Thursday, April 21, 2011

Living Next Door To A Hero


Understanding My Legacy.
Guest Post By Franz Stringer Holmes


The Pittsburgh Steelers should have won the Super Bowl.

Whew, I had to get that out of the way. I have heard the old saying “if you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it”. I prefer, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, then you don’t know where you going." Without knowing our history, it is hard to appreciate those that have paved the way for you. I have always been taught to stand on my own two feet and blaze my own trails. However, the influence of my parents, especially my father, has been tremendous to me throughout my life. I heard that having a father figure in your life is the closest thing we get to seeing God in the flesh. I could not agree more.

As a "youngster", I found myself holding my father up as the standard of how I wanted to live my life. Anything that was good enough for him was certainly good enough for me. I was taught to at least give things a try. He doesn’t know this but hearing his stories of his childhood gave me hope and justification in mine. If he could act a fool in school and still get good grades then surely I could go to school and excel. I had no choice in the matter. Mentioning good grades brings back to my first statement. Yes, the Steelers should have won the Super bowl this year!

Steeler Pride runs deep at my father’s house. I’m not even big on football but I always enjoy watching the Steelers play. Steeler Pride is so deep in my family blood that even when my former TSU track teammates played against them, I still rooted for the Steelers. To know why is a bit of a history lesson. In high school, my father played football and dreamed of going to the league. He told me once that in his day, TSU was known around the world for bringing the best black football players to the NFL. I am not going to try to name all the names of NFL greats that have played football at TSU that my father knows personally but the name that stands above all names is Joe Gilliam, the first Black NFL quarter back.

Joe Gilliam Jr. played football at Pearl High School and led his team to the very first integrated city championship in 1966. I know that well because I attended middle and high school at Pearl now known as Martin Luther King Magnet High School. There’s a small shrine to Joe Gilliam in a room behind the auditorium that stays locked. How I know this is a subject for another story. The Gilliam name came to mean much more to me as I graduated and prepared for college. I visited numerous schools and I received many offers to attend other colleges but TSU was my first and only choice. My only financial concern regarding school was my books. Imagine my surprise after being enrolled at TSU that my book purchases were paid for by a third party. I later learned that it was billed to the Joe Gilliam Foundation. It was then I began to piece my fathers lover of the Steelers, the Gilliam name and my family together.

Coach Joe Gilliam Sr. served as defensive coordinator at TSU and most likely one of the most influential men in my father’s life. My father, Roger Holmes, played football for TSU.The Gilliam name that I heard throughout my childhood was Joe Gilliam but I had no idea that from the time I was knee high to an ant that my father was talking about Joe Gilliam, SR!



I heard every story about every game, every long night at practice, about every “boy you gonna be a man when I get through with you”, every and all things Coach Gilliam. The very idea of disappointing Coach Gilliam, my father’s hero, MADE me go to class even when I did not want too. After all, he was paying for my books! I had no choice.

After a few semesters, I moved off the yard. As fate would have it, I moved across the hall from none other than Coach Gilliam. I suddenly understood every conversation I heard my father tell about curfews. Living across the hall from Coach Gilliam was an experience I will never forget. I read every book he read. I ate what he ate. I watched every football game ever played by anyone that was suited in a Big Blue uniform. And no matter how I tried, I could not leave my apartment without his door opening to make sure I was alone. Living next day to Coach Gilliam I definitely learned perseverance.

Living in my father's house, on campus and across the hall from Coach Gilliam, I understand fully what it means to love TSU. I know without a doubt that I stand on the shoulders of those before me. I wouldn’t be where I am without my family. And my father would not be who he is without having men like Coach Gilliam who made sure he did not have to walk on grass but on the road that was paved by their sacrifices. The day I met Coach Gilliam, I understood what legacy meant. My father’s legacy became mine as well. Coach Gilliam, as we celebrate TSU’s past, present, and future in the Big Blue Issue, I want to say thank you for every lesson you taught me about being a man in the game of life. The evenings spent with you, I will always treasure. God bless you!
Your neighbor,
Franz Holmes

Originally published in the Big Blue Issue

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Honest Dialouge About "Food Desert" Legislation

Let's MoveIn February and March, several organizations that I am a member of had legislative days at the state and national levels. For many years, I have participated with the pest control industry and women business owners’ legislative days in DC. Coincidental, both are usually held within days of each other every year. Because of my hectic schedule last month, I did not attend legislative events in DC that pertained to issues that regulate how I do business as a pest management profession or a woman owned company.

