Thursday, March 19, 2015

LEGACY: Judith Kerr Patterson

Judith Kerr Patterson – say family and friends – was a blend of many and varied things and traits that spoke to her essence and influenced so many people.
She was a doting mother and grandmother, pianist, poet, mentor, world traveler, avid church worker, decorated teacher, and an instructional supervisor for the legacy Memphis City Schools, where she retired in 2011 after 36 years of service.
Judith Kerr Patterson
Mrs. Patterson was also married to the late Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr., who served as chairman of the international Church of God in Christ’s General Assembly and became the first African American to serve as mayor of Memphis when he stepped in as interim in 1982.
Mrs. Patterson died March 11 following a short illness. She was 63.
Sisters Linda Kerr Adkins and Brenda Kerr Johnson fought off grief to express their loss, what their “big sister” meant to them, and to place in context her enduring legacy. The trio had been inseparable until Mrs. Patterson’s death.
“My sister was an awesome and amazing individual,” said Adkins, wife of Apostle William A. “Bill” Adkins Jr., senior pastor of Greater Imani Church, The Cathedral of Faith. Mrs. Patterson was a founding member.
Apostle Adkins viewed Mrs. Patterson more like a sister than a sister-in-law. “We hit it off as brother and sister,” he said. “She helped raise our children and we helped raise her children. She was just a wonderful woman.”
He also said she was “outstanding,” her smile infectious.
Phillip Dotson Jr., one of Mrs. Patterson’s three children, said he’d never met a woman who was so sweet and giving, who wanted to make sure that everybody was OK.  
“I tried to raise my two children (Phillip and Brice) the way she raised me,” said Dotson, 38.
Johnson found solace looking back over her sister’s life and recalling their bond.
“We would always get together and have lunch, reminisce and talk about old times and the future,” she said. “Now there’s a void.”
Patterson doted on her grandchildren.
That void is being felt near and far.
Bishop Brandon B. Porter Sr., senior pastor of Greater Community Temple COGIC, the jurisdictional prelate of the Tennessee Central Jurisdiction and board member of COGIC, said Mrs. Patterson “was by far a person of excellence and grace, uniquely giving and considerate.”
“I guess the greatest gift that my wife and I experienced from her was her gift of love, respect and fellowship,” said Bishop Porter in a statement to The New Tri-State Defender. “On occasion she would just show up to lend support to whatever we, the Porter family, were doing.”
Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., COGIC’s presiding bishop, said the international church body was saddened to hear the news of Mrs. Patterson’s death. He called her a “beloved sister” who profoundly touched him and his wife, Mae.
“We shared many wonderful moments with Judith and her late husband, Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr.,” the presiding bishop said via email. “We are praying for the family.”
Mrs. Patterson loved the Lord, her sisters said. She was a central figure at Pentecostal Temple COGIC, where her husband had served as senior pastor until his death in 2011. His son, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason Patterson Sr., succeeded him as senior pastor.
Although the church had become Mrs. Patterson’s sanctuary, Adkins and Johnson remember their sister’s lifelong commitment to mentoring, teaching and advocating for children in the school system. A “Distinguished Classroom Teacher Award” exemplified that commitment to the children.
“She was a tenacious individual when it came to education, children and learning,” said Adkins. “She was the consummate educator.”
She also was “multitalented” and “multifaceted,” Johnson added. “She had so many diverse interests and was excellent at what she put her heart to. She was a leader.”
And a pianist as well, she said, recalling that unforgettable day when Mrs. Patterson played “Amazing Grace” for an uncle. In the early ’70s, she played piano for Union Grove M. B. Church and New Era M. B. Church.
Mrs. Patterson also believed in community service and giving back, her sisters said – to orphans in Africa, for example, when she trekked to the continent several times on medical missions.
“She was a joy to the villagers in Africa who needed supplies,” Adkins said.
She was an inspiration, her son added.
Mrs. Patterson died two days before her birthday. Dotson had planned a party for his mother at his new home. “I told my brother and sister (Brian and Tiffany) that we would still do the birthday party – and we did. We had an absolute ball. And I know she was there.”
The visitation is Friday, March 20, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Greater Imani Church, The Cathedral of Faith, 
3824 Austin Peay Hwy. 
There will be a viewing at the church Saturday, March 21, from 10 a.m. to noon, followed by the funeral service.
The interment will be in 
Memorial Park Cemetery, 
5668 Poplar Ave.
E. H. Ford Mortuary has charge. 

