Sunday, April 05, 2015

Birthday wishes to a member of blogging royalty

April 5 is SAJ Shirazi's birthday.  I've crowned him "King for the Day."  If you're new to the blogging, you may wonder why I'm singling him out. Shirazi is one of the most talented online writers in the blogosphere. 
He publishes several sites, including his cornerstone blog, Light Within, and sajshirazi.com.  He's the go-to expert on all things about blogging. Shi, as I fondly call him, has taught me a great deal on blogging best practices.

In the early 2000s, Shi emerged as one of the premier English bloggers in Southeast Asia. Little did I know when we discovered his site nine years ago that we'd become great online friends. 

Through Shirazi, I have met other outstanding bloggers.Over the years, Shirazi has developed a strong online presence.  Even so, he's a pretty humble guy.  He's caring, resourceful, and incredibly smart.  He's my blog crush.

SAJ Shirazi has fame and legends of fans.  His contact list is a who's who of blogging and business.  His colleagues hold him in high esteem, and he has a beautiful, loving family.  

Everyone likes a good celebration, even Shi. :-)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A man without borders




Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


This year marks the 29th anniversary of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, first observed on January 20, 1986. Were he alive today (January 15), King would have celebrated his 86th birthday. During the coming holiday weekend, millions of Americans will remember the civil rights leader and human rights advocate.

King was a husband, a father, and a preacher. He was also the preeminent leader of a movement that continues to transform America and the world. One of the twentieth century's most influential men, he lived an extraordinary life.

To truly understand King, this writer believes that one should read his writings. Scholars and casual researchers can now gain access to these important jewels of history. Two years ago, for the first time, a major portion of King’s papers went public.

Computer access to the documents, which have been digitized and cataloged, are available at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center. Click here to gain access the collection.

The documents include many of King’s speeches and personal writings from 1946 to 1968.
Journalists, historians, legislators and community leaders continue to examine whether King's appeal for peace with justice is as relevant today as it was when he was alive. A few years ago, an editorial in the Houston Chronicle attempted to place King's philosophy into present-day perspective. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Although he rose to national prominence fighting racial segregation in the South, many of the issues roiling the United States 38 years after his assassination would be very familiar to Martin Luther King Jr.

Before his death, the Baptist minister had denounced America's involvement in the Vietnam War, a daring stance that fueled the growing opposition to the carnage in Southeast Asia. He was bitterly criticized in the media and by government officials for venturing beyond the sphere of civil rights, as if that were the only area in which he was entitled to an opinion.

With the country now split by the bloody, open-ended struggle in Iraq and by the mistaken justification for going to war, it's not hard to predict where King would stand on the matter.

Americans debate the revelation that their government is conducting warrantless surveillance of Americans inside the United States. King had plenty of experience on that score. He was relentlessly wiretapped and trailed by the FBI. Then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was convinced that King was a communist sympathizer.

Just as he stood with refuse workers in Memphis in the last days before an assassin's bullet struck him down, King would championed the dispossessed evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, potent symbols of a race-based economic underclass that persists as a legacy of slavery and discrimination. The New Orleans nightmare that Katrina exposed indicates that the vision King enunciated in his "I Have a Dream" speech is not yet realized.

Like his role model for nonviolent protest, Mohandas K. Gandhi, King grew to be a world figure by embracing universal humanitarian concerns that surmounted ethnicity and religion. As he once said, "Evil is not driven out, but crowded out ... through the expulsive power of something good."
That's why the celebration of his life today cannot be limited to a single community or issue. African-Americans are justly proud that he rose from their ranks, but his life is significant to all Americans.
It's been four decades since King's death in 1968. For years, many scholars have suggested that King faced the same fate that has befallen many a historical figure - being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message.

Six years ago, Barack Obama took over as the country's chief executive officer. Many believe that with this historic presidency came the "thawing" of the King legacy.



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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas




Remembering the Christmas miracle and the treasure of friendship
During this joyous season, I remember the prophesy of peace - and the reason for the season of Christmas. It is also a time to be thankful for friends.


A FRIENDSHIP PRAYER

Dear Lord,
Thank you for a special gift,
one that cannot be bought
for any amount of money.

Thank you for a gift wrapped in beauty,
that is wonderful in all seasons and times.

Thank you for a gift that is always near
in times of need
and brings great joy.

Thank you for the gift that sparkles
with freshness every day.

Thank you for my friend.
May I never take this gift for granted.
Amen.

(by John C. Maxwell)


M E R R Y
C H R I S T M A S !



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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Remembering that infamous day



December 7 is the 73rd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan.  Pearl Harbor survivors have met at the site every five years for four decades. But they're now in their 80s or 90s.  Many of the survivors aren't able to participate in a 73rd reunion. Still, others have made every effort to report for one final roll call.
 

A few hundred survivors are expected to make the trip to Hawaii to recall the shocking air raid destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft. The attack killed two-thousand, 390 people, wounded nearly 12-hundred others - and plunged the U.S. into World War II.


