Let’s Take This To The Next Level



It’s Friday, y’all … and a T.G.I.F. to youse!!

It’s Super Bowl Weekend, and lots of folks will be having big parties and celebrations, cook outs and cook-ins as well as tailgate parties.  Lady Gaga will be singing the National Anthem and Beyonce  will be performing at half time, and I believe a few other top name bands!  It should be a blast!!  I used to always go to my buddy Peter Zachary’s house in Plantation, FL to watch the game with he and his son and friends of both his and Jordan’s … as well as his two sisters, Andrea and Lisa!  Fondest memories of “Petey” on Super Bowl Game Days … and many many other days, too!  R.I.P. Petey Z!
I have made many friends and associates over the years.  Several of you wrote me back to remind me of our friendships, which I haven’t forgotten.  Big Tim Williams from White Plains High School had donated some funds to my earlier “Go Fund Me” account; Adonis Hoffman, Esq. wrote me back, too!  Gary Hodder, Esquire, has also been a great supporter of Educational Excellence, as well, and is a friend who also attended St. Paul’s School while Larry T. Woody and me were there!  Many of you I write to in these e-mails and others well … we meet up on social network, like Facebook.  It’s all good.  I just wanted to let many of you know, if not all of you, that I appreciate your support and interest in my work.  It comes from my heart and spirit … my soul, if you will.
Taking it to the next level is very simple for me.  Just to stay in touch with like-minded souls and spirits and to spread our peace, love and hope to a very ailing world!  This is what I like about Bernie Sanders … he talks about a much needed “political revolution”!  He knows that America is NOT the country many of us claim it to be … we are ailing.  Our polity, which is supposed to “lead” the nation, as well as the world, has succumbed to a modern form of “graft and tribute”, pay-offs even, and has become like a vehicle destined to crash in the direction it is headed, and, Bernie Sanders clearly states that this is not the “will” of the people, it is not a polity “by” the people, and definitely not “for” the people!  Most, if not ALL of the other candidates do not even challenge the “crash course” direction of our political structure, which seems to lack proper “social/human” values.  As we witness the gun violence on the streets in large cities like Miami, Chicago as well as the gang violence taking place in cities like Los Angeles, it is clear that the direction of things especially those embracing “violence” are taking humanity to a very dismal place.  Shall we sit back and watch?!?  Or shall we try to get involved in “spreading the love and peace”, which will probably take us towards happiness?!?  One soul at a time, is my recipe!
As Bernie suggests, it’s going to take ALL of us to turn things around … kind of like a modern Enlightenment … a modern Renaissance, if you will.