But I did visit our state legislators to address issues that I felt strongly about professionally and morally. The voter registration ID bill reminds me of Jim Crow's Old South and legislating when a mother can breastfeed her baby sounded too much like “big government” overstepping. Because I blog about issues on the hill often, I was right at home with our state legislators, even this new crop of politicians. Many issues cherished by my family because of my grandfather’s contributions on civil rights battlefield have been stem rolled by this group. I have shared my thoughts with many bill authors by phone, email and in person. Bills regarding voting issues have wiped out years of voter rights activism.

Although not as important as bills pertaining to voting issues, the Food Desert legislation bill, left me with mixed feelings. It is a good idea but I do believe more education around food deserts is essential as well as the community of color needs to be informed of the role it plays it getting this type of legislation momentum.

The food desert legislation has been a hot topic since our First Lady, Michelle Obama, kicked off her initiatives to tackle obesity in children. Food deserts are neighborhoods and areas of the country without supermarkets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Mrs. Obama, like all first ladies before her, picked a cause that is close to her heart. Mrs. Obama is raising awareness about childhood obesity and using her platform as First Lady of the United States to influence others to become involved to make a difference in stamping out childhood illness related to obesity.

The initiative named “Let’s Move” is celebrating its first year of raising our country’s consciences about what our children eat and how it impacts their health long term. Mrs. Obama kicked off her Let’s Move program by inviting children to the White House to plant a vegetable garden and to learn healthy eating habits from the White House Chef.

Mrs. Obama's program has stated statics that show one out of three children is overweight or obese. In African American and Hispanic homes, the number jumps to 40% of the children are dealing with obesity issues. As children have gotten bigger, the number of children diagnosed with adolescent diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, and even cancer has increase significantly as well. Disease and chronic illnesses that are usually found in adults, thirty years ago, are plaguing kindergarten age children.

Thirty years ago, most school age children walked to school and played outside almost daily. Today, recess programs have been cut from most school budgets and children spends hours indoors playing video games or watching TV. With less physical activities and more children eating processed foods, Mrs. Obama addresses obesity and unhealthy eating habits among children by cheering for more outdoor play and exercise and stressing to families and schools to cook more nutritional meals.

Mrs. Obama have also encouraged more fresh vegetables be made available in Metropolitan inner cities and rural communities that have no grocery stores. Mrs. Obama drew the ire of conservatives when she spoke about lunch cafeterias serving more salads and baked foods. This was touted as being part of the President’s socialist intent to introduce the government into every aspect of our lives by suggesting healthy eating to school age children.

When Mrs. Obama spoke at an event in Philadelphia last year, many took note of her suggestion on how to deal with food desert areas of the country. She offered this solution:

"Let's move to ensure that all families have access to healthy, affordable foods in their community," she said. "(W)e've set an ambitious goal here: to eliminate food deserts in America within seven years.

"To do that," she said, "we're creating a Healthy Food Financing Initiative that's going to invest $400 million a year -- and leverage hundreds of millions more from the private sector -- to bring grocery stores to undeserved areas and help places like convenience stores carry healthier options."


Mrs. Obama offered a financial suggestion to help deal with an issue that is layered with many systemic problems. A broad idea that must start on the local level loses traction when we look at the issues that must be apportioned by state and local governing bodies and the mindset of neighborhoods and the communities that it will affect. Stating that we need a grocer to service a neighborhood so that the community can buy fresh vegetables and fruits sounds like a simplistic solution. But often, we overlook at the reasons why a neighborhood is without a grocer even though you have a buying customer base. I compare these scenarios to putting a cart without wheels before the horse, it is not moving…period.

