little black ventriloquist character, which, the appropriate word to use is “Dummy.” He was once a Howdy Dowdy doll with strings that eventually become a puppet that I painted and he was very, very black in his complexion, because I wanted him to be like me. And, basically, nobody believed in selling a black kid brown paint, back during the time when I started early on in ventriloquism so I painted him all black. And, he’s just a little brother, he was just a second feature of Arthur Takeall – like somebody that I wanted to have because I didn’t have a little brother.

JOHNSON: Okay. What about your background? Your family background – did you come from a large family, small family?

TAKEALL: My sister, one sister was a year younger than myself and the other sister was six years younger than myself. My mother and father – nobody in show business -- my father was working for the United States Government and my mother was a housewife. And background – no family members before them were involved in show business, until I had brother, a half-brother, I don’t believe in so-called step-brothers, or half-brothers but I had a brother who did not reside with me as I was growing up in the early years, who joined a circus, it was called Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus. And by coincidence, that lead to my being able to purchase the first ventriloquism character from a member of the Clyde Beatty Circus.

JOHNSON:  Okay. So that brings me to my next question about – cause I’m going to jump around here – about venues. Talk about some of the venues that you have played as a professional entertainer – because I also want you to talk about your career as a radio broadcaster as well. So, I guess the first part is – some of the places that you’ve played from “Chitterlin’ Circuits” on up to the “Taj Mahal” if you will.

TAKEALL: I was considered as a mover in show business just like I was a mover in radio broadcasting. Quick back-story: I worked a total of 38 radio broadcast stations – was only fired twice in my career. The others I quit for better locations and more money. In ventriloquism, I’ve worked in the circus, I’ve done carnivals, I’ve done side-shows, I was a barker for casinos, I’ve been at Air Shows as an announcer – virtually, anywhere – I was never a auctioneer. I wanted to be one but can’t do the auctioneering and be sensitive with having a ventriloquism partner. I’ve also done burlesque – I did burlesque because in Europe there was no choice to do anything except the dancing girls who were topless. You bring them on and you entertain in between shows, etc. I’ve also done burlesque in the United States. I’ve done trade shows, conventions, schools, job corps, church functions, which includes Vacation Bible School -- I’ve done emcee functions at churches for gospel shows. I’ve done all types of concerts. Just, you have to be well rounded in show business – it’s almost like an actor having 16 different characters but at the same time once you leave that microphone and that stage, you’re just the normal everyday person that you are.

JOHNSON:  Do you have any special training or in broadcasting, or you just got a job and just kept perfecting it?

TAKEALL:  Well, I didn’t really have training – and when I say “didn’t really” – I had vocal ability and it was a gift of gab as I’ve told by people in my side of the business of entertainment. I was able to overcome the stuttering and once I perfected by craft as a ventriloquist and not talk with the lips moving as people say and very – have a life-like characterization – that’s when I really was able to do what I do.

JOHNSON: Okay.  I want to talk about – tell me about some the people that you have opened for or worked with in the entertainment business?

TAKEALL: I would say among the names that people would be familiar with, which is kind of a strange way of answering your question – when I was in the Air Force, cause this brings up the date, kind of like more or less, the last twenty years of what I did as opposed to when I began. I was in the Air Force, and this was 1968, I was at the largest Air Force base in Spain – there were like 100 thousand plus people who were going to be at this arena -- big bull fight get together. And, they wanted me to go out and do like about five or ten minutes of the show before the singer came on to do the entertainment. And, I’m thinking, well I can’t – I’m not bilingual, so how am I going to entertain these people even though I was a professional? I am ready for about anything, but you know the guys coming on and he’s going to sing songs in different languages but we just want you to entertain because most of the people have working knowledge of English and they were bilingual. I just wasn’t. And I never heard of the guy. And I am thinking, how do they think they are going to entertain all of these people with some guy who’s going to come out on stage and sing for 45 minutes or so? Because they said the show was going to be 45 minutes to an hour. And I am thinking that this is going to bomb and there will be probably be a riot and get me in trouble.  And I never heard of the guy who was coming out on stage. The reason why I am telling that story is because it kind of brings you up to date with who the person was. This person, who’s name I was not familiar with virtually everybody else there had purchased his records and those who couldn’t afford the records they knew exactly who he was. About fifteen years after that fact the guy was playing at the World’s Fair in New Orleans, Lousiana in 1984.  I was the Goodwill Ambassador.  This guy came to the United States and by his request I not only was the host of the TV show that featured him, but because he had remembered that I was this, standup comic who did a good job of holding the people at bay until he came on in.  His name was Julio Iglesias.

JOHNSON: Laughter.

TAKEALL:  I hosted the show called “Celebration 84 – Live at the World’s Fair in New Orleans,” that featured Julio Iglesias and Johnny Mathis. So I was able to strike two birds with one stone so to speak. But Julio was a world famous guy that I didn’t know but everybody else knew.

JOHNSON: Yea, ‘cause that’s about the time where he started breaking into the Untied States. He was big everywhere else and then came to the US with a mega marketing campaign and started blowing up in the media.

TAKEALL: Right. And to hold an audience of 100 thousand plus people was a hard thing to do, especially when many of the people could only see me on a huge monitor because I was so far away.

JOHNSON: Who are some of the other acts that you have worked with?

TAKEALL: Well, let’s see. Go back to the Jackie Wilson days, that was when I was a little kid and Scooter was almost as big as I was. I emceed a show …

JOHNSON: Jackie Wilson, Mr. Excitement!

TAKEALL: Mr. Excitement, yea. James Brown, Mr. Dynamite, the please, please himself man, I worked for him, not only on stage. I did the thing at WJV at Knoxville, which we will get into later. I worked for him for two years as a music director and early morning announcer at his radio station. Also I traveled for several for seven years. I helped to break, according to what they say, I helped to break the Chi-Lites “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh Girl” – I was working at a station KAPE in San Antonia, Texas and broke the record for the Chi-Lites and for the following seven years I would go out on the road for six weeks with them and we opened for some of the largest rhythm and blues acts in show business, just because I was touring with the hottest group that ever made a hit record besides The Temptations and the Motown Stars. The Chi-Lites were in itself a phenomenon – to come out of Chicago and to be a name that virtually any race or creed or color or nationality could sing “Have You Seen Her?”  I mean, it was huge. And here it was, I was in control of everything because I was the show itself to open for them.

JOHNSON:Okay. You also opened for Redd Foxx? Right?

TAKEALL:  I opened for Redd Foxx in Las Vegas. I was on the contract with him. Actually, Redd Foxx said, and I found out later to be true, that the only two comedians that regularly worked with Redd was me and Slappy White.

JOHNSON:  I knew you were going to say Slappy White.

TAKEALL:  Yes, Slappy White, Slappy White was a regular at the Redd Foxx Show in Las Vegas. And, I was the second regular – I always stood in when Slappy went on vacation or whatever. And, of course there was Rudy Ray Moore.  There’s been a number of – the guy that was on the BET, I can’t think of his name real quick, with the red moustache.

JOHNSON: Renaldo Rey.

TAKEALL:  Yea, he was under Redd Foxx Management.

JOHNSON: Right.

TAKEALL: I was not under Redd Foxx’s control, because up until recently I decided I never needed a manager. I always told people Scooter was my manager and I was working for Scooter. And, it proved to be true because people always asked me, “so where’s your manager?” And I would say, “he’s backstage or on vacation,” or whatever and they believed me.

JOHNSON:  Any other names that we might recognize?

TAKEALL:  Oh, Liberace.

JOHNSON: Really.  Liberace, the pianist famous candelabra, charisma and diamonds?

TAKEALL:  I was the first black person to work for Liberace and to open for Liberace in Las Vegas.  It was not a black/white thing, but when I first went to Vegas, I went there as Operation Manager of radio station KVOB. I was the morning wakeup announcer. And, Li was a listener.  He said, “Arthur, you should wake up people in the morning. Call some of the celebrities and you know, get them out of bed, and talk trash to them. ‘Cause I listen to you talk trash.” And Scooter said, “well you listen to us talk trash, then why don’t you have us on your show?” So, that’s how I got a job working with Liberace.

JOHNSON: Laugher – So Scooter was no dummy, he was your manager.

TAKEALL:  Yes, he was my man.  He still makes a couple of wooden nickels here and there.

JOHNSON:   You also toured with Motown, the Motown Review?

TAKEALL:  No, it was the exact opposite. I did not tour with Motown. Willie Tyler and Lester toured with Motown.

JOHNSON:  Tell that story. Or, is there a story to tell?

TAKEALL:  There is a great story to tell. Willie Tyler and Lester were the host and co-host of the Motown Review. And, early on, when Berry Gordy decided that he would take the groups out of Detroit, groups including: Gladys Knight with the Pips; Stevie Wonder, at that time he was Little Stevie Wonder; The Temptations – that was before their peak, that was early on: Martha Reeves and the Vandelas; and just on and on and on.  When he took them on the road, Willie and Lester co-hosted each and every act that came on board. When Willie Tyler went into the Air Force, so did I, by coincidence, he was from Detroit, I was from Maryland. He is from Detroit, Michigan; I am from Annapolis, Maryland. We happened to go into the Air Force at the same time. We happened to be two black comedians who had a talent called ventriloquism. And we were known as the “Black Ventriloquist representing the United States Air Force.” During the time that I was stationed in Europe, Willie was stationed in the United States. He did not have by chance the opportunity to go to Europe – to be stationed there permanently. And I didn’t – vice versa, until I got out—didn’t have very much opportunity to do very much work in the United States. So, we were known be the Department of the Air Force as “the Black Ventriloquist.” And because of the connotation with the name of our race, as opposed to just calling us Arthur Takeall or Willie Tyler, that’s how we were promoted. And I decided to just develop my own personal – they call it persona or personality – so I would be known and recognized by name – Arthur Takeall. So I started to use the gimmick that Willie Tyler was the other one and Lester was Scooter’s cousin. And when asked by interviewers, you know, “where is Lester?” Scooter would remind that interviewer that he’s the other one – I’m the right one. And I became known as “the right one.” And Willie became known as the other one. So that’s how the media started to portray the act, Willie Tyler and Lester as the “other black ventriloquist,” Arthur Takeall and Scooter as “the right one.”

