Genma Speaks

Entrepreneur/ Writer/ Radio-Host

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Urgency of NOW

Last month, $2.7 million in federal stimulus money was awarded to the Nashville Career Advancement Center. Partnering with Meharry Medical College and the Oasis Center, 600 jobs created for teens needed to be filled through the grant. A sign up sheet was passed around at the Oasis Center board meeting asking for volunteers. This sounded like such a unique event that I could not help but put my name down.

I imagined all the possibilities and the huge difference this venture would make in the lives of so many teens. An idle mind is the playground for the devil; I can hear my grandfather muttering. Daddy kept folks busy by wearing us down with work. This was his quick fix for the long hot days of summer and it kept us out of trouble.

With Daddy's words in my head, I volunteered not knowing what to expect. Information about the job fair was sent to schools and the media, but we had no way of knowing how many teens would attend. Be ready for the unexpected I was told by our fierce leader, Hal Cato. I sensed from his tone that he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. The forecast was uncertain for the weekend and a first time job fair for teens had no room for the unknown.

Upon my arrival at Youth Opportunity Center @ 8:15am, I found the command center tent packed with teens. They came early and I sent up a prayer for the volunteers to get here soon. The job fair was scheduled from 10:00-3:00. By 9:00am, young people were everywhere. They were hungry for jobs. I looked outside and my heart skipped a beat and swelled with joy. As far as the eyes could see, folks were in line to snap up the ultimate teen prize, a summer job. It looked like an American Idol audition with kids from ages 14-19 wrapped around the building. How many jobs do we have, I questioned myself and everyone around me? After taking a second and third look outside, I wondered if we were "Jack" and the fast growing lines were going to become gigantic beanstalks.

Some of the vendors that participated at the unprecedented event were: Publix's, the Frist Center, BCN, Goodwill, Youth United, Metro Health Department, Hands on Nashville. Applications from Foot Locker, the Gap, Hobby Lobby, Aeropostle, Subway, Hibbet Sports, Sports Authority, Arby's, Shoe Carnival and a host of others were available for the teens to fill out and turn in. We even had a room filled with computers for writing resumes and several volunteers to assist. No details to finding a summer job were overlooked.

As I was celebrating the crowd swelling by the minute outside, my mind was grasping the harsh reality of the state of young people on the inside of the building. As the line to the resume center extended to the floor below, the questions at the table that I was covering for Youth United were alarming and frightful.

What is a resume, I was asked by a 12th grader graduating from high school next month. A 10th grader could not spell his street name. And an 11th grader put her MySpace account for her email address. When asked if she had any inappropriate pictures on her MySpace page, she countered my question with what does inappropriate means. With the quickness of a sixteen year old with no tact, I said, "Skanky". As we both stood summing the other up, she finally said, "Oh, I got a few of those on my page." As she stared back at me wondering when I learned Chinese, my eyes filled with tears. I wanted to cry on the spot. As I tried to regain my composure, I gave her a hug and told her to take her pictures off her page ASAP. She was the first of hundreds that I asked the same question throughout the day. My tears were of sadness for our young people.

At that moment, I wanted to yell at folks who buy cell phones for kids that can not write their home address. I wanted to yell at a system called "no child left behind" but does not prepare them to get ahead. I wanted to find someone to scream at and answer how can an eighteen year old not know what the hell is a resume. I wanted to yell at politicians that would rather waste billions on bankers than put millions into our educational system. My yelling would eventually go in circles and solve absolutely nothing. After my conversation with the young lady blew my high, I decided to roll up my sleeves and go to work. My "volunteer" role turned into educator, advocate, and straight up ole' school street woman with life lessons to share.

I wore many hats that day, but the root of my actions was the heart of a mother. I prayed that if someone saw my kids in the same predicament they would scold and love all in the same breath. I was mom to many, asking questions and taking names. How are you doing? What are your future plans? Pull up those pants and turn that cell phone off when I am talking to you. No, you cannot use for your email address. That looks a hot ghetto mess and you know it. Let me hear your voice mail on your cell phone. Take that message off now, no potential employer is going to listen to that while waiting to leave you a message! Yes, the kids were looking at me as if I was from planet Mars and I was staring right back as if they were from my house.

