” . . . You See, What Had Happened Was . . .”

kevin hart what happened


Happy Friday, All!

Of course, I have to give credit where it is due … so … T.G.I.F.!
It’s been a rough week down in several Miami neighborhoods with so much gun violence.  Fortunately, the teens who caused the death of the six year old boy “King” have turned themselves in!!  Miami has had multiple shootings over the past few weeks … at a middle school with bullet proof glass … and at a high school where no one was hurt …. Yet, three or four teens were shot … one in the elbow and the other two more seriously wounded.  The only one who was killed though was 6 year old “King”.  His parents are a young African American couple and they both spoke publicly and organized an event advocating “Stop the Violence” in that neighborhood where King was shot and killed.  He didn’t have a chance, as a stray bullet hit him in the chest as he played outside of his front door.
The African American teen boys turned themselves in after realizing that they had killed an innocent little boy in the crossfire of a senseless display of gun violence stemming from harsh and threatening words exchanged … not only that … but on Facebook!!  They both apologized passionately to King’s parents as they turned themselves in to the authorities.  They didn’t realized what they had done … and now regret it.  That’s a decent thing … and, that this horrible event is being handled by the parents and that community in an incredibly spiritual way by using it as an extreme example of why gun violence MUST STOP!  The response in the community was tremendous!!  That’s how this sad story turned beautiful …
Last weekend on Saturday, I spoke to the participants of the Community Justice Program sponsored by the Broward Sheriff’s Office to help break that “schoolhouse to jailhouse” pipeline populated by many teens in Broward County Public Schools.  I had done some research on this and was privy to several panel discussions held in Ft. Lauderdale in the local churches and “round tables” a few years back.  It is a very real “pipeline” and needs to be interrupted by programs like this and another one I had the pleasure of working with with the youngsters involved in the Urban League of Broward County’s Project Embrace, which had the same goals in mind – to give the youth an option to receiving a juvenile record with their first offenses while in public school.  It was really uplifting and fulfilling for me, as I volunteered the services of Educational Excellence and sponsored a dual presentation focusing on Black History Month, which comes to an end on Monday, as well as a presentation on “Goal Setting: Short and Long Term” for these youth.  It went so well, that Mrs. Nicole Valencia Mercado has invited me back to speak with the parents of these same teens next month.  I am grateful for the opportunity, once again.
When we have a moment of “poor decision making” and have a conflict or problem, it is usually because “we” didn’t take our time, exhibit self control “in the heat of the moment” and said or did something that we may regret, as did the teens who caught young “King” in the crossfire of their silly dispute stemming from remarks on Facebook, causing him to lose his life, his parents to grieve deeply for the loss of their near infant son, and shook the community to its knees.  This is another reason why I practise yoga and meditation and involve myself in peaceful activities, even dating back to my ACORN days as a community organizer in Nashville and Orlando.  Those experiences have helped me to “think twice” before saying and then doing something irrational and harmful to myself and others.  This, too, is why I pass it on to the youth and advocate it as part of the “Stop the Violence” efforts and platform of Educational Excellence!

John I. Cook, Director

“And They (We) All Fall Down . . .”

