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Who Will Answer His Cries?

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Who Will Answer His Cries?
By, Celli Arenas

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At the beginning of this national tragedy, on February 26th, we were reminded of young Emmett Till; who was dragged through a Mississippi town for whistling at a white girl while at a service station, drinking a soda, and hanging out in a place that was vastly different from his Chicago home. Trayvon Martin stopped by a convenience store to get a snack of Skittles and Arizona ice tea; this would be his last snack. What happened in Sanford, Florida is just as appalling and unjust. Trayvon Martin, a Miami native, visited his father in Sanford Florida, and never returned home. His cries for help are still unanswered. His murderer, George Zimmerman, has yet to be brought to justice.

Zimmerman claims self-defense under the “Stand Your Ground Law”. Which court of his peers decided that this was indeed the case? As of April 9, 2012, there will be no Grand Jury to determine the fate of this case, thanks to State Attorney Angela Corey . There is enough evidence and reasonable suspicion that would require any court of law to, at very least, convict George Zimmerman of manslaughter. According to Corey, 57-year-old State Prosecutor and graduate of University of Florida Law says, “I just want to be fair.” Trayvon’s cries were unanswered by the Sanford Police Department. Zimmerman is still able to walk free, and even develop a web site to solicit money from citizens in an effort to fund his defense.

On March 22 and 24, the 100 Black Men of South Florida answered the cries of young Trayvon Martin, as they do for the several hundred, young African-American and other minority boys living in South Florida. The 100 Black Men of South Florida chartered a bus for anyone interested, to travel to Sanford, Florida for the first of many protests to bring justice to this unanswered tragedy. Several of South Florida’s political and religious leaders were aboard, reflecting on civil rights marches of the 60’s and wondering how something so heinous could be ignored. Reverend Walter Richardson, and State Representative Daphne Campbell, along with several others, availed themselves to take the ride to Sanford, with their male children in tow. “I was there for the march on Washington. I saw the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver the now famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. It is our duty to get involved,” says Richardson.

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“Anything I can do to help and represent for us, here in South Florida, I am there. I would not miss this event,” says Campbell. The ride for justice sparked a fire in the hearts and souls of the 100 Black Men. “I have a son Trayvon’s age. As our President said, he could have very well been my son,” says Director of Programs of the 100 Black Men of South Florida, Cliff Thomas.


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Saturday morning, March 24, 2012, there was a prayer breakfast at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens Florida, led by Pastor Arthur Jackson III and the 100 Black Men of South Florida. The event was hosted by past Senator Kendrick Meek and was attended by several members of political office such as: Senator Oscar Braynon II, Vice Mayor of Miami Gardens Oliver Gilbert, and candidate for State Congress Dr. Rudy Moise. They gathered in the Youth Hall of Antioch to have a candid conversation with the young men about strategy and prevention. “Part of what our youth needs to know is how to diffuse situations as best they can.” says Meek. “As a former law enforcement officer, when I get pulled over, I turn on my dome lights, so that I am visible to everyone as the car is approached.” He adds, “Conducting yourself in a way that could possibly save your life may not prevent danger, but at least it can help bring clarity to a dangerous situation.” National President of the 100 Black Men of America, Al Dotson says, “this was a great opportunity for the boys to be up close and personal with elected officials and community leaders. The adult men met the boys at their level and had an honest discussion with them about the Trayvon Martin case, living in America as a black man, and other concerns.” The 100 Black Men of Greater Ft. Lauderdale were also in attendance. While the murder of Trayvon Martin is not yet resolved, at least we know that the 100 Black Men of America hears his cries for justice and peace.

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Breaking News 4/11/12 @ 4:57 pm: George Zimmerman will be charged with second degree murder and is in custody!

“The Ladies in The Gardens”

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“The Ladies in The Gardens”- Female Vocalists Dominate JIG
By, Celli Arenas

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Photo by, Sugar Sugar

First she blankets us with her rich, operatic, soprano; then, she digs down deep and goes in to a sexy, voluptuous, alto to serve us some “Crown Royal on Ice”. Jill Scott, along with Ledisi, Mary J. Blige, and the incomparable Patti Labelle were some of the internationally renowned mega-stars who graced the stage at Jazz In The Gardens, held March 17th and 18th, 2012 in the historic Miami Gardens, Florida. Additionally, this year, world-famous female emcee, MC Lyte served as host of the star-studded event.

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Photo by, Anita Hope Darbonne

When I took a stroll through the crowd on Sunday, I asked patrons how they felt this year’s “Lucky 7″ line up compared to previous years. “This year is awesome, I loved Jill Scott, she was definitely my favorite”, says one concert attendee. “This year the ladies are definitely representing,” says Ken. Concertgoers were wowed at Ledisi’s vocal range and rocking looks. “I have seen Ledisi a couple of times in concert,” says Jerold. “She has a unique sound and she definitely delivers,” he says. “I must admit, she is also sexy as hell,” he gushes. Males and females alike, all agree that the ladies rolled the dice and came up as big winners in the “Lucky 7” concert weekend.

