Why we need Black History Month

Also called African American History Month, I wrote about this last year, and I will write about it again. As I see it, this will be a long-standing debate Black History between races, on our end, a debate of the ignorant. This time of year, without fail, someone on Facebook will post, “Why do we need Black History Month?” The formation of what would eventually be known as Black History Month began way back in 1915, a creation of minister Jesse E. Moorland and historian Carter G. Woodson. It’s a way of promoting the accomplishments of African Americans.

Back to the “why?” Have you ever heard of Claudette Colvin? Lewis Latimer? Daniel Hale Williams?  Frederick McKinley Jones? No? This is why we need Black History Month.

Claudette Colvin: Black History Claudette ColvinAt the age of 15, Colvin refused to move to the back of the bus, nine months before Rosa Parks did the same. The young activist studied the Jim Crow Laws and black leaders such as Harriet Tubma
n in school, which prompted her actions. The bus incident landed the teenager in jail. Colvin, along with Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith, three other women discriminated against as a result of the segregation policy of the Montgomery bus system, went to court to challenge the law. That case, Browder v. Gayle, eventually ended up in the United States Supreme Court which ordered the state of Alabama (and Montgomery) to desegregate its buses.Black History Lewis Latimer

Lewis Latimer: Latimer was an inventor and engineer. After an honorable discharge from the navy, he took a job at a patent law firm as an office boy. By observing the draftsmen at work, he taught himself mechanical drawing and drafting. His bosses noticed his talents and promoted him to draftsman. He designed a number of inventions, and eventually found himself working with Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Latimer drafted the patent for the telephone, and ended up inventing a light bulb that outlasted Edison’s original.

Black History Daniel Hale WilliamsDaniel Hale Williams: Williams, or as he was called, Dr. Dan, was a surgeon in Chicago. Though he himself found success, he realized the lack of medical training for black doctors and nurses and deficiency in medical care for blacks. At the time, blacks were barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. In 1891, Dr. Dan founded Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the first interracial hospital and medical training facility. In 1893, Williams also performed one of the first successful open heart surgeries.

Frederick McKinley Jones: On his own from age 11, Jones did odd jobs to survive. He became adept at mechanics, and while working at a garage, continued to read up on the subject to improve his craft. Eventually his skills landed him a job on a farm where he taught himself about electronics. He began inventing machines when doctors needed a way to make house calls in the snow. He attached skis to the undercarriage of an old airplane body and a propeller to a motor.  His “Snow Machine” easily got doctors to their destinations. He continued to invent, including a portable x-ray machine, a radio transmitter, and a device to combine sound with motion pictures. He patented more than 60 inventions, most of them were in refrigeration. Jones was responsible for advances in truck refrigeration, enabling the long-haul transportation of perishable goods. This helped greatly during World War II for the preservation and transportation of blood, medicines, and food to the battlefield and hospitals.

Want another? Read my blog about Bessie Coleman. This is just a handful of the profusion of great, but little known, African Americans that have made history.

Have you learned something? American history classes somehow seemed to omit the accomplishments of great African Americans – those who made advances in science, the creators and innovators, the artists and musicians, the ones who championed for civil rights, those whose contributions helped shape our American culture. Theirs is a history that should be learned and integrated with the rest of American history, as it is prolific with stories of possibility, aspiration, adversity, success, and inspiration.

The relevance of Bessie Coleman

 

In these times in which women march for their freedoms, fear for their rights, and fight against a tyrannical regime, it’s good to remember those that came before. So many women have made great strides toward equality and have inspired not just women, but all who have faced oppression, to chase their goals and dreams. Once such woman was Bessie Coleman, whose 125th birthday is today.

If you don’t know who Bessie Coleman was, you are missing out. She was the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license. The daughter of impoverished sharecroppers, she was one of 13 children. She grew up during a time when lynching was commonplace, blacks were barred from voting, and segregation was a way of life.

Her first school was a one room shack that often couldn’t even afford paper or pencils. At 12 years old, Coleman attended the Missionary Baptist Church in Texas. After graduating, she spent one year at a college in Oklahoma, then eventually ended up in Chicago living with her brothers and working as a manicurist.

Wild stories of flying exploits from returning World War I pilots captivated Coleman and inspired her to become an aviator. Taunting from her brother about how French women were better than black women because they could fly spurred her on even more. She saved her money and applied for flight school. However, every school she submitted to turned her down. She had two strikes against her – her race and her gender. There were very few female pilots at the time, and those were primarily white and wealthy.

bessie colemanUnder the advice and with backing of Robert Abbott a lawyer, newspaper publisher, and one of the first African American millionaires, Coleman learned French and moved to France to attend the Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation. She had her international pilot’s license within seven months.

