What to Do For A New Year

thank you


Yes, one and ALL!
It is New Year’s Eve … just about!
I just wanted to take this time to thank all of you … and each and everyone of you individually … but as a group!  Did you expect anything less from me?!  So, thanks!
Thanks for what?! Everything, y’all!  Your readership and allowing me to send  my thoughts on stuff that perhaps is important to our country today … world even!  Many of you have been close friends, comrades, folks I’ve hung out with and worked with … People whose youngsters I’ve tutored … one or two of you I met as part of an interview to tutor.  I mean … I could go on and on!  If you are reading this, then I thank you … one way or another.  People I’ve met at the gym, specifically yoga classes and pilates … instructors even … Thank you!  People who have offered help when finances got tight … offered friendship … even an occasional meal or two … Thank you!
So, what ever you do this New Year’s Eve, make a resolution to be grateful for what you have … and those you have in your life.  Life is so precious, and, as we EACH know, one’s life could end rather abruptly … without notice.  Yet, all of us  must pass through this realm of existence … and expire!  It is something to be cherished, appreciated, used wisely even. ” And this above all, to thine own self be true!”  … and Know Thyself!  Happy New Year 2016!!


John I. Cook, Director

How Many MORE Times?!?!

Tamir Rice


It’s Tuesday …

How many more times do we have to see a child … or anyone … shot and killed … by anyone, especially a police officer?  Chicago is back in the news again with another officer shooting and killing two unarmed African Americans, including the 55 year old woman who opened the door for them.  And … the officer that shot Tamir Rice in a local park in Cleveland, OH was NOT charged by a grand jury.  The officers said that they thought he was going into the nearby recreation center … with his pellet gun!!!  So, since the police thought the pellet gun was a real gun, and someone at the recreation center next door to the park where Tamir was playing had called them saying they feared he would come to the center … yes, he was playing ALONE … rather than to take a chance and further investigate the complainant’s claim,  Tamir was shot and killed within seconds of the arrival of the two officers.
I remember when I used to come to Tampa, FL with my parents and family as a child for Christmas.  We would drive as a family from New York in the family two tone 1957 pink Cadillac that my father had bought used and fixed it up!  Sometimes, I would get a treat and they would put me on the train with one of my sisters.  We used to go to my mother’s sister’s house in Tampa who was married to my Uncle John Billups, whom I was named after, as well as my father … thusly … John Isaac.  They would often get me toys that I liked.  My favorite was to dress up as a cowboy with the hat and vest that my Aunt Drew and Uncle John had bought me for Christmas; once I think they bought me some cowboy boots and these fixtures over my pants that resembled the authentic cowboy’s gear.  They even included a gun belt with two holsters and two shiny cap pistols to go in each holster.  I used to love playing with my toy guns, putting rolls of caps in them and shooting them like a real cowboy!  I was playing, too … probably like 12 year old Tamir was playing in the park that day he was killed … alone …
In Chicago, the woman was  55 years of age and the 19 year old young man was a mentally disturbed person who had gotten combative with his father that day while wielding an aluminum bat.  Just recently, a relative had told the young African American mentally disturbed young  man that he would have to learn to control his temper … Then  this!  He probably couldn’t get the counseling … or medication he needed, so he literally committed suicide by the officer’s bullets while the woman who opened the door was shot and killed … by accident, the officers said!  Why is it when an African American person is approached by the police … and the “black” person is not armed with equal force … maybe a bat or a knife … and the police have tasers that they could use to de-escalate the situation … gun play suddenly erupts in the officers’ efforts to “protect and serve” … or are they doing something else, though that is their “job description”?  This is not my first piece with the “how many times” theme!  How many times have I mentioned this?  Do you think I could’ve been killed in Tampa, too … if not with my family playing at my Aunt Drucilla and Uncle John’s house on North A Street … by the police?!?  RIP, Tamir.
This is why I share my stories and look forward to speaking with the youth …. in particular the young black men!  Be careful, y’all … ALL y’all … but especially young African American men.