John I. Cook, Director

A Very Special Black History Month – 2016

Obama Black

Good day, Happy Tuesday … and Happy Black History Month!
This Black History Month is very special for me … and I am hoping … for many others.  Of course, I know folks may be asking why I think that this Black History Month is so special?!  That’s cool, I’ll tell you.
It all started when I was a kid … no seriously … that’s the time that I became familiar with people … great people … not personally familiar but educationally familiar with great people like Dr. King … Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali … shucks, Malcom X even, Maya Angelou and Stokely Carmichael.  Any of y’all remember Angela Davis … Nikki Giovanni … Mr. Leroi Jones aka Imamu Amiri Baraka … Bobby Seale … Rosa Parks … The Civil Rights Movement’s “movers and shakers”?!?  I mean, I lived through some serious movements and actions to get and challenge the lack of equality in America … “the land of the free … the home of the brave” … 100 years after the abolition of slavery …  just 40 years after women were “given the right to vote” in the late 1920’s … and in some of the Southern states in the “land of the free, home of the brave” … ” … with liberty and justice for all!!”.  There is more interest in Black History as a result of the accomplishments of so many “true heroes” in so short a time!  The Jessie Owens story … Paul Robeson who actually LEFT America because he lost faith in “The American Dream”, are just a few of the stories we know.
Look at the SAG Awards quickly dubbed “The Un-Oscars” where both African American women and men were given awards and cheered on by their non-black colleagues at The SAG Awards!  Right on the heels of the “Oscar Fiasco”, all types of people came together at the SAG Awards to show the diversity of America.  We didn’t wait to protest and march and even use the criminal justice system … when and where possible … to bring charges against whites who literally murdered blacks … I don’t usually simplify things to black and white but the Trayvon Martin case was just that!!  An unarmed black boy lost his life to an armed “non-black” aka George Zimmerman after the gunman sought, fought and trapped Trayvon so he could take his pistol out and kill him!!  In most places, that is called “pre-meditated murder”; but in Florida, it is called “the stand your ground”, which was also challenged state-wide and has rippled nation-wide, too!  We try to use “the system” and “the courts” to bring justice to those of us who were mistreated and had their rights violated!  Isn’t that what Dr. King wanted?!?  I mean, look at Barack H. Obama … this man did some incredible work while in office … using the system to challenge its unfairness while simultaneously serving the nation as the POTUS!!!
That was just 50 years ago that Dr. King died to get “blacks” to mobilize with many many white counter-parts to call on the nation to protect the “civil rights” this country proclaims to advocate.  Dr. King had the lack of justice “put on television” so the whole world could witness the racist tactics used by certain states in the South … Alabama to be exact!  Notice the movement has slowed, yet, with some events  that clearly indicated some illegal behavior on the part of law enforcement in Chicago … in Baltimore … in NYC with Eric Garner … and in Missouri, too!  We mobilize now … yes, some of us get mad because we shouldn’t be forced to deal with this “crap” in the first place – and decide to loot and vandalize … even their own neighborhoods!!  That’s how deep the anger is in some of “us” who have been wronged to no end!!  As one friend of mine from Kentucky used to always joke when we talked about how “racists” expect “blacks” to act, may you R.I.P., Doug Williams:  “Uh … Sir, … would you be so kind as to take your boot off of my neck!”  Perfect imagery, right?!?  Black Lives Matter, indeed, as suggested by the numerous movements that sprung up across this country, as well as conversations held in classrooms across the country, thanks Dr. Karen Hurley of Columbia University!
What type leadership are we looking for in this country as many candidates for the presidency state, when we espouse, “We’re gonna take this country back.”, a la Marco Rubio.  Who is he suggesting “has” the country NOW?!  Sounds pretty racist to me, when he states over and over, “After 7 years of Barack Obama, we’re gonna take this country back!”  Most feeble minded Americans don’t even realize how racist that sounds!!  Lead the “free” world?!? …. Marco, “Shut your mouth”! a la Gary Coleman.  We have raised our awareness in this country, a la Martin Luther King, Jr., with marches and protest, meetings and the utilization of the legal system, flawed as it is.  Remembering ALL the people who “Marched on Washington” to make their voices heard from the days of Selma to the hundreds of movements supported by people of ALL races, that “Black Lives Matter”!!  Why do we have to say that?!?  Because “black lives” have been taken left and right by citizens and law enforcement in various places alike!!  Remember Selma when those innocent little black kids were blown up in a church, just fifty years ago … in “the land of the free, the home of the brave”? … Let Freedom Ring!  Yes, this is a very important and special Black History Month for me!!  What about you?  Gain some knowledge and get involved in making desperately needed changes … Let Freedom Ring!

John I. Cook, Director

Thanks for Putting Up With Me!

put up and put out


T.G.I.F., Y’all!

