Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Miss Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She won the Pulitzer for her book of poetry, Annie Allen, which consists of three parts about a Black girl growing into womanhood. Other popular works by Ms Brooks include the poem We Real Cool, and Malcom X.

Ms. Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas to Keziah Wims Brooks and David Anderson Brooks. Brooks' mother was a former school teacher who left teaching for marriage and motherhood, and her father, the son of a runaway slave who fought in the Civil War, had given up his ambition to attend medical school to work as a janitor because he could not afford to attend medical school. Her family moved to Chicago when Brooks was only six weeks old.

Her enthusiasm for reading and writing was encouraged by her parents. Her father provided a desk and bookshelves, and her mother took her, when she was in high school, to meet Harlem Renaissance poets Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson.

Brooks published her first poem in a children's magazine at the age of thirteen. When Brooks was sixteen years old, she had compiled a portfolio of around seventy-five published poems. At age 17, Brooks began submitting her works to "Lights and Shadows", the poetry column of the Chicago Defender. Although her poems range in style from traditional ballads and sonnets to using blues rhythms in free verse, her characters are often drawn from the poor inner city. During this same period, she also attended Wilson Junior College, from where she graduated in 1936. After publishing more than seventy-five poems and failing to obtain a position with the Chicago Defender, Brooks began to work a series of typing jobs.

In 1938, Gwendolyn married Henry Blakely and gave birth to two children, Henry, Jr. and Nora. By 1941, Brooks was taking part in poetry workshops. In 1943 she received an award for poetry from the Midwestern Writers' Conference.

Her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, published in 1945 brought her instant critical acclaim. She received her first Guggenheim Fellowship and was one of the “Ten Young Women of the Year” in Mademoiselle Magazine. In 1950, she published her second book of poetry,Annie Allen, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and Poetry magazine’s Eunice Tietjens Prize.

After President John F. Kennedy invited her to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival in 1962, she began a career of teaching creative writing. She taught at Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin. In 1967, she attended a writer’s conference at Fisk University where, she said, she rediscovered her Blackness. This rediscovery is reflected in her work In The Mecca, a book length poem about a mother searching for her lost child in a Chicago housing project. In The Mecca was nominated for the National Book Award for poetry.

Gwendolyn Brooks was made Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968. In 1985, Brooks became the Library of Congress's Consultant in Poetry, a one year position whose title changed the next year to Poet Laureate. In 1988, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 1994, she was chosen as the National Endowment for the Humanities' Jefferson Lecturer, one of the highest honors for American literature and the highest award in the humanities given by the federal government. Other awards she received included the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Brooks was awarded more than seventy-five honorary degrees from colleges and universities worldwide. In 1995, she was honored as the first Woman of the Year by the Harvard Black Men's Forum.

After a short battle with cancer, Gwendolyn Brooks died on Sunday, December 3, 2000, aged 83, at her Southside Chicago home with "pen in hand," and surrounded by verse and people she loved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Truth Comes to the U.S. Capitol

After a nearly decade-long effort, the National Congress of Black Women on Tuesday honored Sojourner Truth by making her the first Black woman to have a memorial bust in the U.S. Capitol.

Truth, whose given name was Isabella Baumfree, was a slave who became one of the most respected abolitionists and women's rights activists.

"One could only imagine what Sojourner Truth, an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman ... what she would have to say about this incredible gathering," First Lady Michelle Obama said at the Celebration of Truth ceremony. "We are all here because, as my husband says time and time again, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Sojourner Truth."

Dignitaries and congressional leaders attended the ceremony marking the unveiling of the statue.
Along with musical performances, actress Cicely Tyson recited "Ain't I A Woman," Truth's famous 1851 speech to a women's rights convention. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, who worked together to draft legislation to commission the bust, were among speakers who paid tribute to the late C. Delores Tucker, former chairwoman of the NCBW, who spearheaded the effort for the Truth memorial.

Secretary of State Clinton said, "She is a sojourner of truth, by truth, and for truth. And her words, her example and her legacy will never perish from this earth, so long as men and women stand up and say loudly and clearly, 'We hear you echoing down through the years of history. We believe that your journey is not yet over, and we will make the rest of that journey with you.' "

The bronze statue, which was crafted by Los Angeles, California, sculptor Artis Lane, will stand in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol Visitor Center. "All the visitors in the U.S. Capitol will hear the story of brave women who endured the greatest of humanity's indignities. They'll hear the story of Sojourner Truth, who didn't allow those indignities to destroy her spirit, who fought for her own freedom and then used her powers ... to help others," First Lady Obama said.

