Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reading is still FUN-damental… The Philly Book Club experience

ABOVE PHOTO:  Brothers and Sisters Book Club members at Warmdaddys event for Sonia Sanchez. (Photo by Karen Q. Miller)
By Karen E. Quinones Miller

“If you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book.” 
No one knows the author of that now infamous statement, but we’ve all heard it, and many of have cringed when we did. 
Of course it’s not true; but if proof is needed to show the fallacy of the statement, it’s the large number of African American book clubs that exist across the nation. Groups of people who get together to not only read, but to discuss what they’ve read and share opinions.
“Being in a book club has exposed me to a great number of books that I never would have otherwise read, and meet people whom I met never have otherwise met,” said Shirley Coker, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Go On Girl Book Club, an organization that boasts more then thirty chapters nationwide.
Coker’s chapter includes women of all ages and social economic levels – the only common denomination being their love for books. “It leads to great conversations and great fellowship,” she said. 
Edward Cohen, president of Brothers and Sisters Book Club agrees. His club has members as young as 20, and as old as 80. 
“Since the club is so diverse, the meeting and book discussions can sometimes be lively,” he said with a laugh.” Lively, and sometimes heated, but nothing is taken personally.”
Cohen is an avid reader, but also scrabble player, and often played with a group of people which included neighbor, and co-founder of the book club, Marsetta Lee. 
“Whenever we got together to play we’d wind up talking about books that we were reading, the themes, the good and the bad,” said Cohen who was living in Trenton at the time. “Then someone said we need to start a book club.”
The first meeting occurred in 1995, and the first book was Brothers and Sisters by the Bebe Moore Campbell. There were 12 people at the first meeting, and one of the things they decided was that all of the books they read would be by African-American authors. 
“The general public doesn’t seem to realize that African-American writers need additional support. When they list books on the New York Times Best Sellers List, you seldom see African American books, though there are some excellent African-American authors,” explained Cohen, who now lives in South Philadelphia. 
The New York Times Best Seller’s List is based on the number of books bought in a particular week. Cohen adds that the African American community has enough economic power to get good African-American books on the list, but don’t.
“A lot of us support the white authors not realizing we are not supporting our own,” explained Cohen, adding that group wanted to become part of the solution rather than add to the problem. “So we decided that we give them our support.” 
And African American authors acknowledge that they have benefited from the support.  Kimberla Lawson Roby self-published her book, “Here and Now,” in 1997 and met with book clubs in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois, and eventually around the country, to get the word out. And it worked. People started talking about the book and about having met the author. Roby landed a huge publishing deal with a major publisher, and is now a New York Times best selling author. 
“Book clubs have been a huge blessing to me and my writing career for years, and it is the reason I visit with as many of them as possible,” said Roby, whose new book, A Christmas Prayer was published earlier this month.  
Roby now sometimes meets book clubs by Skype or by telephone conference when she’s not able to appear physically. She also hosts an annual contest, open exclusively to book clubs called “Have Dinner with Kimberla Lawson Roby.” 
“It’s my way of giving back to book clubs for making such an amazing and incomparable difference in my life.” 
Eric Jerome Dickey is another author who was pushed to the New York Times bestseller’s list through the help of book clubs.
“If it weren’t for book clubs, I would never have had a career. The word-of-mouth promotion we get from them is more powerful than the ads taken out by the establishment for other writers” said Dickey, whose latest book is “A Wanted Woman.” “If t wasn’t for book clubs, most authors from my community would be dead on vine.”  
Especially new authors, said Mister Mann Frisby, who self-published his first book, Blinking Red Light, in 2002.
“Putting out a new book is a daunting task so when you get 10 to 12 people who love your book it’s like hitting a jackpot,” said Frisby, a former staff writer for The Philadelphia Daily News. “Because while there may only be a dozen women at the book club, these women then go to work, and tell people how much they love the book, and loved meeting the author.”
The snowball effect led to Frisby being offered a publishing contract from Penguin Books, which also published his second book, “Wifebeater.” 
Frisby, who also wrote the acclaimed book, Holla Back: But Make Sure You Listen First, said that he has maintained his contacts with the book clubs, and uses them as test readers – sending them chapters of the new detective story he is writing.
Ashley Richardson, of Mount Airy, started Women Reading for Wisdom Book Club in September. Their first book was Dusty Crowns by Heather Lindsey, and the next book on their agenda is The Art of Activation, by Lucinda Cross.
“It started as something informal, a few of my friends and people they invited,” explained Richardson, 26, a native of Mount Airy. 
But book clubs aren’t something exclusive to adults. The Overbrook Park Teens Book Club meets twice a month at the Overbrook Library, and read a variety of books that deal with the subjects adolescents deal with in real life. 
“It’s been a great experience for me,” said Erykah Raleigh, 16, a sophomore at Girls High School. “I’ve been reading since I was six, and it’s good to interact with people my age who like to read, and see how they feel about what we’ve read.” 
Each member of the group, which started in 2011, takes turns selecting a group read. Raleigh said her turn is coming up next, and she is considering offering up, Pinned, by Sharon G. Flake.
Raleigh and other members of book clubs are living proof that African-Americans do read, and seem to live out the motto of Black Nationalist leader, Malcolm X.
“Read absolutely everything you get your hands on because you’ll never know where you’ll get an idea from.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Kidnapping Suspect's Uncle Recognized Him From Videotapes - But Did Not Notify Police

