“I Hope You Learned Your Lesson, Son!”

failure to listen - Obama

It’s Friday, y’all!! I’ve gotten to see another one! So, T.G.I.F.!! What about you?!

Today is also the last day of Black History Month 2014. Have you gotten anything out of it?! It is important not to just go through life following everyone else’s definition of “life” and who “you” are! Over the years of modern history in this country, we have witnessed how the circumstances and challenges faced by individuals propelled them to take on the patterns of society, and challenge them. In some cases, as the protagonists challenged the “norm” of behavior (racism), changes occurred that benefited the populace in general.

Growing up with a father like mine was very interesting for me. The main reason is that he did not experience the kinds of things that he literally pushed me towards. While in many ways, he was my role model, I knew he had never been to places that he encouraged me to go to … like a boarding school, and an ivy league university. As Black History Month 2014 comes to an end, I can hear my father saying to me, “I hope you got your lesson done, boy!” He was referring to my homework for that night. My sister, Edna, was often responsible for sitting with me until I got my “lesson done,” so to speak. In my personal life today, I try to be sure that I get my lesson done … and develop a deeper understanding of things going down around me. That way, my personal and moral compass can be adjusted as need be to allow me to live a life of loving, listening and learning … and of course, sharing.

I think that America, these United States of America, to be exact, has learned some valuable lessons with our present POTUS and his wife doing some things that literally “shook up” the status quo and the way things had been done by presidents and first ladies up until the Obama years at the White House. Healthy eating as proposed by Michelle as well as an expansion of civil rights as fought for “tooth and nail” by President Obama are just a couple of initiatives they put into motion. In looking at “Black History”, it is clear that there were many people of color, including Native Americans whose stories intertwined with “negroes” until they (we), too, became known as African Americans. The list of such persons begins somewhere during the revolts against slavery in this country and abroad (ie. Toussaint L’ Overture), which wasn’t that long ago, and continues up to the era of Rosa Parks and MLK, Jr. which further manifests itself in the fact that we’ve had an African American president for two terms. In my Bernie Mack voice, “America, did you learn your lesson?”

May we take each day as if it is our last, enter into an agreement with our Creator and promise to do our best to move humankind forward. “I have a dream!”

Peace be with you,

John I. Cook, Director

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What I Like About You!!!

What I Like About You!

Hey now, y’all! Yep, it’s Happy Hump Day again!!

What does the forecast look like for you amongst the things that you like?! Isn’t it nice when one can find things to actually “like” about another person or situation even?! It is the positivity of thought that often keeps the negative from taking over ones stream of consciousness. I remember some years back during my young adulthood, I grappled with the fact that “bad things happen to good people, too!” What a paradox, heh??!!

Some folks might deduce from that simple teaching something completely the opposite. For example, if bad things happen to good people, too . . . then why be good?! You do know that there are people who think that way, right?! I know a few, in case all of your friends seem so perfect to you. Well, here’s my take on why being good is better than being “bad” even if bad things happen to good people, too. I personally feel better when I try to do good things. Of course, one of my favorite historical figures who characterizes this thought better than most is Jesus . . . yep, the man who was crucified because of his beliefs in human-kind’s ability to be good.

About a week or so ago, I was in Publix supermarket in Ft. Lauderdale and a young lady approached me and asked me if I wanted to taste the wine. This was one of those promotional persons who sets up a table in front of an aisle and offer samples of white wine or red wine from some particular companies whose products are being marketed for promotion. So, I looked at her as our eyes met for a moment, and I said “No thanks!” But I felt a bit of a “flow” of positive energy coming from her. Yet, I continued on to the ice cream coolers to get some of my favorite fruit health pops made by Whole Fruit. I checked out, looked for the young woman again who was also rather attractive and tall and told her that now I would taste the wine. I am not a big wine drinker, nor a big drinker at all. But I went back and tasted the two. I noted an accent in her voice and asked where she was from. Colombia. That was the beginning of a new friendship for me, so far. A woman was seated next to her whom she introduced as her mother who was visiting from a small town called Malaga in the region of Santander, Colombia. She told me she was a singer and a model and was looking for some contacts. I immediately thought of my buddy that I call “Big Bro'”, Mr. Robbie Williams. So we exchanged business cards and I promised to get back to her soon.

