Monday, December 28, 2009

Teammates Give Vick Courage Award

Related NewsWelcome back: Vick still rules in Atlanta

Just yesterday Michael Vick was a disgraced star and the most hated man in the world to dog lovers everywhere. But it seems that his peers appreciate his tough journey back to the NFL. His Philadelphia Eagles teammates unanimouly voted and gave him the Ed Block Courage Award, after he returned to the league after spending 18 months in a federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.

The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback in six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons has not played much with the Eagles. He has two touchdowns rushing and one passing in 12 games. The Eagles were criticized by animal rights activists for signing Michael Vick less than a month after he was released from prison. And some fans threatened to give up their tickets. But he received a warm reception in his first game with the Eagles and has been a model citizen off the field.

The Ed Block Award honors players who exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Eagles star quarterback Donovan McNabb called the award "well-deserved." Each of the 32 NFL teams selects a recipient.

Michael Vick has spent time working with the Humane Society of the United States, speaking to school and community groups about the mistakes he made in getting involved in dogfighting.

"Congratulations to him for turning his life around and bettering himself as a human being," coach Andy Reid said. "He's obviously very well-respected by his teammates."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tiger Woods Saga Continued

Raise your hands if you are tired of hearing about the Tiger Woods saga. I tried really hard to stay out of it. But after I heard the rumor that Tiger offered his wife millions of dollars to stay in their marriage, I had to chime in.

The first thing that comes to mind is that White women have a temper too. The thought crossed my mind that Tiger, like most Black men with White wives or girlfriends, figured that they could do anything they wanted and get over. Now it turns out that White women have their own weapons for dealing with cheating men. Black women are partial to a pot of hot grits or frying pans. It seems that White women have introduced the golf club as a weapon of choice. The hockey stick can't be far behind.

But seriously, studies have shown that women initiate domestic violence as often as men, that women use weapons more than men, and that 38 percent of injured victims are men. Maybe Chris Brown wasn't entirely the bad guy after all.

Resorting to violence has never been a viable option for me. Hitting women is not acceptable. And judges, the media, and the majority of the rest of the world agrees with me. Just walk away men.

And women, getting hit by men is unacceptable, but hitting men is unacceptable as well. If Tiger's wife really beat him with a golf club we should be as outraged as we were when we heard about Chris Brown and so should the news media.

Women if you angry, no mad enough at a man to hit a man, please realize that usually when you hit a person, they’re inclined to hit you back out of retaliation or reflex.

We really don't know what happened, but just maybe some charges should be filed against Mrs. Tiger since he showed signs of abuse, she should have to pay a fine, endure court proceedings and maybe that may make her rethink requesting $500 million dollars, he needs to be compensated for humiliation, and definitely his stupidity.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Huge Rising Star

Marvadene Anderson, the world's tallest teenage girl, has become a basketball star at Rutgers; not Rutgers University, Rutgers Prep. This up-and-coming New Jersey high school basketball player is only 16 and stands 6-foot-11, and is still growing.

The Jamaican-born hoopster is taller than legendary ballplayers like Michael Jordan (6-6) and LeBron James (6-8). She was the highest-scoring "netball" player (a sport similar to basketball) in her native Jamaica.

That on-court basketball prowess earned her a scholarship to Rutgers Prep and for the last two months she's been hitting the hardwood to learn the rules of basketball.
"Everyone has come up to me and asked if I play college basketball. I tell them I'm only a sophomore in high school."

Marvadene Anderson, whose family remained in Jamaica, got her nickname "Bubbles" because of her good humor. The biggest problem "Bubbles" seems to have is adjusting to the cold weather and finding clothes and shoes to fit her 210-pound frame and size-12 feet.

Back home in Jamaica she was teased a lot. They called her "baby giant because her older sister, Kimberly is 6-foot-4. They also called them "the twin towers". But she said the rudest thing anybody ever said about her height was that she would not be able to find a husband.

Rutgers Prep coach Mary Coyle-Klinger and her sister, former WNBA coach Pat Coyle, have been working with their new star. Anderson picked up six points in her first game on December 10. She is going to be a star. She's only been playing two months and it's amazing how well she has adapted.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Opinions of Black Women: Black and White

I was sent this via email and thought I would share. Thumbs up to this Black man.

"It seems that an article was written to Sister 2 Sister magazine by a Caucasian woman who requested a response from Black men. She got what she asked for (and more)!!!

Dear Jamie:

I'm sorry but I would like to challenge some of your Black male readers. I am a White female who is engaged to a Black male-good-looking, educated and loving. I just don't understand a lot of Black female attitudes about our relationship.

My man decided he wanted me because the pickings amongst Black women were slim to none. As he said they were either too fat, too loud, too mean, too argumentative, too needy, too materialistic or carrying too much excess baggage... If Black women are so up in arms about us being with their men, why don't they look at themselves and make some changes.

I am tired of the dirty looks I get and snide remarks when we're out in public. I would like to hear from some Black men about why we are so appealing and coveted by them.

Bryant Gumbel left his wife of 26 years for one of us Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, the model Tyson Beckford, Montell Williams, Quincy Jones, James Earl Jones, Harry Belafonte, Sydney Poitier, Kofi Anan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Don Cornelius, Berry Gordy, Billy Blanks, Larry Fishburne, Wesley Snipes...

Don't be mad with us White women because so many of your men want us. Get your acts together and learn from us and we may lead you to treat your men better. If I'm wrong, Black men, let me know.

Disgusted White Girl, Somewhere in VA"


Dear Jamie:

I would like to respond to the letter written by A Disgusted White Girl.

Let me start by saying that I am a 28-year old Black man. I graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in Atlanta, Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Management. I have a good job at a major corporation and have recently purchased a house. So, I consider myself to be among the ranks of successful Black men.

I will not use my precious time to slander White people. I just want to set the record straight of why Black men date White women. Back in the day, one of the biggest reasons why Black men dated White women was because they were considered easy. The Black girls in my neighborhood were raised in the church. They were very strict about when they lost their virginity and who they lost it to. Because of our impatience to wait, brothers would look for someone who would give it up easy without too much hassle. So, we turned to the White girls.

Nowadays, in my opinion, a lot of brothers date White women because they are docile and easy to control. A lot of black men, because of insecurities, fears, and overall weaknesses, have become intimidated by the strength of our Black women. We are afraid that our woman will be more successful than us, make more money than us, drive nicer cars and own bigger houses. Because of this fear, many Black men look for a more docile woman. Someone we can control.

I have talked to numerous Black men and they continuously comment on how easy it is to control and walk over their White women. I just want to set the record straight. I want A Disgusted White Girl to know that not all successful Black men date White women.

Brothers like Ahmad Rashad, Denzel Washington, Morris Chestnut, Will Smith, Blair Underwood, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Chris Rock all married strong black women." Lets not forget Barack Obama. "And, to flip the script, there are numerous White men, in and out of the spot light, who openly or secretly desire Black women over White women. Ted Danson, Robert DeNiro, and David Bowie to name a few.

Stop thinking that because you are White that you are some type of goddess. Remember, when Black Queens like Hatsepshut and Nitorcris were ruling Dynasties and armies of men in Africa, you were over in the caves of Europe eating raw meat and beating each other over the head with clubs... It was the black woman that taught you how to cook and season your food. It was the Black woman that taught you how to raise your children. It was Black women who were breast feeding and raising your babies during slavery. It is the Black woman that had to endure watching their fathers, husbands, and children beaten, killed, and thrown in jail. And, through all this, Still They Rise!

It is because of the Black woman's strength, elegance, power, love and beauty that I could never date anyone except my Black Queen. It is not just the outer beauty that captivates and draws me to them. It is not the fact that they come in all shapes, sizes, colors and shades that I love them. Their inner beauty is what I find most appealing about Black women. Their strong spirit, loving and nurturing souls, their integrity, their ability to overcome great obstacles, their willingness to stand for what they believe in, and their determination to succeed and reach their highest potential while enduring great pain and suffering is why I have fallen in love with Black women.

