Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kennedy Center Honors: Morgan Freeman

The 31st annual John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was taped December 7 and aired last night. Among the six recipients honored was actor Morgan Freeman. Other receiving awards were director, singer, actress, composer and producer Barbra Streisand, singer George Jones, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who.

Since their inception in 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors have redefined America's perception of its artistic legacy and reinvented the way this nation rewards its artists. The Honors have been compared to a knighthood in Britain, or the French Legion of Honor--the quintessential reward for a lifetime's endeavor. The annual Honors gala is an evening without categories, without disappointments, and without competition. The Honors telecast is always aired during the week between Christmas and New Year's. It serves for millions of American arts lovers as the year's crowning event, paying tribute to our nation's preeminent artists with performances by the great stars of today who have followed in their footsteps.

The complete list of guest performers is kept secret until the show is in progress, keeping both the Honorees and the nation on the edge of their seats, making the evening much more exciting for the Honorees. In addition to the gala performance in the Kennedy Center Opera House, the Honorees are treated to a White House reception and a banquet at the State Department.

Among the performances was Denzel Washington who saluted Morgan Freeman with words. Koko Taylor and B. B. King honored him in song. Bettye LaVette honored the Who with their song “Love Reign O’er Me”. Queen Latifah paid tribute to Barbra Streisand for revolutionizing the standard idea of beauty and breaking barriers for women. Beyoncé sang "The Way We Were" and Ne-Yo sang "Lover, Come Back to Me."

On a side note, Beyoncé is making a liar, me included, out of all those who say that she is nothing but a good looking dancer. She blew me and the audience away with her rendition of The Way We Were. And she looked absolutely classy doing it. I’m sure she will be a Kennedy Honors recipient in the years to come.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Will Life be for the Obama Daughters in the White House?

They haven't even moved into the White House yet, but Malia and Sasha Obama are the world's most famous tweens. Their parents have often said they want a normal existence for them. But how normal can life be for the first daughters? They're only 10 and 7, and already designers are competing for the chance to dress them. They've been on the cover of People, Us Weekly, Ebony and Jet. And there's that standing invitation to the set of "Hannah Montana."

History suggests that the media will keep their distance. Chelsea Clinton was 13 when she entered the White House and she was largely left alone at the request of her parents. Amy Carter was 9 when she came and was allowed to live a fairly normal life. The Kennedy children were kept from the public eye by their mother. She even set up a school for Caroline at the White House. But technology has advanced to the point where photos and video can be taken by anyone with a cell phone, and uploaded to the Web within minutes. The public is fascinated with all the Obamas, including the girls. But these are kids and there is a tricky line on how public the Obama girls can and should be.

The Obamas are clearly aware there's a fascination with the girls and how they're going to lead their lives. They're going to try to chart a safe course. The girls weren't constant fixtures on the campaign trail, but they were not invisible, either. They occasionally appeared at rallies, spoke onstage to a video image of their father at the Democratic convention, and, along with their parents, gave an interview to "Access Hollywood," a move President-elect Obama later said he regretted. The girls captured many hearts with their poised and joyfulness on the few public appearances they have made, but and I’m positive that there will be far fewer pictures. A couple of exceptions, of course, will be the inauguration and probably a flurry of photos when their puppy arrives.

Once safely in the White House, the girls will be well protected and nurtured. The people surrounding these girls are going to work hard to let them go about their routines. I’m sure they will follow the Clinton pattern. Michelle Obama has talked to Hilary Clinton in great detail about Chelsea’s life during the White House years. Chelsea went to her ballet rehearsals, came home, did homework, and ate dinner with her parents. The White House ushers set up a scavenger hunt for Chelsea when she came, so she could get to know the place. We know the Obama girls like their dance classes, their soccer, and their sleepovers. All these will likely continue. And maybe we can expect President Obama, like candidate Obama, to attend parent-teacher conferences at the private Sidwell Friends School.

The Obama family will be starting with an advantage over the past few years of their lives. They will have dinner together every night. They have just come off the campaign road for the past two years. Now they will see each other seven days a week. Remember they are living in the office. Of course, they'll have to make new friends. At school we can assume that neither Malia nor Sasha will be the odd girl out. They won’t be the picked-on girl. They are going in as the queen bee. They won’t get left out of anything. Every kid in school parents want to be invited to the White House!

Of course, the tricky part comes with teenage years — something Malia, at least, will be experiencing at the end of Obama’s first term. With middle school comes all sorts of issues: rebellion, body issues, mean-girl stuff. But there's plenty of time to think about that. Right now, there are rooms to decorate and lots of people to meet. Michelle says she wants to be mom-in-chief. And Barack Obama says 'I love you' to his children right up there on the stage. You get a sense that there's a lot of love there. I truly believe the Obamas have laid a good foundation.

The Obamas will end their vacation on New Year ’s Day and move to Washington, DC this weekend. Most incoming president come to Washington a few days before the inauguration, but the girls new school, Sidwell Friends School, restarts after the holiday break Monday and President-elect and Michelle want their daughters there from the beginning.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Person of the Year 2008

This probably did not come as a surprise to anyone, but Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2008 is the soon to be 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. The choice was clear; a guy who draws 100,000 people to a speech in St. Louis, who raises three-quarters of a billion dollars, who was just elected as the first Black person to serve as the president of the United States. He dominated the public interest so completely that it borders on unbelief to recall that half the people in America had never heard of him two years ago. He hit the political scene like a lighten bolt, shattered decades of conventional wisdom and overcame centuries of the social pecking order.

Opponents tried to label him as all show and no substance, but he has moved with unprecedented speed to build a solid and well respected Cabinet. And all that flash and dazzle has been replaced with a git r done attitude. He is a man about his business. He began his campaign as a talented speaker who opposed the Iraq war and a personal life story that fit everyone. But as economic events changed our priorities on Iraq and his story mattered less, the unknown Obama just kept rising. He possesses a rare ability to read the necessary and potential of each new moment and organize himself and others to anticipate change and translate it into opportunity. And by Nov. 4, the strongest party in the U.S. was no longer the Republican Party or the Democratic Party; it was the Obama Party.

The real story of President-elect Obama's year is the steady march of seemingly impossible accomplishments: beating the Clinton machine, organizing previously disfranchased voters, harnessing the new technologies, shattering fundraising records, turning previously red states blue — and then waking up the day after his victory to reinvent the presidential-transition process in the face of a potentially dangerous vacuum of leadership.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Republican Party and “Barack the Magic Negro” CD

Fresh off a major defeat in the national election the Republican Party is really showing it nasty hand. Under the cover of the holidays a Party leader has distributed a CD containing “Barack the Magic Negro” as part of his campaign to be elected chairman of the Republican National Committee next month. Chip (a grown man using the name chip) Saltsman who was Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager during the Republican presidential primaries, sent Republican National Committee members, who will choose the next chairman, a CD titled “We HATE the USA.” (Yes that’s the title – I thought they were the party of real Americans).

The CD contains the controversial track, which was popular on conservative radio (i.e. Rush Limbaugh). Saltsman’s marketing campaign comes as Republicans struggle with ways to offer a counterpoint to President-elect Obama at a time when the country is largely supportive of his appointments and policies. And so you are telling us that the Republican Party is saying they need a change from divisive politics and this is what a guy running for the chairman of their national committee thinks change is. He probably thinks Sarah Palin is a ray of shinning light.

