Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Spring of August

A Limelight Profile of August Wilson, Part 1
By Byron Lee

STAR OF STAGE: August Wilson in his natural habitat.

August Wilson has verbalized the joys and frustrations of blacks in this country for reverent posterity.Stories of the black experience from every decade in the 20th Century have poured forth from his pen,making the history of a people tangible. His insightful, literate, yet plainspoken voice was silenced last October, when he passed away from liver cancer. In this edition of the Limelight, we begin our profile of this great playwright by going back to his origins to discover what formed the voice that would speak to, and for, so many.

Born into Pittsburgh's predominately black Hill neighborhood on April 27, 1945 to a black mother,Daisy Kittel and a German father, Frederick August Kittel. The younger shared his father's full name, but was left by his namesake soon after he was born.

MEETING OF THE MINDS: August Wilson with Dr. Kwaku

Left to raise six children by herself, Daisy, a cleaning woman, nevertheless found time to teach all of her children the importance of reading. (August started reading at age four and would later change his surname to Wilson as a tribute to his mother.). Wilson recalled, in an interview with lecturer and Film Studies professor Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn, that he received further positive reinforcement at school:

"My first writing experience was when I was about ten years old in the fifth grade writing stories. I had a wonderful teacher, Sister Mary Christopher. She used
to let me read my stories in front of the class. That was encouraging. Ever since I can remember, I have been writing something."

The atmosphere would change after Daisy married David Bedford, a black man, during August's teenage years.The family was moved to the predominantly white suburb of Hazelwood, where they were victims of intense castigation.

SILENT, BUT STRONG: Many people were disarmed by the fact that, despite having a burly physique, August Wilson was soft-spoken in demeanor.

Furious over charges that a paper he submitted on Napoleon Bonaparte did not consist solely of his own work, a fifteen-year old Wilson dropped out of high school and began what he often refers to as his real education in library. (He would read literature on the black experience, while also studying the black perspective on anthropology and sociology.)

TEACHING THE YOUTH: August Wilson lecturing at Syracuse.

Five years later, in 1965, he would truly begin to put the knowledge he had accrued into practice. He bought his first typewriter, moved in a home with many other black artists, and started writing poetry.

He soon had an experience that would change his outlook forever. A fellow artist bought a recording of a Malcolm X speech and asked Wilson to listen to it. The young artist was transfixed:

"I listened to that record, and that changed my life. There was a point in there where Malcolm was talking about, 'You're afraid to bleed.' There's a voice in the background on that record, when you listen to it,it says, 'We'll bleed.' And Malcolm says, 'You're afraid to bleed. You bled for the white man when you went to Korea.' I said 'alright.' I was that voice in the background. It wasn't me, but I could identify with that voice in the back."

THE MUSE: August Wilson says that listening to a Bessie Smith recording changed his artistic outlook.

Another recording has a major effect on the budding writer, that of blues singer Bessie Smith's "No One In Town Could Make A Sweet Jellyroll Like Mine”: "I put that on my turntable. I had never heard anything like that before. I recall listening to it 22 straight times. I kept listening to it. I suddenly realized,
'This is mine. This is me here.'"

COMMON, YET DISTINCT: August Wilson says that the work
of artist Romare Bearden taught art could be universal through the specific.

Finally, Wilson found further inspiration not in the oratorical realm, but in the visual arts, through the work of Romare Bearden. In an interview with the Paris Review, Wilson said, "One of the things that impressed me was that it lacked the sentimentality that one might have expected, but it was exciting and rich and fresh and full. When asked about his work, Bearden said, 'I try and explore, in terms of the life I know best, those things which are common to all cultures.' The life I know best is black American life and through Bearden, I realized that you could arrive at the universal through the specific."

IN UNISON: Above is "The Family" by Romare Bearden.

Applying Bearden's aesthetic to his own work, Wilson worked from the philosophy that all playwrights,regardless of ethnic background, dealt with the struggles. "When I sat down to write I realized I was sitting in the same chair as Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Henrik Ibsen, Amiri Baraka, and Ed Bullins."

Inspired by the messages found in the themes of pride and self-reliance found in the doctrine of the Nation of Islam, Wilson joined writer and teacher Rob Penny in 1968 and founded the Black Horizon on the Hill Theater in Pittsburgh, which operated for ten years.

WRITING ON THE WALL: Here, August Wilson is backed bythe notes that form his masterpieces.

In this venue, Wilson was able to produce his plays and refine his craft. He honed a style that would be influenced by the work of Amiri Baraka, a playwright whose work he produced at the Black Horizon, but would focus more on the inner turmoil of the black characters. (Wilson's work has been applauded, and maligned, for its emphasis on character introspection over dramatic catharsis (most of the time, pivotal confrontations occur off-stage, with the play's focus on how character's internalize the fallout from said conflict and struggle with which path to take next).

CATER TO THE PEOPLE: August Wilson believes that although all playwrights wrestle with the same dramatic conflicts in their writing, his work should speak directly to black people.

