Sunday, May 29, 2011

Who Was Elizabeth Jennings Graham?

I just had to repost this story from the New York Times. I just finished reading a book written in 1930 by James Weldon Johnson titled "Black Manhattan." It was here that I learned the story of a negro schoolteacher in New York City 1854. The book is a unique collection of negro history in Manhattan before and during the Harlem renaissance . A well written book that is as always when reading about early negro history in America, painful at times but a must read.

The Schoolteacher on the Streetcar

Published: November 13, 2005

AS the civil rights figure Rosa Parks lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda two weeks ago, her 19th-century Northern forerunner, a young black schoolteacher who helped integrate New York's transit system by refusing to get off a streetcar in downtown Manhattan, rested in near-perfect obscurity.

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American Women's Journal

Elizabeth Jennings, who helped break down barriers in New York.

Emmet Collection, New York Public Library

The corner of Pearl and Chatham Streets where Elizabeth Jennings hailed a horse-drawn streetcar on her way to church.

Mrs. Parks's resistance on a bus became a central facet of American identity, a parable retold with each succeeding class of kindergartners. But who has ever heard of Elizabeth Jennings?

The disparity is largely an accident of timing. Thanks to television, Americans around the country became a witness to events in 1955 Montgomery, Ala.; by contrast, Jennings's supporters had to rely on a burgeoning but still fragmented mid-19th-century press. By 1955, when Parks refused to be unseated, segregation was emerging as an issue the nation could not ignore. When Jennings, 24, made her stand, on July 16, 1854, the first eerie rebel yell had yet to rise from a Confederate line. Segregation was a local or perhaps a regional story. It was slavery that was tearing the nation apart.

If Elizabeth Jennings was ahead of her time, she was also, on that midsummer Sunday, running late. She was due at the First Colored American Congregational Church on Sixth Street near the Bowery, where she was an organist. When she and her friend Sarah Adams reached the corner of Pearl and Chatham Streets, she didn't wait to see a placard announcing, "Negro Persons Allowed in This Car." She hailed the first horse-drawn streetcar that came along.

As soon as the two black women got on, the conductor balked. Get off, he insisted. Jennings declined. Finally he told the women they could ride, but that if any white passengers objected, "you shall go out ... or I'll put you out."

"I told him," Jennings wrote shortly after the incident, that "I was a respectable person, born and raised in New York, did not know where he was born ... and that he was a good for nothing impudent fellow for insulting decent persons while on their way to church."

The 8 or 10 white passengers must have stared. Replying that he was from Ireland, the conductor tried to haul Jennings from the car. She resisted ferociously, clinging first to a window frame, then to the conductor's own coat. "You shall sweat for this," he vowed. Driving on, with Jennings's companion left at the curb, he soon spotted backup in the figure of a police officer, who boarded the car and thrust Jennings, her bonnet smashed and her dress soiled, to the sidewalk.

But, like Mrs. Parks a century later, Elizabeth Jennings had her own backup. She had grown up among a small cadre of black abolitionist ministers, journalists, educators and businessmen who stood up for their community as whites harshly reasserted the color line in the decades after New York had abolished slavery in 1827. Her father, Thomas L. Jennings, was a prominent tailor who helped found both a society that provided benefits for black people and the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which later moved to Harlem.

The daughter had worked in black schools co-founded by a "conductor" of the Underground Railroad. Her own church - First Colored American - was a place of learning and political rebellion, where, one evening in 1854, addresses on God and the Bible alternated with talks on "The Duty of Colored People Towards the Overthrow of American Slavery" and "Elevation of the African Race."

After the incident aboard the streetcar, Jennings took her story to this extended family. Her letter detailing the incident was read in church the next day; supporters forwarded the letter to The New York Daily Tribune, whose editor was the abolitionist Horace Greeley, and to Frederick Douglass' Paper, which both reprinted it in full. Meanwhile, her father made contact with a young white lawyer named Chester Arthur.

Arthur, who would go on to become president upon the assassination of James Garfield in 1881, was at the time a beginner in his 20's only recently admitted to the bar. He nevertheless won the case, against the Third Avenue Railway Company; a judge ruled that "colored persons if sober, well behaved, and free from disease" could not be excluded from public conveyances "by any rules of the Company, nor by force or violence," according to newspaper reports. "Our readers will rejoice with us" in the "righteous verdict," remarked Frederick Douglass' Paper.

NEW YORK before the Civil War resembled the Jim Crow South of Rosa Parks's era in at least this respect: A pervasive racial caste system decreed that a great deal of space - in schools, restaurants, workplaces and churches - was strictly off-limits to African-Americans. The city's transit system, in its infancy, was a particularly bitter proving ground.

In the 1830's, when the first omnibus routes were established, the newspaper The Colored American told black New Yorkers, "Brethren, you are MEN - if you have not horses and vehicles of your own to travel with, stay at home, or travel on foot" rather than be "degraded and insulted" on city coaches. But by the time Elizabeth Jennings boarded the streetcar at Chatham and Pearl Streets, the avenues churned with horse-powered public transportation, and the city stretched far beyond 42nd Street, a long way to walk.

Jennings's legal victory did not complete integration of city transit. But blacks actively tested her precedent, in part through the Legal Rights Association, which her father founded for that purpose. In 1859, another case brought by that group resulted in a settlement, and by the following year nearly all the city's streetcar lines were open to African-Americans.

And Elizabeth Jennings? The details of her life have been told most painstakingly by John H. Hewitt, who, in his 1990 study in the journal New York History, reported that he had not uncovered a single biography of the woman, "not even a thumbnail sketch."

