Archive for November, 2012

Reflections on My Trip to the Motherland

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Links, Black Men, Black Men In America, Guest Columnists with tags , , on November 26, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By David Miller

I have vivid childhood memories of learning about life in Africa by reading National Geographic. As I’d leaf through the magazine seeing pictures of beautiful people, an amazing landscape and wild animals roaming the plains, I got a chance to learn about my ancestral homeland while escaping the harsh realities of urban life in the 70s and 80s.

Some 30 years later, in what can best be described as the trip-of-my-lifetime, I was blessed with a chance to visit the Africa I’d known only from National Geographic pages as well as TV and newspaper accounts. In September, I joined a small cohort of writers and professionals on a mission to sow seeds in the lives of children and families in the Eastern Region of Ghana. A West African nation most known for its first President, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana borders Cote d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast) to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east and The Gulf of Guinea o the south. Its population exceeds 24 million.

I was in The Motherland to participate in LEAP for Ghana, a multi-phase educational sustainability project founded by Virginia-based poet and writer Kwame Alexander. My group worked primarily with Juanita Britton of Washington, D.C., who has been installed as Queen Mother Nana Botwe Adobe II of the Konko Village. Our work included literacy training for teachers, literacy activities for children in kindergarten through eighth grades, donating school supplies and organizing and running a girl’s leadership conference.

Suffice it to say our work in Ghana was simultaneously difficult and rewarding. Most importantly to me, it shed light on just how much Africans need the skills, innovation and resources of African-Americans. Our comrades in Ghana are resilient, smart and possess a tremendous work ethic; however, the country as a whole struggles with condensed poverty, inadequate infrastructure and a dearth of resources. In Ghana, we worked daily with about 200 children ages 3 to 14. We engaged them in story time, mostly with the younger children, and worked on writing poetry and short stories with the older children. The challenges I witnessed firsthand in Ghana mirror, in some respects, the challenges plaguing many urban centers in the United States. The difference however, as I see it, is in Ghana there is an unyielding sense of personal responsibility to rise above dismal circumstances, including poverty and scarce educational resources. In Ghana, the children are eager to learn and want to be in school. Here in the U.S., particularly in urban areas, many U.S. children are chomping at the bit to reach 16 so they can drop out of high school, though they have absolutely no clue what they’ll do and sadly fail to realize there’s just no way they’ll make it in today’s global society without education.

The illiteracy rate in Ghana is 60 percent, and most children, especially females, don’t get past the ninth grade. Needless to say, Ghana, like many African countries, is experiencing enormous academic challenges. In the village of Konko, where most of our work was focused, not one student had reached high school in the past 10 years – attributable, in part, to students’ inability to pass a comprehensive examination and to cover annual tuition costs.

I was amazed by the high level of resiliency among Ghana’s school children, despite the numerous challenges they faced. I witnessed a thirst for education and knowledge that I reluctantly admit I have not seen, consistently, in school children in the Western World. It was refreshing to see children, particularly young children, so eager to learn. Likewise, I was impressed by their awareness that knowledge is power.

Each morning we had the opportunity to teach children and to learn from them, their parents and their Ghanaian instructors. Spending time with children who exhibited an unparalleled work ethic and drive to master academic principles was a rich and profound experience for me. I was also struck by how their teachers created engaging learning opportunities without the resources enjoyed by teachers in Western classrooms. Trust me when I tell you there were no computers or microscopes. And while U.S. teachers complain about overcrowded classrooms – justifiably so in most instances – try three children to a desk! Even so, the level of excitement and curiosity over teaching and learning was touching to watch.

Now that I’m back in my native Baltimore, I realize just how deeply I long to return to The Motherland to continue trying to help improve academic resources for Ghana’s children. Since returning from Africa, I’ve walked school hallways and seen African-American males with sagging pants and no books in their hands. I’ve also driven throughout the city and noticed far too many brothers selling or using drugs on street corners. Before going to Africa those scenes were hard to take. Now they make me nauseous.

My pilgrimage to Ghana heightened my global awareness of the plight of children. While I recognize the historical challenges in black and brown communities in the United States, my passion has compelled me to focus more globally. Early next year I plan to return to Ghana to continue the work I and my colleagues started. It is not just something about which I’m thinking. It is something I will do.

