Who Was Chuck Taylor?


Converse All Star Logo BlackOMG! Say it ain’t so! Converse the company behind the iconic Chuck Taylor All Star sneaker, started selling the new Chuck Taylor II today.  Why change something that has worked for 100 years?  Well while my brain thinks it’s a bad idea…my feet are saying thank you.

I have yet to try a pair of the new technology with a throwback design Chuck Taylor II sneakers; however, my feet most times fat and sore after a long day in the original Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars are excited.  With Nike technology and dare I say arch support the new version of the beloved sneakers will be better for overall foot health.  The new design is a throwback to when Chuck Taylor’s name first appeared on the sneakers.

All this talk about these beloved sneakers made me wonder who was this guy…Chuck Taylor?  I knew he was a basketball player but beyond that I had no other information.  So thanks to the digital age I was able to get some insight.

Chuck Taylor was not a professional basketball player but played in high school and college.  However, he loved the game.  Taylor as an employee helped to develop the iconic design of the Converse All-Star sneakers.  He gave input to help enhance the flexibility and added the patch that holds the logo for ankle protection (yes, there is a purpose for the patch).  The addition of Chuck Taylor’s name was added to the patch in 1932 and hence became the known forever as Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

Taylor was a great supporter of the game of basketball.  During his early years at Converse he created a yearbook that included highlights of some of the best players.  He also took his love of basketball around to colleges and created basketball camps.  He utilized this format to sell the sneakers that bore his name.  Taylor was well loved and respected among the basketball community.

Even though he didn’t get any compensation for his name being part of the Converse All-Stars; he was said to fully utilize the company’s expense account.  Soon after he retired he succumbed to a heart attack in Florida.  Without the determination of a young man looking for a job at a shoe company…we may not have the iconic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, today.

I think I own approximately seven pairs of Chucks in various designs.  I first fell in love with them when I was 7 years old, while shopping with my mom.  Specifically, they were red high-tops.  Ironically, I do not own red high-tops but I do have low Chucks in red.

Overtime even iconic designs must evolve.  With the addition of arch support and enhanced cushioning, I am sure Chucks II will also be the choice of artists, musicians, students, school teachers, cool people and even basketball players for years to come.  Share your thoughts…are you for or against the new Chucks II?

Sources: http://hoophall.com; http://Wikipedia.com

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A Rare Jazzy Bird


I write this post while listening to Amy Winehouse songs.  I recently saw the documentary simply titled Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia.  When I first saw it advertised, I thought it was a bio-pic.  I learned later that it was a documentary.  I wondered how much of a documentary it could be since her life seemed so short.  However, I failed to remember that though her life was short, she lived it during the coming of the digital age.

Amy-WinehouseThrough footage from friends, family, interviews, performances and the paparazzi along with her own commentary it was an in-depth look into Amy’s life.  I was pulled in from the opening footage when she was a teenager, venturing through her rise to paparazzi hounding celebrity status and then to her sad death.  During the whole documentary, I found myself thinking maybe the end will be different…maybe she will live.  But we all know that on July 23, 2011 a talent, a voice, a rare bird went silent.

I didn’t discover or rather appreciate the pint-sized powerhouse until she did a duet with Tony Bennett.  I knew of her before then but just thought of her as an odd bird with a soulful sound.  During the first scene of the documentary you realize that she was born or rather earned that soulful sound at a young age.

I know I will get dinged for saying this but Amy Winehouse story is so reminiscent of Billie Holiday.  In addition her unique jazz sound is not like other artist of her period.  During an interview on a British talk show she says “they tried to give me elocution lessons.” She laughs that raucous laugh like a seasoned fisherman.

Her ex-husband (he is not worth his name being typed) has reportedly and repeatedly stated that he is not responsible for her death.  Even though she died of alcohol poisoning and not a drug overdose, I believe he definitely contributed significantly to her untimely death.  Her co-dependecy with him and introduction to hard-core drugs as well as bouts of cutting themselves were all part of her downward spiral.

The most important of Amy Winehouse inner circle, her parents were blind to her demons of bulimia and alcoholism.  In addition her spiral included covering the pain of her paternal grandmother’s death, one of few stable family members in her life.  Even her promoter who then became her manager didn’t do right by her when she was alive.

Sadly Amy Winehouse death from substance abuse wasn’t the first; the year following her death Whitney Houston died in part due to substance abuse.  There is a list of celebrities who like Amy died at age of 27 including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.  For celebrities whose stars are rising it would be great if their inner circle is true and strong enough to stand up to their glow.

