Thursday, October 6, 2011
by Cyrus Webb
All of us want to feel as though we are living for something, that the time we have on this earth mattered and means something. For some this means finding somone who completes us and adds fulfillment to our lives like nothing else. Such is the case with LaShunda Lewis Jones.
At the young age of thirty-five the Mississippi native has experienced some of the highest of highs and life's lowest of lows. In 2004 she met the man she believed she would spend the rest of her life with. In December 2010 she found herself having to say goodbye after losing him to cancer. It is the life they lived in between those two dates that showcase what it means to make the most of each day and how to deal with events that threaten to destroy you.
"I met my husband (Tommy Jones) in September 2004," LaShunda told me. "He was a family-oriented person. Very quiet, not outgoing at all. We both had children, and we were both interested in making each other happy."
The two moved in with each other in September 2005, and for LaShunda it seemed as though everything was headed in the right direction. It was two years later, though, that the couple experienced what was to be a first in a series of setbacks.
"Tommy had been having a lot of stomach pain," LaShunda says. "It had been going on for over a year. In July 2007 he was admitted into the hospital and after a colonastomy it was revealed that he had stage four cancer." She was to learn later that at least four people in his family had passed due to cancer. One was even colon cancer.
The diagnosis had an immediate effect. "Tommy became really depressed after that," LaShunda told me. "From that time until he passed he was always having ups and down, good days and bad days. This is what people don't seem to understand. With cancer one day you are laughing and talking and having a blast, and the next day you are feeling so bad you can't get out of bed."
In spite of the cancer diagnosis and the realization of what the outcome might be, the two became engaged in July 2009. They had found something that they wanted to live for: each other. What did LaShunda think about when he proposed? "There was never a time when I thought I couldn't marry him," she says. "He would want to talk of what I would do if he didn't make it, but I tried to keep him positive. I was the support. 'Let's speak positive words,' I would say to him. 'We are going to get through this.' One day we were sitting down talking and he told me that this was a lot of emotional stress. 'The only thing I need for you to do is be there,' he said to me."
At this time even though LaShunda and Tommy had been told that he had stage four cancer, she still was holding out hope for the best. "It never dawned on me that stage four was the last stage of cancer," she said to me. "I really thought we had some hope until the very end."
Sadly, Tommy Jones lost his battle with cancer on December 27, 2010. Today LaShunda is still dealing with the loss of her husband and making sense of her life and how to move forward. "When a person you love has cancer the whole family has cancer," she told me. "When he was happy, I was happy. When he was sad, I was sad. I went with the flow. I don't think people understood what I was going through or what I am going through now."
As a person who has always seen herself as a believer, how has her faith held up during this process? "I feel like my faith was tested in many ways," she says. "The only thing I relied on was God and scriptures. I thought God would answer my prayers. As time went on I couldn't understand why Tommy wasn't getting better. I was praying 'Please, Lord, let him make it.' When he didn't I have to admit that I started to have some doubt about Him. I then began asking 'Are you up there? Are you hearing me?'"
"It's a lot of stress dealing with someone that ill, not knowing if they are going to get better or not. I would say whatever they want, do it. You never know if that is going to be the last moment or the last day. Don't take any moment for granted."
When asked was there ever a time when she thought about giving up, LaShunda's answer was quick and truthful. "Yes. Without a doubt. I went through the stage of I couldn't do it any more. It was all too much. I felt alone. It was like I was dealing with this by myself. What I wanted is for someone to relieve some of the stress from me. I wanted someone to understand what I was going through."
I think we can all understand the feelings behind LaShunda Lewis Jones' story. Learning to love yourself can be hard enough. Loving someone else can be almost impossible. As in LaShunda's case, however, the reward can be more than worth the risk, and what comes out of it might be a larger lesson and appreciation that we couldn't have even expected.
May we make it our goal to not only take that risk but be there for those who might be in need of that extra encouragement. That way we can make sure that no one feels as though they have to go through the dark days alone.
by Cyrus Webb
We are told that those that show themselves faith in that which is least will be faithful in much. I personally believe that, and I think that kind of faithfulness comes with determination, perseverance and a sense of loyalty that is sometimes hard to find.
There are examples, however, that should give us hope. Take Tran Myers for instance. Tran and I graduated from high school together in 1994 and though we didn't really keep in touch much over the years, both of us have been using our passion for what we love to help inspire other people. Mine was in the arts. For Tran, it was football. This led him to where he is now, a coach for the past couple of years with the Jackson Juggernauts.
Though only three years old, the Jackson Juggernauts has already begun to make a name for itself and rallied the support of Jackson, Mississippi along the way. According to Tran the owner of the team (Joseph Bean of Louisiana) was looking to put together a team that would give men an opportunity to play football and prepare for either entry into college or just help them in their training. Tran had been working with little league football for seven years at the time, and when Bean came to Jackson with the idea of bringing a minor league football team into the city my former classmate reached out, making himself available. "I would go over and run the scoreboard and clock for them," Tran told me. "I was just there to help do whatever they needed to be successful."
