“Serenity . . .”

serenity

 

Happy Friday, All!

Keepin’ it shakin’ like the bacon!!  Silly?!?  Certainly!

Yet, I have to T.G.I.F.!  It is an interesting time leading up to the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States . . .  There, I said it!  In many ways, I understand Trump’s approach to “reshaping” things in DC.  I have to say that I have had people NOT like me or not want to see me succeed or even survive.  Every now and then, I have to pat myself on the back!  I learned that from my father, too.  He used to try to alleviate my concerns when someone didn’t like me or accept me, when someone “judged” me … usually negatively and when someone tried to down right put me down!!  I loved my Dad’s ways because while he never graduated from high school, he would proudly and happily hold me in his lap as he read our home town newspaper, “The Reporter Dispatch”.  He never spoke about how much he knew and how much he “would do” or “could do”, he just lived his life … and an honorable one at that … as a father, a husband and an enthusiastic provider for our family.  He grew up in the “Old Dirty South” when lynchings of African Americans was like a festivity in some of the back woods roads of Florida.

Many of you may know the brief story of how he and his brother, my uncle David; and his wife … aunt Corlene; along with his wife, my mother – Marietta Dolores aka “Mary” … left the hostile and racist “Dirty South” for an unknown experience in New York’s “Harlem”.  Hey, no high school diploma … worked as an automobile mechanic and chauffeur after arriving in New York City with my mother and his brother and his wife.  How good do you think he had to be in order to “market” himself, along with my mother as a chauffeur/butler type role alongside his wife who worked as a “domestic engineer” to land jobs in Westchester County?!?  He never took a marketing course and they didn’t arrive with any children, which is often the “motivation” to make it by working hard in whatever capacity one could to provide for ones family.  He and my mother came to New York to START a family!  No ones “boot straps” to help pull themselves up with, no family business to inherit, but pure grit and hard work ethic to move with no resume and cover letter to present himself to potential employers!  He raised four children – we lost two along the way – and the youngest, that would be me, is a bi-lingual graduate of an Ivy League University – Princeton University, to be exact!  Do you think they were proud of me?!?  Shucks, I will FOREVER be proud of them!  Thank y’all … I love youse!

So, as I attempt to accept this “new style” running of our nation’s government, not to mention the hostility and mudslinging that went into  the shaping of the past 8 or 9 years of this nation’s recent history, I seek serenity … the kind my father had as he conquered tremendous odds just so that I could be here today, writing this e-mail and blog post!  Serenity is a good thing, which I learned most about from my personal trials and tribulations in a “12 Step Program”.  Today, I am proud of myself … I can accept and learn about nearly anybody and anything … as long as it is not hurting me.  I have learned to promote peace after being somewhat violent in my thinking and behaviour.  I have learned to believe in people when no one else would believe in them … I have a handful of friends whom are like that with me!  Thank you …  And I am still here to tell my story, should it matter to anyone other than myself!! “Ha!”, as my old college buddy, now NBA assistant coach, Armond Hill would often say.  I am going to embrace this change from POTUS Obama to a very different styled “president” – 45th President Donald J. Trump … with serenity!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Double Standards Are So Unfair . . .

double-standards

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all … all y’all!

Yes, I do have a heart … and a conscience … and substantial pride ’cause I am still here!  You dig, counting my blessings!  For me, life continues to be a journey that I have become more and more aware of each day that I live.  I am extremely grateful for every last one of them … those days … like today!  What about you?!?

Being an African American man requires a lot, as some of you may be able to ascertain, if not from the “world’s events” then by some of my writings.  Why is that?!?  Is there a “double standard” being applied to “us” as a species or “us” as a race?!  Just understand how hard it would be for you … if you were “me”!  When this double standard is applied in the criminal justice system, it should be noted that while African Americans are a numerical minority in this country, “we” are a majority in the cells of the penal institutions, which by the way, is also “a business”.

Okay, so “Wheels Up, Guns Down” was a big event with NO “shooting” DEATHS (one kid crashed into a vehicle and was killed) and multiple arrests.  Being an African American male, I view this event as “successful”, as stated by some of the “riders” who received tickets, got locked up, etcetera.  When asked by a newscaster, “Was it worth it?”, the biker who had just been released from jail, retrieved his dirt bike and stated the multiple infractions that he was charged with, he said, “Yes!”  MLK, Jr. was a “risk taker”, too!!  Don’t forget that he broke the law to make a point about injustices upon African Americans and our civil rights.  I was chatting with a friend who reminded me that after last year’s event, “law enforcement” had contemplated providing what was then called “Bikes Up, Guns Down!” with a venue or highway/roadway.  In this way, they could ride in honor of Dr. King and maybe even have police escorts or protection as the “Toys for Tots” Bikers who ride with toys for less advantaged kids in SoFlo get to use major highways like I-95 and 595 with people observing and cheering from the sides of these roads!!  Why not organize it a bit better, too??  “THEY” are riding for a cause, who like Dr. King, felt it was important enough to face fines an/or imprisonment!