I’m just starting out with it this morning, no hesitation nor preparation.  Feeling like that … a very grateful … work in progress!  Over the years, once my life came to like a “cruise control” level, though some of life’s “speed bumps” coerced me to slow down and steady my handle, I’ve come to some simple conclusions.  Many of us, me included, kind of drive our lives towards a certain goal, a certain destiny, a certain level of comfort in this world.  That varies a bit for each of us, especially as we advance along our individual journeys.  I am one who has learned to not try to control others as much as I try to learn to control myself as well as my actions in response to circumstances that I encounter in my life.
Some of you have been with me along this journey, people like Jose St. Elmo Wiltshire and Larry Woody, Kevin Gover and Lee Blair … Darryl Jenkins and of course, my sister, Edna Cook.  Y’all have each seen me literally “all over the place” while trying to maintain a decent course on my life’s journey.  So many of you  have helped me along the way … Don Rafael as I like to call him, whom I worked with at ACORN;  Bobby Schulman … wow!; my adopted “Big Bruh” Robbie Williams; Mrs. Maureen Shimmon Leon and her husband … David Nehdar and Stokely Gittens both with families and still offered to help ME … Thanks for putting up with me, y’all.  There are more … Kevin Hall, Gary Hodder aka “Counselor” … Steve McCrae … thanks … man, if I miss somebody, don’t get mad; Roz Reich and the Brahma Kumaris “family”, even.  Shoot me an e-mail if you want to remind me.  Burke Wortman, lent me his truck when my car broke down for like a month or two!!!
I still write this blog/e-mail for many of you …. perhaps it’s free entertainment … thought provoking entertainment maybe … But I haven’t given up on Educational Excellence, never will.  In fact, next month for Black History Month, Mrs. Nicole Mercado Valencia has given me an opportunity to do a presentation with her group of the Broward Sheriff’s Office sponsored Community Justice Program participants!  Still giving back when I can …  For me, every day is like “a day of service” … that’s just the way I roll!
Enjoy your Friday, enjoy your weekend … enjoy your lives!


John I. Cook, Director

Chris Rock to “Represent”!

Serious Chris


It’s Tuesday … and a tumultuous one at that!!  (Some of you got this beginning of the e-mail yesterday … as I was preparing it!  Instead of selecting the “Save draft” command, I hit “Send”!  So, there you have it!)

I hope your weekends went well, especially those of “us” who had to endure all of the white stuff aka “snow”!!  I remember when … though it was some time ago … I remember snow storms in New York’s Westchester County, White Plains to be exact … We used to play in the snow, make tunnels, sleigh ride … right there in the Winbrook Projects!  Of course, that was before I worked at the High School there for 10 years and we had a different take on “the snow”.  We always hoped for a snow day, which was rather common during the winters!  There was something kind of cool getting a “snow day” back then, either as a student or as a teacher … we enjoyed the day off, whether indoors or doing something outdoors … shoveling snow as a kid or bar hopping with other teachers or just going to one of our fellow teacher’s home just to hang out!!
So, as the plot thickens with Chris Rock vowing to still do the hosting job for the “Oscar Awards” and … has decided to toss out some of the material, of course he’s going to keep his usual good “Oscar” stuff.  Yet, he is promising to address “The Oscars” as “The White BET’s”, to further point towards the FACT that with NO African Americans being nominated, it appears to be a format that only whites have a chance at winning … from last year, to this year … the second year in a row that there were NO African American  actors NOR actresses nominated.  This is a “golden opportunity” to bring home the point using a huge platform as this World-Wide Award show with a somewhat happy and comedic backdrop where serious points can be made using humor.  Rock is that person who can do that, remain moderately “politically correct” and funny, too!  He can also push that “politically correct” line to the limit … and then some!!!  I’ve “seen” him do it!!  So, he’s got free reign, and as long as the changes are seriously contemplated in regards to the composition of the judges from 70-ish white males to include a more diverse group and limiting the number of years one can vote, we’re good!!  Great idea!
So, I trust Chris Rock to do “The Right Thing!” even if only he and Whoopie Goldberg are the ONLY people of color there!!  Everybody won’t
“hate on” Chris … He’s gonna represent!  LIVE … LOVE … LAUGH!!

