Nov 30, 2011

During a discussion about the hazing related death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion, Tom Joyner made a statement about band faternity Kappa Kappa Psi that has some people calling for the boycott of the Fly Jock's morning show. During his comments, Tom said, and I paraphrase, that the simple fact of a student having a brand that said KKPsi represented hazing.

Never once did I hear him say that KKPsi was to blame for the death of Robert Champion, but rather he stated his opinion as to his definition of hazing. Now I maybe wrong, but I swear I listened to the audio several times and I still didn't hear him say that KKPsi was to blame.

I realize some people are upset because through his statements he implied that KKPsi was not a real fraternity, but I honestly don't think that was the point he was trying to make. I think he was trying to focus on the hazing aspect and because the death of Robert involved the band it was easy for him to bring up the faternity associated with the band. He could have easily brought up his own faternity, Omega Psi Phi, when it came to issues involving branding, but the topic was related to the band and thus it was KKPsi that he chose to focus on.

Now let me state for the record that I've never pledged a sorority. I was so stressed out from majoring in chemical engineering that I didn't have time for anything else. That's not to say that I didn't want to pledge; my major just didn't allow for much extracurricular activities especially if I wanted to graduate on time. I realize that people have immense love for their respective organizations, but I also think we need to take a breath and truly examine why the culture of hazing is so prevalent around some of these organizations, and trust me this is not just a black issue, but rather a human issue because hazing is taking place across all racial barriers. Something needs to happen. Robert Champion's parents should not had to bury their son today.

Now with that being said, I guess I am one of those people in the minority on this one because I didn't see anything wrong with what Tom said. People are free to boycott his show if they so wish but I honestly don't understand the point.

Oh and for the record (just in case you didn't know) I am a PROUD, Proud Alumnus of Florida A&M University. So don't get it twisted. I love my school and the Marching 100, but I also have love for Robert Champion and his family.

When you are rich and famous there are always going to be people who are willing to exploit you in order to make a quick buck. Recently we've seen this type of thing happen with young singer Justin Bieber and there was no one who personified this more than the late great Michael Jackson. Now it looks as though it's Tyler Perry's turn to get to see some of the darker side of fame.

Trust me, I'm not writing this to say that the new book, 'Never Would Have Made It', it not truthful, but rather that I'm willing to hold off judgment. All the claims that the author, Melvin Childs, are levying at Tyler may very well be true. Tyler could totally have used drug money to help jump start his very successful career, but I'm not willing to crucify him based upon one claim. I'm going to need a little more evidence.

I've been taught that there's always THREE sides to a story. Your side, their side, and the truth. Normally the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Trust me, if any of what the author is saying is true it is bound to come out. You know what they say about things done in the dark.

Click here to read more about this story..

BET announced that the new season of the hit series 'The Game' will return on January 10, 2012 at 10 PM EST. The highly anticipated season return will most likely start where the 4th season ending with the cliff hanger as to whether or not Melanie (Tia Mowry-Hardict) had an abortion and whether or not Derwin (Pooch Hall) was the father of the baby. Should be interesting.

The Game” debuted on its new home for its fourth season with huge numbers for BET in January of this year, drawing 7.7 million viewers.

During an appearance on CBS Face the Nation, Dr. Condoleezza Rice spoke some words of truth that may have surprised some critics of the former Secretary of State. During a decision about her youth in Birmingham, Alabama, the issue of race came up. It was during this segment that Dr. Rice commented that the U.S. will never get past a birth defect in which it was built upon---which is that of race.

Now, I'm pretty sure a lot of people are wondering why she didn't speak on this topic while she was in a position of power to speak out about these certain things, but that's a question that only Dr. Rice herself can answer.

Via CBS:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said America has come a long way in confronting racial inequality - but that America will never be "race blind," and that race and poverty in America is "still a terrible witch's brew."

Rice, appearing in Sunday's special Thanksgiving edition of "Face the Nation," reflected on how growing up in Birmingham, Ala., during segregation "shaped me fundamentally."

"My family had to persevere under those circumstances to educate all of us, and to insist that we might not be able to control our circumstances but we could control our response," Rice told CBS' Bob Schieffer.

Since those days, Rice argued, a lot of things have changed.

"We have a black president. We've had two black secretaries of state. We have black CEOs. Obviously African Americans are pushing way into territories that, probably, my grandparents would never have thought possible," she said.

Still, she argued that even though America has "gotten to a place [where] race is not the limiting factor that it once was," she said that "we're never going to erase race as a factor in American life."

"It is a birth defect with which this country was born out of slavery; we're never really going to be race blind," she said.

She pointed to the confluence of race and poverty as a particularly troubling constraint for overcoming inequality, and wondered if that problem isn't becoming even more exacerbated in recent years.

"I think it goes back to whether or not race and class - that is, race and poverty - is not becoming even more of a constraint," she said. "Because with the failing public schools, I worry that the way that my grandparents got out of poverty, the way that my parents became educated, is just not going to be there for a whole bunch of kids. And I do think that race and poverty is still a terrible witch's brew."

MIAMI (AP) — Two decades ago, the now-ousted director of the Florida A&M band warned in a letter about the dangers of hazing among the famed Marching 100 ensemble, saying "it would be very difficult for the university and the band should someone become killed or hurt."

In the following years, however, hazing seemed to become a bigger — if not more public — problem. Police investigated several serious cases and students were arrested. Anti-hazing workshops were held. Dozens of band members were suspended. University officials and the marching band community were keenly aware of the persistent hazing, yet it continued and is believed to have played a role in the death this month of a 26-year-old drum major, Robert Champion.

Champion's death started a blame game of sorts, with the historically black college in Tallahassee firing its band director, Julian White, accusing him of "misconduct and/or incompetence." In turn, White released more than 150 pages of documents showing that he warned the university for years about what was going on.

The chair of the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida's public universities, wrote a letter to FAMU trustees Tuesday saying they would investigate whether the university administration took appropriate action to address White's concerns.

A former band member told The Associated Press on Tuesday that White looked for ways to eradicate a culture of hazing that existed in many instrument sections of the band. White invited band members to anonymously report hazing and even had police come along on some away games, former drum major Timothy Barber told AP.

In 2001, when trumpeter Marcus Parker was paddled so severely that he ended up hospitalized with kidney damage, White had police escort the trumpet section off the field to be interrogated to show he would not tolerate hazing, Barber said.

About a dozen people pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received probation in that case, though it's not clear what actions, if any, the university took to punish them.

After the arrests, White approached Barber for help in getting rid of hazing. One area he focused on: A white wall in the band's practice field where nicknames for the instrument sections were prominently displayed. Becoming a member of these groups — the clarinets were known as "The Clones" and the tubas were the "White Whales" — meant becoming part of a tradition and a band that has played Super Bowls, the Grammys and presidential inaugurations.

But some sections had their own violent initiation rituals. White bought buckets of white paint and asked Barber to cover up the section nicknames on the wall.

"Tim, we have to find a way to eradicate these subsections of the band," Barber said White told him. "Cover the names so they see this is not something supported by the band staff."

While White documented his efforts to stop the hazing, it's possible he could've done more on the front lines, according to Richard Sigal, a retired sociology professor at County College of Morris in Randolph, N.J., who has studied hazing.