One of Coleman’s goals upon returning to the US was to start a flight school for African Americans. Instead, she became a daring stunt pilot, specializing in aerial tricks and parachuting. She became a popular performer to crowds of thousands, with many reporters and dignitaries in attendance. While she didn’t open a flight school, she used her celebrity status to encourage other African Americans to fly and also refused to perform at locales that denied admission to members of her race.

On April 30th, 1926, at the age of 34, Bessie Coleman took her last flight. While flying with another pilot in preparation for an airshow, a wrench became lodged in the control gears causing the plane to plummet toward the ground. Coleman was thrown from the plane and fell to her death.

Coleman’s funeral was attended by approximately 10,000 including many prominent African Americans. Suffragist, feminist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells presided over the service.

The plight of Bessie Coleman is still relevant. Female and African American pilots are still rare, not only in the United States, but worldwide. 90% of pilots are white and just above 5% are female.

An inspiration still to this day, Coleman defied gender and racial barriers, becoming a symbol of equal rights for all. Coleman is proof, that as an African American and a woman, dreams are attainable.

“Because of Bessie Coleman, we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.” ~ American engineer, soldier, civil aviator and author William J. Powell

9 little known facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

Many of us enjoyed the day off Martin Luther King Jryesterday in honor of, Martin Luther King Jr. We know about his March on
Washington and his “I Have a Dream” speech, but here are a few other things you may not know about this great civil rights leader.

  1. His birth name was Michael. When his father, who was a pastor, traveled to Germany, he was inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. He decided to change his own name and that of his son.
  2. King was so gifted that he skipped two grades and entered Morehouse College as a freshman at age 15.
  3. Before entering Morehouse, he had no intention of following the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather to become a minister. Theologian Benjamin E. Mays urged him otherwise and King was ordained before he graduated college.
  4. King’s civil rights actions led to his arrest 29 times. His arrests included acts of civil disobedience, but also Martin Luther King Jr Arrestfalse charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.
  5. Martin Luther King Jr. survived an earlier assassination attempt. While at a book signing in Harlem Izola Ware Curry plunged a seven inch letter opening into his chest. He had to endure hours of emergency surgery to repair the damage.
  6. Alberta Williams King, Martin’s mother, was also killed by a bullet. As she played the organ at a Sunday service, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and fired shots. One of the bullets struck and killed King. She died steps from where her son used to preach.
  7. In 1993, then president Ronald Reagan signed the bill that created the national holiday in honor of King. George Washington is the only other American whose birthday is observed as a national holiday.
  8. In 1963, he was the first African American to be named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. IN fact, he is one of only two African Americans to receive the honor. The other is Barack Obama, who was named twice.

 

Avoiding unethical attorneys

ambulance chaserPersonal injury attorneys hate hearing phrases like “Ambulance Chasers” and don’t like being called sharks. Sadly however, there are unethical attorneys out there  and they give us all a bad name.  For instance, a New Jersey attorney and paralegal are in hot water for assisting a pair of chiropractors in the operation of a personal injury mill. The chiropractors, who were brothers, paid “runners” $1000 to obtain accident reports, find accident victims, then bring them in for treatment.  The attorney and paralegal involved paid the practicing brothers to meet with their patients and accept insurance settlements on their behalf. You can read more about this story here.

This type of solicitation is completely unethical per rules set by the American Bar Association.

Be wary if you are contacted by a personal injury attorney by the following methods:
  • In person, live telephone or real time electronic contact, unless the attorney is a family member, close friend, or you’ve had a prior professional relationship with the attorney.
  • The attorney tries to solicit a professional relationship in person, writing, or by recorded or electronic communication if you have already stated that you are not interested in their services.
  • By coercion, duress, or harassment.

Any unsolicited written, recorded or electronic communication from an attorney requesting to provide you with legal services must include “Advertising Material” on the outside of the envelope, and at the beginning and end of any recorded or electronic communication, unless, once again you are a family member, friend, or have a prior professional relationship.

Exceptions to this would be:
  1. If the attorney is offering their services Pro Bono, or, free.
  2. If you subscribe to a prepaid or group legal service plan, such as LegalShield, you’ve requested assistance on a legal matter, and the attorney is a participating attorney under your plan.
The best ways to find an attorney are through:

If you’re approached by an attorney and their tactics seem questionable, they probably are. Attorneys who will disregard ethics to gain clients are only looking out for one person’s interests – their own.

