Making the Most of Life!

inside

It certainly is Hump Day again, y’all!  Check it out … We got passed Monday … moved through Tuesday … and it’s already mid-week!  How’s it going so far?!  Well, I’m hoping … for each of you.

We have all probably heard the story that no one is “content” with what they “have” in life … and “we” are always seeking more!  More of what?!?  More of whatever money can buy, since we live in a capitalistic economy and that is the medium of exchange for major goods and services.  Now, I am not knocking it, just proposing that folks don’t loose sight of “themselves” in all of this, you dig?!?  We hear folks talking about the possibility of a “paradigm shift” and we hear others saying that those folks are crazy!!  Yet, those same folks don’t bother to question most things about and in our current social system.  There are so many different “realities” to deal with, so to speak.  We’ve got the political realm, the social realm, the religious/spiritual/atheist realm … all of which much of each are dictated by our individual economic realities.  The true art of living, perhaps, involves balancing all of these … and more!
As long as you are making the most of it, the journey will be worth while!  Many of us find opportunities to make professional career changes later on in life.  That is what I have been doing for the past ten years or so.  You know, I enjoy “working” … using my mind to make something work or function well.  So, thinking of retirement hasn’t crossed my mind yet.  I will probably work somewhere doing something … good … until I drop!!  A couple of college “chums” have changed up a bit, while still doing their “people service” oriented work, too.  Recently, Bruce Puckett, former room mate of mine from college, was assigned to an assistant/associate professorship at Rutgers.  Adonis Hoffman, Esq., now living in the DC area is resigning from his work at the FCC and several other posts he’s held there including his professorship at Georgetown.  He sent me a “brief” of his exit interview in which he explains his decision to move on as well as what he experienced, as well as to what he is looking forward in the near future!
A young boy, “Merv” they called him, who was 10 years old and living in the gun-riddled Miami area, was shot in the head … seemingly for sport … as he and his friends played in front of their homes with a basketball.  Last night, their team, part of the Miami Police Athletic League’s Youth Basketball, they lost their game … as they felt the loss of “Merv”.  Keep “Merv” alive with your good deeds and positive energy.  Together, we may be able to “Stop The Violence” in our city streets.
Happy First Day of April!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Purpose and Profession

life on purpose

It’s Monday, y’all!

Yep, and I’m at it again!! While tough times bring out the quality in our character … or … the lack thereof … it is often still challenging getting through those “tough times”. Yesterday morning, I “slept in” watching television as the televangelist seem to all focus on the same topic – a purposeful life. Two of my favorite televangelists mentioned how they view the tough times in our lives as purposefully put there to make us stronger, rid us of the unnecessary “links” in our lives … be they people, places or things, and finally redirect us to our true purpose. That is, of course, unless we are fighting against our true purpose in life.

Living life with a purpose takes focus … focusing on ones self … not being selfish … but looking for your own “purpose-filled passion”. This certainly varies from person to person. Some folks like being peaceful and humble while simultaneously living a passionate life challenging those “things” that need to be changed and offering techniques and approaches to achieving that change. Last week, I mentioned the situation at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in which four officers are no longer working there due to their overt racists displays of their own attitudes. The Broward County Public Defender, Howard Finkelstein, believes, as do other community activists and leaders, that those displays are the “tip of the iceberg” there in the FLPD. As a person who has often been profiled here in Fort Lauderdale, I would agree. I have met Mr. Finkelstein and he knows this County well. He is not afraid to say what he actually sees, like our Mayor here who said he believes that this is “just a few” cops gone bad!!! So, what does he think the “people of color” are complaining about in regards to the police?!? Does he think about the skewed arrest records, showing many more people of color being incarcerated than the “others”?!? You see, it is important to blend your “purpose” in life with your passion … but not a passion that hurts certain people!

There are ways to “live” … and then there are purpose-filled lives … What’s yours?

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

May The Good Things Come To You!!!

Cultivate

It’s Friday, y’all. Just T.G.I.F. with me, won’t you?!?

