“Why Did …” vs. “If …”

Happy Friday, All ….

Still, I must Thank God It’s Friday … in spite of so many things that us humans seemed to have done wrong. Peace be still …

Well, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is bringing the Super Bowl of wrestling back to Miami soon. The Marlin’s new stadium with all the bells and whistles, including the retractable roof, is about to have its first “real” home game, and, even Spike Lee has made the news in a blunder by giving out a “wrong number” for a house where George Zimmerman was supposed to be hiding out! It has been discovered that the young lady, a black girl, who experienced a “melt down” in a class room at Boca Raton’s F.A.U. campus suffers from bi-polar schizophrenia and manic depression after she had set up a trip for college students to support the cause in Sanford, FL. She also had a 3.8 average and needed only two classes to graduate.

How many times in this past month have we “fixed our mouths” to ask: “Why did Zimmerman have a gun as a community watch captain?” Or, “If Trayvon was beating Zimmerman so badly, why aren’t there any marks or bruises on the dead boys knuckles?” I don’t know about you but my mouth is starting to complain about being formed to ask these questions repeatedly, over and over, and still no arrest has been made?

Do you believe that racial profiling really exists? Do you think that there is any corruption in the Sanford, FL police department, or, for that matter, most police departments in Florida … or New York or Los Angeles? Question after question, of course, with so few answers. Well, while I support all efforts to clean up this mess us humans have made of our existence here on planet Earth, I still have to sit silently oh so often . . . and just thank God . . . for all those things that have gone right in my life today, especially the wrongs that have been made right. I know, there is more to come, so, may we humbly reach out to each other and embrace this gift we’ve been given called “LIFE”!

Do try to have a great weekend, as Friday has started out very gorgeous and these first few days of Spring have been rather nice.


John I. Cook, Director

Get The Truth Out!

Happy Hump Day, All ….

While it is clear that there is a lot of support for Trayvon’s family and the cry to arrest George Zimmerman, there are still those that feel that Zimmerman acted in self-defense according to the “Stand Your Ground” law. Just last night, I had an interesting Facebook chat with a chum who feels that there is … or was … until he did more research … little evidence to prove that Zimmerman acted in self-defense.

Yesterday, it was disclosed that one Sanford PD Detective wanted to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter but the State Attorney’s office felt that there was not enough evidence for a conviction. In my own PERSONAL experience, I have seen the State Attorney’s office take something that was “dropped” by the alleged victim and seek to pursue charges themselves! I can only shake my head and wonder what type of humans they have working in that office – State Attorney – in Sanford, FL.

Racial profiling is something that I have experienced, as most men of color have, and the sad thing is that Zimmerman is NOT a law enforcer but a “self proclaimed community watch captain”! Sounds pretty vigilante oriented, if you ask me. It is like he was saying, if I ever have a chance to “pretend” I am a police officer, I will act like one, even though community watch personnel are asked NOT to carry guns nor attempt to do what “law enforcement” officers are paid to do … and purportedly “trained” to do. They are ONLY supposed to “watch the community”. Now, we already know that there are tremendous abuses of power by some of the officers who have been accused of corruption and misrepresenting the facts of a situation, so what makes anyone think an “untrained, gun toting, self-proclaimed community watch captain” has NOT violated the civil rights of Trayvon Martin with the assistance of an already tainted reputation of the Sanford, FL Police Department?!

May the support of Democrats in Congress from Florida (Republican what@%*!!!) continue to uncover this tragedy’s trash and get the truth out …

As hard as it is for me, from moment to moment, may we pray for peace . . . and Zimmerman’s arrest. I applaud Trayvon’s parents, especially his father, for not taking matters to the “next level” and doing as Zimmerman did to their son. May God bless them both as they struggle to get justice for their son.

Peace …. peace …. peace!

John I. Cook, Director

Let’s Stay In Touch, Okay?!

Happy Monday, All!

