Friday, July 31, 2009

Beer Here!

Well, by now I'm sure President Obama wishes he'd never mentioned beer. I mean, what a fuss. In trying to diffuse the big hubub after Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct after being suspected of breaking into his own home, Prez Obama thought a little one on one guy talk would help turn this incident around into something meaningful. Obama felt he should do this since his own comments made matters worse.

First people wanted to know why "beer". Well, they could have had tea. Oh please. Then folks got peeved that although all three guys wanted different beer, none were American made. Actually that's not entirely true. None of these particular breweries are American owned any more, but Bud Light (Obama's choice) is still made here.

Anyway, I think it's a good thing to discuss racial profiling especially with policeman. I'll bet you somebody's first born that both Prof Gates and Officer Crowely overreacted. Stubborn guys won't admit it.
This is an important discussion over that beer. Racial profiling goes on with such regularity that many black people assume it even when it may not be the case. When this happens to you in every area of life so much in stores, parking lots, gas stations, driving, etc., you either ignore it and deal or get pissed and yell. If you are coming home from a long plane trip from China and cannot wait to see the inside of your house, you might get mad and yell like Prof Gates did. (Not that it is an excuse.) Policemen should be sensitive to these assumptions and learn to diffuse that reaction not inflame it.

I know this is a sensitive and complex issue. But, we should join the president, Dr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley for some dialouge and self examinations.
So yeah, we all need to have a beer or tea or cherry coke and honestly think about our own assumptions.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pearls, Diamonds and Lilies!

Monica and I celebrate our 30th Anniversary today. It is hard to believe. We've been through it all, births, deaths, ups and downs, highs and lows you name it. We done it together.
We've learned from each other, changed each other and meshed together while retaining our own selves. And, we love each other even more, respect each other even more and most of all, still have great silly fun together.

To our friends and family who supported us and loved us, thank you. To our University Church family who encouraged, comforted, supported and validated us, thank you. You have all been our pearls, diamonds and lilies these 30 years. We truly love you all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

This Could Happen To You

Park on a fire hydrant and you and your car could get busted? Well this Beemer owner did and the firemen got revenge. Sweet.

(hat tip Electronic Village)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happily Ever After!

This couple has so much joy in their hearts and fun in their attitude that they wanted to start off their wedding with an unexpected surprise. I love it.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Flawless Sox

Perfection. A flawless game was pitched today by White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle! It was only the 18th perfect game ever thrown in major league baseball history. That's how difficult it is to achieve. Imagine in nine innings, not one single solitary batter reached base. Not even a walk. That's one for the record books and history.We haven't seen that since 1922.

Moni and I always refer to anything we haven't seen or done in a long while as 1922. "We haven't been to an amusement park since 1922." Well the last time the Chicago White Sox had a no hitter was actually 1922. How 'bout that.

Of course Buehrle had the help of outstanding defense work by his teammates. Tampa Bay hitter Gabe Kapler hit what looked like a sure homer but Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise made a tremendous but scary catch to send Kapler back to the darn dugout and keep the perfection going.

Wise leaped over the fence to make the catch as he hit the wall. Then the ball came out of his glove for a moment as he started falling, but he grabbed it quickly with his bare hand before hitting the warning track, juggling the ball but holding it up to show he got it. Whew! Talk about drama!

The last out was a grounder to shortstop Alexei Ramirez to first baseman Josh Fields, who also hit a grand slam homer in the historic game. Both Ramirez and Fields admit to being very nervous with the pressure of the last out approaching. As soon as Fields touched first base for that last out, Buehrle was swamped by his teammates.

Buehrle received a congrats call from big Sox fan President Obama who happened to be home in Chicago for the day.

Sox won 5-0. Talk about a good day at the ballpark. Wow!

Friday, July 17, 2009

NAACP - 100 Year Anniversary

At the 100th year celebration of the NAACP, the keynote speaker is an African American man. He is also the President of the United States. How significant is that. Just think of it. 100 years ago is not that long ago, yet think of where America has come. I don't need to spell it out. Less than a hundred years ago this same man, now the nation's 44th Commander in Chief, could have been jailed or killed for drinking from a water fountain or trying to go to school. His father would certainly have been strung up for loving his mother. The NAACP had no small part in Barack Obama standing there as president. There is no denying the organization's contribution in securing civil rights progress.

President Obama's speech spelled it out and took you back and went to church complete with amen corner. He talked of how the barriers then and challenges now are different but will take the same sacrifice and commitment to overcome.

Congratulations NAACP! Thank You very much.

