Monday, December 31, 2007

by Donisha Adams

Have you seen the little boy who chases the dead?
Have you seen the little boy?
I said
Well, I have.
He only comes out at night
And wears a ghastly look.
--such a fright.
Something- has- h i m- shook.
Face shriveled up as if he has seen a ghost
Or maybe he just saw himself
Nothing but a reflection in a shadow (feeling of nothingness)
His own future cannot be seen
He is too consumed in the superficial
No clarification here
Just a void
He feels null in void
I see him
Tired, as if he has never seen a bed
But decked out from head to toe.
His mother asked, “Where did you get that money from?”
He replied: “I don’t know.”

But oh, BROTHER-I know-
That little boy chases the dead
I see his scars-
War marks from his many fights with the dead.
I saw him on the corner last night selling poison to Lost Souls.
He chases those DEAD PRESIDENTS
Like they are the answer to every question he has had before.

I heard him say, “Money never hurt anyone.”
Presidents who had slaves, blood money built on slave labor,
BIG BUSINESSES who oppress the poor
This is its origin.
Need I say more?
Full circle-now he is a slave to the dead
Creating more slaves in his wake.

The next day I read that the little boy was shot and killed.
And Ohhhh, how I CRIED for him and all that he could have been.
He chose to chase the dead when LIFE should have been his only choice.
How many more lives will it take?
If you know someone like this
We have lost too many young people to the dead
R.I.P Robert 04

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dr. Boyce Talks Black Family Finance on NPR News & Notes

As a finance professor, I see regular misconceptions in media about black people, black families and black wealth. America somehow has chosen to believe that the reason for wealth disparities in America is that African-Americans have simply chosen to be lazy and engage in the practice of bad money management. They also cite the fact that black families are not married as regularly and that this is a reason for poverty in the black community.

I could not disagree more.

The reason for the wealth disparity between blacks and whites is very simple: For 400 years (a very long time), America had a clear tradition of not allowing black people to pass wealth onto their children. As a result, all the big buildings in Manhattan, all the major media companies, and all the large corporations in America are owned, run and controlled by the white community. Period. Most wealth is inherited wealth and we were not allowed to inherit.

Black people choosing not to get married is no worse nor better than the fact that many families in America choose to get divorced. Honestly, I think divorce is far more devastating to the life of a child than not getting married. If one throws in the fact that non-custodial parents are obligated to pay child support, then the income gap, in a perfect world, should disappear. One can argue that two parents are better than one, but at the same time, 3 parents would be better than 2, and 4 parents would be better than 3. You could make this argument forever, and to use the one vs. two parent disparity as the fundamental basis to explain America's commitment to racial inequality is ridiculous.

Bottom line: Love is what matters, and if you look at the lives of Al Gore's son and kids in the suburbs who engage in just as much deviant behavior as kids in "the hood", you will see that a parent's decision to get married or not can be good for the child or bad, depending on the circumstances.

In other words: I get sick of people trying to say that black families are immoral or culturally inferior. Our culture is just fine thank you. Also, racial inequality and wealth gaps are due to one thing: historical discrimination. If you want to talk about creating a fair america, then you must first correct the huge imbalance created by racist ancestry. Trying to be fair from this point on (as Ward Connerly tries to argue) is like a lifelong crook stealing billions and then promising not to steal anymore. A fix must be applied to past wrongs before you can move forward in fairness.

I did this NPR interview on the topic not too long ago. It was done with Farai Chideya, a woman I had a huge crush on during my time in graduate school. Don't tell her I said that (haha!).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Disease Turning Black TV Anchor White

Posted: 2007-12-19 14:59:31
Filed Under: Top News
DETROIT (Dec. 16) - Lee Thomas' skin is betraying him.

His once brown, even complexion is now mottled with pale patches around his eyes and mouth, along his nose and on his ears; his arms, shoulders and chest are speckled and blotched.

Photo Gallery: 'There Is No Cure'

Carlos Osorio, AP

Lee Thomas, 40, right, an anchor and reporter for WJBK in Detroit, was diagnosed with vitiligo when he was 25. The disease destroys pigment-making cells in the skin.

1 of 5

"I'm a black man turning white on television and people can see it," says Thomas, an anchor and entertainment reporter for the local Fox Broadcasting Company affiliate. "If you've watched me over the years, you've seen my hands completely change from brown to white."

Thomas has vitiligo, a disorder in which pigment-making cells are destroyed. White patches appear on different parts of the body, tissues in the mouth and nose, and the retina.

"There is no cause. There is no cure, and it's very random," Thomas says. "I could turn all the way white or mostly white."

As many as 65 million people worldwide have the disorder, including up to 2 million in the United States.

Few people, outside medical professionals and those with the disease, had heard the term "vitiligo" until Michael Jackson revealed in the early 1990s that the disorder was behind his skin turning brown to white.

It's not fatal, but experts say vitiligo robs people of self-confidence, evokes ridicule and unpleasant stares, and pushes some into unforced seclusion.

The 40-year-old Thomas says that's not where the disorder needs to be. He openly talks about vitiligo and how it has affected his life and career, and has written a book about his journey titled "Turning White: A Memoir of Change." Along the way, Thomas says he's met others with the disorder and has become a celebrity spokesman for the Columbus, Ohio-based National Vitiligo Foundation.

Vitiligo attacks the soul and psyche, foundation executive director Robert Haas says.

"When was the last time you saw someone with vitiligo handling your food? It is the public's image that it is some leprosy-type of disease," he says. "A lot of folks feel this disease has trapped them and kept them away from their life goals."

That was Thomas' fear.

He uses a combination of creams and makeup to cover the growing patches of skin — which he calls devoid of color — on his face, hands and arms. Viewers, co-workers and, for years, his basketball buddies, were none the wiser.

Only family members and those closest to him knew the secret he had kept since age 25.

Thomas first noticed a change after getting a haircut while working in Louisville, Ky. He looked in a mirror and thought the barber had nicked him. A closer look revealed a pale spot, about the size of a quarter.

"I got two more on the other side of my scalp, on my hand and one in the corner of my mouth," he recalls in an interview from the station's studio. "That's when I went to the doctor and got diagnosed."

He didn't let it slow down his blossoming career. From Louisville, he soon landed at WABC in New York for three years beginning in 1994. After a short freelancing stint in Los Angeles, Thomas found his way to WJBK in Detroit in 1997. He has carved a niche in the Motor City market with his quirky, upbeat and humorous reporting style; his confidence, constant smile and positive air on the set mirrors his demeanor off the set as well.

Even though Thomas uses makeup to conceal his skin discoloration, he realized the vitiligo was becoming more obvious when he couldn't hide it from a preschooler during a story about a playground. His two-toned hands frightened the girl, who began to cry.

"I thought my career was over," says the Emmy award winner who routinely travels to Hollywood for one-on-one interviews with celebrities including Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Halle Berry.

So he gathered himself one day and approached the station's news director, prepared to walk away from television.

"She said, 'Let's just see what happens,'" Thomas recalls. "As it got worse, she kept encouraging me to tell my story."

Dana Hahn, WJBK's vice president of news, says the station was concerned about Thomas possibly leaving because of the condition.

