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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wake up your mind: Bluey, Maysa, and Khari rock Atlanta

If your mind, body and soul needed a shaking, you got jolted last night in the Cobb Energy Centre. The occasion was Jazz 91.9 WCLK's 37th Anniversary Benefit Concert which kicks off the metro's Memorial Day Weekend Jazz Festival activities. The Centre's John A. Williams Theatre, which seats 2,750, was sold out. Although the acoustics were a little hot, it was all good.

The night started off with a set by bassist Khari Cabral Simmons and guest soloist India Arie. Simmons and his group gave an outstanding performance, especially the percussionist who played the tambourine like I've never heard it played before - like it was a full drum set. "Steal Away" featuring the keyboard player was fantastic.

The main attraction, Incognito, was led by Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick. Incognito had a cadre of stand-alone, strong musicians with exceptional musical talents, including a horn section of three playing the flute, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone; Bluey on guitar; drummer, bass player, and keyboard player who changed up and played each other's instruments; and a singing trio of two sequined-clad women and a man who blew the vocals into another space.

Bluey gave his personal music history, of going to studio after saving up money from his forklift job in a lorry manufacturing plant. After running through his friend's music collection, he got a job at a record shop where he had access to the world's greatest collection of new albums. His favorites were Stevie Wonder and a host of Brazilian basso nova artists, especially Antonio Carlos Jobim. The crowd went wild and stood for several minutes after engaging in the group's rendition of a song with a Latin beat.

Bluey also delved into the personal life of Maysa. "I told my manager to find me a lead vocalist, and he gave me Maysa. She came to the London airport with $3, looking for someone named 'Bluey.' The airport officials thought she was out of her mind," he said.

After joining the group, Maysa became romantically involved with the percussionist while touring Europe. "He ordered breakfast in French, lunch in Italian, and dinner in Spanish. I gave him everything," she told the audience. When Bluey wrote her a letter stating his concerns about the relationship, it was too late. The letter became the lyrics to "Deep Waters." Maysa's onstage performance of the song was smoking.

The audience participation moment came with the performance of a Stevie Wonder song, "Don't you worry about a thing." Bluey ended the set with some spiritual and racial advice, stating people should come together despite differences in colors and creeds. "Wake up your mind," he said. Quoting the Funkadelics, he concluded the show by saying, "We are one nation under a groove." The after party was held at Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint on Peachtree Street.

The night was dedicated to the late Ken Batie, WCLK's DJ and music aficionado, who died from injuries sustained in a car wreck in 2007. (Picture of Batie during Wednesday Winddown in Centennial Park featuring Maysa in 2002.)

Incognito, a "smooth jazz/funk/R&B" group, formed under the leadership of Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick in 1980 in Great Britain. Bluey also arranges for Chaka Khan, Philip Bailey, and George Benson. "We are teachers, healers. I certainly see myself as much more of a healer than an entertainer."

Maysa Leak earned a degree in classical performance from Morgan State University. Maysa began singing with Incognito after auditioning over the telephone. After touring the world and making recordings with the group, she released several solo albums. Her newest album is "Woman in Love."

Khari Cabral Simmons is co-founder of the soul group Sirius B. Project and holds a BA degree in music composition from Morehouse College. He has also performed with Donnie, Roy Ayers and his own band, Jiva, and opened for vocalist Sade and trumpeter Russell Gunn. He specializes in dance floor samba.

WCLK, one of the last pure jazz radio stations in the U.S., receives funding from the government and supplements expenses with sponsorships and memberships. It is affiliated with Clark Atlanta University. To learn more, contact Reggie Hicks, development director, at 404-880-8273.
©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Are you ready for a disaster?


With the recent wave of natural disasters and the forecast of more to come, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has launched an initiative known as Ready America: Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.

In the event of a hurricane, flood, tornado, or wildfire, here are some preparedness safety tips.

Get a Kit.
Have food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days.
Have the following, possibly stored in a basement location: battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio, batteries for both, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit and book, whistle to signal for help, dust mask, plastic sheeting and duct tape, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, can opener for food, local maps, cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger, prescription medications and glasses, formula and diapers for babies as well as pet food, medications, and extra water for your pet; important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container, cash or traveler's checks and change, sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person, complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes; chlorine bleach for disinfectant or to treat water, and medicine dropper, fire extinguisher, matches in a waterproof container, feminine supplies and personal hygiene items, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels, paper and pencil; books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Make a Plan.
Identify an out-of town contact. Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. Subscribe to alert services, a system in many communities that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc.

