Be Enlightened – 2014


Happy Monday, y’all!Some of you might be thinking, “When is he gonna be happied out?!”  No worries, I wonder myself sometimes.  I really wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this topic as a New Year’s Resolution or Christmas/Kwanzaa gift … even a late Chanukah present if you prefer.  But it is something that I wish for all my friends, perhaps, even my enemies … that they be enlightened.Educational Excellence’s motto is “Know Thyself,” and, that concept or axiom is very similar to being enlightened.  There is a balance, I believe, to this experience called “life.”  Most people don’t like to think about this and definitely do not like talking about it.  I have noticed that people are more comfortable reading about this subject and writing about it.  This balance I’ve been referring to is the acknowledgement that there are forces of good and forces of evil on this planet.  We could discuss for centuries where they come from but if you observe the history of human kind as well as our direction as a civilization, we can clearly see that there have been some mistakes made.  Perhaps you may disagree with me on this as well.  Perhaps, “you” can explain why there is a deterioration of cultural values, those values that still seek to do “right” as opposed to “wrong” – another discussion that could go on for centuries or more with some people I know!My father used to come up with the darnest of “observations” in our home and with the kids.  He noticed stuff like … If me or my brother or sister said we couldn’t find something in the refrigerator or in the kitchen shelves, he would simply say, “Bend your back!”  Now you had to be sharp to understand that what he meant was that it was on the lower shelves and we had to bend down to see it!  His favorite saying or reply when I would tell him I finally understood what was developing in a certain situation like something in college or in a relationship, was, “That’s common sense!”

So, in contemplating what your resolution might be, I offer up a bit of “enlightenment”, however you choose to receive it.  Make 2014 the best darn year yet and keep it positive!  Don’t be afraid of change in your life or others.  It is the only constant in life.  Be well, Happy New Year 2014 ….
John I. CookEmoji, Director

“Tough It Out!”

Tough It OutHappy Friday, All!

“Yes indeedy!”, as my friend “Petey” used to say, T.G.I.F.! As we approach the last days of 2013, I am sure that thoughts may be swirling around in our heads as we wonder what we could’ve done better. Moving forward into a New Year is often an opportunity to revise a previous plan, noting where improvements are needed. Most people today are finding that to look back too long can cause one to lose focus on ones goals, as well as direction. Perhaps, a goal may need tweaking and may require some help and expertise from someone who has experience. Other times, one may just have to tough it out.

Some television networks have begun to show clips of “The Year in Review,” which highlight the most memorable, often the most horrible, as well as the most emotional moments of this past year. I am sure that many may have “clips” of their own that replay in ones own mind, highlighting those things we can do better. This past Christmas was a change for me, since my daughter, Ayanna Lynne, came from Connecticut to visit, and, we all visited my sister in Port St. Lucie, FL. While trying to “move forward” so to speak, I found that there were some “new” things we had to learn about each other. It is easier to look outside of our “inner circle” and find something to preoccupy our attention though it (our attention) may better serve us if we focused on ourselves or that “inner circle”.

Have you ever heard the expression “Tough It Out!” before? This might be easier said than done. This past year, I personally have focused on spiritual conditioning which is a very important part of the human journey, methinks! One may see challenges in ones own life and make them bigger than life. This is where the conditioning comes in for me, developing the awareness of the spiritual threshold and where it may lead us next. This past year, a good friend passed away and I know it had a tremendous impact on his family. While celebrating Christmas this year with the remaining fragments of our extended family, which is basically my sister and I and our offspring, I became aware of some valuable lessons. We wanted to come together again and this was highlighted by my only offspring coming to visit us here in Florida. Her cousins rallied round her to make her visit fun and each of us continued working on our own destinies while experiencing and enjoying the “holy days” together. Yesterday was the first day of Kwanzaa as well as a “holy day” for countries in Canada and Europe, where the more advantaged gave gifts to the less advantaged. It brought back memories of my meeting up with Big Mama and her Team of Life. Her Christmas Season 2013 was highlighted by a “gift-giving” event at Santa’s Enchanted Forest located in Miami Dade. Thousands of children gathered there to enjoy the lights and the amusement park like rides, music, food, fun and festivities. No child left there without a gift!