So far after more than 36 hours only Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan has spoken out against the CD. Mr. Duncan, who is running for reelection, issued a statement Saturday distancing the party’s leadership from Saltsman. Duncan, who has served the campaigns of Republican presidents dating back to Richard Nixon, is seeking reelection as the party’s 60th chairman in a hotly contested race that includes Saltsman and several other candidates.

Duncan's statement, in full: "The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party. I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction." Looks like there are two factions in the party. Saltsman’s candidacy for national party chair is endorsed by Huckabee and fellow Tennessean Bill Frist, the former Senate majority leader. We know these two stand for more of the same politics of the past – the good old boy policies of the past. Saltsman is a former development director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and was elected chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party in 1998. The Tennessee Republican Party put out a few controversial campaign ads during the election season.

The national Republican ticket lost badly in November among many growing voter groups – including young people, Hispanics and suburbanites. Party officials say that a voter base consisting of the South plus social conservatives is not a dependable way to win elections, yet they continue to pander to that group. They only won in southern states and a few Midwestern states. Someone had better wake up and see what time it is.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Here’s hoping you and your family the happiest and blessed Christmas ever. As you celebrate this Christmas we realize that we have Christmas to celebrate the memory of the birth of Christ. We don’t know which day that Jesus was actually born but this is the day that we have come to observe it.

Let us remember the reason for the season is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His birth is the manifestation of God’s love for us. He came to bring light to a dark world. The Good News (the Gospel) is that God is so in love with us that he gave His Son to us. This Good News is the main point behind the Bible. All you need to do to receive this Good News is believe it. Here’s how it works:

1. You like everybody else on earth, have made mistakes. To use a religious word, you’ve sinned. All have come short of the Glory of God. We are all sinners.
2. Your mistakes (sins) make it impossible for you to know God all by yourself. God is perfect and good in every respect, and sinful people can’t even be in the presence of so much goodness. It doesn’t matter if your mistakes were little ones or big ugly ones – it’s enough to separate you from God.
3. God loves you, despite your mistakes, and wants to have a relationship with you. God came up with a solution to this sin problem – he sent his son Jesus to suffer the penalty that your mistakes deserve. Jesus wrapped himself in flesh and took your mistakes upon himself so that you can be perfect in God’s eyes. After committing this act of sacrifice Jesus was raised from the dead and acts as a go-between for you and God.
4. By simply acknowledging your sins and believing in God’s love, and Jesus’ sacrifice you can enter a relationship with God. That means that your mistakes are washed away and you’re invited to live a new, transformed life – a life that’s based on something more meaningful than the hustles and bustles of this world

That’s the Good News: that there’s more to life than what you see, and you can be a part of it – through Jesus. If that sounds like something you want to do, all you need to do is make the decision to believe and act upon your beliefs.

Christmas, without the specter of the cross, without the awareness that this baby was born to die for mankind’s sin, is just another day off.

And as you celebrate Christmas remember that Jesus came to bring us back to God. Hope you enjoy the day with your family and remember to keep Christ in Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

First Black White House Social Secretary: Desiree Rogers

President-elect Barack Obama named business executive Desiree Rogers as his White House social secretary this week. She is the first Black American to hold the position. Ms. Rogers has been a major social and civic figure in Chicago for years and is a longtime friend of the Obamas formerly served as president of social networking for Allstate Financial, and as president of Peoples and North Shore Gas. She will be responsible for staging every event or ceremony that occurs at the White House.

Desiree Rogers will have one of the most important jobs in the East Wing -- the domain of the first lady -- which oversees the social events in the White House. Some of the first events that she will be responsible for will be some of the inaugural events. The first event in the White House that she is responsible is the governor's ball in February.

She has known Michelle for about 20 years. She met her through her brother, Craig Robinson. Her ex-husband played basketball with him at Princeton. She went on to become close friends with Valerie Jarrett, one of President-elect Obama’s senior advisers, who grew up on the same block on South Greenwood Avenue as John Rogers.
Ms. Rogers was raised in New Orleans and arrived in Chicago after picking up an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and an MBA from Harvard.
In late 1999 Rogers, quit the board of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art along with the three other minority women on the board, to protest what they regarded as a slow pace on diversity issues. They were the only female minority members among the museum's 63 trustees.

She is on the boards of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Northwestern Memorial Foundation and The Polk Foundation. Rogers is Vice-Chairman of the Lincoln Park Zoo and serves on the executive committee of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Previously, she served as the Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Children's Museum. Rogers is also a major contributor to fund-raisers to help Chicago win its bid for the 2016 Olympics, donating over $100,000.

According to an interview last year with the HistoryMakers, a Black oral history project, Rogers' favorite saying is "laissez les bon temps rouler," (the New Orleans motto “let the good times roll.” She is known as a great cook and entertainer and resides in Chicago with her daughter, Victoria.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slow News Day? Haters on the Prowl

President-elect Barack Obama is taking a much needed vacation in the beautiful state of Hawaii. I guess there is not much else going on in the world today because a CNN reporter sent in a report. “…the incoming Commander-in-Chief offered to buy a round of drinks for reporters covering his working vacation on the sands of Hawaii's beaches and the greens of its lush golf courses” Halfway through a round of golf on Sunday afternoon, Obama came up to small group of reporters waiting to get more pictures. As if the reporter could read President-elect Obama’s mind, he wrote, “No doubt realizing these might not be the best images at a time of recession, Obama suggested the reporters seek some other recreation to pass the time — rather than snapping so many pics. Obama then told us we should be in the clubhouse at the bar having some beers… Someone asked if he would pick up the tab and he agreed.... He chatted for a moment, telling the reporters to have a beer and put it on his tab.” He went on to say, “but none of the journalists were corrupted by free beer — we pay our own tabs….”

Let me first say that President-elect Obama was elected as President. This whole Commander-in-Chief bit is only a portion of the position. That was a Republican tactic of saying that Barack Obama had no experience to be CIC. When in truth the president has capable military commanders and he consults with them on all military decisions. Lets stop using the title that implies that he’s some sort of elected military commander. Unlike some other countries, mostly small dictator controlled, the U.S. president does not wear a uniform. Ok now that that pet peeve is off my chest.

ONE: This is not news. TWO: "No doubt realizing these might not be the best images at a time of recession…" Let's not put words into his mouth; especially such ridiculous ones. Maybe, just maybe, he wants to be left alone; holiday break with the family and all. THREE: He did not "offer" to buy drinks, according to the reporter’s own text. Obama asked didn’t they have better things to do and a reporter asked Obama to pick up the tab. I heard a few drops of alcohol is a good way to get rid of a leech!

He is not president until noon on January 20th. We have one president at a time and until noon on January 20, 2009 that is George “Dubya” Bush. Who cares if Barack Obama is on vacation? It is a much deserved vacation. Trust me, come Jan. 20, he'll earn his money. His vacation isn't part of policy and it affects no one except him and his family. There are more important things to worry about than someone taking a vacation before starting a really tough job. After the 20th then the spotlight will be on everything he does for four years. He will need to be fresh to take over the really tough job that lies ahead.

The people complaining are the same people who were falling over each other to get an invite to the other candidate's famous barbeques at one of his seven homes. These are the same people that have never challenged Bu$h but know no bounds of questions that they will ask this President-elect Obama. What a bunch of hypocrites. This man deserves a break he is working his tail off.

