Genma Speaks

Entrepreneur/ Writer/ Radio-Host

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mr. Kwame Lillard, I Respectfully Disagree With You

On Sunday, I appeared on a local radio talk show. It was the last show of the year and the top news stories of 2009 were the topics. I was thrilled to be asked. My preparations for the show included analyzing the data from my blog posts hits and the most commented stories on page 4a in the Tennessee Tribune. I went over the data endlessly to make sure I came prepared and informed for the show. My grandfather’s love of historical events and my mother’s fanatical love of reading are deeply planted in my DNA.

My grandfather showed by his example that respect of those who served in the military and the unsung heroes of the civil rights era was honorable. Whenever we met someone from the fifties, sixties, and early seventies who marched alongside Daddy in the struggle for equality, he would introduce them and share a wonderful story about the person with us listening. “You are not going to read this in any history books”, he would start each introduction. I could see the change in posture of the person as Daddy talked about a deed not recognized civically, a gesture gone unnoticed, marches on the battlefield, protests, boycotts – name it and he built the person up. We always walked away feeling as if we met a hero, and the individual walked away feeling proud that his/her sacrifice was not trivialized by today’s standard of leadership. Mr. Joe (Daddy) did not forget the contributions of everyone and was teaching his grandchildren history all in one breath.

With my grandfather in my thoughts, I arrived at the station early with my laptop, copies of The Tennessee Tribune, stories that I have written for the paper that made print/web media outlets in New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and many other markets with me, as well as my Twitter account up and ready to discuss the news with the listening audience. I sent out numerous tweets to my followers on Twitter to make sure they tuned in online. I felt prepared and ready to share the good, the bad and the ugly top stories of 2009.

Mr. Kwame Lillard was a guest also. I have met him before on several occasions, and I knew he was part of ushering in change in Nashville during the turbulent civil right years. I invited the Oasis Center youth to meet him and others when both of us were honored at JUMP’s 10th Annual Christmas Extravaganza. Mr. Lillard arrived a few minutes before the show was about to go on air and we made small talk. He came with notes scribbled on a piece of paper. I commented that old school meets new school because I was wired and was going to tweet and blog while we were on the air. We started off with friendly banter, and by fifteen after we were discussing national topics regarding the Obama administration’s first year. I noted that his message of change and hope on the campaign trail has not quite resonated yet and that “inherited problems” can no longer be used in 2010. Our host mentioned the ”Skip” Gates debacle that we all agreed was not an issue the President should have commented on without all the facts.

As we shifted from national to local news, one of the top news stories that shook the community was Ms. Joyce Searcy’s, former CEO of Bethlehem Centers of Nashville, new role as Director of Community Relations at Belmont University. Her work at the 1417 Charlotte makes her a case study for servant leadership and community involvement for any college or university.

Mr. Lillard ranted that she was now a pawn working for the enemy and started
booing as I was speaking. This contrasted sharply with his earlier statements on air about his celebrating the first principle of Kwanzaa, Umoja, which mean to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race the night before. I couldn’t respond faster enough to disagree with his enemy comments. He rambled on about the “school buying up parks”. I was dumbfounded. My usually sharp wit was numbed for a second and I had to speak through my astonishment. I quickly remembered he was seventy years old. Back home, telling him what I thought at the moment would have been equivalent to sassing and being disrespectful. Whatever message I had to say to the listeners would have been distracted by my “talking back” even at my age on the air. Others on the show disagreed with Mr. Lillard as well, but his initial comment sent many to my gmail and Twitter accounts in protest. Folks were not happy with his words or actions either. We managed to fumble through an awkward moment live, and the show went on with more educated and meaningful commentary.

We ended on a note to be better in 2010. There were hugs and laughter after the spirited show that was engaging, but my dismay at Mr. Lillard’s comment lasted well beyond the morning’s program. My new school meeting with old school was very disappointing.

Why is it so hard to rejoice in another’s goodness and accolades? The years sitting at my grandfather’s feet has taught me to appreciate and value the struggles that took place before me. As I went from listening to my grandfather to earning the right to converse with him, I told him the battlefield is still there but I fight differently. My fight has always been in the boardroom and the marketplace. That does not negate my grandfather’s advocacy by any means. In his later years, I would often tell Daddy, “Try running a company, keeping your kids out of trouble, being active in civic and networking groups and navigating culture issues at every turn. I am in the fight every day.”