John I. Cook, Director

Honor Yourselves and Each Other! Happy Holy Days!

free hugs


Yes, I am changing it up a bit … It’s Tuesday and I am writing an e-mail and a blog entry as well.  Changing things up … you know … changing with the times and changing with my personal growth and desire to “give back”.  Have you ever thought about changing stuff you do … because you think you  are always right … or because you are so used to your “routine”?  Sometimes, I have noticed that life forces me to change … even though I have settled into a routine … Then … BAM!!!  Some challenging stuff goes down … making me change!!  Yet, I hold on to my peaceful approach to life … wishing everyone “namaste” and peace!  Now  … don’t get me wrong now … I still have thoughts of causing someone a “redirection of their thought process” when it comes to me and perhaps … how they “talk” to me or even “treat” me!  I often have to let that “mental video” play out in my mind rather than acting upon impulse!
Once again, as we start the final wind-down of this year … 2015 … and the start of a new year … 2016, I want each of you to know that if you would like to be REMOVED from this e-mail list for the New Year, let me know … please, let me know … okay?!?  Now, I have met most of you personally along this journey.  Some of you I have fallen in love with … though we never met (Dr. Karen Hurley, Columbia Teacher’s College, Adjunct Professor) … How could that happen?  Well, you all know how spiritual I am … how much I do NOT like violence … because I’ve been there and done that ….  So, I met Dr. Hurley via the social network.  She is a friend of some of my former students from White Plains High School where I taught social studies for 10 years and coached boys basketball with the varsity coach.  Dr. Hurley aka “Karen” sent me an e-mail where she discussed the concept of “Black Lives Matter” as an “additional” session with her graduate students!  She said in the e-mail that “my” words in these messages hadn’t gone unheard!  She is a wonderful person whom I hope to meet in person one day.  She is spiritually “my sister”!
So these “Holy Days” hold Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa in the coming weeks!  Wouldn’t this be a fantastic time to “embrace diversity”?!?  Me thinks so!  In this time, our nation is experiencing so much separation and segmenting of our population based on religion or national origin, not to mention income.  Aren’t we smart enough to embrace these differences and take the opportunity to learn MORE about each other?!?  You see, there is a lot more to intelligence than running a computer and making blue prints for skyscrapers.  The true intelligence comes when WE learn how to get along with each other!!  After all, we are the foundation of Creation … not skyscrapers!!!  I will continue to encourage the diverse elements of humans in our world to continue to learn how to get along with each other … HAPPY HOLY DAYS!
Peace be with you!

John I. Cook, Director

Pray for Freddie Gray! aka “Stop the Violence”!

twisted pistol


Hello All!  I’ve got to do it, as always on this day, T.G.I.F.!  Whoopie!  (And NOT Goldberg either! lol!)

Well, well, well . . . another “snafu” in the criminal justice system … when it comes to Mr. Gray!!  Do we ever wonder “why”??  A man was killed on the streets of NYC by an officer … he wasn’t charged!  We all could see the officer’s knee on the side of the man’s head … he freaking killed him … Eric Garner … for refusing to be “manhandled” for peddling loose cigarettes on those “mean streets”!  “NOT GUILTY”!  Officer Darren Wilson was also not charged after fatally shooting Michael Brown multiple times with a supposed “eye witness” whose identity is so obscure … some even doubt that the woman was even there!  But according to her, Brown lunged at Wilson … which no one saw in the video …  Have we had enough yet?!?  Okay, let’s go back a year to 2014 … that dreadful day when LaQuann McDonald was gunned down first … then shot 16 more times while laying motionless on the ground!!  Is this what folks are calling a “hero”?!?  Try “racist coward” … maybe that would fit over this sick person’s ugly behavior!!!  Did LaQuann touch the officer???  Why did they wait so long to release the darn video?!?  Finally, when the video was released a year later, it took a few more days for the Chicago Police Department’s “top cop”, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, to be forced to step down by the new mayor, Mr. Emmanuel.  While the City of Chicago paid McDonald’s family $4.1 million, the public outcry after the video was released forced the two, Emmanuel and McCarthy, to face off as the “dirty laundry” of the historic corruption in Chicago’s Police Department was “aired” and multiple cover-ups and “codes of silence” were discovered!!  Are these your “heroes”????
So, now, we have 5 more officers who will stand trial for the death of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray while in police custody.  Can we expect a bunch of mistrials to occur here, too?!?  I mean, as a “black man”, it appears that there is an open season on “us” amidst all of the other gun violence taking place in this country.  But even people like MLK, Jr. and Gandhi spoke the truth when  their non-violent movements embraced the fact that if this type of violence is happening to one person, one group of people … it can happen to ANYONE and ANY GROUP of PEOPLE!
When you get a chance today … if you’ve a heart anyway … Pray for Freddie Gray!
John I. Cook, Director