JOHNSON: Now “the right one” is that phrase popularized by I believe Ray Charles, with Pepsi.

TAKEALL: Correct.

JOHNSON: “You got the right baby uh huh.”

TAKEALL:  Correct.       I developed the campaign called, “the right one baby uh huh.” I did it for several reasons. I was national spokesperson for the Department of Labor Job Corps. I did a “G” rated show.  I did not like to do anything that was cursing or abusive, not using the “B” word, not being verbally abusive to females. My act has always been clean.

JOHNSON:  Okay.

TAKEALL: My act has always been followed by females. I have probably have a 97% female audience as opposed to all the male who come to see the show, because we attract the females.

JOHNSON: Scooter is a babe magnet, right?

TAKEALL: Yeah, right.  I would use little gimmicks to make sure the females would attend.  Scooter would claim that the first 100 women would get in for FREE.

JOHNSON: Laughter

TAKEALL: We would also have an angle of making women an “an Official Scooter Girl.”

JOHNSON: Okay.

TAKEALL: So, women across the United States always say, “Yea, you know I was once and still and will always be a Scooter Girl.” So I started tying the “Scooter Girl campaign” with “the Right One.” And girls would always say, “Well I have something that is very precious that every man wants.” And when we get real close to the sexual edge.  It starts with “P” and ends with “Y”, its called personality. You know.

JOHNSON: Laughter.

TAKEALL: And girls like to hear that talk. That’s how Scooter talked that talk. And they liked that and they remembered that and tell other girls who had not been to the show. And they say, “You want to have one?” You know, become a Scooter Girl. And so, I started “the right one baby” out of the Scooter Girl campaign. I did it long before Pepsi did it and it became synonymous with what I did.

JOHNSON: Wow. That’s a great story.  That’s a great story.

TAKEALL: Now, that is not how the campaign started. “The Right One Baby Uh Huh” officially started because Pepsi, PepsiCo Incorporated decided they would enter into what they called “Community Activities” – there were seven grants. They had a series of seven one hundred fifty thousand dollar grants that the company was going to award if you qualified. You had to qualify by having an ongoing program – not something brand new -- a program that worked in your community. If they liked the program, they justified it by awarding a grant for you to continue the program. I sent some visual, along with written information; I had things that included various citations, my background history. I sent it to Pepsi trying to achieve – being a winner of one of those $150,000 grants – they liked what they say on the visuals of what I sent video-wise and decided they would use what I was using and instead of using a creator or a ventriloquist so to speak they decided to use it vocally and use Ray Charles. They hired Ray, who is not a part of taking my project, my claim is and always has been and was later proven by the Trademark Office, that the campaign was stolen by Pepsi and it was taken without paying me – because I was never paid and they used my intellectual property rights without my permission.

JOHNSON:  Wow. Is that still – is that still up in terms of litigation?

TAKEALL: Well the litigation has been complete, Pepsi lost the rights of using the commercial, they lost the rights of ownership of the commercial, they lost the rights and signed off for anything that was tied in with “the Right One Baby Uh Huh” because it was taken from them by the United States Office of Patent and Trademark and awarded to me 100%. And Pepsi also signed an affidavit that basically leaves the total use of “the Right One Baby Uh Huh Campaign.”

JOHNSON: So you own it?

TAKEALL:  I own the publishing rights to the music; I own the federal registered trademark; and federal copyright. The copyright protects my ventriloquist act, the trademark protects what is called the slogan, the official slogan, and the publishing protects my music.

JOHNSON: So if someone was to start a campaign, or to use “You Got The Right One Baby, Uh Huh,” for sampling you should be getting a paid?

TAKEALL:  That is correct.

JOHNSON: Okay. What is the best part of being Arthur Takeall?

TAKEALL:  The best part, I would say, there are two best parts. The best part prior to Pepsi ongoing attempt to slaughter my reputation and my lifestyle and my future – the best part at that time was being able to entertain people, keep them happy, and leave them with a lesson. When I do the crime prevention, substance abuse project, to leave them with a lot messages. The best part now is being free. Free to be able to think as I please, go where I please, do what I please, without having a person wondering if that guy who is a ventriloquist, Arthur Takeall, that I heard about -- isn’t he the one that stole something from Pepsi?  There’s no longer that story – which came first – the chicken or the egg. What came first was, when you, if you want tied it in with the Bible, because I always leave the thought of a Biblical verse – is looking at the Bible they say that animals were created, so aids were here after the animals came. So I was here before Pepsi even had the idea that they should start “the Right One Baby, Uh Huh.”

JOHNSON:  You know, listening to you and your story or your journey – there is one thing that comes to mind. I am going to go out on the limb. No disrespect to you. I bet you 95% of the people who will read this interview have never heard of Arthur Takeall. Why do you think that is the case?

TAKEALL:  Well, the people who have never heard of me, it would be synonymous with somebody who did not know the meaning of life until they pick up a book like an encyclopedia and start to read and decipher what life is all about. Prior to that, they just, I guess you use the word “was” – it was, it is, and it ever shall be. It was just like I had to be discovered at some point in time and it was Pepsi’s choice not to let me be remembered. If I wasn’t remembered, people would not discover the truth. And I have freedom of thought. So, I just tell people to look at both sides of the story. If Pepsi says the “Right One” was ours first then show references, because I had a growth product of my story and my life and how the “Right One” came to be and they have nothing and still try to hide the secret.

JOHNSON: Okay.  I think mentors are important in anyone’s career.  Did you have any mentors? And, if so, who were they?

TAKEALL: Yes, my mentor is a person named Robert Haygood. Mr. Haygood resides in, of all places, in Annapolis, Maryland, my hometown.  He lives at Arundel on The Bay. He was the person who inspired me to be a ventriloquist, to continue to be a ventriloquist, I should say because he knew I was working at that talent. Scooter, incidentally, is created similar in strikingly similar fashion to Mr. Haygood.  He has raised cheekbones, a very nice character, he always respects ladies. Mr. Haygood is the other part of the “Right One Baby, Uh Huh,” In that I have taken him virtually everywhere that I’ve gone since ventriloquism because Mr. Haygood does not stutter, but he vocally says repeatedly, he says, “Uh huh, Uh huh”  -- he says it a lot. He says it so often – everybody in Annapolis Maryland who know him – he was in the school system for approximately forty years – and they know where the “Right One Baby Uh Huh” originated – through Mr. Haygood and Arthur Takeall. He is the mentor who became officially a part of my act. He is the Scooter who is really alive and kicking today.

JOHNSON:  That’s great.  I have about three more questions for you. How many black ventriloquists are there approximately in the entertainment business today?

TAKEALL: I would estimate, I’m a member of the NAAV – the North American Association of Ventriloquist – and active members there are approximately seventy-five hundred to ten thousand. And I would estimate there are at least 650 African American ventriloquists -- when I say African American I mean not necessarily born in America, but African ancestry.

JOHNSON: What is the standard for a good ventriloquist. What are the special skills that you need?

TAKEALL: Well, the vocal skills – no one can – because it physically impossible to talk with your lips totally shut – it is physically impossible. It is vocally possible utter vocal sounds without moving your lips. Ventriloquism is actually the art of deception, it is similar to magic. It’s the art of using the vocal or the voice noise and at the same time to be able to project that voice through the art of distraction. And once you are able to accomplish that along with keeping your character movements – so that the character is life-like – that distracts the fact that there is the human factor actually making the noise.

JOHNSON: So you’ve created a visual and verbal allusion?

TAKEALL: Right. It is an allusion. It is an allusion. It’s similar to a lady being clothed and you using your imagination to figure out just how well endowed she actually is.

JOHNSON: (Laughter). Okay. That’s a visual.

TAKEALL:  As Scooter would say, “You got to figure it out.”

JOHNSON: What advice do you have for people who want to get into the art of ventriloquism or the entertainment business?  You’ve been in the business for how long?

TAKEALL:  Yea, about forty-six years.

JOHNSON: Okay.  You’ve worked all kinds of venues, all kinds of entertainers – if you had to narrow down one or two pieces of advice to share with someone about being successful in the business – and I’m going to just define success as – well no – let’s say long term success – however you define it – what one or two pieces of advice would you share?

TAKEALL:   Well the joke has always been for years when asked that question; most entertainers come back with the answer – practice, practice, practice. That is the norm. But something that is more important than even practicing first – you first have to know what direction you want to take whatever it is your talent is. Because I always say that taken is based on how well you decide to take whatever you do to the next level. If you decide you want to fool people into thinking you’re great and know that you are not as good as you want them to think that you are, then you have a lousy way of being successful. So, I say staying true to that art form and doing the best that you can to perfect it, which comes with practice, practice, practice.

JOHNSON:  Okay. We’re going to try something -- it’s what we call “the Black Men in America.com Hot Seat.” I am going to call out a word or phrase and you come out with the first thing that comes to mind.

JOHNSON:                Redd Foxx

TAKEALL:                 Sensitive

JOHNSON:                Okay. Lena Horne

TAKEALL:                 My lady

JOHNSON:                Slappy White

TAKEALL:                 Versatility

JOHNSON:                Sammy Davis, Jr.

TAKEALL:                 The Ultimate

JOHNSON:                Frank Sinatra

TAKEALL:                 Unblemished vocal talent

JOHNSON:                Lawanda Page

TAKEALL:                 Funny

JOHNSON:                For those who don’t know Lawanda Page, played Aunt Esther on the TV show “Sandford and Son.”