Instead of further dissecting Mr. Lillard’s actions, let me share what I wrote earlier this year about Ms. Searcy.

The evening was bittersweet as many shared stories about Ms. Searcy powerfully impacting their lives. Ms. Searcy, a community Shero and servant leader, retired after 22 years of service and dedication. Ms. Searcy's joyful spirit and sacrificial giving of her time and expertise to anyone who needed a hand up or a shoulder to lean on was acknowledged by all in attendance. Ms. Searcy has received numerous awards and accolades for her leadership and devotion to the community of Nashville and women and young girls nationally and internationally. Nashville's 2008 Athena Award recipient will be greatly missed at Bethlehem, but she promised to continue to lead with passion as she takes on her new role as Director of Community Relations at Belmont University.

Sometimes, we have to be reminded that everyone has a role in moving a community and a nation forward. Ms. Searcy, a civil rights leader in her own right, has worked tirelessly to help thousands who have passed through the doors of BCN and touched the lives of many more nationally and internationally. She does not have to remind others of the work she has done in the community because the fruit of her labor is evident. As we ring in 2010, let’s celebrate and rejoice when others are lifted up as we pass lessons of hope, change and empowerment from one generation to another. Young people truly watch and listen to our words and deeds. We can go from hero to zero in an hour.

I will not attempt to hide my respect for Ms. Searcy and many in the community feel the same way. Thank you, Ms. Searcy for your years of community service. I know you will continue to impact others for generations to come.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Illiterate R. Kelly to "Pen" A Book

Illiterate R. Kelly to “Pen” A Book

Sometimes headlines are meant to be sensational to draw the reader to the story and sometimes some headlines, like the one above, should not be written. Illiterate, should be locked up for life, R. Kelly has inked a deal with Smiley Books to tell his life story. The notorious pedophile will tell his tragic pitiful tale of rags to riches and from women to girls, through Tavis Smiley, to anyone who will buy his story. If this is not a con game, then I don’t know what is.

Mr. Smiley who enlightens, encourages and empowers Black folks will help the community of color understand a high school dropout who can barely read turned child predator by publishing his book sometime in 2011. I don’t know what is worst Mr. Smiley’s press release announcing the upcoming book or R. Kelly claiming he is writing one. Are we to assume he will get a rushed copy of Hook-on- Phonics to help him understand how to spell and write the words he will speak? Mr. Smiley, the promoter of Wells Fargo, originator of bad loans to “mud” people, comes back to the very people he duped promoting flawed financial “products” to sell (I mean promote) a remorseful, suddenly educated, cleaned up, family version of R. Kelly. Please.

Once I got over the disbelief, I felt there were questions that Black folks should ask Mr. Smiley. Not R. Kelly. Why continue to peddle products, services and people who either dumb down or rob the very community you declare to love so greatly? And why do Black media continue to give a pass to Mr. Smiley? “What About Our Daughters” founder, Gina McCauley, was one of the first to address this topic last week on her blog. Mainstream and Black media have bypassed the hypocrisy of this all together. She has an entire list of questions that many should ask of the Smiley Group because inquiring minds that are enlightened, encouraged, and empowered really want to know.

Mr. Smiley’s show is broadcasted on PBS, a public station that relies heavily on donations to stay on air. Do donors want to help promote a taped child molester? The very thought should close purses with super glue to keep any money from escaping. Why R. Kelley? Why now? With the drop out rate of Black and Hispanic males at an all time high and the incarceration rate of black males representing a third of the community, why put R. Kelly back in the spotlight? This message could be misinterpreted to mean drop out and become a pedophile like me…you will be exonerated by the community even if you are guilty and get a book deal. Trifling is not even an adjective for this situation.

Mr. Smiley’s creditability continues to sink. Mr. Smiley goes from writing about holding the President accountable to publishing a book by R. Kelly. I got to give it to him for being creative when sponsorships are getting low. When all else fails, play to the lowest mindset in the community. Some stories you do not have to look for, they write themselves. But why would Mr. Smiley partner with R. Kelly? Smiley Books is part of a co-publishing venture with Hay House, Inc. According to Smiley Books website, “Smiley Books is a general trade book publisher that specializes in quality nonfiction”. Dr. Cornel West and Jeff Johnson are two authors who have written works published through Smiley Books.

