Saturday, November 04, 2006

Revelations from BESLA - St. Kitts

In the name of God,
stop a moment,
cease your work,
look around you.
Leo Tolstoy (Russian novelist)


Greetings from the beautiful, tranquil paradise known as St. Kitts! This entry arrived via the warm, Caribbean tradewinds. Those same tradewinds beckoned me to wrap up four days of networking with a retreat to this hammock. I'm now back in the crisp air synonymous with autumn in New York City. Yet, I offer you this entry as it was, if only to hold onto my tropical, Ting-flavored memories for just a tad longer. Yeah mon!

I went to St. Kitts for the annual gathering of Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers (www.BESLA.org). BESLA brings together some of the best and brightest legal minds in the world for a week of education, networking, deal-making, scholarship granting and parties where the walls sweat. As I set out to grade my conference activities, I noticed a rather large, lime green lizard scurrying up the tree supporting my hammock. Fear not... I'm a city boy. Lizards.. ok. Mouse? No!

My personal BESLA goal was to reduce the ranks of the Nods. You know the Nods, don't you? They're the people we see event after event. With familiarity comes the requisite greeting -- you shoot them a warm smile and a "what's up" head nod and keep it moving. Having declared war on this socially acceptable, but fruitless activity, I was pleased to issue myself a decent B+ (with room for improvement). With the lizard out of sight, I headed to my hammock, just in time to see a mass of clouds forming in dramatic fashion just off the horizon. Now, I don't want you thinking That Johnson Boy suffers from Moses-envy, but every now and then I recognize signs from heaven. Something about those clouds made me think this might be one of those signs. And with that, I grabbed my mp3 player, journal, pen and camera and settled in to hear what answers might be blowin' in the Caribbean wind.

As I reclined, I pressed play and listened to the soothing instrumental jazz offering of Collaboration's "Because Of You." If I didn't know better, one would think they recorded it with St. Kitts in mind. It's really that peaceful.

I met some pretty amazing people at BESLA. I met the future winner of the Iron Man Triathalon and guess what... she's definitely not a man. I met a ready for TV judge from the Lone Star state, an army of future lawyers from The U (Howard University), and the legal eagle behind Sears' quest to copyright the entire world. In the spirit of Butch Lewis, the conference was full of amazing dots just waiting to be connected. And because I had invested the time, my dots had names, faces, families, dreams and ambitions.

My attention then shifted to the once distant clouds that were now clustered before me. Propelled by the jet stream, the clouds appeared to transform with every passing minute. They took on large cumulonimbus shapes, cottonball white at first and later infused with the golden-orange glow of the setting sun. Perhaps for some on the Isle of St. Kitts, the clouds signaled rain. But I suspect most people never saw the clouds.

I watched in awe at what some might deem plain ol' clouds. From my vantage point, I compared the clouds to Moses' burning bush. So beautiful and awesome was this heavenly display; and yet the only thing truly unique here was that I took the time to experience this offering.

As I snapped countless pictures, I realized that God provides us with such beauty every second of every single day. He provides this beauty regardless of whether we see it, acknowledge it or even appreciate it. He bestows His beauty upon billions of people every second of every day; and yet, I can't help but sense that it pleased Him to know that someone appreciated His idea of a picture perfect day. Today, that someone was me, and the mere possibility that my appreciation would bring Him joy resonated deep within my spirit.

So, what does all this mean to you, the world changers that make up this community? What message do I have for you who work hard, dream big, and aspire to make a profound impact on the world? You know I was hoping you'd ask that question!

To my writers - you who dream of achieving best-seller status and an audience with Lady O of Harpo - by all means prepare to saturate the world with your literary gift. But, my message of hope from St. Kitts is that you experience God-like appreciation upon seeing one person deeply immersed in your words. May you see every fixed pupil and raised eyebrow, right down to them tracing their fingers along the ink-laden pages of the very book that contains your literary expressions. May you appreciate how meaningful your words have been to their lives.

To those of you like my music creators -- you who dream of #1 hits and performing before millions of adoring fans. My St. Kitts wish for you is that you witness one person, eyes closed shut, lost in the healing melody of your artistry. Know that their smiles and tears confirm that you've sang life into their story, their joy, pain, heartache and desires and inspirations. It took great courage to expose your soul within your songs. You'll need even more courage to truly receive a word of gratitude from those profoundly affected by your offering. Shall I sing "Be A Lion" from the musical, The Wiz? Works for me every time!

To those of you like my BESLA veterans -- overflowing with a wealth of wisdom and insight perfect for guiding and nurturing young minds -- may you take a moment to look into the eyes of your mentee and see just how extremely grateful they are for your mentorship. I guess you could wait a few years and see how they blossom. But, to wait would mean missing the overwhelming gratitude they feel towards you for your belief and investment in them just as they are/right where they are today. Remember back... was there ever a better feeling than someone believing and investing in a young, hungry, but unproven you? Your Honor, the defense rest.

To my career changers -- folks like the young lady I met at a recent Kelly Price Listening Party - folks bold enough to respond to this stranger's question of "what do you really want to do," I applaud you. Not only did you say what you wanted, but you followed-up as promised. May your efforts be revitalized in knowing that it only takes one (1) person to say yes to your new career and that one person is... you. I suspect that your very own personalized, co-signed in agreement "yes" is right around the career corner!

And lastly, to all of my driven perfectionists like my good friend, brother and saxophonist extraordinaire, Tracey "TC" Cutler. You know who you are. Like him, you're methodical in your approach and uber-meticulous concerning your craft. And like him, these traits combine to foster a self-depreciation of your amazing gifts and talents. Boy, do I have a special wish for you!

My wish for you is a lazy day on the beautiful island of St. Kitts. May you nestle into the belly of a woven hammock, turn off your critical ear, press play and listen as you and your Collaboration band mates weave your indelible magic on a Yusef Chisholm composition. In fact, don't even bother to listen. Feel the music and let it scatter your perfectionist traits along the Caribbean tradewinds. Only then will you appreciate how much of your spirit you imparted in every note, and just how much of a blessing your talents and gifts are to the universe. And perhaps like me, you'll flip Yusef's song title into a chorus of praise, then look to the cloud-filled heavens and proclaim over and over again... "Because of You... Because of You... Because of You."

Yeah mon, St. Kitts was heavenly. BESLA? Divine. God? Awesome! And should anyone inquire... who tink up all dis stuff?, you tell 'em That Johnson Boy, that's who!


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What Will Be Your Legacy?

It is my honor to post the insights and thoughts of someone near and dear to my heart. She is my mentor, my therapist and best of all, my sister. I've been trying to get her (and others of you) to post, and finally she obliged my request with a posting that left me stuttering. Therefore, I present to you, the naturally beautiful, deceptively militant and always conscious sista I jokingly refer to as "Sista X." But you can call her Dr. D. Elyse Johnson (that's right, yet another one of those Johnson children). Happy reading, from That Johnson Boy!