Tran explained to me that what the Jackson Juggernauts offer is an opportunity to help individuals who are ready and willing to help themselves. Those eligible are 18 years old and older. There is no real cut off for those who can join the Juggernauts. Some of the plays are between the ages of 40-45. "This is a real opportunity for the guys to get themselves in shape for a junior college or even a four-year college," Tran says.
Looking at what they have achieved in the past couple of years Tran says the guys putting in the effort is what is a welcome surprise for him. "They are trying to take advantage of the opportunity to get back on the field," he says "We are giving them a chance to be seen and heard as well as possibly pick their careers up off the ground."
What is expected of those who want to join the Jackson Juggernauts?
Well, it goes back to the faithfulness I spoke about earlier. Tran explains this way: "They need to basically come out to practice, meet with the coaching staff and be ready to work." He tells me that they have to filter through those who apply and make sure that they are giving the opportunity to those who will really appreciate it and not take advantage of the situation, thus hurting the rest of the team.
There is pressure for the coaches as well. "We want to make sure that we have all of our pieces lined up," he says. "We look at these guys as being two year players for this team. First year you should be getting into the groove of how we run the team, and the second year you should have everything mastered and ready to compete further. This can mean the opportunity to either get back in school or excel further in other ways."
No matter what they have accomplished so far, Tran is always pushing himself and the rest of the team each day. "We finished 10-2 last season," he told me, "but there was room for improvement." It boils down to the dedication aspect, being faithful in the small things. "If you can't do what it takes to be on board, we don't need you," Tran adds.
As with any endeavor in life there have been some body blows for those who make up the Jackson Juggernauts. In 2010 after winning the championship Tran told me that two coaches along with 25 members left and formed their own teams. Ironically they only lasted about 3 games, being "suspended for noncompliance of league rules." The motive for their departure? Money. I believe, though, that it would be fair to say they they showed the level of their faithfulness, nor lack of. As in any project that you devote your time and resources to, your intentions will dictate how far you are filling to go in order to see a favorable result. Tran agrees. After the departure of his fellow coaches and some of the players he helped groom, he understood an important lesson that he was then able to pass on. "If you are not in it for the right reason, you won't succeed," he says. "You can't deceive the guys or yourself. Conduct yourself as a professional at all times."
And so the Jackson Juggernauts move forward, ready for another year of challenges and endless possibilities. Along with them are coaches like Brant Covey, Travis Readus and Tran Myers ready to support and motivate them every step of the way. For those in the Jackson, Mississippi area or wherever the Juggernauts may be playing Tran offer this advice: "Come out and show that this is something that you love, something that is positive and brings people together. In order for us to hold that crown and to be looked at as a premier state, we have to get the word out. It's gong to open doors for these guys in the future."
Another great example of what can be accomplished when you remain faithful and open to the opportunities. For more information about the Jackson Juggernauts search them on Facebook visit http://jacksonjuggernauts.weebly.com. Tran Myers can be reached by email at email@example.com or at 601.665.7444.
Below you'll find the three recording artists chosen by Conversations' own Stanley Clark as September/October 2011's "Artists To Watch".
Group Name: Marie (Memphis,TN)
Current Project: "Marie"
Current Single: "Rock With You"
www.ravenrealan.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Rosemarie Ashley (St.Clair Shores,Mi)
Current Project: From Primal to Divine
Standout Single: Pay Day Blues
Name: Hiromi Kanda (Japan)
Current Project: Days Of Yesterday
Standout Single: All of me
Stanley Clark is the Asst. Music Editor for Conversations Magazine. Interested in being featured by Stanley Clark and his "Artists To Watch" column? Contact him directly by email at email@example.com or 601.832.0673. You can also find out more information about Stan by visiting www.forthepeopleproductions.com.
by Jo Ann Bender
There was a romantic fairy tale being spun in Europe before and during World War II.
Only honey blondes, reddish blondes, or young women with light chestnut hair were hearing this enchanting tale told by members of the SS and the Gestapo.
Shush! It was a secret, factual, able to be proven, but still few people heard the tale then or now.
It was told in the time of war and economic stress which made it so alluring. The story was about luxurious places in remote and sequestered places: hotels, ski resorts, palatial villas.
Those had been restructured and furnished with the most elaborate and often choice period antiques.
The food was plentiful, all you could want. You’d feel safe, away from the war, tucked behind ornate, curving and beautiful driveways that lead to beautiful building behind lovely guarded wrought-iron fences.
All you had to agree to do was to have a baby for Hitler’s Master Race. You could go away and enjoy the months before the birth at the home with its planned activities and could stay on for three more months. You could take the parcel or not. It was your decision.
Of course, you were one of the very special women who had passed the rigid rules for being allowed to stay once you arrived. Only forty percent passed for their Aryan purity. The father’s paperwork specified his paternity, his physical fitness so good, he had not even a dental filling, and heritage verified back several generations as pure Aryan, no other nationality to gum up the process.
