Why I don’t want to be “Fat Dad” anymore

The reality is that I am not happy being fat. I don’t like the way I look in the mirror when my clothes are missing in action. I don’t like getting winded when I do regular tasks like walking up stairs, picking up my kids, or moving in general. I don’t like hating how I look in every picture I take, because my face, or stomach, or side, or legs look huge.

With my kids, I am notorious for saying that I am “fat” nonchalantly in a funny, self-deprecating way. I often tell them “Don’t be fat like daddy!” as a warning of what can happen if they eat too much and don’t exercise. I do all of this, but I can see I am sending mixed messages. I often say this with a smile and a confidence not befitting someone who actually regrets his life choices.

The reality is that I am not happy being fat. I don’t like the way I look in the mirror when my clothes are missing in action. I don’t like getting winded when I do regular tasks like walking up stairs, picking up my kids, or moving in general. I don’t like hating how I look in every picture I take, because my face, or stomach, or side, or legs look huge. Mostly, I hate this feeling that this is how I am supposed to look since I am getting older.

IMG_1102

“My greatest fear is that my sons listen to me, look at me and decide that it is perfectly normal to grow increasingly unhealthy when they get older.”

My greatest fear is that my sons listen to me, look at me and decide that it is perfectly normal to grow increasingly unhealthy when they get older. They will just jokingly tell their kids what I tell them and think that being overweight and making terrible eating choices is their right and privilege as a man. I think about what James Baldwin said about children being terrible listeners but never failing to do exactly what their parents show them. I can honestly say I have been a terrible example regarding health, eating and fitness. I know that continuing down this path is a death sentence at worst and a life of health complications and burden upon my family at best.

Black men develop diabetes at rates eighty percent higher than white men and are almost twice as likely as white men to die from heart disease.  The rates of cancers and kidney disease are also astronomical when compared to the broader population.  While there are socio-economic factors that contribute to our negative health statistics, I believe the major factors at play are poor eating habits and lack of meaningful daily exercise.  We can control what we consume. I can control what healthy foods I eat and what poisonous processed foods I avoid.  I have allowed myself to establish a dangerous pattern of not caring about the nutritional value of my food, as long as it satisfies my taste buds, while I sit and mindlessly eat and drink.

“Black men develop diabetes at rates eighty percent higher than white men and are almost twice as likely as white men to die from heart disease.  The rates of cancers and kidney disease are also astronomical when compared to the broader population.”

My father passed away suddenly last year of a heart attack.  He was just 61 years old.  He had been overweight for years, but was in great shape most of his youth going into early adulthood.  It was after he became a father that he started to gain weight and eventually stopped working out like he used to.  The thing I think about over and over is the fact that when my father was my age he was not as close to how heavy I currently am.  He gained weight over time, but not as drastically or in the dimensions that I have.  If I don’t make a significant change in my habits then I may not even make it to the age he was and I know that would deeply affect my family and would not be a way to truly honor his memory.

So I have decided to make a change. I am committing to losing 100 pounds by Thanksgiving Day (November 23 this year). To do this I am going to cut out sodas, processed fruit juices, junk food of all kinds and processed foods in general. I will commit to drinking large amounts of water weekly, working out at least 20 minutes per day, walking everyday as a routine, and consistently eating healthy throughout the months. This is my #ThanksgivingChallenge and I am excited to start this! This is for me, my sons, my wife, and for anyone else who needs to make a change but is afraid to start. Walk with me on this journey and let’s see where we end up on the other side!

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter and Instagram @RealRickMcCray.

10 Must-Have Books and Documentaries To Celebrate Black History Month

For many of us, learning about our history has been a personal endeavor. Generally, American education is largely Eurocentric and the history of people of color in this country centers around slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. As we grow older, however, we realize there is so much more. Here are 10 must-have books and documentaries to kick-off this Black History Month. Use them to teach your children exciting facts about our rich and inspiring history.

For many of us, learning about our history has been a personal endeavor. Generally, American education is largely Eurocentric and the history of people of color in this country centers around slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. As we grow older, however, we realize there is so much more.  Here are 10 must-have books and documentaries to kick-off this Black History Month. Use them to teach your children exciting facts about our rich and inspiring history.

1. African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross

Explore with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. (Amazon Product Review)

2. Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

The grandson of slaves, born into poverty in 1892 in the Deep South, A. G. Gaston died more than a century later with a fortune worth well over $130 million and a business empire spanning communications, real estate, and insurance. Gaston was, by any measure, a heroic figure whose wealth and influence bore comparison to J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie. Here, for the first time, is the story of the life of this extraordinary pioneer, told by his niece and grandniece, the award-winning television journalist Carol Jenkins and her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines. (Amazon Product Review)

3. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Wilson

The thesis of Dr. Woodson’s book is that African-Americans of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools. This conditioning, he claims, causes African-Americans to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. He challenges his readers to become autodidacts and to “do for themselves”, regardless of what they were taught:

History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning (From Amazon).

4. Vintage Black Glamour

Vintage Black Glamour is a unique, sumptuous and revealing celebration of the lives and indomitable spirit of Black women of a previous era. With its stunning photographs and insightful biographies, this book is a hugely important addition to Black history archives. (Amazon Product Review)

5. When Black Men Ruled The World (Full Video on YouTube)

Hosted by Legrand H. Clegg II, “When Black Men Ruled The World” is a classic documentary of little known facts about the Black people of ancient history. The documentary discusses the migration, origin, and accomplishments of ancient Black people and their obvious impact on the modern world (From Atlantic Black Star).

6. Good Hair feat. Chris Rock

Chris Rock visits beauty salons and hairstyling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of the black community in this expos of comic proportions that only he could pull off. A raucous adventure prompted by Rock’s daughter approaching him and asking, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?, GOOD HAIR shows Chris Rock engaging in frank, funny conversations with hair-care professionals, beauty shop and barbershop patrons, and celebrities including Ice-T, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symon, Dr. Maya Angelou, Salt-N-Pepa, Eve and Reverend Al Sharpton all while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question. (Studio)

7. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

More than 40 years after the Black Panther Party was founded the group and its leadership remain powerful and enduring images in our popular imagination. This will weave together the voices of those who lived this story — police informants journalists white supporters and detractors those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. (Amazon Product Review)

8. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley

With its first great victory in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the civil rights movement gained the powerful momentum it needed to sweep forward into its crucial decade, the 1960s. As voices of protest and change rose above the din of history and false promises, one voice sounded more urgently, more passionately, than the rest. Malcolm X—once called the most dangerous man in America—challenged the world to listen and learn the truth as he experienced it. And his enduring message is as relevant today as when he first delivered it. (From Amazon)

9. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.  (Amazon Product Review)

10. 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

This unforgettable memoir was the basis for the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. This is the true story of Solomon Northup, who was born and raised as a freeman in New York. He lived the American dream, with a house and a loving family – a wife and two kids. Then one day he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in the deep south. These are the true accounts of his twelve hard years as a slave – many believe this memoir is even more graphic and disturbing than the film. His extraordinary journey proves the resiliency of hope and the human spirit despite the most grueling and formidable of circumstances. (Amazon Product Review)

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

Living History: Dr. Mae Jemison, 7 Must-Know Facts about NASA’s 1st Black Female Astronaut

Dr. Mae Jemison is a medical doctor, trailblazing astronaut and humanitarian. Her life and career have been full of inspirational moments. Here are a 7 must-know facts about this living legend.

Dr. Mae Jemison is a medical doctor, trailblazing astronaut and humanitarian.  Her life and career have been full of inspirational moments.  Here are 7 must-know facts about this living legend.