Meghan McCain Power

When Meghan McCain speaks her mind, she does not sound like a Republican. But she insists on being a Republican to broaden the party and attract young people by stepping away from old fogie exclusiveness and religious right narrow mindedness. She really believes that is possible.
Meghan believes being for issues like gay marriage do not have to be contrary to being in the GOP. She encourages other members of her party who already feel that way to have the courage to come out.

In a speech to the Log Cabin Republicans, she said that “old-school Republicans” were “scared shitless” of the future and retreating further and further into an ultraconservative crouch.

Although her father Sen. John McCain is anti-same sex marriage, she says he is not homophobic. She says she's had some great conversations with her dad and is "working on him".
(For the record, Meghan isn’t the only member of the McCain clan to support gay marriage. “My mom was always for gay marriage, but I think me being so vocal about it has made her want to be more vocal about it,” she says. “She texted me: ‘Gay marriage passed in Maine!!’ ”)

Meghan wants to show that not all Repubs are like former GOP pinup boy, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, who gave an interview to Christianity Today in which he complained about “queers” and declared, “I wouldn’t have them anywhere near my children.” To this Meghan answered “Joe the Plumber -- you can quote me -- is a dumbass. He should stick to plumbing.”

Meghan has taken on right wingers Karl Rove (yuck!), Ann Coulter (yuck! yuck!) and even Rush Limbaugh (triple yuck!) She says, “I'd be flattered to be considered the anti–Ann Coulter, the anti–Rush Limbaugh.”
I know that's right.

Miss McCain says “Homophobia is the last socially accepted prejudice,” and views the fight for gay equality as “my generation’s civil rights movement.”

“If two people fall in love, they should have the option to get married just like I can.”

Meghan became a Republican as a birthday present to her father and is determined to bring more open minded seats to the GOP table. She has certainly pulled up her chair. Meghan is 24 years old, and so far she has given the old school conservatives the flux. What if her party members start speaking their minds, pushing envelopes and coloring outside party lines? OMG!
Good Luck Meghan!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thinking Back

My mom's brother Nolen and his wife Julia and their kids Pat, Charlene (Bunny), Nolen Jr. (Baby Brother) and Grace (Toots) and my family were very close. My sister and I are seven years apart. So we were not really ever close peers growing up. Although we were close at home, I was mostly fretting about having to let her tag along with me anywhere. These cousins although they were older than me were the kids I grew up with and idolized and considered my older siblings who I wanted to tag along with anywhere.

Pat was the quiet one. Good student, neat and soft spoken. Pat was the role model. Bunny was the wild one. She cut school like crazy, always in some kind of trouble and was the coolest teen on earth to me. There was nothing like Bunny coming by with the latest 45's and Chinese food. She was a party and she had the coolest friends. Baby Brother was actually the only boy among my first cousins other than Paul (Beebee) who lived in Alabama. Nolen Jr. was gorgeous and spoiled and we were all traumatized went he went off to Viet Nam and finally exhaled when he came home in one piece. He was my hero and I wore his dog tags to school and he took me to the Regal theater to see the Motown stars. Toots was kind of a combination between pat and Bunny with the edge toward Bunny. Although she was nearer to my age, I was closer to Bunny. Toots was not as outgoing and a bit harder to know.

Uncle Nolen could do anything. He could build a house from scratch. He could also charm the birds from the trees and would promise you the world and you would laugh and forgive him when he more than likely didn't deliver. Aunt Julia was one of the sweetest women ever. She had her hands full with her kids and always worked hard. She had to because Uncle Nolen's charm did not pay the bills. Aunt Julia was also funny. She had a way of turning her head that made you roar and we still mimic it to this day.

My uncle his wife and all of their children have passed away.

Toots the youngest, was the first to go. She drowned in Wolf Lake along with another guy during a midnight swim. She was about 17 years old.
Aunt Julia had a heart attack, recovered and then died in bed the day before she was to return to work.
Baby Brother came home from Viet Nam only to be shot to death in a Chicago alley.
Pat the quiet one, met the wrong guy and became a heroin addict and prostitute. After her brother died she got clean and came home. She died due to complications from some prescription meds she was on. I never knew exactly what happened.
Uncle Nolen was in Veterans Hospital for high blood pressure when he suddenly died on July 4, 1986.
Bunny the wild one, became the most stable and most dependable of all. Bunny and my cousin Lavern were my closest cousins growing up and after and hold the dearest memories. Bunny died of breast cancer in 1993.

It is weird how something like the Burr Oak cemetery tragedy can bring up so many bittersweet memories. I am grateful for those memories.
Toots, BabyBrother, Pat, and Aunt Julia are all buried in Burr Oak. We must wait and hope that their bodies have not been disturbed so that they and us can rest in peace.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Real Life Horror Tale at Burr Oak

Ghoul- 1. evil being that robs graves and feeds on corpses. 2. a person who derives pleasure from loathsome acts or things.

