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

“Life After Death Row”

Hinton and Bryan


Happy Tuesday ….
This story takes place 30 years ago from this past weekend.  Anthony Ray Hinton was one of several (10) children of a hard praying woman who lived in the post Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. era in Birmingham, AL circa 1985.  In plain English, this was the way things were STILL being done in Birmingham by law enforcement … after Dr. King’s historical Civil Rights Movement’s hey day.
Two managers in a fast food restaurant in Birmingham who happened to be white were killed by a lone gunman.  Ray Hinton was arrested and accused first of kidnapping and robbery.  When he told the detective that he had no idea what he was talking about and again asked what he was being arrested for, the detective still didn’t tell him.  Obviously, Hinton is a young African American male of 29 years of age.  This is where my heart gets broken!!  While some may not identify with him … even an African American male who did not have to experience this … I certainly do.  It could easily have been me!  I know … I know … some of you would say, “That would never happen to ME!” …. be glad … ’cause you probably couldn’t have handled it.  Remember, I said Beulah Hinton raised Ray with scripture from the Bible, which she told him to tuck into his heart.  Ray said, “You didn’t have anything else to do on death row …. all you could do was to read the Bible!”
His favorite scripture was Mark 11:24: “Therefore, I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”  Now some of you might say, “Oh, I don’t believe any of that stuff!”  … just be glad that you don’t have to … because you probably wouldn’t have survived 30 years on death row anyways!!  Just be glad!  Hinton had the faith … he believed that the God he served would NOT let him die for something that he didn’t do.  F.A.I.T.H.
Hinton said that when he was arrested, he asked the detective what he was being arrested for.  The detective didn’t tell him right away … but said he would tell him soon.  Hinton said that he (the detective) said he was being arrested for the murder of two white managers at a fast food restaurant.  Hinton told the detective that he didn’t do it.  They found a gun in Hinton’s mother’s home where he was staying.  The prosecution even said that there was NO match between the pistol at Hinton’s mother’s home and the pistol used to kill the two white managers.  The detective told Hinton: “I don’t care if you did it or not.  There is a white judge, a white prosecutor and a white jury.  You will be convicted.”   That was when the nightmare began.  The ballistic’s expert hired by the defense was paid $500 … and was blind in one eye!  The state prosecutor ate him up and spit him out, according to Hinton!  Who would the jury believe … while there were maybe 5 blacks, said Hinton, … a ballistic’s expert who was blind in one eye … or the state!!!!???  Can I add the words “no brainer” here?!?
So, you can unravel the story here as the Equal Justice Initiative’s attorney, Bryan Stevenson, did … until he finally got the Supreme Court to overturn the judge and jury’s original decision to put Hinton on death row and order a retrial.  The prosecution dropped the charges instead!!!  Hinton said his arrest was “kidnapping sanctioned by the State of Alabama” and that he was found guilty at first due to “race, poverty, inadequate legal assistance and prosecutorial interference”!!  Read up on the story … imagine what it must have been like for Anthony Ray Hinton … who lost his 30’s in prison … his 40’s in prison … and his 50’s in prison … due to a need to find and convict a black male … any black male!!!
Be glad it wasn’t you … Hinton is now experiencing “Life After Death Row” … thanks to the relentless efforts of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative … and … according to Hinton … HIS God!
John I. Cook, Director

Try To Do The Right Thing!

life and balance


Happy Friday, y’all!!  I am back on a Friday … couldn’t resist dropping “by” to say T.G.I.F.!!

Yes, I have to say thanks to my Creator for being here another year!  Many of us take things for granted … like waking up in the morning … eyes working and our hands and feet moving!  One of the main reasons that I enjoy yoga so much is that you have a chance to explore your body and how the parts function … and experience appreciating the essence of “you”!  Some folks, I believe, if they really took a good look at themselves … as if observing as a “third party”, so to speak, would be deeply troubled at what they see!!
It is important for ME … to do the right thing … the right thing … be respectful, proud and humble at the same time!  We have a pose in yoga called “humble warrior”.  Interesting concept, right?!  Imagine the pose!??  Requires discipline while assuming a humble posture!  You see we have so much going on in our lives that many of us are going “nuts”!  I turned on the news when I came in from work last evening to change into my gym clothes to work out and heard a discussion on Marco Rubio’s shoes!!!  Oh, sorry, they were “boots”!!  So much speculation on how much they cost because they had big heels and made Rubio look taller!!  Even he, though I disagree with his position and comments on Obama’s “gun control” executive order, that when he – Rubio – gets into office, he will personally REMOVE Obama’s order to require ALL gun sales to have a background check on EVERY buyer!  Here is a perfect example of how, based on our experiences and perspective on the experiences we have … or witness, we take a particular position on an important social issue as “gun control”!  If someone had a child who was shot and killed by a crazed gun person, they would probably take one  stance on this issue as opposed to a family member of a gun manufacturer, or a person who has been robbed at gun point, or deeply fears being burglarized.  It depends on ones’ life circumstance as to what issue we “choose” to support or adopt … or oppose.
Here in Ft. Lauderdale, a Broward Sheriff’s Deputy was  applauded by his co-deputies a few days ago as he left the courtroom after pleading not guilty to the killing of Gerald McBean, a 33 year old African American male, who carried an air rifle down the street, with a head set on.  The deputy claimed that McBean did NOT comply with his ORDER to put the gun down.  Of course, the deputy didn’t know it was an air rifle, and, one “official’s” comment was:  “This is not a racial issue!  This is about a deputy killing a man who threatened the safety of our community!”  Still another comment at the court house was, “We shouldn’t be applauding ANYONE or ANYTHING.  It is unfortunate that Mr. McBean lost his life and the Grand Jury will decide the fate of the deputy.  That’s it!  No need to celebrate ANYTHING!”
It is hard for some people to be “balanced” in their lives.  Some folks actually seek drama and mayhem while others don’t take much personally … unless it IS personal … and maintain a better balance in their lives than the “drama-driven” people.  Of course, that is when you just may become the target of their anger which comes from the fact that they cannot maintain a balance in their own lives … so, they they seek to disrupt YOUR balance … even … selfish buggers!!  So do something … the RIGHT thing … to help balance yourself and your behaviour.  In the heat of the moment, you could make a WRONG decision … hurting someone … even your self … to irreparable depths.
John I. Cook, Director

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