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Photo by, Sugar Sugar

I asked some of the more mature concertgoers about how they liked this year’s line up. “Well, I came for the first time because of Patti Labelle,” says Mary, a 65-year-old retired educator, “She is always a pleasure to see”. “I liked Kevin Eubanks and Kenny G, but I swear, that Patti gets better with age. Now, she is the show stopper,” says ‘50-something’- year-old bus driver, Ron. The lady, Ms. Patti-Patti, represents timeless, classic, vocal perfection; and, she loves to share the stage with today’s hit makers, too. Now that is star power.

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Photo by, Anita Hope Darbonne

Last, but not least, I must pay homage to my fave female of the bunch, MJB. I wanted to get a one-on-one with her, partially because I wanted to tell her that I have been a devoted fan since, “What’s the 411?” but, I also wanted to discuss her new projects, specifically the biopic on the life of Nina Simone. No luck for me! That’s fine. I still sang and danced with her as if it were my own private show. A friend sent me a text during her set, wondering where I was in the crowd. I had to let him know that I was having a MJB holy ghost and would check in later. Mary never disappoints as far as I am concerned.

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Photo by, Anita Hope Darbonne

Guys don’t fret or feel left out. The male acts were awesome too. Big shout out to Kem, Kenny G, Kevin Eubanks, Ramsey Lewis, and the unstoppable Doug E Fresh; but, this year fellas, the women stole the show. See ya in the Gardens, next year!

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Photos by, Celli Arenas

“A Class Act”-Mayor Shirley Gibson on Jazz in The Gardens

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“A Class Act”-Mayor Shirley Gibson on Jazz in The Gardens

By, Celli Arenas

The balmy spring air wafting the scent of soul food delights like: cracked conch, barbecued ribs, and garlic crabs, tickled my nose as I grooved to great music and shopped in the vendors square during The Jazz in The Gardens Music Festival. The enchanting city of Miami Gardens, Florida hosted the event on March 17-18, 2012. I had the good fortune to attend the 7th Annual “Lucky Seven” Jazz in The Gardens Music Festival, at Sun Life Stadium. For two days I enjoyed the beautiful music, sunny days, and breezy nights. While I snapped photos and received great samples from numerous sponsors, I also enjoyed some awesome entertainment from the hottest acts in Jazz and R&B music. During my stroll through the Gardens, guess who I found sampling handcrafted paper flowers, to accessorize a flowing floral colored ensemble? It was none other than one of the major contributors of this greatly anticipated event, Mayor Shirley Gibson. I got an opportunity to join her while surveying the wares made available during the festival. With the sounds Kevin Eubanks in the background, we talked. “I love what the event has done to attract interest, vendors, guests, to Miami Gardens,” explains Mayor Gibson as she reflects on the success of the yearly event. She explains how much the event has grown in its seven years of existence, and how the event attracts international attention, “ I appreciate how the city responds and turns out for this event. Just yesterday I spoke with a patron visiting from the Bahamas, who met with family here from England, so that they all could enjoy this experience together. The event is really a class act”, says Mayor Shirley Gibson with pride.

Mayor Shirley Gibson is the First Mayor of the City of Miami Gardens, which is the third largest city in Miami-Dade County, Florida. She is currently the only African-American female to hold office as Mayor in Miami-Dade County. Miami Gardens was founded due to the efforts of Shirley Gibson, who has, “a vision of political self-determination and civic empowerment for her community”. Mayor Gibson successfully led a dedicated group of her neighbors in creating the largest predominately African-American municipality in the state of Florida. Her efforts, along with many others, helped to provide a venue for what is quickly becoming one of the most highly anticipated musical festivals in the US and international markets.

After our conversation Mayor Gibson joined event host, MC Lyte, on stage to raise money for Cancer research, reminded patrons to continue to support the fair city of Miami Gardens, and encouraged us to return next year. She can bet on that! “Lucky Seven” was sweet, but I’m sure “Eight” will be great!

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Daily Dose

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The love hormone! We want it and we need it. Fortunately, ladies, our bodies produce it. By definition, “oxytocin is a mammalian hormone that acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain. Also known as alpha-hypophamine (α–hypophamine), oxytocin has the distinction of being the very first polypeptide hormone to be sequenced and synthesized biochemically, by Vincent du Vigneaud et al. in 1953.” Great news, our brains produce chemicals that, as Halle Berry’s character says in Monster’s Ball, “makes [us] feel gooooooood”.

In recent years oxytocin has been extracted for use in nasal spray and oral hormone therapy to treat symptoms related to autism and schizophrenia. Oxytocin is considered to be the love hormone because of how it is derived, “best known for roles in female reproduction: 1) it is released in large amounts after distension of the cervix and uterus during labor, and 2) after stimulation of the nipples, facilitating birth and breastfeeding.” Apparently, there is something to be said about physical stimulation. The release of these hormones cause a marked difference in interpersonal behavior and interaction.