I honestly believe that your anger is geared more toward jealousy and envy more so than snotty looks. If this were not so, then why do you continuously go to tanning salons to darken your skin? If you are so proud to be White, then why don't you just be happy with your skin? Why do you continue to inject your lips, hips, and butts with unnatural and dangerous substances so you can look fuller and more voluptuous? I think that your anger is really a result of you wanting to have what the Black woman has.

BOTTOM LINE: If I were looking for a docile woman, someone I can walk over and control, I would give you a call. But, unfortunately, I am looking for a Virtuous Woman. Someone that can be a good wife and mother to my children. Someone who can be my best friend and understands my struggles. I am looking for a soul mate. I am looking for a sister and; unfortunately, you do not and CANNOT fit the bill.

No offense taken, none given.

Signed, Black Royalty"

Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 Sportsman of the Year

In what has already been a great year for New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, it got better still as he was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award. He was chosen as the magazine's 56th honoree as the December 7 issue will hit newsstands on Wednesday. Jeter also is the first Yankee to be named SI's Sportsman.

Jeter's selection caps another outstanding season for the 35-year-old team captain and future Hall of Famer. In 2009 he batted .334 while leading the Yankees to their fifth World Series title in his 14 full seasons, and their record 27th in franchise history. On September 11 he passed Lou Gehrig's franchise mark for base hits, which now stands at 2,747. Derek Jeter led the American League by reaching base 289 times, finished second in the league in hits (212), third in batting average and on-base percentage (.406), fourth in runs (107) and eighth in stolen bases (30). He was named an All-Star for the 10th time, including the sixth time as a starter. He won his fourth American League Silver Slugger as the best hitting shortstop in the league and his fourth Gold Glove as the league's top defensive shortstop.

He lived up to his reputation as a clutch player, batting .344 with a .432 on-base percentage, three home runs and six RBIs. He batted .407 in the World Series to lead the Yankees to a six-game victory over the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies. During the Series, Jeter was named the American League recipient of the Hank Aaron Award, given to the best hitter in each league, and the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who best displays skill on the field while giving back to the community off it.

It was that combination of on and off-field achievement that helped make Jeter this year's winner. Derek Jeter has always presented himself with class. His Turn 2 Foundation is one of the most efficient, effective foundations of its kind; and he's extremely generous with not just his money but with his time.

Jeter is the first baseball player to win the award solo since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were co-winners in 1998, as were Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001. The Boston Red Sox won as a team in 2004. The Sportsman of the Year award has been given annually since Sport's Illustrated began publishing in 1954. The first winner was track star Roger Bannister, and subsequent honorees include Arnold Palmer (1960), Muhammad Ali (1974), Wayne Gretzky (1982), Michael Jordan (1991), Tiger Woods (1996 and 2000, the only two-time recipient), Lance Armstrong (2002) and Tom Brady (2005). Last year's winner was record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama's Host First State Dinner

President Barack Obama hosted the first state dinner of his administration last night and it was an evening of regal pageantry and symbolic politics in a tent on the White House South Lawn with a view of the Washington Monument. The president raised his glass toward his guest of honor, visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and toasted, "To the future that beckons all of us, let us answer its call. And let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us."

Dating back to 1874, state dinners are the most treasured and formal honor a U.S. president can offer a foreign dignitary, and the most coveted invitation in Washington. Traditionally, a new administration's first invitation goes to the leader of neighboring Canada or Mexico, though recent presidents also haven't followed that precedent. The dinner showed President Obama's intention to signal strong ties with India, the world's largest democracy, and go his own way in navigating the pomp and tradition of White House customs.

The event planned by First Lady Michelle Obama emphasized eco-friendly themes such as White House-grown herbs and lettuce served to guests and harvested magnolia branches -- from species native to both India and the United States -- in arrangements adorning the tent. The dinner was attended by more than 300 guests wearing tuxedos and gowns who were wined, dined and entertained. The guest list included political allies, a few opponents, celebrities and members of the Indian diplomatic community.

In a toast that followed the president's, Prime Minister Singh praised his host's leadership and prompted applause by citing the charm of the U.S. first lady. President Obama's election is "an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of diversity, democracy and equal opportunity," Singh said, adding that India "warmly applauded" the Nobel Peace Prize awarded President Obama for his calming effect and his leadership.

President Obama wore a black tuxedo, and the first lady wore a elegant strapless cream gown with silver accents gown by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan. Entertainment was by jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, Grammy and Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson, the National Symphony Orchestra directed by award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, Academy Award-winning Indian musician and composer A.R. Rahman, and The President's Own United States Marine Band.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Disney Goes Black

In the 72 years since Walt Disney's animated version of Snow White captivated audiences as "the fairest of them all," there have only been eight Disney princesses. These movies, toys, dresses and figurines, the Disney princesses have become global icons of childhood. Sleeping Beauty awakened by a kiss, Cinderella's clock striking midnight, Belle waltzing in the Beast's castle, Ariel with Prince Eric in the moonlit lagoon. These have become heroines that parents the world over feel safe to let their young girls mimic. And while Disney has brought us non-White princesses before -- Mulan and Pocahontas -- the newest princesses is a first. Tiana is the first Disney princess in more than a decade, and the first ever to be Black. Tiana is a beautiful Black princess from New Orleans. Princess Tiana is also the first modern Disney princess.

Thge message of Tiana is that Black girls can be as elegant as Snow White herself. It is another milestone in U.S. national imagery. Tiana's appearance this holiday season, comes on the heels of Michelle Obama becoming the first lady, the Obama girls in the White House, and the first line of Barbie dolls modeled on Black women, will crown an extraordinaryt year of visibility for Black American women. Considering Disney's influence and marketing to young girls, Princess Tiana might become the symbol of a culture-changing standard of feminine beauty. And given the popularity of Disney princesses at the company's theme parks, Web sites and videos, you're looking at 30 or 40 years of repetition.

Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose voices Tiana. Other voices includes Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard. The Princess and the Frog opens in New York and Los Angeles November 25 and everywhere else on December 11. Tiana's doll and toy set were unveiled last month, and the Disney promotional machine is already humming.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Black Astronauts Conquering Space, the Final Frontier

Orthopedic surgeon Robert Satcher put his skills to work in space, repairing a robotic arm on NASA’s International Space Station, thereby becoming the highest recorded orthopedic surgery ever. And by the way Mr. Satcher is the first orthopedic surgeon in space. He was selected by NASA in 2004 for the space program and completed astronaut candidate training in 2006. The mission specialist is one of six crew members on a mission to the International Space Station.

Before joining NASA, Robert Satcher was a professor at The Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He also held an appointment as an attending physician in orthopaedic surgery at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, specializing in Musculoskeletal Oncology; and an adjunct appointment in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Northeastern University School of Engineering. He also completed numerous medical missions for outreach care to underserved areas in Nicaraugua, Venezuala, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Gabon.

Dr. Satcher has been active in numerous community organizations including Big Brother for Youth at Risk Counseling Program, Department of Corrections, San Francisco, California; Tutor for Black Student's Union Tutorial Program, MIT; National Society of Black Engineers; Supervising Adult for Cub Scout Camp for Boys, Nashville, Tennessee; Proctor for Freshman Dormitory at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Lay Episcopal Minister (primary responsibility is visiting sick and shut in members of church) at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church, Chicago, Illinois and at St. James Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.

Joining Satcher on this trip is fellow mission specialist Leland Melvin, who is an expert in fiber optics and aerospace structures and materials, especially in the development of launch vehicles for space. He has won eight NASA Outstanding Performance Awards, two NASA Superior Accomplishment Awards and the key to the City of Lynchburg. An avid sports enthusiastic and college athlete, Melvin was an NCAA Division I Academic All-American and is a University of Richmond Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee. He was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the 11th round of the 1986 NFL college draft, and he also participated in the Toronto Argonauts and Dallas Cowboys football training camps.