For the young ones that walked in with dress shirts, ties and nice attire, praises and hugs were bestowed abundantly. To those who came with resumes in hand, I made darn sure their applications were "APPROVED". An A for going the extra mile and an A for knowing what you know. Several were headed to college and I could not hide my pride. I gave my address to many to send me an invitation to their graduation and I was going to make sure they got acknowledged from our board to encourage them on their journey. I told everyone of them that we were cheering for their success. By the end of the day I came to the conclusion, it did not matter if they were interview ready, had no clue about a resume, or came because a friend said come on let's go. They were in the building and we were there to help them. The adults had the responsibility to make a difference in their life, if only for one day. I took that responsibility seriously and thankful that I got a chance to serve our teens.

No matter what neighborhood we live in, every child is someone's kid and they are all our children. Our children today are our future in a few years. Our kids are hurting and I refuse to close my eyes and say it is not my problem. The Oasis Center is one of several agencies leading the way helping young folks get an education, be leaders today, and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. But families, places of worship, educators, and the community at large must step up as well. Working together for the greater good is the only hope we have to helping our future have a future. No one group can do it all and no one should even attempt to try. It really takes a village to raise a child as our world grows smaller and harder to navigate. If grown folks are getting weary and losing their footing, imagine the challenges of being young and starting to take baby steps on the road called life.

There are many flaws in the "system" but we cannot blame everything on everybody. There is no time for finger pointing. We must take responsibility for where our kids are today starting with parents first. This is not a post about morals but quite simply a reality check from the real world. Sometimes we have to call things as we see them. We got to do better by being better.

It took me three weeks to finally pen my thoughts from that wonderful day. I am still processing some of it. I spoke with several and shared my concerns and my experience. I am hoping that we take what we learned that weekend and institute job readiness skills that would include not only resume writing, but interviewing skills and dressing for success classes as well. We got the space, and plenty folks that saw what I saw are more than willing to volunteer.

Thanks to the following groups for their hard work on that day: The Nashville Urban Partnership Academic Center of Excellence (NUPACE) at Meharry Medical College, the Nashville Community Coalition for Youth Safety, Nashville Career Advancement Center and Youth United/Oasis Center. I will never forget my first teen job fair. And I hope that this will become a proud tradition in Nashville.

For more information about summer youth jobs go to

Kafrisha Morrow
Free Spirit Photography

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Roland Martin of CNN interviews Ben Jealous about the NAACP's Lawsuit

Roland Martin, political correspondent for CNN and The Tom Joyner Morning Show, interviewed NAACP's CEO Ben Jealous about the law suit against Wells Fargo and several other banks for institutionalized racism. Mr. Jealous addressed the records that banks must make public about their lending ratios. Jealous stated that many of the blacks applicants were put in subprime loans that actually qualified for conventional loans. Jealous also stated that African American were targeted specifically for this type of discriminatory practices.

I read the lawsuit several times prior to my posting several weeks ago but I thought it would be interesting to pull out several key points of the lawsuit to further expand on my original post.

The suit states:
5. Wells Faro Bank, N.A. and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc target the African American community by capitalizing on their relative lack of experience in dealing with banking institutions and mortgage loans. Upon information and belief, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc. are aware of the African American Community's susceptibility to predatory lending practices, but nonetheless engage in policies and procedures that they know will result in African Americans being steered toward less favorable loans.

6. Indeed, in 2006, the Center for Responsible Lending, a non-profit research organization, found that even when income and credit risk were accounted for, African American were still 31% to 34% more likely to receive higher rate subprime loans, and that the disparities between them and Caucasians with the same risk factors were "large and statistically significant."

These particular points intrigued me more so than others in light of recent charge to hold folks accountable by Tavis Smiley. Again this is not a personal attack of Tavis, only a charge to him to do his research and get back to the community that he often admonishes to educate ourselves on the issues, to know all the facts, and to dig deeper in our pursuit of being empowered.

Section 11. states The NAACP brings this class action lawsuit seeking declaratory and injuctive relief based upon the Fair Housing Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Civil Rights Act.

According to the NAACP's research, along with several other independent organizations, black folks have been targeted by Wells Fargo because the bank knows most blacks are easier prey for predatory lending practices. Knowledge is power. Nothing teaches you more than to be educated not only about how to achieve the American dream of home ownership but also not to be fleeced while trying to achieve that dream.

What is even more disturbing is that the poor and uneducated were not the only victims of the lending practices of Wells Fargo. Black folks, who qualified with their credit and income, were ripe for the picking as well. Wells Fargo did not have any preferences. If they were black, they more than likely were charged higher fees than their counter part, according to the NAACP's lawsuit.