Are there some issues that you just need to “tough out” moving forward into 2014? If you are human, I am sure there must be at least one! For me personally, and for me and Educational Excellence, we plan to move forward with our efforts as we appreciate your support of those efforts, and seek to continue the contributions to make this world a better place … and simultaneously making myself and EE a better entity. Feedback is always appreciated. Thanks for a wonderful year!


John I. CookEmoji, Director

Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa!

Sleigh RideHappy Monday, All!

You know, no matter what happens, I am grateful when I wake up the next morning! Christmas Week is here and many of you may already be on Christmas Vacation. Every year is different for me nowadays as I am maturing and still pretty much single! Again, I am not complaining, just explaining why I have some viewpoints that you may or may not share. I know that Christmas has a different meaning for every family and certainly as many individuals! When someone says “Merry Christmas” to you, we may not be aware of what Christmas really means to that person, nor perhaps, what they wished it meant.

Fortunately, I have lived to see another year and even a rekindled relationship with my daughter, who has come to visit “this side” of the family. Our family, I presume is like most families, unique in our structure and the type of relationships within the structure. I often think back to my senior thesis that I wrote to graduate from Princeton University entitled: “A Critique of Studies on The Black Family.” Most of my memories of my family, which is the focus of my first book, “From the Projects to Princeton,” include near heroic episodes of both my parents to keep a roof over our heads, all four of us, food to eat and decent clothes to wear as we grew up in the Winbrook Apartments. Mom even cleaned houses in addition to a lot of volunteer work, including being President of the PTA for a few years at Rochambeau Elementary School where I went. My dad worked for Pinkerton Detective Agency for many many hours on various assignments. He was glad to have “graduated” from being a garage mechanic to Sgt. Cook after some years with Pinkerton in Westchester. They struggled to make ends meet and it seems that nearly every Christmas, we were traveling from White Plains to Tampa, Florida where my mother’s late sister, Drucilla, and late brother, Jerry lived with their spouses and children. They lived in what comparably would be called “the country” part of Tampa. Christmases were always cool!

So, as I enter another Christmas Season, enjoying friends and family, and just being grateful and humble for a decent life today, I just want to say Merry Christmas to each and every one of you and your families as well. Try to exercise forgiveness when necessary, continue to be loving and generous in spirit and in deed, and be yourself! Most relationships require work. Nowadays, if the average person doesn’t see any results from this “work” that may gratify ones spirit, the average person may not want to make the investment and take the time to do the work. Just a quiet little thanks to my family members for doing this work this holiday season. Our ancestors, I am sure, are smiling on us, too. Happy Kwanza, as well!

Merry Christmas!

John I. CookEmoji, Director

The Best Holiday Wishes!

Best Holiday WishesHappy Friday, All!

T.G.I.F. might be in order folks! What do you think? Well, any other greeting will be fine, too!

Just last evening, I had the pleasure of picking up my daughter, Ayanna Lynne, from the FTL/HLLYWD Airport after work. As the holidays continue, I am hoping to see more friends and family, but this makes Christmas extra special for me. Now, I know I have friends who may be agnostic or just not grip the “Jesus Christ” story as part of their holiday celebrations. So be it. I know I also have friends and associates who are just “good people” with good values and a good human compass for their own behavior. So, I still want everyone included in these Holy Day Wishes.

Now, I am not a big “Duck Dynasty” fan so I don’t watch the show. What I did watch, however, were the responses to this guy’s “anti-gay” comments as well as some people’s attempt to compare the POTUS with this character “what’s his face” Peterson or something. Of course, the comment was like: “Who should be fired? The man who lied to the country about foreign policies OR the man who simply spoke his opinion?” I thought to myself, “What cynical times we live in … to even dare to compare these two?! No comparison!!” And of course, as I suspected, the protagonist of “Duck Dynasty” wasn’t finished with his remarks. He continued on into the race area. Peace be still! Sure, everyone can have their opinion, but don’t be surprised where your opinionated remarks land you, especially if you work for a major television network with many many more shows other than yours!

