Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tap (When Cultures Collide .)

Deep with in the coal mines of South Africa during the early 1800’s . The form of dance was called Welly Boot Dance. The minors would mimic the guards who patrolled the work camps and barracks. It was also called Gumboots. The dancers would stomp and sometimes use bells around their boots to create different sounds as they danced. Gumboot dancing is still a marvel for on lookers in the streets of Cape Town. Thousands of miles to the north in the Gaelic regions of Britain Ireland and Scotland the form of singing and dance was called Sean nós The term Sean nós meant old style. The dance and singing was a celebration and expression among the Gaelic's. Most songs are not gender specific, although the lyrics may suggest it is being sung from a woman's or man's point of view. However there are a few songs that men tend not to sing. Women however do not seem to have the same compunction. In Spain the word for shoe is zapato and the word zapatear. simply means strike with the shoe. zapateado was the dance that had been celebrated throughout Latin America. In the factories of England during the Industrial Revolution workers in the Lancaster cotton mills to keep their feet warm would stomp in place to the rhythm of the machines. During their breaks they would have competitions. This form of dance was called Clogging.

During the middle of the 19th century the Five Points neighborhood the fist beginning of fusion between the dance styles began. The Irish Jig dancing and the combination of the African shuffle was the 1st emergence of Tap Dancing. New York was the center of immigration and the vibrations of dance were copied from one nationality to another.

The most famous dancer of this period was Boz Juba (William Henry Lane). He gained world acclaim for his work in dance troupes and performance throughout Europe. He as also been credited with performing with the Ethiopian Serenaders world wide. 1947 an article by Marian Hannah Winter in 1947 resurrected his legacy. Marian’s article would bring his history of Tap in its rightful place.

From 1900 to 1955 Vaudeville and Broadway were the biggest entertainment attractions before the advent of Television. The big screen was the way the masses found their love affair with dance. The mention of name of Shirley Temple is synonymous with dance. Her locks and girl next door looks combined with the accomplished steps of Bill Robinson AKA Mr. Bojangles were a joy for audiences. Her films were credited with emergence of African Americans finding there way into film in positive rolls. Bill Bojangles was a fixture on the base paths of Negro League Baseball. The entire theme of those Negro league games were a source of pride and sense of belonging with there white peers of the period as well as entertainment. One of Bojangles most noted performances took place on the dugout of Yankee stadium during integrated all star games.
Many dancers over the years have made a contribution to Tap from there unique styles. Gene Kelly had made many movies most notable Singing In The Rain. He combined his steps with Tap and Ballet and created a grace to Tap unseen before. His biggest competition in film was non other than Fred Astaire who combined Tap with Ballroom Dancing. He always managed to swoon the main character in his movies with his debonair moves. Both of them throughout their lives paid homage to the two men that they were influenced by the most. The Nicholas Brothers were more than dancers the were acrobats there highflying moves were the awe of anyone who saw them. During the Harlem Renaissance they stood head and shoulders above all others. Faynard and Harold Nicholas grew up in Philadelphia during the early 1900’s. They were a fixture at Philadelphia’s Standard Theatre. In New York they became the staple of the Cotton Club. The Nicholas Brothers were the biggest headliners and their audiences were never disappointed. They were the only known act to frequently mingle with the white audiences. In 1932 one of the most notable dance competitions in history took place at the Cotton Club. The Berry Brothers of New York danced against the famous Nicholas Brothers in what was described as masterful. The Berry brothers were more acrobatic but the Nicholas brothers simply outperformed them.

Sammy Davis carried the torch of dance from the 1950's and was best know as a card carrying member of the Rat Pack. He would dance in his movies and on stage with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He also would be a influence on a young dancer, singer and actor Gregory Hines. He combined with Mikhail Baryshnikov the accomplished Russian ballet dancer. The movie White Nights was never the box office hit he had hoped but was credited with cold war stereotypes of the people of the Soviet Union. He was a dancer at heart and the son of a hoofer and partnered with his brother to for the dance team the Hines Brothers.The list of famous tap dancers is endless but include names such asJohn W. Bubbles, Charles "Honi" Coles, Vera-Ellen, Ruby Keeler, Jeni LeGon, Ann Miller,, Donald O'Connor, Eleanor Powell, Prince Spencer,, Ginger Rogers, and Jimmy Slyde. The beauty here is that they are all from different backgrounds and when cultures colide we can enjoy the results Art in its truest form.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Femininity

1950’s New England with the short drive from Boston to a small industrial city to the north Portland. When you travel Route 95 in 1950’s the lanes dropped to 4 and the bustling traffic with big finned Ford’s and Chevy’s .ruled the road. Perhaps you see a I like Ike sign off to the side of the road. AM radio playing Elvis and Little Richard. The Korean war was just ending and GI homes were being built along highway to budding small towns into the suburbs. Ted Williams was belting mammoth home runs and Bull Russell was key into building Boston’s first dynasty. Senator Joe McCarthy was beginning the Anti Red Crusade making his list from everyone in government and Hollywood of being communist. In the fishing port city of Portland Maine is where our story begins.

