A Time of Recognition Thursday, Feb 27 2014 

march-on-washington January 15 came and went. There were parades and tributes to Martin Luther King, Jr. We talked about having the dream – again. We moved on. I was buried in dealing with the biases of others that were stymieing my ability to realize my dream. So I did not publish a tribute to King. But I made many references to him and his causes in the various Comments posted to the different social media where I’m a member.

Then February and with it Black History Month became the current reality. Again, people talk about movies that deal with recognition of the Black contributions to the foundations and progress of our nation’s maturing into a place of freedom with real and equal civil rights. Throughout the month, there have been conversations in various social media about progress for Blacks, recognition of their struggle, the injustices suffered, the rising from the chains of slavery and injustice. I’ve had thoughts, some of which have been expressed through social media Comments. But as yet, there’s been no dedicated publication of mine that deals with Black History nor the progress of Blacks in the United States of America.

Today, after being saturated with so many perspectives and retrospectives and visions of the future, there are some things I need to say about Black History Month. These thoughts are expressed by necessity.

School Closed

Many dramatic movies were considered for Academy Awards (the Oscar) that tell the story of Black contributions to our country. The Butler tells us of how a pivotal, unsung Black servant brought sanity and distinction to the White House. Fruitvale Station shows us how one young man was wronged and then executed because of the color of his skin. The Long Walk to Freedom tells us of how patience and intelligence, if held for the long run, will eventually lead to redemption and freedom. And 12 Years a Slave shows us not only what travesties befall a person’s dignity through being treated as a non-human but how devastating the status of “slave” can be when it is wrongly saddled on an educated person who is law abiding and landed. It also shows us how the generic “slave” deals with their circumstances in order to survive.

Which of these dramas is deserving of the Oscar for any of the categories for which they’ve been nominated. Taken in totality, they show us that Life as a Black person is not comfortable. Even when there are distinguishable accomplishments, there were herculean endeavors to make those a reality. They might have been even greater had it not been for the many obstacles and setbacks that came along the way. They might have been even greater if the observing public knew of the instances when the Soldier of Black had to deal with being put in their place and forced in various ways to stay in their place.

Many of the Civil Rights Era images have been displayed on social media by those who want to acknowledge those times and, like me, those who lived in those times. Some watched TV news footage in numbed shock and young children and wondered how such things could be perpetrated on other human beings. Some were actually among those who suffered the hostilities in order to pry the Doors of Freedom open for humanity. And the Movement grew. Sit-In1_small

It’s significant that those who are part of this nation either by choice (immigration) or naturally (birth) seem to be denied the blanket of rights for which they strove to win its sovereignty and preserve it. It’s troubling to page through history and see the injustices rained upon the Japanese, the Native Americans, the Chinese, and all other races who deliberately served in the armed services and battle lines of many wars so that they could prove their loyalty because of their citizenship. Yet those pieces of discrimination are part of what made this land. It was only a matter of time before an organization such as the NAACP would spring up in order to address the wrongs. It’s also significant that the founders of the organization were not just Coloreds. So it’s inappropriate to pin the wrongdoings on one race just as it is inappropriate to make any type of generalization. But it still happens.

naacp-founders

There are rare stories of the Oklahoma town referred to as the Black Wall Street. The town’s name was Greenwood. It’s remembered for its affluence and grace as well as what is known in small circles as the Black Holocaust. Andrew Williams tells us that few know about Greenwood (no doubt because of the embarrassment of the matter) by explaining that “The events of the riot were long omitted from local and state histories. ‘The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place.’”

It’s refreshing to see that we have achieved a type of self consciousness about recognizing the plight of our downtrodden. In the last five years, increasing numbers of colored faces, particularly those of men, are appearing on news analysis, economic, political, and social programs as spokes persons. They are interviewed on such programs because they are the manager or the Ph.D. on the subject being discussed. They are tacitly held up and held out as knowledgeable in their subject area. And they prove themselves worthy of the distinction through their controlled, clear discussion of the topic with well enunciated words using proper grammar.

Television programs are less inclined these days to gratuitously show the bare chested Black man in order to allure viewers. And roles that depict an integrated couple but feature the Black husband in a cartoonish caricature aren’t enduring the ratings. But that’s also a signal of progress. Where misogyny was at one time against the law, the law is no longer valid and the interracial anything is making its way into being the norm. It’s simply a matter of depicting two people interacting with one another.

Have we made progress? There’s so much to consider; there’s so much more to be said. Perhaps all of us should evaluate and think before we answer that question.

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Passing of The Lion Monday, Dec 9 2013 

My appointment book memorializes not just future commitments in order to prevent the embarrassment of having the impossibility of double commitments occurring at the same time or too close to onset of one another. The appointment book also acts like a timesheet that preserves information about something that occurred at a particular time.

More importantly, my appointment book memorializes events that have become historic time stamps. The page for Thursday, December 5 at 1:00 PM, records in red ink, “Mandela died.”

