Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Life Enrichment Books - 16 years of service to the Puget Sound

Life Enrichment Books known as LEMS, located on Rainier Ave in Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle hosted an Anniversary weekend that had no rival in gathering African Americans from throughout the I-5 Village in WA State. Hundreds of people came by to wish Vickie Williams and Aliyah Messiah well and thank them for their contribution.  Life Enrichment is the only full service Black book store in the State and NW Region.  They are not a non profit, yet they have not seen a profit for many years. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to emcee this grand gathering of wonderful African Americans who came from all over the Puget Sound to spend three days of celebration.

They are more than a book store, they provide their space for cultural gatherings and is a meeting space for book clubs, natural hair club, spiritual gatherings, Women United for Peace Through Prayer gather there, and on the 3rd Friday of the Month Dr. Maxine Mimms our Elder of Distinction hosts the phenomenally popular and well attended Cultural Coversations Seminars.  At a time when book stores are closing their doors Vickie and Aliyah are finding ways to keep theirs open.

The weekend was filled with people meeting new and making new friends, re-acquainting with those they have not seen in years. Zambuko Marimba Ensemble led by Sheree Sereste filled all of Columbia city with their music other performers were Josephine Howell who never disappoints her audience and led us in one of the most spirited renditions of Lift Every Voice any has heard. Akua Kariamu plays a violin in a way so unique there is no way to describe her musical presentations made along with spoken word.

M L King Jr County Councilmember Larry Gosset was inspiring and was appreciated for his support of all that is done for sake of cultural enrichment, we really do need more elected officials who like us enough to spend an entire Sunday afternoon enjoying his constituents. Dian Ferguson, who is running for a seat on the Seattle City Council also came and participated in a way that makes us know we are not just a vote but people she knows and enjoys being with.

Dr. Mimms spoke of Life and Health and Nutrition, she is a model for elderhood as it can be when we take care of ourselves and honor our bodies, minds and spirit. She invited other elders in the room to join her for a photo op. Dr. Mimms is 83, Frances North is 91 and Dr. Ruth Kelly McIntyre is 73. They are beautiful, healthy and without any loss of mind, energy and humor. They are really full of banter, stories and laughter.

Patt Butler Lathan did a great job of organizing the celebration along with Vickie and Aliyah, she says she just wanted to do something to help these women who contribute selflessly to the community.  She is leading the campaign to gather pledges to assure that this space remains available to the Village for our gatherings.

No celebration is complete without food there was an abundance and Solom who owns the newly opened Ethiopian and Eritrean Restaurant of the same name donated a full course dinner enough to feed the entire crowd.  Her restaurant is beautifully decorated and besides being a good cook, she is a grand hostess. Please drop in and have a meal with her at 5100 Rainier Ave South just south of The Royal Esquire Club.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Village is Alive and Well May 23, 2011

What an ambitious weekend we had in the Village and I am inspired by my participation with two great events.  I wish more people would report on their activities so we can all have the advantage of the many positive and energized activities we participate in. For those who do report backs to Community please let me know so this information can be shared even more widely.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority had the Bellevue Hyatt abuzz with all their pink and green. I loved their quilt design Western Regional Conference bags. Phyllis Lowe was my hostess for Saturday morning, I participated on a panel discussion, facilitated by Soror Dorothea Johnson, from Sacramento CA, who was like a walking encyclopedia on policy, redistricting, and the governmental structure.

We discussed ways to be connected to community. I spoke of the importance of African Americans  seeking public office at all levels of the political scheme. Become a Precinct Committee Person, your name is placed on a ballot and people vote for you. This was my first elected position. Serve on Commissions, this is where public policy gets started. Each Governmental jurisdiction has commissioners for all kinds of policy interests.  The Legislature now has only one African American, Rep. Eric Pettigrew, given our population we should have at least 6. We have had only 8 to serve in this very important body during the entire existence of the WA Legislature.  We must get involved in and   run for all the positions that make up our community, local, county and state government. For every person in an elected position, there are hundreds on the ground, organizing, researching, planning and getting the work done. Be Connected

Councilmember Victoria Woodards spoke of how being a protege of former Pierce County Council member Harold Moss, prepared her to be an elected official. We applauded her willingness to likewise step into the role of Director and President of Tacoma Urban League. When Mr. Moss retired, this very active UL fell apart, lost its beautiful building.