"THE TERISA EXPERIENCE - I'LL NEVER BE THE SAME"
by D. Elyse Johnson, Ph.D.


If you have never seen Terisa Griffin in concert, you should pray that she comes to your town real soon. If she is not scheduled for your city, drive to the nearest place where she will be performing. Your life will be forever changed. I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Griffin perform at "Blues Alley"- that's right, the legendary, internationally renowned Blues Alley in Georgetown (Washington, DC) - on this past Monday, October 9. 2006. Trust me when I say that she brought down the house with her melodious, soulful voice. More importantly, her message of hope and empowerment for people in pain was loud and clear. And, if you were there and didn't get it, I suggest you buy the CD and keep listening until you do get it.

From the moment I stepped out of the parking lot attached to the Shops at Georgetown, the first thing I saw when I looked up was a marquee that read in big bold letters "BLUES ALLEY" on the first line, and "TERISA GRIFFIN" directly underneath it. My eyes started welling up with tears at just that moment. To be honest, I was on the verge of tears all that night. And no, I was not depressed. I was just so darned happy to be a part of this life-changing experience. You see, just like many of you, I had read Terisa's story on the That Johnson Boy Said What? blogspot several months ago so I knew her struggle. My family and I also had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas Day with Teresa several years ago. Therefore, when I saw the marquee, all I could think was: SHE DID IT! SHE REALLY DID IT!

What is "it"? "It" could be those big dreams that some of us have and want to fulfill before we transition to the next life. Terisa had a dream and she brought it to fruition in spite of her struggles and circumstances in life. How many of us keep saying that we are going to pursue our dream, but we also keep giving excuses for why we cannot make it happen? Terisa, in bearing her soul, hence the title of her CD, My Naked Soul, turned her pain and life's lessons into a blessing for others. As she sang and narrated her way through each song, all I could do was nod my head because she hit home in so many ways. We, her audience, laughed, we cried or wanted to, and we nodded our way into the beginning of healing from whatever our past circumstances and experiences, especially those related to matters of the heart. Now, I don't know about you, but that's what I want my dream to be - a blessing to someone else.

Another irony of the "Terisa Experience", which is how I describe what occurred at Blues Alley, is that there were several of us from the same family there who had recently embarked on major empowerment projects - one brother and sister are writing a book and another brother is appearing at venues locally and sharing his spoken word. Little did Terisa know, but she served as a major impetus for us step it up and get our projects out there. When I got back to the job, I placed a copy of Terisa's Blues Alley flier on my wall. Why? Because every time I get ready to complain about life or give excuses for why I can't finish my project, the only thing I have to do is just look up on my wall and remind myself that if Terisa Griffin can do it, I can too! What about you? Do you have a dream? Have you started to pursue it? What will be your legacy? Terisa Griffin's legacy will live on long after she transitions over to the other side. Will yours?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Behind The Scenes Peek at a Financial Blessing

For a community to be
whole and healthy,
it must be based on people's
love and concern for
each other.
(Millard Fuller)

O' my friends, today is a wonderful day! Children young and old are headed back to school. And because of your generous spirit, Ms. Chanel Auguste had the pleasure of hearing a Clark Atlanta University Admissions Counselor say...

"Congratulations! You are officially enrolled!"

Two weeks earlier, I sent out an Emergency S.O.S. She was in dire need of an additional $3,500.00 to cover her tuition shortfall. This community showed just how powerful and supportive community can be. You responded immediately and was generous in sharing your time, resources, information and finances. I say again - today is a wonderful day!

What makes today so wonderful isn't limited to the fact that we successfully raised $3,500.00. What pleases me most are the lessons learned along the way. Oprah says that love is in the details. I believe the details of this experience illustrate how we can tackle many of the issues that challenge us. So, if you love details, spare me a moment while I show you some love!
First we must acknowledge the problem. Confession: When Chanel initially called me, I listened while simultaneously concluding that I probably couldn't help. That's the truth. I placed a few calls - just enough to ease my conscience. I probably spent more time mentally scripting my follow-up conversation with her, "Hey Chanel, I tried but came up short. Wish I could do more." But, when she called me early Tuesday morning, the anguish in her voice caused me to jettison my apathetic script. I had listened before, but now I heard her. She really needed my help. At that moment, I acknowledged her problem and it became real to me. But what could I do?

Pray. That's what I promised Chanel. I promised her that I would pray about her situation and call back. I hung up the phone and actually did what I said I would do. The answer came immediately and all that I could say was, "Do WHAT? Lord, let me make sure I understood you. You want me... ME... to ask for money? On MY blog? Oh No! No! No! No! No! I hate asking for help. I didn't create my blog to beg for money." His response came back loud and clear, and guess what? God doesn't stutter. So I set out on the all important next step...

Take Action. Faith without works is dead, so yours truly moved into action mode. I called Chanel to ensure that she was comfortable sharing her plight with the entire world. As soon as I hung up, God began dictating while I typed at a feverish pace. I know it was God because it took me less than 30 minutes to complete the post. Had it been just me, I would have spent an entire day creatively crafting my post to camouflage the fact that I was asking for help. I was committed to seeing this to a successful ending. I called Chanel one more time to ask, "...how's your faith?"

Know Thy Role. From the onset, I knew that there was no room for "I". "I" had to relinquish control. "I" didn't have the experience, knowledge or financial resources to solve the problem. By giving up control, we gained more resources than we could have imagined. Ideas flow freely when we get out of our own way. New perspectives shine thru when we get out of the way. The idea of using Paypal to process donations came about because yours truly got out of the way (thanks again, Sy). I would serve as facilitator and the guardian of the standard of excellence.

I had spent much of this summer studying the pursuit and expectation of excellence. Chanel's situation provided an opportunity to apply my lessons. For instance, I knew that folks meant well when they suggested that she sit out this semester or transfer to a less-expensive school. Their suggestions were practical, even logical. But where was the excellence? If you're a U.S. taxpayer, you already underwrite the expensive miseducation taking place at our ever-expanding University of Penitentiaries system. If we allow our tax dollars to support this insanity, surely we can use our discretionary income to support pursuits of excellence. So, you see, there could be no wavering on excellence, not from Chanel and not from our community of supporters.

At the brink of failure, the real enemy will surface. We had raised $1,700.00 in less than two weeks; yet with 48 hours to go we still needed $1,800.00. I spent Saturday night in a restless funk punctuated by visions of failure. Church service on Sunday offered little relief, although I did manage to find encouragement thru the television ministries of Joyce Meyers and others. By Sunday night I was mentally and emotionally depleted. The fear of failing to deliver had me stressed out. With that said, I eked out a prayer and went to bed. You do know what happened next, don't you? God blessed me with not one, but two dreams of Chanel headed to class! Two dreams in one night when I generally can't recall two dreams in a year!

