Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Signing off for 2008 - to a New Blog Site

I have a good friend Kevin Ross who advised me that serious bloggers blog over at Word Press. After blogging for the Angel City Classic, I do know that their comment interface is easier to use and every blogger loves comments. So to continue to read this blog, please head on over to It's a lot easier to type in, eh? Please make a note of it.

Oh and, Happy New Year!

But! Since you are here, I want to show you the latest addition to our family: Laila Rose Johnson, the daughter of Alaina Rose (my cousin but more like my niece) and hubby Zach. Everyone says their baby is beautiful, but this little girl looks so angelic. Her parents are really special to me. The Rose in her name comes from our family Matriarch Aunt Rose who I wish I could send a laptop to because she is missing so much of these great pics!

My prayers are for this young family who are holding down some very high powered positions and for the little girl with a bang. She was born Dec. 22 and is very welcome to this world. What a girl!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sister Souljah at Eso Won 12/2/08

Running, as usual but wanted to share these photos from Sister Souljah's booksigning for "Midnight" A Gangster Love Story. This Mom of nine is teaching her kids early about the importance of reading.

Jaaye Person-Lynn and Sister Souljah. I gave him her book "Midnight" when I took him to the airport for Thanksgiving and when I picked him up a week later he had read all but the last 41 pages. We scurried from the airport to Eso Won for the signing and he got to quiz her on some of her characters. He recommends the book, written from the perspective of a 14 year-old male. I am using her book "No Disrespect" in my college English class at West L.A. College, but The Coldest Winter Ever also has received high accolades.

Photos by Isidra Person-Lynn (Me!) For more from that night visit the slideshow:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In L.A. Where do you go when you want to celebrate your Black President? Crenshaw!!!

Yes, Crenshaw Boulevard in Leimert Park is where Black Angelenos go to be together when something major happens--kinda like Harlem West. My student MeLisha B. (a college freshmen) wrote a blog about it, so I give her the guest blog spot tonight:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My President Is Black

"Do you know why it was cold yesterday? People said it would be a cold day in hell before a black man became president.Well, guess what guys. Bundle up." Unknown

November 4th, 2008 was the very first time I have ever voted. On the way to the church where I was summoned to vote, I was very nervous. I didn't know what to expect and just wished all would go well. People said many negative things about voting, so I began to think as I was driving to the church: "What if I had to stand and wait in line for hours? What if I accidentally marked the wrong answer on the ballot? What if it started raining?"

Well, first off, I was only in line for 45-50 minutes, blessed to not have to stand in line for very long. When I was done voting, I began to walk to my car. The voter line was all the way down the street, two blocks from the church. I was glad I came when I did. Just simply having a right to vote and a voice to be heard intrigued me to want to vote. Most of my family are immigrants (Belizean)and are unable to vote, so my cousins and I had the honor and were proud to vote not only for Obama, but for our family.

At 8:01 p.m. my father called me, yelling at the top of his lungs,"We won,we won! Obama won!" Now, I thought the results of the votes weren't going to be in until the next day and that my dad was playing. As I drove further, I realized he wasn't lying to me.

By 8:09 p.m. I'd reached Crenshaw and Slauson. People were yelling, screaming, crying, dancing, waving their flags, showing off their shirts and blowing their horns. This was no Laker parade.This is going to be history, I thought. My son will maybe one day write a book report on the first Black president of the United States of America. I had never experienced so many happy people for a presidential election. I am so proud of the results of this election.

"Rosa Parks sat so, Dr.King could talk. Dr.King walked so Obama could RUN...and Obama WON so our kids can fly." Author also unknown.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Five Hours--and that was Sunday

I was there on Sunday at the Norwalk mecca for voters. I left to get there at 8 a.m. but was surprised that I got there at 7 a.m. because of the end of daylight savings time. (Yes, Sherese, I forgot.) And after almost 5 hours, I got in my car, blasted Usher's "Yeah" down the freeway and grinned all the way home.

Of course, I voted for Obama for President. But of the six candidates on the ballot, THREE were Black...Obama, Cynthia McKinney and Alan Keyes.
Imagine that!

