Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spotlight (Mike, Eliot and Dolores)

I don't usually talk about myself on this blog, because the focus is on the older buds; but every rule has an exception. Last Saturday, I joined a 24 Hour Playwriting competition where 6 groups have to write, rehearse, and perform a short place within 24 hours. I'm a member of the organization that sponsored this competition, so I knew how important ticket sales would be to the future of this event. I asked everyone I knew to come to this play: friends, family, co-workers, even the older buds and volunteers of Best Day. I knew that not everyone would make it, but imagine my glee when I saw none other than Dolores Wilson and Michael M. Tsuei! And they each brought one friend! And she got me this beautiful bouquet for the show! Best Day Volunteer also showed up for the show, so naturally I started taking senior selfies!

As a thank you to both of them, Mike and Dolores' stories will be in the spotlight this week, along with Elliot Doomes. I've included Elliot in this week's post because both he and Mike have asked me to feature their stories on this blog so their families can read them. Ask, and ye shall receive.

Michael Tsuei 
Declared Independent 

Recently in the world news, most talk about the Catalonia State. Declare independence from Spain. The Constitutional Crisis in Spain had shaken the common currency and his Spanish stock and bonds. I am today against the idea of Catalonian-self declare the independent with no policy for after the independence. The economy, mentally, socially, how to take care of their so-called counting Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said earlier he would ask the regime’s parliament to declare independence following the poll, which the Spain government own Constitutional Court say was illegal and in which only a minority of Catalane voted; in fact only 42% vote out of the population. Even 90% voted ‘yes’ for separation from Spain but 58% did not vote for independence from Spain so by my opinion, it's very wrong for any group of people and any areas fill to point from the country should never be allowed for the inside, the Puerto Ricans have been asking for independence from US group Seperator. Trying very hard to get their ideas thought the people, how after the recent financial crisis, Puerto Rich facing bankruptcy. Now the several hurricanes hit the island very hard, 95% of fields and the power facility all wiped out by the hurricane. Now, Puerto Rico said the US did not help them like they did for Texas and Louisiana, no one talks about independent instant majority people want to join the US to be a statehood so centuries of change with circumstant change. When the reality hit you right on!!

Elliot Doomes

People are always saying things like “When I die” and this and that, but I can’t see myself dying; Ever. I have a beautiful daughter and four lovely grandchildren. My daughter Cynthia has four children: Angie, Dante, Asia, and Amber. And these children are part of her and she is a part of me. So everything that derived from her is a part of me. And everything that derives from her children are a part of me still. A part of me lives in all of them. As long as they exist, and everything that derives from them is a part of me also. So how can I die when I live within all of them? So death, where is they sting? I will never die.

Dolores Wilson 
Back to the Future 

I’m in awe of the artifacts that I saw at the American African Museum. I was taken back to the future.
The story of our journey to America and in America, was empowering for me. 
Once again, I was reminded, no person, place or thing, defines who I am, but God. It witnessed many diverse attendees that were captivated by what they hear and saw.
I feel a need to revisit the museum again to embrace the beauty of our Black history.

Finally, as promised last week, here is Stephanie's Senior Selfie!

Thank you so much to everyone supporting me, this blog, and The Best Day of My Life (So Far.) We couldn't have done it without you!
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Year of W.E.B. duBois (Norman)

This past Tuesday, I gave older bud Norman a call asking for details on a future blog post. When he picked up, he apologized for missing the last and current week of Best Day...because he was working on a symposium devoted to W. E. B. Du Bois! For those of you who don't know, W. E. B. Du Bois was a sociologist, historian and civil rights activist during the early 20th Century. He's know for having popularized Frederick Douglass' phrase "the color line," co-founding the NAACP, and writing lots of books and studies on the Black populations of America. One of his books, The Philadelphia Negro: Past and Present, is the focus of the symposium Norman will be attending. I mention this not just because of Norman's involvement, but because the Philadelphia Senior Center is based in South Philadelphia. Many Southern Philadelphians, including members of the PSC, had grandparents who lived during W. E. B. du Bois' study of Philadelphia. So they'll be going to this symposium to share their grandparents stories as well! Also, Philadelphia will be hosting events in honor of W. E. B. Du Bois for the entirety of 2018. Click here for more information.

Norman, we'll miss you, but we know you'll have lots of amazing stories when you come back. In the meantime, here's an absolutely incredible story Norman wrote back in January. Brittanie Sterner from the Free Library of Philadelphia will recognize this one! 