Monday, April 27, 2009

AIDS: The Cavalry Is Not Coming to Save Us

Over the past 40 years Blacks in America have made huge advances in many fields. I can certainly speak of some of the changes and some of the “same ole thing” that Black people encounter daily in the United States. Health care is one of those areas I must include in the “same ole thing” category, particularly the U.S. response to HIV/AIDS among Blacks.

The average American can relate to the devastating AIDS epidemic in Africa, but has no clue of the epidemic happening in the Black community enduring right here at home. America’s response to AIDS in Africa has been billions of dollars more than its response to its citizens at home.

The world has been very consumed with the devastation of AIDS in Africa. Great! However, there should be an out-cry that 5% of the population in Washington, DC is living with the AIDS virus; that’s 1 in 20 persons in our nation’s capital. And over 80% of these persons living with HIV in Washington, DC, are Black. In the state of Georgia 70% of persons living with HIV is Black.

The U.S. this year will once again deliver billions of dollars to 15 nations to address HIV prevention and treatment. Once again, GREAT! But sadly, the rate of HIV/AIDS in Black America ranks higher than seven of those foreign countries that will receive U.S. dollars in the coming months. The seven countries that have less of an HIV positive population than Black America are: Guyana, Rwanda, Haiti, Namibia, Vietnam, (yes we are sending money to Vietnam), Botswana, and Ethiopia.

Pernessa Seele, Founder/CEO of The Balm in Gilead, a non-profit organization which disseminates accurate information about AIDS said, “When I was a child in Lincolnville, South Carolina, with various illnesses, my mom and I sat in “colored only” hospital waiting rooms and had to enter the doctors’ offices through the back door in order to be seen. It did not matter what time we arrived - always early in the morning - or the nature of our medical distress, we would not be seen by the doctor or the medical staff at the hospital until every White person had been served that day. Waiting was the life of Black folks when I was a child, particularly in areas of health and medicine. Today, Black Americans are still waiting for adequate health care and an appropriate response to its suffering regarding HIV/AIDS. However, the waiting is much longer! The world is in front of us!! It appears that the U.S. Cavalry is not coming to save us.
We must depend on ourselves!

There is no excuse for the shocking numbers of infection we are seeing in the Black population. People need and should take personal responsibility. The answer to preventing AIDS for the most part is simple. Stop participating in unprotected sex with multiple partners and stop taking IV drugs. No one is going to protect us except ourselves. There is no way around this simple truth.

People can manage this problem only by changing their behavior. Stop doing things that will put you in danger of catching or spreading the disease. No one should have to pass a bill because we refuse to “do the right thing.” Anyone who expects the government to run our lives and take care of us from cradle to grave is in fact still slaves. True freedom comes with self-reliance and resourcefulness. Why would any truly proud Black person want to say that someone else solved their AIDS problem?

Look at the country of Uganda: from 1986 to 2000, the HIV rate dropped from 30 % to 6%. The government along with faith based organizations banded together to promote the ABC campaign. A-Abstinence, B-Be faithful, and (if these did not work), C-use Condoms. It worked because people took personal responsibility for their sexual behavior. The U.S. solution is ill advised, because condoms are pushed as its foundational cure, rather than changed behavior. Ugandan leaders are trying to persuade this country not to get too involved in their country, believing that the HIV/AIDS campaign has merely morphed into a condom promoting business, now more about money rather than focusing on people’s behavior.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black America is very alarming and disgraceful at the same time. Black men and women must hold themselves accountable for reckless and yes sinful lifestyles that are putting our future in danger. Young Black women must start demanding respect and a commitment before they have sex. Bi-sexual Black men must stop lying and protect their women, and turn to God for complete deliverance. Sixty-six percent (66%) of Black women, ages 25-34, are infected with HIV/AIDS. And to add further future troubles 70% of Black children are born out of wedlock (that’s a whole other story in itself). Men on the “down low” account for a large part of the spread of the disease. They are being locked up for long periods of time, denied either female company, or condoms, having sex with men, then going back into the community and having sex with women. Who in turn have sex with other men, who have sex with other women.

This fight goes beyond personal responsibility. We need to bring our people along kicking and screaming. Just looking out for number one is why we have fallen victim to this. Men, get your boys to wear a condom, ladies get your girls to make their man to wear one. We are fighting for our future… We must educate to survive.