Entertainer Yasiin (Mos Def) Bey; her best friends; and her last bodyguard seemed to be the most concerned for her…however without support of her family there was little they could change.  They were not able to break through or break her away from the cocoon of fame and wealth.  Sadly it seemed when she was on a true comeback to herself, she lost the fight and her life.  We the world lost a rare jazzy bird.

Enjoy this video of Amy displaying her soul-stirring talent.

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Heatstroke…Is No Joke!


On average 38 children die from being left in unattended hot vehicles each year.  In 2014, there were 32 deaths due to children being left in hot vehicles.  As of July 20th of this year there have been 10 reported deaths of children associated with being left in unattended vehicles.*

road-safety-kids-in-hot-cars_rdax_443x249Last year, my husband and I had the honor and responsibility for caring for my niece on a hot day in June.  It didn’t matter what small stops we had to make she was taken out of her carseat if we had to run into a store, even for a minute.  In response to the “I keep the car running, when I run into the store.” I ask this question, what happens when the vehicle unexpectedly stops running?  It happens.  You run into the store with car running and get into a long line or conversation then return to a lifeless and helpless body.

If this sounds drastic, if I sound like I am trying to scare you then you would be correct.  Leaving a child or an animal or elderly person in a vehicle unattended is not acceptable.  A child even as old as 6 years of age may not be able to exit the vehicle before being overcome by heat.

We all have a lot on our minds.  However take a minute to always check the back seat or seats.  They are your children or responsibility. Don’t hope that someone else will account for them getting out of the car.  When you are returning home from vacation or at the end of the day be sure everyone has exited the vehicle.  And if you have to make a stop then please by all means take the time and effort to take in your child.  In addition guess what if your home is air conditioned, your pet would probably like to remain indoors.

Finally, there is no excuse for leaving anyone who isn’t able to care for themselves in a hot car even for second while you run inside the convenience store, dry cleaners or wherever.  Our planet is getting warmer every year not cooler so it is imperative that you get out of your head and pay attention to those who depend on you.

Please always play it safe…children depend on you to protect them.

*Source: kidsandcars.org

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Watching A Bill Become A Law


Collage of EventsThis week the theme song from Schoolhouse Rock animated special “I’m Just A Bill” which explained the legislative process has been on continuous loop in my head.  On Monday, July 6th debate on a controversial and historic South Carolina Senate Bill began.  Bill S. 897 introduced by Senator Vincent Sheheen was for removal of the Confederate battle flag from the SC State House grounds.  Senator Sheheen while campaigning for Governor in 2014 brought up the subject of removing the flag.  Now months into a new year, it seemed that the idea had passed.

On Wednesday, June 17th the horrific massacre of nine members of Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC helped to bring the Confederate battle flag debate to the forefront of South Carolina and the nations conscious.  There were strong connections shown with regard to the Confederate battle flag and white supremacy propaganda by Dylann Roof the 21-year-old charged with the nine murders.  It is believed that the act of true Christian behavior by the families of Rev. Senator Clementa Pinckney and eight of his parishioners: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; Cynthia Hurd; Susie Jackson; Tywanza Sanders; Myra Thompson; Ethel Lance; DePayne Middleton-Doctor; and Daniel Simmons helped to make it necessary that the divisive symbol be removed from SC State House grounds.  Hearing the families forgive Roof and pray for his soul moved the world.

During a press conference on Monday, June 22, 2015 SC Governor Nikki Haley stated, “It’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.” Haley a Republican had stated just weeks prior that she saw no need for removal of the flag. However, upon massacre of a former Senate college and eight others the need had become apparent.  On June 23rd Senator Vincent Sheheen drafted Senate Bill 897 for permanent removal of the Confederate battle flag.  The flag had flown on the SC State House dome and grounds since 1962, initially flying in memory of the Civil War.  Many have contended that the flag flew in defiance to the Civil Rights movement.  Those against removal of the flag toted that it represented Southern Heritage, which I point out included an economy with a labor force of enslaved Africans and their descendants.

Debate of the S. 897 began on Monday, July 6th in the Senate Chambers.  Realizing the significance of this Bill, I decided to visit the SC Senate Gallery to witness the beginning debates.  Three Republican Senators Bright, Peeler, and Verdin all from the Upstate known for it’s Republican stronghold voted against the Bill during the 2nd vote.  However, there were 37 votes for the Bill and that was a strong indication that it would pass.  As was expected on Tuesday, July 7th after very little additional debate the 3rd vote passed 36 to 3, well over the necessary 2/3 vote.  The Bill then went to the SC House for debate.

