Posted: July 1, 2015 in Uncategorized
Article as it appeared in the Sentinel

Article as it appeared in the Sentinel

The King Drew Atrocity, Thursday June 25, 2015  Los Angeles Sentinel

Slavery  4B_Ed3 Other articles by Evelyn Allen Johnson:

Don’t Forget Slavery, Los Angeles Sentinel

Click to read “Don’t forget about slavery! C-1″ in PDF format

African American Titan, Mr. Arthur Gaskin, Los Angeles Sentinel

Nurse Evelyn Allen Johnson Speaks at Nurses Week, Los Angeles Sentinel


Ran across this video by Greg Miller who interviewed Jarim Person-Lynn, author of the seminal financial motivational book: Brass Knuckle Finance. It was recorded at Derrick’s Jamaican Cuisine on the occasion of our 100th episode of Sunday Morning Live. The book is now on sale at Simply Wholesome (Overhill and Slauson in Los Angeles)or the eBook, the Hard Copy and the Audio Book are available at

Thank God and Thank You!

Posted: November 7, 2012 in Uncategorized



Tonight’s win was for them.


Please vote!

Posted: November 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


The anticipation feels like Christmas.  So to preoccupy myself I will update my dormant blogs to remind people to vote.  PLEASE GOTV! (Get out the vote!)

Remembering Aunt Emma

Posted: July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

In less than a year, the family grapples with the loss of another Aunt. There are 3 out of 15 left.

Aunt Emma

We have a huge Virginia-based Person family because my grandfather Romnie Person had been married twice and had 9 kids before he met my grandmother Ida (4 of his previous children–a set of twin and two children due to a flu epidemic had already passed away.) A legendary woman herself, grandma went on to have 11 more, with one being still born. But those who survived helped form a legendary family: Stella, Walter, Archie, Warner, Nathan, Andrew, Rose, Thomas, Emma, Connie, Audrey, Mildred, Ida, Alvin and Jerry–15 altogether.

My grandfather taught us many things hands on: he drove us over to North Carolina to see the Native American relatives some Sundays, and –get this–built a viable construction business which hired his sons and sent all of his children — who wanted to go — to college. He invested in land, built houses and countless buildings and built the school so his children would not continue to trudge past the white school in the freezing snow to get to their own. AND he built the family church.

Our aunts and uncles enveloped us in love, and were beautiful, fun and loving. When my father moved to New Jersey, Aunt Emma would spend her college summers helping him and my mom take care of my sister Bunny and me. I remember her lap, her warm embrace, her guiding hands and her gentle soul.

She was a beautiful, thin slip of a girl with long hair. She loved the piano and played ours often. Mom, who became great friends with her said she just picked it up and had a special gift.

She had the patience of Job, and taught my Mom to drive after my Father’s impatience frustrated my Mom no end. Mom said she was an excellent teacher and when Mom passed she drove to work the next day and has been driving ever since.

Emma met a young service man named Amos “Mack” Harrison in Emporia at her job at a drug store, but it wasn’t until their paths crossed again in NJ and they held an all night discussion at White Castle, that they fell in love. Not long afterward they married in our living room in Linden, NJ, then moved to New York, not far from Shea Stadium where the Mets played.

He and my daddy were at once known as “Amos and Andy” because, well those were their names, and the Mutt and Jeff looking pair pal’d around quite a bit.

Aunt Emma taught us how family is done. Although she had her own three cute kids–Rhonda, Debbie and later Mark, she always opened her home to us. I can honestly say I never remember a cross word from her toward anybody. When I became a teen I found my way to Aunt Emma’s on the subway from NJ and hung with Rhonda and Debbie and their cousin Cookie many weekends, some at block parties dancing in the streets.

She loved her cats, especially Mortimer and Tiger, and furry four legged friends in general, it seemed. But she loved people too. On my birthday last year she called me out of the blue and made my day. She said “Of course, I remember your birthday!” she said cheerily, all those years later.

Aunt Emma moved to Virginia after our grandmother (her mother) passed and looked so similar to my grandmother standing in that same kitchen which turns out so many legendary delights, especially her mouth watering collard greens. There she took care of our Uncle Mack whose health issues had confined him to a wheel chair for decades.

After he passed, she committed herself to working with senior citizens. She had been playing piano for the church since her return to the VA across from my Uncle Thomas on the organ. She loved raising her grandson Jose who was the light of her life. Tall like uncle Mack, he played basketball, but went to North Carolina A &T as an engineering major. He currently works in the U.S. Patent Office.