Family time and relaxation are important and I can't imagine that once he's in office he's going to have a lot of time for either. He can't officially do anything until he's sworn in. And even if he could he can’t fix all this mess in two weeks. After pretty much 2 years of constantly being on the go Barack Obama is enjoying a little break before his inauguration. And he should be able to enjoy an inauguration just as elite or well as the past Presidents. He has been working none stop since after Election Day to be ready to go on day one. He has put a cabinet together in record time, filled with intelligent and QUALIFIED people! He has moved at a better speed than past elected presidents trying to have everything in order by January 20, which gives me the confidence that he'll take action and hit the ground running on day one.

Yes, Mr. President-elect…You deserve your vacation and family time. Get refreshed, get rejuvenated . We all know that come January 20 it going to be "Let's get ready to rumble!!! God Bless the President-elect and God bless the USA.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama Picks Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as Trade Representative

President-elect Barack Obama Friday nominated former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative to take on the complex, delicate task of juggling global negotiations. Mr. Kirk was the first Black mayor of Dallas serving from 1995 to 2001. Kirk accepted the nomination live on CNN, promising a progressive trade agenda that he said will balance the interests of robust trade as well as the interests of America's workers. He added that he will work to encourage the positives of trade while staying true to the American work force.

Ronald "Ron" Kirk was born June 27, 1954 in Austin, Texas. He first rose to political prominence in 1972 as an 18 year old volunteer for George McGovern's presidential campaign, where he was promoted to working directly for Ann Richards and Bill and Hillary Clinton in the Dallas area. He attended Austin College and the University of Texas School of Law. Upon his graduation in 1979, he practiced law until 1981 when he left to work in the office of then-Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen. In 1983, Kirk returned to Texas, first as an attorney with the city of Dallas, and later with a law firm. In 1994, he worked for then-Texas Governor Ann Richards as Secretary of State of Texas. The following year, he ran for mayor of Dallas winning 62 percent of the vote.

During his time as mayor, Kirk earned the reputation of being a coalition-builder. Under his leadership, he proposed the "Dallas Plan," a vision for the next 25 years. He also pushed the construction of the American Airlines Center, whose opening he oversaw in 2002. In 1999, he was re-elected as mayor of Dallas in a landslide with 74 percent of the vote. In 2001, Kirk resigned as mayor of Dallas in order to run for the vacant Senate seat. He lost to current Senator John Cornyn.

Comments from Dallas residents: Mayor Kirk is politically and intellectually savvy, conscientious and realistic - qualities all cabinet members will need to help deal with the economic turbulence the U.S. currently faces. Before he became mayor we lost several major projects to suburban cities like Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas Motor Speedway and were about to loose the NBA Mavericks and NHL Stars until his administration came in and saved it. The man has a multitude of credentials and will serve us well as a top administrator. Ron Kirk helped "BOOM" Dallas into what it is today. We are not experiencing the economic disaster on the same level as other cities.

Following his failed bid for Senate, Ron Kirk returned to practice law in Dallas. He is now a partner with the Houston-based law firm Vinson and Elkins, where he was, as of March 2007, one of the four highest paid lobbyists for Energy Future Holdings Corporation. If his nomination is confirmed, Kirk will be the first Black person to hold this cabinet-level position.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making A Better Choice: Phalyn Perry

We see and here many of stories about the perpetuation of gang violence from generation to generation. It isn’t until a member of a new generation stops and says, “enough” that the cycle stops. That’s what 16-year-old Phalyn Perry did.
She grew up in the gang neighborhood of the Raymond Avenue Crips in Los Angeles. Her father was an original member of the Crips, involved in violence and selling drugs. He went to prison when she was 10 years old for a 19-year sentence for robbery. Phalyn visits her father in prison and says he has now changed his ways. She hopes she will be able to deliver his message of non-violence outside the prison bars. She says, “He always tells me, ‘Bonehead, you’re a very intelligent young girl. Don’t chase boys, chase your school work because it will all pay off in the long run.’”

Today, she actually chases motivation. Phalyn Perry encourages young people to make better choices by avoiding gang life. As a member of Common Unity Reaching Everyone, or CURE, and A Better L.A., Phayln uses her story to inspire others to block out the negativity and hang with the right crowd like she did. Through weekly community events, she inspires other young people growing up with temptation to join a gang, to also say, “enough.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuskegee Airmen Invited to Inauguration

The Tuskegee Airmen, who made history during World War II as the country's first Black military pilots only to return home to discrimination and exclusion from victory parades, have been invited to President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California sent the invitation to Tuskegee Airmen Inc. The Arlington, Virginia-based organization represents 330 of the original pilots, whose ranks were once about 1,000.

The Tuskegee Airmen were recruited into an Army Air Corps program that trained Blacks to fly and maintain combat aircraft. They trained as a segregated unit at an air base in Tuskegee, Alabama. After fighting the Nazis, they returned home to face discrimination. Blacks weren't allowed to participate in victory parades with other troops returning from Europe after World War II.

Each member will receive two tickets to the January 20 inauguration, and they have 10 days to decide if they will attend. A spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said the airmen's seating assignment will be within the ticketed viewing area around the U.S. Capitol. Robert Rose, first vice president of Tuskegee Airmen, said local chapters are contacting airmen. Most are in their late 80s and early 90s, making travel difficult.

"I want to come hopping, skipping and jumping!" said 92-year-old Spann Watson, an airman from Westbury, New York, who flew above Pennsylvania Avenue for President Truman's inauguration. "We had a part in changing these United States." John L. Harrison Jr. an original airman now in his 80s, also said he plans to attend Barack Obama's inauguration. "It makes us very very proud," said Harrison, of Philadelphia. "And it sort of compensates for a lot of the things that we had to endure in the early days. We were excluded out of everything and hidden from everything," he said. "Now this time is our time, and to have a Black man as the elected president, this is indeed a turn in history."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flying Aces

Sixteen-year-old pilots Kelly Anyadiki, left, and Jonathan Strickland, who set world records March 16, 2008, share their record-setting day with Robin Petgrave, founder of Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, a program, designed to make flight training available to inner-city and minority youths, at Compton Woodley Airport, where they learned to fly.

Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Strickland became the youngest Black pilot to solo six airplanes and one helicopter in the same day, at Compton Woodley Airport. Jonathan, a Los Angeles resident, has been flying since he was 12. During a trip from Compton to Canada at age 14, he became the youngest Black pilot to solo an airplane and a helicopter on the same day, the youngest Black pilot to fly a helicopter internationally and the youngest Black pilot to fly a helicopter on an international round-trip.

Kelly Anyadiki, a 16-year-old Inglewood, California resident, also broke a world record and is now the youngest Black female to solo four airplanes on the same day. "I'd rather have a plane than a car," said Kelly, who is still waiting to get her driver's license.

Robin Petgrave, a long-time Hollywood stunt pilot, founded Tomorrow's Museum in 1997 as a way to keep inner-city kids off the streets and teach them life skills and discipline through aviation. As part of the program, children earn "flying money" by cleaning planes or painting over graffiti. The airport provides aviation-themed after-school programs for more than 800 children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Petgrave said the Tuskegee Airmen are major contributors to the program.

Monday, December 8, 2008

GSU Tiger Marching Band Invited to Perform in Presidential Inaugural Parade

GSU Bands performs at its annual High School Band Camp

The Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band has been chosen by The Presidential Inaugural Committee and has been invited to Perform in the 56th Inaugural Parade.

The world famous Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band will join representatives from across the country and the Armed Forces in the historic parade down Pennsylvania Avenue following President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the Capitol.

“I am honored to invite these talented groups and individuals to participate in the Inaugural Parade,” President-elect Obama is quoted as saying in a news release.

