Why All Black People Should Visit Africa

I was 23 years old when I took my first trip to Africa, and if you ask me my trip occurred a little too late. It should have happened as soon as I developed comprehension and understanding. It should have happened before the “African booty scratcher” jokes became funny to me, and before Africa became the dark continent in my mind. However, thank goodness it happened. After visiting the beautiful country of Zambia on two different occasions, I’m convinced that every Black person should visit Africa at least once. It will change your entire life. It most definitely changed mine.

I heard about a mission trip that was heading to Zambia. I signed up to be interviewed for the trip, but completely chickened out. Why? I was scared. What was I doing actually considering going to Africa? On one hand I really wanted to go, however on the other hand I was completely terrified. There were civil wars happening in Africa. Women were getting raped in Africa. Lions were freely walking around in Africa. I’m disgusted at how much the media had influenced my thoughts about Africa. On top of it all, I’m from the South side of Chicago, which has the number 1 murder rate, period. If something detrimental was going to happen to me, it was more than likely to occur in Chicago, not in Africa. Nevertheless, leaders of the trip pursued me, and encouraged me to partake in an experience that would give me a new perspective on life. I agreed.

Nikki Thompson

The location was N’Dola, Zambia. We had a layover at the Johannesburg Airport in South Africa. The first thing I did when stepping off the plane, was touch the ground. This was extremely important to me. I was officially in the Motherland. The place where it all began for my people. The small layover in South Africa taught us an unexpected lesson. All of the workers were Black! How was this possible? It dawned on us: we were no longer the minority. No. In Africa there were Black doctors, Black entrepreneurs, etc. Black people working together was the norm. At that moment I let go of any fear I had, and my preconceived ideas of Africa. I didn’t know what Africa had in store for me, but I was completely open for whatever.

Nikki Thompson

I heard children speak about how AIDS ruined their family, but still saw bright smiles on their faces. I saw families walk 9 miles just to attend a Sunday worship service. I stayed with a family who opened up their home to us, giving what they had. I learned that the houses in Africa look just like the ones in America. Go figure. I purposedly used the bathroom in the ground, when the opportunity was presented. Hey, I was on a mission to experience it ALL. I ate N’shima. I spoke in Bemba. I attended a wedding. Unfortunately, I attended a funeral. A Zambian funeral of a little boy who passed away from a disease that is curable here in the States. I saw Africans weep. I wept and felt their pain. I was 23 years old learning lessons in Africa, that I NEVER learned in America.

Africa gives you a sense of pride. Although I struggled internally with where I stood as a descendant of Africa, the people of Zambia were very accepting. After witnessing the strength of the men on the farms, the women carrying babies on their backs while carrying water on their heads, and the pure joy of orphans, it’s safe to say we come from a legacy of powerful people with unbreakable spirits. Media fails to show you the beautiful waterfalls, monstrous mountains, and green pastures. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the angelic voices of an African community singing together on one accord. And last but not least, you have yet to discover another side of you, until you’ve spent time in the home of your ancestors. Africa is calling. What are you waiting for?

Louis Gossett Jr

Academy Award Winning Actor, Activist, Author

Born May 27, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY, Lou has a flair for projecting quiet authority and has scored well personally in a string of diverse and occasionally challenging roles.

The aspiring actor caught a break at his first Broadway audition for “Take A Giant Step” (1953), where, beating out 400 other candidates, the then 16-year-old landed the lead.

His acting career soon flourished and his work in the stage and film versions of the groundbreaking drama about African-American family life in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961) proved a watershed. This led to numerous appearances on network series in the 1960s and 70s culminating in 1977, when he picked up an Emmy for his eloquent portrayal of Fiddler in the landmark ABC miniseries “Roots”.

Meanwhile, his big screen reputation grew with critically acclaimed work in such comedies as “The Landlord” (1970) ”The Skin Game”(1971) with James Garner, “Travels with My Aunt” (1972) and the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning drama “The River Niger” (1975). A riveting performance as a drug-dealing cutthroat stalking Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in “The Deep” (1977) catapulted him to wider popularity, but the tough by-the-book drill sergeant in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) won him a Best Supporting Oscar that consolidated his place in the Hollywood hierarchy.