falling dominoes


It Tuesday …
So, I just want to start by saying that I hope most people who read my e-mails and blog posts know by now that I don’t want anyone to feel a certain way … maybe how I want … ’cause that’s not so.  I just like to express my views on different topics that I think sometimes don’t get the proper attention, treatment or “air time”, if you will, and need desperately to be addressed.  One such issue is the sadness that come when we see in the news that a six year old boy … a black boy … in Miami … was shot in a “botched” drive by …  what could a six year old have done to anyone!!?? And please don’t suggest, though I thought about it for a second … that someone sought revenge against the father or mother of that child who was getting well known for his love of football!  I would hope and pray that no one thought that to do a drive by on this child would be a good way to show discontent for either of the parents!  Please NO!!!  But I wouldn’t be too surprised though really disappointed if that was the reason for this barbaric behavior …  Yet, I know the environment where these kids grow up … not making excuses, just observations … is a major contributor to this non-conformist and violent behaviour where the uncanny accessibility to weapons these “youth” are prone towards!!  I wonder, where do they come from?!?  Someone ought to do a study on that … something for a division of law enforcement to undertake … and trace where these weapons come from and how they got onto “the streets of Miami” and “New York” and all the other cities in the USA plagued with gun violence.
So, if this can happen to one child … it can happen to any child … or … any one … none of us excluded!  This also brings to mind the age-old axiom that has been set forth as a “lesson for humanity” that if one person experiences injustice in our society, it is highly probable that EVERYONE at some point may experience injustice.  Both Gandhi and King carried this message in their “movements” to achieve civil rights for all citizens in any given society.  Are we taking heed?  Even when the POTUS, who finally had an 106 year old African American woman come to the White House and spend time with he and the First Lady, tries to set into  motion more peaceful negotiations between Cuba and the USA after such a long history of distrust and counter-spying, even Cubans now in America, like Marco Rubio, criticize his efforts to change the world by challenging the lack of rights in Cuba in a peaceful more diplomatic way!!  It’s like so many humans want these “stand offs” in our international world today … And we all know that stand offs usually end up as physical conflict!
It’s gotten so bad, right here in our own country, we don’t have to look elsewhere to see the dehumanization process taking place, an Uber driver who passed the background check and had no criminal charges ever, decided to go on a shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, MI while picking up and dropping off passengers!!  One young lady, the girlfriend of a guy who had to jump out of the Uber driver’s car since he was driving so erratically, had even posted information of social media for ALL to see and take heed and stay away from this “mad man” armed with a gun and still picking up passengers!  She was ignored, as we do in our “human civilizations” when we see injustices taking place … we simply ignore the warning signs!!  Is this a “sign of our times”?  Are we waiting for ALL of us to “fall down” before we change directions and contents in our value systems in terms of setting priorities in our human interactions with EACH OTHER?!?  How many more have to suffer before we take heed?!?  I know, it is a scary topic that most of us don’t want to address … until …
It takes a strong yet peaceful warrior to stand in the face of a decaying society and encourage change through peaceful means, challenging the long standing “status quo” a la Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi.  These are the heroes of our time … and we ignore them, too!  Stand up for positive change … in the most minute situations … and foster its growth … one human at a time!
John I. Cook, Director

“Let’s Take It To The Stage . . .”

alvin ailey red man


It’s Friday … and the last week of Black History Month is coming up!!  May we honor those who came before us … from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King, Jr … Muhammad Ali and Kendrick Lamar … just to mention a few!!

So, here it goes … T.G.I.F.!!
Let me begin by saying how grateful I am today … for every one of you!  You each have been a blessing to me … in your own special ways … just sayin’!
Yes, we continue with “Black History Month” as a celebration of the numerous contributions of African Americans to the American Culture!  “We” are known world-wide for our talents and skills in many many areas, most not highlighted in the typical textbooks found in public schools purporting to educate students about American History.  This is why “we” were given a month … so there would be acknowledgement of the lack of information about contributions that are unique to African Americans!  Here in the SoFlo area, Miami to be exact, there will be presentations by the renowned Alvin Ailey Dancers at the Adrienne Arsht Theater.  I remember seeing them for the first time as a student at St. Paul’s School back in the early ’70’s as the formerly all boys private Episcopalian boarding school sought to include elements of “our” culture and expose the school’s population and community to such stellar dancing in the ballet style of the Alvin Ailey Dancers!  Thank you all at SPS’s administration for carrying the message of “The Dancers” to an otherwise “white Anglo-Saxon protestant” environment!
The current artistic director of the Dancers, Mr. Robert Battle, once attended Miami Northwestern High School, came back to town and held special workshops for the students at the High School who have an interest in the exceptional style of ballet exhibited by the Alvin Ailey Dancers!  Their performances at the Adrienne Arsht Theater began last night and will continue throughout the weekend.  What a beautiful tribute to African Americans far and wide as the Dancers “strut their stuff” here in the area where Mr. Battle was born and raised, grew up, was groomed and eventually found his way to be the artistic director of this world renown dance troupe!  Yes, you make us ALL proud, Mr. Battle!
Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to contribute to “Black History Month” with a presentation for the Broward Sheriff’s Office Community Justice Program’s participants who are local youth “charged” with completing this program directed by a good friend, Mrs. Nicole Valencia Mercado.  This is my second opportunity to bring the platform of the Educational Excellence’s program to these youth where I have planned a presentation on Black History Month as well as a workshop focusing on “Making A Plan” for our lives!  I look forward to it as well as another good friend, Edwin Etienne, who shares my passion of “giving back” to the youth here in our area by providing motivational workshops.  We will be at the Multi-Purpose Room at the Lauderdale Lakes Community Center off of State Road 7 in Lauderdale Lakes at 9am tomorrow morning.  So, “Let’s take it to the Stage!”, as the infamous Parliament Funkadelic Band led by George Clinton, another contributor to the musical talents of African Americans, once espoused.
Have a great weekend.  I am also hoping to attend the World Peace Meditation held in Hollywood’s Arts Park in Young Circle on Sunday by the Brahma Kumaris of Hollywood, FL.  The weather here permitting, we will have a nice weekend.  May those of you who still are experiencing cold temperatures and snow stay warm in the light of Black History Month!