Since that point in time, my mission has been to devote thoughts, recollections, influences, that became part of my awareness of Mandela the man, Mandela the leader, and Mandela the legend. Unfortunately, Life had other intentions for my time. Business matters took priority that developed ancillary necessities. Exigencies spontaneously grew out of expected successful conclusions. Thus, self-imposed feelings of guilt grew with each night that Fatigue replaced Writing Time. Additionally, the 50-year anniversaries of the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. imposed recollection of how those shocking events affected not only Americans but the world. Stacking the expanding issues that deflected attention from writing a tribute about Mandela were the various social media conversations, misconceptions, uninformed opinions, myths that purported to be informed information but proved to be hate mongering, unsupported, short sighted statements, and platitudes.

Those 50-year anniversaries were presented to us via the media by individuals who had only tangential (if any) contact with the events. They did not witness the stamping of history. However because of the importance of the events being remembered, they attempted to flagellate us into a frenzy about the significance of them. Is that what these collections of historic events will become? Attempts at being proud about the evidence of rising from the oppressive conditions become attempts to tell the tales. They aim to present the momentous significance but merely parrot the platitudes they’ve heard second and third hand and merely stand as substitutes for the pride and jubilant celebrations that are supposed to be had.

So here we are five days later. All that could possibly be said about Mandela the man, Mandela the leader, Mandela the legend have been televised, recited, discussed, and written. Images of his ex-wives, his widow, and some of his chilren have been shared with the rest of us. Interviews of people, White and Black, domestic and foreign, have been broadcast on all manner of programs. We have been advised of the plans for his lying in state leading up to his funeral. We have been informed about how The Lion felt during his developing years – his revolutionary years. There have been glimpses into how life was during his incarceration. We are told about his stoicism on release and his statesmanship in the negotiations for it. There are round tables about his challenge of making one country constituted of many races that feel passion for their country and breaking down the decades of the divisive racism that existed during the reign of apartheid.

In South Africa, there are celebrations because of the death of The Lion. Some find this odd. Those who are aware of the American Black practice of celebrating the life of one who has entered the Hereafter are able to understand. It isn’t a celebration because the person is dead. Instead, it’s a celebration that their mission has been completed with whatever successes have been achieved. It is a celebration of graduating from being a mere mortal who is subject to the many vagaries that challenge us to being among those who have risen above those challenges and into a more beautiful existence. Some achieve this at very tender ages while others have many purposes and missions to fulfill. Life does not end because of actuarial numbers but when the Master Craftsman says Death may become the possessor of the soul – but only the portion of the soul that may remain in that plane for the Master Craftsman has other, further intentions for the principal portions.

It is significant that the timing of certain events shape us and our thoughts. Those events enable us to see things more clearly. Those who are trainers and presenters should take note of those events as they develop their materials. It was in October that a discussion group was developed to study the book The New Jim Crow and the social impacts of jails overcrowded with Black men. It was a study of how Blacks in America are singled out and punished for even the slightest of matters and told they have so egregiously broken the rules that they must spend the remaining 40 to 60 years of their budding lives behind bars. They lose all rights of citizenship. They essentially become victims and unofficial slaves.

Close in timing was release of the movie “12 Years a Slave” that traces an actual account by a learned free man of his kidnap and being sold into slavery before the Civil War. We learn (or are reminded) of the conditions of that slavery and concomitant abrogation of citizen rights. Programs populate the public broadcast stations about the Civil Rights Movement and the many assaults Black citizens endured in order to make a more whole United States. Some who are paying attention to these history classes take note of how interrelated the subjects truly are and begin to appreciate the marginal progress that’s been made domestically. Additionally, appreciation of life under apartheid was for the native population.

Why have I not dedicated any time to actual writing of this tribute to Madiba until today? My emotions, like my time and attention, have been sucked out of me. Those social media conversations (so skewed and uninformed) ate much of my time spent reading and in search of non-existent enlightenment about him. Instead, I came away further drained but more aware of why America sinks into the mire of destructive rule under unenlightened Right Wing rhetoric. I deal with an increasing number of businesses striving for economic success by using some form of fraud and slipshod workmanship. I labor to educate myself about my own health maladies and then hold my breath when the time arrives that the situation is beyond my non-licensed abilities and must entrust my life and conditions to those who have been educated and licensed to do so. Those are just some of the reasons why these words are structured as they are and published today.

Today the many aspects of the man, Mandela, that taught the lessons about leadership, captivity, social and civil wrongs, forgiveness, striving to overcome oppression screamed for release. Today I was forced to come to grips with the antithesis of American Freedom and the apathy that fertilizes the American inertia. It made me want to scream. Looking at the life of Madiba causes a trickle of Hope to melt my jaded attitude, the callous perspective, and my personal numbness. The struggle for a healthy oneness isn’t subverted by one’s age nor passage of unproductive time. It only seems as though it’s been unproductive. The struggle is furthered by how many lessons have been presented and mastered.