The Reign of Terror!!!



It’s Hump Day …. Do you know where your “peace” is?!?

Some folks have never considered “finding peace”!  Most folks are concerned with accumulating wealth … usually at the expense of other things.  I am not knocking the accumulation of wealth, I am just opposed to allowing things like “the accumulation of wealth” OR someone’s bad energy/vibes OR a “hater’s hate” to stop me from seeking peace and harmony!  You know, job discrimination and racial profiling … they can hold someone back, too.  Now the one that really gets to me sometime is the “background check” angle.  I had done a “crime”, I did my time … over ten years ago, yet … it comes up over and over again!!  Even for a university graduate like me … they don’t see the years and years of hard work when considering employment and promotions!!  Even the POTUS is proposing legislation to eliminate background checks after a certain amount of time has passed.
Right now, I am looking to do another presentation at a middle school with a great mentoring program for young men as well as the Community Justice Program with Broward Sheriff’s Office.  I have to get in touch with Patrick Cure Leon and Nicole Valencia to set up some dates!  I encourage people to face society’s “reign of terror” with dignity and pride, because … last I checked, no one is perfect!!  So, why do folks like to keep reminding “me” and “others” of our past?!?  Is that the only leverage one can wield to try and “hold a brother down”?!?  Well, it doesn’t work with me anymore … And I want to pass my wisdom, hope and courage on to those who may be facing similar circumstances.  This is why I write … and speak whenever I can!
So, as we draw near the end of another year, hopefully enjoying the Holy Days and the time with family, friends and loved ones, don’t let “nobody’s” reign of terror steal your joy and peace!  Maybe, “they’re gonna learn today”!  The teacher arrives when the student appears!
Enjoy your Hump Day, ya hear!??!

John I. Cook, Director

Carry On!! ‘T is The Season . . .”

tree top


Happy Friday, y’all!

It’s a routine for me … like when waking up in the morning to say my first simple prayer of the day … “Thank You!”  So, on it’s heels, I am following up with a hearty “T.G.I.F.”!  Gotta be grateful today, folks!

I mean, we are in the midst of a “holy day” season and it looks like we’d prefer to be in the “holy war” season!!!  With comments like Trump … suggesting that we … the USA … a nation founded on religious freedom … is now looking at banning one group from the USA?!?  Trump says we are at war with these people!!!  Memories of Nazi Germany?  How about memories of rounding up Native Americans and putting them on reservations?!?  Now, simply add to the mixture the “words” of Judge Scalia, which insinuate … if not simply state …. that African American students should choose a “lesser” university to study at other than the University of Texas!!!!  “Hark the herald angels sing!!!”  But what the fudge are they singing NOW?!?!

This is the season to be jolly.  Yet, some folks seem not to even respect this “holy day” season.  We just recently started the Chanukah celebration in this country and now we are looking at Christmas … for those who can get past the “judgmental” part of the “holy day” and just enjoy and seek “Peace on Earth” for a few days, heh?!?  So, here’s my suggestion … “Carry On! ‘t is the season to be jolly!”  Keep that in mind, too!