John I. Cook, Director

Change’s Gonna Come!

rumi change


It’s Tuesday … the week got off to a great start for me!!  Some of you probably had the day off … I didn’t … but I am cool with that, too!

I have been dealing with some issues … additional employment … like with “Uber” who turned me down due to an accident I had on my way from my other “garage flat” in Hollywood!  The trooper charged me with causing the accident and said on the ticket that I was a “careless driver” … even though the two cars in front of me literally STOPPED in the third lane as I was changing lanes from the second to the third and realized that they were STOPPED … I bumped into the back of a car in front of me … and drove him into the back of the vehicle that had just STOPPED in front of him … because another vehicle had STOPPED in front of her!!!  Are you dizzy yet?!?  I hired some fantastic attorneys – Unger & Kowitt – who got the case dismissed.  But Uber’s background check company only had what the trooper had reported, not the final disposition of the case.  So, … I won’t be driving for Uber.  Now, I am looking to get a few students to tutor through a couple of agencies.
In my personal life, I have been juggling a few things … nothing serious … but  nothing to be overlooked, if you know what I mean.  It is “there” and cannot be overlooked.  I needed some solace so I went to service at Calvary Chapel on Sunday … for Valentine’s Day … since I didn’t have a “real” Valentine.  It was just what I needed … unexpected but greatly appreciated!!  I needed some spiritual reinforcement ’cause things aren’t bad, yet I am wondering why “things” aren’t getting “better” … maybe … faster … Hmmm … Just wondering.  So, the best place I could think of was just going to listen to someone else … someone spiritual … who may be able to relate to what I was feeling … I went to the right place!!  Calvary Chapel!!
The pastor who spoke told his “story” of how he came to find his “God”!  He was leaving Boston several years ago, had invited a friend to go with him on his drive to Florida, picked up some “drugs” … that’s what he said … and headed to South Beach!  He told us Sunday during service, that he stopped before entering a tunnel/toll onto I-95 in Boston on this same day and realized that his whole life would change as a result of this move for him.  His life did indeed change, he said, when they got to South Beach, ran out of drugs and had to figure out their “next move”.  After “floundering around”, toying with getting clean and sober, he came to a church he had heard about in Ft. Lauderdale.  It was called Calvary Chapel … and the pastor speaking that day when “Billy” accepted Jesus as his Lord and savoir at the end of service … was Pastor Bob Coy …  The rest is history, for his life did change!
So I got  my inspiration from that service though I have my own concept of “the divinity” many people call God, whom I also call My Creator … that energy that must have been present when I was conceived.  I understood where Pastor Billy was coming from … and even put it into perspective with the “Pastor Bob” story.  I hadn’t really been back to Calvary since he “stepped down”.  I had to digest what happened, heal some … and then “hurt” enough to go back and check things out.  Glad I did … it was Valentine’s Day … and I fell in love with myself … again!