R. Kelly will now get billing along side a noted college professor and a change agent who gives commentary on the community “discovering and sharing” information that will empower itself. With the swoosh of the pen a deal is cut with Smiley Books and R. Kelly is redeemed while at the same time releasing a new CD this month where song lyrics mention making love to “Baby Girl” several times. Some of the songs on his new CD are so explicit that the titles could not be read during an interview on the TJMS. From the heart the mouth sings, huh? Is part of the marketing of R. Kelly is praying that folks forget his taped criminal activities?

If this makes you sick and you want to become empowered, check out . There are thousands who are using their collective voices to not allow this garbage to be dump into the community. If Mr. Smiley wishes to promote R. Kelly by all means do so but don’t use public airwaves to con the public. Enough with the foolishness and as Jeff Johnson would say “truth is power”. A book about R. Kelly is not about enlightening, encouraging, or empowering Black folks and people of color. He is an “opportunity” to make money. At the end of the day, the making money card seems to trump the “enlighten, encourage, and empower” card often.

By the way, why R. Kelly was not included in Mr. Smiley's book "How to make Black America Better"? There goes my inquiring mind again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reality TV Spawns

We are right in the middle of the holiday season and Tiger Woods'women are as numerous as Santa’s Reindeer. Renaming Santa’s reindeer to fit the saga would not be right for this wonderful time of year so I will try to keep this post PG rated.

When I read that one of the “alleged” women from Tiger’s den was a reality TV show contestant, I thought “here we go again”. How many women hold a press conference with a celebrity attorney to announce proudly she was someone’s trick? I am blaming this docudrama on the need to feed reality TV folks' insatiable appetite. The world of reality television has spawn folks who are as phony as a three dollar bill at Wal-Mart checkout line for twenty or less items. You wonder why they got in the line knowing their money was not real and had no means to pay for the items.

Look at the national attention that reality television has spawn in the last two months from folks “attempting” to be on reality television. The broke down family who faked their missing child flying in a homemade spaceship gave us endless hours of news that was not news. Two weeks ago, we had a Bravo wanna-be house wife, breaking into reality TV that also included breaking into one of the most secured homes in America, the White House. And Facebook proud of her and chubby hubby's new found fame, I might add.

Prior to those headlines, a reality TV “star” dismembered his wife that he met on a reality TV show earlier this fall that set off a national manhunt. The bizarre antics to become famous are bringing forth folks with mental issues that we know are a little beyond touched. Octomom’s mentality of having a bunch of kids and becoming famous came from watching the once wholesome “family channel”, TLC. This network is fast becoming the livelihood of anyone who is pint size, morbid obese, or whose wife’s womb can hold nine babies until each child weighs an ounce. Sick, sick, sick thinking. That Jon and Kate should have been outlawed the minute she got a free tummy tuck and he got new hair plugs. I knew at that point, the show was going to become a product placement mecca. And did it ever! Companies made millions off of Jon and Kate deals that were signed behind the scenes and pitched to famlies in the very scripted show. (Psst, Jon said most of the show was staged.)

We watched as this family's wholesome image become a nightly punch line in less than five years. That’s tragic folks. While watching this family come unglued, TV audiences were saying, “Yeah, I am going to have ten kids and play a Christian on TV too”. Geez, this is as close to peddling crack that a network can get. If it was not already illegal, I would bag this kind of thinking and sell it on the street corner.

All snark aside, reality TV affects us daily. Our news media is picking up on drama sells model and we are hit over the head with news blended with mayhem. Tiger's mess with his mommy-in-law going to the hospital damn near killed us on Tuesday. We can’t take anymore blond women coming forward. Can we get a red head for variety drama sake? When his mommy-in-law had some kind of something happen to her in the middle of the night and the media could only identify her as a blond hair middle age women, the news anchors went fanatical telling us not news about the war, the economy, unemployment or the housing market. That would be real news to real people. We were held hostage with titillating tidbits on who the new woman maybe. The speculation was spawned by the anchors that were getting “tips” from unnamed garbage collectors. Please. Give me the news, please.

