Saturday, August 29, 2009

Farewell to the Lion of the Senate

The renowned Kennedy family, fellow senators and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, attended the funeral service for Senator Edward “Teddy” M. Kennedy in Boston today, with President Barack Obama delivering the eulogy today. Friends, family and colleagues had paid tribute to Senator Kennedy on Friday evening with a three-hour wake and celebration of his life.
Ted Kennedy, the patriarch of America's leading political family for more than 40 years, died at the age of 77 on Tuesday, 15 months after being diagnosed with brain cancer. He had represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1962, leaving his stamp on nearly every important law passed in the last half-century. Some people born with a famous name live off of it. Others enrich theirs. Ted enriched his; as well as enriched the lives of countless others.

When I look at Senator Ted Kennedy, I see a great redemption story. His political career began as the little brother of his more famous older brothers former Senator and President John F. Kennedy and former Senator, Attorney General and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. His own presidential aspirations were hobbled by the controversy around a 1969 auto accident that left a young woman dead and a 1980 primary challenge to then-President Jimmy Carter that ended in defeat. But while the White House eluded his grasp, he played major roles in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. He went on to become one of the great legislators of our time, authoring or co-authoring over 1000 U.S. Laws. And he never gave up despite all the family and personal tradegy.

Senator Ted Kennedy was an outspoken liberal standard-bearer during a conservative-dominated era from the 1980s to the early 2000s. His endorsement and support of then presidential candidate Barack Obama played a major role in the election of President Obama. He died as President Obama is pushing for a wide-ranging overhaul of the U.S. health insurance system, a fight the dying senator called "the cause of my life".

Senator Kennedy was famous for his close friendships with colleagues across the Senate aisle even as his name was hissed in Republican campaign materials. Long-time Republican senators Orrin Hatch and John McCain were both adversaries and friends.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy will be buried Saturday evening at Arlington National Cemetery, 95 feet south of the grave of Senator Robert Kennedy, which is in turn just steps away from President John F. Kennedy's burial site.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Helping Tomorrow's Leaders

John Rice is the founder of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), a nonprofit mentoring program aimed at providing minority business students with guidance and advice. In 2002, Mr. Rice and his board realized the need was greater than their original intentions.

And so they took a dive into the major challenges minorities face getting into business schools. These students are under represented in major MBA programs, largely because they are struggling to demonstrate qualifications. Minorities are not graduating at the same rate as nonminority populations.

With that information, John Rice decided to build a set of programs to address the critical transition points; the college to workforce, early career jobs, back to schools and from business schools back to the work force.

MLT is not a scholarship program, but a support system that includes coaching, mentoring, seminars and networking to help its fellows develop “hard skills” such as problem-solving and communication, and “soft skills” such as navigating the business world and avoiding pitfalls that can lead to failure.

This is an excerpt of their "about us" page from their website.

MLT builds leaders who have the commitment, capital and relationships necessary to drive business profitability and significant social change.

MLT equips underrepresented minorities with the hard and soft skills, career roadmap, coaching, mentoring, and door-opening relationships required to become high-impact business and community leaders. Virtually every senior leader would say that they would not be where they are today without some or all of those key ingredients, yet they are not taught in even the best classrooms and instead are delivered through informal channels to which minorities have limited access. MLT democratizes access to these ingredients, filling a major gap in our education system and significantly broadening the pipeline of senior minority leaders who can catalyze change in our communities.

To know more about John Rice and the Management Leadership for Tomorrow or MLT, you may visit for more information.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oprah Disagrees with the Bible

Let me begin by stating that I have been an Oprah Winfrey fan for years. Her show is full of information; her topics are interesting; she is intelligent. But it has come to my attention that she doesn’t actually believe in the Word of God. I know this happened over a year ago and I also I understand that it is not a Christ-like program. (I use Christ-like instead of Christian because these days everyone is claiming to be a Christian while exhibiting a lifestyle contrary to that fact). But if the discussion goes there then you are obligated to either change topics or state your belief. Oprah chose to state her belief.

