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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“Fences” . . .

fences

 

Yes indeedy … it is Hump Day!!!

So much drama still going on in the aftermath of the election, comments going back and forth between the two parties as well as legal developments for the President Elect, too!  Fences …  It is a metaphor for building protection between oneself … and the society one lives in …  Do we need “fences” between us and “others”?  Who are these “others”?  Where did the division occur??

I sat watching the news clips of the violence led by law enforcement against African American men, mostly, though there were a few women of color who lost their lives as a result of conflicts between them and law enforcement.  One “black” woman supposedly hung herself once jailed as a result of the inhumane treatment she had received from a Texas State Trooper …. peace be still!  It reminds me of the lack of communications between people in general.  Why is that?  Why is it when we speak the same language that we oftentimes still don’t understand each other?!?  Do the words change meaning depending on what side of “the fence” you were raised on?!?  Has our society’s fabric been reduced to “self interest” ONLY?  As I watched the news clips from 2016 of the many African American men killed by police, my heart broke a little bit more … Yes, I also saw the stories where a few men of color were so “confused” as to how they should respond to the apparent disparities experienced by people of color and their interactions with “law enforcement” that they tried to lash back at them with weapons and attacks.  Do you think these “discrepancies” don’t drive some people “crazy”?  Well it does … That’s why so many “black” fathers have to have that conversation with their sons (and daughters, too …) about how they should respond when they “bump up against” law enforcement … or any authority in our society’s organizations, be it jobs or schools or other institutions in our society.

Last weekend, I decided to go see “Fences” – the movie, directed by Denzel Washington.  He also starred in the movie with Viola Davis as they sought to bring the play to a wider audience via the movies and still capture the goals of the author of the play, August Wilson.  The backdrop was Pittsburgh, PA and it was staged in what could be considered the 1950’s more or less when race was an issue on everyone’s lips once they were on “their side of the fence”.  In many instances, persons in positions of power want the “other” to be completely subservient, voiceless, intimidated even!!!  In essence, those in positions of power want “the other” to be afraid of them or of losing something … like a job, money … or even their lives!!!  In situations with law enforcement, many men of color have had to lose their lives in order to make a statement … or in just trying to follow directions … like taking their driver’s license out and ending up shot and killed because the officer thought they had a gun and were reaching for it!!  Believe it or not, some fathers get confused as to what message to deliver to their sons during this “conversation” or “talk” aimed at saving the young black man’s life.  That’s what came out in the movie “Fences”.  While Denzel, the father, told his son that “people don’t have to like you … they just have to do right by you”, he also thwarted his son’s efforts to pursue getting a scholarship to college playing football!  Times were changing, as Viola Davis – the boy’s mother – tried to tell Denzel who had his own set of issues, including alcoholism and a “pregnant woman on the side”.  The plot thickened … and Denzel and his son ended up in physical conflict themselves!!

Sometimes, I have that conversation with my daughter as well as any other young folks that I come into contact with.  Here of late, I find myself faced with that same scenario where someone may be treating me or questioning me in a fashion where they are already assuming that I am “wrong”.  It’s tough sometimes, for any of us … at any age!!!  Folks like those “fences” …. “built to keep some people or things out … and to keep some people or things in”.  I don’t know if I got my point across in this, but if I didn’t, go see “Fences” – the movie anyway.  You’ll understand what I am talking about!

This is the last “Hump Day” of 2016, so, go forth and enjoy yourselves!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Happy Holy Days!

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It’s a wonderful day to T.G.I.F.!

I am hoping that each of you enjoy your Holy Days, whether it be Christmas or Hanukah … and perhaps even Kwanzaa as it comes around shortly after Christmas.

Now I know these “holy days” can get hectic, so stay calm, show love for each other and enjoy!  Thanks to each and every one of you for reading!

Keeping it simple,

John I. Cook, Director

We Don’t Have to Agree on Everything … or Anything … but Show Some Respect!

take-little-notice

 

Happy Hump Day, All!