"Maybe he just had a problem that was beyond his ability to control it," Sigal said. But in general, "If the person at the top issued a zero tolerance policy for hazing and oversaw what the people under him were doing, then there was no hazing."

The details of Champion's case death are unclear. Authorities, the school and an attorney for his family said hazing played a role, but no one has been willing to shed any more light on what actually happened Nov. 19 after the football team played its rival Bethune-Cookman. Police have said only that Champion started vomiting and complained he couldn't breathe before he collapsed on a band bus outside their hotel in Orlando.

The university has announced an independent review and Gov. Rick Scott has asked state investigators to join the sheriff's department in their investigation.

University officials declined interview requests for this story, but president James Ammons, who earned his bachelor's and master's degree from FAMU, issued a statement late Tuesday.

"The university has a zero tolerance policy toward hazing. Period. But it is becoming increasingly clear that hazing continues to exist — at FAMU and across the country at other universities, colleges and other elements — because hazing survives and thrives in a culture of secrecy and a conspiracy of silence. I am committed to illuminating this dark corner of Florida A&M University and the American culture ... illuminating it and eradicating it."

White is fighting his dismissal, which is why he submitted the documents to the school, including dozens of suspension letters for hazing over the last decade, and communications alerting university police.

"Our incidents are few, but nevertheless hazing and harassment continues to be a problem," White wrote the then director of bands William P. Foster in 1989 after a hazing death involving a fraternity at Morehouse University. "It would be very difficult for the university and the band should someone become killed or hurt because of hazing."

In the weeks before Champion's death, White suspended 26 band members for hazing. On Nov. 17 — just two days before Champion died — he sent a letter to alumni, saying while most of them were positive and encouraging of former band members, some "return and perpetuate the myth of various sectional names."

"You should not return and look down on people who follow university regulations by not participating in sub-organizations," White wrote. "This is extremely important and I call on all alumni to assist the band and myself in eradicating all vestiges of hazing in the Marching '100' band .'"

Barber, who rose to head drum major and was in the band from 1996 to 2002, said he was never hazed, nor did he participate in it.

He said drum majors were like the generals of the band who tried to keep everyone in order, which makes Champion's death puzzling. At 26, Champion was likely one of the older band members because he didn't enter college until a year after high school and struggled at times to stay at the university because of his grades.

Barber in part blames alumni for not taking a stronger stand. Of about two dozen people contacted by The Associated Press, he was the first who agreed to openly speak about hazing within the band.

Barber went back to FAMU this year and practiced with Champion and the other drum majors. White told him Champion could become the head drum major. Barber also noticed the section nicknames on the white wall were still painted over.

"We need to do more," Barber said.

Florida A&M University student Robert Champion, who died following a suspected hazing incident Nov. 18 in Orlando, will be buried in the Atlanta-area where he grew up.

A memorial service for the 26-year-old drum major will be held this morning in Decatur, according to an obituary from the Willie A. Watkins funeral home website.

Earlier this week, Champion's parents announced their intention to sue the Tallahassee school after Orange County Sheriff's investigators revealed that their son was a victim of hazing while aboard a parked charter bus the weekend of the Florida Classic football game.

However, detectives did not provide details about what happened and no arrests have been made.


Nov 29, 2011

Boy, the judge was not playing the radio with Dr. Conrad Murray when he sentenced him to four years of prison for the involuntary manslaughter of the 'King of Pop'.

(CNN) Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced Tuesday to four years in jail -- the maximum sentence allowed under the law -- in the death of Michael Jackson.

Judge Michael Pastor, in a lengthy statement delivered before sentencing Murray for involuntary manslaughter, said he felt a significant responsibility to determine the appropriate sentence, utilizing his "sense of fairness and decency."

"There are those who feel Dr. Murray is a saint," he said. "There are those who feel Dr. Murray is the devil. He's neither. He's a human being. He stands convicted of the death of another human being."

Pastor said that while he had considered the entire "book" of Murray's life, he also had "read the book of Michael Jackson's life."

"Regrettably, as far as Dr. Murray is concerned, the most significant chapter, as it relates to this case, is the chapter involving the treatment, or lack of treatment, of Michael Jackson."

Jackson died "not because of an isolated one-off occurrence or incident," Pastor said. "He died because of a totality of circumstances which are directly attributable to Dr. Murray ... because of a series of decisions that Dr. Murray made."

Murray, he said, became involved in "a cycle of horrible medicine."

He cited Murray's "pattern of deceit and lies. That pattern was to assist Dr. Murray."

A tape recording of Jackson's slurred voice was Murray's "insurance policy," Pastor said. "It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously at that patient's most vulnerable point. I can't even imagine that happening to any of us because of the horrific violation of trust."

He said he wondered whether that tape would have been offered for sale, had Jackson not died and a rift had developed between the two in the future.

Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter three weeks ago after a trial in which prosecutors successfully argued that Murray's reckless use of the surgical anesthetic propofol to help Jackson sleep, without proper monitoring equipment, led to the singer's death.

Click here to read the entire article.

Ladies, just when you think you can't love Common anymore he goes and does something like this. Thanks to my DVR, I had the pleasure of watching 'COMMON DREAMS: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary' last night.

In the documentary, COMMON DREAMS: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary, the rapper explored the world of the 'restaveks' in Haiti.

Let's just say I cried through the majority of it. We owe the people of Haiti so much, but yet we allow them to live in abject poverty and squalor.

The documentary was very eye opening for me. I've never heard of the practice of 'restavek', but now that I am aware it is my duty to spread the information. I also can say that through the documentary I gained a new She-ro and her name is Fabiola Desmont. Fabiola runs the 'Restavek Freedom' organization in Haiti.

She is truly an angel on earth and Lord knows if we had more people like her what a world this could be.

Fabiola Desmont

Grammy Award-winning artist and actor Common partnered with the CNN Freedom Project to make a journey of discovery deep into the dangerous slums of Haiti where 300,000 children are forced to work in conditions the United Nations calls a ‘form of modern-day slavery.’

Haiti is a nation with a dramatic beginning and a disturbing secret. The world’s first black republic was created by slaves who rebelled against their masters in order to create a better future for themselves and their descendents. But 200 years later, that promise of freedom still eludes many Haitian children, who are today living in a form of abuse and exploitation known as ‘restavek.’ A French word meaning ‘to stay with,’ restavek began with the intention to educate children from rural villages. Unfortunately, many restavek children today are forced to work long hours in other people’s homes, cooking, cleaning dishes, doing laundry and fetching water. Worse yet, many of these children are not even allowed to go to school.

Common travels to Haiti to see this hardened practice rooted deep within the culture. He learns of the premise on which the system began and comes to understand how a devastating earthquake and decades of despotic rule have eroded the restavek concept. Common meets the children, their ‘guardians’ and a team of dedicated people determined to change cultural perceptions and provide them with a better life. In the process, his team helps convince a family to give a little girl what she so desperately wants: the chance to go to school and dream of a better future.

Earlier this year, CNN announced it was marshalling its global resources to take on human trafficking with the launch of ‘The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery.’ Through this multi-platform initiative, CNN’s reporting aims to expose the horrors of modern-day slavery, highlight the growing efforts to stop the trade and exploitation of human beings and amplify the voices of the victims.


Nov 28, 2011

WASHINGTON — A Georgia businesswoman said Monday she and Herman Cain had a 13-year extramarital affair, an allegation the Republican presidential hopeful denied as strongly as earlier accusations of sexual harassment.

