Remember the Time


What a summer. I wonder what we will remember when we look back. The brewing war in Afghanistan? The fight over health care? Personal struggles? The movies that came out? The fourth anniversary of Katrina? Or maybe the number of good people that we lost. Michael Jackson, E. Lynn Harris, Ted Kennedy, Farrah Fawcet, Dominick Dunne, Patrick Swayze, Ellie Greenwich? If we tune in and listen, God is talking to us.

I also lost my uncle this summer. Charles Richard Dawson. Though he was not famous and most of you did not know him, his loss was monumental to our family. As is usually the case with death, old feelings bubble to the surface. We remember past hurst and wounds are freshly opened. Sometimes the things we hold on to are significant. We were right to feel hurt. Sometimes the grudges are petty.

It is almost certain that the only chance we have to forgive is in life. We come together at weddings and funerals and we say, “we should get together more often.” We leave the gathering and the we wait for the next event to see each other. We do not call. We make no effort to reunion with one another.

The old jealousies and petty differences are back on top. We feed them by talking about them. Over and over. I wasn’t invited. He never called and told me. She went without me.  So, we wait. For them to call us. For the other one to apologize. We make a big show of family importance but we do not speak to this one or invite that one.

How marvelous it is that God does not treat his family the same way. He loves us when we don’t invite him in. He cares for us when we don’t remember to repay him. He does not deny us even when we deny each other. We are his children. His family.

When my children were growing up and they would have disagreements with cousins or friends I would always say, ‘you can always afford to be magnanimous.”  And you can, too. You can say you’re sorry even if you think someone else should. You can pick up the phone and call, even if you feel someone else should. You can extend your hand. You can smile.

We here the time honored cliche all too often. Tomorrow is not promised. We often add an amen and “no one knows the day or the hour.” That being said. Get your house in order. Like a preacher once said, “sometimes you don’t have time to get ready. Sometimes you just have to be ready.”

I get that we all all so busy. That there isn’t enough time in the day. Our calendars are filled with events we don’t have enough time to attend. But life should be about more than summer barbeques and long weekends. Our world should be bigger than ourselves.  We should cherish each other. Family and friends.

So pick up the phone and call someone that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Someone you’ve been thinking about. Put down the remote. Turn off Bejeweled Blitz and re-connect with humanity. Face Book is no substitute for hearing a real laugh. Whatever it is that is stopping you is in your control. Cast it aside. Tomorrow might be too late.


The Day the Music Died


D8EFABA629F43B98BC932FF4C719AJune 25, 2009. Before I got out of the car I said to my cousin, “Could this day get any worse?” When I got inside I continued my pre-election habit of turning on CNN. I was shocked. Michael Jackson was dead at age 50. A friend called. “Are you crying? Stevi, please don’t cry.” I stopped for a second. And then I started again. I tried to clear my thoughts. Why am I crying? 

Okay, I’m clear now. I am mad. Really mad. Pissed off, in fact. That the world would come at one man so hard that he died at age 50 in a time when people are living into their eighties and nineties. 

I had to turn my television off. People were talking and even though they weren’t sure he was dead, they kept saying he was. Then, in order to fill time, they started rehashing what they called his “sea of troubles”. Did he or didn’t he do things to little boys. Was he or wasn’t he sick. Was he or wasn’t he unstable, after all, he did dangle the baby. And what about his finances?  It sort of reminded me of the image of a lynching. The one where the dead man is cut down by the angry mob and they cut his penis off or set him on fire because, after all, a black man can never be dead enough.

I clicked off of Face Book, too. People seem to delight in being mean. One person commented: leave it to Michael to steal Farrah’s light.  As if he chose to die immediately after Farrah so we wouldn’t take note. As if he wanted to die.  But let us be very clear, one thing Michael never had to do was steal a light. He was born with a light of his own. More talent than the world will ever see again in one person. 

His light shone on music videos and turned them into cinema. Something superb. Marvelous. We Are the World opened the door for celebrities like Bono and Oprah to draw attention to Africa and other causes. Michael allowed the NAACP to shadow the Victory Tour so that when fans were waiting in long lines to get in they were being registered to vote. Eighty thousand people were registered as a result. Yeah, rock the vote.

I don’t need to take you back to the Ed Sullivan Show and the Jackson 5 featuring little Michael Jackson sing Since I Don’t Have You. I fell in love and so did the rest of America. His career is so iconic that to review it is unnecessary. We were all there. I don’t have to tell you how many Michael Jackson songs are a part of the soundtrack of our lives.

I go back to the news. I’m still mad. I was watching the 2003 Academy Awards the year Roman Polanski won Best Director for The Pianist starring Adrian Brody. The entire room stood to their feet in standing ovation. Of course, Polanski was not there to accept his award. Unable to return to the United States because of the decades old sex-with-a-minor charge that still hangs over his head. But his community still honored him. No one brought up his sordid past. But the news agencies couldn’t wait to drag out the footage of Michael and his baby on the balcony and all of the rest. 

One minute they love him. The next they hated him, for who could love a black man that the whole world loved? Who could love a black man that transcended his blackness? Who could love a black man who called himself the KING of Pop?