Next week lands us on Christmas Day, and, while I work the day before and the day after, the office is showing us much love with a small gathering of quality assurance agents, sales agents and all levels of management. I’ve heard of many people having Christmas parties, some with the regular “drunk dramas” and others that went off without a hitch! There are going to be more police on duty as folks finish their last minute shopping, so, be careful as you place things in your car, on your porch … since deliveries have been stolen, too … Don’t drink and drive unless you want to either add to fatality statistics or simply get arrested … or killed! Be responsible in these celebrations and please, please, please don’t forget the meaning of this holiday, which is “Joy to the World!”, Peace on Earth and Love Love Love! Have a great weekend.

Peace and Love,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

“We” Are The Human Family

One Human Family

Happy Hump Day, All!




Yes, it is … the middle of the work week for many of us! Even for those of us whose “weekends” fall on other days, it’s just so cool to have “Hump Day” anyways!!!




A quick house-keeping note, if you will, I wanted to thank you all in the Educational Excellence e-mail family for “putting up” with my early morning typos and stuff! You know, it seems no matter how early I wake up to write, or even if I put together a piece the night before, later in the day is when I find an error like “your” instead of “you” or vice versa! So thanks for still reading as I seek perfection, especially in the blog page which I can edit “all day long”!




Haven’t we all noticed that certain times of year seem to highlight “the family”? I have always been a big fan and student of the family. In fact, my senior thesis written as part of the graduation requirement from Princeton was called: “A Critique of Studies on The Black Family.” As I continued to have opportunities to explore and travel to different places, I became intrigued by the “other cultures”. I wouldn’t call myself “ethnocentric,” or thinking my ethnic group is the center of things. Yet, I do recognize, appreciate and accept the fact that ALL ethnic groups, including mine, are part of the fabric of the human family. We ALL, thusly, have made and continue to make contributions to the “human experience,” if you will. My thirst for knowledge, to learn another language, and to experience other cultures all make this journey quite intriguing and interesting, enjoyable even. Of course, we want to “know” the positive contributions, though it is important to learn about the “not so positive” characteristics of any culture, too! That knowledge may help us avoid certain pitfalls, misunderstandings and just “bad habits”.




My daughter by birth, Ayanna Lynne, is coming to visit me tomorrow and stay for Christmas! I honestly don’t remember exactly how old she was the last time we spent Christmas together since her mother and I separated (and ultimately divorced) only two or three years after she was born. It was a sad time in all of our lives though she had no control over what was happening between her biological parents. After a few years, I had traveled to Cali, Colombia, SA, to teach and live, and we were finally divorced. I suggested that her mother permit Ayanna to come and visit me while I worked in Cali, but she refused. Peace be still … Once I had returned to the USA five years later, Ayanna and I reconnected a bit, she did come to Florida for a Christmas which she spent part time with me and part time with my sister Edna and her kids, Ayanna’s cousins. We had a “falling out” after the visit and things changed for the worse. I unofficially was adopted by a young lady, Natasha Carilles, as she learned of the pain I experienced in missing Ayanna. She and I have been very very close friends ever since then, too! Maybe they’ll have a chance to meet up, since “Tashi” lives here.




The concept of “family” often extends beyond direct biological connections. It is often characterized by warm, loving, caring and uplifting relationships that are developed outside of the traditional biological connections. A good friend, my landlord, “Mitch” even dropped off an “early Christmas present” for Ayanna and I … maybe even “Tashi” … to enjoy together. Thanks “Mitch”, much appreciated! I think we’d have a lot more progress as the “human race” if we tried to connect as one human family! May we use these “holy days” to experience the widespread vastness of this “human family”, especially if you already haven’t.





John I. CookEmoji, Director


“Live And Let Live!”

Hearts Live Let LiveIt’s Monday ….