When we see the name of Wells Fargo as the title sponsor of a Black think tank event, one would naturally assume that this bank is above reproach and is an advocate for the people that attend these type of functions. With all of the "leaders" of the community flanked on stage trying to show their love for the people by screaming about the injustices committed by the Bush administration and holding the present administration accountable for deeds not yet committed, one would hope they would have addressed predatory lending practices as one of the main issues that hold the community of color back. These same confessors of love for color folks and the need to empower the masses were flown in, housed, and wine and dined by a Bank that is being alleged to have committed the same type of injustices committed by President Bush. This hypocrisy is seen all the time in the community of color and rarely, if ever, challenged. To challenge this type of influence peddling, pimping the poor and misinformed in my book, would be considered attacking, and God knows we would not want to speak the truth and get it confused with attacking.

After posting about this two weeks ago, I am glad to see that this subject matter was addressed on Black radio. Thank you, Roland Martin. Wells Fargo name was mentioned several times but it was not the only bank guilty of these allegations Mr. Jealous said. There are fourteen total but Wells Fargo has committed more violations that any of the other banks. Could that be because it was marketed directly to thousands of blacks folks being charged to hold others "Accountable"?

I suggest that everyone take a minute or two and read the lawsuit at

Wells Fargo's rebuttal in the Wall Street Journal can be read @

Roland's interview with Jealous:

Tavis has not issued a statement as of yet. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

When Gotcha Journalism Works

Before cable television, a politician's fibs could take a few years to catch up with him/her. In the age of instant replay and You Tube, we have seen the media expose a lie quicker than you can change the channel. "Hang'em high" mobs are already planning replacement parties for Senator Dodd (D-CT) and Treasury Secretary Geithner. The fallout from the AIG bailout has left many not trusting any words uttered by our elected officials.

Senator Dodd outright denied having anything to do with the changing of the bill regarding AIG executive compensations. He was the first to go on record regarding the matter. Before he could reach for his Grecian Formula, CNN and other media outlets were researching to find out who changed the provisions in the bill that allowed bonuses to executives who were responsible for the derivative mess in the first place. Derivatives are generally used as an instrument to hedge risk, but can also be used for speculative purposes. AIG took unnecessary risks and did whole lot of speculating.

By the end of the night, the media had zeroed in on two individuals: Senator Dodd and Treasury Sec. Geithner. Both denied responsibility and pointed the finger at the other. When the wash was hung out to dry, Dodd tales were very dirty. AIG contributed more money to Dodd's campaign than any other elected official. AIG is headquartered in Connecticut. Dodd had changed the bill at the eleventh hour.

In true drama queen fashion, Senator Dodd was on the early morning shows the next day giving "what-had-happened was" type statements. He was shown his previous declarations of innocence over and over and asked to explain himself. His interviews should be mandatory viewing for anyone considering public office. By the end of the day, his white hair was turning yellow from the glare of the camera lights. He was caught. He knows it. And we know it.

"Gotcha" journalism, which is often used for sound bites to mislead and misinform, worked in this case. The public was not being feed the truth. American taxpayers are outraged and taking their disgust to the streets.

Currently, Senator Dodd is Chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and sits on the Rules and Administration Committee. Both committees are very powerful and will have a crucial role in how our economy recovers from the previous administration's eight years of spending, deregulation, and two forgotten wars.

According to the duties of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee:
Rule XXV, Standing Committees

(d)(1) Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, to which committee shall by referred all proposed legislation, messages, petitions, memorials and other matters relating to the following subjects:

* Banks, banking, and financial institutions.
* Control of prices of commodities, rents and services.
* Deposit insurance.
* Economic stabilization and defense production.
* Export and foreign trade promotion.
* Export controls.
* Federal monetary policy, including the Federal Reserve System.
* Financial aid to commerce and industry.
* Issuance and redemption of notes.
* Money and credit, including currency and coinage.
* Nursing home construction.
* Public and private housing (including veterans housing).
* Renegotiation of Government contracts.
* Urban development and urban mass transit.

(2) Such Committee shall also study and review on a comprehensive basis, matters relating to international economic policy as it affects United States monetary affairs, credit, and financial institutions; economic growth, urban affairs, and credit, and report thereon from time to time.

The Rules and Administration Committee is to investigate:
(C) Corrupt practices

As our lawmakers fight to save many banks and a few homes, Senator Dodd will be a central figure in the process because of his rank in the Senate. He will chair oversight for many of the projects that are being funded by the stimulus package. He not only chairs the committee that deals directly with the housing and bank legislation, he is on the committee that oversees investigations of illegal allegations of our elected officials. Essentially, he will police himself. A blind man can see the conflict of interest in this situation.