After getting reacquainted with friend Claude Purdy,St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre, Wilson moved to St. Paul Minnesota in 1978. He started off writing plays for
use in conjunctions with the exhibits at the Science Museum of Minnesota and later made contacts at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis.

Oddly enough, Wilson claims that it was only after he moved away from his native Pittsburgh that he was able to finally put the community of his youth into words. He started to use a method that, as off-kilter as it may seem, has been known to work for many writers: he began to let the characters themselves dictate their own progress.

WELL-EARNED ACCOLADES: August Wilson poses with the William Inge Award.

Wilson found good fortune when Jitney, one of his first plays, was accepted by the Playwrights' Center in 1982 and was well received. The play, set in a run down cab station set for demolition, marks what many people feel to be the beginning of the intensely dramatic style seen in his future works.

In part 2 of this profile, we will examine more of Mr. Wilson's work and its cultural impact.
To read more articles and interesting insights by the cultural analyst known as
Mr. Byron Lee a.k.a. Bleebus please visit his official blog @

The Season of Hope

At this time of the year, we usually get thoughts from everyday people regarding holiday plans. This time, however, we thought it would be good to spotlight those who have a bit more on their plate (those who give to others, those who have turned their life around, and those who are in a transition in life) in order to provide inspiration for others.

Callie Herd with noted historian Dr.
John Hope Franklin. To read interesting summary on "the meeting of the minds" please click on the following link:

HELPING OTHERS HELP THEMSELVES: Callie Herds' blog has been recognized for connecting people with information regarding scholarships, internships, and jobs.

Callie Herd is a blessed woman who believes in maximizing the quality of life. In speaking, the FedEx Information Technology Specialist repeatedly says that life is more than living "3 scores and 10" (70 years). She was inspired by the example of her World War II veteran father ("Even though he went through a lot of racism and prejudice, he still had that smiling face") and the mother who tirelessly took care of said father (along with Herd's five siblings) when he came back from the war severely disabled.

Her inspiration led her to get actively involved in community service, first through the Memphis Civil Rights Museum (there was a vast need for volunteers in the wake of author Alex Haley's death in 1992) and then through work with the Memphis Food Bank, where her citywide "Hunger Hurts" activities led to an exponential rise in the number of volunteers for the charity.

ANOTHER SUCCESS: Callie Herd with
Memphis radio personality Marlon "Nappy" Wilson at Herd's "Why Community Service?" banquet. Please click on the following link to read summary of "Why Community Service?" event:

The 2-time FedEx Volunteer of the Year eventually decided to turn her attention to the plight of single parents trying to find scholarship money for their children after she was able to obtain 1 million dollars in scholarships and offers for her own children. "It would not be right for me not to share this information," says Herd, "I am my brother's keeper." Her efforts resulted in the blog, a blog that has become so well known that it has been mentioned by syndicated writer Stanley Crouch, added to the blog roll of many national websites, and voted as a finalist for "Best Site for Single Parents" by Black Web Awards.

The busy Herd views Christmas as not only a time to relax, but as a time to reflect. "My father passed in August. We usually had Christmas dinner at his house. We're still going to have dinner at his house, and reminisce about the people we have lost and be thankful that we are blessed to still be here."

As for the future, Herd believes that volunteering may provide a silver lining in the overcast skies brought on by the recent Michigan State decision that has gradually scaled back the use of race-based scholarship awards. "[The children] will be looking for volunteer hours, but they will find hope and peace in helping that elderly person who doesn't have someone to read for them, or waiting with that person as they wait for someone to feed them. Our children will learn what it means to give back to their community, and, when they get into college, they can say, 'I'm not a quota, I'm a person, and I got in here because I was just as good as everyone else.'"

Like Ms. Herd, Tedarrell Muhammad also knows the value of giving. The fellow Tennessee native, born to a hard working mother, always had a knack for selling. "I used to cut people's lawns. The housing project I lived in had a lawn cutting service, but they would only cut lawns every three weeks. People in my project wanted their lawns to look clean." His desire to make more money led him to notice the large income his manager at one of his jobs always seemed to pull down. He found out the money came from drug dealing, and he was soon working under his boss.

The fast life came to an end when one of his partners was arrested, and, as a result, Tedarrell was indicted and ended up serving time. While in prison, he made a discovery that changed his life. He heard a recording of a speech made by Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. "I had never heard anyone speak like that."

The Nation would continue to play a role in his life once he was released. After being disillusioned with his first post-prison work experience, he worked for a plumbing company ("I used to scuba dive into swimming pools and change their pipes.") One day, he unexpectedly walked into a new occupation: "I changed a pipe, and I thought that it was a sewage pipe. I showed it to my boss, and he said 'People drink out of that.'" His boss also told Tedarrell about Everlasting Spring Water ( a bottle water company affiliated with the Nation. Tedarrell was skeptical, but he later agreed to learn more about it. He soon started his own branch of the company and, with the help of his wife, Deidre, who holds a MBA, and the assistance of former NBA player Larry Johnson,

SUCCESS THROUGH SUPPORT: Tedarrell Muhammad says, "We should empower each other and support each other."

REFRESHING: Larry Johnson having a drink of
Everlasting Spring water.