But a few things he did learn. She kept teaching. She married a man named Charles Graham. During the 1863 draft riots, when largely Irish rioters vented their rage at a new conscription law on the black people who were their most direct competitors for jobs and homes, Elizabeth and her husband were likely at home on Broome Street, bent over their ailing year-old son, Thomas. According to his death certificate, the child died of "convulsions," perhaps a last manifestation of one of the infectious diseases that sent urban death rates soaring in those years. While the city was reeling in the aftermath of its worst street melee yet, the couple were laying their son's small body to rest in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.

As an older woman, Elizabeth Jennings Graham established, on the first floor of her house at 237 West 41st Street, the city's first kindergarten for black children. The children made art; they planted roots and seeds in the garden. "Love of the beautiful will be instilled into these youthful minds," read an article on the school.

It was there, too, that the woman who boarded the streetcar at Chatham and Pearl Streets died. The year was 1901. She was buried in Cypress Hills, near her son, and a few thousand Union dead.

How To Transform Education

We're constantly hearing about the importance of education and the low grade given our school systems in California in particular and America in general.

Coming from a family with a teaching background I recognize when in a classroom, not whether that teacher is knowledgeable, but whether he or she is reaching myself and/or the rest of the class. Its a gift that I treasure having, discerning the connection between teacher and student, but also its one I wish more could develop. I feel its the strongest quality a teacher can possess; inter-connectivity.

Unfortunately, the emphasis in teaching today seems to be more on giving the information and less on how well that information is given or, for that matter, received. The American dream begins with a child's educational training. It seems our country is settling for her children receiving a mediocre education and being proud of it, leaving her ranked in the 20's in education internationally. So who's accountable?

Well, after hearing Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (former NBA star) and his fiancee Michelle Rhee discuss and answer questions about education at a Commonwealth Club event in San Francisco, I've determined that we adults should all be held accountable for the education of our children and the future of our country.

I learned so much just by listening to these two intelligent leaders talk common sense about the struggles of education in California. They're a "power couple" we as Californians should be thankful to have battling for us in our state government. If President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle are half as tight as Kevin and Michelle, our country is in good hands.

Kevin Johnson - "You have to stick to your principles, but you have to abandon your assumptions"

In a time that sees our country in need of strong leadership, its comforting to know there are those in leadership positions stepping up to meet the challenge.

"A Fredo Moment"

related to discussion:
Charter Schools
Korea's Educational Culture

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Paging Doctor Crawford, Paging Doctor Crawford

If ever a team needed a lift after a week of unbelievable misfortunes the Giants were that team. Its been a season of injuries for the Champions and next to seeing their rebuilt slugging Panda (Pablo Sandoval) go down a month ago, catcher Buster Posey's season ending injury this week was a dagger that pierced nearest the heart of the team.

The Giants lost the Posey injury game in extra innings after tying it with four runs in the bottom of the ninth. The next day with the dagger still sticking out of the teams' chest, they'd lose 1-0 in a brilliantly pitched game by Ryan Vogelsong. The hot Florida Marlins would leave town with a three game sweep leaving the Giants and their fans in a crippling shock and in need of a doctor.

As the rest of the league talk about rule changes as a result of the Posey injury, the Giants and their fans are subject to a zillion replays and numerous newspaper columns on the tragedy. Anyone associated with the Giants can no longer bare to watch another highlight of the play, not with the puncture wound still leaking life from the team.

On the road in Milwaukee, trying to cauterize the wound and return to championship form, the Giants struggles continue with ace Tim Lincecum on the mound. Trailing 3-1 in the top of the seventh the team was approaching situation critical mode. Somehow, someway the Giants staggered up off the dirt and loaded the bases. Up to the plate comes Rookie, Dr. Brandon Crawford, performing in his first ever Major league game.

Final Score
Brewers 4
Welcome to the big leagues Dr. Brandon Crawford

Friday, May 27, 2011


It'll be the Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks for this season's NBA Championship finals. The matchup is a good one as showcased above with D'Wade and Jason Kidd. Don't listen to the expert picks on this one, either team can pull it off and win four out of seven games.

Myself, though I recognize the crafty experience of Mavericks Jason Kidd partnered with the beastly play of Dirk Nowitzki, I just don't see Dwayne Wade letting his Miami team succumb to defeat. Not up in Here!

Bad Boy Book On NFL Players 1998

This review is from: Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL (Hardcover)

I gave this book to a friend years ago and just surprisingly came across a used copy. Flipping through its pages made me question why I gave it away in the first place. The things the athletes depicted in this book do makes the entire baseball steroid scandal look like grade school kids telling on one another.

The writing is done in an exciting, can't wait to read more, style, while the subject matter is pure bad boy COPS stuff. Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Think not? I just re-read section 16 (The Convict) about the rise then fast downfall of Rams star defensive back
Darryl Henley (Inmate#01915-112, Marion, Illinois Federal Prison). Let me summarize here:

Henley and girlfriend Tracy Ann Donaho, Rams Cheerleader, flight arrives at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport.

FBI agents pull Donaho out of line for questioning

Donaho taken to jail for a suitcase found with her name on it and twelve kilos of cocaine stashed inside

A day later Donaho tells agents that suitcase is Henley's and he'd arranged for her to carry it without knowing its contents

Henley eventually indicted as the kingpin in a national cocaine trafficking ring that includes his parents and other family members.

Henley sent to a federal detention facility in Los Angeles. Henley released on $1 million bond and continues playing football. He then plays another season with court ordered officer accompanying him on road trips. Henley pays the bill for officer. Trial scheduled for following summer.

- during this time (2 seasons) Henley still major part of Rams team, playing like a pro bowl worthy defensive back (what focus.) He would voluntarily take a leave of absence as not to be a distraction to the team. Rams would go 4-12 on the season.

Henley found guilty of conspiring to deliver narcotics "drug traffiking"

Now The Twist: Excerpt

Then came a twist so bizarre even the hardened cynics were left scratching their heads. According to prosecutors, while in the federal jail, Henley befriended a guard who provided Henley with a cellular phone. Using that phone, Henley arranged for a $1 million heroin shipment to be sent to Detroit and for cocaine to be moved around Southern California. With the profit he earned from those transactions, Henley offered to pay for the murder of Donaho (the ex-girlfriend cheerleader) and U.S. District Judge Gary Taylor, who had presided in the case and would be determining his sentence.