Following his Oscar, he made numerous big screen and television appearances ,being singled out for his work as Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in “Sadat”(1983), the sci-fi adventure “Enemy Mine” (1985) where his lizard-like makeup won kudos, and in the action adventure series “Iron Eagle” (1985,1986,1992,1995) which introduced him to a whole new generation of moviegoers.

Still going strong, Lou’s trendsetting bald head and imposing six-foot-four physique served him well in “Diggstown” (1991) where he played a down-and-out boxer, a heroic headmaster in “Toy Soldiers” (1991).

Lou’s well thought out and nuanced performances also managed to give credibility to socially themed projects such as “To Dance with Olivia” (1997), and the critically acclaimed “Jasper, Texas” (2003)

The recipient of every known acting accolade, including multiple Golden Globes, Emmys, and People’s Choice Awards, Lou’s performance has connected him with his fans on a global scale. Organizations such as the NAACP, CARE, and the United States Armed Forces have used his likeness to add validity and integrity to their causes.

Recently, Lou was the new lead on the popular science fiction series “Stargate SG-1” introducing him to a new generation of fans worldwide. Lou has also developed the Eracism Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at creating entertainment that helps bring awareness and education to issues such as racism, ignorance, and societal apathy.*

*from www.louisgossett.com

Visit www.louisgossett.com, http://www.eracismfoundation.org/

Grandmaster Flash

DJ, Pioneer, Hip-Hop Legend

Square Peg Into A Round Hole

There are lots of stories about the birth of jazz and the beginning of rock n’ roll, but hip-hop has founding fathers: one of them is DJ Grandmaster Flash. In the early 70’s Joseph Saddler was living in the South Bronx and studying electrical engineering. However, Saddler, a native of the Bronx, had a much deeper passion for music; he had been experimenting with his father’s vinyl since he was an toddler. His knowledge of audio equipment led him to an idea that would revolutionize the way he played music: the turntable would become his instrument.

The career of DJ Grandmaster Flash began in the Bronx with neighborhood block parties that essentially were the start of what would become a global phenomenon — the dawn of a musical genre. He was the first DJ to physically lay his hands on the vinyl and manipulate it in a backward, forward or counterclockwise motion, when most DJs simply handled the record by the edges, put down the tone arm, and let it play. Those DJs let the tone arm guide their music, but Flash marked up the body of the vinyl with crayon, fluorescent pen, and grease pencil—and those markings became his compass.

He invented the Quick Mix Theory, which included techniques such as the double-back, back-door, back-spin, and phasing. This allowed a DJ to make music by touching the record and gauging its revolutions to make his own beat and his own music. Flash’s template grew to include cuttin’, which, in turn, spawned scratching, transforming, the Clock Theory and the like. He laid the groundwork for everything a DJ can do with a record today, other than just letting it play. What we call a DJ today is a role that Flash invented.

By the end of the 70s, Flash had started another trend that became a hallmark around the world: emcees followed flash to the various parts and parties to rap/emcee over his beats. Before long, he started his own group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Their reputation grew up around the way the group traded off and blended their lyrics with Flash’s unrivaled skills as a DJ and his acrobatic performances—spinning and cutting vinyl with his fingers, toes, elbows, and any object at hand.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five went Platinum with their single, “The Message.” Meanwhile, the single “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” introduced DJing to a larger listening audience than it had ever known before; it became the first DJ composition to be recorded by a DJ. The group’s fame continued to grow with “Superappin,” “Freedom,” “Larry’s Dance Theme,” and “You Know What Time It Is.” Punk and new wave fans were introduced to Flash through Blondie, who immortalized him in her hit, “Rapture.”

The rock n’ roll hall of fame also recognized Flash with an honor no one else in hip hop has received: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip hop group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Flash is the first DJ to ever receive that honor.

By the time the 90s rolled around, Flash was handpicked by Chris Rock to spend five years as the music director for his groundbreaking HBO series, The Chris Rock Show. More recently, Flash has played for audiences as large as the Super Bowl and as elite as Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

On top of his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Flash has been the recipient of many awards, including VH1 Hip Hop Honors; The Icon Award from BET in honor of his contribution to hip hop as a DJ; The Lifetime Achievement Award from the RIAA; and Bill Gates’ Vanguard Award.

