Genma Speaks

Entrepreneur/ Writer/ Radio-Host

Friday, April 30, 2010

Death By Pollen

The bugs are back and the phones are ringing! The first few weeks of spring feels like Christmastime for us at Holmes Pest Control. A long day with longer hours is our version of heaven. But with all the joys the sound of bugs buzzing brings to my ears, there is a downside to my springtime glee…pollen. My life is miserable from the pollen than covers everything in Nashville. One thing that I did not count as part of living here was battling allergies. I heard about a folks who had watery eyes and running noses from time to time but I did not realize they were suffering or near death. Is death by pollen even possible? When someone would call in sick because they had allergies, I would laugh and think you got to be kidding me. I also thought they were lying and lazy. Oh, how the tables have turned.

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 about 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. Sure enough, I was told I had allergies and given a prescription. "Cured", I thought.

Nope, not so quickly. 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. Then 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 to my regime; I was highly allergic to pollen and several flowering trees. My doctor warned me to avoid flowering trees, especially 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 trees. When I saw the flowers, I recoiled as if I had seen a monster. My entire subdivision was landscaped with Bradford Pears 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 committee, all flowers got to go. When I arrived home, I got rid of as many of the lower branches off the trees. Defying 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 every bloom within my reach was 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 could feel the neighbors’ shocked eyes peering through their windows. Their lawns were manicured and picture perfect and they did not destroy beautifully blooming plants.

I felt smug for the moment but my life had changed. Getting rid of the flowers was only the beginning; my home was redecorated for allergy suffers. I spent thousands on ventilators, air purifiers and special filters for my sensitive respiratory system. A house that once had plants and pictures galore was stripped down to the bare walls. Carpeting was 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 high count plain sheets. My home life focused on what kept the pollen, dust mites, and anything that could make me whiz away from me. No house beautiful here, I was living like a vegan without meat. Death by pollen was real to me.

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 Michael who keeps returning in Friday 13th. 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.

Returning to the doctor, I 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 threw in the towel and die of pollen and/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, they had a trick for every sniffle. Most of us were transplants to Nashville. Nashville's high pollen count is not included in the “Visit Music City” brochures. I wondered if I was being fooled into joining a cult but I went faithfully with my tissue box, sniffling and begging God to end my misery.

Last year, a prayer was heard. A woman in our group, who looked like a gypsy and smelled herby, came with a few suggestions that I had not tried. Before the evening ended, she pulled out pills that she vowed would make me feel better. I thought a hidden camera joke was being pulled on me. I did not question her and grab a few pills and ran 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 they were illegal, I needed to know how to get more. I know people.

I founded out that the pills were bee pollen from local bees. Bee is a joke. I kill bees for a living! A pest control operator was taking bee pollen to end her ailments. God does have a sense of humor. Over the last year, I have taken bee pollen pills along with liquid B-12. This routine literally keeps me breathing in a year that is being deemed the worst ever for allergy suffers. I have been to the doctor twice but I am better than previous years. Flowers are in full bloom in Tennessee, but I am able to get outside to work and I am making an effort to lose weight.

Hopefully, I have ended my battle with blooming trees and flowers. All trees in my yard have been topped. No curb appeal for my yard! If you are an allergy suffer, become an informed advocate. Don't suffer silently or alone. My site of choice is

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nashville's Youth Host Forum For Juvenile Court Clerk Candidates

Teen leaders bring together candidates for Juvenile Court Clerk position to present their platform and agenda to the Nashville community.

There are ten candidates slated for the position of Juvenile Court Clerk for Nashville/Davidson Co. This mainly administrative position is vital for the efficient running of Juvenile Court. The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction of cases regarding: parentage, visitation and child support, dependency, neglect and abuse, status offenses (such as truancy and unruly behavior), delinquency and other miscellaneous charges. It is the duty of the Juvenile Court Clerk to provide those persons utilizing the facilities of the Juvenile Justice Center with the highest level of efficient and courteous service.