“These organizations embody the best of our nation’s history, diversity and commitment to service. Vice President-elect Biden and I are proud to have them join us in the parade.”

Organizations wishing to participate in the parade submitted an application to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee (AFIC), which then assisted the Presidential Inaugural Committee in reviewing all of the groups’ applications. All told, 1,382 organizations applied to participate, setting a new standard for interest in marching in the parade.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee was assisted in its selection process by a group of experienced military musicians, who utilized their expertise to help assess the presentation skills of marching bands, musical acts and drill teams.

The Grambling Tiger Marching Band’s fame has grown worldwide, having played in a number of countries, including Africa, Korea and Cuba. The band has become a staple at major sporting events and parades. The GSU Marching Band played at President Bush's first Inaugural in 2001,

All participants in the Inaugural Parade are responsible for paying for their own lodging and transportation to and from Washington, D.C.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Businessman Offers Inspirational Inauguration Package — Free

As Washington gears up for January's presidential inauguration, tickets to the evening's festivities are going for hundreds of dollars, and the city's remaining hotel rooms are astronomical. Even basements and couches miles from the National Mall are going for a premium on Craigslist. But one of the most attractive inauguration packages out there - including high-end hotel rooms and luxury suites, food and drink, a (heated) viewing spot right above the parade route, even gowns and tuxedos to wear to celebratory balls, and a beautician to help you get ready for it - is going for the most eye-popping price of all: absolutely nothing.

Virginia businessman and philanthropist Earl Stafford has spent $1 million to give hundreds of poverty-stricken and terminally ill Americans, along with wounded men and women in uniform, an inauguration experience that would ordinarily run each of them thousands of dollars. Mr. Stafford is a devout Christian who made millions at the helm of a defense technology firm said the $1 million will finance the use of 300 hotel rooms, four hotel suites, a ballroom and meals for all the invited guests, as well as a coveted parade-viewing venue smack on the route of the procession. The events will take place in the J W Marriott Washington, D.C. hotel, located between the Capitol and the White House where he rented a bloc of inauguration week rooms just hours after the election. He is hoping to raise roughly the same amount from sponsors. For now, the money is coming from his family's non-profit foundation, the Stafford Foundation.

Events will include a prayer breakfast on the day preceding the inauguration; a luncheon that same day invoking the memory of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr; and tickets to the "People's Inaugural Ball" on the evening of January 20, as well as to an "Inaugural Youth Ball."

Mr. Stafford said, "We wanted to… bless those who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to be a part of the great celebration, the inauguration and the festivities. Our objective is to bring in a cross-section of society; those who are distressed, those who are terminally ill, those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, those veterans who are wounded and served our country.We’ve gotten away from those core values that made America great," he said. "We just need to get back to caring about one another."

Mr. Stafford has been planning the effort since the primary season. He said he decided the inauguration would be a transition in history, and everyone should be included. Stafford calls it “The People's Inaugural Project” and it offers the underprivileged in our society an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to our nation's capital and join in the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. He looks at it as an opportunity to bring Americans of every walk of life together for a momentous celebration. And the greatest part of the story is that Mr. Stafford didn't release that he was the one doing this. It was the Hotel. No self adulation, just trying to do something for those less fortunate. The Stafford Foundation is a private foundation committed to helping underserved, marginalized and distressed individuals.

What a wonderful gesture. This is about inspiring people. In this current environment where we see how many people are ripping off other people and keeping millions for themselves, it is so nice to know there are still good people in this world. May God bless you for being so kind to people who need some kindness in this world. What goes around comes around. Mr. Stafford and his family are fine examples of people who obviously live according to the Word of God….”I have blessed you to be a blessing… The more you give, the more He gives to you.” My hats off to you Earl Stafford! You are an example of great humankind. May God continue to bless Earl Stafford and his family.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Odetta, Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies At 77

Odetta, the folk singer with the powerful voice who moved audiences and influenced fellow musicians for a half-century, died Tuesday of heart disease. She had been admitted to the hospital with kidney failure about three weeks ago. In 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr. anointed her "The Queen of American folk music".

In spite of failing health that caused her to use a wheelchair, Odetta performed 60 concerts in the last two years, singing for 90 minutes at a time. With her booming, classically trained voice and spare guitar, Odetta gave life to the songs by workingmen and slaves, farmers and miners, housewives and washerwomen, Blacks and Whites.

Coming to prominence in the 1950s, she influenced Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and other singers who had roots in the folk music boom. With an Odetta record on the turntable, listeners could close their eyes and imagine themselves hearing the sounds of spirituals and blues as they rang out from a weathered back porch or around a long-vanished campfire a century before. Odetta called on Blacks to "take pride in the history of the American Negro" and was active in the civil rights movement. When she sang at the March on Washington in August 1963, where her great, full-throated voice carried almost to Capitol Hill.

She was nominated for a 1963 Grammy award for best folk recording for "Odetta Sings Folk Songs." Two more Grammy nominations came in recent years, for her 1999 "Blues Everywhere I Go" and her 2005 album "Gonna Let It Shine." In 1999, she was honored with a National Medal of the Arts. Then-President Bill Clinton said her career showed "us all that songs have the power to change the heart and change the world." In a 1978 Playboy interview, Bob Dylan said, "the first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta." He said he found "just something vital and personal" when he heard an early album of hers in a record store as a teenager. "Right then and there, I went out and traded my electric guitar and amplifier for an acoustical guitar," he said. Harry Belafonte also cited her as a key influence on his hugely successful recording career, and she was a guest singer on his 1960 album, "Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall."

She continued to record in recent years; her 2001 album "Looking for a Home (Thanks to Leadbelly)" paid tribute to the great blues singer to whom she was sometimes compared. Odetta's last big concert was on October 4 at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, where she performed in front of tens of thousands at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. She also performed October 25-26 in Toronto.

On September 29, 1999, President Bill Clinton presented Odetta with the National Endowment for the Arts' National Medal of Arts. In 2004, Odetta was honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington with the "Visionary Award". In 2005, the Library of Congress in Washington honored her with its "Living Legend Award". On January 21, 2008, Odetta was the Keynote Speaker at San Diego's Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration, followed by concert performances in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Mill Valley, California.

Born Odetta Holmes in Birmingham, Alabama, on December 31 1930, she moved with her family to Los Angeles at age 6. Her father had died when she was young and she took her stepfather's last name, Felious. Hearing her in glee club, a junior high teacher made sure she got music lessons, but Odetta became interested in folk music in her late teens and turned away from classical studies. Odetta is survived by a daughter, Michelle Esrick and a son, Boots Jaffre. She was divorced 40 years ago and never remarried.

One writer said “A couple of weeks ago I was listening to "Harry Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall" and there she was with that great voice and on another part of the double album set there was Miriam Makeba. In the last month, we have lost two huge voices both musical and political.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bayou Classic: The Mecca of Black College Football

Just got back from the 35th Bayou Classic and I need at least a day to recover. We drove from Dallas to my sister’s house in Beaumont, Texas Thanksgiving night (five hours). We got up early Friday morning for another 3 hours on the road. The check-in line at the Hilton was LOOOOOONG. There were a few Southernites in the crowd but it was plain to see this was a Grambling place. My sister made reservations for 2 rooms and with that many people you know there has to be some mistakes. They only had us down for one room. They finally found another room but it was for Friday only.