Bad Boys Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do, Whatcha Gonna Do when they Come For You!

Turns out the inmate was a fink, a jailhouse informant and the voice on the other end of Henley's cell phone when he ordered the judge's murder belonged to a federal undercover agent with all conversations being recorded.

"In one day, March 10, 1997, Henley appeared in back-to-back hearings where federal judges ordered him to spend the next forty-one years of his life in prison."

I know its not good karma to feast on another's misfortune, but I'm sure excited about seeing this book on my shelf again. Gotta go, the story of Lawrence Phillips just caught my eye. Whatcha gonna do.

Years after this book was published, December 18, 2009 to be exact, Lawrence Phillips was sentenced to more than 31 years in prison for attacking his girlfriend and driving his car into three teens.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Posey Out For The Season - Bummer

Anybody Get The Word On Posey?

The San Francisco Giants will have to go it alone, without catcher/cleanup hitter Buster Posey to lead them to another championship. Posey got his leg smashed up in a collision at the plate last night when a Florida Marlin came barreling down on him at the plate. If you were watching and saw Posey worming and wriggling on the ground in pain after the play, you knew then and there that the injury could be season threatening for him. It Was!

Posey is out for the season and backup catcher Eli Whiteside takes his place for now. Its a huge blow to the Giants attempt at returning to the World Series. But one man does not make a champion. The Giants are a bunch of scrappers and they'll continue fighting like bulldog terriers to defend their hard earned championship. But today's news makes us Giants fans feel more like a lonesome labrador with nobody to play catch with.

I wish Buster a full and speedy recovery with hopes that he'll comeback strong and still fearless next season. Meanwhile, the incident leaves me questioning yet again the rule book that allows base runners to launch their bodies like a linebacker, at catchers defending the plate. Posey never saw what hit him. Maybe its time to make this part of baseball an american past time. Do it for the players if not for the fans of the game.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Giants Sweep Bay Bridge Series

With Jonathan Sanchez pitching like a GIANT through seven innings, the Oakland A's found a way to make the San Francisco Giants sweat through yet another nail-biter.

The Giants lost their two run lead in the seventh, then tied it back up with a guess who.............,Nate Schierholtz, home run in the bottom of the eighth. The game would go into extra innings and that's when Giants manager Bruce Bochy's secret weapon came into play. The secret weapon is code named "Bochy's Bullet."

Bottom of the 11th still tie, Giants speedster Darren Ford, nicknamed "the bullet," gets a base hit then does what is second nature to him; he stole second.

Up to the plate comes the other team speedster, Emmanuel Burriss, one of the heroes from Friday night's win. Burriss smacks the first pitch into short right field and "the bullet" was past third on his way home before you had a chance to swallow.

A's right fielder Ryan Sweeney made a heck of a throw to home but A's catcher Kurt Suzuki seemed to hear the whizzing of the bullet's approach and couldn't handle the very close tag at the plate. Many, myself included, thought the bullet was out, but a rolling baseball in the dirt as the Giants dugout emptied out like it was game 7 of the world series told me the bullet was safe and the ballgame over with yet another exciting Giants win.

Like I've said before when talking about the Giants world series championship; its the gift that just keeps on giving. They're currently playing like champions.

B-Hop Captures Boxing Title At 46

A seasoned soldier with plenty of fight left in him became the oldest boxer ever to win a title. Bernard Hopkins' rematch against Jean Pascal for the WBC Light Heavyweight Championship can be summed up as; Mission Accomplished.

The two fighters fought to a draw last December with Pascal retaining his belt. Many thought the Canadian judges rescued Pascal, a Canadian citizen, by giving him the draw. Last night's fight had no Canadian judges (italy, philippines, thailand) as Hopkins, a Philadelphia native, out punched, out maneuvered and simply out worked the 28 year old champ.

The fight was one of the ugliest fight's I've ever seen. The British referee could've done a better job keeping the fight clean. Between the eye gouging, head butting, rabbit punching and bull rushing, a fight did take place and 46 year old Bernard Hopkins was the decisive winner on all three judges' scorecards. Unlike many Hopkins fights, Bernard attacked and gave viewers plenty of action.

Another first in this HBO feature was afterwards when Bernard was presented with the belt he gentlemanly walked over to Pascal and put the belt on his shoulder telling him to keep it.

Congratulations B-Hop on your legendary championship.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Giants Shutout A's

Giants are definitely one of the hottest winning teams in baseball. #55
Tim Lincecum gave up only three hits in pitching nine complete shutout innings, Giants defense has been the star of the show during the teams' hot streak as they played another completely awesome game. Today's defensive play of the game; outfielder Andres Torres's diving catch of a ball hit well by A's Chase Headley.

Go Giants!

Shield Head Playing Mr. Mom

I remember hanging out with Shield Head once at the coliseum before a Raiders game. Cool guy who's truly passionate about our Raiders. He talks the talk and walks the walk as a Raiders fan, win lose or tie........

So when I came across this pic of him I first thought, way to go Shield Head, getting yourself in a bud-light commercial. Then I noticed something about the pic that seemed unreal and a bit off keel. Hmmmm, I say, is that a "real" baby strapped to Shield Head's chest? In A Bar?

No, it can't be. Don't tell me that the economic downturn is hitting fans so hard that even baby sitter fees are unpayable. For Shield Head to be playing Mr. Mom at a sports bar with his toddler, or lord forbid, someone else's toddler, tells me that the days of being a true fan could be numbered due to tight pockets.