He was never Wacko Jacko. Genius is not weird. Talent is not weird. A child’s heart is not weird. Different is not weird. Different is God’s creativity. The sparrow does not scoff at the peacock. The tabby cat does not mock the tiger. Only man seeks to make himself feel better by thinking less of his fellow man.

Over the last couple of days as people have recounted their favorite MJ song, The Man In the Mirror was sited by many. The man in the mirror is me. The man in the mirror is you. He’s the world. Michael Jackson was the mirror. Reflecting our flaws and anxieties. Our joys and our fears. Showing us our imperfections and yes, our own weirdness and idiosyncrasies  He reflected back one of our most prized possessions. That thing that sometimes gets covered in the dirt of hypocrisy and the grime of greed. Michael Jackson showed us our humanity.

Everything’s Up To Date in Kansas City


Yup! They’ve gone about as fer as they can go. I am so confused about this 21st Century notion of communication. Yes, I’m talking about social networking. The MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter culture that has replaced real relationships.

I got a MySpace account to see what all the buzz was about. I had a screen name so nobody knew it was me. I had one friend, Tom, who apparently is everyone’s friend. At the urging of two friends, I joined FaceBook. “We can share pictures and talk” is what they said. To date, no “talking” has occurred. Naturally, because my name was so prominently displayed, I felt like a loser with only two friends so I hunted up a few more. More than once I asked a complete stranger to be my friend and they accepted. Strange.

Almost as soon as I joined, there was a furor about FaceBook changing the rules. They backed down for a second but now they have figured out a way to get around their millions of users. They have posted the two proposals and they want us to vote. Well, it doesn’t take brains to figure out that people who have now become addicted to six second communication are not going to read pages of legalese in 6 pt. typeface and vote. Conclusion: they will change it what they wanted it to be in the first place.

I saw the Oprah show where she was so enamored of FaceBook. I loved how she kept saying, “I did not know what people were talking about.” I watched her and Mark and Gayle oooh and ahhh over the wonders of FaceBook. I saw the twentysomething millionare  walk them through how to update their status. 

I don’t have to know what you ate for dinner. Every meal. Every day. I don’t need to know that you have to go pee or that you’re stuck in traffic. I have blocked some people out because they update every hour. 

Two weeks later, Oprah was enamored of Twitter. “I hear people talking about this all of the time and I had no idea what they were talking about.” I kept waiting for one of the panel to ask how Twitter was different from FaceBook. No one did. Perhaps because they aren’t really different. 

This past weekend I found out about the loss of a friend. Had it not been for a timely phone call from my daughter, I would have found out in the most impersonal way. She found out on FaceBook. Yikes!

Every application comes with the caveat that people will now be able to see your whole business if you use the application.  And let’s talk about the applications. Did you know you could take a quiz and find out what U.S. President you are most like? Or what element you are most like. Or what cheeseburger you are most like. Okay, there is no cheeseburger quiz but you get my point. Who has time to take a quiz and discover you are most like Grover Cleveland.

Anyway, I make a peace with FaceBook and suddenly I am behind the times because I do not Twitter. All of my FaceBook “friends” want me to follow them. Does any of this sound remotely cultish? I checked out a few people on Twitter. It’s the same as FaceBook. Yup. Only now your friends are followers and you are following others. Question? Does anybody know where the hell they are going?

Are we concerned because we no longer have handwriting? Does anyone notice that you have no voice. Only emails and texts and status updates and Tweets. I get the whole marketing value of these venues. If you have a show and you want an audience this is a good way to get one. All of your friends and followers have friends and followers and before you know it there are people in the house. It’s great for marketing books and music, too. I have been able to listen to sermons by my home church pastor, Bishop Charles E. Blake and find out what my former students are up to. But, OMG will never take the place of hearing the excitement in my  voice when a friend says she is pregnant and  LOL will never replace the lyrical sound of laughter floating upward to tickle God’s ears. There is warmth in the human voice and soul and spirit in our pen. Long story short, call me. I miss the sound of your voice.

Sell Your Coat and Buy a Sword!


This Lenten season I am learning something about what Christ went through on his way to the cross. Last week was a struggle for me. I didn’t feel good. Things at work weren’t good. The doctor called and said my lab work wasn’t good (not to worry, I’m good now). And to top it all off, I couldn’t have my coffee (yup, I gave it up for Lent). In short, I was going through. Not in a big, my-life-is-falling-apart way, but in the little everyday ways we struggle. 

And then I began to read the Easter story in Luke 22. I started  with the preparation for the Last Supper. The end was nearing and though he had spoken of it many times, he felt the need to prepare the disciples. I was at first struck by how little faith the disciple had. Here were these men that had traveled with Christ, lived with Christ, watched him perform miracles, been a part of his ministry and yet, they still doubted that what he said was true. The began to question him and each other. They didn’t trust each other or themselves, asking, “is it I, Lord?” when he talked of denial or betrayal. I can almost guess that they began to talk and argue among themselves relegating Jesus to a casual observer as their faith fell apart.

Is it much different today? How many times have we questioned God? After spending time with Him. Praising Him for the miracles He has performed in our lives. After He has truly answered our prayers. We turn around and ask, “why?” He can tell us that our plan is not going to work and we don’t believe Him, plowing full steam ahead down our own wrong path.