Then along came Mark’s kids to raise, Markeen and Najee, also handsome young men who I can only imagine what must be going through their minds right now. Aunt Emma was their rock, and they are not yet fully grown, so who will step into Aunt Emma’s petite but large shoes?

Her very life was serving God, and her church, raising her grand children, being there for her family. Oh, and those cats!!! And, personally, she reached out to our son Jaaye during his Hampton and Howard years on the East Coast, so much so, that when he learned she passed, he sprang into action and thankfully arranged the flight back East and the rental car for us both.

Her sisters Rose and Ida, and brothers Thomas and Alvin were always there for her, but in the last few years, all but Alvin and Ida succumbed and she missed her departed siblings dearly.

Well, now, Aunt Emma has joined them but, I still think she is gone too soon.

After all, I had just seen Aunt Emma Thanksgiving and she looked fine. She told me and many of us that she wasn’t comfortable taking over the role of family matriarch.

Who knew a cancer storm was raging within? It continues to blow our family and our people away and now has claimed another, seemingly out of the blue.

Her children stood by her until the end. Rhonda, has a government career, Debbie, is a natural organizer and Mark just started a new position in New York. Life will be different without the rock of their mother there to go to daily but they will as so many others have done. She gave them everything they need.

Just a few weeks ago, I was enjoying the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans with my cousins Stephanie and Sharon and Steph’s daughter Michal. We were enjoying a seafood restaurant overlooking the Mississippi when I pressed them to take a break and call Aunt Emma. We did, passing the phone around the table. When I heard her weakened voice, out of the blue, my tears flowed and just kept coming. I thought I was being silly because she could have gotten better. But they told me that she had been diagnosed with liver cancer, and I do not know anyone who has won that battle yet.

The last time I talked to Aunt Emma was when my sister and I called. Home from the hospital, back in Emporia, she weakly said “It seems I’ve got a bigger challenge to contend with than I thought.” I didn’t allow her to entertain the insurmountable thought but, I regret that. She had something to say which I dismissed like it was a cold she’d get over. I knew it was liver cancer, but I was hoping against hope, ya know?

Her daughters kept up the good fight and fed her fresh juice regimens, healing teas and the like.
They too held out hope. But there was nothing anyone could do to change God’s mind from calling her home.

Truly an angel, her work here is done. It is hard to grapple with, but grapple we must.

Now, we only have Aunt Ida, Uncle Alvin and Aunt Audrey. It is now left to my generation to step up and help them.  We are also the Aunts and the Uncles. We must help guide this next generation for that is the way Aunt Emma showed us. Now that the beautiful service is over and she is in her final resting place we cousins (and there are many), must all lead by her example. If anyone has helped your life over some rough edges, you (all-us-we) must now pay it forward, because this next generation cannot wait.

Rest well Aunt Emma!

Isidra Person-Lynn
House of the Rising Sons Media

In the meantime…

Posted: September 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

For a playlist of my recent videos, click this link:

I never intended to have a number of different blogs and things.  Consequently, it is hard to keep them all up to date.  If you want to see the most current postings, follow my blog at  I love my WordPress blogs (this one and my, but Tumblr is easiest to drop something on quickly, and these days “quick” is all I can seem to manage.  Of course, for up to the minute musings, join me on Facebook (and be sure to read my “Notes”) or Twitter! Check us out over there if this page seems stuck in a different time zone.  My love these days is video reporting, so check out the latest at my You Tube channel. Thanks for your patience.  Soon I will consolidate all into one — since I am in the process of updating!

Are you?  You can take that many ways, especially all of my single girlfriends combing through perfectly good choices in search of the perfect choice, when they themselves are not perfect.  But, I am not going to go there.  Not today.

The story that is writing me this morning is the one about our language.  Are you rejecting a perfectly good employee, boyfriend/girlfriend, pastor or friend simply because they don’t speak standard English?

You sit down to spend some time on Facebook, and for you it is effortless. You read this easily, but someone somewhere on your page struggles and becomes mute because they cannot turn out a Tweet, text or post fast enough and when they do it is laden with errors.  IDK, the language has changed!  In real time English, if you do not know that “IDK” stands for “I don’t know” and you write “I don’t no,” there are those who would discount you because you did not use “Know” for “No.”  But why the unnecessary letters?  Why the K and w if they are silent? Why must our intelligence be measured by whether or not we know (or remember) these things? But, it is.