As we are protesting and demanding the heads of the AIG and taxing bonus payments that were legally approved, I suggest looking at the committee members that rushed to sign a bill KNOWING AIG and other institutions were going to receive funds that would make a mockery of the bailout. Our law makers are placing a higher priority on bailing out corporations and taking care of the top 10% of income earners in the country than creating jobs and real economic development for Main Street. Members of the House and Senate should receive Oscars for the feigned shock and awe that is being directed at AIG. This is business as usual.

Senator Dodd is exposed and the public has been educated that we must truly read the fine print. Hopefully, the next bill will not cost us $165 million to learn what is in it. To my friends in Connecticut, start the party.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Fought a Blooming Tree and Nearly Died

I have lived in Tennessee for over twenty years and I love it here. It has a hometown feel and big enough to not get bored with life. There is always a luncheon, gala, or ball to support your favorite charity and enough Star power to light the night sky. The city's charm captured me and would not turn lose.

One thing that I did not count as part of living here was battling allergies. I would hear about a folks who had watery eyes and the sniffles form time to time but I did not realize they were suffering. When someone would call in to work sick because they had allergies, I would laugh and think you got to be kidding me. I would immediately think they were lying or lazy.

In early 2005, my laughter and judgment stopped abruptly . Like a child with asthma, I suddenly had troubling breathing. The walk to my truck was only a few steps but it felt like a country mile. By the time I got inside the truck, I was breathless and could feel my eyes swelling. I had no clue what was happening to me.

As the spring moved in, my symptoms got worst. I was bedridden for days wondering why I was so out of it, swollen and gasping for air. In May, I was sharing with a friend about my plight and she advised me to see a doctor for my allergies. Allergies? Allergies do not leave one feeling an inch from death's door. I found her information hard to digest and finally went to the doctor to find answers. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with allergies and given a prescription. Cured, I thought.

Not so for me. My allergies were "special", like me. My first prescription was about as effective as giving me bubble gum to cure the flu, I was switched to another brand. And another. And another. My agony lasted until September when the temperature cooled. When '06 rolled around, I was prepared mentally but still made several trips to the doctor for relief. Shots were introduced and I was told that I was highly allergic to pollen. My arm was stuck and probe until I looked like the Michelin Tire Man. My doctor warned me to avoid two flowering trees, the Bradford Pear and Dogwood trees.

The trees I remembered from my childhood were Magnolia, Pecan, and Oak. I asked to see a picture of the blooms. When I saw the flowers, I recoiled and became teary eyed. My entire subdivision was beautifully landscaped with those trees and several were in my yard and my neighbors' yards. No wonder I felt like death, I was surrounded by blooms that were killing me.

On my drive home, I said to hell with the neighborhood beautification crap. Those flowers got to go. After arriving home, I started cutting as many of the lower branches off my trees. Defying the pollen and swelling by the second, I pulled up tulips and went after the rose bush as well. Gasping for breath and barely standing, I did not stop until everything with a bloom within my reach was chopped up and carried off. I felt strong mentally but sick as dog. I was covered in bumps and welts and my eyes were small slits on my disfigured face. I might die, I thought, but at least I put up a good fight. I saw my neighbors watching me with dismay. Their lawns were manicured and picture perfect. Their friends(or neighbors) did not destroy flower gardens. I did not care, I was never going to be asked to Chair the Antique Garden and Flower Show, anyway.

I felt smug for the moment but my life had changed. Although a few blooms were gone, I still had to outfit my home with special filters. I spent thousands on ventilators and air purifiers. A house that once had plants and pictures galore, was stripped down to the bare walls. The carpet was taken out and replaced with tile. Nothing that attracted dust was considered attractive anymore. Beds that once had colorful comforters,linens and decorative throw pillows, were stripped and remade with allergen resistance pillowcases and plain white sheets. My home life focused on what kept the pollen, dust mites, and anything that could make me whiz outside. I was living like a vegan without meat. I nearly died trying to fight blooming trees and plants.

As for the blooms in my yard, what I thought was a done deal was apparently a pruning. I woke up one night with that awful gagging feeling. Holding my throat,I knew right away that a flower blooming was somewhere nearby. At sunrise, I looked out the window and what I saw reminded me of the bogeyman in my dreams. The blooms that I thought I had gotten rid of were back, bigger and brighter than ever. They were leering at me, daring me to come outside.

I went to the doctor that morning and was put on steroids. Steroids! Big girl pills for sure. I was going to get bigger than Oprah. No amount of exercise was getting rid of steroid fat. Before I would throw in the towel and die of pollen or fat, I decided I was going to become an informed patient. I became internet savvy, researching holistic and natural ways to fight my allergies. I was determined not to be on steroids for long. I even found an allergy suffers' support group. Yes, I know what you are thinking but I was desperate. I was sick of being sick.