Selma and the promise of youth

      Drawn by an acknowledged “need” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the multitude in Selma, Ala. amply reflected the promise of youth.
      When Tamara Williams first heard that plans were being developed to call attention to the beatings of 600 civil rights demonstrators at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7th, 1965, the 13-year-old Soulsville Charter School student quickly concluded she knew that she needed to be in Selma.
      “I expected to go on this trip. I wanted to see for myself and didn’t want nobody to tell me,” said Williams, who made her way to the Dallas County town with a busload from Memphis.
Temeshia Washington, a resident of Columbus, Ga.,
photographed her experience in Selma, Ala.
      “I love history,” the self-proclaimed history buff said. “ I love talking about history. And I love writing about it.”
      College students Damou Traore and Ashanti Carr, both juniors at The LeMoyne Owen College, sauntered amid the massive crowd, observing the frenzy. Each was impacted by the events in Selma in personal ways.
      Traore’s view of Selma’s 1965 voting rights campaign was juxtaposed against the military domination of Guinea Conakry in West Africa, where he was born.
      “The images in Selma leave you with a bitter taste,” said Traore, 21, whose father forbade him to attend a political rally that ended with people getting shot by the military.
      “I was 14, and that’s when I got interested in politics,” he said.
      Born in San Diego, Calif., Carr, 22, had seen replays of the hard-to-watch TV images of the atrocity unleashed in Selma. She’d also watched Alex Haley’s “Roots” and preserved those searing memories as well.
      “My mom wanted us to be proud of our roots,” said Carr. “And she wanted us to know where we came from.”
      Both Traore and Carr assessed the commemorative anniversary as a learning experience that they could recall at a moment’s notice.
      “To watch people’s reactions, people who were there, it feels wonderful,” said Carr, an English major planning to enlist in the Navy. “It’s the same feeling you get when you visit the National Civil Rights Museum.”
      “It was my first time attending a civil rights movement,” said Traore, studying political science at LeMoyne. “It’s been one of the best (feelings) seeing people come together to celebrate – not just one person’s rights, but the rights of people as a whole.”
      Traore is looking forward to the future when he can work with the American government and “contribute as much as possible as a politician.”
      Determined to “keep up with everything” in the way of life-changing events, Carr is still holding on to the newspaper coverage of President Obama’s inauguration.
      Alice Knight, a great-grandmother, made the trip to Selma from Pensacola, Fla., with her son and grandchildren, including eight-year-old LaBron Baldwin.
      “We have made some progress,” said Knight, “but we still have a long ways to go.”
      Grandson LaBron said he was happy just to be in Selma to witness history unfold. He knew what the demonstrators were trying to accomplish in 1965 and tried to sum it up.
      “People should have the right to do what they want,” he said.
      With her 6-month-old baby cradled in a baby sling, Temeshia Washington and her husband, Chris, made their way through the dense crowd with their other five young children to witness the historic event. With her Nikon, she preserved some special moments.
      The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday is part of the ongoing struggle, said Washington, a resident of Columbus, Ga.
      “It’s history.”

Selma's foot soldiers retrace their steps

      Selma, Ala. was a bastion of deep-seated racism as the eyes of the world watched state troopers unleash a violent fury on voting-rights marchers on March 7th, 1965. Annie Pearl Avery and Warren Harrison were there, fighting on two different fronts.
      The 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” drew Avery and Harris back to Selma, placing them among tens of thousands committed to commemorating that fateful day. Their foot-soldier stories conjure images of a sordid era and yield lessons for a more promising future.

Fighting back…

      Annie Pearl Avery was shy of 21 and sitting in jail in 1965 when Alabama state troopers clubbed, trampled and tear-gassed 600 civil rights demonstrators attempting to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to the state capitol in Montgomery 54 miles away.
      A mangled mess of bloody human wreckage on U.S. Route 80 signaled just how tough the road would be en route to securing voting rights. Avery had incurred the wrath of the state troopers as well and even scrapped with one of them, she said.
Annie Pearl Avery talks about her experience in Selma 1965.
       “I was arrested that day. Me and the police officer had a physical disagreement,” said Avery, who sat along the same route telling her story and selling T-shirts and other paraphernalia to visitors who journeyed to Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
      Some details are sketchy, said Avery, recalling the tussle that got her arrested and the minor wounds she sustained while fighting back.
      “I was a moving target,” she said. “You can’t seriously hurt a moving target.”
      After Avery was carted off to jail, hell was unleashed on the bridge. Battered bodies lay helpless and strewn on the pavement while others sprinted to avoid the rage.
      One of those battered bodies was identified as 54-year-old Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson, an activist who helped to organize the local Selma Voting Rights Movement. Boynton lay unconscious after the melee while the world watched in horror.
      Fifty years later, the world’s eyes were back on Boynton, 104, “the original foot soldier.” She returned to Selma in a wheelchair to commemorate that moment in history with other foot soldiers, the sea of marchers and President Barack Obama on Saturday (March 7th).
      As Boynton and others were being savagely beaten on that frightful day in 1965, Avery was unaware that lives were hanging in the balance.
      “I didn’t know they were beating people until I got out of jail,” said Avery, who was the project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Hale County, Ala.
      After spending nearly hours locked up in Selma, Avery moved on to challenge the status quo in other cities.
      “I can’t remember the exact number of times I got arrested,” she said. “But I remember I was arrested in Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Gaston, Ala.”
      In Danville, Va., for example, Avery spent 90 days in jail for contempt of court. She fasted the entire time, she said.
      Although Avery forged ahead during the civil rights movement, she looked back over that part of her life during the commemorative anniversary and acknowledged that she was afraid.
      “I was always scared,” she said. “But the thing about fear is once you make the decision to do something, fear dissipates. You just have to make up your mind that you will accept the consequences.”