WHO: Oasis Center’s Youth United in partnership with Nashville Community Coalition for Youth Safety and NUPACE (Nashville Urban Partnership Academic Center of Excellence)

WHAT: A youth-led forum for candidates for the office of Juvenile Court Clerk, Nashville/Davidson Co. Teen leaders are providing an opportunity for both youth and adults to better understand the role of the Juvenile Court Clerk and hear each candidate’s stance on vital issues. This position directly affects a wide range of youth in the Davidson Co. community. Creating an environment where community members feel welcome to interact with the candidates, and youth, those most directly impacted by this office, are actively engaged is extremely important and necessary for this coveted position. This event is not a debate; rather it is a forum where each candidate will be able to give a 5 minute stump speech and answer a few questions for 5-10 minutes.

WHEN: Thursday, April 29th
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

WHERE: Youth Opportunity Center
1704 Charlotte Pike, Suite 200
Nashville, TN 37203

OTHER: The mission of NUPACE is to establish the Nashville Urban Partnership Academic Center of Excellence (NUPACE), Youth Violence Prevention to promote an academic/ community partnership that integrates prevention science with community action in order to reduce violence among youth 10-24 years of age in Nashville/Davidson County TN.

The Nashville Community Coalition for Youth Safety (NCCYS) is a group of community members that will have the opportunity to contribute their expertise and experiences to ensure that the important research questions related to reducing violence among youth 10-24 years of age in Nashville/Davidson County, TN are thoroughly studied. Additionally, they are committed to sharing the responsibility of decision making for all research, surveillance, programmatic and strategic planning activities for NUPACE.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Larry King took his suspenders off with his Sister-n-Law

Oops, the word “allegedly” should be in the title of this story. Anyway, Larry King’s messy on/off, maybe/soon divorce from wife number seven, Shawn King, has turned nasty with allegations that he took his suspenders off with his wife’s sister. After the last several months of “breaking news” on other folks’ affairs, unsubstantiated rumors, gossip, tidbits, do tell me more type of talk show, 76 year old Larry King is not getting the 24 hours news coverage that CNN and other media outlets have given to a number of scandals over the years. But the media lack of covering one of their own who is now the center of a he said/she said war of words demonstrates how the media outlets choose the lives they pick apart.
From CNN’s website:

"Larry King Live" is CNN's longest-running interview program. Premiering in June 1985 with its now-famous mix of interviews and topical discussions, the show features guests from across the gamut of business, entertainment and politics.

Guests from across the gamut are touted in the shows bio but The Larry King Live has found a special niche with salacious wall to wall coverage of couples breaking up or in trouble; Kate and Jon Gosselin, former New York Governor Elliot Spitlzer, Governor and Jenny Sanford, and can we not forget all things Tiger and Elgin Woods. Now what is ironic about the Tiger Woods coverage, Larry King was “allegedly” unsnapping his suspenders with his wife’s sister while he was asking detailed probing questions about every blonde bimbo that Tiger Woods “allegedly” texted or called. Larry King’s sister-in-law is blonde by the way. Looking back on the questions, Larry King was asking with more insight than most. With every detail about Tiger Woods life on the table for all to gawk about night and day, CNN has not done the same with Larry King who is making the front pages of tabloids at every checkout counter in the country. There has been no lead in stories with quotes credited to the National Enquirer or US Weekly. No updates from Andy Cooper about King. No bias, no bull statements from fiery Mississippi native Campbell Brown. No worst person list from Rick Sanchez with Larry King. However, on April 15th, when we were all distracted trying to get to the post office to postmark our taxes, Show Biz Tonight gives us this quick nugget:

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- CNN talk show host Larry King and his wife, Shawn King, each filed for divorce Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Both cited "irreconcilable differences" in their filings, but they disagreed over custody of the two children from the 12 years of marriage.

He wants to share legal and physical custody of the boys with her, but she is asking the court to grant physical custody to her alone. The Kings have two sons, ages 9 and 11.

"His major concern is for the children and beyond that he will have no further comment," Larry King's publicist said in a written statement.

Shawn King's lawyer did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

The documents said the couple separated on Tuesday, the same day Shawn King signed her papers. Larry King's signature was dated Wednesday. Both petitions were filed Wednesday.

Larry King’s scandal has been absent of nightly interviews with the butler, fired nannies, and former girlfriend’s cousin hairstylist neighbor who spoke to someone briefly eleven years ago. The media that creates sensationalism daily has gone death, blind and stupid when one of their own is really being sensational! The hypocrisy is more snark than this blogger can bear.

Larry King is not the only national media name that has been caught with his suspenders off that made his trousers fall down around his ankles. Tiki Barber, the NBC Today correspondent, is making the news as well. But at least NBC is not ignoring the troubles with their ex-Giant football star turned morning show reporter that has left his wife of 11 years for a former NBC college intern (she is blonde also). NBC has reported on Tiki Barber’s circumstances briefly. Tiki Barber issued a statement about the situation:

"After 11 years of marriage, Ginny and I have decided to separate," Barber said. "This decision was a painful one, but we are moving forward amicably and will continue to work together to raise our children with the love and dedication they have always known."

He does not mention his wife is eight months pregnant with twins and his 6 and 7 year old sons in the statement. Wasn’t Tiger Woods children mentioned nightly? What is surprising about the crafted wholesome value club spokesman, Tiki Barber, has spoken publicly about his hatred of his philandering father who left his mother and family. In 2006, Tiki Barber made this statement about his father;

"Not only did he abandon her, I felt like he abandoned us for a lot of our lives. I have a hard time forgiving that."

Tiki and his twin brother were four when their father left the family. Now I am not trying to stir up any more mess than normal, but it appears that Tiki might need serious counseling. We know from real people with real life experiences unresolved hurts and pain from the actions of one generation will manifest in some form in the next generation. Now that bit of compassion you just read from me is not usually stated when news folks like CNN and NBC stand outside troubled family homes night after night reporting the ugly details of public and private individuals lives.

I am not wishing ill on the King or Barber family by any means. This is not a fun post to write about family conflicts. Each family has young children involved and I am sure a host of relatives and friends that are being thrown into this dreadful situation unwillingly. These families are dealing with private pain in the eye of the public for all to see and judge. Been there, done that. Since this is happening to two national media stars, hopefully all forms of the media will practice more restraint in how the lives of others in similar situations are reported in the future. Right now, we need real news to make a serious comeback. News without bias and slants and ready-made story lines. Leave the family break ups, cheating, whoring, lying, who hooked up with whom to the tabloids that are in the business of reporting gossip. With the shape our country is in right now, we, the people, are crying out for truthful reporting that is desperately needed from everyone one in the business of telling us the news.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Confederate History Month...My Perspective

HBCU Alcorn State University (steep in Black pride) is name after former slave owner James Lusk Alcorn. ASU is the first land grant college in US and the first college in the U.S. to grant degrees to Blacks and Whites.

Blanche K. Bruce of Bolivar County, Mississippi, in 1875 was the second black sent to the U. S. Senate and was the first black to serve a full term in the Senate.

Hiram R. Revels of Natchez was appointed by the predominantly Republican Mississippi Legislature in 1870 to serve out the unexpired term of Jefferson Davis and became the first black to serve in the U. S. Senate.

Reading was promoted heavily in my family when I was a child. We competed to see how many books we could read over the summer. I read Nancy Drew mysteries religiously and I read anything by author Beverly Cleary. No "See Jane Run" on my book shelf.By the time I entered third grade my grandfather said, “You need to learn your history. How do you know where you are going, if you do not know where you come from? Our people perish from lack of knowledge? ” With those words planted firmly in my head, I became a lover of all things history. My mom taught me my family history. My grandfather was a walking encyclopedia on Civil Rights history. I attended a Catholic school where I got a heavy does of the history of the Catholic Church. The school was located in Natchez, Miss where one my favorite teachers, Ms. Voss, taught Natchez History. In her teachings, we visited antebellum homes all over the Deep South where I learned Southern History that included Confederate and Civil War History. All of this was part of my family’s plan to ensure we learned our history…all of it.

The history buff in me was amused this weekend while watching many TV pundits’ mass hysterics about Virginia’s Governor McDonnell proclaiming April as Confederate History Month and did not mention slavery. A Magnolia State radio host called and asked me to come on his show to comment on the outrage because of the Governor’s omission. I told the host that I did not know any family folks who were upset about the Governor’s lack of knowledge or exclusion of slavery. If a Governor of any state does not know history that goes to show that you do not have to be smarter than a fifth grader to get elected to public office.