In my support group, the suffers had a trick for every trade. Most of us were transplants to Nashville and were not aware of Nashville's high pollen count reputation. I wondered if I was being fooled into joining a cult but I went faithfully every month with my tissue box, sniffling and begging God to end my misery.

One month last year, a prayer was heard. In walked a woman into one of our meetings looking like a gypsy and smelling herby. She came with a few suggestions that I had not heard before. Before the evening ended, she pulled out pills that she highly recommended. She vowed we would feel better. I thought a hidden camera joke was being pulled on me. No one questioned her and grab the pills. I got one and went to the bathroom. I said a quick prayer and swallowed. Hey, do not judge and I nearly died fighting a blooming tree!

Within a few hours, I started feeling a little better. I called some of my fellow suffers and asked what the heck was happening. I felt better and wanted to make sure I was not taking anything illegally. If it was illegal, I needed to know how to get more.

I founded out that the pill was bee pollen. Bee is a joke. I kill bees for a living! A pest control operator was taking bee pollen to ended her ailments. God does have a sense of humor. For the last eight months, I have taken bee pollen pills along with liquid B-12. This routine has literally cleared up any problems with my allergies. I have not been to a doctor in several months. Flowers are in full bloom in Tennessee and for the first time in several years, I have been able to enjoy evening walks. And I have lost weight.

Hopefully, I have ended my battle with the blooms. All trees in my yard were topped or shredded for paper. If you are an allergy suffer, become an informed advocate. Don't suffer silently or alone.
For a support group in your area visit:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"The State of the Black Union" sponsor is sued by the NAACP

While I was reading over the lawsuit filed by the NAACP for predatory lending practices, my eyes kept returning to Wells Fargo. My something-smells-funny nose kept sniffing until I looked across my desk and saw the program guide from the recent State of the Black Union (SOTBU). In large font was the Wells Fargo logo, title sponsor of the event. I wondered if the NAACP had any dialogue with Tavis Smiley prior to the lawsuit being filed. The bank that is being sued for institutionalized racism sponsors a think tank for black folks. (You cannot make this stuff up.)

Wells Fargo has sponsored the SOTBU for several years. SOTBU was the brainchild of Tavis Smiley and birthed from his weekly commentary on the Tom Joyer Morning Show. Tavis Smiley quit the TJMS in April of last year and moved on to other projects that needed more of his attention. One of those projects is to hold President Obama accountable for his political record and campaign promises made on the campaign trail as outlined in his recent book.

From his book:
“During the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, while I was still the resident political commentator on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, I caused quite a stir among the listeners, who are largely African-American, by insisting that we hold then Senator Barack Obama accountable for both his political record and his campaign promises. I wasn’t singling him out, but rather applying the same standard to him that we should apply to all.

I feel now, as I did then, that it is our responsibility as engages citizens to expect now-President Barack Obama to live up to the promises that made him an appealing candidate… As Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail reminds us, ‘Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes from the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.’

So, let us take Dr. King’s lead… and go forth and make real the promise of our democracy.”
-- Excerpted from the Foreword (pages xii-xiii)

The SOTBU website states "Some of the most influential thinkers, entertainers, and political leaders of our time gather each year to discuss the State of the Black Union during Black History Month. Presented annually in February by Tavis Smiley Presents, the symposium was created to educate, enlighten and empower America by bringing people together and engaging them in thoughtful dialogue, leading the way to constructive action."

The man who has written a book titled Accountable, has accepted sponsorship for years from a bank that is being accused of forcing blacks into subprime mortgages while whites with identical qualifications got lower rates. Class-action lawsuits were filed against Wells Fargo and HSBC in federal court in Los Angeles. Los Angeles was also the host city for the State of the Black Union.

My words may anger some but this is equivalent to a child molester opening up a neighborhood daycare center. It is this type of irony in the black community by leaders and organizations that keeps folks from getting ahead. "Leaders" play nice and accept money from the very organizations that causes the most harm and perpetuate media stereotypes. This happens in many communities but it is perverse in the communities of color.