If the community of color is honest, most minority neighborhoods without grocery stores are riddled with crime. This is the case even here in Nashville. At one point, almost every area of town had a grocery store. When busing became law, the suburbs started to flourish leaving inner city areas without businesses. As the businesses grew in surrounding areas like Brentwood, Nashville neighborhoods became more and more crime infested. Stores were less and less willing to remain open in those areas. Business owners moved out. It is widely known high crime rates coincide with the lack of unemployment. High unemployment is usually encrusted with high school dropout rates. Trying to figure it out is like trying to decide if the chicken or the egg came first. Crime, lack of education, and no jobs spin off situations like food deserts.

According to www.letsmove.gov, when low income areas are food deserts, families tend to spend more money on calorie laden fast foods or convenient foods found at corner markets that do not offer healthy choices. As more and more politicians are picking up the Let’s Move mantra, they must understand that addressing how to make a food desert area more attractive to business owners should be part of the dialogue as healthy lifestyles are discussed. They must be worked on simultaneously. That shows potential stake holders that every angel of the problem is being thoroughly addressed and not just throwing more money into another government program that will not transform a community, a corner or even a child.

Trying to entice large conglomerates to invest millions into opening a neighborhood grocer takes years of planning. Marketing must be done to attract companies and communities must prepare an educated workforce for employment. This is as critical as getting the children to eat healthy foods to prevent childhood obesity. At www.letsmove.org, seven years is cited as a time frame to change an area. Putting all the pieces together takes a few years. That part is rarely cited by the critics of Mrs. Obama or food desert advocates.

I commend the First Lady for making eating healthy as a goal not only for children but for families in general. Healthy families lead more productive lives. Mrs. Obama is a role model for many women across the nation. Personally, she has encouraged me with her dedication to exercise and healthy eating. As many organizations begin taking up Mrs. Obama’s cause to fight childhood obesity issues, the groups need to be engaged in those community. Being known for meeting the needs of a community is vital to addressing systemic issues in a community. As more people become aware of food desert legislation, let’s move with determined steps to break the cycle of crime, unemployment, and lack of education in our communities as we promote healthy lifestyles. Grassroots activists can transform lives and create changes that can be seen thirty years from now. One cannot be done without the other. For more info go to www.letsmove.org www.letsmove.gov
Article first published as Honest Dialogue about "Food Desert" Legislation on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MSNBC's Black Agenda: Perms, Afros and Ed Shultz




In January 2010, MSNBC aired a highly promoted town hall with Tom Joyner and Chris Matthews hosted at Texas Southern University. The show was billed as a measurement of the state of America in the era of Obama. “Obama’s America: 2010 and Beyond” was part of MSNBC’s Martin Luther King Day observations.

Chris Matthews moderating was awful. He had very little restraint and could converse with anyone, Black or White. His constant interruptions and Tom Joyner’s snarky radio commentary did not translate well on TV. Both Matthews and Joyner were cheerleaders of the Obama Administration so it was hard to see objectivity. The event was on the heels of the first anniversary of our country’s first elected Black President. The summer of 2009 town hall meetings from hell, healthcare legislation debates, and “Skippy Gate” are incidents that exposed attitudes about race relations and the need for more ongoing dialogue. Those types of discussions need to be done with precision and care not ratings boosters for networks. The usual suspects of Black “leaders” known as speakers from Tavis Smiley’s once lucrative now defunct annual Negro super bowl, State of the Black Union (SOTBU), were itching to talk race relations. The SOTBU was once a coveted event where many were given a platform to strut their knowledge about all that ails black folks. Once Senator Obama became President Obama, the media gave the world a new coded label, “post racial America”. It was touted as the end of racism but many saw it as the beginning of cable news race-baiting at opportunity.

The "post-racial America" label popped up everywhere, while race-baiting became a carefully crafted art form that has induced more fearmongering than the Jim Crow South for all races. The word “racist” has been used like toilet paper, describing anyone and every situation. Every network has tried dissecting the new terminology and the repackaging of racism in one way or another. CNN’s "Black in America” series hosted by Soledad O’Brien left many wondering: who worked at CNN? Surely not people of color. Some of the segments only further cemented the harsh stereotypes of blacks, and many criticized the network for not being fair and balanced with the stories portrayed.

