Friday, September 16, 2016

Elliot (I Wonder Why) – An Important Story and an Important Conversation

For today's blog post, something a little different: want to listen in on the awesome convos that I get to have with the awesome people on the Best Day team? How lucky am I to end up with them? How lucky are we all? But first, an important and powerful story by our bud Elliot which inspired the whole conversation. A gentle man's call to end violence and hatred in our country.

Thank you Elliot for challenging and inspiring us with your words. Thank you to everyone on yesterday's group text and the many other Best Day volunteers who make Elliot's and my dreams of a more peaceful and loving tomorrow a possible reality. Storytelling can do that for us. I can say that for sure because in a way, by sparking a real conversation about real issues, via some text messages and now this blog post, Elliot's story has already done that for us.

Want to meet members of the Best Day team? Some of us will be at Snap Custom Pizza (1504 Sansom Street, Philadelphia) next Tues 4-8pm, just kicking back and catching up, as Snap is donating portions of their pizza sales in that time slot to Best Day. Stop by and click HERE for more info!
Elliott Doomes
09.15.16
I Wonder Why

​I wonder why I have no home country. I wonder why I have no language. I wonder why I have no culture. I wonder why I have no flag. I have no music. I have no history. As far as history goes, as a people, our history started 400 years ago. Everything was given to us by our former slave masters.

You can trace our history all the way back to the Mayflower and before. We were taught that we were nothing and never would be anything but a slave. The emancipation proclamation was supposed to free slaves, which only meant we were supposed to assimilate. I think we took on the worst of our ex-masters. Like the Native Americans were given alcohol, we were given guns.

We now have children killing children. When will it end? They see on television the police that are supposed to be protecting them are killing them. Everyday you see on the news that a policeman has killed an unarmed person or child with a gun. No one is held accountable for these crimes. Our young people think it’s alright to take a gun and go kill somebody because they never see consequences of these actions.

They see these kinds of actions as power. They have not had proper education. Education is a very expensive commodity in America.

They see people who are good at committing crimes end up with the cars and the houses and the pretty girls because they have money. Money is the violent force behind most of these young people killing each other. That money is derived from selling drugs. Since they have no education this is what they do. They sell drugs. They believe that what they do isn’t a crime. They don’t see it as anything wrong. It’s supply and demand. People want this so we’ll give it to them.

I remember one young man said to his Father, “How can you tell me what to do; I make more money than you.” He’s dead now, but his Father is still living. I have an idea for a solution to the problem of violence in our community. If the kids had something to occupy their mind and their time, they wouldn’t be in bad places. We have to show them there’s something else they can do.

It’ll be a hard time, but somebody’s got to do it. Most of these kids are angry. If we don’t give them something to occupy their mind and their time, we will lose them.

​I’m not worried about myself. I’ve lived my life. I’ve got children and grandchildren. They don’t know about the 60’s and the Civil Rights movement. They don’t know how we had to fight to go to school and vote. We already fought these battles. We shouldn’t have to fight them again.

If anything happens to me, the first thing I’m doing is buying a gun. I’m not talking about our streets. I’m talking about our judicial system.

Justice is for those who can afford it. I remember they used to burn flags in the streets and there was no uproar. Now it’s un-American. People are just protesting. It scares people that other people in the world aren’t right. When politicians go around the world, they tell people they need to straighten up their own backyards, and then they can come here.

That’s what we need. We have to straighten up our own backyard.

(15 minutes after the storytelling group session, Hannah texts our group's facilitating crew.)

Hannah Pigeon:
Hey! Today Elliott wrote a story about crime and police brutality. He apologized after we read it because he said he felt like he was bringing down the mood of the group. The other participants were all very quick to assure him they love his stories and they hope he keeps coming since he writes the truth. Hopefully he keeps stopping by! 

Caitlin Cieri:
Hopefully! I missed Elliot!

Jen McGhee:
Wish I had been there to hear it live! Maybe this would be a great time to write a post about racism police brutality and share his words, Benita? 

Caitlin Cieri:
Maybe a post about the flexibility of our group's name. That tends to be a concern with new participants. Sometimes the Best Day of Your Life is the Day you write about the Worst Day of Your Life.

Cassie O'Leary:
I agree with Caitlin. That's what I'm always telling people when they ask about the group when they ask if participants ever share anything else other than their best days.

Caitlin Cieri:
I remember one woman who asked that question, and I mentioned that we have a collection of stories about surviving rape. That woman immediately told me the story of the time she was raped by her husband.

Cassie O'Leary:
Jesus. That's awful. But sometimes it's way more therapeutic to share trauma than a good day.

Jen McGhee:
So true, Cassie.

Caitlin Cieri:
Yeah. That's how you know they trust you, and they're really talking.

