“There But For The Grace of God Go I!”

spiritual wisdom

Happy Friday, y’all!

“Uh huh! Uh huh!” T.G.I.F.!!

I guess you all can tell that I am feeling a bit frisky! Just embracing the journey! How about you today?! “Carpe diem, Baby!”

As this week comes to a close for Black History Month, yes … I mention it again, it was only fitting that Trayvon’s Mom and Dad, Sabryna and Tracy, were invited to the White House as representatives NOT only of this kid’s parents, but the Trayvon Martin Foundation as well. It is only fair to say that were he or Jordan Davis or Michael Brown, not to mention 12 year old Tamir Rice of Cleveland who was recently murdered by an “incompetent” officer, your child, one may understand the situation better. These are the moments that cause me to appreciate our POTUS as he reaches out to those who have journeyed through “unchartered” waters for many of us, and, despite the disappointment of the Federal Government’s decision NOT to charge Zimmerman, welcomed them to the White House with open arms. They are all parents … and parents of African American children!

Have you ever wondered what makes a rich kid turn into “Jihadi John” or Osama bin Laden, as opposed to say … Mahatma Gandhi? There is an old saying, “There but for the grace of God go I!” that many parents, including my own, used to tell me to teach me humility and grace, appreciation and patience … good as opposed to evil. This is also one of the simple truths from “The Bible” that I embrace. Simply stated … it could be you or ME!!! This is one of the goals of Educational Excellence – to share these simple universal truths, which, we may have heard of but may need to be reminded. I sat in severe contemplation of this character, Mohammed Emwazi, and how though from a wealthy family and also educated in London like Gandhi, he has come to feel his “mission” in life is to behead and execute OTHER people’s family members?! Isn’t this like “playing god” or something worse?!? There are those who argue that it is NOT the same man, but experts have deduced that this is who they think it is. How eerie to hear someone say, “Obama, I’m back!” How about the two or three “characters” arrested recently for plotting to kill police, attack and or destroy places like Coney Island in New York where innocent people gather … and even kill the POTUS?!!! (Some folks might even like that idea!) Of course, there but for the grace of your God …. go YOU … if you have ever contemplated such evil deeds.

I am not preaching and I don’t have a church, but I do have a “good heart”! That’s all it takes to develop spiritually. Some college kids from FSU have been identified and arrested after raping an innocent young woman who thought she was actually helping them!! It challenges my thought process to follow the reasoning of such persons, which I try so that I may even help others avoid such human tragedies …. let alone commit them! May we keep our faith in humanity and ourselves along this journey, y’all!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Black History Month Always!!

redblackgreen

Happy Hump Day, All!

Yes, mid-week has arrived again, and this is the last week of Black History Month. Have you been able to learn anything that you didn’t know before? Did you know that in West Africa there was a “spiritual” belief called “Dahomean Vodoun” that was ultimately the foundation of “voodoo” in Haiti? The native Americans, if you will, believed in what is called “animism” – the belief that every living thing has a spirit. What do you believe?!?

As we come to the close of BHM, and the 20th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the news was delivered that the Justice Department will not file a civil suit against Zimmerman for the murder of the unarmed black male teen. According to Mr. Holder and the Justice Department, the killing of Trayvon doesn’t meet the “standards” required for charging Zimmerman with a “hate crime”. Perhaps, we need to take a closer look at those “standards”, too! The Trayvon Martin Foundation, located in Miami Gardens, vows to continue the education of the youth to attempt to teach them how NOT to become a death statistic as many African American men have become over the past few years. I remind folks, as many of us know … but choose to forget, Africans were brought to this country by colonizers for the purpose of “building it” after “stealing it” from the Native Americans … under the guise of slavery. Can you imagine how many Africans died and were killed during the nearly 400 years of people being taken from West Africa and sold into slavery? How about the number of “slaves” killed on the plantations for refusing to become someone else’s property? Some folks get caught up into “who had it worse”, rather than what the hell has happened to humanity?? Some “armchair philosophers” like myself may argue that “this” is all part of humanity!! Do you agree?! I don’t!! Our Creator has charged us with living on this planet together … perhaps in harmony! Still, it is becoming more and more apparent that we are clueless of that “charge” and haven’t developed the spirituality to even contemplate such a “paradigm shift”, if you will.