Diane was born into your average family and although she was born with the name Jimmy deep inside from a very early age she was different. There was always a part of her she had to keep concealed but as each passing year she knew what her destiny would be. By age 14 Diane was wearing her sisters clothes and the two of them loved to try on new things. The schools repeatedly tried to request she dress as a boy and after many attempts her parents relented. In High School Diane graduated and as the Police action on Vietnam progressed she thought of joining the Navy . In someway she attempted to contradict her inner self and be what the world thought she be. She left the Navy after being unable to pass the Naval swim tests and married a lesbian woman but the piece of the puzzle didn’t fit After her wife gave birth she soon fled as being a mother was to much for her. Diane was alone and with a child in tow the instincts that are inside every woman took over. She was a single mother providing for her child like any mother would do. She met a man whom she claims was gay and again she tried to find the right pieces to put together. Her biggest dilemma wasn’t that she was gay but the spirit of a woman always guided her and that possibility was just to much for her husband.

In 1965 Diane and another person named Stephanie a black transgendered person that was very similar in circumstances to her own. They had meetings at the Harvard Medical School with a young surgeon named Doctor Francis Woldort. There had been many that applied for this opportunity but Stephanie and Diane were the final 2 selected. The work was ground breaking and the Harvard Gender Identity Clinic was one of the first In the United States. Diane expressed a freedom she had been looking for all her life. She was working at a local dinner in back of the old Filenes department store in downtown Boston.

In 1960’s Boston the theatre district was booming along Boylston and Washington Streets. The area would be divided the off Broadway plays and musicals would inhabit Boylston St and Dance Clubs, Gay bars and strip clubs would form along Washington St and would become known as the Combat Zone. Single motherhood was still not the norm even in a metropolis like Boston working nights Diane would be a headliner at the Piccadilly a local strip club. Diane refused to allow them to reveal her identity and after a few years went on tour. She was never much interested in prostitution or escorting. The one thing that was paramount in her life was her daughter Deborah and providing her with a home and a education.
After Deborah was finished with college Diane decided to have a talk with her. Diane yielded to her history and in a state of shock she stormed out the door. Several hours had passed and when she returned the only demand was that this conversation never took place again. Diane tried to rekindle her daughters relationship with her natural mother but there was very little interest on either side. The one constant in Diane’s life was being a mother and grandmother.
In the Late 70s Dianne finally found love with a local roofer in Boston. Her daughter was settled and married and soon would give birth to her grandchildren. After much consideration Diane gave her husband her story and with out a flinch they were able to move on with what she called a whirlwind romance.
Diane enjoyed life as a grandmother her love for them was always provided her comfort. Diane had never been political or was much of a activist. She was more or less led to be a power of example to other transgendered woman . She would be quick to point out to other woman of the perils of street life and prostitution. She voiced her concern but deep down she never felt she was making any kind of statement. Her inner self always prevailed and she knew her path from of a very early age. Diane embraced the woman inside of her and her journey she felt was chosen for her. Many woman that have followed Diane’s path in life have felt many oppositions and obstacles in their way. She fondly embraces her childhood and is so grateful to her family. She feels that things were so much more simpler in the 50s when she began her transition and people just didn’t come out or if they did it was so rare that it was easily dismissed. Her journey has been met with some heartache and pain but through it all her life was worth living. Diane became divorced in the mid 90s and had remarried again but soon after her husband had passed away. She moved to Florida as many widows do to live out her life. Retirement lifestyle didn’t quit suit her and after being diagnosed with cancer she settle in to a small town in central Pennsylvania. It was such a privilege to have interviewed Diane it is so rare in life to meet someone so at peace with them selves and their life. She has no regrets and when she was sending her her photos I could feel her smile. Five decades behind her and a retiree in her 60s she only is looking forward to the next gift awaiting her around the next corner.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tragedy Hits Home