Cassie O'Leary:
Especially since they're coming from a generation where sharing trauma just wasn't a thing.

Jen McGhee:
I haven't had a lot of group sessions where outright trauma was shared, so it's really heartening to know this is happening and so many older adult participants feel safe in this space.

Cassie O'Leary:
I really hope Elliot comes back. It's breaking my heart right now thinking he would ever get self conscious about sharing since it's rare that he shares in general (in my experience.)

Jen McGhee:
Maybe we can incorporate into the beginning of each session that we want to encourage everyone to talk about all aspects of living a life, including the stuff we don't normally talk about in polite conversation.

Caitlin Cieri:
"The Best Day of My Life So Far: No Limits Necessary."

Benita Cooper:
Just seeing this text string. The best text string ever. I almost want this entire text string to be retyped and have that be the blog post. It's better said together than what I can say as a single person. What do you think? Is everyone ok with that? Any extra comments that anyone would like to add?

Jen McGhee:
I'm okay with that!

Caitlin Cieri:
I don't mind at all!

Benita Cooper:
How did I get so lucky to end up w you amazing people?

Jen McGhee:
How'd we all get so lucky?

Caitlin Cieri:
You guys! You guys are the best!

Jana Henry:
I have been away from the group for a minute but it's great to see how you all are engaging with the older adult participants :) I think encouraging them to share about traumatic stories is a great idea. I know personally through therapy it has helped me to sometimes just share and not even expect a response but to be able to have a voice. 

Mary McGinley:
Love all of this. Definitely important to think about how our language can more effectively advertise our mission. We have put a lot of emphasis on social media and the wider community understanding, but if the older adults/sites are still confused, that should definitely be addressed!

Benita Cooper:
Perfect - because Mary, Jen and I have been refining and updating the wording of our mission so can integrate these thoughts in there.
This was a special and important blog post for me. Thanks for reading, and please consider sharing it! Would love to hear from you if you have any feedback about Elliot's story or our team's convo. Just drop me a note at benita@bestdayofmylifesofar.org!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Beatrice, Gloria, Valerie, Norman (Mutual Appreciation Club)

Our participants come up with the most creative ways to describe the feeling of being at a Best Day storytelling session. Sometimes I hear myself describing in our sessions as weekly gatherings where older adults, volunteers and visitors from the local community relax around a table to hear older adults' life stories - our participants come up with way cooler descriptions than mine.

I was just talking to Norman yesterday, and we started saying, "Thank you so much," "No, thank YOU so much," on and on like that, for what each other has done to kept the group running strong. We laughed so hard.

Eventually he said, "We can go back and forth like that all day... We are the Mutual Appreciation Club." 

So much cooler than my description, right? That really brings out the heart and soul of the gatherings. It's not just about the stories. It's always about the love, joy and diversity in the room. Here are a few more ways they have described the Best Day experience, all of which are perfect. 

"We are like a family. Or like a rainbow."
Beatrice Newkirk
2/3/2011
Our Writing Class       

Our writing class is the place to see and be.  We do things together.  Everyone has a good time.  We listen to everyone’s stories.  Some are read out loud.  Some members talk about what they had written.  After everyone reads or tells their story, our pictures are taken.  We missed last week but we always make up what we missed.  Because of the storm, we were not here.  Everyone who comes to our class is from different places.  They come from different neighborhoods.  The stories I hear are very interesting.  We are like a family. Or like a rainbow.  To the writing class, I love all of you.  I miss everyone until the next meeting.

"A ritual of words. A unified crescendo of what makes this city and country great."

Gloria Washington
6.14.2012
Magic Circle

Every time I sit at the oval table in our sun drenched, book laden room I am transported.

The myriad voices enthrall me.  Tales of history, pathos, and ingenuity…Nuggets of golden stories I would never know of otherwise. 

Secrets of the entertainment business, Philly’s diverse ethnic stories from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s are offered as well as true moments of accomplishment from my fellow literary travelers.  I am in awe and silenced.  I think about these stories often while traversing the city or in quiet moments alone. 

They move me and make me think.  I am adding a new dimension to my “lens” on the cities multi-ethnic neighborhoods. 

Sometimes the musings are quite cerebral, a nod to my fellow theatre member.  Other times they are funny, poignant, who knew these things about Atlantic City?

Each voice carries weight.  Separately they are strong reminders of our past.  Together they are a unified crescendo of what makes this city and country great.

And hovering incandescently is the fairy that facilitates it all.

I am honored to be a part of this ritual of words.

"This is community. Wonderful, wonderful community. A place where all are known, all are celebrated."