No, I'm not about to review a new horror flick. There are real life ghouls living in the Chicago area. These monsters, depraved animals, ghouls, are disguised as people, living and walking among us and they prey on families like mine.

A group of cemetery workers have been arrested for digging up graves, reselling the plots and pocketing the money. Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, IL is Chicago's first African American cemetery. It was until the 1970's, one of the only cemeteries where black people could be buried in Chicagoland. Yes, racism follows you after death.
Burr Oak was once the only choice back when black folks couldn't get and couldn't afford insurance. Money was put together by family and friends for burials. Back when it took three hours to get to Burr Oak from Chicago because there were no main roads. I remember the long rides after a funeral to Burr Oaks and then came Lincoln Cemetery, the only other choice for burial for black folks.

Many historical black figures are buried there including young murder victim Emmitt Till, musicians like Dinah Washington and Willie Dixson and many Negro Leagues Baseball players.

The Ghouls

In late May, the owners of Burr Oak Cemetery, who are based in Arizona, contacted detectives in the Financial Crimes Unit of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police after discovering a large discrepancy in their books. Subsequent interviews with other cemetery employees revealed an elaborate scheme that involves the digging up of numerous graves, re-selling those plots and the identification of an unused area of the cemetery where remains have allegedly been dumped. Dumped.

The cemetery’s manager and three gravediggers participated in this scheme, although more people may be charged as the investigation progresses. Gravesites chosen were extremely old and appeared to not have regular visitors. They were then dug up and resold to unsuspecting customers. When preparing the site for a funeral, the gravediggers would dig up the plot, many times breaking the vault or casket. When this occurred, they would remove the remains and dump them in the back area of the cemetery. The funeral would take place, with the deceased being buried on top of what remained. The money paid would be split between the workers involved.

Sheriff Tom Dart said investigators, including dozens of FBI agents, would be at Burr Oak for months sorting through the discarded piles of bones. Not only were remains heaved into a "dump area" at the cemetery, bodies were allegedly double-buried in existing plots, Dart said.

"Literally, they were pounded [down]," he said. "They pounded the other [body] down and put someone on top."

It is now estimated that 200 to 300 bodies were dug up and dumped in the isolated, weedy area of the cemetery. Exposed bones, chunks of concrete and broken coffins litter the hilly, overgrown area about four blocks long, authorities said. There were bodies dumped in the weeds in plain sight. Sherriff Dart said "this was not done with care folks".

To add to this horror these monsters also destroyed all old records before reselling the plots. So, there was additional pain for people who don't remember exactly where their loved ones are buried in the huge cemetery.

They came in droves, generations of families pushing their relatives in wheelchairs, holding them and helping them walk, all while clutching faded obituaries, death certificates and other documents.

A few families brought worn-out family Bibles to Burr Oak so they would have lists of names and dates for their buried relatives.

They scanned tombstones, shouted out names and navigated the bumpy terrain. Some stood weeping in frustration. Others said prayers, held each other, cursed out loud and marched out with nothing. There were tombstones missing and many that had been bought in advance and not used yet. Missing.

Area funeral homes were inundated with calls from frantic families seeking burial records or assurance. A phone line the Cook County sheriff's office set up to take calls was overwhelmed. Alsip officials fielded hundreds of calls and dispatched police to handle traffic near the cemetery in unincorporated Cook County.

The cemetery is shabbily kept despite constant complaints. But, many people continued to bury their dead here because so many generations of their families are already here.

Like many families I quickly pulled out all the old obituaries I had saved through the years and tried to remember where each relative was buried. My sister did the same and there were many calls to cousins and friends. Many of my family back in the day were buried at Lincoln but my three first cousins that I grew up with and their mother and many other cousins are in Burr Oak. We are trying to find out if this horror effected them.
To think of something so disrespectful, so inhumane happening to a loved one is a feeling hard to explain. It's a feeling mixed with anger and emotion, of such betrayal and violation.

"This crime, it's a whole new dimension that shows us what lengths people will go to for financial gain," said State's Atty. Anita Alvarez.
These are not people, these are not humans.

A young woman whose mother died nine years ago says she visited her mother's grave everyday.
As she grew stronger, those trips to Burr Oak grew further apart. Before Thursday, it had been three years since she visited. So when she found her mother's headstone in a different section, leaning against a tree, she was outraged, hurt and disappointed.

"This is just horrific," she said, as she stood with her sister, niece and grandniece. "There is no peace out here. Not today. The dead can't even be safe. It's horrible."

Monica and I would pass Burr Oak going to the nearby Crestwood Mall and always liked the sign on their fence. "Slow Down, drive safely, we don't want you yet."
We noticed the sign was removed a few months ago.

"The idea of grave robbers, in my judgment there should be no bail. ... There should be a special place in hell," Rev. Jesse Jackson said.
Yes, but they need to find their hell right here and right now.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Devil and Chase Bank?

Remember the classic story The Devil and Daniel Webster? An unlucky New Hampshire farmer sells his soul for prosperity but doesn't want to pay up when the contract is due. The devil agrees to a trial and the farmer is defended by orator Daniel Webster. That's fiction.

This is real life. People in Latvia are offering their souls as collateral for loans. Reuters News reports that in the European Union nation of Latvia, unemployment is soaring and banks have sharply reduced their lending, meaning that small companies offering easy loans in small amounts have become more popular.
The Kontora loan company in Latvia made a special offer. The borrowers can sign a contract, with the words "Agreement" in bold letters at the top. The client agrees to the collateral, "that is, my immortal soul."

Viktor Mirosiichenko, 34 representing Kontora says it would not employ debt collectors to get its money back if people refused to repay, and promised no physical violence. Signatories only have to give their first name and do not show any documents.

"If they don't give it back, what can you do? They won't have a soul, that's all," he told Reuters in a basement office, with one desk, a computer and three chairs.

Wearing sunglasses, a black suit and a white shirt (fitting outfit for a soul man), he reaches into his pocket and lays out a sheaf of notes on the table to show that the business is serious and not a joke.

Mirosiichenko said his company was basically trusting people to repay the small amounts they borrowed, which has so far been up to 250 lats ($500) for between 1 and 90 days at a hefty interest rate.

He said about 200 people had taken out loans.

So it will be possible that some souless peeps may soon be walking around in Latvia. Does this mean they are zombies or that they can't dance? I hope they have some sharp Daniel Webster type attorneys in Latvia.

Can you imagine a bank like Chase making this offer? Can you imagine anyone taking it here?

Two Second Celebration!

This happens only once every century so don't miss it.
At 12:34 and 56 seconds this afternoon, the date will officially be--
12:34:56 7-8-9

So let's sync our Yayyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!
That'll be it for another hundred years.

We Had Him

Queen Latifah delivered Dr. Maya Angelou's tribute for Michael Jackson called "We Had Him":

Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing, now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace. Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.

In the instant that Michael is gone, we know nothing. No clocks can tell time. No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.
Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.

Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him.

He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.

Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love, and survived and did more than that.

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him whether we know who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his.

We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.

His hat, aslant over his brow, and took a pose on his toes for all of us.

And we laughed and stomped our feet for him.

We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing. He gave us all he had been given.

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Black Star Square.

In Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England

We are missing Michael.

But we do know we had him, and we are the world.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Memorial Fit for a King

Michael Jackson's life was celebrated today not only as an entertainer but as man, with remembrances and tributes to his love and generousity. It was beautiful. The Jackson family held a private service at Forest Lawn Cemetary before going to the Staples Center for the public memorial. I was so afraid it would be a spectacle. It was anything but. When the lights went down and a sanctuary backdrop came up it set a somber but certainly not depressing mood. The presence of Michael's casket in the room brought it all home that this was real. The homegoing ceremony was just right. Celebritory with a touch of humor, reflective, touching, comforting and a little defiant.

Rev. Al Sharpton pointed out that when Michael crossed and crashed each barrier to become the worlds brightest star he opened the way for those who followed. I don't know if people realize how the mass appeal of Michael changed everything. MJ broke the magazine cover, MTV, and music charts color barriers with a tremendous impact that allowed other entertainers, models, athletes and even politicians to follow. The Michael Jackson phenomenon opened minds and hearts on a global scale.

From Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz singing "I'll be There" and Jermaine's "Smile" to Michael's singers and dancers doing "We are the World" joined by his brothers, sisters and children to Marlon (who was my favorite J5)and Michael's daughter Paris who made the final teary remarks, the service celebrated and honored the man and the artist. It was all very beautiful.

Jermaine sings Michael's favorite song "Smile". All the brothers wore one glittered glove.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Final Stage For MJ

Michael Jackson's funeral will be Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The magnitude of his celebrity does warrent, a public memorial service. But, I can't understand how his family could not have a private service also. How do you mourn and say goodbye to your son, brother, father in a basketball stadium full of strangers. I guess this shouldn't surprise anyone. This man has been on stage all his life. It's where he said he feels loved. I find that sad.
I'm sure it will be a celebration of Michael's life as a musician. But, what about his life as a human being. A troubled man who seemed to have problems with the basics of life, eating and sleeping and even looking in the mirror. Perhaps the Jackson's will say private goodbyes before the huge show on Tuesday. I hope so.