Thursday, December 31, 2009

Watch Night

Emancipation: "Waiting For The Hour"
(click on image for larger view)

This post was inspired by an email I recently received from a friend of mine and I wanted to share it on my blog. In digging a little deeper, I discovered that the following information was actually written as an essay by Charyn D. Sutton, The Onyx Group, in December 2000 and revised in August 2004. The essay appears here in its entirety...

If you grew up in a black community in the United States, you have probably heard of "Watch Night" Services, the gathering of the faithful in church on New Year's Eve. The service usually begins anywhere from 7:00pm-10:00pm and ends at 12:00 midnight with the entrance of the New Year. Some folks come to church first, before going out to celebrate. For others, church is the only New Year's Eve destination.

Like many others, I always assumed that Watch Night was a fairly standard Christian religious service, made a bit more Afrocentric because that's what happens when elements of Christianity become linked with the black church. And yes, there is a history of Watch Night Services in the Methodist tradition.

Still, it seemed that most white Christians did not include Watch Night Services on their calendars, but focused instead on Christmas Eve programs. In fact, there were instances where clergy in mainline denominations wondered aloud about the propriety of linking religious services with a secular holiday like New Year's Eve.

However, in doing some research, I discovered there are two essential reasons for the importance of New Year's Eve services in African American congregations. Many of the Watch Night Services in black communities that we celebrate today can be traced back to gatherings held on December 31, 1862, also known as "Freedom's Eve."

On that night, Americans of African descent came together in churches, gathering places, and private homes throughout the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had become law. Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863 and according to President Abraham Lincoln's promise, all slaves in the Confederate States were legally free. People remained in churches and other gathering places, eagerly awaiting word that Emancipation had been declared. When the actual news of freedom was received later that day, there were prayers, shouts of joy, and songs of praise as people fell to their knees and thanked God.

But even before 1862 and the possibility of a Presidential Emancipation, African people had gathered on New Year's Eve on plantations across the South. That is because many owners of enslaved Africans tallied up their business accounts on the first day of each new year. Human property was sold along with land, furnishings, and livestock to satisfy debts. Families and friends were separated. Often they never saw each other again in this earthly world. Thus, coming together on December 31 might be the last time for enslaved and free Africans to be together with loved ones.

Black folks in North America have gathered annually on New Year's Eve since the earliest days, praising God for bringing us safely through another year and praying for the future. Certainly, those traditional gatherings were made even more poignant by the events of 1863 which brought freedom to the slaves and the Year of Jubilee.

Many generations have passed since that time and most of us were never taught the significance of gathering on New Year's Eve. Yet, our traditions and faith still bring us together at the end of every year to celebrate once again, "how we got over."

Please pass this information on to your family and friends so that they will know the true history behind the tradition we call "Watch Night".

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Traditions, Trees & Trimmings


The holiday season was quite different for us this year because it was the first Christmas without our daughter and grandson living in the house. As a result, we didn't put up a Christmas tree, mainly because there are no small children here anymore and I just felt like a much-needed break from doing it... perhaps, for all time. We got up early on Christmas morning so we could finish preparing our holiday meal, but not nearly as early as we did when there were young children in the house who were anxious to get up and see what Santa had brought them. We sat down to eat at 1:00pm and my mother came over to join us. After that, the three of us were off to our daughter's house to spend the afternoon with her family.

When I got married and moved out of the house, I remember that my mother and father offered me their Christmas tree with all of the trimmings, along with the proclamation that they would not need it anymore because they didn't plan to continue the practice of putting up a tree. It turned out that they planned to spend the Christmas holiday with me and my family in the coming years so, in their minds they no longer needed to have a tree. Because money is always so tight when you're just starting out, I appreciated the offer and gladly took the Christmas tree off of their hands and on with me when I moved out of the house. I told myself that we could always get a new tree if we ever reached a point in which "money was no object" or the tree just fell apart, whichever came first. The important thing was, taking that tree gave me something called "time".

For many years, I used that tree and thought nothing of it while our daughter was growing up. It was about 12 years old when I left my parents' house with it so, it had seen a lot of Christmases already. Just as they planned, my parents always came over to our apartment on Christmas day to spend time with my family. They got there bright and early to watch our daughter open her presents and enjoyed the holiday meal with us. During our daughter's elementary-middle school years, we were living in a slightly larger place, so my parents' Christmas visits became a two-day affair. They would arrive on Christmas Eve and spend the night so they could actually participate in putting our daughter's gifts under the tree and be there when she woke up on Christmas morning.

Sometime during our daughter's middle school years, she began to notice that the ol' Christmas tree my parents gave me was leaning whenever we put it up. For years, she worried me about getting another tree and I always said... "Oh, that tree is not leaning. It's just fine." The thing is, it actually was leaning but I just didn't want to buy another tree. Like most kids, I always thought that she cared more about the presents under the tree anyway so, it didn't matter. By the time our daughter was about to start high school, my parents reverted back to coming over only on Christmas day. Shortly thereafter, my father's health began to fail him and he could no longer accompany my mother to our house for the holiday. My mother had to shorten her time with us for fear of leaving him alone at home too long. She usually left a little after the holiday meal, but she would always make a plate and take it home to him. This continued until my father’s death in May 2002 and his presence is greatly missed, especially at this time of the year.

