Census Officials Kick Off $250 Million Ad Campaign In Washington

The U.S. Census Bureau unveiled its $500 million “Shape Your Future. Start Here,” 2020 advertising campaign on January 14, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Nearly $38 million— or approximately 16 percent— of the paid media budget is earmarked toward African American and black audiences. The “Shape Your Future. Start Here,” tagline is geared to helping underscore the notion that people can shape their future by responding to the 2020 Census.

At a news conference at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Census officials revealed that they would have more than 1,000 ads that target a range of demographics in 13 different languages. Those ads are projected to reach 99 percent of U.S. households.

“The 2020 Census is here and like we say in the ad: ‘Across America, we all count,’” Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, stated at the news conference.

“The 2020 Census is your census, and its success depends on you. It’s a once-in-a-decade chance to inform how billions of dollars in funding are allocated for critical public services like hospitals and health care clinics, schools and education programs, roads and bridges, and emergency response for the next 10 years,” Dillingham said. “Through advertising, public events, partnerships and digital and traditional media, we are embarking on a nationwide effort to let everyone in the country know about the upcoming 2020 Census and encourage them to respond online, by phone or by mail.

“And we are extremely committed to reaching those people who are historically undercounted.”

The communications campaign includes television and radio commercials, digital, social media and print advertising and messaging on billboards and at bus stops.

The Census’ massive public education effort encourages participation among multicultural and hard-to-count populations with ads in English and 12 other languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

During the conference, several samples of the video advertisements were previewed. In one video, children were featured teaching adults how to count their forms. The ad aims to curb the routine undercounting of children. In another ad that’s specifically geared to African Americans called “The Mural,” Census officials highlight a desire for an accurate count in the black community.

“Taking the 2020 United States Census impacts how funding flows in our communities for many programs and services,” the ad notes. “Because when a community comes together, anything is possible.”

The ads will run on television, radio, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, billboards and various special events.

Bureau officials say there are three main phases of the campaign: Awareness, Motivation, and Reminder. The first began on Tuesday, January 14, the day of the news conference, and will run through March.

The Motivation phase will highlight how easy it is and the benefits of completing the Census, which can be done online, by telephone or through the mail.

During the Reminder phase, officials plan to mount a campaign that points out the urgency to count everyone with as many as 500,000 census takers and other employees swarming the nation seeking to collect data from all residents.

Census officials emphasized the importance of digital for the campaign.

About 29 percent of the paid media portion of the ad budget is allocated toward digital and social media channels; only television, at 39 percent, has a larger allocation. Johnson noted that as many as 65 percent of people are expected to complete the Census online this year.

The 2020 Census is billed as the most extensive collection of statistical information on everyone who lives in the United States and is required by the U.S. Constitution.

Responses to the 2020 Census will shape how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to local communities.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s goal is a complete and accurate count and, utilizing paid media is a critical component of the campaign, according to officials.

In spreading ad dollars, the U.S. Census Bureau has decided against advertising in the Super Bowl this year after previously running ads in 2010 and 2000.

“It isn’t an efficient spend of taxpayers’ dollars,” Alex Hughes, a census program director at VMLY&R, which is handling the campaign, told reporters.

“The work, research and dedication that has gone into this campaign is unmatched to that of any previous censuses,” said Kendall Johnson, executive director of the communications contract for the Census Bureau. “Our outreach is multifaceted with a heavy focus on increasing response among groups that are historically undercounted. And it’s based on the most extensive research ever conducted to under- stand both what motivates people to respond to the census and what prevents them from responding.”

Silence The Violence For 2020

Last week, we began the new decade the same way that we finished the old decade. Last year in Dallas, more than 200 people were murdered, sadly most were African Americans. Though we march for justice and claim “Black Lives Matter,” they clearly don’t matter to us in Dallas, as most of the killings are committed by black members of our society.

Our nation is at war with itself. If you are young, gifted and black, chances are you will not get to be old enough to brag about it. Rory Norman, a one-year-old, was killed last week. His family apparently was targeted in an ambush at their home.