Roz Jenkins was another panelist, she has moved on from the Governor's Office as Director of Commission on African American Affairs, and will focus on education at League of Education Voters. Unfortunately, Kris Kosmos, who is LEV Director made a misstep in eliminating Dawn Bennett's job in order to establish Roz's position. I have good feelings about Kris and her vision, but I am thinking that she thinks one African American is enough for LEV. Another case of an organization who gets money because of the plights of brown and black children and the funding is used to assure employment for white people.  The same who assured us they were color blind and did not need Affirmative Action, so voted against it.  Dawn and Roz are as different as peanut butter and jelly, but both of them need to work together to make the perfect team we need.  Roz is an attorney and policy specialist, Dawn is a community organizer, well known and loved by the expanse of the Village.

Dr. Artee Young, is energized in her role as Director of The Evergreen State College, Tacoma Branch. This is as close to a Historically Black University and College as we have in Pac NW.  It is the Branch campus established by Dr. Maxine Mimms.  Artee is likewise a brilliant attorney and was a wealth of information about restoration of voter rights and redistricting.  Did you know that even though they do not allow  incarcerated felons to vote, they get counted as residents in the rural areas where WA has built correctional institutions.  There is something very wrong with this. These areas get funding based on census numbers. So when there is an advantage to having a population of color, well they have a diverse population that is poor, and without having to pass them in the aisle of the grocery store.  Having black and brown people incarcerated in rural areas creates employment without having to consider sharing these jobs with black and brown people. When they are released the incarcerated do not stay in these communities they are sent back to the Village.

Lakewood City Councilmember, Claudia Thomas was front row and her usual wonderfully pleasant and supportive self. She hosted us for coffee break and we got so into our conversation with each other, we arrived back for the second panel a bit late.  CM Thomas has earned the right to be acknowledged as the "political mother" of our African American elected officials. She is gracious, knowledgeable and supportive. Please make it point to get to know her, or just send her a note to thank her for her commitment to public service in ways that can make the entire Village and our allies feel a bit more secure in our lives.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Parent to Parent to Parent Trainings

This month I have been busy researching, developing and delivering training to parents of school age children. Three workshops at South Shore K-12 in Rainier Valley and Rainier Beach H.S. Successful Young Women parents and students.

These workshops allow parents to learn and share information that increases their knowledge of ways they can be more effectively engaged in supporting their children's academic achievement. We do hands on activities that parents can do with their children at home.  Shared online resources available to parents, played games, discussed how to be better prepared for parent/teacher conferences and the importance of having children read out loud and practicing math. We discussed what a child misses when playing with video games or texting while riding in the car. They do not see the trees, or even the huge Mt. Rainier, they do not engage in conversation which increases their vocabulary, they do not read the names of the cars that pass them and they do not even know where they are in their own neighborhoods.

Parents do not know much about the schools their children attend, each school has a school improvement plan and most parents and unfortunately many teachers can not even tell you what the elements of the plan is. Imagine a team member of a sports team not knowing the game plan or the importance of practicing their sport every day.  We seem to understand this but do not apply this to our children and their education. If a child is to do well in school, goals need to be set. Something as simple as, this week you will read 3 books and tell me about your favorite character. By Friday you will know how to spell 10 new words and their meanings. The teacher can teach the skill but the parents have to be the coach and practice the skills learned. Many parents do not know what their child should know at each grade, this is so unacceptable. We must begin to communicate with children in ways that makes them think, have them show us what they know, each child should be able to teach their parents how to do the math they learned in school.

If a child comes home from school with homework they can not do, that requires a communication with the teacher. The teacher needs to know that the child did not learn a lesson well enough to do the work sent home. Homework is not enough a child must practice and practice and practice until they are excellent in their subject matter.

That is what is on my mind today.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Village is Alive and Well May 9, 2011

Many things are occuring that elevates the well being of African American children, families and the population living within the I-5 Corridor Village in WA State.  