Mr. Melvin, who joined the astronaut training in August 1998, has served the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch, the Education Department at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C, and the Robotics Branch of the Astronaut Office. As co-manager of NASA's Educator Astronaut Program, Melvin traveled across the country, educating thousands of students and teachers about space exploration and encouraging them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the Eve of Greatness? Sports Prodigies

Confidence is one of the "big three" characteristics, along with composure and concentration, that young athletes need when competing at sports' highest levels. But there are "no perfect predictors" for what makes a phenom. Dakota Simms seems on track for greatness and is hoping the NBA changes its age requirement so he can go directly to the NBA from high school. His jump shot is masterful; a basketball fan might consider it art. He elevates through his legs, toes pointed downward and back straight, and strokes the ball toward the hoop, following through as if he were painting a wall with his fingertips.

Dakota practices the jumper and other elements of his game every day, staying at the gym until he makes at least 200 three-point shots with an NBA regulation ball. And Dakota is only 9. Some guys in the NBA who don't have form like that, "If he stays focused like he is right now, he'll write his own ticket," said ex-Atlanta Hawk and NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins after he and the youngster met at Philips Arena's practice court for a friendly three-point shooting contest from the NBA arc.

Darryl Dawkins, like many teen sports prodigies, wasn't afraid to join the professional ranks as a youngster. He was emboldened by his size and imagination. A big man -- 6-10 in 1975 when the Philadelphia 76ers drafted him out of high school -- Dawkins wasn't in awe of the stars of the era. Dawkins, by all accounts, was expected to write his own ticket as well, but he was sidetracked by the temptations that often accompany fame and fortune. After the 18-year-old signed a seven-year contract for about $1 million -- a sum for which most of today's NBA players wouldn't sweep the gym floor -- he quickly immersed himself in "soft drugs" and women. His backboard-shattering dunks would earn him the moniker "Chocolate Thunder," but he also garnered a reputation for his playful demeanor and trash talking. He spun tales of his fictional "Planet Lovetron" and anointed his dunks with colorful names like "Turbo Sexophonic Delight" and "Spine Chiller Supreme."

Darryl Dawkins was a hit with fans, but dogged by injuries, he never statistically lived up to their towering expectations during his 14 seasons. He has no regrets, he said, because he entered the NBA to lift his family out of poverty. Now as head basketball coach at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, he tells his hoopsters to do as he says, not as he did. "You can be whatever you want to be. Nurse, doctor, lawyer, teacher -- we need all those, and those are going pro, too. You can be a doctor a lot longer than you can play ball," he tells his charges today.

The fate of a teen pro athlete hinges on a host of variables, and only one is sheer skill. Also important are breathing, coordination, communication, openness to feedback, built-in motivation, an understanding of hydration and nutrition, musculoskeletal development and the ability to recover from the rigors of exercise. Work ethic is important, too. While there are hundreds of examples of teens having average or workmanlike careers, there are also monumental busts and booms. At one end of the gamut, you have football's Todd Marinovich and tennis' Anna Kournikova, young athletes whose hype overshadowed their actual accomplishments. On the other end, you have Sydney Crosby and Lebron James, guys whose ages were never evident when they took the ice and court as teens.

Hoping to follow the leads of ballers like Leron James, Dakota Simms practices up to 14 hours a week, but outside his Herculean work ethic, Dakota is a typical kid. Terence Simms, his coach/father, and Kobe Bryant are his favorite basketball players. Cheeseburgers and hamburgers are his two favorite foods, in that order, and he enjoys writing stories and playing video games when he's not on the court. But talk to him about basketball and you'll hear some things atypical of 9-year-olds. "If you miss some shots, you've got to get your head right," said Dakota. "You've got to fix it. Nobody else is going to do it for you."

It's imperative that young athletes have focus, drive and the ability to reset their minds when they're off the playing field, but often overlooked is something that should be at the root of all sports. If fun isn't the key element at this point, that's what typically leads to burnout or change of sport. Having fun certainly helped Jonathan Spector. A member of the U.S. national soccer team who plays for England's Premiership squad West Ham United, Spector said it was hard to be homesick when he was doing something he loved. He moved to England in 2003 after Manchester United offered him a contract at age 17. "It's one of the best clubs in the world, and I was pursuing things I wanted to do so it was kind of hard to feel sorry for yourself," he said.

Spector had to acclimate quickly. Without his friends and family nearby, he faced new competition, different styles of play, constant travel and, of course, the pressure of 40,000 spectators watching. He said he thrives on pressure. Rachele Fico is not easily rattled, either. A softball pitcher with a rise ball her father described as "murder," Fico began receiving letters of interest as soon as she took the mound in high school. Pitches clocked at 64 mph catch recruiters' attention, and Fico was throwing curveballs at 68 her junior year. Louisiana State University signed Fico last year, before she even tossed a pitch her senior season (she later shattered the national high school record for career perfect games).
Ralph Fico said his daughter owes her success to her unflappable bearing and to her diligence -- she has thrown about 30,000 pitches a year since she was 9.

Athletes who hone these coping attributes at an early age are better able to deal with fear and pressure at higher levels as adults. Making great athletes is good, but making great people is much better. A pro sports career is only going to be so long. You are going to be around for a much longer time as people. Ultimately, teams want the best person out of the deal.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Josh Cribbs Walks with Late Coach's Son on Senior Night

In another bad year for the Cleveland Browns, wide receiver/returner Josh Cribbs has proved to be one of the only bright spots. Recently he showed he's equally good off the field as well. The Pro Bowler traveled to Berea, Ohio for senior night to walk onto the field with the son of one of his former college coaches.

Michael Drake, a senior receiver at Stow High School, lost his father, Mike, in 2005 to lymphoma. He had assumed he'd be accompanied by his mother and sister for senior night introductions and was stunned when he saw Cribbs arrive minutes before the game. Cribbs offered him advice before his final game.

Michael's late father recruited Josh to play at Kent State and served as a father figure to the Washington, D.C. native during his time at Kent. Mike Drake was the offensive coordinator at Kent State during Cribbs's freshman and sophomore seasons. Josh Cribbs played quarterback in college and credits Drake for helping him develop the fundamentals that he still uses today. So, when the idea of returning for senior night was mentioned to Cribbs this summer, he didn't hesitate.

It says a lot about the character of Josh Cribbs. He apparently didn't feel the need to talk about it publicly and neither did the media. It seems they only talk about negative incidents with athletes. Similarly, Drake's mother is quoted as saying that Cribbs took great pains to underplay his presence at the game for fear of taking away the spotlight from Michael and the other seniors. This shows a humility that everyone, including professional football players, could stand to emulate.

I will be cheering for Josh Cribbs, if not the Cleveland Browns, from this point on.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Viola Vaughn and 10,000 Girls

Viola Vaughn’s 26-year-old daughter’s sudden death left her to care for five grandchildren. The Detroit native had worked in Africa for most of her life and considered it home, so she and her husband returned there to raise their grandchildren.

Soon after their move to rural Kaolack, Senegal, in 2000, Vaughn's husband -- jazz musician Sam Sanders -- died of black lung. Amid her grief, she found comfort in her grandchildren, ages 4 to 12, and filled her days home-schooling them. Her success soon garnered attention from the locals.

There was a little girl that her granddaughter played with and kept coming around wanting to be taught with Ms. Vaughn grandchildren. She went to see this child's mother, and her mother said she had already failed school once, that she couldn't pass because she wasn't smart enough. Well she was smart enough to come to someone who could help. Within two weeks, Vaughn had 20 girls in her house who were failing school and asking her to teach them. She learned that the regional pass rate for girls was low because it was rooted in the economic need of young girls to work at home. They begin missing classes, then failing exams, often ultimately failing or dropping out of school. So in 2001, Vaughn turned her grandchildren's bedrooms into classrooms and began supplementing girls' education.