My son had gone the night before and stood in line 3 hours. He did that after a day of campaigning with Mark Ridley-Thomas for Supervisor, traversing the County from community to community (of every hue) and Obama campaign offices hither, thither and yon.

My five hours were some of the happiest in recent memories, meeting other voters--many African Americans--but all races were chatting it up. It is amazing what strangers tell you, but there was no lag in conversation. I used the time to grade papers but almost missed my number when they called it in the big tent. Heard it only when it was prefaced by "Last Call!"

There is a photo of Barack crying for his grandmother, which I was happy to see him be able to release all the pressure he is under. There is no telling what other death threats he and his family must be receiving. Them, to layer on top of that the loss of a grandmother. G-mas are very important in our families; moreso in Barack's as she was his rock while Mom was working. I had one of those til two years ago. Mother Marge was 96 when she passed. Her loss and burial consumed our family for a long time. My prayers are with the Obama family.

His best gift would be a win. Please do what you can. Until our election celebration tomorrow at West L.A. College's Umoja program, make it happen!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Taste of Soul and Asphalt

Greetings, all!

I don't exactly know when it started. I was a writer, you see, and my good friend and USC roommate, Renee, was the photographer. Then all of a sudden, digital cameras came out and I now take the camera with me everywhere.

It's like my 9 year-old nephew, who fell in love with my camera, once said: "I've got to click!" He uttered those words when I wrestled it from him one day.

My husband hates that I drag bags of equipment everywhere we go. So do my sons. But guess who they call when they need a picture? Yep, they call me.

So, I went to the Taste of Soul, Saturday, and I had to sneak my camera and voice recorder. Click here to see my 99 or more photos I snapped out there, shoulder to shoulder amongst the people. Three weeks before the biggest election of modern times, Obama-wear was everywhere, so I started shooting every Obama-influenced item I saw.

But the reason I titled this post "A Taste of Soul and Asphalt," was this: Kwaku and I walked all the way from King and Crenshaw where the 94.7 The Wave Stage was packing them in, past all those booths (saw G. Garvin, John Sally, the blues stage, and Michael Baisden, which were the attractions at The Beat's stages(now 93.5 FM) all the way to the opposite end featuring 102.3 KJLH's live stage at Rodeo Rd. Musta been 100 miles, or so it seemed.

Our other world traveling son, So Lynn, was working that stage, as he does at the L.A. Black Business Expo, and many other venues. On the way, as the sun beat me down, some lady handed me a bottle of Venom. I hate those kinds of names but knowing my son loves energy drinks and since they were free, I grabbed one and was on my way to give it to him. He had to be parched and fatigued, I reasoned.

When I got to the side of the KJLH stage, I noticed Wayne Brady standing in the wings. Next to him was my son, clipboard in hand, running things. I snapped a few shots of him at work. He noticed me and gestured for me to meet him at the back of the stage. Wow, I would actually get to see him! I turned, took one step, caught my foot in a sand bag holding down a wall frame, and down I went, face first into the asphalt--camera, audio recorder, energy drink and all, splayed all over the place. It was a horrifying slow motion. Stuff was flying everywhere as I thought to myself "Gee, I am no longer upright. I can't stop this! I have no control. I'm going down. Out here. With all these people watching!" And then I shuddered "YIKES! NOT THE CAMERA!" I had the long range lens on, too. And of course everyone who saw this awkward teeter and splat ran to help the now thoroughly embarrassed but hysterically laughing mother.

I caught my husband's eye who was some distance away and he had that "No you didn't" look on his face. Microphone, papers, credit cards, gum, change and camera parts were now littering the pavement. Strangers were picking up my stuff and in the midst of it all I heard the clipped Brittish accent of Kitty Davis Walker, long time friend and former Entertainment editor on Sunday Morning Live (my former talk show) say "Oh, my, Isidra. Are you alright?" There was the look of sympathy my scraped knees had been craving and we almost fell over again laughing at the sheer ugliness of it all.