The information on how to prevent AIDS has been available for a very long time. Advertising prevention is on TV and in schools and in almost every doctor’s office. The government has done their job in the U.S. The public is informed. They can not force you to use a clean needle for drugs or wear a condom or stop indiscriminate sex. Ignorance is when you don’t know something. Stupid is when you know better and still do it. In Africa I’d chalk it up to ignorance and lack of protection. In the U.S. it’s pure stupidity.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mataano: Twins

Born to Somali parents and raised in both Somalia and Washington, D.C., identical twins Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim are anything but ordinary. Having fled Somalia at the age of nine to escape the country’s civil war, the twins completed their college education; Ayaan at University of Michigan and Idyl at Boston University, before making the bold move to Manhattan where they aimed to stand out from the rest in the world of fashion and design. They always shared an interest for fashion. Experiencing the industry from the ground up through careful study and practice, they slowly crafted their talent in their studio with only distant dreams of launching a collection. They each had worked in fashion (Idyl at Jill Stuart and Ayaan at Betsey Johnson), and used that experience to learn the industry and, eventually, start their own line. In 2008 the time had come to stand on their own four legs.

On November 1, 2008, the Mohallim sisters took their first step together, launching a new brand, Mataano (ma-taa-no), meaning “twins” in Somali, and launched their premier Spring 2009 collection in New York City featuring a boutique preview of ten dresses. Not long after that they got a call from Oprah. The twins recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show featuring the Olsen twins and young millionaire moguls. Paralleling their success with the Olsen sisters, Oprah lauded the duo for their inspiring story and much deserved success, and gave them the national credibility that will undoubtedly launch Mataano as an emerging brand with a rich cultural heritage.

They have a strong presence in the internet. They have videos documenting our photo-shoots on youtube, and they blog. The twins say that they are greatly influenced by their Somalian heritage; growing up and being surrounded by beautiful women wearing colorful dresses. Africans love color and you can see how that influenced their Spring 2009 designs.

Their advice and recipe for success is “never give up your dream and be ready to really work hard.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. Mark Dean One of the Inventors of the PC

Is Mark Dean a computer scientist or is he an engineer? In either case he is definitely intelligent. As a boy, he and his father built a tractor from scratch.
One of only a hand few Black students attending his Jefferson City High School, Tennessee, he was both a star athlete and a straight-A student. In 1979 he graduated at the top of his class at the University of Tennessee. Mark Dean's grandfather was a high school principal, his father was a supervisor at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Dam. One White friend in sixth grade asked if he was really Black because he concluded Mark Dean was too smart to be Black.

"A lot of kids growing up today aren't told that you can be whatever you want to be," he said. "There may be obstacles, but there are no limits."

Mark Dean, who has been with IBM since 1980, holds 3 of the original 9 patents on the computer that all PCs are based upon. He is now Vice President of Systems in IBM Research. Soon after joining IBM, Dean and a colleague, Dennis Moeller, developed the interior architecture that enables multiple devices, like modem and printer, to be connected to personal computers.

He worked at IBM ten years before he decided to get his PH.D. He earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1992 from Stanford.

In 1995, Dr. Dean was named an IBM Fellow in 1995, one of only 50 active fellows of IBM's 300,000 employees. He was the first Black person to be honored with IBM Fellowship. In 1997 Dean was Vice President of Performance and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which has under 150 members, for inventing "a system that has allowed PCs to become part of our lives." In 1999, as Director of IBM's Austin Research Lab (in Austin, Texas), he lead the team that built a gigaherz (1000mhz) chip which did a billion calculations per second. In 2001 he was elected member of the National Academy of Engineers (NAE). In 2004, Dr. Dean was selected as one of the 50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science.

Frustrated by the bulkiness of newspapers, Dean came up with the idea for a rugged, magazine-sized device that could download any electronic text, from newspapers to books. The device would also be a DVD player, radio, wireless telephone and provide access to the Internet. It would recognize handwriting (written directly on the screen), be voice-activated and even talk back. Dr. Dean’s philosophy is “if you can talk about it, that means it's possible.

Friday, April 17, 2009

So What Are the Cosby Kids Up to Today?

In the 1980s, Thursday nights belonged to "The Cosby Show". Heathcliff and Claire Huxtable and their crew of kids were the talk of the entertainment world. I saw that little Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam) was developing a reality show and wondered what was going on in their lives. And this is what the Cosby Kids are up to today.