I continued to read the familiar story when suddenly the lines became illuminated for my further understanding. “Then Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack for anything?’  “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have  sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”  (Luke 22:35 – 36 NIV)  At first, I thought of my grandmother, a diminutive five feet tall and weighing all of 95 pounds, when she was going off to do battle with our school, the electric company or a tiresome neighbor, she would put on her good shoes, grab her purse and her Bible.  

Jesus was very clear about the fact that sometimes we need to allow him to provide for us. He will often send us with nothing and yet, we lack no thing essential to our existence.  We marvel at how protected we are by God. But Jesus also wanted us to know that there will be times when we need to have a sword. The end was nearing and Jesus understood that they would be coming to get him, but he knew that the forces of evil wouldn’t stop with him. That they would be coming to get the disciples as well. And he wanted them to be able to protect themselves. It was so important that he emphasized by telling them to sell their coats to buy a sword if necessary.

How many of us go through life without what we need to protect ourselves? We don’t read the Word of God. Or we read it but do not understand it. We know we don’t understand it but we don’t go to Bible Study for illumination. Get it. When Satan comes for you and your children and your health and your finances, you will definitely need a sword. It is my hope that in this Lenten season you grow stronger in the Word of God and like my grandmother you do not leave home without your purse, your good shoes and a sword.

Dance With My Father


If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never, ever end
How I’d love, love, love
To dance with my father again

I just finished listening to that song and I was so overcome with emotion. I forgot how much I love Luther’s voice and how much I love that song. My father was a great dancer. My mother, as well. Not the kind of dancing that you think of if I say Alvin Ailey or the Royal Canadian Ballet, but the kind that happens at the YMCA dance on a Saturday night. Whenever people talk about my mother and father they always talk about how they would clear the floor at the Y and people would just watch them as they jitterbugged and made up their own steps.  There are even a few stories of when stage shows would come to town, He would get up on stage with the acts and dance until security made him stop. Funny, even though I never danced with him, I hear Luther singing that song and I want to.

My sister and I didn’t know my father very well. He and my mother were divorced when I was two and a half years old. I guess there was a time that I mourned his absence. A time when I longed to see him turn the corner leading the horse that I so desperately wanted him to bring me. I logged countless hours sitting on the front porch waiting for his promised visit. Waiting for the promised present. At some point I just waited because because my mother told me to. Experience had taught me that he wasn’t coming.

As I began to mature, I realized that I have a father that keeps his promises. Even when I stray from him. He loves me and he answers my prayers. It doesn’t matter how well I know him today, he knows me. Before I knew you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5  

Dancing with our father isn’t as difficult as we sometimes make it. So many times we feel we are spiritually “grown up” and we stray away from God. We forget what it was like when He held us in his arms and twirled us around, keeping us from harm’s way and often out of our own way.

So, as we share this holy season, let us be reminded to draw closer to God. Let us lay down the cares of the world. Walk away from our stresses and trivial pursuits and sing a song that will never, ever end. A praise song for all that we are and all that we have. Praise God for everything. If you feel good, praise Him. If you feel bad, praise Him because you can still feel. Pray at least one prayer everyday where you don’t ask God for anything. Find that inner child that loves with all your heart and dance with your Father again.

Talent:One Definition


Talent. Everyone has it but most people don’t know what theirs is. Some people think, “I like to dance, so dancing is my talent,” or “basketball, I love basketball, so I’m going to the NBA.” Yeah, if only it was that simple. Talent is definitely not to be confused with wishes and dreams. In the Biblical parable of the talents we learn that if we bury our talents they do not increase. That when we use them, they tend to multiply. But again, how do we determine what our true talents are? And even better, how do we discern what God wants us to do with them?

Let’s start with something easy. Basketball. Let’s say you’re really good at playing basketball. And you’re tall. Do you think, God must want me to be in the NBA because he made me really tall and I’m good at basketball. Yup, I’m gonna make lots of money and play ball all day because I love it and God made me really tall and really good at basketball. Okay, but what if that’s not it?  What if God gave you basketball so you could work at the Boys & Girls Club or the YMCA or coach a junior high school basketball team? Maybe you were never supposed to be rich or famous. I know, but you’re reeeeally tall. Maybe God just wanted you to look good.

Seriously, I know some really talented people. Folks that can sing and act and dance and write music and write books and play instruments and speak languages and cook. I have been blessed to meet and know some of the world’s most talented individuals.  I’m not always sure they know just  how talented they are. They know what talent looks like in others and they are staunch supporters of their talented friends. But sometimes I think they get caught up in their own plans for their talent that they forget that God has a plan for them.

So here is a shout out to some of my talented friends and what I love about them. Derek and his ability to make everyone feel important. Kamilah and her compassion and humility. Shoshana and her courage. Terron and his daddy vibe. Renee and her fierce passion. Deborah and the way she makes me laugh. Ron Kellum and his integrity and leadership. Dana and the way she keeps going. Heshimu and the way he never stops trying to “get it”. Stephanie and her generousity. Crystal and the way she gets it done. Ron Hills and his sensitivity. Michael Jay and the way he cares. Pamela O and the fun she brings. Pamela R and the way she keeps going. Beckie, Carolyn, Ada, Janette, Nancy, Adele , Aimee, Martha and Betty and the way they do friendship and motherhood. The list is endless, like I said I know a lot of talented people. Honey they can siiiiiiing and daaaaance and wriiiiiite and cooooook and figure numbers and fix things and teach and rock babies and, and , and. 

