“We must stop and find time to thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy
by Kendall F. Person
On November 12, 1985, she was 13 years old, so most likely in middle school, about the 8th grade, I assume. She and her brother Alvaro, lived in the prosperous agricultural region of Tolima in the city of Armero, with their parents Álvaro Enrique & Maria Aleida, along with her Aunt Maria Adela. There was some concern among the elders, about Nevado del Ruiz, a volcano that last erupted 140 years before, as it was starting to make noise. But at 13 and an only girl, Omayra Sánchez Garzón was probably more concerned about her mother who had traveled 100 miles southeast to Bogota on business, but she made it home before the morn. And no doubt, there was some comfort blanketing the villages that lived in the volcano’s shadow, for the federal government had sent experts to monitor the activity and establish – I assume – precautions for the citizenry, as an eruption was imminent, for erupt is what volcanoes do.
On November 6th – one week before the world would be introduced to Omayra – a beautiful and courageous teenage girl – a guerilla organization known as M-19 would storm The Palace of Justice in Bogota, by deadly force. They seized the chambers, capturing all justices of the Colombia Supreme Court and held over 300 hostages, in a two-day seige, that demoralized the country, and depleted its resolve, leaving the calvary running on fumes, just when Omayra would need them most.
On day two in Bogota, the order came from the top. Led by General Jesús Armando Arias Cabrales, commander of the Thirteenth Army Brigade, the government would counter attack in what became one of the bloodiest shootouts in Colombia’s maiden voyage in domestic terrorism. When the Army finally retook the building, over a hundred people including 11 Supreme Court Justices were dead. Before the nation could sort through what happened, one hundred miles northwest, the volcano erupted. It was not the initial explosion, but the combination of mud, rock and lava, that laid waste to 85% of the city of Armero, killed 21,000 of its 29,000 residents, and trapped 13 year old Omayra Sanchez Garzon under hardened sediment, that the would be rescuers could not cut through. For 60 hours she held on, dazzling the world with her courage and charm. But before her departure – with peace and grace – she told her supporters to go home and rest. And the arrival of death came soon after.
As it turns out, it was not her choice alone to give up the ghost. Bogota was still in a state of shock from the Palace of Justice massacre and was unable to immediately regroup; to respond to a SOS, thereby would be survivors perished under blankets of mud. On the ground, the region did not own the type of machine needed to break through the lahar and were helpless, so they talk and fed Omayra. But even if she had been freed, her broken legs were caught under a door made of bricks, with her aunt’s arms clutched tightly around her legs, leading medical personnel to the realization, they were not equipped to deal with a double amputation. So they announced to her mother, a recent widow herself, that it was best to let her die.
What if the resources used to fight and argue with one another, not just the money, but the time and the brain power and the shared imagination of united countrymen, had been put forward in planning for a natural disaster, that they always knew one day would come? Perhaps, it would not have ended in a double national tragedy, both of epic proportions. And maybe if the arrival of help had come in time, Omayra Sanchez Garzon’s departure would not have been so breathtakingly tragic at only 13 years old.
So what do we do upon the arrival of Thanksgiving Day? Do elevate our hearts above all else and give a dollar to a poor or lost or lonely soul? Do we drop to our knees and thank our Higher Power or the trees for what we have accomplished? Or do we seek out to please me, myself and I like any other day? An individual choice that affects the world.
Happy Thanksgiving and may our choice shine a light.
this is The Neighborhood
Before a return to an angry world, we reached back into the archives for the perfect post to share on this day. With the stress of the 2018 midterm elections now behind, we celebrate the absolute success of not just the resistance and the congressional power the Democrats hold high, but of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. which came full circle 52 years after the historic legislation gave all Americans the right to vote. And while the shenanigans down in Georgia serve to confirm, that 52 (big smile) is not all that much time, it should give us reason to smile that voter participation in the 2018 Midterms elections, was sky high, matched only by the midterms of 1966.
Crooked Smile by J. Cole
What Makes You Smile?
by Kendall F. Person &
A Collaborative of Friends.
The smile – a mood lifting, contagious reaction, free to give and beautiful to receive – gesture and expression. How we love when babies smile. It is the one sound or expression they make, that lets us know everything is okay. A natural reaction, it is created with ease. A frown creates tension and if our Grandmothers are correct, hold on to one long enough, and it will become your permanent expression.