And then, there is this thing many of us have about Ebonics or African American Vernacular English.  American corporations are using these colloquialisms we say everyday, and laughing all the way to the bank.  (Example: “I’m lovin’ it”.) I will never forget the time I wrote a story about Ebonics back when it captured many headlines for the Just For Me newsletter for girls.  The parent company Proline  was headquartered in Dallas, Texas, so you can imagine the Ebonics that you could hear all over Dallas.  But, I was chastized for writing the article. One of my Dallas coworkers said “We don’t be needin’ to read ’bout no Ebonics down here.  That is sumpin’ y’all keep in California.”‘ Puro Ebonics.

The way African Americans speak IS  a second language –any two times you have to relearn how to write and speak in order to fit within corporate culture so you can get a job.  My students work hard at it in speech and in writing.  I remember a radio intern once was reading copy for a news story and she kept pronouncing “ax” for ask.  I said “No, say ‘basketball.’  She said “basketball.” I said “Good. Now say bask.”  She said “Bask.”  I said “Great! Now drop the B and say the word “Ask.”  She smiled and said “Ax.”  Grrr.  We joke about it when we see each other, but these tendencies to pronounce things a certain way are consistent with our African language patterns, just like the French put their twists on English, Asians, Latinos and so on.  The difference is we see those accents as romantic and cute.  Ours are seen as ignorant.  UNTIL it becomes commercialized al la  “Who Dat?”  Wat up wit dat?

Same thing with writing.  My students are graduating from high school to arrive at college functionally ill-prepared to compete in college English and Math!  There are a lot of reasons why that is but for brevity’s sake, I’ll start with the Baby Mama syndrome.  It’s the first thing you will notice.  We were reading Sister Souljah’s “No Disrepect.”  I had my students write in-class essays.  (That way you KNOW they actually wrote them.) Question: What impact did Sister Souljah’s mother have on her teenage years?  Answers across the board:   “Sister Souljah mother was a….” I made them all go back and insert the apostrophe “‘s”.  I asked “You’ve heard the term  ‘baby mama drama,’ right?”  Of course they had. “Well, how can you correct that grammatically?” It was like pulling teeth to get them to translate the baby mama into baby’s mother.  So of course they would not write Sister Souljah’s mother.

Here is a test you can do at home.  Have your children write for you –free write.  Assign them a topic and see what they come up with.  Turn on a recorder (most cells have them these days).  Record your family as they sit around the table. Play it back and most of you will point out that they are steeped in Ebonics and don’t realize it.  “I seen” it happen, time and again.

It’s not just with us. I call it the Luke Walton syndrome.  Luke is one of the Lakers that keeps me in a constant state of pissivity. Shoot Luke, Dunk, Luke!  And all the announcers wax on about how intelligent he is.  So they keep him around and they do video diaries of his life but listen to Luke.  Luke grew up with a father who is  verbose and proper  in standard English.  But how does Luke speak?  Like he has been hanging with the homeboys.  He has been around the brothers so long he is picking up Ebonics.

Actually, we all are.  Sometimes I can’t think of the word we used to use before “Diss” came into vogue. Ebonics (laced with hip hop speak and computer shorthand) is at the center of multi-million dollar music, film and comedy industry.The way we speak naturally is picked up by the advertising industry so you have “wannabes” who are white calling each other “dog,” and saying “Wat up?”and– shudders–calling each other the “N” word! Steve Harvey rarely speaks standard English.  Just listen!  And he will host “Family Feud?” Yikes.

I always encourage my students to appreciate their language and not think of it as wrong,  However, if they need to transition from a PC to a Mac, they’d best know the language of the Mac world so they can get somewhere.  And in college, I tell them, they need to master standard English in order to have their work pass muster.  Code switching, as it is called, would have been much easier for African American students to have picked up in early years, because it is not as comfortable to learn when they are adults in college.

If you are a successful adult, you may struggle with English but you might hire someone like me to wordsmith your ideas and no one would be the wiser.  But when you go to post on Facebook, or send a tweet you don’t have time for much more than spell check.  Show of hands, how many of you have posted only to go back to look at what you have written to cringe in horror?  (Me too!!!) But, thank goodness the world of high speed social communication is somewhat forgiving.  Those of you who have your sons and daughters on FB can also be in for a rude awakening.