1. Before becoming an astronaut, she was engaged in life saving work with the Peace Corps.

In 1977, Jemison, a Decatur, Alabama native, graduated from Stanford University with dual degrees in Chemical Engineering and African and Afro-American Studies.  She went on to receive her doctorate in medicine from Cornell University in 1981.  After briefly practicing medicine, Dr. Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1983 through 1985.  She was the Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia.  In this role, she was responsible for managing the delivery system of health care for United States Embassy personnel and Peace Corps personnel.  This multi-faceted role entailed providing medical care, overseeing any medical administrative issues, supervision of medical staff, a large pharmacy and a modern laboratory.

During her time in West Africa, Dr. Jemison implemented and participated in research on a Hepatitis B vaccine and a rabies vaccine in partnership with the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control.  She taught personal health training classes to local residents, developed health related programming and curriculum for the Peace Corps, and developed guidelines for dealing with public health issues for volunteer job placement sites.

dr-_mae_c-_jemison_first_african-american_woman_in_space_-_gpn-2004-00020

2. She was the first Black woman to be an astronaut with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Dr. Jemison became one of fifteen applicants selected out of more than 2,000 in the 1987 class of astronauts for NASA.  After one year of intensive training, she became the first Black woman to be an astronaut with NASA.  On September 12, 1992, Dr. Jemison made history again when aboard the space shuttle “Endeavor” she became the first Black woman (and first woman of color) to go into space.  The mission was a joint mission with Japanese astronauts to study the effect of weightlessness on bones, and 42 other experiments relating to life sciences and human adaptations.  Her time with NASA lasted six years and her pioneering work continues to inspire generations.

3. She formed the Jemison Group and the BioSentient Corporation to address unique concerns related to science and technology.

After leaving NASA in 1993, Dr. Jemison formed the Jemison Group, an engineering consulting firm located in Texas.  The Jemison Group works closely in its education wing with the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence (founded in honor of her late mother with the help of her brother and sister) to create innovative science curriculum that can be taught in schools.  The organization also serves as an engineering consulting firm offering project consultation for mid to large scale projects.

In 2000, Dr. Jemison formed the BioSentient Corporation which is a medical devices and technology services business that designs, develops and brings to market ambulatory equipment which improves performance through physiologic monitoring and self-regulation.  She currently serves as President of both companies.

4. She is committed to teaching science to children in honor of her late mother.

Dorothy Jemison, Dr. Mae Jemison’s mother, was an educator in Chicago public schools for almost thirty years.  She was dedicated to holding her students to high standards and pushing them to achieve their own personal excellence.  After her mother passed away, the Jemison children created the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence (DJF) to offer curriculum and projects to schools that would encourage students to high levels of achievement through science.  Initiatives like “The Earth We Share” (TEWS), an international science camp, and “Shaping the World”, an international essay contest where kids compete by writing about fascinating scientific topics, were sponsored by the DJF in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Students and teachers from all over the world, representing countries such as Nigeria, Sweden, Portugal, Hong Kong and several others, participated in training offered by the DJF and learned new methods of teaching science to children.

In 2006, the DJF created a program in Chicago called “Reality Leads Fantasy: Celebrating Woman of Color in Flight” that educated the public on important woman of color who were involved in aviation and the study of space throughout the world.  In 2011, the DJF sponsored the “TEWS-Space Race” which was focused on improving the scientific education and accomplishments of students in Los Angeles who came from poor and underserved communities.

5. She appeared on an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In 1993 Dr. Jemison appeared in an episode of the sixth season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” entitled “Second Chances.”  In the episode she played Lieutenant Junior Grade Palmer.  Actor LeVar Burton directed the episode and requested her appearance.  It was the first time an actual astronaut appeared on “Star Trek.”  Dr. Jemison is a huge “Star Trek” fan and was always inspired by the actress Nichelle Nichols who played “Lieutenant Uhura” on the original series.

Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 (Star Trek 365)
(c) Abrams Brooks

6. She is working towards ensuring human travel to another solar system within a century.

Dr. Jemison is a principal in the 100 Year Starship, an organization dedicated to ensuring the facilities exist for a successful human journey to another star by the year 2112.  She believes space exploration, and the experimentation associated with it, lead to major advances in invention and quality of life on Earth.  By having the scientific and business community pursuing this goal, the organization argues that life on Earth can be dramatically improved for all people.

The organization was started in 2011 with a joint grant from the United States Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA.  Dr. Jemison points out that the ultimate goal is not to have a human go to another star in the next century, but to have the world commit to the goal with investment, scientific endeavor, and civic participation to make interstellar travel a legitimate possibility.

jemison-high-school

7. She has two schools named in her honor.

On Tuesday, August 2, 2016, the Dr. Mae Jemison High School was dedicated in Huntsville, Alabama, her home state.  The school features high tech facilities such as a 3-D titanium printer that allows students to practice skills for advanced manufacturing.  There is also a component to teach the newest forms of the growing field of cybersecurity.  Dr. Jemison cut the ribbon and gave a speech during the dedication of the school.  With the advanced facilities, students will be able to complete up to 60 hours of college credit while still attending high school. The first school named after Dr. Jemison is the Mae C. Jemison Academy, which is an alternative public school in Detroit, Michigan that was dedicated in 1992.

Information attained from:

Vickie Lindsey, “She Had a Dream: Mae C. Jemison, First African American Woman in Space”, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum,  https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/she-had-dream-mae-c-jemison-first-african-american-woman-space

Bob Gathany, “Dr. Mae Jemison cuts ribbon on namesake Jemison High School”, AL.com, http://www.al.com/news/huntsville/index.ssf/2016/08/dr_mae_jemison_cuts_ribbon_on.html

100 Year Starship, https://100yss.org/

The Dorothy Jemison Foundation, http://www.jemisonfoundation.org/dorothy.htm

Robin Wander, “Stanford alumna and astronaut Mae Jemison talks about the Universe”, Stanford Report, http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/december/jemison-imagining-universe-120114.html

Nick Greene, “Dr. Mae C. Jemison: First African-American Woman in Space”, about education, http://space.about.com/cs/formerastronauts/a/jemisonbio_2.htm

http://www.space.com/17169-mae-jemison-biography.html

http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/jemison-mc.html

http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Palmer_(Lieutenant_JG)

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

 

 

Living History: Meet Gangster Gardener and Activist Ron Finley

Ron Finley is a man making a difference in South Central, Los Angeles by gardening in his community and promoting healthy eating. His quest to promote community gardening started in 2010 and has garnered him worldwide attention. Here are a few facts about him.

Ron Finley is a man making a difference in South Central, Los Angeles by gardening in his community and promoting healthy eating.  His quest to promote community gardening started in 2010 and has garnered him worldwide attention.  Here are a few facts about him:

1. He fought City Hall… and won.

Finley’s quest began because he couldn’t buy anything healthy in his neighborhood.  He grew up in South Central, L.A. as one of eight children, and knew that there were no health food stores or grocery stores with fresh produce anywhere near his home.  He had to drive 45 minutes away to reach a Whole Foods.  So he decided he would plant vegetables in a strip of dirt by his curb.  After a few months he had succulent carrots, bananas, tangerines and mustard greens.  He also had the attention of city officials who gave him a citation for gardening without a permit. The city owned the “median,” which was the neglected dirt strip that was the approximately 150 x 10 foot area Finley started planting his garden.  Finley worked with other local leaders to file a petition in opposition to the city’s actions.  This garnered media attention, a local filmmaker made a short video about his fight, and the city rescinded the citation and allowed the gardening to continue.

median-gardens

2. He believes gardening is gangster.

Finley believes that community building through planting your own food, sharing it with your neighbors, and improving your surrounding area is an authentic way to be “gangster.” In 2010, he started teaching his neighbors how to plant gardens in their own medians in front of their homes.  Now, he teaches people from all over the world how to plant and make their own vibrant vegetation spaces.  His goal is to redefine what it means to be a “gangster” so it includes being informed about nutrition and gardening.