IN BUSINESS: Tedarrell Muhammad credits former NBA
player Larry Johnson with doing much work to take
Everlasting Spring Water to the next level.

he was able to make it grow to a multi-million dollar operation. He now has warehouses in Memphis, Chicago, and Dallas, and he is looking to soon have plants in Baltimore and California. (He also plans to start distribution here in the St. Louis Area. "I'm looking for people who are willing and able to work to be successful," says Muhammad.)

Muhammad credits his faith in Islam, especially the tenets of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, with his success, professionally and personally. "I don't take anything for granted anymore. I realize the power of God. Without him, we are nothing; with him, we are everything. I know that if you work for God, he is duly bound to bless you."

Muhammad also views black entrepreneurship and black support as the keys to the advancement of both the black community and of society as a whole. "We should empower each other and support each other. That is what we are here to do: empower ourselves, our families, our people, and then, the world."

ON TOP: Tedarrell Muhammad has thrived through his
work with Everlasting Spring Water

With regard to this holiday season, Muhammad, whose company donated water to a Native American reservation in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, says, "We believe in giving all year round. We donate and help people out all year round. I view [the season] mainly as an opportunity to spend time with family."

Andre Anderson also cherishes time with family. Anderson is known for his fashionable wardrobe, his effortless way of making lasting impressions with strangers, and his occasionally ribald sense of humor (which always contains heartfelt advice). Very few people know, however, what this man has been though.

His demeanor had roots in his childhood identity as the class clown. He was always able to draw attention to himself quickly. However, he was soon engaging in drug abuse, which led to criminal activity to feed his habit, which led to incarceration.

At his sentencing, Anderson had a thought that forced him to see the error of his ways. "I thought of my mother being in a casket before I got released. As me and the other guys were getting loaded into the bullpen, I prayed and asked 'Lord, please don't let that happen.'"

From the moment he entered prison, Anderson was a model citizen. The road to making the institution see the method behind his madness was rather difficult: "The facility that I was in did not have anger management or drug rehabilitation programs. I did not want to leave that institution not knowing anything more than I did when I went in, so I wrote grievances to state representatives. I would get a violation and get locked into solitary confinement for 30, 60, 90 days, but I got so many positive responses from the representatives that [the prison staff] had to respect me." Anderson eventually received recognition for doing work to unite prisoners across racial and gang affiliation lines.

Anderson credits his Christian faith for bringing him through his incarceration. "By me realizing that Jesus died in order for me to live, I realized that there was a better way. I started studying and educating myself."

Anderson says that this time of year gives him the opportunity to spend time with his large, loving, extended family. "Even when I was doing wrong, they never turned their back on me. I can't let them know enough how much I appreciate their love." Giving his mother special acknowledgement, he says, "My mother is a women who is strong. When I was chemically dependent, I was not only bringing myself down, I was bringing her down, as well. But when I was out in the streets, she was praying for me. God took all of those prayers and saved me. I give my mother her flowers today, while she's living."

To find more insightful and well written articles from the cultural analyst Mr. Byron Lee a.k.a. Bleebus please check out his official blog @

Lawrence Otis Graham: Putting A Stamp On History.

Putting It All Out In The Open: Lawrence Otis Graham
hopes to get people talking with his books.

A Limelight Exclusive

By Byron Lee

In "The Socialite: The True Story of America's First
Black Dynasty," Lawrence Otis Graham focuses on
Senator Blanche Bruce, the first black person to serve
a full term in the U.S. Senate Graham is also
launching a campaign to get the senator recognized
with a U.S. Stamp.

Lawrence Otis Graham is as calm and collected in our
one-on-one interview as he is energetic and witty
during his public talk. In either form, he is always
engaging. Today, the lawyer, author, academic, and
cultural critic is at Left Bank Books (399 N. Euclid)
to promote his latest book, "The Senator and the
Socialite: The True Story of America's First Black
(480 pages, Harper Collins) a book that
centers on the life and times of the Bruce family, a
saga which starts with Blanche Bruce, a slave who
becomes the first black person to serve a full term in
the United States Senate and his marriage to educator
Josephine Wilson, someone concerned with cultivating
an image of black aristocracy.

Graduate of Harvard Law, attorney, author, academic,
and cultural critic Lawrence Otis Graham has always
stirred the pot with his books. From exposing the
racism in a
Connecticut country club in "Member of the
Club" to pulling back the curtain of upper class black
society in "Our Kind of People," his works have always
had people talking.Please visit for more info.

Graham is fascinated with the issue of bias, a
fixation that began when his noticed the struggle his
parents (Richard, a real estate developer, and Betty,
a psychologist) had when purchasing a house in
Westchester County in New York. (Although the
neighborhood opposed the family moving into the house,
The Graham's were able to remain in the house through
the help of a Rabbi from a local synagogue).

Feeding the young Graham's desire to fight for others
were the methods his parents used to ensure that he
and his brother, Richard (who is now an orthodonist)
gave back to their community. "My parents aggressively
worked to make sure we were dedicated to giving back
to those who made it possible for us to be who we
were. We had to give a percentage of our Christmas
gifts to the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund."