An edited version of this story appeared in
Philadelphia Daily News

PHILADELPHIA -- It was horrific. A 22-year-old nursing assistant viciously kidnapped in Philadelphia; a video showing her kicking, struggling against her assailant who -- it  was later discovered -- allegedly kidnapped, raped, and attempted to murder a 16-year-old girl just a month before.

But there may be something more horrific: A relative of the suspect could have notified the police of the man’s identity, but chose not to.

“I suspected it was him,” Lamar Barnes, answered when asked on the cable network show, Dr. Drew On Call last night if he recognized his nephew, Delvin Barnes  from the many videotapes and photographs released by the police.

When the show’s host, Dr. Drew Pinsky, then asked why he didn’t call the police, Lamar Barnes answered that family doesn’t turn over family members to the police. Then added: Especially people of color.

Carlesha Freeland-Gaither's kidnapping ordeal ended Wednesday – three days after her abduction, through the efforts of law enforcement officials in three states, and the help on one man -- Dwayne Fletcher, 37, who witnessed the ordeal, and immediately called the police, using a cell phone that Freeland-Gaithers had deliberately dropped on the sidewalk during the attack.

But it might have ended sooner if Barnes’ uncle or any other family member had contacted the police as soon as they suspected it was him in the video.

When asked if police department had any comment about Lamar Barnes' admission, Public Affairs Officer Jillian Russell would only say: "At this point, Carlesha is safe and [Delvin Barnes] is custody and we are going to let the prosecution process take place."

Philadelphia community activist Maisha Ongoza said there may be systemic reasons for people of color to hesitate going to the police.

“But let’s make it clear, it’s not because they have some allegiance to crime. I think it’s more of a fear that if they turn someone in that person might get beaten by the police, or not get a fair hearing,” said Ongoza, who recently retired as coordinator of the Say Yes to Education, Bryant Chapter.

Ongoza also wanted to make clear that she believes that Barnes’ uncle should have notified the police when he suspected that his nephew was the perpetrator, especially since he knew about Barnes’ violent history towards women.

Barnes was arrested in 2005 for breaking into the home of his estranged wife, hitting and choking her, and then attacking her parents when they tried to come to her aide. According to reports Barnes was sent away for seven years and, moved to Virginia when released last year.

Just last month Barnes allegedly walked up on a 16-year-old girl in Virginia and hit her in the head with a shovel; he then kidnapped and raped her, then showed her photographs of other girls who he said were his previous victims. Barnes is said to have doused the girl with bleach and gasoline, and had started digging her grave. Miraculously, the girl was able to escape. DNA evidence linked Barnes to the crime, and Virginia authorities put out a warrant for his arrest.

Surveillance cameras show Freeland-Gaither had just gotten off a SEPTA bus at the intersection of Coulter and Greene streets at 9:40 p.m. Sunday when she was approached by a man who grabbed her. Though she fought him all the way, he dragged her to his car and shoved her inside.

The sole witness to the crime was Fletcher, and Philadelphia police have said that had it not been for him, they may not have even known, until too late, that a crime had been committed.

The question, though, is whether the crime could have been more quickly solved if Lamar Barnes had notified the police when he suspected the man shown in the pictures and videotapes was his nephew.

“That’s just preposterous. He ought to be ashamed of himself,” said 26-year-old East Oaklane resident, Gelea L. Matthews when she heard about Lamar Barnes' remarks on the show. “I understand family ties, but you have a duty, as a human being, to say something when you know someone’s life in danger.”