Gift ideas for the attorney in your life

Do you have an attorney on your holiday gift giving list this year? Wondering what to buy them? Sometimes finding the right gifts for people in the legal field can be a task. Male attorneys probably have enough ties. We all have our favorite coffee mugs already. Those of us who have been in the field awhile more than likely don’t need anything for our desks. So, what’s left? Here are some unique gift ideas for the lawyers in your life.

Walk the walk briefcase
 Fun and games 
Pop Culture atticus finch
  • Better Call Saul print.
  • T-shirts: Atticus Finch, Olivia Pope, Patty Hewes, Ally McBeal, Alan Shore, Charles Kingsfield, Perry Mason etc.
Read and Watch
Office or home decor
Health
Subscription Services

 

I hope that gives you some ideas. Do you have any to add? If you’re an attorney, what was one of the best gifts you ever received?

 

 

Be thankful and donate

thanksgiving-1060123_960_720Thanksgiving is upon us, as is Black Friday, the launch of the holiday shopping season. If you’re able, don’t forget those less fortunate than yourselves. Sometimes it’s hard to choose the right charity in which to donate your hard earned money; some of them may be less worthy than others, if legit at all. Luckily there are organizations out there that will do the legwork for you to find just the right organization to suit your needs.

Guidestar 

Guidestar is a public charity that collects, organizes, and presents information about non-profits in an easy to understand format, so that you may make an informed decision before you donate. They provide information regarding each nonprofit’s mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and among other things. They don’t give an opinion, just facts. Their service is free of charge.

They operate from membership programs, grants and they do take contributions. They also offer subscriptions and licensing fees which allows users a little more depth to their services such as benchmarking multiple organizations, verifying charitable statuses, accessing compensation information and interpreting financial data.

Philanthropedia

Philanthropedia is a division of Guidestar. Their mission is to improve nonprofit effectiveness by directing money to and facilitating discussion about expert recommended high-impact nonprofits, to inspire giving and improving non-profit effectiveness.

Philanthropedia surveys experts such as foundation professionals, researchers, and nonprofit senior staff,
who then recommends nonprofits based on their impact and other money-652560_960_720organizational strengths. Their website is loaded with non-profits from many sectors including cancer, wildlife, arts and culture, emergency response, LGBT equality and support and more.

Great Nonprofits

Great Nonprofits is a review site where people can find, review and share information about nonprofits and charities. So these will be real stories by real people who will have people who have volunteered or donated to nonprofits, as well as stories of people who have benefited from their services.

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator is a charity and nonprofit evaluator. Their professional analyze organizations and use their findings to develop  an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess America’s charities, both the best known and the lesser known.

The rating system specifically examines two broad areas of a charity’s performance; their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency. The ratings show those who donate how efficiently they believe a charity will use their support, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time and their level of commitment to good governance, best practices and openness with information.  They do this so that those who make donations can make intelligent giving decisions, and so that the nonprofit sector can improve its performance.

If you don’t want to do research, Consumer Reports posted an article showing the best and worst charities for your donation. From animal welfare to veterans, the article lays out which organizations are worthy of your philanthropy, and the ones from which you should stay away.

These are just a few of the organizations that want to help you make an informed decision before you donate. There are many more.  Volunteerism and philanthropy are important to my family and me. If you want to give locally, feel free to peruse my “Community” page where I have a listing of organizations to which I donate and volunteer.

From my family to yours, have a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family and friends. If you’re going  shopping on Black Friday, be safe and remain sane. Don’t forget those things you were thankful for the day before, and the people who go without every day of the year.

Death of Attorney General Janet Reno

attorney general janet renoJanet Reno, our first female Attorney General, has died at age 78 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. While serving as Florida’s State Attorney in Miami, she was nominated by Bill Clinton, and served under his presidency for almost eight years.She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1995, but she didn’t let it slow down her efforts to improve the justice system.

The much-parodied Reno faced criticism and controversy during her stretch as Attorney General.

She authorized the assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, after a 51 day stand off, resulting in approximately 80 deaths. She publicly expressed regretting her decision and called that day, “The worst day of my life,” and said in an interview with NPR, “We’ll never know whether it was a mistake or not, in one sense. But knowing what I do, I would not do it again. I would try to figure another way.”