Activism by bus…

      Warren Harrison’s mind is sharp, but his body is frail. That didn’t stop the 92-year-old from rolling his scooter through the thick crowd with his oxygen tank on the back and over-the-ear nasal cannulas attached to his nose.
      On the side of Harrison’s scooter was a sign that read: “It’s A Privilege PLEASE Vote.” That message was underscored in Selma in 1965 and other parts of the segregated South where African Americans were denied the right to vote.
      The carnage of Bloody Sunday unfolded before Harrison on a television screen. The next day he was in Selma trying to make a difference.
Warren Harrison transported demonstrators during the
tumultuous civil rights movement.
      “I saw that the marchers were badly beaten and needed blood. So I donated my blood,” said Harrison, who’d left Detroit to assist the injured demonstrators.
      When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for a third march, Harrison was still in Selma and answered the call. He marched with hundreds to the state house in Montgomery to assert his right to vote, braving the peril of trying to secure it.
      Fifty years later, Harrison is still concerned about civil rights and human rights. The commemoration, he said, meant he needed to be in Selma.
      On Saturday (March 7th), Harrison got a chance to shake President Obama’s hand and got two hugs from first lady Michelle Obama. The next day, his great niece, Leslie Clapp, spotted Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson on the bridge in the crowd.
      “I want to say hello to her,” Harrison told his great niece.
      Clapp made it happen.
      “He jumped off the scooter to meet her,” she said. “They held hands for a moment in the middle of the bridge.”
      Born in Selma, Harrison moved to Detroit at the age of 10 to live with an older brother – a decision made necessary after he got into a disagreement with a white man after an encounter with the man’s son. He was more than willing to tell that story and others, but preferred talking about the civil rights movement instead.
      A coast-to-coast bus driver, Harrison bused civil rights demonstrators all over the country. He drove them to the March on Washington, the Albany Movement in Albany, Ga., Resurrection City in Washington, D.C., back and forth to Selma, and other places when transportation was needed.
      He even shuttered the entourage of five U.S. presidents. He stopped driving a decade ago and now lives in Southfield, Mich., where he is an active member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
      “This trip to Selma,” said Harrison, “has added years to my life.”

Saturday, March 14, 2015

'History makers' to be honored during New Sardis' African American history program

      Memphis is distinguished for its eclectic music, succulent barbeque and, of course, the “Ol’ Man River,” a familiar refrain put to music about the comings and goings of the Mississippi River.
      But Dr. Erma Clanton, a playwright, lyricist and former teacher, envisions Memphis as more than an attraction that beckons tourists; she sees the city as a hotbed of talented and creative individuals who often go unsung.
      “I feel that there are people in Memphis who’ve done some outstanding things and should be honored on the local level,” said Dr. Clanton, 92, who, for several decades now, brought to fruition many of the ideas that she’d envisioned while helping people to realize their potential.
      So after a 2003 interview with The History Makers, purportedly “the nation’s largest African American video oral history collection,” the idea of honoring Memphians prompted Dr. Clanton that year to create “The Living Legends Award” under the auspices of New Sardis Baptist Church at 7739 E. Holmes Rd.
The Memphis 13, part of an effort by the NAACP to desegregate
four all-white elementary schools in Memphis, were honored.
      “I got the idea from The History Makers after they honored me in Chicago,” said Dr. Clanton, a member of the church and director of its drama ministry.
      On Sunday, Feb. 22, the 2015 honorees will be fĂȘted and bestowed the Memphis Living Legends award for their outstanding contributions during the church’s 11 a.m. African-American History Month program.
      “We will have trailblazers as well as living legends this year,” said Dr. Clanton. “There are outstanding young people who are trailblazers and not so much as living legends. I want to recognize the unsung heroes, people in the neighborhood, for example, who help other people.”
      Some of those trailblazers will be among the honorees, including The Memphis 13, a group of African-American first-graders mired in racial upheaval while integrating four all-white Memphis City Schools on Oct. 5, 1961 – Rozelle, Gordon, Bruce and Springdale elementary.
      Dwania Kyles, the daughter of the Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, attended Bruce. So did Michael Willis, the son of the late civil rights attorney A.W. Willis. Willis, who was 5 years old then, now goes by the name Menelik Fombi.
      In 1961, there were 51,815 African-American students in MCS; and only 13 African Americans in desegregated schools, according to a documentary on the 13 that was executive-produced and co-written by Daniel Kiel. Kyles and Willis are perhaps two of the most familiar “history makers” among the group.
      Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr., New Sardis’ senior pastor and president of Memphis Rainbow PUSH Coalition, understands the significance of paying homage to the Memphis 13 and others who’ve blazed trails throughout history.
      “It’s tremendously important that we not allow our soldiers and trailblazers to even feel like they’re forgotten,” said Dr. Gray. “For the contributions they’ve made, we want to celebrate them.”
      Dr. Gray has extended an invitation to any of the antagonists who were hostile to the first-graders more than 50 years ago to come to the African-American history celebration for “a moment of reconciliation.”
      “This is a healing process,” he said. “Many of these people were psychologically injured, particularly these 13 students.”
      (For more information, call New Sardis Baptist Church at 901-754-3979.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