I love their music and their acting and their mexican rice and all the things they count as their talent, but today, I see something else in them. Something ordained of God. Something really beautiful and stunning. I hope they see it in themselves. I hope they remember that the stars don’t have to struggle to shine, rivers don’t have to struggle to flow and  God created them just like he did the stars and the rivers. And today, I hope my talent has been to live in gratitude for all the great people I share the planet with and to let them know I’m always praying for them. To increase their talents. To discover why God gave them talent. To share their talents. And to be fulfilled.

Can You Feel A Brand New Day


t1wideinaugtues53cnn1I told myself I would not blog this historic event. For the past four days I have watched news anchors from all the major networks stick a mic into the faces of people of all ages, races and creeds and ask them what this moment means to them. Some have been articulate. Some of the young people not so much. Many echoed the same sentiment about history and civil rights. Everyone was emotional, as am I. I decided two days ago that words were not enough.

It would take a blog of a thousand words (don’t worry) to pay homage to the ancestors that came before us to make this moment possible. Indeed, a volume to house the collective blood and tears of slaves and itinerant farmers and sharecroppers and washer women and pullman porters and garbage men and maids and mammies and chauffeurs and preachers and teachers and the lynched and the disenfranchised and those that died in the water on the long journey to America.

What a stunning sight to see the faces of people on the Capitol Mall  Faces so resplendent  and beaming with hope and joy and promise. They were beaming because of the light from the fire within them. Within me. The brightest light. And so I lift a glass to the keepers of  the flame. Those that made sure the fire did not go out even in the face of great winds. Winds of the lash and winds of injustice. Winds of  water hoses and barking dogs. Those flame keepers made sure that the flame did not go out. That there would be enough to burn in a future generation.

Only moments after the actual swearing in, the analysts and pundits began to shake their heads from side to side saying President Obama has an awesome task and that the people might soon  “fall out of love” with him. That the task at hand is too big for anyone and that he has “big plans and lofty ambitions” for the country. I  am amazed that after all he has done in the last four years, people still think he might not be able to do it.  He has overcome every mountain that has been placed before him. So, as they talked I shook my head from side to side. I know something they may not know.  Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20 NIV)  

I know that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Today, we, Africans, are finally able to be the people God called us to be. We are your people, called by your name. And so as we go forward I ask that you pray a special prayer over President Obama’s first 100 days.  I remind you that he needs us as much as we need him. as you pray for our new President not to let us down, I ask you to pray, also, that we won’t let him down.

Are You Kidding Me? Part II


Apparently, about 70 per cent of African Americans voted to ban gay marriage in California. 70 per cent.  What were you thinking? Time for a history lesson or a walk down memory lane.

When the Pilgrims came to America they had an awesome task. To set up a country that would last forever. They had a vision. A goal. They’d left England for a variety of reasons including the fact that The Church of England had gotten overbearing and was overstepping their bounds in the lives of citizens. The Church was making laws and they felt oppressed. So one of the first things they decided on was separation of church and state. Thomas Jefferson had this to say, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Wasn’t long before the practice of slavery began in the New World. At first, every group was fair game. Native Americans, Africans, poor whites from England (indentured servants).  Lawmakers eventually adopted language to say slaves were Africans.

I don’t think I need to say what happened next. The residual effects of slavery are still with this country and with African Americans., Barack Obama not withstanding. But here’s the part I want to review. Lots and lots of slave holders used the Bible to support their right to own slaves. Indeed, Leviticus 25:44 – 46 says you can buy and sell slaves and even will them to your children. (That is part of the Holiness Code mentioned in Pt. I)

Slavery was such a part of the fabric of the New World that we had to amend the Constitution in order to abolish it. Do you know which amendment? The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery. Imagine where we’d be if in 1865 that wasn’t ratified. If people had voted against it. Yikes! But it doesn’t stop there. Ever heard of the Black Codes?  They were laws passed at the state and local levels to limit the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans.

Most people think that these so-called codes were only in the south and largely they were, however, many northern states had laws in place as well. The laws were as you would expect. Blacks could not serve on juries, own property, vote, go to white schools and for purposes of this post, my favorite, could not marry outside their race.

In Mississippi it was considered a felony for any freedman or free negro or mulatto to intermarry with a white person and as such, it was punishable by life in prison. I know, what can you expect from Mississippi? But as recently as 1967, sixteen states still had laws on the books that prohibited inter-racial marriages. Somebody got up, went to the voting place and pulled the lever to keep people in love from having the protection of the law. A lot of somebodies. Sound familiar? Think of the ramifications. No Halle Berry. No Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. No Booker T. Washington. No Alicia Keys. No Malcolm X. No August Wilson. No Soledad O’Brien. No Barack Obama. Get the picture?