Be Informed.
"Learn more about the potential emergencies that could happen where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them. In addition, learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. Emergency preparedness is no longer the sole concern of earthquake prone Californians and those who live in the part of the country known as 'Tornado Alley.' For Americans, preparedness must now account for man-made disasters as well as natural ones. Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count."

Fore more information, go to

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Church of God adds 440 ministers and spouses to leadership roll

While some doomsday seekers were waiting for the world to end on May 21st, others were answering the call to ministry at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., being commissioned to lead themselves and others spiritually.
Scene outside church

Cleveland is the international headquarters of the Church of God (COG), a Holiness Pentecostal organization. Lee University is the denomination's affiliated school. The church has just over 1 million members in the U. S., and another 5 million throughout the world.

The commissioning ceremony was held on the Lee University campus.

Culpepper is a dynamic speaker.
"I don't think we will run out of preachers anytime soon," said one minister in the audience who has led mission trips to Jamaica and Haiti. COG has international students in Canada, Kenya, and Zambia.

General Overseer Raymond F. Culpepper gave the commissioning address and anointed the graduates of the Ministerial Internship Program (MIP) who came from several states. The title of his sermon was, “The Dynamics of Spiritual Leadership.” The bible was his playbook, and he quoted scripture after scripture, word for word, talking without the assistance of notes or prompters.

“Without spiritual leadership, there can be no spiritual accomplishments,” Culpepper said. “We live in a culture of postmodernism…relative truth…political correctness…Don’t wear you faith badge in your undergarments,” he said. "Stand up for the truth."

The audience was engaged.
Culpepper urged new ministers to dig deep into the bible and not be scared when adversity and criticism of their leadership comes, which he claimed was inevitable. Some verses quoted included Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 23:11, Joshua 1:8, Psalms 1:1, Jeremiah 29:11, John 15:5, Philippians 1:6, and Philippians 3:12.

Culpepper said leading in its highest form means becoming a disciple. “Following Christ is a servant-hearted art,” he said.

Bishop Glenn McNeill (l) and wife Evelyn (2nd from r) stand with Stanley (2nd from l) and Erica Dawn Griffin (r) after ceremony. “After God’s call, I moved,” Erica Griffin said.

Each graduate was given a 700-page book, "The Great Commission Connection," edited by Culpepper. The organization’s next major event will be its National Haitian Convention in Boston, Mass., May 27-29.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

AME leadership moves forward at conference

Do not use without permission.

May 14-20, 2011 heralds the 137th session of the Atlanta North Georgia Annual Conference, Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. The session is being held at the historic Big Bethel AME Church in downtown Atlanta on Auburn Avenue. Approximately 400 preachers, delegates, and members are in attendance.

As with any membership organization, it takes strong leaders to be successful. This is also the case for the AME church, founded by black Christians lead by Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pa. They began their mission of saving souls after being denied the right to pray with white congregants in 1816.

Do not use without permission.
Rev. Gregory V. Eason, Sr. of Big Bethel in Atlanta is the conference’s hosting minister.

“We have excellent leadership in Bishop William Phillips DeVeaux who is doing an outstanding job leading the AME Church in Georgia. Our churches are really doing a magnificent job of evangelism. We are really privileged at Big Bethel to host the conference, and we just thank God for the opportunity to serve.”

Do not use without permission.
Bishop William Phillips DeVeaux of the 6th District moderates sessions and accepts church reports.

As church pastors are bid to make their reports by Bishop William Phillips DeVeaux, Presiding Prelate of the District, it becomes evident that certain qualities of leadership, project and financial management skills, and number of members added to each church roll are under scrutiny.

Do not use without permission.
Rev. Michelle Rizer- Pool, senior pastor of Mount Zion AME Church in Shady Dale, said she continually prayed and fasted before coming to the week-long event when annual determinations are made as to new pastor assignments.

“I prayed that the conference would be one of spiritual development, encouraging, supportive, and all about God. When the last Amen is done at this conference, we will still feel like Martin Luther said, ‘… in this world as far as spirituality, but we’re also in the physical world,’ so, therefore, we have to learn how to blend the two.”