“I’m an artist. Gardening is my graffiti. I grow my art. Just like a graffiti artist, where they beautify walls, me, I beautify lawns, parkways. I use the garden, the soil, like it’s a piece of cloth, and the plants and the trees, that’s my embellishment for that cloth. You’d be surprised what the soil could do if you let it be your canvas. You just couldn’t imagine how amazing a sunflower is and how it affects people.”

3. He helped start a non-profit dedicated to community gardening.

In 2010, Finley, Florence Nishida, and Vanessa Voblis started an organization called Los Angeles Green Grounds that is dedicated to bringing volunteers together with residents of South Central to change their front lawns into vibrant gardens.  To accomplish this, residents host a “dig in” where the community and volunteers come together to shovel, plant, water, and build gardens.  The organization works closely with residents through growing seasons and continually educates folks about sustainability practices.

Finley eventually  moved on from LA Green Grounds to start the Ron Finley Project where he uses his home garden as an example of how to create a growing  and healthy vegetation space by using vacant lots, parkways, and other “throw away” items like old shopping carts.  His goal is to change the face of urban communities into vibrant food forests  where residents eat what they plant and become healthier by eating natural food instead of the processed food that surrounds their communities.

“I live in a food desert, South Central Los Angeles, home of the drive-thru and the drive-by. Funny thing is, the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

4. His TED talk has nearly 3 million views.

In February 2013, Finley gave an 11 minute TED talk on his life changing work that was impassioned, funny, and extremely well received.  His TED talk generated massive attention for his cause.  He appeared on several talk shows, including Russell Brand’s late night show, and received collaboration offers from notable corporations.  Despite this attention, Finley stays focused on pointing out that a community-driven gardening program is a way to dramatically reduce obesity among adults and children, gang violence and poverty.

5. He believes lack of access to healthy food in low-income communities is intentional.

Finley believes low income communities are drastically underserved in having access to quality, natural food.  He calls urban communities food prisons because the residents have to escape them to find any healthy food.  Local convenience stores are stocked with unhealthy processed food, and you can find many more dialyses centers than grocery stores with fresh produce in them.  He points out that fast food is often the only food available within urban communities.

By teaching sustainable community gardening, Finley believes you empower community members to fight back.  Through growing their own food, these communities have locally grown produce they can consume for personal use or sell for economic gain.  Children will get exercise by gardening and the quality of their diets increase from eating food that they have grown.  Finley relates the struggle to change the health outcomes for our community to the struggles of the Black Lives Matter Movement.  He feels that urban communities are under siege from food companies, and the way to fight back is by growing your own food.  Finley believes gangster gardening is a way to free our communities.

Information attained from:

Ron Finley Project, ronfinley.com

Kristin Wartman, “Why Food Belongs in Our Discussions of Race”, Civil Eats, http://civileats.com/2015/09/03/why-food-belongs-in-our-discussions-of-race/, published on September 3, 2015

David Hochman, “Urban Gardening: An Appleseed With Attitude”, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/fashion/urban-gardening-an-appleseed-with-attitude.html?_r=0, published online on May 3, 2013

Los Angeles Green Grounds, http://www.lagreengrounds.org/

Andy Simmons, “Meet the Gangsta Gardener”, Reader’s Digest, http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/ron-finley-gangsta-gardener/

TED, Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA, https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la, filmed February 2013

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

Activism through the Arts: Meet Veteran Actor Tim Reid

As a 90’s kid, I can’t look at Tim Reid without thinking of him as the dad from Sister, Sister. However, after getting a peek into his remarkable life on a recent episode of TV One’s Unsung Hollywood, I had to learn more! Tim Reid is an actor, producer and director whose career has spanned over four decades. His integrity shines through his work. Here are a few facts about his life:

As a 90’s kid, I can’t look at Tim Reid without thinking of him as the dad from Sister, Sister.  However, after getting a peek into his remarkable life on a recent episode of TV One’s Unsung Hollywood, I had to learn more! Tim Reid is an actor, producer and director whose career has spanned over four decades.  His integrity shines through his work.  Here are a few facts about his life:

1. He overcame a tumultuous childhood.

Timothy Isabel Jr. was born on December 19, 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia.  He was named after his mother’s fiancee who was a soldier in World War II.  In 1948, his mother married a man who became abusive and would frequently beat her in front of Reid.  His mother feared for his safety, so she sent him to live with his aunt who ran a brothel. Reid would provide entertainment for the patrons by dancing for nickels. In 1953, Reid went to live with his maternal grandmother back in Virginia who sold alcohol illegally and ran an unlicensed boardinghouse.

2. He worked for Martin Luther King, Jr.

After falling in with a bad crowd, Reid went to live with his biological father, William Lee Reid.  While living with his father, he was recruited as a bodyguard for Martin Luther King, Jr.  He credits Dr. King with changing his life.  He became involved with the Civil Rights Movement, straightened up his life, and graduated high school.  He enrolled in Norfolk State University in 1963.  That same year, he also attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  He later became President of the Student Chapter of the NAACP at his university.

3. His entertainment career started unexpectedly.

In 1968, after graduating Norfolk State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business/Marketing, he went to work for DuPont, a well-known chemical company, as a marketing representative.  He was the first Black person recruited by the company from a Historically Black College or University.  While at Dupont, he met a white insurance agent named Tom Dreesen while working for an outreach program in local schools about the ills of drug use.  Reid and Dressen’s presentations were so well-received, the men formed a comedy team and toured nightclubs with their act called “Tim and Tom.”  It is believed to be the first interracial comedy duo in the United States.  “Tim and Tom” toured together for about six years before they each decided to move on to other projects.

4. He worked on the Richard Pryor Show.

In 1977, Reid was cast in Richard Pryor’s 10-episode sketch comedy series called the Richard Pryor Show.  Reid and Pryor related over their similar background of poverty and abuse.  Interestingly, they both spent portions of their childhood in brothels.  Reid cites the show as being a strange experience that broadened his views on the possibilities of artistic creativity.  In that short time he was able to work with young comedy legends like Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney,  John Witherspoon and Robin Williams.

5. He fought against stereotyping in his iconic role on WKRP in Cincinnati.

In 1978, Reid was able to land the role of Venus Flytrap, an energetic disc jockey, on WKRP in Cincinnati.  Upon his initial audition, Reid recognized the character as a stereotype with little substance.  He actively fought against this and argued that he should be allowed to control his character.  The director eventually agreed and Reid was able to not only act as he saw fit, but also write several episodes in the series.  In one episode he co-wrote called “Venus and the Man,” he encouraged a gang member to leave street life behind and return to high school.  Several teachers’ organizations lauded the episode. Scenes from the episode were remade in comic book form and featured in Scholastic magazine.