TAKEALL:                 And she also danced with a snake.

JOHNSON:                I didn’t know that.

TAKEALL:                 Yes she did.  She was one of the best -- it was a sideshow.

JOHNSON:                Dean Martin

TAKEALL:                 Part of a team that constantly worked and did a great job.

JOHNSON:                Liberace

TAKEALL:                 He was the golden entertainer.

JOHNSON:                Johnny Mathis

TAKEALL:                 Smooth singer with many followers.

JOHNSON:                Another one – Moms Mabley.

TAKEALL:                 Moms Mabley was the greatest [female comedian] and still is untouchable.

JOHNSON:  Arthur Takeall, you are officially out of the Black Men in America.com Hot Seat.  Final question – since this is Black Men In America.com, in your opinion, what are the some of the most challenging issues facing black men in America today?

TAKEALL: Black men still fail to live up to standards of ladies in my opinion because some don’t know how to show respect – but make a good attempt.

JOHNSON:  How can we solve that or close the gap?

TAKEALL: Our brothers have to start talking to brothers instead of trying to act like they know it all.

JOHNSON:  That’s what we want. Arthur Takeall, thank you very much for this interview.

To learn more about Arthur Takeall you can visit his web site at http://www.therightone.biz.

This interview was conducted by Gary Johnson for Black Men In America.com.

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A Conversation with Writer Will G

Writer William Gorham

William Gorham is a writer.  His latest work is LeDroit's Home Team.  LeDroit's Home Team follows the story of Todd Wellsley, a fictitious Homestead Grays ballplayer and his struggle to open his own tailor shop while keeping his family together in a segregated 1947 Washington. 

Inspired by Brad Snyder’s book, Beyond the Shadow of the Senators, Gorham produced a play, which, for the first time, celebrates this historic African-American neighborhood.  Set during the latter years of the “Washington Renaissance,” the play is one of the few works that highlights the central role of the family in neighborhood improvement.  The play stars Carleen Troy, Stan McKinney, M. Keith Island, Stephanie Carlton, Beatrice Judge, and Chester West.

LEDROIT'S HOME TEAM by WILL GORHAM - DIRECTED by JAMES CAMPANELLA - SCRIPT by ELIZABETH CAMPANELLA


Click On Photo To Enlarge

 

The Will Gorham Interview
 

BMIA.comWhen did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 

Will GI’ve always been a fan of mystery novels, but never really considered writing them until later in life.  That changed after I decided to write a screenplay for an adventure thriller.  That screenplay garnered many positive reviews from several independent studios, but wasn’t selected to be made into a film.  I really enjoyed the writing process and impact the story had on people. After that I was hooked. 

BMIA.comTell us about your background.  Where were you born and raised?  

Will GMy background is somewhat different to most but common to many military “brats”.  My parents were military and I was born in Cuba but raised mostly in Virginia and Maryland. 

BMIA.comTell us about your new play “Ledroit’s Home Team?”  

Will GLeDroit’s Home Team is the story of Todd Wellsley, a former Negro Leagues ballplayer’s pursuit to open his own business in Washington, DC circa. 1947.  Todd’s wife, Renee, does not share his in dream. Renee is a well-educated schoolteacher who sees tailoring work as manual labor. She feels such work may jeopardize her aspirations of becoming a Washington socialite. Although set in 1947, it’s a contemporary dilemma many double income families experience today.  Many American families have part time ventures with hopes of future financial independence. The play also celebrates the rich legacy of a very successful African-American community, LeDroit Park. 

BMIA.comWhy did you decide to write this play?  

Will GI had the great fortune of reading Brad Snyder’s book Beyond the Shadow of the Senators. Snyder’s book details the history of the Washington Homestead Grays and briefly discusses the neighborhood of LeDroit Park.  I was fascinated by this local history and was surprised very few people, including myself, knew about this great period, historians call the “Washington Renaissance.”  

The history and accomplishments of African-Americans during this period was so impressive that I was compelled to write a story that celebrated this legacy.  It also spoke to my personal beliefs in community investment and American pride.  I say American because I feel many of African-American’s accomplishments have somehow been lost within the black community. Too much emphasis has been placed on celebrating the first or only black “this or that” as opposed to building long standing, networked centers of excellence.  Part of the story behind LeDroit’s Home Team is recognizing small steps and small community investment over a long period of time begets true independence and rewarding fruit. Such was the case of LeDroit Park during the Washington Renaissance. 

BMIA.comHow would you describe your writing style? 

Will GMy writing style is conversational, dialog driven.  This type of writing lends itself better in the visual medium. I have great respect for writers who can take you away with their words.  It takes time, training and talent.  Hopefully I’ll get there one day. 

BMIA.comHave you always been a baseball fan?   

Will GActually, I’m not a big baseball fan.  My father played city league baseball in the 60s and took me to many games.  It must have been very similar in spirit to Negro Leagues games because many were in small, all Black towns in southern Virginia and North Carolina.  The games were always well attended.  When they did play White teams, even as a child I could sense more was at stake.  You could see it on the players’ faces and there were fewer jokes in the dugout.  They had to win.  

BMIA.comTalk about your affection for the Negro League. 

Will GAlthough I’m not a big Negro League historian, I find it interesting that these men did not let their color stop them from achieving great things, regardless of the profession. Many went on to be leaders in business, military, education etc.  Those men knew something every boxer and war fighter knows. When you step into the ring, it’s all equal. No excuses, no time outs. No sidebars.  Regardless of the decision, both competitors have to face the results of their performance, eye-to-eye, toe-to-toe. It gives you true, unfettered and immediate feedback.  You know what you are really capable of, and you know what you have to do to win.  This feedback was invaluable, especially in a segregated society. Being a former military member, I can relate to their determination to know the absolute ground truth and win on those terms.  It makes the reward much sweeter. 

BMIA.com:  What do you the audience will ‘take away” from your play?

Will GI hope the audience will walk away with a sense of joy and a realization that there are great Black American communities in America that should be recognized and redeveloped.  Every day people work hard improving their neighborhoods and schools. It is hard work. It would be great if people would ignore the negative stereotypes and create great centers of excellence at home. 

BMIA.comWho were some of the people who inspired you?   

Will GMany people of all races inspire me daily.  A few are my father and mother, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Sir Richard Branson, Yvette Lee Bowser, John Grisham, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, every Tuskegee airman, Montell Williams, Adm. Samuel L. Gravely, Dr. Lasalle Lefall, Chief Petty Officer Lawrence L. Monday, CAPT Otis Brooks. 

BMIA.comWhat’s the hardest part of being a writer?

Will GFor me, it’s the negative feedback.  Writing is not the business for those faint at heart.  I’m a generally shy person but can become very passionate about my writing.  Unfortunately, in order to write emotionally, you must expose yourself to diverse opinions in order to make it right. It comes with the territory. 

BMIA.comWhat’s the best part of being a young writer?

Will GWell, thanks for the compliment, but I’m not that young.  But I am rather new to writing. The best part for me is watching my reader’s excitement about the story and understanding their perception of the characters.  If they have strong feelings about the characters or story, then that is very satisfying.  It makes me feel great because they have taken a moment of their valuable time to experience a story I created.  

BMIA.comWhat would you like to do as a writer that you haven’t been able to do at this point in your life?  

Will GI would love to have the opportunity to make the great American classic mystery thriller movie. 

BMIA.comWhat are the biggest challenge facing black men in America

Will GThis sounds crazy, but I go back to Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe the Hype”.  It’s a glass half empty, half full argument.  My take, however, is that black men should question any hype, including that which sometimes comes from within our own community.  America is and probably will always be about selling products.  Images and expectations lead people to buy products and encourage behavior, which supports buying more products.  Marketing has no color barriers.  The biggest challenge for American Black Men is to reject these marketed expectations of behavior and “dream outside of the box”.  It was Tiger Woods’ father who had to dream outside of the box, not Tiger.  Tiger Woods at seven did not know he was doing something that could one day make history.  But his parents did.  They had to focus and give him the best.  We as Black men should expect to do great things, live long rewarding lives and settle for nothing less. That is up to us, not someone else.  Basketball or “player skills is not a requirement for our success. 

BMIA.comHow can people reading this interview support you? 

Will GFirst, I would like to thank you Gary Johnson and Black Men in America.com for sharing time with me and the cast/crew of LeDroit’s Home Team.  I would encourage most of your readers to do research on African-American neighborhoods in your state.  Although Ledroit Park is in Washington, DC, there are many similar communities worldwide.  LeDroit’s Home Team is available to be performed as a production or a fundraiser anywhere in the world.  Since Theater Blue is a small theater company, we need sponsors to bring our production to an auditorium in your state or city.  I prefer most of our productions be performed with fundraising events.  The reason for this is two-fold.  We keep the money in the community and support organizations that invest in their community.  Most productions have a local community historic exhibit after the play, include local musicians, artists, local Negro League Team artifacts, local museums and organizations. We can be reached anytime at 703-470-1757 or by e-mail at PR@ledroitshometeam.com

BMIA.com:  What advice would you give to people who want to write for a living?   

Will GStart writing today and don’t stop.  Find a friend or family member to share your stories.  Eventually, they will tire of telling you you’re great and tell you the truth.  That’s when you know you are on your way, because the passion to make it right will force you to keep writing, expand your audience and improve your tradecraft.

This interview was conducted by Gary Johnson

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From Gang Banger to Mentor:  The Life and Times of Leifel Jackson 

I was not aware of Leifel Jackson until his publicist Jackie O. Asare brought him to my attention a couple of months ago.  Leifel Jackson has made a remarkable transformation from gang leader to community activist, youth advocate, motivational speaker, gang consultant, and Executive Director of Our Club, a government funded youth violence prevention program dedicated to mentoring at-risk youth.  