A desire to help his community was also instilled
inside the Graham brothers through subtle methods no
doubt rooted in the experience their mother gained in
her vocation. "Another thing my parents would do was
that they would put pictures of people such as
[Chairman of the NAACP and noted activist, politician,
and academic] Julian Bond and [first black woman
elected to Congress and one time Presidental
candidate] Shirley Chisholm on the refrigerator. As a
five or six year old, I didn't know who these people
were, but I knew that they were important." The
children also supported black leaders in a more direct
way. "Whenever my family would spend the summer in
Memphis with relatives, my mother made sure that we
were on the corner handing out leaflets whenever
Harold Ford, Sr. was running for Senate. The first
time I was involved in a campaign as a child was when
we were passing out leaflets for Shirley Chisholm when
she was running in Brooklyn. Even if we [as children]
didn't understand what they were doing, my parents
wanted us to know that there were people out there
fighting for us, and that we needed to pay tribute to

This curiosity with bias and a desire to discover it
on all fronts was taken to an extreme after Graham was
told in several interviews with high-ranking female
executives that, even for them, the glass ceiling was
hard to crack due to the networking that took place in
country clubs that were difficult for women to get
access to.

Graham is also the author of such books as "The Best
Companies for Minorities" and "Proversity"--two
important guides on diversity in the workplace.

To discover what really went on at these clubs, Graham
left a $105,000 a year job as a lawyer and went
undercover as a bus boy in an all-white Connecticut
country club. The result, a New York magazine cover
story that was eventually expanded into the book
"Member of the Club" (1995) set off a fury within the
exclusive community exposed in its pages. "There were
people who recommended that I be fired from my law
firm, and my wife and I hired around the clock
security guards for about a month, because the people
of Greenwich, Connecticut were very powerful, very
rich, and very angry. There was this hope that the
witness to all of this, me, would not be a reliable
person, but because I had tapes, letters, and notes,
it was clear that these were some very bigoted people.
At the same time, these people were community leaders,
a couple of them were Fortune 500 executives."

Gracing the cover of
New York Magazine in 1992, Graham left his New York law firm and went undercover as a busboy to expose racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism at an all-white country club in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Graham feels that his expose drove home the point that
is shared by many people who navigate the labyrinth of
corporate america: "My question was this: 'When you're
in the office on Monday, how can you say that you
don't see color, gender, race, and ethnicity at work,
but descriminate on the weekends?' My argument was that
no one is that schizophrenic. If you are a racist on
the weekends, you're a racist at work."

It was his next work, however, that would prove to be,
at least in his own community, even more
controversial. 1999's "Our Kind Of People: Inside
America's Black Upper Class" discussed the families in
the upper echelon of high class black american
society. The reaction to the book was seemingly evenly

"Some people were upset because they felt that a

discussion of class was not a discussion black people
should be having, but there are class structures in
every race and ethnicity; other people were upset that
their families were not included in the book."

Yet, Graham also found that, underneath the
dissonance, was another feeling: genuine
officiousness: "I noticed that there was a great
hunger for knowledge about these organizations. People
wanted to know how they started, who founded them,
what were the person's reasons for starting them."
Graham also notes that many of these dynasties started
out not out of personal arrogance, but communal
necessity. "It was not someone setting out to have the
first black funeral home; it was the fact that black
people could not have the bodies of their deceased
treated at white funeral homes."

Like his previous works, "The Senator and The
Socialite" uncovers a area that has not truly been
explored. Furthermore, the release is extremely timely
in that it is being released in an election year that
has the highest number of blacks running for political
office than there have been at nearly any other time
since the reconstruction.

Getting the Stamp of Approval: Please learn how you can be a part of history by clicking here.

In addition to promoting the book, Graham has another
mission, that, if accomplished, could make the kind of
history that Graham is fond of researching: Graham is
trying to garner support to make Blanche Bruce the
first black elected official on a U.S. stamp in the
U.S. Postal Service's 159 years. "[The fact that a
black elected official has never been put on a U.S.
stamp]is a sad statement because there are many white
elected officials who appear on stamps, whether they
are presidents, governors, senators, members of the
House of Representatives, even confederates [Jefferson
Davis]. The first elected woman senator [Hattie
Caraway] and the first hispanic american senator
[Dennis Chavez] both have a stamp, but the first black
senator has no stamp, and no black elected official
has a stamp. I think [that a stamp] is an important
way to remember and commemorate a great leader."
Graham has asked people to go to his website,, where they can click on
the "Senator Bruce Postal Stamp Project" link and
either leave their name or their e-mail address. "My
plan," says Graham, "is to deliver all of these names
to the Postmaster General to try to get the Post
Office to realize that there are many other people who
believe that this is the right thing to do."