How many children, how many babies, must die at our own hands before we realize we are our biggest enemy.

The City of Dallas and its Dallas Police Department are under political fire. This criticism is warranted as its leadership has the moral responsibility to provide security to its citizens. Whatever it takes to restore safety, sanctity, and sanity, the City must act.

The City of Dallas acting means it must not police and occupy because of crime stats. This was done earlier in a ham-fisted manner resulting in a Dallas citizen, Schaston Hodge, being shot sixteen times by the Texas Rangers.

The Mayor and the city manager are wringing their collective hands because this type of crime is bad for business. How can business interests bring corporate dollars to enrich Dallas further?

Now before we blame the Dallas Police Department on increased crimes of murders and assaults, let’s be real! These are often not random killings, but crimes which reflect our social ills. This crime upsurge cannot be solved by merely policing more or throwing money at the problem. This can only be changed if we change.

We alone must Silence the Violence.

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall has been given an ultimatum to reduce crime. If she is going to reduce crime, a tremendous task, Chief Hall needs help from the black community. The community, our black community, must police itself.

We must Silence the Violence

The Black Lives Matter movement must immediately be an internal call for Dallas. We must stop the self-inflicted genocide that goes on yearly. If we do not, then 2020 will be just like 2019. If we do not, it will be another number, another death, and another hashtag.

Ed Gray is a presidential scholar at Southern Methodist University. He is the host of The Commish Radio Show airing Saturdays 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on FBRN.net, can be reached at eegray62@att.net. NDG was awarded NNPA’s 2018 Robert S. Abbott Best Editorial for Gray’s “Confederate Statues: The White Man’s Burden” column.

Marvin Miller Gets To The Baseball Hall Of Fame…But No Curt Flood

When it was announced on December 8, 2019 that the late Marvin Miller, the first executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), had finally been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame I let out a yell of glee! Finally, an individual who did so much for baseball and knocked down so many walls has been recognized.

Transforming an organization—the MLBPA—that was barely functioning into one of the most important labor unions in the USA was no small feat. And opening the door to free agency, which he and his leadership team mastered through brilliant strategy, fundamentally changed baseball.

What was missing in all the excitement was the recognition of the first ‘soldier’ out of the foxhole who, in an act of great courage and sacrifice, laid the foundation for the victory that Miller was able to bring about. Of course, I am referencing the late Curt Flood.

Curt Flood, an African American outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, was faced with a forced trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. This was in the late 1960s when baseball players were de facto owned by their teams (due to the “reserve clause”). Flood refused the trade and went to Marvin Miller seeking support. Miller and other leaders of the MLBPA asked Flood some tough questions, including whether he was truly ready for the risks associated with taking such a stand. Flood convinced Miller, as well as player leaders such as Roberto Clemente (Pittsburgh Pirates), that he was ready and he then received their full support.

Flood fought a multi-year court battle, ultimately ending in the Supreme Court, trying to end the reserve clause and institute free agency (the ability of a player, after a specific period of time, to offer his services to the highest bidder). He was ultimately defeated in one of the strangest US Supreme Court decisions ever recorded. Flood was exiled from baseball; went into a tailspin; but, with the help of his second wife, actress Judy Pace and other key friends, was able to reestablish his life. He passed away in 1997.

Flood’s case, though going down in defeat, shook up the baseball world and discredited the reserve clause system. It laid the foundation for the strategy employed by Miller a few years later to crack the system and introduce free agency. It is as a result of the courage of Flood and the strategy of Miller that Major League players were able to gain the incredible salary improvements seen over the last four decades.

I have, for quite a long time, felt that both Miller and Flood should have been admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Both of them, in different and related ways, changed baseball as an industry. Miller’s induction was a great victory, hands down. Flood, however, was the first soldier out of the foxhole; a Rosa Parks-like figure in baseball who knew that though the odds were stacked against him, he was prepared to stand firm.

How could that not merit being admitted into the Hall of Fame?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of globalafricanworker.com and the former president of TransAfrica Forum.