Some years after our daughter finished school and was working full-time, she decided to just "take the bull by the horns" and buy us a new Christmas tree because we wouldn't do it. Now, mind you... by this time, the Christmas tree my parents gave me was 30+ years old. Despite the lean, it was still a pretty good tree to me and, you know, they just don't make Christmas trees that will last that long anymore. (Famous last words when you just don't want to let something go, right?) Anyway, the tree that she picked out and purchased was very nice... she even bought some new trimmings for it too. It was much fuller and a little taller than the one my parents gave me so, we finally retired that ol' tree and threw it away. Now, even the tree that she bought has seen several Christmases.

When our daughter was preparing to get married and move out of the house earlier this year, I found myself saying the same thing to her that my parents said to me. I told her to take the Christmas tree that she bought with her, along with the proclamation that we probably wouldn't be putting up a tree in the coming years. I even let her know that we wouldn't need the tree because we could just look at it when we visited with her family on Christmas day. Well, she opted not to take the tree at that time, but we're still holding it and all of the trimmings down in the garage for her, just in case she should change her mind in the foreseeable future. If it turns out that she never takes it, I guess the passing on of the family Christmas tree will end with me.

Another important part of our holidays over the years was the annual visit that we received from my husband's parents on Christmas day. Shortly after we finished the holiday meal, they would stop by and spend a few hours with us and my parents before they continued on their way to another relative's house for their holiday meal. I remember that my mother-in-law was not a fan of cats and my beloved tabby cat of 16 years, "Pebbles", was usually placed in the basement during the few hours that my husband's parents were visiting. At times, it often felt like we had two children... our daughter and "Pebbles". Some of you might even remember her infamous paw print on the Christmas cards that we sent out for many years. If you happened to notice one Christmas that her paw print disappeared from the cards, it was because we had to put her to "sleep" in August 2004 after it was determined that she had intestinal cancer.

Last, but certainly not least, there are the two Christmas gatherings that my husband's larger families have each year. On his father's side of the family, there is an annual Holiday Cabaret which is usually held around mid-December; on his mother's side of the family, there is an annual Christmas Dinner which is usually held a few days after Christmas day. Over the years, I have enjoyed attending both of these family gatherings with my husband, daughter, and (in recent years) grandson. Unfortunately, my husband lost his father in June 2002 (just one month after my father passed) and later, his mother in May 2008. Needless to say, their presence is greatly missed at this time of year too.

During the course of this last decade, we entered into a stage of life in which the time had come for three of our parents to leave us. My mother is now the lone surviving parent between us and we thank God for her each day. We already know that most of our years here are behind us now and with that being the case, we must focus on making the most of the days ahead. Gone are the days in which we can tell ourselves... "Oh, we've got time!" or "We've got our whole lives ahead of us!" And, as we struggle to stay in touch with our past so we will never forgot from whence we came, we must also keep moving forward so that we can continue to be a blessing for as long as we can to those who we will ultimately leave behind one day. For me, nothing drives that point home more than looking into the faces of our grandchildren... and, by the way, the little girl with Santa inside the Christmas tree ornament is Tasha.

This post is dedicated to the memories of Roosevelt Williams, Andrew King, and Faye King.

Friday, December 25, 2009

From Our Family To Yours...


Little Sister Sophia & The Booga Wooga

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we wanted to share our best wishes and prayers that GOD will continue to bless all of our family and friends. We hope that this will be the best Christmas ever for you and your loved ones. Peace and love to you all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Ounce Of Humanity Or A Rush To Judgement?

Eutisha Rennix

On December 9th in downtown Brooklyn NY, two Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Jason Green and Melissa Jackson, were in an Au Bon Pain when Eutisha Rennix, who was 25 years old and an employee of the establishment, collapsed and later died. Several witnesses have said that the EMTs told others workers in the store to call 911 and then left when they were asked to help the woman, who was also the mother of a 3 year old son and expecting her second child. A Long Island College Hospital emergency crew arrived minutes later but did not have the equipment to revive Eutisha.

The two off-duty EMTs were on a "coffee break" at the time of the incident and Douglas Rosenthal, an attorney for the pair, said in a statement that they acted "appropriately to the best of their abilities" but he declined to speak more specifically about the situation. Attorney Rosenthal pushed back against what he called a "rush to judgment" that has vilified his clients. The EMTs were suspended without pay and the Brooklyn district attorney has opened a criminal investigation into the case. State health officials are also investigating along with the city's fire department, which oversees EMTs.

Eutisha had complained of feeling dizzy before collapsing in the rear of the Au Bon Pain store where she worked, according to a person who saw it happen. The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly, spoke on the condition of anonymity. The EMTs, Green and Jackson, were in the front of the store placing their order, the person said. The witness never saw them go into the back where Eutisha was before they left the premises. The witness said Eutisha, who was 6 months pregnant, was also an asthma sufferer. She died and her baby, due to be born in March, was too premature to survive and also died two hours later.

Green, who is 32 years old and a 6-year veteran, and Jackson, who is 23 years old and a 4-year veteran, are both fully trained EMTs. Robert Ungar, a spokesman for the EMTs and Paramedics Union said that all dispatchers are required to be field-trained EMTs or paramedics in order to be more effective at their jobs, and they are capable of getting involved in emergency situations. He said, "All of our members are qualified to make that initial assessment and in some cases, start medical care. Being dispatchers is not a defense for inaction. A FDNY spokesman said all members take an oath to help others whenever emergency medical care is needed.

The certification program for EMTs is overseen by the state Department of Health. In order to complete the program, people must take a 120-hour course, plus put in 10 hours of clinical time. Ungar said the city's EMTs must also pass training from the Fire Department in addition to their state-regulated training. They also have to pass an exam and must be recertified periodically. Jeffrey Hammond, a department spokesman, said... "The charges are appalling and the department is vigorously investigating both EMTs." Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the New York Fire Department, said that the department has suspended Green and Jackson without pay. Another department spokesman, Steve Ritea, said that although the two worked as dispatchers, they had been trained as emergency medical technicians.