To bring Bruce's struggle as a senator (representing
Mississippi) into sharper relief, Graham points out
Bruce's battle to earn the respect of his peers, going
above and beyond the call of duty in both his personal
and professional life. "[The establishment] looked
for credibility [to validate his presence]in other
ways, and unfortunately for them, that meant looking
at what his stand was going to be on other issues
[support of Chinese immigrants], how he conducted his
social life, how he conducted his private life, where
he lived, who he was married to and used all those as
keys to tell them 'Well, this is someone who deserves
respect.' It's unfortunate, but that's how they looked
at him."

ABOVE AND BEYOND: In order to earn the respect of his
peers, Senator Blanche Bruce had to go above and
beyond the call of duty in both his personal and
professional life.

Graham believes that many black politicians are being
held to this same standard, and that this is the
reason that, as there was one black senator in 1874,
there is only one in 2006 [Barack Obama of Illinois].
"There is this presumption that if you are a black
elected offical that you are going to only care about
issues that are particularly of interest to black
people, that your only focus will be on the death
penalty, or welfare issues, or affirmative action
issues, when, in fact, there are so many other
economic and social issues that face senators and

Graham says that there is another reason that there
are few black legislators. "America finds that
threatening." In mentioning that the majority of
blacks on U.S. stamps are athletes or entertainers,
Graham adds, "An athlete or entertainer is not going
to have the power or the authority to render decisions
that are going to change the average person's life."

Graham believes that this fear of and disbelief in the
ability of blacks to serve in government positions is
rooted in a narrow definition of blackness held by
both blacks and whites, and that this narrow
definition exists because of a paucity of positive
stories that reflect an inspirational side of the
black experience.

Roscoe Conkling Bruce was the only son of Blanche and
Josephine. Wealthy, handsome, and smart, Roscoe broke
Harvard's racial barriers as President of Harvard

"I lot of it has to do with the fact that there are
very few stories being told about the history of black
success, whether it is black business people, black
political people, or black intellectuals. We don't
have any shows like 'The Cosby Show' anymore. There
are not many intact black families on television with
a father who is present, where the kids go to school
and use correct diction. Also, many of the stories
about blacks are being told by non-blacks, who may not
have the sensitivity to care whether or not a
character is a positive portrayal, or if it is more
stereotyping and blaxploitation."

FOR HERSELF, OR HER PEOPLE?: Josephine Wilson, wife of
Senator Blanche Bruce, was praised in many circles for
being a wife who supported her husband's career while
also remaining determined to resume her own once he
got settled. However, she was also criticized for
being someone who was overly concerned with putting on
the airs of the aristocracy.
Graham concludes our time together by skillfully
comparing the plight faced by the Bruces in the late
1800's and early 1900's to the struggle faced by
today's upwardly mobile blacks. "They were in two
worlds. Even though they had wealth like the whites of
their time and they were able to buy themselves into
certain situations, such as having their son [Roscoe,
Sr.] attend Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard, they
were still not allowed to eat at nice restaurants,
because Washington was a southern, segregated town.
Today's blacks are between two worlds. If a couple
wants a house in the nicest part of Clayton or Ladue,
they can get the house if they have the money, but
will they be excepted by their neighbors? Will their
children be invited to sleepovers and playdates? Also,
when the family goes to mostly black neighorhoods,
will they be excepted by the community? Leslie and
Anita Bond, the Graves family [owners of Black
Enterprise Magazine] and the Johnson family [owners of
Ebony Magazine] are some of the couples that have been
able to pull this off. They are respected in the white
community, but also loved in the black community."

Even though the subject matter in his books and essays
may put some people off, Graham hopes to start
discussion in hopes that people will both express
themselves and learn something new. "I try to persuade
people that it is better to know about everything than
to just shut down and not talk about certain things.
Let there be a dialogue. Everyone has an opinion about
these issues. I think we solve some problems when we
talk about them."

For more writings and unique insights by the cultural analyst known as Mr. Byron Lee a.k.a. Bleebus please check out his official blog @

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Win a 100$

To register go to above website and enter id #: 2201411

Lamar Hunt's legacy proves why Buck O'Neil should be in Baseball Hall of Fame…

The late great Buck O'Neil
Tha Artstorian Reports…

When I heard about the passing of Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt one of American Sports greatest pioneers and ambassadors in general and football in particular, one thought immediately came to mind…Buck O'Neil should have gotten into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame…Although both men came from different backgrounds and circumstances their passion for their sports made them more alike than unalike...

Both men made their names in the Kansas City Sports scene which is hollowed and sacred ground in terms of American Sports history…Many of America's sports pioneers and legends such as Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, Satchel Paige and yes Mr. Buck O'Neil got their breaks and earned their fame playing for the legendary Kansas City Monarchs of the great Negro Leagues…By the way the Negro Leagues as we now know it today was officially started during February 13 and 14, 1920 in meetings headed by legendary Negro Leagues player, businessman and visionary Mr. Rube Foster in you guess it Kansas City (which is the official home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum)…J.L. Wilkinson owner of the Kansas City Monarchs and the only white owner in Negro Leagues baseball was the first person to use lights in a baseball night game…Other Kansas City sports greats and illuminaries include Len Dawson, Bo Jackson, George Brett, the late great Derrick Thomas, the late great Coach Hank Stram who won Mr. Hunt's beloved Kansas City Chiefs' only Superbowl championship, and Marty Schottenheimer among many others too numerous to mention in this article…

