Sunday, May 25, 2008

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Brian Barton!

Folks, this one is long. Come back when you have time! OR SIMPLY VIEW THE PHOTO GALLERY NOW

On Memorial Day Saturday, my son and his friends threw a party for their boyhood friend, Brian Barton, who was recently signed to the St. Louis Cardinals. He was in town to play against the Dodgers. We called it the 54/55 Celebration (54 because that is Brian's number and 55 because it happened to be my birthday!). We had it at a big, pretty, empty home owned by a family friend. Thank you, friend! (He's kind of shy.)
My other son is house sitting for him and as an aquatics instructor, he is comfortable relaxing around the pool and jacuzzi, a vision that made Jaaye say "we should have the party here."

So, they organized this "set" and it was great. The young folk from my son's law school, and high school, and Brian's Loyola classmates, teammates, etc were there. They sang me a happy (but off key) birthday song and barbecued, played cards, and all.

We kicked it 'til game time, then went 5 minutes to Dodger Stadium. Rene from our group was featured on the jumbotron and even Brian was called up to pinch hit so we wouldn't have to go without seeing him play. It was exciting even though he struck out. The man who made that special day possible was Sweet Lou Johnson, star of the Negro leagues and later the Dodgers.. We pass his home every morning walking and one day he had his garage door open. At 75, he still works for the Dodgers., He told us he was being honored Saturday by the Dodgers. I said "I'll be there! I will be going to the game." Incredulously, he asked "Did you get your tickets yet?" I said "No, but we need 20." He didn't blink. And he said "Done." So we all got better seats than we would have bought. And we got to see him brought out on the field in a salute.

So, I am home now and just basking in the glow of a day with such a peaceful cooperative flow. My sons and niece and nephew all worked to pull this off.

Today, continuing the nice vibe, as we lounged around killing time til the Lakers, we turned on the Dodger game at 1:10 a.m. and Vin Scully was saying "...and Brian Barton is coming up to bat!" Breathlessly, we watched as Brian came to bat 4 times and scored two runs. The Dodgers won this one, but Brian had a great game. And get this: He is the only African American on the St. Louis Cardinals! Even Joe Torre was on TV talking about how we need more black players. We are avid sports fans but we couldn't even name a current player and it seemed there was only one or two on the Dodgers as well.

Sweet Lou Johnson, Jim Mudcat Grant and Al Downing --African American baseball greats--were all on hand because the Dodgers were celebrating the 1960s. Now that was the baseball I remember!

But Brian is the future. A graduate of the class of 2000 at Westchester High School, he was V.P. of the class when Jaaye was President. He played football and baseball and ran track...all transferable skills he is using today. Although he was drafted by the Dodgers out of High School he chose to attend Loyola Marymount, majoring in aerospace engineering then left to attend University of Miami because LMU did not have a class Brian needed, and played minor league baseball for some years.

During the celebration program, Jaaye remembered the morning Brian's early morning text message woke him up. It said simply "I made it!" And from then his biggest cheerleaders have been Jaaye and Kenyon who flew up to see him play in San Francisco, drove to San Diego, and saw all three games in Los Angeles.

But I want to leave you with this: When the boys were in high school, Kenyon, Jaaye and Brian were selected to go to Boys' State, a prestigious gathering of student leaders around the states. The winner of the Boys State would go on to Boys Nation. They all just knew Kenyon had a great chance of winning, especially since the other boys all fed back that he was he was the best orator. But, these three boys were African American and many of the rest were not. Kenyon won the straw poll but lost the actual vote. These high achievers were devastated. Together, they got their first real taste of the real world. And that was an education they could not pay for.

Shaken, but not broken, they continued on their paths hurdling obstacles along the way. For them, Brian's perseverance of years of minor league play and finally making it to the major league is an indication of great things to come for all of them. They are inspired, and me at 55, well, I am inspired about my future, too.

To see the photos from the party and the game, click here:
P.S. Special thanks to So Lynn, for your hard work; Aunt Bea, Auntie Joanne and Ms. Rene for tables and grills and things; and Tianna, Kim and Brittany for your big assists. Kenyon, you still got it and thanks for that thoughtful gift and thanks to Kwaku who
barbecued up a storm!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Comedy Act Theater is back!

Yeah, yeah, I know it's now called Comedy Act Planet, but Angelenos have fond memories of the place that made us laugh so hard our faces hurt for days. Michael Williams was the unassuming businessman who founded the theater. He ran into some health problems, closed it and for years looked a bit lost . Now, the picture of health, he finally answered the clarion call for some good comedy-- something to laugh at-- so this Thursday he is reopening the Comedy Act Planet at the Regency West. The first night is $25, then each Thursday thereafter it's $15.

Flashback: The late Robin Harris really put the Comedy Act Theater on the map, and as his star was rising meteorically, something just came and took his breath away. I was working at KACE FM at the time and Robin used to come in and cut commercials for his shows and things. He always had a group of comedians around him and, as he did in his nightclub act, he cracked on every one in sight. The first show I ever broadcast with him, he told Mark Whitlock, who once sported a bit of a Jheri Curl, that his hair looked like a thousand ink pen springs. I was rolling. Then he turned those bubble eyes on me and told me my braids were so tight it looked like I slept with my eyes open. Ouch! (We were on air.) I did not know then that joke was a staple of his shtick.