“Here we go again. I didn’t do anything wrong,” Cain said on CNN. He acknowledged he knew the woman who was behind the accusation.

Moments after Cain issued a preemptive denial, an Atlanta television station posted a story to its website quoting a woman identified as Ginger White as saying, “It wasn’t complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship.”

Cain’s candidacy was soaring in the polls until he was hit less than a month ago with accusations that he sexually harassed several women and groped one while he was a high-ranking official at the National Restaurant Association. He has since fallen back in the surveys, and been eclipsed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the race to emerge as the principle conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

In this case, unlike the others, Cain took the unorthodox step of issuing a denial in advance.

“I did not have an affair, and until I see and hear exactly what’s going to be, what accusations are going to be made, let’s move on,” he said.

Asked if he suspected his accuser had emails, letters, gifts or other possible evidence of an affair, he replied,”No.”

He also said he will not drop out of the Republican presidential race as long as he has the support of his wife, with whom he said he had discussed the latest accusation.

In a statement provided to AP, Cain’s lawyer, Lin Wood, said the former businessman has no obligation to “discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media.”

The statement drew a distinction between “private alleged consensual conduct between adults” and a case of harassment. It did not include an explicit denial of an affair along the lines that Cain himself provided in his television interview.

Contacted by AP, Wood added, “If any candidate wants to publicly discuss his private sex life, that is his or her life. But I don’t believe that there’s an obligation on the part of any political candidate to do so.”

I started Yele in 2005 because I wanted to help people that were helpless in my home
country of Haiti. People who didn't have a voice, people who didn't have resources,
people who had mostly been forgotten. Since Yele launched six years ago we have
helped close to half a million people. I will always love and serve the Haitian people until the day I die.

The NY Post piece entitled, "Questions Dog Wyclef's Haiti Fund" is misleading,
deceptive and incomplete. The Post conveniently fails to acknowledge that the
decisions that Yele made were a response to one of the world's most catastrophic
natural disasters in modern history and required an immediate humanitarian
response. There were no roads, no clean water, no sanitation, no banks, no electricity, no infrastructure. Immediate decisions were made to save lives and alleviate suffering. We made decisions that enabled us to provide emergency assistance in the midst of chaos and we stand by those decisions. We did the best we could with the available resources. I am proud of the way that Yele handled the crisis on the ground in 2010. We were able to feed, clothe, provide medical assistance and shelter for more than 250 thousand people in need.

What the article doesn't say is that the construction projects funded by Yele Haiti were responsible for rebuilding an orphanage, building a temporary assistance facility, and had constructed a system of out door toilet and shower facilities in Cite Soliel one of the largest slums in Port-au-Prince.

The Post never highlights that Amisphere Farm Labor was responsible for preparing
and delivering close to 100,000 meals. The Samosa SA property referenced by the Post was located in the vicinity of the largest tent camps in Port-au-Prince. Yele chose that location because it was closest to the people it needed serve.

All of these facts as well as photos and testimonials were readily available to the Post for their story. Unfortunately, they chose not to include these facts and instead chose to imply that Yele "squandered" donors money. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Finally, the percentage of funds used is consistent with NGOs and Not For Profits
operating in Haiti at the time. I have acknowledged that Yele has made mistakes in the past, including being late in IRS filings, but that is old news. When I entered politics last summer, I transitioned from being a board member and chairman of Yele Haiti to a supporter. The new and good news is that Yele under new leadership, despite efforts to undermine its credibility and effectiveness, continues its mission to serve people in need.

-- Wyclef Jean

LOS ANGELES ( - Less than a third of the $16 million gathered in 2010 by hip-hop star Wyclef Jean for earthquake relief in Haiti actually made it to emergency efforts in the country, the New York Post reported on Sunday.

According to the exclusive report, Jean's charity, Yele Haiti, doled out millions in questionable contracts -- in fact, $1 million was paid to a Florida firm that doesn't seem to exist.

The Post also reported that a company called P&A Construction -- which is run by Warnel Pierre, Jean's brother-in-law -- received $353,983 from the group.

Founded in 2005 with his cousin Jerry Duplessis, Jean's charity was troubled before the disastrous January 2010 earthquake struck his native country. In 2008, it was revealed that the organization had never filed required tax forms detailing its spending to the IRS.

The charity lost $244,000 in 2009. But almost immediately after the January 12, 2010, quake, Jean took to Twitter asking for $5 donations, which quickly rolled in.

Soon after, it was reported that Yele Haiti had given $250,000 to a Haitian TV station controlled by Jean and Duplessis.

"Have we made mistakes before? Yes," said a tearful Jean, a former Haitian presidential candidate, holding a January 2010 press conference to defend his charity against that charge. "Did I ever use Yele money for personal benefits? Absolutely not. Yele's books are open and transparent."

Yele Haiti has not yet issued a statement to respond to the new charges.

Via 11Alive:

WACO, Ga. -- A west Georgia business owner is stirring up controversy with signs he posted on his company's trucks, for all to see as the trucks roll up and down roads, highways and interstates:

"New Company Policy: We are not hiring until Obama is gone."

"Can't afford it," explained the employer, Bill Looman, Tuesday evening. "I've got people that I want to hire now, but I just can't afford it. And I don't foresee that I'll be able to afford it unless some things change in D.C."

Looman's company is U.S. Cranes, LLC. He said he put up the signs, and first posted pictures of the signs on his personal Facebook page, six months ago, and he said he received mostly positive reaction from people, "about 20-to-one positive."

But for some reason, one of the photos went viral on the Internet on Monday.

And the reaction has been so intense, pro and con, he's had to have his phones disconnected because of the non-stop calls, and he's had to temporarily shut down his company's website because of all the traffic crashing the system.

Looman made it clear, talking with 11Alive's Jon Shirek, that he is not refusing to hire to make some political point; it's that he doesn't believe he can hire anyone, because of the economy. And he blames the Obama administration.

"The way the economy's running, and the way my business has been hampered by the economy, and the policies of the people in power, I felt that it was necessary to voice my opinion, and predict that I wouldn't be able to do any hiring," he said.

Click here to read the entire article.

Entertainment mogul, Tyler Perry, has been very vocal when it comes to his past which was filled with sexual abuse. He even taped a now very famous episode of 'The Oprah Winfrey' show in which he and hundreds of other men put a face on sexual abuse and it's victims.

Using his shared experience as a victim, Tyler decided to write and open letter to one of the victims involved in the Penn State scandal.

Here is what he wrote:

I don’t know your name, but I know your face. I don’t know your journey, but I know where you are. I am your brother!

I must tell you, what you have done is so courageous. The strength that it must have taken for your 11-year-old voice to speak out about such a horrible act is something that I didn’t have the strength or courage to do at that age.

I was a very poor young black boy in New Orleans, just a face without a name, swimming in a sea of poverty trying to survive. Forget about living, I was just trying to exist. I was enduring a lot of the same things that you’ve come forward and said happened to you, and it was awful. I felt so powerless. I knew what was happening to me, but unlike you, I couldn’t speak about it because no one saw me. I was invisible and my voice was inaudible.