By this time my son had made it to my side and assessed the situation. (He's a take charge kind of guy.) Seeing nothing was broken on me or my equipment, he took the only thing damaged--the energy drink, which was now fizzing over as if he were in a desert and just saw a mirage. Protectively, he gave me a "I don't care if she did fall in public, she's my Mama" hug and on cue, the MC announced "Coming to the stage--Wayne Brady!" so he flew back up to the stage.

As my blood settled back down from my ears and cheeks to wherever it normally is, Wayne Brady thankfully took the attention off me. As we listened to Brady's set, I hid behind my camera taking pictures. Brady was good, but then I knew that from all that singing on his TV show and "Whose Line is it Anyway?" which I loved to watch. But if he isn't the most unlikely black man in America who had somehow found his way home to the middle Crenshaw to launch his record, I do not know who is. It is all in the packaging so he actually fit the crowd, worked his butt off and thanked us for "letting me come and sing." Yes, I guess we did "let" him. "We"are so cool like that.

We missed the rest of the singers, because the sun had wrung us out to dry, so we made it ALL THE WAY back to King Blvd. where we had parked. The grand kids were coming over so we stopped at Walmart to get them some treats but by now the scrapes under my jeans were throbbing, and my back had fuzed. I told my husband I would sit on a bench and wait for him to shop because since I had strolled down the Shaw twice, strolling Walmart was out of the question.

The only thing I found to sit on was one of those electric scooter carts they have for usually elderly shoppers who need assistance. I have never ever used one before but since today I fit that description, I collapsed on one (there were two others unused). I asked a Walmart worker how much they cost to rent, just in case he was going to boot me off. He said they were free. Free? Man, I flipped the switch and was riding through Walmart! What joy! My back came back to life and, despite a few almost collisions til I got the hang of it, I was in shopper's paradise!
And the best part was employees were helping me get things off the high racks!

I am thankful that I do not need such a vehicle and promise not to make it a habit, but let me tell you, when there is help you gotta use it.

So I leave you the photos of my visit to Taste of Soul. Ironically, I had not planned to go but I ran into Muriel Jones (owner of Shabazz) at Walmart a few days ago and she told me she would have four booths out there. That's when I made up my mind to go because I couldn't wait til May when the Expo comes around to get my Red Snapper fix from Shabazz (Yes, she specializes in catfish, Shrimp and chicken, but you can ask for Red Snapper.)

I hope everyone else enjoyed their food and the sights, sounds and smells of the Taste of Soul.

Isidra Person-Lynn
PS: Don't forget to click the link for pictures! There are many. Click "Slideshow" and watch!

*Notes I cut out that explain:

Why photography? For anyone building websites and creating video projects, you know you will need a picture here and there to cover up glitches and illustrate points, so you may as well shoot your own.
My guru, William Byers, urged me to get a real camera (I had been using a lil Fuji which all all my photographer friends scoffed at). Michael Riddick told me about the Nikon D-50 which was a digital SLR that even I could use and my husband bought me one. (Now D-40's are all the rage, but mine has served me well for the past few years.)

**Kitty DavisWalker, who worked at Kedren forever, went on to host "On the Positive Side" with the late Muhammad Nassardeen for eons and now works with Anthony Samad on his Urban Issues Breakfast Forum. She is the development director at Union Rescue Mission.

Friday, October 10, 2008

5th Quarter Concert: Anthony Hamilton, Angie Stone, Lalah Hathaway

I loved this song so much, I had to bring it to you. Thanks to everyone one who came out and supported this great event. See you next year! Missed it? Signup for the mailing list at

Monday, September 29, 2008

View from the Stands @ 50 Yard Line!

A Picture's worth 1000 words.

Missed it? Go to the website and join the mailing list.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Friend Tina

I last saw Tina Allen Dec. 5, 2007 downtown Los Angeles at the Cultural Affairs Department.
Harold Hambrick and Tina had this idea to erect a life-sized statue of Mayor Tom Bradley right outside the convention center, here where Harold is standing.

It was a great meeting, a day punctuated with Tina's vision for what could be--how the late Mayor would stand, how he would be elevated, how she would make his face strong and determined. She was animated, and funny, yet serious and determined.

