Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When a Book Club Meeting Turns Into a Testament to The Goodness of God

A few weeks ago, Dinner and Discussion Book Club met to discuss the The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. Normally, we chose a restaurant that has a connection with the book. This time, we met at The Cookery, a cafe on 12th South with a unique mission to train homeless men culinary skills. It was by coincidence the owner, Brett Swayn, is from Australia, the backdrop for the book.


The book was riveting and full of twists and turns for me. The reviews from the group ranged from kinda of crazy to too confusing to I am headed home and getting ready to deal with family, I am going to give everyone a copy of this book  to it gets better the more you read it to I loved it. Our comments and thoughts about the book were better than reading the book.


Cathy came with a trinket box with questions, that was truly a Pandora box. After ordering our food, I was the first to open the box and read aloud this gem of a question:
When Cecilia finds the letter addressed to her from her husband, "To be opened only in the event of my death," she is tormented by the ethics of opening it. Do you agree with her ultimate decision? What would you have done?
Without hesitation, I answered, "I am opening any letter that is marked do not open only in event of my death on the spot!" The Pandora box filled with questions was a creative idea and kept us entertained throughout the evening. One great question after another, helped us dig deeper into the book and had several of us peeling back layers to our personalities. The atmosphere of the restaurant said "come as you are" and it spite of being in the open, the evening was intimate. There was a steady flow of entrees that we devoured from the menu as we made our way to the end of the book. I even had the chef to prepare a salad Genma's way, a version of one of the menu items that was prepared my way on my birthday.

In June, I had quietly celebrated my birthday with Joyce and the cooks at the restaurant. With the restaurant to ourselves, they went above and beyond to make the evening special for me. After being serenaded by two of the best cooks in town on my birthday, I was in love with the restaurant and learned their stories and the concept behind the restaurant. I have returned every week since my birthday. The Cookery was the perfect venue for our book club.


At our book club outing, unbeknown to us, our carefree banter was being observed by a young man in the restaurant. When he got up to leave, he stopped at a our table and said he enjoyed knowing we were "having a great time on your ladies night out." He even suggested a book for us to read. He told us he was raised by his grandmother and went on to share that his life had been interrupted by bad choices. But he was determined to do the right thing. He then laid several 20s on the table and told us to enjoy our night on him because we reminded him of his grandmother and her friends.

 

Totally stunned by his actions, the book loving mother hens began to question him about what was the next chapter for him. As he revealed more about his life, his mother and grandmother, I could not help but snap photos. I sensed something special was happening and I wanted to capture the moment. Cathy, forever a teacher, asked him about pursing an education. Joyce,Veronica, Diane, and Anassa encouraged him to stay focused and inquired about his employment.

I asked for his number to text him the photos and he asked if I would share his photos with his mother as he gave me both numbers. Cathy invited him to church and told him he was welcome to join her and her husband. While she was giving locations and times for her church, I said he was welcome to join me, we meet at one address:) The money that he gave so graciously to us was shared with the cook (my Sweet James) and the waitress.

Anassa, Genma Joyce, Diane, Quortez, Veronica, and Cathy
Our book club meeting was one I did not want to end. We stayed in the parking lot for another twenty minutes talking about any and every thing. As I drove home, I kept thinking how our time at the restaurant was preparing me spiritually and mentally for the 4th of July weekend with family in Mississippi. Our meeting at The Cookery was a glaring testament to the Goodness of God; He readily gives us what we need, when we need it, in the most unexpected way.

On Sunday morning, I got a texted photo and these words:

The Ramseys with Quortez

" Look who came to Mt. Zion today. Quortez. He found an usher to help him find me. He brought his sister. God uses us for his purposes. Can't wait to see what He wants us to do with this young man."

With tears in my eyes, I could not help but shout, "Ain't God good!"