'Father' to many, Barron K. McGlothin passes at 53

      The man affectionately known as “Baba” was kind, affable, civil and never forgot where he came from. He even assured his mother that he would make her proud some day.
      Barron Keith McGlothlin made good on that promise. He’d become a consummate educator, businessman, executive, events planner, community servant, church worker, family man, and managed some of the industry’s top gospel artists.
      “I mostly raised him without a father,” said Paralee Cager. “He never forgot the struggle that I had to go through. He loved me and always tried to see about me.”
      McGlothlin loved God, too, and never forgot the church, said Cager, struggling with grief after losing a second son in less than two years. Darron McClothlin, her eldest, died in June 2013.
      On Friday, Feb. 20, McClothlin was found unresponsive in a running Cadillac Escalade in an unlit area not far from the Memphis International Airport. There were no signs of foul play, Memphis police said. The cause of death is still pending.
      McGlothlin was 53.
Barron Keith McGlothlin (second from right)
      Despite the circumstances surrounding her son’s death, Cager said, “I love my son. If I could change things, he would be with me today. God lent him to me for awhile and came back to pick up one of the best.”
      McGlothlin loved his family, too, his brother said. Although 11 years separated them, “his passing was an eye-opening experience,” said the Rev. Fredrick Cager, senior pastor of True Authority Church in Cordova.
      “A piece of my life is gone…a piece of the world is gone,” said Rev. Cager, who was left with the responsibility of tending his brother’s personal affairs. “I miss him, but I haven’t had the opportunity to grieve. I haven’t had the time to register that he’s passed.”
      Reflecting on what his brother meant to him, Rev. Cager said, “My family was raised in poverty in North Memphis. He was the first to go to college, the first to leave Memphis, the first to branch outside the restraints (of poverty). So I attribute to him the things I’ve received (in life) by watching him.”
      McGlothlin was always enlarging his territory, his brother said – for example, as an executive staff member of the Church of God in Christ’s International Music Department, as the administrative aide and business manager to the late national recording artist O’landa Draper, and as a productive member of Greater Community Temple COGIC.
      “He served in many capacities such as events planner, director of Community Relations, director of our annual 10-week summer camp called ‘Camp Porter,’ where he hired certified instructors and others to provide a safe, fun and educational haven for children ages 4-15,” said Bishop Brandon B. Porter, GTC’s senior pastor and jurisdictional prelate of COGIC’s Tennessee Central Jurisdiction.
      Bishop Porter also said that McGlothlin was responsible for coordinating the church’s annual picnic and worked very closely with the community benevolent outreach ministries that delivered food, clothes, toys, etc., to thousands of families in need.
      The Rev. Ricky Floyd, pastor of The Pursuit of God Transformation Center, said, “On the first day Baba and I met, we instantly became family and friends.”
      That was 3 ½ years ago, said Floyd, when Kingdom Alliance Entertainment presented McGlothlin, Tracy Bethea of 95.7 Hallelujah FM, and Floyd with a “Kingdom Shaker and Mover Award” for their work in advancing the “Kingdom.”
      Over the course of their friendship, the clergyman noted that McGlothlin helped his son with his rapping career and helped his other son grow his graphic’s business.
      He also worked with notable gospel singers such as Perfection, 4 Given, Change, Josh Bracy, The Clark Sisters, Dottie Peoples, Yolanda Adams, Kurt Carr, Kathy Taylor Brown, Crystal Rucker, and others.
      Gwendolyn Turner, co-founder of the Angelic Voices of Faith, remembers having dinner with McGlothlin at a restaurant where the general manager offered to define McGlothlin’s nickname.
      “He said baba in his country means father,” said Turner, using the meaning to reference McGlothlin’s multifaceted career and his intense relationship with friends and loved ones.
      “Baba fathered so many of us,” she said. “He fathered us in how to treat each other; he fathered us in the ways of business; and he fathered us in music ministry. There was no one he would not help, advise, or counsel.”
      McGlothlin used those inherent qualities to advance the thinking of his students in Memphis and Shelby County Schools as well, which earned him the honor of being an “Outstanding Black Educator” and “Teacher of the Year.”
      “He was very smart,” his brother said.
      McGlothlin’s absence is causing hearts to break.
      “Our faith in God will help us get through this,” said Teresa McGlothlin, an aunt.
      Visitation is Friday, Feb. 27, from 5-7 p.m. at Greater Community Temple COGIC, 5151 Winchester Rd. The funeral is 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, also at the church, followed by the interment in Southwoods Memorial Park, 5485 Hacks Cross Rd.
      N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home has charge.