Rizer-Pool, who at one time only had three members in her church, has some advice for women wishing to enter ministry:

“Know without a doubt that you’re called, and when you make that commitment to the Lord, understand the meaning of ‘shepherd’ behind Psalm 23,” she said which includes being committed to feeding, leading, and guiding people, regardless of their human frailties.

“My favorite song is, ‘I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,’ and that’s who walks with me daily. If you are committed, the Lord will continually bless you,” she said.

Compassion, humility, prayer and married life, as well as singing ability of pastors were noted along with their ability to manage construction and outreach programs. Managing church mortgage debt is not a direct reflection on pastors but is the charge of the trustee board.

Do not use without permission.
Finance Committee Members

If a pastor is not in agreement with the trustee board or members, letters are often written to thwart his or her return, and reassignments are recommended. One attendee was alarmed that some members were asking for the reassignment of her pastor, and she accused the AME leadership of being like the “black mafia.”

“Some preachers just don’t know how to talk to people,” she said.

Do not use without permission.
Rev. Conitras Houston, Bishop DeVeaux's administrative assistant, and Navy Lt. Chaplain Ammie Davis, a “Global Force for Good”

Spiritual guidance of ministers is also scrutinized. “The Word has been taught and preached every Sunday,” was one delegate’s response when asked to give a report of his pastor’s work ethic. One preacher reported that he has a conference call and prays with board members every morning at 5:45 a.m.

The most frequently mentioned improvements were air conditioning projects, missions to Africa, green space and recycling programs, and growth of church schools and senior facilities. Churches in the district have assets in buildings set for demolition as well as facilities insured for over $5 million that may include up to 140 acres of undeveloped land. Other major projects include senior citizen housing developments worth $30 million which are eligible for government tax credits.

Do not use without permission.

A post-planning meeting to go over lessons learned from the conference is scheduled at Big Bethel on May 21.

Attendees take a break from sessions to meet and greet each other.
Do not use without permission.

Delegate Willie Mae Crump of Allen Temple in Woodstock said she enjoys church conferences because of the many ideas given to expand ministries and improve the spiritual life of people in her community.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Georgia's immigration law: ruse to keep wages low and racial tensions high

(Photo from Stacey Evans' campaign website.)
I had the chance to meet Georgia State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-40) earlier this year, was impressed with her knowledge on issues, and asked her to comment on Georgia's new law.

"Illegal immigration is a problem. Nobody is going to say that it's not. I don't think this bill that was signed into law was the best way to deal with it, though.

"The reason why the bill passed is because the Republican base was calling for it. It's sorta like that's their red meat for this legislative session. They had to throw the base something.

"The law enforcement piece is just hateful. If you want to get rid of illegal immigration, if you want to stop people from coming here illegally, you get at the source of the problem: the availability of jobs for undocumented workers - beginning and end of story.

"If we continue to deal with it on the law enforcement end and by trying to cut off services to these people, we are treating symptoms. They don't have good hospitals or schools in countries that they are coming from, so if we tell them that we're not going to give you a pass to our hospitals and schools, they're not going to care. That's not going to make a difference to them.

"They are coming here because of the availability of jobs. If we stop and focus on that, we will get rid of our problem. This bill didn't go far enough in addressing that, in my opinion.

"Every employer should be responsible for verifying status of employees, no matter how many employees they have. And if they are caught employing undocumented immigrants, then there should be serious fines used as a deterrent, and people won't be profiting for hiring workers at $2 per hour.

"It also has to apply to contractors. This bill does not address contract workers at all. If you have less than 10 workers, you don't have to E-Verify. Those are huge loopholes that swallow the law."

Learn from history.
On December 20, 1828, the Georgia legislature enacted a series of laws outstripping the Cherokee of their rights to live and hunt on native lands. When Cherokee Indian Chief John Ross and his delegation failed to successfully negotiation the matter, it was challenged in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Cherokee Nation asked for an injunction, claiming that Georgia's state legislation had created laws that "go directly to annihilate the Cherokees as a political society." They asked the Court to void all Georgia laws extended over Cherokee lands on the grounds that they violated the U.S. Constitution, United States-Cherokee treaties, and United States intercourse laws. The court refused to hear the case.