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Surviving in a Fundamentalist Environment Tuesday, Oct 22 2013 

The issues related to The Shutdown are put to bed until January – when they’ll need to be revisited and hashed out again. We started getting nervous about how we as a nation would function and how we would derive the services (once taken for granted) to keep us a civilized place. We wondered how we would be able to survive without becoming homeless, bankrupt, hungry. How were we to send messages, ship goods, have our streets and rubbish handled, and many other things.

Then there was the matter of passports and clearances, licenses issued, and enforcement of laws. We take it for granted that there is a government and all of those matters will be handled by government.

But Wall Street kept ticking along as though there was full faith and credit even when we, as a population, did not see it. Of course! We could fall back to our fundamentalism and simply do these things for ourselves rather than wait on our parent government to supply the hand to empower.

There are two series on television that propose to show us what will happen when government dissolves and leaves us at our own means. Those shows are “Revolution” and “Under the Dome.” These both portray civilization devolving into savagery and warfare for the sake of waging war and killing. Few can trust anyone else. Deals are struck, but it’s a matter of what happens when the parties leave the room as to the endurance of the deal. Enforcement of the terms is a matter of who wins the next skirmish or battle.

Throughout all of the experiences of the citizens, no one is concerned about the simple things that make Life endurable. Who is making soap? Although they keep writing messages on sheets of paper and making signs, there’s no thought to how after 20 or more years that paper is still being produced, let alone ink for writing or sign making. No one is concerned about making new clothing, even though what existed 20 years ago has probably rotted by our introduction to the landscape. And what about toilet paper? Of course, for some reason there’s ample foliage so leaves are available.

Who is developing the chemicals to make medicines for the many health ailments? But then, in a land where it’s a matter of survival of the fittest, perhaps there is no longer a need for medicines. As cheap as life is is the times of these places, perhaps all those with ailments and disabilities were executed so they wouldn’t get in the way.

On Revolution, there is still heavy use of bullets. We’re not told how casings and powder are being produced in order to make new bullets. We’re not told how new guns are being manufactured. They’re just there and waiting to be used with abandon.

Some of the warriors have made bows and arrows. It’s unclear how they have time to craft new ones. There’s nothing that’s telling us how they’re putting together the implements to make knives. And although they are living in very complex structures, we’re not given privy to how stone and mortar is being ground and formed to make building blocks and new buildings. Nor are we shown how these people are felling trees and refining the lumber to make planks and building pieces.

Cooking implements must be around. But no one seems to be focused on making them. No one, in fact, seems to be focused on the exchange of money or goods at all.

It isn’t clear who is manufacturing the uniforms and shoes nor how they’re getting the needles to make them. But maybe Rumpelstiltskin is among their numbers and he manufactures these things on their behalf.

They only focus on the power. That seems to be the gasoline for everything in either of our fictional settings and during The Shutdown. Power is the sole focus. Who has it determines what is done, who does it, and who is held in check until they learn to siphon it or steal it. Woe to those who have none or so little that it barely matters to anyone.

Are these two shows telling us what to expect in January and each next iteration of The Shutdown? It appears we will forget about all forms of commerce and will live by less than fundamental means.

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The Ultimate Guide to U.S. Army Survival Skills, Tactics, and Techniques

When Disabled Is Powerful Monday, Oct 7 2013 

The new television season started this past week. There’ve been shake ups for program days and times. Some of last year’s staples are gone. With that, we’ve collectively breathed a sigh of relief about some of the shows as well as grumbled softly about others that remain.

We also have one show that’s a reprise. “Ironside” is now set in current perspective with Blair Underwood (a Black lead) playing the title role of a paraplegic police detective out to get the answers that lead to getting the bad guys out of circulation.

Remember Raymond Burr? With Burr as the star, the show had an eight-year run. It was all about the hard-as-nails detective out to get results. As far as the audience was concerned, he had no real personal life and no real obstacles.

Enter Underwood in the title role. Ironside has a personal life. He has a girlfriend and they have a full relationship. He suffers from PTSD and suffers flashbacks (just like many of our contemporary veterans) to the day of the incident that led to the loss of his full abilities. He’s a Black man aligned with law enforcement, not a victim of it. The bad guys (and women) come from all walks of life, diverse ethnicities, forms of crime. You find them in many locations and venues.

As with the earlier version, the new Ironside quickly identifies ways to overcome the barriers to accomplish his goals and the manner in which he pursues his mission. Although his flashbacks remind him of how he wound up in his current circumstances as well as the fact that his condition is permanent, he is not wallowing in self pity. It’s obvious that he’s not dissolved into feeling worthless. There are alternatives to the straightforward methods of doing his work. Life is still open to him in many ways. And just when the criminals think they have him under their thumbs, some new skill (of which we weren’t previously aware) emerges as part of the means of escaping Death.

While I want to say that this version of Ironside is stellar in its delivery because of the demographics it seeks to portray, I don’t want to go down that path while there’s scant time to research the statistics of Black men who are paraplegics. I want to research how many there were five and ten and fifteen years ago. It’s my guess, especially in light of the fact that there are so many foreign war veterans, that the numbers are growing at an enormous rate.