Well, things are going  pretty bizarre in the world in places like Berlin, Germany where a “big rig” from Poland drove into a traditional marketplace bustling with holiday shoppers there in the capital city of Germany!  Already, though it took a couple of 24 hours, ISIS is claiming responsibility for the destruction.  As well overseas in Ankara, Turkey as a high ranking Russian diplomat spoke at an art exhibit in an art museum, an assassin emerged from the clear foreground directly behind the Russian diplomat while he gave his opening remarks.  Then, as if fireworks, “bam,bam,bam,bam,bam”! like five to 8 shots were fired into the diplomats body which immediately fell motionless to the floor as the shooter, a member of the riot police there in that city, spoke in Arabic and then Turkish reminding the “world” of his discontent with what is happening in Syria!  He was shot and killed by police as was the driver of the “big rig” who claimed around 40 innocent lives!!

Those of you who read regularly will know that I revisit this theme from time to time not only because I have “lost” friends because they may have disagreed with me but went too far down the “disrespect” road saying (writing) things that were designed to harm me, perhaps lower my self esteem and maybe a feeble attempt to make themselves feel better for whatever reason.  I even looked at the horrific things that were said during this last presidential campaign and cannot believe some of the things said about different individuals.  POTUS Obama has heard it all from Trump and still managed to meet with him several times to discuss the issues pertinent to the “transition of the office of president” by these two extremely different people!  I know just like we all know that as a citizen, Trump had launched one of the most vicious attacks on President Obama questioning his citizenship to the “n-th” degree and was and still is as disrespectful as a person could be towards the President of the United States of America!  How dare he … and many many other media sources seek to tarnish the image of a president and his family never ever caught in any scandals!

Do you know people who like to criticize and attempt to ridicule YOU?!?  I do … but I quickly put them in their place with my words … just as I did with the micro-managing “boss” I recently had who was annoyed that I graduated from Princeton, spoke Spanish fluently and closed several deals in Spanish (he only knows one language, poorly!), and am very kind, professional, humble and proud at the same time and generally charismatic amongst my co-workers.  He sought an attack on my person, tried to talk “down” to me multiple times until he couldn’t take me putting him in his place simply by telling him that he is not talking to a 3 year old!  Come again?!  He couldn’t so he used his 20 year friendship with the owner to get me terminated!!  Next!!!

Over the years, I have met folks who come at me sideways from time to time and I have to straighten them out, some to the point that they didn’t want to be “friends” anymore!  So be it … ’cause in my friendships, I still demand respect!  I admire President Obama who held his head high, accomplished many many things that helped “make this country great” and still found time to assist a very hostile president elect.  Any questions?

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

This Is Why I Do It!

lonliness

 

Happy Friday, All!

Even in times of challenges, I T.G.I.F.!!  Got that?!  One of my favorite Bible passages I keep in my heart is “Count it all joy …”!  Powerful thought, right?!  The new Will Smith movie called “Collateral Beauty” focuses on finding something beautiful, which he believes there is, in the midst of ones most difficult times!!

Sometimes folks ask me why I mention  some of my life’s most challenging moments.  I know folks are more private than I am … and … I am not an angel.  Yet, I like folks to know what happens to brothers out there!  It is no picnic, and, the more mature I get, the more I have to step up my “game”, so to speak, to stay out of trouble (not like I am looking for it) and not let folks push my “buttons”.  Since I taught last, I have been into more administrative work but often find myself in a call center of some sort.  There are certain characteristics about “call centers” and folks go from one to the next … to the next!  Not  my style, but I have had to work somewhere to make ends meet.  Even now, I find myself juggling things (losing some, like car insurance) in my effort to keep the most important basics “in order”.  Often, I find that when I am trying hardest, something inevitably or always comes up … just when things seem to be getting all straightened out.  I have to adjust again, maybe not looking so good to people I owe money to, or those who have helped me in the past and wonder “why I keep having challenges”.  So, I like to share the details of the  “not so good things” that go on in my life in order to clarify what a man like me goes through.  “It ain’t easy being me.”  Yet, I prefer being myself as true to myself as possible in the midst of all the drama that goes on when we trade our valuable lives in order to make some money to have a decent enough living … whatever that might be at any given moment.