On Wednesday, July 8th the Senate Bill reached the house and immediately had 12 amendments made to it by Representative Quinn who like his three Update Senate counterparts was a conservative Republican.  Over the course of the day there were 60 total amendments made to the Bill.  Feeling that Wednesday would be a historic day, I headed to the SC State House for the second time that week after work.  I sat in utter amazement at the stubborn ignorance of some Representatives with regard to the need to pass the Bill without amendments.  There was push and pull as House members for and against the Bill spoke.  I was witness to the passionate cry for passing the Bill made by Rep. Jenny Horne from Charleston, SC, where she represented the families of the Charleston 9.  But more importantly Rep. Horne is a direct descendent of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

A recess was given around 7:45pm and realizing that I was seeing history in the making, I decided to find a quick dinner and return for the continuation of the debate at 8:30pm.  There was more pushing and pulling as well as side discussions.  The Speaker of the House seemed to have to constantly bang the gavel to get order of the House Chambers.  We sitting in the House Gallery wondered if the Bill would ever pass.  Eventually most of the amendments were tabled and there was a stronghold on amendment 56, which provided detail for placement of the Confederate battle flag upon its removal.

Late in the evening, Rep. Ott proposed a resolution that had the same wording and purpose of amendment 56.  It seemed like a simple solution that would allow S. 897 to be passed as a clean Bill, which was the request of the Senate.  Near midnight Rep. Quinn recalled all the amendments that he had made to S. 897 and a call for a vote was made.  The second vote earned 2/3 of yes votes, which meant there was hope that the Bill would ultimately pass.  The third reading was made and the Bill passed without amendments.

Again the song “I’m Just A Bill” looped through my mind.  It was very much like the legislative process as taught by Schoolhouse Rock.  Only the animated Bill started with an idea and a member from US House of Representatives created a Bill for debate; and upon passing in the House it went to the US Senate.  It was a joyful day to know that the next step was for the Bill to be ratified by the SC Speaker of the House and then signed by Governor Haley.

It was announced that Governor Haley would sign the Senate Bill 897 at 4:00pm on Thursday, July 9th and the flag was scheduled for removal on Friday, July 10th.  While sitting at work I thought it would be enough to see the signing via streaming video or the news.  However, I had witnessed debates by the SC General Assembly and realized I needed to be present for this historic moment.  Driving like a mad woman and using my familiarity with the area around the SC State House I found a parking spot and rushed through the blazing heat to the third floor that overlooked the lobby area set up for the signing.

There was media, citizens, and legislatures packed in to witness the moment as well.  Also present were family members of the Charleston 9 victims including the widow of the Rev. Senator Clementa Pinckney.  In addition, were three former SC Governors including two who had previously tried to discuss removal of the Confederate battle flag.  Specially Governor David Beasley lost his re-election do impart to this debate. Watching the signing of the Bill was emotional because it did show that bi-partisan leadership and agreement can occur.

On Friday, July 10, 2015 thousands of citizens were present to witness the removal of the Confederate battle flag from SC State House grounds.  People poured into the street and around the grounds for a look at history.  There were those in support of the removal as well as those not supporting the removal.  I for one was happy to see the flag removed.  As I have stated I saw its presence as being divisive and conjuring a past of hate.  Just as the reality that the Nazi flag is negative to those of Jewish decent so is the Confederate battle flag to me.  Unable to attend in person, I watched on television with tears flowing from my eyes.  I felt my ancestors rejoicing.  I know that removal of the flag will not make racism and hate disappear.  However, it possibly will help bring discussion and progress toward better race relations.

Finally, some immediate changes that occurred was NCAA is now considering South Carolina for future conferences and tournaments.  The NAACP also has raised its boycott of the state.  During debates of removal of the flag in the Senate and House major corporations submitted letters in support of its removal.  It seemed that people looking in could see that it was long past time for the symbol of an oppressive past to be taken down and put in a museum.  I do believe we must remember history including the ugliness of some of the past…hence we forget.  However, I don’t need to see history blowing in the wind to remember it.

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Freedom Ain’t Free


My dad always said, “freedom ain’t free, baby girl.”   I would nod and respond, “yes sir.”  I didn’t quite understand what he meant when I was a child.  Now as an adult, I understand better what he was saying.  There are men and women defending the United States and it’s territories on battlefields and in other forms.  We are now in an era when cybersecurity is needed as well as protection of our physical land.