However, Jeff Samerson, EMTs and Paramedics Union exec said that the EMTs followed protocol. He said, “Jackson actually did call 911 for help. She didn’t have an ambulance. She didn’t have equipment. She does not work in the field as an active EMT in an ambulance. She works as an emergency medical dispatcher. Green is also a dispatcher. These are people that are not in the field, that have not had patient contact in years. And, they did the best they could." Still, even Samerson had to concede, "They could have acted better."

In addition, another unidentified source within the union said, "If the charges are true, why should we go out on a limb to defend these two and hurt our own good reputation?" One EMT who did not wish to be identified said the paramedic community is disgusted by the alleged inaction by Green and Jackson. The Long Island College Hospital emergency crew is also being investigated.

When asked if this was a case of burn out in the department, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "Their actions were unacceptable no matter what the circumstance. Burn out? They were sitting there having coffee, how can they be burnt out? They’re human beings. Somebody’s dying down the street and you say help them, and they just sat there. There’s no excuse whatsoever, as far as I can see. I don’t know what kind of burn out you can have."


Eutisha with twin brother, Eudane

The victim's brother, Eudane Rennix, was overseas serving in the U.S. Army in Kuwait when he received the call about his sister's death. He came home on emergency leave and that is when, he said, the family broke down together. He said, "If this is your job, why wouldn't you want to help someone in need? There's no excuse whatsoever."

Cynthia Rennix, mother of the deceased, feels the EMTs were inhumane, heartless, and non-caring. She hopes that her daughter's tragedy will prompt the city of New York to implement some sort of training or classes to ensure that a situation like this won't happen again. She felt that they shouldn't have taken those jobs if they weren't willing to get involved in emergency situations. Further, she said... "If they were really caring and concerned, they would have taken a minute to see if there was something they could have done to help her in some way."

Cynthia also stated that she didn't know the cause of her daughter's death and numerous phone calls to the hospital where her daughter died were not returned right away. Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner, said that an autopsy was not performed because the death wasn't part of a crime scene. Borakove said an autopsy would only be performed if the family requested it. Since that time, it has been reported that the cause of Eutisha's death was cardiac arrest. Cynthia said that she has yet to decide whether or not she is going to take any legal action. At present, she is taking care of her daughter's 3 year old son.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Deja Vu (We've Been Here Before)


Since I was literally trapped in my house all day on Saturday and had plenty of time to spend on my computer, I was able to dig up this little "gem" regarding a blizzard we had 13 years ago that most of us have probably long-forgotten by now. How old were you and where were you when it hit the city? Well, yesterday's snow storm brought back some pretty incredible memories of that blizzard for me... like the fact that there were street vendors selling t-shirts that read, "I Survived The Blizzard Of '96!" If you've got a minute, take a walk down memory lane and read this article about it that I found on the internet. It should refresh your memory and give you a pretty good idea of what we're in for when the snow finally stops falling (smile)!

PHILADELPHIA, January 10, 1996: Somewhere under that mound of snow on Venango Street was Eddie Morris's Chevrolet Cavalier. "I don't know how I'm going to get it out," Mr. Morris said glumly. Or, more important, when. "It's a rental car," he said. "I got it on Saturday. They called me today and asked when I was bringing it back. I don't know what I'm going to do."

Few places along the East Coast were hit as hard by last weekend's blizzard as Philadelphia. Here, the official tally was just over 30 inches, a city record, and by Tuesday night, cleanup crews had dumped 2,000 tons of snow into the Schuylkill. By today, their efforts had enabled many parts of the city, including downtown, to spring to life again, with government offices and nearly all restaurants and retail stores operating as usual. But round-the-clock plowing to clear the city's 490 miles of main roads and the expectations of Mayor Edward G. Rendell that 700 miles of secondary routes would be passable by Thursday were lost on people like Mr. Morris.

A 73 year old retired steelworker, Mr. Morris lives on what the Mayor called a "tertiary street," and just about the only way tertiary streets would be cleared, Mr. Rendell said at a news conference today, was through the efforts of local residents. "This was a natural disaster of huge proportions," the Mayor insisted, pointing out time and again that the 30 inches of snow exceeded the previous record by 50 percent. "If we get another 6 inches, God help us."

Mr. Rendell said he had no idea how much this storm was costing the city, especially with another predicted for the weekend. The only comparison he offered was the icy winter of two years ago that cost $13 million, a quarter of which was returned to the city from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But this storm was likely to cost much more than that winter, he said, and he fully expected more than a 25 percent return from the Federal Government, even in the midst of tortuous budget negotiations in Washington. "Even with eight states asking for $20 million each, that's small potatoes," Mr. Rendell said, adding that much less than a 25 percent return for Philadelphia's costs "would clobber the city budget."

For the most part, Philadelphia has coped well with the storm. By today, many of the city's major roadways were dry, and traffic moved smoothly, if slowly, through the grid of narrow streets in downtown sections that have been traversed since colonial times. In addition, stories are rampant about the good deeds of neighbors helping neighbors by transporting senior citizens to doctors' appointments, by shoveling out a driveway or by pushing a car out of a rut.

Still, by Mr. Rendell's accounting, those living along the city's 900 miles of tertiary streets would be left to fend for themselves, and in some cases, that meant hardship and anger. "My block is the same way," said Aleshia Patterson, surveying Venango Street where Mr. Morris's car was buried. "This makes me angry. I can't get to work."