6. He frequently collaborates with his wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid.

Reid married model and actress, Daphne Maxwell Reid on December 4, 1982.  Mrs. Reid was the first Black woman named Homecoming Queen at Northwestern University and the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Glamour magazine.  She has appeared in several television shows and movies, but her most famous role was as Vivian Banks (the Second Aunt Viv) on the 90’s television classic, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  The duo started appearing in shows together as early as WKRP in Cincinnati.  When Mr. Reid became a regular on the television series Simon & Simon, playing Lieutenant Marcel “Downtown” Brown, Mrs. Reid was cast as his girlfriend, a television reporter named Temple Hill.

tim-reid

7. He executive produced and starred in Frank’s Place, a critically acclaimed television show in the 80s.

In 1988, after a brief hiatus from acting, Reid executive produced and starred in Frank’s Place, a comedy-drama set in New Orleans. The show chronicled the life of Frank Parrish (Reid), an African American professor at Brown University who inherits a restaurant in New Orleans. The show lasted 22 episodes and was critically acclaimed. He received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.  TV Guide ranked Frank’s Place number 3 on it’s 2013 list of shows canceled too soon.

8. Long before Tyler Perry, Reid opened his own film studio.

In 1996, while working on the television series, Sister, Sister, Reid and his wife started New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, VA.  The facility was a 14,850 square foot studio that resides on almost 60 acres.  At their studio, which was sold in 2015, the Reids created 14 documentaries and several television shows and films were shot there, including parts of Steven Spielberg’s critically acclaimed film, Lincoln.  Though the Reid’s sold their studio in 2015, they continue to create in smaller spaces and mentor others in the film making industry.

9. Legacy Media Institute is Tim Reid’s way of giving back.

In 2011, Reid formed Legacy Media Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to educating young filmmakers and artists on the entertainment business.  Prior to selling his studio, he would invite young artists attending Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, and other local universities to use the facilities of New Millennium Studios.  After selling the studio, his wife commented that the Reid’s would continue to work to ensure the students would have access to the equipment and space they needed to continue to learn and grow.

Information attained from:

Leah Small, “Movie making couple Tim and Daphne Reid sell New Millennium Studios”, Published on Jan. 7, 2016, http://www.progress-index.com/news/20150507/movie-making-couple-tim-and-daphne-reid-sell-new-millennium-studios

Michael B. Kassel, Museum of Broadcast Communications, Reid, Reid “U.S. Actor/Producer”, http://www.museum.tv/eotv/reidtim.htm

Tim Reid’s Biography, http://www.simon-and-simon.info/laurasappreciation/timreid.HTM

Michigan Chronicle,”Tim Reid and Daphne Maxwell Reid, a talented and enduring couple”, http://michronicleonline.com/2014/12/03/tim-reid-and-daphne-maxwell-reid-a-talented-and-enduring-couple/

The Richard Pryor Show, http://www.tv.com/shows/the-richard-pryor-show/

Tim Reid Productions Inc., http://www.timreidproductions.com/biography.htm

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

Decision 2016: What You Need to Know

The stakes are high in the upcoming presidential election. Often it is hard to sift through the political rhetoric and get to the core of the candidates stance on important issues. After reviewing their websites, we have outlined the candidates stances on key issues impacting parents in our communities.

The stakes are high in the upcoming presidential election.  In can be difficult sifting through the political rhetoric and getting to the core of the candidates stance on important issues. After reviewing their websites, we have outlined the candidates stances on key issues impacting parents in our communities.

On Education

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  • Secretary Clinton wants preschool to be standard for every four year old child in the United States.
  • Secretary Clinton said she does not think any family should have to pay in excess of 10% of their income in childcare.  To ensure this she wants to increase government investments in child care.
  • Secretary Clinton believes that the child care workforce in the United States is underpaid and the quality of child care and early learning could be improved by raising the pay for these workers.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to raise government expenditure on Early Head Start and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Program at least twofold.
  • Secretary Clinton supports initiatives like evidence-based home visiting programs; these involve social workers or nurses visiting a mother in her home during and immediately after pregnancy.  She wants to increase women’s access to these type of programs.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to help college students who are supporting children while attending school by offering scholarships of $1,500 to as many as one million students.  The scholarship funds could be used for child care or emergency financial aid.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to increase government funding for child care centers on college campuses to provide more support for parents who are also attending college.

Donald Trump

  • Donald Trump wants to have an immediate federal investment of twenty billion dollars for school choice; this is the premise that parents can pick where their child attends school without geographic limitations.  He claims this can be accomplished by redistributing current federal dollars.
  • Mr. Trump wants to give this twenty billion dollars to states that have favorable laws regarding school choice; specifically for private schools, magnet schools and charter schools.  He also wants states to allow funds to go with an individual student to the school they attend.
  • Mr. Trump wants to set a federally mandated goal that school choice be available to every family with school aged children that live in poverty.
  • Mr. Trump wants the states to all contribute $110 billion dollars of their education budgets toward school choice, in combination with the federal funds of $20 billion dollars, which he claims will provide $12,000 in school choice funds for every student who lives in poverty from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade.
  • Mr. Trump wants to collaborate with Congress on legislation that would ensure universities are making a good faith effort to reduce college debt as a consideration for the federal aid that the universities receive.
  • Mr. Trump has a goal to make it easier for people to attend, pay for and finish two or four year colleges or pursue trades through vocational education.

On Police Violence

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  • Secretary Clinton proposes to prevent police-involved shootings by: 1) having a set of national standards around how to manage the situations including training to prevent situations and 2) restore bonds between communities and law enforcement by investing in community policing and making sure that local police have the resources to build the resources in the community to prevent deadly incidents.
  • Secretary Clinton has said she wants to end private prisons and immigrant detention centers.
  • Secretary Clinton has been criticized for her and her family’s involvement in the War on Drugs at home and abroad, and the implications that has had on communities of color.

Donald Trump

  • Donald Trump commented on the police shooting deaths of two black men, Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina, in mid-September 2016 and noted that Crutcher appeared to be complying with law enforcement.
  • Trump has expressed his support for law enforcement. At the candidates first televised debate on September 26, 2016, he reiterated the answer to police violence in communities of color is “law and order.”
  • Trump believes the previously ruled unconstitutional “Stop and Frisk” policy was “so incredible, the way it worked.” At the September 26, 2016 debate, he again argued it efficacy in reducing crime.

On the Economy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  • Secretary Clinton wants to pass legislation in her first 100 days that would create a large federal investment in infrastructure to promote massive job creation.
  • Secretary Clinton’s goal is to make college debt free and to help people with student debt refinance their loans.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to promote legislation that benefits companies that have profit sharing plans with their employees and punish companies that take their jobs overseas by taking away their tax breaks.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to increase the taxes on Wall Street firms and the richest Americans in the country to pay for her other initiatives.
  • Secretary Clinton says she will fight for equal pay and guaranteed paid leave.

Donald Trump

  • Donald Trump’s goal is to create an economy that will add 25 million new jobs over the next ten years.
  • Mr. Trump wants to change the tax policy, create an “America-First” trade policy and take away regulations on American energy policy.
  • He has a goal to increase economic growth by at least 3.5% per year.

On Health Care

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  • Secretary Clinton says she will fight against a Republican Congress to preserve the Affordable Care Act and wants to expand it to cover more people.  She also wants to allow people over 55 years old to buy into Medicare.
  • Secretary Clinton has a goal to help reduce copays and deductibles arguing that this can be done because there has been a slower growth of national spending on health care.
  • Secretary Clinton has a goal to promote legislation that will reduce costs for prescription drugs.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to increase competition in the drug making business to reduce costs to consumers and create punitive measures for companies that raise their drug prices suddenly.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to give incentives to states to expand Medicaid and increase access to health insurance for poor citizens.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to allow families to purchase health insurance on the health exchanges regardless of their immigration status.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to ensure that all American women have access to inexpensive contraception, legal abortions, and preventative care.