John I. Cook, Director

Let’sTry to Keep It REAL!

keep calm


It’s Friday … yep, and T.G.I.F.!!
Boycotting the Oscars?!?  It’s one of the most recent issues being discussed on the big stage of world events!  But why … some people ask … would African Americans like Spike Lee and Will Smith, not to mention the person who originally “disturbed the peace”, Jada Pinkett Smith, do such a thing?!!  The answer:  “This is the second year in a row that NO African American actors/actresses were nominated for Oscar Awards”, echoed Spike Lee.  He followed up:  “You think that none of us can act?!?”  Will Smith stated emotionally about the Oscar Awards Ceremony, “It’s beautiful and deserving and is fantastic, but … it seems it is going in the wrong direction.”  Will eloquently spoke candidly about how Hollywood owes it to America to reflect its diversity and the goodness of it and not separate people according to religion and sexual orientation … etcetera … etcetera … and all well expressed!  It is the media that often creates images of “people” that stick in peoples’ minds!
Could it be that factions of American society are expressing a “backlash” to the fact that our country just elected an African American President in Barack Obama for two terms?!?  Does it mean that “the people” heard Dr. King?!?  Did “the people” realize that the power to vote is important in order to get elected officials that represent the community they serve and their issues?!?  Clearly, the people did hear Dr. King!!  It’s a beautiful thing!!
I think back to the lines of folks as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL … named after a former Ku Klux Klan leader …. I think back to the horror story of the crazed white kid who prayed with black folks at that AME Church in South Carolina … then killed nine of them … I think back to the senseless stalking and killing of Trayvon Martin by self-proclaimed “vigilante” George Zimmerman who was found “not guilty” of murdering the teen.  We the people … must stay on our toes … not turning our hatred and hostilities toward each other … especially us “black men” … and join together to challenge injustices wherever they might occur!  Yes, it is a tough job … but someone has to do it.  Try to keep it real.
I give many of us a lot of credit, like these actors, who stand up … stand tall … in the face of injustice to bring our attention to the evils in our society … in our world!  Let’s have something worth “it” … for our children … we MUST care … about our children’s children.  It is THEIR world, too!  Together, we can make the world … a better place!

John I. Cook, Director

Dr. King’s Legacy Re-Visited

King and Racism


Yes, another Tuesday, I am motivated to write on Dr. King’s embracing of the Civil Rights Movement and catapulting it forward … and dying for it!  Can you say “commitment”?  This for me is beyond being a “humanitarian”.  His behavior … to me … represents a true martyr … a hero … a saint … or as close to it as is humanly possible!!  Whenever I think about his commitment to the cause … this drum major for justice …  I can not think of anyone today that I know … that would do what Dr. King did … fifty years ago … not even me … not that I am so special.