Spending more than 20 years fighting to support poor families and to improve failing schools in the United States has taken an emotional toll on me. I haven’t given up on our children or U.S. schools, but I know it will be good for me to concentrate my energies in another region of the world for a change. African-American children in the U.S. need a lot of help. No doubt. And the neighborhoods in some of our inner cities, where many of our children are reared in single-parent homes, often resemble war zones. But even a U.S. child living in the most dire circumstances is a gazillion times better off than the average African child. For that reason, I pledge to continue trying to support my African brothers and sisters. And I sincerely hope this commentary will inspire at least one person reading it to also make a pledge to invest in The Motherland.

David Miller is an author and social entrepreneur who focuses on youth development. Miller is also a member of LEAP for Ghana, an effort to build sustainable educational efforts for school-age children in that West African nation. Visit for more information on my work.


Battling BET: Knuckle Up T. J. Holmes and Join The Rest of Us

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America with tags , , , , on November 24, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By Gary A. Johnson

Black Entertainment Television (BET) is a mess.  I’ve been saying it for years.  Once a network with promise, is simply a network that lost it’s way.  No GPS can seem to get this network back on the map of relevance.  I’m telling you, BET should stand for Blacks Embarrassing Themselves.  Dr. Boyce Watkins, and our friends at Your Black World have a “must read” article on BET and their talk show host T. J. Holmes.

Check out this article by Dr. Boyce and the T. J. Holmes interview.  Am I the only one who is bothered by this network?

You can also read:

Bullying and The Truth: Part One

Posted in Barack Obama, Black Interests, Latino Interests with tags , , on November 24, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By Mike Ramey

A few years back, one of the best ways to liven up a divorce custody case would be for one parent to ‘declare’ that the other parent had ‘done’ something to the children. The one who had dropped the nuke–in many cases–were not going to get custody in the first place. The rationale–kick over the card table so that one could/would get their way by judicial decree. Never mind who got hurt, or whether or not the other parent would have been the better parent. The ‘nuking’ party wanted their way…and pretty much got it, via legal ‘bullying’. Thanks to no-fault divorce and joint custody agreements, this weapon has been pretty much neutralized, but not totally erased from society.


To me, a bully is one who tries to get their way ‘over’ another person by any means in their ‘kit bag’. They can use threats. They can use manipulation. They can use force. A true bully is easy to spot and is usually a person who is trying to get their way over another person. Institutions can ‘bully’ their participants. Bosses can ‘bully’ their employees. Co-workers can ‘bully’ each other–or entire workplaces. Spouses can ‘bully’ spouses. Single folks can ‘bully’ those with whom they’d like to date or marry. Countries or nations can bully ‘weaker’ nations.

Let’s not be fooled. TRUE bullying is about power and control. The cocktail of selfishness. In our ‘app’ era though, bullying is rapidly being used to form a ‘cottage industry’ and take dollars from taxpayers while increasing political/social/sexual preference power for the socially selfish. This is just another ‘issue’ that is being manipulated to further ‘silence’ possible public dissent against those who want to ‘flaunt’ their rebellion against social norms.  Of couse, the social ‘victims’ tend to forget one thing…they often demand that the very people who have the guts to stand up to their foolishness ‘must’ clean up their self-destructive behavior–after running its course.


By now, many have heard of the incident out of Wisconsin where a female TV news anchor was called obese by a viewer. Furthermore, the complainer made his views known on a FB page that belonged to the woman’s husband–who also is an anchor at the same TV station. After seeing the publicity photos of the woman in question, I’d have to side with the complainer. The truth is the truth…and it was amazing how many people came to the defense of the female anchor. Sadly, the supporters of the woman called the complainer ‘a bully’ for exercising his right to his opinion.

Let’s consider a little reality here.

What if the TV station’s consultant decided that the female anchor HAD to lose a few pounds ‘for the good of the station ratings’? Would the consultant be called ‘a bully’? Would the station be accused of ‘bullying’ for wanting slimmer, trimmer TV personalities representing their ‘brand’?

I think not.

In the media profession, those who appear on the air or in print have to develop a ‘thick’ skin. They were hired for their looks and/or for their talent, skills and abilities. I’ve heard of, and seen TV and Radio personalities fired for a variety of reasons. These were ‘business’ decisions. Not the best ones, and oftentimes not in the best interest of the media personality. Nevertheless, they were ‘business’ decisions.

It may ‘shock’ many of you to know that there are those who have ‘stalked’ me and sent me ‘nasty grams’ for the columns I have written. It’s part of the territory. You can’t write about a topic without bumping into a few trolls.  Former Fox TV Network commentator Brit Hume once said, and I’ll paraphrase: “Jesus Christ are the two most dangerous words that can be uttered in American society today.”