I woke up short of feeling fully refreshed, but encouraged by the visions of her attending class. Most of all, I realized that in my darkest moments, the real enemy had surfaced. And that enemy was none other than That Johnson Boy himself. As the deadline grew near, my focus shifted from fundraising to "how's this going to make me look when I fail to deliver?" Wrong! It wasn't about me. Throughout this endeavor I would ask Chanel, "how's your faith?" I never once asked her to believe in or have faith in me. It was all about God. Yet, in the darkest hour, I was overcome by a fear of failure and how people would view my failure. This enemy didn't have horns or a pitchfork, but he did sport dreadlocks and worry lines. So I did what I had to do. I praised God for the insight, then slayed my dreaded ego and his fear of failure, got dressed and headed to my job! You do know what happened next, don't you?

Exceedingly Abundantly Blessed! That best describes what happened next. Here we were, $1,800.00 short, deadline just hours away when I received a page from an earth angel. She and her family made a donation early on, and would inquire daily for updates. I avoided her pages as I didn't know how to tell her that we didn't meet the goal. But, having slayed the ego, I inhaled deeply and sent her a text message with the not so wonderful news. Her response? "Find $900.00 and my family will match." I made one call. One. The deal was done.

Exceedingly Abundantly Blessed! We needed $3,500.00; God blessed us exceedingly, abundantly above that amount. After all, what price can you affix to this exercise in faith, restoration and healing? Some of you could write one check to cover Chanel's tuition. But your single act could never have the exponential impact of a loving community that shows how much they care. Who knew that a single phone call would touch so many lives? Folks from Iraq to London and everywhere in between opened their hearts and minds. You shared her plight with your friends and colleagues. You emailed encouragement and information. You sowed a financial blessing into the life of one of our Invisible Achievers. I can assure you she definitely has a testimony!

As for That Johnson Boy, this entire endeavor underscores the bible verse, "...all things work together for them that love the Lord." I'm reminded just how interconnected we are and how our actions (or inactions) have profound implications beyond the scope of our vision. My goal was simple - raise $3,500.00. Who knew that this endeavor would challenge me to confront my own apathy and strengthen my desire to lead thru Christ? How was I to know that my lesson was tied to a family miles away - themselves in the midst of financial struggles. They withheld their name, but offered their testimony.

Their finances were tight and they, too, were praying for direction. God's word for them? When facing such a crisis, sow good seed into the life of someone less fortunate. And so it was that on the morning of our deadline - the same morning that I finally summoned the courage to inform all of our financial shortcoming - I received a page from my earth angels. They didn't know Chanel. They barely knew me. But they knew God and desired nothing more than to honor His request to sow good seed. And with that they replied, "Find $900 and my family will match." Oh, I say to you again and again and again... All things work together for them that love the Lord!

I can't thank each of you enough. I really can't. The village is indeed alive and capable of greatness beyond measure. I promise that I'll get back to you as we chart a course to create a tuition assistance fund for situations similar to Chanels. Until then, if anybody ask you who's that making all that noise about today being a wonderful day, you tell them That Johnson Boy, that's who!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Update: Emergency Situation

As of Monday morning, August 21st, we have raised $1,200.00. We still need to raise $2,300.00. But guess what? That Johnson Boy definitely believes in miracles. We received word this morning that the deadline for paying tuition has been extended until Tuesday, August 22nd. Your financial support can help keep this wonderful student enrolled in college. Please use the donation button below to make a contribution. If you're unfamiliar with Chanel's situation, please scroll down and read my original Emergency Request blog.

First, let me thank my blog family for your amazing response to my plea for help. It really has been nothing short of amazing.

There were many wonderful suggestions, all of which have been or are in the process of being pursued. However, instead of depending on one major benefactor, I have implemented Sy's suggestion and began a donation campaign to meet Chanel's financial need.

The Chanel Auguste Emergency Tuition Fund has been set-up at Paypal. (For those unfamiliar, Paypal is the financial engine powering Ebay.) All donations will be deposited directly into Chanel's account. I will manage this process, but the accountability and updates will come directly from Ms. Auguste.

I know $3,500.00 is a lot of money. But, we can accomplish this without incurring financial hardship if we utilize the economies of scale. For instance, 700 supporters at $5 each; or 350 supporters at $10 each; or 140 supporters at $25 each - it is as easy is that. One less Starbucksaholic fix and our rising star is in class where she belongs!

Please help me send a message to Chanel and all of the young people striving for excellence that we see them, hear them, honor them and love them. Let us speak it from our mouths, mean it from our hearts and confirm it with our support.

Please donate what you can to ensure that her education at Clark Atlanta University will proceed. No donation is too little. And, if you unable to make a financial donation, please remember that the prayers of the righteous availeth much!

Click the button below to Make a Donation. Stop on by and yours truly, That Johnson Boy, will meet you there!







Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Emergency Situation

I Need Your Help!

Those that know me know that those are words that don't easily escape my lips. But, I really do need your help.

Last Friday, I received an emergency call from one of ASCAP's former interns, Chanel Auguste. Chanel is entering her 3rd year at Clark Atlanta University. She's a full-time student maintaining a 3.5 gpa, is extremely active on campus, yet manages to excel in her job as a college representative for Sony/BMG. Her accomplishments have earned her entry into the population of Invisible Achievers (more on that later).

On last Friday, the Clark Atlanta University's financial aid office informed her that her financial aid package would leave her $7,000.00 short. She can apply for a loan, but would need a co-signer. When that process proved unsuccessful, she called me. They are willing to allow her to pay $3,500.00 to attend classes this semester, with the balance due next semester. School starts this week so time is of the essence.

So why am I writing you?

First, I need to know if anyone knows of any emergency funds for situations like this? Any information you can provide would be so wonderful and is desperately needed. Remember, the clock is ticking, so we need to move quickly.

Second, I won't assume what folks can or won't do. Therefore, I encourage anyone who would like to invest in this child to do so. You can do a loan, grant, promissory note, gift or whatever works for you. You may be wondering what steps, if any, has the family taken to resolve this issue. Let me assure you that they've raised some wonderful children, and have done all that they can. I'm just asking the village to step in as only we can. If you are so moved to underwrite or contribute, please don't hesitate to email me at Keith@KOJOHNSON.com and I'll email or call you as soon as possible.

Third, and equally important, I would like to initiate a dialog AND action plan to establish an emergency scholarship fund to benefit the many Chanel's of the world. I don't know how to set it up, raise funds, screen, etc., but I do know that collectively we have all the resources we need to bring this into fruition. There was a time when I would waste the next few months trying to do this on my own. Thankfully, I've learned to appreciate and utilize that most precious of resources - each and every one of you. Together, we can make this happen.