On the "Fair and Balanced" Network, Fox’s Glenn Beck, accompanied occasionally by Dr. Martin Luther King’s niece, Alveda King, had several panels about race on his now cancelled show. Dr. King’s niece read biblical passages while Beck, a Mormon, gave commentary about visions revealed by God to him in the shower, in the limo, or at the bank. One of the visions left Beck with the belief that the President was a racist and had a “deep-seated hatred of white people.” Beck even had a town hall meeting of Black conservatives who had voted for Obama but later loathed their decision, or did not vote for the President because they detested socialism, Marxism, non-Christians, and/or anything that threatens Democracy according to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

On Sunday, MSNBC’s Ed Shultz stepped into the arena of racial moderation via media outlet depictions as the host of "The Black Agenda." Thousands on Twitter asked “Why?” and “Where is Tamron Hall?” Last year, "The Black Agenda" was hosted by Ed Schultz and Tamron Hall. This year MSNBC decided to drop the Black co-host and let Ed fly solo.

That was an ill-advised flight for MSNBC. Those who tuned in to watch shared their thoughts across the World Wide Web without mercy. The usual suspects from the Negro bowl were front and center, while Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come” and James Brown's “Living in America” were played at commercial breaks. “The Black Agenda” gave viewers clowns on parade and coonery at every turn. The show was part of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network week-long conference in New York that was kicked off with the President as the keynote evening speaker. Earlier on the same day, the President launched his reelection campaign via the Web.

The MSNBC "Black Agenda" televised panel came at the end of the National Action Network’s annual summit. It was advertised as featuring prominent African American leaders from across the U.S. who are committed to furthering progress on critical issues impacting their community. Schultz and the panel will discuss pertinent topics affecting African Americans such as politics, modern civil rights, healthcare, education, and ways to help build a stronger African American community. MSNBC will ask the tough questions: What is the Black Agenda? What can the African American community do to help itself? How does the Black Agenda help to further the overall American agenda?

If reading the tweets on Twitter was an indicator, the show encountered turbulence after the opening credits. Hearing Ed Schultz from North Dakota rewrite Sharpton’s history showed Ed did not do his homework. Sharpton was given “a gift to the Black community” slant. The media loves contrived storylines. However, all that ails black folks were not changed to fit Sharpton’s new edit. No daddies, unwed mamas, no education, no houses, many jail cells, and only a few slices of government cheese were the usual problems seen through the same lens and told by the same voices whose protests and shouts are nothing more than punditry of another color. No solutions were given, no success stories to model were told.

When Rev. Sharpton and Princeton’s Cornel West began to sharpen their talking points, the plane dropped 30,000 feet for MSNBC’s new race relations expert, Ed Schultz, and the Sunday camera guy with no instructions on how to steer the debate back to a “give black folks more help” viewpoint. When the talk turned to how the President can help the Black Agenda, Sharpton and West had an on-air collision for the whole world to see. The carnage was ugly.

Two Black men, one with a perm and one with a blown-out Afro, yelling and shouting about who was doing more to help the Black Agenda was disastrous. The part of the exchange that has gotten the most attention was:

Sharpton: “Too many of us are putting it all on the President, if I see a [Paul] Ryan in Congress, where is the counterpoint to Ryan? That’s not President Obama’s job...He shouldn’t lead the civil rights marches against himself. Eveybody’s sitting around acting like we can’t do anything, Obama’s going to do it. That’s hogwash.”

West: “They have a black constituency and there’s a context in the nation that a criticism of President Obama is an attempt to support the right-wing vicious attacks of Fox News and others.”


Sharpton’s hood-lined Ralph Lauren White House makeover and West’s displeasure at not being in the inner circle and lover of all things Obama was evident. Both men made a mockery of anything good accomplished by people of color before or after their births. Sharpton’s “I’ll cut ya” tirades are becoming famous and West’s “my brother, I love you” while stabbing you with his dictionary of words that conceal hate are distractions.

The media folks' biannual specials promoted as forums to discuss the status of race relations while putting on race-baiters 24/7 are futile and create further divisions. Media outlets need to examine how they have contributed to the decline of race relations in our country and look closely at the makeup of their staff, reporters, and anchors. Out of 815 newsrooms across the county only 64 have people of color at a management level, according to www.Root.com’s publisher, Donna Byrd. If more people of color were working in newsrooms, outlets like MSNBC would have known beforehand that a panel with Sharpton and West talking about a Black Agenda would crash and burn quickly.