I consider the fact that so many Christian black people stood up against gay people a mental illness. No, really, a mental illness. Maybe a mutated version of Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological response of loyalty to the hostage-takers. Ouch! I get it. You may not approve of a gay lifestyle. Maybe you still live by all of the Holiness Code and you think a gay lifestyle is an abomination. What I don’t get is how you could go into the booth and pull the lever against a group of people. That you, descendant from slaves and the sons and daughters of slaves, could pull the lever against another group of people.  That you, descendant from a people once defined as 3/5 a person by the law of this land, could pull the lever and deem another group of people as half citizens not entitled to full rights. Have you forgotten where you came from? Have you forgotten our collective pain? Have you so identified with your hostage-takers that you have become loyal to their idealogy? You don’t have to agree with what people do. You just can’t usurp their right to do it and you can’t pull the lever to keep them from doing what you don’t like.

Those of us that know our history and who know the power of that history have an obligation. We have to stand for any group of people that need standing for. Children, women, gays and the poor. We have an obligation to look at the persecuted and denied and say, “there , but for the grace of God, go I.”  I heard a quote a long time ago and I’ve never forgotten it. I think Dr. Angela Davis used it as the title of one of her books. “If they come for me in the morning, they will be coming for you at night.”

What happens when our gay brothers and sisters are mainstream. Will “they” come after the liars, the fornicators(those that have sex without being married), the adulterers, the gluttonous, they sick, people with tattoos(see Lev. 19:28). In other words, the sun is setting, are they coming for you?


Are You Kidding Me? Part I


Well, I won’t say pot calling the kettle black, but really, people saying no to gay marriage?  The whole Proposition 8 thing in California has me livid. And it wasn’t just California. Gay rights lost everywhere it was on the ballot. So, I want to talk about marriage or rather the sanctity of marriage. And then the sanctity of true Christianity. And then the sanctity of human rights.

I read that a lot of people voted against same sex marriage because they are Christians or Evangelicals or born agains or something. I’m not sure I have a working definition of the latter two but suffice to say they had a vested interest in making sure the sacred institution of marriage was protected.

I have lots of questions for those voters. How many of you have been divorced and remarried once? Twice? Three or more times? In the Old Testament there are strict rules regarding divorce and remarriage. It is the Old Testament you’re so fond of quoting, right?

How about those of you that negotiate pre-nuptial agreements? Isn’t your marriage supposed to last forever or aren’t we following that part of the Bible this year? Is it the sanctity of marriage that you’re protecting or given the fact that fifty per cent of all marriages end in divorce, are you protecting your own butt?

How many of you “protectors” wrote your own wedding vows instead of speaking the traditional, sacred marriage vows. No “obey” for you.  Even though sacred marriage views the husband as head of the household and the wife obedient to him. 

When I started to think about it, it wasn’t about protecting at all. It can be reduced to the lowest common denominator. Exclusion versus inclusion. Odd fora country founded on inclusion, you know, “give me your tired, your poor, blah, blah, blah”. Odd but not a surprise. Emma Lazarus aside, Americans have always been more into excluding than including. We like the secret clubs like masons and Knights of Columbus. We love our country clubs that exclude people who are the wrong color or don’t make enough money. Bottom line, we love keeping people out and it doesn’t much matter why as long as we make it in.

Is that how we honor the sanctity of our Christianity? By excluding people? By constantly proclaiming to gay people that God finds them an abomination? By allowing preachers to stand in pulpits of every denomination and pompously stating that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,”? I did some work. The Holiness Code are found in Leviticus, Chapters 17 – 26. That’s where we find the quote that people like to tout as their reason for not liking all things homosexual.  Okay, but what Christian can explain why other parts of the Holiness Code do not regulate ethical practices today. Jesus hated the purity codes because they separated people. Deut.23:1-2, says “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord. No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, down to the tenth generation.”  Yikes! We keep people out of church because they were born of a forbidden marriage. Or do we disregard that section while allowing our fear to let us cling to other sections?WWJD?

Yeah, you heard me, what would Jesus do? We missed the mark, big time. Jesus didn’t exclude. He included all of us.  He died for all of us and for all of our sins. Mine.  Yours, too. God created each and every one of us and Jesus only asks for a couple of things. Love every one. Black, white, gay, straight, rich and poor. Overwhelmingly His message is love. And He wants us to spread the good news of His love. To everyone. Not to exclude people by putting them down and treating them worse than the lepers of his time were treated. Yeah, we have commandments. And a few more pronouncements about what we should do, but we are not to judge each other.  That task is left to God. 

I find nothing that says it is my right to pick for you or your right to pick for me. God loves it more when we choose for ourselves. He could have made us all perfect but He didn’t. He allowed us to make choices. That’s what makes it sweet when we choose his way.

So, the next time you decide to judge someone because of their sin, think about your own sin. The next time you have a chance to vote and you decide to make a group of people pay for their so-called sin, make sure you can pay for your sins. God doesn’t take plastic.