We get reminded over and over that “something is wrong” here with all the earthquakes and sink holes, tsunamis and snow storms, tornadoes and hurricanes as well as a great climate changes. How about “humans inhumanity to other humans”? Where should I start? The homeless? How about women and children?? Pick a race … any race … and you will probably find several that have experienced prejudice and death …. simply because of their RACE?!? Yet, we are all part of the “human race” … should we decide to be. This is why I embrace taking a step back from all the “drama”, noting the deception and “mis”-education of the many, and reach out to those who seek positive change. Have a great day, and thanks for reading!

John I. Cook, Director

See The Best!

Be the change

It’s Monday . . .

Another chance to be the best you can be … and see the best … in yourself and others! I choose this approach to life because while I may “speak” less, my words reflect my thoughts of peace and harmony. Humans often like to speak negative about each other, and, believe it or not, THIS makes some people happy!!! Okay, so when I wonder why “destruction” and “negative talk” make some people happy when “comradery”, friendship and peace make others “happy”, it becomes clear why there is so much destruction in our environment! Some of us actually try to destroy EACH OTHER!!!

The weekend had some small highlights for me, which is why I look at each weekend as a “retreat” of sorts. I mean, we spin … we twirl … we flip our thoughts … and then the next “day”, we do it all over again. This, for me, is how folks get ingrained in “negative thinking” and behavior … and not even realize it!! I was fortunate to have taken a yoga class Saturday morning with a group of folks and took care of a bunch or needed errands in my personal life, too. Sunday was another quiet day for me, which I like more and more nowadays, as I practiced yoga again in the morning, but this time, I sat in the jacuzzi at the gym for a half hour, met some nice gents and talked a bit, then I splashed into the pool there to get in some laps. It is something about the flow of water around my body that I like, smoothness when swimming below the surface as well as a type of harmony with the water!! I had a blast!!

But it was Sunday afternoon’s “World Peace Meditation” in Arts Park here in Hollywood, FL sponsored by the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Group also out of Hollywood that put the “icing on the cake”! Roz Reich had sent me, as always, an invitation by e-mail to remind me of the World Peace Meditation, and, feeling the “dis-ease” of the world (thanks Yogi Alex for putting this into words during our meditation) that spreads through our human environment, I needed a “retreat”. Our session began with a yoga instructor from Hollywood taking us through some of the fundamental movements involved in yoga. Most folks don’t get it but this “practice” allows one to “reconnect” with ones life!! Deep breathing, not heavy panting, flowing movements of the body as one connects ones breath to ones spirit. This is all internal work, which is often harder than “pumping iron”! It actually has a calming affect!

There was Meredith Porte of the Brahma Kumaris (producer of programs for WLRN) seated up in front of us, with “yogis” Marco, Alex and Kevin. Each of them took their opportunity to guide us in peaceful meditation as we enjoy the ambiance of ArtsPark in Young Circle in downtown Hollywood, Florida! There is a huge old tree that is used as the backdrop for our meditation group and several fountains pushing water up in streams that give that extra touch of tranquility in the great outdoors. (I took a few minutes to “embrace” friends and family struggling through the clean up of the treacherous winter snow storms up North!) Of course, there was an occasional “police siren” in the background amidst the sounds of the children and families enjoying the park yester-eve; but we took it all in as part of our meditation – it is reflective of the world we live in. The theme came up over and over yesterday for me, between the televangelists messages of “seeing the best in each other” and my “yogi” friends from the Brahma Kumaris Hollywood Meditation Group. In fact, Roz Reich came up to me in the beginning of the yoga practice, greeted me and gifted Educational Excellence a very kind and thoughtful contribution from she and her husband, with whom she occasionally shares my e-mails. Thank you Roz!