In Memory of James Imonti
When you measure a mans worth it should be beyond his accomplishments. When you look back on a mans life when you see all the obstacles he over came to get there that’s what is important. When I first met James I had been broken to the point of hopelessness. Doing drugs and living a nightmare of the lifestyle that addiction carries. with it. Everything that has happened to me the last 17 plus years is a direct result of the nurturing and unconditional love he gave me. I learned to be a father to my children. Under his mentoring all my fractured family relationships had been mended. He was the biggest force behind my writing. He encouraged me to write and go deep inside and be the inspiration to others that he was to me. We had spent countless hours traveling the country to speak to convicts and addicts. The greatest compliment I ever received was recently when I was in Chicago a man walked up to me and said he was at a treatment center James and I spoke at several years ago.. He said he was a single father raising his children and he been clean for 2 years. He said the message James delivered changed his life and he wanted to thank him. I was just like him in the last 8 years I was able to be a single parent and be responsible for my children. When I think of all the things that I have accomplished being a father to my kids is what means the most. He led me to my personal relationship with god. His encouraging and mentoring put me on a path I never dreamed of. There is no way I could ever thank him for the life I have. I just pray that I can keep his message alive and inspire others the way he inspired me

Friends recall James Imonti as inspiring
01:00 AM EST on Monday, February 4, 2008

Friends of James K. Imonti Jr. — shot in the back, allegedly by his father-in-law, outside a Food Lion store in Carrboro, N.C. — said the former Rhode Islander had pulled himself from the depths of substance abuse and become a powerful, nationally known motivational speaker and counselor who helped many thousands deal with their substance abuse problems.
News accounts late last week noted only Imonti’s drug problems.
“He did countless, endless amounts of service to the community, service to the incarcerated, the homeless, those afflicted with addiction and alcoholism, people in general. He was the epitome of compassion and kindness,” said his friend Sean Garedo, who was so inspired by Imonti he asked him to be the godfather of his daughter. “He spoke with so much enthusiasm, passion and commitment, his message was heard by the deafest of ears.”
A Rhode Island School of Design graduate and Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, Imonte had a jewelry business, Imonti Designs, and served as his own distributor. He spent most of his life in Rhode Island, residing in Cranston, and moved to Carrboro, just west of Chapel Hill, in 2002. He died at the age of 59.
Friends say Imonti’s transformation came in 1989, after years of living on the edge, occasional trouble with the law, and, most important, the death of his 4-year-old daughter.
Once the change came, “he immediately made an impact on all the addicts in the Greater Providence area,” said Jerry Urso, who has traveled the conference circuit with Imonti. “He would go to detoxes and treatment centers and carry the message of hope to people in prison.”
“He was particularly proud that he was able to take the worst of the worst and change their lives forever. He would take homeless people into his [jewelry] business shop and help them get on their feet. There are so many people who are alive today because of him,” said Urso.
Garedo said Imonti became a familiar face in Rhode Island courtrooms, but this time giving judges advice about men and women in trouble with the law who had turned their lives around.
“James taught us to be fathers and husbands,” he said. “Getting people off drugs is the easy part, restoring them back into society is the hard part. Some of us have become basketball coaches, some have become other types of volunteers, we give back to society. One guy I know who James inspired has just become a radiologist.”
Known as “James I.” because people in 12-step programs don’t go by their full names, the Cranston resident chaired the state’s first major convention, in Warwick, for recovering addicts. He inspired convention groups, some as large as 10,000 people, around the country, said Urso, who spoke at Imonti’s memorial service Saturday at Holy Cross Church of God in Christ United, on Broad Street in Providence.
“I’ve been in Chicago and people would come to him and say, ‘You gave me such a hope, and I’ve been clean for two years,’ ” he recalled.
Garedo said he has traveled all over the United States and Canada. “No matter where I go, they ask if I know a guy named James I,” he said, explaining that recordings of Imonti’s talks have been repeatedly copied and passed around. “People tell me they heard him and he changed their lives forever.”
“He was the most passionate speaker I’ve ever heard,” said Urso. When he was before an audience, you could hear a pin drop “because you hung on every word. He’d take people on a roller-coaster ride that was his life. They would laugh with him, cry with him, and then he would wrap that all up in a bow and give people the gift of hope. And he did that for the last 19 years.”