Just Sinking In


I guess the magnitude of what just happened on election day is just starting to hit me. I worked tirelessly on Barack Obama’s campaign from February 2007 until the end. I’m in Ohio and though I live there now, I had not switched my voter registration from California, which I still consider to be home. But, if you know me, you know I like a challenge. I have to admit the primary took it’s toll on me but I came back stronger than ever. So after almost two years of phone calling in all states, knocking on doors, rallies, town hall meetings, fund raisers and more, I made the ultimate sacrifice.

On the last day to register in Ohio, I switched my voter registration. Yes, I am officially an Ohio voter. The Sunday before election, I went to a rally at the State House. Barack, Michelle and the girls were there. About a hundred thousand people were there. I stood on the State House lawn where I had stood as a child to hear a campaigning John F. Kennedy. It was awesome.

There were lots of parties on November 4, but I chose to stay at home and watch alone. Well, hardly alone. The phone was ringing. I was calling friends and family. I got a string of e-mails from my cousins in California wanting to know if Ohio was going to come through. It seemed like results were coming in so quickly. State after state mostly as predicted. Then the battleground states started falling. In Divine order, one after another. When they called Ohio, I knew we were golden.

As Barack gave his acceptance speech, I thought about so much but my eyes kept going back to his little girls, Melia and Sasha. I remembered the four little girls killed in a Birmingham church but these little girls will grow up in the White House. I thought about Emmitt Till, the Chicago boy that made the fateful mistake of whistling at a white woman. But these little girls will live in the White House. And I thought about Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, the young civil rights workers that were killed while trying to register black voters in the south, but these little girls…

I thanked God, as so many black Americans did, for allowing me to witness such a day. I thanked him for bringing it full circle. That a man whose father is African born, would transcend the dark legacy of American slavery to rise to the highest office in the land. That this same man would take his place in the city surveyed and planned by the great Benjamin Banneker. And that these little girls would live in this house, built by enslaved and free African Americans. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Come Sunday Morning


It was early September of 1963Unusual because fall had not yet arrived in Columbus, Ohio.The leaves had turned ever so slightly and we had changed out summer clothes for fall sweters, but the air was not yet crisp.The last vestiges of summer gave a little extra warmth to midwestern life. In other words, it was still hot.My friends and I had finished our first week of school and I had already been cast in the fall play.If you diidn’t count the weather, things were almost normal. 

Almost. It had been three weeks since Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and delivered his now iconic “I Have A Dream” speech in front of 250,000 civil rights supporters. The speech was  televised so my family as well as many other families in my communty, gathered around the one telvision set in our home and watched what was to become history. The importance of Dr. King’s speech did not escape me, even then. The visual alone was stunning. Two hundred and fifty thousand people stretched over the Capitol Mall like a thick, home-made quilt. Martin King was a beautiful man and his speaking voice was so strong and resonant. The entire spectacle was mesmerizing. When he got to the part about the dream, my grandmother began to cry and her tears told me that Martin King’s dream was for me.

The speech sparked renewed the energy in our community. In the weeks after, our parents and grandparents spoke almost daily of Dr. King’s “dream” nearly every day. Every day until September 13th. It was an ordinary day by most accounts. My sister and I had gone to Sunday School and then we’d joined our family for church. Back at home, I curled up in my room with a book. Downstairs my grandmother was cooking dinner and the smell of collard greens, chicken and dumplings and homemade cornbread was making me hungrier by the minute.

But September 13, 1963, was anything but ordinary. I do not remember how I first learned of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Information did not travel as fast then as it does now, now did we leave out television running all day like we do now. So maybe it was on the evening news or maybe one of my grandmother’s friends who had southern relatives had received the news by word f mouth. But somehow, before I went to bed, I knew that Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair and Addie Mae Collins had been murdered while attending Sunday School at the very same time my sister and I had been in sunday school.

It kept me awake that night and if I’m honest, every night for weeks. I had questions. Was I going to be required  to go to Sunday School next week? And if I somehow couldn’t avoid it, what would happen to me? I was the same age as one of the girls. Were there people that wanted to kill little black girls in my town? I ran to the mailbox every day  awaiting the Jet Magazine that would most certainly have the answers to somee of my questions. 

I must have stared at the photos of the four girls for hours. They looked like me, so it was difficult to imagine them dead. I thought about them laughing and singing on their way to church. I envisioned their Sunday dresses and their patent leather church shoes. There were adults in the church, too. It’s said that a call came telling them that the bomb had been planted but a child answered the phone. Less than three minutes later, while four little girls smoothed hair, retied sashes and drank from an unlabeled water fountain, the foundation of the 16th Street Baptist Church shook.

Carole Robertson was blasted and buried in the debris of hatred. Hands that played clarinet were black with dirt and grit. Denise McNair was the first to be pulled from the ruble with her dress shredded into a bloody rag. Her first white, patent heels drowning amid blood and dust, while the concrete came to rest in her head. Cynthia Wesley’s skinney, spider legs were licked by confederate flames while her melted flesh seeped into the blood that flowed from the church like holy water. Addie Mae Collins was missing from he grave. When they opened the grave to move her to a better place there was no child sized coffin holding incenerated remains. No sweet, peaceful sleep for this fourteen year-old martyr. And brave black men sifted through ashes searching for children but found only angels.