Shield Head, I salute you as one of the truly ingenious fans who won't let anything stop you from seeing your beloved Oakland Raiders. As for little shield head, don't worry kiddo, you won't always have to be the designated driver.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Macho Man Gone - oooOOOH YEEeaah

One of Pro Wrestling's most flamboyant characters has taken that dark detour from the road of life and we wish him well.

Randy "Macho Man" Savage has died in a single collision car accident. He was 56 years old.

If you don't remember the look you must remember the sound. OH YEAH!

Giants Playing Like GIANTS

Nate Schierholtz........................"The Catch"

World Series Champion SF Giants are back to playing like their championship selves with torturing drama. The good news of late is that they're winning the close games. And they're winning with different heroes stepping up each night.

Wednesday, after letting the L.A. Dodgers comeback to tie it in the 8th inning 5-5, Cody Ross was the Boss as his bat spanked a Dodger pitch into the left field seats for a three run homer. Closer Brian Wilson would painfully make the three run lead stand as he struggled through the bottom of the 9th injured.

Many injuries in that game; DeRosa left with a wrist injury, Rowand exited with what may have been just back spasms and the man of steel Brian Wilson tweeked what was thought to be an oblique muscle but gritted through the pain to finish the game. Though Matt Cain was spectacular most of the night, taking a no-hitter into the 5th inning, it was Wilson who got the win.

Thursday night saw more Giants torture and drama as Madison Bumgardner pitched a beauty against Dodger ace Chad Billingsley and almost finished his first full game. But with over 100 pitches (121) thrown the wheels of drama began to wobble on the wagon and after 8 2/3 innings Bumgardner was replaced by a questionable Brian Wilson to close.

Wilson came in with a man on first and leading 3-1 to begin his late inning torturous ways. Superman's pitches looked high as he walked two Dodgers to load the bases. Up walks Dodger Jamey Carroll to face a struggling Brian Wilson.

(05-20) 04:00 PDT Los Angeles --

When Jamey Carroll hit the sinking liner with two outs in the ninth and everything on the line, Aubrey Huff turned toward right field to watch Nate Schierholtz charge the ball. If Schierholtz lets it drop, the game is tied. If it gets by him, the Dodgers win.

Huff, who had a miserable time with two identical drives when he played right field here in April, had one thought: "Thank God it wasn't me."

Read more:

With a catch as risky as any, Nate Schierholtz saves the game with his glove and the Champion Giants walk off the field in celebration of yet another torturous win. Giants Baseball!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Silent Film Classic

This movie, The Last Laugh, is a simple story with a very important message that stands the test of time. A happy-go hotel doorman, proud of his military-like red work coat with shiny brass buttons, loses his position at the hotel and must relinquish the coat and matching hat. He's simply gotten too old to continue with the physical duties of a doorman and thus is assigned the bathroom attendant position, now vacant due to the former attendant being committed to a home for the elderly.

Mind you the coat , along with the long held doorman's position, has been his pride and joy and the reason he can stroll into and out of his poor neighborhood with his chest puffed out like a rooster. When he finishes reading the job demotion notice you see the beginning transformation in his character. He is not only stunned but its as if all the air has been sucked out of his body, leaving him a shell of his former self.

As soon as the coat is stripped away from his huge protesting body, you see all his pride and dignity slip away with it. Without the coat the former doorman looks old and decrepit without a reason or will to live. After his meeting with the young, unattentive hotel manager who shows no pity or concern for the former doorman, the transformation is complete.

By now you want to see what happens to the former doorman, now bathroom attendant, as he now must face those who thought him so important and handsome in his commanding coat, including little neighborhood kids. Its a great film that warns as it reminds us of who we really are versus the positions and titles we cloak ourselves in. I believe the movie may have been originally titled "The Cloak."

The doorman is played by the famous German actor of his day, Emil Jannings.

Emil Jannings (23 July 1884 – 2 January 1950) was a German actor. He was not only the first actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, but also the first person to be presented an Oscar.

You can view the other thee episodes that make up the entire film here on youtube:
The Last Laugh

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Too Big To Prosecute - Inside Job

Again, the billion dollar question is put on the table; why has no wall street or financial executive been prosecuted in connection with the financial crisis that has maimed America's economy and workforce?

Experience has shown me that when a wrong has been committed and those involved with carrying out the wrong are involved or leading the investigation of it, justice is the last thing you'll see come out of such an investigation.

The financial crisis of 2008 is a telltale sign of where the power lies in this country. That old cliche of "follow the money" rears its head up yet again to remind us that capitalism trumps democracy every time. If those who are making the laws in a democracy are also unfairly benefitting from those same laws, isn't there a conflict of interest in their activities?

If I proclaim myself smarter than a fifth grader, I should be able to connect the dots and determine how Money, Power and Privilege equates to No Prosecution of wrongs. The practices of those in power have had cracks that leak their wrongdoings in the past. However, today when power shows a crack in its foundation, it trickles down to the average citizen and that citizen today is armed with a media that is not owned by those with power; The Internet.

So when the question arises today about why nobody has been prosecuted for the country's debilitating financial crisis, the average joe can probably answer that question better than the out-of-touch power brokers who can laughingly afford to ignore or deny that the crisis really impacted the country in such a devastating way. No harm, no foul!

If I help make and regulate the rules, who are you to tell me that I've broken the rules? And if I allow myself to be prosecuted, who will run the country? The President? Pleeease!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vick Chosen To Give Commencement Speech

Michael Vick

Well folks, the votes are in at the Camelot educational institution in Philadelphia for this year's school graduation commencement speaker. And the winner is the NFL's 2010 comeback player of the year, Eagle's quarterback Michael Vick.

Vick out balloted Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and schools superintendent Dr. Arlene Ackerman in a poll among students.

Not surprising, since the Camelot schools work with kids at risk for dropping out of school, as well as those with behavioral and emotional issues. The kids probably identify more with Michael Vick because of his questionable behavior issues and how he's overcome them.