So who is Leifel Jackson?  Leifel Jackson first garnered national attention in one of HBO’s highest rated documentaries, “Bangin’ In Little Rock,” which also won a CableAce Award for Best Documentary in 1994.  At the time, Jackson was leader of the Original Gangster Crips (OGC), one of the most powerful gangs in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the target for the controversial 1993 drive by shooting caught on camera.  Jackson was arrested shortly after for drug trafficking and served 8 years in Little Rock’s federal prison.  While incarcerated, he taught himself to read and write and also had a spiritual awakening. 

A decade later, Leifel Jackson, was featured in the follow-up, “Back In The Hood:  Gang War 2,” but this time he was trying to make a difference in his territory.   

While Jackson has made what many would say is a remarkable transition from gang leader to community activist he continues to face his share of challenges in everyday life.  Due to his past experiences, Jackson sees everyday as a struggle because of his belief that the “system” is set up so there is little chance or incentive to break free from gang affiliation and illegal activity.  “I can’t get insurance.  I haven’t had a check-up since I been out of prison,” says Jackson. “Sometimes I wonder how am I going to take care of myself and my family.  I struggle day by day, working two or three jobs, doing odds and ends and despite the changes I’ve made in my life, I’ll always be considered an ex-offender and former gang leader.” 

Although he doesn’t condone it, Jackson doesn’t look down on or criticizes the people who can’t take the pressure that society places on them and go back to selling drugs.  “I understand how hard it is out here for them today.  It’s a lot easier doing time and staying locked up, than it is struggling out here to make ends meet,” says Jackson. 

Despite all the odds against him, Jackson is determined to stay on the right path.  “I’m committed to living my life as an example that you can come home regardless of how long you’ve been gone and still make it.  Anyone can make a change and everyone can make a difference.  When it comes to giving, I think there’s a greater obligation on the people fortunate enough to overcome the streets, to give back to the hood.  I’ve done a lot out in the streets and to my community, now I’m trying to put something better in the hood.” 

I went into this interview wanting to know more about what life was like for Leifel Jackson and explore the “logic” of the gang culture.  I came away with a reminder that the war on terror is not waged overseas.  The war on terror is anywhere a community is terrorized by gang violence.  And although I didn’t understand or identify with everything Leifel Jackson said, I accept that that’s the truth as he sees it.  

The Leifel Jackson Interview 

BMIA:  You’ve made a remarkable transformation from a gang leader to a community activist, gang consultant and motivational speaker.  What made you decide to turn your life around?  

L. Jackson:  Actually there wasn’t any one thing.  I think one of the biggest things that made my change my life is that I saw so many black males and females dying around me and I knew something wasn’t right about it. 

BMIA:  Are you ever tempted to go back to your old way of life?  If so, what do you do to “stay the course” and not return to life as a gang member?  

L. Jackson:  We’re all tempted by different things that come back from the past.  Of course, there’s temptation especially when it comes to finances.  But I understand the impact that I have on the community and the people who I love.  

BMIA:  Where were you born and raised?  

L. Jackson:  I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas.  

BMIA:  What was your home life like growing up?  

L. Jackson:  I was raised in a two-parent household, but still I got involved in drugs at an early age.  My father was an alcoholic.  So that one drink and one hit sent me down an early road of addiction.  

BMIA:  Did you have any positive role models in your life growing up?  If so, who were they and what was their influence on you? 

L. Jackson:  The only positive role model in my life was my father.  He raised six boys from one mother and he was always there for us no matter what happened.  So I learned a lot about fatherhood from him.  Another person who influenced me was a chef who I worked with named Gary Kitchum.  He never gave up on me.  Sometimes he would close down his kitchen just to support me when I went to court.  He taught me how to create ice carvings, gourmet meals, and how to prepare fresh seafood, which is one of my specialties.  I love to cook.  

BMIA:  So you had a positive male role models in your life and still went astray. 

L. Jackson:  Yep. 

BMIA:  How old were you and what grade were you in when you joined a gang?  

L. Jackson:  I was about 28 when I joined and started a gang.  

BMIA:  Why did you join a gang?  

L. Jackson:  I was raised that a man should never hug another man.  If you did, you were funny (gay).  So I went through life not hugging my brothers and father.  I moved to Southern California and I saw a guy walk up to another guy who I knew wasn’t funny.  He hugged him and squeezed him tightly and said:  “What’s up cuz?”  I wanted that feeling of instant family.  

BMIA:  Why do you think kids join gangs?

L. Jackson:  I think kids join gangs for a lot of different reasons.  Some for respect, protection, as a surrogate family, or sometimes just because of the community that they stay in. Sometimes girls are attracted to you when you’re down with a gang and the female gang bangers join sometimes to get the attention of their male counterparts.  

BMIA:  Do girls join a gang for the same reason as boys?  

L. Jackson:  Yes, I think girls and guys join for the pretty much the same reasons.   

BMIA:  Can gang violence ever be stopped or curbed to a point where it is manageable?  

L. Jackson:  Yes, I believe it can be curbed.  Back in the early 90’s the murder rate in Arkansas was higher than it was in CA and NY.  But when people become involved and spend money on intervention and prevention programs and the law enforcement get involved in those programs, the gang/murder rate will go down too. When it goes down, always remember that can increase.  These programs need to keep functioning so young people will have other alternatives and not go back to what they know.  

BMIA:  What are some of the signs or indicators that parents/guardians should look for that might indicate that their child may be a gang member? 

L. Jackson:  One of the signs is different markings on the corner pages of the notebooks, a drastic drop in academic performance, change in wardrobe – if your child will only wear a certain colors or refuse to wear a particular color.  If tattoos, branding and other markings appear on their body, changes in their long-term friends or a whole list of new friends that pop on the scene.

BMIA:  How did it feel to be a member of a gang and how did you get to be the leader of the Original Gangsta Crips (OGC)?  

L. Jackson:  The feeling is like another rush.  You’re at the top of your game and having so many people just wanting to be around you is an addiction.  The reason why I become a leader in Arkansas is because I created the Original Gangsta Crips when I returned back from California.  

BMIA:  If possible, I want you be very direct and to the point with your answer to this next question.  What is your message to young people about the dangers of gangs?  

L. Jackson:  You get involved in the gangs and it’s like holding your hand over hot coals that comes out the depths of hell.  It will eventually kill you and the people that you love.  But if you want to make a change in your life, just change your life slowly, start doing positive things and let your life be your example not only for yourself but also for the people around you.  If they see another way of life and they’re interested in leaving the gang behind, you’ll be their inspiration.  One of the worse ways to get out of the lifestyle is to denounce your gang publicly.  That will get you killed! 

BMIA:  What are some of the “unwritten rules” or codes of gang membership?   

L. Jackson:  The unwritten rule is don’t speak out against your group – the same codes of silence and brotherhood that law enforcement uses. 

BMIA:  Help me understand what goes through the mind of a gang member who kills other people and gets involved in other forms of gang violence.  How do you get to a point where killing someone becomes “routine” or something that has to be done?  

L. Jackson:  I’ve never killed anyone, but shooting someone can be addictive because of the power over life.  I don’t think it becomes routine though.  If you’ve ever looked at someone while shooting them, you never forget that.  I think the easiest thing in the world is to close your eyes and shoot someone, but to look at the person while you do it will never leave you. 

BMIA:  I know that you were arrested for drug trafficking and served 8 years in Little Rock’s federal prison.  When you were serving time in prison, what did you do to get through the day-to-day existence of living in prison?  

L. Jackson:  I would get up and exercise.  While in prison, I taught myself how to read and write, so I spent a lot of time researching my case and reading books.  

BMIA:  You gained national attention back in 1994 in the HBO documentary “Bangin’ In Little Rock.”  Here it is 10 years later and you’re involved in a new documentary, “Back In The Hood:  Gang War 2.”  Tell us about both films.  

L. Jackson:  The first film revealed to the world the gang situation in Little Arkansas in the early 90’s. We had a serious problem with a higher per capita murder rate than Los Angeles and New York.   The second film followed some of the lives in the first film.  My role in the 2nd film was to show how hard it really is as a convicted felon to raise a family and survive with those strikes against you.  We all showed our struggle and progression ten years later.  

BMIA:  Don’t you risk violating your parole by associating with gang members?  

L. Jackson:  Yes, I do risk violating my parole, but those are the main people who I need to reach.  If I’m violated for helping my people make a change, then so be it.  

BMIA:  Tell me about your family and to what extent have you shared your gang affiliation with them?  

L. Jackson:  Most of my kids are second-generation gang members.  Of course my brother is still in it too.  Working with my kids and my family has been one of my biggest tasks, because they know me and my change was so dramatic.  It’s hard for them to understand how I can change my life so drastically and that I’m willing to struggle to stay on the right path.  But I’m hoping that as I continue, it will inspire them and show them a different way of life.   

BMIA:  Do you have any remorse for the things that you’ve done and the people whose lives you have affected?  

L. Jackson:  Yes, I do have remorse, but I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason and I think that my reason for still being here and not dead like so many others is because my purpose is to make a change in so many people’s lives.  

BMIA:  What’s the best thing about being Leifel Jackson? 

L. Jackson:  The best thing now about being Leifel Jackson is that I can be a beacon of light in someone’s eyes.  A ray of hope for those who have lost hope.  A counselor, friend, and father figure to those young people who need someone like me close to them.  I’ve lived it, so I understand what they’re going through and what they’re feeling.  I’m here to show them that there’s an alternative.  

BMIA:  What’s the worst thing about Leifel Jackson?  

L. Jackson:  That I didn’t understand everything that I understand now sooner.  

BMIA:  Do you harbor any bitterness or resentment toward anyone who you feel did you wrong? 

L. Jackson:  No I don’t harbor any resentment because bitterness becomes anger and anger kills.  

BMIA:  Do you accept responsibility for the things that have happened in your life?  