She again received criticism in her handling of six-year-old Cuban immigrant Elian Gonzalez. The boy was found off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in November 1999 – the only survivor among a group of 13 Cuban migrants trying to make it to the US. The group included his mother and stepfather. A custody dispute followed between Gonzalez’s relatives in the US and his father in Cuba. Though Elian’s U.S. relatives lost the custody battle, local officials did not enforce the ruling. Reno authorized an armed seizure of the boy so he could be returned to his father in Cuba.

During her time at the White House she also found herself involved with the Clinton’s scandals – Filegate, Whitewater, the Monica Lewinsky affair.Her refusal to authorize an independent counsel investigation of contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign after Justice Department lawyers concluded no crime had been committed by either the president or vice president enraged some Republicans to the point that they demanded her impeachment. She wasn’t afraid to face her critics. Eventually, the impeachment attempts were dropped.

Reno had to make hard decisions as Attorney General and not all of them concluded favorably. Though she faced much criticism for her mistakes, we can’t deny her accomplishments, which include:

  • The capture and conviction of Unabomber, Ted Kaczynki.oklahoma city bombing
  • The capture and conviction of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • The capture and life-sentences of the five people who conducted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
  • Capture and conviction of Mir Aimal Kasi for the 1993 shootings at CIA Headquarters which resulted in two deaths.

During her tenure as Attorney General, Reno enforced national policies on crime, race relations, and immigration – many issues that affect ordinary US citizens. Her efforts included reforming criminals, providing treatment for drug offenders and providing citizens with better access to the justice system. She supported gun control, environmental protections, women’s rights, LGBT rights, civil rights and equal opportunities for all. Reno pushed hard for reform to help troubled youth as early as possible to prevent them from becoming career criminals.

After her time at the White House, Reno ran for Governor of Florida but lost by a hair in the Democratic primary to Bill McBride 44% to 44.4%. Reno also served on the board of directors for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that helps exonerate the wrongly convicted through DNA testing. She received many professional awards for inspiring and leading others and for her contributions to the improvement of the justice system.

Her accomplishments far outweigh the errors she might have made as US Attorney General. She should be remembered as a trailblazer, a person of character who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, take responsibility for her mistakes, or poke fun at herself, someone who helped those that might have fallen through the cracks, someone who worked hard for equality and justice. In her own words, “Until the day I die, or until the day I can’t think anymore, I want to be involved in the issues that I care about.”

Rest in peace, Ms. Reno.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

sexual harassmentDonald Trump’s lewd video with Billy Bush once again brings his treatment of women to the forefront. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Donald Trump and his companies with regard to sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This isn’t breaking news either. Accusations against Trump and his upper echelon staff members date back at least 20 years.

Trump may make light of his behavior and call his vulgar conversation with Bush “locker room talk,” but sexual harassment and mistreatment of women is no laughing matter. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, even with legal protections, many employees still encounter this type of behavior in the workplace.

There are two types of sexual harassment.
  1. Quid pro quo:
    1. Submission to sexual harassment is a term or condition of employment.
    2. Submission to or rejection of such behaviors are used as a basis for employment decisions.
    3. Examples of Quid pro quo sexual harassment:
      1. Demanding sexual favors for a promotion or raise.
      2. Disciplining or firing a subordinate who ends a romance.
      3. Changing work standards after a subordinate refuses repeated requests for a date.
  2. Hostile work environment:
    1. Sexual harassment makes your workplace environment intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
    2. Examples of behaviors that can create a hostile environment:
      1. Verbal
        1. Sexual jokes or insults.
        2. Comments about a person’s body or sex life.
        3. Sexually demeaning comments.
      2. Non-Verbal
        1. Gestures or staring.
        2. Display of sexually suggestive or degrading materials.
        3. Giving sexually suggestive “gifts”.
      3. Physical
        1. Touching, hugging, kissing or patting.
        2. Brushing against a person’s body.
        3. Blocking a person’s movement.
What to do if sexually harassed at work
  1. Follow company policy: Look up your employer’s policy on sexual harassment and follow the procedures.
  2. Write everything down: Note the date, time, and place of each incident, what was said and done, and who witnessed the actions.
  3. Speak up: Let the other party know that his or her behavior is offensive and unwanted and ask them to stop.
  4. Tell a supervisor or human resources department: According to the Supreme Court, you must report sexual harassment before you can sue. Your employer needs a chance to fix the situation before taking the next step. Put it in writing as well. Everything should be documented.
  5. File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): If you’ve followed company policy and reported harassment at work and the employer doesn’t or won’t take action, file with the EEOC. The EEOC will notify your employer that you have filed a charge and will begin an investigation into your complaint. You are legally protected from retaliation if you file a harassment charge with the EEOC.
  6. Litigation: If the EEOC issues a “right to sue” letter, you may bring a civil lawsuit for any damages you suffered due to the sexual harassment. You do not need to show physical injuries.  The most common injuries in a sexual harassment case are the emotional injuries suffered by the victim.