Although Flash has been in the business for many years, he shows no sign of slowing down: this coming year promise, a new album, and he will began his descent from the analog vinyl world of DJing to enter the digital world of DJing. His DJ application of choice is “Traktor Scratch” by Native Instruments.

Grandmaster Flash’s memoirs, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash – My Life My Beats was released in bookstores worldwide. The book is penned by David Ritz, author of both Marvin Gaye’s and Ray Charles’ biographies. In this extraordinary book, Grandmaster Flash sets down his musical history, sharing for the first time his personal and difficult life story—along with no small amount of wisdom and experience.

The Smithsonian Museum of American History in honor of Black History Month has opened its exhibit RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture that Grandmaster Flash along with other hip hop artist such as LL Cool J, Erykah Badu and Common will be featured.

In closing, grandmaster flash continues to tour the world, in festivals, clubs and venues. He now has his eyes and ears on this new craze-dance music, which he now adds to his legendary repertoire.

*from www.grandmasterflash.com

Visit www.grandmasterflash.com or Follow @DJFlash4eva

Is It Necessary To Celebrate Black History Month?

“We don’t have a White history month, so why is there a Black history month?” Those exact words rolled off the tongue of my White co-worker, who was oblivious to the fact that he was embarking upon the biggest history lesson of his life. Although his comment was offensive and a bit hurtful, it wasn’t time to take it personal. It was imperative that he being a White male working with Black children in the ghettoes of the South side of Chicago, completely understand why it’s very necessary to celebrate Black History Month. Allow me to school you like I schooled him.


US Department of Transportation

Garret A. Morgan

We don’t have a White history month, because White history is consciously and subconsciously celebrated all year long. Think about it. Everyday, the media inundates us with European images that inform us of the “true” standard of beauty. When asking the younger generation who invented the stoplight, they stare cluelessly. They haven’t been educated about how a Black man by the name of Garret A. Morgan, invented the stoplight, which totally transformed streets all across the globe. However, every year they are reminded to celebrate Christopher Columbus for his “discovery” of America. The faces of accomplished individuals in the media fail to fully represent African Americans. Of course media highlights the success of certain African Americans, but typically not mainstream media. And although I absolutely LOVE Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the African American historic experience is so much more than one man.

It saddens me to hear the younger generation equate Black History with slavery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware slavery plays a HUGE role in our history, but it’s so much more that isn’t being told. What about our royal history? Why isn’t mass media sharing the historic stories of Black kings and queens in Africa? Or the great contributions of African Americans in this country? Have we forgotten about the Harlem Renaissance Movement that’s responsible for today’s classic African American literature? The first open heart surgery was performed by Daniel Hale Williams, a Black man. Our history is rich, inspiring, and extremely vital to our future. Therefore, it needs to be shared and celebrated.


National Park Service, Department of the Interior, US Government

Carter G. Woodson

Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926. Founded by Historian Carter G. Woodson, he wanted public schools to place a huge emphasis on Black history during the second week of February. Woodson chose that week, due to the fact that it marked the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976 the U.S. government officially recognized the expansion of Negro History Week, to Black History Month. A week wasn’t sufficient enough to properly fit in the history of Blacks. And to be honest, one month isn’t enough time as well, but it’s a good starting point. It’s a great opportunity to take the family to a museum, watch a few documentaries, and truly discuss Black history in depth. However, the spirit of Black History Month shouldn’t die on February 28th. It should live all year round. To answer my White co-workers question, Black History Month should be celebrated all year, until there is no longer a need to ensure us one month. Until the true history of Black Americans is properly told in public schools. Until countries all over the entire globe recognize the beautiful struggle of Black Americans and join our celebration. Until then, this is why we celebrate Black History Month.

Do you and your family celebrate Black History Month? What are your traditions?

Indulge in skin-loving winter foods for a healthy self – inside and out

— Have you effectively “winterized” your home for the season? Plunging temperatures call for more than just cozy sweaters, boots and coats – they can also challenge daily eating and wellness routines, which can negatively impact skin. A personal regimen that effectively combines diet (chock-full of fresh, in-season foods), exercise, skincare and wellness this winter can be a powerful tool in achieving a glowing, healthy-looking appearance.