Vick was convicted and incarcerated for his participation in a dog-fighting business. The NFL gave him a second chance and Vick has succeeded above and beyond expectations of everybody. Everybody that is, with the exception of Michael Vick. He has taken advantage of being given a second chance and has made the most of that opportunity.

It seems that kids who are at risk today find it hard relating to successful professionals and politicians simply because they do not see the struggles and sacrifices made by these individuals to attain their success.

Though many successful professionals may have come from well-to-do, upper-class families, I'm sure a high percentage had to scrape and scrap while working and attending college starving and broke. So is the divide that wide between the haves and the have nots of today that underprivileged kids choose role models based on their perception of one's struggle to attain success? Maybe its the rooting for the underdog against those favored to succeed. Or could race possibly play a part in students' decisions?

Whatever the reason(s), and I'm sure they're varied, Michael Vick says that he is "honored to be speaking at their commencement." He recognizes that the students, like himself, were able to turn their lives around and take advantage of an opportunity given them to succeed.

I'm sure that this year's Camelot graduation commencement speech will be one that'll live in the hearts of its graduates for the rest of their lives. I hope the Michael Vick haters, who call themselves good practicing christians yet can't find an ounce of forgiveness for a repentant soul, will remove the blinds from their eyes and see the giving deeds of Vick. Maybe then they'll find that most talked about attribute of christianity, love and forgiveness, for a man who once was lost but now appears to be found. They should do this not for Vick's sake mind you, but for themselves and those they feel a need to judge.

"Let he among you without sin, cast the first stone" John 8:7

A Passing Friend

Almost a month ago a childhood friend, who I hadn't seen nor talked to since teenage years, passed away. I was fortunate to have been in contact with him twice in the past year through Facebook, at which time I shared with him a picture of our mothers together in a group photo taken in the late 40's or early 50's.

His name was Gregory W. Oliver, but we all called him Chubby. His nickname carried the classic case of being labeled with a name fitting his attributes as a child and having that name stay throughout life, no matter its relevance. You see, Chubby might've been round and plump as an infant, but by the time he reached middle school he was a good six foot three with long strong limbs and little if any body fat.

In sports he was one player to have on your team. As pre-teenagers you'd slide one foot together with those of others to form a circle and someone would singsong count eenie, meenie, mynie, mo while touching each sneaker tip in a clockwise, or in some superstitious cases, counter-clockwise circle. You hoped to fall on the team that Chubb's big size eleven had been picked to.

(eenie, meenie, mynie, mo, catch a piggy by the toe, if he hollers let him go, eenie, meenie, mynie, mo) - our rhythmic street version is too long to document here.

(my mother and your mother were hanging up clothes, my mother punched your mother right in the nose, what color was the blood? (answer Red) R E D spells red and out you surely shall go)

There's one word to describe Chubb's style of playing sports; Tenacious. On defense he harassed and on offense he attacked. He had that tough, never let up attitude and it spilled over to those on his team.

Funny how Chubb would compete with a show of what looked like anger on his face, but when the competition was over the smile would blossom out and the love of competition talked about. When I first saw an interview with Michael Jordan way back before he'd won anything, something about him reminded me of Chubb. Maybe it was that serious look of commitment toward winning. They also had that same type of smile, almost like they didn't want to but couldn't help themselves.

When you think of childhood you automatically think of play. We in our neighborhood played all sorts of street games, from tag games like "rat tag," "catch'em kiss'em" and "flashlight tag" to "turkey bowls" "snow bowls" and "stick ball". We didn't have computers, cell phones or iPods so our time was spent creating fun activities within our small community. Some bored kid genius had even come up with a game while just sitting on porch steps. The old "which hand is the rock hidden in" game. If you chose correctly you moved up a step, if not you stayed put while watching others move up. First to go up and back won. Life lessons I tell you. Playing that game on Chubbs steps was unheard of, too many steps for impatient or attention deficit kids.  Again, life lessons.

During football season, we, the Cliff Street Crew, traveled to other neighborhoods in our town competing against kids just like ourselves; poor and lower middle class. I remember games on beacon st., hudson ave., beekman st. church yard, south ave. school, conway place one time, but Wampy and his crew were a no show and the game was forfeited. Now there's a nickname for you, "Wampy." 

Wamp lived around the corner from conway place on south avenue, but he was all conway; scrappy. Even the dogs on conway were tough. Back then you were more likely to get bit or chased by a neighborhood dog than attacked or jacked by anyone. Unless the neighborhood wars were going on, but that's another story. I love remembering my childhood with all its colorful highlights. 

I'm sure that my friend Chubb took something from those street football game encounters where our unity as one fighting unit allowed us to compete and usually overcome odds in our opponent's favor. Chubb was one of those silent leaders who led more by example than by words. When he suggested a play or strategy against an opponent it was with command and strong conviction. He was a trustworthy leader when he chose to lead. I believe Chubb took on boxing as a high schooler and did quite well, no surprise.

I guess I'm writing this a bit out of selfishness, for my childhood among friends like Chubb was the grandest time of my life. What seemed to make it a special time was not only the innocence of childhood but the togetherness we all shared as friends. There have been blockbuster movies made about such a time in a young man's life. Movies like Sandlot, Stand By Me and even The Little Rascals, all touch on the magic of that stage of growth.

Chubb will always be remembered as a part of that magical childhood I was blessed with. A childhood full of love, creativity, loyalty, honor, respect and sheer joy. We did so much together that our crew of friends were just as close, if not closer, than brothers. Now I must begin contacting those I've lost touch with to let them know how appreciative I am today for being a part of that special time growing up with them. Even in passing, Chubb continues to influence those like myself who saw by his example how life's battles are meant to be fought; Tenaciously!