"Lee is also a friend and we wanted to help," she says. "He had covered it up so well, we really didn't realize the impact it was having or how far it had spread."

Thomas finally agreed to tell his story on television in November 2005.

After the first segment on Thomas' vitiligo aired, Hahn says he took a leave of absence and missed the initial response from viewers.

"I received 40 to 50 e-mails a day the entire time he was gone," Hahn says. "So many people found support and encouragement in his story. I've never seen the kind of response to any story in my 12 years at Fox 2."

At the time, Thomas was already writing his book.

"As all those things happened, the tone of the book changed," he says. "I was writing for all those people who were afraid to come outside."

Dr. Sancy Leachman, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Utah, calls vitiligo stigmatizing, driving some to even consider suicide.

"They feel people are looking at them all of the time," she says. "They are very self-conscious about people staring at them in the grocery line. It can be a very demoralizing condition."

Thomas acknowledges he even preferred the security of solitude to the awkward stares of strangers when not wearing his makeup.

"There were times when I would not come out of the house," he says. "I call it a mental war. It was me saying, 'I don't want to deal with it today.' I never stayed in for very long. I know people who stay in now for months at a time."

When he's out socially now, Thomas forgoes the makeup he wears on camera.

He met his girlfriend of seven months, Karen Tate, at a vegetarian restaurant they both enjoy. She said when they're out together, she notices some people staring and making muffled comments about his appearance.

"He doesn't say anything," Tate, 28, says. "It doesn't really bother me. Some people are just rude."

She says she sees past what some people can't. "He just has a very free spirit. He is just a very nice guy. He opens up completely in his book. It is something he really wanted to do."

Surprisingly, Thomas gives vitiligo some credit.

"Having this disease forces me to focus on what I am: kind, caring, honest," he says. "There are people who have diseases that will kill them."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
2007-12-18 14:03:56

Saturday, December 22, 2007


'Condoleezza Rice: An American Life'

By Elisabeth Bumiller
December 22, 2007

Chapter 1: Twice as Good

Alabama, 1892-1962

The story of Condoleezza Rice begins at the close of the nineteenth century on a cotton plantation in southeastern Alabama, near the flourishing little town of Union Springs. The area was on the edge of Alabama's Black Belt, named for the rich soil and slave labor essential for cotton, the state's number one cash crop. By the early 1890s the slaves had been free for more than a generation, but so many remained as sharecroppers on the masters' plantations that planters still controlled the lifeblood of the land. New railroads that intersected in Union Springs had only made the planters richer, as their grand Victorian and Greek Revival homes attested. Now they could send their cotton to the markets in Montgomery in hours instead of the days it had taken by mule.

Courtesy Random House

In 1892, according to the census records of the surrounding Bullock County, Condoleezza Rice's grandfather, Albert Robinson Ray III, was born. His father was a plantation field hand. But Albert's grandfather, at least according to Rice family lore, was the white owner of the plantation, and his mother was a favored black servant in the plantation household. The family has no written record of Alto, and there are no clues in the 1890 or 1900 Bullock County census records. Rice knows little about Alto-her great-great grandfather-or the nature of his relationship to her great-great-grandmother beyond the apparent one of sexual exploitation of servant by master common to this place and time. "I know that Alto, who was white, was either Italian-born in Italy and made it here somehow, or his parents made it here somehow," she recalled in an interview years later.

Rice also knew that one of her great-aunts, Nancy Ray, had sandy-colored hair and blue eyes. That was clear from the photographs of Nancy that Rice saw as a child, and from the recollections of her parents and grandparents. White ancestry was common to other middle-class black families in Birmingham, and across the South-one of Rice's black friends claims a Jewish judge in her bloodline-and, while not something discussed casually with outsiders, was no cause for shame. Many black household servants were taught to read, were exposed to fine things like "silver and china and linen," and came to learn "about how advantaged Americans lived," said Rice's friend Freeman Hrabowski, a Birmingham native who is now the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. (Hrabowski says his great-great-grandfather was a white slave owner from a plantation near Selma.) One of Rice's friends has recalled jokingly discussing with her whose white ancestors were more aristocratic. "It was just sort of part of the landscape," Rice said.

Whatever the specifics of Rice's ancestry-the family says there were white landowners, favored household servants, and education going back generations on her father's side as well-the important point is that it powerfully shaped her view of herself as a black patrician. Any serious look at her life must begin here, in an intermingling of the races and two separate strands of American history. Rice grew up seeing herself as part of the nation's founding culture. At the least, her ancestry was a crucial part of the self-confidence that fueled her rise. She never considered herself an outsider or called herself an "African-American"-to her ears an immigrant designation she has always rejected.

"We have a racial birth defect that we've never quite dealt with," Rice said. "Which is that, really, there were two founding races-Europeans and Africans. They came here together, there was miscegenation. We founded and built this country together, and we are more intertwined and intertangled than we would like to think." She has long said that the shock over Thomas Jefferson's relationship with the slave Sally Hemmings was misplaced and naive, although she acknowledges the legacy of rape that produced so many mixed-race children in the South at the time. "It's a legacy that was basically not one of choice and volition but of violence and oppression," she said. "And so I think that's why people have trouble admitting it and talking about it and understanding it."

In Rice's family, the Italian ancestry appears to have been a source of pride, or at least was valued enough to make the family pass Italian names down through succeeding generations. Albert Robinson Ray III's brother was named Alto, and later, Albert would name one of his own sons Alto-Alto Ray, Condoleezza Rice's uncle. Two of the other children of Albert-Angelena and Genoa-also had Italian names.

Condoleezza is of course an Italian name, too, made up by Rice's mother from the Italian musical notation, "con dolcezza," which means "with sweetness." The family story has always been that Rice's mother picked the name because she was a classically trained musician and loved Italian opera. But in an interview in late 2006 Rice suggested that her name was in part inspired by the man she believes to be her Italian ancestor. "Alto, as you can tell, is an Italian name," Rice said, adding, "as is Condoleezza."

In Union Springs in the 1890s, little is known of Albert Robinson Ray III, Condoleezza Rice's grandfather, other than his likely labor in the cotton fields. Rice family lore picks him up again at the age of eleven, around 1904, when a white man is said to have assaulted his sister. Albert responded to the attack by beating up the white man, a crime so severe for a black youth that he fled Union Springs, terrified that he would be lynched. His fears were not unfounded: Like much of the South, Bullock County experienced a sharp erosion of black civil rights after Reconstruction ended in 1877. Between 1889 and 1921 in Bullock County there were seven documented lynchings.

As the Rice family tells it, Albert ended up at a Birmingham train station at 3 a.m. Somehow-the family has few details-Albert met a white family, the Wheelers, who owned a coal mine and took him in. Albert lived with the Wheelers and worked in their mine until well into his twenties.

Albert Ray may have been fleeing, but in 1904 he was also following the well-beaten path of black field laborers to "The Magic City," the name given to Birmingham only three decades after its birth.