Freedom Ain't FreeThe U.S. is a country with a very diverse and dark past.  This nation was built on the labor of enslaved Africans as well as other people of color.  It is a place where during World War II Japanese internment camps were created.  In addition, during the WWII the U.S. didn’t grant a large number of German Jews admittance to its shores.  One of the greatest tarnishes on the nation’s military past is the negative treatment of Vietnam Veterans upon their return after that war.

There is so much more growing that this nation who won its independence in 1776 has to do.  Aggressive behavior towards young black people both male and female by law enforcement needs to be addressed.  Holding onto remnants of a hateful past that divided the nation and calling it Southern heritage also needs a reality check.  The first part of fixing a problem is admitting that there is a problem; the flying of the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina on State House grounds is a problem.

Recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding marriage equality has some Southern states still in denial.  When in actuality marriage is and has been a legal contract for centuries not merely a religious ceremony.  Civil union is what most same sex couples are seeking not marriage in the Biblical sense; couples like friends of mine who have been together longer than my almost 23 years of marriage deserve this right.  They seek the same legal protection of the law that I and my husband are afforded.  Also the ability to truly demonstrate their commitment to their partner.  This is a freedom hard fought to attain and still is not being respected.

My daddy was correct, freedom ain’t free.  Freedom to be a young black male may result in the cost of your life because you fit a police officers or vigilante’s distorted profile.  Freedom to be a young black female may have the cost of having a knee in your back from an out of control police officer.  Freedom of worshiping and welcoming in a stranger did cost nine Christians their life because of his distorted idea of freedom.

On this the 239th year celebrating the Independence of the United States of America, let us remember those who still had to fight for their independence.  Women fought for voting rights during the suffrage movement.  Native Americans who fought and are still fighting for the right to their land not merely being regulated to reservations. Same gender couples fighting for the right in all states to have ability to show commitment through civil unions.  African Americans still fighting each day for the right for 100% respect and removal of symbols of hate flying in their face.  Also let us always whether we agree with the why, respect the men and women who risk their lives for the freedom of our nation.

Finally, on this day when we celebrate at lakes, festivals, and cookouts remember that we as citizens must take ownership of our freedom.  Civics has been removed from the classroom but the responsibility has not been removed from us.  Voting is only part of the process of the price we pay for our freedom.  Staying present and involved; letting local elected officials know that you are present in-between elections is one cost we pay for freedom.  Speaking to a child’s teachers is another cost paid for freedom.  Paying attention to the everyday occurrences around us and giving our voice helps to pay the price for our freedom.  Don’t be silent stand up and be sure we pay the cost needed for continued freedoms…don’t take freedom for granted.

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My Southern Heritage


My southern heritage includes enslaved blacks working for white plantation owners in Clarendon County located in South Carolina.  This is my response to those who say the Confederate battle flag that flies on the South Carolina State House grounds is part of southern heritage.  Every story has two sides and my side traces back through the Harvin-Durant family, to around the early 1800’s onto a ship that carried enslaved Africans to the harbors of Charleston, SC.

Diagram of Slave ShipsThere is no positive spin on stealing away humans to work as free labor in a distant land.  With millions more not making the journey and bodies thrown overboard, to rest at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.  In addition, the idea of there being good plantation owners is a contradiction; purchase of humans as though they are cattle is inhumane.  Individuals who have not committed a crime should not be held against their will to do labor for anyone at anytime past, present or future.  For me the Confederate battle flag conjures memories of a past where a race of people were forced immigrants, yet not considered citizens but personal property.

Let me clarify, the reason I call it a battle that flies on the SC State House grounds is because it is not the actual flag flown as representative of the Confederate states.  But that is a history lesson within itself.  My point is regardless of whether a battle flag or actual Confederate flag, the Civil War was in 1865 and the victor was the Union Army.  Old Glory otherwise known as the flag of the United States of America is the flag that should be flown on and in state government property in addition to the state flag.

Segregated Drinking Fountains 1950. © Elliott ErwittHeritage of any kind should not merely center around a flag.  A flag that should be laid to rest just as the leaders of the Confederacy did in 1865.  For various reasons, some I believe to push back the progress of blacks, state legislators decided that the battle flag be placed in South Carolina Senate and House Chambers as early as the 1930s.  In 1962 the flag was raised onto the State House dome in remembrance of the Civil War.  I am certain this was also in large part to give push back to the progress of the Civil Rights movement.  Then in 2000, the flag was removed and put on the state house grounds.

My southern heritage includes positive things.  It includes a great-great grandfather that was able to purchase acres of land to farm.  It involves grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who were able to get an education and become doctors, lawyers & educators.  However, when I look upon the battle flag originally flown by the Confederate Army I see oppression of a race.  I see continued attempt to push back a race of people with fear.

