“You’re moving with your Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air”

For six years (more if you count reruns) we watched James Avery play the no-nonsense yet loveable “Uncle Phil” to Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince” on the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Avery, who died Tuesday at the age of 68, was an accomplished actor who played many a role in movies and on television. As “Uncle Phil” he was completely and utterly unforgettable.  A proud Bel Air lawyer turned judge, Phillip Banks and his wife Vivian took in their wacky nephew Will after he got into “one little fight” in his west Philadelphia neighborhood.

Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil were wealthier than most, but we can all relate to the show’s noble premise: a family member with more advantages taking in a relative in need of a fresh start. We watched Will grow accustomed to private schools, the services of a butler and three pampered cousins who’d never seen a tough day in their lives.

Will and his sidekick cousin Carlton, played masterfully by Alfonso Ribeiro, needed tough love and got it from Uncle Phil at every turn. In six short years, Uncle Phil took Will and Carlton from boys to men giving us lots of laughs in between.   Thanks, James Avery, for the lessons and the memories. We’ll miss you.

 

Rejoicing in the promise of a new year

There is something about the promise of a new year and all its possibilities that gives me joy. I am thinking about two friends in particular who have had a rough go of it for the last few years.

My prayer is that both these friends will have a 2014 that brings they less pain and more joy; less uncertainty and more stability; more freedom to move about and do the things their health issues have caused them to postpone.

One will walk his daughter down the aisle and into the arms of her groom in early 2014. The other wishes for a swim in a refreshing pool and a chance to return to his studies.

Both friends have taught me about undying faith in God’s promise. They’ve taught me how important it is to brave, even in the face of repeated adversity. I am reminded of a sign I ran across while taking part in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington last August. “Love is too big to fail,” the sign read. My thoughts immediately went to God’s love for us.

As we enter a new year, please know that God’s love for you is too big to fail. The tests you are faced with are preparing you to have a great testimony. Know that in Christ, all things are possible. Stay encouraged, my friends. Much love and happiness!

 

Hey Phil: Thanks for showing us your true colors

Image

 

For the record, I could care less what Phil Robertson thinks about gay people, black people during Jim Crow or anything else for that matter. The father in the popular reality show “Duck Dynasty” was surely playing to his fan base when he spouted off to GQ magazine about how sinful gay people are then proceeded to revise history by saying black folks in his neck of the woods were actually happy under Jim Crow laws.

As his fellow hunters would say, “Phil, that dog won’t hunt no more.”

A&E, the network that carries his popular reality TV show, responded predictably by suspending the bearded patriarch for his offensive remarks.  But here’s the rub. This kind of controversy gives people like Robertson a chance to gain more fans with their hate speech. And of course they like to hide behind the Bible while doing so. The same Bible that tells us we should love our fellow man and judge ye not, lest we be judged.

After a couple of weeks of publicity, some online petitions for and against Phil staying on the show and a pledge from the rest of the “Duck Dynasty” cast not to continue the show without him, A&E announced that Phil will be back for the new season in January. And it’s no wonder, since “Duck Dynasty” is the network’s most popular thing going with the cable channel’s viewers. The controversy surrounding Phil’s remarks to GQ will attract more people to the show; which makes you wonder if it wasn’t planned to end this way.

It will be up to viewers to decide whether they want to continue to support the show. A month or so ago I caught one episode of “Duck Dynasty” because I was curious after hearing about how the family went from selling hunting gear to having their own reality show. Now that I know the “Duck Dynasty” klan is peddling bigotry alongside family values and Christianity, I’ll not be watching again.

My guess is, the regulars will continue to support it — and that’s their right. We do live in America, where people have the right to say what they think. As Paula Deen found out, it will either help or hurt their respective brands.

As long as the Phils and Paulas aren’t in policy making roles, they can say whatever they want. In fact, I’d rather know than not know where I stand with the likes of them.

 

 

 

Who will help Dasani and her siblings?

Dasani is 12 years old and has the weight of the world on her shoulders. She is playful, smart and loves to dance. She’s somewhat of surrogate mother to her younger siblings and has an extra special bond with her one-year-old sister, Lele. 

The New York Times is taking readers into the lives of Dasani, her seven siblings and their parents in a multi-part series about homeless children that is as riveting as it is depressing. After reading investigative reporter Andrea Elliott’s series titled “Invisible Child,” I find myself haunted by a single question: Who will help Dasani and her siblings?

They are living in what seems to be an impossible situation. Both parents are present — though their father seems less present — yet they are wrestling with drug addictions and joblessness. They are living in a junk-filled mice-infested room in a substandard homeless shelter in Brooklyn. The toilet for this family of nine is a mop bucket. The showers must be guarded while in use because rapists and child molesters live there too. One of their children is legally blind and they rely on Dasani, their oldest child, to be a leader and caregiver for her siblings. That is far too much weight for any 12-year-old to bear.

The series explores the extremes of wealth and poverty that can be found within the same few Brooklyn blocks. Yet the inhabitants of Marcy Housing Projects, where Jay Z grew up, the homeless shelter and multi-million dollar apartments exist in alternate universes. Many readers will come away from the series with a simple conclusion: these children have no hope of growing up whole and healthy because their parents’ lives are a mess.

It’s clear from the reporting that Dasani’s mother loves her children. But she doesn’t seem to know how to care for their physical and emotional needs. She has them wait outside a store while she goes in to steal food; even though she knows they know she steals. She tells them it’s okay to do so when necessary. The family’s patriarch is even more troubled. He is in and out drug rehab and often squanders the public assistance his family receives on things like a dozen roses for his wife.

The series shines a spotlight on the plight of the city’s homeless; especially its children and contrasts it with wealthy public officials such as outgoing New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has bragged publicly about the quality of the city’s homeless shelters.