Supreem Da Rezarekta’, a well-known Philadelphia MC, said that there was simply no justifiable excuse for anyone who recognized Delvin Barnes on the videotape to sit back and do nothing.

“I even understand the whole ‘no-snitch’ stuff, but the deal is sometimes you have to step up and do the right thing,” said the entertainer. “Don’t worry about the code of the streets or anything. How would he feel if it was his daughter?”

In his defense Lamar Barnes, who has said that he has a daughter and granddaughters, claimed that if he knew how to contact his nephew he would have tried to convince him to turn himself in.

Lamar Barnes also told Dr. Drew that he wished the Freeland-Gaither’s family well, and is glad that their daughter is back home with them. 

Filed 8:05 a.m. by Karen E. Quinones Miller

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Real Deal

You know what bothers me? While it's true the Stand Your Ground Law on the books in Florida and other states should be struck down, the real deal is George Zimmerman didn't bother to use it in his defense. He knew what we find so hard to face . . . they don't need a specific law to "legally" kill us.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rallies Being Held for Philadelphia Teen Brutalized by Police

Darrin Manning is a 16-year-old high school basketball player, a straight A student, and has a spotless school disciplinary record. But now, thanks to an incident with the Philadelphia Police, the young man may never become a father.

Arrested earlier this month on what looks like trumped up charges, the teenager was allegedly manhandled by police officers and had to have emergency surgery to repair damage to his genitals.

Philadelphia attorney and political/social activist Michael Coard said he was outraged about the incident. "During the 18th and 19th century slavery they beat then castrated men. During the 20th and 21st century police brutally beat then castrate boys," said Coard. "The more things change, the more they stay the same." 

Outraged Philadelphians are holding both a community meeting and a rally, next week, in response to the event.

"What? Is this like the 2014 castration?" said Philadelphia social activist Akanke Washington, who learned of the event from her college student daughter. "I'm already a nervous wreck with a daughter, but the attacks on boys are so different that I think if I had a son I'd have to leave the United States."

On January 7, Manning -- a student at Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School in the Center City section of Philadelphia -- traveled by subway with about a dozen teammates to North Philadelphia to practice at the Berean Institute. Though the school's basketball team is ranked 16th in the nation, it does not have it's on gym and is forced to take a subway and  trolley to practice.

As Manning and his teammates walked out of the subway station at the corner of Broad Street and Girard Avenue, they noticed a couple of police officers. Manning later said that one of the teenagers who was with him may have said something to the police, so when the officers approached them, they all ran.

But, Manning, added, he decided to stop since he knew he had done nothing wrong. But that is, when it seems, everything went dreadfully wrong.

According to a police report of the incident, Police Officer Thomas Purcell (who is white) stopped Manning after he spotted him with a group of black males wearing ski masks and running. It's not clear why Purcell felt a need to stop Manning -- or any of the other teens -- as there doesn't seem to be any city, state, or federal law against a group of black males wearing ski masks.

And Manning insists they weren't even wearing ski masks, just scarves given to them by Veronica Joyner, founder of Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School.

Joyner confirmed that she had given all of the high school basketball players scarves just before they departed the school on their way to the Berean Institute. Temperatures in Philadelphia reached a low of 4 degrees that day.

The police report goes on to say that Purcell called for backup after Manning started fighting with the officer.

But Manning says he was surrounded by police, roughed up, and hit with a pair of handcuffs before the cuffs were finally placed on him. It was while he was handcuffed, he said, that a female officer gave him a rough pat down while other officers laughed.
"She patted me down and then she touched my butt and then my private parts," he said. "And then she grabbed and squeezed and pulled my private parts and I felt something pop."
"She patted me down and then she touched my butt and then my private parts," he said. "And then she grabbed and squeezed and pulled my private parts and I felt something pop."
"She patted me down and then she touched my butt and then my private parts," he said. "And then she grabbed and squeezed and pulled my private parts and I felt something pop."

"She patted me down, and she touched my butt and then my private parts," Manning told a Philadelphia Daily News reporter. "And then she grabbed and squeezed and pulled my private parts, and I felt something pop."
"She patted me down and then she touched my butt and then my private parts," he said. "And then she grabbed and squeezed and pulled my private parts and I felt something pop."
"She patted me down and then she touched my butt and then my private parts," he said. "And then she grabbed and squeezed and pulled my private parts and I felt something pop."
"She patted me down and then she touched my butt and then my private parts," he said. "And then she grabbed and squeezed and pulled my private parts and I felt something pop."

According to Fox News, records show that Manning spent the night following his arrest at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he underwent emergency surgery. Police confirm that no officers sustained injuries.