Campaigns to Watch
Of course I am watching the many campaigns popping up. Dian Ferguson, long time Democratic leader (37th and 11th Districts)  champion for women; Women Funding Alliance, Director; and for freedom of speech as Director of Seattle Community Access Network which was recently ceased by Seattle City Council. She has worked for the City of Seattle and helped the City get funds for children and families from the Federal Government.  Dian has done her work in ways that has benefitted the many over caring just for the few and should receive broad support. She is running for Seattle City Council Pos. 9. Her Kickoff is May 27, 6 p.m. at First AME Church. 

Bruce Harrell is seeking re-election. He has been a good for Seattle on the City Council and we should support his re-election. No other candidate has sought my support. 

President Obama Re-election Campaign
Get involved sign on to re-election 2012.  I will be attending an organizing and strategy session on May 24. I want to be able to say yes our African American Village is ready to go forward with our President. We know that small and frequent donations are helpful, even $5 will make a difference. 3 million supporters giving $5 on any one day makes a significant difference. 

Saturday May 7, was West African Art Day at Seattle Center. Dr. Joye Hardiman did a great job as Emcee and Griot.  I left with a very creative wall hanger made with hand carved stamps we learned to make.  The music and dance, arts and crafts of African cultures filled the Center House. All seats were filled.

http://www.nwtapconnection.com/ is having its recital on May 14 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. we are told tickets for 6 p.m. show is sold out and both shows will be SRO. Good job Melva Ayco, Program and Artistic Director, young tappers and parents. 

Thank you to MLK Church in Renton and St. John's Church in Tacoma for having Rev. Jeremiah Wright here for Spring Revivals. The workshop on Race in the 21st Century led by Rev. Wright at MLK Baptist was incredible. We  hope that the many pastors who attended will keep the momentum of being informative will continue.

Rev. Al Sharpton is present in the Seattle/Everett area for a few days. Saturday he had an organizing meeting at New Hope Baptist(Rev. Robert Jeffrrey, Sr.)   for National Action Network;  Sunday he preached at Greater Trinity in Everett (Rev. Paul Stoot, Sr.) , and Mt. Zion Baptist Church (Rev. Aaron Williams)  with messages and a spiritual awakening much needed in the Village. Thank you to Deacon, Joseph Mason, Rev. Paul Stoot, and Chris Bennett (Seattle Medium and ZTwins) for their many hours of work on this.  Tonight, Monday May 9, Rev. Sharpton will be on a panel discussing Education Reform at 7 p.m. Campion Tower. Here is a recent interview with Wall Street Journal as to what he thinks Pres. Obama should be thinking about as to African Americans. 

Tomorrow, Tuesday May 10 I will be at South Shore School conducting a Parents for Student Success Train the Trainer Parent workshop. It is our intent to help South Shore Principal Keisha Scarlett, parents and teachers make this K-8 school filled with  black, brown and  poor children the best in the District and State.   I love working with Keisha and So. Shore parents and teachers. The school environment is friendly and working toward raising the achievement of every student. Getting a handle on raising academic achievement requires getting parents and community to focus on each child. Making intellectual attainment a priority for children and adults.  

Pick a school and make a difference. Find a child and listen to them read or show you an arithmetical computation. Our children desperately need and deserve our attention and models of excellence.

www.khanacademy.org is a great site for learning how to do math and other subjects in 15 minutes segments. 

Fear No Number Saturday Math Academy is doing a great job of raising an interest in math Norman Alston of Moving Beyond Arithmetic seems to be ever present in the Village and every Saturday 9 - 11 at Zion Prep Academy we find him exciting his students with applications of mathematical concepts. This past Saturday the elementary age children were introduced to architectural plans and had fun measuring and drawing plans for their own dream homes. 

Zion Preparatory Academy's Director Rev. Doug Wheeler has announced that ZPA will close its elementary program and focus on early childhood education. The economy has forced many parents to place their children back into pubic schools, so it makes sense to focus on preparing the babies so they have an even start as they enter public elementary education. Thank you ZPA for all you do for the education of our children.

This is something that inspired me today. Malika Cyril  speaks about motherhood and social justice. How her mother through positive struggle gave her purpose. Also click on her video. She gets started slowly but has a great message.

Let me know if you something of good or informing to share with others.