Valerie Dolphin
12.9.2012
A Guest’s Impression of the Writing Group

When I enter a room and every one applauds, I like it. I assume everyone does.  So my first impression of the writers group is one of acceptance and joy. A community of self assured writers. Though there is little sophistication here, there is plenty of raw joy.  Each person knows the other, and celebrates who they are. They know each other through the stories they write, the stories they have listened to. There are no rules here. One doesn’t even have to write, but nearly everyone does….who doesn’t want the applause…and more than the applause, who doesn’t want their story heard.  This is community. Wonderful, wonderful community. A place where all are known, all are celebrated.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

MVP



Summer is almost ending... Nooo! Ha, I am the oddball who doesn't mind sweating out the unbearable late-August heat. Well, hope your summer has been cool and you had some fun catching up with friends. We are always in the mood for a good friendship story around here and today our bud Joe kicks it up a notch and make it an MVP story!

Who's the MVP in your life? Share this story on social media to give your #MVP a shoutout, and tag @bestdayofmylifesofar!

Joe Garrison 
8.11.2016 
MVP

I’m using this term to describe the most valuable person in a person’s eye – a friend. Could be someone you met at school, could be from work. For me, a family member. A friend is someone what not only you can rely on, but they can rely on you like any relationship, a friendship can at times be rocky when there is a conflict or difference. There is a way you can smooth things over and make things right.

Friends come and go. It’s like anything in life. When I was in school, about 6 years old, I met someone named Bill. We were friends throughout school and drifted apart after graduation. In freshman year, I met a new fellow, Emory Wilson. We had what we would now call a "bromance." Before I left school, I realized he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be: not the guy I thought he was. I realize everyone has faults, but I was disappointed when I found out some things that were very unfavorable. Now I can say that my best friend is my cousin, Sherry. One of the things that amazes me about her is that she is slow to anger and she always seems to be in an upbeat, cheerful 
mood although we can tell when something is troubling her. We are always there for each other and who’s to say family can’t also be your best friends. In sports, an MVP is the most valuable player, but I use the term as the most valuable person because I believe that the most valuable person in everyone’s life is a true, sincere friend. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mo (Politics)

Well, it’s not just the summer weather, the presidential campaign has been heating up too. There isn’t much left to say here about the current campaign that the media has not said. So maybe, just to cool things off a teeny little bit, let’s look back at another campaign, told (as always!) with a child’s sense of wonder by our good bud Mo. Reading this story, I just hope our kids can look back on what comes out of the current state of things and see it as a positive piece of history, someday, somehow.

Mo McCooper
7.21.2016
Politics

Hearing President Roosevelt speaking on the radio was my introduction to politics. I was 6 years old when he declared war after the attack on Pearl Harbor. My uncle, Tommy, who lived with my parents and I, entered the Navy a short time later.

Postcards and letters came from Great Lakes Training Center in Illinois and then places in the Pacific War Zone. Tom’s little sister Nancy who had lived with us too because her parents had died and who taught me to read before I went to school, prayed to God for Tom’s safety and taught me that also.

Although I was reading comic books made by the auto workers union and knew my family voted for democrats, I didn’t hear any political talk until President Roosevelt died and Vice President Truman became president.

A little later, Thomas Dewey of New York was the Republican candidate. The newspapers and radio covered the battle and all concluded up until the last day that Dewey would win and did win. They were wrong.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Fully Loaded Story Goodie Bag


I can’t tell you how excited I am about all the things that my team and I are working on for you behind the scenes – they’re all about bringing you more ways than ever to engage with the older adults in your family and community. Want the scoop? Here you go! http://bit.ly/1UyuRPH

So I want to apologize… I have been a little slower than usual at sharing the fresh, new stories here on the blog that our superstar storytellers have been telling in our group! Can I make up for you today with a fully loaded post?? Is that cool?

Let’s start by putting Norman on the spot – I can because we’re super good buds and that sentence, I hope, Norman, made you smile!!

(And for the record, everyone, he is the definition of NOT lazy ;))


Norman Cain
7.14.2016
The Unwritten Lazy and Overdid Story

When I came to the Phila Senior Center this morning, I intended to go to the computer room and type and print a long over-due story.

Instead of following my plan, I stopped in the dining room and became involved in two lengthy conversations.

The first conversation, one involving the insensitivity of church and fraternal organization towards the less fortunate, was held with a Center member that was a co-worker of mine at the Youth Study Center 25 years ago.

The second lengthy conversation was held with an acquaintance from the area of West Phila – known as the bottom – where I was raised. Names and incidents and landmarks became vivid. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with the two conversations I had this morning.

Hopefully, I will present my intended long overdue story next week.