Thousands of Indians were relocated from their homelands by the Indian Removal Act. Many died on the Trail of Tears because the white man desired their land and President Jackson ordered it.
(Info from Wikipedia and published through a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spotlight on world's richest man: Billionaire Carlos Slim Helu

Who holds the most assets? A Mexican.

According to Forbes Magazine, the richest man in the world is Mexico City-born entrepreneur and philanthropist Carlos Slim Helu. With all the talk about Latinos being the dirty job and low wage earners in the U.S., Helu defies stereotypes and is no "dumb Mexican."

For more information on Helu's amazing story, go to, and

Monday, May 16, 2011

Georgia Gov. Deal heads to Europe; immigration law debate heats up

On the same day Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the immigration bill, he announced his trip to Europe to drum up business. Go figure...he's on his way to England, Germany, and Austria. A press release announcing the trip can be viewed at:

The trip was announced on Thursday, May 12, one day before H.B. 87, Georgia's Immigration Bill, was signed into law by Deal. Read the Southern Poverty Law Center's response at

While some say the bill was passed because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not been doing its job, ICE reported that they were investigating a huge heroin and cocaine operation in the Port of Savannah that week.

Check out the Georgia Latino politicians response to law at:

The Georgia General Assembly Legislative website summarizes the bill which will go into affect in July:

"A BILL to be entitled an Act to enact the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011"; to amend the O.C.G.A., so as to provide for definitions; to provide for a private cause of action; to require private employers to use an employment eligibility verification system and provide for civil penalties; to provide for offenses; to provide for the investigation of illegal alien status; to provide authority for law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws and to provide immunity; to provide for civil and criminal penalties; to modify provisions relating to training peace officers; to establish grant funding; to provide for the verification of the immigration status of foreign nationals; to provide that counties shall receive additional funding for confinement of state inmates; to require proof that private businesses are participating in the employment eligibility verification system; to provide for identification cards; to enact the "Secure and Verifiable Identity Document Act"; to provide for related matters; and for other purposes."

Check out comments on Georgia's new immigration law at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breaking news: Memphis high school wins Obama challenge

President Obama's Commencement Challenge has been won by Booker T. Washington High School, "Home of the Warriors" in Memphis, Tenn. The school is one of six finalist schools.

By winning the Challenge, President Obama will speak at the school's commencement on or around May 20, 2011.

For more information, go to the school's website at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chase and NACA renew relationship to stop foreclosures

Bruce Marks, CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), sent Chase mortgage loan homeowners a congratulations message tonight regarding NACA's recent initiatives to stop foreclosures.

This move was made a week after many homeowners received property assessments which showed a decrease in housing values due to the recession and other economic factors. According to the Los Angeles County Assessor's Office, "Decline-in-value reassessments are not permanent, but last at least one year."

NACA is working with Chase to help provide homeowners affordable mortgage loan modifications. For more information, go to NACA's website at

Homeowners facing foreclosure can also attend U.S. Housing and Urban Development workshops. For more information, go to (PHOTO: HUD "Sustainable Homeownership" Foreclosure Prevention Workshop In Atlanta)

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Auto fire season starts in June

Summer is fast approaching, and peak vacation driving time can unfortunately mean a greater chance of automobile fires happening on major highways. On May 8, 2011 in the northbound lane of I85 near Exit 13 in Georgia at 6:40 p.m., a truck’s cab was completely engulfed in flames. This was not a drill. (Photo by Tomi Johnson)

Police were on the scene in advance of a fire truck. Chief Jerry Heard of the Troupe County Fire Department gave the following information on the fire.

“The cab of a truck hauling a horse trailer carrying five dogs caught fire. The owner of the truck stated that he saw smoke coming from under the hood and pulled over. There were no human injuries, and the animals were o.k. The fire was extinguished by the fire department.”

If you come upon a vehicle fire, Chief Heard gives the following advice: “Notify 911 immediately, whether you know if emergency personnel are in route or not. Let the firefighters do their job. In these types of situations, pure adrenaline sets in, and citizens want to help. Our main mission is to save lives and property,” Heard maintained.

“If your own automobile is on fire, get out of the car and call 911. I have witnessed several automobile fires in my tenure with the fire department, and this is a dangerous situation, but we’re trained in what to do,” Heard said.