I could hear the dismay in his voice as he tried to interpret my thoughts and words. Since I knew he needed a statement to stir up mess and mayhem, I said, “If my grandfather was alive, he would probably have a cart selling confederate memorabilia on the side of the road. If you are going to declare Confederate History Month, you need vendors to sell; shirts, towels, statues, confederate dollars and what-nots. With all the war re-enactment folks in Tennessee, I could make a ton of money.” After more back and fourth, I said, “This is another media distraction to get folks off real issues; employment and the lack of jobs, the mortgage crisis and education.” Governor McDonnell’s words were not surprising to me nor did I get a knee jerk reaction to the media’s fixation on his words. When you know your history and your truth, you get to pick your battles. Since I was educated in a town rich in Confederate History, let share some historical facts that are not always talked about or known by TV pundits.

Natchez, Mississippi was named after the Natchez Indians. The Indians occupied the area for many years before it became a colony of the French. In the Natchez area during the years that slavery was an institution, there were many free Blacks. They were educated home owners with businesses like William Johnson nicknamed the “Barber of Natchez”. Some historians have stated that there were more free Blacks in the South than there were in the North prior to the start of the Civil War. This is rarely mentioned in history books but is widely taught in Natchez. The Mississippi Historical Society has documented that 75% of free blacks in Mississippi lived in the prosperous city of Natchez at one point.

In Dec 1869, MS granted Black folks the right to vote. This was one of the actions that allowed MS to return to the Union. There was a time in MS history when Blacks were elected to office and held government positions. In 1890, the right to vote was repealed. Many years later, my grandfather, a founding member of the NAACP in Jefferson County, became one of the first Blacks to vote after reconstruction in Mississippi in Jefferson County. My grandfather worked to get Blacks registered to vote and later, elected to office. During those years, Republicans and Democrats, Blacks and Whites, Catholics and Jews walked hand in hand to accomplish this mission. In 1969, Fayette, Mississippi, the county seat, elected the first Black Mayor of a city in Mississippi after Reconstruction; Charles Evers, a Republican. He was Mayor for several terms. Charles Evers was the older brother of slain Civil Rights worker, Medgar Evers.

When I go back to Mississippi, I try to visit many antebellum homes in Natchez, Port Gibson, Vicksburg and Fayette. My Aunt Henrietta owns an antebellum home in the area. Natchez’s main commerce is tourism that is funded by its historical home tours. Today, many Black folks earn a living in the area from tourism dollars that flow into the city. Tourists by the bus loads come to visit the Civil War sites and the famous homes like Melrose, Stanton Hall and Longwood. The homes are Historical Mansions that are key pieces of American History. Tourists are putting dollars into the “River City” that employs many people including Black folks. There is no difference in the visitors who enter the White House, a famous house built by slaves. I don't know how many visit the White House to see what the slaves built? The White House is one of the most visited historical sites in the country, and everyone knows that slaves built the house, including the current President. In life, some things are simple and contextual.

There are thousands in the South who are employed from river boat engineers to tour guides to hotel managers to conference organizers and everything in between whose employment is based on the history of the Civil War. Slavery was part of our American History that should be taught; we do not have to embrace an idea or shy away from it to learn its significance in our lives today. The Civil War is part of American History, it happened. Very few can argue facts but the media sound bites can distort the truth. History is very different from sound bites and at this moment in our country we are being fed more sound bites more than facts. Why do TV pundits go on tangents about “what if the South had won”? The South did not win, that is a fact. At a time when racial tensions are extremely high in this country, media punditry purposely stroke those flames from every angle, including Black and White talking heads. They are making money by inciting rage instead of using the minutes on air to give facts about the news of the day that can be history repeating its self from lessons not learned.

One of the most evil men in history was Adolf Hitler who used the media to stir up hate against the Jews. This led to the death of millions of people. I first learned about Hitler by studying the history of World War I and II and later through the oral history of Jewish friends whose families lived through the Holocaust. Hitler wrote about using the media propaganda to feed half truth to the massive and kept them distracted while he perfected his agenda to create a “pure” nation of men and women. From My Struggle (Mein Kemp):

“Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. (…) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (…) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.”

Those words were written while Hitler was imprisoned after World War I. It’s chilling to read his eerie words and then turn on cable news. Even from the most evil minds, we can learn from their thinking in order to not repeat past abominations and atrocities like the institution of slavery and the horrors of the Holocaust.