The fact that this iteration allows Ironside to have PTSD and flashbacks sets the stage for us to become conditioned. We are being led to realize that not every person who suffers from those conditions is out of control. They are not deranged and they are not dangerous to others – unless, of course, that other is actively and currently threatening their welfare and safety.

The frequency of those flashbacks made the story line difficult to follow at times. That’s what probably caused its low rating.

Ironside is not a homeless man. He is not living in a shelter. And he does positive things to take care of himself, all the way from healthy diet to exercise to staying up to date on reading of all types of matter, and use of technology.

This iteration of Ironside shows us disability in a positive light. It helps employers see it not as a deficit and depletion of revenues. In fact, it tacitly shows employers and recruiters the many possibilities of having this type of disabled person among the members of their staff and book of talent. The person is resourceful and in many ways can go toe to toe with everyone else.

And then there’s that name of the character – Ironside. He’s difficult to defeat because his outer (and in many respects, even his inner) side is as difficult to penetrate as iron.

I’d like to congratulate the producers of this new, updated version of Ironside. The subtle messages came through loud and clear for me – and I was only half watching while I worked on another project. While it isn’t disabled veterans nor young men of color who live in a ghetto, this show is providing these demographics with a role model who helps them realize there is life after the incident, whatever that incident was. It reminds them that the encouraging and supportive words from friends, coaches, instructors, and family are not mere platitudes – empty words that sounds nice. There is reality in what’s being said. Being disabled does not mean not empowered. It’s just the opposite.

Who told you that Life would be easy lied to you. Life is supposed to be challenging so that you can take pride in figuring out how to overcome the barriers. Life is supposed to be challenging so that we can flaunt our own personal ironside.

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Revisiting the Dream after 50 Years Wednesday, Aug 28 2013 

It was 50 years ago on August 28, 1963 that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The reflecting pond between the Lincoln and the Washington memorials was packed with the presence of over 250,000 civil rights supporters of all races and religions.

Yahoo! Voices sent me two invitations to write about that day. They wanted writers to create a recollection of where they were and what they were doing at the time of the speech. It took a bit. Life has put a lot of pebbles into the stream since then and it takes a little doing to clear away the debris to bring back the recollections.

August 28, 1963 was during Summer break and the speech occurred at the height of the day. I sat in my living room watching the events of the march unfold on television. As with each of his speeches, I was moved and inspired by King’s words. We all wanted to believe that his dream wasn’t a mere dream but a vision of an actual future that would unfold in that century.

By virtue of the fact that the March on Washington was multi-racial and the causes of freedom and equality ranged from pay to women’s rights to color to education to opportunity for all to worker rights and more, it was more than about race. It was more about those who were disenfranchised becoming those who fully participate in what was supposed to be the whole American Dream and the guarantees. It was about realizing that Dream contained in our founding documents and the principles upon which this country was founded. We need these types of periodic reminders. After a few decades, our minds put such ideas on the back burner, especially when we’re not living those principles on a daily basis. As months and years passed, the pressures that made the speech compelling at its delivery dissipated. It became inspiring words and concepts. And then it became concepts talked about during Black History Month or on King’s birthday in order to simply bleat the syllables.

The “Why” of It

The March on Washington was essentially a culmination of the events that began in the 1950s. The efforts of the Freedom Riders, the lunch counter sit-ins, the peaceful non-resistance, the assaults with fire hoses and police dogs, the Little Rock Nine being escorted to Central High by National Guard troops, the children killed in the church bombings, not to mention the many civil rights workers martyred for their efforts to create a wholesome place for all to live. Those were the things that needed to be overcome. And those (plus many other individual efforts) formed the fabric of the levers to open the doors of opportunity.

Interruptions and Distractions

Unfortunately, there were intervening circumstances that interfered with achieving the Dream. The war on drugs seemed to focus on Black neighborhoods. That war in turn plunged the residents of those environs into the depths of lack and bleary-eyed hopelessness. Substandard products emerged from those neighborhoods. They brought with them a desire to keep people of color in their places because they were not qualified or else only qualified to serve and not lead. By the time we as a society reached the 1980s, it was difficult to find a Black face as a leader in any place except religion and politics.

The Silence

But there were the quiet numbers who strove to be the exceptions. The silence grew to the point that many forgot about the demonstrations and the non-violent principles of those early days of reaching for recognition and admission – two commodities that were supposed to be available by right. Lack of consistent reinforcement and training on principles of professionalism and leadership were put on an even steeper slope. Those who had those ideals as part of their DNA, moved forward – quietly – and proved their value. They made positive inroads and positive examples of themselves that empowered others to also enter the doors of opportunity. Quietly it has been happening at a very slow pace. It’s been occurring so quietly that barely anyone notices today except when it leaps in front of you during a news maker interview and the subject is a notable scientist or other nontraditional professional.