For me, the most hopeful aspects of Dasani’s story are the relationship Dasani has cultivated with her no-nonsense school principal, Miss Holmes; and her favorite teacher, Miss Hester. For her students, Miss Hester is a symbol of what can happen if you work hard in school and work even harder to rise above your circumstances. Miss Hester is a child of the city’s housing projects who did everything right. When her peers make fun of her for talking and acting white, she ignored them and continued to excel in her classwork. For her efforts, she received a full scholarship to college.

She sees great potential in Dasani, who has book smarts and is wise beyond her years because of the weight she carries for her entire family. If there is hope and help for Dasani and her siblings, it is the examples they see in people like Miss Hester, who has returned to the community to inspire those who would follow her.

The New York Times is a powerful institution with worldwide reach. I’m sure people will read about Dasani and her siblings and want to help. I hope their parents get the treatment they need to be whole for their children. In part five of the series, Dasani and her family move from the shelter that has been their home for three years into a two-bedroom apartment shelter that is clean and offers more privacy. I pray her troubled parents can make it work, for Dasani and her siblings sake.

To read the series, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/?chapt=1

 

 

Nelson Mandela: A freedom fighter now at peace

angelatuck:

I spoke to a colleague who has seen the movie, “Long Walk to Freedom” he says it shows a true and complete picture of Mandela’s life. I hope young people take the time to see it and learn from it when it opens later this month.

Originally posted on LOVE MY PEOPLE:

mandela

We knew this day would come but we did not want it to be so. We wanted Nelson Mandela to live forever.

The man South Africans called Madiba, the man who endured so much for equality died Thursday at the age of 95. Nelson Mandela lived a life of impact. He was a world leader with a regal bearing and a ready smile. He loved people and was fearless in his fight for justice and equality.

Mandela’s fight against apartheid cost him 27 years in prison. He would have stayed longer if necessary. He spoke these words about his struggle:  “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if…

View original 181 more words

Nelson Mandela: A freedom fighter now at peace

mandela

We knew this day would come but we did not want it to be so. We wanted Nelson Mandela to live forever.

The man South Africans called Madiba, the man who endured so much for equality died Thursday at the age of 95. Nelson Mandela lived a life of impact. He was a world leader with a regal bearing and a ready smile. He loved people and was fearless in his fight for justice and equality.

Mandela’s fight against apartheid cost him 27 years in prison. He would have stayed longer if necessary. He spoke these words about his struggle:  “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Apartheid — a form of legal segregation and brutal racism — gripped South Africa for decades despite the fact that black South Africans greatly outnumbered white South Africans.

Mandela knew, in the words of Frederick Douglass, that power concedes nothing without a demand. Thousands of South Africans were murdered during the country’s radical transformation. Before, during and after his grueling time in prison Mandela fought boldly not only to end apartheid but to extend an olive branch to his oppressors. When the first free elections were held in 1994, black South Africans waited in long lines for hours to elect Mandela president of their divided country.

Mandela was the right man for such a time, providing the leadership needed for healing to take place. When he and former President F.W. de Klerk joined together in unity after Mandela’s victory, both men showed incredible courage. In doing so, good triumphed over evil and love triumphed over hate; not just for the people of South Africa but for people everywhere.

Feeling exceedingly grateful for life, love

Lately when I gather with family members, there is a moment that crystallizes for me just how blessed we are. This weekend,  that moment came around 7 a.m. Thursday. That is the precise time my 75-year-old mother began seasoning the bird. Cecil Duerson is a woman of order who follows her word to the letter.

My husband Joe knows this. He is up and ready to go at 6 a.m. I get up a few minutes later, shower and dress and come downstairs around 6:45. As we go downstairs, we pass our college girl Imani in the hallway. She is up for the lesson. She is eager to learn from the master chef. Nobody gets it done like ReRe.

Downstairs, ReRe has already washed the 25-pound bird and is lining the pan with sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil to wrap the bird up tight.  She gives Joe and I our instructions. Lift the bird onto a cookie sheet. We will season it there. Pour salt, pepper and garlic into my hand so i can put it inside the cavity. Shake the salt and pepper and garlic all over the outside of the bird after you rub it down with plenty of butter.  I’ve seen her do this countless times, yet my turkey is never as flavorful and juicy as hers.  The lesson continues.

I’m not sure this big bird fit into your roaster. I knew I should have brought my big roaster. Still no sign of Imani.  It’s a tight squeeze but the bird fits into the roaster. We pour in a cup of water and Joe hoists the bird into the oven. We’re cooking it on 450 degrees. It will be ready in four hours. Oops I remind her, we forgot the celery. Out goes the bird, the celery is cleaned in no time, and the bird is back in its rightful place. The centerpiece of our meal is on its way to being ready. A half hour later, Imani comes downstairs. You missed the lesson Imani, next time.

It’s amazing how simple things can bring so much joy if we take a moment to slow down and reflect on our blessings. No day is promised, each day is a gift. A few months ago, my mother wasn’t up to making the trip from Kentucky to Atlanta.   Her body was filled with pain from several sources. The pain was constant. She and her doctors were trying to figure out the best treatment plan. Each time I talked with her, I could hear the frustration in her voice. When I talked with my father, he too was concerned. With six grandchildren, three great-grands and a host of relatives and friends, they are always on the go. This was slowing them down.

Suddenly, there is a breakthrough. Life slowly begins returning to normal. Then the call comes. We are coming to your house for Thanksgiving. We will bring the turkey and homemade rolls! Of course you will. Some traditions never change; providing the heart of the meal is one of them.

As three generations of Duerson women busied ourselves in my kitchen Thursday making new dishes and old I know there will come a time when we won’t be together like this. I am thankful for every moment. Their love is all I need.