Viola Vaughn found each girl a girl younger than she and and taught them how to teach each other. In two years, the group of girls had grown to 80 -- and they were succeeding in school. With a grant, Vaughn was able to hire teachers, and the program continued to expand despite her attempt to set a limit of 100 girls. The girls wanted to take it to 10,000. To keep their "10,000 Girls" education program going, the girls asked Vaughn to teach them to bake. They began selling cookies and juice and were able to buy books and supplies. Soon they got their older sisters, aunts and cousins -- who had already failed out of the school system -- involved in baking and selling goods. The entrepreneurial element of the program was born.

Today, in addition to a pastry shop and catering business, "10,000 Girls" runs a sewing workshop and the girls export their handmade dolls and household linens overseas. Half of the funds from these projects go back to the girls; the remainder supports the education program. More than 1,500 girls are involved in the program in six locations; about 1,000 are waiting to join. They have girls who were told they'd never get through high school who are attend universities now. They hope that if they get 10,000 girls out there, 1,000 girls will come back to Kaolack and work, which would revolutionize the region.

All these girls needed was someone to show them how valued they are. Our education system is failing not only because of a bad education system, or bad teachers but also due to bad parents. Until we, the parents, start treating teachers with respect and teachers start treating our children with respect, no amount of changes or money will fix our education problem. Education is the base of development anywhere, so maybe Ms. Vaughn could return to her hometown of Detroit and other U.S. cities, where the school system is deteriorating year after year, to educate the educators on this type of peer-support teaching structure.

It’s good to read about people being empowered, and taking that empowerment to the next level by passing on to other people. This is exactly how it should be done -- people helping each other, giving what they can. If everyone did this, helping just a little bit in their own circles, as their own time and resources allow, then no one person has to save the world alone. The answer is in the passion and commitment shown by Viola, and the enthusiasm of the children and their family members. Where is that passion, commitment and enthusiasm in the U.S.? The only passion people seem to feel is for consuming material goods and watching tv. We need to get off our butts, people, and make things happen!

Now, can we bring her home, and put her in charge of the National Education system?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hootie Is Country Music's New Artist of the Year

Last night Darius Rucker became the first Black singer to win New Artist of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards, joining the legendary Charley Pride as the only Blacks to win a major individual award. He took the stage to wild cheers from the crowd. Charley Pride won entertainer of the year in 1971 and male vocalist in 1971-72. Rucker’s first country album, "Learn to Live," sold more than 1 million copies.

Darius Rucker is best known for his role as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the band Hootie & the Blowfish since its formation in 1986. Along with his work in Hootie & the Blowfish. Rucker has recorded two solo albums. The first, Back to Then, was released in 2002 on Hidden Beach Recordings. Then Learn to Live followed in 2008 on Capitol Records Nashville. Its first three singles — "Don't Think I Don't Think About It", "It Won't Be Like This for Long" and "Alright" — have all reached Number One on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart.

As the frontman, Rucker began to be called simply "Hootie" in the media and brought additional attention as the sole Black member of a rock band with otherwise White members. Musically, he was sometimes criticized or spoofed for not being "black enough". He also received death threats for singing the Hootie song "Drowning," a protest song against the flying of the Confederate flag above his native South Carolina statehouse.

In 2001, he made his solo R&B debut album, The Return of Mongo Slade, for Atlantic Records. Because of contractual changes, it was never released by the label. Hidden Beach Recordings, an independent label, acquired the masters from Atlantic and released the album as Back to Then in July 2002. The album included work from the production team of Jill Scott (A Touch of Jazz) and she made an appearance on the track "Hold On."

Darius Rucker made his debut in the famous Grand Ole Opry in July 2008. "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" reached Top 20 on the country charts in July 2008, making him the first Black singer to reach Top 20 on the country charts since Charley Pride in 1988. The single reached number one in September, making Rucker the first solo, Black artist to chart a number one country hit since Pride's "Night Games" in 1988.

Learn to Live was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on February 6, 2009, and received a platinum certification on August 7, 2009. Its lead single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It", gave Rucker his first chart-topping country hit and was certified gold. The album's next single, "It Won't Be Like This for Long", spent three weeks at the top of the country charts in mid 2009. Its follow-up, "Alright", became Rucker's third straight number one hit, making him the first country music singer to have his or her first three singles reach number one since Wynonna Judd did in 1992. The album's fourth single, "History in the Making," was released in September. When Rucker found that "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" went to number one, he cried.

Darius Rucker is close friends with golfer Tiger Woods; they met in a bar when Woods was 18. Rucker sang at the golfer's wedding and at his father's funeral.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Alabama Town Celebrates Obama Holiday

Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner Jr. (left) and Rep. Bobby Singleton await Obama Day golf tournament.

The Perry County courthouse sign read "Closed for the Obama Holiday." The rural county recently proclaimed an official holiday celebrating the election of the nation's first Black president, Barack Obama. It's one of Alabama's poorest counties, but sparred little during five days of festivities.

County employees, as well as city workers in Marion and Uniontown, will got a paid holiday Monday as government offices close, culminating a series of events including an old-fashioned civil rights rally and march, a golf tournament, a weekend carnival and a parade Monday through Marion.

Perry County is located in the heart of the economically depressed Black Belt region named for its rich soil. The county has a population of only a little over 11,000 residents, and an unemployment rate of more than 18 percent, one of the highest in the state.

County Commissioner Brett Harrison, who cast the lone "no" vote when the commission voted 4-1 to set up the holiday, questions adding a paid day off in such a poor county. He said the county already had 14 paid holidays and it didn't seem like the right time for such an ambitious event in the middle of a recession.

The Obama holiday was proposed by Commissioner Albert Turner Jr., whose father was one of the marchers beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" voting rights march in Selma. Many of the marchers were from Marion and were upset about the shooting death of Jimmie Lee Jackson during an earlier demonstration in the town. Perry County wanted to let the nation know the role the county played in protests that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act. Commissioner Turner said, "It's not that we're celebrating Obama. We're celebrating America living up to it's creed that all men are created equal."

Activities included a jamboree at Marion Military Institute, where high school students from public and private schools in three counties had a chance to meet with representatives of colleges from across the Southeast and were given instructions on how to apply for college.

The host of the golf tournament, state Senator Bobby Singleton said he hopes publicity surrounding the holiday will help lure new industry and jobs to the region.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cowboys in Queens

You probably wouldn't expect young men from the streets of Brooklyn to escape their “wild west” environments by riding horses and hanging out with cowboys at a rugged 25-acre ranch in nearby Queens. But that is exactly what is happening at Cedar Lane Stables. The Federation of Black Cowboys, founded in 1994, has called Cedar Lane home since 1998.

A white post-and-rail fence separates the property and its three dozen horses from the commuter traffic at the intersection of Linden Boulevard and Conduit Avenue. A red, wooden sign at the stable's entrance advertises "reins & things" at Debbie's Western Boutique. And a wide wooden bridge takes you to the riding ring and stables, many of which have been converted from metal shipping containers.

Twenty year old Paris "Rabbit" Parrish has ridden with the Black cowboys since he was 8 years old. He remembers when he and his mother were driving on Linden Boulevard and first saw Jessie Lee "Captain" Wise, one of the federation's 11 founders, riding his horse. And yelled mama, look, it’s a cowboy; so they pulled over, and talked to him, and Captain told young Paris to come on down to the stable. And Rabbit has been riding ever since.

Fifteen year old D’vonte “Boney D” Jemmott’s mother has been taking him to Cedar Lane Stables since he was a toddler. Like Rabbit, Boney D lives in a neighborhood that is filled with gangs, narcotics and violence. Both are confident that would be in jail or with a gang without the guidance of the local cowboys. Keeping youngsters away from gangs, guns and drugs is a top federation priority. Federation president Stencil “Doctor D” Stokes says they they see the Bloods. They see the Crips. All they see is violence. They can come here at night without worrying about getting shot. The kids love it, Texas in Queens. This is like an oasis in the middle of the city, says cowgirl Heather Bradley, whom the children call "Ma."