May the peace, love and understanding of your Creator be with you today as we go forth … hopefully, in harmony. In the aftermath of this horrific development in Sanford, FL, I can see the complexion of this nation adjusting to meet the needs of us all. While the on-going excuse continues, that there is no evidence to refute that “… Zimmerman was afraid for his life …”, so he chased a young boy and shot him cold blooded, other elements are revealing themselves from peaceful marches and protests to a bounty issued for Zimmerman by the Black Panther Party. Do you think the Sanford police have a clue yet?

This past weekend brought a particular type of peace for me as I sought to enjoy myself, relax a bit, and have the pleasure to host a mini-reunion from a small group of guys from my hometown, White Plains, NY. I mention this because it was not only impromptu, but wonderfully designed by the Creator! I also mention this so that if there are people from your life’s journey that you haven’t seen in several years, but are in touch via various social networks, continue to reach out to them … and get together even, if you can.

Steve Morgan played basketball at White Plains High School and I was the assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach for five years there. He was one of the players who not only has the same birthday as I do, July 13th, but who worked hard and made a difference wherever he went. Now, that included playing basketball in Honolulu, Hawaii at a college there; then, going to Japan and playing in their professional level league. While in Japan, he learned the culture and the people’s way of life, put together his intelligence and hard work ethic, and got married and had three children – two girls and his most recent one, a little boy.

Since Facebook came out, and Kenny Chiarito, another student from WPHS, had told Steve about this social network, we all somehow hooked up and became Facebook friends. Now, we hadn’t seen each other in a quarter of a century, and as our friendship networks grew on Facebook, we found still another former WPHS student, Michael Jon Baptiste. He and I share experiences regarding our spiritual walk in life today, and, he, too, is living in Palm Bay, Florida as the caretaker for his father who is over 90 years of age and struggling with different health issues. So, after Steve had come back from Japan where he still operates a security company for artists and entertainers, he had mentioned that he brought me back a bottle of Saki, a fine Japanese wine of sorts.

Kenny Chiarito, who is living in Los Angeles right now, came to Plantation and Davie, Florida to visit his mother and sister last week, respectively. Essentially, our mini-reunion was ignited due to his arrival here in SoFlo. Since Kenny and I had also become Facebook friends, he informed me when he was coming and “Big Steve” asked his wife to let him have a day with us, so he loaded up his Infiniti SUV, picked up Michael Jon Baptiste who lives maybe twenty minutes away in Palm Bay, FL and headed South to meet up with Kenny, whose step dad had given him a lift to my place.

After church and chatting, we headed to the beach to one of my favorite Ocean-side hang outs called Margaritaville and had lunch. After lunch, we walked to Beach Place absorbing the sights and sounds of a vibrant and beautiful Sunday afternoon with each other catching up on tales and stories, good times and more challenging ones, and thoroughly enjoyed each others company. Do this … or something like this, if you haven’t already, and watch what happens! I am feeling so blessed to have made contact with people in my history along this journey we call life.

Have a great day … in Peace!

John I. Cook, Director

Never Too Old To Learn

Happy Friday, All!

Yes, and of course, I have to let you know, T.G.I.F.!

This week has been like a whirlwind with news and issues . . . and events regarding Trayvon’s shooting death by a neighborhood watch captain last week, and the admitted shooter is still not charged with anything. Not only did we find out this week that Whitney Houston’s death was caused by a variety of drugs she had used leading to a heart attack, a girl at FAU – Florida Atlantic University – who had organized a bus trip to Sanford, FL in support of Trayvon’s cause went ballistic in a class this week and threatened to kill fellow students and the professor. She was expelled from the University after being arrested and tasered.