Selma-bound Memphians ready to roll

      Elaine Lee Turner didn’t need words to describe the pandemonium that broke out on U.S. Route 80 in Selma, Ala. However, those who reported the news on March 7, 1965, and thereafter, were calling that moment in history “Bloody Sunday.”
      On that fateful day, more than 600 civil rights marchers were pummeled with billy clubs and tear-gassed in a horrendous show of force by state and local lawmen hell-bent on stopping the determined marchers from crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge into neighboring Montgomery.
      Turner, a 20-year-old junior at LeMoyne College that year, wasn’t there on Bloody Sunday, but was disturbed nonetheless by those horrific images of wanton injustice at the behest of law enforcement.
Elaine Lee Turner
      “They just wanted the right to vote,” said Turner, who heeded the call from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to join the nationwide throng of freedom fighters for a third attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery’s state capitol.
      Although the 54-mile Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended tragically the first time, Turner was among the sea of freedom fighters making their presence felt and their demands known. Those images of Bloody Sunday, however, still tug at Turner every now and then.
      On Sunday (March 8th), Turner, the owner of Heritage Tours of Memphis, will return to Selma with a busload to commemorate Bloody Sunday and to reenact that pivotal moment in history 50 years ago that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
      A reporter from The New Tri-State Defender will also be among the group to offer a unique perspective via Twitter feed, photos and news stories to reflect the journey from Memphis to Selma and back.
      The pre-march rally will start at Brown Chapel AME Church, the site of the now famous march in 1965. Marchers will also cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma and return for a rally at the foot of the bridge to salute the “foot soldiers.”
      In 1965, Turner was stirred to action before the fight for justice, freedom and equality was beginning to gain traction. She is still just as spry, dedicated and duty-bound to make life better for African Americans in 2015. The trip to Selma, she said, is a reminder of how far African Americans have come.
      “It’s hard to describe my feelings now,” said Turner, who was arrested numerous times in the ’60s for participating in the civil rights movement. Many of her siblings were arrested a number of times as well, which caught the nation’s attention as a family of freedom fighters.
      “In reflecting on the beatings and severity in 1965 Selma, we won our rights,” said Turner, “but some of them are being challenged today.”
African Americans, she said, should not put aside their marching shoes. “We still have to march to maintain the rights that we fought so hard for. We have to be the guardians of those rights and not take them for granted.”
      Turner alluded to today’s justice system and its inability to administer justice in the recent wave of police-associated deaths involving young African-American men. Cases in point: Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner and Tamir Rice.
      “We’ve fought for a lot of rights, but there is still trouble in our justice system,” Turner said. “We just have to continue the struggle.”