Lastly, why do this? I believe in my heart that we must reach out and support the population of young achievers that have been systematically made invisible. I call them our Invisible Achievers. They don't gangbang. They're not drug dealers or high school drop-outs. Their achievements are not scintillating enough to lead off the evening news. They're not poor enough to benefit from most aid programs, yet they don't possess the means to self-finance their education. They seem to have it together, which prompts many of us to declare that they've "got it together" and that they'll "be alright." And with that declaration, we divert our attention to the troubled children of the world. But, my friends, that is a mistake. Our Invisible Achievers need every bit as much of our love, prayers, time, resources and emotional substanance as the troubled child. They are much too precious to be made invisible by us or the media. Please remember that. They need us and we need them. They are our stars, and were meant to shine brightly.

So, that's my plea. I pray that you will be encouraged to help in any way that you can. I know we can do this!

Respectfully and humbly submitted by That Johnson Boy, Keith Johnson.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My American Idol


Go Shawty - It's Your Birthday
We're Gonna Party Like It's Your Birthday!
ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, 50 Cent

That's right folks - That Johnson Boy just celebrated another wonderful year! And as much as my Leo nature is in full swing, I am thrilled to turn my spotlight on the artist/songwriter/business woman whom I call my American Idol, Terisa Griffin.

Who is Terisa Griffin? Hard to describe, that is, until after you've had a TG experience. My TG experience came at a NABFEME Mentors Reception held at Ashford & Simpson's Sugar Bar. I was feverishly networking when I noticed one young lady camouflaged against the wall. She must be the artist, I thought. When NABFEME Founder, Johnnie Walker, introduced Terisa Griffin, the artist was barely visible. She opened singing Luther Vandross' "Superstar" and brought all networking to an abrupt halt. Music executives are notorious for talking through performances, but Lil' Ms. Wallflower commanded our attention.

My TG experience came as she sang an original composition titled, "Anymore." Her performance was so lyrically compelling and emotionally raw that she wrecked my central nervous system. Y'all don't hear me. She wrecked my central nervous system! I've been blessed to work with some incredible artists and have always maintained my professional cool. Yet, in a room full of female executives (and yes, I was dapper), that girl sang and all I could do was sit down on the dirty floor in awe.

At our first meeting, I learned that she left Louisiana enroute to Chicago to take control of her music career. She worked low-paying/no-paying singing gigs and saved money by living out of her car. It seems Ms. Louisiana had some street savvy too. She survived Chicago's mean streets by parking each night in front of Minister Louis Farrakhan's house. She survived that Chicago winter, and went on to prosper in the world of jingles and live performances. She produced "One Woman-One Voice" musical tributes honoring legends such as Aretha, Tina, Ella, Diana and others. She self-financed her debut cd, "Songbird" and the much sought after "Live at Cerritos" cd. She's a talented songwriter. Yet, in spite of her creative and business successes, she sat in my office and her eyes conveyed it all. She wanted a recording deal with a major record label.

What would you say? Musically, she was R&B at it's finest. But, today's R&B is a distant relative of true R&B. Let's call it what it is - hip hop with a vocalist on top. The pressure for artists to conform is enormous; yet this very conformity alienates them from their core audience. So what do you say to an artist like Terisa Griffin, when every prospective label/manager/producer she meets wants her to conform? I've struggled with that issue since our first meeting. Some time later, the topic came up and there would be no sidestepping the issue. On that day, our American Idol adventure began when I uttered five letters and five words:


T.R.U.T.H.
That's Not Who You Are
How do you tell an incredibly talented artist that the industry didn't value her talent enough to allow her to be herself? How do you convey that this isn't Berry Gordy's Motown, or Gamble & Huff's Philly International? Heck, J Records isn't classic Clive Davis. I told her the truth as I saw it because she didn't have to conform. She had all the ingredients of a Superstar, even if the industry machinery couldn't see how to monetize it.
What makes Terisa Griffin my American Idol? Sista girl looked in the mirror, learned to love what she saw, and got busy. She started saving money to record her 3rd cd, My Naked Soul. She worked damn near seven days a week, sometimes several shows a day. She produced several elegant fundraisers rivaling the best Las Vegas extravaganzas. She was driven and to be in her vicinity was to risk being put to work. But guess what? Griffin Productions paid folks well, fed her folks and made everybody step up their game. She's demanding, but all the great ones are. And yes, she'll fine you like Ike Turner!
What makes Terisa Griffin my American Idol? She remained steadfast in her belief. Folks questioned her artistry, her songs and her sanity. Well-meaning folks implored her to audition for the American Idol TV show, and every other reality talent show. Yet, she remained focused. Devilish minions were busy every step of the way, but she never stopped believing or working towards her goal. From the studios to the boardrooms, she would come face to face with every verbal assault imaginable, including the frequently hurled "B-word." Men seem to reference it whenever they can't dictate or take control of her situation. Fellas, any woman who went from sleeping in her car to running her profitable entertainment company isn't controllable and most definitely isn't afraid to assert herself. Got it?
What makes Terisa Griffin my American Idol? In the middle of the recording process, Hurricane Katrina stormed thru her hometown of Monroe, LA. She spent days not knowing the whereabouts of her mom, siblings, relatives and friends. The news of their well-being was dampened by the loss of other family members and close friends. What did my American Idol do? She tapped into and depleted her recording budget and helped relocate relatives. She organized Hurricane Katrina Fundraisers to channel resources to her community. And not once did I hear her lament the loss of her recording budget.
What makes Terisa Griffin my American Idol? She dug deep within her soul to birth some classic songs. She was daring and brutally honest in her approach - so much so that I questioned whether one song was too wimpy in this age of empowered women? Her response? "It doesn't matter what we say in public. When we're sitting at home all alone and brokenhearted, every woman knows the truth contained in Anymore." It takes courage to be naked before the world, and her songs are honest, thought-provoking and as naked as they wanna be.
What makes Terisa Griffin my American Idol? On August 3rd, that girl from Monroe, Louisiana shut down one of Chicago's swankiest nightclubs, the Green Dolphin Street. The occasion? A standing room only CD release party for her baby entitled, My Naked Soul. By all accounts, the girl from Monroe, LA had them screaming, crying, clapping and dancing in the aisles. And in doing so, she has made me proud in ways that are immeasurable. She is... my American Idol!
So, in celebration of my birthday, I invite you to experience the magic that is Terisa Griffin. Her cd, My Naked Soul, goes on sale today and is available online at http://cdbaby.com/cd/terisa2. Best of all, you can listen to the majority of the songs before purchasing. So, for my birthday, I want each of you to purchase at least one cd. That would be the best birthday present you could give me! You will love this cd - trust me. She'll appreciate your support and God knows R&B lovers need something to get excited about. Make sure to let her know in the comments section that "That Johnson Boy" referred you.
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Monday, June 12, 2006