Yes, once again we’ve another day of life to enjoy! Please, don’t take it for granted, folks. Over the years I’ve spent on this planet, considering the places I have been fortunate enough to see and the safe experiences I’ve had, I find myself suggesting to folks to “live and let live!” That way, one does NOT set oneself up for disappointment … we get enough of that already. Does it seem like we live in the same world with “the others” whose outlook on life may vary considerably from ours?! Doesn’t it make you wonder why one person likes “criticizing” and “speaking harshly” while others prefer to encourage and support our fellow humans along this journey?! Have you ever noticed how a person may speak to one person so warmly but within the next second, that same person may turn to you with some hostility in their voice? What do you think is the reason for this? Hey, don’t spend too much of your life trying to figure out someone else’s choices, you’ve got your own to make – live and let live!

“Life itself is the true binge!”, I’ve seen written in various ways. Yet there are others whose preoccupation with someone else’s life becomes their binge. Still others prefer food, or power, even sex, not just drugs or alcohol. The interesting thing about these “alternate” binges, since we’ve been given the gift of life, is that they usually have some negative “side effects”, if you will! Excessive weight, dependence on others, the desire to control others even … are amongst those “side effects”. Others may see you trying to live your dream, and, rather than encourage you with it, they seek to interrupt it and cast doubt on it. Ha! One of the most interesting examples of a person who had nearly everything negative thrown at him while he continued to give, and be peaceful, and encourage folks to work together to improve “humanity”, not just their own goals (sometimes obsessions) with life … is Nelson Mandela! Alongside some of my other heroes, if you will, I find MLK, Jr., Gandhi and Mother Teresa. They didn’t wear designer clothes, not that there is anything wrong with that as long as one does not become obsessed with them, didn’t have a television show nor multiple houses in different countries! Yet, their lessons in life were more paramount than the most popular rapper or talk show host and business mogul ever known. What I like about people like Oprah and Ellen are simple – they still, with their platform of fame and wealth, do countless things to encourage and help others achieve a life of meaning.

We know there is enough of everything on this planet to keep ALL of us relatively comfy along this journey. Yet, few people step up to offer a change in the “system”, which is obviously quite capitalistic, as it may either limit their own acquisitions or perhaps, “they” just like to see others suffer and struggle through this journey called life. Then, perhaps, “they” begin their judgment – “Well if I did it, why can’t they do it?!” And that’s where their dedication to humanity ends, and, their obsession with their acquisitions continues. No one of us can solve anyone’s problems alone. It’s a group effort, should we decide to undertake it! Let’s get into the “holy day” spirit, y’all – “live and let live!” Thanks to those of you who have given me support, encouragement and assistance. We’ll get back to fund raising after the holidays for EE. To my friends up North and out West, stay warm – we’ve even got a cool breeze here this morning in SoFlo! Peace be with you.


John I. CookEmoji, Director

To Follow, To Lead, To Unite!

ComeTogether Peace

Happy Friday, All!

So, I’m going out on a limb but, T.G.I.F.!! Glad that this week has come to an end as I look forward to a pretty special weekend! A friend is flying in from Canada and the festivities are cranking up all around town. I think most cities across the country may be getting in the “Christmas Spirit”! How about you?! Do you think there is a consensus on what exactly is the “Christmas Spirit?” I doubt it, simply because some like to lead, others like to follow while there are those of us who like to join together!

Did you notice how quickly the event in Soweto, South Africa at the Soccer Stadium came under fire from so many different directions? There were some inconsistencies, like the sign language “guy” who probably just wanted his “15 minutes” of fame! But in this case, it was more like four hours!!! The POTUS kind of took it all in stride but that was definitely a huge potential security threat. Folks seemed to enjoy the event while others took more “pot shots” at President Obama and the First Lady looking to divide them like those darn articles in the Enquirer “newspaper”!! That is human nature … well … once we’ve become ‘socialized’, we adopt that nature! Gives a competitive edge to some! Again, they both took it all in stride! Proud of our President and First Lady representing us at the Mandela sending off celebration!



Today is Friday the 13th … any triskaidekaphobiacs in the house?! I mean “13” PLUS Friday, with a full moon looming?! No Fear, right?! It’s the weekend and we’ve got another opportunity to make a difference. There are options. Do you remember when someone, perhaps your parent(s), would say, “Which one do you want?” And you would choose? Well, we’ve got a few good options, choose them all! To follow, to lead and finally to come together. I think “Madiba” would like that! Have a great weekend!




John I. CookEmoji, Director


“Don’t Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth!”

Gift HorseHappy Hump Day, All!

I am sure by now most of us world-wide realize how important Nelson Mandela has been to all willing and able to pay attention to the lessons of his life. Now, of course, he was a giver, a “father”, as the name “Madiba” suggests. That can never be taken away by any human being. Things may not be perfect in South Africa but there has been progress made. The “Sending Off” Ceremony in the enormous soccer stadium was something that was a first! Not only were dignitaries from many nations as well as leaders of the same nations there, but there were common folks there as well. The population in the stadium seemed to cut across socio-economic differences as well as racial.

Needless to say, the spot light was on the POTUS, and, he was criticized for shaking the hand of now Cuban dictator Raul Castro. I mean, what was he supposed to do – walk past him at the “going away” party of a person who believed that everybody counts? Perhaps, as a local activist here in SoFlo stated, “It was like giving the olive branch in peace.” Yet another observer, a SoFlo college professor noted, “People are not paying attention to the words of his speech when he clearly addressed those leaders who herald Mandela but don’t allow the people in their own countries the freedoms he (Mandela) talked about!” Such is human kind – when something good is celebrated or happens, we often look for the negative to talk about rather than highlighting the positive contributions of an event or a person. Once folks jump in that seat of “judgment”, logic and compassion goes straight out the window.

Some of you may have heard the expression, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!” Others may need a paraphrased idea like, “Be grateful for what someone gifts you!” Sure, we can find something negative to say about that, too! We could spend hours talking about all the negative stuff until the positive has literally disappeared! This type of behavior is usually done by folks who start out meaning well, but ultimately do not have the balance required to make an objective observation. One must be careful NOT to be engulfed and led astray by negativity to the point that one can NOT notice the positive … of anything. I am convinced that some folks just like to talk … to hear themselves talk … and to stir up controversy.

In closing today, I just wanted to mention a call I received yesterday from Essie “Big Mama” Reed. The article I wrote on she and her Team of Life as well as the event held at the Fort Lauderdale Hilton last Thursday has not been set to print yet, but I suspect it will be in the today or next week. Yet, she took the time out of her busy schedule to call me, and thank me for being there (I was one of a few chocolate chips in the cookie!) as well as interviewing her, her friends and taking pictures with she and her friends as well. She is looking to expand and needs more contributors from the Palm Beach County area as she noticed was lacking from her nearly five city tour this past weekend, from Hialeah, Florida City and points in West Palm Beach. Be grateful for what we have, give warmly and generously when one can, and “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!”

Peace on Earth,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

Let It Bring Out The Best In You!

Bringing out the bestHappy Monday, All!

Yes, if you are reading this, your eyes are open! Another holiday season is firmly upon us . . . it’s December already! It seems many of us have gotten through a wonderful Thanksgiving Week, others got some shopping done for friends and family, and the benevolent organizations are in “full swing”, if you will!

This past Sunday saw the motorcycle riders of Broward County put together another “Run In The Sun”, where bikers rode their “Santa Claus” route from Hallandale Beach, FL to Markham Park in Sunrise, FL. All bikers donated either toys or money to assure that the children at the Joe DeMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, FL also have a festive Christmas. Can you imaging the joy on a child’s face who may be forced to remain in the hospital on Christmas with medical complications still receiving gifts and being able to celebrate Christmas?! There have been many studies done that demonstrate that people tend to get depressed, feel abandoned during the holidays, some even become suicidal! This is also the beauty of someone like “Big Mama”, whom I had the chance to interview and even hug and squeeze a few times, who make it well known that she suffered and struggled so much that, through her Team of Life, she wants to gather holiday goodies. These gifts include food and money and are redistributed to the families and children that often struggle with life in general, but especially at Christmas!