I was not in on subsequent meetings. The sheer load of raising over a million dollars for the project was daunting especially when there were so many more pressing things.

Tina was a worker and there was no doubt she could make it happen. When she and Harold put their heads together for the bust of the highly revered Lillian Mobley, it was fun watching her energy in motion, the stages the finished bust went through: from the photos to the drawings to the clay to the bronze and finally the day of the presentation to a standing room only crowd out at King Hospital. Tina loved Ms. Mobley and her love was emblazoned on that bust.

Tina met Kwaku (my husband) I think it was in Costco and the two became great friends. She often invited us to her many social events out in her North Hills home. Always present were the Hollywood folks. She dug down deep to pull at least one who had fallen on hard times back to the middle. When I would run into her, she would look right into my soul to ask how I was doing. She always listened for the answer.

No, we weren't best friends or running buddies, but she had my back and I had hers. And she was good people. Tina Allen was good people.

It only stands to reason that it was her heart that gave out. She used it so freely. She had high standards and set her price but she was a lover and she loved us all hard.

There is a fitting tribute to her in the L.A. Times...the first link is the text article; the second is a group of photos of her work. I looked back through my digital albums of the last day we met--thinking I had taken her picture--but I did not break out my camera until after we left her and Harold and I drove by the intended location for the Bradley Statue.

So now, I ask, who will make a statue of Tina?

To learn more about this wonderful woman visit her own site:

Read the story in the Times:,0,7790810.story

See Tina and Her Work:,0,4209369.photogallery?1

Palin' in Comparison

First, when I received this animated picture from Lita Herron, I said "How did they do that?" It's an animated gif --we've seen them a zillion times--but this one makes Barack and Michelle, Hillary and Biden look like they were partying to beat the band!

But, that's a story for when I can explain how to make your own. It is not as hard as it looks.

The title of this blog post is "Palin' in comparison." You see, our Democratic friends are partying because they just learned that McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as their VP choice.

They know that this woman pales in comparison to Barack Obama's choice, Senator Joe Biden, from her plan to her lack of experience, to her family baggage, to her having led a tiny city before becoming governor--all of that pales in comparison.

The great thing about Barack's campaign is many of us thought that the coalition was complete. The so-called minorities or people of color, those of various sexual persuasions and forward thinking whites as well as the youth--were all working together for a common goal. Until...that is, Governor Palin was announced. Now, with all the research into the answers Americans are seeking, white women are jumping to Palin's side--dare I say it--because she is white?

It can't be because of her beliefs, we are just learning what those are. Just a few months ago emails were circulating taking Barack to task because Black people, Republicans charged, were voting for Barack just because he was Black. But we wanted our troops home, we wanted to stop killing innocent people in foreign lands...thousands of them...we wanted to get off this roller coaster with gas prices...and so much more. We had reasons to vote for Barack. His being black was just pleasant happenstance--would we see it in our lifetimes?

But these same people who agreed with Hillary similarly over similar issues have now jumped over to Gov. Palin??? Why? You can't possibly stand for all that the Democrats are for and then throw that all away to side with the Republicans, can you? You can't possibly be as gullible as to see a campaign for change be ripped off from the Democrats by the Republicans and you are going to believe that? Or could it be that you like her and are willing to risk the presidency with a candidate a heart beat away--virtually allowing McCain to possibly choose the next president of the United States after the months of wrangling we have been through?

I was actually proud of the white voters for stepping above prejudices, and passionately plastering Obama signs in sometimes conservative neighborhoods. It could not have been easy for them. They made me smile, practically skipping up to me in stores to compliment me on my Obama earrings--sharing a bond, a common mission for a few minutes of chat. Maybe those whites who pshaw'ed our Black protestations that racism had not yet been fully dealt with were right. Maybe these times are showing that.

But, throwing the self-proclaimed Hockey Mom into the mix ripped all that to shreds. Now the naysayers who sadly shook their heads and said Obama will never win because when whites go into those voting booths, 9 times out of 10 they will vote for the white candidate if there is a choice. With each passing day it seems more and more as if they will be right.