Smile, and less an occasion or two, the person you smiled at, will smile back at you. Smile in the mirror and you will like the person you see. Smile in the morning, and welcome in the new day. Smile when your world is crying and find the strength to see it through. A downside to smiling? I have no idea. I did not search for that answer, for the smile should remain untouchable, free from the trials and tribulations attached to so many of our expressions of emotion.
His name was Rod Serling and from 1959 – 1964, he created original episodes of the legendary anthology television show, The Twilight Zone. I was born after the series had ended, but I am not alone in claiming it as one of the all time great shows. Each episode is of its own creation. There were no recurring characters, other than his monologue, nor did any story lines continue until the next week. No subplots needed to add complexity. The foundation was laid, events executed, and our minds were blown. all in less than 30 minutes. He created worlds, time periods and in arguably, the absolute best episode ever To Serve Man, he introduced humanity on earth to “humanity” from outer space. The shows were tense, compelling, and directed with such skill and finesse, we would always forget how ruthless he could be in flipping the script. Every episode was a motion picture and Rod Serling was a master of the performance.
On October 16, 1987, 12 years after Serling’s untimely death, a future music producer would be stillborn, pronounced dead at birth. But while the infant displayed no outward signs of life, there lived a fighting spirit inside. When efforts to revive him were successful, there was little hope that a young Keith Montgomery of Baltimore, Maryland would make it through the night. But there was fortitude in that infant child; he would defy the odds and after what must have been for his mother, a long and painful night, his survival gave her reason to smile.
I have much respect for the visionaries, whose legendary status does not define me as yet. I have much love for the arts and individual artistic expression, but I believe it is possible to push the envelope too far. And Rod Serling flung said envelope, way over the cliff in his creation of The Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life. Forced to smile at all times, in the face of death, destruction, and the systematic elimination of all mankind. It did not matter if your loved ones were disintegrated or your emotions were overwhelmed, stop smiling even for a minute, and a little boy would make you disappear. With no silver lining or message to be learned, and the perversion of smiling in the face of unspeakable things, was not entertaining and was the one performance I wish I had missed. Smiles should be untouchable after all.
Keith aka Fiyaman (Montgomery) would win the fight for his life but would not emerge unscathed. The lack of oxygen to his young brain, during the moments he did not breathe, would cause a speech impediment and a learning disability, he would carry for the rest of his life. During elementary school, when young children can be so cruel, his difficult speech made him a target for childhood bullies. But one day he would stand up for himself, and would force his bully to stand down and from that day forth – with the support of his family – he would find a way to live a purpose driven life. He spoke slower, and concentrated on the pronunciation of his words. He would study longer, forcing his brain to catch up with stealth. A lover of literature, who dabbles in the visual arts, but at the young age of 26, he has found his calling in the recording arts. A talented and creative producer, he imagines rhythmic sounds and lays down the tracks that will one day become songs. It is his music that is heard in My Heart, The Neighborhood’s first original song. And it is in his music, where he finds the most joy, only eclipsed by the joy he feels in, “Making other people smile.”
As we go through the day, let us offer a smile as our first reaction to a friend, a family member or coworker who is having a bad day. Let us smile at the homeless family we pass on the street, allowing dignity and humility to rain down as peace. Perhaps today is the day that we need a smile, to calm the anger or bitterness or rage of our emotions, instilling an inner peace, if only for today. And if all else fails, look in the mirror or close your eyes, and find a reason to smile.
this is… The Neighborhood
Unfortunate circumstances forced The Neighborhood to part ways with Keith Montgomery, but his personal story – published prior to an unrelated faux pas – still makes us smile.
And Dec 30… SMILE AGAIN
“True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit, what sleep is to the body: nourishment and refreshment.” – William Penn
Kiss Me Deadly
by Cho Young Wuk
“Silence is the source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu
ALONE WITH SILENCE
by Kendall F. Person
On the clearest night, when the clouds fail to appear, clearing the stage for the performance of the stars. And when the weather is just right, and all the day’s responsibilities are behind us; not on a day reserved for our favorite show, for our mind will be preoccupied. But on a night when we have no excuses, no way out of being alone with ourselves, under the vast expanse of a starlit sky. And once our minds are captured, by what we will later call surreal – but it was not – see where it takes you, all on its own. When the imagination takes control, our minds produce beautiful performances.
Yellowstone, the Sierra Nevadas, the Rocky Mountains, the Florida Everglades or most places in Alaska, or right outside our door, nature has a way of establishing order. It gives us back both inner peace & serenity, although for the animal residents, what we call peace, for them it is a constant struggle. And no matter how at ease our minds become, a constant state of inner peace we simply do not want, although when we have it, we do not want it to go.