A Special Father's Day Thank You

There's Nothing Greater
Than Thank You.
That's What You Say To God
...is Thank You.
Dr. Maya Angelou
Thank you Father.
I rose early this morning, and yes, 7am is early. I dropped clothes at the cleaners and with mp3 player in tow, headed to Carl Schultz Park. As I entered the grounds, Jonathan Butler was singing, "Falling in love with Jesus is the best thing I've ever done." My Spirit was as warm as the morning rays and as radiant as the flowers that dotted the landscape.
For five years, I've lived just one NY block away from the East River. For five too-long years, I've lamented the harsh reality that the East River wasn't my beloved Pacific Ocean. For ten years, the Pacific was my oasis - a constant reminder of God's majesty. It was love at first sight. But, this morning is different. I can finally see the beauty that has been flowing just a brief walk from my front door. It was then that I knew today was special and began offering the first of a mighty river of praise.
Thank you Father. Thank you for removing the blinders and allowing me to love all that you've provided. Thank you for allowing me to fondly remember past blessings, yet move forward into the multitude of "here & now" blessings.
Thank you Father.
For only you know the depths of my intense struggle to complete my first book, "Before You Give Up On Him." Earlier this year, you gave me the most beautiful Rose theme for the storyline. I rejoiced in your vision, then proceeded to do what your children do best. I got busy - real busy - trying to validate your gift ad naseum. Lord, give me another sign? Lord, what if...? Lord, can a brother buy a vowel? Surely you laughed at my faith in jeopardy. Oh Alex, let me try "Is That What You Meant Lord" for $500 please.
Surely your patience is wearing thin? Shall I tell them your response? You woke me early this morning-after a weekend of research and writing-and opened my eyes to the multitude of rose gardens that flourish just one block from my front door. Lord, I want you to know that my research wasn't in vain. I identified at least six varieties of roses, and brought home the intoxicating fragrance of the rose known as White Masterpeice. She produces blooms in bunches, more than enough for me to get your not-so-subtle hint. Her soft petals are protected by a bushy mass of sharp, prickly thorns. Her armor pierced my skin, but the pain was well worth the opportunity to bring her sweet fragrance into my home.
Thank you Father. As I stood in the garden, witnessing yet another affirmation of your intent and design for my life's mission, Jonathan Butler's melody and lyrics bring tears to my eyes...
"You spend your days hoping, you spend your nights wishing
You're always feeling, something is missing
Can't you see, don't you know
You don't have so far to go.
It's already there
What you're looking for
It's already there
Don't have to search anymore
Open your eyes
Believe that it's true
It's already there... inside of you."
Thank you Father. That was so intense that I could stop right there. But there's so much more that I'm thankful for. May I share just a little bit more with you?
So many of my family and friends are in the midst of a major life transition. Careers are giving way to Your calling and giving us young'uns a whole new appreciation for the words, Blessed Assurance. We are thankful that the truth contained in those old, dusty hymnals ring true in this digital age. You have been faithful beyond measure. It is because Great is Thy Faithfulness that we stand in agreement that there will be no crisis in these mid-life transitions - just Christ as we minister one to another.
Father, you called Zurnie Neal home this weekend. The message on my voicemail said her passing was sudden and unexpected. She will truly be missed. To her recently departed husband, guess what Poppa Neal? She's baaaaack! I'm sure a day spent in heaven without Mrs. Neal gently telling you what to do must've felt like a hellish eternity. Now, it's salmon croquettes for er'body! To my longtime friend, Gina Neal and the Neal family, I love you dearly.
Father, from the depths of my Spirit I thank you -- for it was you and only you that raised into adulthood some of the most incredible people this side of heaven. We may never understand why their fathers left this earth so soon. But you are an awesome God. Have you checked your handiwork lately? Have you seen the men those Dickerson, Cutler, Hill and Stewart boys have become? Do you blush with admiration when watching Cynthia, Darlene and Jeff? And Uncle Raymond's children... they're soaring Lord. Soaring higher than eagles, yet remaining closer than penguins. The Dearloves? Learning everyday the meaning of by and by, and for that I give you praise. And as for my second family, The Scott Clan, they're blossoming under your care. Ma Scott recently cruised the Carribbean- can you believe that? So, for them, as well as the multitude of those known and unknown whose Father departed this earth too soon, Father, I thank you.
Father, I could go on and on. I really can, but I must get to that job you so graciously provided for me. Before I go, may I offer you just one more thank you?
Thank you Father, for the Prodigal Father, wherever he may be. Thank you for the emptiness he experiences each and every Father's Day. Speak to his spirit Lord, and remind him that the emptiness is not your wrath, but rather your incessant invitation asking, "Do you want to be made whole?" Father, right vs. wrong has waged too long to the detriment of the fatherless child. Remove the blinders so that he may see the most beautiful gift life has to offer. No matter what happened, it's never too late to be a father to your child. Is he feeling too broke to be an asset? Tell my brother that his love is priceless... priceless! Tell him not fear the anger his child waives around like the ultimate trump card. Let us praise the anger as proof that some emotion is better than no emotion. I drew blood for the chance to smell a rose. Children of the Prodigal Father utilize thorns as protection against emotional predators. Love-consistent and true- is the only mechanism capable of restoring trust. But to get close enough to love, the Prodigal Father must remain steadfast amongst the thorns. Let your love overflow into that child and in time, they will blossom. Keep it simple - say what you're going to do and by all means do just that.
To that brother willing to lose himself in order to love his child, Happy Father's Day. To that brother, filled with desire but the ghost of Pharaoh has a death grip on your heart, I'm praying for you. I offer you a Happy Father's Day in anticipation of the breakthrough that's yet coming your way.
And to you, My Father, I offer you in psalm the praise that Jonathan Butler is so sweetly offering in my spirit...
You Are So Wonderful
You Are So Wonderful
You Are So Wonderful
Lamb of God!
With much gratitude, That Johnson Boy!


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Disappearing Facts


Did you miss me?

Yikes! (ducking the expensive yet lethal Jimmy Choo hurtling at knot-producing velocity towards my head)

I guess now is not the time to invoke my testosterone-driven flip the script ploy. You haven't seen nor heard from me in over a month and here I am asking, "did you miss me?" I know better, so let me try this again with a lot less bravado and a lot more humility.

Hello {insert your name}, please, please, please, pleeeease forgive my disappearing act. That's right, I'm summoning the Hardest Workin' Man in Show Business to "Hit Me - Fo Times!" Anything to ensure that you feel the sincerity of my plea. I'm well, thank you, and the truth is I've missed you something awful. I guess I owe you an explanation. Oops, strike that. I don't guess so, I know so. You deserve to know how That Johnson Boy can pull of the ultimate disappearing act.