The federation has mentored a child who went on to become a veterinarian and another who is a New York mounted police officer, but Doctor D doesn't have unrealistic expectations of the children, because the primary goal is to keep them safe. Education is a staple at the stables, according to Warren "Black Red" Small, who said that taking care of a horse is a lot like taking care of yourself. Youngsters aren't allowed to ride until they first learn how to groom the animals, clean their hooves, saddle and bridle them and, yes, clean their stalls.

The federation also teaches children about "the forgotten Black West" because it's important that kids know the role Blacks played in taming the Wild West. Cowboys such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy too often dominate popular cowboy lore, but they were not the first. The federation teaches youngsters about Bill Pickett, who invented steer wrestling, and the aggressive "Stagecoach" Mary Fields, whose nickname was derived from her reliability in delivering mail across a wild and rugged Montana frontier.

History, for all people, is a necessary part of their evolution and their growing process. The group's first female inductee, Kesha "Babygirl" Morse, said "also necessary is working with kids to find a balance for them between the macho man stuff and being a gentleman." Thousands of kids have come through the stables via various school programs and community functions since 1998. And many have come back for mentoring.

Like any nonprofit, the federation survives off donations. Major corporations have donated to the cause, and co-founder Jessie Lee Wise has tapped his own excavating business to help with upkeep and construction at the stables. But times are hard, said Eric "Little Red" Jackson, and the cowboys could sorely use a sponsor to continue their work. Several stables are in disrepair, and the federation's future museum is presently a dilapidated trailer containing photos, animal hides and memorabilia and artifacts. In Southern California there is a similar program -"The Compton Jr. Posse". Here’s to groups like the Federation of Black Cowboys and their continued success. Keep up the good work y'all....

Notable Black Cowboys
William "Bill" Pickett (1870-1932) -- Credited with inventing steer wrestling, a popular rodeo event. Legend has it that Pickett, inspired by the bulldogs used to herd the steer, rode alongside a bull, leapt off his horse, grabbed it by the horns and bit the animal on the side of the mouth, bringing it to the ground.

"Stagecoach" Mary Fields (1832-1914) – AKA Mary Fields and Black Mary. Her skill at hitching a team of horses to a stagecoach earned her the honor of being the first Black woman to deliver the U.S. mail. A poem attributed to her says she was 6-feet tall, weighed 200 pounds, smoked a "big, black cigar" and carried a pistol. Mary got her nickname at the turn of the 20th Century. She earned this nickname by working for “Wells Fargo” delivering the U. S. Mail through adverse conditions that would have discouraged the most hardened frontiersmen of her time. She never missed a day for 8 years, carrying the U. S. Mail and other important documents that helped settle the wild open territory of central west Montana. She could knock out any man with one punch. Despite Mary's hardness, she had another side of her, a kindness so strong, even today, the town of Cascade, Montana, and other surrounding communities celebrate her birthday.

Bass Reeves (1838-1910) -- First Black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. He patrolled the lawless Indian Territory and was hired because of his knowledge of tribal languages and his acumen for disguise. He is credited with arresting more than 3,000 outlaws.

Nat Love (1854-1921) -- Also called "Deadwood Dick," Love was born a slave in Tennessee. He made his mark as a cowboy in Dodge City, Kansas, and in his autobiography talks of fighting native Americans, roping mustangs and sharing drinks with Billy the Kid.

And of course there were the Buffalo Soldiers (9th and 10th Cavalry). The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would have been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. Read, and visit site/great military history,

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Men are taught to be strong hold their tears. We have been taught to be strong and show no emotions, but the Word of God said that Jesus cried.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meet the New Black Barbie

Meet Beyoncé-style Barbie from Mattel's new So In Style line of dolls. Barbie fans are giving the toy maker credit for trying to create a doll that fairly depicts today's Black woman. The new line of darker-skinned Barbie friends are a vast improvement over Mattel's notorious "Colored Francie" of the 1960s, but they're still not quite Michelle Obama.

Stacy McBride-Irby, creator of the new Barbie, poses with the dolls.

Make no mistake, Mattel hopes to profit from the surge of interest in Black dolls. The Black Barbies with their neon wardrobes from the 1980s have become a favorite in Canada. Designed by Stacey McBride-Irby, Grace, Kara and Trichelle were created to fill a void for young Black girls who for so long have been playing with dolls that don't look like them. These dolls differ from the original Barbie and her family and friends. The new black Barbies released by Mattel have fuller lips, curlier hair and other features that the company says more accurately represent Black American women, but you can't make everyone happy. Some have cheered the new dolls. Others jeered them, saying they're not Black enough. Others disagree with critics who say the dolls should have had more natural black hairstyles, such as afros or braids. It's hard to encompass all Black people in three dolls.

The dolls have "Beyoncé-looking" long hair that can be curled and styled. And focus groups persuaded McBride-Irby to curl Trichelle's hair. But she wanted to create dolls little girls would play with. Next season, Ms. McBride-Irby will deliver an even darker-skinned Barbie pal named Sandra to increase the "diversity." This is not the first time Mattel has released an ethnic doll that drew criticism. In 1997, Mattel collaborated with cookie maker Nabisco to create Oreo Fun Barbie. The Black version of the doll, which sported an Oreo-shaped purse, was criticized by some who noted that "Oreo" is a derogatory term in the Black community. You know someone who is perceived as Black on the outside and White on the inside. Barbie has had a Black friend, Christie, since 1968. The first collector Black Barbies turned up in the 1980s, looking identical to the White-skinned originals. Barbie acquired three Black friends briefly in the early 1990s, the "Shani" dolls that supposedly looked more "ethnic."

Actress Nia Long, who appears in comedian Chris Rock's new documentary, "Good Hair," recently said, "Historically, the Afrocentric features have not been celebrated. This makes us question the integrity of our beauty standard for ourselves."

The new "little sisters" are designed to inspire Black teens to mentor younger girls, either their own sisters or in the community. Each doll also matches an academic side. Kara, for example, is into "math and music."

I say it's about time...Why should White girls get to keep all the Body Dysmorphic Disorder for themselves! Black girls want to hate their bodies too! If Barbie were life size at her current proportions, she would be unable to stand upright, due to her unrealistic assets. So while it's great that they are making Barbie multicultural, and easier to associate with, it would be great if there were actually a doll that celebrated realistic human figures. Instead of telling little girls they have to be thin and white to be pretty, they just have to be thin.

For those who say that the new Barbie are unrealistic and not Black enough, I say, Of course the Black Barbie is unrealistic. It's a BARBIE! Your little girl is never going to look like Barbie, whether she is Black, White, Brown, Yellow or Red. They are a fantasy and almost every girl loves Barbie.

Indeed, I think it's a wonderful idea that little Black girls can have dolls that "look more like them". However, it's not like the White Barbie dolls are accurate representations of the White (or ANY) female anatomy nor do they capture all the different hair types or styles White women have.

Whether Black or White, the Barbie doll is a very poor representation of the female body and that may have more impact on little girls than the hair type, texture or even facial features. So if you're going to complain about the doll why not start with universal "issues", such as the unrealistic body? Besides, many of these complaints are coming from women with “good hair”, you know, weaves and relaxed hair. All women come in different shades, shapes, and varieties too. If there is such a call for a 'Blacker' Barbie, another company will probably make it. The thing about Barbie is that she represents a type of beauty than most living women do not, Black, Brown, Red, White or Yellow.

Monday, October 19, 2009


While struggling with the reality of being a human instead of a myth, the strong Black woman passed away.
Medical sources say she died of natural causes, but those who knew her know.

She died from being silent when she should have been screaming, smiling when she should have been raging, from being sick and not wanting anyone to know because her pain might inconvenience them.
She died from an overdose of other people clinging to her when she didn't even have energy for herself.

She died from loving men who didn't love themselves and could only offer her a crippled reflection.
She died from raising children alone.

She died from the lies her grandmother told her mother and her mother told her about life, men & racism.