What gives me hope as of late are these interviews. The Governor was not prepared and it showed. Repeating herself three times shows that she is new at the spin, or doesn't really believe it. "Guilty feet have got no rhythm" or so the song goes.

I thought that the 20 years of Oprah had raised a more enlightened generation when I saw what happened in Iowa. I heard right wing talk show hosts grill white female callers about how Oprah turned her back on her gender when she didn't side with Hillary and I heard those women give them the business right back, defending her right to choose and singing Obama's praises. Now they are organizing against her because she wouldn't interview Gov. Palin, even after she stated that since she endorsed she would not be doing any interviews.

Only time will tell how it will all turn out, but if Americans have received no other lesson, I pray they are seeing through the media manipulation and will not fall for the OkieDoke. Again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Week Til School Starts: Umoja Comes to West L.A. College!

Turn around, and summer's almost gone...

Sept. 2, 2008 at West Los Angeles College, we officially kick off the Umoja Village, a special program designed to retain and improve the grades and transfer rates of African American students in community colleges. Yes, we are at the bottom.

Here is a link to the website I designed for them and I will be teaching English 21, the class that prepares you for English 28, to be taught by Clare Norris. Both of us are prepping the students to pass English 101, which is the gate that keeps students out of the 4 year institution.

We (the folks in this picture at our week-long training for Umoja) are going to need your help from time to time and I will be letting you know when.

Isidra Person-Lynn,

Still not too late to enroll! Make sure the un-enrolled young person in your life at least listens to the audio interview with the Financial Aid Director. Good info there!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My tribute to Issac Hayes

No, I did not know Isaac Hayes, but I felt him. Over and over and over again. He had the voice of the perfect man.

And that voice was fresh in my head because for the last day and a half, I have been working on a video to be posted for the Angel City Classic, where we were going to have him come and we all would pay tribute to him during the 5th quarter, after the big game on Sept. 27 th.

I thought my work was done (producing video is a butt-numbing experience in which you are glued to your padded chair for hours on end), when I got a call from Gail saying she'd heard another Black famous person passed. (Bernie Mac had just passed the day or two before.) I scoured the 'Net. Seeing nothing, I checked my email and shockingly, thanks to a Yahoo News headline, I learned that the other famous black man who had passed was Isaac Hayes. Our beloved Isaac Hayes.

Shockwaves coursed through my body. I still haven't recovered. Somebody shake me; wake me when its over, please.

Ironically, the two had starred in a movie Soul Men along with Samuel Jackson and John Legend. That movie took a major blow losing two stars.

We met Isaac Hayes once, years ago when my kids were middle-aged. He sauntered down the hall of KACE. I went to introduce them and asked them if they knew who he was. My son said "Yeah, we know him from 'I'm gonna Get You Sucka!'" and fell out laughing, going to give him a low five. I had not even seen the movie but the younger generation knew Isaac Hayes. (Yes, he was in South Park too, but that was later.)

Angel City Classic's Tribute to Isaac Hayes
So, now we are really beefing up this tribute to Isaac Hayes. He won't be there like we planned but hopefully you will. We want it to look just like it did that day he stretched his arms to the sky

with the back drop of 90,000 black folks looking on. We want to hear some of the songs, and spread the hot-buttered soul he made us feel.
Our condolences, Hayes family. We loved him too.
Stay tuned for more (better yet sign up for the email list and enter to win the BMW while you are there!)

Isidra Person-Lynn

PS: Isaac starred in a Heart Clinic commercial launched during the Olympics. Reading the initial reports, how ironic.

Growing up at the Expo: Where are they now?

These are the core friends of my son Jarim's (center--on cellphone) interesting group that I just want to publicly thank for being there from the 4th grade til today.

Although Jarim has four brothers, he chose these "brotherfriends."

Other than Duan, his cousin, (second from right) who he has been tight with since birth, the twins--Jemuel (extreme right) and Jamin were constant companions and visitors at the house. Brian, (back left), Robert and DeAndre (not pictured) and the twins were all friends Jarim met at Windsor Hills Math Science and Aerospace Magnet.

Duan is a career Navy man who just got back from an 8 month tour to Iraq.