Old Lessons on the Road

Unfortunately, some of the lessons were forgotten. The old detractors survived the passage of time and became the ones who created new barriers that only the most extremely qualified could pass. Although many White churches talked wonderful principles of acceptance and brotherly love, they were hard pressed to actualize those concepts when put to the test. The result became shunting their Black members and members of color into situations of being passed over for acknowledgement or displaced in activities in deference to another who was not of the same racial makeup.

Lessons in acceptable comportment changed or lost. The hip-hop age, the acid rock, the protest age and rap song protests and statements displaced reasoned speech and debate except during elections. Instead, loud and brash being shouted became the way to do things. Talking and conversation became how well one could drown out the other party or how many times they could be interrupted so as to not get a word in edgewise. Critical thinking skills crumbled. People (of all races) expected to be spoon fed information instead of reasoning out the solution for themselves. One’s GPA became more a testament of how well the student could bully the instructor into giving them an “A” compared with demonstrated more than a 90 percent comprehension of the subject when tested.

Daydreaming

So here we are 50 years later. We want to talk about the major strides that have occurred during this half century of progress. But to do so would only be delusional. While the blatant discrimination and signs of it no longer exist, the stench of Jim Crow still plagues us. It’s infected the waters drunk by our new immigrants so that they replace the hard-core racists of the past. Some of their open statements are so blatantly obnoxious that they cause the listener to gag in shock.

The standard of living continues to drop because the minimum wage continues to not stay apace with the consumer price index or cost of living index. More neighborhoods become enclaves of ethnic clusters – ghettos – where people strive to find pride in their environs. Unfortunately, if the majority of the population is Black, it is considered a dangerous place. The presumption that gangs and drugs are the mainstay with undisciplined behavior and unbridled lack of self restraint are the basis of the place. Don’t go there late at night.

Although there are many more faces of color, particularly Black of all hues, portrayed as many types of characters on both the small and large screens, and although there is a higher likelihood of finding Black and Brown faces in managerial positions in businesses, there is still an atmosphere of marginal acceptance if you are not an employee but of the same race. While the focus should be on doing the job at hand with professionalism, it’s delivered only to those who appear to be qualified to receive that deference.

Dream or Vision – and When?

It was a noble speech. King inspired us in his Southern Baptist preacher style of speaking. He brought people to their feet and stirred them to follow him to whatever heights he verbally painted for those who listened and were willing to be moved. Again I have to ask, was it a dream he was having, a collection of unconscious delusions with very little based on reality? Or was he actually sharing a prophet’s vision of a Tomorrow that was somewhere on the Horizon of the Future?

If it was actually a prophet’s vision, then it’s time for us to become parents of future generations and resume the training and lessons of what type of work needs be infused into making the vision a reality. There are lessons that are in desperate need of being learned. There are rules of etiquette that need to be re-learned and put to use. And there are lessons in how to be a leader that need to be taught at every juncture of our existence, whether at home, school, vocational training, or work.

We need to stop thinking about how nice it was that King said those words and then put the speech back on the bookshelf to collect more dust. It’s time to put the wheels of progress back into motion so that we resume our forward movement and growth of our rights. But most of all, it’s time to use the greatest tool for making the dream, the vision, a reality. It’s time to develop the right type of communication in order to say, “I am qualified; I belong here,” and then open the door.

Zimmerman Standard Saturday, Jul 13 2013 

It is projected that the Treyvon Martin murder jury will reach a decision today. Many are bracing for civil disruption because the crowds feel the decision is wrong.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that (given there were no undue outside influences) the jury did the best it could with the information put before it and based on their processing of the facts and circumstances. If there was a mistake made in any regard, the parties have options. One of those options is appealing the judgment. There are many foundations for an appeal.

Yes, appealing a case is very time consuming. There are steps to be taken in a certain order within a certain amount of time. Appeals are also very costly. Sometimes appeals from trial court decisions do not happen because of the monetary factor.

If there was a procedural mistake, that can be appealed. And if the procedure is appealed, the foundation that gave rise to the mistake will also be scrutinized. The important matter is the fact that this incident went to a trial. The next important thing is that the jury’s decision will set a standard by which other jurisdictions can look for guidance in these types of circumstances.

The question of community standard as it impacts interpretation of the law in that jurisdiction will need to be evaluated by other jurisdictions. But the trial phase of the Treyvon Martin / George Zimmerman case will have come to a close and the standard for it will be set.

How will that decision impact others in similar situations? We don’t know if the jury will be taking that aspect into consideration. It isn’t usually part of the decision making process. But at least there will be a guide. It can be argued, modified, even overturned. But we had to start with looking at the question, the issues, and the evidence. Based on that criteria as well as how convincing counsels’ arguments and presentation of the case were, we will have a decision.

NB: The correct spelling of the shooting victim’s name is “Trayvon Martin”. A discussion of what the jury was tasked with determining can be found in a July 14, 2013 CNN news story, George Zimmerman found not guilty of murder in Trayvon Martin’s death.