Keshia Knight Pulliam (Rudy): She was the youngest for the majority of the time. She's back in the public eye on a couple of fronts. She had a role in Tyler Perry's latest flick and she is starring in a new reality show, "Keshia and Kaseem." The show is airing on Oxygen and will follow the lives of the actress and her live-in boyfriend, entrepreneur Kaseem Penn.

Raven-Symoné (Olivia): She was the new cute kid who the producers brought in when Rudy reached her awkward tween years. Of all the kids, she has had the biggest post-Cosby career, starring in numerous films and her own TV show: "That's So Raven."

Lisa Bonet (Denise): She starred in the Cosby Show spin-off “A Different World.” She may be best known for her role opposite Robert DeNiro in the controversial movie "Angel Heart." Bonet also made news when she and husband, Jason Momoa, named their child Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa.

Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Theo): He is both an actor and a singer. The Emmy-nominee has starred in his own sitcom, "Malcolm and Eddie," the Showtime hit "Dexter," and the poorly received 2008 romantic comedy, "Fool's Gold". He's also released a few CDs; including "The Miles Long Mixtape."

Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa): She had the unappreciated task of playing the annoying middle child. Still, she went on to host her own short-lived talk show, and also appeared on the third season of "Celebrity Fit Club." She is also developing a reality show with her boyfriend called "Househusbands." What’s up with all this watching people’s daily unreality, who watches this stuff anyway?

Sabrina LeBeauf (Sondra): The eldest Cosby kid was probably the least popular. She does however, continue to act and has her own interior design company. And in trivia alert: she beat out Whitney Houston for the role of Sondra.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What’s Wrong with Adopting American Children?

Is it me or does every time we hear about a celebrity adopting the child is from another country? I’m really not opposed to children being adopted from Africa, China or any other country. I believe all children need a secure, loving home but I am wondering what's wrong with adopting American children.

There more than 500,000 American children in foster care, and many of them are waiting for adoption. From coast to coast, babies to toddlers to teens are desperately looking for a home where they can be loved, nurtured and provided for. It’s easy to blast these celebrities by saying it's the “in thing” to adopt a foreign, but the truth is, the U.S. has a serious adoption problem.

The red tape and bureaucracy is unbelievable. American parents are made to jump through enormous hoops, and the process takes years, instead of months. Single mothers have a difficult time adopting a child in the U.S., and many have gone overseas. And often single people and married couples simply grow disenchanted with the process.
We can sit here and criticize the rich and famous all day, but instead of ripping them our energy should be put into a call for adoption reform.

We need to demand that your local, state and federal elected officials clear the pathway to make the process easier. And we need more consistency. Now we have 50 different states with 50 different policies. With so many rules, no wonder folks throw their hands up and head outside the U.S. border to adopt.

The goal of adoption is to put children in loving homes and not have them be the responsibility of the state. Making it harder to adopt affects you in your pocketbook because taxpayer money is spent to care for the children. So changing the laws not only helps the child, but also is fiscally responsible. And in these poor economic times everything helps.

Not only is it more difficult to adopt in the U.S., but adopting parents have a much greater chance of the birth parents changing their minds than overseas. Parents typically want babies, so once a child goes unadopted for their first year of life, the odds of them being adopted fall dramatically. Biological parents of U.S. children put up for adoptions have up to 5, FIVE, years after the adoption is final to decide if they want the child back. So, they can have a couple (or single parent) take care of their child for 4 years and 364 days and then get them back, without recourse. This turns off many, many potential parents, who go overseas to adopt.

There are several key advantages to adopting older children. First, unlike adopting babies, states have excellent histories on them. Second, state provides free health, dental, and other insurance. Third, unlike infants, older kids remember enough about their past that they have more realistic feelings about where they come from, so when they reach their teen years they do not have the same ill-defined sense of abandonment children adopted as babies from foreign countries have. Fourth, older children can go back to houses they lived in and see distant relatives, which helps the healing process. And finally, the biggest advantage in adopting older kids is that you can choose the type of children in terms of their interests, attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. If you want a boy who is great in sports and loves hunting, the state has one for you. If you would like a girl that loves art and reading, they have one like that too.

And in most cases in the U.S. the process is expensive, but then there are exceptions like this mom from Oregon. She adopted older children and it basically cost her nothing. In fact the state pays a stipend for older children adoptions. The children she adopted moved in quickly once she was chosen. The biologically parent rights were terminated before they moved in. Initially the children were foster kids for about 10 months and then the adoption was finalized. That that part cost her $150 total.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The First Lady Has Big Named Designers Crying the Blues

The first lady of the United States of America had an amazing, whirlwind week. She traveled through multiple European countries, met heads of state, attended official dinners and concerts, sat with the sick, gave inspiring speeches to children, embraced the Queen, and she wore many, many different outfits. Lots and lots of people wrote about those outfits—some folks were extraordinarily angry about her fashion choices. Others raved and declared that Mrs. Obama was the best thing that's ever happened to fashion. So, what does it all mean? Why is it important?