The city had been incorporated in 1871 by ten investors who formed the Elyton Land Company in what was then the town of Elyton and bought 4,457 acres of mineral-rich property at a point where two major railroads were expected to intersect. By the start of the twentieth century, Birmingham was a booming postwar manufacturing city, named for the gritty industrial center in England, and was said to be the only place on earth where the essential ingredients of iron- and steel-making-coal, iron ore, and limestone-existed in one spot. Birmingham was heavily dependent on poor black laborers like Albert Ray, who helped fuel a growth so phenomenal that in 1904, the same year he arrived in town, the city's boosters chose Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and the forge, as the symbol to promote Birmingham worldwide. The city sent a giant statue of Vulcan as its exhibit to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, where it won the Grand Prize. Still the largest cast iron statue in the world, today Vulcan overlooks Birmingham from the top of Red Mountain. He has had a more recent and direct role in Condoleezza Rice's life: During George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, Bush's foreign policy advisers-Rice was their coordinator-nicknamed themselves the Vulcans, after the statue in Rice's hometown. At first the name was an inside joke, but the advisers began to use it publicly because it captured the image of power, toughness, and durability they sought to portray.

In 1918, Albert Ray was still working in the Wheelers' mine when he married, at the age of twenty-eight, Mattie Lula Parham, a classically trained pianist and a graduate of St. Mark's Academy in Birmingham, an institution Condoleezza Rice later recalled as a "finishing school." Parham's father, Rice said, had been "somebody high up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church." The family does not know how Albert and Mattie Lula met, but Rice does know that they settled in Hooper City, a rural area north of Birmingham. Between the years 1923 and 1936 they had five children-another Albert, another Mattie, Angelena, Alto, and Genoa. Mattie, with her classical training, gave piano lessons to the children in the neighborhood, for 25 cents a lesson, and Albert, with no education, branched out from coal-mining to a blacksmith business and then construction. He built the house the family lived in, at 3708 Fourth Street West. As he prospered, he added on, expanding from five rooms to ten. He also dug the well, kept cows and pigs, and owned a car. The Rays were the third or fourth family in Hooper City, upwardly mobile for the time, and proud.

"I guess we might have been poor, but we never knew we were poor," Genoa McPhatter, the youngest child, said. "I can remember we always got practically everything that we wanted." The family dressed well-"Mother shopped at expensive stores for us, so consequently we grew up into clothes," McPhatter said-and had an ease with white people. "My daddy had a lot of white friends," McPhatter said, recalling how whites would come in for horseshoes to her father's blacksmith shop. "To be perfectly frank, we didn't even realize when they would come that it was segregation, because they had such a good relationship there together."

Albert and Mattie Lula sent all five children to black colleges in the South: Tuskegee in Alabama, Spelman in Atlanta, Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte. Angelena, Condoleezza Rice's mother and the middle of the five children, stayed home and graduated from Miles College in Birmingham. In the family, she stood out for her musical abilities-she played the piano like her mother-and for her sharp tongue. "She was a very sweet, kind child, but don't say anything to her," McPhatter recalled of her older sister. "If she didn't agree with what you were saying, if she felt like it was wrong, she could really lash out."

Angelena went on to teach music and science southwest of Birmingham at Fairfield Industrial High School, in a black working-class community of the same name that overlooked the massive U.S. Steel mills. Angelena was a refined presence in the scruffy town-beautiful, light-skinned, with an insistence on standard English. "The thing I remember most is she drilled us in writing," recalled Richard Arrington, Jr., Birmingham's first black mayor, who was one of Angelena's students. She taught him, he recalled, to say "had gone" instead of "had went." "Nobody had ever told me that," Arrington said. "My parents had come out of the Black Belt and we spoke black dialect in our home." One of Angelena's other students was Willie Mays, a source of family pride, which Condoleezza Rice made sure to mention in an early meeting with George W. Bush, a lover of baseball and the former managing partner of the Texas Rangers.

It was at Fairfield High that Angelena met a fellow teacher, John Wesley Rice, Jr. He was a big man, charismatic and outgoing. On Sundays he preached in Birmingham at Westminster Presbyterian, a position he had inherited from his father. The preaching job was part-time, as was common in those days. From Monday to Friday Rice taught gym and served as Fairfield's head basketball coach and assistant football coach. Although he did not have the property of the Rays, there was education and white ancestry in his family, too.

John Rice's grandmother was Julia Head, the mixed-race daughter of a white plantation owner-Condoleezza Rice's great-great-grandfather-and another favored black house slave from Greene County, in western Alabama. As the family lore has it, when Union soldiers ransacked the neighboring plantations at the end of the Civil War, Julia, under instructions from her white father, hid the horses from the Northern invaders-an act of loyalty, or at least of obedience, that the family cites today.

Julia could read and write, as could the man she married, a former slave from South Carolina named John Wesley Rice, Condoleezza Rice's great-grandfather. After the Civil War, Julia and John Rice settled as tenant farmers in Greene County, where they raised a son, also named John Wesley Rice, Condoleezza Rice's grandfather. John Wesley Rice eventually graduated from Stillman College, the historically black school in Tuscaloosa, an accomplishment of such note in the Rice family that Condoleezza Rice made it a centerpiece of a speech she gave at the 2000 Republican National Convention. In what was effectively her introduction of herself to the nation, Rice told the delegates in Philadelphia the story of "Granddaddy Rice." Her narrative, which made clear that she was from a black educational elite, set out the themes of self-reliance and godliness much admired by her Republican audience.

"George W. Bush would have liked Granddaddy Rice," Rice told the delegates. "He was the son of a farmer in rural Alabama, but he recognized the importance of education. Around 1918, he decided he was going to get book-learning. And so, he asked, in the language of the day, where a colored man could go to college."

Granddaddy Rice was told of Stillman, where he enrolled but ran out of cotton to pay for tuition after his first year. What was he to do? "Praise be, as he often does, God gave him an answer," Condoleezza Rice told the crowd. "My grandfather asked how those other boys were staying in school, and he was told that they had what was called a scholarship. And they said, 'If you wanted to be a Presbyterian minister, then you can have one, too.' Granddaddy Rice said, 'That's just what I had in mind.' "

Rice drove home her point: "And my family has been Presbyterian and college-educated ever since."

Granddaddy Rice's education encompassed literature as well. In a story that Condoleezza Rice has often told, her grandfather spent the astonishing sum of $90 during the Depression on seven leather-bound, gold-embossed books, including the works of Dumas, Shakespeare, and Hugo. When Rice's wife objected, he told her not to worry, he would pay for them over time. (In later years his niece, Theresa Love, Condoleezza Rice's aunt, would go to the University of Wisconsin and get a Ph.D. in Victorian literature.)

Granddaddy Rice's first congregation was in Baton Rouge, but the church soon dispatched him to start schools and Presbyterian congregations all over the South. By 1943, he had settled in with his last congregation, a small mission in Birmingham that became Westminster Presbyterian. In 1951, after the church had completed a new building on Sixth Avenue South, he turned over the pulpit to his son, John Wesley Rice, Jr., the gym teacher and high school coach who had earned a divinity degree, as his family expected, from Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina.

Three years later, on Valentine's Day 1954, John Rice, Jr., and Angelena Ray were married by Granddaddy Rice in Angelena's mother's music room in the family house in Hooper City. The wedding was tiny-and held exactly nine months to the day before the couple's first and only child was born. "My mother said it was a good thing I wasn't early," Rice recalled.