Does this means Tavis is going to turn his journalistic intuition on Wells Fargo and hold them accountable? I hope so. These are serious charges being leveled at a time when banks that are behaving badly are receiving TARP bailouts. Is he going to compile the number of loans that were given to blacks vs. whites and research the information and give it to the board of directors of Wells Fargo? Will he ask for their resignations? Now that is taking action. Will he help them be a better bank by helping them exam how they conduct business with people of color? Will he turn down their sponsorship next year and take their logo off his website with a link to their mortgage department? That would be worthy of an NAACP Image Award! Is this not what several of the panelist ask often when others accept sponsorship or advertisement from organizations that do not toe the line when allegations or perceived racist misconduct occur? All the time.

Tavis has always asked his listeners and viewers to be watchful and test everything and everyone. How did Wells Fargo allege predatory practices get around Tavis who would not allow then Senator Obama to campaign without a thorough scrutiny of the issues and his character? President Obama who has been on the national political scene less than ten years is being exam microscopically by Tavis. While SOTBU, Tavis and the same panelists year after year have held meetings with very loud megaphones on radio and television turned blind eyes to the practices of Wells Fargo and others. Practices that have gone on much longer than President Obama has been in the White House according to the time line stated in the NAACP lawsuit.

Many of the speakers at Tavis'2009 SOTBU event were the same faces sitting in the audience for the 2009 NAACP Image Awards. The award show was televised on the Fox Network, which was the subject of a boycott. (You cannot make this up.) Some body's PR people are not talking to the other folks' legal department and the legal department is surely not talking to the marketing representatives. In the fragile world of sponsorship and raising dollars for mega events to show accountability, this sounds like a church split or at the very least biting the hands that sponsor/televise your events. This is enough to leave one confused and bewildered.

Before I am accused of being a hater, my beloved grandfather started the NAACP in our town in Mississippi. He stepped out on faith and held meetings when it was considered a death wish to do so. He stood by his principles and gained the respect of everyone including his critics. Not one sponsor paid for meetings that enlightened, encouraged and empowered his fellow man. He received numerous awards and accolades for his work in the field of civil rights. Daddy received letters from Presidents, Governors and other notables as well as those that made a difference that wore no title at all. "Fair is fair," he said often. "Don't have a rule for one that you can't have for the other," would be his cry. Daddy's motivation for working hard to ensure others had the right to vote was based on his love for mankind. Daddy was all about fair play, even if it meant ticking off folks who sat on panels. (I learned from the best.)

I like Tavis and his work. My critique is exactly what Tavis asks of the public. I will be the first to say he has done much for many. But elusive sponsorship dollars have a way of making folks look the other way. Demands cannot be made of one and not hold everyone else to the same standards. That include corporations who sponsor think tanks regarding accountability. As "engaged citizens", we need to hold each other accountable, seek transparency and make sure we are doing due diligence with everyone. Since Tavis has rightly challenged everyone to hold our President accountable for promises made, let us make sure Tavis does not stop with the President who has resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue less than six months.

I do hope that Tavis get back to us with any research on Wells Fargo and the outcome of the lawsuit by the NAACP. I think his findings should be included in the next State of the Black Union or at the next NAACP Image Award Show. I suggest getting Jon Stewart from The Daily Show to be host. Now that I would pay to sponsor, no questions asked.

Friday, March 13, 2009

CNN cancels the D.L. Hughley Show ...AND?

My inbox was flooded with several press releases last week with the headline; CNN cancels the D.L. Hughley Show. My reaction was the same as most bloggers, AND?! It was not the earth shattering news that it was hyped to be. The show was not a funny show nor was it engaging. D.L. never "broke" anything, let alone deliver a good show.

As if sensing a way out, Comedy Central canceled "Chocolate News" with David Alan Grier the same week. Knowing several individuals connected with both shows, I hate that they are without a job in this economic times. But as I have stated to my friends, the shows were boring and not news worthy. D.L. and David are great comedians and actors. They sell out clubs and arenas all the time. Both men have been on top rated sitcoms. However, they did not translate well into the satire news segment.

I do not know if it was the team of writers or the network or what, but D.L.'s show was in poor taste most of the time. The most entertaining moment for the D.L. Hugely Show came courtesy of Michael Steele. When Mr. Steele stated he was in charge of the RNC, the clip of Steele and D.L. was played over and over again. The coverage of the clip (not the show) got more viewers than the show received since it debut.

I thought the clip of D.L. and Steele was going to send the show a new audience who would tune in out of curiosity over the Steele saga. But as Steele was busy apologizing for his statements to D.L. about who's really in charge of the RNC, CNN was breaking the news that they were canceling D.L.'s show.

On the Tom Joyner Morning Show this week, D.L. explained that the hectic pace of the show and the fact that he lived on the West Coast and the show was based in New York led to a mutual agreement that CNN and D.L. ended this cultural experiment amicably. No mention of the horrible ratings, the lack of substance AND the outcry from many who wondered "WHY?" from the beginning.