A New Low in Recognition Monday, Jun 24 2013 

June 19 was six days ago. It was the day that James Gandolfini died of a heart attack at age 51. He was an actor. The height of his acting accomplishments was being the star in the six-season TV series “The Sopranos,” a story about the life of a Mob leader.

As of this morning, it is truly legitimate to say he has surpassed all international dignitaries and American presidents as far as recognition. His death has been part of news headlines each and every day since June 19. Earlier today it was noted that government flags in New Jersey will be flown at half staff in honor of Gandolfini and his timeless impact on television and film. We’re given minute and detailed information about the time and place of his funeral.

Perhaps all of this brouhaha over a 51-year-old actor is because we are in such need to find something of significance in our lives. We need something to latch onto as something to shoot for in terms of accomplishments in these days of reality TV. Actors have become our role models in new, more palpable ways and it’s become increasingly more difficult to separate fact from fiction in terms of how to conduct ourselves in real life.

If that is the case, then each of us deserves to be remembered for the stellar work that we did during our lifetime, whether it was as the garbage collector, the copy center operator, the crossing guard, the homemaker. We, each of us, without regard to our station in Life, should be examined for the tribulations we had about making the right decision about matters, the reach of those decisions, and the lives that were (or were not) affected by them. We should have tributes paid to us for the “tough love” we used on our kids (or those who were in our sphere of influence), how we enforced the rules, how well we obeyed the rules, and most importantly, whether we understood the rules.

So in these days of reality everything that impacts us via social media, here we stand in our own realm of importance. It is now possible to be “J Average” (even less than average) and still gain mainstream recognition for our accomplishments. Having the flag flown at half staff is no longer reserved for unique and meritorious service to our country. (Perhaps we should be doing this on a daily basis for the troops involved and dying in foreign wars.) It is done because we caught the attention of someone who has the power to make the order. We can be remembered not only during our memorial service, our funeral, or during our “going home ceremony” by all those in our immediate neighborhood and community.

Now these events can be celebrated over vast regions by all who came into contact with us in whatever way in order to remember how they were affected by the experience. So have we reached a step down (a diminution of) in the significance of paying tribute to those who have died? Or have we made acknowledgement of others more significant because of the recognition of how far reaching in many ways their presence had on so many other lives?

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On this morning’s “Today Show,” one of the newscasters presented her news story that used the Gandolfini death as her launching point. Although my tolerance level for the subject was destroyed, she seemed to appreciate the extent to which media has plunged audiences. Her story very quickly moved into an explanation of the term “home-going”, its history, significance, and meaning. It was a very good and insightful report. Unfortunately, I cannot find that footage. Thus, I offer you some antecedent explanations of the term from other sources.

Return to Work Conversations Thursday, May 2 2013 

Robin Roberts interviews Will Smith on Navy carrier On January 14, Robin Roberts (host of Good Morning America) made a scheduled announcement about her health status. She’s been away on medical leave since August 2012 because of a rare bone marrow disease. With all the brouhaha on January 13 to entice viewers to tune in and learn what the news would be, in addition to the smiles on every face that pronounced the upcoming announcement, it was a foregone conclusion that it involved something with regard to imminent return to work. And it was.

While the news about her return to work was celebratory for all, Robin talked about some of the expected and probably didn’t realize she also disclosed unexpected information. Most people diagnosed with and treated for a major illness are put on some degree of disability and remain in that status for the rest of their lives. They become part of the 47% that Romney and Ryan spoke during the 2012 campaign who subsist on entitlements and expect a handout in order to survive in an economy with increasing inflation and little real money. There are few exceptions where there is a discussion about return to work; there are fewer about accommodations in order to make that a possibility.

Robin talked about the partnership of her doctors and care providers had with regard to formulating a plan for how she will transition from being ill to gradually working her way back to the studio and full time work. She outlined the stepped process and the various types of subtle dangers of being in the studio and under the lights. She shared conversations about regaining her energy. She will not be left floundering for answers and searching for what may be appropriate and safe in the way of accommodations during her early days of work resumption and progressing to “normal” life.

Viewing Robin’s announcement and the recitation of her recovery and re-entry regimen could cause some with jaded healthcare perspectives to feel she is receiving privileged treatment. Some have the opinion that because she’s already in front of the camera as part of her livelihood and career, that there’s a foregone conclusion that she will be returning to work, not sidelined as disabled. Her non-visible disability, albeit temporary, does not color her employment opportunities nor her right to work and earn a living.

There are those who suffer from non-visible impairments but they are not counseled in clear and specific terms about what accommodations are required for them to resume full, meaningful employment in their chosen profession. Few are counseled about what to do or what restrictions could apply to them as it relates to their line of work.