Remember Political Pundits Praising Putin's Craziness In March? Words Have Consequences



I was in Atlanta interviewing Civil Rights Leader, Xernona Clayton, when I received a text message that a plane was blown up over the Ukrainian skyline. Turning on the news later that evening, I was in disbelief at the way innocent lives could be slaughtered to justify political power.  As I was viewing the carnage of Malaysia Airline flight MH17, I wanted to shut out the commentators and pundits but they were as much a part of the news coverage as the crash site itself. 

As I listened to the possible links between pro-Russian rebels and the downing of the plane, I scrambled through my purse looking for a small journal I had written in back in March for a possible story about Russian President Vladimir Putin being glorified by several media pundits and cable network talking heads. The oddity of American pundits doing lap dances over Russia’s Putin was beyond crazy to me. “Do they not know he is a bad guy with big guns?” I wrote in large letters next to quotes by the talk show pundits. Their words in March came rushing back as I sat in disbelief that another Malaysian Airline tragedy is in the news again.

With the MH17’s wreckage being held hostage by the very rebels that international intelligence agencies sighted with a surface to air missile that was capable of bringing down a plane above 10,000 feet, the words and actions of the cable news pundits should be scrutinized just like other contributing factors to this horrific organized crisis. 

When Vladimir Putin tested international peacekeeping by threatening to invade Ukraine, European leaders like Germany’s Angela Markel questioned Putin sanity and stated she believed for so time he was “living in another world.” Men who live in altered reality are notorious for wanting to be in the news cycle, for any reason. Contrast world leaders who have questioned Putin’s leadership and his determination to go to war with Ukraine with cable pundits and talking heads like half term Governor, Sarah Palin, and former New York Mayor, Ruby Giuliani, who actually praised Putin’s aggression in Europe calling him "a leader.” 


During late February and early March when Putin’s allowed pro-Russian militants to rein terror in Ukraine, several U.S. media outlets’ talk show hosts stroked this mad man’s ego with statements like: “Russian has a real leader;” “He makes a quick decision and everyone reacts;” “Putin wrestle bears and drills for oil while our president wears mom jeans;” and “Putin tells the west and us that if you mess with me I will kill you all.” These words touted with glee by pundits a few months ago; ring with evilness when we see the bodies and personal effects strewn over a field in the Ukraine.


The nonstop praise of a tyrannical leader made by political opportunists who are dogged determined to show the weakness of the U.S. President is no longer political; it is deadly. Words have consequences. This praise of Putin came at the expense of the rest of the world and possibly the lives of 298 individuals. Putin being praised by American media pundits, makes an inflated ego with a dangerous world view, even more uncontrollable. If pundits love Putin as much as they have idolized him, can you imagine the praise they would have heaped on Hitler? When world leaders are dealing with more and more rebels with agendas who are hell bent on getting anything they want and will stop at nothing to get it, we must stop to see how our country’s toxic political punditry adds more poison to the brew. 

Our country has moved from being a political divided country, to a country that pundits hold civility hostage while bedding politics to further fan the flames of any and every situation without being affected one way or the other by what comes out of their mouths. With our factless checking media, half of what the public is told are lies, and the other half are half truths. Pundits spin garbage without being challenged and are invited back night after night. When our pundits encourage our politicians to invade other countries, shut down the government or encourage the U.S. military to back the terrorists-of-the-day with weapons, the pundits' family or livelihood is not affected by their paid for rhetoric. They will get a check or a bonus because the very acts or actions they are commenting on feeds the propaganda they are getting paid to promote. The politicians who debates the weakness of the President, will never be president of any country, or county Mayor for that matter, so the decisions that are demanding or actions they are screaming to be taken comes with no accountability. Speaking of no accountability, remember Iraq's war hawks? They are back.


The war hawks who basically held our country’s hands right into Iraq, are now back on TV discussing Iraq. There is no record of any pundit who demanded war with Iraq having a child or grandchild on the battlefield. Iraq was one of the worst decisions made by our country and our children’s children will be repaying our debts, morally and financially, for the rest of their lives. Yet, recycled talking points that worked to get us into war then are back on TV. But this time, those irresponsible words that lead to deadly actions from previous years have consequences. The mess in Iraq today is the mess our government created when we invaded Iraq knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction. 