The Simple brand, a range of facial skincare products that is perfect even for sensitive skin, launched the Simple Advisory Board (SAB) to help women everywhere discover the benefits of a holistic approach to skincare. Advisory board member Ellie Krieger is a nutritionist, New York Times bestselling author and host of the Food Network and Cooking Channel’s hit show, “Healthy Appetite.” She believes that positive food and nutrition choices lead to beautiful skin and overall wellbeing. The guide below offers a good start.

Produce section:

Butternut squash— Squash is one of winter’s most popular vegetables. Though winter squash is botanically classified as a fruit, it is nutritionally viewed as a starchy vegetable. Winter squash is filled with nutrients and is one of the top sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant form of vitamin A that helps protect skin and speeds up the cell renewal process, contributing to healthy, supple-looking skin. Beta-carotene imparts a yellow-orange color to food and can also enhance complexion tone. Butternut squash is readily available both whole and in convenient pre-cut packages and it has a creamy, sweet flavor that appeals to just about everyone.

Beets— Another highly underrated fall and winter vegetable is the beet. High in folate, manganese and potassium, beets can also be found in already-cooked vacuum packs, making it easier to add them to a meal. When buying fresh beets, select those with the greens intact because beet greens, like other green leafy vegetables, are not only delicious, they are also packed with nutrients, especially vitamin C, which is important for collagen production.

Try sautéing cooked beets with the greens or some kale along with garlic and splash of balsamic vinegar. Or, whip up an elegant beet salad enhanced with watercress dressing by food-processesing the watercress, goat cheese, buttermilk, vinegar and salt until smooth and creamy, and add walnuts as a topper.

Tomatoes— Tomatoes are a crucial “skin food.” They provide lycopene, which helps protect skin against damage from UV radiation. Canned tomatoes and sauce make it easy to incorporate this fruit into everyday meals. Cooking tomatoes concentrates their lycopene, and adding olive oil in tomato sauce helps the body absorb the antioxidant.

Whole grains— Whole grains are a valuable part of a healthy diet, providing a wide spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants, not to mention great taste and satisfaction. They are digested more slowly than refined grains so they can help you achieve a steadier blood sugar, which may reduce inflammation and acne flares and lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.

Quinoa has gained popularity recently, but other alternative grains like farro and bulgur are just as delicious and packed with fiber and minerals.

Teas— Daily routines can have long-term effects; so consider substituting your afternoon cup of joe with a more skin-loving cup of tea.

The white, green and black tea varieties are all from the same plant, and are packed with flavonoids and antioxidants, helping to detox cell-damaging free radicals in the body. White is the least processed of teas, followed by green and then black. All contain caffeine so they are perfect for an afternoon or morning pick-me-up, but they have considerably less than coffee so you will get a gentle lift rather than a big jolt.

Certain skincare products also contain skin-loving ingredients sourced from food. When it comes to ingredients, Simple knows that what is left out is just as important as what is put in. This philosophy is the reason why none of the products contain dyes, artificial perfumes or harsh chemicals that can upset skin – just the purest possible ingredients for natural, healthy-looking skin. The Simple Radiance Cleansing Facial Wipes contain mango extract, known as a source of anti-oxidants, and includes vitamin C; glycerin, which helps increase hydration; and bisabolol, an anti-inflammatory known to help soothe and calm skin.

For more information about Simple Skincare and health tips from Krieger and other SAB experts visit www.simpleskincare.com. While there, take the Simple Sense quiz to receive customized information and advice regarding skincare and holistic living.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum seeks to raise revenue and visibility

— The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is Baltimore’s premier facility highlighting the history and accomplishments of African Americans with a special focus on Maryland’s African American community.

The museum is named after Baltimore native and entrepreneur, philanthropist, and CEO Reginald F. Lewis. The facility is the East Coast’s largest African American museum occupying 82,000 square-feet. Features include an oral history recording studio, café, outside terrace and reception areas.

A Smithsonian affiliate, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum is located near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at the corner of Pratt and President Streets.

The museum is working to attract more visitors with strategic new hires charged with increasing visibility coupled with an impressive lineup of exhibitions, workshops and other special events.

Helen Yeun, director of marketing for The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is among the new hires. D’Ana Downing who was hired in September is the new associate director of development.