(The Hall of Remembrance Holocaust Museum)Dt 4:9

I am blessed to have a family that taught me MY history; written facts, what was left out of history books and our oral history that is passed from one generation to another. My mom spent many conversations reminding her children often about our Black/White/Indian heritage. I held the hand of my grandmother’s grandmother, Big Mama. She lived until she was 109 years old. I can remember braiding her snow white locks as if it was yesterday. At that time, She WAS history and several articles were written about the Century Old Diva. She died when I was in grade school as I was embracing the love of reading. I thank God my family made sure history was important part of knowing the facts about living in the South. We accepted the good and learned from the bad. The last few months of my grandfather’s life, I held history tightly. I cherish the many firsts he made with his life that made a difference too many people. Do I think the Governor of VA know any of this? Nope. Do I care? Nope. Who or what a Governor acknowledges is not going to change my history and my truth. Once we had a media that recorded history, today it seems as it is trying to rewrite history. Let’s not allow media punditry to keep distracting us by keeping us focused on useless propaganda…we have too much to do.

Photo Credits
Revels, Alcorn, Blanche
Library of Congress
City of Natchez
Reference Material
Notes from Mississippi Historical Society
"Between Two Worlds: Free Blacks in the Antebellum South"
Natchez Library
National Register of Historical Places
National Holocaust Museum, Washington D.C.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tennessean Coverage About TSU Updates

Since the Tennessee Tribune ran the “Boogie Man Stalks TSU” in its March 25 issue, the media on Broadway ran an editorial on Sunday, April 4. The headline read “TSU not in danger of losing accreditation”. It was written by Dr. Johnson to Tennessean’s readers. Many of you have read similar letters to the community in the Tennessee Tribune earlier. The space was used to address how the Tennessean reported on TSU’s accreditation reaffirmation process. Dr. Wheelan’s letter addressed to the Tennessean, which was first published in the Tennessee Tribune, was reprinted as well. Three weeks after the glaring headlines, the Tennessean’s readers read the letter that was addressed to the publisher and editor. A brief paragraph in the Editor’s note states:

The Tennessean regrets any undue concerns raised by our coverage of the accreditation process and the headline that appeared with that coverage.

I am from Mississippi and how things are done in Tennessee is still foreign to me. In my neck of the woods, when you are wrong, you say “I am wrong” (in print). In Tennessee, when folks are wrong, they say, I “regret” which has a different connotation. God help y’all. Allowing the President of a school to write an editorial after your paper’s headlines have run off half of its student body is note worthy but that is small potatoes when you compare the damage that has been done. The letter from the Tennessean to the President of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association (TSUNAA) gives a slightly different perspective and addresses some of the outrage felt by the entire Nashville community.

The letter dated March 24, 2010 to Mr. Leon Stephens, President of TSUNAA, the editor, writes “Let me begin by apologizing for upsetting you and other members of the Tennessee State University for our story that ran on March 11th”. He also admits “an error in the story” that was corrected the next day. This letter was worthy of news coverage or on the editorial page of the Tennessean and should have been posted boldly on it’s website for all the folks who breathe hate and damnation on TSU could read it. When I contacted Mr. Stephens about the correspondence from Broadway’s media, he expressed surprised that he was the only person at TSU sent a letter regarding TSU’s accreditation issues written about in the Tennessean. “I contacted the Tennessean as the President of the TSUNAA, because I could not ignore the sensationalism of the story headline,” stated Mr. Stephens.

The letter to the President of TSUNAA addresses the headline but the main subject was about the number of folks that were/are upset. Let’s not play crazy, upset folks cancel subscriptions. It appears that some showed out with Broadway media folks about the headline and spoke up about the content of the article written by Ms. Sarrio, the education reporter. The editor was taking responsibility for the headline that alarmed many. The editor also noted they have given positive coverage of TSU in the last several months and gave examples of that coverage. He felt the article was balanced. No word from the Tennessean about a fundraiser to help offset the millions lost in tuition fees for the 2010-2011 school year. Now, if folks want to partner to do a benefit for TSU, I will gladly help Co-chair the event. Heck, I will even handle all the media relations!