Norman Cain 
The Young Jail Birds 

One pleasant afternoon in the Spring of 1953, when I was 11 years old, my crew and I at the suspension of this guy Benny, decided to leave our neighborhood and walk ten blocks to “Father Devine’s Mission” to play basketball in the mission’s gym. The idea was not a good one for two reasons: (1) we had to go through several hostile neighborhoods; (2) The guys Bunny (who was 2 or 3 years older than us) behaved as if he was our boss. He should have been associated with guys in his age group, he was always leading us into detrimental situations.
After walking, long, long blocks, we reached our destination without incident. However, the gym was closed. On our way back to our neighborhood, we had to cross an overpass above a railroad yard. On the edge of the overpass were several crates of 1-qt milk bottles – all glass. Remember, this story took place in 1953, years before the advent of plastic containers designed to hold liquids. The guy, Bunny, who like I said was years older than our crew and who was the one that subjected our journey – began to pasture.
He just had to demonstrate his mistaken intelligence. He began to count the bottles. Before he finished, we saw a police car turn the corner. Although we had done nothing wrong, we ran. Being a slow runner, I was at the end of the back. After we had run ¾ or less of a block, all of the guys, except me, jumped under a car. I kept running, only to be picked up by the police and placed in the car with the other 4 members of our crew. It was an adventure gone awry. When the policemen asked Bunny why he was counting the milk bottles, he replied, “You know how boys are.” I think Bunny had been influenced by the television sitcom, “Father Knows Best” and the characters and situations found in Archie comic books. 
We did not ask what we had done to be in police custody. We silently huddled in the back seat of the police van wondering what the outcome of our adventure would be. We realized that we were en route to the 39th district police station at 39th and Lancaster Avenue. 
When the police car passed Lancaster Avenue and Aspen Street, which was within the boundaries of our neighborhood, we tried to shrink – make ourselves invisible, we did not want to be seen by those who knew us; we would have never been able to eliminate the stigma of being in the custody of the police
When we reached the 39th district, we were placed in a cell. We still did not know what crime we had committed. Incidentally, we had been jokingly placed by a group of good humored police in the exact cell a year earlier during an open house event which commemorated the opening of a new 39th district police precinct. This was different; however, we did not panic, actually we were in a jovial state. Within 15 minutes, one of the arresting officers came to our cell and asked us who was turning on the fire ply in our neighborhood? We told him we didn’t know. Why tell on yourself? Especially when you are in a jail cell. The officer said we were taken to jail because we had been suspected of throwing stones and milk bottles at the trains from the overpass from which the officers first spotted us. We were allowed to go. When we got back to our neighborhood, we vowed to never tell of our scary adventure.

P.S. We did take a senior selfie this week, but one someone else's camera. I haven't gotten the picture yet, but I should have it by next week!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Power (Joan)

If you don’t live in the Delaware County, Greater Philadelphia, or anywhere near those places, then you might not know about the storm that hit us on Friday. The weather was blustery, the snowfall was fierce, and several trees were uprooted. I only just got my power back yesterday, but many of us are still without power. If you have power and but your friends and family don’t, please check up on them and make sure they have someplace warm to stay; maybe even offer your place. It’s been a rough weekend.

But if you have internet and a warm place to stay, here’s a little something to warm your soul. Last week, Joan was singing in a Black History Month Concert, with a selection of Gospel Music. They were so good that they got a standing ovation in the middle of their song! And another one at the end of course, with loads of affirmations and applause throughout the rest of the concert too. The pianist was Christopher Gambrell, (you can find him on iTunes here) and he was talking about how proud he was that Black Panther was doing so well because he grew up with Chadwick Boseman. Wakanda forever!

He also said that the financial success of Black Panther was due to the brothers and sisters all over America, and that it “showed the world that we have money.” I was surprised by that statement until he talked about how Black people are stereotyped as being poor. Unfortunately, it’s all to easy to associate Black people with the ghetto, when their lives and lifestyles are just as varied as anyone else’s. This is another prejudice we need to look out for.

But on a more positive note, you know how when Gospel choirs sing, the listeners get the spirit in them? There was one woman in the front row who had enough spirit for the whole auditorium. Every time a new song started, she'd say "Go on! Start singing that song!" At the end of one of the songs, she said, "Yeah! That choir's all right," and the host turned to her and asked "How you like that?" She liked it a lot, and I'll bet the choir liked her a lot too.