An office cleaner and mother of four, who earns $60 a day, Ms. Patterson said she has not been able to get to her job in Plymouth Meeting, a northwestern suburb 15 miles away, since last week. Normally, she said, she drives, but both of her cars are snowbound. "A lot of my neighbors take the subway to work, but the subway takes me nowhere," she said. Her only alternative, she added, was four buses, but she did not know if they were all running or how long the trip might take.

Like countless other blocks around the city, Venango between Camac Street and Old York Road was not only unplowed, but socked in by barricades of snow walls, created by snow trucks clearing out larger cross streets. Mr. Rendell argued that these smaller streets were simply too narrow for city plow trucks to squeeze through, especially with cars parked on both sides. "Even if an emergency vehicle had to get through," he said, "people would have to go to the corner and walk. We can still walk."

By afternoon, a band of hearty neighbors had opened the Old York Road end of Venango, freeing nine cars. But several other vehicles were still submerged, and none of the shovelers ventured a guess as to when they might move again. March? April? Those suggestions made Jerry Randolph, a resident of the block, laugh. "With cars on both sides, we knew we had to get together to get it done," Mr. Randolph said.

George Bradley, a 60-year-old mechanic, was still shoveling snow late in the day. "This is the only way we can get out," he said. "I've got to try to go to work." Mr. Morris was hardly as cheerful as the others. In addition to the inconvenience, this was costing him $23 a day, and the agent he spoke to at the rental company, he said, did not sound sympathetic.

To prevent such problems in the future, Mr. Rendell had at last a few helpful words of explanation for residents who might not know the difference between secondary roads and tertiary roads. "You know you're a tertiary road," he said, "if you haven't been plowed for decades."

UPDATE 12/23/09: Please be aware that it is being reported that the City of Philadelphia is beginning to issue $ 50.00 tickets to residents who have not yet cleared a path in the snow on the sidewalk in front of their property. Apparently, too many pedestrians are posing a hazard to drivers and themselves by walking in the streets because of unclear sidewalks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

8 More Shopping Days 'Til Christmas!

And, yes... those are my grandchildren on the mall hangings!

If you were hoping to find massive clearance sales as you finish up your holiday shopping, prepare to be somewhat disappointed. It has been reported that major retailers are not concerned that it will take massive last minute discounts to lure shoppers into stores this holiday season and they are backing away from the panic button. Apparently, they planned a little better this year when stocking their merchandise and Americans are spending a little more than expected.

Last week, sales were up from the week before and a little more than last year. Because stores didn't load up on merchandise like they did last year before the recession, they have the luxury of sticking to their original plans for discounts. So, more than likely, they won't be slashing prices any further out of desperation as Christmas draws near.

The difference between this year and last year was planning. Retailers had time to plan, whereas last year they didn't. There are plenty of deals to be had and discounts will probably be a little deeper this last weekend before Christmas. However, people waiting for mounds of merchandise with 80% discounts will be left waiting. This will help profits and most stores will not have to drastically slash prices to clear out their stock.

Apparently, stores did a better job in matching supply with demand this year. The success of the holiday shopping season for retailers depends on the week before December 25th, which accounts for about 1/4 of holiday sales. In fact, the Saturday before Christmas usually rivals the day after Thanksgiving, which is the traditional start of holiday shopping with regard to sales volume. The last week is "where the rubber meets the road", so to speak.

Retailers are optimistic about this holiday season because shoppers don't seem as far along in their gift-buying as they were last year at this point. They have stuck to their lists and bought discounted practical items like socks, pajamas, microwaves, and some discounted electronics. Online shopping has been another bright spot. So, retailers are pinning their hopes on shoppers who are planning to do all of their holiday shopping during this week and next week. It was predicted that holiday sales would be flat (at best) this year. Last year sales were down and customer traffic is down this year as compared to last year. However, it was reported that online sales from November 1st through this past Sunday were up.

Stores had planned aggressive discounts well in advance for this holiday season. They knew that shoppers who are worried about tight credit and jobs would be scouring for deals. This strategy, combined with tight inventories indicates that discounting has been similar to what it was before the economy began to sour. For example, shoppers found that some clothing was discounted 40-50% over the Thanksgiving weekend, but those same deals were scaled back to 20-40% percent two weeks later. Stores are giving their top discounts on some items this weekend, but that's typical for the shopping calendar.

Because retailers were cautious about buying for this holiday season, shoppers found some hot items, particularly toys, in short supply a month ago. Toys "R" Us has been the one chain that has consistently received ample shipments of popular and hard-to-find items, but they sell out as soon as they're put on the shelf. So, if you haven't finished your Christmas shopping yet and you're still trying to find those "gotta have" toys for your little ones, you've only got 8 more days to get them. Good luck and happy hunting!

Note: The photo featuring The Booga Wooga & Little Sister Sophia was created by their "Grammy" at Loonapix.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Obamas & Oprah Winfrey

First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey

On Sunday night, Oprah Winfrey hosted a Christmas special at the White House with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The special marked the first time Oprah has interviewed Obama since he took office and provided a behind-the-scenes look at all the White House preparations for the holiday season. Oprah interviewed the president and first lady separately and together. During the interviews, she asked them questions about their holiday traditions and the president graded himself on his performance.

President Obama gave himself a solid "B+" grade for his first year in office. He credited his administration with getting the economy on track, winding down the war in Iraq, making the right call for a temporary surge in Afghanistan, restoring America's prestige in the world, and making progress toward halting the development of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea. He said that the passage of health care reform would boost his grade to an "A-" but, until Americans get back to work, he can't give himself the grade he would like. Oprah asked the president if the sinking public approval numbers bothered him. He viewed the decline as inevitable with 10% unemployment in the country and said, “People aren’t interested in what you’ve inherited but rather, what have you done for me lately? I’m not interested in spinning my way out of it.”

