Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ted Kennedy

Last night at Arlington National Cemetery, Ted Kennedy's grandchildren, nieces and nephews surrounded his casket, kneeling, laying on it and weeping. They seemed to be holding onto him as hard as they could, not wanting to say a final goodbye. Such a private moment. That family has shared so much grief with the public. While family members and friends visited the graves of JFK and RFK after Ted's graveside service, the kids stayed with him holding on as long as they could to their grandpa or uncle Teddy.

The new generations of young Kennedy's that we got to see during this mournful time let me know that the Kennedy legacy is far from over. I was impressed with eleven year old Ted III with his round full face and long hair. And I'd never seen Rory Kennedy who was an infant when Robert was killed. For her, Ted Kennedy had to be more father than uncle. Caroline Kennedy spoke on how Ted didn't miss a graduation, or birthday or any important or not so important event in the lives of all his children which included his brothers' children and their children.

Caroline and others also spoke of how Teddy took them all (some of the teens went kicking and screaming) on family history excursions. Ted showed them where their grandparents lived, where the Irish first came ashore to Boston, where Joseph P. Kennedy's first job was. He had them look at American relics and historical documents and see Irish American cultural places of history and literature as well cultural sights from other ethnic and religious interests. He wanted them to make the connection. To know where they came from so they could understand how they fit in the present and in the world. And, how America fit in the world.
He taught them to understand that everyone has a journey and to respect the journeys of others. He taught them to make connections regardless of differences.
I see on the streets everyday, young people who are disconnected. They make no connections to the past or to each other in the present. No sense of loyalty to family, culture or country. No sense of obligation to those who struggled and survived. Isolated from the past, directionless for the future. Disconnected.

Ted Kennedy's time spent with these children making those connections is a great gift. He knew that making connections would build strength and character. He knew spending time with children would too. And not only his children but a young black girl who he taught to read and tutored for years, and a 9 year old black boy who he promised $1 for every A on his report card. Ted kept that promise through college.
Ted Kennedy who could have been bitter after giving up three brothers to America, could have spent all of his time sailing. He could have spent his career resting on the laurels of his brothers. But he didn't. He served Massachusetts and this country well. Particularly by teaching children that we are all connected.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy

Edward Moore Kennedy died last night at age 77. I am very sad about his passing. His sister Eunice died just two weeks ago. Another giant gone. Now only Jean Kennedy Smith remains of JFK's siblings. There will be much said now about the Kennedy legacy and about the "Lion" of the U.S. Senate. I will say more too, later.

But for now I will simply say that he was a champion in many ways and I appreciated him and America will miss him.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Johnny Carter, Oh What A Night!

R&B singer John E. (Johnny) Carter, famous for his soulful voice and work with supergroups the Dells and the Flamingos, passed away in his hometown of Harvey, IL, Thursday evening after a long battle with lung cancer ending his lifelong career in the music industry. He's survived by his five daughters and several grandchildren.

Carter's death was announced by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which twice inducted Carter for his work with the two groups and for hits like "Oh What a Night," the 1954Dells hit that featured Carter on falsetto lead.

Carter was also the last surviving member of the Flamingos, which he left in 1960 to form the Dells with four other friends from his high-school days at Thornton Township High in Harvey.

Remember how short cuts were back in the day?
Johnny Carter was also famous for the Dells blockbuster "Stay in My Corner," one of the first R&B tracks that lasted longer than six minutes.

Talkin' about bringing back good memories especially for you Boomers and for you music lovers, check this out. There's nothing like
the Mighty Mighty DELLS!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Remembering Woodstock 1969

40 years ago America experienced Woodstock, the largest outdoor concert ever. Three days on a dairy farm. Outside in the heat and the mud and the rain with close to 500,000 strangers, lots of them high. Most of them with long hair, big afros, bell bottoms, head bands and love beads. What a time in America. Historic in it's scope and historic in what it meant to music. About 200,000 tickets were sold but more than double that number showed up. It was the time for peace and music, man.

I am not an outdoor roughing it type, never was. Missed Woodstock but love the idea of it. For me it would be about the music. All in three days there was: Creedence Clearwater Survival, Ritchie Havens, Melanie, Ravi Shankar, Alrlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Canned heat, Greateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, John Sebastian, Joe Cocker, Johnny Winter, Neil Young, Crosby and Stills and Nash, Paul Butterfield Blues Band.. (Take a breath yall.) Ten Years After, Sha-Na-Na, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Band, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and more. Unbelievable. All that in one weekend. Just recalling those musicians makes me happy.
Real music, real guitar heros. Right on! Right on!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Special Place In Heaven

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy and a champion of the disabled who founded the Special Olympics, died this morning. She was 88.

Born on July 10, 1921, in Brookline, Massachusetts, Shriver was the fifth of nine children to Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. She emerged from the long shadow of siblings John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as the founder of the Special Olympics, which started as a summer day camp in her backyard in 1962.

Today, 3.1 million people with mental disabilities participate in 228 programs in 170nations, according to the Special Olympics.

I had every intention of paying a short tribute to this woman who has always been one of my sheroes. But, her life accomplishments are long and substantial.

Even before launching the Special Olympics in 1968, Shriver had established a reputation as an advocate for the disenfranchised and a trailblazer for the rights of the disabled through a variety of roles in the private and public sector.