So to think that you, when you were only 11 years old, spoke up—you are my hero! I’m so proud of you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I want you to know you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault. Please know that you were chosen by a monster. You didn’t choose him. You didn’t ask for it and, most of all, you didn’t deserve it. What a huge lesson that was for me to learn. Your 11-year-old self was no match for wicked, evil tactics of this kind. You were hunted like prey. A pedophile looks for the young boys he thinks he can manipulate. The ones who have daddy or mommy issues, the ones who are broken, and the ones who are in need. But this wasn’t you.

Do you know that at the young age of 11 you had more courage than all the adults who let you down? All of the ones who didn’t go to the proper authorities, all of the ones who were worried about their careers, reputations, or livelihoods. All of the ones who didn’t want to get involved. Or even the ones who tried to convince your mother not to fight. You are stronger than them all! I wonder what they would have done if it were their own child.

I had a few of those adults in my life, too. They knew and did nothing. One of them even said to me that it was my fault, because I allowed myself to spend time with the molesters. And yes, this was someone who was in power and could have called the police, but instead this person allowed this criminal to go on molesting other young boys for many years. When I did tell a family member, I wasn’t believed. I suffered in silence. But not you, my young strong hero, you have done what many of us wish we could have done. You used your voice!

You know, now that you’re older you need to be aware that the aftermath of abuse may affect you for a very long time. But that’s OK; just know that the strength it took for you to talk about it then will help you get through it now. I often tell myself that if I made it through that experience as a child, then surely as a man I should be able to get past it. It still may take you a while, but that’s OK too. I have known people who have gone through the same things that we have, but unfortunately they were never able to admit it, and it destroyed them. They never went for help, and they let the abuse defeat them. Some of them went to prison for crimes, some are addicted to drugs, and some have even committed suicide. I know that none of these things will happen to you. You are too strong for that!

No matter what happens next, just know that the hardest part is over. I wish the coward and very sick individual who hurt you would have the courage to admit his wrong and not put you through a trial. But he will most likely profess his innocence until the bitter end. And probably, all the while, yelling at the top of his lungs about all he has done to help troubled young boys.

You may have to go through with that trial, and you may feel all alone when you’re on that witness stand, but just know that there are millions of young boys and grown men who are standing with you—including me. If every man who has ever been molested would speak up, you would see that we’re all around you. You may not know all of our faces and names, but my prayer is that you feel our strength holding you up. You will get through this; you’ve already endured the worst part at age 11. Now fight on, my young friend, fight on! We are all with you.

I saw this article over at the NY Times and I thought it was a great converation starter on something that we rarely talk about in the African American community. For so long we have been seen as monolithic in our politicial views that it goes unnoticed that we are also preceived as very monolithic when it comes to our religious views. This piece about African Americans and Atheisms is a welcome piece in the evolution of the Black experience.


In the two years since, Black Atheists has grown to 879 members from that initial 100, YouTube confessionals have attracted thousands, blogs like “Godless and Black” have gained followings, and hundreds more have joined Facebook groups like Black Atheist Alliance (524 members) to share their struggles with “coming out” about their atheism.

Feeling isolated from religious friends and families and excluded from what it means to be African-American, people turn to these sites to seek out advice and understanding, with some of them even finding a date. And having benefited from the momentum online, organizations like African Americans for Humanism and Center for Inquiry-Harlem have well-attended meet-up groups, and others like Black Atheists of America and Black Nonbelievers have been founded.

African-Americans are remarkably religious even for a country known for its faithfulness, as the United States is. According to the Pew Forum 2008 United States Religious Landscape Survey, 88 percent of African-Americans believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with 71 percent of the total population, with more than half attending religious services at least once a week.

While some black clergy members lament the loss of parishioners to mega-churches like Rick Warren’s and prosperity-gospel purveyors like Joel Osteen, it is often taken for granted that African-Americans go to religious services. Islam and other religions are represented in the black community, but with the assumption that African-Americans are religious comes the expectation that they are Christian.

“That’s the kicker, when they ask which church you go to,” said Linda Chavers, 29, a Harvard graduate student. The question comes up among young black professionals like her classmates as casually as chitchat about classes and dating. “At first,” she said, “they think it’s because I haven’t found one, and they’ll say, ‘Oh I know a few great churches,’ and I don’t know a nice way to say I’m not interested,” she said.

Even among those African-Americans who report no affiliation, more than two-thirds say religion plays a somewhat important role in their lives, according to Pew. And some nonbelieving African-Americans have been known to attend church out of tradition.

“I have some colleagues and friends who identify as culturally Christian in a way similar to ethnic Jews,” said Josef Sorett, a religion professor at Columbia University. “They may go to church because that’s the church their family attends, but they don’t necessarily subscribe to the beliefs of Christianity.”

Click here to read the entire article.

After taking over as band director from the legendary Dr. William P. Foster in 1998, no one ever thought that Dr. Julian White's illustrious 22 year career with the FAMU Marching 100 would possibly end because of scandal. On Wednesday, November 23rd, the president of FAMU fired White after the death of band member, Robert Champion, due to alleged hazing actvities.

Champion was a 26-year-old from Atlanta who was slated to become the next head drum major. It is being reported that he died during what some have said was a ritual called “Crossing the C Bus.”

Dr. White, who has been a strong advocate against hazing, has refused to go quietly and through his attorney , Chuck Hobbs, has insisted on getting his job back. In a letter addressed to President Ammons, Hobbs has insisted that White be reinstated due to the fact that he was a strong advocate against hazing and that it was his superiors' failings that led to the death of Robert Champion and not his.

Here's what Hobbs wrote, "Dr. White has been at the vanguard of implementing measures to eliminate hazing within the Marching 100 over the past 22 years. We also believe that the evidence will show that Dr. White has often been a man on a solo mission in his best efforts to root out the practice of hazing."

“From an administrative standpoint, hazing within the Marching 100 has often been met with reckless indifference by White’s superior officers, who often ignored his requests for assistance, or who privately lauded his decisions to suspend members from the band for hazing while failing to ensure that hazers were either charged with applicable criminal offenses or expelled as students from the university,” Hobbs wrote.

“Even with respect to Dr. White’s suspension of 26 suspected hazers for the Florida Classic, the fact that disciplinary proceedings did not begin from a University level until after Mr. Champion’s tragic death could be considered a subsequent remedial measure intended to mitigate the fact that had decisive senior level action been taken earlier - in the form of suspending the band prior to the Florida Classic - it is possible that Mr. Champion would still be alive,” the letter stated.

Hobbs continues to insinuate that perhaps one of the major reasons why nothing ever happened to the students was because of financial reasons, “What makes this even more troubling is the fact that the appearance of financial gain - the Florida Classic is a major money maker for the University, and the Marching 100 is a key feature attraction - may have impacted whether Dr. White’s superiors chose not to suspend the band or Dr. White following his disclosure and suspension from the band individuals implicated in the post homecoming hazing activities,” the lawyer wrote.

With the family of Robert Champion now suing the university, this is going to be a very long stretch for my alma mater.


Nov 23, 2011

I don't think this comes as a shock to anyone.

(AP) TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The longtime director of Florida A&M University's famed marching band was fired Wednesday as the fallout from a drum major's suspected hazing death deepened. Florida's governor said state investigators would join the probe and the college announced an independent review led by a former state attorney general.

Band member Robert Champion, 26, was found unresponsive on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel on Saturday night after the school's football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman. Champion, of Atlanta, was vomiting and had complained he couldn't breathe before he collapsed. Investigators believe hazing occurred before 911 was called.