With all that has been said and done, where do we go from here as a city, community, and school? No one wants an adversarial relationship with the city’s main daily or our weekly newspapers for that matter. Families and faculty have too much to focus on staying the course. TSU has an image issue it must repair quickly. There is no denying the hits from the media have taken its toll on the students and the faculty. Nationally, TSU is still raking in award after award in spite of what has taken place locally. The school must address some internal issues that can no longer be swept under the rug. The TSU community can no longer continue to do business as usual, while rouge individuals plot the school’s destruction. This is not an option that many parents are willing to allow happen. Too much is at stake; the future of young people educational endeavors and the institution that many love dearly are vital to our city and our country. My sons are the reason I took the time to seek out the truth. My allegiance is to my sons’ education and that far outweighs any mayhem, mess and foolishness.

As I close, let me share with you some of my prayers from my prayer journal. I pray daily for my sons as they go about their lives on campus. I ask God to show favor with them as they take lessons that I tried to instill in them from home to take with them into the community. I pray for the teachers, instructors and coaches who are now shaping them for their next steps on their paths in life. I pray for the administration, from the receptionists who answer the phones to the President who leads the university. Oh, yes, I pray for the financial aid office also. Every person at the school is now part of helping bring my young men, gifts from God, into being responsible people in our society. For that, I am a thankful mom to everyone at TSU. As a community, the TSU family must move on to a new chapter with determined steps and action items with measurable outcomes. Divisions and dissensions must be left behind. Let us continue to pray for the well being and wholeness of Big Blue…we can not afford not too. Amen.

Letter to Leon Stephen

Letter to Jamie Sarrio


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Boogie Man Spotted on Tennessee State University Campus

After writing about Tennessee State University’s woes with one media’s narrative, I told my sons attending the school to let me know if any media was stalking the campus. I instructed them not to discuss the blog post from two weeks ago. Speaking up about public mind games has it downside. I do not want my children to become targets of the media or angry members of the TSU family because of my blogging.

Before the dust could settle on the story, I got a call from one of my TSU brats jokingly saying, “Mom, I spotted the boogie man on campus today!” Exasperated, I asked in an oh-lawd-have-mercy tone, “Where?” I started praying immediately because I knew whatever the reason for the media being on campus, it was not good for TSU. It was only a few hours after that call that my predictions about the media’s visit came true.

On March 31, Channel 5’s Mark Bellinger led with “Crime up on Tennessee College Campuses”. Before I could grab my antacid tablets, Mr. Bellinger said, “Area colleges and universities also saw some pretty big increases. One of those campuses is Tennessee State University in Nashville”. Need I say more? Yep, the boogie man disguised as a reporter strikes again. Bellinger reported the details about the increase in Tennessee college campus crime rates but only visited or gave crimes stats about one school, my boys beloved Big Blue.

Each year, TBI reports crime statistics for ALL colleges and universities throughout the state. The statistics were released last month for the 2009 school year. Crime was up 9 percent over the previous year for over all crimes. This was the first significance increase in five years. Bellinger further stated the only two homicides that occurred on Tennessee college campuses in 2009 were at TSU. He failed to cite that no TSU student was involved in either of the incidents. In the case of the graduation shooting, the school’s campus was being used by one of Metro’s high schools. But who cares about the details when TSU is the storyline.

Bellinger found two students and showed them reports with the school crime rates from 2008-2009. The students gave commentary about the reports without asking, “Why are you interviewing us and what is this story about?” When I was younger, my grandmother often said, “Don’t be running your mouth to folks you don’t know!” I wish someone would have said that to the students who looked as if they were trying extremely hard to sound engaging and smart. Were they shown other school reports as well? Inquiring minds want to know.

Mr. Bellinger repeats scary crime statistics on the campus as if TSU was located in the middle of Chicago’s public housing. Numbers for homicides, assaults, burglaries, robberies and thefts were given. TSU’s Chief of Police was interviewed as well. I do not know if her interview was spliced but she mentioned bullying in her sound bite. Bullying was not on the above list that was given for increased crime on the campus; you have to know that bullying is included in the assault numbers to make the connection. TSU’s Chief Russell statement from the interview:

"We do not tolerate any type of intimidation, bullying or any of that is not allowed on our campus, so we do write students misconduct citations for that type of behavior," said Russell.