After calling Robbie, he told me about a gentleman who was the bassist in a group that was performing at Blue Jean Blues, a fairly new live jazz club in Ft. Lauderdale, on Monday night. I picked up my friend and her mother and we went to meet this guy. The show was fantastic and he was “our” first contact. While it didn’t pan out as of yet, we also exchanged numbers. As we were leaving Blue Jean Blues, my new friend noticed a couple of other “clubs” that had live entertainment on the same street and she entered and expressed her interest in singing at the establishments. Before we had left the street, she noticed a karaoke event taking place at a corner bar called “The Dive”. She entered the establishment, spoke to a few people and before we knew it, she was performing some of her favorite karaoke tunes by “Shakira” … on stage!!! Clearly, she was the best of all of the “entertainers” that night. Last night, Robbie mentioned that he knew of another karaoke event at an establishment in Boca Raton called “Platforms”. I picked Angela and her mom up, as they are not staying more than 15 minutes from me, and took them to Platforms. She was invited to perform without hesitation. There was a friend of Robbie’s named “Hal” who was playing guitar, had a female drummer and another young lady singing back up for the karaoke performers. Angela did well, bonded with the band leader, met the owner of Platforms, and exchanged numbers with quite a few people as they were extremely impressed with her “show-womanship” as she sang in both English and Spanish and danced to the “kumbia” in the presentation of her third and final song of the night! I liked that!

So, while we may think from time to time that our acts of kindness in our most challenging times may not matter; but quite often . . . they do! I am hoping that some of the contacts that “Angela” made will come to fruition so that she can perform in other places with her own live band, perhaps!

Keep a positive attitude about life and always try to do your best. For me, that is in my heart . . . to be of service to others! “What’s in your heart?!”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“When One Door Closes . . .”

Rising Sun

Good Monday morning, All!

I am sure that by now, most of “us” have had that first cup of coffee or water or juice or … all three! Isn’t it nice to be alive today?! The weekend for me was great. Anytime I can have a new experience and learn something new, it has been a great day!

One of my former students, yet continual friend, “Corn Bread” as he likes to be called, just surprised me with a phone call that he was in “Ft. Ladi Dadi!” like Thursday evening or so. He was in the midst of organizing the coverage of the event in Miami Gardens, FL know as “SoulFrito.” It is an annual “urban Latin American” musical event which often combines hip hop and rap either in Spanish or using the unifying “rhythm and blues” backgrounds established by African Americans in modern music genres. Corn Bread invited me to tag along with he and the video photographer, “Matt” aka “Matlock”, with hopes of me being able to interview some of the artists. While that never happened, the experience was chock full of new learning for me.

How many times have we heard the expression, “when one door closes, another one opens?” It is like folklore for more spiritual people. Sometimes, we react harshly when that “door” or opportunity closes down and prohibits us from entering. Yet, I can tell you from experience, that sometimes the “other” door takes a while to appear, or, for us to realize that it is actually there – and open. Then of course, as the saying by Alexander Graham Bell (the inventor) clearly states, ” . . . we may be so focused on the closed door and the grief it causes that we don’t notice the other door opening!” My most recent employment experience with the marketing group I’d been with for nearly 5 years was the “closing of one door.” Now, my professional background is in education: teaching, tutoring, reading and writing! Yet, I never had the opportunity to experience the use of those skills with the marketing company. Now, as you all also know, I have been working hard at keeping Educational Excellence afloat in addition to my regular “9 to 5” jobs. So, for me, this door has always been open for me simultaneous to the routine “jobs” I’ve held. Now, I have a chance … an opportunity … to get into the things that really make me happy – helping people through community service and/or teaching and educating others!

While many of us still have the opportunity to experience this gift of life, I suggest we take the opportunities EACH DAY with as much vigor and excitement as we possibly can. As seen with the disappearance of a South Florida FSU (Florida State University) graduate who was scheduled to begin law school and an internship in the State’s capitol, we have each witnessed over and over how “life is just a moment.” He was found in an abandoned building in Tallahassee. In streaming and viewing programs by Joel Osteen and Bob Coy this past Sunday, the theme reverberated consistently that, “Whenever you have good times, remember . . . all is well. Even when times get more difficult, challenging and even overbearing, never forget that Our Creator has It’s hand in this, too . . . and that again, all is well!”

Have a great Monday, All! Thanks for reading!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Stress Release

Yogi Music

Happy Friday, All! And if you don’t mind, I’d like to thank God it’s Friday!!

Things for me are taking an interesting turn as I try to put the individual events I am experiencing together like connecting the dots. That takes a lot of time, so, I am just learning to trust and have faith in the process. All I can say is that I am very thankful for all the love and support that has come my way during this transition period, and that I am grateful to have people like many of you in my life. Thank you!