Loretta Gaither
7.14.2016
Death of My Husband

I took him back 9 times and he didn’t want to listen. So he got shot dead, 9 times over drugs. And he couldn’t find me. I’m glad he couldn’t find me in no bar and he said he got $11,000 but he was high on drugs. I’m glad I didn’t see him high. He didn’t have to die a horrible death. He chose this death. They could not find me, but they found out from City Hall that I had a house and I was divorced, but I still hold his name – G-A-I-T-H-E-R! I got married when I was 18 so you can imagine how old he was when he died.

I would’ve gone to his funeral even though he died of crack and cocaine. And I was a voice for him, but he taught me how to cook. A friend of mine gave me this ring today, and now they’re angry at me for having this ring. When I got that house, they started gossiping about where I got the house and money. But they should mind their business about what Robert Gaither put in his will, instead of spreading rumors and trying to make me angry.

God bless the enemy and thank you for writing for me. I come to the Senior Center to be happy, not angry. Signing off now. God bless the readers and everyone at the Center. Amen.

*Related to Alma Gaither of the Eagles.


Loretta Gaither
6.23.2016
Funny Moment in a Bus

To the two people who moved into my building yesterday – We laughed and talked together. People in my building don’t like me because of their own reasons.

Two couples and me were riding on a bus. The driver was a young man and I was flirting with the driver and told him I am 37 years old. I was going into the water to put the flower for him as I was joking to him. I even teased him I wanted to drive the bus, but he smiled and said, “No, you can’t drive.” That was a very fun and teasing moment for me after a long time.

I would like to thank Neha for helping me write the story and hope to meet with her again.

Joan Bunting
6.23.2016
Summer

Summer’s here everyone. Is everyone happy? It hasn’t been too long ago that everyone, or mostly everyone, could hardly wait for spring or summer to arrive (not me, I prefer the cooler or even the cold weather).

The one thing I do appreciate about the warm weather is that we took off all the extra winter clothes we had to wear.

But now, I believe some have taken off a bit too much, but that’s not any of my business.

I don’t have much to say but I can say this, “Enjoy the summer, keep cool, and God bless you one and all!”


Joe Garrison
7.14.2016
New Words in 21st Century

For the 21st Century, a number of new words have been added in the dictionary. For instance, “emoji.” I have never heard of what an emoji is, but I got to know about it a year ago. It’s so wonderful how the various adjectives / feelings can be expressed graphically.

Now a days, people have started using abbreviations during chating like “LOL.” The other craze people are having these days is of SELFIE. People are taking selfies which is a new trend. The idea of taking a picture of myself has never got into me.

I watch an investigation channel on TV, I know they have writers who write the show. One of the expressions I have heard of is “Nobody needs electricity as you can light up the room with your smile.”

A woman from the South is called “Southern Belle” as if other women are not beautiful.

An other expression which I am tired of hearing is the word “Blockbuster.” During World War II, the people used a type of grenade and explosive to demolish a block of the city, so the word came into existence.

Now people have started using the wood “Doorbuster” that is the greatly reduced price and people are getting and busting the door to get the stuff and now the word came up.


Frances Bryce
7.14.2016
Cooking for Two

My husband and I lived in North Phila in his mother’s house. It was a three-story, row house that if located in Center City would be called a townhouse. As newlyweds, I cooked for my husband. I could cook but my problem, because I am from a family of seven, my skill was to do meals for seven.

My first meal was for a family of seven and not two. So for a person of time, I had to scale down the portions. In time, I learned to accomplish this task.

We were living with a very limited budget, which prepared me for later when we had children and a budget made our living easier until our financial status improved. I didn’t have to make adjustments that were drastic. I still embrace living below our, now my, financial state.


Loretta Dotson
7.14.2016
Age is Wonderful

Age is wonderful It’s good to be able to reach a high number. When we are very young, we can hardly wait to be a teenage. Then, I wanted to be 21 years old. Then the years run by so quick you wonder where did they go? These were a time you would be quick to tell your age. Now, it’s like pulling teeth. I used to say older than my teeth and younger than my tongue (smile). My late husband, God rest his soul, never knew my real age. I would tell him, “You’re not from the Census Bureau or from Social Security. I got this.”


Loretta Dotson
6.30.2016
This is Love

I love you, no, I love the way you respect others.

I love you, no, I love your calm attitude.

I love you, no, I love the way you listen so attentively to my conversations.

I love you, no, I love the way you take time to explain different situations to children and others.

I love you, no, I love your calmness in handing serious issues.

I love you, no, I love the way you look in my eyes and promise me the moon.

Guess what? I really do love you.


Norman Cain
6.16.2016
Re-Uniting With Friends

Fortunately, this past Sunday, I was reunited with a couple that I had lost contact with fifteen years ago.

Several years ago, I was reunited with a man whom I considered my friend after not seeing him for fifteen years.