I contacted Chief Russell, who stated, “Many do not know that any form of intimidation and bullying by definition is assault. TSU responds to all assaults; sometimes it is dealt with by mediation and sometimes by arrest. We encourage conflict resolution which is not always in a report. We take the safety of our students very seriously.” The boogie man media’s narrative will shock you with facts that many are not aware how that information is factored into their reporting. Frightening.

Bellinger winds down his report by saying that larcenies and thefts were down at TSU from 174 to 156. Thank God, good news! Right before he finished closing the coffin on TSU’s reputation, he let us know that MTSU and Vanderbilt University’s crime rates had increased. Yes, he ends the three minute report that was torture for the TSU’s community by saying, “MTSU and Vandy’s crime rates are way up.” But not one figure was given to balance the story. Viewers were encouraged to visit TBI’s website for news about the other schools. Folks, TSU got to be doing something right for so many to work this damn hard to make the school look bad week after week, story after story. In four weeks, two different reporters from two separate media outlets covering TSU have reported college related stories but only gave the figures or misleading information about TSU.

Being a fair and balanced blogger, I believe that all the facts should be given to ensure the audience that the storyline is news and not a pre-written narrative. When I see constant reporting about TSU with slants, angles and twists that washes the school in a bath of negativity, it makes me wonder if I will ever see news about the school reported with researched comprehensive truth. Since Vandy and MTSU were mentioned but no information for those schools given, let me share with you the crime statics I obtained from TBI. I read the same report that Bellinger had access too. When I spoke with TBI communications director, Kristin Helm, she stated crime reports from all schools are combined to get the state’s average. Schools with higher crime rates are factored in with schools with small crime reports. To focus on one school when several in the same area with higher rates seems ridiculous and bias.

Vandy’s crime rates 2008/2009
Assaults 141 114
Sex offenses 4 4
Theft 436 601
Fraud 18 36
Drug violations 141 142

MTSU's crime rates 2008/2009
Sex offenses 0 4
Assaults 52 49
Theft 269 259
Fraud 6 2
Drug violations 49 80

I know many good, honest, loving, decent people who teach, attend, and employed by Vanderbilt and MTSU. If I was going by the crime statics reported, I would think both campuses are full of lawless, crack heads that steal and embezzle. It is very easy to use a piece of a paper to paint a narrative in broad strokes. My friends and customers at both universities are not going to like that I mentioned their schools/employers but neither do students, faculty and the TSU community like it when the media give partial reports about schools but only include information on TSU in the reporting. Vanderbilt crimes rates are higher than TSU. Both schools are in Nashville. So why focus on only TSU? Even TBI's overview of reported offenses mentions Vanderbilt’s crime statistics specifically. Yet, the reporter only shares numbers from TSU’s report. Hmmm. Middle Tennessee State has higher crime stats than TSU but no numbers from that school was given either. In grade school, I was taught the letter M comes before T.

I have asked publicly and privately, why is TSU caught in the media’s cross hairs so frequently? Some have commented that TSU is “low lying fruit”. TSU must address the root of the media bias more as well as deal with internal conflicts. HBCU Digest wrote recently about the Tennessean debacle;

“Likely, it (the Tennessean) went with information provided by insiders at TSU, for one reason or another, it didn’t see fit to corroborate with the administration.”

All of this drama troubles a poor mom’s heart. The school's first set of priorities is to educate young people. Anyone fighting the mission of the school, is fighting the students. The community must help build up the university and help attract young people to the college but we can no longer turn a blind eye to those who are interfering with the goals of educating our youth. Our children are our future.

When my grandfather was working on the civil rights battlefield trying to help get Black folks registered to vote; it was extremely dangerous for him traveling from one rural town to another. He was a marked man for many years. He said later in life, “I knew the white folks who were after me, they did not hide their intentions; it was my own folks that I was afraid of most of the time. Some would offer me a glass a water and a place to rest my head, while at the same time helping dig the grave for folks to put me in. You learn to sleep with your eyes wide open.” My grandfather was not a college graduate but he had a PhD in life.

Media folks will do what they do but the community of color must not be slow about speaking up and get its act together. We must stop digging graves for each other and start planting seeds to help grow the entire community. These last few weeks has taught me how much we need each other and how important it is for us to work together to bring about positive changes in the community, whether or not we are in the media’s glare or the spotlight.

Comparable Crime Rates 2009
Crimes on Campus TBI Report
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