L. Jackson:  Yes I do, I accept full responsibility.  

BMIA:  What is a typical day look like for Leifel Jackson?”  Paint a picture for us.  

L. Jackson:  My daughter wakes me up around 4:30 am or 5:00 am and my wife and I take her to daycare and then while driving to the center I plan my day.  I put on some coffee as soon as I get there and get everything up and running so that when the kids come around 3:00 pm there’s an agenda.  The staff and I prepare snacks, meals and a lesson plan.  When the kids arrive we give them their snacks first and then we help them with their homework –(Reading, Math and English).  If they finish their schoolwork early, we spend quality time with them.  The center closes around 6:00 pm and then I head home and spend the night with my daughter and wife.  I check e-mails, reply, confirm speaking engagements, go to bed and start again the next day.  

BMIA:  Tell us about your involvement in Our Club, a government funded youth violence prevention program dedicated to mentoring at-risk youth.  How did that transition come about? 

L. Jackson:  I am the Director of Sherman Park’s Our Club.  I help promote the Our Club Juvenile Services.  That transition came about when I was going around talking with junior high school and high school kids through The Love Foundation.  A friend of mine referred me for a position that was opening at the Sherman Park Our Club and it was no turning back from there. 

BMIA:  What is the organization’s mission?  

L. Jackson:  The organization actually started when I was gang banging in the early 90’s.  A county judge came to me and asked what can we do to keep the kids from getting in involved with gangs.  My answer to her was to get involved and find a place for them to go.  After that the city, state, and local communities came together to form Our Club.  The mission of Our Club is to provide a safe haven after school for youth from the ages 6-17, to help build their self-esteem, teach them real life skills and assist with academic tutoring.  

BMIA:  What is your relationship with the police and law enforcement officials?

L. Jackson:  Little Rock law enforcement in general is hesitant about doing any work with me; however, I work closely with the North Little Rock Law enforcement.  

BMIA:  When you die, how do you want to be remembered?  

L. Jackson:  I want to be remembered as a father and someone who helped make a change for the better.  

BMIA:  When you die, how do you think you’ll be remembered?

L. Jackson:  I know I’m going to be remembered as a father by my kids – both my biological kids and the kids from Our Club.  But there will be some who will always remember me as the leader of The Original Gangsta Crips and as a drug dealer.  

BMIA:  If people want to support your efforts at reaching at risk youth, what is the best way to do that?  

L. Jackson:  We’re working on developing a web site where people will be able to learn more about our efforts at reaching at our young people at risk.  If anyone needs to reach me, they can e-mail me directly at Lrjacc@hotmail.com. My publicist, Jackie O. handles any speaking engagements and interviews and she can be reached at 4Sight Media Relations, Inc. (718) 789-1818 or by e-mail at Jackieo@4sightmedia.com.  Her web site, www.4sightmedia.com has some information on me and on the HBO documentary.  Hopefully my web site will be completed shortly.  

BMIA:  Any final comments that you want to share?  

L. Jackson:  My final comment is these are unique times, especially for the African-Americans across this country and we should be open to unique measures to combat them.  We shouldn’t be afraid of asking those who’ve been there to show us what needs to be done.  We are best equipped to reach those who need direction.  Get involved now, however you can to destroy the vicious cycle of violence is destroying our community.  

BMIA:  Thank you very much for answering the questions.  

L. Jackson:  I’m happy to and I thank Black Men In America.com for considering my life worthy enough for attention.  I’m hoping to continue to share my experiences to help make changes in other peoples lives.  

Closing Note:  Leifel Jackson is currently setting up a speaking tour, writing his autobiography, and working towards establishing a company that would help acclimate ex-offenders to life after prison.  The organization will also dedicate itself towards giving Crips, Bloods, and other gang affiliates who have been written off by society other alternatives. 

Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In America.com, conducted this interview.

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He Fights for America’s Inner City Schools 

Salome Thomas-EL was born and raised in the inner city of Philadelphia.  At the age of 22, he entered public service as a schoolteacher in the Philadelphia School District.  Now 18 years later, Salome Thomas-EL received national acclaim as a teacher and chess coach at Vaux Middle School, where his students have gone on to win world recognition as Eight-Time National Chess Champions.

Armed with only a chess board and a profound belief in their potential, Thomas-EL’s faith and commitment has motivated hundreds of children in Philadelphia to attend magnet high schools, then going on to major colleges and universities.

Inspired by his mother, Thomas-EL’s sense of values is a driving factor in his success with children.  He credits his late mother with being the most influential person in his life.  She was a single mom who raised 8 children.  “My mother taught us to never give up even when others around us have already done so,” Thomas EL said of his mother.  “She was a powerful Black Woman, he said." 

Thomas EL’s childhood experiences mirrors many of the youths that cross his path.  After studying this man and talking with people who know him I walked away with a sense that his work with young people is much like a ministry.  He said, “The blessing is in being able to serve young people.  I love being a part of shaping their lives and the future of our community.  I grew up without my dad in our home and hope to provide some male leadership for children.”  We need more men like Salome Thomas-EL. 

Working with children, as rewarding as it can be, is not easy work.  I asked Thomas-EL, “What motivates you to do this work?”  He replied, “The joy of knowing that I am helping to create positive citizens in the community who will leave to get educated and return to improve it.  I love being a role model and father figure for our children.”

This is a special brother.  As part of his commitment to opening the world up to show “his kids” that there are other ways to be than those to which they have been exposed, Thomas-EL takes them to visit colleges and then attends their graduations.  Reflecting on how it feels to see a young person he has mentored walk down the aisle toward a real future instead of to an early grave, Thomas-EL has said:  “I’ve been to too many funerals; I need to go to more graduations.”

Last year Thomas-EL wrote a book called "I Choose To Stay." The book, has garnered the attention of Walt Disney Pictures, which has agreed to distribute a movie based on Thomas-EL’s life story.  The book is based Thomas EL's choice in November 1997 to turn down a promotion and remain at Vaux Middle School, despite a $25,000 raise and the power to influence a greater number of students if he transferred to another school. 

The Disney movie will be produced and directed by brothers Greg and Gavin O’Connor, along with Tim Chambers at Solaris Entertainment.  They were most recently teamed together for the hit movie ‘Miracle,’ an inspirational story about the 1980 Gold Medal winning USA Olympic Hockey team. 

California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was so impressed by Thomas-EL and his students during a visit – one girl on the team defeated the Governor in a chess match – that he awarded the school a $20,000 grant.  Arnold Schwarzenegger, a strong supporter, wrote the foreword to the book.

There are a lot of brothers like Salome Thomas-EL who are doing the work of others and making a positive difference in their community.  For years good teachers have been leaving the public school system in mass.  Salome Thomas-EL chose to stay.  To learn more about this courageous man read our interview and you’ll get a snapshot of this extraordinary man. 


He Chooses To Stay:  An Interview With Salome Thomas-EL 

BMIA.com:  Tell us about your book. 

Salome Thomas-EL:  A story about my life and the lives of my students who worked hard to become National Chess Champions.  It is a story of the deaths of my students and the triumphs (graduations from college and law school). 

BMIA.com:  Who do you look up to and admire? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  My mother (Amena Hotep), Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, Marva Collins. 

BMIA.com:  What’s your definition of leadership? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  Leadership is the caring for the community as a whole instead of focusing on individual gains.  The ability to be an honest, moral and fearless model of persistence.  Lastly, effective leaders must have the ability to communicate his/her plan and vision.  Remember, a vision without a plan is a hallucination. 

BMIA.com:  Do you consider yourself a leader?

Salome Thomas-EL:  I believe I am an emerging leader who is still learning. 

BMIA.com:  What is your reaction to the recent comments by Bill Cosby about some blacks in our community? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  I think Bill Cosby has earned the right to discuss the ills of our community in public.  He was right on target.  I do wish he had mentioned some of the positives that are evident.  When we give examples of excellence it gives others something to aspire to.  I bear witness to some of the issues he discussed because I am an educator who witnesses the destruction of our children.  We must remember our children do not run the cities or the school systems.  They do not even manage the homes they live in.  We as adults must take responsibility for our young.  There should be a national movement to create and develop better parenting in our community.   

BMIA.com:  Walt Disney Co. has acquired the option to make a movie based on your book “I Choose To Stay.”  How did this come about? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  A producer from Solaris Entertainment (The Disney Movie “Miracle”) read about my book in a mainstream magazine.  He called me and flew to Philly from California to meet with me right away.  He presented the movie idea to Disney and they liked it.  By the way, Essence and Ebony refused to write anything about my book.  

BMIA.com:  Really, they passed?

Salome Thomas-EL:  Yes.

BMIA.com:  What do you want people to learn as a result of reading your book? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  I’d like them to see that there are positive Black Men, young people and dedicated teachers.  Also, I want readers to know that my story is not about one exceptional leader or teacher but the thousands who are sacrificing everyday to improve our community and race. 

BMIA.com:  How can people reading this article support you and your work? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  They can make monetary donations to our chess program or school.  They can also volunteer in their local schools as a reading coach or mentor.  They are all natural role modes because they have come from where our students presently stand. 

BMIA.com:  If you didn’t have to worry about money or resources, what would you do with your life? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  I would build a new state of the art residential school with grass and awesome facilities for our students.  Many of our children do not receive the proper care and love at home and can be so much more successful if they were in a better place.  I would give every student a chance to go to “Penn State instead of the State Pen.” 

BMIA.com:  Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  I am hoping to speak to students, teachers and parents in every major city in America about what needs to be done to improve our situation.  I love to motivate young and old people to make a difference. 

BMIA.com:  As we bring this feature to a close, what else would like people to know about you and your work? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  I am available as a speaker for most positive events.  I have spoken to over 100,000 people so far and look forward to meeting even more to discuss the power of influence.  I try to limit it to 6 events a month but it is getting difficult.  They can visit my web site for more at:  www.ichoosetostay.com. 