A friend of mine sent me one yesterday which stands for “So Happy It’s Thursday … Friday Is Tomorrow!!!!” Do you get it yet?!? This is a funny take off of T.G.I.F. …. right?! ;)

I was checking how many posts are on the blog of Educational Excellence and it is over 500!! Yeah, Y’all …. I’ve been at this for a while. Those who’ve been around longest, including Ricardo Martinez with whom I took a course in Small Business Development through an Urban League Program I was in some years ago with Courtney Biscardi of the ULBC, know what I’m talking about!! I’ve stated more than once how fortunate I am to have good friends like many of you!! Many of you have contributed to my efforts, which I try to keep going as a matter of principle of who I am. Believe it or not, I used to do one e-mail every day!! Waking up at 6 or 7am, putting words on a page like this trying to make sense of this journey has become a pattern of behaviour for me. So, those who would like to discourage me and find quibbles and quirks in what I do can get some idea of how proud I am to have been doing this for more than 5 years.

Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail reply from Mr. Martinez, Broward County’s Small Business Development Specialist, letting me know that he was retiring the next day on Friday the 13th of this month, this year, 2015. Mr. Martinez made the course exciting and fun, informative and well organized. He sent me a message that follows:

“It’s been great receiving your e-mails all those years; it’s been one of the best legacies I got from working at Extension (Nova Southeastern’s Consortium) and developing the entrepreneurship program. If you don’t mind, I would like to continue receiving your ‘descargas’ at my personal e-mail.”

This is something that means a lot to me. It makes me wonder how a 27 year old pilot with plans to get married can get so depressed that he crashed a plane into the French Alps full of people who did NOTHING to him?!? How do such young cops, like those of Fort Lauderdale, get into all of this racial hatred crap … at such a young age? I think back to my young adult years … I was trying to learn new things, how to get along with folks, understanding this journey …. But not these guys!! Just a few days ago, several children were killed in Miami’s Opa Locka … senseless murders. One woman spoke out saying, “Y’all talking about the cops killing us, when y’all running around here in our neighborhoods killing our own kids, too!!” Worse yet, an 8 year old Native American boy was found dead wrapped in a plastic bag and underneath some clothes in the corner of the laundry room … in HIS father’s house here in Hollywood, FL!! The father bonded out of jail last night and the father’s live in girlfriend claims that she put him there after waking up in the middle of the night and finding the young boy’s bruised body near her!!! She remains in custody.

So, Thursday was the “100th Anniversary of Miami Beach” and the “Ultra Music Festival” begins tomorrow. Andrea Bocelli kicked the party off, followed by Gloria Estefan, KC from the Sunshine Band, FLO RIDA, John Secada … even Gloria and Emilio’s daughter!! Truly a Gala Birthday Party for Miami Beach! Tomorrow are two other events. There is a “Yogafest” that a friend informed me of either in the FTL or Boca. As well, tomorrow, my friend Marianne Weiss from the Brahma Kumaris is doing her “Love Talk”, which I attended some years ago, at the Hollywood Library. A little something for everyone. Can’t we find some fun things to do in this life we have been gifted?!? Still, I pray for peace … and may the good things come to you!

Namaste

John I. Cook, Director

Yes, It Does Matter What You Think!!

Einstein Happy

It’s Hump Day, mid-week even, y’all!

Times change, don’t they. We mature … hopefully. I always enjoy “thinking outside the box” so to speak, in a good way! It’s hard sometimes. People love to “push each other’s buttons” and see what happens. I personally DON’T want to see what will or could happen in such circumstances. People are so unpredictable and mostly on the irrational side that I don’t want to take a chance to see what they might do if they get irritated!! I know how I am when I allow myself to get irritated … trying to forget … but I remember!!

I remember when I worked at this career college in Fort Lauderdale called City College, I taught a course called Personal Development. I’m going to tell you something … there were moments when I felt like I was having “an out of body” experience listening to myself talk to these students! In other words, I was learning a lot about what I was teaching, too!! I enjoyed it so much. So did the students. I still have a plaque on the wall in my flat from the students of one class who decided amongst themselves to present me with this award. It reads from the top: “In Appreciation to Professor John I. Cook” … “For Your Outstanding Dedication and Leadership” … indeed, very thoughtful.