Here’s to wishing each and everyone of you the best today. Embrace those things that you’d like to see in the world, and hopefully, they are positive!

Peace,

John I. Cook

“Yes, We Code!”

kid coding

Happy Friday, All!

Let me be the first to say this to you, ’cause I sent this one early as I had some errands to run before work, so … T.G.I.F. … unless of course you have a somewhat happy corny friend like me who likes celebrating simple things, too … and they told you already! Anyway, some of you may know that I work for a lead generation company’s marketing division, and had been in sales for three or four years before it closed down when I was in quality assurance. I am now with a similar company with some young guys from the same location who have a pretty cool network of other “young guys” that have some great skills in IT, computers and programming, all whom I have known and worked with for the past 5 years. Anyone who knows marketing and call centers knows there are always ups and downs, especially with IT. So yesterday, one of the guys (African American) around my age who works with a much younger guy (Latin roots from Jersey … brilliant!) who actually does coding and writing programs, which the company I work for now contracts to keep things rolling, asked me if I knew of or heard of Van Jones … the rest is here!

This is an overview of CNN Broadcaster, Van Jones, and his program which “Chet” told me about yesterday at work called “Yes, We Code!”, so named after the Obama campaign slogan of a few years ago, “Yes We Can”! I have a sticker on my desk that says, “Yes We Did!” Catch my drift! “Chet” also told me that he (Van Jones) and Barack were friends but had to take separate routes for different reasons to champion the same cause – Black Life Matters.

Coding, whether it be colors for pages of a program or the actual layout of an entire program is Greek to me! A friend I used to work with showed me some examples of her coding work!!!! Jeeshh! It’s a whole “‘nother language”, y’all! I’ve created my own website with Angela’s help uploading photos, and links to my books and I have done this blog page, too, so … I have some skills … and can appreciate what goes into doing “coding”. The following is actual segments taken from an article I read discussing Van Jones’s program spreading into the inner cities to reach otherwise “unreachable” youth. Mrs. Lawson is a prominent woman of color who has made a commitment to support “Yes, We Code!”

QUOTE: Lending her endorsement, Mrs. Lawson said, “In our community, so often we come to the table with the sense of entitlement, but people of color are not on anybody’s list.

“If we are going to make something happen, we have to rally ourselves. We have enough people in our community to get that done. I’m constantly reminded of this African proverb that states, ‘If enough spiders band to together and create a web, they can trap a lion.’

“When I think about what all of our parents and grandparents went through, I can’t say I’m tired. I really have to do my part. When I think about what’s going on with our African American males, I really want to weep. We have to help them. They belong to us. They are our children and this is a way for them to see out of this despair and lack of vision to do something that can impact the world globally.”

Striving to move ‘Yes, We Code’ forward, Jones has enlisted support from the Ford Foundation, Essence magazine, recording artist Prince, actor Chris Tucker, songstress Lauren Hill and Facebook. Also, the initiative was unveiled to hundreds of thousands who attended the Essence Festival in New Orleans earlier this month. END QUOTE

Google Van Jones, as he, too, is making a difference for many lives, and hopefully, many futures!

Have a great weekend! “Be the best that you can be!” No more slave ships!! “Black Life Matters”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com

http://johncook7613.wix.com/know-thyself

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The “Scapegoat Syndrome”

francois scapegoat

Happy Hump Day . . .

Sometimes, I almost don’t want to say “happy anything”, especially since humankind is so off-base! Yet, I know that if one doesn’t think “happy” thoughts, we will embrace any evil thoughts that come our way!! Believe it … or not!