We settled in and then went to lunch at one of New Orleans landmark eating places Mothers. It was crowded but the food was great. We went back to the hotel and mingled for a few minutes then headed for the Battle of the Bands and step show. We decided to walk the approximately eight blocks instead of sitting in the traffic. It only took about 45 minutes (stopping at all the vendor booths – there was almost as much Obama stuff as there was Grambling and Southern stuff).

The step show was awesome. The Battle of the Bands was a little disappointing. I was expecting the bands to march on the field; instead they played while standing in place. They alternated songs and between the two played all the current hits. Southern played the loudest because they have a larger band and they have more brass instruments, but you can hear all the instruments when Grambling played and they had more variety. Southern played more to the younger crowd, while Grambling played it all - some old school and even a gospel song. They alternate each year on the home team, but Southern is always the home team with the bigger crowd (they are only about an hour from home while Grambling is about four hours away).

We then spent a couple hours on Bourbon Street and went back to the hotel. Saturday we went to the Grambling Alumni Breakfast and moved to the Marriot Courtyard. They should call it homecoming because you see people you haven’t seen in years. We decided to take a taxi since it was raining. While we were waiting in the lobby my cousin was checking in (homecoming). At the game I met friends that I haven't seen in over 20 years.

Oh yeah, they did play a game. Southern took (or should I say was given a 14 point lead – that home field thing was blatant). But the G-men ran off 29 unanswered points and won 29-14 to clinch a spot in the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game against Jackson State in Birmingham, Alabama on December 13. And Grambling won the halftime show also with Southern committing the marching band sin of placing their horns on the ground to dance.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Star Athlete is a Rolle Model: Rhodes Scholar

High academic achievement? Check. Integrity of character? Check. A spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor? Check, check, check and check. Florida State University student-athlete Myron Rolle is the living personification of the criteria established more than 100 years ago for the Rhodes Scholarship - one of the oldest and most prestigious awards for international study. The Rhodes Trust has named 22-year-old Rolle one of 32 U.S. Rhodes Scholars for 2009 - the first time in nearly 25 years it has awarded the scholarship to a prominent college football player.

The Rhodes is a crowning achievement for the student-athlete who aspires to both the NFL and medical school. Graduating in just two-and-a-half years with a 3.75 grade point average, Rolle completed all the necessary pre-medical requirements and earned a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Florida State in August. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in public administration.

Along the way, Rolle founded Our Way to Health, a fifth-grade curriculum that addresses diabetes and obesity for students at a charter school run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida; conducted research on the metabolic profile of stem and cancer cells; tutored at-risk eighth-graders; studied abroad; and played safety (he's one of the best in the nation) for the Florida State University football team. He also racked up numerous academic, athletic and leadership awards. Among them:

In addition, Myron has held several leadership positions since arriving on FSU's campus as a freshman in spring 2006. He currently serves as a student representative on the University Athletics Committee and the Equity and Student Athlete Welfare Committee and is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference Student Athlete Advisory Council. He previously served as vice president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council and as a member of the executive board for the Seminole Student Boosters.

Myron Rolle, who was born October 30, 1986 in Houston, TX and raised in Galloway, New Jersey, began receiving national attention while still in high school. He was rated the No. 1 high school prospect in the country by ESPN and in 2006 received the Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy Award, which is awarded to the top Black high-school senior student-athlete in America. rated him the 12th-best player and the top athlete overall. After transferring from the Peddie School, a highly selective, coeducational prep school in Hightstown, New Jersey, Rolle played high school football at the Hun School of Princeton, where the All-American made 112 tackles his senior year including 14 for loss. In addition to football, Rolle had a 4.0 GPA. At Peddie, he played the saxophone in the school band, sang in a school play, and was the sports editor of the school newspaper.

Rolle tries to pattern himself after former Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith, making decisions that set him up as a well-rounded individual who isn't tied only to sports. (While attending Ohio State, Smith had told his coach he would quit football unless he could take a science lab course that conflicted with practice.) Myron is a distant cousin of Samari Rolle, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens.

At Oxford, Myron will enroll in a master's degree program in medical anthropology that examines the sociocultural aspects of medicine. After completing his studies there, Rolle hopes to play professional football - many analysts project that he will be a first round pick - before going to medical school. He would like to practice medicine in the United States as well as assist medical efforts in developing countries, especially the Bahamas, his parents' native country.

Created in 1902 through a bequest in the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and colonial pioneer, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest international study award available to American students and widely considered the most prestigious of its kind. The selection process is highly competitive with more than 1,000 nominees seeking 32 scholarships. Two scholars are chosen from each of 16 regions across the United States. The scholarships provide all expenses for up to two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Tennessee Tornado: Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph's life is a story of achieving against the odds. Her first accomplishments were to stay alive and get well! Wilma Rudolph was born into a large family on June 23, 1940 in St. Bethlehem, a part of Clarksville, Tennessee; she was the 20th of 22 children! Her parents, Ed and Blanche Rudolph, were hardworking people. Mr. Rudolph worked as a railroad porter and handyman. Mrs. Rudolph did cooking, laundry and housecleaning for wealthy White families.

Wilma was born prematurely and weighed only 4.5 pounds. Because of racial segregation, she and her mother were not permitted to be cared for at the local hospital. It was for Whites only. There was only one Black doctor in their town of Clarksville, and the Rudolph's budget was tight, so Wilma's mother spent the next several years nursing Wilma through one illness after another: measles, mumps, scarlet fever, chicken pox and double pneumonia. But, she had to be taken to the doctor when it was discovered that her left leg and foot were becoming weak and deformed. She was told she had polio, a crippling disease that had no cure. The doctor told Mrs. Rudolph that Wilma would never walk. But Mrs. Rudolph would not give up on Wilma. She found out that she could be treated at Meharry Hospital, the Black medical college of Fisk University in Nashville. Even though it was 50 miles away, Wilma's mother took her there twice a week for two years, until she was able to walk with the aid of a metal leg brace. Then the doctors taught Mrs. Rudolph how to do the physical therapy exercises at home. All of her brothers and sisters helped too, and they did everything to encourage her to be strong and work hard at getting well. Finally, by age 12, she could walk normally, without the crutches, brace, or corrective shoes.

In high school, she became an all-state basketball star first, setting a state record of 49 points in one game and leading the team to a state championship. She was spotted by Ed Temple, the coach for the famous Tigerbells, the women's track team at Tennessee State University, while he was refereeing a basketball game. Because Burt High School didn't have the funding for a track team, coach Temple invited Wilma to Tennessee State for a summer sports camp. By the time she was 16, she earned a berth on the U.S. Olympic track and field team and came home from the 1956 Melbourne Games with an Olympic bronze medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay. After graduating from high school, Wilma received a full scholarship to Tennessee State. At the 1960 Rome Olympics Wilma became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in the Olympics. She won the 100-meter dash (tying the world record but it was wind aided), broke the Olympic record in the 200-meter dash, and she combined with Tennessee State teammates Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams and Barbara Jones to win the 400-meter relay in 44.5 seconds, setting a world record. This achievement led her to become one of the most celebrated female athletes of all time. The Italians nicknamed her "La Gazzella Nera" (the Black Gazelle); to the French she was "La Perle Noire" (The Black Pearl). In addition, her celebrity caused gender barriers to be broken in previously all-male track and field events. Because of all the celebrity she received from her track career, she took a year off from her studies to make appearances and compete in international track events. Rudolph retired from track competition in 1962 after winning two races at a U.S.-Soviet meet. She returned and received a Bachelor's degree in education, graduating in 1963. She then worked as a teacher at Cobb Elementary School, coaching track at Burt High School, and as a sports commentator on national television.