Contrary to the emails stating otherwise, yours truly did not enter the Witness Protection Program, nor did I join the UniverSoul Circus. Don't believe my Pop's either - I've never dated Beyonce. Get that in your head Pops. I'm definitely not trying to be on Jay-Z's list of 99 problems. The disappearing facts surrounding my disappearing act...


That Johnson Boy, known as Keith Johnson, has workaholic tendencies.


I say tendencies because I can't really say that I'm fanatical about working. But, once I immerse myself in a task (and not just work-related), only God knows why I get so caught up. I'm talking caught up in a state of stress-induced, adrenaline-pumping, problem-solving, organized chaotic bliss. And just when the chaos threatens to wreck a project, the body delivers the most incredible drug known to mankind called endorphins. When released into the bloodstream, I'm in a Neo-like trance (see The Matrix and know the power!). I don't care what the problem is, I can see the solution. I'm dodging bullets in slow motion. I can work almost 20 hour days where sleep is more of an annoyance than restorative. The only thing capable of piercing the trance are the unwelcomed demands of well-intentioned friends and family. Only then do I recognize how similar my behavior is to that of Generation Playstation. And, much like them I'm left trying to explain that I didn't really snap your head off or growl at you -- you must have heard me wrong. All the while, I'm wondering when will this conversation be over so that I can get back to the task at hand. What you gonna do? Take away my Playstation? LOL

Maybe that's it - choose a less chaotic field of work. Wrong. Folks like me are compelled to work in stressful environments. It feels comfortable. Does that make sense? Anything less is a slow, painful death. That's why I'm at home at ASCAP, where I can legally dangle starving interns from our 7th floor window while quoting... "my office hours are January 'til July. Only then can you have a dang lunch break!" Just kidding.

So, yes my friends, I've been immersed in all things ASCAP. But I'm better this year than in years past. I've enrolled myself in the 1-2 step program. Step one was a beast, but I successfully achieved it by admitting, "Keith Johnson, you're out of balance... again." Step two? Refer back to Step one. And for those of you who are familiar with my situation, I offer you my honest rendition of this classic ending by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes...

I know you done heard it 10 times or more... but,
I swear I done changed...
I swear I done changed!

So, there you have it, the truth - the whole truth - and nothing but the truth from That Johnson Boy. Folks like me didn't choose to be borderline obsessive. But, as for me, I thank you for caring enough to shatter my trance. While I may protest the intrusion, I desperately need it at times. When your own mother puts out an All-Points Bulletin, you know you've been missing in action much too long. When a brand new friend post a Chi-lites-type entry that basically says, "Have You Seen Him? Tell Me Have You Seen Him?", then yes, you've been gone too long.

As for my parting words, shall I take you to the bridge? Nope, let's go back to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, who so passionately captured my sentiments when they sang...


Oh, I,
Oooh, I,
Miss You, Miss You, Miss You, Miss You!

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

In Praise of Being Angry!


Don't Push Me
'Cuz I'm Close To The Edge,
I'm Tryin' Not To
Lose My Head...
(Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five)
Have you ever had reason to celebrate being angry? Strange question, isn't it? Just weeks ago, I was celebrating tulips (On A Lighter Note), while simultaneously struggling with an overwhelming anger growing within me. It was so intense that I dared not write for fear of what might sprew forth. Yet, as strange as it may sound, I can honestly say that I've never been so happy to be angry. That's right, happy (in an angry kind of way, of course). I think my anger scared some folks, so much so that I'm wondering if anger has become socially unacceptable?

Perhaps anger has gone the way of it's cousin, the once acceptable emotional rite called mourning. You might not know this, but in some circles it has become a cultural and religious faux pas to actually mourn the passing of a loved one. If mourning, in all of its emotional outpouring, is socially taboo, then surely anger is too volatile and a candidate for cultural extinction... right? May I put a seven-year old on the witness stand?
I've witnessed firsthand anger gone awry. The date was April 4, 1968. My eldest sister, MJ, treated me to my first musical - Fiddler On The Roof. To this day, I still sing, "If I Were A Rich Man..." with all the gusto of the main character, Tevye the Milkman. When we emerged from the auditorium, my hometown of Washington, DC, was ablaze. While Tevye was bemoaning his lot in life, someone had taken the life of Civil Rights Leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and in doing so unleashed a wrath of Old Testament proportions.
I thought I knew anger. For instance, I was really angry when Big Head Glo from across the street broke all of my Crayola crayons. But, this anger was different. It draped the sky in a haze of mourning gray, punctuated by random showers of glowing embers. This anger had a different look too - not like my "why you break my crayon" stare, but an enraged, defiant "I'm mad as hell and not gonna take this SH*T no more!" glare. And this anger required rifle-toting troops from the National Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps to squash it. As for me, I really was angry at Big Head Glo, but I ain't gonna shoot her over no crayons! I guess I wasn't mature enough to understand grown-up anger.
Fast-forward - I'm all grown up and (drum roll please)... Anger-Proof. That's right, A.P. baby - yeah, that's me! The DC Riots revealed how devastatingly destructive anger can be. I really can't praise or embrace anything that destructive. Besides, by the time I hit the workforce, I discovered that society rewards those sophisticated enough to be Anger-Proof.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Anger-Proofing
First, take the anger... suppress it... rationalize it. Let the anger slide off your Teflon-coated, Power of Positive Thinking backside. Feel that? No? Great... you're almost there! Now be warned - repeated exposure to anger is hazardous to Teflon. In the likely event anger makes direct contact with your mettle, don't panic. Do what any well-rewarded, highly-rational, Anger-Proofed Sophisticate would do - execute a system override as if your magnificent God-temple was created by IBM. You don't need this stress and you sure don't want to risk becoming one of those bitter folks consumed by anger. Don't worry - just override your system.
Disclaimer: Override known to induce mild trauma such as:
(warning: system unstable)
(warning: back-up now)
(system failure)
CRASH
Ok, I didn't say it was foolproof. It does require spiritual paralysis to be effective. Or, is it the suppressing, rationalizing and crashing that makes one zombie-like? Either way, this is a recipe for a stroke and not worthy of my praise. So, is there any form of anger worthy of praise?
Yes, indeed! I have demonstrated that anger is combustible when ignored, sickening when suppressed and crippling when allowed to fester. However, anger is our natural defibrillator, shocking life into emotionally-comatose souls. It is an excellent warning system, notifying us when something is amiss and requires our immediate attention. If you can still get angry, then know that at the very least, you're alive and capable of emotions like empathy, compassion, indignation, etc. Show me someone willing to embrace these emotional powerhouses, and I'll show you someone who is destined to change the course of their life, their home, their community and our world at-large. I know you're out there. I can feel you. So today, let's celebrate you and your ability to transform anger into a propellant to accomplish the unthinkable!
- I praise the anger that propels people - ordinary folks like you and me - from empathy to action.
- I praise that son/brother/friend angry enough to defy fear while sending an unmistakable message to the resident jerk by vowing, "You will NOT raise your hand against my mother/sister/friend ever again... or else."
- I praise that worker angry enough to say with conviction, "you will NOT disrespect nor devalue my contribution in the workplace." And no, you will not go postal in the process.
- I praise the anger surrounding parents and children in chaos. Don't let your logic rule or fool you. The anger is proof positive that the love still exist. But, it warns us that everybody's talking, but nobody's really listening.
- I praise the anger that made "CRASH" one of the most profound films in recent years. Can we ever again question just how interdependent we really are?
- I'm praising the anger that won't take NO for an answer. To my ambassadors of R&B - independent to the core, talented to death and uncompromising flag bearers of our rich legacy, thank you for telling the music industry, Hell No! Thank you Gordon Chambers, Ledisi, Eric Roberson, Terisa Griffin, Chinua Hawk, Will Wheaton, Ronee Martin and all of the R&B artist around the world dedicated to advancing the legacy.
- Lastly, I'm praising my anger - fueled by those dedicated to manipulating policy and distorting images - especially as it relates to defining who I am as a person, who we are as a people, and the awesome beauty of humankind. It is my contempt for your agenda that I wake up happily angry, singing "If I Were A Rich Man," all the while transforming this anger into a powerful Love Gone Wild.
I've gotta go, but not before I thank Amille, Sharon, Whoyaworkinfor and Sista X, Ph.D. for your counsel and caring. Yes, I vented mightily, but I listened even more.
Now, if anyone should inquire as to who is the angriest man you know, you tell them That Johnson Boy, that's who!