Did you ever think that what you think … matters? You could look at that in two ways: 1) does it matter to “reality”, and 2) does it matter to YOU? I know, the first thought may make you go “hmmmm” … but you get it. Has anyone ever said to you: “Who cares what you think! This is what’s going to happen!” And you are forced to deal with a situation … that you could not change … and it probably wasn’t too pleasant. Now, how did YOU think about the situation? Did you trip out and make a “mountain out of a molehill”? Did you go temporarily insane and hurt yourself or someone else … maybe an innocent victim … maybe a creep! Or … Did you handle the situation with calm and self control, perhaps swallowing some pride for a moment … to avoid something evil and ugly!! How one chooses to think about a situation … does indeed matter. I believe it matters, too, in an energy form as well. If one thinks positive, wishing good for others and oneself, such things may in fact come to be. Over a long period of time, we might call this “faith”. In short term occurrences, it might be even be described as “spiritual power” or energy.

Think good things of yourself … and others, especially those who need some positive “energy”, wishes and hope in their lives. Whether those wishes come true or not is not so important, as it may help all involved to get through the situation, perhaps even understand it … appreciate it as a lesson. So, think about it … or go ahead and call me crazy!! If you get an urge to go outside the box, “Just Do It”! But don’t hurt nobody now … especially yourself!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

What’s in YOUR Heart?

Eleanor's Heart

Happy Monday, y’all!

I’m going to say it and mean it … for all of us if necessary!! Just in case you haven’t noticed, I am a “peace-pusher” and a happiness connoisseur. Crazy, right?! I just feel better when I seek those things. Some folks like being loud and boisterous, the center of attention with all the drama they can muster while others just like to be mean and evil. You’ve heard the Capitol ONE credit card commercial about, “What’s in your wallet?” Well, I am posing another question … “What’s in your HEART?”

This past week saw the culmination of an internal affairs investigation of 4 police officers of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. There were four officers – Christopher Sousa – 25; Jason Holding – 31; James Wells – 30; and the master Ku Klux Klan “aficionado” 22 year old Alex Alvarez – who had sent texts with the n-word in them mixed in with “killing”, as well as references to “Blacks” being best suited for slavery!! I wonder … who were their teachers, their parents …. the darn people who hired these … these …. these … whatevers!?! How do people who think like that pass interviews, policies and procedures, even examinations to become officers? Now, I don’t like to dignify people like this anymore than they would dignify ME … So, if you want to know more about the video called “The Hood” produced by Uncle Al’s films, google it. What’s in these creature’s hearts??

Their little quartet was discovered after Alvarez’s ex-fiancee sent a copy of the video which he had been working on while employed by the City’s Police Department, as well as copies of the texts that she had compiled between he and his friends and fellow officers of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. What annoys me most is that 20 years ago when I first came to Fort Lauderdale, I had heard about a shooting off of I-95 of an African American woman by a white driver who saw the woman riding in the car with a white male! So, he began a road rage scenario and ended up killing the woman on the passenger’s side! Not only was I in shock but I realized something was very wrong in a place where this could happen so openly. I began researching the race issue in Fort Lauderdale and found out that until 1975, one year before I graduated from college, African Americans could NOT enjoy the huge strip of beaches in Fort Lauderdale bordering on the Atlantic Ocean! If an African American was seen on the beach by a police officer and it was after 6pm, the African American could be stopped, detained and questioned as to WHAT they were doing on Fort Lauderdale Beach!!!! That was 1975 … just 40 years ago … If a person of African descent told an officer that she/he was working on the beach, they had to produce a “pass” issued by their employer …. The kind of thing that makes you go, “Wt@”!