Okay, so has mankind … er uh … humanity gone to the “demons”?!? So many scandals have gone on from performance enhancement drugs being administered to professional athletes and even younger high school athletes, right down to the near state of death of Whitney Houston’s daughter, who, in the absence of “parental guidance”, got hooked on … addicted to … crack cocaine and heroin!!!! WHY???!! Okay, how about the woman and her daughter in Las Vegas who were followed by three men in a car after a near fender bender, apparently unintentional, shortly after the woman had been teaching her daughter to drive?! Yep … so the three men blocked the woman first using their car, and the woman sped away around them and away. So, they followed her … right to her driveway where her son came out of the house to help … and killed her with a bullet to the head as her daughter sat terrified while the men then drove away!! This isn’t road rage, THIS is freaking insanity!!!

How horrible can it be to have been one of the more than 20 Egyptian “Christians” who were mass executed/beheaded by ISOL?? No … we don’t have to think about it at all … until it is someone WE know … like our daughter, RIP Kayla, or someone else we know. We don’t have to think about changing the vibrations on this planet either from demonic to peaceful … until the “demons” are at our OWN front door. This is, for me, where spirituality also comes into play. This is one of the many reasons that I visit the Brahma Kumaris’s “World Peace Meditations” in Miami and Hollywood, FL whenever I can … to join in generating some peaceful vibrations, in hopes that the vibrations reach some of the aforementioned “fools”! “Scapegoating” is an old tactic used to divert the eye away from the true issues and “blame the victim”, in a sense. This was done to many groups throughout “human history”. As intellectuals challenge the “status quo”, scapegoating becomes more and more popular. Just yesterday, I saw an article on MSN.com regarding “No Muslim Zones” in the U.S.A.!! These “zones”, if you will, were identified after the murders of the Muslim students at the university in North Carolina. In American history, in particular, where the “founding fathers” were considered to be intellectuals , we have bowed down on many many occasions as we “observed” parts of the population here seek “scapegoats”. One of the most notable groups that practice this, due to their own ignorance, is the Ku Klux Klan … peace be still!

Since this “syndrome” appeals to the human condition, and we have driven intellectuals (as well as spiritualists) into the corners of our society, so their impact and “thinking” can be seldom heard or seen, we find “racism” raising its ugly head … over and over and over again. I dream of Dr. King’s dream, too, of peaceful coexistence.

Peace y’all!

John I. Cook

The Tuskegee Airmen aka “The Red Tails”

red tails

Happy President’s Day, All!

Yes, I can say that I am proud of our president today, though President’s Day is to honor Presidents Washington and Lincoln. It’s amazing how life continues and changes occur in ones own lifetime, like the continuum of Dr. King to Obama’s presidencies. I often like to use my own life as an example of things I write about to keep it simple, yet authentic. I think that a “life coach” or motivational speaker should have had some obstacles in ones life, to add to the authenticity of the approach offered by the coach/speaker. Now, I know that people often doubt that someone can change … their lifestyle or addiction(s), their attitude and behavior … perhaps even friends and profession or occupation, if it is causing some “issues” in one’s life. But enough about that, as I simply wanted to mention that I had a wonderful time Sunday at New Birth Baptist Church there in Miami’s Opa Locka Blvd. and the street named after Bishop Curry of the same church on 135th Street. It is interesting that I did my presentation with a group of adults that attend a friend’s Sunday “school” gathering after the sermon. So, one of the deacons, who turned out to be affiliated with the Tuskegee Airman, was not only present for the discussion entitled, “Africans, African Americans and Spirituality”, but participated fully in the discussion. He offered his insight into the “Rastafarian” group/religion as that was also one of the spiritual links developed by Africans as they were transplanted here in America under the institution of slavery, which was included in my presentation. So, it is only logical, based on what is to follow, that I mention and dedicate this e-mail to the honor of these “Airmen”, “The Red Tails”, many of whom are still alive today and are active in giving talks, making appearances and they even helped with accurate information in the making of the movie of the same title, “Red Tails”.