Sometimes, I have dreams about friends who have made transitions. I feel that being re-united with lost friends is not a matter of happenstance; but rather the result of divine intervention.

It is always good to be re-united with old friends.


Joan Bunting
5.26.2016
I’m So Excited

The best day of my life so far is today. Why? Because we have two new visitors from India.

That’s what’s exciting about being a part of the storytelling and writing group.

We not only listen to funny, historical, serious, and sometimes sad stories, but we also get to meet different people from various walks of life.

I’m really excited to hear what they have written.

Maybe I’ll learn something new about India and if not, it’ll still be exciting – for their just being here and hope they come again.

Welcome, hope you enjoy being with us.


Kadambari Mishra – Volunteer
5.26.2016
Thoughts of Gratitude

As I sit down, invoking words to put them to paper, waiting for revelations, for something meaningful…

I realize that the best sanctuary for my being – my thoughts – are my most loyal companions.

They would not desert me like the sun does on overcast day…

They would not leave my side like a busy partner keeping the hearth aglow…

They would, silently, sit by, stand along, sleep beside me like air does with his beloved earth – invisible, necessary, undermining, forever giving.

And as I write these lines in their praise, their promise grows stronger to come to my rescue whenever I call upon them, whenever I am looking for revelations.


Neha Kataruka – Volunteer
5.26.2016
Untitled

In 2015, when I moved to New York (city of diversity), I joined a social organization (New York Cares) as a volunteer. That was the best experience of my life. I really liked the concept of that organization and am wishing to start a similar type of organization in India as diversity there is no such social organization running over there.

I have always been socially conscious. In India also. I have worked in an NGO of physically challenged and mentally retarded students for 3 year. The things that I have learned after getting involved in a social sector are:

1.    It has helped me in developing the leadership skills as everyone is encouraged to put forward their own ideas and suggestions.
2.    It has helped me build a good social network,
3.    It has helped me be open-minded as now I am able to see the impact of small changes/development.


Jana Henry – Volunteer
5.26.2016
Happy Birthday

While I laid in bed last night, I realized it was way past my bedtime and the days had changed to May 26th 2016. My Granny would be 101 years old today. I was going to make a 7-up cake in her honor, but I’m trying to watch how much sugar I consume.

My Granny was my best friend. We spoke without speaking. I valued that - the closeness of silence. Just being in each others presence. We would bake, walk the neighborhood, go on adventures.

I think about how if I could just be half the woman she was, I’d be on my way to heavenly home where I’m sure to meet her again.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Elliot, Frances, Edward, Norman (Black Lives Matter Here)

Here, black lives have always mattered and always will. Our group, which meets weekly at Philadelphia Senior Center, is the first ever Best Day of My Life So Far group, and it just so happens that Philadelphia's population is 44% African American. Many of our older adult buds who have become my closest friends over the years are African American, and over the years, they have bared their souls to my volunteers and me about how it feels to be black. In light of the chilling #blacklivesmatter events in Dallas and Baton Rouge, I find myself thinking back about some of the conversations and stories. I want to thank Cailtin especially for going through our archives and curating this set of stories.


Elliot Doomes
12.18.2014
The Herd

I grew up with the “herd” mentality. There was a group of guys – myself included – who used to band together, which gave us camaraderie and protection.

When we left our neighborhood, we had to travel with the herd for individual as well as group protection. I would do just about everything and anything to protect the herd. There was no leader. We were all there for each other. That’s why I call it the herd.

There were many days when I was surrounded by violence and aggression. I have been shot, stabbed and ganged. And there was no police protection for me at that time, especially in certain neighborhoods because they just didn’t care.

I have been told by the police, “I don’t want to see you in this neighborhood.” It was because of my skin color. This was in Philadelphia. This stuff wasn’t just happening in Alabama. For example, I was afraid to go to certain schools and certain parts of the city because of the racial conflicts that were happening at that time. One place in particular – Southern High School at Broad and Snyder – is still there today.

If I had a fight with a white boy at the end of the school day, all his uncles would meet me outside, grown men. My older brother went there so I had to get the herd together to go down there, to make sure he was safe. He was older but I protected him, because he was so outnumbered there. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t actually in a fight. When the men showed up, they were just looking for the first black kid. Just guys, they didn’t bother the girls. Any black guy. They called it setting an example. It worked.

Elliot Doomes
10.09.2014
My Opinion

I get tired of hearing people say, "This is not a perfect world." There's nothing that we need that we can't find in this world that we live in. We have water, we have food, we have sunshine, we have shelter provided by the earth. For me, that makes the world perfect because we have everything we need.