Some of you may remember the big story a year ago about the Rabbi from New York who was visiting his family there in Miami and was shot and killed by “someone”!  The community was up in arms and were demanding an arrest …  So, the police arrested a 14 year old boy who happened to be African American and charged him with the murder because his “cell phone” signals were coming from the area where the Rabbi was shot and killed!  Deondre Charles told them over and over that he did not do it … Yet, the “school house to jailhouse” pipeline was looking to get another young boy … who just happened to be African American … into the penal system for the rest of his life!  It turns out that the weapon used to murder the Rabbi was also used the day before in an armed robbery … and Deondre Charles did not have the firearm, which they still cannot find to this day!!!  So, after determining that someone else was using the 14 year old’s cell phone that specific day and not finding the weapon yet, they let him go.  He had been incarcerated for several months, and due to weak evidence, was “allowed” to go home with an ankle monitor … until now!!  He has two attorneys who happened to be white who are suing because even they say that Deondre Charles should never have been arrested in the first place … for lack of evidence.  The real killer is still loose on the streets …  RIP, Rabbi …

There is often a “double standard” applied when it comes to African Americans and many of the institutions of “our” society as we are STILL treated like second class citizens by some folks when they can get away with it.  The drummer for a gospel band near West Palm Beach named Corey Jones, who was killed by a “police officer on special assignment”, may have some closure … at least his family and friends … A recording was released of his call to a tow truck company as well as a recording of Newland Raji who had called “911” AFTER fatally shooting Jones as he waited to finish his conversation with the dispatcher of the towing company.  On both recordings, you can put ” one and one” together and determine that Jones never had a chance against this obviously hateful West Palm Beach officer who asked him if he was “good”, to which Jones replied, “Yeah, I’m good …” and upon seeing Raji with his pistol pointed at him yelling, “Put your hands up!”, decided to run for his life!  Jones was shot and killed at the exit of I-95 there in West Palm Beach and BOTH recordings demonstrate that Raji basically executed him there.  Could it be because he just happened to be an African American male?!?  Would Raji have done the same if it had just happened to be a “white male” of ANY ethinic group be it Italian, or Greek, Irish or Russian?!?  Double standards “suck” … yep … I said it … And racism SUCKS, too!  Can’t we all just get along?!?

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“Wheels Up, Guns Down!” and MLK Day

mlk-day

 

Happy Friday, All!

Yes, yes, yes … and it’s “Friday the 13th”, too!  I still have to T.G.I.F.!!

Well, we have another opportunity to celebrate “The Dream” of The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.!  Amen!  His dream was of freedom, justice, equality … and non-violence!  Here is a man who literally put his life on the line, day in and day out, for what he believed.  Can you see that he gave his life for his dream?!?  Of course, many of us lived to acknowledge and witness his dream coming true in the election of President Barack Hussein Obama!  I won’t spend so much time telling why this was an integral part of King’s Dream, and as most of us witnessed, it was not an easy job getting Obama elected for two terms, nor was it an easy task for “us” to get things done during his administrations … like getting the Monument of MLK built as well as the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.  There were “those” who didn’t want to let that happen nor who cared if it never happened … but it did!  “I Have a Dream”!

This piece is not a traditional tribute to Dr. King and his “Day of Service”, which encourages us all to engage in a volunteer activity that works for the betterment of America and the embodiment of “The Dream” of Dr. King!  I used to be a “biker” and probably still would be if I hadn’t nearly lost some limbs, not to mention my life, in a “no car” accident!!  Some of you may remember that story, a major episode in my life which brought the “7 Year Ride” that I experienced on my 1999 Honda Night Hawk to an end!  I was surely blessed to survive it … so I know the adrenaline rush associated with riding a motorcycle though I didn’t have any experience with four wheeled vehicles, usually driven off road, and dirt bikes.  My jet black Night Hawk was a “cruiser” … and I cruised from South Florida as far down as Lincoln Road in Miami to Orange County where I worked for ACORN in Orlando and lived in Kissimmee, FL with a good friend, Stokely Gittens.  My “7 Year Ride” came to an end, pretty much when the Giants won their last Super Bowl and I had an accident getting off I-95 on Cypress Creek Road on my way home from a “Celebration” of their win!!  Glad that I lived to tell this story, too … and shortly afterwards, I sold the motorcycle.