We accept quotes of Eric Burdon – Inside each of us there is the seed of both good and evil… – believing we are bonded to hate and anger and evil, inhaling words like these, as if they in fact, are the gospel we seek. We wear our shields to ward off temptation, and drop to our needs in prayer, for strength to be a better person. We talk big, watch films and make plans to find positive, resourceful solutions to defeating hate, before it can spiral to the point of no return. But blame becomes the tool, that makes us feel as if we have done something, and we disperse without any progress made, on stopping the pendulum from swinging.
Silence. Just look into the sky and think real hard. Use your imagination, it is the key to all progress, and picture our world where the emotion of anger and the need for vengeance have been banished and now archaic. But if we cannot imagine it when we are all alone, embraced by the wonders of nature on a night of utter perfection, than we cannot achieve it, and by default accept, that we are good, but evil lives in equal parts within us.
this is… The Neighborhood
A Heart is a House for Love
(final 3 minutes of scene i)
The Five Heartbeats (1991)
“The life of a nation is secure only while
the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” – Confucius
The House is a Home
by Kendall F. Person
When The Five Heartbeats (written by Robert Townsend & Keenan Ivory Wayans) hit the big screen, it caught everyone off guard. Even with the famous faces and the plot loosely following the rise and fall of Motown, by shadowing some of its most famous groups, headlined by the tragic, yet remarkable story of The Temptations, we were clueless Perhaps, it was the combined comedic genius of Townsend & Ivory, that gave pre-show audiences the false expectation of laughter. But as it turned out – with the actual stage set at the closing of the first scene – it was a raw, emotional experience, and not until Dreamgirls, would there be such an entertaining and personal perspective about an era of music, that was a part of our homes.
And not since 1966, has a Midterm election, caused such a wave of mass hysteria and violence on home turf, against different sides of the same team. We would have to go back to 1861, to find a higher level of discourse, that broke the house and nearly destroyed the home.
Two weeks ago, I had a somewhat surprising political discussion with my younger brother. Surprising, not because I doubted he held an opinion or was not interested in national politics, but because his perspective was one I had not yet heard in such clear simplicity.
“They are in power now. And yes, if the upcoming elections do not balance it out, than power will evolve toward dominion, but as bad as it will be, it too shall pass, because if they put down the democrats, then mean requires they turn on one another. But who wants to go through all that.”
“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,”
King wrote. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
It is both counterproductive and useless to believe, that nearly half the country has adopted a philosophy of mean, a disregard for truth, or still weighed down by sincere ignorance or hexed by Fox News. Supporters of Trumpism come in all orders. From the alt-right, neo-nazis and White supremacist, to internationally recognized Black recording artists. From the backcountry of Appalachia to scientist on Ivy League campuses. and from the greedy to the dirt poor.
Donald Trump – star of The Apprentice, tabloid bad boy, and King of lies (birtherism) – was an icon of pop culture, long before he was President, transforming fans into constituents and now fanatics (take pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc, for instance) and the GOP Congressmen, into ruthless hoods (U.S. Rep Duncan D. Hunter is under a 60 count indictment for living large on hundreds of thousands of dollars, stolen from Vets and donors, then blames his wife. Still 8 points ahead in the polls).
Voter suppression has reached new heights, with a host of conservative judges, backing limited voting. Texas, Florida, North Dakota, North Carolina, Nevada and with the Secretary of State – in charged of counting votes – the opponent in Georgia’s Governor’s race, blatant suppression has quickly evolved into disrespectful denying of rights.
Take a percursy look at The New York Times: Trump Corruption: The Definitive List and you will note it goes on and on. But what The Neighborhood finds most troubling is what he is doing to our nation under the cover of darkness (see below):
With an entire American political party captured so easily, his narcissism turns savage, as he takes dominion over wild kingdom, playing God would be the ultimate, as in his own words, Trump has never asked the man upstairs for forgiveness even though he claims to be a believer, and has publicly trampled over a mixed bag of relationships including all three wives.
But animals have no voice and without means to stage a march or raise money or send a representative to Congress, then he alone determines destiny for entire species:
Trump Administration lifts trophy hunting ban on the African elephant — the largest and most intelligent land-dwelling giants on earth – then strips them of their endangerment species protections.
Yet some will double down and others will still not vote, then scream the loudest if we are forced to say “Told you so.”