BMIA.com:  Is there anything else you would like to share before we end this interview? 

Salome Thomas-EL:  Yes.  Please go out and buy the new Chicken Soup for the African American Soul book that will be released in September 2004.  This is the first Chicken Soup book for African Americans and should be the top seller.  I do have a story in the book along with many other wonderful writers.  Tom Joyner is the co-author and some of the proceeds from the book help Black Students stay in college.  Please tell all your friends too.  Get more info at www.africanamericansoul.com

Salome Thomas-EL is married and lives in Philadelphia with his wife and baby daughter.  Currently, he is the Principal at John F. Reynolds Elementary School in North Philadelphia where he has established reading and breakfast programs as well as a Saturday morning tutoring program.  I Choose To Stay has been featured in Chicken Soup for the African American Soul (September 2004).

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Pamela Thomas-Graham Is A Model Of Success 

Who is Pamela Thomas-Graham?  Wanting an answer to that question, I asked Thomas-Graham to have breakfast with me in order to learn more about her and her definition of success.  Pamela Thomas-Graham is arguably one of America’s most successful and influential African-American businesswoman.  As President and Chief Executive Officer of CNBC, the world's largest TV business news network, she is without question the most influential woman in the cable industry.  CNBC reportedly earns approximately 300 million dollars in profit annually. 

CNBC provides business news programming and financial market coverage to more than 201 million homes worldwide, including more than 86 million households in the U.S. and Canada.  Thomas-Graham is responsible for all CNBC domestic operations, including programming and business development.  And in 2003, Thomas-Graham was appointed to the board of CNBC International (Europe and Asia), which oversees CNBC globally.

Poised, relaxed, and self-assured, Thomas-Graham works hard to achieve an acceptable balance between work and family life.  She is, after all, a corporate executive, a bestselling novelist, a wife, and a mother of three. 

And what is Pamela Thomas-Graham’s formula for success?  According to her, the formula is four-fold: hard work, networking, listening to her mentors, plus a little bit of luck.  In order to get the “quiet time” that she needs to read and write, this mother of three youngsters often gets up at 4:00 A.M.  “My work is a labor of love,” say Thomas-Graham—a statement I had no difficulty in believing. 

The seeds of success for Thomas-Graham were planted at a young age.  “My parents believed in education.  Getting a good education was a given in my household,” says Thomas-Graham.  After a parochial school education in Detroit, she completed undergraduate studies (economics) at Harvard College and then earned degrees from Harvard's law and business schools. 

Asked about the connection between mentoring and success, Thomas-Graham made clear her belief that it is important for people to have role models and to see someone in a position of power who looks like them.  “I’ve had some terrific mentors in college and in my professional life.  I consider women like Debbie Lee [President and COO of Black Entertainment Television] and Cathy Hughes [Owner/Chair of Radio One, Inc.] to be role models.”  With regard to success in the workplace, Thomas-Graham noted, “You have to be very determined, and sometimes you can’t take no for an answer.  You can’t let other people define you.” 

Ten years before coming to NBC in September 1999, Thomas-Graham joined  McKinsey & Company, a prestigious management-consulting firm.  Later, at the young age of 32, she made business history as that firm’s first black woman partner and one of the leaders of its Media and Entertainment practice. 

Because it is important in today’s world to examine professional success through the prism of racism, I asked her about the impact of racism on her career.  “Racism is much more sophisticated today than it was years ago,” says Thomas-Graham.  Although she admitted that she had experienced racism in the course of her career, she believes that hard work and preparation are two of the keys to mitigating its impact. 

In 2002, Thomas-Graham was selected as one of Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Black Executives in America" and was named one of Television Week's "12 to Watch in 2003."  Ms. Magazine selected her as one of its "Women of the Year" in 2003, deeming her "the most influential African American woman in cable television."  Crain's New York Business recently named her as one of the "100 Most Powerful Minority Business Leaders."  She’s also received numerous honors and awards, including the 2003 NAMIC Vision Award, the 2001 Matrix Award from New York Women in Communications, and the "Woman of the Year" award from the Financial Women's Association. 

In addition to her corporate work, Thomas-Graham is the best-selling author of the critically-acclaimed "Ivy League Mystery Series," which includes two novels published by Simon & Schuster:  A Darker Shade of Crimson and Blue Blood.  Her latest book, “Orange Crushed,” is part of that series and features Nikki Chase, a black feminist, crime-solving economics professor. 

Unlike many first-time authors, Thomas-Graham was surprised that she landed a book deal with relative ease.  The agent who represented her husband, attorney and author Lawrence Otis Graham, read Thomas-Graham’s manuscript and decided on the spot to represent her. 

Pamela Thomas-Graham is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.  She serves on the boards of the New York City Opera, the American Red Cross of Greater New York and the Visiting Committee for Harvard College.  Thomas-Graham and her husband live in Westchester County with their three children. 

This interview was conducted by Gary Johnson on June 22, 2004.

Remembering Greg Page

In 2004, Gary Johnson spoke with former WBA Heavyweight Champion Greg Page in an interview that many boxing experts and reporters claim is one of the best interviews ever conducted with the former champion. 

Greg passed away on April 27, 2009, at the age of 50 at his Louisville, Kentucky home. In his final fight in 2001, Page suffered a a brain injury and during post-fight surgery suffered a stroke.  Greg Page was 42 and had a 58-16-1 career record going into the fight where he reportedly earned $1,500.00 for fighting 24 year-old Dale Crowe at Peels Palace in Erlanger, Ky.  Page went down after 10 rounds and didn't get up.

Looking back, Greg Page should be remembered for how he fought in the ring of with life.

A National Golden Gloves and National AAU champion in 1978, Page was a talented boxer who may not have gotten all he could have out of his skill set, but he did win the WBA Heavyweight title in 1984 with an eighth round TKO of Gerrie Coetzee.  Page lost the belt in his first defense to Tony Tubbs in 1985, but continued to fight until 2001.  Among his victims in the ring were George Chaplin, Stan Ward, Alfredo Evangelista, Scott LeDoux, Jimmy Young, James Tillis, Renaldo Snipes, James Broad, Bonecrusher Smith and Tim Witherspoon.

Rest in Peace Champ!

Here is Gary Johnson's 2004 landmark interview with former WBA Heavyweight Champion Greg Page.  Many    boxing experts have reported this as one of the best interviews ever conducted with the former champion.

Former Heavyweight Champion Greg Page Is Down, But Not Out

By Gary A. Johnson--Publisher, Black Men In America.com

Folks, I’ve been a boxing fan since I was eight years old.  At that time I idolized Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali.  In the mid-70’s, I remember hearing about a young “up and comer” named Greg Page.  Page attended the same high school as Ali and had developed a similar boxing style.  He was so talented as a youngster that he sparred with Muhammad Ali when he was just 15 years old.  Brash, flashy and exciting, Greg Page was billed as the heir apparent to Ali and the next “big thing” in the heavyweight division of boxing.  

As time passed, Page rose steadily in the ranks of the boxing world, eventually becoming one of its heavyweight champions.  There were, however, a number of boxing pundits who felt that Page never lived up to the lofty expectation that he might be the next Muhammad Ali.  Although Page was consistently criticized for being an underachiever, I always thought some of that criticism was unfair.  There is only one Muhammad Ali.  I felt critics who constantly compared Page’s every move to that of Ali put an unreasonable amount of pressure on this young fighter. 

As the years passed, I continued to follow the sport and watched boxer after boxer fight past his prime.  I would shake my head in disgust watching boxers who had no business being in the ring. And the list of such boxers was long:  Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ron Lyle, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, John Mugabi, Mike Weaver, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Simon Brown, Mike Tyson, Leon Spinks, Terry Norris, Michael Dokes, Alexis Arguello, Ray Mancini and Aaron Pryor.  

Greg Page is now a member of a haunting fraternity—the forgotten warriors of professional boxing.  In March 2001, Page—at age 42 and weighing 238 pounds--stepped into the ring to fight a 24-year-old boxer named Dale Crowe.  Page was making somewhat of a comeback and had been doing his full complement of road work--three or four miles a day almost every day of the week.  A former heavyweight champion who had fought before royalty and the governing elite, Page on this night was fighting at Peel's Palace in Kentucky for a mere $1500 dollars.  

According to ringside observers, Page entered the ring in the robe and shoes that he had worn 16 years ago when he won the World Boxing Association heavyweight crown from Gerald Coetzee in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1984.  Page held that title for 5 months before losing to Tony Tubbs in April 1985.  From August 1993 to May 1996, Page did not fight professionally.  He told me that he stayed in shape and worked with other fighters.  

The fight began, and Page appeared to be holding his own against the young fighter until the 10th round.  “The timekeeper smacked the mat with his hand toward the end of the fight to indicate 10 seconds were left, and that's when I went after Greg with one last flurry,” his opponent Crowe was quoted as saying.  The beginning of that flurry was a straight left flush to Page's chin.  Page’s head seemed to move forward and his body followed.  Crowe then pushed Page against the ropes, and Page slid down to the mat.  

According to news reports, Page’s friends at ringside said that, within 30 seconds, Page was in a different world.  Longtime friend and corner man Kelly Mays said, “His eyes were open, and yes, you could say he was conscious for a couple of minutes, but to my eye —there was nobody home.  It was a deep dark glaze in his eyes.  He wasn't there, anymore.”  

Little did Mays know that, on that night, Greg Page suffered traumatic brain injury and a massive stroke.  

Page was in a coma for a week at Cincinnati’s University Hospital and then endured 13 weeks of inpatient therapy before being released.  The man that doctors predicted would be a “vegetable” if he lived was instead on his way home.  That was in 2001.  Today, Greg Page lives with 24-hour, round-the-clock care.  