Photo courtesy of Troupe County, Ga. Fire and Emergency Rescue

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a Division of FEMA, reports that approximately one in six fires is a highway vehicle fire. Highway vehicle fires occur in passenger vehicles 84 percent of the time, while 57 percent of fatal vehicle fires are the result of a collision.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a vehicle fire occurs once every two minutes, and more people die from highway auto fires than from apartment fires. A fire extinguisher should be a part of your car’s safety kit.

Deaths from vehicle fires peaked in 1985, with 770 deaths attributed to vehicle fires. In 2009, there were 260 deaths and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. For more information on this subject, go to

USFA Director of Public Affairs Thomas Olshanski and Statistician Gail Kelch helped with this article as well as Matt Kilgallen with the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commission.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are blacks the original Jews?

It has long been said that Jews are "God's chosen people," that blacks developed the Jewish religion, and Jesus, with his sheep-like hair, was black. If true, African Americans would be heirs to God's blessings and prosperity, not the inheritors of poverty and mis-education.

Perhaps the best known black Jew was the late Sammy Davis, Jr., an entertainer. Photo credit: Alan Light- 1989.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the late Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew, who founded the Commandment Keepers Congregation in Harlem, N.Y. in 1919, believed blacks were the original Jews.

Are we religious cousins of Adelson, Abramovich, Bloomberg, Ellison, and Zuckerberg? How does an African American trace his lineage back to Abraham, and why would it be important to do so?

"The possible origins of these Hebraic traditions could be traced to West Africa where a number of tribes have customs so similar to Judaism that an ancient connection or maybe even descent from one of the 'ten lost tribes' is believed," said Rabbi Sholomo Ben Levy in an article on the Library's website.

And when one can trace their linage several generations, a sense of community and contributions to humanity can be valued. Because of the slave trade, this human connection to history has been lost and our contributions denigrated.

Perhaps if we could prove a connection, that we are indeed God's people and follow his commandments given to Moses, we can reclaim our heritage and stature in the world. Maybe the veil can be lifted. Maybe white Jews would embrace us and let us into banking, mining, and diamond industries.

Wikipedia states, "American Jews are disproportionately represented in business, academia and politics. Forty-five percent of the top 40 of the Forbes 400 richest Americans are Jewish." Of those listed, none appear to be African American.

If you are African American and wish to research your Jewish ancestry, you can start with the JewishGen Family website at You can also get information on well known Jewish families who built world finance, like the the Klabins, the Rockefellers, and the Rothschilds.

We need not follow, though, in the footsteps of high financial mismanagement and greed exhibited by the Maddoffs and the Lehman Brothers. We should use our religion, knowledge and connections to uplift and save our people while worshiping and giving honor and glory to God.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Breaking News: Power back on in Huntsville, Ala.

After days without power, electricity has been restored in parts of the city. Funerals are being held or are planned for the weekend. Many are grateful to be alive.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Breaking News: Obama announces "Justice has been done"

While "The Donald" was talking about birth certificates the last few weeks, President Barack Obama was reviewing military intelligence and tracking Osama bin Laden, a "mass murderer" of our citizens. Without a hearing, Obama, who is also a lawyer, said the nightmarish debt which began on September 11, 2001 has been paid.

The President asked for unity and commitment to our ideals as he spoke words confirming that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. military forces today in Pakistan. May Day 2011 will go down as a glorious time, marking victory over terrorism.

At the same time, the U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory through August 1, 2011 that can be viewed at

One hour ago, media was informed that President Barack Obama was going to make a statement concerning national security. People immediately speculated that his message would deal with Libya. Others were saying that perhaps bin Laden had been found, aliens had landed...

Now they have announced bin Laden is dead after being killed in a firefight when no U.S. casualties occurred. One wonders what was known last week when the national security players in Obama's administration were changed, or when the security coding system was altered.

As I watched the players change hands in last week's press conference, I thought Obama looked really confident but had no idea he was keeping this kind of news secret under his belt.

One also wonders if this info. was known when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced they were postponing their honeymoon.

How will this affect our world or how Obama leads? Is this a retaliation game changer? Will this be a more peaceful or dangerous world? And what will "The Donald" and the Tea Party members say now? Do they have egg on their faces???

New security alerts have been announced in light of these developments. Some religious critics are also saying that Obama should not have retaliated against bin Laden for 9/11 and as a mostly Christian country, we should have let God handle him. For now, though, the world is celebrating the victory of our U.S. Commander-in-Chief and his armed forces.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.