I, too, found myself caught up in an emotional tail spin when listening to the “911” calls on the news and made an assumption that Zimmerman had said, “Those n—-ers always get away!” My mind was already conditioned to believe that he MUST have said that, since the newscasts had bleeped it out! I had even gone as far as to have posted something on Facebook on a friend’s link that was addressing the “Fear Factor” as the cause of this catastrophic event that has led to the temporary resignation of Sanford, Florida’s chief of police and a visit and rally with long time civil rights activist, Al Sharpton, coming to the small town in Florida. A friend of that friend also posted on Facebook that he had listened to the recordings and the word that Zimmerman used at that point in the “911” call was … excuse me … but …. assholes. I stood to be corrected.

It is just an example of what we as African American men have nearly been conditioned to “think” we or others have been called in the midst of such a heated event. While the friend of my Facebook friend did correct me, he also went on to say that Zimmerman had used another racial slur later on in the conversation. Yet, I had to distance myself from the research of this dialogue and not look any further. I, too, had been caught up to the point that I imagined things. Perhaps, Zimmerman suffered the same but his actions were much more far reaching than an incorrect Facebook post. May we somehow work through this so that truth, justice and the “American Way’ may be achieved … soon.

As we continue into the beginnings of Spring, I seek to calm my spirit and my soul and search for deeper understanding of the human condition.


John I. Cook, Director

C’mon! Let Me Do It Over?!

Happy Hump Day, All!

I am still feeling a bit mystified by things in our world today . . . Yet, imagine what our Creator must be thinking about now?!

Do any of you remember how when we were kids, and, say . . . in a kickball game or a game or marbles (dating myself, right?!) . . . after a bad kick or shot at the “pot”, we might say: “Oh, the wind was blowing too hard! Let me do it over!!!”? We were kids and often just playing games, so we just wanted a fair chance to get a good kick in for our team or perhaps make the competition greater in that marble game. Now that we’ve all grown up, and, we have another generation on our hands, it’s hard to do anything over again, especially once the consequences are more serious like bodily injuries or death. Peace be still …

Now, think about this character, Zimmerman, who doesn’t know how to follow simple instructions from the “911” operator, when they told him essentially that they did not need him to follow the black youth. This is supposed to be a “Captain of a Neighborhood Watch” group. And again, think about the FACT that his girlfriend was on the phone with him and says that Trayvon told her a strange man was following him. Not only does this directly refute the allegation that Zimmerman shot a kid with Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea in self defense, but … this can NOT be done over! Trayvon Martin is dead! No court, no cop, no prosecuting attorney, not even Al Sharpton can bring him back to life!

Last night when I watched the news and heard the recording of the “911” Operator with Zimmerman, and Trayvon and his girlfriend’s conversation . . . and then the recording by a neighbor who had called “911” while hearing someone yell for help, I got so angry that I had to pray. I thanked God that this was not my child, because I don’t know if I could handle it, and asked God to pour blessings over the entire ordeal so that the TRUTH will come to light.

“If I Had My Life to Live Over . . . I’d relax. . . . I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. . . . I’d start barefoot earlier in the Spring and stay that way later in the Fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.” – Nadine Stair

Today, let me forget my worries and enjoy the fullness of life. (TOUCHSTONES March 21st)

May we send out a prayer for Trayvon’s spirit, a cry for justice, and the Truth be told.


John I. Cook, Director

Officially Yours … Tomorrow!!!

Happy Monday, Folks!

If you are reading this, then it must be that you had a safe and festive St. Patrick’s Day weekend! Mine was quietly festive, as I had my radar on for any shenanigans, if you know what I mean. Having been a student of history, as well as a teacher, I enjoy learning and sharing the historical relevance of holy days like St. Patrick’s Day with folks, too!