The Biggest Mistake Parents Make When It Comes To Education

This National School Choice Week (January 26 – February 1), I want to share with you one of the most common short-circuits that parents run into when choosing the right school for their child. That way, if you see it coming, you can run the other way.

It starts with a thought like this: “Do I as a parent really know best about my child’s education? After all, I don’t have a graduate degree in education. There’s a lot of school jargon I’m not sure about. Should I let more equipped people make the calls about where and how my child is educated?”

I understand the tendency to think that way. But I work with tens of thousands of school leaders around the country— the “education experts”— every year, and here is what I believe:

You know your child better than anyone else. You are the expert on your child as a whole person— how they learn, experience the world, and what they’re passionate about. You are best positioned to help your student find the learning environment where their unique self will be cared for and inspired. Nobody is more invested in your child’s happiness than you.

The biggest mistake you can make as a parent is not recognizing that power you hold. Not only are you best equipped to make choices for your child’s education, but it can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do! When a parent finds a learning environment where their child’s potential is unleashed, it can mean the difference between that child finding success and confidence, or feeling like a failure.

Change that starts with parents is the single most powerful way to improve education in Maryland. Seek advice and use research, certainly, but also believe in your instinct and expertise as a parent. Around the country there’s evidence that, when we make it easier for parents to choose, they do make good choices for their child’s education. We’ve seen the positive impact accessible school options have had in places like Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and more.

In Maryland, there are a variety of educational available including: traditional public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, and homeschooling. Maryland families under a certain income level may qualify for a state-run scholarship program.

School choice is the starting point for better schools, where families are personally invested and there is a strong human connection and open communication between parents and teachers. When students learn that learning is something to be excited by, invested in, and challenged by, that shapes their perspective for life.

This School Choice Week, parents, students, and educators in Maryland will participate in more than 773 events and activities, celebrating all types of K-12 education and sharing knowledge with each other. It’s also a celebration of parents recognizing their power and choosing to be involved in their child’s education. This Week, realize your power as a parent and start thinking about what learning environment can best inspire your child to happiness in the 2020-2021 school year.

A nationally recognized advocate for children and families, Andrew R. Campanella serves as president of National School Choice Week, the world’s largest-annual celebration of opportunity in education. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) On Census 2020 (Counting Children Matters Most)

Within the African American community, the conversation about the upcoming 2020 census ranges from ‘why bother’ to ‘we’re all in.’ Let’s speak to the ‘why bother’ question.

FAQ: Why should I bother with Census 2020? I filled out the census form the last time and I didn’t see any improvements in my neighborhood or community.

Answer: Whether or not you saw the improvements you expected, many benefits of the census still touched your life, your community, and the people you love and care about – especially children.

If you have a sense of responsibility for the quality of life of children in your family or beyond, your participation in the census has a direct impact. Over 200 federal programs derive revenue from data gathered by the census. This list includes school lunch programs and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) which provides direct monetary assistance for low income pregnant women and new mothers and their children. Other programs range from Section 8 Housing assistance to LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP helps families pay heating bills and assists with repairs to furnaces, insulation and weatherization costs.

Without these programs, the cost of living for everyone in a neighborhood, city, or county would be higher. Take LIHEAP as an example. Without the financial subsidy to those in need, other ratepayers and customers like yourself, would likely face an increase in monthly utility bills.

This is one reason why those who represent African American communities, be they clergy, elected officials, or social justice advocates, see engagement with the census as a moral imperative.

FAQ: That still doesn’t explain why I don’t see the improvements promised during the last census in 2010 or even during the 2000 census.

Answer: You know the saying, “all politics is local.” Almost nowhere does this apply more than when money is being allocated. There are layers of responsibility for how money is spent, including federal and state formulas as well as decisions made at the local level, often by elected officials. The census has a direct bearing on our election processes of redistricting and reapportionment which help determine how your vote is counted and who gets elected. We will take these up as separate .

FAQ: What happens if I do not fill out the form? Is that a crime? If so, what’s the punishment?