My health issue focus of choice is coronary conditions. It could easily be other non-visible conditions such as back injury, emphysema, or venous stasis ulcers. Because the heart is so central to our well being but impairments of the organ are not visible, it is my focus. There are scales for measuring disability and whether a person is still employable. There is a presumption that the disability scale for physical activity is used by doctors in order to determine whether it’s feasible for a person to look forward to returning to full time work, with or without restrictions. Does that conversation happen so that the patient is aware of all of the options available to them? If they’re well below retirement age, they’re not savoring the idea of spending the rest of their life subsisting on social Security Disability Income and restrictions on whether or not they may work. Even if they are able to find various types of employment, they’re at a loss when it comes to truthfully responding to the question, “Are you able to satisfactorily perform the principle duties of this position with or without moderate accommodations?” And if they respond that they will probably need some accommodations, the question of which and what types of accommodations should be requested comes into play.

In addition to the activity scale, there is also the disabling conditions scale that covers a large number of issues. Our focus today relates to Cardiovascular Disorders. There are eight subsections of that type of disease and all have different ratings with regard to level of disability of an individual. It is possible for a person to have more than one condition co-existing with others.

How many suffer heart attack

How many people are suffering heart attack in the u.s every year? According to Americanheart.org, there are 1,255,000 heart attacks per year in the United States. This includes new heart attacks as well as recurring heart attacks. In the United States about 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack every year, from which as many as 500,000 die. I could not locate information about the number of individuals who survive heart attack and return to work.

What I could find, however, is individuals do return to work after heart attack. In fact, ehealthMD offers a very detailed article about Living After A Heart Attack that includes information about a sensible return, timing, as well as not often covered information about cardiac rehabilitation. What is it like to live every day with Heart Attack? Read real life accounts from people living with this condition can be found in an article on the condition at ThirdAge.com.

So this leads to how many suffer from congestive heart failure (CHF) and the number of those survivors who return to work. According to Staying in Shape, there are approximately 5 million Americans who suffer from the disease. Although their information is quite extensive, they do not answer the question about the number who return to work after being diagnosed with CHF. However, their article is dense with information about various other related matters as well as rehabilitation therapy.

There are guidelines for patients who suffer from heart failure and desire to return to work. The Job Accommodation Network (called JAN) has an accommodation series that includes heart conditions. It would be wise to refer to that resource first when seeking guidance on what to do in order to accommodate a worker with a heart condition. It therefore appers a return to work is not out of the question and in certain conditions can be done with success. Another place where guidelines for restriction and accommodation guidance regarding health condition can be found on MDGuidelines. There is advice available for the patient in regard to the advisability of returning to work full time available in many places. One of them is Heart Failure Matters.

Most of the language relating to heart attack and CHF put the two conditions into the same category of heart failure and heart disease. The information, in most respects, about after care, prognosis, and recommendations is similar.

What is worth noting is the fact that most people are 100% invested in their physician and rely on their professional to tell them what they need to know. Survivors and their families don’t ask questions. When they are put on total, 100% disability, there are no questions about returning to work, extent of activities that are acceptable (except for sex), life expectancy, medications and what they do, alternative treatments. The physician takes it for granted that if there are no questions the patient has all of the information they need and will ask if there’s something that needs clarification. Additionally, the physician is focused on the condition, not the person, and their focus remains in that area. People are living in a sea of being uneducated and possible risk for another attack that didn’t need to happen.

What all of this means is be proactive with regard to your health condition. It may not be visible but it is definitely real and it is mandatory that it be handled and managed properly. A dismissive physician, when it comes to questions about the condition and management of it, is not serving your needs. Form a healthy partnership with your medical practitioners. Find someone who will communicate with you in an understandable fashion. Find someone who will have not only your health condition but also you in the upper parts of their mind and concern.

Resources:

Sponsored Link: Heart Failure: Evaluation and Care of Patients With Left-Ventricular Systolic Dysfunction (Clinical Practice Guideline Number 11)

Fourth Thursday in April Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

When does succession planning start? Some have posited that it starts when the CEO (or the executive who will soon be leaving) identifies several in their midst who appear to be likely candidates to step into the their shoes. The candidates are sort of taken under wing and given projects that will amplify the native skills and talents while also prodding creative thinking and strategy issues. The mentor will interlace these with conversations about not only theory but also practice. And guidance will come through being engaged in the projects together so that the progress, strategies, and rationale can be discussed.

Similar to Youth Development

Succession planning in the business world is not that different from teaching youth. The difference is that in the business world, we’re working on fine tuning competencies and empowering to lead in a responsible way. With youth, we’re developing core competencies and critical thinking skills. We’re also leading them to their introduction to the world of work, wherever that may be for their talents, as well as how to be responsible and mature.

Even when they’re in school, the purposes of the classes such as getting to class on time, turning in assignments, reciting before the class, and so on, all relate to being in the real work world. They are part and parcel of training to be a responsible, intelligent part of the workforce. Unfortunately, school is a bit theoretical for the youth. It’s difficult for the various exercises to be palpable. The age old complaint about “Why do I need to learn this? It doesn’t have anything to do with [insert name of profession or discipline here].” Ah, my petulant pupil, it has everything to do with it, and more.