So the way to beef up your second language is to do what you would do if you wanted to learn any other language: read more standard English books, articles, etc.  Have books on tape read to you so you can hear more of the language you are trying to learn.  Books like the Coldest Winter Ever, or Midnight by Sister Souljah will get students into reading.  Once these page turners have ended, they will look for other books.  At least you will have sparked an interest, because you bridge from where they are to where you want them to go. They don’t have to be The Gumbel brothers, but good things await those who are bilingual, because many will reject you, no matter how good you are, in favor of another who speaks standard English.

Has it been that long?

Posted: January 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Greetings, all!

Just in case you think I fell off the face of the earth, I am right here.  Here is a brief update:

As of this writing, I recently left my position with the Umoja Program teaching English at West Los Angeles College. I am working as the Media Director at Johnson Products, Inc. where we have launched  I also have an exciting opportunity with a TV program that will be announced soon. And I still am working with Nature’s Essential Ingredients.  Plus, I still produce Internet videos.  Here are a few links to check out what we have been up to:


Isidra Person-Lynn

My Tech Blog:  Isidra Gadget (New)  Isidra Gadget (old)

My Videos:

My You Tube Channel


Exposure Room



Facebook–I post a lot of blogs (Notes) on Facebook.  Add me @ Isidra Person-Lynn

And how are you???  What is YOUR update?  Comment below!

Daddy and his grandson, Jaaye

My family–the Person family–has given more than our fair share  to the military:

Archie Person, Army

Walter Person, Army

Warner Person, Army

Nathan Person, Army

Andrew Person, Army

Alvin Person, Army

Jerry Person, Air Force

Five of the seven brothers listed above were in the service at one time.  On this Memorial Day, I’d like to remember my uncles and my father.  Fortunately, we never lost one to the war, but only Uncle Alvin is still with us.

My father, Andrew, talked incessantly about the war.  The stories have faded but I remember his friends and occasional army buddies that would comb over their experiences with such relish, that I was shocked to learn by reading his obituary, that he only spent two years in the army.

The military was integral in the launching of our nuclear family branch in New Jersey:  my Mom and her cousin Rachel answered the appeal for young ladies to attend a USO social for the young men in the military.  Aunt Rachel picked a dapper young man who would become my Uncle Russell, while Mom picked out the handsome young man who would give her three daughters.

My parents were absolutely gorgeous in their youth and began corresponding.  He was deployed to Korea and the Philippines –two theaters back to back without the chance of coming home.  Shortly after he returned,  on Jan. 10, some year in the 40’s, the two married and used the GI Bill to buy their house.

My Dad did not look at the war through rose colored glasses.  Whatever he witnessed in his role in the Signal Corps was his undoing. He spent years in therapy, and the young couple grappled with his demons that did not jive with his peaceful Virginia upbringing. He self-medicated with alcohol which led to a plethora of problems.

This formerly joyous one-man band wrote copiously, played the piano and sang for anyone.  He was always the life of the party and brought many friends home.  Coming from such a large family, his father employed all sons who wanted to work in the family contracting business, which built many of the homes, businesses and city structures in the area.  That was not for Daddy.  He wanted to be an attorney, but my grandmother always said “Lawyers are Liars” so he went to school to be an body and fender man, so he made his living that way.

One fateful  day, a huge auto part disengaged from its hoist and crashed down upon him. After that, Dad went through a long struggle of hospital visits. I  have memories of rolling down the grassy hills at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital while our mother visited him.

After 12 years, the two divorced and my Dad became a crackling, far away voice on the phone, always calling from somewhere exotic.  He had fallen in love with California on his trip there and his dreams became mine–the place that he painted such vivid pictures of–warm weather, palm trees and blue skies.

One courageous thing on my Mom’s part was she never let their downfall stand in the way of our relationship with him or the Person Family.  My dad technically had 19 sisters and brothers, but 14 survived the flu epidemic which made family gatherings larger than life.  Because we spent summers in VA, Dad’s side made up for our intense father hunger.

“What a Difference a Day Makes” was a hit song during 1975–the soundtrack of my senior year in college. I often had to drop what I was doing to rush to his bedside because the constant drinking led to an acute case of cirrhosis of the liver. Although he made it to my graduation in Upstate New York, by summer’s end, he passed away.  In his passing, it seemed all of the loopiness of his life was forgiven and the family came together in Virginia en masse. His brother Nathan, who lived in California, drove across country to the funeral.  I had been accepted to USC but there was no money for graduate school, so I clinched my teeth and worked in a dress shop until I got the call from my oldest sister, whose turn it was to rush to Dad’s bedside.  She had been only moments too late.