Rhode Island news

Former Cranston man fatally shot in North Carolina
01:00 AM EST on Friday, February 1, 2008
By Timothy C. BarmannJournal Staff Writer
A former Cranston resident was shot and killed in a North Carolina grocery store parking lot on Monday, and the police arrested the man’s father-in-law for the crime.
James K. Imonti Jr., 59, was found face down, unconscious and unresponsive outside a Food Lion store in Carrboro, N.C., early Monday evening, according to the Carrboro police.
Imonti, a Carrboro resident, appeared to have been shot once in the upper back at close range, the police said. He was pronounced dead at the University of North Carolina Hospital. The police allege that Imonti’s father-in-law, Garland McRay King, 65, shot Imonti after the two argued in the parking lot near the Food Lion. The two had had a dispute for some time, the police said in a statement.
The police said King, a Chapel Hill resident, was found with a handgun at the scene and was arrested. King was charged with first-degree murder, according to a police report.
Jihan Ali, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, walked out of the grocery store and saw a man yelling at a man lying on the ground, the Daily Tarheel reported. Ali said the assailant tugged at the victim’s pants, as if to drag him, partially pulling off the pants.
Jihan said another man told the assailant to move away from the victim, and the assailant went to a nearby car, a sedan parked in a handicapped space, and waited until the police arrived, according to the newspaper account.
Imonti, a Providence native and a former resident of Edgewood, moved to North Carolina in 2002, according to an obituary in The Providence Journal.
He worked as a jewelry distributor for his own company, Imonti Designs, the obituary said. He studied jewelry design at the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated in 1978 from the Jewelry Institute in Providence. He worked as a model maker for Trifari, Marvella, Monet, Swarovski and other jewelry manufacturers before starting his own business. He was an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of Holy Cross Church of God in Christ United.
He is survived by his wife, Lovey King-Imonti, and five children. Emily L. Imonti, his daughter by a previous marriage, died in 1989 at age 4.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

120 Years of National Geographic

Today marks the 120 anniversary of National Geographic. For those over the age of 35 long before cable National Geographic was the way we saw the world. Its images were the seeds of many dreams of all the exotic places I would travel each night. The color and sharp images were a staple of NatGeo. The NGS's historical mission is "to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world's cultural, historical, and natural resources. Alexander Graham Bell was a early president of NatGeo. It was formed by scientist and educators to bring together a educational tool that has vastly surpassed even there expectations. The school library had several copies and I was always there to take home a copy. The Egyptian Pharaoh’s was one of the 1st articles that I had read. The images of Egypt had such profound impact on me. The stories and pictures were so life like that when you opened each page you could almost feel the desert air. I had seen the exposé on King Tut
although it would be another 20 years latter before I would see the exhibit. I looked with amazement as I turned each pay. The photography was like you were looking through the camera’s lens.
A social consciousness was the breeding ground within the pages of NatGeo. During Vietnam all the news was what was written in the papers or local TV. National Geographic showed the images of the people and the devastation to the country. It never took a written stance on the war just the pictures stood for them selves.

Culture was the heart of National Geographic. Every month they would profile a new culture with the faces of the indigenous people to each land. The feathers and paint of the Aztec warriors. The body Piercing of the woman of the Congo. The exotic furs of the Eskimos. As each month passed you were exposed to a new way of life and how they lived and they eyes of each person could unveil the story of their ancestors.

Conservation was at the forefront of their premise. I could never forget the wild life covered in oil after the Valdez oil spill. The pictures were able to capture the effects of pollution like I have never seen. The haunting cruelty as you could see just how damaging was its effects were.

The castles of Ireland, the Taj Mahl, Pyramids of South America, to the Coliseum of Rome the architecture contained in NatGeo showed the beauty in what man could achieve. The research and grants provide by National Geo has added to the conservation and preservation of the world around us. Thank you National Geographic for giving me my dreams.

Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK 104 Days That Changed The World

Henry Loeb was sworn into office neither he or the rest of the world would come to understand the legacy that would follow. Loeb was from a wealthy Jewish family who would latter convert to the Episcopal Church. His conservatism and stubbornness would be part of 104 days that changed the world and silenced one of the most promising voices of humanity. On January 31st torrential rain had sent the sanitation workers of Memphis Tennessee. Home. The next day two workers were killed (Echol Cole and Robert Walker) causing a outcry of unsafe working conditions. Over the next 11 days the sanitation workers had in earnest tried to make simple demands of the City of Memphis that were never met. On February 12th 1,100 of the cities sanitation workers unable to resolve their grievances with the city walk off the job. Jerry Wurf President of AFSCME after many attempts to unionize the ministers and other civic leaders relented and the members of the sanitation workers were then organized and the local branch of AFSCME was formed.