In my years here, I have been profiled, stopped, had my car searched for drugs while I wore a jacket and tie and drove down Las Olas on my way home from teaching at City College, FTL. At that time, I lived just one block from the beach on Banyan Street. There were constant situations that I experienced from escorting students from a language institute through one way traffic on my street to being detained after 4 or 5 guys tried to “jump” (attack) me until they realized that I was armed!! On one occasion when I was detained by an officer, he decided that I “talked too much” and charged me with “resisting arrest without violence”. All the way from my place on Banyan Street to the FLPD’s holding cells, the officer and I went back and forth. Of course, he used the n-word about 15 times. So, I told him to stop the car, and take the cuffs off, put his gun down so we could fight like two men since the only problem was that he “didn’t like blacks”! He refused, of course, and continued his rant while making comments about Dr. King and arrested me!! I was out in a half hour on my own recognizance and wrote a complaint about Officer Schertler’s comments to me and about Dr. King. Nothing was done. I had one incident with the Broward Sheriff’s Office when 4 or 5 officers came to detain me without a warrant and began pulling and pushing, then touching and punching me because I continued to talk with my sister on the phone while waiting for them to bring the darn warrant for my arrest. Again, I requested an investigation, they did, and nothing was admitted nor done. I asked that the letter be placed in the officer’s personnel file. Sly Stone sang a song once about “my only weapon is my pen”!! I felt like that once I stopped keeping a weapon in my flat. It’s better for me …

So, what do you think was in the heart of Officer Wilson when he shot and killed young Mr. Brown? What do you think was in the hearts of those officers who swung and tackled Mr. Garner on that street corner in Brooklyn where they pounced on him, knees on his head while handcuffed … him yelling, “I can’t breathe!”? What do you think was in the hearts of the officers who killed the 12 year old boy playing with a toy gun (I used to do this all the time … dressed up like a cowboy even!) in a park alone near his home? While between fear and hatred being the first things in their hearts, I believe that they have racist attitudes surging through their veins towards “blacks and other ethnic minorities” here in the USA. So, keep your cellphone handy, keep your eyes open … and keep your brain sharp so that you can not be “suckered” into an uncompromising situation … I hope that the FBI’s investigation of the FLPD is successful because all of this has been going on for a looooong time!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Why Do You Have to Lie About It?!?

don't lie

It’s Friday, y’all!

How’s your week been so far? Well, if you get through today, you’ll be looking at the weekend, “Baby”!

You know, I wonder what people do daily that makes them act like something is stuck up in their derriere?! I mean, grumpy and nasty, rude and uncouth demeanor only leads to even worse behaviour!! You’ve gotta have some fun in your life. “Fun” can be playing a pick up game of basketball; cooking a meal for oneself and/or loved ones! Fun is listening to some good music … whatever kind you like that “soothes the savage beast”! Fun is dancing at your favorite club … or to your favorite tune in your own living room!! Me thinks that if folks could learn to enjoy themselves more … in simple ways … they would be less stressed, have less chaos and confusion in their own lives, which ultimately manifest themselves in “hate”!

Over the years I’ve lived on this Earth, and I know there are those of you reading this who have been “here” longer than me, but I’ve learned to “count it all joy”! Sometimes, through my own tears, I find some joy … something to laugh about … if only my wrinkled up, wet face in the mirror causing me to chuckle out of my moments of sadness. It’s weird sometimes. These past few days, I have been thinking and “feeling” my mother’s presence. She “is” always here … as she has been through out my life … in the good times … and the more difficult ones! She ALWAYS believed in me. My father did, too, but he had a set of rules and regulations … even if I did something wrong … tell him the TRUTH!! How’s that for a great role model?! That’s the way he raised us … and I was the youngest so I heard it the most! “Don’t lie to me, boy!!”

It intrigues me why people have to lie about every darn thing nowadays. No values, no morals … nor respect for themselves and apparently …. no respect for “humanity”! Okay, so I have a great nephew attending school at the University of Virginia. Jovan Cook grew up in the Bronx, NY (son of my oldest sister’s son, Daric, and his wife, Janet) … met some wonderful people … got into the Quaker School there and graduated last year … and is now a freshman at UVA. Yep, same place where the local police grabbed Martese Johnson, an honor student with no criminal history … until now, and is a junior there. When I messaged my great nephew about it, he simply replied, “He’s my friend …”. Suddenly, this honor student, according to the news stories, purportedly had a fake ID, was drunk, and had been refused entry in to a local Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day across the street from campus! There is no videotape of what happened before the Alcohol Control police arrived; but other students disputed the “false claim” that he was refused entry. It was simply crowded and the door staff told him so. So, why did the police come up to him … then touch … er uh … grab him according to the videotape … in the first place?! Do police have the authority to just walk up to someone and put their hands on them?!? It’s happened to me before … by the police here in the FTL … same department that allowed an officer, already with a questionable past, to slap a homeless man at the bus terminal. That cop slapped that man as if he were his parent!!!