“We both are responsible for raising revenue and visibility for the museum,” said Yeun. “In addition, Assistant Curator Asantewa Boakyewa was hired over the summer to assist with continuing high quality exhibitions in our space.”

“We want to highlight the rich history of Maryland, the vital contributions of African Americans, and present a fuller, richer, more complete story of American history” said Yeun. “Through programs, films, music, exhibitions, and other events, we hope the public walks away moved and enriched with a wider understanding of the context of American history.”

To that end the museum is currently exhibiting “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard & Shirley Kinsey – Where Art & History Intersect opened at the Museum.” Highlights include an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, a signed copy of Brown vs. Board of Education and rare works from early 19th century artists. Wells Fargo is a sponsor of the exhibit.

According to Yeun, the museum is also placing emphasis on events aimed at attracting families. This holiday season, it is offering a wide variety of interactive events that families can enjoy together.

On December 28, the museum will be presenting “A Kwanzaa Celebration” featuring Kwanzaa founder Dr. Maulana Karenga. The event will be held from noon until 4 p.m. and celebrates the holidays with an afternoon of performances, educational programs, crafts and storytelling. Event highlights include “Drum Talk” with Sankofa Dance Theater drummers and beat box artist “Shodekeh”; a workshop on Kwanzaa principles with “Culture Kingdom Kids”; and a festival featuring an African Marketplace displaying vendor’s goods.

“We hope to attract a broad range of Marylanders and people from beyond Maryland,” said Yeun. “We want kids, mothers, fathers, grandparents, teens, and film lovers, to come. We also have events for lovers of fashion and the 80s.Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, there is something here for everyone. We want people to come and enjoy all of the things wonderful things this museum has to offer.”

Andrew M. Bertamini, the Regional President for Wells Fargo’s Maryland Region and a member of the museum’s Board of Directors said: “Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglass were very influential, but so many young people don’t know who they are or what they have done,” said Bertamini. “We want more teachers to bring students. It takes money to run these things, and the museum needs support. We want people to come out and see these wonderful exhibits.”

The museum also features “Third Thursdays.” For $5, visitors can relax, mingle, visit the galleries, and enjoy live entertainment.

A MLK Jr. Birthday Celebration will take place January 18 through January 20 and will offer a weekend of activities including a living history performance, music and crafts. Of course, Black History Month includes a variety of events including a book reading by Maryland author Erika Blount on February 15, who will share juicy behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the iconic TV show “Soul Train” from her book “Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments.”

For more information, about the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, call 443-263-1800 or visit: www.RFLewisMuseum.org.

AKA Epsilon Omega Chapter helps children smile brighter during holidays

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Baltimore City Chapter, Epsilon Omega, visited two Pre-K classes at St. Jerome Head Start in West Baltimore on December 18 and 19, 2013 to present three and four-year-old students with toys, hats, gloves and other special treats. The women of Epsilon Omega donated items at November and December chapter meetings for students enrolled in the program.

Program Chair AnnaMaria Joyner said: “We do this because we want as many children as possible to have a happy and warm holiday season. Children are our true jewels, and we should do everything possible to make their lives better.”

More than 350 toys, hats and gloves were collected. Items not presented to the children directly were donated to St. Vincent’s Villa for their annual holiday party.

Since the chapter founding in 1922, it has been involved in countless community service projects in the Baltimore community.

The great debate: Are classroom computers a threat to creativity?

What does a wrench, pencil, fork, ruler and a light bulb have in common? There are all tools, everyday objects used to accomplish a wide variety of tasks with ease and efficiency. To this list I would add the computer. It is also a tool millions of people use each day. The difference is unlike forks, pencils and rulers only the use of computers is at the center of debate in schools across America.

Advocates on both sides of the argument have strong opinions that warrant a closer look.

“The computer is a tool,” said a parent during a meeting to discuss technology’s role in the classroom at the Waldorf School of Baltimore. “In that sense a computer is no different than a car that gets us back and forth to work or a tooth brush that helps ensure good dental health. All tools should be used purposefully and with supervision. Ask yourself, do I need this tool and how should I use this tool.”