Putting Context to Theory

I’ve talked about it many times over the years. There’s the fourth Thursday of April each year when Ms. Foundation promotes its Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. It’s a day when the practice and the theory become actualized at a real workplace. The youth have an opportunity to be in the real workplace and be involved in part of the processes that create the enterprise. It’s a time when many of the pieces can fall together and form a better picture of what it’s all about; youth have a chance to realize the answers to their strident grousings about the relevance of what they’re doing.

But the day needs to be kept relevant. This isn’t a day for sending the youth to the copying center or collating and stapling mountains of forms. For the day to be meaningful, this should be a day when the youth shadows a particular role model or mentor who includes the youth in the various aspects of doing that job. For example, there should be opportunity for understanding the reports that need to be prepared. In fact, it would be a good idea to have them be involved in the preparation of a report, along with the research to create it, and a conversation about what the report should deliver to its audience.

Follow Up and Follow Through

The young interns spend only one day in the real workplace on this Thursday in April. Many think of it as a day for the kids and then back to the usual. Hold up. Anything done deserves to be done well. Anything done well deserves recognition in some way.

The youth were given permission to miss a school day of attending classes in order to have their one day in the life of an intern. When they return to school, their teachers will want to have an oral report on what transpired, especially as it relates to their middle or high school subject, so that there’s accountability. But the oral report can also serve to make this occasion viral and inspire other students to vie for the opportunity to spend a day in the real work world in the following year.

Meanwhile, it would be wise for the oral report to be reduced to writing and shared with the coordinator of the TODSTWD event. The report will serve as feedback on what was learned and what revelations occurred during the one-day internship. The coordinator can then share the information with the mentor so they have some appreciation of how effective they were as a role model.

What Industries, What Businesses

Even though this article is written with deference to a business that sits in some office building, the dynamics of the day and the purpose of it is not constrained to just an office setting. There are all types of businesses. We would do well to let ourselves as well as our youth begin to see the world as more than just a brick and mortar site.

There are alternative careers in forestry, many aspects of beauty and fashion, services from keysmithing to plumbers. Many young people think of the local fast food franchise as their “just out of high school” option. But what would it take to run the independent store that competes with that franchise? Perhaps a mortician or a minister could get involved in making the day meaningful for a new generation of service providers. As stressful as it is, getting to know the other side of social work is also an option that should be available to the youth so that they gain a better understanding of the governmental side of the picture.

What Outcome?

But even more can come out of the day’s events and follow-up reports. How well did these sycophants perform? Maybe they’re worth having return for more than one day. Perhaps they could be interns during the summer months or be involved in some type of work-study program designed to train them for a more involvement in the business. And that just may lead to developing your company’s pipeline of qualified candidates in the future.

Inner City Development Tuesday, Feb 12 2013 

Maybe it’s because the last Thursday in April is right around the corner. That’s the traditional date that Ms. Foundation created for recognizing Take Our Daughters to Work Day. Maybe it’s because there’s dialogue and LinkedIn status updates that talk about development of youth. Maybe it’s because as we sit and observe the future workforce and those who are entering it, the needs and the underpinnings of doing work evidence there’s a drastic need to expose that talent to the fundamentals of how the wheels of enterprise mesh and spit out the goods and services we demand.

You know, maybe it’s the fact that I recently read an article by a young woman who was trying desperately to talk about the concept of the glass ceiling but lacked the grounding to comprehend to what it refers. If we aren’t talking about the business world and the workplace at home, how do we expect our newcomers to understand what it is that they’re supposed to be equipped to do? Furthermore, it’s extremely important for these emerging candidates to see real world examples of what’s done and what’s available. They shouldn’t be forced to rely on the artificial (and superficial) images on the silver and small screens.

The agrarian life was good for development in many ways. But the Industrial Age eventually displaced the homespun lessons of being a responsible individual. Then other modern age dynamics essentially strangled most of former efforts to develop the new workforce.

I still hold out hope that we can have more than lip service development of youth in our inner cities. Where Ms. Foundation started a one-day exposure to the possibilities, there are ways to reach into those communities to nurture what we want and what we need. It would be so refreshing to see businesses that reside in communities do outreach to the Middle and High Schools to seek “interns.” These young people could spend about four hours per week being immersed in activities that teach them about the workplace and duties involved in a particular job. The interns could learn about being responsible in a palpable way, not in theory. Exposing them to the real world of costs to run a business or department, expenses of payroll and taxes that impact a business, the various components of creating and delivering the product, and one of the most important aspects, customer service all need to become part of the early exposures so that the workforce can present theirselves as better prepared and ready.

While this may sound like advocating for Regional Occupational Program (ROP), it is not. What I press you to consider is going beyond that program and perhaps folding into it the dynamics of nurturing a more aware workforce. My vision is an opportunity, an alternative, to being doomed to lack of opportunity and despised by society as a scourge. That can only lead to becoming at risk of turning to gangs for acceptance and shunning education because it is fruitless and difficult.

Is there a way that we can create more or better options for those who would have hope but for?

Resources and References:

Sponsored Links

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from EverybodyElse

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