A sit in was scheduled the next day James Lawson and 150 members of the local churches formed COME Community on the Move for Equality. The sit in was a expression of peaceful disobedience non violent protest. The city of Memphis saw otherwise Loeb would enlist the police to break up the sit in tear gas and mace was used and over 100 protesters were arrested but the sit in only galvanized the community further as many high school and college students nearly one quarter of them white would join the sit in.

Lawson would keep constant vigil and prayer over the phone with Martin Luther King who was kept in constant updates to the progress of the strike. Loeb would then declare martial law and bring in over 4000 national guard troops to Memphis. A movement of a black youth group called black power would walk the streets and further complicate the boiling pot that had now been steaming over the city. King perplexed about joining the movement at this point The workers had been caring signs that read I AM A MAN walked up and down in front of city hall.

On April 3rd Martin Luther King would visit Memphis and give his most haunting speech. The crowd was tired as they had battled yet another storm and the closing of his last speech would still the world in manor that had not been felt since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. His last words from the pulpit “We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."“ These words would echo from every corner of the globe as a Nobel Prize winner who had galvanized the masses from Stockholm to Memphis walked off the alter and would never grace us with his eloquence again.

The very next day upon returning to Lorain Hotel Martin Luther King was shot a nation was in turmoil. In major cities across American the billowing smoke could be seen as cities burned in protest. Bobby Kennedy would alert the nation at a campaign stop in Indiana against the advice of the local police officials unable to provide protection addressed a weary nation. In Boston James Brown was set to perform a concert when Mayor Kevin White pleaded with him to cancel the concert. James brown refused and latter that night the Mayor would broadcast the event live on local television. As the concert began many had rushed the stage and the police were moving in to restore order when James brown addressed the crowd and persuaded the audience to return to its seats. Having been in Boston Children’s Hospital that day my father had out of fear spent the night. James Brown performed and Boston was one of the few cities did not succumb to rioting and order was restored. A teary eyed James Brown had with a heavy heart entertained the crowd.

President Lyndon Johnson had charged Undersecretary of Labor James Reynolds with negotiating a solution and ending the strike. On April 8th lead by a grieving Coretta Scott King would lead a march of 42,000 through Memephis in Honor of MLK. Reynolds would continue to meet with the Loeb and through much deliberation between the union, COME and the workers on April 16th the strike had finally ended.

The 1st 104 days of 1968 will be remember for the final chapter in the life of Martin Luther King. What was amazing was that he was a threat to the highest order in that any time he would appear his influence would follow. He no longer was a voice of only Civil rights he had become a citizen of the world. Had he lived what influence would he have had over strikes all over the United States? Unions saw the power in him. Presidents could not ignore him and his enemies would come to fear him as they could not contain the force of righteousness that trembled from his lips. No longer would they be able to do business as usual he exposed oppression and advocated for the rights of all men.

On April 3rd 1968 Martin Luther King sat in the Pantheon and was carried by the Gods to Mount Olympus and meet with Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around and as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. He would visit Rome consult with the Emperors. He would open the doors of the church of Wittenberg He would guide the pen of Abraham Lincoln. He would whisper in the ears of Franklin Roosevelt that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. His spirit was felt in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee--the cry is always the same--"We want to be free." He would stand in front of Bull Conner and Henry Loeb no longer can you call your dogs mace my children. For his eyes have seen the glory.

Franklin Inventor, Dimplomat, Abolitionist

Benjamin Franklin Petitions Congress
January 17, 2006 marks the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth (January 17, 1706-April 17, 1790). During his life, Franklin had many careers including service as a diplomat, a printer, a writer, an inventor, a scientist, a lawmaker, and a postmaster, among others. In his later years he became vocal as an abolitionist and in 1787 began to serve as President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. The Society was originally formed April 14, 1775, in Philadelphia, as The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage; it was reorganized in 1784 and again in 1787, and then incorporated by the state of Pennsylvania in 1789. The Society not only advocated the abolition of slavery, but made efforts to integrate freed slaves into American society.
Franklin did not publicly speak out against slavery until very late in his life. As a young man he owned slaves, and he carried advertisements for the sale of slaves in his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. At the same time, however, he published numerous Quaker pamphlets against slavery and condemned the practice of slavery in his private correspondence. It was after the ratification of the United States Constitution that he became an outspoken opponent of slavery. In 1789 he wrote and published several essays supporting the abolition of slavery and his last public act was to send to Congress a petition on behalf of the Society asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. The petition, signed on February 3, 1790, asked the first Congress, then meeting in New York City, to "devise means for removing the Inconsistency from the Character of the American People," and to "promote mercy and justice toward this distressed Race."
The petition was introduced to the House on February 12 and to the Senate on February 15, 1790. It was immediately denounced by pro-slavery congressmen and sparked a heated debate in both the House and the Senate. The Senate took no action on the petition, and the House referred it to a select committee for further consideration. The committee reported on March 5, 1790 claiming that the Constitution restrains The committee reported on March 5, 1790 claiming that the Constitution restrains Congress from prohibiting the importation or emancipation of slaves until 1808 and then tabled the petition. On April 17, 1790, just two months later, Franklin died in Philadelphia at the age of 84.