Manning's mother, Ikea Coney, told reporters that doctors told her that her son may have permanent damage that could prevent him from fathering children, adding: "I'm just glad they didn't kill him."
Darrin Manning, a student at Math Civics Science Charter school, was allegedly hurt during an arrest by Philadelphia police. Photograph with his mother Ikea Coney at the school on Monday, January 13, 2014. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )
The teenager, who is still in a wheelchair, is facing charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest. 

"This is just totally acceptable," said community activist Maisha Ongoza, director of the Philadelphia chapter of Say Yes to Education, a national non-profit education foundation committed to increasing the high school and college graduation rates of inner-city youth.

"I have grandchildren his age, and I have children in my program his age, and it's sad knowing they can be subjected to this kind of treatment by police," said Ongoza

An emergency town hall meeting is being convened by Techbook Online, on Tues., Jan 21 at 7:30 p.m to address the Manning case. Community activists Gabriel Bryant and Asa Khalif are scheduled to speak at the meeting which is being held at Catalyst for Change Ministries, 3727 Baring Street.

The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Action Network is holding a rally at Broad Street and Girard Avenue on Thurs., Jan 23rd, to demand the arrest of the female officer who "maliciously sexually assaulted" Manning, and a broadened federal investigation into instances of brutality by Philadelphia police. No speakers have yet to be announced for the rally which is scheduled to be held between 4 and 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Teenage Racist Ninja Turtles

So . . . there's going to be a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie released in 2014, starring -- among others, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, and Whoopie Goldberg, and written by TMNT creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

There are a bunch of people who are excited about the prospect. I'm not one of them.I'm not going to see it.

I've never gotten over the original series which was originally shown on television in the late-1980s through the 1990s. It was racist. And it was shown on national television to our children. Wait, let me go further . . . it wasn't just racist, it was subliminally racist; which is the worst kind of all.

Yeah, I know . . . people are tired of folks accusing of movies or television series of having racist content. Because, come on, if you look hard enough you can convince yourself that anything can be racist. Right?

Monday, January 06, 2014

Here's The Real Deal . . .

People are funny. A 20-something-year old person told me today she heard that I have multiple sclerosis and I should cut out processed food since that's what caused it. 
<sigh> There's so many things that I was tempted to say to her.
1. It's much more than rude to suggest someone is the cause of their own debilitating illness, unless u know for a fact that's the case.
2. Why assume I don't know the possible connection between processed food and MS?
3. Why not ask if I eat processed food, or how much, before making such a statement/accusation? 
Me? I'm the Queen of Homemade cooking! I even make my own salad dressings, barbecue sauce, hot sauce. And even my own eggnog. No canned veggies for me . . . I only eat fresh or frozen.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Proudest Moment in Journalism

I was a reporting intern at the Philadelphia Inquirer in June 1992, when a police shooting came over the police band radio one night. An officer had been shot in the West Philly. I grabbed the cell phone (remember the huge ones they had back then?), and a notepad, jumped into a company car, and drove straight over to the scene. When I got on the block I found the area around a private home in the middle of the block cordoned off, and police swarming all over. There was a bus parked just a few feet away from the house.
When I finally got to speak to a police spokesperson, I was told that two police officers were responding to a call, and knocked on the door of the now cordoned-off house. An unidentified man came to the door with a gun and shot one of the officers. The fallen officer’s partner managed to pull him away from the house and called for backup.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty . . . Yeah, Canning is the Right Thing to Do!

I think A&E is right to can Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan.

But then again, I'm one of the people who think if people make derogatory racial comments they should be canned. 

Yes, these people have protection under the First Amendment, but the issue here is that people who have national media exposure -- like a TV show -- have a social responsibility; because, rightly or wrongly, they become role models. 

Just like children are swayed toward toys based on whether they like the commercials promoting them, people are often swayed when forming opinions based on television shows they watch.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Here's The Real Deal . . .

You might not want to hear it, but here's the real deal . . . If you don't like men who physically abuse women, stop telling your son it's okay to hit a little girl if she's bothering him.

Choosing To Be Happy!

I was halfway to New York City when I found out my book meeting had been canceled due to a scheduling conflict. I admit, I was a little bit more than slightly upset because I had already been on the road for one hour, and it would take me another hour to get back home … But after returning home, I decided THIS will be my disposition for the rest of the day! 

 Isn't it cool that you can sometimes actually pick out your disposition? <smile>

 Heck, life is not just good . . . it's fun!