I hope D.L. continue to share his point of view, he challenges us to think outside of the box and not to believe the hype. In the future, I hope "The Most Trusted Name in News" would not rent out their studios for comedy night theater.

D.L. on Tom Joyner

Monday, March 9, 2009

NFL Great, Brig Owen, Speaker for Minorities in Pest Management

Richard Diggs, Brig Owen, and Ka Tsu at Legislative Day 2009

NFL record holder and DC philanthropist, Mr. Brig Owen, shared his success on and off the field with members of Minorities in Pest Management(MPM) at Legislative Day for NPMA. Brig Owens, Esquire, is a partner in The Bennett Group, a sports management and real estate development firm. In addition to representing a number of professional athletes in football, basketball and hockey, the firm specializes in developing and managing commercial office buildings in Washington, D.C.

Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Owens, served as assistant executive director and associate counsel to the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) from 1979-1984. While with the NFLPA, Mr. Owens was a member of the negotiating team that developed a new collective bargaining contract with the National Football League. In addition to his responsibility in the operation of the Players Association, he developed the Association’s Financial Planning, Career Counseling and Employee Assistance Abuse Programs. Mr. Owens also created the Professional Athletes Youth Foundation and Community Service Department of the NFLPA where he raised over $10 million to implement a Youth Development Programs in ten cities across the nation. This program developed by Mr. Owens, was selected by the Department of Education as one of the top exemplary program in the United States.

Brig Owens is a former thirteen year veteran of the National Football League and seven year player representative and defensive captain for the Washington Redskins. After being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1965, Mr. Owens was traded to the Redskins in 1966 to begin his twelve year career as a Redskin defensive back. Mr. Owens holds the number two spot for most passes intercepted (36) by a Redskin, holds career records for most yards on interception returns (686) and most interceptions returned for touchdowns. In addition, he was selected as one of the 70 Greatest Players in the Washington Redskin history.

Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Owens served a s a member of the Central Caribbean Task Force and served on former Vice President Mondale’s Task Force on Youth Employment. He presently serves on the Lombardi Foundation, NFL Players Agent Advisory Board, NFL Players Tryst Foundation, National Board of Medical Examiners, Visual Board, Venture Philanthropy Partners Board and Greater Washington Community Foundation Board. He also developed a highly recognized Leadership Drug Prevention Program in Washington, D.C. middle and high schools called Super Leaders. In addition, he and his partner are sponsors of the “I Have a Dream” program which guarantees a student a college education if they stay in school, maintain their grades and graduate from high school.

Brig Owens, who is a published author, graduated from the University of Cincinnati (where he was an All American football player), attended Antioch School of Law, and received his Doctorate of Juris Prudence from Potomac Law School.

(MPM members would like to thank Richard Diggs, CEO of Alexandria Pest Services, for securing Mr. Owens for this engagement.)

Photo credits Brig Owen and Ka Tsu

Friday, March 6, 2009

Jane Pauley Keynote Speaker at the "Power of the Purse" Luncheon

In 1998, The Women's Fund held its first fund raising event, Power of the Purse. The event and its accompanying Tribute Book are intended to celebrate, honor, and inspire the mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins, friends and mentors, and community leaders of Middle Tennessee for, among other things, their accomplishments, generosity, love and wisdom. The success of the event has contributed to the overwhelming growth of The Women's Fund and the availability of more grant dollars for non-profit programs benefiting women and girls.

Since its inception in 1998, the luncheon and Tribute Book for A Celebration of Women have raised over $1,000,000 (net) for The Women’s Fund.

Started by a committee of community leaders that decided to make a difference, The Women's Fund is dedicated to increasing support in Middle Tennessee for programs serving women and girls. The Women's Fund was established in 1994 both to raise women's awareness of their own philanthropic potential and to increase and perpetuate financial support for community programs that address the needs of women and girls.

The Women's Fund awards funding to programs that address the following needs:

* Achievement of economic self-sufficiency for women
* Prevention of violence and crime against women and girls
* Promotion of health and physical well-being for women and girls

Thanks to its generous supporters and volunteers, The Women’s Fund has donated $300,000 to 50 different non-profit organizations covering a range of services to women and girls throughout Middle Tennessee spanning the areas of arts and cultural education, health and human services, victim’s support services, domestic violence intervention, drug rehabilitation, and job training. In just nine short years, the average grant has increased from a total of $4000 in 1995 to over $57,000 worth of grants in 2006! The Women’s Fund is committed to continue to grow our endowment and grantmaking capability for the benefit of countless women and girls throughout Middle Tennessee.