We finally got the kids in the magnet in the 4th grade and Jarim and Jaaye (2nd grade) had to be transferred over from Wilshire Crest. Jarim, daunted by the new school, decided to bring "something" with him to help his introductions go smoothly. I learned about that "something" when I got a call at work, and was told my son had brought his hamster to school in his backpack. He was the talk of the campus.

Thankfully, that was the one and only call I ever got from that principal on Jarim.

The fellas all bonded and supported each other through state reports, toy inventions, comic book conventions, girls and first cars together.

The one thing in common they had was working at the Los Angeles Black Business Expo every year. Barbara Lindsey started that tradition, hiring all five of my sons, and Harold Hambrick continued it hiring their friends as well.

Jarim really absorbed the entrepreneurial spirit being around all those business owners with A-type personalities, and has been an exhibitor now for a few years.

He got his start when learning about how his Aunt Sherese's class made a load of money selling candy at the school fair. Jarim went to Smart and Final and bought a case of Snickers and Reese's Butter Cups. etc. and started selling candy on his way to school. Jarim always had money but I thought he was also spending it til the day we were at CompUSA. I was wistfully looking at the new computers. He said "Why don't you buy one?" I replied "I can't afford a Mac." And he said "Mom, why do you want a Mac? They are too expensive." Gesturing with his hands, he said "look at the tiny Mac section then look at allll of these PC's. Get a PC."

The boy was making sense, but I couldn't even afford a PC. Noticing my reluctance, he said "I'll loan you the money."
I sniffed, "Yeah, right $1100." Without batting an eye, he said , "Yes." The teenager had been saving his money.

And when we went home he pulled out $1100 (and had more to spare). A true budding businessman, I signed a repayment plan and a new world opened up for both of us.

At first, I taught Jarim what I knew, but before long I was asking him how to do things. And that is the day I started my PR business. It was a good thing, because my 9 year career at KACE FM was about to come to a close.

But back to the boys. They were cool nerds, but not in the traditional sense, because the girls loved these guys. But while our other sons were involved in sports or student government, they loved technology, gaming and comic books. And they engaged their brains.

When Jarim earned enough money to buy his first car, he picked up the twins and Robert and they went to the mall. When they parked they got out. As they closed the doors and checked their appearances in the smoky windows of the shiny Acura Vigor, Jarim asked them "Do you see any parents?" They replied, "No, do YOU see any parents?" Jarim said "No." And they all shared a heady laugh, welcoming their independence.

I never forget one year at the Expo when it was mild-mannered Jarim's job was to keep the front carpeted area clear. A lady let her son do cartwheels across the area. Jarim told the boy he couldn't do that and here comes the mother yelling and cursing saying "how dare you address my son!" She got so worked up, she pulled out her cell phone saying she was calling Johnnie Cochran. Luckily, I happened by at that moment to rescue him. Jarim was too through.

All these young men are doing well, and are still in touch. I love running into them out in the community doing good work, but I am fuzzy on the specifics. I do know Jamin (center bottom) moved to Hawaii and has been working there for eons. Jemuel is an accomplished video game tester. And DeAndre (El Prez) is still working on his rap career.

I am of course more familiar with what Jarim is doing: he enjoyed a long career as a popular DJ, now in early retirement (something he learned from Totally Entertainment, another Expo exhibitor). He went on to be the first African American advertising executive at Deutsch (Remember Donnie Deutsch--his company?). He now owns a home in Northridge (along with Duan) where he attended CSUN. He loves investing and that is what consumes his days.

With all being said about young men these days, I just wanted to remind you that your son's friends are a big influence on their lives, so welcome them into your home, give them rides and help guide them, because how they go, so will your son. Thanks guys! You make me (and all of us) proud.

Love, Mom.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Time Keeps on Slipping...Into the Future

Whoever starts a blog spends the rest of their time trying to find time to update it. But I am here now, cooling my heels in a library in the City of Orange, as I wait for something big to happen. Here are little chunks of my thoughts:

Errant Thought: Be among the first to enter to win the Brand Spanking New BMW 1 Series at the Angel City Classic on Sept. 27, 2008. Go to and click the banner ad to the left that asks, "Are You the 1?" While you are there, order your tickets so you can be there because you must be present to win. When you win, tell me so I can let folks know you heard it here first.