I am not in front of you so you can’t throw shoes at me (smile). Like I said, I have been a fan for years. But if she, you, my mom, or anyone else speaks contrary to God’s Word – the Bible, I will not only disagree with you, but I will endeavor to correct you. In the clip Ms Winfrey interviews and showcases several “New Age” luminaries. But when a woman in the audience asks Oprah, “What about Jesus?,” Oprah insists Jesus “can't possibly be the only way” to God... And the sparks fly!

Although raised Baptist, Oprah Winfrey's faith has undergone a significant transformation towards “New Age” spirituality. She has said on air that she has prayed to Jesus, but why pray to someone who is not able to answer your prayers? If you don’t believe Jesus is the only way to get to heaven then you can pray to some other way for answers. The Bible says that THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO GOD EXCEPT JESUS CHRIST. Oprah in essence denies the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ by teaching tens-of-millions of her viewers that there are many paths to God.
The Bible says that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Who’s report will you believe? As for me and my house, we will believe and serve the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

And A Child Shall Lead: A Letter to BET

Sorry my bloggings have been so few lately - my computer has been under attack the past few week. I have been giving it TLC to no avail.

Anyway, I recently received an email with this letter addressed to Debra Lee of BET. It is from a 15-year-old Black teenager from Cincinnati, Ohio. We continue to see Black teenagers in the media portrayed in negative ways. I found this letter so refreshing that I thought you might like it too.

Ms. Janitra Patrcik: Dear BET, Why Do You Hate Us?

Dear Debra Lee,

I’m Janita Patrick, a 15-year-old African-American female from Cincinnati. Recently, I watched the 2009 BET Awards and felt the strongest urge to reach out to the program. My family is of the typical middle-class variety; both parents and four brothers. See, I’m a junior in high school (got skipped), so naturally EVERYBODY in my age group watches BET. I’m used to seeing the sagging pants, tattoos, lack of emphasis on reading and respecting women that makes up your videos. People in my class live this out every day, while teachers tell us that we’re acting just like the people in your shows.

In your shows. That struck me as odd, because I would think that with your show being the primary outlet for Black entertainers and musicians, and considering the context of Blacks in this country, there’s a social responsibility factor to consider. I would never blame BET alone for the way a great deal of my classmates act and talk and dress. Everybody makes their own choices. However, if anybody is aware the power of television on impressionable minds, it’s the people running the television operations. If you are not aware, then perhaps you shouldn’t be running the operations.

Guess who watches your network the most? Not those who are intelligent enough to discern foolishness from substance, but those who are barely teenagers, impressionable and believing. It’s awfully cruel to plant seeds of ignorance in fertile minds. You know it’s really bad when the co-founder of BET, Sheila Johnson, said that she “really doesn’t watch it” anymore.

I am constantly fighting against the images and messages put forth on your program. What made you think that it’s okay to bring my classmates on stage to dance behind Lil Wayne and Drake to a song talking about boffing “every girl in the world”? Why does reality train wrecks have to [be] thrown in our faces? Are you aware of the achievement gap going in inner-city African-American communities? A report from America’s Promise Alliance, a non-profit group started by Colin Powell, recently stated that 47 percent of high school students in the nation’s top 50 cities don’t graduate. (Fifty-four percent of males of color in Ingham County graduated from high school, compared to 74 percent of white males). This isn’t because of BET per se, but I don’t see any episodes on your show doing anything to counteract this disturbing trend. In fact, your show is a part of this cycle of media depicting us at our worst.

My older brother told me something about profit being the number one goal for every business. I’m not sure I understand what that means, but I do know that your shows have to be entertaining enough to generate viewers, which is how you make your money. But surely our culture is rich enough to entertain without anything extra to “boost” ratings; why the over-the-top foolery? I listen to classmates talk about Baldwin Hills like it’s the Manhattan Project. It doesn’t take much effort to produce a throng of degenerative reality shows, nor does it take much to eliminate socially conscious shows off the air. MTV isn’t much better, but since when does two wrongs ever make a right? It’s one thing for White television shows to depict us in a particular way, but for Black television shows to do it is baffling.