Oprah asked the Obamas to remember their favorite Christmas presents. Michelle said that hers was a metal dollhouse with plastic furniture. She remembered not knowing how to set up the dollhouse so she had all of the furniture lined up along the walls, as opposed to nestled around the fireplace. Oprah also wanted to know if the first lady had an Easy Bake Oven. She responded... “Oh, I did have an Easy Bake Oven, but once you run out of the mix it’s like you’re done with it.” Her husband then asked, “You couldn’t get more mix?” The president said that his favorite gift was a 10-speed bike. He also reflected on meeting his father for the first time at Christmas, an encounter that sparked his love of basketball. He said that his father gave him a basketball but there was some cause and effect in terms of the degree to which he ended up taking up the sport as a kid who didn't know his dad.

Oprah also got a tour of the White House from the first lady and was greeted by the first family’s Portuguese water dog, "Bo", who showed off his new training by high-fiving the talk show host. Oprah asked, "Does Bo need a buddy?" and the president responded, "No, no, no!" In the state dining room, she pointed out a 390lb. gingerbread White House replica covered in white chocolate. The first lady showed off the White House Christmas tree and said that each family member, including "Bo", would have their own stocking.

The president revealed that Santa Claus is coming to the White House. Oprah noticed that many rooms in the White House were stocked with apples and the president said that the first family wouldn't try to make Santa Claus follow their healthy-eating lifestyle. He said, "Santa can eat what he wants", meaning a plate of milk and cookies. He also commented that he usually "gives nicer stuff" than he gets on holidays. Of course, the first lady disagreed and said, "No way! I gave you good stuff last year." The president responded by asking, "Who gave you this?" pointing at the pearl necklace that the first lady was wearing. The interview ended with the first couple light-heartedly disagreeing over who gives better Christmas gifts.

I, like many Americans, think that our president inherited quite a mess from the last administration but I feel that he is openly and honestly trying to do the best he can to clean it up. I also agree with the "B+" grade that he gave himself for his first year in office. We all know that the mess he is dealing with didn't happen overnight, so the clean up is not going to happen overnight either. But, for the next few weeks at least, the president and first lady should be able to forget about all the mess and enjoy the holiday with their family, just like everyone else. Besides, you know what they say about mess... it's not going anywhere and it will always be there waiting for you when you get back!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Random Things About Me


Answer these questions and tag 5 people so they can do the same.

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you. Beyonce Knowles is the only person who comes to mind right now.

2. Where was your first kiss? On the street.

3. Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else’s property? Yes. I broke into my parents house when I was a child because I forgot to take my door key to school with me. In my defense, I ALWAYS forgot to take my key when I left the house and my parents had threatened "serious bodily harm" if I forgot it again. Of course, my solution only made matters worst but, what can I say? I was 12 years old (smile)!

4. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex? As a child, yes... as a woman, no.

5. Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people? Yes.

6. What’s the first thing you notice about your preferred sex? How they carry themselves.

7. What really turns you off? Rudeness.

8. What do you order at Starbucks? Nothing... I rock tea!

9. What is your biggest mistake? Going to business school instead of college.

10. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose? No.

11. Say something totally random about yourself. Something totally random about yourself.

12. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity? No.

13. Do you still watch kiddie movies or TV shows? Yes.

14. Did you have braces? No.

15. Are you comfortable with your height? No, I always wanted to be about 3 inches taller.

16. What is the most romantic thing someone of the preferred sex has done for you? Become one with me through marriage.

17. When do you know it’s love? I Corinthians 13:1-13... nuff said.

18. Do you speak any other languages? Yes, Pig Latin.

19. Have you ever been to a tanning salon? No.

20. Have you ever ridden in a limo? No.

21. What’s something that really annoys you? When I loan something to someone and I have trouble getting it back, don't get it back at all, or if I do get it back, it's not in the same condition that it was in when I loaned it to them!

22. What’s something you really like? Music.

23. Can you dance? Yes.

24. Have you ever been rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room? No. (I've been to the emergency room a few times over the course of my life but I never got there via ambulance.)

Note: I'll pass on the tagging. If you want to do it, feel free and have fun!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Jacksons: A (Black) Family Dynasty


If you're a fan of Michael Jackson or his forever-famous brothers of the Jackson Five glory days, you might enjoy spending time with them via this much anticipated reality show. The six-hour A&E series will premiere on Sunday, December 13th at 9:00pm (EST) with two back-to-back episodes. The show will chronicle the personal and professional lives of Jackie, Marlon, Tito, and Jermaine as they prepare for a Jackson Five reunion CD and tour, while also coming to terms with Michael's tragic death. After the series premiere tomorrow evening, it will then move to its regularly scheduled time slot, 10:00pm on Sundays, beginning December 20th. Based on some of the reviews I've read about the series, this is what you can expect see...

The Jackson brothers are allowing unprecedented access into their world as they record new material and rehearse for the 40th anniversary celebration of The Jackson Five. You will gain some insight into the brothers' relationships with each other, their parents, and their children, while also balancing the demands of their professional commitments and celebrity. The series will also document the brothers' coming to terms with Michael's tragic loss and how to properly honor his legacy. Filming for the show actually began back in January of this year, but Michael's death apparently renewed interest in the show and filming resumed shortly thereafter. There have also been conflicting reports on whether or not Michael's children, his sister Janet, or his mother Katherine will appear in the show.