Could I contact federal authorities about my on-line trolls, stalkers and haters?  I would be within my rights to do so…but it would defeat the satisfaction of exposing the foolishness I receive. Would I call my critics ‘bullies’? That would be rather childish. I knew the risks. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it! I may disagree with them, but they aren’t going to stop me from saying what I’ve got to say. As we used to say, back in the day: “One monkey don’t stop no show!” I know the Constitution, rely on Jesus Christ, and keep on stepping–and writing. Everyone has an opinion, whether they have the courage to state it to your face, or talk about you to other writers or individuals.  Stating an opinion does NOT make on a bully.


One of the things that I have noticed in our ‘app, post and text’ age is that there are more and more people who ‘revel’ in being jerks and fools. There used to be a way you could tactfully state your beliefs. However, with more and more people deciding that they have to be ‘mega viral’ in order to hype their individual relevance, the usual common sense safeguards have been cast away. We have a class of people who ‘get off’ on talking about their sexual orientation as if it is a civil right, when many know it is a moral wrong. This IS America. You have a right to be a freak! Just don’t bring it up to my face and expect me NOT to react to it! Further: Don’t hold a press conference, or prance around the Internet calling folks ‘bullies’ because they don’t appreciate your invading their personal space, or attempting to negate their gift of common sense by throwing your trash onto their front lawns.


Aside from all of the ‘hand wringing’ about bullying, they do have some benefits.

The first one: A bully will force you to stand on your OWN two feet and deal with what could be a major, real problem. Sure, you may call someone ‘a bully’ for telling you that what you are doing is self destructive and in bad taste. Keep in mind that someone is brave enough to tell you a truth that many of your so-called ‘friends’ have been hiding from you–for months or years. The second blessing is that a bully will force you to focus on reality. A bully doesn’t ‘allow’ you to exist in a dream world. You have to focus on reality. When David was taunted by Goliath, David had to focus on Goliath in reality…not fantasy. Real rocks cannot hurt imaginary beings. Rocks of truth can bring down real giants–and real bullies. Thirdly: A bully will force one to protect that which is precious to them. People who ‘step in’ and cut off gossip and/or slander from folks who are not able to defend themselves have great courage within them. Without a bully to taunt them, some people would not find their ‘inner strength’…nor would they need for God to get involved in their lives to help them develop a ‘backbone’.

A federal grant, a seminar, or congressional hearings WILL NOT stop a bully. To STOP a bully requires the person being bullied to RESIST! More to come–in Part Two!

RAMEY, a syndicated columnist and book reviewer, lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. THE RAMEY COMMENTARIES appears on fine websites/blogs around the world. Email © 2012, 2013 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications.

The Bus Driver: A Brotha with A Mission

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Men, Black Men In America with tags on November 7, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By Nicholas Maurice Young, Ph. D.

A few weeks ago, the media in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio revealed to its viewing and national audience a cellphone video confrontation between a 52-year old African-American male RTA (Regional Transit Authority) public bus driver and a 25-year old African-American female passenger.  The video captures the young woman and the bus driver being belligerent toward each other—cursing at each other, and making withering and disparaging comments about each person’s physical features.   It appears that the verbal jousting began when the young woman, who the local press erroneously referred to as a “girl,” refused to pay the required fare for riding the bus.  The driver asked her more than once to pay the fare, but she refused to do so.  The next few moments after this exchange the young woman began cursing at the bus driver.  Eventually, the bus driver began to do the same.

The young woman then assaulted the bus driver while he was driving the bus.  She spit on him.  She slapped him on the back of his head.  At that point, the bus driver told the young woman that she was going to jail for assaulting him.  Amazingly, he raised up out of his seat, walked over to the young woman, and dropped her with one of the greatest uppercut punches in the history of uppercuts.  To be sure, the bus driver knocked her up in the air, and off of her feet.  Upon knocking her off of her feet, the bus driver made the following statement: “You wanna hit a man, I will treat you like a man!”  Incredibly, the bus driver picked up the young woman, and threw her off of the bus.  Surprising, the young woman came back on the bus and threatened physical harm to him, by way of an attack by her father and or boyfriend.

As a result of these events, I decided to conduct an unofficial, random poll in the Cleveland area about the incident.  I asked a combined total amount of 100 Starbucks and Lifetime Fitness customers the following question: “Did the bus driver do the right thing when he uppercut that young woman?”