Answer: Not answering the census or providing false answers are each punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, but no one has been fined for failure to respond in recent censuses, according to the Census Bureau’s national spokesperson. But, as one census advocate said, it is a crime of sorts not to participate because is the children who suffer most without your full participation.

FAQ: Can someone find out my private census responses?

Answer: Your information is confidential and protected by Title 13 which brings heavy fines and possible imprisonment for anyone who divulges your personal information. The Census Bureau cannot, under penalty, share your information with the IRS, Homeland Security, immigration or law enforcement agencies or anyone else, including housing officials. However, census information is made publicly available after 72 years.

FAQ: What if I participate in the census, but there are more people living in my home than I’m supposed to have according to my lease or rental agreement?

Answer: The Census Bureau is trying to gather data. It is not seeking to determine whether you are violating your lease or local zoning codes, but you have raised an important point. Families are often fluid — grandparents taking care of grandchildren while parents are at work or away from home. The best thing to do is ask the Census Bureau or one of the many organizations participating in partnership during Census2020.

Trump Signs Future Act To Help HBCUs, Minority-Serving Institutions

One day after the House impeached him, President Donald Trump took decisive action to support and empower Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country.

The President put his signature on the Future Act, legislation that for the time includes HBCUs in the federal 5-year STEM Education Plan and the National Research and Development Budget Priorities.

“When I took office, I promised to fight for HBCUs, and my Administration continues to deliver,” Trump stated.

“A few months ago, funding for HBCUs was in jeopardy. But the White House and Congress came together and reached a historic agreement. For the first time ever, I signed legislation to permanently fund HBCUs and other institutions that primarily serve first-generation and minority students. This action guarantees more than $2.5 billion over the next 10 years, including $850 million specifically for HBCUs,” the President stated.

He continued:

“Today’s achievement continues my unprecedented commitment to HBCUs. During my first weeks in office, I moved the HBCU initiative, led by Johnathan Holifield, to the White House and worked with Congress to increase funding for HBCUs by more than $100 million. HBCUs have never had better champions in the White House.

“The bill I signed today also reforms the Free Application for Federal StudentAid, or FAFSA. The Internal Revenue Service will now seamlessly transfer applicants’ records to the Department of Education, so that families can use a simpler, shorter application for financial aid and those with student loans do not have to complete a cumbersome income certification process year after year.

“This is a transformative change that has been talked about in Washington for more than a decade, but everyone always said it could not be done. We got it done.”

HBCUs will now play an essential part in federal planning to advance bold, transformational leaps in science and technology to ensure America remains the global leader in science and technology for generations to come, White House officials said in a release.

With the bill’s signing, Trump also established the inaugural HBCU Colors Day, which encourages HBCU supporters from across the country to wear HBCU apparel to show their support for HBCU institutions.

The Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education – or Future Act – means that, under the President’s administration, investment in HBCU programs has significantly increased under Title III of the Higher Education Action of 1965.

This includes:

• A $35 million increase in the Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program ($279.6 million);

• A $9 million increase in the Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions ($72.3 million);

• A $1 million increase in the Strengthening HBCU Masters Programs ($8.6 million);

• Meaningful increases investments in student support like Pell Grants, Federal Work-Study, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG); and

• Increases in Howard University’s annual appropriation by nearly $11 million, bringing its fiscal year 2018 investment level to $232.5 million.

• The bill also increased by $30 million in investments in the HBCU Capital Financing Program, helping eight schools experiencing financial difficulty in redesigning and restructuring to better meet student and community needs and fulfill loan obligations.

Trump also has appointed both the Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs and Executive Director of the White House Initiatives on HBCUs.

“What we’re talking about is permanent funding for HBCUs, as well as minority-serving institutions, to the tune of $255 million in the annual formula and competitive funding,” said Ja’Ron Smith, the Deputy Assistant to the President for the White House Office of American Innovation.

“That’s over ten years, so you’re talking about $2.5 billion, and we didn’t just stop there. With the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) simplification that only allows students to answer up to 22 questions on a current basis, we eliminated the burdensome process that will allow low-income students like myself, who had to navigate a FAFSA form without having parents who ever went to college,” Smith stated.