Yet, I commend the new “Wheels Up, Guns Down” motto of motorcycle riders, dirt bike riders and ATV riders who have decided to embrace King’s Legacy of Peace by putting their guns down and raising their “wheels” in honor of his memory and dedication to peace and non violence.  Many of the participants, I am sure, don’t have guns but have chosen to honor Dr. King’s Legacy in this manner, though as law enforcement can testify, often includes some dangers and perils … even accidents and death!  So, as Broward County prepares to control this “event”, as well as Miami Dade County where the “movement” began several years ago in honor of Dr. King’s Legacy of Peace, may the participants and observers alike be safe.  As well, the “movement” has spread to another major city – Baltimore, MD.  May we allow them to celebrate Dr. King’s Dream of Peace in the best way they know how … “Wheels Up, Guns Down”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

If You See Something, Say Something!

see-something-say-something

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all …

These times are “something else”, aren’t they?!?  Anybody remember when that expression was widely used?!! My Mother use to say that about me sometimes, especially when I would do something really surprising – be it a great grade on an exam … or a lack of judgement in a personal matter.

Well, the first thing I was interested in addressing today is the situation surrounding the shooter at the international airport in Fort Lauderdale, FL … Esteban Santiago, age 26 of Hispanic heritage, if you will.  Many of us may have heard and dismissed the “conspiracy theory” circulating that some of our intelligence agencies in this country are selecting “former military misfits”, if you will, and literally driving them crazy!!   Now, the plot thickens here because Santiago who lived in Alaska reportedly told the FBI in Alaska that the CIA was forcing him to watch ISIS videos and that they were controlling his mind.  His weapon, the same one used in the murders at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, was confiscated by authorities in Alaska.  Then, soon afterwards, following a so called psychiatric examination, his weapon was RETURNED to him!!!  Why oh why would anyone, not to mention the FBI, return a weapon to a person who says that anyone else is controlling his mind other than himself?!?  A big “ball”, so to speak was dropped here.  No one in Alaska said anything about this character’s mental state of mind nor that they had returned a weapon to him after a so-called psychological evaluation!!  Then, he boarded a plane in Alaska after dismantling his gun and put it in his suitcase!  Upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, he retrieved his bag, re-assembled his weapon and lashed out on innocent travelers at the baggage claim there at Fort Lauderdale’s international airport.  The rest is history … Peace be still.

Was this young man a victim of the “secret powers that be” to show that a person … even a person of Hispanic origin … can be influenced by purported Islamic hatred and terrorist thinking to wage an attack on American soil against innocent Americans?!?  If this is something that is true, woe be to the perpetrator(s) of such actions who would dare to “sacrifice” lives of innocent travelers to make their point about “Islamophobia”?!?  Please …. don’t forget how many times it has been said that Obama supports Islamic terrorists … not to mention that Trump himself continually tried to use the press and media to discredit the POTUS by arguing that he was NOT born in the United States of America!!  Now, the same person whines about how some American citizens demonstrate distrust of his Russian connection, not to mention one of his cabinet appointees who heads Exxon and had a personal relationship, as well as business, with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin!  The Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, has a questionable past in dealings with Putin regarding the oil industry and some “deal(s)” he made with Putin as CEO of Exxon.  So, now that the “shoe is on the other foot”, I wonder why “Scrump” whines so much!!?  Yet, this is simply a side note to the questionable handling of Esteban Santiago purportedly by the FBI in Alaska given Santiago’s claim that the CIA was forcing him to watch ISIS videos!!  Does the saying widely spread in America nowadays given the heightened concern of terrorist activity “If you see something, say something!” apply to the FBI … or even the CIA?!?  I think so!!

President Obama’s “Farewell Speech” in Chicago was extremely motivational, even for me who has pretty much “thrown in the towel” on Trump and decided to travel abroad for as long as I can in my retirement.  I do feel that President Obama was able to motivate the younger generation to NOT give up on the gains made by his administration in his two terms as POTUS and to even embrace the “founding father’s”, so to speak, dreams of a “more perfect Union” as he recited key points from our nation’s Constitution.  (The part I liked most was his emphasis on those certain “inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”!)  The beauty of his speech was that he mentioned that the most important position or office in the land was that of citizen, which he will be privileged to be returning to in the next week or so!  His humility and pride coupled with his sincerity and respect of all involved in his “success story” as POTUS for two terms is unlike any person, not to mention “president”, that I have ever seen or heard in my life time!  He fought against tremendous odds to accomplish the things he did accomplish, and, as evidenced by the response to his speech by attendees of the event, his leadership will be missed!