So this weekend South of here . . . South Beach (SoBe), to be exact . . . there are a couple of star studded events, so I’ve heard! The Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Party celebrates the calendar models’ fiftieth anniversary! I remember when I was in boarding school in New Hampshire “many moons” ago how we used to cherish those photographs of the SI Swim Suit Calendars … at the then all boys prep school! What a match! Sports and beauty. Now, also, with some of the best weather probably on the planet, the Sobe Wine and Food Festival is rocking South Beach with culinary delights, some of the best chefs world-wide as well as the finest wines and beverages to accompany the 13th Annual Festival! Could this be how you spell “stress relief?” I mean, ain’t nothing wrong with that as long as you can handle the fanfare, the fun and the finances! Yet, for those of us who may not be able to partake in such events regularly, we may need to choose alternate ways to enjoy this gift called life! How do you spell “stress relief?!”

For me, as you probably know by now, I utilize meditation, prayer and yoga. Just yesterday, as I continue to adjust my schedule to move along from a somewhat steady situation work-wise, our yoga instructor, Xiomar, offered us the opportunity to focus on stress relief during our practice. There are certain areas, like the hips, which are said to hold human stress. So we engage in hip opening asanas. As well, humans find that the longer we live, the more challenges we have “naturally” in our backs, shoulders and neck. So, it would only make sense to nurture those areas of our body as well as seek to stretch and breathe into the more taunt areas, when possible. After class yesterday, Xiomar jovially chatted about the “yoga high” that one can experience while in the final relaxation pose known as corpse pose! Then, thanks to our Creators, we roll over on the right side into the fetal position, sit up slowly and flow into the lotus pose and bid each other “namaste!” That’s how I do it . . . for now, folks!

Have a great weekend, and wherever you are, release stress from your body which naturally accumulates and often affects the human body in negative ways, not to mention aging faster! Choose a healthy spiritual life and keep the faith.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Through Spiritual Eyes . . .

spiritual eyes

It’s Wednesday, folks! So, you don’t have to ask what day it is . . . ’cause it’s Hump Day!

Feeling a little bit “chipper” today as things in my personal life continue developing. I often pray that I have made the right choices nowadays. There was a time when I didn’t care as much as I do now only because I didn’t see the spiritual side of things in life. Last weekend, my youngest nephew proudly presented his first son to Pastor Ferguson at Kingdom of God Ministries International to be christened. It was a big moment for he and the son’s mother, Selena. We all rallied around them to show support and to illustrate that “it takes a village to raise a child.” While some folks may not embrace religion, to each his own, I was proud to see that my nephew embraces something OTHER than what many youngsters his age embrace. He is seeking to develop a relationship with his Creator and was asking for guidance in raising his newborn son! I was proud to be there.

Over the years, I have sought to develop a more spiritual approach to life because it allows me the freedom to be peaceful in the midst of a storm. It reminds me of the story from the Bible when Jesus slept and the disciples in the tiny boat with him watched the storm gain momentum to dangerous proportions. The disciples worried so much, the story goes, that they woke Jesus up to tell him that the waters had gotten extremely turbulent. Jesus used this as a teaching lesson as he quieted the storm by commanding the elements to be at peace! Can we do the same? Isn’t that a valuable lesson, whether you believe the “story” or not? Recently, I have come into some stormy situations and I watch myself carefully and quietly so as NOT to over react; in fact, to call upon that peace-filled realm within. This is the goal for my practicing yoga as well as learning to be more diligent in my meditation. I seek opportunities to utilize the “third eye”, which allows me to absorb spiritual energy and see life through less harsh material eyes! Do you know what I mean?!

As we just witnessed the closing of the trial of The State of Florida vs. Dunn, the white American male who fired ten shots into an SUV occupied by four African American teenaged boys, it seems that the jury got this one “mo’ better” than the Zimmerman jury did! As I chatted with a good friend about this, we both came to the conclusion that there must’ve been someone on that jury who felt that those teen boys’ lives were just as if not MORE important than vigilante Dunn’s life is. I had many readers when I followed the Zimmerman trial with Educational Excellence and the blog. In fact, as I viewed the statistics of how many people read the blog pieces, there were days when it had tripled! In following some of the interview with Zimmerman these past few days, it is clear that his remorse is “showmanship” and that something is still bothering him deeply. Yet, he refuses to embrace the spiritual imbalance in his OWN behaviour when he attacked Trayvon. He still says Trayvon attacked him in spite of the fact that he followed, got out of his vehicle and pursued this young teen. He still refuses to see what he meant when he said, “They always get away!” There are people, even in materialistic America, where spirituality is becoming more and more important, and, who can see our world and our behaviour . . . through spiritual eyes! How about you!?

Take time each day to reflect on those spiritual values, if you will, that will enable you to see the loving, peaceful more spiritual elements of our lives!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Love Is The Language of the Heart!

Ocean heart

Happy Valentine’s Day, All!

Yes, of course I know it is Friday … so … T.G.I.F.!!