 

Courts consider the following when ruling on a hostile work environment:
  1. Was the conduct verbal, physical, or both?
  2. Frequency of conduct in question.
  3. Was the conduct hostile or patently offensive?
  4. Is the alleged harasser a co-worker or supervisor?
  5. Did others joined in perpetrating the harassment?
  6. Was the harassment directed at more than one individual?
A legal recovery may include:
  • Reinstatement, if job loss occurred;
  • Back pay;
  • Damages for emotional distress;
  • Policies or training to stop harassment may be required of your employer; and
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs.

If you’ve been sexually harassed at work, whether man or woman, or same-sex harassment, don’t be afraid to report it. Retaliation is also unlawful under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Keep family and pets safe this 4th of July

fireworks safetyIndependence Day brings celebrations that include barbecues, picnics, trips to the beach and of course, fireworks. It’s not even July 4th and our nation has already seen numerous fireworks injuries and deaths. There are 230 fireworks related visits to the ER every day two weeks before and after the holiday, and more than 11,000 injuries per year.

The safest way to enjoy a fireworks display is to leave it to the professionals.

However, if setting off fireworks at home, abide by the following tips, most provided from the American Red:

  • Never give fireworks to small children, even sparklers. Sparkler burn at about 2000 degrees.
  • Always follow the package instructions.
  • Obey the law. Many cities have banned fireworks. If they are illegal, don’t use them.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • If lighting fireworks on grass or another ignitable surface, wet it first.
  • Ensure the person lighting the fireworks wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time.sparklers
  • Never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
  • Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, buildings, structures or flammable materials.
  • If consuming alcohol, stay away from the explosives.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by putting them in a bucket of water.
  • Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks.

The Red Cross also offers safety tips on grilling, beaches, and sun protection. They also offer a First Aid app which puts emergency advice at your fingertips.

And don’t forget about your pets this 4th of July.

Here are some tips from Pet MD regarding keeping pets safe and happy on the 4th.

  1. Keep your pet indoors. Fireworks can panic pets and may cause them to break restraints or jump a fence.
  2. If going to a firework display, leave your pet at home.
  3. The following can be toxic to pets:
    1. “People” insect repellent.pet safety
    2. “People” sunscreen.
    3. “People” food.
    4. Alcohol.
    5. Lighter fluid.
    6. Matches
    7. Citronella.
  4. In case your pet does somehow get out and run away, make sure they are properly identified with a microchip and/or ID tag. Keep a recent picture of your pets with you.
  5. Keep pets away from glow jewelry. While not highly toxic, if chewed or eaten they could still cause excessive drooling, gastrointestinal irritation, and blockage.

Happy Independence Day to all. Enjoy your long weekend, and keep your family and pets safe.

Some thoughts about life…

lifeLife is a wonder, a gift, a challenge and many other things.  Many philosophical quotes have been made about life, from poets, comedians, politicians, and more. What it gives, what it takes, and how we should live it. Here are some of the ones I’ve found interesting.

“Here is the test to find out whether your mission on earth is finished.  If you’re alive, it isn’t-” Richard Bach, American Writer.

“Forgive, O Lord my little jokes on Thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great one on me.”  Robert Frost, American Poet.

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”  Erma Bombeck, American Humorist.

“Life is a whim of several billion cells to be you for a while.”  Unknown.

“Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only get to spend it once.” Lillian Dickson, Missionary and Humanitarian.

“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” Grandma Moses, American Folk Artist who lived to be 101 years old.

“To live remains an art which everyone must learn and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis, English writer and social reformer.

“Why torture yourself when life will do it for you?” Unknown.

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world owes you nothing.  It was here first.” Mark Twain,Mark Twain American Writer and Lecturer.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. A leading transcendentalist.

“Following straight lines shortens distances and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Argentine Poet.

“Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don’t be afraid.” Frederick Buechner.  American Writer and Theologian.

What do you think? Do they make sense to you? Do you have any quotes about life that have resonated with you? Share them.