She died from being sexually abused as a child and having to take that truth everywhere she went every day of her life, exchanging the humiliation for guilt and back again.

She died from asphyxiation, coughing up blood from secrets she kept trying to burn away instead of allowing herself the kind of nervous breakdown she was entitled to, but only White girls could afford.

She died from being responsible, because she was the last rung on the ladder and there was no one under her she could dump on.

The strong black woman is dead.

She died from being a mother at 15 and a grandmother at 30 and an ancestor at 45.

She died from being dragged down and sat upon by un-evolved women posing as sisters and friends.

She died from tolerating Mr. Pitiful, just to have a man around the house.

She died from sacrificing herself for everybody and everything when what she really wanted to do was be a singer, a dancer, or some magnificent other.

She died from lies of omission because she didn't want to bring the Black man down.

She died from tributes from her counterparts who should have been matching her efforts instead of showering her with dead words and empty songs.

She died from myths that would not allow her to show weakness without being chastised by the lazy and hazy.

She died from hiding her real feelings until they became hard and bitter enough to invade her womb and breasts like angry tumors.

She died from always lifting something from heavy boxes to refrigerators all by herself.

The strong Black woman is dead.

She died from never being enough of what men wanted, or being too much for the men she wanted.

She died from being too Black and died again for not being Black enough.

She died from being misinformed about her mind, her body & the extent of her royal capabilities.

She died from knees pressed too close together because respect was never part of the foreplay that was being shoved at her.

She died from loneliness in birthing rooms and aloneness in abortion centers.

She died in bathrooms with her veins busting open with self-hatred and neglect.

And sometimes when she refused to die, when she just refused to give in she was killed by the lethal images of blond hair, blue eyes and flat butts.

Sometimes, she was stomped to death by racism & sexism, executed by hi-tech ignorance while she carried the family in her belly, the community on her head, and the race on her back!

Is the strong Black woman is dead?
No she is not, not if she's reading this!

Pass this on to all the strong Black women (and men) so that they will love, respect, and admire "The Strong Black Woman"!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Band Aid to New Orleans Youth

Derrick Tabb has found a way to transform New Orleans youth from troublemakers to music players. He doesn't look the part of a typical band teacher, but every weekday evening in the French Quarter, he beats out the rhythm on his music stand as students play their chosen instruments. In doing so, he gives them an alternative to New Orleans' rough streets. He is competing with the drug dealers and gang bangers. His program, The Roots of Music, offers free tutoring, instruments and music education to more than 100 students.

Students credit Derrick Tabb with changing their lives. Many who were failing in school and heading down the wrong road now have plans to make music their careers and some even want to teach it themselves some day.

Derrick Tabb can relate. During a rebellious phase in junior high, his band teacher became his mentor and helped him get back on track. He is a professional drummer with the Rebirth Brass Band, one of the New Orleans’ most popular acts. The 34-year-old Tabb, a New Orleans native, strives to keep young people on the straight and narrow in the city with the nation's highest murder rate, according to FBI statistics.

He believes that many young people wind up in trouble because they have nothing else to do. The type of music support systems that helped him years ago has been struggling since Hurricane Katrina. Musicians scattered after the storm and budget cuts ended many school music programs.

Mr. Tabb chose to target 9 to 14-year-olds with his program because that's just the most vulnerable time of your life. He feels that if he catches them now, he can hold onto them for at least four or five years and guide them toward a positive path.

Students meet from 4-7 p.m. every weekday, year-round. They work with tutors on schoolwork, practice their music and eat a hot meal before heading home. Through funding from donations and sponsors, the group is able to provide bus transportation, instruments and food for free. He calls it his "no excuse" policy -- "you don't have any excuse why you're not here." With a 90 percent attendance rate, his formula is working.

Mr. Tabb attributes the success in part to the nature of music. "You're constantly learning something new," he said. "That's what keeps the kids coming back every day."

Since getting underway last year, The Roots of Music has already exceeded his expectations. The band marched in five Mardi Gras parades this season. The program also helped students improve their academic performances, with 85 percent having raised their grades in at least one class; some D and F students have become A students. And there are more than 400 children on the waiting list.

No previous musical experience is necessary -- many students don't even know the names of the instruments when they start -- but youngsters learn fast and it’s fun. But the program isn't only about fun. They also learn discipline and how hard work pays off. He insists on good behavior and keeps kids in order with threats of sit-ups, pushups or tasks like picking up grains of rice -- but these measures aren't just punishment. Discipline aside, Derrick Tabb wants young people to realize that music can help them build a better future.

Want to get involved? Check out The Roots of Music and see how to help.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bill Cosby: Still Bill, Still Correct

Sent to me in an email:

Bill Cosby has a great way of distilling things. Looks like he's done it again!


(1) 'Press 1 for English' is immediately banned. English is the official language. Speak it or wait at the border until you can.

(2) We will immediately go into a two year isolationist posture to straighten out the country's attitude. NO imports, no exports. We will use the Wal-Mart policy, 'If we ain't got it, you don't need it.'

(3) When imports are allowed, there will be a 100% import tax on it.

(4) All retired military personnel will be required to man one of our many observation towers on the southern border (six month tour). They will be under strict orders not to fire on SOUTHBOUND aliens.

(5) Social security will immediately return to its original state. If you didn't put nuttin in, you ain't gettin nuttin out. Neither the president nor any other politician will be able to touch it.

(6) Welfare - Checks will be handed out on Fridays at the end of the 40 hour school week and the successful completion of urinalysis and a passing grade.

(7) Professional Athletes--Steroids. The FIRST time you check positive you're banned for life.

(8) Crime - We will adopt the Turkish method, the first time you steal, you lose your right hand. There are no more life sentences. If convicted of murder, you will be put to death by the same method you chose for your victim; gun, knife, strangulation, etc.

(9) One export will be allowed, Wheat. The world needs to eat. A bushel of wheat will be the exact price of a barrel of oil.

(10) All foreign aid using American taxpayer money will immediately cease, and the saved money will pay off the national debt and ultimately lower taxes. When disasters occur around the world, we'll ask the American people if they want to donate to a disaster fund, and each citizen can make the decision whether it's a worthy cause.

(11) The Pledge of Allegiance will be said every day at school and every day in Congress.

(12) The National Anthem will be played at all appropriate ceremonies, sporting events, outings, etc.

Sorry if I stepped on anyone's toes


Bill Cosby

Monday, October 5, 2009

Surprise! Saints' Defense the Story

I know, I know, but I just couldn’t resist. WHO DAT!

No, I’m not surprised the New Orleans Saints won, but the stunner is that they won with DEFENSE. The New York Jets entered Sunday as the defensive powerhouse, not the offensive minded Saints. It is the personality of Rex Ryan's aggressive Jets defense to play the bully in games, knocking people off the ball and back on their heels with superior physicality. This time the bully was the Saints, and the Jets were the team getting pushed around. I thought last week’s display of defense by the Saints was a fluke, but it looks like the new reality is that the New Orleans Saints can win games with its defense just as easily as it can with its high-powered offense. Looks like these Saints aren't lopsided, or lacking in physicality, any more. Defense is no longer a dirty word in New Orleans.

The game was billed as the Jets attacking defense versus the Saints attacking offense. But it turns out that the Saints had four sacks and harassed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez into four turnovers -- three interceptions and a fumble lost in his own end zone like. The Saints defense actually out-scored both the entire Jets team and the New Orleans offense 14-10, with Saints safety Darren Sharper setting a team-record with a 99-yard interception return for his team's first touchdown in the second quarter, and backup defensive tackle Remi Ayodele recovering a Sanchez fumble in the end zone to make it 17-0. The Jets rallied to make a game of it in the second half with the next 10 points, New Orleans wound up picking off Sanchez twice more in the final two quarters (Sharper again and cornerback Randall Gay), and added a game-clinching 74-yard, 11-play touchdown drive on offense in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Saints defenders afterward said first-year New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams spent all week stressing to his team that the game against New York would be a 60-minute fight, and nothing short of out-hitting the contact-loving Jets would get the job done. Clearly these aren't your father's Saints. For the second week in a row, New Orleans won a game on the backs of its defense, following up last week's impressive 27-7 victory at Buffalo, when quarterback Drew Brees threw for less than 200 yards for the first time in 23 games. Brees has started a new streak for himself, because against the Jets he was 20 of 32 for 190 yards, with no touchdowns for a second week in a row. (Not good for me – he is my fantasy league quarterback – but just win baby).