When Comcast decided to buy NBC Universal which included Bravo, owners of Ho-wives of Atlanta, OC, New York, New Jersey and soon DC; the value of the news division in the deal was zero. That’s right zero. NBC News division had no value to Comcast. The part of the company that suppose to inform the world about truth when it reports the news, had no value in a deal that was worth nearly $14 billion cash. Now that should scare us more than the war on terror ever did! What was lucrative and valuable to Comcast was the cable division that produces the foolishness that we see nightly. Less facts more drama, God help us all!

Now don’t call me prudish, I am not saying watching reality TV is bad. What I am addressing is how reality TV mentality is effecting how we interact with one another in everyday life. At this stage of my life, too much drama is just too much. We have too many needs in our country to become pawns in the games that spawns of reality television play to become famous. Even in the news division. How the news is delivered has become unreal to many who would appreciate some professionalism without the drama. Comedy shows are becoming top rated for making fun of the news media's lack of reporting the news and the media's rush to report drama staged for a comeback or a spawn's audition.

We see the devil don’t care attitudes of reality TV spawns and the need to be seen at whatever the cost, even if it may hurt one of their own family members or risk national security. What drives this is our media’s willingness to give the spawns a platform to escape discussing real issues with real people. I am praying that we curb the desire to participate in foolishness and granting fake-drama-driven people megaphones to announce their deeds to world. You slept with Tiger Woods you say. Okay. Here’s your award, now go feed a starving child. Next.

In the meantime, the going rate for announcing you are one of Tiger Woods’ concubines is as cheap as bottle of blond bleach, 4.99.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Genma Holmes Recognized for Advocacy Work for Nashville Teens

The Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership, Inc. (JUMP) will hold its annual Christmas Extravaganza, December 6, 2009 at the 15th Avenue Baptist Church at 6:00 p.m. “This year's event will include taking a walk on the “RED CARPET” with the BEST of the BEST”. The Candlelight awards is an attempt to show appreciation to those individuals who have shown leadership in the African American community," said Mrs. Sharon Hurt, Executive Director of JUMP. "It is a small award in comparison to the value of the service they provide." Those being honored with Candlelight Awards will include Mr. Billy Cox - World Renowned Bassist, Ms. Genma Holmes - Blogger, Entrepreneur, Dr. Melvin Johnson - President - Tennessee State University, The Honorable Edith Taylor Langster - Councilwoman District 21, Mr. Billy Lynch - Director - Metro Nashville Public Works Department and the distinguished Vintage Award to Interdenominational Minister’s Fellowship (IMF) for their unyielding service to the citizenry of Nashville.

Genma Holmes is being recognized for her advocacy and leadership efforts to raise awareness and money to support youth programs in the North Nashville area non-profits like Grace Eaton and the Oasis Center. Holmes uses her blog to bring attention to many issues facing youth regionally and nationally.

Also, results of the People's Choice Awards will be presented that night. We will get to see who the customers like the most. Categories voted on were: Best Barber, Best Barber Shop, Best Hair Salon, Best Stylist, Best Chicken, Best Fish, Best Meat and Three, Best Restaurant, Best Specialty Shop and Best Business. "JUMP appreciates the determination and dedication business owners have shown over the years in overcoming the many and varied obstacles to stay in business," said Mrs. Hurt. "We want them to know we share in their commitment.

Sharon Hurt, Executive Director
Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership
1215 9th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37208
(615) 726-5867

Photos above from Nashville's First Teen Job Fair held (March) and Nashville First Teen "Stop the Violence" Rally(November)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Smiles, Dolls and Cars, Hugs and Tears...My Day as Ms. Santa

I started my holiday duties long before the first wreath went up this season. It takes a PhD in organizing to pull off my last month of the year, every year. But this time of year makes me so grateful for the little things in my life even when some things are not going great for me. I get to wear my Ms. Santa suit for the next three weeks and hear first hand from children all they want to share about their lives. On Wednesday, I visited six day-cares/after-school programs and 654 children, between the ages new born to 4th grade, had their picture made with me as Ms. Santa.