Joan Bunting 
How Do You Treat Others? 

Why do people teat others so mean and disrespectful? There are a number of reasons why that could be.
  1. 1. People were raised up in a disrupted household.  
    2. Some people feel that they have to prove to others or everyone that they’re tough.  
    3. Some may have been treated badly by those they thought were their friends.  
    4. Others may have never heard of or were taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I truly believe that if lots of people were aware of the rule, there wouldn’t be so much meanness, disrespectfulness, or inconsideration of others.
The there are those that just don’t care how they treat or speak to others. 
Is it really hard to speak kindly, smile, or say hello to another human being?
The most important reason to me as to why people act hostile to others is that they do not have the love of God in them. God is love. He loves everyone regardless of who we are, even how we are, or whatever we’ve done throughout our lives.
Why can’t we just all get along?

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, March 1, 2018

College Days (Norman and Joe)

One of the good things about Best Day is that it takes place on a weekday: perfect for retirees looking for activities to fill up their formerly full nine-to-five slots. The downside is that many people who would otherwise be interested in volunteering can’t take the time off to do so. I'm lucky enough to be able to have a job that allows me to facilitate on Thursdays, but as a 27-year-old that makes me an anomaly. On the plus side, there is one group who is always ready, willing, and able to volunteer on the weekdays: college kids. College kids tend to have flexible class schedules to begin with, and many of them are already looking for volunteering opportunities. Many of my fellow facilitators came to Best Day during their college years themselves.


A special thank you goes out to La Salle University, who hosted a lunch and writing workshop based on the history of Philadelphia. Our older buds got to lunch with loads of La Salle's history and anthropology majors, as well as several undeclared but not unenthusiastic undergrads. Afterwards, they shared their favorite stories about their life in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia outside the textbooks and Wikipedia articles. It was one of my proudest moments at Best Day, and I've wanted to do another workshop like that ever since. You can read more about our workshop at La Salle here and here.

And yet another shout out goes to Temple University, since I heard they will be sending us interested college students themselves. One of them, by the name of Stephanie, is an intern at the Philadelphia Senior Center. Last week she sat in on one of our sessions so she could tell interested college students what we were all about. It looked like she really enjoyed herself, and the older buds loved her too. Eugene and I both took Senior Selfies last week, but Stephanie opted out. Perhaps another week...

So without further ado, please enjoy this collection of college-themed stories!

Joe Garrison 
School Days 

I had been out of high school for a few years, and the idea of going back to a classroom was a little intimidating. I was a little nervous but I thought maybe I’ll give it a try. 

I prepared myself for the first day. It was a new experience because I was the only sightless person. On the first day, I walked in and introduced myself. People asked, “How is he going to keep up? Take notes? Survive in the class?” One particular fellow who was sitting next to me had a really surly attitude. He said, “Do you expect us to take care of you? To help you, write your notes?” I said to him, “I never asked you to help me. I can hold my own and keep up.” Another lady was the opposite of this man. We became friends. She helped me out, took some notes and we were friends outside of class. 

People always pre-judge. All that man could see was that I was sightless and he judged me. I maintained an “A” average in my classes. I had my text books on tape. I hated Algebra though I took other math classes, but Algebra was the worst.  

I found my way around the school. I knew where to go on campus. I took the bus and sometimes my friend would drive me home. I loved my music history class. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We learned about music from the medieval period to rock and roll! I imparted some of my knowledge to the instructor! She gave me an A+! 

I enjoyed my experience at Philadelphia Community College. 

Norman Cain 
My College Years at Bluefield State 

When I arrived on the campus of Bluefield State College, a small Historical Black College and University, located in the city of Bluefield, West Virginia during the semester break in January 1961, I was highly disappointed for several reasons. First, I expected a larger campus, certainly nowhere as large as Temple, Penn or Drexel; but nevertheless, a campus more vast, a campus with more buildings. Secondly, I expected to see students dressed in the ivy league mode (loafers, recreational bucks, newsboys hats, khakis, rain coats, button down shirts) opposed to fashionable party wear. Truth be told, I was equating my initial impression of the campus with what I had seen of the large Philadelphia campuses. 