She also persuaded the Kennedy family to go public with one of its most guarded secrets. In September 1962, Shriver wrote an article about her mentally disabled sister, Rosemary, which was published in The Saturday Evening Post. There is no doubt that this began to ease the stigma attached to mental disabilities.

After receiving a degree in sociology from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, Shriver worked for the U.S. State Department in the Special War Problems Division from 1943 to 1945, helping former prisoners of war readjust to civilian life.

From 1947 to 1948, she worked for $1 at the Department of Justice as executive secretary for the National Conference on Prevention and Control of Juvenile Delinquency.

In the early 1950s, she was a social worker at a federal prison for women in West Virginia and in juvenile court in Chicago, Illinois.

She married Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., a World War II veteran who was building his career as a lawyer and lifelong public servant, in 1953. R. Sargent Shriver had roles in many top government initiatives of the 1960s, including Head Start and the Peace Corps. He also worked with his wife on the Special Olympics. He ran President Johnson's War on Poverty and was U.S. ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970. He was Democrat George McGovern's running mate in the 1972 presidential election.

The couple had five children, including California's first lady, Maria Shriver.

In 1957, Eunice Shriver became executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, which was established in 1946 to honor the family's eldest son -- who was killed in World War II -- to research the causes of disabilities and to improve the treatment of disabled people.

Her work with the foundation paved the way for a number of initiatives furthering the cause of disability advocacy. In 1962 she helped establish the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a government agency that conducts research on topics related to the health of children, adults and families that was named after Shriver in 2008.

Disturbed by the treatment of disabled people in institutions across the country in the 1950s and 1960s, Shriver began inviting disabled children to a summer day camp, called Camp Shriver, on her farm in Maryland. Her vision expanded over the years, and in July 1968 the first International Special Olympics Games were held in Chicago.

She also assisted in the establishment of a network of university-affiliated facilities and intellectual disabilities research centers at major medical schools across the United States, including centers for the study of medical ethics at Harvard and Georgetown universities in 1971.

In 1981, Shriver began the Community of Caring program to reduce disabilities among babies of teenagers. That led to the establishment of Community of Caring programs in 1,200 public and private schools from 1990 to 2006.

Along the way, Shriver earned worldwide accolades and awards, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame's Founder's Award and nine honorary degrees.

In 1995, the U.S. Mint issued a commemorative coin with her portrait. The Mint says that made her the first living woman to be depicted on an American coin.

In 2009, a painting of Shriver with several Special Olympians was added to the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

Eunice Kenedy Shriver, a life well spent in service to others. Yet, she said of all her hard work, at an event honoring her in 2007:

"Most people believe I spent my whole life really interested in only one thing and that one thing is working to make the world a better place for people with intellectual disabilities.

"As important as it has been, it is not the whole story of my life. My life is about being lucky as a child to be raised by parents who loved me and made me believe in possibilities. It is also about being lucky to have had these extraordinary children. ... It is also about being especially lucky to have a wonderful husband."

Eunice Shriver goes on to say she was also lucky to have seen and suffered the sting of rejection as a woman. She spoke also of the great influence her sister Rosemary's mental retardation had on the Kennedy children especially on President Kennedy. It has been said that she should have easily been the first female U.S. President. Of course back in the day that was not possible. But this woman of great compassion, humor, courage, savvy and vision changed the world and made it better.
She was known to quote Luke 12:48 To whom much is given, much is expected.
She has a special place in heaven.

Rose Marie Kennedy (Rosemary) mental retardation and/or a lobotomy at age 23? She had a profound effect on Eunice, JFK and the other Kennedy children.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Now, is the Season of Concern

Alexandra credits programs supported by organizations such as Season of Concern for helping her way back in the day when there wasn't a lot of help. Back when being HIV positive was a death sentence. Back when people (including their churches and families) were shunning, isolating, denying care and compassion to anyone suspected of being HIV positive.
Now hopefully most people have learned better. HIV/AIDS is not automatically a death sentence and there has been much progress for treatment. But, the pendulum has swung so far the other way that many now think it's no big deal to be HIV positive or to have AIDS. That it's curable or easily treatable and managed. There is no cure and "easy" is not in the HIV/AIDS equation. The virus is still here and it does not discriminate. It mutates and challenges the researchers and demands we remain vigilant and informed. The epidemic is still here too.
The epidemic is surging especially in the black community for many complex and simple reasons. Reasons stemming from lack of medical care to religious stigmas attached to AIDS. Yes, and the epidemic now includes Senior citizens, college students, young teens, and women in the rising number of new HIV/AIDS infected people.
In 1988 Chicago's theater community formed Season of Concern (SOC) to support programs that provide care to Chicago and Mid-Western community members experiencing the effects of catastrophic illness. SOC supported programs provide direct care such as personal finacial support, housing, meals, and medication and more.

SOC fundraising also supports programs such as HealthWorks Theater Chicago that educates children and teens with age appropriate productions and info. Sadly SOC is still needed now as it was in the 1980's. Season of Concern needs to remain strong and vital. Although Season Of Concern's focus is on AIDS and HIV-related illness, they are there for everyone facing illness, disease, or injury of any kind.

When you go to the theater and you see Season of Concern donation cans or the performers request donations, you'll know what's up. Please give.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Naomi Sims 1949 - 2009

The first African American Super-Model died Saturday at age 61. Naomi Sims lost her battle with cancer but won many battles in her lifetime. She was a trailblazer, a beauty, and successful business woman. A nice tribute here posted by Monica Roberts.
R.I.P and thank you to a great American lady.