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Friday, March 31, 2006

Today is NOT a Good Day!

The Subject line says it all. My first thought of the day was "why didn't we ram a convoy of provision-filled tractor trailer trucks right THRU the barricade to the Katrina victims? The authorities weren't letting people in? Who the hell are they to tell us we can't help people in dire need of help?

This coming from Mr. Tulip-Lovin, Mr. Walk In The Light himself?

Yes, I'm the same Johnson Boy. But what do you expect from one born into the Civil Rights Movement but raised within the Black Power Movement. This mirror definitely has two distinct faces.

I've called on reinforcements in an attempt to dissipate the anger, but my anger is having a Maya Angelou "And Still I Rise" moment. It ain't happening. But as much as I threatened otherwise, I won't write until I can make sense of the anger and most of all, do something constructive with it. Even if it means smashing thru somebody's "do not enter" zone.

Right about now... that would feel really good.

I'm outta here, with a remix of an EW&F song playing over and over in my head...

"Where Has All The Power Gone?"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On A Lighter Note...

Let me begin by offering my sincere apology. I promised Part II of "What Would Dr. King Say," but I sensed the need to lighten up just a little bit. Now, I'm not foolish enough to think I can change topics without permission. So, I contacted the foremost authority on Earth - another Johnson I might add - and it is with the blessings of the twin known as Strawboss that I offer you On A Lighter Note.

The story began three weeks ago as I cautiously navigated a frozen New York sidewalk to catch the crosstown bus. Hours earlier, Nature painted the City snow white and commissioned the winds of the East River to glaze over her handiwork. It was c-c-c-cold! Later that day, I headed out for lunch and noticed that the blustery winds had stripped the trees bare of their winter white ensemble, leaving their branches exposed before all of Manhattan. Just as I prepared to cross the street, I noticed something peculiar. In their nakedness, the trees revealed an undeniable bulge - the kind of bulge normally reserved for females emerging from a long winter coupled up in blissful hibernation. As I stood there squinting at the bulge, the reality sank in...

What in the...? Oh, my lawd... the tree's are pregnant!
That's right, pregnant! Even on this blustery, winter day, their buds were swollen as if threatening to go into labor at any moment. I'm no scientist, but if the tree buds are swollen, it can only mean one thing...
Spring is Here!
Neither the weather nor the calendar supported my early March proclamation. But, nature knows best and in the three weeks since the pregnancy sighting, the signs are everywhere. The sun warms the earth a little longer each day. Unseasonibly warm breezes tease us by day before chilling us back to our senses. Just the other day, a winged-invader found its way inside my apartment, only to have the NY Times swat him into bug heaven. Yes, my friends, Spring is all around us.
This past weekend, I joined family and friends in celebrating the wedding of my niece. It was a beautiful event (and yes, she was stunning!). It was a special treat to spend quality time with my cousins. Regrettably, it may have been the most time I've shared with them since the summers of our youth spent on our grandmother's farm. In many ways our adult relationships remain rooted in childhood memories. Those memories are wonderful, but it occurred to me that all of us have grown since that time. In three, too-short days, I rediscovered all that was wonderful about our early years, yet relished exploring the newness in each of them that was, up until this weekend, trapped in the box of "I remember when...". I wonder how many of my relationships are outdated and in need of updating? (Memo to Keith - add this to your Spring Cleaning list.)

Is there anything that symbolizes Spring better than tulips? This marvel of nature pushes thru winter-hardened soil long before our calendars announce the arrival of Spring. In the week following our last snow, I noticed the first brownish-green stems rising from tree and flower boxes throughout the City. This past weekend my sister-in-law, The Dutchess of Double G's, decorated her home with an assortment of cut flowers. When I first noticed the tulip arrangement, they were standing tall with buds tightly closed. By the next morning, the tulips were no longer standing tall, but moving in some sort of east-west configuration. I wondered if the heads were too heavy or if a wire support might return them to their stately form. But as the day progressed, the stems remained uncharacteristically contorted, yet the tulip heads were open and nothing short of exquisite. Call me slow, but it took me a full day to comprehend the simplicity of nature. The tulips had contorted for the sole purpose of accessing the light streaming thru the adjacent window.
Think about it for more than a second and I guarantee you'll marvel at the concept. As far as we know, tulips don't have a brain. And yet, there is something divinely implanted in every single flower that instructs it to do what it must - whatever it must - to access the light. Whether the stem has a slight bend or contorts to the point of disfiguration is of little regard. The tulip will simply do whatever it has to do to access the light. I wonder how much richer our lives would be if we'd stop at nothing to access The Light? I wonder how much fuller might we blossom if we were to remain in The Light? Even as I acknowledge the blessing of being able to partake in it's beauty, I can't help but wonder what a blessing we, too, might be to others if only we had the sense of a tulip?
Welcome to Spring 2006 - a season ripe with renewal, birth and rebirth, transformation and unlimited possibilities. Don't take my word for it. Just step into The Light.
Just a Lighter Note from That Johnson Boy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What Would Dr. King Say? Part I

Part I

As we bring the 2006 Black History Month activities to a close, I must admit that this year presented me with a truly disturbing question. From the small screen to the internet, the question of the month seemed to be "What Would Dr. King Say?" Before I weigh-in, allow me to bring you up-to-date on my Black History Month highlights.