Have you ever noticed that when people feel a woman is too “uptight”, “stiff”, or “witchy” it is said that she needs to “get some”? Well, scientifically speaking, there is some truth to that. The release of oxytocin soothes and helps to form and maintain emotional bonds. All mammals, not just human babies, need to be touched, held, stroked, and physically stimulated. Physical touch reduces anxiety and calms nervous or hyper over-stimulated behaviors. Physical closeness is directly related to mental well being, “recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin’s role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, and maternal behaviors. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone.” Thus, physically stimulating interaction should not be rationed.

In clinical studies, the love hormone has been proven to improve social behavior in highly functioning patients with Autism. Studies by French scientists, conducted on 13 highly functioning autistic patients revealed the following: “We demonstrated that oxytocin can promote social approach and social comprehension in patients with autism,” Sirigu and colleagues report. They also suggested that, “the specific effect may be that the hormone reduces mistrust and fear associated with social interactions.”

Women must not use the production of oxytocin as an excuse to “go wild”. Women should keep their virtues in tact and share their bodies with a deserving partner. Women who practice withholding physical interaction end up hurting themselves more in the long run. If there is a contingency related to your intimacy, you are playing a game that has no real winner. Discerning adults should enjoy healthy physical relationships that are developed over time with trust at the helm.

The problem exists in playing the “game”. A woman who denies the man who cares, physical interaction, in an attempt to determine his level of commitment is shooting herself in the proverbial foot. If a man only wants sex, no amount of giving it away or withholding it will change his mind. So, women actively playing the game; you are thereby depriving yourself of helpful hormones that your body and mind needs to be well. Stop playing yourself : develop some oxytocin! If your worth and value is determined by what you can do for your partner physically, there are deeper issues present that are not related to physical interaction. If you are loving who you are with; show him some love. It will do your body and your mind some good!

References

Oxytocin. (2011, March 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:42, March 12, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Oxytocin&oldid=418327314

CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange) (2010, February 17). Autism: Oxytocin improves social behavior of patients, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 12, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/02/100216221350.htm

Struggle Breeds Authority

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Someone once asked, what qualifies you to speak as an authority? Experience, my friend. I have experienced enough to be able to advise. Overcoming obstacles helps to develop the qualities we need to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. The hard times we experience are the tools that we have been given to help others fix what may be going wrong in their lives.

When people know that you have gone through something they are more apt to listen to you. Wisdom is something you can not buy, wisdom is earned.

In every problem that challenges you and forces you to grow, there is an opportunity to gain experience. You learn valuable information that may be applicable to someone else. You may be able to help meet someone else’s needs just by having gone through what you have been challenged with. Your experiences are valid. You have the authority to help steer someone in the right direction. This is your charge!

When people know you have, “been there”, they should respect it. Anything that brings a person closer to a power higher than their own is an asset to share, not a liability.

The loss of a job, a marriage, a loved one, one’s freedom, or peace of mind affords that person a chance to tap in to a strength that is greater than our minds and personal will can create. These experiences are tests of faith and opportunities to teach others about grace. Your experience is your testimony. There can be no testimony without a test. In order to demonstrate praise for the grace you have received, sometimes you have to go through a little something first. I’m cautious of people who have never fallen down before. How can they offer any real advice?

If you think you are too wise to fail, or you are too smart to make an error, if you think someone’s bad experience makes them weak instead of stronger and wiser…keep living! You will get your chance to be an authority too, just wait and see.

What Are Your Core Values?

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Many of us think we know what our core values are, especially those of us over the age of thirty. Our core values guide our actions and reactions. Our core values govern our lives. At any given time we are tested to demonstrate our core values. This is how we govern and conduct ourselves on the daily basis. The question is, if we go against our core values, does that make us evil or does it make us merely human? We are natural born sinners who, through grace, are forgiven. We don’t get a pass to indiscriminately sin without consequence. We do, however, have to answer to a higher power who has the ultimate right to judge.

I would argue that at one time or another, although we believe we have non-negotiable core values, we have done things that challenge them. Perhaps we test ourselves regarding our strength and our faith. Maybe we give up on them for reasons only known to ourselves. Maybe we question our values because we believe that following them lead us to some form of disappointment. We have all fallen short. We are expected to : every failure leads us closer to our impending victory. This becomes true only if we believe.

John Mason, best-selling author and speaker, suggests ways for us to define our core values and live in a fashion that will cause us to act in accordance to that. Mason provides ways for us to do this; “make yourself valuable to somebody today…tackling a problem bigger than yourself…getting to know God by reading His Word…helping someone who can’t repay you…doing three things that take you outside your comfort zone…giving thanks for your daily bread…leaving others a little better than you found them…not being afraid to ask for help…giving the best time of your day to God…doing today what you want to put off till tomorrow…remembering the time and place to be happy is here and now…taking small steps to conquer a bad habit…and evaluating your actions not by the harvest they produce, but by the seeds you’re sowing.”

Core values are simple to define. You simply remember everything that you were taught in kindergarten and basically live your life that way. Sometimes the clutter of our adult lives, that we hold on to in our minds, cause us to go against or forget our core values. Clearing the clutter in our minds makes room for the flowers to grow. There is nothing wrong with stopping to smell the flowers, they smell so sweet.