I am reaching that point where I don’t have to be involved in every movement or activity where “everybody else is” and “doing what everybody else does” … and … sometimes it gets “lonely” out there.  This is where quality friendships come into place for me, especially when I am trying to be transparent to those who have given me a hand over the years.  Just know, whether you “like” me or not … that I couldn’t have done it without you!

In closing, I just want to wish you all a wonderful weekend wherever you are, stay positive no matter what’s going on around you and … “Be your BEST self, because you are YOU!”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“Sharing is Caring!”

sharing-is-caring

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Have you ever heard the expression, “Sharing is caring!”?  Do you think it is the truth?!?

This is the “holy day” season, and I believe that humanity still needs to embrace the concept of “sharing” the plethora of resources we have on this planet!!  Why should anyone be starving or lacking the bare essentials to survive?!  Maybe because of their national origin or “race”, if you will … one of the other devices devised by humans to separate the inhabitants of the same Earth?!  Do you think we are “intelligent” enough a species to figure out how to “UNITE” the peoples of the world?!  Many of our world’s billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, once they had accumulated tremendous wealth, began to look around and see how they might “help” others less fortunate and less capable of manipulating the “social organization”, not to mention those unfortunates unable to access the resources that enable one to achieve social and economic mobility.  Many many people who have achieved “success” in our Western societies have “given back” to those less fortunate … even people like Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Alonzo Mourning ( retired Miami Heat star) have taken their comparably “meager” wealth and spread it to children’s organizations and programs in the inner cities and even provided programs in information technology to help the “underprivileged” children acquire skills necessary to achieve this “social mobility” in our present world society!

So, what do you think about someone who decides to fire someone … during the Christmas/Hanukah/Holy Days even New Year’s season?!?  Now, most of you know me … I always say this … I am humble, but NOT to be walked upon and disrespected for a buck or two … or more!  I am not a bad person … I work hard and don’t ask for much from a boss or manager/supervisor except “respect” … not love or adoration … just respect!  Why is it that  people have such a hard time respecting each other?!?  Do you think it is this “division” thing we have going on … like this religion vs. that religion, or this socio-economic group vs. that socio- economic level group … not to mention this ethnic group vs. that one!?  I mean, we go out as far as to “hating” people who wanted “this” candidate vs. “that” one and were actually prepared to go to war over “your” support of a given candidate?!!!  So, I still haven’t figured out why I was terminated … though I know that the manager could NOT accept some of my answers to his comments or questions!

Here’s an example:  So, we have an incoming call line called “ad calls” where potential clients are responding to an advertisement on the internet.  They always tell us to try to convert “anyone” who calls into our office … especially if they have over 8 – 10 thousand dollars worth of debt!  So, this gentleman called in basically asking me if I could tell him who one of his credit cards were issued by since he only had a credit report with the name of the collection agency on it.  So, I explained to him that we help people with 8 – 10 thousand dollars worth of debt, give them one low monthly payment and negotiate each creditor’s debt down to an average of 45 cents on the dollar as they are saving in a trust account to cover the settlements and our legal fees as well as the negotiators fee.  The gent said, “Okay, so I can try to find out the information another way, thanks!”  And we ended the call.  This supervisor who was sitting directly behind me listening to every word on the phone says, “John, on the call you just had … I was listening to it (he holds up the phone with an ear plug to show me how he was listening!) and you spent too much time telling him what we do here.”  At this time, I realized it was pointless to disagree with him, so, I picked up a Lysol wipe and began to clean my phone off that was on my desk.  He looks at me and says, “You can do that later.”  So, I asked, “What is it?  Do you want me to look at you?”  He says, “Well it is disrespectful to do that while I am talking to you.”  Go figure, I thought to myself!  I chimed in, “You are not talking to a 3 year old!”  He continues with his chatter about nothing as I looked in his face until he was done with his verbal diarrhea which he can carry on for some time.  I wanted to get back on the phone and reach my goal of 150 calls, which I did that day, and add on to the 2 deals that I had closed and were signed by my clients as of December 9th, 2016.  I guess I rubbed him the wrong way because that night after work, I got a call from the agency that had found this position for me telling me that the owner sent him a text telling him to “let me go”!  Any questions?!?  Completely ridiculous in my opinion … but I am doing my best to handle it …

Others in our world today during this “holy day ” season are looking for ways to help people …. How does THIS episode strike you?!  The owner of the company that laid me off, Robert, drives a Maserati and also has a Lamborghini … Do you think he needs the “few” hundred dollars he is depriving me of for Christmas/Hanukah (he is Jewish)?  I doubt it … But … can you imagine this is what I go through?!?