Jet Magazine also had a photo of the 16th Street Baptist Church with the gaping hole and the charred shell that remained. And there was a gaping hole in me. A hole I filled with activism. A hole I filled with service. That day was the day I lost my innocence. The day I understood what it really meant to be black in this country.On that Sunday, the foundation of the 16th Street Baptist Church shook. My whole world shook. And they say that only the face of Jesus was missing from an intact stained glass window.

Does My Vote Count?


This is not a rhetorical question. In fact, more times than I care to note, I have heard this sentiment expressed by citizens of the United States. Even while globally people fight for their right to cast their vote, we still have an attitude that feels we cannot make a difference. 

A bit of a history lesson for those who need it. Voting has always been important to African Americans. For many it was a first act as a free man to register to vote. Indeed, after emancipation, we were a part of the system as evidenced by the number of blacks elected to state and federal legislatures. Many historians suggest that there were more than 1,500 African American officeholders during the Reconstruction Era(1863-1877). There have been nine African American United States Senators. Nine. Five were elected by popular vote, 2 were elected by State Legislature before the passage of the 17th Ammendment which states that a U.S.Senator must be elected by the people of that state, and 2 were appointed by Govenors.

Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first and represented the state of Mississippi.He was elected by the Mississippi State Legislature. Some members of the senate opposed his seat, claiming he did not meat the citizenship requirement. Senator Blanche Bruce was elected by the Mississippi Legislature in 1875. But in 1890 the state legislature passed a new constitution disinfranchising most black voters. And every other southern state passed disinfranchising constitutions by 1908, excluding African American voters from the political system in the entire former Confederacy. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of  1965 that things began to change. It was aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented black Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Ammendment.The next black senator was Edward Brooke, elected nearly 100 years after Revels and Bruce. Add the names of Carol Moseley Braun and Barack  Obama, who were both elected by the voters of Illinois. When Barack Obama became President, Roland Burris was appointed to fill his seat in the senate. Tim Scott of South Caarolina and Mo  Cowan of Massachusetts were both appointed by govenors to fill vacated seats. And lastly, in 2013, the voters of Nw jersey elected Cory Booker in a special election to fill a vacated senate seat. As of November 2015, there have been 1,963 members of the United States Senate, but only nine have been black.

African Americans have participated in politics decades prior to emancipation. Free Men of Color served in the United States House of Reprentatives, state legislatures and even as Lt Govenors and Govenors. So the simple answer to my original question is YES, your vote matters. 

Fast forward to the summer of 1964, also known as Freedom Summer. In 1962, a study showed that less than 7% of eligible black voters in the state of Mississippi were actually registed to vote. Several Civil Rights organizations came together to organize voter registration in Mississippi. One thousand out-of-state, predominately white volunteers went to Mississippi to register black voters. Among those were Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both from New York and local James Chaney, all of whom went missing the day after they arrived. Weeks later their bodies were found murdered and buried in a shallow grave. So, the answer is still YES, your vote matters. 

Next question. If your vote is so unimportant, would the system be so hell bent on keeping you out? The brown paper bag test and grandfather clauses have been replaced with gerrymandering districts, voter registration laws, purging registration rolls, erroniously reporting massive voter fraud. So, the answer is STILL, YES, your vote matters.

Many of you have checked out of this election. It is, by any standard, a farce. I remarked the other day that you could gather the greatest storytellers on the planet and no one would have come up with this. I admit it takes a great deal of energy to take it all in and even more to get it out. But, you aren’t allowed to check out. You have a stake in this. And I don’t just mean the Presidential race. You have a stake in every down ballot race on every ticket in every state. Most of the things that affect you start at the bottom of the ticket. If you think our justice system is unfair, VOTE for different judges and district attorneys. If you don’t like the way your community is being run, VOTE for different mayors and city councilmen and county supervisors.  YES, your vote matters.

It is 2016, and there are only 74 days until the election. In fact, many of you can start early voting by the end of September. If you are African American, your vote is at the center of the struggle, so Yes, your vote counts. All talk has turned to race and bigotry and ignorance. CNN and MSNBC have raked in every African American they can find to discuss what the two campaigns have to say about race and hate. “Is he talking to black voters?” Of course, he is not talking to black voters. When will we learn that any discussion of race in this country is only to further the white agenda? That is a rhetorical question. And when will we realize that their discourse does not make us important. We are important because we have in the past and continue to contribute to the economic stability of this country. We are important beause our VOTE is important. My knowing that is not predicated on anyone’s permission. I do not need anyone to tell me I am important. I don’t need anyone to tell me that my life matters. I have seen this country try their damn best to shut me out, lock me down and yes, eradicate my very existence! And all of that leads me to the conclusion that I am important. I am powerful and YES, MY VOTE MATTERS.

Please exercise your right to vote on or before November 8, and every time you can. Go to to make sure your are registered or to register for the first time or again if you have moved or changed your name. In many states ex-offenders can vote. Please check to see if you are eligible.

Get Ready! Get Set! Go! Part I


Most of us are constantly setting new goals. For some, the new goals are personal. Lose weight. Find love. Better health. And for others, the goals are related to our careers. If you are in the entertainment industry, those goals could include getting started. Getting to the next level. Reinventing ourselves. Whatever your goals, there are a few things that will help you to achieve them.