Why do you hate us?
All of the values that my parents seek to instill in me and my brothers seem to be contradicted by a more powerful force from the media, and your show is at the forefront. Your network is the only network that features rap videos and shows exclusively to children of my color. I know that you have no control over the music that the artists put out, but you do have influence as to how you air these videos. I’m sure if a stand was taken to use the talent in your organization to actually crank out thought-provoking entertaining shows and videos, then artists will follow suit. Being that they need you as much as you need them.

There was one awkward segment in the BET Awards when Jamie Foxx singled out three black doctors-turned-authors, but the introduction was so powerless that many of the viewers had no idea who they were. Had they been introduced as Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins, three brothers who overcame major obstacles to become a success without the use of lyrics that berate women, the sell of substances that destroy communities or through raps about loose gunplay, then maybe my classmates would have come to school talking about more than Beyonce, T-Pain’s BIG A## CHAIN and Soulja Boy Tell Em’s hopping out the bed.

But they weren’t introduced like that. It seemed like a throwaway obligatory tribute to appease some irritated fans. It missed the mark. Big time. Ask Michelle Obama if she watches BET or encourages Sasha and Malia to do so. Ask President Obama. It’s a reason he is the leader of the free world, and it isn’t because of Buffoonery Exists Today.

You’d be surprised how smart young Black children can be with the absence of Blacks Embarrassing Themselves. If your goal is to deter engaged, forward-thinking articulate Black minds, then consider your goal fulfilled. It’s hard-pressed to think that your shows are working to promote cultural betterment. However, it’s quite easy to conclude that the destruction of Black children through the glorification of immoral behavior and rushed production is by design. Poison is being swallowed by every viewer who adores your network, and the worse thing is, these viewers - my classmates - are not even aware what they’re swallowing.

There is nothing edifying for Black women on your show. I don’t judge people who do throng to your programs though; I mean, if a jet crashes right in front of me, I’ll watch it too. That’s why I don’t flip by your channel…I don’t even want to be sucked in.

I have aspirations of acquiring a law degree and possibly entering the public sphere, so I can counteract conditions in my community perpetuated by the images on your channel. So I should thank you, because in a weird sense, your shoddy programming is the wind behind my back. And it is my hope that I can accomplish my dreams despite BET’s pictorial messages, because Lord knows it won’t be because of them.


Janita Patrick

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wow, What A Week in Sports

Not only have the Jamaicans replaced the Americans, both men and women, as the dominate force in the sprints of the track world but Usain Bolt shattered the 100 meter record at the Track and Field World Championships. It remains to be seen how far ahead of the rest of the field he will be in the 200 meters this week. The person who probably would have come in second, Tyson Gay, has pulled out of the race due to a “pulled groin muscle”. That is usually the case of the second place finisher in major sprinter. It all seems unlikely to me since his second place finish was the third fastest 100 meter in history.

It seems that Tiger Woods is human after all. He was beaten at the PGA Championship Sunday. This was the first time ever that Tiger has lost when leading the final round of a major golf championship. He was beaten by South Korean Y. E. Yang, who became the first Asian to win a major PGA championship.

Michael Vick rejoined the National Football League when he was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Oakland Raiders head coach broke the jaw of one of his assistants. A star NHL player robbed a cab driver for 20 cents. I’m happy to see idiots are not limited to the NFL and NBA. And Bret Favre is back. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings after all the retirement crap for another year. Probably just didn’t want to go through another training camp.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Michael Vick Signs with Eagles

Michael Vick is back in the NFL after signing a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation, and served 18 months of a 23-month sentence in federal prison. He was once the NFL's highest-paid player, but has not played since 2006.

Michael Vick’s suspension was lifted on July 27, allowing him to sign with a team, practice and play in the last two preseason games. Once the season begins, Vick can participate in all team activities except games. The NFL commissioner said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by Week 6 (Oct. 18-19) at the latest, but I believe Michael Vick will play in the fourth week of the season.