On Monday, a less publicized Aspen Institute Symposium on the State of Race in America was held in DC. The panel was diverse and included women and younger demographics that gave solutions on how to show America’s diverse makeup, thoughts, and lives without preconceived filters. MSNBC’s Richard Lui was the moderator. However, this event was not advertised at every break throughout the day for weeks. The panelists spoke truth to power about the role the media plays in the dilution of the news and how the media has stoked racial flames at every turn, including the media’s influence on Donald Trump’s pretend run for president. As of yet, there has been no coverage of Lui’s role at the conference on MSNBC.

In the meantime, steer clear of cable news specials featuring old angry men with Jheri curls, permed hair, or blown-out afros discussing race issues, moderated by folks from culturally diverse states like North Dakota. They are only going to leave one with the foul taste of outdated government cheese thinking, which should be discarded for the sake of the country’s agenda of moving forward not backward.

Article first published as MSNBC's Black Agenda: Perms, Afros, and Ed Schultz on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

House on A Hill Interviews Genma Stringer Holmes


House: Genma, you are beautiful inside and out. My grandmother used to tell us "Pretty is as pretty does". What lessons were you given to balance your overall disposition?

Don't read your press. Life is short and one must live it to the fullest. I am a hard worker by nature. I am learning to slow down...some. Getting up at 4:30am instead of 4:00 is not so bad after all! All kidding aside, I kill roaches for a living. The job is not glamorous at all, I just make it look that way!

House: You often speak of your family's influence on you growing up, what was your most important or memorable message from their battles and plights?

My grandfather was the most humble person I knew. But he was very proud as well. He was humble about being influential and well known but proud of being able to take care of his family and provide my mother and aunts and uncles with an education against all odds. He only had a third grade education but was the most intellectual person I knew. Those opposites taught me that your weakness can be your greatest strengths in life.

House: Entrepreneur, model, writer - I am interested in learning more about your passions! Madame C.J. Walker recipient, safe and effective pesticides, and socially conscious, please share with us your motivation.

I am motivated about being able to help and serve others. Deposit some good in someone's life and watch how it blooms in your back yard!

House: You are also a parent. Describe how you instill value of life and love into your little people.

My little people are not so little anymore. My oldest is 24. My baby boy is 20 and my daughter, the youngest, is 19. Now that my babies are not babies anymore, I am in a different phase of my life. Last year, was my first year not homeschooling and I literally was at a lost with myself because I was so use to that structure that teaching gave me. It took me a minute to find myself after the kids were gone. I realize that my babies are now teaching me more about life. I have taught my kids the exact same things that were instilled in me; hard work never killed anyone, accept no one 'no' to your dreams and goals, treat the 'little' people like kings because they are and it is the right thing to do, and always do what is right when no one is looking. I don't expect them to be perfect because no one is perfect but I feel strongly they were taught right from wrong. I talk less and listen more and pray intently for them. Wisdom does come with age, I must admit. By the time my youngest left home, I was a different mother for sure.

House:Genuine, smart and sassy, you never back down from a challenge - nor do you flinch when it is time to do or say what is right, how do you stand firm with courag
e?

I believe that speaking truthfully to power with respect. Recently, I share my perspective to a CEO about an event that had very few minorities in attendance. The room grew quite because I spoke up and shared that if you wanted more people of color to be his team would have made sure they were present. He did not take my observations or boldness very well. But what I noticed a few weeks later that the next event included more people of color in his marketing. Now, he is still pissed that I shared my point of view but when he starts to count his money, a year or two from now, he will be just find and thank for me for my honesty. I spoke to truth to power and in love. I didn't attack him or his company. The lesson here is sometimes you have to just say it. That boldness has been tempered with grace over the last few years. I did not always have grace with my courage.

House: What does Black History mean to you?