When she returned from the Rome Olympics, the Tennessee Governor, "an old-fashioned segregationist," planned to head her welcome home celebration. Wilma Rudolph said she would not attend a segregated event. Her victory parade was the first racially integrated event ever held in the town. And that night, the banquet the townspeople held in her honor, was the first time in Clarksville’s history that Blacks and Whites had ever gathered together for the same event. She went on to participate in protests in the city until the segregation laws were struck down.

In 1977, Rudolph published her autobiography, Wilma: The Story of Wilma Rudolph. That same year, NBC made a movie about her life from the book, with Rudolph as a consultant. The actor Denzel Washington, then 22 years old, portrayed Wilma's boyfriend, and he later married Pauletta Pearson whom he met on the set.

Wilma Rudolph inspired many young Black female athletes. Most notable was Florence Griffith Joyner, the next woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. Bob Kersee, husband and coach of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, said Wilma Rudolph was the greatest influence for Black women athletes that he knows. His wife went further. "She was always in my corner," said Joyner-Kersee, winner of six Olympic medals. "If I had a problem, I could call her at home. It was like talking to someone you knew for a lifetime." She was voted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1973, the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983. She was honored with the National Sports Award in 1993 and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994. Wilma Rudolph died of brain cancer at age 54 on Nov. 12, 1994 in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mama Africa Dies at 76

South African music legend, Miriam Makeba has died after taking ill in Italy following a concert. Miriam Makeba, known as “Mama Africa”, was the legendary voice of the African continent that became a symbol of the fight against apartheid in her home country of South Africa. Miriam Makeba was born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932. She made an international farewell tour in 2005.

Mama Africa captured international attention as vocalist for the South African group, The Manhattan Brothers, while they toured the United States in 1959. The following year, when she wanted to return home to bury her mother, the apartheid state revoked her citizenship and later banned her music. As a result she spent 31 years in exile, living in the United States and later in Guinea.

She became the first Black African woman to receive a Grammy Award which she shared with folk singer Harry Belafonte in 1965. Two years later her fame sky-rocketed with the recording of the all-time hit “Pata Pata” (Xhosa for “touch, touch” describing a township dance) although she unknowingly signed away all royalties on the song.

Miriam Makeba returned to South Africa in the 1990s after Nelson Mandela was released from prison but it took a cash-strapped Makeba six years to find someone in the local recording industry to produce a record with her. Then she released “Homeland” which contains songs describing her joy of being back home after the many years in exile. She testified twice before the United Nations about apartheid.

Family and friends thousands of fans gathered in Johannesburg to pay their respects as she was laid to rest this past weekend. Mama’s ex-husband Hugh Masekhela dedicated a moving musical moment to her life. More fans and friends gathered in New York City at the Poisson Rouge for the “Mama Afrika: A Tribute to Miriam Makeba Concert” hosted by Harry Belafonte. Adding to the memorable night were performances by Les Nubians, Somi , Randy Weston, Art D’Luggof, Wumni, Gino Sitson, Bakithi, Robbi Kumalo, and many more.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Butler Sees a New White House

89 year-old Eugene Allen, a retired White House butler, is seen in this picture trying on his old tuxedo. Allen, who served eight presidents during a period when America's racial history was being rewritten, is marveling at the election of Barack Obama.
By Wil Haygood, LA Times – Article dated November 7, 2008

For more than three decades, Eugene Allen worked in the White House. During some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land. He trekked home every night to his wife, Helene, who kept him out of her kitchen. At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than to the Oval Office. Helene didn't care; she just beamed with pride.

President Truman called him Gene. President Ford liked to talk golf with him. He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. He was there while racial history was made: Brown vs. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations. When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn't even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia.

In its long history, the White House has had a complex and vexing relationship with Black Americans. "The history is not so uneven at the lower level, in the kitchen," said Ted Sorensen, who served as counselor to President Kennedy. "In the kitchen, the folks have always been Black. Even the folks at the door -- Black."

Before Gene Allen landed his White House job, he worked as a waiter at a resort in Hot Springs, Virginia and then at a country club in Washington. He and his 86-year-old wife Helene were sitting in the living room of their Washington home. Her voice was musical, in a Lena Horne kind of way. She called him "Honey." They met at a birthday party in 1942. He was too shy to ask for her number, so she tracked his down. They married a year later. They have one son, Charles, who works as an investigator with the State Department.

In 1952, a lady told him of a job opening in the White House. "I wasn't even looking for a job," he said. "I was happy where I was working, but she told me to go on over there and meet with a guy by the name of Alonzo Fields." Fields was a maitre d', and he immediately liked Allen. Allen was offered a job as a "pantry man." He washed dishes, stocked cabinets and shined silverware. He started at $2,400 a year. There was, in time, a promotion to butler. "Shook the hand of all the presidents I ever worked for," he said. "I was there, honey," Helene said. "In the back maybe. But I shook their hands too." She was referring to White House holiday parties, Easter egg hunts.

"President Ford's birthday and my birthday were on the same day," he said. "He'd have a birthday party at the White House. Everybody would be there. And Mrs. Ford would say, 'It's Gene's birthday too!'" And so they'd sing a little ditty to the butler. And the butler, who wore a tuxedo to work every day, would blush.

"Jack Kennedy was very nice," he went on. "And so was Mrs. Kennedy." He was in the White House kitchen the day Kennedy was slain. He got an invitation to the funeral. But he volunteered for other duty: "Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral."

The whole family of President Carter made Helene chuckle: "They were country. And I'm talking Lillian and Rosalynn both." It came out as the highest compliment.

First Lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. She told him he would not be working that night. "She said, 'You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.' I'm telling you! I believe I'm the only butler to get invited to a state dinner."

Husbands and wives don't sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders. "And my son said, 'Momma, just talk about your high school. They won't know the difference.' "The senators were all talking about the colleges and universities that they went to," she said. "I was doing as much talking as they were. "Had champagne that night," she said, looking over at her husband. He just grinned: He was the man who stacked the champagne at the White House. Gene Allen was promoted to maitre d' in 1980. He left the White House in 1986, after 34 years. President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him tight.

Interviewed at their home last week, a couple days before the election, Gene and Helene speculated about what it would mean if a Black man were elected president. "Just imagine," she said. It'd be really something," he said. "We're pretty much past the going-out stage," she said. "But you never know. If he gets in there, it'd sure be nice to go over there again." They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They'd go vote together. She'd lean on her cane with one hand, and him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she'd get supper going afterward. They went over their Election Day plans more than once. "Imagine," she said. "That's right," he said.

On Monday, November 3, one day before Election Day, Helene had a doctor's appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone. "I woke up and my wife didn't," he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee. They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen. The lady he married 65 years ago will be buried today. The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the Black man bound for the Oval Office.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Teen Lives 4 months Without a Heart

Last spring 14 year-old D'Zhana Simmons and her parents learned she had an enlarged heart that was too weak to sufficiently pump blood. They traveled from their home in Clinton, South Carolina to Holtz Children's Hospital in Miami for a heart transplant. But her new heart didn't work properly and could have ruptured so surgeons removed it two days later. And they did something unusual: They replaced the heart with a pair of artificial pumping devices that kept blood flowing through her body until she could have a second transplant. D’Zhana lived for 118 days without a heart. Since July, she's had two heart transplants and survived with artificial heart pumps — but no heart — for four months between the transplants.