Excerpted from Condoleezza Rice: An American Life by Elisabeth Bumiller Copyright © 2007 by Elisabeth Bumiller. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

(BPRW) Black Celebrities: A Flair For Hair
Article found at:

Contact Information
Sonshine Communications
Tanisha Coleman

Tyra Banks, Halle Berry, Beyonce Knowles, Oprah Winfrey, and Kelly Rowland. These are just a few Black celebrities who have a flair for hair. Of all the hairstyles in the world, celebrity hair styles are always the ones we try to imitate. Many times, celebrities set the trends that the rest of us try to follow.

Nothing can measure up to the forever appealing beauty of Black hair. Due to the versatility of the black hair style and black hair in general, ethnic hair styles include some of the most elaborate and beautiful hair creations to be found among fashion-conscious people today.

There are styles for every face shape and every personality. From straight and sleek, to curly and wavy, to bobs and braids, to cornrows and dreadlocks, there is something for everyone – and celebrities wear them all.

Why do we tend to emulate celebrity hairstyles? Because celebrities seem to have the most amazing hair that is always perfect. We rarely see them having a bad hair day. So, when we notice them wearing a fabulous style, we often become inspired to change our own style. Sometimes they inspire us to project a more professional image for work, and other times, they inspire us just to make a change. Try something different.

If you want to change your current style and are not sure what you want, you can begin by looking in magazines or on the internet at various celebrity hair styles. Once thing to keep in mind when choosing a hairstyle, however, is that it's all about the shape of your face. According to, your hairstyle can accentuate the natural lines and curves of your chin, cheek bones, eyes, and forehead. For a hairstyle that looks good on you, you should choose bangs, layers, height or roundness in a style that brings out the natural beauty of your face.

Listed below are a few tips from, to consider when selecting the right do for your face:

• Oval shaped face – avoid wearing too much hair on your face
• Heart shaped face – avoid pulling all of your hair back
• Pear shaped face – avoid full, long styles that emphasize jaw line and too much height at the crown of your head
• Round shaped face – avoid pulled back styles without any hair touching your face, as well as styles that add width to the side of your face and straight bangs that shorten your face
• Square shaped face – avoid straight, flat bangs
• Long shaped face – avoid styles with a lot of height at the crown of your head, as well as center parts

Still no gifts? What are you waiting for?
You've put off shopping; we're here to help
Saturday, Dec 22, 2007 - 12:09 AM; Article from


It's Dec. 22, and you're in a ho-ho-whole lotta trouble.

By now, your holiday shopping should have been complete, your gifts wrapped and your holiday itinerary mall-free.

You should be sitting by the Christmas tree, listening to Nat King Cole or watching "It's a Wonderful Life." You should be enjoying a cup of cheer -- or eggnog, provided you're not "egg" or "nog" intolerant.

But you're doing none of these things.

It simply isn't Christmas unless you're spending the last 48 hours of the season filling a lengthy wish list.

You are not alone.

Consumer Reports has projected that more than one-third of Americans -- 35 percent -- hadn't even started their holiday shopping until just a few days ago.

And a new national survey of more than 3,300 parents found that 22 percent of Americans will finish shopping Christmas Eve. That's an increase from three years ago, when 16 percent of respondents admitted they shopped at the last minute.

The survey, conducted by the Dallas-based research firm Decision Analyst Inc., also found that 21 percent of women were among the late shoppers, compared with 24 percent of men, proving procrastination knows no gender.

But fear not.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has assembled a procrastinator's guide to running the last minute holiday gift gantlet. Because really, we don't want to see you in the gas station convenience store at 11 p.m. Monday with a scented candle and a lottery ticket.

First, a few gift approaches:


The last minute shopper's best friend may be the gift card, which offers convenience, availability, portability and wiggle room -- requiring the purchaser to have only a vague notion of what the giftee really wants. And depending on where you go, a trip to just one supermarket or drug store could save you a dozen trips to the mall.

According to the National Retail Federation, gift-card spending is expected to reach $26.3 billion this year, up from $18.5 billion in 2005.

The gift card kiosks at Ukrop's Super Markets have a gazillion options, from food to airfare. Red Lobster, JetBlue, Sears, Nordstrom, iTunes, American Express, Toys R Us, Best Buy and, of course, Ukrops are a handful of what's available. Kroger, Walgreens, CVS and Wal-Mart also offer pretty good selections of gift cards.

Of course, the down side is that your intended knows exactly how much Christmas cheer you think she's worth.

Cut and paste

While the survey shows 82 percent of Americans do some or most of their holiday shopping on the Web, online purchases made 24 hours before the Big Day won't make it under the tree ahead of Santa Claus unless you're willing to pay an arm and a leg.

But you can cut out a catalog picture of those Australian sheepskin UGG boots she wants -- and that you plan to order -- and stick it in a card. Consider it a Christmas I.O.U. Ditto with theater or concert tickets purchased online that won't arrive on time but can be attached to a CD or DVD of an artist that you present as a gift Christmas morning.

Say cheese

One of the hot gifts this season are digital picture frames that store downloaded pictures, enabling one frame to feature many photos. There are a wide range of prices to fit every budget, depending on the quality and storage capacity of the frame.

Say it with a certificate

Your search for a more personal gift can be simple and swift with a quick stop at a day spa or salon to pick up a gift certificate for a massage or makeover. The same goes for golf lessons, a cooking class or art class.


(What Would Martha Stewart Do?)

You shouldn't spend valuable time searching for a small trinket for your neighbors that passes the cheesy test. Just turn to your cupboard and bake something. Milk, eggs, flour and sugar are always around.

Even if you cut your cookies from a tube, a personal note on a festive plate says more than the holiday equivalent of a Happy Meal toy.

. . .

And now, some basic do's and don'ts for last-minute shopping:

DO: Know your limitations.

You've got two days, not two weeks. Certain gifts are off the table and you shouldn't waste time trying to pull them off -- unless you're filthy rich, in which case you've already had your "people" shop for you weeks ago.

DO: Drink heavily.

But make it caffeine and spare the booze until your shopping is done. Alcohol is a depressant that impairs your reasoning abilities and makes you sleepy, but those are two things you don't need 48 hours before C-Day in a minivan on West Broad Street.

DO: Have a battle plan.

It helps to have a specific list and GPS. Call ahead to see if the items are in stock, then map out a route that takes you in a loop to every spot you want to visit, without doubling back.

Circuit City has a "24/24 Pickup Guarantee," good through 4:30 p.m. Christmas Eve. Customers who shop online and choose to pick up at a nearby store are guaranteed their items will be ready in 24 minutes, or they will receive a $24 Circuit City gift card.

If you're not sure of what you want, department stores are the way to go. Places like Macy's, JCPenney, Dillards, Nordstrom, Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl's have wide selections in a variety of areas, from clothing and jewelry to beauty products and electronics.

Drugstores are great for last-second stocking stuffers like cheap candy, toiletries and ice scrapers. If all else fails, do what your mother used to do -- fill up that that puppy with oranges and apples.

DO: Buy things already assembled.