As I stated earlier, I arrived on campus during the semester break. There were no females present. There were around 30 males, some of whom where Korean era veterans. As the only true freshman on campus, I was subjected to light silly hazing, a custom on campuses during the period, which I found to be entertaining, until the students who had spent semester break off-campus returned. For me, freshmen hazing was over.  I let the upper-classmen know that fact. They reluctantly left me alone. There was no way that I was going to be embarrassed in front of those lovely coeds whose presence had me forget about what I thought the short comings of the campus were. My college life had begun. Four years of study, dances, love affairs, pranks, highs, lows, camaraderie, dormitory life, civil rights demonstrations. 

During my first semester, I did well in my history class, I struggled with remedial English, a class taught by a young professor who took me under her wing. Once, after reading my essay that I had written, she informed the class that while I needed to gain a mastery of grammar, I, nonetheless, had an idea about the nuances of creative writing. I was surprised when I received my first college transcript. While I thought I was going to be placed on academic probation, I received a grade point average of 2.17. I was elated. I felt that, perhaps, I could manage to navigate my way through college. During the second semester of my freshman year, I again, did well in history and received an “A” in sociology, English Literature, and Public Speaking, a class in which, I was amongst a few who were selevted to participate in a workshop designed for those that showed an aptitude for oration. 

In order to increase my grade point average, I enrolled in a summer accelerated constitution class at Cheyney State College in Cheyney Pennsylvania (which had turned me down for admission) and received an “A”. By the time I was a second semester sophomore, my grade point average was 2.38. That average allowed me to become eligible to pledge for the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. I became president of the pledge club and secretary and Dean of pledges for the fraternity. I was always the master of ceremonies when the fraternity held academic functions. During my senior year I became vice president of the inter-fraternal counsel. 

In addition to having become a visible fraternity leader, I also became a civil rights organizer and president and founder of the poetry society. In my senior year, I received an “A” in Advanced English Grammar. I accomplished this feat without purchasing the text. Evidently, I had come a long way from being chronically shy, learning disabled, and low self-esteemed individual. 

I can truly say that my sophomore year in college was the year that convinced me that I could overcome all obstacles if I persevered, believed in myself and worked hard. I realized that I was not stupid. I began to verbalize. I began to assume campus leadership positions. Attending a HBCU, which in the early sixties were institutions where the students’ administrators and faculty were close knit – like an extended family, was a plus. Some instructors realized that I was not equipped for college study, but because they saw that I was trying heard, they helped me. They would have me do chores for them: rake leaves, shovel snow, paint, clean house, run errands, etc. After completing shores, they would give me a meal, private tutoring for several hours and pay. 

On the two occasions when I was unable to pay for boarding, the administration did not send me a bill. When a local graduate sorority chapter, one whose members were overwhelmingly, alumnus of Bluefield State College, found out that I was financially strapped, they gave me a stipend. When I did not have $25.00 to purchase my teaching certificate, a group of female students made sure that I had the money I needed. My four year tenure at Bluefield State College taught me an important lesson: if one desired something badly enough, perseverance would deliver it. I spent four wonderful years there. My last night on the campus a Bluefield State College was a spontaneous time of ritualizing for a few of the students that had completed the summer session. I remember how on that pleasantly warm mid-August evening we gathered in front of the girls dormitory and commenced to sing all of our colleges fight songs, the school’s hymn, as well as an array of the sorority and fraternity songs.  

I felt like a physical sensation in the form of stupendous school spirit had engulfed me. Exhausted, we spent several hours conversing. I spoke and heard about the past incidents that happened on the campus. I wanted to stay in the group forever. I do not know how long we were engaged in this ritual or when I retired to the men’s dormitory for the last time. I could not sleep. I thought about what had transpired in my life during the last four years that I matriculated at the college and what the future held for me.  

I recalled how I had entered the college as an unprepared freshman but had blossomed into a campus leader – a big fish in a small pond if you will. I thought of how my becoming the founder and president of the poetry society, secretary and designated master of ceremonies of my fraternity, vice president of the inter fraternal council, speech writer for the eventual schools student body president and civil rights designated chaplain and leader could not have been accomplished without the support of the administration, faculty, and student body. I was especially grateful for those faculty members who saw that I was trying and unselfishly extended themselves towards me. I thought about what the future had in store for me. Would I be drafted? Would I be able to get into grad school? Should I go to the Deep South and become a full time civil rights activist? Should I seek employment? The morning after the last night on campus, I moved into the future and never forgot my time as a mountaineer. In August 1964, I completed the requirements for Bachelors in Education. I majored in Social Studies and minored in English. While I entered Bluefield State as a student who was unprepared for the rigors of collegiate work: I nonetheless completed my course requirements a semester a head of time.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri