You Gotta Believe!!!


Happy Friday, All!

Okay … ready?!? T.G.I.F.!!! Yeah!! Now, this is Labor Day Weekend, too, so I am thoroughly psyched for a long weekend, y’all. A friend of mine from Jackson, TN, Ms. Michele Rinks, sent me a post about a very successful and popular motivational speaker named “Johnny Wimbrey”! Our stories are similar though he got started sooner in life as a speaker. He was a gang member, if I am not mistaken, and NOW will be speaking at the Broward County Convention Center here in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday!!! I am going to see if I can get a chance to see him “motivate”!! Ms. Rinks has told me about him on various occasion, and, she had a chance to meet him in Las Vegas some weeks back. She said, “If I were in Florida, I wouldn’t miss [this event] for the world!”

This is like my 510th blog post for Educational Excellence and I am very proud of this “flat”(home)-styled business!! I don’t have much in terms of material things, I write a lot and am always seeking to broaden my horizons. Some people think I should do “this” while others think that I should do “that” … Still, I do what I think I feel best doing and deal with my circumstances as best I can. From time to time, some of the readers miss my points and/or take jabs at me as if in a boxing match!! Still, I love you!! Many of us don’t know nor have unconditional love. That’s what I have for each of you. “You gotta believe me!” When was the last time you heard that?!? Did you believe them?? It is hard to believe folks nowadays. Each time I set up to write my e-mail, I look at all the wonderful people that I have been fortunate enough to meet in my life. Even when I trained for ACORN in Nashville, TN over 5 years ago, I met Christian Thomas who was the coordinator of the ACORN office in Nashville. He trained me in foreclosure prevention and community organizing. We had a cool house office there in Nashville where we met before we went into the field. He is now a lawyer, and, if I am not mistaken, waiting for the results of his bar exam. Oh yeah, he is still with the same beautiful wife he had then and has a charming baby boy!

Also, while in Nashville training for a month, and during our foreclosure prevention fair we held at a local baptist church in the community there, I met Sharon Hurt, another integral part of this wonderful e-mail family. She still directs an organization there called “J.U.M.P.”!! She sent me a message after the piece on Michael Brown, the teen killed in Ferguson. She gave me a “thumbs up” just by saying “well said”. It means a lot to me when people really understand where I am “coming from” though one … anyone … doesn’t have to agree with me. I say what I think. Over the years, I have learned to look at my life as a journey, not a contest. It is not important for me to compete, though I must admit, I enjoy seeing others excel in their craft and adventures along this journey we share. Have you ever wondered what the future brings? Do YOU think that you know that, too?!? I try to keep it simple, y’all. I believe … and you gotta believe! Sending you all … each and every one of you … peace, love and light!


John I. Cook

I Was Saving This One . . .


Happy Hump Day, Y’all …

I know, I know … there are a lot of things NOT to be happy about … I know. Yet, if we want to generate positive outcomes in our lives, we must think positive. Can you say, “We are what we think.” For me, this is why it is so important to surround myself with people who encourage and support me, as well as show me how I may improve, and with those who share similar values. So all this means a lot to me, and the things I write about.

So, yes, I have been saving this one … the RIP for Michael Brown. Yes, I know he must not have been an angel, like many of us were NOT at 18 … and many of us are STILL not angels at whatever age we may be at. It is a lot to digest in America, the land of the free, home of the brave. Many people know about the horrors of “institutional racism” and “white privilege”, which, together, can make the life of an African American nearly impossible. The horrors of slavery have left indelible marks on the psyche of many of us … American and foreign alike. I have had some people from Europe tell me that I exaggerate the life of African Americans and the difficulties we often face. I am not sure exactly why they think that because I try to be one of the most fair-minded people you may ever meet. I don’t judge … because I have been judged. It was interesting to hear Al Sharpton’s words regarding “policing” in the United States. He said something to the effect of: “Police work that allows guns (and drugs!) into the neighborhood but seeks to single out a man selling “loose cigarettes” in the street OR some teen-aged boy with his friends walking down the middle of the street is sketchy!!! Now that’s some shady police work!” I have walked down the middle of the street in my hometown. Have any of you?? What happened??? I know, you didn’t purportedly “steal cigars”, but … can one give the death sentence and execute a suspect in one easy pull of the trigger … for stealing cigars??!!

Okay, I was saving this, too … How many of you have lost a loved one … a teenager … a child … even a mate?! How does that feel? Would you “take the side of” anyone and everyone in “law enforcement”? How about the officer … sergeant I believe … on the “crowd control” duty there at Ferguson who had posted a video from 2012 saying, “If you don’t want to die, don’t get in front of me!” This guy served in Vietnam and has been in law enforcement there in Missouri for multiple years! Now here is a man that served in two “arenas” that Americans deem sacred – war efforts and community safety. His quote sounds like he has crossed the line a bit and thinks he is in a war zone when faced with decision making in the streets of America where his job is to promote safety – protect and serve! Yet, he physically pushed a news announcer, who, like a wise African American male would do in a similar situation, allowed himself to be pushed back … in a clip of Ferguson’s unrest that was viewed internationally!!! His superiors saw the danger and immediately removed him from that detail!!! Even “they” know … and I use “they” loosely, to refer to his superiors.

Losing a child to death must be difficult. I was proud to see the unity displayed by folks who protested peacefully there in Ferguson, MO as they asked that the officer be charged and tried like any other person would be. This is not a time for the institution of law enforcement to drop the ball and make it seem like “white privilege” is being invoked here. We need to be fair, and at least … let the judicial process work in this case as well, since this is all us “humans” have been able to devise to seek “liberty and justice for ALL!”

Have a great Hump Day, seek peace, if you will … and be well!


John I. Cook

Sometimes, It Just Is That Way


Happy Monday, All!

Yes, I did enjoy my weekend. Needless to say, I had to overlook some inconsistencies in behavior on the part of “others”. Now, it was disappointing to see for example, that someone from my past was looking to reconnect as friends while holding this attitude towards me as if I owe them something!! So, with that attitude came some words and actions, though I did my part … the drama was perfect, as I remember Roz Reich of the Brahma Kumaris, Hollywood, FL once mentioned. Meanwhile, I had to adjust to dealing with something that I knew was wrong! The other parties all had a vested interest in “proving” me wrong, so … I had to let it go! “Let go, and let God!”, as one 12-step program phrases it. I have been doing this over and over for many years now, so I knew what I had to do. It wasn’t easy, and it was more than one situation … that I was powerless over, peace be still.

Just a thought that came while watching “60 Minutes” last night with a segment on “data brokers” and this company called “Epsilon” that tracks purchases, “likes” on social networks, favorite foods, geographical preferences, right on down to fantasies of each of us!!! It was amazing how one company even has a “tracking device” with applications like the popular “Angry Birds”, which is a game that many many people play on their hand held mobile devices. The segment included information like the fact that the producers of “Angry Birds” gives you the application “free”, but then sells the information they get from “tracking” your whereabouts to other marketing components and businesses who use YOUR valuable information to literally “keep tabs” on each of us and develop a “profile” that has become instrumental in identifying our likes and dislikes and seeks to bombard us with “opportunities” that they know we can’t turn down!! How does that make you feel?? Hopefully, we become more cautious of what we put on the internet in surveys and questionnaires. There are interests groups pushing for the monitoring of these businesses like Epsilon and the ultimate regulation of their activities, if necessary.

I remember my father always telling me that: “You can’t win every battle, boy! Sometimes, you just have to learn from these experiences … and grin and bare it!” Updated interpretation, ’cause my father often spoke in parables, “the drama is perfect”! Have a great day, a wonderful week, and what does not serve you in a positive way, let it go . . .


John I. Cook

So What Should We Do Now???

What's Next

It’s Friday, and like I do each morning when I wake up, I thank my Creator whom I choose to call God … a power far greater than myself … or anyone I know

So, let’s see, the events surrounding the shooting in Ferguson, MO … yep, and I just watched the shooting … er uh … suicide by the kid in St. Louis … and you know he wanted to die – what do people wake up thinking about?! I mean, to me, this kid was also asking for help … He didn’t open fire on people with an automatic weapon in a movie theatre and he didn’t go into a school to shoot and kill kids … he had a knife. Yes, a knife is a deadly weapon. You … or I … or an officer … have the right to defend oneself against an attacker with a knife. In his head, I am sure he was already “lost” – no self esteem, no faith in society, no one who really cared about him enough to intervene before he set himself up as an “armed target”. Of course, there is enough “excuses” or reasons to execute him … Could an alternative been to “taser” him … maybe give him an opportunity to say he was crazy and enter a treatment center or jail??? With all the tensions in our purported “post racial America”, given the players in this scene, it was clear as the officers manipulated the scenario to allow themselves to justifiably execute this kid … with 9 shots.

Another journalist is slated to be “beheaded” and a failed rescue attempt by US Special Forces not only shows the intelligence of these “insurgents”, but has also shown them that they must take extra added precautions to avoid their capture and the journalist’s rescue. Quite a “check mate” situation … Is “all the world a stage” OR does it seem more like a chess game?!? It is indeed quite a real “live” human theatre … this world we live in. Yet, we each have our parts to play in this “human theatre”, if only we could figure them out!! Well, this is part of my role in this episode – to write about things. Still, I have other roles or perhaps facets of my main role as an advocate of peace and self-love and discipline. I will be getting to those later … for sure!!

Problems all around us, both near and afar. What should we do now? Choose wisely! Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend … because you can!


John I. Cook

The Michael Brown Saga continues . . .

Brown's Mom

Happy Hump Day, All!

Just in case you were wondering, it is the middle of the week!!! Yeah!!! At least for many of us … Journalists are beheaded in Iraq and the terrorists tell Obama to get troops out. Isn’t this a barbaric way to get the POTUS’s attention?!? I can only imagine what must have been running through their minds in those seconds before the knife entered their throats …. Peace be still. As if this isn’t enough for the leader of the “free” world to have to handle???!

We turn to look at the on-going tensions, questions, frustrations … yes … and more shootings!!!!! Michael Brown’s mother, family and friends are trying to cope with this “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality of today’s modern world. This situation is so volatile … people are so sensitive … anything can happen … and it is!!! More shootings, more tear gas, more looting … some peaceful demonstrations still happening but Ferguson looks like a war zone with tanks rolling down the street … ” in the land of the free, home of the brave!” Makes me wanna holla … hold up both my hands!!!! These lyrics are timeless, I can hear Marvin Gaye singing to Michael Brown’s soul now …

I continue to think about his mother … Trayvon’s mother offers her support. The same attorney for Trayvon’s mother, Mr. Crump, has yet another case on his hands – a young African American male is taken too soon. Now, the cries that Brown was a gang member and was high on pot … and he “bum rushed” the officer before he was shot … in the HEAD!!! “That devil weed makes people run at guns!” is the thought that the some would like you to believe about Brown. This was the same tactic used on Trayvon … he was going to make “sisurp” with his Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea … So, Zim was supposed to execute him … Just like Officer Wilson executed Michael Brown … even if he did steal four cigars … Death by Execution is OVERKILL!!!! Literally!!! I stated my opinion earlier … As a sociologist and a student of social psychology, I believe that Officer Wilson’s instinct and training, values (or lack of!) took over in that instant when he felt threatened as an authority and saw 6 foot 5 inch African American male – Michael Brown – facing him … and he lost it!!!! All his hatred came out on Brown in that instant!! All of his tension and frustration was released each time he pulled the trigger SIX TIMES with his gun aimed at Brown’s upper body … Peace be still … RIP Michael Brown.

What can we do to calm this storm that has been stirred up in Ferguson?? An independent investigation is still underway by the Federal Government as Attorney General Holder directs and conducts his own investigation. Can the truth come out? Should the officer be arrested?? How accountable does a civil servant have to be, when armed with deadly force and is NOT confronted with deadly force but uses his anyway??? Tough questions, who’s got the answers …


John I. Cook

Stir Up The Good Things!!!

Little things

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well and that you had a chance to unwind … relax, even. Today is the first day of school in South Florida … Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties included. I have been keeping up a bit with the Superintendent of Schools in Miami Dade as there has been a lot of improvements in the public schools with additional equipment (laptops) for each student. This is a commitment to academic excellence by Alberto Carvalho who received the 2014 Superintendent of the Year Award sponsored by the School Superintendents Association earlier this year in Nashville. He is definitely a “hands on” superintendent who sets a very high standard for education in Miami Dade Public Schools. The schools even held a “Back to School” event yesterday sponsored by former students of Miami Dade Public Schools to be sure that ALL students had the proper supplies for the first day of school today!

These past few weeks have been full of reflections for me as things in my own life continue to change and develop. It is clear I need to hunker down on a few projects. So, as I meandered around the flat yesterday fixing brunch after yoga and listening to a few church broadcasts on television, a woman minister from Metro Life Church, Mary Alessi, caught my attention. She had a bowl in her hand and a spoon in it and was preaching a sermon on “stirring up the good things” in ones life!! Yes, it is true that some of us make mistakes … and admit them. This is the first step in improving ones relationship with ones SELF! Still others get stuck looking at the mistake and often get caught up in self pity while others try to heap “hell” on their shoulders and back!!! This can get cumbersome, down right uncomfortable even. So, Mary Alessi was suggesting that we NOT stir up the mistakes. But instead, she suggested we stir up the gifts of love and peace and strength. Let’s find and stir up the things that are “right” in your life rather than the things that are NOT. An age old axiom says something like this: “Don’t focus on the problem … focus on the solution!” Of course that is much simpler once we admit that there is a problem. Then, move on!

Sending out good vibrations to all of the youngsters entering school today, wishing them a wonderful school year, as we all know that life has got more twists and turns today than ever. So much to look out for from child predators to bullies at school to unwanted peer pressure often imposed by “friends and associates”! Encourage the kids to stay focused on solutions and to believe that they can find answers to life’s many challenges!

Have a great Monday and a wonderful week! Thanks for reading.


John I. Cook

The Tale of Two Cities . . .


It’s Friday, y’all!

This week kind of “hoofed it” by … so it seems! How was yours? School starts Monday here in South Florida. Many lessons for the youngsters to learn, too! The basics – reading, writing and arithmetic – not to mention how to behave. Nowadays, some kids have what appears to be like so much personality. They are learning to “look” like adults but often still lack the proper etiquette … self discipline, in fact!

Much is still going on … both abroad and at home. It all makes my head spin. Yes, I am optimistic … what else would I be?! I always wondered why “man’s inhumanity to man” was not something that we as a civilization take much more seriously. I mean, from time to time, we take a closer look at our environment and try to take measures to “save” it … from ourselves!!! We are so “intelligent” as a species. Yet, we allow things to get to the point where a rabbi is murdered on his way to the synagogue in a residential area … in the middle of the afternoon! I can truly understand why the people in that community want the police to “make an arrest”. Yet, I hope they find the actual person(s) who committed this atrocity. “Welcome to Miami! Bienvenidos a Miami” … It is one city.

Stand your ground has become the most challenged “catch phrase” in the legal arenas, many of which span Florida. So many cases, from Zimmerman to Dunn … to the woman (African American) who fired a warning shot to stop her abusive husband and was given time in jail!!! Now, in Ferguson, MO, the “true colors” of the apparently on-going conflict are coming out there since the demographics changed and African Americans became the predominant ethnic group in the suburb of St. Louis. The young college bound kid had NO weapon. Arguments range from the assertion that the teen “hit” the officer and he had to be taken to the hospital … but was not found to be DEAD!!! Of course, the new image spanning the media in regards to this situation is that the youngster had both hands in the air … and received six shots to his unarmed body. Now, I have a temper myself. It has helped me win basketball games, foot races, even get and stay in shape!! I harness my temper with discipline today. I truly believe that this officer LOST his temper, due to the prevailing environment, his OWN attitude and perception of reality (that the teen’s life didn’t matter!) coupled with his LACK of discipline!!! Many of us walk around like that every day … we just aren’t allowed to carry guns around to whip out when we lose control of ourselves!!! Ferguson … another American city.

Indeed, this is the new “Tale of Two Cities” … peace be still! Is this the underlying current in America?!? How can we change this?!? Will we continue with “man’s inhumanity to man” until we destroy ourselves?!? I’d personally like a better ending to this “story” …. namaste!


John I. Cook

To Beat … Or Not To Beat, Or Shoot, Or Kill!

racial profile

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

It means a lot to me to send these e-mails out three times a week. Yet, I must admit, it takes some “work”, too! I do it because I like to write, and reach out, and embrace this journey. Most of you know how “we” became friends and associates. I remember each of you well. Some of you I talk to a few times a year maybe, while others I’ve never met. One or two of you, as I recall, I met just once. One lives in England though I met her here in Miami … and another came by a service station I worked at years ago when I lived in Pembroke Pines!! She now lives in South Africa. This is diversity! I love each of you … for who you are!

This past week carried some seriously interesting and sad events. I mean, yes, Robin Williams committed suicide because “finances got tight” and depression and alcoholism set in. He gave up the fight … though he fought well … something was still missing. RIP, Robin … Now, before I begin with the title of this message, I want to say that yes, I do know that other groups in America are subject to similarly questionable behaviour. One example, kind of dear to me though I don’t know why, is Israel Hernandez, the graffiti artist from Miami who was tased by a Miami police officer and later died. Yes, this was a tragedy, no doubt. Yet, the following events are recent and involve an interesting phenomena I’d like to call “walking while black”.

Okay, so the first person was a woman … purportedly walking along a highway en route to her “friend’s house”, only accessible by going along the highway road. She was homeless and an African American woman. The only details are drawn from a video taken by a passer-by who was filming as the event unfolded. The woman is seen clearly walking away from the California State Trooper as he pursues her until catching up. He grabs her from behind and she struggled to get free until he threw her on the ground on the side of the highway. It appears she is trying to get up and the trooper begins to “pound and ground” her as if in a wrestling ring!! The trooper is on top and continues throwing punches at the woman’s head and face until the woman is near motionless. She is suing the California State Troopers for an undisclosed sum.

July 17th in NYC, a big “brother” who suffers from asthma is selling loose cigarettes on the street. An officer is seen, again in the video, approaching the man and pushing him up against a wall. The man says, “Take your hands off of me! Take your hands off of me!” until three cops band together, one choking him from behind along his throat in an “illegal” choke hold for law enforcement until the “band of men” fall to the sidewalk. It is audible in the videotape to hear the bigger African American man saying, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” as three or four NYC officers continue placing their knees on his head, chest and legs until the man on the ground is motionless. The ambulance arrives and the staff tells the man to get up. He is still unresponsive … right there on the scene of the crime of “selling loose cigarettes” on the street in NYC. “To beat or not to beat!”

On August 10th 2014, another event took place just 12 miles outside of St. Louis in a smaller town. Three or four teen-aged African American boys were walking down the street until an officer pulled up next to them in his squad car and ordered them “off the street”. Apparently, something was taking place causing the officer to make that request. The boys told the officer that they were going just a little bit further to a house not too far down the street and would be there within minutes. Upon hearing their remarks, the officer drove slowly past them. He then put his vehicle in reverse and drove backwards towards the boys!! Startled, they moved out of the way as the officer nearly hit them. The officer reached out of the car’s window to grab one of the youths who pulled away as he was being pulled head first into the squad car!!! The officer lost his grip and began to open his car door against the body of the youth he had just been pulling by the head – 18 year old college bound Michael Brown! Brown’s body weight and his attempt not to fall on the ground caused his body to bump the officer’s car door. The officer sprang out of the car, drew his gun, Brown had BOTH hands in the air … The officer fired like 6 shots at this defenseless, “hands in the air”, African American teen-aged college bound boy!!! Brown died shortly after … Riots broke out in that city and they hoped it wouldn’t spread to the streets of St. Louis!!

Three law enforcement officers, three questionable responses … two deaths and one law suit. “To beat … or not to beat, or shoot … or kill!” In the aftermath of the senseless shooting of a rabbi in Miami as he had traveled from Brooklyn to visit his family and was on his way to the synagogue, may we pray for more peace, less or NO violence … right here at home in the streets of the USA, too!


John I. Cook

Getting It Right

every child

Happy Monday, All!

Yes, this is the day when we each have to find meaning in our lives … goals we want to reach … projects we want to accomplish! THESE are the things that get us started on a Monday morning, you dig?! I hope that your weekends went well enough that you have awakened refreshed and grateful … for another day.

It was Saturday and I was in Publix supermarket like I often do after yoga and swimming in the morning. I was checking the sandwich selection and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lovely lady with a gentleman and a more mature woman. It was a former student of mine from City College, Fort Lauderdale – Olga Rogova! Olga was not only one of the best students at City College, she also worked with The Ambassador’s Program, which I supervised, whose goal was to increase retention of incoming students. Olga is from the Ukraine, if I remember correctly. She was always so meticulous and helpful with any projects that we had. So, she introduced me to her mother who spoke only Russian, as well as her fiancee – Ali John. He is a nice gent as well! Upon hearing that I had been her instructor at City College and … that I thought the world of her daughter, Olga, she reached out to hug me, right there on the sandwich line at Publix!! Several people were walking by while others may have wondered who we were and what we were doing. We were oblivious to what was going on around us … yes … right there in Publix. This is what life is about … gratitude and sharing! Thanks, Olga … I can see where you get your good graces from!

Over the days since LeBron James decided to return to play for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, there has been a bit of chatter. But as usual, most of us don’t know what we are talking about because we didn’t understand the “Man” – LeBron James! Yes, he helped to bring several championship rings and a few runs for it as well to Miami. He got to rub shoulders with the HEAT organization and the internal dynamics of Pat Riley, Dwayne Wade, Udonis Haslem, Mickey Arenson, Alonzo Mourning … and others. One thing about the HEAT, and I think LeBron is taking this back with him to Cleveland, is that they look to give back to the community that they reside in. While many teams and players make this effort, I have seen the HEAT go way out to give back. LeBron mentioned in his speech there in Akron, OH this past weekend that, ” …. this isn’t about me and what I want to do for me! This is about the kids!” He, too, has multiple foundations, programs, opportunities and more for today’s youth … right there in Ohio! That’s where he grew up in a single parent home and was able to sort out the drama to pursue his “talents” and take them wherever he wishes! I think he got it right when he made that statement. Miami’s HEAT have enough super stars and organizations and programs for the community, including scholarships for the local kids. Why wouldn’t a super star like LeBron with a plethora of resources at his command want to do the same in his “hometown”?! He does … he made the decision … and I believe he will do it … in style!! Once one gets past making lots of money, one may want to figure out how one can give back!!

In case you’re wondering, today, you have the opportunity to “get it right”, too! Choose your passion, develop it nicely … and share it with others. Have a great day and a wonderful week!


John I. Cook

“And Justice for All??!!??” – Part II

Lady Lib

Happy Friday, All!

Well, I am sure you guessed it! I am up for a hearty “T.G.I.F.!!!” Wheww! I have been through some “stuff” these past few weeks. Still, I am grateful that I can handle the situations that come my way well. I mean, bad things happen to good people, too!! Well, I am just jokingly venting. There are some things that I’ve already handled and … some things that I’ve still got ahead!! But I am ready … always thinking and always planning … as best as I can!

The jury found the Michigan man guilty who shot the teen girl in the face with his shotgun because as he said “feared for his life”. As I write this it is hard to say a wrong or a right … but this didn’t seem right to me either! Good call, jury! The POTUS has sent military aid to the victims on the mountain in Iran whom it is purported another terrorist group “ISIL/ISIS” (Islamic state) is holding detained at the top of the mountain. Obama said that we must help avoid this apparent “genocide” … A college kid is on trial for murdering and burying his high school colleague in the Gainesville, FL area and the girlfriend said that the assailant refused to accept the fact that she didn’t want to date him again … I mean … Okay, last one … The family of the graffiti artist young man in Miami who was tased by a Miami Police Department officer is celebrating the one year passing of young Israel. Justice is a tough word nowadays. Can we really achieve it?! I mean, I am not suggesting that we don’t try to get justice for people in tough or unfair situations. I just wish we as the human race could learn to minimize our conflicts … just saying.

In many circumstances, justice seems to elude us … frail-minded humans as we are. The concept of justice “changes”, often for the betterment of humankind. Still, it seems that this occurs only after incident upon incident after incident of INjustice … then we try to seek justice … for all!


John I. Cook

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