As much credit as Coach Williams deserves for the new-look Saints defense, nobody epitomizes its on-field production as much as 13-year veteran safety Darren Sharper, who signed a one-year deal with New Orleans during free agency. Sharper's two picks against the Jets give him a league-leading five in four games -- New Orleans also paces the NFL with 10 interceptions and 13 takeaways -- and he has already posted two of the longest three interception returns in team history. His 97-yard pick-six at Philadelphia closed out a New Orleans rout in Week 2. His 10th career touchdown on interception return put him second behind the NFL's career leader, Rod Woodson (12).

This is the kind of game the Saints never won in the past unless their offense put up its usual 34 points or so. But those days are rapidly becoming a memory. But in two weeks, after they take their Week 5 bye, the Saints have another glamour matchup at the Superdome to gear up for. The Giants, who will likely be 5-0 after a home game against The Oakland Raiders next week, are the next team that will test the validity of New Orleans' new-found strength. The Giants will come to New Orleans with a full head of steam. Maybe so, but full head of steam or not, nobody's pushing these Saints around any more. The tough-talking Jets tried it on Sunday, and the Saints -- have learned to push back.

A New York, New York doubleheader of domination, anyone? WHO DAT!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Child Rape Survivor Helps Other Virgin Myth Victims

Hope was 14 years old when her uncle raped her. He trapped her to the ground and covered her mouth with his hand, then threatened to kill her if she ever told anybody. So, she kept quiet. A few months later people around the villages started saying that that she looked pregnant. Hope was not only pregnant, but her uncle had infected her with HIV. Like many young girls in Zimbabwe, Hope was the victim of a widely held belief that if a man with HIV or AIDS rapes a virgin he will be cured of his disease. This so-called virgin myth, perpetuated by Zimbabwe's traditional “healers”, has led to the rape of hundreds of girls, according to UNICEF. Some of these victims are too young to walk, much less protect themselves.

Betty Makoni has fought for nearly a decade to protect her country's young girls from sexual abuse. And she's witnessed some of the worst cases of the myth in action. The youngest girl she ever came across was a day-old baby who was raped. Through her Girl Child Network (GCN), Makoni has helped rescue 35,000 girls from abuse -- including now 18-year-old Hope. Ten girls per day report rape cases, which means that if unchecked, at least 3,600 girls per year may be contracting HIV and AIDS."

Ms. Makoni's own tragic experiences fuel her fierce determination. She was raped when she was 6 years old. Her attacker was a local shopkeeper. Her mother would not allow her to report the abuse. "She said, 'Shh, we don't say that in public,' " Makoni remembered. Betty Makoni had no shoulder to cry on. Three years later, she witnessed her father murder her mother. In that moment, Makoni said she realized the potentially deadly consequence of a woman's silence. She told herself that no girl or woman will suffer the same again.

Believing an education would provide her the best opportunity and means to speak out, Betty Makoni earned two university degrees and became a teacher. While teaching, she noticed that girls were dropping out of school at an alarming rate. She approached her students with an idea. “Let's have our own space where we talk and find solutions," Makoni said. Girl Child Network was born. By the end of the first year, there were 100 GCN clubs throughout Zimbabwe where girls could find support. Ms. Makoni said she was not surprised: "Every woman and girl identified with the issues that we were raising," she said.

In 2000, she quit her teaching job to volunteer with GCN full time. The following year she successfully procured a piece of land and opened the organization's first empowerment village, designed to provide a haven for girls who have been abused. Girls are either rescued or referred to the village by social services, the police and the community. The healing begins as soon as a girl arrives. In the first 72 hours, a girl is provided with emergency medication, reinstatement in school, as well as counseling.

It is important to her that the girls are in charge of their own healing. "It gives them the confidence to transform from victims to leaders," she explained. The process helps the girls work through the times when many thought their life had come to an end. Today, GCN has grown to 700 girls' clubs and three empowerment villages across Zimbabwe. An estimated 300,000 girls have received assistance.

But for Betty Makoni, speaking out came with a high personal cost. In 2008, she was forced to flee her native country. She left Zimbabwe because her life was in danger as a result of her project being interpreted politically. Today, she lives with her family in the United Kingdom. She still serves as executive director of her organization and shows no signs of slowing down. GCN has partnered with the DOVE project, a group based in Essex, England, that deals with domestic violence. "We are now bringing the girls from a local community to the international scene," she said. Her efforts in Zimbabwe are highlighted in the film documentary, Tapestries of Hope.

It's disappointing to know that grown men are foolish enough to believe in such nonsense and will take to raping infants and toddlers in a ridiculous attempt to save themselves. Yes, if these men, and I use the term loosely, were educated they would know better than to believe that raping a child cures AIDS. But even if they DO believe that, it still doesn't explain why they are evil enough to go through with raping a child. This is absolutely horrific and depressing! I can't fathom anyone perpetrating such atrocities towards other people, especially newborn babies! Lack of education or not, ignorance is no excuse for such depravity! There needs to be justice and everyone involved in such horrific and unimaginable crimes SHOULD FACE “REAL” JUSTICE.

In Tanzania, Albinos fear for their lives because some "traditional healer" says using their body parts for ritual sacrifice will bring them lots of money. We are talking about another human being hunted down like an animal to be killed and sacrificed. Just recently in Nigeria, there was a case of the wife of some newspaper owner who beheaded a young boy as sacrifice in order to cure her ailing children. And stuff like this isn't just Africans - the Germans in WWII camps used to put virgins in bed with frozen corpses in the hope that they would thaw out and come back to life.

While this is terribly sad, we need to recognize that it happens everywhere, including the U.S. Maybe not for the same reasons, i.e. the virgin myth, but child molestations happen in the U.S. daily. 1 in 3 girls is molested before her 18th birthday and 1 in 5-6 boys, across the United States.

Want to get involved? Check out the Girl Child Network and Promise Place to see how to help.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Best College Quarterback You’ve Never Heard Of

He is a college football player so talented and productive it's almost impossible to believe he's most college football fans have never heard of him. But Texas A&M junior quarterback Jerrod Johnson has outperformed the nation’s most elite quarterbacks. He has become one of the most mature and grounded athletes in big-time sports. He runs like Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, leads like Texas’ Colt McCoy, throws like Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, has the tough-mindedness and character like Florida’s Tim Tebow. But television cameras have not televised one of his monstrous games. The director has not demanded that cameras capture every facial expression and emotion of Jerrod Johnson's mother, girlfriend or neighbors. Stick Jerrod Johnson in Tim Tebow's uniform, and after the numbers he is putting up the Heisman race would be over. But his coming out party figures to come this Saturday, when the 3-0 Aggies take on Arkansas at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

Jerrod Johnson doesn't drink, and never has tried anything stronger than Advil when it comes to drugs. His name is often misspelled or mispronounced. It's Jerrod, as in ja-ROD. He is wrongly compared to Vince Young or JaMarcus Russell, mostly because he is a big quarterback and Black. He is more polished as a passer, a smooth runner and often the smartest player on the field. (Don’t say it).

He made an early impression on the Aggies program over the summer as he entered his first full season as the starting quarterback. He woke up at 5 a.m. everyday for boot camp-type workouts. He telephoned incoming freshman and encouraged them to meet for 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 practices with veterans. He held meetings with every offensive player, meticulously using a laser pointer to go over individual assignments on every play in the Aggies playbook.