Remember, y’all … “If you see something, say something!”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Make America Great Again?!? What Was It Before???

trump-vs-women

Happy Friday, All!

I usually like to give credit where credit is due, so … T.G.I.F.!

In this royal “saga” of “Make America Great Again”, I am watching closely how this “so-called” change is taking place!  What was America “before” Trump got elected?!?  Are people trying to embrace the ignoramus notion that America was NOT great before this “reality show” star got elected?!?  Please, do tell me, what was it before?!?  And, please don’t hint at the FACT that America wasn’t already great, and many many great things were done in the 8 years of President Obama’s 2 terms!  I mean, he inherited a mess of an economy, from what I could tell, and medical coverage was nearly unheard of for a large number of Americans … including myself!!!

For me, it really is frightening how people might be defining “great”, but I doubt that anyone saw anything happening here that wasn’t happening in other “first world countries” like Germany or France …. Italy or Spain.  In fact, I think we were in many ways a lot better off here than in some of the other countries. There were “terrorist” activities in many countries, including some of our “home grown” terrorists like at Sandy Hook and in Charleston’s church where a “kid” worshiped with folks who welcomed him into their church – then killed nine of them.  Do folks think we run the chance of having even more repeat performances of the latter event,  or … even “on the flip side” like what happened with the mentally challenged white kid in Chicago who was beaten (not killed or shot!) by a group of “black” teens during this next administration?!?  Is “all” of this talk about making America “great” again simply a backlash or “evening up the score” because we had an African American (don’t forget, the very first one on modern record) president … for TWO terms?!?  I think he did a very decent job in cleaning up the mess that Bush left behind AND making tremendous progress, including ridding the world of head terrorist Osama bin Laden.  Obama also spoke up on social injustices from George Zimmerman’s murder of unarmed Trayvon Martin to the acknowledgement of Native American’s territory in the West where oil pipe lines and extensive pollution are in and near their lands.  I am still trying to get over how quickly Native Americans were removed from THEIR land, hustled on to reservations and eventually “integrated” into “American society” as second-class citizens, at most?!?  If it were done in reverse … how would “folks” feel?!?

I recently came across a trailer for a film on James Baldwin’s take on “race relations in America” which is produced by Samuel L. Jackson that is a compilation of “notes” for an unfinished manuscript that author and social activist Baldwin had planned to complete before his death.  The trailer itself was powerful, and I can only imagine how incredible the film will be … I hope that James Baldwin is done “justice” in the film and represented appropriately for all his true human characteristics.  To me, it seems like this “tit for tat” approach, this competitiveness brewed into the fabric of American society has now permeated the political process to the point that instead of being “the United States of America” we are appearing like pre-Civil War America where people are drawn into the competition so much that they only want to “take sides” like we used to do in elementary school when two kids were about to fight!  It appears that in many ways, Americans have adopted this “Lord of the Flies” mentality and attack innocent people who have done nothing to the attackers.

To question YOUR own country’s intelligence sources and praise an”enemy of ones own nation’s” leadership that is being accused of cyber attacks on the election that one became president of a country is somewhat ignorant, two-faced and out right scary for me!!  What can be expected from a person who does these things even before his inauguration and official occupation of the highest office in the land?  I don’t know how far this game plan can be implemented before catastrophic destruction takes place within this country.  There are eerie reminders of “the decline of the Roman Empire” in this story, so … pay close attention to the developments and help implement positive changes since we are “all in this together”.  Can’t we all get along?  … or don’t we have the courage to make the changes necessary to maintain our own union?  I hope we can make the changes … for the betterment of our nation.

Have a great weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“Take What You Can Use, And Leave the Rest Here!”

replenish

 

Happy Hump Day … the First one of 2017!

It’s a  beautiful day … if you can use any of your senses!  Be grateful!  I don’t know much about “death” because I haven’t been there, so …  Yet, when I look at how people in general live, there is a lot of “diversity” here, too.  Some folks live as if “there is no God”, nor good vs. evil while others live their lives taking each experience as an opportunity to learn more about their fellow human beings, not to mention learning more about the planet we share.  In short, folks come from different mind sets.  In fact, there are a multiplicity of variations of “schools of thought” between the two aforementioned.  The spectrum is tremendous.  Over the years, I have had to adjust my own spiritual compass to include “experiences” as well as the lessons I learned from them.