One day, the production guy was called away and Robin and Joe Torry and some others were on deadline to cut a commercial. Being News and Public Affairs Director, this was not my forte, but I ran the board for them, glad to pitch in. In my headphones I noticed Robin was breathing hard into the mic. Mind you, Robin had been cracking on everyone, but when I cracked on him "Robin, why are you breathing all hard into the Mic?" He went ice cold, his eyes studying the carpet. The laughter and gaiety fell to the floor. We re-recorded the voice over, but I could not wait to get out of there. I assumed Robin could dish it out but couldn't take it.

A very short while later, I interviewed Robin at the opening of the Spike Lee Film, "Do the Right Thing." Robin played in that film, he had Bebes Kids (the movie) coming out, starred in House Party, and he was on a roll. Stardom was the express he was riding.

Not a month later, I filled in on the morning news when Sam and Steve were the morning guys on KACE. Sam had come in from a ski trip (a station promotion) and was there when I received the tragic news report that Robin had passed away. Something to do with his breathing. Sam took it straight to his gut. He and Steve launched an on-air tribute fit for the king of that era's comedy.

But, I kept thinking back to that day in the studio. He must have known he was having some kind of troubles and here I had picked the scab. He might have felt his time was short.There is nothing less enjoyable than a funny man gone cold.

But 18 years later we are still talking about Robin. And now Michael is rebuilding his comedy house. Click the You Tube for a 3 minute interview I did with the club's founder. Michael wandered into Ben Caldwell's KAOS Network where my husband teaches his Afrikan World Civilizations Class (and where his Black History 4 Young People Class will be held this year.) When Michael told me what he was doing, I was ecstatic. The best way to save Leimert Park is to get back to doing what we first did to make it great. Welcome back, Michael.

For a comedy treat, visit the webpage. Wait for the video to load...and let it play. You will see/hear all kinds of comedians in that one elongated clip. But it's not for the faint of ears. Trust me.

Thanks for reading...but don't forget to click on the You Tube interview I did with Michael Williams above! By the way, the first photo above is the cover of Robin Harris' Live from the Comedy Act Theater DVD and the second is Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas speaking at Anthony Samad's Urban Issues Breakfast Forum at the Regency West earlier that morning (taken from my cell phone). As Robin Harris would say, Small World!

By the way, congratulations to our sister Assemblyperson Karen Bass! Speaker of the House, WOW! I lived vicariously through Leroy Hamilton who photographed her photo at left and the swearing in. See his fabulous photo presentation here.

Our son, JaayePerson-Lynn, has been shooting pics all around town as he campaigns for Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas and whatever else he can get in to. If you want to see the photos and captions larger than they are (top right), click here.

Stay strong, y'all. Isidra Person-Lynn

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is it the media that's making this racial?

Last night, we were glued to CNN, watching this new-fangled telestrator in amazement. All anchors were white and reporter John King, who flawlessly demonstrated the new technology, kept referring to Gary and Indianapolis as largely "African American" areas. He never said that the outlying areas that favored Hillary were "white" or Caucasian" areas, calling them instead simply "rural." They chided Gary's election results for coming in late and even had the neighboring mayor of Hammond say it appeared there was impropriety. Interesting to note, there was a little rural area that never reported ANY numbers while I was watching, and no one questioned that. The way the black Mayor of Gary was cross examined and asked the same question over and over again was a "pile-on" at best, even though he explained over and over about the onslaught his thousands and thousands more-than-usual voters caused.

The implication is that Barack is doing well because African Americans are voting for him because he is black, and not that white Americans are voting for Hillary because she is white. And isn't that the case? Gary always strongly for whoever the democratic candidate was--when there was NO black in the race-- in the same numbers! Yes, the Mayor of Gary indicated that they were swamped by the numbers of voters so of course the areas with a paltry 1200 people can get numbers out more quickly.

And what's up with Rush Limbaugh urging Republican voters to vote for Hillary in Operation Chaos? Even though that was his big campaign, Barack STILL closed in on Hillary's lead within two points. Remember when she won Pennsylvania by 9 points and crowed about how great the victory? Here he won North Carolina which had more delegates by 14 points and little is made of that. The reporters still called it neck and neck.

So even with Hillary (who just loaned herself $6.4 million) against you, Rush Limbaugh's dittoheads against you, and many in the media against you, Barack still prevailed.

I'm with Obama, who said he believes in the people who can see right through these onslaughts of attacks and still want change. And the people have spoken.

By the way, the YouTube I embedded is about Michael Moore endorsing Obama, but please scroll below and view a piece I produced which is poignant for too many mothers this Mother's Day. Hold your children close!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Who is murdering our children?

This may seem like a "Duh" type question, and maybe it would be better asked "Of the children we witness murdering our children, what or who is leading them to pull the trigger?" But, the question must be answered because the youth death toll is on the rise again.

This is a 15 minute piece I produced on Charlotte Austin-Jordan's Mothers on the March event April 20, 2008. Elements of it will be included in a larger piece I am working on. I wanted you to get the young people you know to sit down and watch it. Will you email them the link? You know which ones I mean. Your thoughts? Thanks. IPL