The Eagles is a surprise landing point for Vick. They were among 26 clubs that said there was no interest in Vick, but that may have changed when their backup quarterback strained a knee ligament earlier this week. The Eagles are led by star quarterback Donovan McNabb. When news of Michael Vick's signing circulated in the press box during the first half of the Eagles' preseason opener against New England, even the team's public relations staff seemed surprised.

Michael Vick arrived in Philadelphia Tuesday morning and remained there Wednesday evening. The Eagles will hold a news conference on Friday morning to announce his signing. The first year of the deal is for $1.6 million with an option for the second year at $5.2 million.

The Eagles travel to meet Vick's former team, the Atlanta Falcons, in Week 13 on Dec. 6. Wouldn't it be kinda fun to see him break off a long run or pass for a touchdown against them. Hummm...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Health Reform Critics (Restless Natives)

Every day it seems there is a fresh chorus of yelling from opponents of health care reform. It seems that middle-age White Americans have a problem with change from a system that excludes millions of other Americans, while insurance companies are becoming as wealthy as the oil companies. Now before you call me a racist, I say, I’m like a referee – I call them like I see them; just look at every news broadcast, newspaper, or news magazine.

Critics lobbed a barrage of verbal jabs at the Congressmen holding town hall meetings across the U.S. Health care opponents say the overhaul that “could” cost billions of dollars is unwise at a time when the economy is in recession. Some have even handed Senators copies of the Constitution. Now that is funny when the Constitution says that ALL Americans are provided with security and the pursuit of happiness – there is no security if you don’t have medical insurance; there is no happiness when your child is sick and you don’t have medical insurance.

The town hall meetings have at times turned into shouting and pushing matches between supporters and critics. Many of the opponents have believed the “talking heads” hype that President Obama wants to turn the U.S. into a socialist country; believing that the new health play will allow illegal aliens and welfare recipients will get free medical insurance. When in reality both receive free health care already when they visit emergency rooms free of charge. I myself have the benefited of free health care as a military veteran.

Maybe there are some righteous complaints, but to the average Joe it looks like a bunch of middle-aged White Americans believing the scare tactics of the “talking heads”. They were talking the same stuff during the presidential campaign – I guess if you say something long enough…well anyway it looks like people are either running scared, greedy, or just plain bigots.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Senate Confirms Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has risen from the housing projects of the Bronx to the top of the legal profession. She made history Thursday when she was confirmed by the U. S. Senate to become the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. She was easily confirmed in a 68-31 vote.

Judge Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge, will be the 111th person to sit on the high court and the third female justice. She will be sworn in at the Supreme Court on Saturday. President Obama, who selected Sotomayor on May 26, said he was "deeply gratified" by the Senate vote. He called it a wonderful day for America.

Judge Sotomayor's confirmation capped an extraordinary rise from humble beginnings. Her parents came to New York from Puerto Rico during World War II. Her father worked in a factory and didn't speak English.
She was born in the Bronx and grew up in a public housing project, not far from the stadium of her favorite team, the New York Yankees. Her father died when she was 9, leaving her mother to raise her and her younger brother. Her mother, whom Ms. Sotomayor has described as her biggest inspiration, worked six days a week to care for her and her brother, and instilled in them the value of an education. Judge Sotomayor later graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and went on to attend Yale Law School, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal.

She worked at nearly every level of the judicial system over a three-decade career before being chosen by President Obama to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Accepting the nomination, Sotomayor thanked Obama for "the most humbling honor of my life." Sotomayor presided over about 450 cases while on the district court. Before her judicial appointments, she was a partner at a private law firm and spent time as an assistant district attorney prosecuting violent crimes.

After the selection, Sotomayor was touted by her supporters as a justice with bipartisan favor and historic appeal. She has served as a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998. She was named a district judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and was elevated to her current seat by President Clinton.