Smith added that the legislation would help put more students in the pipeline, and more resources into HBCUs and minority-serving institutions.

“It’s going to help them with programming infrastructure and help the students that go to these institutions,” he stated.

The President and his administration are aggressively working on other strategies to assist HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions, Smith stated.

“During our last two presidential board of advisors meetings, the subject came up, and we’re also taking a look at the money that can be leveraged into these institutions as well as community colleges,” Smith said. “I think that we just need to be smarter as a government and harness our institutions. Many of these schools are located in areas where people depend on those institutions to get access to opportunity. Our commitment has always been to figure out a strategy to help these institutions throughout the 21st century.”

Breaking News! Jesus Was Indeed Born In December! Christmas Is Correctly Dated!

Recently, a preacher from Delaware was on YouTube calling Christians “heathen” for claiming that Jesus was born in December. He declared that he had the proof. His proof was taken from St Luke’s Gospel, Chapter One and verse 26 where it is clearly written: “In the sixth month The Angel Gabriel was sent to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

The preacher then continued to prove his case. He said emphatically that the sixth month was June. And that is true for our calendar which is solar (sun) based. But it is not true for the Jewish calendar, now running for over 5,700 years, which is lunar (moon) based.

See, for us, our year begins in January and the sixth month is indeed June. But for the Jewish people (and Jesus and the writers of the New Testament were Jewish and functioning off the lunar calendar), their year begins roughly between September 19 and October 17, give or take a day or two.

If what is stated above is true, then the “sixth month” when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary suddenly becomes mid-March to mid-April. Jesus would have been conceived in March and if one counts nine months forward—the time it takes before a baby is naturally born, we can and indeed MUST conclude that Jesus was born in mid-December to mid-January time period.

The first Christians, when they placed the time of the birth of Jesus were most certainly aware of the time the Bible says Jesus was conceived—in the sixth month! But they were Jews, and their first month was September! That is why in the calendars of the Roman and other Catholic Churches, March 25th is celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation, their sixth month and exactly nine months before December 25th, which is Christmas Day—a fixed, rather than moveable feast for Christians.

Amazingly, some parts of the Christian Church actually celebrate January 6th as being more important than December 25th. And they have been doing this for centuries now! All this is still within the time frame of how the Jewish calendar would have served to place the conception of Jesus as being in the sixth month on the Jewish calendar and Jesus’ birth coming nine months later.

Christians therefore need not be doubtful about Christmas and its dating. It is dated correctly according to the Scripture, Luke 1:26 and the Jewish Calendar whose New Year often starts in September.

While we are on the topic of dating Christmas, here is another theory about how it was dated in ancient times:

It is said that ancient peoples believed that great Religious folk died on the day they were conceived. The early Church believed that Jesus died on March 25th, the first Good Friday. Enterprising scholars could actually check this out by researching whether there was a Jewish Passover on what would have been March 26th in the year Jesus died. We know that Passover and Easter could never come before the Spring Solstice because it was only after the first Full Moon after the Spring Solstice that Passover, and consequently Easter could be dated.

If it were indeed true that ancients believed that great Religious folks died on the day they were conceived, and Jesus was known to have died on March 25th, then its an easy count from the day of conception—March 25—to the day of birth, 9 months later, December 25th.

This is just another argument to help Christians gain more confidence in the factual basis of their faith which is often ridiculed and attacked in these modern days. The Christian Faith is grounded in historical facts about a man who was born, most likely in December and crucified most likely in March. We know that he was born; and we chose to celebrate his birth on December 25th without apology. We know He died at Passover time, and we believe he arose from the dead Easter Day.

So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We Need A Healthcare System That Supports The New American Workforce

Americans are increasingly leaving their traditional 9-to-5 jobs to work for themselves. Last year, nearly 57 million people performed freelance work — up from 53 million in 2014.

