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.