After attaching myself to my Uncle Nathan at the services, I mustered the nerve to ask him if I could drive back to California with him.  He called his wife, Aunt Thelma, and she graciously accepted. I just had to scurry up to New Jersey to collect my things.  As I pulled into the driveway,  the whistling postman walked up with a letter from USC saying there had been a computer error. My eyes could not believe the crazy amount of money they were now awarding me! God and Dad were helping me all the while, arranging things.

Now, all these years later,  my youngest  son, Jaaye, who never met my father and never knew this story, is fulfilling his dream. Of all of our sons, he is the one the Person family agrees reminds them most of Daddy. He got to know them all beginning with an Antoine Fisher moment, when we first deposited him in their care when he attended Hampton University, in Virginia.  He graduated from Howard Law School recently and although he is still grappling with the bear of the California Bar,  God and Dad will see him through that too.  Of this, I have no doubt.

Happy Memorial Day to the men of the Person Family, my husband who served in the Navy in Viet Nam and all veterans and their families everywhere!

Isidra Person-Lynn

Renee and Eric and the New Johnson Products

Renee and Eric and the new Johnson Products

We really needed this good news, given the current, sagging economy: Johnson Products was purchased by an African American owned entity!

Being a part of the Los Angeles Black-owned business community for many years, I have heard the lamentations that the business industries we do have, once they make it, are

Johnson Products Sponsored Soul Train

Johnson Products Sponsored Soul Train

gobbled up and co-opted by others: think sports and where it would be without the African American contribution, think entertainment, especially music, where would it be without us? And even the black hair care products industry which allowed wealth building for generations of black folk, but most of the bigger ones have sold: Johnson, Pro-Line and many others to Wella, L’oreal and Procter & Gamble. What we didn’t sell, Koreans and others took over, selling our nappy hair care back to us.

This week, I rejoiced when I saw a piece on LeBron James who is worth millions and how he fired all of his handlers and hired three young brothers to manager his millions, I rejoiced. Why not give people you trust a shot? How many times have you heard a black elite athlete getting ripped off by so-called pros? These young brothers researched and set about finding the best pros to help them with their mission and so far the industry has been pleasantly surprised.

The second good news, then, this week was the announcement of Johnson Products company being purchased by RCJP Acquisition, led by Eric and Renee Brown who once ran Pro-Line Corporation. Once Alberto Culver purchased Pro-Line some years ago, its founder (and Renee’s father) immediately experienced what Johnson Products’ owner felt: seller’s remorse.

You see, these companies filled the mission of the call to arms that after civil rights, we work for silver rights (a term John Bryant coined). We found that once the laws were changed, the rules changed and without ownership we were still at the proverbial back of the bus.

What Johnson and Pro-Line did by their very existence was grow the black middle class, give opportunities not found other wise, apprentice young college students and employ a whole lot of our people. They funded scholarships, started programs, sponsored TV shows like Soul Train, placed their advertising almost exclusively on black radio and in black newspapers and magazines and in Pro-Line’s case, saved— by purchasing– a struggling Black College, Bishop College.

These companies allowed us to see ourselves “large and in-charge” and dream big. Their physical plants were impressive. They made us stand a little taller with our backs a littler straighter. Plus, they filled the void left by the “other” hair care products designed for straight hair which ruined our hair and left it in a dull and brittle pile in the sink.

You may remember that when Comer Cottrell came through on his book tour, I interviewed him and he talked about his seller’s remorse. There were black hair care companies that rose and fell with the trends–think Jheri Curl, Worlds of Curls and Good Fred. It was good business to take a company he built from an initial $600 investment with a borrowed typewriter to $88 million when he sold it; and Johnson Products, the first African American owned company traded on the New Your Stock Exchange started in 1954 with $500 and was valued at over $100 million at one time.

It is widely known that once sold, Mr. George Johnson tried to buy his company back but was thwarted at every turn. Now that Renee and Eric are running it, he is rejoicing.

So, with the new energy that the presidency of Barack Obama is inspiring, let’s look around and step up to fill the shoes on trails blazed by the generation before. Let’s not sell, let’s buy it back and sustain the next generation and keep this thing going.