The Affordable Care Act made this transition possible for many. It enabled millions of Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions, to purchase health insurance independent of their employer. Consequently, Americans can work independently without worrying that medical emergencies could destroy their finances.

As the head of community at Fiverr, an online marketplace for independent work, I’ve seen first-hand how important affordable health care is for people to pursue freelancing. Yet policymakers have repeatedly tried to undermine the ACA. These efforts have caused premiums to increase, making coverage unfeasible for many.

Attacking the ACA further is a mistake. Instead, lawmakers should protect and strengthen the law. Independent work allows people to become their own bosses — and boosts the economy.

Consider this hypothetical — a small public relations firm occasionally needs to make some infographics. In past decades, that firm would have had to hire an in-house graphic designer. That’s expensive. And only designers within commuting distance could apply. But now, the firm can engage a freelancer — who could have many similar clients and earn a sizeable income. Indeed, in 2018, skilled freelancers in the top 25 markets for independent work generated over $135 billion in revenue.

Win-win scenarios like this help explain why freelancing contributes $1.4 trillion to the American economy annually.

Many Americans want to work independently but remain tethered to their employers for health benefits. Fifty-six percent of Americans cite health insurance as the reason they’ve stayed with their current employers.

The ACA sought to remove this barrier, and it largely succeeded — at least under President Obama. In 2013, the year before most ACA provisions went into effect, only 64 percent of full-time independent workers had health insurance. By 2016, that increased to 83 percent.

The ACA also spurred entrepreneurship. Consider a study from one Temple University researcher who analyzed the ACA provision that allowed young Americans to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Young people who received that coverage capitalized on the security it provided. They were up to three times more likely to start their own businesses.

Yet some politicians have relentlessly attacked the ACA. In late 2017, Congress neutered the law’s individual mandate — the requirement that all Americans obtain insurance or pay a penalty. The Trump administration has also allowed insurers to sell lightly regulated plans that cover only some of the benefits included in standard ACA plans.

These politicians hope that, due to these reforms, young, healthy workers will forgo coverage or enroll in junk insurance plans. That would leave only older, sicker Americans in the ACA’s insurance exchanges. Premiums would surge, making plans unaffordable for millions of middle-class people who don’t receive subsidies.

Sadly, the efforts to undermine the law are working. Last year, exchange plan premiums rose 6 percent more than they would have absent this sabotage. The number of people enrolled in unsubsidized ACA plans plummeted from 6.3 million in 2016 to 3.8 million in 2018.

Politicians could promote entrepreneurship by restoring the individual mandate and taking steps to uncouple health insurance from employment. Such reforms are good policy and good politics. More than half of freelancers consider themselves politically active, compared to only a third of non-freelancers.

All Americans should be able to pursue independent work. Health coverage mustn’t stand in the way.

I Was Just Thinking… Mama In The Classroom

I Messenger Media welcomes veteran journalist Norma Adams-Wade. We hope you will enjoy her insightful, informative and entertaining columns.

I wrote my first column in 1988 for a local Dallas newspaper. I wrote about a beloved Dallas guidance counselor and teacher that most students called “Mama.” Chew on that for a minute. A teacher that students called “Mama.” There is so much meaning in that thought that I can hardly contain it. Many of you, some of you may remember her— Mable M. Jackson Chandler, better known as Mama Chandler.

She began teaching and counseling during World War II and did so for 39 years before she retired in 1980 and died some years later. She loved it when students called her Mama. She acted the part, but she wasn’t acting. She was real. She cared. She disciplined with a look, a firm reprimand, a take-no-prisoners persona that commanded respect, with no need to demand it.

The funny thing is that with all of her “tough-guy” demeanor, I don’t remember any students who seemed to doubt that beneath that exterior was genuine love. So, I was just thinking… about Tiffani Lankford. She is the 32-year-old substitute teacher who was arrested earlier this month for fighting back after a 16-year-old student allegedly hit her in the face.

The encounter, which happened at Lehman High School in Kyle, Texas just outside of Austin, was caught on cell phone video recorded by another student. The video shows the teacher repeatedly punching the student, pulling her from the desk and slinging her to the floor where the teacher appears to stomp on the student’s head.