John I. Cook, Director

Just In Case You Didn’t Know . . .

You're Awesome


Howdy All!

Yeah, don’t have anything catchy to state for Tuesdays … other than “Tacos Tuesday” … and this isn’t a culinary blog type thing so, … “Howdy!” Is gonna have to do for now!  Thanks for still embracing the “capricious format” of sending out e-mails and posting blogs when “I feel it”!  It’s pretty cool for me, being in transition still with living arrangements and stuff … work and pay concerns, not to mention days off for the “holy days”.  At least I don’t feel the “pressure” of having to produce something by a certain time before the next morning!
Yet, two topics stay on my mind that though interrelated still focus on my discontent with the manner that “police” or “law enforcement” handle things when regarding people in general, but in particular, African American men.  The first topic deals with the shooting death of twenty-five year old Ronald Johnson, African American male, who though appearing “high as a kite” made no menacing gestures towards the officer who shot him first to the ground with two shots, and … then apparently became possessed and shot this man 14 … fourteen … 14 MORE times while the twenty-five year old Johnson lay motionless on the ground!!!  This is barbaric behaviour on the part of this officer.  The history of the cover ups regarding this case … and OTHERS there in Chicago Police Department until the recent retirement of Constantine “Dean” Andrews who personally had closed a case of a purported cover-up of one of Mayor Daly’s nephews to the handling of NOT arresting the officer by State Attorney Anita Alvarez for the murder of Johnson … are horrific.  Definite from some freaking far out “cop drama” novel!!!  It just doesn’t seem real to me!!  Attorney for Mr. Johnson’s family, Michael Oppenheimer, is not only charging that Johnson was shot IN THE BACK, but also the incessant firing of shots by officer while Mr. Johnson was already motionless …. motionless … on the ground!
So … changing backdrops … “60 Minutes” segment on Sunday night about “CI”‘s (confidential informants) for the police in various areas … yes, and even a college campus!  The college was “Old Miss” aka University of Mississippi and several students appeared on this segment, as well as the detective who recruited and required the “CI”‘s to set up … literally … school mates who had access to marijuana.  Most of the students ONLY had gotten caught with small amounts of marijuana and forced into the CI status!  The sad part about all this is, a few students were actually killed when it was discovered, as with one young lady, that they had “wires” for live recordings on their person ….  So, in one place in the good ole USA we have police officers covering up crimes that THEY committed on civilians for quite some time; while on the other hand, we’ve got police officers recruiting CI’s on a well know university campus in this country and even telling them not to tell anyone …. not even their parents … and these are “white” youngsters, folks!!!!  Is this how the police operate in some areas in this country?!?  Yes, …. just in case you didn’t know.
Keep your eyes open … and as we say in yoga class … keep your heart open, think clearly and speak wisely.

John I. Cook, Director

Art Basel – Miami: 2015

art basel


Happy Friday, All!

And I have to do it … just because … because it feels good!  So, T.G.I.F.!!  Care to join in?!?
Well, in the aftermath of the horrific shooting after an office party … the story continues to unfold.  All of the agencies that are supposed to keep people like the shooter – “Farook” – under close eye, are now collaborating to see where some agency may have “dropped the ball”!  I feel like one local radio announcer said yesterday, “I don’t want to do any more stories on mass shootings anymore.  I am sick of them!  People need to  just stop!  JUST STOP!!”  After a while, we run out of excuses and explanations.  Honestly, the responsibility falls on the person who decides to do the shooting …. to “JUST STOP”!  So, today, I choose to focus not only on the incessant rain here in SoFlo, but the hopes that Art Basel goes well in spite of the weather!
Every year around this time, the European based Art Basel comes to town … along with Santa Claus! “Ho! Ho! Ho!”  I am in the mood for something exciting and upbeat.  Now, at work, my pay was once again returned to $15.00/hour as I rose to the occasion and didn’t complain, but got an average of 11 deals per day for nearly four weeks!  I guess that indicated that I am a hard worker and was “earning my keep”, as the expression goes.  I can’t really worry about the “other folks” with less time on the job than me and the “office favorites” … we all know how that goes!  So, I’ve been keeping the “pedal pressed” each day as I have rejoined the sales force there.  One co-worker even mentioned going down to Miami this weekend to check out some of the events of Art Basel.  Last year, I believe, somebody like Jay Z or P-Diddy was in town and bought up a bunch of expensive pieces of art work.  I am sure it will be quite the event again, as preparations have been underway for a while now.
So, whatever you do this weekend, enjoy yourself … we never know when it’s our “own” last hours, so let’s be grateful and try to learn to treat each other … not to mention ourselves, a little better.  Have a great weekend … pray for peace!