Donald Trump 

  • Donald Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
  • Mr. Trump wants to collaborate with Congress to create a replacement health care system for the Affordable Care Act.
  • Mr. Trump wants to collaborate with states to guarantee access to health insurance coverage for people who have not had continuous coverage.
  • Mr. Trump wants to allow citizens to buy insurance in every state across state lines to create a sustainable insurance market.
  • Mr. Trump wants to give block grants to states to allow them to design their Medicaid programs to deliver coverage to their poorer residents.

On Taxes

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  • Secretary Clinton wants to promote legislation that will close tax advantage loopholes for millionaires and billionaires and add a surcharge tax to capture more of their income to ensure their tax rate is equivalent with other Americans.
  • Secretary Clinton wants to close tax loopholes that benefit major corporations and firms on Wall Street and wants companies to be charged an “exit tax” that leave the United States.
  • Secretary Cinton has a goal to reduce taxes for small businesses and simplify their process for tax compliance to encourage them to spend more money on investing in their business.
  • Secretary Clinton has a goal to provide a reduced tax burden for working families that face rising cots for goods and services.
  • Secretary Clinton believes that by taxing the wealthiest individuals and major corporations she can pay for debt free college and major infrastructure investment by the federal government without increasing the country’s debt.

Donald Trump

  • Donald Trump wants to reduce tax rates for every group and especially for those who are working and middle class Americans.
  • Mr. Trump says he wants to ensure the rich are paying an adequate amount, but worries about destroying job creation and minimizing America’s ability to compete.
  • Mr. Trump says he wants to eliminate loopholes for special inerests, but also decrease the business tax rate.
  • Mr. Trump wants to allow families to deduct fully the average cost of childcare from their taxes; this would include stay at home parents as well.

 

Remember, although the presidential election gets the most press, other federal, local, state, and municipal elections are just as important! Register, do your research and most importantly, VOTE! For more information, on elections and deadlines in your state, visit Ballotpedia.org.

Information attained from:

hillaryclinton.com

donaldjtrump.com

ballotpedia.com

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

5 Amazing Facts About the NEW Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture

On Saturday, September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will open to incredible fanfare in Washington, D.C. This magnificent museum is finally opening after decades of hard work from luminaries who were dedicated to creating a national archive that told the our story of strength and perseverance. Here are five facts about how we got to this glorious day.

On Saturday, September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will open to incredible fanfare in Washington, D.C.  This magnificent museum is finally opening after decades of hard work from luminaries who were dedicated to creating a national archive that told our story of strength and perseverance.  Here are five facts about how we got to this glorious day.

1. For Founding Director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture has been almost 40 years in the making.

Lonnie Bunch has wide-ranging experience in making history come alive.  In the 1980s, he served as the curator of history and program manager for the California Afro-American Museum.  In this role he organized successful exhibitions like, “Black Angelenos: The Afro-American in Los Angeles, 1850-1950” which was an award-winning feature that explored the Black contribution to Los Angeles history and culture.  He also produced historical documentaries that aired on public television.

His work with the Smithsonian began in 1989 when he worked as a supervising curator for the National Museum of American History.  During his tenure, he managed curatorial staff, worked on educational projects, and helped create the “Smithsonian’s America” for the American Festival Japan 1994.  This was an exhibit presented in Japan, which revealed the history, culture and diversity of the United States of America.

He has taught at his alma mater, American University, and the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, and George Washington University.  He is a prolific author and has either written, co-written, or contributed to over thirty books.  He has traveled internationally and given lectures on education and museum curation to professionals throughout the globe.  He was appointed the Founding Director for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in 2005.

2. Over 75% of donations from individuals came from the African American community!

The Museum’s final price tag was $540 million.  In 2003, Congress passed the legislation establishing the Museum and pledged to fund $270 million or half of the Museum’s expense.  Interestingly, previous Smithsonian museums had received all or most of their funds from the government.  The shortfall was made up by donations from major corporate sponsors and our community.  Churches, fraternities, sororities, celebrities and civic organizations were galvanized for the fundraising effort.  Over 75% of donations from individuals came from the African American community.  Over $4 million in funds came from people donating in amounts less than $1,000.  Oprah Winfrey has been the largest donor at $21 million.  As of this writing, the Museum has raised over $315 million in private funds which far exceeded the congressional requirement.

3. The museum’s collection was built from scratch.

Museum Director Lonnie Bunch and the other organizers of the museum had the monumental task of building the collection from scratch.  Unlike any of the Smithsonian’s eighteen previous museums, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture was created without any artifacts on hand.  To grow a collection, the organizers came up with the unique idea of “Saving African-American Treasures,” which was a 15 city tour launched in 2009.  During this effort, they encouraged Americans to donate family heirlooms to the museum.  The result was amazing.  Precious artifacts were found hidden in the community.  One woman from Virginia Beach, Virginia donated Nat Turner’s Bible which had been kept safe in her closet for decades!  It is estimated that over half of the Museum’s 37,000 artifacts came from donations.

4. The building’s architecture is an ode to African and African-American roots.

The principle architect for the building, David Adjaye, wanted the building to be unique and speak to the creativity of Africans throughout the Diaspora.  The building is inspired by a Yoruban caryatid, which is a column popular in West Africa with a corona at its peak.  The building’s patterns also allude to architecture found in Georgia and South Carolina that was built by enslaved and freed Blacks.  This metalwork inspired Mr. Adjaye and the bronze color and shape of the building is an additional aspect similar to that Southern style of architecture.

5. The fight to create a museum to honor our history initially began in the 1800’s.

The idea to create a museum that honored African-American history started from a desire to create a museum that honored Black Civil War veterans.  After different permutations of honoring African Americans with a national museum festered, the strongest push came in the 1980s.  In 1988, Mickey Leland who was a Representative in the United States House of Representatives from the state of Texas, co-sponsored legislation with fellow Representative and Civil Rights legend John Lewis of Georgia to establish a museum honoring African-American history.  Mr. Leland died in a plane crash the next year, so Mr. Lewis took up the cause himself.  Each year for the next fifteen years, Mr. Lewis proposed his legislation but it was defeated.  In 1994, it passed the House of Representatives but staunch segregationist Jesse Helms of North Carolina filibustered against the bill and it died in the Senate.

It was not until the early 2000s when Republicans like Representative J.C. Watts of Oklahoma and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas showed their support that the bill was passed.  On December 16, 2003, George W. Bush signed H.R. 3491 into law which authorized a Smithsonian Institution museum created to honor the legacy of African Americans in America.

Information attained from:

Michael Kimmelman, “David Adjaye on Designing a Museum that Speaks a Different Language”, New York Times, published September 21, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/arts/design/david-adjaye-museum-of-african-american-history-and-culture.html?action=click&contentCollection=Art%20%26%20Design&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article

Graham Bowley, “How the Fight for a National African American Museum was Won”, New York Times, published September 4,2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/05/arts/design/how-the-fight-for-a-national-african-american-museum-was-won.html

Lonnae O’Neal, “Our place in America: New Smithsonian museum portrays the furious flowering of black history and culture”, The Undefeated/ESPN.com, published September 22, 2016, http://theundefeated.com/features/smithsonian-museum-of-african-american-history-our-place-in-america/

African American Registry, “H.R. 3491 Signed to create African American museum in Washington,”http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/hr3491-signed-create-african-american-museum-washington

Newsdesk, “Staff Biographies: Lonnie G. Bunch III,” Smithsonian, http://newsdesk.si.edu/about/bios/lonnie-g-bunch

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

 

 

 

 

 

Living History: From the Black Panthers to Congress, Meet Bobby L. Rush

Congressman Bobby L. Rush has represented the 1st District of Illinois for over two decades. At almost 70, he has led a remarkable life full of activism and public service. Check out eight must know facts about this living legend.