Both Buck O'Neil and Lamar Hunt advocated integration and giving Black ball players of their respective sports their proper chances and due…Buck O' Neil became the first black coach and talent scout (Chicago Cubs) in Major League Baseball history and was responsible for discovering future baseball greats and hall of famers such as Lou Brock and Ernie Banks…Lamar Hunt was among the first football owners in either league (American Football League and National Football League) to pursue and sign black football players…As a matter of fact Lamar Hunt was the first to actively pursue black football players at historically Black colleges such as Eddie Robinson's Grambling University…

Both men demanded through their goodwill and persistence that their respective leagues be recognized as equals by their peers and rivals…One of the main reasons why there are a significant number of Negro League Ball Players as well as the only woman and other contributors in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is because of the true singular and Herculean efforts of one Mr. Buck O'Neil who basically barnstormed the country for many years telling stories about his playing days as well as well known and not so well known facts about some of baseball's in general and Negro Leagues' in particular greatest players and contributors to audiences totally unaware or eager to learn more…Mr. O'Neil's master storytelling and sagery was immortalized for all times through documentary film maker Ken Burns' Baseball…That was when I first witnessed the magic of Mr. Buck O'Neil as a 15 year old teenager on public broadcasting television almost twelve years ago…Lamar it could be argued was just as instrumental in getting the American Football League (now the American Football Conmference or AFC of the NFL) recognized by the NFL just as Joe Namath's guaranteed and eventual win against the Baltimore Colts or the dominance of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s...Lamar Hunt, a proud Dallas,Texas native is also responsible in creating the opportunities for the creation of the Dallas Cowboys, one of the most loved and hated football franchises of all times (which oddly and quiet as it kept, the NFL did not initially want a team in Dallas)…He was also instrumental in the formation of the Chicago Bulls NBA franchise, Major League Soccer and popularizing tennis throughout the U.S….Lamar Hunt's beloved Kansas City Chiefs played the first Superbowl against the legendary Vince Lombardi and the Greenbay Packers…Mr. Hunt with his uncanny ability to create and seize the moment even coined the phrase "Superbowl"…Eventually the Chiefs won their first and so far only Superbowl against the Minnesota Vikings in 1970…

Both men were considered father figures by fans, players, and everybody else they encountered…When people speak of Buck O' Neil or Lamar Hunt they often speak about their accessibility or willingness to be available to people they cared about and vice versa...Although I never met these men I know by those that they influenced that their virtues far outweighed their vices…

I also feel whereas Mr. Hunt died of natural causes that Mr. Buck O'Neil died from a broken heart…Lamar Hunt's vision was a dream fulfilled while Buck O'Neil's was a dream deferred…

There's really no excuse why the late great Mr. O'Neil (who was just honored Friday December 15,2006, by President Bush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously, the highest honor that a U.S. civilian can be awarded) isn't enshrined in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame…In a game where greatness is measured by number and stats, his contributions were and are immeasurable much like Mr. Hunt's… Many would argue that he wasn't a standout baseball player, but what he was more importantly than that was a standout humanitarian whose generosity knew no boundaries or limitations…Mr. O' Neil didn't play or promote baseball he was baseball…Mr. Lamar Hunt who never played a down of professional football let alone college football was able to be inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame just twelve years after he start getting involved with the NFL based on his overall innovative contributions and promotion of the now most popular sport in America…

America owes a debt to men and women with uncompromising vision and passion…Thank GOD for Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Hunt.

To learn more about Mr. Buck O'Neil click on the following link:

To learn more about Mr. Lamar Hunt click on the following link:

Friday, December 15, 2006

The National Conference For Media Reform Jan. 12-14,2007 in Memphis,Tn

The National Conference for Media Reform


Activists, media makers, educators, journalists, policymakers and concerned citizens are gathering in Memphis,Tn this January to mobilize for better media.

The National Conference for Media Reform is for anyone who is concerned about the state of our media and committed to working for change. This energizing weekend will present ideas and strategies for winning the fight for better media and connect you with thousands of media reformers from across the nation.

If you are interested in volunteering and earning 50$ for your services in order to be a part of history please click here.

Please check out the speakers' list to see what I mean.

Where there's a Will (Smith) there's a way.

“Happyness” and the Will
by faisal X tavernier

“I believe in God! I believe in Destiny! Not destiny in the sense that all our actions are predetermined, but destiny in the sense of our ability to choose who we are and who we are supposed to be…. That’s why I go light on my vices.”

Will Smith, Born to Reign

Beneath his charming yet sometimes goofy smile and the Hollywood façade of special effects and the mountains of money he’s acquired, there is a simple philosophy that guides Will Smith. It’s the same mystery treasure in him that has steered great men of history. We all have it, but very few learn to ever control, master and impose it on the world to get out of life what we want. That mystery force is what separates us from the beasts of the field. Mr. Smith was blessed to be named after it. It is called the Will. By exploiting his namesake in as many ways as there are definitions for the word “will,” Mr. Smith has become one of the most recognized individuals on the planet earth. Above that and to his great credit, he has walked a path through the blasphemous world of Hiphop and entertainment for two decades squeaky clean and scandal-free while making people smile and feel good.