What’s in your heart?! Is the spirit of giving still in existence in your heart?! I think so! One of the things I have always embraced once becoming aware of it is a great premise in yoga. As we exercise on the mat in some forms of yoga, it is common to think about ourselves and our lives, in particular about things that “serve us” or “bring out the best in you” as opposed to things that don’t. Simply said, don’t entertain demons!! Some yogis instruct us to smile as we assume various asanas or poses. Others even tell us to think about a “happy place” and breathe into those taunt areas during our practice. At this time this year, I am very excited because I have been communicating with some friends who are expected to arrive in town this weekend. As well, it is planned that my daughter, Ayanna, is coming to visit me for Christmas as well! A special shout out to Christian Thomas and his new son; Kathleen Harris and her relatively new triplets and all the others with new children and pets in their families. Whatever you do, let it bring out the best in you!

Peace and blessing,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

There Is Greatness, and There Is Greatness!


Good Day!
I am going to go out on a limb and write T.G.I.F. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that South African activist who served over 25 years of his 95 years on Earth in a prison in South Africa for standing firm against the racist system of apartheid, Nelson “Madiba” Mandela passed away on Thursday. Yet, I quietly think he was ready to go and as he often suggested in his many many words of wisdom, when a person has done all he can in his lifetime, he may rest in peace. I think of others like Mother Teresa who never ran a country nor was imprisoned. Or Gandhi, though a lawyer never held the highest office of India either nor imprisoned for 27 years. There is no one who lived such a remarkable life nearly like a modern “Jesus”, if you will. I think he was ready and was called home by his Creator. There is greatness … then, there is greatness. Mandela … needless to say … is greatness.Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an event held at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort in honor of Ms. Essie “Big Mama” Reed. I also wrote an article for on the event. Her story is so moving that there were moments of silence during the event as a woman who has known Big Mama and got her started overcoming tremendous odds, holistic medicine Dr. King, in which one could feel the pain. Essie’s husband had left her over 20 years ago with two baby boys. They were already struggling but Essie’s heart was so big that she “scrimped and scrounged” and pulled together a “home” for over 20 children, plus her two, to escape life on the streets of Fort Lauderdale at such a young age. Dr. King stated in her introduction of Big Mama, that wires and pieces of metal and steel stuck out of the ceiling and walls all over the structure. Big Mama stated as she took the microphone that there was also a toilet that had fallen through the floor. But the children told Dr. King that there is no other place that they would rather be than in any structure with Big Mama! So began the Team of Life and the story of Big Mama. This, too, is greatness.

For Thanksgiving this year, Mama’s Team of Life located in the Sistrunk area of Fort Lauderdale, gathered food and turkeys and fixings and trimmings. From what they gathered, they were able to serve over 15,000 families in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade counties. Tell me, is this greatness?! Some may say, “Oh, that’s nothing!” Yet I beg to differ and ask anyone who would do what she did to care for less fortunate when she, too, was less fortunate, to drop me a line in response to this e-mail telling me so! It was the extreme difficulty, and in her own words – her love of God, and the fact that she has so much love in her heart to give that people like Dr. King and her husband, Mr. John Weaver, a well known realtor in Ft. Lauderdale, were so compelled to help her and ultimately, build a dream. Upon meeting her personally after talking on the phone with her for two days, the love really did emanate from her; her words and her movements as well as her smile and laughter. Even when Dr. King spoke of her dreaded beginnings and escape from deplorable living conditions, Big Mama still had a smile on her face. When she spoke, she teased that she might sound like we are in church. She praised her Creator for people like Dr. King and her husband John Weaver, and another gentleman I met, Mr. Ryan Paton, also a licensed mortgage broker, who they both agree is like her “white son”! I also got to meet Sam, one of her two biological sons who was also in attendance.

What is your calling? Is is simple and humble? Is it to help others with achieving their goals, which can be very important and instrumental in improving this human journey? Is it one like Dr. King and her husband, John? Don’t miss it, whatever it is. Thank you so much for your inspiring love Nelson Mandela. Thank you for your tireless efforts and love for others, Ms. Bessie “Big Mama” Reed! Happy Holy Days, All!
Namaste and Peace,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

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