Black History is American History. Black History is everyone's history. We all reap from learning from individuals that have made this country great. I try not to regulate American History to one month out of the year. I believe in celebrating the contributions made thousands every day of the year. I teach my history, my Black History, which is American History every day. I speak often about my grandfather. He marched, he protested, he served, he gave...not in February but every day of his life until he took his last breath. When we don't know our history, we suffer as a people, a nation, as a country. The further we get away from our history; we are running from the lessons that were learned from that history. Lately our country is going in a direction that reminds me we are forgetting American History and substituting it for a type of history that all Americans know is not the country’s history. That is dangerous grounds for everyone to be walking on.

House: How does Genma move forward? What do you see for yourself and your projects in 6 months?

I have come full circle in my life. I am back working in the film industry behind the scenes. I have been working on a movie project for the last several months with good friend and film producer, Curt Hahn of Film House. I filmed all winter with him so that kept me busy. As for the pest control industry, I want to help take the hype out of the bedbug frenzy and making sure more education on prevention is what people are learning. There is too much fear and not enough education. That is high on my priority list list. And I am also working to give two minority scholarships to students interested in the pest control industry in 2011. Several of us who were very active in Minorities in Pest Management from 2005-2010 have gone back to the drawing board and looking to put the organization with a foundation that focuses on scholarships. I have also am startling a PAC as well. Politicians pay closer attention to issues when PCAs are addressing the issues. Sad but true. They serve you better for some reason!

I am blessed. God has been good to me. I want to make sure I am giving back. I want flowers blooming in my yard from the seeds I have planted in others!

(Thank you Houseonahill.org my Twitter Buddy)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Zetas Doing Good In the Community


I celebrated the last weekend of Women’s History Month not traveling but with the women of Pi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta. I knew several Zetas from other organizations and the invite was special on so many levels. My mom is a Zeta. One of my favorite aunts is a Zeta, my son is a Sigma and his wife is a Zeta. (No, I am not Greek). I called home to tell my mom that I would be attending the Pi Zeta’s 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary Blue Revue. Her response to me was what I expected, “It’s about time you attended our events. You better blog about it too.” I reminded my mom that she told me years ago; “keep my life off your blog”. I only complied with her wishes. Since being a Zeta is a big part of her life, I knew I could not mention the Zetas without writing about her.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc was founded in 1920, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. as the sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Five women chose not to embrace the tenets of established black sororities, and chartered Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to encourage through scientific, literary, cultural, and educational programs; promote service projects on college campuses and in the community; foster sisterhood; and exemplify the ideal of Finer Womanhood. A private nonprofit organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is incorporated in Washington, D.C. and in the state of Illinois.

Since its inception, the sorority has chronicled a number of "firsts" among the established black sororities. In addition to being the only organization constitutionally bound to a fraternity, the sorority was the first to charter international chapters, those in West Africa and Germany; to form adult and youth auxiliary groups, the Amicae, Archonettes, Amicettes and Pearlettes; and to organize its internal affairs within a central, national office administered by a paid staff.


My mom pledged Zeta many moons ago at Jackson State University. Many family members and friends are in one Greek organization or another but I have seen a Zeta, literally, from my first moment of life. After speaking to my mom, I became really excited about attending the Blue Revue because I knew secretly, in her heart, she was proud that I called to say I was attending. I was invited by a woman who I respect tremendously and has always represented quiet strength in the Nashville community, Mrs. Veonie McKinnie aka “Miss Veonie”. I have mentioned her on many occasions to my mom. If my mom was to visit Nashville, I would take her straight from the plane to her Soror, Miss Veonie. Both are strong advocates of higher education and serve their communities without the need to be out front.

Miss Veonie called me twice to make sure I was not traveling and each time I reassured her wild horses could not stop me from attending. Besides, I couldn’t back out because I shared the info with my mom. She was going to want an update to share with the Zetas in Mississippi. The event was on a rainy Saturday afternoon. But the rain did not stop the room from being packed from corner to corner with Zetas and Sigmas. I felt at home and thoughts of my mom, my grandmother, my son and my aunt kept invading my head. They would have been in blue heaven!