In defense of limited use of computers, the father of a child in the lower school said “I wouldn’t want my daughter sitting in front of a computer all day, working on math problems or reading an electronic book. But, I’d have no problem with her using a computer to illustrate a geography or history lesson taught by the teacher. ”

Because Waldorf is an independent school that does not allow the use of computers in the classroom, these comments touched a nerve with many parents. Responses against the use of computers, was swift and passionate.

“I am proud to say my son is not allowed to use a computer. In fact he doesn’t have any electronic devices, no cell phone, no video games, nor is he allowed to watch TV. He is voracious reader, well above his grade level. I believe this is because he has not been exposed to computers.”

Before the conversation grew too heated, the meeting’s moderator spoke up, “What is wonderful about our school [Waldorf] is that we offer balance so that we can teach our children how to use technology in appropriate ways. We want to offer our students the right tools at the right time. It’s not about restricting our students it’s about respecting their development.”

But, what do some of the experts say? An article titled “Do Computers in the Classroom Boost Academic Achievement?” by Kirk A. Johnson. Ph.D. a Heritage Foundation Fellow gives an excellent analysis of the rise and impact of computer use in the classroom:

“Over the past 20 years, computers and the sharing of information that they facilitate have penetrated nearly every aspect of American life, writes Dr. Johnson. “Indeed, reliance on computers grows every day, from shopping at grocery stores and filing taxes to driving an automobile and communicating with relatives and business associates.

This explosion in the technology has increased efforts to equip every classroom with computers and ‘wire’ every school to the Internet. Between September 1984 and September 1997 alone, the number of computers in America’s K-12 schools increased eleven fold to more than 8 million units. Educators have been forced to keep up, and some are finding themselves teaching general skills in how to use a computer while they use them to teach other subjects.

Few Americans would question the role that computers could play in education. For the United States to maintain its high-technology status in the global economy, it seems fair to expect computers to be given a more integral role. Some educators claim that ready access to computers and increased use of computers in K-12 education has a beneficial effect on educational outcomes.”

But are classroom computers delivering on this expectation? Does access to a computer or use of a computer in instructing students improve their academic achievement? A woman whose daughter is a Waldorf School graduate and whose grandchild attends the school’s kindergarten answered, “I think not. It doesn’t take more screen time to know how to use technology. Creative expression, problem-solving and teamwork skills are more effective ways to prepare for an increasingly technological world.”

Jayne Matthews Hopson writes about Education Matters because “only the educated are free.”

Christmas music: The good, the bad and the ugly

Is the term “Christmas music” an oxymoron?

For those that love the stuff, it most certainly isn’t. For those that detest the genre, the term oxymoron doesn’t even begin to describe how they feel about it.

I fall in the camp with one Duke Ellington, who is said to have proclaimed that there are really only two types of music: good and bad.

There are Christmas songs, I love, others I simply don’t like and those that I downright detest.

The top of my “Very Best Christmas Songs” list includes only three titles:

  1. The Little Drummer Boy, and it has to be the Harry Simeon Chorale version. No other version will do, or is even worth listening to, for that matter.
  2. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole. Really, is any further explanation needed?
  3. Silent Night, the Temptations version please.

Some clarification might be in order: the Temptations actually had TWO versions of “Silent Night,” if memory serves me correctly. The first came out sometime in the mid-1960s, when David Ruffin was still with the group.

The second, far superior version came out after Dennis Edwards had replaced Ruffin as a Tempt. (That version of “Silent Night” might be the only song with Edwards singing the lead that was better than Ruffin singing the lead.)

Tempts fans might need to help me out here: I believe that Eddie Kendricks sang the lead through the entirety of the first Temptations “Silent Night” song. In the Edwards version, several Tempts took turns singing the lead.

And let me clarify what I mean by “Tempts fans”: if you know only two Temptations songs and one of them happens to be “My Girl” and the other one isn’t, then you’re not a Tempts fan.

If, on the other hand, you’re familiar not only with every Temptations hit but also know what was on the flip side of the .45 that hit was on, you’re a Tempts fan.

If, 45 YEARS AFTER IT HAPPENED, you’re still devastated that Ruffin left the group (or was fired, depending on which story you believe), then you’re most definitely a Tempts fan.