2008 The Women’s Fund Grant Recipients

Actors Bridge Ensemble
Avalon Center
Bridges of Williamson County
Care Net Pregnancy Center
City of Life
Families in Crisis
Friends in General
Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee
Grace M. Eaton Child Care Center
Hope Clinic for Women
Mary Parrish Center
Mending Hearts
Nashville Cares
Nurses for Newborns
Sexual Assault Center
Renewal House
Shelter, Inc.
Women Are Safe
YWCA Weaver Domestic Violence Shelter

Mary Gambil and Beth Moore are Chairs of this year's event. I have been busy working on the auction committee. The purses for the auction are beautiful! All of the women have worked hard on this event and I proud to be part of it.

The Power of the Purse Luncheon 2009
March 9, 2009 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Hilton, Downtown Nashville

$200 Luncheon Ticket
($125 of the luncheon ticket is tax deductible)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Unsung Heroes

There are unsung heroes in every community. Unsung heroes often have no desire for praise or worship. They are never pictured in photos covering public events or functions and they usually dread being the center of attention. Many of us know an unsung hero who has touched our lives in one way or another. One of my unsung heroes is Brandon Hill, a community organizer and youth leader at the Oasis Center.

He gives his time and attention to young people of this city and his heart is always at the center of every action. Brandon is quick to identify leadership potential in a young person even when family, schools, and the courts see a problem child.

For the last four years, he has worked in the area of youth leadership at the Oasis Center. Currently, he works with the Youth Engagement & Action team. This group of young people connects youth with community and city leaders to effectively address social problems within the city of Nashville. While many of society’s biggest problems (education, health care, economy) have the greatest impact on young people, the youth are rarely invited to the table to share their voices on these issues. Brandon's work involves educating young people on important community issues and prepares them to take action to address the problems.

By engaging students, Brandon helps them to see they are the solution to many of the issues they are facing daily. He encourages them to take control of their futures by being leaders today. Brandon shares a common thread with many of the youth that he leads; he has firsthand experience with living in areas that are impoverished and underserved. Brandon often contributes personal anecdotes about his teen years and his experiences as a youth ministry leader. Several times a week, I ask a young person what lead them to the Oasis Center. Most tell me, "Brandon spoke at my school".

Brandon Hill was born and raised in Nashville. He spent a good deal of his childhood in the infamous James A. Cayce Homes. Brandon and his brother were raised in a loving single-parent home. Living in one of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods and attending some of the city’s lowest-performing schools had a great impact on Brandon’s life and prepared him to work with young people who face these challenges today. After graduating from high school, Brandon returned to the James A. Cayce Homes, still a teen himself, to work with youth in his old neighborhood. After college at the age of 21, he was given the task of leading the Teen Outreach program at the Martha O’ Bryan Center. Working there taught him a great deal about the state of Nashville’s youth as well the challenges the city must face in learning to support them.

Recently, Brandon and a band of young brothers spoke about their struggles, dreams, accomplishments and what the future holds from young people of color perspectives. While students from age 15-19 imparted wisdom beyond their years; their leader, Brandon, stated his greatest accomplishment in 2008 was accompanying Kanesha Butler to the White House. Kanesha, a teen with Youth United, was a guest of the President and Mrs. Bush. He did not mention the numerous awards that several programs won under his leadership. Seeing the young folks on stage with Brandon and Hal Cato, executive director of the Oasis Center, left me in tears and an overwhelming sense a pride for an organization that cares so deeply for the young people of this city.

As I close, I will leave you with a few words from Brandon:

Young people have always been, and will continue to be, one of our community’s greatest resources. Unfortunately, they are also one of our most over-looked, under-appreciated, and under-valued resources. Much of this is due to a distorted perception of youth. Many times youth are seen as destructive, violent, and void of any desire to improve their lives or the lives of others. Because of these views, adults are convinced that they must create ways to “fix” youth which leads to a never-ending cycle of negativity and cynicism.

My ultimate goal is to end this cycle. My work is about creating better connections between young people and the communities in which they live in. I hope to inspire young people and adults to find better ways to communicate and work together to offer solutions to the problems we face as a community.

There are many heroes like Brandon Hill in our community. Let us support them and let them know how valuable they are to our community and to our young people. To see the many programs offered by the Oasis Center for young people visit them on the web at or stop by the Youth Opportunity Center to find many unsung heroes in action.

"Be the change, you want to see in the world."
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