Life really is just a moment … and, as xylophonists Roy Ayers says in his song, “You better enjoy it!” Even in circumstances that appear rather challenging … even difficult sometimes … one can find “the love” in ourselves and in others! One thing I don’t like to do is complain. My father never took too kindly to that during our formative years there in the Winbrook Projects in White Plains, NY where I grew up. I always admired how much he and my mother displayed love for each other … and themselves. Now, I know they had some tough times that I may not have even felt or noticed, let alone understood. But it is in times like these for me, that memories and thoughts, even gestures of “love” keep me going. Valentine’s Day like most days celebrated in this country has become commercialized. In other words, people have figured out how to market this celebration.

Yesterday, I had several acts of kindness shown to me by people whom I know well, and by people I don’t know so well. Before my yoga class, the body works instructor, Tammy, took a minute to tell me that she has always noticed and admired the positivity in my attitude, in my e-mails as well as posts on my blog and Facebook. She told me, “John, you are always trying to lift people up spiritually … I see that in you! Yet, now, you have to employ some of those same techniques, practices and attitudes in order to deal with your present circumstances!” Thanks Tammy. Later in the day, I spoke with a friend who used to work for the same marketing company that I worked for recently. He gave me a tip on how to get “foodstuffs” of a high and decent quality from a local community outreach sponsored by Faith Center here in Ft. Lauderdale! Thanks James. Still, another friend whom I have “spoken” about in these pieces, Bobby Schulman, has assisted me with some important finances including gym membership and help with rent until I can balance the unemployment compensation with some side hustles … legal, of course! Another good friend, Burke Wortman, has invited me over for dinner. A long time work/”family” member, Marie Achille, has been relentless in her efforts to help me with odd jobs and legal hustles, too! One thing about me that I’ve learned over the years is that I am never too proud to ask and receive help from caring others, whether they are in similar circumstances as I may be facing or in better circumstances. Thank you, thank you, thank you … ALL!

“Though I speak with the tongues of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, 2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity (love), I am nothing. 3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity (love), it profiteth me nothing. 4) Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6) Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth … 13) And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” – I Corinthians 13

So, as I hear multiple stories of “charity” also known as love, including a Habitat for Humanity story here in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, where a charitable organization donated all the furnishings for a new single parent family of females, including food in the cabinets and refrigerator, I encourage us to not forget the meaning of “charity”, which is love! If I may, I’d like to wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day! Remember the true message of “love”!

Peace and Love,

John I. Cook, Director

Is Your Child Next?!

Jordan Davis

Yes, folks! It’s Wednesday, it’s Hump Day!

So much for me to contemplate . . . Yet, I continue being positive and putting my best foot forward each day, and today! While it is not easy, I can’t think of anything else I’d like to do that indicates that I am being the best that I can be. After all, this gift of life I’ve been given shall not be wasted. The moon is getting fuller each night as I look up into the star-lit skies of South Florida and I have to count my blessings . . . of freedom, of life, with the many friends and associates made along the way! I remember when I was 17 . . .

This trial of Michael Dunn, 42, in the accused murder of yet another black teen boy, and apparently attempted murder of 3 others, is coming to a close. You know, as a man – an African American one at that, I have to count my blessings each day that I live that my life has been blessed enough to allow me to wake up another morning. The killing of Jordan Davis, then 17, with probably the first bullet that entered the vehicle, has once again ignited the controversy of concealed weapons and a racially motivated shooting. It is always the same “card” that people play anytime “they” lose control and ultimately attack and/or murder a black man! “He said he was going to kill this mother “effing” cracker, and then he pointed a gun at me from inside the truck!” That’s what Jordan Davis is reported to have said and done by Dunn during the trial. Now, if you decide to buy this “cock and bull” story, you can understand why Dunn fired 10 shots, 9 of them entering the Durango that the teens sat in . . . and no gun was found inside.

So, by painting a picture of Jordan Davis and his friends who sat in the vehicle outside of a convenience store in Jacksonville, FL as cursing, threatening and loud music playing “black teen boys”, we can understand why Dunn tried to kill all of them! Really?!? Even Nancy Grace stated that Dunn should be found guilty on all charges without a hitch! Why is it necessary for people to invent stories to justify their behavior?! Why do young black boys have to worry about having fun together, no drugs no weapons, just some funky music playing in their vehicle on the streets of America?! I only hope that THIS time, justice is served! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of these lying so-called “adults” blaming their violent, hostile … even racist behavior on youngsters who haven’t even had a chance at life yet!

Stay calm in stressful moments. And, if you have your gun, don’t take it out. Just drive away.

Thanks for your continued reading and support, folks!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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