You willingly signed the agreement to give the baby to a solid and upstanding childless German couple or to one of the father’s grandparents. That was the rule.
There excellent jobs waiting for your reentry to the world, too. It would give you warm, fuzzy feelings to hear that your child would be a leader in their new and pure Master Race.
No one knew it at the time you were giving the baby away, that the Third Reich wouldn’t continue its magnificent march to conquer the world.
Before the war started, Himmler thought ahead and planned how women in the conquered nations would take part. He sent men called talent scouts to Aryan-like nations, yes, even to the United States and to Canada, to take photos of prospects to put in the big black books with the SS logos embellished on the cover, the ones that matched the books with each page registering the birth of a Lebensborn child. When anyone referred to the conquest plan, Britain’s women for example were called: Blueberry.
Births were registered with the SS only, not the local government. The big books were guarded, kept secret. The address on the document for the father was usually that of an SS club.
Then things took a turn. The Allies were coming. The order came down from Hitler to close the homes and destroy all the books and records. The Lebensborn homes in other countries such as Norway, however, did not destroy the birth registries. Those still exist and those children have formed a support group and try to help one another locate their “true” parents, the mother sworn to secrecy under a Nazi dagger.
The children of the Lebensborn homes became an embarrassment to their mothers, or to the foster parents who tried keeping their birth a secret. The children had to ask why the names they were being called felt so terrible and why no one liked them.
To survive, a Lebensborn child often had little if any education, parental or community help. All they knew was that their life was one of torment, shunning and that they were often physically abused. It is terrible, but it is true, and being told in courtrooms around the world now as children born in the Lebensborn homes seek compensation for their tragic, conflicted lives, ones which started so magically.
Jo Ann Bender is the author of the book LEBENSBORN. You can find out more information about the book and her at http://tinyurl.com/authorjoannbender.
What makes me feel the way I do? Is it the inward or outward? My surroundings cause me to be surrounded.
Bars, fences, doors and wires. Am I really surrounded? Is my entrapment physical or mental?
My surroundings are of less than adequate conditions.
If I am to better myself then why am I not surrounded by the necessary materials to do so?
Surrounded on all sides, physically limited and mentally disturbed, I still try to strive!
Changing my surroundings doesn't change me being surrounded.
A direct contradiction to the normal train of thought. Placing tangibility on the word itself allows me to be free.
My surroundings are me. I take them everywhere I go. I surround myself with thoughts and dreams.
A proactive approach to a reactive situation. Why take what I can't give and give what shouldn't be taken.
Surroundings don't make a man or the opposite. A small piece to an unfinished puzzle.
Ignorance, deceit, hatred and evil are all a part of this inhumane, manmade society.
Drifted so far from the original intention. What can one to do cope? Getting by or getting away... what's better?
Surroundings are situational and sometimes unavoidable, circumstantial and always present.
Nevertheless the choice is yours. Surrounded is complete in and of itself but not an impossible feat.
A life-long fight won without on blow. Beaten but not broken
I control my surroundings and what I'm surrounded by has no control over me.
Have you ever wondered why, the cloud is in the sky?
And we're born on one day, just so we can die?
Have you ever stop to think, why red and white make pink and green and yellow make blue
But oil and water won't do?
Have you ever to stop to ponder why racism takes us under?
And lighting without rain is dry, so what would you call thunder?
Have you ever noticed people, whose goal in life is to deceive you?
Get mad when their attempts fail and their efforts are so feeble?
Have you ever had a mate, who made you feel so great?
But love was based on tangible things that they tried to mold like clay?
Have you ever seen a flower that springs up after a shower?
Only to vanish a little while later and die within an hour?
Have you ever taken a drink and then decided to think
That asking why is an empty question so get back to your routine?
Have you ever been asked a question by someone who didn't want the answer?
And telling the truth is just like lying because they took it as a damper?
Have you ever pontificated, the theory of rehabilitation?
And realized that if it doesn't come from within the same actions will be reciprocated?
Have you ever, have you ever, I'm pretty sure that you have.
Have you ever been asked have you ever or is it forever that you have?
Monday, October 3, 2011
He acts (HBO's The Wire), writes (autobiography THE TRUTH YOU CAN'T BETRAY),raps (mixtape JACK OF ALL TRAYS) and along the way inspires. Tray Chaney, the man Sister 2 Sister Magazine referred to as becoming an "Entertainment Renaissance man" earlier this year is now sharing a new single from his upcoming album DETERMINATION.
The song entitled "Reebok" puts a voice to the love affair Chaney has had with the brand since the late nineties. Produced by Don Cox, the hard-hitting beats provide the perfect platform for the artist to talk about the clothes and gear he rocks when on red carpets or just on his regular grind.
Listen to, download and share the single here: www.esnips.com/web/traychaneyreebok. To stay abreast of what's next for Chaney either in film, music or public appearances, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.