John I. Cook, Director

May We Be Cool!

be cool


Happy Friday, All!

Some days, I have to keep telling myself, “You got this, bro’!”  I mean, it gets tough “out here”, y’all!!!  Some of you might know what I am talking about!!  It doesn’t get easier day to day, though I see some folks having successful events in their lives.  I am happy for youse!  I don’t complain too much … mostly observe and explain … not complain … but I do observe!
Yes, it is still Black History Month … some folks say we shouldn’t have a “Black History Month” because there is no “Jewish History Month” nor “White History Month” … but … you can read between the lines to see why there aren’t any such months if you are intelligent enough.  Yes, I am calling some folks out here … ’cause some folks like to compare apples to oranges … even though the juice is different.  Okay, need some help?!?  African Americans … once called “Negroes” then “blacks” were once slaves in THIS country.  How many ethnic groups can make that claim … or WANT to make that claim?!?  I heard through the grapevine that earlier colonial settlers tried to used the Native Americans as slaves but were outsmarted by many of them because they knew the land better than their European “settlers”.
Often, people misunderstand spiritual people like “yogis” or people who meditate and seek a “higher understanding” of things … those of us who put humanity FIRST!!  We … or … er uh … I am NOT a pushover … no one can walk all over me … disrespect me … nor should they “touch” me physically.  I usually try to walk away from a physical confrontation, not only because I don’t want to be “sucked in” to losing my temper but because I can’t “fight” like I used to.  I haven’t had to channel my “Muhammad Ali” in many many years.  I don’t enjoy “hand to hand” combat though I am not sure what I would REALLY do if someone touched me inappropriately!  I don’t really want to know … so … I avoid ALL such situations at ALL costs!!  Don’t forget that many people who were experts in the “martial arts” are those who have captured their “chi” and learned how to channel it to defend themselves.  They … nor I … are not “wusses” … just people who PREFER a peaceful existence.
So, just when you think you are losing it … just try to be “cool” … don’t be no fool … just be cool!

John I. Cook, Director

Educational Excellence

I Didn’t See All That!



Happy Hump Day, All!

Nothing like arriving at the middle of the week for me … especially after a couple days of uphill stuff at work!  I am starting to like the “no pressure” Monday mornings for the e-mail and the blog!  It gives me a day to clear my head and get through Monday … Monday, Monday … and I had a tough one yesterday at work, too!!  We got through it though, me and my Creator!
So, the Super Bowl 2016 – the 50th one at that – had so much drama involved that I just have to comment … make an observation or two, at least.  As far as Cam Newton is concerned, I view him as a “younger, up and coming athlete” who has to become more seasoned … more humble even!  Why?!?  Just because it takes time to become a veteran at something … anything … just spending time “on the cross”, so to speak.  Peyton Manning has done just that!  He has been around the game of football so long, that he has “earned his stripes”.  Cam has to develop the temperament of “a champion” gradually, because he is of this “new breed” of young folks, an African American male at that and is  judged even more “harshly”.  Some of us may remember when Peyton Manning refused to shake the hands of the Saint’s team after losing in the Super Bowl of 2010 … not many people made much of it!!  Remember?!?  So, Cam is in his “developmental stages” of becoming another historical figure in NFL Football.  It’s going to take some time … Cam has to be patient with “the process” and critics, though their very nature is to “criticize”, must GIVE him time, too!  Now one former Bronco Bill Romanoski even went so far as to call Cam Newton, NFL quarterback of Super Bowl 50 … “boy” in a now removed tweet!  It read: “You’ll never last in the NFL with that attitude.  The world doesn’t revolve around you, boy!”   Some critics just don’t know how to say stuff … without interjecting some personal hostilities as Romanoski entered his racist rhetoric into the “game”!
Speaking of critics, may we consider former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani  and his critique of choreographer, dancer and singer, Beyonce Knowles and her dancers’ incredible half time performance.  Yes, Rudy, they had on Black Panther “influenced” gear and wore Afros below their black berets, but … they are entertainers … and it’s Black History Month … may we express “our” pride through song and dance … or did the “Black Panther” memory bother you as much as the memories of black people hanging from trees, getting blown up in churches … or castrated for not obeying “mas’sa”?!? That double standard thing permeates our society so much that many of us hardly notice our OWN bias.  It is not okay and we need to “check” ourselves before we start “checking” others or … at least do it simultaneously so we can get a clearer picture of what’s REALLY going on.  I like to try to be balanced in my approach to things, including my understanding of things, though I know it doesn’t matter much in certain sectors of our society.  Look at the political campaigning, speeches, slander matches … down to talking about people’s mothers and stuff!  Can you believe what Trump said about Jeb Bush?!?  Big “smack” talkin’ Trump!!
“Smack talkers” are usually cowards or bullies … take your pick … and usually get a charge out of some “negativity” heaped upon someone ELSE dealing with a difficult situation … often quite heartless creatures!  May we try to maintain a balance in our perception of things … besides … the “kids” are watching us!
John I. Cook, Director