Source National Archives.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Willie O'ree Breaking Ice

Just about every morning back in the 80s my day started out the same the drive up Broad St. to the Cozy Corner. A quaint litter dinner in South Providence. What made the dinner unique was it sat at the upper end of Broad St situated in A Italo American and African American nieghborhood. The walls celebrated the diversity with sports memorabilia from the golden age to the modern day. The debates passionate who was better Marciano or Louis, DiMaggio or Aaron and the big debate of the 80s Magic or Bird. The counter was standing room only I had my favorite booth I sat at each day.

Above my seat was a article called O’ree’s Hell on Ice. I never heard of Willie O’ree but the first time I waited to get served it was something to pass the time. I knew about Jackie Robinson and new who Pumpsi Green was I new that Bill Russell was the first black coach in the NBA but had no idea who Willie was. It was the 25th Anniversary of the landmark game on a January night in Montreal. On that Night with the bruins struggling with injuries they called up a kid from New Brunswick Canada named Willie O’ree. It did not make the nation press in Canada or the States there was no fanfare just another kid from the Canada getting to live his dream. What brought chills up my spine was the details of the hell he went through for the next 20 years in his own private hell. It would be another 25 years before another black player would be called up.
What I carry with me the rest of my life is the picture of Willie with his Bruins sweater standing on the ice looking like he was ready to shoot a wrister through the net. Then when you see the title of the Bill Reynolds’s column O’ree’s Hell on Ice it was stirring. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but that headline is forever burned in my memory. O’ree was the last to break the racial barrier in North America Sports people will always remember Jackie, Jack Johnson, Fritz Pollard and many others who were first but Willie is unique he is the first and last the first in hockey and the last to integrate north American Sports.
January 18,1958 was a day no one seemed to remember lets make January 19, 2008 When Willie O’ree takes the ice tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden 50 years latter a day we soon wont forget.
By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY January 18,2008
Full article By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY
Inspiring generations of players
Today, O'Ree's message of perseverance is made to children all over the country through clinics and speeches. "His message has nothing to do with color," McCants says. "His message is about education and following your dreams." He says players get inspired when they see O'Ree and hear his story: "It doesn't just inspire kids. It inspires program directors."
Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, the NHL's highest-profile black player, says, "It rubs off on you when you meet him and see how much energy he has. It's inspiring to see how much he gives back to the game and to the kids. I'm in awe knowing what he went through. There is a lot of trash-talking going on, and I can't imagine what he must have gone through."
McCants says, "I coach kids and I can't get them to listen for 10 minutes or even 10 seconds, but they listen to Willie. People are naturally attracted to him."
The diversity program has grown significantly since O'Ree began working for the NHL. Goalie Gerald Coleman, who played in the Chicago program and O'Ree's All-Star Game, was drafted by Tampa Bay and has played two games in the NHL, in 2005-06.
"It was Willie who pushed me," says Coleman, with the Anaheim Ducks' farm team in Portland, Maine. "He came from nothing to do something no one else had done. My thought was, 'Why can't I do that?' He's making a difference. To me, if we are getting one, two or three kids in every city to play, we are accomplishing something. It may take 12 years to get five more black guys, but that's a start."
McCants says minority players still face racial issues when they play and what they hear from O'Ree helps them deal with it. O'Ree reminds them not to let insults get in the way of their dreams: "If you speared me or butt-ended me, I went after you. But when it came to racial remarks, I let it go in one ear and out the other. If I responded to every word that was said to me, I would have been in the penalty box all the time."
O'Ree says there is still much to be done, that race or cultural issues don't hold back minority players as much as facilities: "Hockey is a unique sport. You can bounce a basketball around in many places, and you can always throw a baseball or football around or kick a soccer ball anywhere. But to play hockey, you need to get on the ice. … We need facilities for these kids."
Fifty years after making history, O'Ree is still working to change the complexion of the game.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Golf Week "What??????