Will Smith is one of those rare individuals blessed at birth with that inborn light of faith possessed by prophets who are raised to show the world the power of the human “will.” It’s that power that allows him to believe in himself and force Will’s “will to be done on earth.” How else can a Black kid out of Philly (America’s most impoverished city in 2006) with a silly grin and jerky demeanor charm racist Hollywood into opening the door to become the top international actor in the world commanding $20 million (and counting) a movie. He’s just launched a new deal with the multi-billion dollar Indian Bollywood industry to make and release films in India.

Might I mention, Smith was the first to be receive a Grammy award for a rap song in 1989. Rap was a new and incomprehensible art form to them white-bred Grammy folks back then. So, the rap category was pushed off of the live telecast and was scheduled to air during the pre-ceremonies. In militant fashion, Will Smith (yup, the Fresh Prince) and a slew of other rap artists boycotted the awards show and Smith sacrificed his performance slot on the internationally televised show to express his outrage over the Grammy folks’ failure to acknowledge Hiphop.

Will Smith’s name is a brand synonymous with “cha-ching.” His unrelenting drive to be the best at what he does has made him a one man box office blockbuster and arguably Hiphop’s greatest ambassador to the world. While chumming around with Oprah Winfrey on her show, he leisurely hinted at his ability to become the President of the United States in the future. Keep it real, if Will Smith ran for President, who has more money, fame or love of the people to beat him? (Will, please hush up before you “get got” before you get going.)

Smith teamed with Nelson Mandela and became AIDS ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Foundation where he’s vowed to play a critical role in reaching young people in South Africa. The horror of AIDS is wiping out millions of Africans across-the-board. Smith and Mandela have been spotted on numerous occasions wearing black shirts bearing the number 46664; Mandela’s prison number during his 27-years of imprisonment for resisting the racist apartheid rule of South Africa’s white minority.

In March of 2002, Smith said that his perception of Hollywood changed after meeting Mandela. "Mandela told me that in prison, he was only allowed to watch one movie every six months and he looked forward to it more than anything because he saw hope in cinema,” said Smith. “It revealed the worst human tragedies and the greatest human possibilities. He told me never to underestimate the power of what I do - to make people laugh, cry and think," said Mr. Smith of his iconic mentor Mandela (who went from a prison cell to be president.)

One of Smith’s most popular songs was Miami, a fantasy island-ish ode to the third poorest city in America. Ironically, under pressure from Miami’s Cuban exile community over Mandela’s relationship to Cuban Leader Fidel Castro, the city formally rejected and snubbed Mandela’s world tour after his release from that hell hole (prison) in South Africa.

The word Tao (or Dao) is an ancient word which defines the secret to success and fulfillment in life is to renounce one’s own (personal) way and follow the Great Way. Wise man Lao Tsu taught that this method required ‘non-action’; not inaction, but rather a harmonization of one’s personal will with the natural harmony and justice of Nature. This is the Tao of Will!

On a beautiful Thursday afternoon we sat with Will Smith at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to discuss life, philosophy and his new movie the “Pursuit of Happyness”; a truly universal story of courage, hope and uplift. The movie co-stars his son Jaden Smith (son of Jada). What we found in those few moments together was a man whose phenomenal success in life was tied to a very simple belief wrapped in a whole lot of faith.
The real Chris Gardner courtesy of Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
The true life story of Chris Gardner which is chronicled in the Pursuit of Happyness is the epitome of the American dream. The familiar title is taken from the very document that birthed this nation, the Declaration of independence. “After seeing the 20/20 piece on Chris Gardner” said Smith, “what resonated with me is the principle that this country is founded upon. The idea of the poor, tired and huddled masses who can come here with nothing and create a life. When I looked at the story,” says Smith, “this is the only country that Chris Gardner is possible; where someone could have an idea and be willing to endure to see it come to life. However foolish or naïve it might be to have that type of an idea, it is the basis for why this country works. This is the promise of what America is supposed to be and I wanted to make a movie about that promise in a time when we need to turn that promise into practice. The promise is beautiful, but sometimes our practice isn’t as beautiful as the promise.”

At the core of this love story (a man in love with his child and his vision) is the greatest life lesson we all must learn. Unfortunately, most people go to the grave blind never believing in themselves and realizing their power.