As I studied that tragic fight and prepared for this interview, it became clear early on that this would be an interview that goes beyond boxing.  Rather, it is a story about a man who beat the odds and lived to tell his story.  And it is a story about a woman whose faith, love, and devotion are a true testament to her commitment to her man.  Greg Page is not the man he was yesterday.  Every day that he wakes up makes him a miracle in progress.  In addition to physical therapy and rehabilitation, Page needs over 21 medications a day.  The Page family is one crisis away from being homeless.  Despite all of the money that he earned for himself and generated for others, Greg Page was essentially an Independent Contractor without insurance, benefits, or a pension.  His wife Patricia has dedicated her life to taking care of Greg.  And, fulfilling a promise she made to him when he asked her “not to let this happen to anyone,” she is an advocate working to make boxing a safer sport.  

According to recent statistics, approximately 87% of all boxers will suffer a "brain injury" at some point in their career.  Greg and Patricia Page want to educate all boxers and their families about the need for access to health and life insurance as well as information about money management.  Greg Page was the heavyweight champion of the world, but he didn’t take advantage of such opportunities, in part because he was unaware of his options.  

By now, some of you are probably wondering how a man who earned hundreds of thousands of dollars per fight would fail to recognize that he needed insurance.  Well. you’re not alone.  I had plenty of questions for the former champ and was able to get answers to all of them thanks to Patricia, his primary caretaker.  She arranged this interview between me and the former champ.  I found her to be a spiritual and courageous woman whose life was changed in an instant.  And through it all, Patricia’s faith in God and her love for Greg are both moving and inspiring.  Greg Page is an example of how courage and faith in God sustain a person even in the hardest of times.  I hope you enjoy reading this interview with Greg and Patricia, whom he affectionately calls “Patty,” as much as I enjoyed conducting it.    

Before I spoke with the champ, Patricia warned me that her husband “has his good days and his bad days.”  As a result of his brain injury, Page experiences memory problems, irregular sleeping patterns and he tires easily.  There were some days when the champ simply didn’t want to be bothered with my questions and said, “I’m not fooling with this today.”  As a result, this interview had no deadline.  I decided to accommodate the champ and work around his schedule.  

My first interview with the champ was memorable.  It was an early evening interview and the champ was well rested and in great spirits.  He watches a lot of television when he’s not in rehab or therapy.  He loves watching “Judge Judy”, soap operas and re-runs of Sanford and Son.  Page’s recall of names and places and other facts was impressive.  At one point the champ asked me if I knew Frankie Smith.  I was racking my brain thinking about boxers.  I finally confessed that I had no ideas who he was and the champ replied:  “Double Dutch Bus.”  Page loves his 80’s music and Frankie Smith recorded one of Page’s favorite songs of that era, “Double Dutch Bus.”  We also talked about the about the Sugar Hill Gang and other rap and disco era groups.  Page is also familiar with many of today’s popular music artists.  

It should be noted that several times during the interview I had difficulty understanding what Page was trying to say.  His speech was slurred but his voice was vibrant and strong.  When I had trouble understanding Page, Patricia would jump in and explain what the champ said or was trying to say.  Having Patricia in the room was helpful and not a distraction.  She did not speak for the champion.  Page understood the questions and answered them, not Patricia.  There were times when I had the sense that Page’s mind was faster than his tongue when it came to responding to some of the questions.  

Patricia arranged for this interview.  She works a fulltime job and comes home to take care of Greg.  She’s his sole caretaker in charge of medication and she works his body on the days that he doesn’t go to rehab.  And through it all, her faith in God and her love for Greg is what keeps her going.   

I hope you enjoy this interview with Greg and Patricia Page, who he affectionately calls “Patty,” as much as I enjoyed conducting it. 

Down, But Not Out:  The Greg Page Interview  

Former Champ Greg Page and his devoted wife Patricia 

(Click On Photo To Enlarge)  

Gary Johnson/BMIA.com:  Greg you suffered a severe brain injury and massive stroke from an injury sustained in a "state sanctioned" professional boxing match.  How has this incident changed your life?  

Greg Page:  There is almost nothing about my life that is the same.  I am paralyzed on my entire left side.  Sometimes I can't tell you what I had for breakfast.  My long term memory is pretty good (some days) but short term it is pretty rocky most of the time.  I heard a while back that some of my "relatives" and "friends" back in Vegas, where I had lived for the better part of 15 years were saying I was retarded now.  I AM NOT retarded.  That really gets to me.  They also said I was "pitiful."  I AM NOT pitiful!  When I was laying in the hospital intensive care unit fighting for my life, maybe, just maybe then I was pitiful.  God chose me for this test!  I am a living, talking testament to God's mercy and blessings.  

BMIA.com:  It seems that boxers, more than any other athlete “hang on” longer than they should in the sport.  They just don’t seem to know when to quit.  Greg, you had been out of the boxing game for a long time.  What prompted you at the age of 42 to get back in the ring?  Was it the lure of having a big payday and shot in the limelight?  

Greg Page:  That is one of the myths about my career.  I never left boxing.  There were periods that I was not actively fighting but I was still training myself and also training other fighters.  Over the years I have trained many fighters.  I trained Oliver McCall and was in his corner when he defeated Lennox Lewis in England.  One of the women I trained, Marischa Sjauw is a five-time world champion in Europe.  I trained many up and coming fighters.   

After I lost to Bruce Seldon in 1993, (we were fighting for the IBF title) I was disgusted, with the fight game and myself.  I didn't have the fire in my belly to keep at it like I should.  So, I retired and became Mr. Mom.  My wife at that time worked for Don King and she was always gone on the road with one fighter or the other and that left our 2 girls with various friends or relatives.  It was one person then the other and I didn't like that.  So I decided to come off the road and stay home with the girls, which I did for almost 3 years.  I got up each morning and got them ready for school.  I even fixed their hair for them.  I fixed their breakfast and then I took them to school.  I went and did my roadwork and went to the gym to train.  After school, I picked the girls up, took them home, fixed dinner (oh yeah, I'm a real good cook) and then we did homework and watched TV till bedtime.  

Then the money started getting tight and the marriage wasn't doing too good so I decided to go back out on the road and back into the ring.  At the same time I continued with training other fighters.  I stayed on the road most of the time.  My marriage as I said was mostly over.  I went back to Vegas, where we had lived, for 15 or so years to see my girls but that was about it.  

In 1997, I moved to Nashville and was training fighters to beat fighters that I knew I could beat.  So I started fighting seriously.  Also, I had a reconnection With God.  I re-dedicated my life to him and this was the direction that I felt my spirit was leading me.  When the opportunity presented itself for me to fight for the Kentucky Heavyweight Championship, I thought that it would be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.  And it was, just not in the way that I thought that it would be.  

One of the important things to remember about boxing is that boxing don’t take care of the fighters.  There is no pension plan so unless you look forward and take care of your own retirement plan-- there is none.  Boxing is the only sport that I can think of that don’t take care of its own.  Just like I didn’t have no insurance when this happened, the promoter didn’t have no insurance to cover me like I now know that he was supposed to have.  

BMIA.com:  Wow!  You mentioned that your former wife used to work for boxing promoter Don King.  How would you describe your relationship with Don King?  

Greg Page:  Don King has a way of surrounding you and becoming bigger than life to his fighters.  Their families and entourage look up to him and come to depend on him.  My father signed me to fight with Don King before he died.  My relationship with Don was rocky and chaotic for the most part.  Some of the fights that I lost, that were close fights were; I feel, because I was fighting one of Carl King’s (Don’s son) fighters or because Don and I were battling each other.  It is hard to keep your mind focused on what you are supposed to be doing when there is nothing but chaos all around you.  That is how it was with me.  I felt like it was divide and conquer.  And I could not get beyond the chaos to do my job.  

When I got hurt, I heard that someone asked Don what he thought about it and Don said that he didn’t know I was still around or still fighting or something like that.  

(Patricia wants to respond).  

Patricia Page:  Last year, I was contacted by a reporter from Max Boxing who said that she had talked to Don King about Greg and asked what he had done to help him.  Supposedly he told her that he had “sent Mrs. Page some money but that obviously it wasn’t enough since she kept calling him and asking for more.”  I have NEVER talked to Don King.  I left several messages for him to call us but he never did.  Once that reporter told me that, I wrote Don King a letter and sent it certified telling him that we had never received anything from him and telling him that if he had sent anything to Greg we never received it.  It would appear, from all that I have heard that he got offended and went on the defensive.  That was never my intention.  I still feel like, for all of the years that Greg was involved with Don King, and obviously, Don has made money off of Greg, that the very least that he could do is to check on him.  That would be the humanitarian thing to do.  

Greg Page:  I also received information over the past few months that one of the trainers that I had worked with had sent money to my ex-wife for me, that didn’t come to me.  That’s pretty sad.  

BMIA.com:  Greg I estimated that during the course of your career you had earned several million dollars.  Am I close?  Your last fight purse was reportedly for $1500.00.  Is that true?  

Greg Page:  By most estimates, I have been a millionaire 2 times over.  In the early years, I was surrounded by my family.  After my father died, my mom, uncle and oldest brother took over running things for me.  All I cared about was boxing.  I never paid attention to what I made or what got paid.  I trusted those around me to make sure that things got done.  That didn’t happen.  They bankrupted me.   I lost everything.  I lost my farm, my condo everything.  After that, my ex-wife handled everything.  By the time that I realized what was going on I was bankrupt again.  When I got hurt, I was due to go to Vegas to have a divorce trial to finalize things out there.  That was all done while I was recovering and a lot of ugly things happened.  I left 13 years of marriage with 2 beautiful daughters that I mostly raised that I am only allowed to see for 4 weeks out of the year and I have to pay the transportation costs, which is next to impossible for me.  I lost one house to foreclosure and my ex-wife got the one in Vegas.  I was erased from the equation just like I never existed.  You know what, God don’t like ugly and he will even things out when it’s all said and done.  