Finally, this past Saturday, I saw people of all races, genders, and religions come together to peacefully protest removal of a symbol of division.  On the South Carolina State House grounds surrounding the flag were people with one common cause to move the state forward into the future.  Those in attendance, were also there to remember nine victims murdered by a 21 year-old, who was welcomed into their place of worship at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.  Sometimes holding on to the wrong part of our heritage can hold us back and become distorted.  I am ready to be better than the past.  It is time to evolve our southern heritage into something greater than our past.

As of the writing of this blog post, the South Carolina Governor Nikky Haley has called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from state house grounds.  Leaders around the nation are calling for the same and I believe it is time.  Over the next day’s discussion in the SC General Assembly will include removal of a part of southern heritage that belongs in a Confederate museum.  Again it is time to move forward.

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Woman Wearing Red Glasses


SCDWC Day In Blue - Keynote Address (Credit: State Newspaper)Standing on stage with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just a few weeks ago has brought some interesting conversations. Most common questions are “Did I see you on TV standing behind Hillary?” or “I know you must have been excited standing on stage with our next President?” I humbly respond yes that was me you saw and it was an interesting day. Oftentimes when you see a televised live event with any national political figure there is much work that has gone into planning. Conference calls along with last minute changes made for an interesting day but in the end the Keynote speaker for the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council, 2015 Day In Blue was phenomenal. Through hard work and determination the SCDWC President Susan Y Smith was able to secure Secretary Clinton as our keynote speaker.

The SCDWC along with the South Carolina House Democratic Caucus held its 3rd Day In Blue, which started with recognition in the South Carolina House Chamber by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter and the Speaker of the House. Workshops on Ethics and Self-Care occurred in the Blatt Building. Both workshops contained a bevy of useful information. The Ethics Workshop presented by Jane Shuler provided information for those seeker to run for an elected office. The Self-Care Workshop presented by Rep. Mary Gail Douglas reminded all female activist present to take time for self. In no way am I saying it wasn’t exciting being on stage with a national Democratic leader but for me the day was about motivating fellow Democratic women to become activist.  Wrapping the day up with a message that included the importance of equal pay for women helped solidify the fact we still have strives to make and glass ceilings to shatter.

My journey being on the stage with fellow SCDWC Executive Board members and Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter during Secretary Clinton’s speech involved a cumulation of activism. I often used the term I work to be present in my own existence. What that means is I seek to work for changes I want to see at local, state and national levels. In addition I can say it was due to being present in our own existences. I shared the stage with long-time Democratic activists who believed in their ability to make a different in this world. I am in the process of writing a book to detail my journey; it is important to understand that we all can bring change. No impact is too small one ripple can start a wave of positive progress.  You can watch the full coverage of the Day In Blue Keynote Address via the C-SPAN link: http://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?326259-1/hillary-clinton-remarks-columbia-south-carolina

Iris ApfelToday, I saw the documentary titled IRIS.  The latest film from legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (GREY GARDENS, GIMME SHELTER), IRIS pairs the late 88-year-old filmmaker (who passed away on March 5) with Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven who has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. More than a fashion film, the documentary is a story about creativity and how a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. IRIS portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life’s sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression. “I feel lucky to be working. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.”

I was inspired and encouraged more than ever to live my life wide open and without reservation. I felt a kindred spirit with Iris Apfel for many reasons but it was mainly her choice of doing what made her happy. She chose to not have children and even though, I myself wanted children I found it refreshing. Iris is not living her life by anybody else’s standards she is setting her own style and pathway through life. It is easy to be caught up in what is expected of us but it is hard to live for ourselves alone.

This coming Wednesday, I will be the feature poet at Mind Gravy a local poetry venue. It is an honor and humbling experience to be able to share poetry during a 30 minute set. There are two things for which I am passionate and that is poetry and politics. I believe in the importance of the art of words and writing. When I write poems, I try to paint a portrait with my rubs; my pen is used to make brush strokes of emotions. And politics for me is an opportunity to be a part of change in my world. I do not taking the opportunities of living in a democracy for granted. Here in the United States we are the freedom to express ourselves in our art and political beliefs. Being an African American woman in a country built on the backs of enslaved Africans and West Indians, I don’t take for granted the importance of being present in my own existence. Finally it helps to be able walk through life wearing a pair of phenomenal red, orange and tortoise shell eyeglasses to help me see my way forward.

Source: Synopsis and photos for IRIS the documentary from magpictures.com; and Hillary photo from The State Newspaper

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