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Sometimes . . . Things Happen in Threes . . .

sylvester-stallone-3s

 

Happy Friday, All!

I’ve got to do it … T.G.I.F.!!

It’s Friday, folks!  One of my favorite days of the week …  Well … I got three pieces of “news”, if you will, that are pretty much life changing at this time.  I am usually ready for such things, though I must admit, they all caught me by surprise … Kind of like the surprise I got when some trifling folks backed into my car last Sunday … and things continue to unfold … Let’s call that “event/news” number 1!

Here’s number 2 . . . Some of you may remember that not too long ago in August, I got another job after working in a call center for diabetic supplies and special projects like medical “chart chasing”.  Things went well with the debt settlement company and I handled many of the company’s Spanish client calls as there was no one else there who spoke Spanish when I arrived.  Since then, they have hired two gentlemen – one Cuban and one Colombian – who speak Spanish, and the number of Spanish clients serviced by the company began to increase!  Several referrals came in from clients that I had helped by setting up a debt relief program with the settlement component where the company’s negotiators would get their debts reduced to an average of 40 cents on the dollar.  I did well the first month with 14 deals, the second month was more challenging and I closed only 6 solid deals.  This month I was working hard but had only two deals … but it is only the 10th of December.  The Holiday Party is next Friday at Benihana’s Japanese Eatery and I was excited to attend.  I had some minor run in’s with the trainer and his assistant who like to be called “underwriting” though they are not in the office with the underwriters who move the contracts forward.  I was well liked by the other senior debt analysts and got along fairly well with the owner of the company.  My immediate managers/underwriters like to “micro manage” and are long time friends of the owner and helped him build the company as they were once on the phones like me  closing debt settlement “deals”.  I got hired through an agency called “Pride Staff”.  So, last night as I was outside on my way home thanks to a ride from the Cuban co-worker, my cell phone rang and it was the staffing specialist from “Pride Staff” named Geo.  He starts the conversation with: “Hey John!  What’s going on over there?”  I answered candidly, “Where are you talking about?”  He said, “Your job, Fast Track?  I just got a text from Robert, the owner, who asked me to ‘let you go’.  So what happened?”  I was like, “I don’t know, Geo, no one said anything to me!?!”  So he and I talked a bit last night, he agreed to contact Robert the owner, and called me this morning saying, “He says it was a performance thing!”  I repeated to him, “Nobody said anything to me yesterday or anytime and I had over 150 calls to clients yesterday, which is the requirement!  I just want to get my money … I know things get slow at Christmas time because people don’t want to give up their credit cards!”  So, this morning, my Cuban former co-worker agreed to pick me up this morning and I plan to go in to speak with Robert to confirm that I will get paid for my labor, and pay day is next Friday, set for every two weeks.

I am currently receiving early retirement benefits and realized that I am actually tired of the “rat race”, going from one job to the next as is customary in Florida, which is a “right to work state” (look that one up!) and feel the push of the Universe to embrace my retirement early and travel abroad, perhaps.  Yesterday, I got an e-mail from my boarding school Coach for basketball and football and athletic director asking me to remove him from the e-mail list . . .  I was a bit surprised but in continuing to read, I understood why.  His wife is in critical condition and I am sure that he is feeling rather helpless … perhaps even sad by this.  This is the third “news” or event . . .  My heart goes out to him … and I can only think, “For God so loves the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … and who soever believeth in Him, shall not perish … but have eternal life!”  In closing, I want to reach out to the St. Paul’s School community of sisters and brothers, and let Mr. and Mrs. Blake know that I love them …

Peace be with you,

John I. Cook, Director

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