Initial news reports said there was no immediate information as to what prompted the encounter. The substitute teacher was arrested, fired and charged with aggravated assault— but back to Mama. I was just thinking— how would Mama Chandler have handled that situation? First of all, though, the thought seems inconceivable that any student during Mama’s time would ever have imagined hitting this maternal figurehead.

I remember quoting Mama’s explanation of how she got the endearing title, though she had no children of her own. She had said: “During the war years, fathers were in service, mothers had to work. I told my students, ‘I’m your Mama now, while you’re here. You have a problem, come talk to me.’” So, how did we get here— from Mama Chandler to a fistfight?

Many people who commented on social media sided with the teacher. Commenters also described modern school systems as out-of-control with student violence, blatant disrespect and disdain for learning. There was once a popular 1950s television series, called ‘I Remember Mama,’ about a Norwegian immigrant family.

One reviewer described Mama, the main character, as “one of the warmest characters ever to grace television.” You could not describe Mama Chandler as warm but she was certainly loved and respected. She also helped finance many students’ college education, and they floated her with cards, letters and visits over the years.

When asked the clue to her success, she answered: “Accepting other people’s children as my own.” So, it’s fair to say that those children, her students, could utter with conviction the television show’s familiar tagline: “I remember the big white house… my little sister…big brother…and Papa but most of all, I remember Mama.”

Write Your Own Obituary. Your Life Depends on It.

My immediate reaction to a recent sermon I heard was to share it. Although this was not the topic of the message, the pastor’s comment about life and death made me think about my own obituary.

It seems that the inventor of dynamite got an unusual chance to read his own obituary and was very irritated about what it said about him. The question that this little-known fact made me think about was, “How will God respond to mine?” Better yet, “How would I respond to my own obituary?”

I mean if you could design and write your own epitaph, wouldn’t you want it to reflect in some way a life with God at the center of it?

I once heard that one’s greatest enlightenment is to know the will of God. The greatest achievement is to do the will of God. If you could draft the truth about your life today and make sure that when people spoke at your funeral, they spoke of your service to the Lord, would you have to change course, or could you stay the course? What would you need to change or do differently?

In the case of Alfred Nobel (of the Nobel Prizes) he didn’t want to be eulogized as the guy who invented wholesale slaughter for a profit. Because he supposedly read a premature obituary about himself, he established the Nobel Prize (in his will) to leave a gift to mankind that the world celebrates every year. That dynamite thing almost never comes up.

My point is if they wrote your obituary today, would it please you? Would it please God? If not, do you know why not?

In this instance, the thought of my own death prompted me to think, “What had I done for God lately that others might see and maybe appreciate?”

At a very personal level, I began to wonder how much I was doing simply out of the love for God, rather than the fear of monumental consequence. Do I follow the Lord out of faith in unconditional grace or because I’m afraid of what will happen to me if I don’t? If you’re talking about God’s rules, that becomes a very interesting question. Is my obedience to God based on fear or is my obedience based on love?

You see whatever anyone says in my obituary, I’m pretty sure God will know the truth of it all. We all want to be remembered fondly. The thing that made me think about this was, the reality that new life, eternal life begins at death. The quality of that life might just begin with what your spiritual obituary says. If you know that then you also know you can start to rewrite your obit today, starting right now!

I just thought that it might be a beneficial exercise to commit from today forward, to crafting a life that, when spoken of at its celebration, you would be proud to show it to God.

We all know we’ll be held accountable for our new life as we conclude our old one: the physical one.

I’m reminded that I often refer to our ability to influence that dash; that thing between when we are physically born and when we physically die. We have, no say about the beginning and a little at the end but how we handle the dash in between will serve us well for eternity. It will be what makes up our obituaries.

Pay attention to your life. You cast a wider net than you could possibly know.

May God Bless and Keep you Always.

James A. Washington is a father, husband, Christian, writer, entrepreneur and the owner/publisher of the Dallas Weekly.