Monday, August 3, 2009

High School Teammates and True Friends

When Leroy Sutton was 11 years old, he and his brother were walking to school along the railroad tracks near their East Akron, Ohio home. Leroy got to close to an approaching freight train, his backpack got caught on one of the passing cars and he pulled beneath the wheels. It was Dec. 7, 2001, the day that shaped Leroy's body, and his life.

The paramedics arrived within minutes and saved Leroy's life, but the doctors could not save his entire body. At Children's Hospital in Akron, his left leg was amputated below the knee, his right leg below the hip. He knew what had happened, but didn't understand what he'd lost until a day later, when he lifted the sheets, and looked down.

Leroy left the hospital a month and a half later. And after he had endured long, difficult hours of rehabilitation, he accepted that a wheelchair would be part of his life but was determined to make it a small part. He built his arm muscles up so that he could move around. That ability to move -- to lift and flip and twist his body -- led him to a place few expected, and into a friendship few could have foreseen.

In January 2008, midway through his junior year in high school, Leroy transferred to Lincoln-West High in Cleveland. By the time he was a senior, he was a familiar sight (his wheelchair flying down the hallways, his laughter booming off the lockers). When he decided to join the wrestling team, just as he'd done at his previous school, the coaches welcomed him. They knew his story and were eager to tap his strength. At Leroy's first practice, his first partner was the only other wrestler on the team powerful enough to handle him. Dartanyon Crockett was Lincoln's best and strongest talent. He was 5-foot-10 with muscles bunched like walnuts, and already a winner in multiple weight classes. But when Leroy hopped off his chair and onto the wrestling mat, the competition was more than Dartanyon expected.

Hour after hour, month after month, practices connected them in ways that went beyond the gym. They went everywhere together: between classes, on team bus rides, at each other's houses -- both dialed in to a wavelength few others could hear. They spontaneously broke into songs only they knew. They performed imaginary superhero moves they invented. They laughed at jokes and words only they understood. Yet, their simplest connection was the one everyone saw and no one anticipated. Not even Leroy and Dartanyon know exactly when, or how, it first happened.

"One day I'm coming out of my office," said Kyro Taylor, the school's power lifting coach. "I look over to the corner of the gym where the mats were at, and right up the steps I see Dartanyon with something on his back, and the closer I get, I'm like, 'Is that Leroy?' And it was Leroy on his back. Dartanyon's carrying him."
Dartanyon lifted Leroy onto his back and carried him to and from every match, on and off every bus, into and out of every gym, all season long. At more than 170 pounds, Leroy was not a light load. Dartanyon never cared, and the carrying never stopped. Dartanyon lifted Leroy onto his back for the playing of every national anthem, and carried him down the bleachers before each match. Yet as inseparable as they were, they also shared something greater than their sport. That's because the teammate who carried Leroy on his back all season long knows about challenges himself. Dartanyon Crockett knows, because he's legally blind.

Born with Leber's disease, a condition that causes acute visual loss, Dartanyon, has been severely nearsighted his entire life. He can barely make out the facial features of a person sitting 5 feet away. As a boy, his father watched him bump into the same table corners and fumble for the same objects over and over again, uncertain what was wrong. He received the diagnosis just after his son started elementary school. But his father never let him feel sorry for himself. And as he grew older, he not only accepted the condition but also adjusted so well to his inability to see that those around him often were unaware of anything until he told them.

Still, there are signs. At times, his eyes dart back and forth as if ricocheting between objects. Boarding the city bus for the ride to school, he asks the driver to tell him when his stop is near, unwilling to trust his glimpses of the passing landscape. In class, often he places text just inches from his face to read. On the wrestling mat, although his moves are quick and bold, he sees little more than rough shapes lunging toward him. Yet his own view of his limits remains focused and clear.