After the presentation, I went to the post office box for Educational Excellence and there was a correspondence from Coach Blake that included a pamphlet he signed and sent to me honoring the Tuskegee Airmen! Do you think that I am being reminded of their service to our country during World War II, in which Coach Blake served in the navy and witnessed much of their work from the ocean and into the air!? The booklet he sent me entitled, “Rising Above: Lessons Learned From The Legendary TUSKEGEE AIRMEN”, gives the historical overview of the segregation in the Armed Forces during World War II here in the USA. It covers how an instructor for one of the largest schools that trained civilian black pilots at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, took on the task of taking the then “First Lady”, Eleanor Roosevelt, on a flight as requested by her husband under pressure from civil rights activists seeking to end segregation. The flight was successful and Eleanor informed her husband of the skill of “Chief” at flying this plane, which led to FDR’s passing of a law to allow blacks to participate in the Army Air Corps. This was ONLY the beginning of the rise of the American Heroes of World War II known as “The Red Tails”, as the “all black” squadrons escorted the large and slow bombers to finally destroy the Nazi forces in Germany and the rest of Europe. Coach Blake has sent me a lot of information on these guys whom he hails as war heroes from a personal point of view as he actually witnessed their fine flying and heard testimonies of pilots who, at first didn’t want to get assistance from the “black pilots”, and in the end requested their assistance after the “Red Tails” had demonstrated an uncanny ability to protect those bombers and shoot enemy planes from the sky! Thanks, Coach Blake, my former boarding school basketball coach who resides in New Smyrna, FL in his retirement with his lovely wife, “Mrs. B”!

In keeping with the theme of Black History Month, may we “take our hats off” to these American Heroes, “The Red Tails”, and remember their relentless efforts to desegregate the armed forces, serve this country, and make a tremendous difference in the outcome of World War II.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com

http://johncook7613.wix.com/know-thyself

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“Maintain, Baby! Maintain!”

love maintain

Happy Friday, Y’ALL!

And a T.G.I.F. is in order!! A good week, productive in many ways and I remain grateful for all of the things that have come my way. Perhaps, the good . . . as well as the “not so good”!

Don’t you just “love” those “back in the day” stories???!!! Not!!! I like them sometimes, just to get to know folks better. Maybe I can gain some insight on the “time” they are referring to … ’cause I always like a bit of history and some “honest, candid story telling”! So, indulge me while I get into one right quick!

You guys know that I was a “hippy” … and a proud one, too! I wore the kind of clothes I wanted, overalls made by “Landlubber” with some suede and leather stack-heeled multi-colored boots … and a unisex button-less collarless dark pink shirt underneath. The next day, I would wear my dashiki that I got at a street shop in Harlem … with my Afro combed just right … back in the day! I had leather sandals made in India and burned a lot of incense . . . and so on and so on. But I maintained, you understand!?! I got my work done in boarding school and played three sports my sophomore year. I earned a “work-study scholarship” package to college and lost a lot of weight my freshman year and was a “walk-on” for frosh basketball at Princeton under Pete Carrill and met Armond Hill. Our band from White Plains and Greenburgh/Parkway Homes, NY called “The Whole Damn Family” or earlier “Inner City Funk” opened for Earth, Wind and Fire at Princeton’s “Cabaret” . . . Do you get the picture yet?!? “I maintained, baby … I maintained!” Many say that after my upbringing and those early opportunities, I didn’t know any different.

You know, when I was in college, it was a tough time … I had to get tougher. Around the same time, my oldest sister was murdered and my brother committed suicide . . . “I maintained, baby … I maintained!” It wasn’t easy, things got tough … good friends were around … I can think of a few of them in particular. Now, I try to keep myself together, and, as one friend from back home said just yesterday on a social media post she put on my page. I try to keep sharing my good feelings … sometimes tough ones, too … and good vibrations. Nothing complicated … just the basics! So, in case you have a date for Valentine’s Day, enjoy yourselves … even if it’s your spouse!!! And, if you don’t have a “date” …. be good to yourself!!! As my Dad used to say … “Ain’t nobody else gotta do nothin’ for ya!” So, I appreciate it when folks do … and … when I do good things for myself … and for others!!

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day Weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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