Let’s Take This To The Next Level



It’s Friday, y’all … and a T.G.I.F. to youse!!

It’s Super Bowl Weekend, and lots of folks will be having big parties and celebrations, cook outs and cook-ins as well as tailgate parties.  Lady Gaga will be singing the National Anthem and Beyonce  will be performing at half time, and I believe a few other top name bands!  It should be a blast!!  I used to always go to my buddy Peter Zachary’s house in Plantation, FL to watch the game with he and his son and friends of both his and Jordan’s … as well as his two sisters, Andrea and Lisa!  Fondest memories of “Petey” on Super Bowl Game Days … and many many other days, too!  R.I.P. Petey Z!
I have made many friends and associates over the years.  Several of you wrote me back to remind me of our friendships, which I haven’t forgotten.  Big Tim Williams from White Plains High School had donated some funds to my earlier “Go Fund Me” account; Adonis Hoffman, Esq. wrote me back, too!  Gary Hodder, Esquire, has also been a great supporter of Educational Excellence, as well, and is a friend who also attended St. Paul’s School while Larry T. Woody and me were there!  Many of you I write to in these e-mails and others well … we meet up on social network, like Facebook.  It’s all good.  I just wanted to let many of you know, if not all of you, that I appreciate your support and interest in my work.  It comes from my heart and spirit … my soul, if you will.
Taking it to the next level is very simple for me.  Just to stay in touch with like-minded souls and spirits and to spread our peace, love and hope to a very ailing world!  This is what I like about Bernie Sanders … he talks about a much needed “political revolution”!  He knows that America is NOT the country many of us claim it to be … we are ailing.  Our polity, which is supposed to “lead” the nation, as well as the world, has succumbed to a modern form of “graft and tribute”, pay-offs even, and has become like a vehicle destined to crash in the direction it is headed, and, Bernie Sanders clearly states that this is not the “will” of the people, it is not a polity “by” the people, and definitely not “for” the people!  Most, if not ALL of the other candidates do not even challenge the “crash course” direction of our political structure, which seems to lack proper “social/human” values.  As we witness the gun violence on the streets in large cities like Miami, Chicago as well as the gang violence taking place in cities like Los Angeles, it is clear that the direction of things especially those embracing “violence” are taking humanity to a very dismal place.  Shall we sit back and watch?!?  Or shall we try to get involved in “spreading the love and peace”, which will probably take us towards happiness?!?  One soul at a time, is my recipe!
As Bernie suggests, it’s going to take ALL of us to turn things around … kind of like a modern Enlightenment … a modern Renaissance, if you will.