Anyone who has tried to put together a BMX bike or Playmobil castle at 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve knows what we're talking about. When little Johnny gets up at 5 a.m. Christmas day and sees you with a wrench, it's all over.

DON'T: Cheap out.

The days for bargains are over -- at least until the day after Christmas, when it's too late. Consumer Reports says 5 percent of Americans will actually wait until after Christmas to finish their shopping, but you do not want to be that 5 percent. Time is money at this stage, and scouring for bargains or discounts is time wasted. Just open your wallet and make like an ATM.

DON'T: Overcompensate.

On the other hand, spending money like George Steinbrenner won't get you off the naughty list in the eyes of a loved one. This especially applies to guys at jewelry stores. While holiday shoppers will spend an average of $763 this season, married men are expected to spend the most money of all shoppers -- an average of $1,041, according to Consumer Reports. But just because you haven't figured her out, don't assume that something ridiculously expensive is going to cover it up. They know, man. They know.

DON'T: Take "no gifts" for an answer.

Another warning for guys, especially married guys. In this case, no doesn't mean no. You know she's getting you something, even if you agreed not to exchange gifts. You don't want to feel like a schmo under the mistletoe.

DON'T: Re-gift.

With time running down, we know it's tempting to take that box of sugar-free chocolates you got from a business client, or the free makeup kit and pink tote you got for that perfume purchase, and wrap it up to present to a B-list friend or relative. Just remember, they're probably shopping in the same places as you.

DON'T: Buy anything work-related.

Special for gals: You don't want a non-stick frying pan, and he doesn't want another tie with reindeer on it, even if you say it's from the kids. Work gifts remind people of working, which is no way to spend Christmas -- unless you're Santa.
Contact Jim Nolan at (804) 649-6061 or Staff writer Gregory J. Gilligan contributed to this story.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Why I really hate christmas gift certificates

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

My mother, who is one of the wisest people I know, was talking to me the other day about gift certificates. We were having this discussion while debating what to get our needy-ass, yet loveable relatives for Christmas (only a couple of them are needy, most of them are loveable). Christmas is that overly commercialized holiday that seems to come every single year. I don't mind Christmas, but it seems that the word "Christ" has been removed in exchange for the last part "must". "I MUST have this", "we MUST do that", it's crazy!

At any rate, we were wondering if gift certificates were the best gift to give, since it avoids the awkward, yet inevitable reality that you are going to always end up giving something to someone that they just bought, don't want or don't need as much as something else. So, you have then graced your loved one with the burden of yet another trip to the pawn shop or the 50 mile long Walmart return line right after the holidays are over. They are also burdened with the guilt of having to pretend that they like your gift, even though they really don't. You know, those fake, awkward smiles that make your face hurt and stomach turn.

We both concluded in our scientific analysis (My Mama and Me Labs, Inc.) that gift certificates were better than regular gifts, since you can get what you want.

But I had to put the brakes on our ground breaking analysis....I then said, "Well, based on that logic, it would seem that money is the best gift certificate, since you can not only get whatever you want, but you can use it at any store."

That led us to wonder: "What exactly do companies give us in return for exchanging a hard earned $50 dollars that can be used ANYWHERE for their pathetic, multicolored little piece of paper that can is also worth $50, but can only be used in ONE PLACE?"


The companies typically give us nothing in exchange for the purchase of a gift certificate. It would be one thing if they allowed us to purchase a $30 gift certificate for $25. That would make our decision to limit the stretch of our money at least partially worth while. But when you give them $30 dollars that can be spent anywhere, they give you back the same $30 dollars that can only be spent at one place.

That's not all they do to screw us for the holidays.

Companies also get over on the fact that many of us never use the gift certicates anyway! According to Needham, Mass.-based consulting-firm TowerGroup, over $5 billion dollars in unused gift certificates allow corporations to fill the stockings of their stock holders. And believe me, they aren't giving that money to charity.

So, my mother and I both came to the grim conclusion that gift certificates, from a financial standpoint, are not very good gifts. Cash is the best gift certificate there is. It's the thought that counts, and my mother and I put quite a bit of thought into our decision. We hope our relatives appreciate it.

So this year, everyone we love is going to get a card with cash in it. That's the same gift that makes every third grader smile (Remember when that old relative you never talked to sent you that ugly card every year that always had cash in it? Don't pretend like that WAS NOT the first card you opened!). Perhaps the third graders are onto something, since this gift can make adults smile even more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Magazine Article Using a YourBlackWorld Poll

Do Your Employees Consider Your Corporate Policies Racist?
Reactions to recent (and not so recent) news events show that black and white Americans see things very differently. As businesspeople we must ask ourselves a very difficult and important question: Is it possible that a company’s policies are being viewed differently by different minority groups within its overall employee base?
By Ann Carlsen

o begin to fathom the breadth and depth of the cultural and racial divide in America, you need look no further than three major news events involving athletes; two of them recent, and one which dominated the headlines just over a decade ago:
The 1995 murder trial of football star O.J. Simpson.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s guilty plea to dogfighting conspiracy charges

San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds’ breaking of Hank Aaron’s home-run record, amidst allegations of steroid use.

All tell us in no uncertain terms that we are, in many ways, a divided nation when it comes to how we view and perceive certain occurrences. Despite facts which have proved to be incontrovertible, blacks and whites viewed each of these events differently and hold vastly dissimilar opinions about the relative guilt and innocence of the individuals involved:

Following Simpson’s acquittal, while the majority of African Americans rejoiced, most whites felt shock and anger. U.S. News & World Report found in a survey taken immediately after the trial that 55 percent of all blacks felt Simpson was not guilty, while 62 percent of whites felt he committed the murders.

An ESPN/ABC News poll found that 74 percent of African Americans wanted Bonds to break Aaron’s record, compared with only 29 percent of whites. Forty-six percent of African Americans felt Bonds was treated unfairly by the media, compared with just 25 percent of whites. An overwhelming 85 percent of African Americans feel Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame, compared with just over half of all whites.

In a recent poll conducted on the Web site, 46 percent of African Americans responding said they believe that the Michael Vick case involves race, while only 14 percent of whites believe it does.

Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University, who helped construct the Vick survey for, says the results are not surprising. "Every time we have a controversy in America involving race, it’s always very clear that whites and blacks see it differently. The polls during Katrina, O.J. and many other tragedies showed similar trends," Watkins says.

These polling figures seem significant for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most compelling might be the quantitative differences between them. Whether these differences are ultimately a product of race or class, or a combination of both, this much seems clear: In America, whites and blacks view the world through the prism of personal and cultural experience and each group processes information very differently and forms opinions accordingly.

And given that as a backdrop, as businesspeople we must ask ourselves this very difficult and important question: Is it possible that a company’s policies are being viewed differently by different minority groups within its overall employee base?

And, most important, could your own company’s policies being deemed as racist and/or sexist by one or more of these groups?

The high cost of being viewed as a racist organization
Having read to this point, it would be very easy to click to another Web page and go on believing that our companies are, as we’ve always believed them to be, racially neutral and culturally sensitive. And to some degree, with some companies, this may indeed be the case.

But what the polling data above tells us is that any two groups of people can look at the same set of facts, the same combination of circumstances, and perceive them entirely differently. And for a major corporation, that can be a dangerous and costly thing.