 I don’t think I could do it … knowing … and I believe he knew … that he would be killed one day!!  “The System” … that “Invisible Hand”, so to speak, has to be concerned with a man who can rally so many people, of diverse backgrounds … socially, economically … and I’d be willing to bet, even politically (Dem or. Repubs) … and unite them and show the common injustices in the system .. including women’s rights … (those are civil rights, too!).  To think it all stemmed from this man and his followers to unite and march while individuals “sanctioned” by the law (police officials in Alabama) … though the laws were racist (no right to vote for one group of people!!!) as well as hostile individuals leading “nazi”- like groups threatened and undoubtedly TOOK other people’s lives!  These “people” didn’t care that they had violated someone’s civil rights … to demonstrate and march in THIS country … folks ….  This was 50 years ago, y’all … Modern /Contemporary history!!!  Someone from one part of society felt that he and she … and even their children … could wage personal war against a person of another race because  he wants the “right to vote”?!?  For me, that doesn’t even sound right … that was when I was 10!!!  I remembered seeing this stuff on the television news and newspapers … but I was a kid being raised in a suburb of New York City … while not rich … I knew what being well-to-do looked like.  I had and still have friends who are well-to-do/ well off … for one reason or another.  They’ve even shared with me … so I know what it looked like … somewhat what it felt like … but for me it was always temporary.  But I was cool!  I don’t like being flashy or showy but I do like nice things … a nice car and a nice laptop … not necessarily new .. but nice!
So this man was uniting ALL of us … well … maybe I should say … “many” of us who had that common bond sharing a desire to declare unequal some of the laws and treatment of people in THIS society, which bragged to the world about the importance of “democracy”!  And then, the many of “us” not only declared the inequalities, but got directly involved by marching and protesting peacefully … sacrificing their very lives in the face of some seriously sick and barbaric treatment by “people” they didn’t even know … nor had done ANYTHING to their attackers … and ONLY wanted the right to vote … this was fifty years ago … and I was ten ….  And this was in some places or towns, cities and sanctioned by some local government of “The South”!  This is why they marched.  It takes an intelligent and caring human being to acknowledge that peaceful protests and non-violence was the best way to deal with a “machine” that had enough weapons to literally exterminate African Americans in this country!!  This was a brilliant and brave man – this drum major for justice!!  This is why he was killed!  This was his true legacy.
But through the power of the vote, an African American president was elected in this country … the very same country that forbade certain sectors of this society to vote, and hampered the progress of overturning “unjust laws” like “grandfather clauses” and tests as evidenced by the character that Oprah Winfrey played in the movie “Selma” as she was told to name the over 100 judges in Alabama!  That was fifty years ago … and this is today.  Again, I thank you, Dr. King, for your selfless sacrifice to hone in on the necessity of the right of ALL who live in a democratic country like “ours” to vote.  “Free at last, free at last!  Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”
John I. Cook, Director

Dr. King’s Legacy … “I Have A Dream . . .”

peace colors


Happy Friday, All!
Yes, yes … y’all!  T.G.I.F.!
It is the second full week of the New Year, and I am feeling all sorts of things!!  What about you!??  We are living in some most interesting times … in case you haven’t noticed.  First of all, I would like to thank each and every one of you for putting up with my random thoughts and ideas coupled with these writings.  I appreciate youse … each and every one of you!!  Of course, I often include the option of telling me that you would like to be removed from the mailing list for the New Year, feel free to do so.  I don’t have one of those fancy buttons so, you have to let me know.  Trust me … some people do!!  I am cool with that, too!
So, this past Wednesday, I was in yoga class with a new instructor … a somewhat new attitude … and feeling rather focused, if you will.  I like to start the New Year off with a new attitude to embrace whatever comes my way.  So, after doing a variety of “asanas” or poses … from downward dog to cobra, warriors one and two, as well as three (standing split) even “flipping the dogs” as we say in yoga, not to mention holding ourselves in plank pose for extended time …  Finally, when it was time to go into corpse pose, I felt like I was drifting … my eyes were closed … and I had a vision of my father standing next to his  old two tone pink Cadillac DeVille … circa 1957 … which he had repaired himself and made driveable from Westchester County, NY to Florida!!  We would go as a family every year at Christmas to visit his family in Tallahassee and my mother’s family in Tampa and Lake City, FL.  Soon afterwards … in my vision with eyes shut tightly … I saw my mother, laying in a hospital bed at Florida Medical Center here in Lauderdale … just as she was nearly 10 years ago in their hospice after my sister Edna and I had decided that it would be best.  She looked peaceful … then suddenly, got up and walked away ….  One lone tear trickled down the side of my right eye as I came out of the “corpse pose” to a seated lotus position.
They always talked about Dr. King … they told me about the hostilities they both faced … and their families faced … growing up in the rural South of North Florida with very extreme racism and segregation.  The church we attended in the Winbrook Projects, Bethel Baptist Church, was similar to the churches of “The South” and the community rallied around that church as well as others … all within about a 4 block radius.  My parents made me attend Sunday School as well as Church service with them we had the traditional nuclear African American family … as did Dr. King.  They had a picture of him over the humble dining room table set in the front of the tiny living room … He was our HERO!
Keep your dream alive … whatever it may be … as long as it is based in peace and progress.  Celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as you create your own … our own!

John I. Cook, Director

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