Related: Photos at About.com, After Pearl Harbor


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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Isabel

I may have spent all of my adult life writing for a living, but education has been the other constant in my life. I spend much of my time now as a tutor -- to adult immigrants wishing to improve their English skills, and to public school students studying reading and language arts.

Teaching English as a Second Language comes with great rewards. Shortly before Thanksgiving, one of my former adult students, Isabel, became a naturalized citizen. I was thrilled. She worked hard to become a U.S. citizen. She didn't just study the exam on her own; she tutored her husband, too, so that they could take the vow together.

 While Isabel was polishing her English skills with me, she was also studying for her plumber's license. She and her husband now run their own plumbing business, and Isabel manages it. Somehow my friend also manages to raise two delightful children. In addition, she serves as a volunteer English tutor to immigrants in her neighborhood. Getting to know Isabel -- and watch her pursue the American dream -- has deeply enriched my life.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Google Doodles Pays Homage to America's Veterans

Honoring our military men and women



Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day





Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France,
wait for the end of hostilities.
This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on Nov. 11, 1918,
two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.



The history of Veterans Day

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.

President Dwight Eisenhower signed House Resolution 7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. An act approved in 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day."

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history. After American forces had fought in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Today we honor America's military men and women for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.  Several of my family members have served, including my father, both of my uncles, and my nephew.  I am proud of them all.  Always remembering the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.


How important it is for us to recognize and
celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
~Maya Angelou~


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget
that the highest appreciation is not to utter words,
but to live by them.
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy~






Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black mothers, "the talk" and grief


On many levels, I identify with the anguish, frustration, and grief now being experienced by the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen who was recently gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  I saw the images of Michael as he lay dead for several hours in the middle of the street.  His family and friends saw him, too.

Over the years, I have gotten to know many good police officers.  Some became friends.  When I worked in community relations for a previous employer, part of my job was to work with police officers on a regular basis.  I even sat on a board made up of mostly law enforcement.  My parents and grandparents taught me to respect the police, and I instructed my own children to do the same.

At the same time, I'm a mother who sat each of her children down for "the talk."  As each of my sons received his driver's license, I sat him down and let him know that they might be pulled over fairly or unfairly -- that the officer might treat him justly or unjustly.  Here are some of the things I advised my kids in the event that they were pulled over:

  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Let down your window when instructed by the officer.
  • When the officer asks you questions, give him or her only the information requested.
  • Make sure your tone is respectful.  Say "Yes, Officer" or "No, Officer."
  • The police might speak to you in a disrespectful tone.  Don't respond in a like manner.
  • If you believe the stop was unfair, talk to me about it when you get home. Let me deal with it as an adult, if necessary.
  • Do not pull off until the officer tells you that you may do so.

By the time my daughter, my youngest, received her driver's license, I felt compelled to give her the same talk her brothers received.  Call it mother's intuition.  As life would have it, my daughter has been profiled as she has driven to and from college campuses in white neighborhoods -- or to her job in an affluent municipality.

When I was a little girl, police officers stopped my father and my brothers multiple times.  Not because they did anything wrong but because they looked "suspicious."  In those days, officers would ask who you are and where you're going.  They often would insist on searching  the cars and patting down my family members.  It's called DWB -- driving while black.  

My dad spent the last 20 years of his career working as a housing and health inspector for St. Louis County.  His job required him to travel throughout the county to perform the inspections.  My dad wore a shirt and tie every day, and he was a safe driver.  Nevertheless, whenever Dad had to go into predominantly white and/or affluent communities, he would often be stopped.  What's your business here?  Who are you?  License and registration, please.  Dad would comply.  He'd also pull out his St. Louis County photo identification.  Eventually, he'd be permitted to be on his way -- to inspect a home, check on an asbestos case, or work as part of the team dealing with dioxin contamination in Times Beach. 

I've been following the case of Michael Brown and the protests since day one.  For me, the element of grief is multiplied. My oldest son died several years ago at the age of 20.  The circumstances surrounding his death are different than those involving Michael Brown.  Nevertheless, the grief is still there.  I know how it feels to lose a son.  So many memories rushed back as I saw Michael's body lying uncovered in the middle of the street -- as I saw his mother and grandmother crying -- as I saw frightened children and adults looking on.

As a teen and young man, son #1 was pulled over countless times.  It deeply disturbed me, but my oldest never wanted me to worry. Neither of my sons did. 

Recently, I learned that son #2, now an IT professional and writer, has been pulled over by police more than 50 times since receiving his driver's license.  I am certain my oldest son was stopped by officers even more frequently.  I remember begging him to stay out of certain neighborhoods unless he was going to school.  His school was located in one of the areas in question. For those familiar with North St. Louis County, son #1 attended middle school in Ferguson and high school at McCluer North, located in a neighboring community.  Sadly, my oldest didn't live long enough to see his siblings graduate from high school and college.

I now live nearly 2,000 miles from my kids.  Because of busy schedules, it may be a while before I see them again face-to-face.  But when that time comes, I know I'm going to give them the biggest hugs a mother could ever give.


                                                                           My sons
                                              



                                                             My daughter, son and I
                                                             at high school graduation