Gregory W. Oliver
Jan. 4, 1960 - April 16, 2011

Rest Well Chubb

As written on Chubb's obituary page by a pastor:

April 18, 2011
Never has a man stood so tall as when he stooped to help a child. Truly, this is the manner in which I will remember Coach Oliver.
Although I did not know him personally, I am blessed to have known of his commitment. In this day and time, we must learn that not all heros make millions or hold highly esteemed positions. No, some of our best heros and role models are those whom we have the opportunity to rub elbows with.
Mrs. Oliver, take care in knowing that this entire community benefitted from the sacrifice that you made in giving your husband to be a father to so many. His legacy will live thru the many people he touched. I know it is hard, but God ordained a better place for Coach. He is now on the sideline in Heaven doing what he loved....Coaching Angels.
May God Bless and keep your entire family and remember to look to the hills from whence cometh our help. Our help truly comes from the Lord.
Pastor Timothy M. Sheppard and the Central Missionary Baptist Church of Thunderbolt.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sharks & Giants During Blogger Outage

Two Bay Area teams played like champions yesterday, unfortunately due to the Blogger service outage I was unable to post about it.

The San Jose Sharks of the NHL put to bed the Detroit Red Wings in an exciting, tension-filled game 7 of their semi-final series. As a Sharks fan I was simply on pins and needles hoping.........Praying that they wouldn't blow the 3-2 lead in the final minutes of the game. I cursed, I pounded and eventually I exhaled as the Sharkies repelled the final Red Wing assault to advance to the Conference championship round against the Vancouver Canucks.


Earlier in the day the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants behind pitcher Matt Cain added two runs to a one run lead in the bottom of the 7th. Their division rival, the Arizona Diamondbacks, came up in the top of the 8th and made the torture tense by scoring two runs of their own to make it 3-2.

Giants defense and pitching kept the torture to a low roar as Javier Lopez replaced Sergio Romo in the 9th with two on and one out. Lopez the sidewinder, struck out two in Brian Wilson fashion to secure himself a save and the team a sixth straight win at home.

Play of the day goes to outfielder Nate Schierholtz who not only went 3-4 batting, but threw out Arizona's Gerardo Parra as he tried going for two on what actually would've been a double against any other outfielder but Shierholtz.

The Champs had back-to-back series sweeps in winning eight of their last ten games. They also sit atop the NL West division with a one game lead over the Colorado Rockies.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Heat Torch Celtics To Cinders

After tonight's game five of the NBA semi-finals, the Boston Celtics know not to play with fire while in Miami. The Miami Heat scorched all hopes of a Boston win once Lebron James came to life. But the lucky leprechaun's looked championship worthy early, as they led 24-16 at the end of the first quarter.

Guard Dwayne Wade kept the Heat in it as Boston led by mostly small margins through the second and third quarters. Then in the fourth quarter King James took the baton from D'Wade and sprinted to the goal line with 13 points. Miami outscored the Celtics 26-14 in the clinching quarter and will move on to face the winner of the Atlanta vs Chicago series, which the Bulls currently lead 3-2.

As much as I hear about and respect the play of Lebron James, D'Wade is the man that makes the Heat go. I expect him to be the MVP of something by the end of the NBA Playoffs.

Celtics 87

Heat 97

Sunday, May 08, 2011

SF Giants Sweep Colorado Rockies

The World Series Champion San Francisco Giants sweep the division leading Colorado Rockies in exciting fashion this weekend at home.

The Giants have been battling injuries, road weariness, weak bats and suspect pitching, yet still find ways to compete with and beat the best in the N.L. West.

They now find themselves one game back of the Rockies. Tonny Bennett is singing loud and proud at AT&T Park.

Put A Fork In L.A. Lakers

NBA Playoffs


L.A. 86
DAL 122

(Dallas wins 4-0)

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers will not be participating in this season's NBA Championship series. The two-time defending champions just got "SWEPT" by Dirk "Sanda" Norwitzki, Jason Terry and the better Dallas Mavericks squad.

Sanda looked dominant in eating through the Lakers in four games.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Kentucky Derby 2011

Align CenterJockey John Velazquez atop Animal Kingdom

What a day at the Kentucky Derby. Yesterday my horse pick, Uncle Mo, was scratched due to a mysterious stomach ailment. Three days ago the jockey for longshot colt, Animal Kingdom, was injured when another horse he was riding threw him off then kicked him in the face for good measure. The injured jockey suffered a broken nose and was scratched for today's derby.

So with one horse and one jockey scratched, guess who rode Animal Kingdom and won?

The jockey originally slated to ride Uncle Mo, John Velazquez.

"Animal Kingdom, who had never raced on dirt before, reacted to his new rider the way a champion should, charging down the middle of the stretch to win by 2¾-lengths in front of a crowd of 164,858, the largest in Derby history."

This was the 137th Kentucky Derby. Did you know that
early jockeys were negro and/or negro slaves who rode the horses of their slave masters? Some of these pioneers of the sport (negro freemen) did in fact own their horses. In the first Kentucky Derby thirteen of the 14 jockeys were negro. Negro Jockey Isaac Murphy sits at the top of the list of popular horse riders of the day.

Other popular early negro jockeys:

Pike Barnes
Andy Hamilton
Jimmie Winkfield
Willie Simms (first non-English jockey to win a race on an English track)
Johnny Stoval
"Tiny" Williams
the two Clayton brothers
"Soup" Perkins
"Monk" Overton
Linc Jones
Bob Isom
Emanuel Morris
Felix Carr
Jimmie Lee (at Churchill Downs 1907, won all six races on the card)
"Snapper" Garrison was the only white jockey of his time

Boxing Battle Tonight!

May 7, 2011, MGM Grand Las Vegas
CBS/Showtime Pacquiao vs Mosley Fightcamp 360°

Tonight's WBO welterwieght title fight between champion Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao and "Shugga" Shane Mosley is much anticipated for many reasons. My cousin, the boxing guru of our east coast African-American family and also barbershop boxing analyst (a reputable position in the black community) gave me a take on the fight I'd never considered.