Other trials in his life could have broken him long ago. After his mother died when he was 8, he moved in with his father, Harris, who struggled to take care of himself in the midst of an addiction to drugs and alcohol. There were times when Dartanyon scavenged the house for food, but found none. For most of his time in high school, he had no steady place to call home. Through it all -- being evicted from their apartment in Lakewood, the nights Dartanyon covered his father with a blanket after he'd passed out -- Dartanyon stayed in school, stayed on the mat and supported his dad's effort to stay clean. Harris now has been sober, while working two full-time jobs, for more than a year. That Dartanyon would pick someone else up was no surprise. He learned to carry a father before he ever carried a friend.

Dartanyon and Leroy move down the hallway after class.
"I am Darth Cripple," Leroy says.
"I am Blind Vader," Dartanyon replies, and they turn a corner; their laughter is all that's left behind.
They joke. They jab. They are the least flattering of critics and the loudest of supporters. They mock each other and themselves, every chance they get, in ways others never would dare.

"Leroy, touch your toes."
Leroy reaches his arms out in front of him in mock effort, and says, "They're at home."
And then, the boys laugh.
"Leroy, don't forget your shoes. …"
Others look down, duped. Leroy just smiles.
"You just can't see them. …"

Dartanyon sings.
"I can see clearly now, the rain is gone."
Leroy listens, then corrects him: "But you can't see."
"So? I can still sing."
And they pick up the song together, twice as loud.

The one place they don't laugh is in competition. Entering gyms all season, one atop the other, each cared as much about the other's match as his own, with as much invested in the other's outcome. Every time Dartanyon wrestled, Leroy sat on the edge of the mat, serving as unofficial coach and chief encourager.
Competing at 189 pounds in Ohio, one of the most wrestling-rich states in the country, Dartanyon relied more on strength than technique, preferring to overwhelm foes than to outpoint them. Nearly always the aggressor, he rarely waited for another's move, for a simple reason. He might never see it. He went 26-3 in his senior season, securing the league championship in his weight class.

As for Leroy, who's unable to generate the leverage essential in wrestling, leverage gained by using the lower body that he doesn't possess, the matches were tougher, and the wins more difficult. He expected nothing less than 100 percent from his opponents, and if he sensed any pity, he reacted with anger. Leroy would bounce on his hands and often flip his way onto the mat before matches. Then he would scream out. Then he would slap his hands down as hard as he could, making a thunderous echo, his smile dead, his arms wired. If some stared when Leroy entered the gym atop Dartanyon, even more stared as he competed.

Wrestling in multiple weight classes this season, Leroy won nine matches, the majority by pinning his opponents. But in every match, regardless of the outcome, he left a message. He never said it, but his coaches understood.
"Watching him wrestle," Robinson said, "has taught me how to stand in areas of my life that I wouldn't have wanted to."

It was the final night of the school year, graduation night. The people inside the theater building of Cuyahoga Community College were there for a celebration more than a ceremony, to pay tribute to an accomplishment that meant more here than in most schools in America. The majority of students at Lincoln-West High School never earn a diploma. This year, the school had a graduation rate of roughly 40 percent. (That’s another story for another time).

On that early June night, the graduates gathered on a stage, their gowns flowing and their tassels poised to swing, each ready to mark a point in a journey. Leroy had dreamed of this night for a long time. "My goal," he said in May, "is to actually walk across the stage." No one on the stage that night understood that goal more than Dartanyon. That's why, when Leroy's name was called, Dartanyon stood, too, right beside him. What would you do for a friend, one you carried on your back all year long? You'd put him down, and walk beside him, which was exactly what Dartanyon did. He helped Leroy stand -- upon new prosthetic legs he was fitted for just weeks earlier -- then moved alongside him as Leroy crossed the stage, step for step, eye to eye.

When Leroy stopped, put out his hand and grasped his diploma, the audience rose and delivered a standing ovation. After the photos were taken, and the music stopped, and the tears dried, the two sat in the theater, side by side. Two high school wrestlers, one blind and one with no legs, discover the meaning of true friendship. Dartanyon and Leroy walked across the stage and received diplomas at graduation. Dartanyon is enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland for the fall. Leroy plans to attend Collins College in Tempe, Arizona., to pursue a career in video game design. Two friends, sharing one moment, and there they lingered, smiling, in silence.