The individual men, that made up The Five Heartbeats, gained their start and rapid rise to the top, were above par singers, and before Youtube, concerts set the stage, so their fresh choreography and tightness of style in the clothes they wore, carried near equal weight. But they were also in the right place, at the right for Motown seemed nearly destined for greatness. Then Dr. King was assassinated, and once again, the country was at war with color and it became clear, that passage of The Civil Rights Act, was a moral victory, but did not translate into rights.
But it was not the outsiders, nor the worldly influences that brought The Five Heartbeats down, but rather an implosion. As each linked their star to a different vice or hope. it did not take long for the band of brothers to cut bait and run. But the surprising lesson from a surprising motion picture, was in its demonstration of how relationships – be they friendships or marriage or partners in a business or believers in democracy until it is tested – cannot support the weight of the self-indulgent, whose body has welcomed a no compromise, self-indulgent order.
The house that the heartbeats built, divided then fell. Eventually taking Motown, Detroit and extinguishing an era of homespun soul.
From its inception, the idea of the American dream was inclusive of all its people. Although, it took years and blood and perseverance and laws and the willingness to enforced them to get there, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, ultimately declared America home for all of its citizens, by empowering the grandchildren of former slaves, with the ability to choose their own leaders, utilizing the one undeniable attribute of a democracy: VOTING
this is… The Neighborhood
The San Diego Union Tribune: Hunter Indictment sheds light on ‘personal relationships’ for congressman, Sep 8, 2018
The Hill: Trump to consider elephant trophy imports on ‘case-by-case’ basis, Mar 5, 2018
“I never believed in Santa because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark.” – Dick Gregory
“Jesus was a white man too… as is Santa, I just want the kids watching to know that…” – Megyn Kelly, Fox News Dec 12, 2013
The Color of Santa Claus
by Kendall F. Person
Saint Nicholas was a legend in his day. Loved and admired for his generosity as he gave away his wealth, traveling the countryside, uplifting the poor and sick. It is believed, that in his kindness, he saved three sisters from being sold into slavery. He hailed from Turkey, an elaborate, fiercely independent nation, that literally connects the Middle East to Europe. They identify by ethnicity or religion, not by color of skin.
The American depiction of Saint Nicholas as a jolly old man, was the imagination of the creator of the modern Santa Claus, whose marketing prowess, ushered in the ‘shopping mall Christmas’ Americans celebrate till this day. St. Nick made his grand appearance into the lives of children via advertisements in 1841, a time when Black Americans were slaves. So there was no reason to imagine him any color but White. But that is a point, I wish did not need making. The real life legend, as well as the animated figure were about delivering peace on earth. But somehow, when it comes to race, we have a knack to turn the beautiful, ugly.
The firing of Megan Kelly by NBC was inevitable, and the black face overblown debacle, was simply the straw.
1969, twas the night before Christmas and my mother was pregnant with twins, who were – for context – born only seven days later on New Year’s Eve. I was only three years old, and while I do not remember most of the details, I do remember wondering “Mom. Where are you going?” She and my stepfather, briefly owned a cleaning company. From what I understand, things were kind of tight that year, so they contracted with an adult movie theatre to clean the dirty place up; make it look clean again. But they decided to wait until it closed, which was in the wee hours of the morning.
I grew up the middle child and the 2nd son, but I was never invisible, the way middle children were often portrayed, like Jan Brady. Nor was I the understudy to my older brother, like Peter Brady, Jan’s brother. I had two younger brothers and one younger sister, so I was the oldest of them and since my Mother worked two jobs more often than one, and my older sister had a different life, and the eldest son, pushed against the rules, I became the helper, a role traditionally assigned or assumed by the oldest one. But I did not mind.
No idea the cause or the reason, but it would not matter anyway (may He be resting in peace) but on December 24, 1969 my stepfather abandoned their contract, and on her work ethic alone, it was not an option my mother would have ever considered, but that is not why she completed the contract. At some odd hour of the morning, in the dead of winter in the Rocky Mountains nine months pregnant, with small children at home, she picked up my Grandmother and they scrubbed the filthy floors, while triple XXX movies played on, and scattered moans emitted from the sparse crowd, so she could earn extra money, because she wanted her kids to believe in Santa Claus. But at three years old, on Christmas Day, when my mother ran in well past dawn, but before noon I assume, with gifts for all, and still happily adoring the credit on the old dude
But I knew that Santa was my Mom, and all the parents were Santa to their kids too, which makes the color of Santa, the color of love.
this is… The Neighborhood
According to the History Channel’s website: The Legend of St. Nicholas