Poet uses life experiences as fodder for collection of poetry

      Before John J. Mask knew that words could elicit a response and speak volumes, he lived life on the edge of the rugged streets of Gary, Ind. Life was full of uncertainty. So by the time he was 14, he’d been shot in the face below the right eye, grazed by a bullet twice in the back, and stabbed twice in the arm.
      “I knew it wasn’t my time to go, because God had a purpose in my life,” said Mask, a former street-tough who gangbanged until his mother made the decision to send him to his sister in Brownsville, Tenn. to keep him alive.
Poet John J. Mask (left) and a friend.
      But Mask didn’t stay put. He backtracked to Gary and stayed another year before returning to Brownsville.
      “The gang tried to kill me,” said Mask, finally giving up gang-life and joining the Army. He stayed there 15 years and started life anew.
      “I made a conscious decision to go to the military to get some discipline,” he said. “I knew if I didn’t change, I would face prison, the grave, and hell.”
      The transformation was finished. But instead of living his life by his own volition as he’d done in his teens, Mask surrendered everything to God. Afterward, he put pen to paper and, like a scribe, inked a collection of poetry that traces his meandering journey and unmasks his innermost thoughts.
      After penning his first poem in 2006, Mask published his first book of poetry in 2009. He intermixed words to evoke images that formed the basis of the book “One Man’s Mind,” a collection of poems that testifies, inspires, encourages, teaches, bemoans, and brims with a spiritual overtone.
      In 2010, Mask followed up with another collection of poetry entitled “Revealing the Mask.” The title is self-explanatory and likewise imbued with imagery of a spiritual nature. It is a testament of where the author has been and the relationships he’s forged along the way.
      God is the epicenter of this book of poetry as well. But Mask unloads a plethora of his thoughts on the reader about life, love, joy, pain, the ghetto experience, his emotional tailspins, and God’s omnipotence. You’d also find in the collection God’s omnipresence and His ruling hand at work.
      God wants to see our faces/ That’s why he allows devastation in various places/ The killing is in great demand/ That’s why God wants us to read His words, Mask writes in the poem “God’s Face.”
      The words to one of Mask’s earlier poems were revealed to him in “bits and pieces,” he said, while driving along in his BMW. He took it all in and penned “I Hear the Screams, Do You Know What I Mean?” It is a sad state of affairs that spells out domestic violence.
      Mask is deeply engaged in the telling of his experiences via poetry and, in many cases, simple prose. It was the blood that saved me, he writes in the first two lines of “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” a poem from “One Man’s Mind.”      
      The poem traces Mask’s earlier beginnings when his mother interceded on his behalf. In essence, she gave (sacrificed) her life to save him just as Jesus Christ gave his life to save us.
      Mask is No. 8 of his mother’s 10 children and the youngest of three of her boys. His parents, Floyd Mask Sr. and Darlene Nelson, were divorced when he was a child. She raised her large brood as a single parent by herself, he said.
      “A lot of people ask me how do I do what I do,” said Mask, 49, providing answers to questions about his past indiscretions and his profound poetic expressions. “I can’t do it without the Lord. He inspires me. And I always invite the Holy Ghost to lead and guide me.”
      God turned it all around, said Mask, a former law enforcement officer who retired two years ago due to a botched surgery.
      “No one knows what another man goes through unless they’re in another man’s shoes,” he said.
      Mask has been in ministry since 1988. He was ordained in 1992 at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Stanton, Tenn. He is currently serving in ministry under Bishop Gerald Coleman Sr., senior pastor of Faith Keepers Ministries in the Raleigh-Frayser community.
      Mask and his wife Marie are the parents of five children: Marquita, 27; Jasmine, 26; Joshua, 25; James Anthony, 21; and Ashante, 21. They also are the grandparents to Carmi, 4; Fred, 3; and Berkia, 2.
      Since his transformation, Mask has tried to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, but added: “I’m not Jesus, but I try to symbolize myself as a Christian. Anything I can do to help somebody, that’s what I’ll do. I’m just trying to do what God wants me to do.”
      “One Man’s Mind” was published by Curry Brothers Marketing and Publishing Group in Nashville. “Revealing the Mask” was published by Feel Me Publishing also in Nashville. The author is planning to release two additional books of poetry soon.
      (For more information, contact John J. Mask at 901-283-6144 or by email at or