Champion's cause of death wasn't known, and a spokeswoman with the medical examiner's office said it could take up to three months to learn exactly what killed him.

On Tuesday, the university president shuttered the marching band and the rest of the music department's performances as band director Julian White stood by. White, who graduated from the school with a music education degree, didn't comment at the news conference and a telephone message left at his home Wednesday was not immediately returned. He has 10 days to respond to his termination.

White became a faculty member at the school in 1972, according to the university's website, and his bands consistently received superior ratings in marching and concert. The Marching 100 band has performed at several Super Bowls and represented the U.S. in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Hazing cases in marching bands have cropped up over the years, particularly at historically black colleges, where a spot in the marching band is coveted and the bands are revered almost as much as the sports teams for which they play. In 2008, two first-year French horn players in Southern University's marching band were beaten so they had to be hospitalized. A year later, 20 members of Jackson State University's band were suspended after being accused of hazing.

One of the worst cases occurred in 2001 and involved former FAMU band member Marcus Parker, who suffered kidney damage because of a beating with a paddle.

Three years earlier, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player from Ocala, Fla., said he was paddled around 300 times, sending him to the hospital and leaving him physically and emotionally scarred.

Some 20 band members were suspended and Luckey eventually wound up filing a lawsuit against the state Board of Regents. According to reports, Luckey settled for $50,000 for his injuries.

Retired sociology professor and hazing expert Richard Sigal was hired by Luckey's attorneys to testify at the trial. Sigal, who has held anti-hazing workshops at high schools and colleges, told The Associated Press that he previously found an acceptance of hazing at the university.

"There was a hazing subculture that existed, that everyone knew about, and everyone turned away from and didn't do anything about. And that was at the core of what the issue was at A&M," he said.

In the current case, no charges have been filed, but any death involving hazing is a third-degree felony in Florida.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott said he believed Champion's death warranted help from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Scott said he wanted investigators "to assure that the circumstances leading to Mr. Champion's death become fully known, and that if there are individuals directly or indirectly responsible for this death, they are appropriately brought to justice and held accountable."

Ammons, the school president, also announced the formation of an independent task force to investigate Champion's death. It will be chaired by former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and former Tallahassee Police Chief Walt McNeil.

PHOENIX (AP) — New details emerged Tuesday about the child abuse case against the mother of a missing five-year-old Arizona girl, including allegations that the girl was kept in a bedroom closet, deprived of food and water, and beaten.

A court document detailing the allegations was released minutes after the girl's mother, Jerice Hunter, 38, had her first court appearance, during which she proclaimed her innocence. It included claims that Hunter told the girl's siblings to lie about her disappearance.

"I'd just like to be given the chance to prove my innocence," Hunter told a judge, who ordered that she be held on a $100,000 bond because of her history of child abuse and the seriousness of the charge against her.

Hunter was arrested on a felony count of child abuse Monday, more than five weeks after she reported her daughter Jhessye Shockley missing. Police said at a news conference that they received new information in the case that led to her arrest and to a second search of her apartment in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.

Investigators declined to say what that information was, but the court document details a recent interview they conducted with Hunter's 13-year-old daughter, who was removed from the home by state Child Protective Services the day after her sister was reported missing.

The document, a probable cause statement, said the teenager recently began to talk to her foster mother about Jhessye, saying that "she was told by her mother, Jerice, to lie to police about Jhessye being missing."

Police then interviewed the teen, who told them that she did not see Jhessye the day she disappeared, reversing her previous story to authorities that she had seen the girl.

She also said that several weeks ago, Hunter became angry when she returned home to find Jhessye wearing a long T-shirt while watching TV with a neighbor boy, telling the girl that she was a "ho" before taking her into a bedroom, according to the document.

The teen said she could hear her sister screaming and crying in the room, the document said.

She also told police that Hunter kept Jhessye in a bedroom closet and deprived her of food and water and that she had seen the girl with black eyes and bruises and cuts to her face and body, according to the document.

"(She) reported that Jhessye's hair had been pulled out and described Jhessye as not looking alive and that she looked like a zombie," the document said. "(She) said that the closet where Jhessye had been looked like a grave and smelled like dead people."

The teen said that a few days before Jhessye disappeared, her mother spent the entire day cleaning the apartment and cleaning her shoes from the closet with soap and bleach. Police said they found a receipt that showed Hunter bought food and a bottle of bleach two days before she reported her daughter missing.

Hunter told police that she last saw Jhessye on Oct. 11 after she left her in her older siblings' care while she ran an errand.

At a news conference Monday, Glendale Police Sgt. Brent Coombs said authorities do not expect to find Jhessye alive, but he didn't explain why. He also said Hunter is the investigation's "No. 1 focus."

Hunter, meanwhile, has maintained her innocence, telling The Associated Press she had nothing to do with her daughter's disappearance. She also has criticized the Glendale Police Department's investigation.

"We feel that law enforcement is not active in finding Jhessye and that they're more active in persecuting me instead of finding out where she is," Hunter said last month.

State Child Protective Services removed Hunter's other children, including a newborn, from her apartment last month but declined to say why. Glendale police said they had no part in the decision to remove the children. Hunter was eight months pregnant when Jhessye disappeared.

Hunter came under scrutiny during the investigation for an October 2005 arrest with her then-husband, George Shockley, on child abuse charges in California. Hunter pleaded no contest to corporal punishment and served about four years in prison before she was released on parole in May 2010.

Hunter's oldest child, 14 at the time, told police his mother routinely beat the children. George Shockley is a convicted sex offender and is still in a California prison.

In the days after Jhessye's disappearance, more than 100 officers and volunteers searched for her in pools, garbage bins and shrubs. They interviewed and searched the homes of registered sex offenders in the area, and stopped at every door to spread news about the missing girl.

Police also cordoned off an area of a local landfill where garbage from Jhessye's neighborhood would have been taken the day of and day after her disappearance, but have not searched it.

Hunter's father, Jesse Johnson, said outside of Tuesday's court hearing that his daughter was innocent.

"It's a witch hunt," he said. "I don't believe the police got this right. They're not going to find anything."

I am just stunned right now. I know Dr. William P. Foster is turning over in his grave right now. As a graduate of FAMU, I can say that the hazing that goes on in the band is notorious. I just hate that it may have resulted in the death of a young man with his whole life in front of him. My heart goes out to the Champion family as well as the entire FAMU family.

Florida A&M President Dr. James Ammons announced today that the university has suspended band performances indefinitely following the death of drum major Robert Champion.

Dr. Ammons also announced the school would form an independent task force to investigate Champion’s death, along with any “unauthorized activities” association with the school’s band, The Marching 100, reports Atlanta’s NBC affiliate 11 Alive.

The school’s “band, staff, students and history” will all be subject to investigation, Dr. Ammons said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Since Champion’s death Saturday, blogs and social media sites have been flooded with posts speculating that Champion’s death may be connected with hazing. Dr. Ammons addressed those claims, asking people to stop engaging in rumors, but also acknowledging that several band members have been released from the band this semester because of possible participation in hazing.

“Hazing is illegal and it’s something that should not happen,” he said. “I am committed to making certain that we end this practice” at the university.

Champion, 27, died suddenly following the Florida Classic Saturday. The Atlanta native had just returned to the FAMU marching band’s hotel, in Orlando, FL, when he became sick and complained of being unable to breathe.

Friends of the victim called 911. He was transported to Doctor Phillips Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities do not suspect foul-play.

Champion, a 2004 graduate of Southwest Dekalb High School, was a member of the famed FAMU Marching 100.

11Alive News contacted a relative who said the family is in a state of shock and unable to speak about the death. He went on to say they know very little at this time.

In a statement released by FAMU, Band Director Julian White said, “He was a very fine drum major who was of excellent character…I had not told him yet, but he was slated to be the head drum major next year.”

The university is preparing to provide grief counseling for band members and students.

An autopsy was performed Monday and results are pending.

Nov 22, 2011

The child rape allegations against former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky have been front page news over the last two weeks. Mr. Sandusy, of course, is innocent until he has been proven guilty in a court of law but I have been quite disturbed by the behavior of some of the other adults involved in this case.
I was really surprised that the Penn State students took to the streets to protest the firing of Paterno and downright shocked when his supporter began to characterize him as a victim. Whether you agree or disagree with what Paterno did, I don't understand how anyone with knowledge of this case can call him a victim. The only victims here are the accusers. Paterno was an adult and he made an adult decision. I'm personally struggling not to judge him for that decision. I know that I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and will make plenty more but I can honestly say, I've never knowingly allowed children to be hurt and I just can't imagine that if I had the same information that he had, I would have just felt that I had done enough by telling the Athletic Director.
Maybe it's because I have seen what happens to abused children. In college, I interned in the juvenile justice system. I'll never for get being 20 years old and sitting across from a 12 year old boy who had sodomized 2 younger children with a broomstick. The parents of the victims were rightfully angry..especially since this happened in a neighborhood tree house while the parents were just a few hundred feet away assuming that their children were playing safely. Their instinct was to label this boy as evil and while I understand why they would feel that way, it just really wasn't that simple. The 12 year old abuser had once been on the other end of a broomstick and a brutal rape at the hands of his stepfather. And while his 2 victims had parents who had immediately stepped in to rescue their children and demand punishment, the 12 year old had not received the same help. When he told his mother of the abuse, she called him a liar and said he wanted to ruin her happiness. So for 2 years, he suffered in silence only telling the story of his own abuse to the state psychologist assigned to treat him after he was arrested.
I remember that after reading his case file and interviewing him, I literally wept. The law, which had not been able to protect him, was now mandated to punish him. He'd never known a real childhood. His innocence was stolen from him before he could even really discern good from bad.
I called my mother that night to thank her. Growing up, I was invited to many sleepovers but I only got to attend 2. I had always thought she simply could not stand the idea of me spending the night somewhere other than with her but it took that moment for me to realize she was trying to protect me from what could be. Fortunately for her, she wasn't alone.
As a child, the kids in my neighborhood and I often lamented over the fact that we could not get away with anything. Both of my parents worked but there were 3 stay at home moms on my block and we literally thought of them as the police. I can't tell you how quickly my day would go downhill when the doorbell rang shortly after my parents came home from work. The only people stopping by your house at 6 pm on Wednesday night are neighbors or the pizza delivery man and we made our own pizzas at home.
I'll never forget one teacher in service day I was staying with the one of the stay at home moms and my friends and I were playing in the front yard. A stranger drove down the street twice and then stopped in front of where we were playing saying that he was lost. Being innocent children, we walked over to his car to listen to him. Next thing I know, the front door of my friend's house swung open and her mom came out calling our names and ordering us to get back in the yard immediately. The man tried to explain that he was lost but she did not care. She lit into him about calling children over to his car and dude drove off in a hurry.
Now I don't know if the guy was really lost or if he had other plans that day but I do know that if she had not come out there, we were close for him to be able to grab at least one of us. I complained about them growing up but I don't know where I would be if it hadn't been for those surrogate mothers on my block. Especially during my high school years...whew those women put in work. They'd give my mother a full accounting of who dropped me off at home, the make and model of the car, and if a guy was driving they knew how long we sat in the car talking. I remember a boyfriend saying that h should come in for a few minutes since my parents weren't home. Nah bruh. You won't even make it to the front door alive.
We had a village. Those women felt as responsible for us as they did for their own children. But now it seems as if not only we do not expect this behavior but we actually condemn it Paterno supporters have said that he did his part. It was not his responsibility to do more. I don't understand that argument. He talked to someone who said he witnessed the rape of a child on Penn State property. And he didn't feel that he needed to do something more than tell his supervisor, hey you better talk to McQueary?
I can't help but think that the cover up had to do with money. It's my personal theory and I may be wrong but I think they looked the other way because a scandal would tarnish the school's reputation and possibly cost the football program money in the form of athletes not wanting to play there and other bad press. I guess I should not be surprised, I see images in the media everyday that are detrimental to our children but those images generate income and so they are allowed. But this just seems like a whole new low to me.
The most telling factor for me is that no one who heard Mike McQueary's story ever reports that they confronted Sandusky directly. Why didn't Reed and Schultz call Sandusky in for a meeting and say we have these allegations, what's your side of the story? Why didn't they find out who the child was and ask for a meeting with the parents?
And more importantly, why are we as a society okay with the fact that at least 4 grown men had information about this man behaving inappropriately with children and said nothing?? Why do we not expect more from these adults, these fathers? Is that the society that we want now?? Are we okay with our children's innocence being sacrificed because adults view/are made aware of this behavior and do nothing? Are we prepared for what is going to happen to these children and how in turn they might harm others??
I'm asking my homeowners' association to put a 'we are a village' clause in our by laws.

Nov 21, 2011

I honestly believe Andrew Sullivan sums up quite nicely everything I've been thinking about when it comes to President Obama and the disenchantment on the Left. For the life of me I cannot wrap my mind around the disenchantment that is coming from the liberal base when the subject of this President comes up. The fact that you have so called Democratic pollesters coming out and saying that the President should bow out the race and just pass the reigns over to Hillary Clinton is just as deplorable as anything the Republicans have said. It just baffles the mind. All this man has accomplish and yet his base still manages to complain. I guess that's just the American way.

Via The Daily Beast:

The one thing I noticed in my continental run-around this past week is just how mad liberals are at Obama. I remain as baffled by this anger as I am by Republican contempt for the guy. New York magazine has two superb essays that sum up my own feelings on both sides pretty perfectly - by Jon Chait and David Frum. Chait notes how systemic and eternal liberal disenchantment is, and how congenitally useless Democrats are in rallying round a leader, even one who has achieved so much in such a short time. Many Dems even now think Clinton was more successful in fighting the GOP in his first term than Obama has been. (Memo to the left: universal healthcare was achieved under Obama). But much of this is the usual Democratic limpness and whininess. If George Bush had taken out Osama bin Laden, wiped out al Qaeda's leadership and gathered a treasure trove of real intelligence by a daring raid, he'd be on Mount Rushmore by now. If he'd done the equivalent on the right of universal healthcare, he'd be the second coming of Reagan. But Obama and liberals? If I hear one more gripe about single payer from someone in their fifties with a ponytail, I'll scream.

But the right is more unhinged and more dangerously full of denial. Since I was never structurally or financially or socially linked to the Washington right, I was immune to the withdrawal of jobs, money and access doled out to any dissenter in the Bush years. But every now and again, I get some kind of amazed look - "You're not going to back Obama again, are you?" - from someone in the conservative cocoon, and when I respond, "So far, you bet!", there is often a long pause and a genuine sadness on their faces. "What the hell happened to him?" you can hear them asking themselves.

Last night I watched Our America with Lisa Ling on OWN. On this particular episode she was exploring America's prison industrial complex and why so many black men are in prison. Black men only comprise 6% of the population in the U.S. but yet they are a third of the people that are incarcerated.

I made my 16 year old nephew watch the documentary and tell me what he thought. The first thing he said was, "Auntie it's hard out here."

Indeed it is, but I use that moment to explain to him why I am so hard on him when it comes to his grades and the things he does. For it is 'but by grace' goes he. My nephew is a wonderful child with a beautiful mind, but he has a bit of a lazy side to him. Instead of maximizing his potential he's chosen to settle for mediocrity. This is the same child that when he was seven asked for the autobiography of Malcom X and the biography of JFK for Christmas presents instead of toys or games. But something change within him once he got to high school.

Instead of making all A's like he use to do, he began to let his grades slip to the point that his GPA is a 3.1. Now I realize that to some people a 3.1 is good, but not for my nephew. If he was a 3.1 student that would be different, but he's not. People say I'm too hard on him, but I'm hard on him for a reason. I'm trying to prepare him for what he will face as a black man and I want him to possess every tool that is necessary for him to be successful.

My nephew is very fortunate to be born into a family that a majority of the people within the family are college educated. He is very fortunate to have examples of people who are doing the right things, but for a lot of our black men that is not enough. There are a lot of black men from good homes that find themselves in prison. Why is that?

We have to be willing to discuss these things with our young men and boys. We have to discuss with them the traps that are out there for them and how the cycle is continuing. I think the documentary last night was a wonderful catalyst to start that conversation.

I honestly don't know how we are going to break this cycle, but I do know we have to start somewhere and do it together. We can continue to blame the problem on single mothers or wayward fathers, but at the end of the day we are losing our black men.

The website is doing a three part series into the people that comprise the black 1 percent. I'm sure it comes as a shock to no one that the majority of the black 1 percent gets their wealth from the entertainment and sports spectrum.

Blacks comprise 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to the 2010 Census, but account for only 1.4 percent of the top 1 percent of households by income. Whites are the overwhelming majority of the top 1 percent of households by income, comprising 96.2 percent. (Results were calculated from 2007 data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances and the Tax Policy Center's tax table, The income cutoff to be a part of the top 1 percent was $646,195.)


Nov 20, 2011

Orlando (TheFamuan)- A FAMU student and drum major, Robert Champion, died late Saturday night on International Drive in Orlando, Capt. Angelo Nieves, Unit Commander with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, reported. The 27-year-old male was unconscious when OCSO and paramedics arrived on the scene, and was found on a student bus.

He was then transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No foul play is suspected, said Deputy Ginette Rodriguez, Public Information Officer for OCSO.

The 'Marching 100' was staying at the Rosen Plaza hotel at 9700 International Drive when the incident was reported.

The university is waiting for more information from the Orange County Sheriff's Office before they issue a formal statement.

Circumstances surrounding the student's death are still being investigated.

I really don't know what to say right now. My heart definitely goes to out to the family of Robert Champion and to my fellow Rattlers. Going to the classic should be a time of enjoyment, but yet we are faced with having to say good-bye to one of our own. The whole thing is really sad.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Occupy Wall Street movement is a big enough problem for U.S. banks that they should pay for opposition research into the political motives of protesters, said a firm that lobbies for the industry.

Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford, a Washington-based firm, proposed the idea in a memo to the American Banking Association, an industry group which said on Saturday that it did not act on the idea.

The four-page memo outlined how the firm could analyze the source of protesters' money, as well as their rhetoric and the backgrounds of protest leaders.

"If we can show they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent, it will undermine their credibility in a profound way," said the memo, according to a copy of it on the website of TV news channel MSNBC, which first reported on it.

Clark Lytle Geduldig counts the banking association among its regular lobbying clients, U.S. Senate records showed.

Other clients include MasterCard Worldwide and a banking coalition concerned about interchange fees.

The firm did not respond to requests for comment.

Its memo said it could deliver research, survey data and plans to use the information in 60 days at a cost of $850,000.

Banking association spokesman Jeff Sigmund told Reuters the memo is authentic, but his group was not interested.

"Our government relations staff received the proposal - it was unsolicited and we chose not to act on it in any way," Sigmund said.

The memo is dated November 24, five days after it became public. Sigmund did not respond to a follow-up question about the date. November 24 is also the Thanksgiving holiday.

The memo said U.S. financial firms should be concerned about comments that Democratic campaign consultants have made in the news media about trying to harness the energy of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

"This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street firms," it said.

"If vilifying the leading companies of this sector is allowed to become an unchallenged centerpiece of a coordinated Democratic campaign, it has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bull's-eye."

The memo is from Clark Lytle Geduldig's four name partners. Two of them, Sam Geduldig and Jay Cranford, are former aides to House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, a Republican.

Using shorthand for Occupy Wall Street, the memo said:

"It may be easy to dismiss OWS as a ragtag group of protesters but they have demonstrated that they should be treated more like an organized competitor who is very nimble and capable of working the media, coordinating third party support and engaging office holders to do their bidding. To counter that, we have to do the same."

Nov 18, 2011

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State University women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed when the single-engine plane they were riding in during a recruiting trip crashed near a wildlife management area in central Arkansas.

The university said the pair died in the crash Thursday night near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock. The Winona Wildlife Management Area is in steep terrain in the eastern Ouachita Mountains, but a cause of the crash was not announced.

In January 2001, 10 men affiliated with the university's men's basketball team died in a Colorado plane crash.

OSU said the plane's pilot and another passenger also died in Thursday's crash. Their names were not released and OSU said they were not associated with the university.

"There were no survivors," the university statement said.

The Perry County Sheriff's Department said the crash occurred just before 7 p.m. about 4 miles south of Perryville. FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said an immediate search revealed that at least two were dead. The school's statement Friday put the death toll at four.

Lunsford said the plane was a single-engine Piper PA-28.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending investigators, and that it could take nine months to determine the cause of the crash.

OSU hired Budke from Louisiana Tech.

If you know anything about me then you know I love these talent shows on television for some reason I can't explain. My favorite is 'So You Think You Can Dance', but lately I've gotten into the 'X-Factor'. I've really been liking this show for some reason (maybe it's because I love me some Simon Cowell). Well, one of my favorite acts on the show has been 15 year old rapper Astro. This young dude is definitely something special in my opinion, but his age and attitude got the best of him last night after he found himself in the bottom two.

Astro was in the bottom two with singer and early favorite Stacy Francis. When it was time for the two acts to sing for their lives, Stacy Francis belted out a stirring but pitchy (you like that word don't you...LOL!) rendition of Amazing Grace, but it was Astro that had the moment of the night when he initially refused to perform, but then when he did perform is was a halfhearted and lackluster attempt.

This was definitely something that was off-putting and cause a lot of boos to flow from the crowd. His mentor L.A. Reid immediately scolded his immaturity by saying, "You acted a little bit like a quitter, and it upset me." But it was Simon Cowell, once again proving why he's my favorite, that gave the young man the talking to that he should have gotten. "I don't like your attitude right now." Cowell said.

"Look at me, and think about your mum watching the show," Cowell continued to say. "Because you are showing disrespect to your mum. You are showing disrespect to the audience at home, and I don't like people with this attitude."

Of course this brought tears to the young rappers eyes. I don't know if it was the New York bravado or a defense mechanism he was using to defend himself from feeling rejection or being hurt, but it was definitely disappointing to watch. I looked at the comments on different sites that discussed what happened and by most accounts everyone thinks Astro is a spoiled brat who is representative of what is wrong with today's youth. I have to admit I think there is something to that. There is this sense of entitlement raging throughout the younger generation. They think they must have everything now and if they don't get then their immediately upset and disappointed. This appears to be the case with Astro.

Astro started to believe so much in his own hype that when people rejected him he immediately got defensive and basically gave up. This is something I've witnessed a lot in my generation and people younger than me. If people don't love and accept us right now then we just give up instead of showing that warrior spirit and pressing on.

What's even worse is the fact that Astor is a rapper. For the most part we like our rappers to be a little cocky when their performing, but we also expect them to show some humility. I think Astro got caught up in the cocky part and thus lost his way there for a minute. Just like any kid, he is entitled to make a mistake for God's sake that's the point of being a kid. This is a teachable moment for him. I just hope there is someone around him that can show him and teach him better.

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Due to my non-stop travel schedule, I missed 60 Minutes this past Sunday. Fortunately for me I have some very Savvy Readers and one of them sent me the link to the segment about University of Maryland Baltimore County president Freeman Hrabowski. Hrabowski represents what education, in my opinion, should be about. The concept of 'collaboration' instead of 'competition' is the key to success is a very interesting to me. As an engineer, this is something that I was thought at the onset of my education. We had to work as a team because as an engineer you must have a team mindset. It's very interesting to see this same concept applied to scientists.

His approach to his students is definitely a model that can be emulated across the country.

Nov 17, 2011

Tyler Perry has finally decided to speak up about the controversy surrounded his new film, 'The Marriage Counselor'. A lot of the Madea film maker's fans are expressing concern and some outright outrage of his decision to cast one Kim Kardashian in the film. Never one to shy away from controversy, Perry decided to send an email out to his fans addressing their concerns. Here's what he had to say:

I think many of you know that this is a very difficult time of year for me, so what I try to do is make sure that I’m working during this time. All I wanted to do was shoot a great film and try to keep my mind off the holiday grief that I have been experiencing for the past two years. I could not have imagined I’d be getting all these emails about Kim Kardashian. I HAVE SEEN THEM!! YOU HAVE BEEN HEARD!! …LOL. Now, may I say something? Can a brother get a word in?….LOL. Y’all gave me a new movie title, Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman Cause You Hired Kim Kardashian, Don’t Make Me Take Off My Earrings and Boycott Yo A**.”…LOL. Some of my ladies are upset. Ok, all jokes aside, can I have my say? Will you at least here me out?

I was in a Mexican restaurant and the cutest little old woman stopped me and said, “I want to talk to you about KAR-DAT- CHA-NEM.” I said, “Ma’am?” She said, “What is wrong with you putting her in the lead role of your movie?” By the time I explained to her that she was not in the lead role and why I thought she should be in “The Marriage Counselor”, she said, “Oh, I see your point and I can’t wait to see the movie.” So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you what I said to her then maybe you’ll see why I wanted her in the film.

This movie is about a young lady named Judith (Jurnee Smolett), who grew up in the countryside of Virginia in a trailer park. She was raised in the church by her mother Sarah (Ella Joyce). Judith married her childhood sweetheart Brice (Lance Gross) and had the perfect life until she graduated college and went to work in the big city. After college, all she wanted to do was be a marriage counselor, but the only job she could find was working for a matchmaker named Janice (Vanessa Williams). Janice has several employees that work for her, including a woman named Ava (Kim Kardashian). Ava is constantly trying to influence Judith on everything from her shoes to her hair. Judith meets a man at work named Harley (Robbie Jones). Harley challenges everything in her life from her marriage to her husband to her faith. Meanwhile, Brice (Lance Gross), Judith’s husband works at a pharmacy owned by Mrs. Waco (Renee Taylor). Brice has just hired a coworker named Melinda (Brandy), who has some major demons that she is running from. In the end, the choices that both of these young women have made come crashing down on them and their lives will never be the same. I wish I could tell you more, but I don’t want to ruin it for you.

After I finished writing this movie, I sat back and re-read it. Half way through my read, the gravity of what I had written hit me. I knew that this message was not only for my age group, but for all audiences, especially the youth. ESPECIALLY THE YOUTH!! YOUNG FOLKS NEED TO SEE THIS!!! And not just the young people that follow me, but the young people that are following other young people, as well. I wanted a younger cast, that’s why I put Jurnee in the lead and invited Lance Gross, Robbie Jones and Brandy. About two months ago, long before I even heard about Kim’s marriage or divorce, I was trying to finish up the casting. I said to one of my producers, “who else is out there that young people are looking up to?” One of my producers showed me pictures that his daughter had taken of several hundred kids lined up around the corner to get into a Kardashian store. They wanted to meet Kim. I thought, what better person! She literally has millions of young people following her. I thought and still do think, that it would be very responsible of her to be a part of this film. To have the young people that look up to her, see her in a film that is about, what happens in life when you make the wrong choices. Whether you’re aware of it or not, to be honest with you I wasn’t, millions of young people adore her and are following her every move. If one of those young people see this film and find the strength to live a better life and not go through what these characters went through in this movie, then we have all done what I feel I’m being led to do here. I hope you understand. I really do!

And lastly, because I believe that my films speak from the inside out, why wouldn’t Kim Kardashian be invited into a film about Faith, Forgiveness and the healing power of God? What is wrong with that??

I welcome your comments at

So what do you think of Tyler's explanation? Are you buying or selling it?

Nov 16, 2011

In her documentary series “Our America,” Lisa Ling aims to peel the scab off of hard truths that are happening across this country, such as child sex trafficking and suicide among veterans – two stories that were explored in the show’s current second season on OWN.

This Sunday, the 38-year-old journalist will put a spotlight on the disproportionate number of African-American men in prison and their challenges in finding employment after they’ve paid their debt to society.

The episode, titled “Incarceration Generation,” explores the rate at which black men are jailed and ways to reduce it. She interviews inmates who are caught in a growing cycle of crime and punishment that crosses generations, creating poverty and destroying communities.

It was the opportunity to do these kinds of stories each week that drew Ling to the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) following her investigative work for the National Geographic Channel, which she took on following her three years at “The View.”“It has certainly been the most gratifying work experience I’ve had ever had,” she says of “Our America.” “I’ve never been prouder of any work that I’ve ever done. And I really feel like this has been the culmination of everything I’ve ever learned as a journalist. And it’s ironic that all of these stories are here in America, in our own backyards.

“Because I can’t tell you how many times throughout the course of shooting this series, that I felt like I was in a foreign place or a distant place. But the reality is that all of these stories, in their greatest complexity, are in our backyards. And we set out to try and understand or explore what it really means to be an American. And sometimes the answer to that is a very moving answer, but sometimes it’s very challenging.”

The Incarceration Generation episode of “Our America with Lisa Ling” airs Sunday, Nov. 20 (10-11 p.m. ET/PT) on OWN.