The only imperfect thing about this world is the people in it. The people no longer see each other as people being a part of the whole. People look at the differences between people. We don't perceive each other as human beings sharing this perfect world. We don't think of other people as being a part of you, or a part of us, or a part of me. From human being to human being, what hurts me hurts you, so why do we want to inflict pain on each other?

Most people see differences in people from other nationalities. We all breathe, we all defecate, we all bleed, so where's the difference? Ignorance is the only word I can use. The differences come from our individual perceptions, which are based upon our own ignorance. If I don't communicate with you and you don’t communicate with me, we will never understand each other.

Most times if we understand each other, we will find that we both aspire to the same things. We all want to be happy. We all want to have freedom. We all want to love somebody. We all want to be loved by somebody. We all want to have a loving family. We all want to provide for our family. We all want our grandchildren to think we walk on water. Because they love me and we love them. You and I are the same. The differences are in our minds.

Frances Bryce
7.24.14
Conditioning

In 1965, I was living in Phila, Pa and went to visit my father who lived in a small town in South Carolina. I accompanied my father for his annual checkup to his doctor’s office. Two waiting rooms were still in use; one had been used excessively for white patients – the other for colored people. The outlines for the signs were still visible over the doors.

The large room was paneled with checkered red and mint green. Baskets of flowers and plants aligned the tables and the cabinets. A beautiful fern plant cascaded over the receptionist’s desk. The latest editions of Life, Family, Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents’ Magazines were neatly lined on a table. Bright lights illuminated the room. There were plenty of comfortable seats. This room was formally available to white patients only.

The other waiting room was small and windowless, dimly lit, and painted a drab gray. Ten dog-eared copies of Life and Ebony magazines sprawled out on the table. Draught-backed chairs lined the wall. This room had been the waiting room for the colored patients.

I entered the cheerful room, my father hesitated, and then reluctantly followed. I was not too surprised to see that most of the colored patients gravitated to the room that they had been required to use before desegregation.

My father said, “This room is nice.”

“Dad, you have never been to this room before?”

“No, Baby, I just always used our waiting room.” He thought for a while and then spoke again. “You know I never thought about using this room.”

I reached out for his hand and patted it gently. I spoke to no one in particular. “The signs have been removed from the doors but they have yet to be removed from the mind.” We picked up a magazine to read and waited to see his doctor.

Norman Cain
7.18.2014
Defending and Respecting Dr. Martin Luther King

During the fall of 1967, when I was a cadet at the United States Army military police school at Fort Gordon, Georgia, at least 70% of the training consisted of classroom instruction.

One day, a 2nd L.t., who was teach a civics class told the class: "Martin Luther King is a communist, an enemy of the United States of America.

Believing that he was not aware who Reverend King was and what he stood for, I immediately arose from my desk, stood at attention, and sharply saluted the L.t. Then I began to speak.

"Sir, with all due respect," I said, "Reverend King is not a communist. He is just trying to get the rights that the Negroes are entitled to."

No one said anything. There was silence. After a while, the L.t. proceeding with his lecture. I assume that my statement had been respected.

Several days after the preceding incident, I was assigned to Kitchen Patrol or K.P. Now this was unusual because I had already served my required one time on K.P. I surmised that the company was short-handed, I was wrong. My being assigned to extra K.P. wasn't just for a day.

I was assigned to K.P. for ten straight days. I was awakened at 4:30am. I reported to the kitchen at 6am. I peeled potatoes, and sliced onions, shucked corn, and made salads, washed dishes and mopped floors and did a variety of other tedious tasks until at least 9pm. For sixteen hours a day, I had to toil unmercifully. And if that was not enough, I had to endure the harassment of the mess sergeants.

For ten days, I missed military police training. My superious refused to give me make-up work for my missed classes. It never dawned upon me that saying Dr. Martin Luther King was not a communist was the cause of the dilemma that I was experiencing.

I was dismissed from my K.P. duties the day of the final examination. Although I had missed ten days of instruction, I felt that I had, at least, barely passed the test. However, I was mistaken. I was informed that out of the 300 cadets in my class, I had ranked 298 on the final exam.

I had flunked out of military police school. I was devastated. I did not know what the future held for me. I was worried. Several days after the test, I was informed that the company commander wanted to see me. I had something else to worry about.

Attempting to maintain my composure, I entered the company office. Inwardly shaking, I faced and saluted the captain, a tall lean wirily individual who was quite the dandy. His boots were brilliantly shined and his pants were sharply tailored and pressed. He, unlike the other personnel, wore a battle helmet and carried a swagger stick (tip down). He drove throughout the post in a red convertible that always contained an attractive blond. He was meticulous, not vain. He was likable, a trait that most commissioned and non-commissioned officers lacked.

"Private Cain" he barked in an unfamiliar hostile voice. "Are you trying some trick?" He stared me down. I could read anger in his eyes. This was not the likable and cool company commander that I had grown to know.