Congressman Bobby L. Rush has represented the 1st District of Illinois for over two decades.  At almost 70, he has led a remarkable life full of activism and public service.  Check out eight must know facts about this living legend:

1. He co-founded the Illinois Black Panther Party in 1968.

While in the military and stationed in Chicago, Rush became a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  He participated in civil disobedience demonstrations in the South and upon his return to Chicago, he co-founded the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panthers at the request of Stokely Carmichael who was one of his mentors in SNCC.  One of Rush’s most notable recruits to the Panthers was Fred Hampton who at the time was the head of the Youth Division of the NAACP.  Hampton went on to become an influential activist and one of the most famous Black Panthers.  He was murdered by Chicago police during a raid on his apartment on December 4, 1969.

2. He helped develop the nation’s first mass testing program for sickle cell anemia.

When Mr. Rush was Defense Minister for the Illinois Black Panther Party, he also administered the Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program for Children and ran a free medical clinic in Chicago.  One of the initiatives created by the clinic was a massive testing program for sickle cell anemia which was the the first of its kind in the United States.  Through these efforts, the organization also raised public awareness of sickle cell anemia’s impact on Black citizens in Chicago.

3. He is a military veteran.

In 1963, Mr. Rush enlisted in the United States Army directly out of high school and served in the Army until 1968 when he was honorably discharged.  Throughout his political career, he has sponsored and supported bills that would aid veterans and their families.

4. He lost a son to gun violence.

On October 18, 1999, Huey Rich, the son of Bobby L. Rush who was named after Huey P. Newton, was shot and killed as he was walking to his apartment in Chicago.  He was murdered by two men in an armed robbery.  Mr. Rush has six other children with his wife Carolyn.

5. He was the last person to beat Barack Obama in an election.

During the 2000 Democratic Primary, Rush was challenged by a young State Senator named Barack Obama.  As an incumbent, Rush had a clear advantage and won the contest by over 80% of the vote.  Eight years later, he endorsed that same young State Senator for President of the United States in 2008.

6. In honor of Trayvon Martin, he spoke before the House of Representatives while wearing a hoodie.

On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, one month after the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin, while speaking before the House of Representatives, Rush took off his suit jacket, pulled a gray hoodie on over his head and put on sunglasses stating, “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.” The teen was wearing a hoodie when we was murdered by George Zimmerman.  Rush went on to speak out against racial profiling and discrimination.  The House forbids its members from wearing hats, and Rush was called out of order and ultimately escorted from the hall. According to CNN, Rush said the purpose of putting on the hoodie was to send a message to young people, “to stand their ground, stand up and don’t stand down.”

7. He is a cancer survivor.

In 2008, Mr. Rush was diagnosed with a very rare form of salivary gland cancer.  A deep tumor was removed from his jaw and he went through months of a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.  When Mr. Rush was found to be cancer free, he went through speech and physical therapy.  His cancer scare prompted him to push for universal healthcare for all Americans.

8. He routinely wins reelection by over 70% of the vote.

Mr. Rush’s long history in Chicago of activism and public service has made him incredibly popular.  The predominately African American electorate consistently turns out for him every two years to re-elect him.  He has won each general election against Republican challengers from 1992 through 2014 with at least 73% of the vote going in his favor.

 

Information attained from:

“Rush, Bobby L.” http://www.blackpast.org/aah/rush-bobby-l-1946

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=R000515

John Mccormick, “A Father’s Anguished Journey”, Newsweek, published November 28, 1999, http://www.newsweek.com/fathers-anguished-journey-164318

Janny Scott, “In 2000, a Streetwise Veteran Schooled a Bold Young Obama”, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/us/politics/09obama.html?_r=0

Deirdre Walsh, “Lawmaker wearing hoodie removed from House floor”, http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/28/politics/congressman-hoodie/

 

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

Let’s Talk About Discipline

I am constantly questioning my discipling decisions. I want to raise strong men and in doing so, it is important to me they understand the consequences of poor decisions. Here are five things I have learned to ask myself when deciding whether I made the right choice.

I am constantly questioning my discipling decisions.  I want to raise strong men and in doing so, it is important to me they understand the consequences of poor decisions.  I want to get it right so I can prepare them to make better choices in the future. Here are five things I have learned to ask myself when deciding whether I made the right choice:

1. Was my decision made in love?

My father passed away this year and at his funeral I told a story about the last whooping he gave me.  It began after my sister dared me to stick my head in between the iron bars on a staircase in our childhood home and stupidly, I accepted.  To make a long story short, it involved Herculean strength from my father, Country Crock butter, screaming from my mother, lots of crying (mostly from me), and finally, a spanking.  

While I remember very little about the pain of the spanking,  I remember how scared everyone was around me, including my father.  Although my father could have chosen a different approach to disciplining me, the spanking was calculated.  He wanted me to understand the severity of my actions and never do it again.  He acted out of fear but he also acted out of love.  Sometimes we react emotionally to our children’s behavior.  That is okay.  As long as we take a moment to make sure they understand the action we are taking is also in love.  

2. Did I include my co-parent in my decision?

When my eldest son was younger, I would get upset with him for talking to his mother about “man” things.  I felt certain conversations were not appropriate for him to have with his mom, and I would tell him as much when we were in private.  My wife hated this because she wants our sons to feel like there is nothing they can not speak to her about.  By making it seem wrong to talk to their mother about certain subjects, I was limiting their relationship with their mom.

Everyone disagrees at some point while raising kids.  However, in most situations, it is safe to assume that both you and your co-parent have the best interests of your children at heart.  My wife understood I was doing what I thought was best.  However, we had to come to an agreement to ensure our boys grow into emotionally healthy young men.  Although it would be unrealistic to discuss every action you take with your spouse, it is paramount you check in regularly to make sure you stay on the same team.

3. Am I taking advantage of teachable moments?

I cringe when I attempt to resolve a frustrating moment with my boys by yelling, “Because I said so!”  That phrase doesn’t do anything to help my boys understand the reason why they should do the right thing.  My goal as a parent is to raise extraordinary men of good character.  I don’t help them get there if I am just asking for rote actions without purpose.  That would only last as long as I am in front of them.

In each mistake, there is an opportunity to learn.  Although discipline is important, be sure to take the time to explain to your children why they are being punished. Help them understand the mistake they made and why it is important to make a different choice next time.

4. Was the punishment just?

As father of three, I’d like to be fair.  However, I have learned that fairness isn’t always guaranteed.   As an example, when my children fight. My eldest always faces tougher consequences because as the oldest and largest, he has the potential to really hurt his younger sibling.  While my eldest may rail against the fact that I am being harsher with him, the reality is that the circumstances warrant it.

When I discipline my sons, I try to assess the circumstances and react accordingly.  Being just as a parent does not mean you have the exact same answer for every situation; it means you make the best choice based on the situation.

5. Knowing what I know now, would I do it again?

My children are incredibly inquisitive.  As a result, they are constantly challenging boundaries.  It is a gift and a curse. We want our sons to question the world around them.  At the same time, it would be much easier on my wife and I if they didn’t question everything.  I’ve been guilty of punishing my children out of frustration.  However, if I send my son to his room and when he returns, we are both questioning why I sent him, then that was probably not the right move.  