Rousing farewell concert is a testament of love for Shontelle Norman-Beatty

      Gospel recording artist Shontelle Norman-Beatty was spirit-filled Monday evening as some of her friends in gospel music bid her farewell in a rousing concert at Shiloh Church of Memphis in the Raleigh-Frayser community.
      A longtime gospel singer native to Memphis, Norman-Beatty and her husband, Apostle Andre T. Beatty, are relocating to Houston, Texas, and “stepping out on faith.” He’s accepted a pastoral assignment, the singer said.
      Celebrated for her searing vocals, Norman-Beatty and her musically gifted brother – gospel recording artist Shea Norman – are widely known in the industry. Norman-Beatty, however, has carved her own niche, her friends attested Monday (Feb. 23).
Shontelle Norman-Beatty, her husband, Apostle Andrew Beatty,
and their son, Ryan, make their grand entrance at Shiloh Church
of Memphis, the venue for the farewell concert.
      “I will continue my music career and I’ll still work on songs. But God knows best right now,” said Norman-Beatty, noting that her music ministry will be put on hold temporarily until she and her husband are settled.
      The gospel singer, however, yielded to her fellow gospel greats as they cranked out one spirited selection after another. The musical tribute thus flowed throughout Shiloh and reached a feverish pitch more than once. Norman-Beatty herself was awash emotionally.
      Special guests included gospel recording artists Andrew Knox & New Change, a group led by Knox, Shiloh’s minister of music; the Rev. Darrel Pettis, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Miss.; and the consummate Billy Rivers and The Angelic Voices of Faith, the minister of music for Golden Gate Cathedral.
      The Rev. Chris Williams of the group Perfection and Christian Anderson also saluted Norman-Beatty in song, while 4 Given performed their own tribute. With Donte Everhart revving up the audience in his role as emcee and Pettis adding to the mix a monetary offering for the couple, the tribute proved to be a “blessed” sendoff.
      Sitting next to her husband on the first pew, Norman-Beatty was overwhelmed and imbued with love and admiration shown by her friends. The powerful singer, whose silky voice permeates venues here and worldwide, was delighted as well when her father, the Rev. James A. Norman, offered his heartfelt sentiments.
      Rev. Norman is the pastor of St. James Church of God in Christ in Grand Junction, Tenn. He also serves as superintendent of the Bolivar (Tenn.) district under Bishop Brandon B. Porter, the prelate of the Tennessee Central Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of COGIC.
      Judith Norman, Norman-Beatty’s mother, could not be present at the tribute, her father noted in his remarks. Besides Shea and Shontelle, the Normans have two other children: Sharisse Norman, a former American Idol contestant, and James VohShallen Norman.
      Norman-Beatty and her sister have worked and toured with a number of noted artists in the genres of gospel, soul, blues, R&B, and hip-hop, such as Ludacris, Bobby Rush, Erykah Badu, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Three Six Mafia.
      “My dad got me started in music,” said Norman-Beatty, 40, once the minister of music at his church. “Music was what I always wanted to do and be a part of. I’ve been singing since I was 2 and professionally since 2000.”
      The farewell concert, said Norman-Beatty, does not end the long-standing relationships that she’s forged with friends in Memphis and the local gospel greats who came to Shiloh to celebrate her ministry and to wish her Godspeed.
      Houston will reap the benefits of Norman-Beatty’s arrival, her father said.
      (For bookings, Shontelle Norman-Beatty can be reached at

Omega-3 results show local need to eat more seafood

      If the level of Omega-3 fatty acids in your red blood cells is at 8 percent, there is an 80 to 90 percent risk reduction of sudden cardiac death than someone whose Omega-3 level is around 2 to 3 percent.
      Omega-3 fatty acids are key to good health. However, of the more than 300 people who tested in October at the Church Health Center, 64 percent were in the low 2 to 3 percentile.
      The grim report is an indication that Memphians do not eat enough seafood that contains the necessary amount of Omega-3 fatty acids to ward off a number of serious diseases and reduce the risk of heart attacks.
      “Memphis has the highest incidents of heart disease,” said Linda Cornish, executive director of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP), a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which raises awareness about the essential nutritional benefits of eating seafood.
Joan Franks, a member of the Church Health Center, gets
her blood tested for its percentage of Omega-3 fatty acids.
      SNP chose Memphis and Indianapolis as pilot cities to launch its public health education campaign to encourage more people to eat at least two servings of seafood each week as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines.
      Participants also were encouraged to take the Healthy Heart Pledge for four months and given samples of salmon, tuna and Omega-3 capsules.
      Antionette Marmon had never liked salmon and certainly didn’t like the way it looked until she decided to make a meal of it for she and her husband.
      “It was really, really good,” said Marmon, 57, a health fair recruiter, who took the pledge and tested to determine the percentage of Omega-3 fatty acids in her red blood cells.
      “People take their health for granted,” she said. “Anytime you can take a test for free, there is no reason not to do it.”
      Vickie Johnson, an event management consultant, took the test as well to ascertain her percentage of Omega-3 fatty acids, but wasn’t too enthusiastic when she got the results.
      “It showed I needed an increase,” said Johnson. “It was about 3 percent.”
      “Most Americans have 2 to 3 percent of Omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells,” said Cornish. “Eighty percent of Americans don’t follow the USDA guidelines and 20 percent of them eat seafood at least twice a week.”
      Those who were tested in October and pledged to eat more seafood are scheduled to be retested Thursday (March 5) at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
      “We’re inviting people who were tested in October to come back to be retested,” said Cornish. “It’s an indicator of whether you’re eating enough seafood or not.”
      “I think it’s a great opportunity to get retested to find out what’s going on in my body,” said Marmon.
      Studies have been conducted to determine the benefits of increasing one’s Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other maladies. Memphis, however, is not foreign to studies of one kind or another.
      In 2012, for example, one third of the population in Memphis was considered obese, according to Newsweek magazine, which listed Memphis as the fattest city in the nation. High blood pressure and diabetes are also prevalent among Mid-Southerners.       
      Johnson was previously diagnosed with high blood pressure and is taking the prescribed medication for it. “I’m no longer taking the medication,” she said.
      Johnson had concerns about her health prior to participating in the seafood campaign; however, she felt it necessary to take the pledge. She’d been eating seafood at least 3 to 4 times a month, but increased her consumption after receiving her score.
      “I was eating fish and shrimp,” she said. “Now I eat more tilapia, and I increased my tuna intake as well. I either grill it bake it or put it in the oven.”
      A divorcee, Johnson has two adult daughters. She encourages them to eat healthy as well. “My younger daughter, who is in college, is more aware of Omega-3,” she said. “We’ve had discussions about it.”
      Marmon said eating healthy and increasing the percentage of Omega-3 in her blood is an important step – not just for herself, but for women in particular. “It is extremely important for females. As you get older, you have to maintain your body.”
      Early detection is everything, she added.
      Cornish said help is available for women who want to learn more about heart health and eating healthy. “We want to make every day heart healthy,” she said. “ We want more people to sign up for the healthy heart pledge by going to the website”
      Because there has been a good reception in Memphis and Indianapolis, Cornish said the SNP would launch a 3-year national campaign in October and add six more cities to encourage more people to eat more seafood.
      Marmon said she and her husband have eaten fish at least once a week before Memphis was chosen as a pilot for SNP’s public heath campaign.
      “I don’t have a problem with increasing it to twice a week,” said Marmon, who is also using the Omega-3 capsules as a supplement.
      “I’m taking 1,000 milligrams and I will continue to take them,” she said.