John I. Cook, Director



“Giving Tuesday”!

giving tuesday


Yes, it is not just any Tuesday, y’all!  This is GIVING TUESDAY!  What on Earth could that mean?!?  “You all are gonna learn today!!!”
But before I talk about that, I would like to give “kudos” to the people of Baltimore who kept fighting to get justice for another unarmed African American male, Freddie Gray, who was killed at the hands of several police officers!  I mean, these officers chased Mr. Gray, just like bullies would chase a helpless child down the hallways of a school, and began to beat him in plain sight!!  The interesting component of these crimes is that the officers were not only “white”, but hispanic and yes …. black!!!  This tells us that in our society that even “black” officers tend to forget who they are and what they are doing to a fellow African American male!!  Yet, Monday marked the opening of the trial for the first officer to face charges in the death of Mr. Gray!!  It was said that this officer drove the van erratically while Mr. Gray was in the back of the prisoner transport van and had NOT even been arrested … nor properly secured!  He was complaining of pains as he was literally thrown into the back of the van and probably was suffering from an injured spine THEN after he was beaten by all five or six officers after they caught up with him!!!  Mr. Gray was also NOT secured, as is required by police procedure when transporting a “prisoner”.  Mr. Gray was a hostage, in fact, and was NEVER charged with anything!!  Lock them ALL up in J.A.I.L. and charge them with murder!  Next officer …. STAND UP!!!  Thank you, State Attorney Mosby for making these “bullies” stand trial!  A “hero” ain’t a “hero” just because he or she wears a blue uniform with a badge and carries a gun.  Don’t forget the officer who had been stealing money and tried to stage his own murder, again claiming it was “black men” who had killed him!!!  He wore “blue”, too!
So, what is “Giving Tuesday”???  It comes on the heels of “Black Friday” …. geeesh, what a name, huh … and just a bit after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.  One announcer on a radio station here in SoFlo said: “Imagine, all the kids with their families sitting around the table having Thanksgiving dinner and their parents teaching them to “give thanks” … Then, the sun goes down, the sun comes up and those SAME parents are at the mall …. beating the crap out of each other to get a bargain on something material!!  (Hopefully, the parents left the kids at home!!)  So, “Giving Tuesday” is designed to offset the violence and avarice normally associated with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday shopping.  It has become a day to celebrate “the spirit of giving” to local charities, non-profit organizations, and … giving to people in need … like a neighbor or a friend who has fallen on hard times.  Many folks are like myself, who try to stay afloat with a philanthropic/humanitarian service like the blog and e-mails for Educational Excellence.  It is not easy … and of course, I would like to take this time to thank many of you … over and over … for helping keep ME and EE afloat all these years!!  You all truly embrace the spirit of “Giving Tuesday”.
See what you can do, check how you feel … and check your checkbook, too!  One should ONLY give if one can “afford” to do it … while many of different faiths believe that ” … it is in the giving, that one finds grace!”  Have a great first day of December, last month of 2015 … and a splendid “Giving Tuesday”!!  It is the FIRST of its kind … how about YOU!?

John I. Cook, Director

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