So much discontent world-wide, and seemingly even more in our local neighborhoods since that is where we live. I continue to suggest that we ALL … Stop The Violence … and my heart continues to go out to the family of the little boy shot and killed in Sanford, FL by the Captain of the Neighborhood Watch. His funeral, I believe, is being held this week, and as I watched the news last night, this “captain” is still a free man though on-lookers of the shooting confirm that he did NOT shoot this boy in self-defense since the boy was cowering on the ground begging the man not to shoot him … and only had Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea in his pockets. Peace be still …

“There seemed not to be another living thing in all the world. There was something of bliss in this stillness, and something ominous too. It was the kind of stillness that beckons us to turn inward, toward the beginnings of our existence.” – Paul Gruchow

God, give me the courage to allow spiritual experiences to be part of my life. (TOUCHSTONES March 19th)

It is official, enjoy your first day of Spring … tomorrow!


John I. Cook, Director

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

Happy Friday, All “Me Leprechauns”!

Yes, and T.G.I.F.!

Since growing up in New York though upstate, as White Plains, NY has often been called, I have always had a fascination with all of the symbols, trinkets and festivities associated with St. Patrick’s Day, including the famous St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, since so many Irish immigrants set up shop there a few centuries ago. One thing I knew, on this day, everybody becomes Irish!

Some of the rumors and practices focus on beer drinking, parties, parades, fantastic Irish culinary treats like corned beef and cabbage, four leafed clovers signifying good luck and even a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow . . .

Yet, the real St. Patrick, born around AD 390 into an aristocratic family in Britain that had wealth and slaves, had no interest in Christianity. At 16, he was kidnapped and taken to the countryside of Ireland to work in bondage tending sheep and doing farm work and treated nearly like a slave. Historical interpretations vary. So for seven years (Lucky Number 7) he toiled until a voice came to him telling him to escape. When he did, he returned to Britain and was eventually reunited with his family. Now, you may think that that was enough. But no! . . . after some time, he wanted to return to Ireland and driven by a Christian conviction, sought to spread Christianity there.

Over the years during his work, he was beaten by thugs, harassed by Irish royalty and admonished by his British superiors. When he died on March 17th AD 461, he was largely forgotten, according to historical accounts. However, over the years and centuries following, somehow, he was dubbed the patron saint of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day became a wide spread phenomena celebrating Irish culture, folklore and treats!

Enjoy your weekends and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Peace and Love,

John I. Cook, Director

The Shootings Continue . . . At Home and Abroad

Happy Hump Day, All!

There is nothing like a Wednesday to break up the monotony of a week! I always welcome Wednesdays and look forward to the weekends, too!

So much news around . . . including Santorum winning two southern states – Alabama and Mississippi. A bit of a shock for most people, and Gingrich came in second in one of those states. Enough of politics, though they continue to “shoot” slander at Obama and his administration.

The 17 year old African American kid who was shot by a Neighborhood Watch man is said to have been defenseless with only Skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea in his pocket at the scene of the alleged crime. His parents are wondering why this “civilian” is still free. The “911” tape has not been released to the lawyer for the family and the wheels of justice are moving ever so slowly in Sanford, FL. The captain of the Neighborhood Watch is white, named Zimmerman, and the latest report says he called “911”, and, according to protocol when someone calls “911”, they are usually told not to get involved. No tape released . . . no arrest . . . no justice!

The sniper who went literally “ballistic” on a sleeping household in Afghanistan was said to have been involved in an earlier accident when on tour in Iraq and suffered from head injuries. The sad thing about this for me is why would they put someone back into a situation where his injuries may detonate some erratic behavior either to his comrades or others? It is a very difficult thing for American officials to explain though Mrs. Clinton and President Obama have done their best to keep relations positive between the military presence there and the Afghans.

“This above all, to refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that I can do nothing.” – Margaret Atwood

Today, I will take responsibility for my own life and not try to be a savior for others. I won’t undermine my relationships by being a victim. (TOUCHSTONES March 14th)

Enjoy your day, the rest of your week and each other.


John I. Cook, Director

New Beginnings …

Happy Monday, All!

What a wonderful weekend it seems most of us had all over the USA! Here in South Florida, the weather was wonderful and people from all over flocked to the beach along “The Strip” of A-1-A in Fort Lauderdale. One friend of mine who lives close to the beaches in Pompano Beach mentioned that it seems that this season, there are more Canadians in the hotels and bungalow type set ups than he has ever seen.

