The “voices” of Black History

“Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery.” – Maya Angelou (poet, memoirist and civil rights activist)

“These children and their parents know that getting an education is not only their right, but a passport to a better future – for the children and for the country.” – Harry Belafonte (singer, songwriter, activist & actor; close confidant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of Freedom.” – George Washington Carver (most prominent black scientist of the 20th century)

“Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy.” – President Barack Obama (44th president of the US, first African American president)

“Education is transformational. It changes lives. That is why people work so hard to become educated and why education has always been the key to the American Dream, the force that erases arbitrary divisions of race and class and culture and unlocks every person’s God-given potential.” – Condoleeza Rice (66th Secretary of State of the US, first female African American Secretary of State)


 First step to reading, not what you see, what you hear

Just a couple days ago I was doing some work at a local coffee shop and a father and his maybe 3-year old daughter sat down at a table beside me. Just seeing a father and his daughter on a little daddy-daughter date warmed my heart, but what happened next was just awesome. They sat down across from each other, each with a drink and a pastry, you could tell she adored her father. It wasn’t long before Dad began to make conversation… “Lucy, are you enjoying your scone?”, “What do you like about it?”, “Lucy, is it cold or hot outside?”, “Is the sun out today Lucy?”, “Lucy, what is your favorite season”? The questions, answers and conversation continued vibrantly until I left. The interaction was touching and cute for sure but it’s conversations like these which are the initial and critical steps to Lucy becoming reading ready, a proficient reader, a reading lover and unstoppable in life. These conversations are building Lucy’s phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness in which listeners are able to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest mental units of sound that help to differentiate units of meaning. Separating the spoken word "cat" into three distinct phonemes, requires phonemic awareness. It requires readers to notice how letters represent sounds. It primes readers for print. It gives readers a way to approach sounding out and reading new words. It helps readers understand the alphabetic principle (that the letters in words are systematically represented by sounds). Lucy hears, Lucy talks, Lucy reads, Lucy succeeds! No matter the size of your companion, make the conversations BIG.


Outhouse sessions

My father, Bernie, Sr., grew up the son of two immigrants, in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.

His mother, Verna, was from Poland. His father, Peter, from Italy. Both arrived on a boat and processed through Ellis Island. There’s much about my father’s story to be blogged about, but this entry is about his family outhouse as my Dad didn’t have running water until he went to college. He was and continues to be a major influence in my life and I’m so grateful my Dad was my Dad. Verna lived in the house my father grew up in until she passed. It seems each time we went to visit Grandma, my Dad & I would end up standing at the site where his outhouse once stood, probably because my Dad was a smoker so he’d go outside periodically to smoke, I would follow to get some time with him. For some reason, I was intrigued by how my Dad grew up and I asked a lot of questions. It didn’t matter how old I was, we ended up there, at the site of the outhouse. I think about these sessions almost daily, with fondness. And, though I don’t believe my Dad was being strategic, these sessions, I believe, were the best thing my Dad ever did for me. They taught me two very important things. 1. This is where you come from, don’t ever forget it. 2. It doesn’t matter where you start, if you’re willing to dream and work your tail off, you can achieve anything your mind can imagine.


Enthusiastic about enthusiasm

It’s been said, “you can’t argue with enthusiasm”.

I believe I’ve always agreed with this statement but as of late, it’s become something I really appreciate. Watching someone really get into their craft with max effort and enthusiasm is refreshing, no matter what that craft might be. Whether it’s a singer, singing with vulnerability and passion, a preacher preaching from the deep depths of their soul, a scientist passionately exploring their interest or a surfer on a quest for the ultimate wave, it captivates me. Their enthusiasm draws me in, makes me more interested. Whatever your craft may be, do it with all of you, enthusiasm.


Let’s abolish the phrase, “Yeah, but”

Let me begin by saying, I’m guilty. But guilty of what? Saying “yeah, but”.

Recently, I referenced an episode of Ted Lasso where he talks about being curious, not judgmental. But how do we begin to do this given as humans, judging others seems inherent in our nature. Well, I have an idea. Let’s abolish the phrase, “yeah, but”. I would encourage you to start to listen for this phrase in daily conversations, whether it’s your conversations or the conversations of others. You might be surprised how often you hear it, especially these days. This phrase is kryptonite to curiosity. When we say “yeah, but”, we might as well be saying, “yeah, yeah, you might have a valid point of view, but I’m more interested in you hearing mine”. Could you be thinking “yeah, but” right now? To be candid, as I’ve started to be more aware of how often I want to say it or am thinking it, I realize how much work I need to do on myself. I’m abolishing “yeah, but” from my vocabulary “arsenal”. You with me?


Pig’s poop & onions

What? Yes, you read that correctly, pig’s poop & onions.

I realize how often I might reference my parents in my blog but to know me, is to know my parents, they shaped me. I feel so blessed to have parents who loved me. To be clear, when I say love, I’m not just talking about hugs, kisses and adoration, though I did get that too. I’m talking about love in the form of lessons. So, what about this pig’s poop & onions? Well, naturally, my brother and sister and I were curious about what we were having for dinner, who isn’t, right? I just wanted to make sure we were NOT having lima beans, ugh! Each time we asked, we got the same response from my mother, “pig’s poop & onions”. Huh? Obviously, we weren’t having that for dinner though I couldn’t help but wonder, “do people really eat that”? Here’s the love lesson: I was getting fed every night, I could count on it. And, it was going to be way better than pig’s poop & onions. Be grateful son.

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