Selma's historic call: Looking back, marching forward

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II leads marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.
      A helicopter hovered above, a small plane zipped across the airspace and a tiny drone flew over the throng of marchers making their way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday afternoon (March 8th) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”
      As far as one’s eyes could see, the throng – perhaps as many as 70,000 – stretched up and down U.S. Route 80 and in between cross-streets drawn by the memory of that horrific event in 1965 Selma, Ala., when blood was spilled in pursuit of the right to vote.
      Men, women and children from myriad parts of the country formed a 2015 chorus of multi-generational, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic marchers singing in unison the freedom songs that set the tone and temperament of the tumultuous civil rights movement: “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and “We Shall Overcome.”
      The Edmund Pettus Bridge stretches across the Alabama River, standing as a symbol of defiance and a stark reminder of the tragic events that still wrench hearts 50 years later.
      The death of Jimmy Lee Jackson ignited the movement in Selma, said the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the North Carolina Forward Together Moral Movement, a healthcare initiative.
      Jackson was a civil rights activist in Marion, Ala., and a deacon in the Baptist church when an Alabama state trooper shot him on Feb. 18th, 1965. He died eight days later; the victim of what Barber calls an “assassination.”
      Selma’s hate also claimed the life of the Rev. James Reeb, a white Unitarian minister who was beaten to death. Seventeen members of Reeb’s family commemorated Bloody Sunday and reminded the marchers of Reeb’s gallantry and commitment to the “movement.”
      “We came here, 17 of us, to stand with you in love and solidarity,” Reeb’s daughter said. “We are going to keep marching with you until justice is served.”
      A group of white supremacists attacked her father on March 9th, 1965, after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for the nation’s clergy to support the second attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery. Reeb died two days later.
      About five months later (Aug. 6th), the price paid by the Selma-connected faithful helped usher in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1966 bolstered that landmark legislation. Now, said Barber, “It’s time to fight again.”
      Barber’s resolve is tied to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision striking down Section 4 as unconstitutional. “Chief Justice John Roberts said there was not enough racism in America to justify the Voting Rights Act,” Barber told the marchers.
      “They did more with less. We have to do more with more,” said Barber, referring to the leaders and foot soldiers that fought and died for the right to vote in 1965 and encouraging the leaders and foot soldiers of today to call upon the moxie within themselves.
      He blamed the Tea Party and the Koch brothers (Charles G. and David H. Koch) for today’s voter suppression tactics, saying the brothers, in part, are duly responsible.
      “Voting is a right, a responsibility that we must exercise, and a ritual that everyone does,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers and a member of the AFL-CIO.
      While Barber and Weingarten both emphasized the importance of voting, Lucille Price lamented that young people don’t always participate in the political process.
      “You know, young people piss me off because they don’t vote,” said Price, part of the Memphis contingent that joined people from all over the country at the historic event. The influx swelled the small Dallas County town up to its fringes.
      Throughout the day, a cadre of young men tapped a rhythmic beat on djembe drums, entrepreneurs hawked food items and souvenirs, and the media swarmed over the humongous crowd.
      “My feet are tired,” said Memphian Carolyn Matthews, who walked around almost non-stop for more than three hours until she finally tuckered out.
      Matthews was part of a contingent of 50 Memphians that bussed into Selma on Sunday at noon. All, including the youngest marchers, were just as drained. Elaine Lee Turner, owner of Heritage Tours of Memphis, who chartered the bus to Selma, noted that she, too, could use some rest.
      On Sunday evening, after a day none of them will ever forget, the travel-weary but soul-filled Memphians re-boarded their bus, recalled what intrigued them in Selma, and then slumbered as much as they could on the way back home.