"No sir." I answered, wondering what he meant by assuming that I was trying to be tricky.

"You got the second lowest score on the final examination." By his tone I knew he wanted a verbal response.

"Yes sir" was all I could think of to say. I was literally shaken up inside.

"I think you are trying some kind of trick and I am going to get to the bottom of what you are trying to do." He said, "When you first got here, I recruited you for officer's training school, explained to you that there were too few black officers in the Army. You said that you were going to sign up, but you didn't. I didn't give you a command but I thought we had a gentlemen's agreement. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Sir," I said, "When the recruiting officer opened the door and saw me, he slammed the door in my face."

The captain's stern look softened for a second. "What about this low test score of yours?" he asked. "You finished college, was in graduate school part-time, taught school and was accepted by the Peace Corp. How could you flunk the final examination?"

"Sir, I did not go to classes for ten straight days."

"What, why?" he asked. By the tone of his voice I could tell he was astonished.

"I was on K.P. for ten days." I answered.

"You were on K.P. for ten days?"

"Yes."

Norman Cain
7.24.2014
Defending and Respecting Dr. Martin Luther King (Part 2)

In 1965, I defended Dr. Kin's honor, when as a cadet in the military police academy in Fort Gordon, Georgia, I corrected an officer who said that Dr. King was a community. I never regretted the dire consequence the Army gave me for defending Dr. King's name.

Ten years after the Fort Gordon affair (1975), when I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, an incident occurred that prompted me to respect the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. The incident in question began one spring night when I injured my left wrist, which I assumed was sprained.

When I arrived at Grady memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta, four doctors attended to me. Because I had been employed as a surgical and orthopedic orderly at the Middlesex hospital in Middletown, Conn, years earlier, I had knowledge of orthopedic procedures.

I felt that only two (not four) doctors were needed to attend to me. After looking at my wrist, the doctors huddled, conferred and then returned to me. One doctor yanked my wrist. My entire left arm was set in a cask.

I had the feeling that the four doctors had conspired to experiment on my wrist. Like, I said I had worked as an orthopedic orderly. I had often held appendages in certain positions when doctors placed plaster on patients. I remained in Grady Memorial hospital for a week.

After being discharged from the hospital, my arm itched constantly, but I was unable to scratch because of the cask that covered it. I couldn't work. I had to worry about eating and paying the rent on the efficiency that I was renting. I went to the Unemployment office to file a claim, but was told that I didn't qualify for benefits; because those on unemployment compensation were required to seek employment and if an ailment or physical situation would prevent one from being hired by a prospective employer, unemployment compensation was out of the question. I was told, however, than an overdue Philadelphia claim that I had initiated months earlier would be activated. I accepted the disheartening/good news without an argument; however my calmness soon evaporated.

When I was on my way out of the Unemployment office, I overheard the case worker who had interviewed me tell a co-worker my situation. They laughed. How can people, especially those who held a position to help others, be so insensitive? I lost it, I read the culprits the "Riot Act." They called for security. I was not in the position to remain in the office, so I left.

What was I to do? In addition to being broke and hungry, I was worried about paying my rent and could not scratch the constant itching of my arm because it was covered with the plastered cask. That night, I decided to go to the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King to meditate. When I arrived, no one was there. I sat on a concrete bench which was in front of a pool. Dr. King's tomb (which set behind an eternal flame) was located in the center of the pool.

The inscription on the base of the tomb read: "The eternal flame symbolizes the continuing effort to realize Dr. King's ideals for the 'Beloved Community' which requires lasting personal commitment that cannot weaken when faced with obstacles."

I could not be weakened because of the obstacle that I found myself in. I could have gotten enough money for a decent meal to quench my hunger, for resting at the bottom of the pool were an array of coins that visitors had thrown in for "Good Luck." But, I could not weaken when faced with obstacles.

Although I was broke and hungry, I did  not think about wading in the pool and confiscating some of the coins. I stayed at the tomb for two or more hours. My mind was clear. It was not burdened by my problems.  It was the realm of a spiritual Peace. I had never experienced the feeling of serenity that had overcome me at Dr. King's tomb. That night, I developed a plan that I instantly knew would solve my problem.

I knew that men were not given welfare in Atlanta in 1975; however, the day after the night that I had meditated at Dr. King's tomb, I went to the welfare office anyway. I was interviewed by a nice caseworker who showed sympathy. She told me that unemployment caseworkers should have sent me to see her and while men did  not get welfare in Atlanta, she was going to make an exception in my case.

She game the some paperwork and instructed me to go to the welfare office in my district. Ironically, I was sent to an office that was named after Dr. King's name – and which was located within a block of his tomb.