This morning I called my cousin to get his take on the fight. Mind you my cousin, who became a Manny Pacquiao fan after seeing him destroy Oscar Delahoya, has always judged fighters based on past performance and current skillset, nothing more. Cousin predicts that Shugga Shane will knock the Pacman out either early or late in the pay-per-view aired fight tonight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He gave two reasons why:

1. Pacquiao splits his focus on boxing with his musical and political careers.
2. Mosley is the first African-American Pacquiao has ever faced.

My initial reaction to the boxing guru of the old 'hood' was WHAT! I'd never heard of ethnicity playing a role in analyzing the outcome of a professional boxing match. Cuz was quick to point out that the dark-skinned Joshua Clottey, who Pacman's speed rendered punchless thirteen months ago, was from Ghana and not a "real" Brotha.

So I had to think about it. Had my Cuz been blinded by loyalty to stick with a Brotha over a filipino or does his theory somehow, someway hold a shotglass of truth in it?

I found myself pondering the notion of an opponent's racial superiority or inferiority like a "tale of the tape" statistic. What I came away with we're two conclusions that unfortunately, do not paint Cuz in the best of light:

1. Cuz is looking out for his reputation in the old 'hood' and playing it safe. As the Raiders saying goes, "win lose or tie, I'm a Raider 'til I die."

2. Cuz is so convinced of the psychological damage caused by a first encounter with a Brotha opponent in the ring, that skills become a moot point in such a match.

I didn't have the heart to tell Cuz that Pacquiao's sparring partner for this fight is a Brotha from San Francisco named
Karim Mayfield, who's also sparred with Mosley. Brotha Karim believes that Pacman has the edge over Shugga.

I've concluded that Color and/or Race alone cannot determine the superior or inferior performance of a professional boxer during a match.

Sorry Cuz, but that dog just won't hunt!

Update: Pacman floors Shugga in the 3rd Rd

Shugga runs ring avoiding Pacman power

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Story Of Islam

"There is no compulsion in religion, it can take a man many years or only minutes.
It is God who decides the time. So respect his doubts."

There are many sayings like this throughout the movie "The Message." Sayings that cause you to scan back and replay them so you can fully ingest their meanings. This was my third time watching this movie and again I come away with new ideas as well as a greater respect for Muslims and their faith. When the Christian Abbysinnian King draws a line in the ground to show how thin the differences between Christianity and Islam are, you get a sense that you're watching a movie that can change peoples perceptions about other religions.

I thought not having an actor portray Mohommad (PBUH) was a signature theme of the respect this movie shows for Allah and his messenger. While Anthony Quinn seemed to thrive in his role as the Lion Hunter, his dialogue with the camera as Mohommad was brilliant. The supporting cast, though a bit stiff (1977), takes nothing away from the overall performance. There is no misunderstanding the messenger's message. He continues to remind followers that he is just a man. An illiterate man who received the word of God with a duty to reveal it to man.

Regardless of your ethnicity or religious beliefs, this movie is a joy to watch simply because it teaches while telling a very revelatory tale about the man who brought the message of Islam to Arabia and the struggle to have it take root in the culture. Don't be afraid to learn about Islam and/or expel preconceived notions you may have about its beliefs and practice. There is no room for prejudicial judgment in this movie, just brotherly confirmation amongst mankind.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Joe Louis Arena - Sharks Jab Jab Jabbing

The banners hanging from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena make it apparently clear that the Detroit Red Wings are seasoned Heavy Weight veterans of the Ice. In the past 15 years they've won twice as many Stanley Cups (4) as any other team during that span.

But tonight in Detroit, the San Jose Sharks kept jabbing away at the Red Wings in Game 3 of their 7 game playoff series. The jab paid off huge as the Sharks stunned the Wings with yet another knockdown overtime goal to go up 3 games to none. The sharks are 5-0 in overtime games this postseason. They can taste the belt.

Can You Count Suckas? The Sharks are 9 wins away from their first ever NHL championship. Stick and move fellas, just keep sticking and moving and stay off the ropes.

[During Rocky's retraining]
Mickey: You're gonna eat lightnin'; you're gonna crap thunder

Final ....1 2 3 OT Tot
San Jose 1 1 1 1 4
Detroit.. 1 2 0 0 3

Monday, May 02, 2011

NFL FIlms & Cliff Branch

What Oakland Raiders Legends are made of. Credit Steve Sabol and NFL Films for preserving the moments. #21 Cliff Branch, making defenses adjust. Or try to adjust.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Uptown Saturday Night

Enjoyed this beautiful Sunday afternoon parked in front of the television watching the 1974 comedy classic "Uptown Saturday Night," featuring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. I own the movie and have seen it plenty of times, however, during this most recent viewing, which happened to follow NBA playoff games, I caught something I'd missed in earlier viewings.

After losing his wallet with a winning lottery ticket to masked robbers at an afterhours club called Madame Zenobia's , Poitier and sidekick Cosby begin scouring Harlem for information that'll lead them to the robbers and the ticket. After a short encounter with Richard Pryor as a swindling private detective (Sharp Eye Washington), they get information that directs them to gangter Little Seymour's bar.

They enter the bar and talk big trash to the patrons about Seymour and his bodyguard Big Percy in hopes of flushing them out. Nobody talks. Then, just as Poitier, on the advice of Cosby, begins to say something dirty about Little Seymour's mother, a small man in a suit and derby (played by one of the Nicholas Brothers) is standing there glaring at them. They laugh until hearing, then seeing the big, tall, booming voiced Percy enter and take his place beside a martial arts trained Little Seymour.