Of course, Spring time has come considering the advent of Daylight Savings Time when we moved our clocks ahead Saturday night/Sunday morning, if you will. A slight change for most of us . . . waking up in the darkness for a bit and having the daylight hours extended a bit. While I stayed home most of Saturday implementing my own small changes in my flat and making sure it feels cozy and Spring-like, Sunday morning I streamed church service while having breakfast. Then, Sunday afternoon I took the Night Hawk down to the beach and got stuck in all the traffic for a while. Yet, it was relaxing for me. As I drove, and my motorcycle has most repairs done and is running well, I encountered numerous bikers also enjoying the afternoon air. In fact, at one point along the strip, two other bikers with Harley’s drove along side me and we cruised together enjoying all the Spring breakers as they danced on the walls of the big homes they had rented on the West side of A-1-A until we reached Beach Place. I parked and visited my friends at Margaritaville and walked on to Beach Place. Lots of fun-loving people, including families of ALL ethnic groups who stayed at the resort there at Beach Place!

In Miami, yesterday was the biggest free street party, they say, in the World called “Calle Ocho”. All of the Spanish speaking people, including many proud Brazilians who speak their own tongue, strutted their stuff, foods and music while people, once again, from ALL nationalities, including Canadians, hung out with the locals, performers and vendors. What a great time it appeared they had as I watched the newscast of the event last night. I haven’t been in years, but maybe before its too late, I may visit “Calle Ocho” again.

Here at Fort Lauderdale’s War Memorial Auditorium, there was held the annual “Pride Fest” event which was entitled this year, “Beyond the Rainbow”. As I was cruising near Sunrise Boulevard Sunday, I noticed many many cars parked there for the festivities.

While all is not perfect in the world today, I am glad to be amongst the living, as my mother used to say. Have a great day!


John I. Cook, Director

Who Are You?

Happy Friday, All!

And it wouldn’t be so happy if I hadn’t learned to say . . . T.G.I.F.!

Have you ever heard the expression: ” We all wear the mask”? Yes, it seems that from infancy, us humans learn how to do different things to disguise our true feelings. And the more we “mature” in this life, it seems we become more and more theatrical in order to perhaps … protect our true selves. Many times, we don’t even recognize that we are doing it because we’ve become so accustomed to it. Just last night, a friend of mine who is going away told me she was going to Nebraska. So, I asked her, since she has always told me about her boyfriend and how much in love they were, if she was going with him. Of course, I was happy. But, when I asked her if she was going to Nebraska with her boyfriend, she replied: “Well, I’ve been lying to everybody else but I am really going there to see him!” She continued telling me that since everyone thought he lived with her, she was telling people that she was going alone but hesitated to tell me the same lie . .

One of the most disturbing true stories I’ve heard lately was the one about a U S District Court Judge from Montana, Justice Richard Cebull, making a joke and sending it on his court related e-mail to a bunch of friends. It was about our present president, Barack Obama, who upon realizing in his later years that he was lighter complexioned or something like that, asked his mother why. She told him, as the tasteless joke goes, that she (Barack’s mother) is surprised that he is not barking like a dog considering the party or gathering she had attended on the day of his conception. Correct me if I am wrong . . .

Yet, Cebull, when asked about the joke, said it was not a racist joke but just an anti-Obama joke . . . Has he been making these kinds of jokes or harboring these kinds of thoughts so long that he can not tell that the joke is clearly racist? I guess we all should not get too far removed from our true selves along this process and journey called “life”.

“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” – Andre Berthiaume

May I have the courage to drop my phony masks in order to grow stronger in self-knowledge. (TOUCHSTONES March 9th)

Have a wonderful weekend as Spring is upon us, and, enjoy the beautiful full moon!


John I. Cook, Director

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