So I am back at the beginning, broke but not broken!  I don’t have nothing but some clothes.  Our house, we rent and sometimes it is bad, but God has blessed me with a great woman who loves me as I am!  She has been there for me through thick and thin.  God put me back with a strong woman who is a Christian like me.  Regardless of what happens, I know that she is there for me and that God has my back.  There’s not much more a man can ask for, is there?  When we got married it was for richer or poorer---we are just mostly poor right now.  Our car, I’ve had since 1999.  It is a 1985 Lincoln Towncar that has almost 300,000 miles on it.   It don’t look good and it got stolen and beat up last year but I got it back.  See how God blesses me?  

Yes my last fight’s purse was for $1500.  A small sum for my life huh?  There is a reason that all of this happened.  I was brought down but God is bringing me back up.  I honestly believed that I could be champ again.  I was fighting for all of the right reasons.  I wanted it.  I had a new relationship with God and a woman who believed in me.  My robe bore “Believe in the Knockout Power of the Lord” on the back in testament to my newly revived faith.  I’m a miracle and God isn’t done with me yet.  

BMIA.com:  That’s a pretty bleak financial picture.  Did you have insurance or savings at the time of the fight?  How are you able to live and pay your bills?  Do you have any sources of income?

Greg Page:  My medical bills are probably in the millions by now.  Each month medications cost us nearly $300.  I have several medical appointments per month and that is costly.  I don’t handle that stuff.  Patty does.  Patty and I live from paycheck to paycheck.  I receive a small sum from disability (that just barely covers the rent) and Patty works full time as a medical secretary at Frazier Rehab Institute where I stayed at for over 3 months.  This is tough on her cause after working 8 hours she has to come home and take care of me and my 2 stepdaughters.  Some weeks we wonder if we are gonna have enough to keep the light bill paid or the phone paid. But God always comes through for us.  Patty has insurance that covers some of my stuff but some things we have to pay outright.  

It is tough for me to deal with sometimes, cause I can’t help like I want to.  Like now, there is no money for Christmas.  My stepdaughters are 10 and 11, and they say they understand, rent and food gotta come first but Kids should have Christmas though, ya know?  

BMIA.com:  Your outlook on life is remarkable.  Has the boxing community supported you?  

Greg Page:  There have been a few who have come forward.  Some that I never expected like Gerry Cooney, Tim Witherspoon and Larry Holmes.  An old friend from back in the day, Alex “Bronx Bomber” Ramos and the Retired Boxers Foundation helped with my medications when I was first released.  Muhammad Ali called awhile back.  I also hear from Shelley Williams who I worked for at Prince Ranch and also former heavyweight contender Earnie Shavers.  They keep in contact with me.  I talk to former champion Gerald McClellan and his sister Lisa sometimes and of course, Dale Crowe.  My fans still remember me and that is GREAT!  

Patricia Page:  I have contacted several promoters/managers in hopes that I could get a “Night At The Fights” staged with money to be raised to help Greg but they told me that they would see what they could do and would get back to me.  So far I have heard nothing.  What would it hurt?  Greg could use the support and the financial part wouldn’t hurt either.   

Greg Page:  I told Patty a long time ago, I can’t make them any money anymore so they don’t care about me.  It is when things are the darkest that you find out who your true friends are.  Actually, some that have contacted me like Larry (Holmes) and Tim (Witherspoon), that really surprised me, blew me away.  

BMIA.com:  Being an athlete at the top of your game must be intoxicating.  What is it like to be the heavyweight champion of the world?  

Greg Page:  I do have to say that without a doubt that was one of the most exciting times of my life.  There is a picture that was taken back then and it looks like I am flying, like the R. Kelly song, “I Believe I Can Fly.”  That day I thought I could.  

One of the things that always pissed me off, was that all of the years that I boxed, trained hard, fought hard, everyone else was living high on the hog off my money.  Not a single one of them lost 1 drop of sweat or took one blow, but they enjoyed the benefits of it.  Now that I am down and out, how many do you think are there for me?  

When I took the fight in South Africa , I was slated to lose.  They already had Coetzee’s next title defense fight lined up.  Ha!  I threw a monkey wrench into it for all of them.  I knew I was going to win so did Janks, my trainer.  When I was in training there, I got chased by baboons every day when I did my roadwork.  Not to mention the fact that my fighting in South Africa went against apartheid.  It was not politically correct.  Hell I didn’t care.  I would have gone to the moon to fight and I would have fought anyone!  

BMIA.com:  When you emerged on the boxing scene, there were so many similarities to you and Muhammad Ali.  Some boxing “experts” have analyzed your career and say that you underachieved and that you didn’t use all of your gifts to the fullest.  Do you think that’s a fair assessment?  

Greg Page:  I know that people say that I underachieved.  I was compared a lot with Ali and that was hard for me.  Ali was and is “The Greatest” how do you follow in the footsteps of The Greatest?  I believe that I was blessed with a certain amount of talent.  For the most part, I feel like I worked hard.  I think the bad thing for me was that I had a lot of chaos around me.  The people that I trusted to handle things for me weren’t always looking out for my best interest like I thought they were.  There was a lot of taking and backstabbing going on and that was a bad environment to work in.  I think that my fans appreciated me and enjoyed watching me and at the end of the day that is what is really important.  

BMIA.com:  OK, let me come back to your career for a moment.  How long had you been out of the ring before you took that last fight?  

Greg Page:  As I said before, I hadn’t left boxing.  

Patricia Page:  Greg had a fight in November of 2000 at Longhead’s in Louisville .  He fought in June of 2000 in New York, against Robert Davis.  Several times they have shown clips of that fight and talking about how Greg was being beat up.  What they don’t say is that in the 2nd round, Greg tore up his right shoulder but continued to fight.  He only had one hand to defend himself.  If you check out the video footage, you can see that he is holding the right arm in close.  He flew straight home and went to the hospital emergency room to have his shoulder treated.  The fight that ended his career wasn’t one sided either.  Ask Dale Crowe.  He has told Greg that he has never been hit as hard as Greg hit him.  That fight was pretty physical and tough right up to the end.  

BMIA.com:  This question is for you Patricia.  How did you and Greg meet?  

Patricia Page:  Greg and I went to Ahrens High School in 1975.  We hung out together at school.  We got thrown out of Social Studies class more than once for talking.  We got along really well.  However, Greg moved over the summer and went to another school (Central) after that.  In February 1979, I went to the weigh-ins and surprised him.  We hung out for a couple of months after that.  

Greg Page:    My dad and uncle kept running her off.  They didn’t want any distractions for me.  

Patricia Page (Continuing):  In March of 2000, something drew me to stop by Greg’s grandmother’s house.  We believe that it was the hand of God.  He wasn’t around but I left a note for him.  It just said, “An old friend who’s just checking on ya.”  I put my phone number on the note and left it at that.  That afternoon, I got a phone call that started with, “Is this who I think it is?”  I said, “I don’t know.  Who do you think it is?”  He said, “This is Patty, I recognized your writing.  When can I see you?”  

We made plans to see each other the next day, which we did.  We spent hours talking about the old days and catching each other up on the last 15 years of our lives.  We started seeing each other daily pretty much after that and we decided that God had led us together for a reason.  The rest is pretty much history.  We had one very good year together before Greg’s tragic injury.  We got married on October 30, 2001 .  Greg said that God wouldn’t continue to bless his recovery if we continued to live together without being married.  

BMIA.com:  Greg, your recovery has been nothing short of amazing.  The initial reports that I read immediately after the injury reflected that you would either not survive or would be a “vegetable” for the rest of your life.  How hard has your recovery been?  

Greg Page:  Honestly every day is a different challenge.  Patty says the good thing is that I don’t remember most of it.  I don’t remember the fight and I don’t remember much of what went on for many months.  Hell sometimes I ain’t real sure about what happened yesterday.  

Patricia Page:  Gary I was there.  I watched him go down.  By the time I got around the ring to him, he was already comatose, although I did not know that then.  I waited by his side for 4 weeks, waiting for him to “snap out of it”.  The doctors prognosis was grim from the get go.  They told me that he would be a vegetable and that the entire right side of his brain had been destroyed.  They told me that he would never recover.  I told his surgeons that he would be okay, because we had God in our corner.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  

In the intensive care units, you have limited times that you can visit.  I was there at the door waiting for each and every visitation time.  I would pray with Greg and over him.  I played his favorite gospel music and sermons from his favorite preachers (Pastor Rod Parsley, T. D. Jakes) and I talked to him.  When I looked into his eyes, even though he could not talk yet, I knew “my Greg” was in there listening to me.  

Greg had a tracheotomy and was on a ventilator for most of the month of March (2001) and he had a feeding tube as well.  He could not talk or move his left side at all.  He didn’t start communicating (he started by writing notes) until late April and shortly thereafter he started mouthing words and then speaking.  Since his left side is paralyzed, he had a hard time holding his trunk up, almost like the left side is not there.  He had to learn balance all over again in order to be able to even sit up.  For quite awhile, he had a wheelchair that reclined back and he had to have straps crisscrossed across his chest to hold him up.  

As he started recovering, I watched as he had to learn how to do even the basic things that we take for granted like brush his teeth and comb his hair.  It broke my heart but I was still so very proud of him.  No matter how tough the going got, he NEVER QUIT!!  He never got mad and he never blamed God.  He has looked to God and thanked him for putting him through this challenge.  The going has been tough for Greg but he is a true champion.  He keeps on doing the things we ask him to do so that he can keep on recovering.  

If it had not been for my oldest daughter Teisha, who moved back home while I was in Ohio with Greg as he struggled to recover, I do not know what we would have done.  Greg needed a caregiver 24 hours a day for 7 days a week.  She was my right hand.  She took care of the 2 little girls at home and kept the house going as well as working full time.  We were one heck of a team, the 3 of us with God leading us.