When I arrived at my destination, I was greeted by another nice caseworker who not only informed me that my first check and food stamps would arrive within a week, but gave me enough money to purchase a meal as well. Things were looking up, but there was still another obstacle facing me.

A month after receiving my welfare grant, I reported to the hospital to have my cast removed. The same four doctors that were present when the cast was placed on my arm were present. As the cast was being removed from my arm, I intensely studied each of their faces. When the cast was removed, I saw that they were deeply disappointed. Their experiment (at my expense) had failed. They did not give me an appointment to have the pins removed from my wrist. They just left the room without uttering a word.

I spent the next month constantly going to the hospital to have the pins removed from my wrist. I was always given the "run-around". I chose not to return to Philadelphia for the operation. I did not have insurance and the Philadelphia General Hospital, which had been a public hospital, was closed. Finally I was given an appointment to have the pins removed from my arm.

When I entered the operating room, I immediately felt at ease, for the orthopedic surgeon and his two scrub nurses projected an aura of peace. I was not put to sleep during the procedure; I was, rather, heavily sedated. During the operation, I had a heartwarming conversation with the young doctor. He was from Brooklyn, New York, was familiar with Philadelphia landmarks, and spoke fondly of Foo Foo's Steak shop, that at the time, was located at 52nd and Locust Street.

Several weeks after my operation, I received my long overdue unemployment checks and returned to Philadelphia. I truly believed that if I had taken money from the pool that housed Dr. King's tomb, my ordeal in Atlanta would have been prolonged. Taking money from his tomb would have made me a grave robber.

I will always respect and defend the legacy of Doctor Martin Luther King.


At that point, the captain called for the first sergeant, who was directly responsible for the "day-to-day" activities of the recruits to come into the main office. When he arrived, the captain directed him to stand at attention.

The captain began to spiel x-rated language to the first sergeant. He definitely let the sergeant known that he had been irresponsible in the performance of his duties. Finally, the captain dismissed the first sergeant. He then told me that I still had to respect the first sergeant, and he assured me that I would be sent to another company for three weeks and thereby, be able to fulfill graduation requirements. He sincerely wished me luck.

When I completed the three additional weeks, I was told that I had received the second highest grade on the final examination. Perhaps I never flunked the first examination. Perhaps I had received the highest score in the class on the second examination. Only the army personnel involved knew.

By troubles, which started when I proclaimed that Reverend Martin Luther King was not a communist did not end with my graduating from the military police academy. Seemingly, my pay records mysteriously disappeared and for my first six months in Panama, my permanent duty station, I was not paid.

I survived by depleting the $400.00 I had saved in Philadelphia's Continental Bank. To say the least, my experience in military school was prejudiced to core. It was initiated by my defending Dr. Martin Luther King, something I have no regrets for doing something I will always do; He gave his live for his dream of unity and freedom.

Edward Molizone
12.11.2014
Life

Born illiterate, teachers never taught you about reading or writing. Teachers never took the time to help you with learning. In the 1930’s, teachers never showed special attention, just passed you by. Born before the Civil Rights Era. They could read and write, my sisters and brothers. My sisters would help me, but there is still a fear to read and write in front of people. Parent’s didn’t know I couldn’t read or write. Always had a job and retired just a few years ago. My kids don’t even know I can’t read. When I was sick with cancer I thought I wouldn’t make it and it would be a secret I would die with. I do believe my children would be hurt if the found out. I always encouraged my kids to finish school. I found out at a very late age that my birth certificate said I was white. My father was white but my mother was not. This was a shock to me.

Elliot Doomes
10.09.2014
My Opinion

I get tired of hearing people say, "This is not a perfect world." There's nothing that we need that we can't find in this world that we live in. We have water, we have food, we have sunshine, we have shelter provided by the earth. For me, that makes the world perfect because we have everything we need.

The only imperfect thing about this world is the people in it. The people no longer see each other as people being a part of the whole. People look at the differences between people. We don't perceive each other as human beings sharing this perfect world. We don't think of other people as being a part of you, or a part of us, or a part of me. From human being to human being, what hurts me hurts you, so why do we want to inflict pain on each other?

Most people see differences in people from other nationalities. We all breathe, we all defecate, we all bleed, so where's the difference? Ignorance is the only word I can use. The differences come from our individual perceptions, which are based upon our own ignorance. If I don't communicate with you and you don’t communicate with me, we will never understand each other.

Most times if we understand each other, we will find that we both aspire to the same things. We all want to be happy. We all want to have freedom. We all want to love somebody. We all want to be loved by somebody. We all want to have a loving family. We all want to provide for our family. We all want our grandchildren to think we walk on water. Because they love me and we love them. You and I are the same. The differences are in our minds.