I mean, have we citizens lost our “right” to ask an officer why he is touching “us”, not to mention stopping “us”?!? This is where we often find the African American male in this country … being touched, mistreated, kicked or punched, knees place on their head while handcuffed and on the ground … and shot and killed! Most recently, Thursday in Texas, a mother called the police, told them … yes TOLD them on the PHONE that her son was bi-polar and schizophrenic and wasn’t on his medications!! So, as soon as they arrived and the young man’s mother answered the door and walked out unharmed, the son entered the door well quietly behind his mother to their OWN home holding a screwdriver in his hands. He was twirling it in a NON MENACING way … more like a bi-polar confused way … and the cops went freaking ballistic. One cop yelled to the already non-medicated bi-polar schizophrenic to put down the screwdriver. They always want to order someone around FIRST rather than try the human approach – talking. How many cops have been stabbed and killed by a mentally challenged young man wielding a screw driver?!? Why don’t so many officers know how to talk to people … Black Men in particular?!? Then of course, if you don’t follow THEIR instructions, you are resisting arrest!!! Protect and serve … OR … harass, push buttons and KILL? Perhaps, this all says a lot to America … cops are human, too … and need training just like everybody else. They weren’t “born” to be police officers, and many of them don’t make the grade. Between the corruption we’ve witness, the out right lying, to which videotapes can bare witness, it should be clear that many of them are not trained well enough to do their jobs – protect and serve.

Have a great first day of Spring, and stay sharp!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

A Sigh From the Inside

courage

It’s Hump Day … day after St. Patrick’s Day, y’all!

Did any of youse “kiss that Blarney Stone”?! How about see a “four leaf clover”?! I always enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day because it was and is still full of folklore and so colorful. Much of the folklore may be true while other parts of it may be for entertainment. It’s all part of appreciating the Irish culture!

Every now and then, I have one of those moments that make me want to go, “Ahhhhhh …..”. Now, the timing is pretty much unpredictable as I haven’t calculated anything in particular. Maybe I planned a simple outing like a ride to the beach … and looked up and saw a bunch of birds flying in formation … no cell phones or computers … just doing it! Yet, a few years ago, and it was canceled again this year, The Famous Ft. Lauderdale Air and Sea Show took place in the same route that the birds fly! “Ahhhhh ….”. Perhaps it was after a yoga class and I had taken a sip of some tasty coconut water … quenching my thirst ever so perfectly!

Sometimes, I am like this with my own life. Rather than stress out and worry … or treat innocent people mean … I try to breathe deeply. It helps me stay in control of my emotions. Now, I’ll tell you from experience, they’ve gotten out of hand from time to time … my emotions, that is! Nowadays, I keep myself far far away from the loss of self control. It’s not easy, but over time, the consequences are far more pleasing for me!! I don’t like drama, yelling and screaming, lying and “one upping” each other or trying to discourage someone from their dreams and aspirations in life. Not my style. Sometimes, when I observe folks … the way “they” act and speak … I sigh, too! But it’s the kind of sigh accompanied by, “Why don’t they get it?!?”

Some days I like being “human” more than others. Understand me that by being “human” I mean just enjoying life … no fuss no strife! Those are the moments when I can feel free like an eagle or a whale … just flying and swimming along this journey! These are thoughts I have when I meditate or practice yoga at the gym, even swimming in the pool or the ocean … while I can! Has it ever crossed your mind what the Earth would sound like …. if it sighed?!?

Enjoy your day, appreciate each moment … and if possible … each creature that you can appreciate along your journey!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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