Michelle Obama, through her words, actions—and, yes, her clothes—is setting a new standard for what we think of as an American first lady. She's approachable, she's warm, she's highly educated, and what she wears is unlike anything you'd expect from someone in such a prominent position. Mrs. Obama (much to the disappointment of luxury labels like Oscar de La Renta and others in the fancy, high fashion-designer establishment) is using her profile to champion the fashion underdog. She wears clothes by little-known labels, often the work of first-generation Americans of Cuban, Thai, and Taiwanese descent. She loves J.Crew, a brand that many of the middle class grew up wearing. Her taste is great and affordable.

But perhaps what is most interesting about Michelle Obama's style is it seems honest, real, and relatable. It's fashion with a sense of humor. She wears comfortable shoes. She makes mistakes, and who doesn’t. She's like regular folks. She falls for a favorite belt and puts it on with everything, even when it sometimes doesn't match. It is nice to have a first lady that dresses like a real person. And just like a real person she does not always get it right. Her clothes are stylish, yes, but somehow informal. Last week, when designer Oscar de la Renta slammed the outfit Michelle wore to meet the Queen, stating rather snottily, "You don't...go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater," one could almost hear our first lady saying, "Why not?" And saying it with a smile.

Big name designers like Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren are asking where the love has gone. And it sounds like some designers are getting downright cranky.
Oscar de la Renta thinks she is sending the right message at this particular point. He said that he thinks it’s wrong to go in one direction. Would he say this if she was wearing mostly Oscar de la Renta? I don’t think so.

Donna Karan took a more positive tone: “I hope to be able to dress her, and not only dress her but address her, sit down -- I'm interested in her totality as a woman." (Interpreted: I want that big pay day that J. Crew and others are getting).

And Vera Wang also weighed in: "I love seeing young designers and their vision and how they grow and all of that," she says. "On the other hand, of course, I wish she would consider some of us, because I think we also have contributions to make." (Read: I want some of that money too).

Beauty comes from the inside and for the first lady, she is real beauty. Clothes or money do not make a person, however, the first lady makes a statement of good and affordable taste for everyone. She is a beautiful and elegant First Lady. She is bound to make a few fashion blunders just like you and I. My deep admiration for Michelle Obama has absolutely nothing to do with what she is wearing. She is educated, empathetic, intelligent, and compassionate. I suggest that if the big name designers want First Lady Michelle Obama’s money and others that following her lead, they should make something that middle class shoppers can afford to wear. If not, keep crying the blues.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meet the 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame Class

Michael Jordan led two other basketball legends and two coaches into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Jordan is joined by his Dream Team teammates David Robinson and John Stockton. Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer are also part of the announced class. Induction is September 10-12 in Springfield, Massachusetts, home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Air Jordan" finished a 15-year career with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards with 32,292 points -- the third-highest total in league history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. His final career average of 30.12 goes down as the best, just ahead of Wilt Chamberlain's 30.07. Jordan was a five-time NBA MVP, won six championships with the Bulls and another in college with North Carolina. Jordan retired twice during his career. He first came back to the Bulls in 1994 and won three more championships before retiring again in 1998, then had an ill-fated two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before calling it quits for good in 2003.

David Robinson, who earned the nickname "The Admiral" from his college career at Navy, joined Stockton and Jordan as members of the NBA's 50th anniversary team. Robinson's 14-year career included two NBA titles, an MVP season, a rookie of the year award, 10 All-Star selections, a scoring title and two Olympic gold medals. Robinson retired after winning a second title with the Spurs in 2003. "If I had to pick one night in my career, it would probably be walking off the court as a champion and knowing that was going to be my last memory of basketball," Robinson said.

John Stockton spent his entire career with Utah and finished with 19,711 points, and holds NBA records 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals. He also holds NBA records for most assists in a season (1,164 in 1990-91) and highest assist average in a season (14.5 in 1989-90). Utah took Stockton in the first round of the 1984 draft, using the No. 16 pick on a relatively unknown player from Gonzaga who became one of the top point guards. "Growing up I never thought about the Hall of Fame," Stockton said. "All I wanted was a chance to go to college."