This week I have been at church almost every evening for Vacation Bible School. Pastor Norman Johnson at First New Christian seems to have extended the reins over there to let the young speak to young: His son, Norman Junior taught, as well as the son of State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sinclair Ridley-Thomas, who left this morning to return to Morehouse for football camp. On Sept. 27 Sinclair and his team Morehouse will be playing the game on the almighty Coliseum field for the Angel City Classic sponsored by Farmers Insurance Group. Can you imagine his excitement? Cool as a cucumber, you wouldn't even know he was a senior in college. He is just the epitome of cool as he counsels kids, folds and unfolds chairs and does the work of the church.

My son, Jaaye Person-Lynn, was the third young man tapped to teach and he has taken to this like fish to water. And this is how I came to be there everyday. Every night he teaches the audience has grown. Last night the young talked about being Young Gifted and Black. He invited Kenyon Ates to speak along with Sinclair and another young man and young woman. Everyone was so well spoken and had a lot on their minds. The classroom was packed. Tonight they talk about leadership.

Errant Thought: One day, in a few more blogs I will tell you why Jaaye doing this was so remarkable, but for now that will have to wait. Remind me, if I forget.

The thing is Pastor Johnson has been touched or something because his sermons have been so on point it is amazing. He was always a great teacher, but now, I can't explain it. He is on a mission.

One session I sat in on was for parents to read the writing on the wall. A trio of police officers (looked like the Mod Squad, lacking a woman) came and told us so much about gangs I'd never noticed. For example, most of us know that gangs like wearing sports caps. But if your child is all of a sudden clamoring for Houston Astros gear, beware. (They wear orange t-shirts to match--so it ain't always about the red and the blue). Your cherub may be one of the Hoover Crips. Don't believe me or the police? Just google the subject. I found these two articles and they aren't even talking about Los Angeles. Gangs are nationwide:

The largest gang (and it is international) is the 18th Street Gang, which is largely Latino. Even if you do not have children, you need to be aware because it could dictate where you move, how you dress and more. You may just happen to like the Astros, but beware.

Pastor Johnson said he wants the church to do something about this youth violence we are experiencing. He wants to reclaim the kids who feel they have no alternative to gang life. Jaaye sees them every day as his law career has him going into lockup every day. They act hard, but their lonely faces crumple up when they realize that they are looking at 25 to life when all they wanted was a little protection. Now nobody is coming to see them because since many of their homeboys have records, felons can't visit an inmate and if their families were broken before, they surely won't have family support once locked-up. It's too expensive even for the most well meaning family: collect calls, ordering food (yes, food...what they are rationed is not enough) and toiletries. The time and gas to drive hours into the desert to see them for a couple of hours alone is hard on the average human.

It makes sense to save them now. Like I always say, start with the one near you. That nephew that niece, the neighbor's kid or your own child can be an investment in your future, heck all of our futures.

One young man who was doing just that is Brandon Walker. Brandon headed up the Teen Clinic at T.H.E. Clinic, my former client. A robust guy, he acted in the plays to let the public know about AIDS and HIV and he was a creative graphic designer, designing the T-shirts for the annual summit which should be coming up next month. I said was because Brandon, who had been awaiting a kidney transplant, finally got that call. He was so ecstatic and emotional on his way to the hospital to get it, he thought all those years of struggling were over. But, his body rejected it, and he passed away a few days ago. He was in his late 20's and married, but now the world will never know what this young man was capable of. Rest in peace, Brandon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So, who is the boss in your house hold?

Teaching Black History to Young People

So, who is the boss in your house hold? Maybe it is time to take a stand.

Dear Parent, is this your Saturday morning? You get up picking up after kids who are furiously wiping out some life form on the video game you worked hard to give them…You don’t want to fuss. You reason, "They are on vacation."

You want to take them to Dr. Kwaku’s class, but your child is shy, or would pitch a fit, hang back and you don’t feel like the bother.