Another prominent member of the Jackson clan who you might not see is brother Randy, who joined his singing brothers several years after they had become a household name and he was old enough to participate. Apparently, that unfortunate riff that occurred several years ago between him and Jermaine when he married Randy's once-upon-a-time girlfriend and mother of his child, still rages on to this day. It has been reported that you still "don't invite the two of them to the same party" (as the saying goes) and they do not spend any more time together in the same place than what is absolutely necessary, such as Michael's funeral. Come on guys... you are "brothers" and life is short. Forgive yourselves and each other so you can move on.

One review that I read suggested that the high point of the first two hours comes when Jermaine Jackson cries. Tearfully, he recalls the dark days of 1976, when the rest of the group leaped to CBS Records while only he stayed behind at Motown, remaining loyal to the record label that gave them their first real shot at stardom. "Do you know what it is to be alone? Just to be alone?" says Jermaine. "I was out in the streets and kids were saying, "We don't want your autograph, 'cause you're the one that broke up the group. Tito responds to Jermaine, "When you came back to the group, it was one of the best, favorable memories of my life," as the foursome shares hugs all around.

When the filming started back in January, the premise of the series seemed to center on the Jackson Five, including Michael, reuniting for their 40th anniversary. The other four brothers start planning a tour and a new album. Jackie calls it, "The best album we ever made!" They exchange a lot of expected dialogue such as, "I think we owe it to the fans..." and "We're family... we'll be the Jackson 5 till the day we die." They also talk about the way the media abuses them but said, "Your fans will be there for you. You have that marriage with them from day one. It's the media that tries to come in between it."

You will also see that, just like all everyday-ordinary siblings, they get on each other's nerves. In the studio last May, Jermaine records a vocal track and then heads off to lunch. Jackie decides it's unacceptable and erases it. Later, Jermaine tells is wife at home, "You won't believe what happened in the studio today. I did these vocals, I was very excited about them, and the next thing I know, they were erased."

The first hour, which includes a sentimental journey to their childhood home in Gary, IN ends with the news of Michael's death in late June. Even before his shocking death, it's hard to determine from the series what Michael thought about his brothers' plans for the reunion. His involvement is assumed and he is only seen in archival footage and heard singing on the soundtrack, but he is mentioned quite a bit throughout the show.

The Jacksons' attorney, Virgil Roberts, tells them in the second episode, a month after Michael died... "Your brother was the biggest artist in the world and it's put a special spotlight on you. You're the living legacy." As Roberts speaks, the Jacksons' album and tour seem to still be in the picture, at least for the sake of the series. But, Jermaine isn't in the picture and his commitment to the group is called into question when he misses the official photo shoot. He later tells his brothers that he had an eye infection???

If you click on the above photo or text link under it, you will find the official A&E website for the series and you can become a fan of the show on Facebook. Further, a website called SideReel is hosting a contest that you can enter to win a 3-pack CD set which includes The Jackson 5 "I Want You Back Unreleased Masters", The Jackson 5 "Love Songs", and The Jacksons "Destiny". SideReel has 2 prize packs to give away and all you have to do is post a comment telling them why you're looking forward to watching the show OR once you've watched the premiere, what you like about the new reality series.

Despite the fact that some people might feel the Jackson brothers are merely trying to recapture some time in the spotlight on the heels of Michael's death (Hey, they could be right... Who really knows?), I've decided that I'm going to at least give the show a chance. And, to be honest, it's going to be a real push for me because I generally don't like reality shows of any kind and don't normally watch them. But, just like Michael, I still have a place in my heart for his brothers too because they, like him, have been a thread in the fabric of my life for a long, long time. If I'm nothing else, I'm loyal. I've also discovered over the years that just about anyone who enters your heart as a child, (like it or not) usually stays there forever.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Bucket List


Instructions

For those of you who want to do this, place an "x" by all the things you've done and remove the "x" from the ones you have not done. This is my entire life!

( ) Shot a gun
( ) Gone on a blind date
(x) Skipped school
( ) Watched someone close to you die
( ) Been to Canada
( ) Been to Alaska
( ) Been to Cuba
( ) Been to Europe
( ) Been to Las Vegas
( ) Been to Mexico
( ) Been to Florida
(x) Been on a plane
(x) Been on a cruise ship
(x) Served on a jury
(x ) Been lost
( ) Been on the opposite side of the country
( ) Gone to Washington, DC
( ) Swam in the ocean - I can't swim but, does "floating" count?
(x) Cried yourself to sleep
( ) Played cops and robbers
( ) Played cowboys/girls and Indians
( ) Recently colored with crayons
(x) Sang Karaoke
( ) Paid for a meal with coins only
(x) Made prank phone calls - When I was 12 years old so, that shouldn't really count!
(x) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose
(x) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
( ) Danced in the rain
(x) Written a letter to Santa Claus
( ) Been kissed under the mistletoe
(x) Watched the sunrise with someone
(x) Blown bubbles
(x) Gone ice-skating
(x) Gone snow skiing
( ) Camped out under the stars
(x) Seen something so beautiful that it took your breath away
(x) Have Children
( ) Have a pet - I lost my beloved "Pebbles" (tabby cat) in 2004
( ) Been skinny-dipping outdoors
(x) Been fishing
( ) Been boating
( ) Been water-skiing
(x) Been hiking
( ) Been camping in a trailer/RV
( ) Flown in a small 4 seater airplane
( ) Flown in a glider
( ) Been flying in a hot air balloon
( ) Been bungee-jumping
(x) Gone to a drive-in movie - And, I really wish they would bring them back!
( ) Done something that should have killed you
(x) Done something that you will probably regret for the rest of your life