I chose those two locations because of the following factors.  First, I spend much of my time at both locations.  As a writer, I do much of my writing at the Starbucks that I conducted the poll.  Further, I work out on a regular basis at a Lifetime Fitness location in the same neighborhood.  Thus, I am very familiar with both locations.  Secondly, both locations are usually populated by middle class to upper-middle class customers.  Third, the neighborhood has a good mix of Blacks and Whites that patronize the Starbucks and Lifetime Fitness.  Thus, I hypothesized that due to the geographic and economic similarity of both of the patron groups, there would likely be some similarity in their responses to my question.

I asked about 100 African-Americans (about 50% men, 50% women) my question.  Surprisingly, 47 out of the 50 African American women that I spoke to stated that they agreed that the bus driver did the right thing, compared to 20 out of 50 African American men who said the same thing.  When I asked each person to expound about why they chose to agree or disagree with the statement, I received the following responses from women: “That Bitch got what she deserved;” She should have known better to hit that man.  What did she expect him to do?;”   “He should not have done that; From men: “That was wrong.  A man should never hit a woman; Damn!  He fucked her up.  I bet she won’t hit a man again!;  She deserved it!

Exactly why more women than men believed that the bus driver did the right thing when he punched that young woman confounds me.  What does that say about the condition of the African American man and women in today’s society?  What does it say about what African–American woman think and feel about themselves, and other African-American women?  What does it say about how African American men think and feel about themselves, and other African-American men?  Are we currently witnessing the dismantling of our community?

In short, like most of the African-American men that I have been around, I was taught that a man should never hit a woman.  Never.  However, I must ask the following questions: Should a man allow a woman to beat and disrespect him the way that young woman did without retaliating against her?  When should a man be able to protect himself from a woman that is abusive toward him?

To the ladies, I say the following: If a man hits you, you must protect yourself from such an attack.  But please know this: If you hit a man, make it count, and please make sure that you are not around when he wakes up.

The Top Black Heroes from Texas

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America with tags , on November 5, 2012 by Gary Johnson

Whether it’s Black History Month or not, you should always be paying attention to great heroes from all backgrounds and cultures. If you hail from the Lone Star State, you’re likely even more intrigued to know about some famous folks who come from the same place that you do!

Henry O. Flipper
Texas Escapes hails Flipper as “perhaps the most enigmatic figure in Texas.” The site states that he started his life off as a slave in Georgia; however, he was emancipated in 1865. He then went on to go to West Point, where he was the first black person to ever finish off four years there and then become a United States army commissioned officer.

Blind Lemon Jefferson
With a name like Blind Lemon Jefferson, true intrigue really springs forth. Texas Escapes states that this great was a famous blues musician during the early part of the 20th century. He did not live for a long time, but his music had a major impact. He was born in 1897, and he was blind. Throughout his time on earth, he did not receive a formal music education, but he still soared above the rest. A bit of mystery does surround his death. The site states that he passed of a heart attack during a Chicago snowstorm in 1929; however, no death certificate exists and the exact date remains unknown.

George Smith
People who have made strides in education are true heroes as they seek to carve pathways for the leaders of the future. Originally born into slavery, George Edward Smith was the founder of the Rufus F. Hardin High School and the Rufus F. Hardin Elementary School in Brownwood, Texas according to Texas Escapes. In addition to founding the schools, he also acted as the first principal and teacher, ensuring that the students received a quality education. In 1888, he created the Lee Chapel African American Methodist Church and married Virginia Love. The two of them would go on to have 14 children.

Nathaniel Montague
Texas Escapes shares some important information about this great man who was dubbed “The Magnificent Montague.” Nathaniel Montague was a host for a weekly radio comedy with the “Magnificent Montague” as its name. White listeners tuned in for lots of laughs, but little did they realize that their beloved show host was not white. An act such as this shows true bravery in a time when segregation and racism, unfortunately, ran rampid throughout the country. Montague forged on however, and he is still well known today. This wonderful man was born in 1928, and is well and alive today as of October in 2012.

Clearly, heroes come in all different forms. They do not all have to take the shape of Batman, Catwoman or Spider Man. They can be greats in the field of the arts, in education, in military accomplishments and music, or they can be individuals who have somehow impacted the life of another in a beautiful, positive, pure and truly inspirational manner.

Riya Jensen writes about black history, Texas pride & more at

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