Jerrod Johnson has put a once-great football program that finished 4-8 a year ago on his shoulders. He leads the nation's No. 1 offense, and through leadership and on-field production, he is carrying the Aggies back to respectability. He stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 245 pounds. He is a powerful runner with a deceptive and long stride. He can throw the ball 70 yards, with ease. At the Peyton Manning camp over the summer, he beat McCoy, Bradford, Greg McElroy and a couple dozen other Division I quarterbacks in a passing skills competition.

Comparisons? He averages twice as many passing yards (320.3 to 160.7) as Tebow. He has three times more rushing yards (196 to 61), more rushing touchdowns (4 to 1) and a higher passer rating (167.0 to 150.9) than McCoy. He's thrown more touchdown passes (9), with a higher completion percentage (67.5), than Ryan Mallett, Jacory Harris and Terrelle Pryor. He averages more total offense per game (385.6) than Taylor Potts, Jimmy Clausen and Todd Reesing. His passer rating is higher than Case Keenum's, Zac Robinson's and Max Hall's. He accounts for more points per game (26.0) than any other player in America. He ranks in the top nationally in every passing category, as well as in total offense.

And in just three games in 2009, he has accounted for 1,157 yards, rushed for four touchdowns, passed for nine and thrown zero interceptions. He has started just 13 games in his collegiate career, but is on pace to obliterate long-standing Aggies records. Already, he has posted four of the school's top nine single-game total offense performances. He has four of the top six all-time single-game passing marks. He already has established the single-season record for touchdowns (24) and is on pace to become the all-time completions percentage leader.

Growing up in the Houston suburb of -- appropriately -- Humble, Texas, he was considered a pro prospect in baseball and basketball. As a sophomore in high school, Jerrod Johnson clocked 90-mph on the radar gun with his fastball. As a junior in high school, he earned a basketball scholarship to Texas A&M. But there's more to Jerrod than numbers and skills.

He is the son of a high school teacher and high school administrator. Pam and Larry Johnson's faith and compassion ran so deep they took in nearly two dozen foster children to raise with their own, Jerrod and his brother, Marquis, a former Prairie View A&M end now coaching strength and conditioning at Eastern Michigan. When Jerrod was 3, the state took custody of the child of one of Pam's friend. Pam's heart broke at the thought of the child not having a home. Larry and Pam went through foster parent training and raised the child until the state found a permanent home. From then on, the Johnsons gave foster children everything they could -- holiday parties, gifts, vacations, a church home, a family's love. They accepted kids of every age, so long as they were boys. Some of the children were infants. Some were young teens. Some were children of crack and heroine addicts. Some suffered from severe developmental and health issues. Some simply were abandoned. Some were Black, some were White, some were Brown. It never mattered.

Dad took on extra jobs to help pay for all the expenses of raising his boys and foster kids. A former Texas A&M safety and wide receiver, Larry Johnson became one of the Humble area's most beloved coaches and administrators. When Jerrod played elite summer-league basketball from 2002 to 2005, helping a Houston hoops team reach the AAU Elite Eight three consecutive years and the Final Four once, Larry Johnson was a volunteer assistant coach. The travel team featured such future Division I players as Jerrod, Arizona point guard Nic Wise, Nevada-Las Vegas forward Darris Santee, TCU guard Jason Ebie, Texas Tech forward Mike Singletary, Bucknell wing Stephen Tyree and Rice footballer Pierre Beasley.

Although the college football world is about to become impressed with what Jerrod Johnson has become. The one person he most wishes could be at Cowboys Stadium to watch the next step in this marvelous season, however, will not be there. In December 2007 while the Aggies were preparing for the Alamo Bowl and just months before starting his first game at quarterback, Jerrod received a call from his brother. He said he needed to come home because Larry was in the hospital. It was only after Jerrod arrived that he realized his father had suffered a massive stroke. Two days later, Larry died with his sons and wife by his side. At Larry's funeral, Jerrod spoke in detail of the lessons his father taught him. Marquis did an impeccable, humorous impersonation of how his boisterous, affable father would implore kids to always do the right thing. After the service, hundreds of former players and students greeted the family and shared stories of how "Mr. Johnson" affected their lives. A year later, the basketball court at Humble High was renamed Larry Johnson Court.

Larry Johnson never got to see his son start a college football game. But whenever Pam does, and every time someone else does, what they see is exactly what Larry Johnson wanted: a kid who treats everyone around him the same, no matter where they're from, what they look like or what's happened in the past. It's how he became one of the best college football stories you never knew.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mayweather Dominates Marquez in Return to Boxing - Record 40-0

Floyd Mayweather Jr. returned to the boxing ring after a 21-month absence and is still pound for pound the best boxer in the world. It was a unanimous decision. He was bigger, faster, smarter and overpowered Manuel Marquez, maintaining his perfect record in his return from a 21-month ring absence.

Floyd Mayweather knocked down Marquez in the second round and then peppered him with countless damaging shots to remain unbeaten at 40-0, with 25 Knock Outs.

Juan Marquez (50-5-1) moved up two weight classes to be Floyd’s comeback opponent. At Friday’s weigh-in, he was four pounds lighter than Mayweather, who paid a $600,000 penalty for missing the bout weight of 144 pounds.

Mayweather often appeared to be toying with Marquez, who is considered among the world’s top fighters. Marquez struggled just to get close enough to throw good combinations. Marquez had a bloody nose by the bout’s midway point, and Mayweather landed several hard shots late in the sixth round. Whenever Marquez appeared to land a combination, Mayweather backed away with a grin.

Just 18 months ago, Marquez lost a narrow decision to Manny Pacquiao—another mighty mite who is likely Floyd Mayweather’s opponent. Floyd returned for another eight-figure payday that should set up an even larger pay day with a bout with Pacquiao.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hidden Power in the Capitol

Walk softly and carry a big stick (in this case a big whip). A headline grabber? Not exactly. Busy? Every day. Congressman Jim Clyburn is at the center of the Democrats' most pressing concerns on Capitol Hill. As the majority whip, the No. 3 Democratic position in the House of Representatives, he's in charge of keeping the party together on votes. For the past year or so, Representative Clyburn has been and for at least the next year will continue a very popular-and powerful-man. So what exactly is a party whip? A whip in the U.S. House of Representatives manages their party's legislative program on the House floor. The Whip keeps track of all legislation and ensures that all party members are present when important measures are to be voted upon. The role of the Whip can be traced back to the Parliament of the United Kingdom which adopted the term Whip from the fox-hunting position, ‘whipper-in,’ or the person who kept the fox hounds focused on their mission. In Congress, the Whip’s job is to count votes and ‘whip’ up support for legislation and keep members focused on the mission.

The 15-year veteran of the House is the highest-ranking Black person in Congress. He traces his political to lessons learned in a where his father went to divinity school but made only $10 a week from the Church of God and instead supported his family as a contractor; his mother graduated from college when he was 13 and then just hung the diploma in her beauty shop. He was always interested in politics. Congressman Clyburn stated made plans at age 12 to go to college and work in Washington, D.C. He became the first Black congressman from South Carolina since 1897.

As a student at South Carolina State College (now University) in 1960, he organized the state's first sit-in at an Orangeburg drugstore with six friends; later, he would join a civil rights group led by future Congressman John Lewis, now Clyburn's right-hand man. Congressman Clyburn was a community organizer, a teacher, an employment counselor, and a failed candidate for state representative before beginning a 20-year career in state government, most prominently as human affairs commissioner.

Although a soft-spoken man, when he latches onto an issue, he'll make his voice heard. Right now, his passions are turning the rural areas around South Carolina's Interstate 95 corridor into a center for biofuels and improving the state's health and education programs, (other South Carolina politicians should take note – try to help one of the poorest states instead of…that’s another blog – coming very soon). He's also focused on smoothing assistance for Katrina victims, and the people of his district.

He was unanimously elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and took charge of the party's faith working group in the House. He was also elected chairman of the Democratic caucus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are the public faces of the House Democrats, but it's Jim Clyburn who handles the nuts and bolts of holding the party together on votes.