Jerry Sloan is the longest tenured head coach in major league sports with a single franchise. Sloan is the only NBA coach to win more than 1,000 games with a single team and has the Jazz currently in seventh place in the Western Conference. "I've been very lucky to have such great players, especially John, who is very deserving of this honor," Sloan said. "I've also been fortunate to be with such a tremendous organization for the past 20-plus years…”

C. Vivian Stringer has led three separate schools to the Final Four in her 38-year career and has an 825-280 mark spanning four decades. She trails only Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt on the career wins list, and guided Rutgers to its fifth straight regional semifinals trip this season. "My knees are weak, and to think I would be standing here with these great, great, men of basketball," Stringer said. "It's not ever about me. It's about the players who all make it happen."

Stringer got her start in 1973 at Cheyney State (HBCU School), where Hall of Famer John Chaney was the men's coach, and took the school to the Final Four in 1982. She also took Iowa to the Final Four, the only women's coach to take three teams there.
"I am very happy and elated that she was selected to the Hall of Fame this year," Chaney said. "I would think not many, if any, Division II school has its former men's and women's coaches in the Hall of Fame."

In a related event, on the same day it was announced his father had been voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Marcus Jordan, a 6-foot-3 guard, announced he had chosen University of Central Florida over schools including Toledo, Iowa and Davidson. He led Whitney Young High School of Chicago to the state 4A title last month, leading his team in scoring in the semifinals and the state final.

Monday, April 6, 2009

71-Year-Old Inspiration

Ok, if you are reading this you have no excuses for not getting into shape. I can no longer say that I’m too old. After reading this I can truly say that I am embarrassed. I am talking about 71-year-old certified personal fitness trainer Ms. Ernestine Shepherd of Baltimore. Yes, you read it right. She brings new meaning to the old adage “age ain’t nothing but a number.”

She wears a ball cap that reads: Determined, dedicated, disciplined to be fit.

Five days a week, she trains women of all ages -- three days at the gym and two days at her church, Union Memorial United Methodist Church, where she has a class of 25.

She drinks 16 ounces of water and eats a light snack that includes a bagel with peanut butter or two hard-boiled eggs before starting her workout. She usually starts off with about 15 minutes of cardio, running in place, then she does floor exercises working on the abs, legs, upper and lower obliques, and then proceeds with the weights. Her training sessions last about an hour.

With 10 percent body fat, Ms. Shepherd is 5-foot-5 and 130 pounds of inspiration to her clients, many of whom she includes in her routine of walking or running, which begins at 4 a.m. (There is a thin line between genius and insanity.) But Shepherd hasn't always had a focus on fitness in her life. In fact, in her younger days she was a 'prissy' girl, with little athletic interests. It wasn't until she turned 56 that she began to exercise with the aid of her sister. They were both spurred on to join a gym after shopping for bathing suits and not liking what they saw in the mirror.

Ms. Shepherd is retired school secretary at City Springs School in South Baltimore. She has been married to Collin Shepherd, 77, for 52 years. They have a son and a grandson.

Other acclaim: Has appeared in Essence (1991 and 2003); The Baltimore Times (2002); and the book Self Seduction, Ultimate Path to Inner and Outer Beauty (2003); has appeared on The View (2001); in a Carmax commercial (2004); and in the Miss America Senior Pageant (2004). She models for Nova Models in Baltimore.

Friday, April 3, 2009

First Lady Obama Moved by School Visit

An emotional First Lady Michelle Obama told schoolgirls in London that the world needs strong young women to pave the way for the future. Mrs. Obama was close to tears as she addressed the excited crowd at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington, north London.

Her visit to the north London school was greeted with much excitement by pupils and she sat smiling, riveted, as a student lead the school's junior choir in a performance of the Whitney Houston hit Believe. The student was congratulated with a high-five by the first lady. Michelle Obama, a mother of two girls herself, smiled and watched intently throughout the other performances, which also included a modern-day staging of The Tempest, and a presentation on the school's new Learning To Lead scheme.

As she addressed the crowd, Mrs. Obama choked up, saying: "Wow. I can't follow that. Let me tell you, I am just very touched and moved by all of you."

In a brief speech to about 100 students she spoke of her working class upbringing in the South Side of Chicago, saying she was "an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them".

She told them that she was surrounded by extraordinary women in her life who taught her about quiet strength and dignity. And that they too can control their destiny. She told them: "We are counting on every single one of you to be the best that you can be."