As of this writing, I have been a dad for a little over nine years.  I have made about 10,043 mistakes.  While I am proud of the job I do as dad, I have had moments where I could have been better.  I think its crucial to our growth as parents to constantly ask yourself, if faced with the same decision tomorrow, would I take the same action?

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

Living History: Meet Betty Soskin, America’s Oldest Park Ranger

At 94 years old, Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest living ranger for the National Park Service. She serves as Interpretive Ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. Today, she works up to five days a week and five hours per day. Her work entails giving two or three presentations in the park theater. She answers emails and requests from her office. She also conducts wildly popular bus tours through the areas that make up the park. She speaks honestly in her presentations about both discrimination and efforts for integration that occurred during WWII. Remarkably, she doesn’t use notes or a guide. Instead, she speaks from her lived experience and personal history. Her pace would be incredibly impressive for someone half her age. Here are eight facts you need to know about this American Shero.

At 94 years old, Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest living ranger for the National Park Service.  She serves as Interpretive Ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. Today, she works up to five days a week and five hours per day.  Her work entails giving two or three presentations in the park theater.  She answers emails and requests from her office.  She also conducts wildly popular bus tours through the areas that make up the park.  She speaks honestly in her presentations about both discrimination and efforts for integration that occurred during WWII. Remarkably, she doesn’t use notes or a guide.  Instead, she speaks from her lived experience and personal history.  Her pace would be incredibly impressive for someone half her age.  Here are eight facts you need to know about this American Shero:

betty-reid-soskin

1. She was the great-granddaughter of enslaved Americans.

Soskin was born in Detroit, MI and lived part of her childhood in New Orleans before settling in Oakland, California.  Her parents were of Creole and Cajun descent and her great-grandmother was born into slavery in 1846.

2. She was an activist and artist.

In the 1950s, she and her husband were subject to death threats after they built a home in Walnut Creek, California, all-white suburb.  She became active in her local Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the Black Caucus of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  In the 1960s, she became a well-known songwriter in the Civil Rights Movement. Check out a song she wrote reposted on her blog here.

3. She was a part of the American Labor Movement.

During World War II, Soskin served as a file clerk for Boilermakers Union A-36, which was an all African American union derivative that formed because segregationist policies allowed the White union to refuse their entry into the ranks.

4. She was a witness to the Port Chicago Disaster.

In 1944, 320 Americans, mostly African American sailors were killed when two ships being loaded with ammunition and bombs suddenly blew up. Soskin’s family hosted sailors who served in the U.S. Navy during that time.  Notably, the Port Chicago Disaster led to the Port Chicago Mutiny where  258 African American enlisted personnel refused to return to the disaster site and load ammunition until Navy officials changed load procedures to enhance safety.

5. She helped establish the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park where she currently serves.

Soskin served as a field representative for California Assemblywomen Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock.  During this time, she became active in the early planning and development of the park set to memorialize women during World War II.   As someone who “lived it”, she became a fierce advocate for preserving the history of African American women during World War II.  She called attention to the often left out group who played a pivotal role in aiding the war effort while being denied basic rights and continuing to be treated as second class citizens within the country.

6. She is an active blogger.

Soskin is an active blogger and maintains updates that are reflections on her life and work. You can read her blog, which she regularly updates here.

7. She was honored by President Obama.

She has several interview requests and has received several honors from luminaries.  In 2015, President Barack Obama gave Soskin a commemorative coin to honor her as the oldest living park ranger.

8. She survived a vicious attack in July 2016.

On July 1, 2016, Mrs. Reid Soskin awoke to a masked man standing over her bed.  The assailant attacked her, ransacked her apartment and stole several things from her including the commemorative coin given to her by President Obama.  She survived the attack by escaping to a bathroom and barricading the door until the assailant retreated.  After the attack, she received hundreds of letters and emails.  A Go Fund Me page was set up for her through the National Park Service that helped her replace some things that were stolen.  She was sent a replacement coin with the Presidential Seal from the White House.  She was able to come out of the incident with only bruises, but her quick thinking and indomitable spirit kept her alive through the ordeal.

***

Information attained from:

Betty Reid Soskin, CBreaux Speaks, http://cbreaux.blogspot.com/

Rachel Gillett, “Meet the 94-year-old park ranger who works full-time and never wants to retire”, http://www.businessinsider.com/94-year-old-park-ranger-betty-reid-soskin-interview-2016-8

Richmond Pulse, “Q&A: Nation’s Oldest Park Ranger Cites Outpouring of Support in Healing After Robbery”, http://newamericamedia.org/2016/08/qa-nations-oldest-park-ranger-cites-outpouring-of-support-in-healing-after-robbery.php

 

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Failure

Failure and loss are parts of life. As a child, these experiences can be devastating. Here are five tips to help your child overcome setbacks.

Failure and loss are parts of life.  As a child, these experiences can be devastating. Here are five tips to help your child overcome setbacks.

1.Failure is part of the process.

Competition, in all forms, brings up some of our prehistoric instincts of survival and tenacity.  In high school, I competed in basketball and debate.  I can still remember the rush of energy and excitement I felt preparing to compete.  If I lost, that heightened adrenaline could make it feel like the world was ending.  I felt like I wasn’t good enough, and everyone watching me fail saw the same thing.

It’s hard not to take failure personally.  Even as adults. Our job as parents is to constantly remind our children of the bigger picture.  In my case, it was to become a better basketball player and debater.  My mother would remind me that every great athlete, artist, and entrepreneur failed many times on their path to success.  With each failure, they learned something that contributed to what made them great.

2. Celebrate small victories.

My youngest son had a hard time learning to write.  He would grow frustrated, drop his pencil and claim he was “too tired” to write any more words.  We decided to work with an Occupational Therapist to get him ready for Kindergarten.  She helped in many ways but one of the things we appreciated the most was how she celebrated his small achievements.  For instance, although his ‘B’ may have still been backwards, she would praise him for keeping it on the line.  His ability to see his progress encouraged him to keep trying when he felt like giving up.

No one becomes great without practice.  The thing about practice is that it can look messy.  You try and fail and repeat until you stop making mistakes.  It is important to help our children appreciate their progress so they are able to recognize how far they have come.  That makes the path to victory all the more attainable.

3. Have fun.

Some of my greatest memories are being on the court with my teammates during basketball games.  They helped me push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of.  In retrospect, it is hard for me to remember every win or loss.  I mostly remember how I felt playing the game.

The actual joy comes from the game itself.  There is always another game.  Maybe not for a championship, but when you can compete there is always the possibility you can win next time.  The ability to compete is a true blessing.  Tell them to go out there, give their best and most importantly, have fun.

4. Praise effort, not just results.

While watching the 2016 Olympics a few weeks ago, my sons were upset to see a hurdler lose her lead because she stumbled and tripped over a hurdle. The competitor dropped to her knees and cried.  Initially my boys could not get over the heartbreak of her public failure.  She was devastated and it was hard to watch.  It was easy to forget she was competing in the Olympics.  Win or lose, she had to be an incredible athlete to even qualify.

So often we are bombarded with news about winners. While it is wonderful for our children to see people doing exceptionally well, it can be misleading.  Only seeing the success creates the illusion that successful people never struggle, falter or fail.  We rarely hear about the team that won second place even though that team may be comprised of exceptional players.  Success is giving your best effort and being better today than you were yesterday.  Our children should focus on how they can improve and show a better effort every time they compete and not just the end result.