On my list of Christmas songs that are good— “good” being defined as “kind of cute”— are Gretchen Wilson’s version of “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” and David DeBoy’s “Oh, I Want Crabs For Christmas.”

Making this “good because it’s kind of cute” list doesn’t come easy. I have some very, well, unusual ideas about “cute.”

As a rule, I don’t like cute. For me, the list of cute things is short indeed. That list includes:

  1. Kittens
  2. Puppies
  3. My grandkids
  4. Very little else

Now on to the list of what I consider the bad Christmas songs:

Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

Oh, no he ain’t Bruce. After listening to your version of this holiday classic, Santa’s going to get as far away from town as his sleigh and reindeer will take him.

Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song, or anything else by Adam Sandler for that matter.

That monstrous version of “The Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby set all music back by at least 500 years.

I’ve covered the very best, the good, and the bad. Now I move on to the downright ugly.

Falling into that category is any Elvis Presley Christmas song.

Can we all agree that not all musical artists should do Christmas songs? Some, perhaps many, should. But most need to steer clear, darn it.

Elvis was one of those artists that simply didn’t know his limitations. His forte was rock and roll, and he was barely good at that.

There is one use, and one use only, for an Elvis Presley Christmas song.

That would be torturing suspected terrorists. Trust me, once terrorism suspects hear Elvis’ “Blue Christmas,” they will either start to talk and tell us everything they know or they will beg to be water boarded.

Former Raven has ‘strength of a ‘champion’

— O.J. Brigance enjoyed a successful football career, winning a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and earning the respect of teammates and opponents alike. Today he is unable to throw, catch or even hold a football but the former Raven continues to inspire and motivate.

“I learned a life lesson through football early on,” Brigance said in a recent interview with the help of his wife, Chanda. “I learned that quitting is never an option.”

Those lessons are detailed in his new book, “Strength of a Champion,” co-written with Fox Sports correspondent Peter Schrager. The book chronicles Brigance’s NFL career, his life-changing diagnosis of ALS— Lou Gehrig’s disease— and his unrelenting fight against the disease.

Brigance won the Super Bowl as a player and captain with the Ravens in 2001, and again in 2013 as the team’s senior adviser of Player Development. In 2007, between these two career high points, Brigance was diagnosed with ALS and told there was a chance he wouldn’t live more than five years past diagnosis.

The progression of the disease has taken away the use of his arms and legs, and robbed him of the ability to speak. However, he is now six years post-diagnosis and making an incredible impact on the lives of those around him.

Although he is confined to a wheelchair and forced to communicate through an augmentative speaking device, Brigance still shows up to work every morning, has an unbelievable outlook on life, and serves as an inspiration to the entire Ravens organization.

“I have experienced times where I have been overcome by the weight of the diagnosis,” Brigance said. “But once I dried my tears and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized that God had given me the strength to handle this assignment.”

It is estimated that ALS is responsible for nearly two deaths per hundred thousand populations annually. Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year, according to the ALS Association. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.

Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, this disease is variable and many people live with quality for five years and more. More than half of all patients live more than three years after diagnosis.

About twenty percent of people with ALS live five years or more and up to ten percent will survive more than ten years and five percent will live 20 years. There are people in whom ALS has stopped progressing and a small number of people in whom the symptoms of ALS reversed.

ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries. ALS can strike anyone.

“The biggest shocker was that ALS was a fatal disease, with a two- to five-year prognosis,” Brigance said.

In his book, Brigance discusses how he’s inspired by the players and Ravens staff that he’s worked with, including Ray Lewis (who wrote the foreword) and Coach John Harbaugh and his conviction that he will walk again, and how his faith has lifted him up through hard times.

His foundation, the Brigance Brigade, through which he and Chanda have raised over one million dollars for ALS research, helps others who are stricken, and will be stricken, with the disease

“Writing the book has been an incredible journey and I am so proud of what we have accomplished,” said Brigance, the Ravens senior advisor to player development. “I couldn’t be happier to share my personal story and try to encourage others to be fearless in the face of adversity. There will always be obstacles in your life, I hope what people take away from, ‘Strength of a Champion,’ is that those obstacles should never limit you, they should teach you something and motivate you to keep pushing forward.”

The book is now available online at www.Amazon.com and wherever books are sold.