That belief in “self” exemplifies the similarities between Will Smith and Chris Gardner, says Smith. “I think we both have that same naïve belief. I don’t want to get too metaphysical but there is a film entitled “What the Bleep Do We Know,” says Will Smith. “In that movie, there is an idea that things exist based on your acknowledgement of the existence of that thing. So, a barrier is there if you believe that a barrier is there. If you don’t believe that a barrier is there, then it literally is not there. That’s an idea that I have never been able to put words to, but I’ve always felt it. I’ve always felt that where I am and where I am going and how to get there is COMPLETELY in my control. There’s no racism that can hold me back. There’s no army that can hold me back. If I decide I want something, I will demand that the universe go in that direction. It’s a bizarre concept. It’s probably naïve, but your parents are always telling you that ‘you can do anything’ and it’s a cliché that we hear a lot. It’s faith! I believe that if I follow the rules of God or Allah, Jehovah or Buddha or whoever you follow, I believe that if I fall in synch with the rules, there is a certain amount of command over the universe that I can have. “

Acknowledging the privileged position from which he says this, he goes on, “It’s easy for me to say that in the situation that I am in now, but I’ve always believed that. With someone like Chris Gardner to lay on the floor of a bathroom of a subway station homeless with his child and experience that ultimate parental failure and still be able to wake up in the morning and regenerate that great belief in himself (and go on to become a millionaire success story); now that’s THE THING. When I look at Chris Gardner, Muhammad Ali or Nelson Mandela; people in the face of what felt like the entire universe against them, yet they still stand strong with their chest out and make it go the way they desire it to go is a magic human power. I believe this movie illustrates the beauty and magic of that power. That’s the reason why I chose to do this movie,” said Will the philosopher. That philosophical belief coupled with the religious practice of running and reading to fine tune the body and mind keeps this man in Black continuously shattering limitations.

In one of The Pursuit of Happyness’ greatest moments, Smith/Gardner chastises his young son for putting too much thought in becoming a pro basketball player. In a moment of clarity, he realizes he’s just killed his son’s dream and apologetically says, “Son, when you got a dream, you better protect it. People think that cause they can't do it, you can't.” It’s pearls of wisdom like this that make this movie so important to see for all men who crave a better life; especially Black men.

The young Mr. Smith (Jaden) delivers a solid performance reminiscent of little Raven Symone when she was doing her thing on the Cosby show. “I didn’t exactly bring my son on,” says Smith. “He saw Jada and I reading the script one night and he was laying in the bed with us and said ‘tell me the story daddy.’ So I told him the story and he said, ‘I can do that.’ I said ‘Really?’ So Jada took him to the auditions and when he got down to the last 10 kids, I was like ‘Shoot, I might need to start paying attention.’ The director loved him. He was the best! He’s got a special gift, It’s just really good semen,” he jokes. “Nah that was inappropriate,” he says. “As much as I want to take credit for it, he came here (on the planet) with it. My grandmother used to say, ‘He’s got an old soul.’”

In describing the process that allowed the father and son team to work together Smith states, “He prepared on his own with Jada while I went away and prepared myself. What we decided was that on the set, Jada was his mother and I was his co-star. So, if there were things about the scene, he and I would deal with it. If there were other issues, things he was dealing with emotionally, Jada would handle that. It was hard for the first two weeks, then one day the director Gabriele Muccino said, ‘Will, you worry about your performance and I will worry about Jaden’s.’ You know, that’s my son, so I’m in the scene telling him ‘Son, pay attention.’ You know I want him to win so I’m working really hard on him and that deteriorated my performance. So we got to the point where I really entrusted the director to work with him and I focused on me,” said Will.

The turning point for Will Smith in playing Chris Gardner occurred when he went to that bathroom in Oakland that Gardner and his son slept in that first night that they were homeless. “When I walked in that bathroom, I got it. When we shot the scene and I had my son on my lap, I understood what he must have been thinking and feeling and I was embued with the essence of Chris Gardner and I started boo-hoo crying.”

In a time when homelessness and housing scandals are at an all time high, the question is raised, “Can this movie change people?” Smith says, “Well anytime you create a piece of art you hope that it has inspirational qualities. At the end of the day, for some people it will just be a movie. But as an artist, you hope that it sparks someone and reminds them of the idea of who they are supposed to be. For me, it brought an understanding of the path to homelessness and I realize how close a lot of people live to homelessness; like two bad breaks away from being in Chris Gardner’s situation. Chris plays Reverend Cecil Williams in the movie and he’s one of the most knowledgeable people on the plight of homelessness. He makes two really good points. One is the fact that there is almost always drug use. That is the hope killer! That is the most difficult to get around. If someone isn’t in the right frame of mind, it’s difficult to lead them to a situation where they can get a leg up. The other difficulty is when homelessness comes down through the generations. Meaning that if one person in the family gets a place, then you always have a place to go and lay your head or get something to eat. (That somehow robs ambition). He said that it’s more an issue with the generations than with the individual. I asked him (Gardner) what is the answer,” says Smith. “This is a man who has given more than 25 years of his life to this cause and he says that the answer is always with people. It’s not with dumping money in a system. It’s with people who have an idea to fix it and then people have to make it happen,” said the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Of course we had to know whether or not the Rubik’s Cube scene was real or pre-fixed special effects. Smith replied, “I can do a Rubik’s cube in under 2 minutes and 15 seconds.”

Will Smith is a great example for us all. We can look at him and his life with star struck eyes and come up with a million reasons why he can and we can’t! But in reality, we all have will power to be what we want to be. What will you train your will to do for you? The Pursuit of Happiness is everyone’s story!

Visit the official the Pursuit of Happyness website

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