1. Any nickname? Yes
2. Mother's name? Doris
3. Favorite Drink? Mountain Dew, hands down!
4. Body Piercing? No
5. Tattoos? None
6. How much do you love your job? No comment
7. Birthplace? Philadelphia, PA
8. Favorite vacation spot? Don't travel much now but plan to when I retire.
10. Ever eaten just cookies for dinner? No
11. Ever been on TV? No
12. Ever steal any traffic signs? No
13. Ever been in a car accident? No
14. Drive a 2-door or 4-door vehicle? I don't drive but, I've been a passenger in both.
15. Favorite number? Anything "even" (nothing "odd")
16. Favorite movie? Rocky
17. Favorite holiday? Christmas
18. Favorite dessert? Anything chocolate!
19. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Who knows???
20. Furthest place you will send this message? My blog
21. Who will respond to this the fastest? Don't know.
22. Ever married? Yes
23 Ever divorced? Yes
24. Widowed? No

Based on my answers, you might think that I've lived a very "limited" life. Well, you may be right and I'm inclined to agree with you. But, just know that the only thing on this list that I regret is not taking the time to travel and see more of the world. Now that I'm 50+ years old, I no longer have the foolish notion that tomorrow is "promised" to me so, I'm pray everyday that I will live long enough to retire and go somewhere... anywhere (smile)!

Friday, December 4, 2009

This Too Shall Pass...


The above image on the right, which has actually been circulating on the internet for over a year, drew little attention until it began appearing as the top result in Google image searches for Michelle Obama after being posted to a spam blog called Hot Girls. The blog has a variety of content on Michelle Obama, including some of the glamorous shots of her from speaking engagements, conventions, and dinner parties. But, one image stands out and it has an ape's face photoshopped onto Michelle's profile. The general sentiment in the comment section of the blog was that of disgust so the picture was removed from the blog and the image no longer appeared in the top image search results.

Many people have called the image racist and offensive but Jasmine Waters, whose entertainment blog FlyStyleLife was among the first to republish the image, disagreed and attributed the image to a site called "Celebrity Ape". After posting the image of Mrs. Obama, Waters wrote... "If you choose to visit the source site, you will see that this picture was not created out of racially motivated ignorance. If that had been the case, as a journalist, an American and most importantly, a black woman, I never would have posted it."

Celebrity Ape is owned by Michael Hussey, 31 years old, of Alfred, ME. Hussey runs Sharper Communications, a public relations firm which says on its website that its "goal is to develop and implement creative and strategic breakthrough PR programs that get our clients noticed via news publicity.” In the 1990s, Hussey created the "Rate My Face" website, a precursor to the better-known website "Hot or Not", and his personal blog shows an image of Sarah Palin as a parrot. Celebrity Ape contains altered images of John McCain, Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi, Michael Jackson, Jessica Alba, Sarah Silverman, Barack Obama, and dozens of other celebrities and political figures. Nobody was spared, not even Ron Paul.


Google apologized for the racially offensive image of First Lady Michelle Obama, when it surfaced from the ugliest corners of the internet last week to top Google's image search results. Google placed a text ad above the image titled "Offensive Search Results" which states, "Somestimes our search results can be offensive. We agree." Users who then click on the ad are directed to a letter from Google that explains its results "can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries", but notes that Google doesn't endorse content on these websites.

Unfortunately, Google has resisted pressure to remove the image from its database altogether, saying its role as a neutral tool for searching the web means having to live with the results, whether it likes them or not. Google spokesman Scott Rubin said... "We have a bias toward free expression and that means some ugly things will show up." Rubin would not elaborate on how the image ended up as the number-one result but the company did remove one site displaying the image from its results because it included viruses, which Google policy prohibits, but a different website posted the same image later.

The White House has wisely declined to comment about this ridiculous matter and I, for one, don't blame them. There are much more important issues on the table that need their time and attention. Our President and First Lady are far too busy going about the business of trying to make life a little better for "everyone" in this country, including people like Michael Hussey at Celebrity Ape, to worry about such trivial nonsense.

Just to prove my point, little did we know last week when this story took over the internet, Tiger Woods was about to blow this incident right out of the water! So, for those of you who haven't figured it out yet, I like to give situations such as this a chance to "unfold" so that when I write about it, I have all (not just some) of the facts. And, rest assured, you can check back next week for more on Tiger... but for now, all I have to say about him is "G-R-O-W-L!" (with my claws out and gnashing of teeth, of course).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Race Movies" (1915-1950)


I have often times wondered why it seems to be such a chore for some folk of a certain race (and you know who you are) to appreciate and support African-American films. It always seems to me that black people are willing to go to the theater and pay good money to see not only black movies, but any movie that arouses their interest, regardless of who is in it. And, for many years, I felt that this is because black people are generally more open-minded than some other folk but, perhaps there is much more to it than meets the eye.

The great racial divide when it comes to moviegoing goes back a long, long way and the choice of the individual moviegoer was never the only reason for this split. In fact, Hollywood historically played much more of a role than I ever imagined in setting the stage for "who" went to see "what" movie, "when" they went to see it, and "where" they went to see it. The only thing I really don't understand is "why"?

The "race movie" was a film genre which existed in the United States between about 1915-1950. It consisted of films that were specifically produced for an all-black audience, featuring all-black casts. In all, approximately 500 race movies were produced during this period and of these, fewer than 100 remain in existence. Because race movies were produced outside of the Hollywood studio system, they have largely been forgotten by mainstream film historians. However, in their day, race films were very popular among African-American moviegoers and their influence continues to be felt in cinema and television that is marketed to African-Americans in the present.