5. Remember your child is competing, not you.

I am a black belt in Karate.  I was about twelve when I started and continued practicing throughout high school.  My eldest son began practicing when he was six.  While now he is older and takes it more seriously, when he first started it was hard for him to make it through class without being distracted.  He would stare at himself in the mirrored walls.  He would pose, do spins and get overly excited when it was time to do high energy moves.  It took everything in me not to pull him out of class. I knew the focus it took to become a black belt and initially, it was difficult for me to respect that it was his process, not mine.

We can not compete for our children.  As much as we want to, we can’t go on the court and shoot their shots or tackle their little opponents on the field.  If we did, we might end up in jail.  We have to fight the urge to relive our successes or rewrite our failures through our children.  Take a step back and breath.  Remember, our children are writing their own stories and they do not need our paragraphs roughly inserted onto their page.  If you put too much pressure on them, they will feel like they let themselves down and you each time they do not succeed.

 

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

 

Colin Kaepernick Wasn’t The First To Challenge Blind Patriotism

Given the level of media coverage of his actions, you would think Colin Kaepernick was the first person to challenge blind patriotism. However, here are six other public figures that refused to honor their countries because of moral or political reasons.

Featured Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty

On August 26, 2016, before a preseason game, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers chose to sit instead of stand during the playing of the United States National Anthem.  During a post-game interview, Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Although both the 49ers and the National Football League have declined to take disciplinary action, public reaction has been mixed.  Some are calling him unpatriotic while others are calling his civil act of disobedience heroic.  Given the level of media coverage of his actions, you would think Kaepernick was the first person to challenge blind patriotism.  However, here are six other public figures that refused to honor their countries because of moral/political reasons:

1. Frederick Douglass 

frederick-douglass-1847-52

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass was invited to give a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, NY. The audience got more than they bargained for when instead he told them,”This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” He went on to ask, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?”

In his speech, which became one of his most famous, he said:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?  I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim… There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

Frederick Douglass was arguably the most famous orator of the 19th century and was the most photographed person of the 19th century.  He sat for several pictures because he wanted to show the dignity of Black people during a time when minstrel shows were prominent.

2. Muhammad Ali 

ali

On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the United States Army and his heavyweight boxing title was subsequently taken away. Ali, who converted to Islam and changed his name in 1964, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. However, in March 1967, Ali explained:

“I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality… If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”

On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring on October 26, 1970.  On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned his conviction for refusing the draft.Muhammad Ali would go on to be an international symbol of strength and perserverance despite incredible odds.  His public battle with Parkinson’s disease while maintaining a very active lifestyle inspired millions.  

3. Tommie Smith and John Carlos

john-carlos-tommie-smith

On October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, winners of the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter sprint, bowed their heads and each raised one fist in protest during the playing of the national anthem.  The men wore black socks with no shoes to symbolize poverty in many African American communities, and black gloves to represent our strength. Smith also wore a scarf and Carlos wore beads in memory of lynching victims.   Both men were banished by the International Olympic Committee and suspended from the United States team.  They both suffered ostracism from the track and field community and Olympic community for years afterward. Tommie Smith is quoted as saying:

“It was only done to bring attention to the atrocities of which we were experiencing in a country that was supposed to represent us.”

Prior to the Olympics, both men were involved with the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) where they had originally called for a boycott of the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games unless four conditions were met: 1) South Africa and Rhodesia were uninvited from the Olympics because they were nations that practiced apartheid, 2) the restoration of Muhammad Ali’s world heavyweight boxing title, 3) Avery Brundage to step down as president of the IOC, who they believe supported racist regimes, and 4) the hiring of more African American assistant coaches. Although the boycott failed to materialize, the men still made history.

4. Jackie Robinson

j-robinson

In his 1972 autobiography, I Never Had It Made, American Baseball League Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, described the moment when he confronted his own hesitation to stand during the National Anthem at a major league baseball game.

“There I was,” he wrote. “The black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor.” He continued:

“As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

Throughout his historic career, Robinson was the target of racial epithets, baseball field violence, hate letters, and death threats.

4. Charles Roach

roach
Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

 

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Charles Roach immigrated to Canada in 1955.  He attended the University of Toronto Law School and became an important civil rights attorney and activist in Toronto.

Roach sought Canadian citizenship; however, it never materialized because he refused to swear loyalty to a colonialist sovereign.  To become a Canadian citizen, one must pledge the following: “I… do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors. So help me God.” As a result of refusing to pledge, Roach gave up the right to vote, run for public office, and attain a Canadian passport.  However, non-citizens bear the burden of still paying the same taxes as regular citizens and the risk of deportation for committing certain crimes.  Roach also reportedly declined an opportunity to become a judge over his principled stance against taking the oath.

Throughout his career, he fought to change Canada’s citizenship requirements to allow people to swear an oath to Canada instead of the throne, which he said represented a legacy of oppression, imperialism and racism.  For the majority of his adult life, he fought several court cases where he argued that an oath of allegiance to a sovereign is unconstitutional.  The cases proved unsuccessful, but his fight gained much attention and support.  As he stated in 2011:

“I don’t believe that anyone should have a political status just because of your birth and I feel strongly about that.  For that reason, I wouldn’t take an oath to any such institution, which is based on race and religion.”

Roach had several high profile cases where he aided members of the Black Panthers from the United States who were seeking political asylum in Canada.  He also helped form the Black Action Defence Committee, which pushed for the creation of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, a civilian-led unit, which investigates cases where officers seriously injure or kill people.

Despite efforts of long time colleagues, when Roach passed away in 2012, Canada refused to grant Roach citizenship posthumously.

5. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf 

mahmoud-abdul-rauf

In 1996, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a starting point guard for the Denver Nugggets.  During the national anthem, he would stretch or stay inside the locker room instead of taking the floor.  When a reporter finally asked about it, Abdul-Rauf said he viewed the American flag as a symbol of oppression and racism. Abdul-Rauf also said standing for the anthem would conflict with his Muslim faith.

“You can’t be for God and for oppression…” he said at the time. “I don’t criticize those who stand, so don’t criticize me for sitting.”

Abdul-Rauf was suspended for one game on March 12, 1996.  The NBA cited a rule that players must line up in a “dignified posture” for the anthem. Although the player’s union supported him, he lost $32,000 in salary.  For the remainder of the season, Abdul-Rauf agreed to stand but to pray for the oppressed with his head down during the national anthem. At the end of the season, the Nuggets traded Abdul-Rauf to the Sacramento Kings.  At the time, he was leading the team in points (19.2) and averaged 6.2 assists.  After his contract expired in 1998, he played overseas and had a brief stint back in the league with the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 2000-2001 season.

***

Information attained from:

  • “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927.html
  • Muhammad Ali refuses Army induction, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/muhammad-ali-refuses-army-induction
  • “Muhammad Ali Refuses to Fight in Vietnam (1967) http://alphahistory.com/vietnamwar/muhammad-ali-refuses-to-fight-1967/
  • David Davis, Olympic Athletes Who Took a Stand, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/olympic-athletes-who-took-a-stand-593920/?no-ist
  • Andy Blatchford, After decades fighting monarchy oath in citizenship requirements, Toronto activist dies without becoming Canadian, The Canadian Press  http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/charles-roach-dies-before-court-rules-on-oath-to-queen-for-citizenship
  • Jesse Washington, Still no anthem, still no regrets for Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, http://theundefeated.com/features/abdul-rauf-doesnt-regret-sitting-out-national-anthem/
  • Kirsten West Savali, Jackie Robinson in 1972: ‘I Cannot Stand and Sing the Anthem; I Cannot Salute the Flag’ http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2016/08/jackie-robinson-colin-kaepernick-star-bangled-banner/

 

***

About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.