I noticed everything from the moment I stepped through the door. I took in every detail; soaking in the atmosphere of the room, delighting in the décor, marveling at the Zetas in their ornate hats, and the students with their proud families. One of the things that stood out to me at the Blue Revue event was the focus was on the scholarships and students and not Greek organization. For a non-Greek, this was so refreshing! Education was stressed at every turn. I sat right next to Dr. Judith Presley not realizing she was a judge. She had a hard job along with Michael Green and Cynthia Dirkson who were judges also. I did not envy their tasks. The competition was tough. The seniors competing for cash prizes were: James DeShawn Lovan, East Literature Magnet; Remo Weaver, Hunters Lane; Harvae Herod, Whites Creek; Jocelyn Jones, Hume Fogg; and Tiffany Vann, Good Pasture Christian.

The Pi Zetas’ scholarships are the stuff of legends. Every participant receives cash for college. The Pi Zeta Chapter has a history of providing scholarships to high school seniors as a way of assisting these students with an opportunity to continue their education. Started in the 1950s, the Blue Revue was introduced as an annual scholarship fundraiser for high school girls. However, in the early 1960s, this event was opened to first year college women. Olivia T. Brown is noted as a winner of the Blue Revue as a college freshman. She went on to join Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated and serve as president of the Pi Zeta Chapter.

The Blue Revue has evolved from a means to help raise funds for college to an outlet by which participants can interact with other like-minded, college-bound youth and attend enrichment workshops that will aid them in future endeavors. Though the Blue Revue moved to a bi-annual schedule in 1976, it still remains one of the biggest and most successful events hosted by Pi Zeta. Currently, this event is open to young men and women who are high school seniors. Pi Zeta regards itself as the premiere graduate chapter of Nashville in continuing to aid our youth in achieving the goal of higher education while exemplifying the sorority’s long-standing ideals of Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Finer Womanhood. On the Pi Beta’s website the word Scholarship is before Sister and Service. You know I love that.

The students were not only talented orators but showed us grace with their dance skills. No hip hop clowning here! My mom would have been beaming like a lighthouse. The students were coordinated, poise, and proud. You could see and feel it. Since the Blue Revue was open to young men as well, they announced the Mr. Debonair winner first. Jamal DeShawn Lovan won. It was mentioned at my table that he also won the Top Ladies of Distinction Bowtian Crown in December. At the rate he is going, college will be paid for by the time he graduates from high school. He is a member of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and wants to major in Criminal Justice. His speech, titled “Obama Haters”, had the women and men in blue saying "amen" throughout his presentation.

Tiffany Janielle Van won the oratorical contest and the title of Miss Blue Revue. She is a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and wants to be a pediatrician. Her speaking skills and grades will take her where ever she wants to go in life. Her family was so proud and rightly so. All of the contestants were wonderful and not one left without monetary funds to help them on the higher education journey. Nearly $10,000 was split between five students. God is good!

I left on a high note and did a little research about the Pi Zetas once I got home. Since Pi Zeta's inception, the chapter has grown tremendously. Presently, there are over 75 active financial members. (Translation…dues paying folks). Pi Zeta was the first female Greek letter organization to sponsor a chapter on the campus of American Baptist College with the help of Soror Melvia Russell. To date, Pi Zeta sponsors five undergraduate chapters. They are:
• Epsilon Alpha (Tennessee State University)
• Kappa Gamma (Fisk University)
• Mu Theta (Middle Tennessee State University)
• Gamma Nu (Austin Peay State University)
• Phi Nu (American Baptist College)

There is no denying that the Pi Zetas are “doing good” in the community. Miss Veonie reminds me often that she sponsored the hardest grant writer ever, Dr. Pat Mitchell-Juarez’s chapter on Fisk campus. After leaving Miss Veonie’s house, I would carry my mom straight to Pat’s kitchen! I always nod my head as if I heard her story about Pat for the first time. When Miss Veonie is proud of you, she tells the world!

Well as you can see, I truly have something to write home to my mom. Dr. Debra Smith, principal of Jones Paideia Magnet School ended the evening with “It’s a great day to be a Zeta”. My mom would have said, “Amen”, loudly without hesitation. I want to say "thank you" to all the Greek organizations who contribute much to the quality of life in our community and who keep the education of our youth at the forefront. We are in tough times and young people need more and more role models every day. And I want to say a big special "thank you" to my mom, Dr. Stringer, a proud Zeta who I love dearly!

(pics from event will be added this week)