Race movies were some of the first financially successful independent films. Much like early black sitcoms, race movies were most often financed by white-owned companies and scripted by white writers. Black-owned studios also existed, including Lincoln Motion Picture Company (1916–1921) and most noteably, Oscar Micheaux's, Chicago-based Micheaux Film Corporation (1918–1940). On his posters, Micheaux advertised the fact that his films were produced and scripted exclusively by blacks. Astor Pictures released several race movies as well.

The race movie vanished after the United States vs. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (or the Hollywood Antitrust Case) in 1948, which forced the separation of motion picture exhibitors and motion picture production companies. Black actors took the lead in several Hollywood major productions such as "Pinky" with Ethel Waters (1949), "Home of the Brave" with James Edwards (1949), and "No Way Out", the debut of Sidney Poitier (1950).

In order to comply with segregation, race movies in the south were screened at designated black theaters. Though northern cities were not formally segregated, race movies were generally shown in theaters in black neighborhoods. While it was extraordinarily rare for race movies to be shown to white audiences, white theaters often reserved special time slots for black moviegoers. This resulted in race movies often being screened as matinees and midnight shows. During the height of their popularity, race movies were shown in as many as 1,100 theaters around the country.

Many large northern theaters incorporated special balconies reserved for blacks. Though produced primarily in northern cities, the target audience consisted primarily of poor southern blacks and southerners who had migrated northward. Many race movies, particularly those produced by white studios, attempted to impart middle-class urban values, especially education and industriousness. Common themes included the "improvement" of the black race, the supposed tension between educated and uneducated blacks, and the tragic consequences in store for blacks who resisted bourgeois values. The most famous race movie, "The Scar of Shame", incorporated all of these themes.

Race movies typically avoided explicit depictions of poverty, ghettos, social decay, and crime. When such elements appeared, they often did so in the background or as plot devices. Perhaps most strikingly, race movies rarely, if ever, dealt with the subjects of social injustice and race relations. Not surprisingly, race movies avoided many of the popular black stock characters found in contemporary mainstream films or relegated these stereotypes to supporting roles and villains.

In particular, Micheaux went to great lengths to depict his protagonists as educated, prosperous, and genteel. Micheaux hoped to give his audience something to help them "further the race", but in doing so, he often sacrificed plausibility. Many modern black sitcoms, such as The Cosby Show, have followed a similar pattern and have encountered similar criticism. The plausibility criticisms were based on the fact that many black sitcoms take a view from New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia. They showed blacks in highrise projects and never acknowledged the fact that black doctors, lawyers, and other professional people exist throughout the United States. Many of the race movies struck an accord with people in these areas. There is ample evidence of large numbers of middle class black families in the interior of the country, if you poll the black churches.

On the other hand, black comedians such as Mantan Moreland, who had played supporting comedy roles in mainstream Hollywood films, reprised his character as the lead in such films as "Professor Creeps" and "Mr. Washington Goes To Town". Some black entertainers such as Moms Mabley or Pigmeat Markham starred in their own vehicles. They never appeared in mainstream entertainment until the late 1960s, when both of them appeared on Rowan & Martin's "Laugh-In" on television. Many black singers and bands appeared as the lead or in supporting acts in race movies, such as Louis Jordan who made three films.

Race movies are of great interest to students of African-American cinema, not only for their historical significance, but also because they showcase the talents of actors who were relegated to demeaning, stereotypical, and supporting roles in mainstream studio films. Hattie McDaniel and Clarence Muse are two of the most striking examples. A few stars from race films were able to crossover to relative stardom in mainstream films, such as Paul Robeson and Evelyn Preer. Hollywood studios often used race movies as a ready source of black talent.



Needless to say, the period of the race movie (and that term) was before my time because I wasn't born until 1958. However, I did grow up during the 1970s and, little did I know at the time, the period of the "blaxploitation movies" that I went to the theater to see (i.e. "Shaft", "Superfly", "Across 110th Street", "Coffee", "Cleopatra Jones", etc.) was merely history repeating itself but from a completely different perspective. Looking back, I see now that a few things had changed but, some things remained the same. For example, the black movies that I went to see were not restricted to a matinee or midnight showing... but, many times, these movies were only shown in a limited number of theaters across the country and that still goes on to this day. And, some theaters still discriminate when deciding what movie titles are placed on the marquee based on the racial makeup of the area surrounding its location.

It is truly unfortunate that, just like everything else in this country which is "rooted and grounded" in race, even something as simple and innocent as going to the movies was designed to set the stage for racial division before anyone had a chance to make up their own mind. It appears that we were all nudged or pushed (take your pick) by Hollywood into our opposite corners of the movie ring and that is where some folk have remained since 1915! Unbelievable! If this country ever expects to move past race, we all need to learn how to open our minds to something that is a little different from what we are accustomed to and not be afraid to step outside of our comfort zone.

As human beings, when we are faced with a difficult challenge, sometimes it is necessary to take "baby steps" until we are sure of ourselves and that the outcome will not pose us any threat or harm. Well, why not start with a movie? What's the worst that can happen? Why not make your next movie selection based on whether or not the subject matter is of interest to you rather than the skin color of the people in it, as you were setup to do back in 1915? Sometimes, I feel like the only progress that has really been made over the years is that African-American films are no longer commonly referred to as "race movies"... and, just for the record, the term "blaxploitation movies" wasn't much better.


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