The pumps, ventricular assist devices, are typically used with a heart still in place to help the chambers circulate blood. With D'Zhana's heart removed, doctors at Holtz Children's Hospital crafted substitute heart chambers using a fabric and connected these to the two pumps. Although artificial hearts have been approved for adults, none has been federally approved for use in children. That's because it's rarer for them to have these life-threatening conditions, so companies don't invest as much into technology that could help them.

During the almost four months between her two transplants, D'Zhana wasn't able to breathe on her own half the time. She also had kidney and liver failure and gastrointestinal bleeding. Taking a short stroll — when she felt up for it — required the help of four people, at least one of whom would steer the photocopier-sized machine that was the external part of the pumping devices.

D'Zhana said now she's grateful for small things: She'll see her five siblings soon, and she can spend time outdoors. Doctors say she'll be able to do most things that teens do, like attending school and going out with friends. She will be on lifelong medication to keep her body from rejecting the donated heart, and there's a 50-50 chance she'll need another transplant before she turns 30. For now, though, D'Zhana is looking forward to celebrating another milestone. On Saturday, she turns 15 and plans to spend the day riding in a boat off Miami's coast. She was released Wednesday from the hospital.

Griffey Becomes American Public Diplomacy Envoy

Ken Griffey Jr. has joined a new team. He was introduced Tuesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the newest American Public Diplomacy Envoy. Griffey is set to make his first baseball-related trip for the State Department to Panama in January. He will represent the “values of the United States, not the government of the United States,” Rice said. As an unofficial ambassador, Rice said Griffey will travel overseas to "talk to young people and to spark their interest in America and in our culture."

Griffey said he was eager to get going. He said he didn’t really have to think about it when Secretary Rice called. He loved the idea of reaching out to young children about our culture and also about baseball.

Once ridiculed by baseball's old guard for doing things like wearing his hat backward, blowing bubblegum bubbles and endorsing video games, “The Kid” outgrew all of that to become not only an elder statesman of the sport but of the entire country. Ken Griffey Jr. turns 39 this week. He is sixth on the career home run list with 611. He played for Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox last season, and later filed for free agency. He joined former baseball star Cal Ripken Jr., figure skater Michelle Kwan and actress Fran Drescher as envoys.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

1st Black Attorney General? President-elect Obama Offers Eric Holder Cabinet Spot

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has conditionally offered Eric Holder the job as attorney general and the former top Clinton administration official has accepted. Before the offer becomes official, Obama's team wants to determine if Holder could win Senate confirmation with broad bipartisan support and clean up a Justice Department wracked by scandals.

Eric Holder, the deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, has emerged as the top candidate for the job as the nation's top law enforcement and legal officer. As attorney general, Holder would play a key role in setting policy on prosecuting terrorism and crime cases while protecting civil liberties.

Justice Department officials said Holder, who served as a former prosecutor who handled corruption cases, a local judge and then the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., was generally respected, admired and well regarded by career employees. Along with Caroline Kennedy and Jim Johnson, he served on Obama's vice presidential selection committee and has been a senior legal adviser for Obama's presidential campaign.

Holder was born in 1951 in The Bronx, New York, to parents who emigrated from Barbados. He grew up in Queens and was educated at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and attended Columbia University, where he earned a B.A. in 1973 and a J.D. in 1976. He was then appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Holder served as Acting Attorney General under President George W. Bush for several weeks until the Senate confirmed Bush's nominee, John Ashcroft.

If his nomination is approved by the U.S. Senate, he will be the first Black person to head the Justice Department. Holder is married to Sharon Malone, an obstetrician; the couple has three children.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The First Grandma

The future first lady, Michelle Obama, is bringing her mother along when they move into the White House. Marian Robinson has had a major role in the Obama household.

The new “first grandma’s” main job during President-elect Barack Obama's two-year-long campaign for the presidency was to make sure the Obamas' young daughters, Malia and Sasha, were taken care of (upholding family rules - 8:30 p.m. bedtime, healthy food, daily schedules) while mom and dad were on the campaign trail. Barack Obama credited his mother-in-law with helping to make the family survive his transition to national politics.

Fraser and Marian Robinson raised Michelle and her brother Craig on the South Side of Chicago. Fraser died shortly before Barack and Michelle were married.

At the Democratic National Convention this year, Michelle said, "My mother's love has always been the sustaining force for our family. One of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion and her intelligence reflected in my daughters."

Michelle Obama convinced her mother to come to Washington with the family to help keep the kids grounded while in the White House. Grandma will be coming to Washington.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Black Super Hero: Djimon Hounsou

Djimon Hounsou is the voice of the Marvel Comics super hero, The Black Panther, an animated series which is slated to premiere in 2009. The series will be adapted directly from the first six issues of the Marvel Comic (issues #1 - #6, “Who Is The Black Panther”).

The movie is the result of a partnership between BET and Marvel Animation. It’s a good thing for people to have a Super Hero they can identify with. The Black Panther is a powerful force for good, and he is also a respected world leader who takes pride in his heritage. He embodies the past and future of his culture, demonstrating the endless possibilities of Black people that are truly free.

The Black Panther was a superhero who first appeared in Marvel's Fantastic Four Vol. 1, #52 in 1966. He was the first prominent Black superhero in comic history and the first to get his own comic book. The title "Black Panther" is a rank of chieftain of the Wakandan Panther Clan. As chieftain, the Panther is entitled to eat a special heart-shaped herb, as well as his mystical connection with the Wakandan Panther god, that grants him superhumanly senses (especially eyesight, night vision, and sense of smell) and increases his strength, speed, stamina, and agility. He is a genius in physics and advanced technology, and is a brilliant inventor. His senses are so powerful that he can pick up a prey's scent and memorize tens of thousands of individual ones.

I am not into comic book heroes, but maybe this will change my mind.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Michelle Obama Visits Washington Private Schools

Michelle Obama, the soon-to-be first lady, visited at least two well-known private schools Monday as she and President-elect Obama prepare to move their two young daughters to the White House in January. She toured Georgetown Day School in the morning and Sidwell Friends School, which Chelsea Clinton attended, in the afternoon. In between, she spent about two hours visiting the residential portion of the White House with first lady Laura Bush while their husbands met privately in the Oval Office. It is not clear whether the Obamas will look at other schools, and their staff provided no details.

Ten-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha now attend a private school in Chicago. Sasha will be the youngest White House resident since the Kennedy administration and Washington is full of speculation about where they will attend school, how much they will appear in public, and other details.

One student at Georgetown Day said she hoped the Obama girls would attend there. "It's really our turn," she said, noting that Sidwell Friends had been the presidential family's choice in the past. Another Georgetown Day student said having the Obama girls as classmates would give him "bragging rights" with his friends. Georgetown Day, founded in 1945, was an early pioneer in integration and prides itself on its diversity. The school's Web site says about 35 percent of its estimated 1,000 students are of color.

About four hours later, Michelle Obama arrived at Sidwell Friends. Students gathered outside the private Quaker school and waited near the door with their cell phones, hoping to take pictures and possibly shake her hand. One 15 year-old student said his older brother was a student at Sidwell Friends when Chelsea Clinton attended. President Bill Clinton would go to PTA meetings and other events, he said.

Another private school, the Maret School, would not comment on whether Michelle Obama planned to visit, citing the school's policy of protecting families' privacy. Reporters and TV crews had camped out at Georgetown Day, Sidwell Friends and the Maret School.

There are some public schools in the District of Columbia that the Obamas could consider, including a few in affluent northwest Washington that have been recognized nationally as Blue Ribbon Schools.