Consider, over the past few years there have been dozens of class-action suits alleging corporate and institutional racism brought against American companies, and the settlements in these cases have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.

Among the most noteworthy and recent:

In July 2007, Nike agreed to pay $7.6 million to settle a race discrimination suit involving 400 employees at Nike Town in Chicago. The suit alleged that 75 percent of the store’s lowest-paid employees were black, while 75 percent of it highest-paid employees were white.

In 2001, 10 named plaintiffs and thousands of members of a certified class brought suit against food service giant Sodexho, arguing the company systematically denied promotions to 3,400 African-American midlevel managers. The company settled for $80 million, while agreeing to a monitoring program to ensure its ongoing compliance to the terms of the settlement.

In 1999, Microsoft was hit with one of the largest discrimination suits in U.S. history, as seven African Americans alleged racism and a "plantation mentality" at the software giant. The $5 billion suit cited one particularly chilling fact: Only 2.6 percent of Microsoft's employees and 1.6 percent of its managers were black.

In the summer of 2007, retail pharmacy giant Walgreens agreed to pay $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of African-American employees who alleged "hiring and placement discrimination."

What is interesting to note is that in all four instances, the companies completely denied any wrongdoing, and in most cases issued statements defending their hiring and advancement practices, while at the same time reiterating their belief in diversity as a social good.

Now, the legal rationale for making such statements notwithstanding, I’m confident that both sides in these cases utterly believe in their respective legal positions. And I sense that even if money were not part of the equation and the cases were being judged on merit alone, each side would resolutely believe in the validity and sincerity of their argument.

There’s little doubt that the African Americans who brought suit felt horribly wronged by their respective employers. But there’s also little doubt that employers felt that they had done nothing wrong.

Why the disconnect?
Given the direction of corporate America over the past two decades, and the fact that so much focus has been placed on both minority hiring and equal opportunity advancement, I think that executives at these companies truly believed they were being unfairly singled out as racist organizations. I’m sure many chief executives at these companies are resolutely convinced that their policies rank among the more enlightened in corporate America.

Yet like the divided reaction to the news events mentioned above, a person’s belief ultimately comes down to one simple thing: a personal perspective, shaped by personal experience and values. So with this in mind, consider your own company policies for a moment. Are they truly as fair as you believe them to be? Are they the products of another era, drawn up by a homogenous and, perhaps, small group of people and then simply tweaked and modified over the years? Or were they developed with a deep understanding of the current marketplace? Do you even know?

Taking the right steps
When you’re dealing with perceptions, it’s a tricky proposition. It’s likely impossible to resolve a complex issue like this one to everyone’s full satisfaction. But there are steps employers can take to steer their organizations toward a healthier, more diverse workplace environment:

Thoroughly review your HR policies and practices often. Times change, and a full, periodic HR audit is a good way to keep them fresh, relevant and effective.

Solicit feedback from your employees at all levels. Employees appreciate being part of the process. Just make sure you follow up with them and that they can see the results of their participation.

Continuously communicate. Make sure everyone is clear on your HR policies, and encourage discussion. Don’t just deliver the employee handbook and walk away.

Seek outside perspectives. Read what’s going on at other companies, talk to peers and keep up with workforce issues and trends.

Walk the talk on diversity. Let your employees know you’re serious about this issue, and demonstrate that you are continuously exploring how to improve.

Ask yourself if perception is reality regarding your current workplace policies and practices. But before you do, make sure you know what the perceptions are. There are no quick fixes or easy answers—just the willingness and the resolve to look in the mirror and take the necessary action.

A Letter from the IRS

Unless you're expecting a phat refund from the IRS, you never really have a need to communicate with them. NEVER. I was enjoying my nice, quiet life at home and I walked across the street to do my daily checking of the mail. There at the top of the envelope stood those three letter "I..R...S". I was a little perplexed as to why Uncle Sam would be sending me a letter in the middle of the summer. I already received and cashed my income tax returns. I hadn't had any other changes in my life. What could they possibly want from little ole me?

As I perused the letter, it stated that they needed further clarification on my mother's tax return from 2006. My mother passed away in May 2006 from Ovarian Cancer and I (being an only child who had already lost my father) became executrix of her estate. I had her taxes done by the same CPA that completed mine. I also remember it being a nice little birthday check when I received her tax refund, which was much larger than mine ever have been. The last thing I wanted to do was have to give back that well spent money.

It turns out Mr. Irs was wanting additional documentation on my mother's charitable donations. She had given a great deal (in the 10s of thousands) before she passed away and I fulfilled some of her pledged gifts as well. However, my CPA didn't' itemize any of these and Mr. Irs thought I was a fluke and a liar - all in the name of charity. So, I ran home and searched through my mother's documents looking for receipts and communications of her donations. Although I found many different documents, none of them added up to the exact amount listed. I looked some more. Still nothing. What was I gonna do? I didn't want to be featured on "Cops"! I called and spoke with a Mr. Irs rep who advised me to send in what I had.

Scared and nervous, I licked the envelope, placed it in the mailbox........... and waited! Weeks and months went by without any communication. I kinda forgot about it. Then, one day during the first week of December, I was sitting at my computer reading my Gemini horoscope online. It said that I would receive something in the mail that could affect me financially. Could my horoscope be right? No way. As I once again approached my mailbox, there in the midst of everything was another envelope with those three frustrating letters "I.R.S". First, I was impressed with the fact my horoscope knew when Mr. Irs would revisit. Second, I was afraid as all get out to open the letter. I found a cozy place on the sofa as I slowly opened the letter. It only said that they received my information and would let me know their decision by December 23, 2007. Dude, do they not know how close to Christmas that is? What a way to possibly ruin a Christmas holiday. (Not only that, but December 23 was my mother's birthday)

So I existed the next couple of weeks unsure of whether or not I should splurge on my friends or myself with all of the Christmas sales. If I owed money, how much could they possibly want back? Well, my answers were answered sooner than expected. On, Thursday December 13, Mr. Irs let me know his decision. I was cleared and they needed no further information. Alleluia!!!! There is a God and he is on my side. I cheerfully jumped up and clicked my heels together. I went out a couple of days later and purchased my new MacBook computer.

I didn't learn much from this experience except that I need a new CPA. I also now know that your mailbox can be both your friend and your enemy and that Mr. Irs and his buddies are not so bad after all. However, I do prefer that they leave me alone for several more decades and fine some other people to bother!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kevin Blackistone from ESPN Sets the Record Straight

After seeing the letter from one of our writers at YourBlackWorld, my man Kevin Blackistone wanted to set the record straight on his perceptions of the Sean Taylor case. Kevin is a sports guru for AOL and XM Satellite. He is also a regular on the popular ESPN show "Around the Horn".

Kev and I were on CNN together a few months ago trying to figure out why the NFL still has work to do when it comes to hiring black coaches. At the same time, I would argue that it is the NCAA that refuses to let go of it's racist traditions.

Without further ado, here is the article that Kevin wrote on Sean Taylor:

Sean Taylor and Timothy Spicer lived and worked in metropolitan D.C., Taylor as star safety for Washington’s famous pro football team and Spicer as a short-order cook for a famous Washington eatery, Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Eric Rivera, Jr., 17, shown in the preliminary court hearing, was identified by the grand jury as the gunman in the murder of NFL star Sean Taylor.