John I. Cook, Director

A Very Special Black History Month – 2016

Obama Black

Good day, Happy Tuesday … and Happy Black History Month!
This Black History Month is very special for me … and I am hoping … for many others.  Of course, I know folks may be asking why I think that this Black History Month is so special?!  That’s cool, I’ll tell you.
It all started when I was a kid … no seriously … that’s the time that I became familiar with people … great people … not personally familiar but educationally familiar with great people like Dr. King … Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali … shucks, Malcom X even, Maya Angelou and Stokely Carmichael.  Any of y’all remember Angela Davis … Nikki Giovanni … Mr. Leroi Jones aka Imamu Amiri Baraka … Bobby Seale … Rosa Parks … The Civil Rights Movement’s “movers and shakers”?!?  I mean, I lived through some serious movements and actions to get and challenge the lack of equality in America … “the land of the free … the home of the brave” … 100 years after the abolition of slavery …  just 40 years after women were “given the right to vote” in the late 1920’s … and in some of the Southern states in the “land of the free, home of the brave” … ” … with liberty and justice for all!!”.  There is more interest in Black History as a result of the accomplishments of so many “true heroes” in so short a time!  The Jessie Owens story … Paul Robeson who actually LEFT America because he lost faith in “The American Dream”, are just a few of the stories we know.
Look at the SAG Awards quickly dubbed “The Un-Oscars” where both African American women and men were given awards and cheered on by their non-black colleagues at The SAG Awards!  Right on the heels of the “Oscar Fiasco”, all types of people came together at the SAG Awards to show the diversity of America.  We didn’t wait to protest and march and even use the criminal justice system … when and where possible … to bring charges against whites who literally murdered blacks … I don’t usually simplify things to black and white but the Trayvon Martin case was just that!!  An unarmed black boy lost his life to an armed “non-black” aka George Zimmerman after the gunman sought, fought and trapped Trayvon so he could take his pistol out and kill him!!  In most places, that is called “pre-meditated murder”; but in Florida, it is called “the stand your ground”, which was also challenged state-wide and has rippled nation-wide, too!  We try to use “the system” and “the courts” to bring justice to those of us who were mistreated and had their rights violated!  Isn’t that what Dr. King wanted?!?  I mean, look at Barack H. Obama … this man did some incredible work while in office … using the system to challenge its unfairness while simultaneously serving the nation as the POTUS!!!
That was just 50 years ago that Dr. King died to get “blacks” to mobilize with many many white counter-parts to call on the nation to protect the “civil rights” this country proclaims to advocate.  Dr. King had the lack of justice “put on television” so the whole world could witness the racist tactics used by certain states in the South … Alabama to be exact!  Notice the movement has slowed, yet, with some events  that clearly indicated some illegal behavior on the part of law enforcement in Chicago … in Baltimore … in NYC with Eric Garner … and in Missouri, too!  We mobilize now … yes, some of us get mad because we shouldn’t be forced to deal with this “crap” in the first place – and decide to loot and vandalize … even their own neighborhoods!!  That’s how deep the anger is in some of “us” who have been wronged to no end!!  As one friend of mine from Kentucky used to always joke when we talked about how “racists” expect “blacks” to act, may you R.I.P., Doug Williams:  “Uh … Sir, … would you be so kind as to take your boot off of my neck!”  Perfect imagery, right?!?  Black Lives Matter, indeed, as suggested by the numerous movements that sprung up across this country, as well as conversations held in classrooms across the country, thanks Dr. Karen Hurley of Columbia University!
What type leadership are we looking for in this country as many candidates for the presidency state, when we espouse, “We’re gonna take this country back.”, a la Marco Rubio.  Who is he suggesting “has” the country NOW?!  Sounds pretty racist to me, when he states over and over, “After 7 years of Barack Obama, we’re gonna take this country back!”  Most feeble minded Americans don’t even realize how racist that sounds!!  Lead the “free” world?!? …. Marco, “Shut your mouth”! a la Gary Coleman.  We have raised our awareness in this country, a la Martin Luther King, Jr., with marches and protest, meetings and the utilization of the legal system, flawed as it is.  Remembering ALL the people who “Marched on Washington” to make their voices heard from the days of Selma to the hundreds of movements supported by people of ALL races, that “Black Lives Matter”!!  Why do we have to say that?!?  Because “black lives” have been taken left and right by citizens and law enforcement in various places alike!!  Remember Selma when those innocent little black kids were blown up in a church, just fifty years ago … in “the land of the free, the home of the brave”? … Let Freedom Ring!  Yes, this is a very important and special Black History Month for me!!  What about you?  Gain some knowledge and get involved in making desperately needed changes … Let Freedom Ring!

John I. Cook, Director

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