Like the rush to invade Iraq, the praise of the Russia’s Vladimir Putin should be met with skepticism. The public should give a colonic examination of why would any pundit admire an oppressive dictator who ideas of democracy is not in line with our constitution that many pundits wrap around themselves like a holy shawl. It is time for avid viewers of news, progressives, independents, and conservatives, examine what is said and push back on narratives that are leading our country down dark alleys without exits. It is time for media outlets to be held accountable for who they put on their programs. Whatever happened to fair and balance? Words really have consequences.

Photo credits: LA Times, Reuters, AP

 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cowboys of Color: Mollie Taylor-Stevenson, Jr. on Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes

Remember growing wanting to be a cowboy or cowgirl? The old western movies captured all of our imaginations. But rarely did we see cowboys who reflected the diversity of the west and our country.


On Saturday, July 19, 2014, join us as we continue to discuss Cowboys of Color; their history, heritage, and culture on Living Your Best Life Radio. We will be joined by National Multicultural Western Heritage Hall of Fame Inductee, Mollie Taylor-Stevenson, Jr., founder of the American Cowboy Museum located in the Houston, Texas area. Mollie, Jr. will share with us her rich heritage and life as an American Cowgirl.


Mollie, Jr.'s family ranch is 150 year working ranch. Listen to Mollie, Jr. share about her great-grandmother, a former slave, who Mollie, Jr. has a copy of her slave papers. Mollie, Jr. parents were HBCU educated who became entrepreneurial ranchers. Hear her share about her mother, Fisk University grad, and her father, a Tuskegee graduate, and how they started the first Black owned airport and aviation school in the country, Sky Ranch, on their land.


Mollie, Jr. will also discuss keeping your family land, farm work ethnic, educating children about the west, and why it is important to know your country and family's history. This lively interview will be entertaining and educational as you learn more about our country's western heritage.

 Living Your Best Life Radio, radio that empowers, inspires, and motivates you to live your BEST life, can be heard on 760 AM in the Middle-Tennessee Region, Tune In, military bases, and streamed live on U-Stream.TV from 9-10AM CST. This show will also air on WTST, a member of the HBCU radio network (XM 142).

Follow the #cowboysofcolor hash tag on Facebook and Twitter.


 National Multicultural Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet


More About Mollie Taylor-Stevenson, Jr. 




Mollie's parents believed that education was very important, they not only educated their own children, but countless others with food, books, tuition payments and entire college educations. Mollie, Jr., worked as a professional model in Houston, Kansas City and New York, but she was drawn back home where she worked side by side with her mother to preserve their legacy. She established the American Cowboy Museum, a 501(c)(3) organization in 1987. It honors the contributions to Western culture of African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and women.

Mollie Jr. is a 1963 graduate of Houston's Jack Yates High School and attended Texas Southern University as a business major from 1963-1967. For 15 years, Stevenson worked as a professional model. The busy rancher and museum director finds time to volunteer for the black trail riding and rodeo associations, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Black Landowners Association. She has appeared in numerous radio, television and newspaper interviews, and has been featured as a woman in a nontraditional occupation in such magazines as Texas Highways, Ebony, and Essence.

Mollie, Jr. is also a journalist and an active volunteer with the Sugar Shack Trailride and various other rodeo trailride associations. Mollie has been honored by numerous schools as a motivational speaker and event coordinator. She is also a charter member of the Speakers and Black Go Texan Committee of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the Professional Black Cowboy & Cowgirl Association, the Landowners of Texas, and her favorite, the Diamond L Riding & Roping Club.

To acquaint a new generation with this rich history, Mollie offers school tours, leather crafts for visiting children, lectures, a traveling exhibit with a quilt display, horseback riding, a mobile petting zoo, and living history presentations. She also encourages young people to consider careers in agribusiness and land ownership and sponsors FFA and 4-H students.

Mollie and her mother are the first living African-Americans inducted in The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth


Photos: Submitted by Mollie Taylor-Stevenson, Jr.