In a unbelievable attempt to sensationalize a story that the media will not let die Golf Week went one step further. The recent cover of Golf Week has been pulled of the shelves and the negative publicity in created will be debated on every sports talk shows and evening news for weeks. Kelly Tilghman, in her second year as anchor of PGA Tour coverage on Golf Channel, was suspended for two weeks because of comments she made during the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship, when she and analyst Nick Faldo were discussing young challengers to Woods. Faldo suggested that "to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up [on him] for a while." "Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman said, laughing. Tiger Woods has down played the incident as he and Kelly Tilghman have been friends. Many pundits have demanded Tiger make more of a social stand instead of letting the story die. My point is I don’t want athletes being my means of being educated on social injustice. There has always been pressure on Michael Jordan Tiger woods to make more stands but what we forget is they are athletes. Because someone can jump through the roof or hit a ball 400 ft does not make them social advocates. The fear I have is they would have public relations managers telling them what to say and it would be based on popularity on issues and in the end would be disingenuous anyway. If it is not in someone’s heart to do something we need to stop making them to stand up for what they do not believe in.
The greatness of Muhammad Ali was he believed deeply in his opinions and when he made a stand he was willing to suffer the consequences. When he not register for the draft for Vietnam he was stripped of his title jailed and was not able to make a living. He did not waiver. He believed in what he was doing and stood behind his decision. When John Carlos and Tommy Smith stood on the medal stand at the Mexico City Games in 1968 with the black gloves raised
high they made a stand. The lost any chance of cashing in on any endorsements from there success and were willing to do so. They were sent home and Avery Brundage went so far as to try to strip them of their medals. Smith and Carlos’s families were subject to many death threats yet they stood for what they believed in. In 1960s Red Arabach started a all black starting five during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He was willing to stand for what he believed. During the pre season when Bill Russell and other Celtics were denied access to white only hotels he pulled the whole team back on the bus and found another hotel. Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson were the greatest examples of champions and had made political statements by just performing and doing it at a time when there was so much pressure on them and there performances were a statement in and of its self. During the 60s they were pressured to speak out during the Civil Rights Movement but the fact of the matter was they were from a different generation and that wasn’t in there nature. They for a short time vilified for their weak stands and was unfair to both their legacies.
If Tiger Woods decided that he would no longer golf until all country clubs had opened its doors to woman and African Americans I would applaud him. This simple truth is many of today’s athletes make social statements but do not stand behind them. If Michael Jordan would sell his share of the Charlotte Bobcats until Gay athletes were allowed to come out publicly then I would be eager to hear his message.

What the world is lacking is real leaders. In the absence of such voices of injustice and intolerance we look for athletes to stand up for us. Nelson Mandela never took a poll before he came out on a issue. Ghandi never had a P.R. Machine tell him what was popular issue to take on. I am still looking for a leader one I can stand behind. A person that doesn’t take polls look for popularity choice but finds in his or her heart and speak from a place they believe in and will be willing to suffer consequences. Smith Carlos, Ali Arabach, Branch Ricky and Don Haskins where are you?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Seperation or Adaptation

Today we are facing a very perplexing dilemma when the gap between the separation of church and state is actually becoming the separation of God from other Gods. Mike Huckabee's recent comments ring of a constitution as only the Christian right sees fit.

I was born into a family that was separated by church in my own home. My father being a devout Catholic and a mother whom was a Protestant. At a early age I had no relationship with God as I could not understand him. Speaking Latin was not on my priority list as a child so the message always seemed lost in translation. At my mothers church the Minister often would be side tracked so we would open our Bibles for the days lesson and some how we never got there. As I have grown I have studied many religions Buddhism Islam different denominations of Christianity I have come to appreciate the spiritual principals that I have found in all religions. It was around 1990 I had joined a Church of All Faiths and found my self choosing to worship as a Christian. I thank God for my Pastor as he said God wanted volunteers not prisoners. He made it clear to me that your relationship with God was a personal one and it should be a based on belief and yearning to establish a connection with spirit of God

As a child the Sunday dinner conversation always found it self in politics and religion. I am grateful through all the spirited debates I was able to hear different choices and was actually encouraged to make up my own mind.