Get Ready! That means to get your ducks in a row. If you are just starting out in the entertainment industry, you’ll need a few things. First, a photo. Something that shows the real you. Be clear with the photographer about what kind of photo you want. Theatrical. Commercial. Artistic. Lots of decisions will be made AFTER you make that decision. What to wear. Hair. Make-up. Locale. There is a list of photographers at the end of this blog. If you have been in the industry for a while, it may be necessary for you to update your photos. Remember, this is usually the first thing people see of you. If you have been using the same photo for more than 6-8 months, you need to refresh your image. You also need a new photo if you have changed in any way. Gained or lost weight. Cut or colored your hair. Remember, your photo needs to look like you.

You should also have a resume. Again, if you are just starting out you may not have many credits to list. Do the best you can. There are a couple of ways you can list. I prefer listing the most prominent credits first.  You should list the name of the project, your role, and where you did it. Resume order should be  Film / Television, Theatre, Commercials, Training, Special Skills. The section marked training should pertain to what you are trying to achieve. Casting does not care that you have a Master’s Degree in Biophysics. We want too know where you trained to do the job you are asking us to give you. The same goes for special skills. Only list what you are proficient at and please do not make yourself sound super human. Please check to make sure all of the titles and names are spelled correctly. Make sure your contact information can be easily found and above all, keep it to one page. For the more experienced, update your resume frequently. Find ways to reinvent it. If I feel like there is nothing new to see, I may not notice a new credit that is buried in the middle of the page.

Now it’s time to find a coach or a teacher. Don’t assume that because you have a “gift” or because you have been doing this forever that you don’t need to study. Keeping your craft fresh is your responsibility and there is always something to improve upon. If comedy is your strong suit, take a class that focuses on drama. If you are a great singer, you may need to take acting or dance. Almost anything you learn can benefit your career. When looking for a class, look for a class that will challenge you. Study with other people that are serious about their careers.

Give some honest thought about what direction you want your career to go. write it down! This will help you visualize it.

Merry Christmas, 2011


I have decided to revisit my blog. In making that decision, I read all of my former posts and came across this one from Christmas a few years ago. With a bit of revision, I think it could use another publication. It is the Advent season The word advent comes from the Latin and means important arrival. This season marks the arrival of the Christ child. Apparently, 2011 years ago. This has always been a magical season for me. I love thinking about the Biblical story of the young virgin girl chosen by God to bring His son into human form so that ultimately he could be sacrificed for our sins.  And I love the lights and glitter. I love the shopping and presents. I love the hustle and bustle of finding that last gift at 5p.m. on Christmas Eve.  I like the carols, Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, being my favorite.

Ah, but what of the important arrival? What are we expecting? We are in the worse economic crisis since the stock market crash of 1929. So many people without jobs. Mortgages foreclosures at an all time high. Sick people with no insurance. Gas prices fell for a bit but they are back up.  So what is it we are waiting for this advent season?

We have bigger houses yet we spend less time in them. We have more ways to communicate and yet, we communicate less.  We have more gadgets and gizmos to make life easier and yet, we are stressed more than ever. What is this important arrival for which we have spent the season preparing?

I guess we should look at the preparation.  Have we prayed without ceasing for an end to this economic situation? Or have we shopped with money we don’t really have in order to make ourselves feel better about our economic state? Have we fed the hungry or did we mindlessly reach for the year old can of cream of mushroom soup in the back of the panty to add to the “poor” family’s basket at church? Have we welcomed a stranger at church or have we gossiped an old member out the door to a new church home?

If Christ was to be born in your home on Christmas Day, would it be as peaceful and calm as the lowly stable? Could you quiet your inner confusions in order to hear the angels singing? Would you brag and boast and invite all of the most important people or would you humbly receive the gift that God gave to you?

When I lived in southern California and my children were young, I organized a caroling event for the family. Aunt, uncles, cousins, everyone. The Saturday before Christmas we would meet at Aunt Martha’s house.  I handed out song sheets.  Everyone had hats and gloves and flashlights. We’d all bundle up and head out to sing Christmas carols for strangers.

Everyone had a part to play.  The younger children had their own version of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while the men enjoyed booming out the verses of “We Three Kings”.  After singing for blocks and blocks we’d be back at Aunt Martha’s for hot chocolate and cookies. Yeah, it really is that simple. Family at Christmastime. That’s when the ultimate family came into being.

So, with money so scarce let’s give what we have to give.  Forgive someone. It matters not how great or small their offense. You can always afford to be magnanamous. Smile at a stranger. It may save their life. Do a kindness for someone unsuspecting. Laugh and light the way for someone who is silent in the dark. Call a long lost friend you haven’t spoken to in ages. Bake the cookies you used to bake before you got so busy and take them to a nursing home.  Gather the family and sing a few carols. A lot of us are so busy with what we think is important, that we don’t have time to actually speak to one another on the phone or meet and share a meal. SO, take the time while you have the time. You just might find that the thing you’re waiting for shows up. The important arrival of the Christmas spirit. The spirit of Christ that we should carry the entire year.

Oh, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant! Oh, come let us adore him, Christ, the King!