My day began at 7:00 am and ended at 7:00pm. I made two stops at department stores as a trade out for toys in exchange for Ms. Santa spending a few hours in their store. Free toys? I could not get there faster enough. Everyone was gracious and kind and volunteers were in good supply. My being Ms. Santa is not about the suit but the heart of spreading cheer and goodwill. It includes soothing crying babies, mediating between two brothers who were not getting along, promoting dolls (SIS) over cell phones for 4th grade girls, encouraging good grades and being respectful to elders, bringing back “yes ma’ma” and “no ma’ma” answers, straighten clothes, slicking down hair, tying bows, and checking diapers to name a few.

Spending the day as Ms. Santa gave me an opportunity to serve others in a small way. The photos with the children to be given to their parents showed me it is truly the small things that stir the soul to motivate others to give of themselves. Ole Time Pottery donated picture frames to Grace Eaton Day Care for me to give to the parents with a photo of their loved ones. Several grandmothers made sure they were there for their grandchildren FIRST Christmas photos and they did not mind getting in the picture too! Teachers and childcare workers were elated and everyone had fun. The visit to the schools confirmed what I already know, teachers are miracle workers. My elves, my children, were patience as the lines seemed to get longer with each passing minute and made sure I did not mispronounce a name by whispering to me if there was a name I needed to say slowly. Nothing is worse than Ms. Santa fumbling over a child’s name.

While visiting a department store, several parents asked to have their children photo made with me. “By all means”, I said to everyone from the parking lot to lay-way pickup. Ms. Santa even faced a few culture issues with a smile. While one Kurdish family was shopping with their children, their son stumbled upon me buying Barbie cosmetic bags for some of the older girls. He looked as if he had seen a ghost and looked nervously over his shoulder. A few seconds later, his family turned the corner and we all stood awkwardly sizing up the situation. The mother and my eyes met and I understood perfectly. I broke the silence by extending my hands to her and saying hello. I complimented her on her handsome son and asked if I could shake his hand. With her permission, I shook his hand and gave him a big smile. At that moment, it was not about religion or faith for the child; I was the lady standing there with a flatbed filled with toys. Some things in life are so simple. I saw him later as I was checking out and he beamed brightly as he waved goodbye to me. Diversity is alive and well in Tennessee.

I will return to the day-cares who are longtime customers of Holmes Pest Control with the requested gifts for my little friends. My “official” wish list has three hundred plus names, nearly double from last year’s count. Many gifts have been bought but I still have many more to purchase. The children were painfully aware of the economic climate that is gripping our country and many repeatedly said, “I only want ONE gift”. Dolls were at the top of my list as usual (I was pushing the So-In-Style Barbie line big time), anything that cried or pooped, Transformer cars, bikes, and one request for a lap top (I was impressed).

Many of the requests were not things 5 and 6 year-olds should be stressing about; jobs for their parents instead of gifts for themselves, hoping their family members will make it home from Iraq safely, worrying if Mom will be able to make her mortgage payment this month. The financial headlines of the day were being shared with me on my lap by children dealing with very real problems. During those conversations, my Ms. Santa hat was switched to counselor and consoler to ease heavy hearts that were so young and breaking. There were a few who cried as they spoke of economic hardships facing their families. I was glad to hold them a little longer and give them a tighter hug. No toy could fix those issues but letting a child know that I will remember to pray for their family calmed a few little worried souls. My Ms. Santa duties also include ministering as well.

I want to say "thank you" to those who helped get me to the halfway mark of my season by donating monetary gifts or giving of their precious time; Mrs. Perry, Publisher of the Tennessee Tribune, Inspired Living, Hal Cato and the Oasis Center staff and teen volunteers, Randy and Jennifer Wolcott, Dr. and Mrs. Jimmy Sheats, Dr. and Mrs. Frist, Julie Stevens, TSU's Men Track and Field Team, Rev. Janiro Hawkins, April Eaton and News Channel 5’s Urban Outlook and Gary and crew at Performance Studios.

I will close by sharing some photos with you from my very fun filled, very long, shopped out, incredible, big grateful day. Have a Happy Thanksgiving weekend. Don’t forget to pick up a few extra toys for my friends at Grace Eaton Child Care, I need you.
(permission given)

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