The men from My Church had attended a men’s empowerment workshop with people from many religions. At this conference a Pastor from another church made a very derogatory remark about Muslims. I do not remember the exact reference but it was referring to the selling of bean pies. Reverend Beatey became incensed. He always told us that the value of attracting people to God not dividing them. I often heard him state that the building of a Church should be one of attraction and never based on destruction of another’s faith. His foundation at New Life was not to take people from other churches but find people who had no faith and feed them clothe then and nurture them. As a missionary he never put his faith on the people he helped it was contingent on his assistance. The mere fact was people became attracted to his faith and adopted it for their own.

My lack of faith in my adolescence was directly related to being violated as a child. As my relationship with God has grown I harbor no bitterness to the Catholic Church or its parishioners. What happened to me was a result of a man not following his faith and in my processes of forgiveness I can no longer make claim to hatred and intolerance. My family is still Catholic and I admire their faith. I find the most satisfying form of reconciliation was based on being delivered from my anger and new found forgiveness. The people in the catholic church never harmed me it was some clergy who choice was to disregard the faith and use innocence as a means for their perversions

Were the people whom fell victim to the Crusades of the Catholic church volunteers or prisoners of faith. In Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated similar views to Mike Huckabee the news media almost lost its collected minds. There have been examples of combining Church and State as early as mans first formation of religion. Was the Roman Emperor Constantine really interested in bring Rome to his new found faith in Christianity or was he a Emperor afraid of loosing a country? Ultimately combining the pagan rituals around Christianity. The world has struggled with its understanding and manifestations of God since the beginning of time.

Our founding fathers in their absolute brilliance or unknowing arrogance left the basic pennants of the separation of Church and State Thank God how ever you call his name.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Well you can send us homeless but please make sure they do not bring thier appitite. Imagine that we now need to apply for a permit to feed the homeless. Our problems on homelessness in America are complex and varied. The image of a drug addict or hobo's on a train is as inacurate as it gets in todays world.

Familes and children make up a large segment of the homeless today.
Liberal estimates suggest nearly 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year, according to The National Coalition for the Homeless, findings from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the Urban Institute, and the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers. Of the 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness, approximately 39% are homeless youth and children. Although the 3.5 million homeless people only account for 1% of the United States population, those who are living in a perpetual state of homelessness more often than not, are not shiftless or lazy, but unfortunate victims at the crux of economic and societal forces.

Last year in Orlando Florida Eric Montanez, 21, a member of Orlando's Food Not Bombs, had just finished serving food at Lake Eola Park when he was arrested for violating a city ordinance that limits the number of people you can feed at 25. The charge is a misdemeanor and a federal lawsuit has been filled on behalf of Mr. Montanez stating the city ordinance as unconstitutional.

As the problem continues to escalate we shall see a rise in such lawsuits. It is understandable that keeping the parks safe and clean is another priority of most U.S. cities but as a mater of prudence it is this writers belief that more effort can be made by city officials in providing clean up crews while non profit agencies help absorb the cost of feeding our nations homeless.

By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY

Cities are cracking down on charities that feed the homeless, adopting rules that restrict food giveaways to certain locations, require charities to get permits or limit the number of free meals they can provide.Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas and Wilmington, N.C., began enforcing such laws last year. Some are being challenged.Last November, a federal judge blocked the Las Vegas law banning food giveaways to the poor in city parks. In Dallas, two ministries are suing, arguing that the law violates religious freedom.

DALLAS HOMLESS: The 'Lord's table' deemed illegal"Going after the volunteers is new," says Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "They think that by not feeding people, it will make the homeless people leave."City officials say the rules were prompted by complaints about crime and food safety. Some say they want control over locations so homeless people can also get services such as addiction counseling and job training."The feedings were happening several times a week" in parking lots and sidewalks downtown, says Dewey Harris, director of Wilmington's Community Services Department. "A lot of the merchants said, 'We feel uncomfortable when you have all these homeless being fed downtown when we're trying to attract tourists.' "Last March, the city restricted meals on public property to designated locations and required a permit. One spot has been approved: a city park parking lot.Dallas also limits outdoor food giveaways to approved locations. Those distributing food must take a food-handling course and get a city permit, says Karen Rayzer, director of environmental and health services. A violator can be fined $2,000.Orlando adopted an ordinance in July that requires a permit to serve more than 25 people in a park within 2 miles of City Hall, where most food giveaways were taking place. An applicant may serve twice a year in each park."This ordinance wasn't established to ban feeding," says city spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh. She acknowledges that some groups ignore the law.City Commissioner Robert Stuart voted against it. He is executive director of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida, which feeds 325 homeless people a day but, as private property, is not affected."It's not fair to take a population without a home and make them criminals," he says. "And I don't think we ought to be limiting the opportunity to help others."