Yes, these two are old college friends of mine, but they are consummate professionals and they are heaven-bent on bringing innovation to the JPC brand — something that seems to go away once these companies are sold. The younger generation may not even remember the brands, but stay tuned. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Looking back…this turn of events predicted my leaving WLAC.  This is a poem written by a program assistant who loved the students as much as I.  It is titled:

A Beautiful Umoja Semester

A dedication written by a poet on behalf of Instructor Person-Lynn

At the start of the Spring Semester, we were all driven and came with goals

To gain all that we could and positively enrich our minds, bodies, and souls
Closed our eyes, tilted our heads back, and reached towards the great heavenly sky

We were ready for the challenge, we were ready for new knowledge,

we were ready to fly!

Pausing as we were taking a deep breath and

entering the classroom for the first time
Instructor, student, and tutor alike, we all wondered

“What sounds this semester would chime?”

The word “spring” signifies new growth

but would education be planted in our minds?

Eager, willing, and curious — we were hoping that

information would be our find

Sailing across the sea they call college,

we encountered many beautiful people and events
We rode both high and low waves of this ocean;

we came to realize what Umoja represents
Throughout the long sixteen-week semester,

we experienced both things we came to love and hate.
We had a full course meal on this one—

we had food overflowing on our plates

Dr. Patricia Banday and Elizabth Evans were the directors,

guiding the program into academic light.

Glen Schenck helped get money and books, while Marty and Ana

made sure the paperwork was right
Leonor, Jack, Alan, and Jaime assessed you

while also doing the basketball tournament event

And everyone pitched in for the college field trips

to which the Umoja students went.

Instructor Isidra Person-Lynn, the first person to greet you on your way in and last person to hug on the way out
So devout, she would go miles for her students,

this is what dedication is all about

Academic blogger by day and secret Facebooker by night,

she keeps in touch

And for this Instructor Person-Lynn, the whole of Umoja Student Body thanks you very much

The beautiful new addition to the Umoja Faculty, Kaci Sewell will teach you how to speak
She sure knows her stuff, now sit up straight in your seat as she teaches you her technique
Perhaps one of the best things about her is her ever-there beautiful, happy,  smile
Always laughing, making sure you make it to her class to make your whole day worthwhile

Professor Tim Russell, Professor Tim Russell, Professor Tim Russell,

where does this poet begin?

He is the only math teacher to actually make you look at a math test,

and feel you can win
Both the resident math instructor and the Plato expert,

he fits perfectly into the Umoja equation
Red bull in hand, he is ready to instruct and tutor anyone in Math regardless of the occasion

About Professor Clare Norris:

she is well-respected,  her work is well known
So intelligent and composed– if you don’t want to work,

then leave her alone.

Such a lovely dedicated teacher- it is all about the words,

the verbs, and the proper citations
so make sure you follow that MLA style handbook and

you won’t have any complications.

Also a new addition, Instructor Li Lei

will make sure to instruct you in all of math

Teaching Math 117 and instructing all her students

towards a higher learning academic path
Smart in her field beyond compare,

her lectures contain her small jokes to make students laugh
However, don’t forget that you need to write a complete sentence

and don’t forget to graph!

Umjoa was always there for you, every step of the way;

offering students all sorts of help
Tutors in the classrooms looking for people to help

so give us a holla or give us a yelp!
You got that beautiful Nigerian, Tosin Williams:

quick to give you a hug while laying down the rules
While Michael Sanchez is there to offer you both

his English and mathematics knowledge tools

The fashionable Brittany Goodwell, smiling and joking,

always ready to give students a hand
Then we’ve got the musically and artistic Joshua B.,

the nice guy who can make himself a one-man-band

The one and only eccentric Raquel Leatherwood,

who will dance in front of you will teaching grammar

opposite Math tutor Christopher Hall,

who can enter the room with absolutely no clamor

Straight from West Africa, the buff A.K.

will beat the math equations into your head if he has to

Earl Hall knows his math as well,

He is as cool as any shade of blue.

Everyone needs to get to their feet for the one and only

LaShonda Johnson who deserves applause

Completely dedicated to the Umoja cause,

she is a college counselor with not one flaw

More than the tutors, more than the counselors,

more than the instructors, it was about the students

All of them from those you saw once a semester

to those who were early and always prudent

Education is not for the weak

so will the academic warriors please all raise and take a look around

Some may have fallen by the wayside,

but now only true survivors and fighters surround

Dark skin rich and brown, you all overcame the struggles life came

with, please stand tall and proud

Defeated any adversaries that said you could not.