Correct me if I am wrong but this is NOT the way you grew up. Your Mom had a list of chores to do before you could play or watch TV or go outside (go-outside???What a concept!)
You picked up a lot of Black history because at Sunday Dinner that’s what the older folks talked about. In church, the preacher combined the scripture with what was going on now and what went on way back yonder. And some adult dragged you somewhere totally against your will--whether it was church or vacation bible school or to head south for the summer. You didn’t want to do it (at first), you protested vehemently (albeit inwardly) but when you came home you were excited and breathless and couldn’t wait to tell your friends about fishing with Grandpa or picking quarts of blueberries…of eating homemade rolls or that boy you met at Vacation Bible School.

You might have proudly shown your house made of Popsicle sticks... or your decorated milk cartons. You wanted a mason jar to drink out of like grandpa's version of the Big Gulp and you appreciated him taking you to hunt possum. Ok…so that was my life, but can I get a witness?

I too leaned toward the path of least resistance. Since my Mom had that chore list written neatly every Saturday morning I thought "I will never make my kids do that kind of labor. " But as you must know, there is nothing more laborious than having worked all week, and tripping over a messy house and you can’t get any assistance from anyone. The knack of it is if you start with the list while they are young and the kids think this is just the way it is, and automatically they will do chores for themselves when they grow up, making the lives of their spouses easier and more pleasant.

The first year of Black History 4 Young People (BH4YP) the defiant ones—the parents who got the memo that if you want your kids exposed to certain things, sometimes you have to drag them—and their kids came silently kicking and screaming. The beautiful part was by the end of the 6 weeks, they were involved, and enjoyed the discussions. That year we had a range of students-- from private school kids who grew up in the hills above to 'Hood to the kids in alternative school. Some had already found trouble and a caring Aunt or Uncle or Foster parent sponsored them in order to wrest them from going down life's thorny path.

For a growing number of students, their parents had worked hard to get them into a nice neighborhood only to be alarmed that the children they were raising had taken on the traits and attitudes of their nonblack classmates. These parents drove great distances to expose their children to ideas of history and culture.

It did not matter. All students were well-behaved, inquisitive and a joy to have around. We never had a fight, a discipline problem or a one mumbling 4-letter word. Dr.Kwaku told them he would treat them as college students. If they needed to go to the rest room, he pointed the way. I remember the first young person tested the system, got up, looked around, sat back down, then got up and smiling ear to ear walked to the rest room. Freedom! (Of course, that year the rest rooms were 20 feet away. But when we moved to Audubon Middle School and this year to Kaos, we simply had student teachers posted along the way.)

The second year we had a number of students receive their DNA tests. How fulfilling to watch them make a connection to a certain area of Africa. Our son Jaaye once said of his trip to South Africa that the African students used to ask those from America what they considered themselves. They replied "Africans just like you." The continental African would laugh and say “Oh yeah, what part of Africa?” And that’s on point because many of us consider all of Africa home. Now, thanks to, many know they have a connection with a specific area and are planning to visit there or help built infrastructures there.
But I digress. When the world complains about Black youth today who do not want to work, and who don’t appreciate their educations, that fault really did start with us. We went too far overboard when we sought to escape the tyranny of yesteryear parents. We extracted the teeth from parenting and abdicated our power. We all have reminisced that back-in-the-day Ms Carolyn could whup you just like your Mama could. Today we do not even know our neighbors names. The network has too many holes and kids are falling through.

So, go ahead and force the issue. You spend more on a pair of tennis shoes ($60 for the class) and they will outgrow those in 3 months. However, they will never outgrow the ideas taught to them by Dr. Kwaku. They may not understand everything but it will stay with them and serve them at the right time.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is that your 12-18 years olds are closer to leaving you now than ever. This time frame is the last time you will have direct influence over them. Use it now, because once they head off to college or the military, they will sample other cultures, races and ways folks do things and sometimes get confused. At this point, they will either go buck wild because they did not get that home training or they will live on the principles you’ve taught them and experiences you've exposed them to.

Taking back the parental reigns will serve generations.