Both were young; Taylor 24 and Spicer 25. Both enjoyed nice cars that young men often do; Taylor had a Yukon Denali and Spicer drove a shiny ‘94 Caprice on big silvery rims. Both young men were black.

And both are dead now, murdered.

Taylor died in the wee hours Tuesday morning in Miami from a gunshot wound he suffered early Monday from what authorities said was an intruder in Taylor's Miami-area home.

Spicer died two Saturdays ago in Washington after he was found shot multiple times as the victim of a carjacking of his Caprice.

The only reason the country learned of Taylor's death is his celebrity. Spicer's death remained local news, the 169th murder in D.C. this year, or as many as occurred here last year.

But Taylor and Spicer are as linked in tragedy as they were as young black men working in D.C. trying to make it to another day. Gun violence is the No. 1 killer of black men like Taylor and Spicer.

According to most recent disseminated data by the Center for Disease Control, Taylor and Spicer will be two of roughly 4,000 black homicide victims in the country this year killed by guns. Most, of course, won't be a pro athlete like Taylor but an everyman like Spicer.

It didn't matter if they were rich or working-class, went to college or dropped out of high school, lived in a near million dollar home with a remote control gate or in mom's apartment in a tough quarter of town. It didn’t matter if one was strapping, strong and fast as the wind and the other was more like everyone else.

It didn't matter if they were famous or known to only a few. It didn't matter if they were living their dreams or still chasing them. They didn't escape the pathology.

On the face of it, as news of Taylor being shot rolled through the 24-hour news cycle, it sounded as if Taylor shouldn't have succumbed to such a menace. His father worked in law enforcement. Taylor went to a prep high school and a private college, Miami. He was a multi-million-dollar athlete and even his dalliance with lawbreaking and gun brandishing was said to be something of his recent past. He was a father now too. He had someone to live for forever besides himself. But what do we know?

"Sometimes we assume that because one is raised a certain way one is going to come out a certain way," the recently retired NFL star receiver Keyshawn Johnson, now ESPN football analyst, told me by phone on Tuesday. "Look at Andy Reid's kids. He's coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and they're (sons) selling drugs out of the house. You can't assume that because Sean's dad was a police chief that his life…would be different. It depends on how you approach it." Johnson knows all too well. He was reared in the toughest section of South Los Angeles. He survived being shot twice. He was stuck up outside of his favorite barbershop with his kids in tow.

"You just become an easy target," Johnson said of being an athlete or any well-known person of means.
Darrent Williams was a Denver Broncos' defensive back doing a responsible thing while out last New Year’s enjoying the night. He was in a limousine. A wrong word or misunderstanding in a club turned into bullets fired into his ride. He was killed. He was Taylor's age and another statistic in the deadly demographic.

In the wake of Williams' death, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed alarm at the senseless gun death of a league player and of run-ins with the law involving guns that other players were going through. Not long after came defensive back Pacman Jones' incident at a Las Vegas club that left one man shot and paralyzed.

But this isn't, unfortunately, just a problem of professional athletics, Johnson pointed out. It is bigger than one genre of livelihood.

"You have to be very cautious…about your surroundings and about the company you do keep. You can’t worry about feeling like people are going to look at you and say, 'He's made it now so he doesn't come around.' Well, isn't that the whole point? Secure your life and secure your family and move on? The point is to be able to be successful and make it."

Taylor appeared to have reached that point. Spicer was still working at it with a budding clothing business and dreams of – what else? – producing rap music.
Now both are in the same sad statistical pool. A Miami black neighborhood was planning this week to protest three recent fatal police shootings of young black men. It may want to protest the shooting of young black men by other young black men, which is far more prevalent, when it is through.

There was a lot of outpouring of support almost immediately for Taylor. A candlelight vigil was held. A funeral that will be covered by the national media is probably being planned.

Some athletes interviewed about Taylor's demise served up the trite words we're accustomed to after such a horrific event. They said it reminded that they just played a game and that other things were much more important. It put things in perspective, the choir sang. It shouldn’t have, of course. These things in sports never should. Other things are always more important.

Sports are not a separate thread in the fabric of society. They are no more than another spec of alloy in the mirror that reflects it all.

Sean Taylor as well as Timothy Spicer were the latest victims in what is a near epidemic among young black men. If anything good can come from Taylor's demise it will be that more of us pay as much attention to, and express as much outrage and sadness for, the Spicers where we live too.

Kevin B. Blackistone is a regular panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn, an XM Satellite Radio host and a frequent sports opinionist on other outlets like National Public Radio and The Politico. A former award-winning sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News, he currently lives in Hyattsville, Md.

The Color of WInter (Black Folks edition)

We all have favorite colors that we like to wear during the holiday season.  Some prefer winter white, while others are more attracted to grays, blacks or basic neutral colors.  However, there is a color that many of us wear that just isn't acceptable.  That color is ash (also known as ashy).  How many times have you reached out to shake someone's hand only to be greeted by the white, ashy crevasse between that person's pointer finger and thumb?  How many ashy knees have you seen walk by your path or ashy ankles just yelling out to be noticed?

Now, before I tell you some solutions, I must admit that I held the title 'Queen Ash' for several years running.  I often felt that if my clothes covered a specific body part, then it didn't need lotion.  My dark chocolate legs looked like the gray and white static you see on a television screen.  I could easily use my legs as a blackboard and write the word of the day for all to see.  I also didn't think about lotion on my hands.  When I saw a sign of ash creeping through my fingers, I knew the instant natural solution.  I had a mouth full of saliva and just needed to give a simple lick to the ashy area and my problems were quickly solved.

Little did I know that the people who loved me most also worried about my dry skin.  They would buy me bottles of lotion and even offer to place it on the spots needing the most attention.  I would sit with amazement as I compared my ashy leg to the newly glistening limb.  Wow!  Who would have ever thought that so much magic could exist is such a small bottle.  At that point, I knew I needed to make a change. 

The first thing I had to do was get rid of all of the dollar store lotions.  I'm talking about the type of lotions that runs rapidly out of the bottle without hesitation just begging for freedom. When you get a bottle do the consistency test.  If the lotion is thick like molasses then it's probably a pretty good product.  However, if it's thin like your mom's favorite Kool-Aid, then throw it in the closest receptacle.      

Secondly, before you walk out the house with a new product, you must do a practice run.  Don't just place the lotion all over your body and head out to an important meeting.  You may embarrass yourself by showing up to your meeting with lotion that has already dissolved.  Don't you hate it when you have your sexy, new skirt on with your fly girl walk only to get to your car to see your cheap lotion only lasted for 30 seconds?  Your practice run should take place on the weekend, preferably on a day that you don't have anywhere to be.  Put the lotion on your entire body and run around naked for the day.  Do self ash-checks every four hours and become one with your body.   

Next, ask a friend for advice.  So often we think we know our body. However, it often takes someone else to let us know where those hidden spots are on are body that have been calling out for years for lotion.  Some people with short hair my not have thought about the back of their necks.  Not all of us remember those awkward shaped elbows.  And don't forget about the toes.  There's nothing more unattractive than being in the mood to massage your mate's feet only to be greeted by claws in need of intense therapy.