Obamas Arrives for White House Tour & Talks

President-elect Barack Obama and President George W. Bush met in the Oval Office Monday to begin the historic shifting of power to a new administration. Obama and his wife, Michelle, arrived at the White House early with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush waiting for them. The couples enjoyed a warm greeting, with smiles and handshakes then the two couples entered the Diplomatic Reception Room.

The president-elect and president strolled along the Colonnade and waved for the cameras while their wives began a meeting of their own. The president and the president-elect then headed into the Oval Office to talk about the future of the country. It was the president-elect's first visit to the White House since his landslide election victory — and his first visit ever to the Oval Office.

Their arrival had the look of a foreign head-of-state state visit. Upon arrival in Washington, Obama climbed into a black limousine with tinted windows, instead of his normal SUV; the limo looked just like the one that the president rides in, without the seal or flags. The entire motorcade was upgraded from campaign mode to presidential-level, with a second identical decoy limousine, a black haz-mat truck, a communications truck and the counter-assault team hanging out the back of an SUV.

Mrs. Bush was to give Mrs. Obama a tour of the first family's living quarters, including the bedrooms used by children of past presidents. The first lady and future first lady were expected to talk about living in one of the world's most famous building, from family life to the help provided by executive staff.

Unlike the incoming president, Bush knew his way around the Oval Office when he was elected in 2000 — his father had been president. Still, like many before them, President Clinton and President-elect Bush had their own private meeting, keeping up a tradition that temporarily puts the presidency above politics. The president-elect has made clear to the people of the United States and those watching around the world that there is only one president at a time and that's Bush. Obama is in the transition to power but does not assume the presidency until Jan. 20.

A Black man moving into the White House. Can you imagine what the people who fought in the Civil War would be thinking? Can you imagine what the slaves who built the White House would be thinking?

Friday, November 7, 2008

“Skin”: Shows the Dilemma that Apartheid Brings One Family

Skin is a story that begins in South Africa in 1955. Sandra (Sophie Okonedo) was born to two White Afrikaner parents in rural South Africa. But a genetic throwback causes her skin to be dark and her hair tightly curled. The government’s rigid apartheid system was faced with a serious dilemma. Should Sandra be classified as White or Black? For Sandra and her family, the complications ran far deeper.

Skin follows Sandra as she grows up in a society where color decides everything. She is granted admission to an all-White school, but suffers daily torment from her classmates. Her father is no more liberal than any other rural Afrikaner of his time; he can barely accept his daughter’s dark features, let alone the neighbors’ constant gossip. Even after tests establish that he is in fact Sandra’s biological father, the plain fact of her difference complicates life. Only her mother offers real emotional support, but it comes at a great price to both mother and daughter.

As Sandra grows up and falls in love with a Black man, Okonedo reveals the full spectrum of her character: the childhood hurt, the uncertain identities and, in time, her pride as an African woman.

World Hopes for a 'Less Arrogant America'

Around the world, large crowds packed outdoor plazas and pubs to await U.S. elections results Tuesday, many inspired by Barack Obama's promise of change and a sense of relief that — no matter who wins — the White House is changing hands. As millions of U.S. voters decided who would be their next leader, the world was abuzz with the sense of bearing witness to a moment of history that would echo well beyond American borders.

"America is electing a new president, but for the Germans, for Europeans, it is electing the next world leader," said the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations. In Germany, where more than 200,000 people flocked to see Obama this summer during a trip to the Middle East and Europe, the election dominated television ticker crawls, newspaper headlines and Web sites.

In Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland, the atmosphere was electric with pride and excitement as people flocked to all-night parties to watch election results roll in. Kenyans believe an Obama victory wouldn't change their lives much, but that hasn't stopped them from splashing his picture on minibuses and selling T-shirts with his name and likeness. Kenyans gathered around radios and TV sets Tuesday night as the results came in.

The Irish village of Moneygall was also trying to claim Obama as a favorite son — based on research that concluded the candidate's great-great-great grandfather lived there before emigrating to the United States. The entertainment at Moneygall's Hayes Bar included a local band called Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys that has been winning air time with its rousing folk song "There's No One as Irish as Barack Obama."

London Mayor Boris Johnson — a Conservative — was rooting for the liberal Obama. "For those who have become disenchanted with America — including many Americans — (Obama) offers the hope of re-igniting the love affair," he said. In Paris, among the festivities planned was a "Goodbye George" party to bid farewell to Bush. A Paris bank tell said, "It lets America turn an important page in its history."

Obama-mania was evident not only across Europe but also in much of the Islamic world, where Muslims expressed hope that the Democrat would seek compromise rather than confrontation. Worldwide, most Muslims believe the Bush administration alienated Muslims by mistreating prisoners at its detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

In the Japanese coastal town of Obama — which translates as "little beach" — images of President-elect Obama adorned banners along a main shopping street, and preparations for a victory party were in full swing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Victory Sets Off Jubilation

From Harlem, to Atlanta (where the Martin Luther King Jr. was born), to Oakland, Americans Black, White, Brown, Yellow and Red celebrated President Elect Barack Obama's victory with tears, the honking of horns, screams of joy, arms lifted skyward — and memories of civil rights struggles past.

An estimated 100,000 people who had crowded into Grant Park in Chicago to greet President-elect Obama erupted in cheers and jubilantly waved American flags as TV news announced he had been elected the first Black president. The crowd included Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Kerry Washington and Jesse Jackson who had tears streaming down his face.

Gatherings in churches and homes spilled outdoors, with people dancing in the streets. In Harlem, the roar of thousands of people gathered in a plaza near the legendary Apollo Theater could be heard blocks away. On the other side of the nation, in Oakland, traffic stopped in Jack London Square as celebrating drivers honked and crowds took to the streets, dancing to the music of a live band.

In the nation's capital, hundreds of residents spilled into the streets near the White House. Along U Street, once known as America's Black Broadway for its thriving Black-owned shops and theaters, men stood on car roofs, waving American flags and Obama posters. Nearby, at historically Black Howard University, hundreds of students erupted in cheers, broke into song and chanted, "Yes, we did!"

Elsewhere, there were smaller, quieter celebrations. In Cleveland, Obama supporters gathered at a house party and held champagne flutes above their heads for a toast. In Tampa, cheers and applause broke out in a crowded bar as the TV called the race for Obama. The blare of cars honking outside floated through the bar's open front door.

At Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King preached, Representative John Lewis, a civil rights hero, was emotional as he took the pulpit before Obama's victory was announced. He said he was hardly able to believe that 40 years after he was left beaten and bloody on an Alabama bridge as he marched for the right for Blacks to vote, he had cast a ballot for Obama. As the news of a projected Obama victory flashed across a TV screen, men in the crowd pumped their fists and bowed their heads. Women wept as they embraced their children, and many in the crowd high-fived and raised their arms. They prayed for the president-elect before singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," regarded as the Black national anthem.

Now, when we tell my young people they can be anything they want to be, that includes president of the United States.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The 44th President of the United States

And Now We Wait

I voted early Friday week before last and went with my wife and my 20-year-old first time voter daughter the next day as they voted. We were all excited, especially my daughter. She wore her "I Voted" sticker the rest of the day. We live in a highly republican county north of Dallas, but there were a few Obama supporters in our short line. We only waited for about 15 minutes whereas places like Georgia and Florida people waited in line for at least 5 hours.

I am so proud of Black folks for dealing with whatever situation there was to vote. Whatever happens we had our say this time. And now we wait…