You are all kings and queens– now wear your crowns

Tilt your head towards the heavens and thank Him that gave you the

courage and power
to come to school diligently and pass tests. Like a 12, you stand atop

of the hour.
Whatever comes or whatever it may seem, positivity and greatness is

all that your mouths shall scream
Using your internal passions you shall embrace all and any of these

things to accomplish your dreams

“Head held high, eyes looking toward the sun, your feet are walking

on clouds”
Your young roars are loud, wear your crowns; You are all Umoja

semester graduates and you will hold your heads proud!!!


By Oluwatosin Williams,
Dynamic Umoja Academic Guidance Counseling Assistant
June 8, 2009

Let’s talk about this magical thing called social networking. Some are meeting and getting married. Others are reuniting. It is a joy to log onto Facebook and see an old friend (someone who I love but would never think to call) adding me.

Read how it worked for us:
No one had seen or heard from my niece’s dad in 30 years. Moving 3000 miles away probably had something to do with that. My former brother-in-law was quirky,unique, and not exactly what the elder women had in mind for my sister. But I am trying hard not to digress.

Fast forward to today. My niece who returned to the East Coast is now 38 with a great husband and three beautiful children. Now a nurse, she began to wonder about certain family traits on her Dad’s side and told her Mom that she was looking for him. Problem is, everyone involved (except me) had common names and now lived somewhere other than New Jersey. I decided to test my Sherlock skills but kept coming up with zilch. He could have moved anywhere by now. I went to and tried to find him through the college where he met my sister. And after leaving that “message in a bottle” eons ago, I forgot all about it.

But three Fridays ago, on a routine check of my email, I saw a note from Classmates titled “Looking for my long lost daughter.” Inside it said “I am looking for my daughter who I miss so, so much.” Yep, it was my brother-in-law. He wrote that he had always wanted to find her, but it wasn’t until he finally bought a computer that he felt his search was more possible. And now, sending him back my phone number, I thought, “Well, you found her!”

He had used my nickname, and asked how many Isidra Persons could there be? If this was me, would I please let him know where his daughter was? I was so excited I called my sister and giddy, we called my niece. She was ecstatic, but at that point all we could do was wait because Classmates does not give your info out…you have to log on to get your messages. We did not have to wait long–the very next day I heard this familiar voice over the phone yelling “Family!” He was so excited he could barely contain himself. I then called my niece, who was shopping in a mall with her children, and connected the two. I was blessed to witness the excited awkwardness the two exuded as they reconnected.

The next Sunday, a Skype message popped up on my laptop. My niece has packed up her entire family and driven the four hours to visit her dad and her now six siblings, which she did not factor into her quest. Peering through the laptop webcam, for the first time in 30 years, I saw my brother-in-law and also his grown and growing children. They looked like variations of my niece. A talented group, the girls broke into three-part harmony. They were really good! And there was my niece who had basically been raised almost as an only child since her brother and sister out here were so much younger. Now she was surrounded by loving siblings and a doting father. I asked them to take a group picture, which they did and my niece emailed it to me. So,, a camera cell phone, a laptop and some patience all made this reunion possible. I wish I could show it to you!

One good thing about Facebook, is no matter how remarkable you think your life is, you are constantly reminded how remarkable everybody else’s is too: this one is going to Paris, that one is hanging out at the White House, the other is getting back in her groove while that one has a new baby or grandchild. The running status updates kind of remind me of the days back in Harlem when there were always these people standing on a soap box just talking to the world. It didn’t much matter if passersby listened, they just had to have their say.

No Meat, No Sugar
There’s this young mirror of my former self. She is working hard to set the world on fire. I hope hers is bigger than the bonfire I was able to set. She invited me to a gathering at her home, a sort of workshop in which she showed a clip form the movie “Eating.” Well, after seeing that, I have not eaten fowl or red meat. And I threw in sugar for good measure. But when I
stopped eating meat I started craving cheese and have been killing string cheese, cream cheese, cheddar, you name it. It might be a need for calcium. This can’t be good. Today I hope to eat raw and fresh and JUICE everything that doesn’t move.