I have participated in many “self help” programs, and, Educational Excellence is one that I offer.  With most spiritual programs, one does NOT have to be perfect.  Yet, one does have to have a desire to “do good” or at least improve – whether it be their own lives or the society one finds oneself a part of.  There are several friends and readers of my e-mails and posts who focus on similar principles as I do here at Educational Excellence.  One is a former yoga teacher whom I met at the gym here in Ft. Lauderdale.  She and her husband, Preston, now run a yoga program, not just a studio, in West Palm Beach, FL.  Christen Scott is not only an excellent yoga teacher, she also holds her Ph.D. in psychology!!!  Her most recent blog for the Power Yoga Tribe which starts the New Year for her thriving business talks about how life and “yoga is magic” – you’ve got to believe.  Another person whom I admire due to our similar “schools of thought”, if you will, is a former student (remember, I started teaching in my early 20’s in White Plains Public Schools) and a veteran of the United States Armed Forces.  His name is Kelvin Carey.  Kelvin’s New Year’s resolution, he said, is the same as last year which comes from Bruce Lee: “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”  I like the two approaches … together!  When folks say, “Which of these would you choose?”, I usually say “Both” rather than pick one or the other!  I use the “Gestaldt” or all inclusive approach to living, getting rid of whatever hasn’t been “working” for me!

So, in closing, I want to wish each of you a very “successful” (use your own definition for success), peaceful and blessed New Year!  If that is too “wide open” or not specific enough, that’s where you can make your “New Year” as Bruce Lee says, “uniquely your own”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

 

 

Again . . . Stop the Violence!!

city-line-stop-the-violence

 

It’s Friday, y’all … the last Friday in 2016!  So, I guess it’s only appropriate to T.G.I.F.!!  So be it!

I am trying not to focus on the political developments world-wide since it is not much I can do about it anyway.  It’s like watching a movie … except it’s real!  These characters can’t be taken seriously … ranging from Putin to Trump … I kind of like Obama as an actor/politician because he seems to be working on a larger goal other than selfish aggrandizement.  Some of these leaders act as if the rest of the world’s population are merely pawns in their games!  Why do they think it is cool to play with other people’s lives?!?

We are looking at a New Year in our journeys and some of you may want to start it without receiving these messages.  Let me know, okay?  My skin is thick enough and besides you each have the right to tell me to STOP!!  I know Coach Blake, my long time mentor, coach and friend here of late has asked me to take him off the e-mail list, and I will … after this one!  I just wanted to “publicly” wish you a Happy New Year, Sir!  Thanks for being here for me and I will continue staying in touch personally.  Some of you who happen to read these and would like to be removed … or don’t read them and would like to be removed and stop receiving these e-mails, let me know!  Thanks … but before you go, Happy New Year!

So, near here in Miami, it’s become like the “Wild Wild West” with this gun violence!  More kids are being killed and the gun play has moved into South Broward in Dania Beach where an eight year old boy in 3rd grade was shot a couple of days ago … and killed.  Three others were injured in this senseless shooting where an innocent child was killed even as one adult sought to shield him from the barrage of bullets in this Dania Beach neighborhood as the children were on their way from a birthday party.  The shooter wore a mask.  Rap star “Pit Bull” has become the face of a movement in Miami known as “One Bullet Can Kill” after multiple murders of innocent children like 8 year old King Carter who, earlier this year, was shot and killed in the cross fire of two rival gangs in Miami!  He was on his way to get candy from the local store!  I remember when I used to get candy from the neighborhood stores surrounding the Winbrook Projects on S. Lexington Avenue in White Plains, NY … I never had to worry about being shot, thank God …  It is not fair to the children to live in the midst of such senseless danger.  Stop the Violence … everywhere!  How and where do these young folks get these guns and ammunition??

Of course, I have no idea of what it would feel like if I had lost my only child to anything, let alone gun violence.  I have often nearly “preached” through Educational Excellence the necessity of ending violence as well as have other local activists; yet, many many communities still suffer from this epidemic.  I think of friends who just gave birth to children … even my one and only grandson … and pray that no such fate ever reaches their communities.  Stop the Violence ….  There is even a huge movement here in SoFlo against shooting firearms in the air to celebrate the New Year … What goes up … must come down … and we don’t know where!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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