During this very tense scene I notice sports posters on the wall behind Seymour and Percy. Mind you, this was 1974 and the posters represented New York as well as that era of blacks in sports, mainly basketball. I saw New York Knicks guard #10 Clyde 'the glide" Frazier along with what must've been a 1950's black and white of a City College of New York championship basketball game. Of the other two posters, one I immediately recognized as #44 Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves swinging a bat during an all-star or post-season game. The one remaining poster centered squarely in the middle completely stumped me.

The poster that completely threw off my sports equilibrium was a basketball player of the early 70's wearing jersey number 42 with "The City" and a bridge sprawled across the front (see above picture). I first assumed it must've been a New York team with one of its bridges as their logo. I stopped the dvd, scanned back to a clearer view of the poster and pressed pause. The player and jersey logo were clearly visible behind the small stature of Little Seymour. The logo wasn't a picture of the Brooklyn or Verrazano bridge, but that of San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge.

Everything began to click. It was a player from the San Francsco / Golden State Warriors. The Warriors began wearing the retro jersey's again just a few years back, so the logo is familiar to me. But the player with the early 70's porkchop sideburns I couldn't make out. The team, originally from Philadelphia, moved across the bay to Oakland in 1973. They were in the playoffs six times from 1971-1977, and won their only west coast championship in 1975 by upsetting the favored Washington Bullets.

Yes, Google and the Internet are incredibly useful for pulling up past memories. It took all of five minutes to find an exact image of the poster behind the mean looking Little Seymour and Big Percy. I should've guessed it but then again, I was a Knicks fan way back then.

#42 of the San Francisco / GS Warriors is no other than Nate "the great" Thurmond, who played for the team from 1963-1974. Nate still has a presence here in the Bay Area with Nate's Barbecue, a tasty barbecue restaurant he established after retiring. Nate still does charity work here in the Bay. He was enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame in 1985 and named one of the 50 Greatest Players of NBA History in 1996. Big Percy...........I mean, Big Nate's jersey #42 was retired by the Warriors and the Caviliers. Nate played and held his own against some of the other greats, including Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Willis Reed and a young Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

I'm so glad that movies of my youth took the time to design sets with a realistic flavor of the times. Though Clyde Frazier was the flavor for early 70's basketball in New York, the San Francisco Bay Area had one of its own that was worthy of having his poster included with sports greats of the era.

I went back to watching Uptown Saturday Night, enjoying the all-star black cast that included Calvin Lockhart, Harry Belafonte and Flip Wilson. But as a sports fan past and present, I really enjoyed being transported back to the memories of sports heroes of my youth. Nate was and continues to be one of those Heroes. Thanks Nate!

Here's a link to the video clip on Youtube - Little Seymour. After seeing this clip I caught yet another surprise in the bar scene.

There's a poster of an Oakland Raiders player on the wall behind a group of patrons at about 2:44 into the clip. At first I thought it was wide receiver Cliff Branch, one who's deserving of being on a wall of greats. On further review the player has a facemask with a vertical and the only proof of a ball handling black player with that type of facemask is lightening running back Clarence Davis, also deserving.

A Franco Harris poster can also be seen. Nothing Immaculate.

Book of Revelations

After hearing of Donald Trump attaching his political wagon to the caboose requesting proof of President Barak Obama's birth certificate showing citizenship, I was reminded of a book I'd read many years ago by Irving Wallace titled "The Man."

I suppose I should thank Mr. Trump for triggering a memorable enlightening moment in my young life. Until I'd read Irving Wallace's well written novel I was so naive to the challenges the first Black President would face, not from foreign governments and world organizations mind you, but from that known as the American fabric of western civilization; the American peoples.

The American people and many of its leaders have shown in 2 1/2 years of the Obama Administration what Irving Wallace fictionalized so well in his 1964 New York Times #1 best selling book "The Man"; a black man with all the wit, smarts, respectability and integrity of any leader in American history will struggle more from his skin color than anything else in trying to lead the country and free world forward during turbulent times. Donald Trump has helped confirm that in the year 2011, "Race" in these United States matters.

My Amazon.Com Review of Irving Wallace's "The Man"

This is one of the first books I was entranced by, once I started reading novels. It truly launched my joy and discovery of reading fiction.

The Man, written in 1964, is a story about a black man becoming united states president by line of succession. The vice presidency was vacant because of the incumbent's death. Then a freak accident kills the president and speaker of the house, catapulting the president pro tempore of the senate, a young black senator, into the unenviable role of the first black president of the united states.

Its been years since I read this book, but so great was its influence on me and so powerful its truth, that it changed my view of reading forever by broadening the genre of what I read as well as how I read. I have the great author of this book, Irving Wallace, to thank for writing a book that appealed to a young man who only saw value in reading instructional or historical related books. Mr. Wallace introduced me to the meaning of the infamous quote by Jessamyn West; "Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures."

I write this review many years later because of today's opposition toward and attacks on the integrity of president barack obama, the realworld first black president of the united states. I recommend this book to all citizens of the united states to read in this year, 2011. Hopefully, yesterday's fiction can reveal obscured truths about the reality of race today.

Oakland Raiders NFL Draft

59-yard TD pass to David Ausburry

photo By Mark Avery, AP

Looks like the Raiders went after athletic talent in this year's draft. Their first pick being in round 2, they got what'll be a second generation Raider in OC Stefan Wisniewski. Yes, break out "The Wiz" banners once more as this young man brings some much needed help to our offensive line.

A stalwart to anchor the middle of the offensive line, the Raiders selected center/guard Stefen Wisniewski out of Penn State in the second round as the # 48 overall pick.

The Raiders selected other O-Line help, but shame on me, I'm impressed with two weapons acquired that handle the ball:

running back Taiwan Jones out of Eastern Washington in the fourth round. The head coach saw something special in Jones. “How do you pass up a guy that can make plays like that…a guy that can score touchdowns as often and as fast as he can?” asked Jackson to the press.

the multi-position threat in David Ausberry from the University of Southern California. ausberry plays running back and wide receiver, a big wide receiver.