When You Would Defend Them to the Death…

As you may know I teach developmental English to college freshmen. I love my students. They are a challenge. They are physically beautiful and full of hope. They feel like since they graduated high school they must be educated. But, after 12 years, their first step into college lands them in my lap. In 16 weeks, I am expected to whip their writing into shape for their collegiate studies. So all of us who teach in their program push, prod, cajole, threaten, reward, tutor and do whatever we can to prepare them for the next level, including accepting late work when they have a good excuse.

Enter the nicest student you ever wanted to meet. A sweet-faced, mid 20’s single mother who works all night at a full time gig. We all reach out to her because she is just that nice and you can tell she needs us. Last semester she really tried, but this semester, she was often disheveled, distracted and “off.”

This past Monday, another student sadly told me that my student would miss the midterm because her sister had been hit by a car. I called The Sweet One and left a reassuring message on her cell. The next afternoon (Tuesday) she called me while I was on the road and told me that her sister had died. We in our collegiate community sprang into action, discussing how we could raise funds, send flowers. I made a sympathy card for all the students to sign. When I brought the card in the next morning, I was explaining our mission to my first class when a student told me “Hey! That’s my cousin.” Alarmed, she ran outside to call her Mom. Upon returning, what she said next pierced my side and I bled throughout the day: “My Mom said she just saw [the girl who was deceased] AND SHE WAS FINE.”

Still giving “The Sweet One” the benefit of the doubt, I called her number to see why anyone would accuse her of lying about something so serious. An Aunt answered the phone in a major funk. When I asked her about the funeral arrangements she snapped “WHAT funeral arrangements?”

Just then, my morning student (the cousin) came in flanked by two of “The Sweet One’s” sisters. They were adamant that no one had died. They whipped out a cellphone, called my now souring student and jammed her for telling me their other sister had been killed. At first Sweetness denied it, but when they said “Stop lying! We have your teacher right here!” and then shoved the phone at me, all she could say was “I am sorry, but I lied.”

She lied. She lied. She lied and said her sister had been hit by a car and the next day called to say she had passed. Just to get out of the midterm, she lied. Because she has insisted on coming to school when I told her to take all the time she needed, I was about to hold her up as an example of students who persevered in the face of great personal tragedy. But all that was a lie.

Of course, Sweetness did not show up. Because some students were besides themselves with grief, I began explaining to the class, that it was all a lie. Incredulously, they did not want to believe me until I told them that she confessed. To me. They had been had, too.

I am not proud of telling you this next part, but, triggered by their reaction, I lost it. Through hot tears, I scolded her innocent classmates that I was disappointed. And hurt. I used the opportunity to preach to them the art of negotiation, and how we all fall behind but truth is always best. I scolded the students who had not yet taken the midterm who did not even bother to come and arrange something with me; about not taking no for an answer, and going up the ladder until you get satisfaction. About what my husband always says “stay on top of your work or it will stay on top of you.”

My innocents squirmed in their seats. By that time,the chair of the program made her way in and I was happy for the diversion. I started the monitor so they could get into the next part of the lesson and went outside to brief her.

Life went on but I guess you can tell I am still “bummed” about the whole thing. What needs to happen next is still up in the air. By the end of Spring Break, I need to have a plan. Your thoughts?

It’s March 23, 2009 and still young people need a reminder to turn around, straighten up and fly right. Below, click the link: Prison2-3-22-09 to listen to a compelling audio interview with young man — a father– who has a lot to say.

Thanks to Susette Fisher for this:

Prison2-3-22-09.mp3 – Talk:

Thanks so much for the interview!

Rene’s back from DC all aglow

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Socialism – The New Buzzword

Posted: February 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

You know, Kevin Ross has a most interesting article about the lack of talk show hosts that are anything but whites, males and conservatives The reason I see danger in this situation is this: If you ear hustle Rush Limbaugh or other pundits, you will keep hearing President Obama being labeled with the term “Socialism.”

Here Americans are bailing out greedy corporations and dittoheads are mad because when the president, like most Americans, wants to limit the salaries of CEOs to a half million dollars, conservative hosts label that socialism. Average callers joined the fray without once thinking that all federal money has strings attached. That is not socialism, that is good common sense. Amd if they don’t want the limitation, go get bailed out from elsewhere.

We surely had some great kumbaya election and inauguration days but they are surely behind us now. In order to correct the mess the country is in the president seems so embattled. It reminds me of the movie Jerry Maguire “Help me help you.”