Lastly, find a product that is right for you.  No product will meet everyone's need.  My current favorite product is Eucerin.  Although it's pricier than other lotions, I know that it works and lasts for hours.  There are a million and one different products. Some are scented and some others medicated.  Don't be afraid to get the 'plus' or extra dry' version of your favorite product.  Lotion isn't your thing?  We all know black folks love some cocoa butter, so go for it!! Although your friends and colleagues will be able to smell you from a mile away, at least we know your skin looks tight.  They even have bath gels often found in the baby product's section.  You place it on right when you get out of the shower so the substance absorbs into your skin instantly. Make it work for you.

So people, I ask you to join me in the "Ashy to classy" revolution.  James Brown encouraged us to be black and proud, so let's not let him down.  Don't put down your friends that look like they just rolled around in chalk dust.  Offer them a dollop of your lotion.  Take a good look at yourself before you head out the door.  Your body deserves to not only look good, but feel good.  Put that lotion in motion, baby!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

America Has Lost a Generation of Black Boys

Written by Phillip Jackson, Director of the Black Star Project

There is no longer a need for dire predictions, hand-wringing, or apprehension about losing a generation of Black boys. It is too late. In education, employment, economics, incarceration, health, housing, and parenting, we have lost a generation of young Black men. The question that remains is will we lose the next two or three generations, or possibly every generation of Black boys hereafter to the streets, negative media, gangs, drugs, poor education, unemployment, father absence, crime, violence and death.

Most young Black men in the United States don't graduate from high school. Only 35% of Black male students graduated from high school in Chicago and only 26% in New York City, according to a 2006 report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Only a few black boys who finish high school actually attend college, and those few Black boys who enter college, nationally, only 22% of them finish college.

Young Black male students have the worst grades, the lowest test scores, and the highest dropout rates of all students in the country. When these young Black men don't succeed in school, they are much more likely to succeed in the nation's criminal justice and penitentiary system. And it was discovered recently that even when a young Black man graduates from a U.S. college, there is a good chance that he is from Africa, the Caribbean or Europe, and not the United States.

Black men in prison in America have become as American as apple pie. There are more Black men in prisons and jails in the United States (about 1.1 million) than there are Black men incarcerated in the rest of the world combined. This criminalization process now starts in elementary schools with Black male children as young as six and seven years old being arrested in staggering numbers according to a 2005 report, Education on Lockdown by the Advancement Project.

The rest of the world is watching and following the lead of America. Other countries including England, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil and South Africa are adopting American social policies that encourage the incarceration and destruction of young Black men. This is leading to a world-wide catastrophe. But still, there is no adequate response from the American or global black community.

Worst of all is the passivity, neglect and disengagement of the Black community concerning the future of our Black boys. We do little while the future lives of Black boys are being destroyed in record numbers. The schools that Black boys attend prepare them with skills that will make them obsolete before, and if, they graduate. In a strange and perverse way, the Black community, itself, has started to wage a kind of war against young Black men and has become part of this destructive process.

Who are young Black women going to marry? Who is going to build and maintain the economics of Black communities? Who is going to anchor strong families in the Black community? Who will young Black Boys emulate as they grow into men? Where is the outrage of the Black community at the destruction of its Black boys? Where are the plans and the supportive actions to change this? Is this the beginning of the end of the Black people in America?

The list of those who have failed young Black men includes our government, our foundations, our schools, our media, our Black churches, our Black leaders, and even our parents. Ironically, experts say that the solutions to the problems of young Black men are simple and inexpensive, but they are not easy or popular. It is not that we lack solutions as much as it is that we lack the will to implement these solutions to save Black boys. It seems that government is willing to pay billions of dollars to lock up young Black men, rather than the millions it would take to prepare them to become viable contributors and valued members of our society.

Please consider these simple goals that can lead to solutions for fixing the problems of young Black men:

Short term
1) Teach all Black boys to read at grade level by the third grade and to embrace education.
2) Provide positive role models for Black boys.
3) Create a stable home environment for Black boys that includes contact with their fathers.
4) Ensure that Black boys have a strong spiritual base.
5) Control the negative media influences on Black boys.
6) Teach Black boys to respect all girls and women.

Long term
1) Invest as much money in educating Black boys as in locking up Black men.
2) Help connect Black boys to a positive vision of themselves in the future.
3) Create high expectations and help Black boys live into those high expectations.
4) Build a positive peer culture for Black boys.
5) Teach Black boys self-discipline, culture and history.
6) Teach Black boys and the communities in which they live to embrace education and life-long learning.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Searching for the Perfect Computer

Posted by Michelle Yeager

This holiday season I've been in search for the perfect computer. While my full-time job provides me with a laptop, I also have a side hustle that is blossoming and needs a computer of its own. I know the cheapest and best prices are at this time of the year. If you can't find a computer during the holidays, you just aren't looking!

My search started on Thanksgiving morning and I anxiously flipped through the pages of all of the advertisements. Because my computer will travel with me daily, I really wanted to find a smaller screen that was less than 15 inches. The majority of the computers on sale were 15.4 inches. So this was my first dilemma. Do I go with the larger screen in order to save money or be patient and hope the smaller screens will also go on sale? I didn't have much time to think about it because Black Friday was right around the corner. I found a computer on sale Thanksgiving evening at CompUSA. It was a quality computer at a price I couldn't beat. So I got my game plan together and was ready to purchase it. As I drove up to the store, I saw a very lengthy line wrapping around the building. Although all of those people were probably not in line to get a laptop, there was a very good chance that by the time I made it all the way through, there wouldn't be any left.

At this point I had not only to think about the price of the computer, but also the value of my time. Was the money I would be saving equivalent to the hours upon hours I would be standing in the cold? Time is money and money is time. When I weighed my options, I came to the conclusion that although it was a good deal, it really wasn't worth my time. So I left.

Friday morning I'm up at the crack of dawn waiting for Apple's website to post their Black Friday prices. Apple computers rarely go on sale. I really wanted a MacBook, but struggled with whether I was willing to pay the extreme price. Apple said the sale would be posted at midnight Pacific Standard Time (PST). I assumed that's two hours behind Eastern Standard Time so I click on at 2:00am. Oops, I was wrong, PST is three hours behind so I have to wait another hour. Once I get through, I am highly disappointed to see the sale prices are same ones I receive as an educator. Just more wasted effort. By now I realize folks are starting to line up at the Best Buy and Circuit City stores. I flip through their advertisements one last time. I remind myself that I want a quality computer and not just a mediocre one that will only last a short time. I decide to sleep in.

It is now December 10 and I still have not purchased a laptop. Although I continue to look online at various prices and flip through newspaper advertisements, I haven't found a deal that's a steal. So, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to be a scrooge any longer and I'm going to purchase the Apple computer. It honestly is the one I want. Although I may not be saving the $100-400 off a random laptop, I know I'll be getting a quality product that has all of the features I desire. This holiday season, I learned that although a bargain is great, sometimes you have to spend a little more for peace of mind and quality that will last!