My #1 Highlight: Dave Chappelle's interview on Inside The Actor's Studio. You can love him or hate him, but don't let the jokes fool you. Dude is definitely not a joke. Bravo is running the interview regularly so check it out when you can.

Highlight #2: Tavis Smiley's State of Black America Forum on CSPAN. While I didn't see it from the beginning, what I did see was compelling - especially the discussions surrounding the best-selling book, The Covenant with Black America. I recently ordered my copy and hope to address it right here with you in the near future.

For a gathering of intellectuals, the forum was also quite funny. Something about Black History Month ensures that there will be a plethora of panelists rhyming and reasoning in their best "I Have A Dream" cadence. When the debate shifted from think tank-speak to offering "What Would Dr. King Do," the forum morphed into classic Greek theater, complete with the requisite elements of comedy and tragedy.

If the Forum panelist were at times mildly irritating, then the Black History Month contribution that set me off was a much-forwarded email which enlisted the help of Mrs. Coretta Scott King to convey a message of apology to Dr. King for the shortcomings of black folk and, specifically, the hip hop generation. I ain't never seen so many folks responding with exaltations of amen and hallelujah. I admit the email was well-crafted, but in the end it felt off-base.

Do you honestly believe Dr. King would condemn the hip hop generation or any generation for their failings? Do you? How prepared are you to open that door? What I mean is... what if Dr. King's 2006 assessment ran contrary to the state of affairs detailed in the email? Could you handle that? Consider this:

  • What would you think if Dr. King surveyed the 2006 landscape and concluded that integration wasn't the best thing? Unclench your teeth... breathe... ponder.

  • How would your views change should he declare these facts: today's crack is yesterday's heroin, preceded by alcohol and centuries earlier, the dynasty destroyer known as opium. As for the drug boys on the corner? They call themselves soldiers, and ironically, the U.S. Government treats them as such. Whether it's Operation Freedom, the Vietnam War, or the War on Drugs, America has always conjured up wars in which it's minority citizenry are expendable casualties of war.

  • What if Dr. King reminded you that your disdain for the doo-rag sportin' cornrow wearin' youngsta's compares favorably to the condemnation leveled against the original afro/bush-wearin' cornrow sportin' dashiki-clad generation? You declare "it's not the same." Sure it is. Rebellious behavior - even under the guise of fashion - is rebellious behavior. And who were these denouncers of Black Power? They were the once upon a time fried-dyed-laid to the side conk generation.

  • Would you lose all respect for Dr. King if he informed you that this generation's liberal use of the "N" word, while subjectively deplorable, isn't unique to the hip hop generation? Indeed, many who detest its usage have been known to utter the "N" or two in closed quarters. Think the "N" word is offensive? Let me transport you back to a period between 1940 and 1968. Now run up to the first colored person you see and yell out, "Hey Blackie." Go ahead, I dare you. Nope, I double dare you. Just remember I told you that Black wasn't cool until James Brown said it was cool.

As my dad often states, "There's Nothing New Under The Sun." The problems so apologetically detailed in the email first sprouted as weeds in the Garden of Eden. Each generation has a distinct variation of the same ole weed. The achievements of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement were obtained, not in the absence of our weeds, but in spite of them. Believe that. FYI: Horticulturally speaking, a weed is a plant that is "held to have no value, especially one growing detrimentally in one's lawn." God created every plant on this earth. Man determines which are weeds. Sound familiar? Oh, Gatekeeper... where art thou?

In closing, neither myself or anyone else can elaborate on what Dr. King would or would not say in regards to the state of black america in 2006. But, I can tell you in no uncertain terms what I strongly believe in regards to this matter.

Let the spirit of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., Rest In Peace. He, along with all of the soldiers in the Civil Rights struggle, have earned that right. The real question that you and I must answer is a two-headed monster of enormous personal and universal ramifications:

What will you SAY? What will you DO?

Part II is coming in two weeks. It'll be a doozy... trust me. Until then, may God bless you and keep you - keep you from going upside my head! And if anybody ask you the source of this insanity, you tell them That Johnson Boy Said It!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Something New for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ladies, today is your day. Perhaps you'll spend the day smelling the roses. Maybe the day will be spent yearning for some token of affection. Either way, I understand. But this Johnson Boy has a gift of a different sort. May I propose something new for you, this Valentine's Day of 2006? My gift to you can best be described as:

Something Old ~ Something New
Something Borrowed and yes, Something Blue

The Treasure of Something Old - History will reflect that a powerful Nor'easter blanketed the Eastcoast with record snowfall prior to Valentine's week 2006. No disrespect to the meteorologist, but Washingtonians know better. If it's snowing Valentine's week in the Nation's Capital, the Iceman cometh. For those unaware of the Iceman, I'm speaking of the legendary, Jerry Butler. Thousands will descend upon a dark, frigid alley way along the Potomac River for the privilege of experiencing the Iceman weave his heartwarming magic. Eyes will glisten while listening to Mr. Butler interpret priceless gems such as Let It Be Me, Ain't Understanding Mellow and Mr. Dream Merchant. But "le Piece de Resistance" is a honest, r&b ballad penned by a then, 16-year old Jerry Butler. The lyrics and melody never fail to leave an indelible impression upon the listener. It is my Valentine's Day wish that you, too, will forever be marked by the sentiment expressed by the Iceman, who wrote unabashedly...


For your Precious Love
Means more to me,
Than any love, could ever be.

My wish for you doesn't stop here. May your Prince embrace the Iceman's third verse as if it were his very own...


And of all the things I want,
In this whole wide world
Its just for you to say,
That you'll be my girl.
Don't fret if this Valentine's Day doesn't come equipped with a lover to breathe life into these lyrics. As you can see, the sentiment behind these lyrics are much too precious to waste on the frogs and toads of the world. Your prince shall come. So moving is this ode to love that I offer it as my gift of Something Old. It is vintage. It is timeless. It is my first gift to you - complements of the Iceman, Jerry Butler, along with ASCAP co-writers Richard and Arthur Brooks.

The Joy of Something New - This Valentine's Day, I want to offer you something more beautiful than roses, more stimulating than exquisite chocolates, more fulfilling than fine dining and more earth-shattering than... (hehe, don't act like you don't know what comes next!). My next gift comes courtesy of Sanaa Lathan, Sanaa Hamri, Kriss Turner and Stephanie Allain. These are the uber-talented ladies behind the cinematic gem known as "Something New."

If you've seen the trailer, you already know that this beautifully written, directed and performed film is centered around an interracial relationship. But, it's depth and texture runs much deeper than meets the eye. Once you experience it, I believe you'll join me in praising this celebration of closet-smashing freedom. Imagine Ms. Valentine... freedom to seek and embrace true happiness and love on this side of heaven. Imagine that! A lil' bit of heaven on earth. It's your day Ms. Valentine. Enjoy the gift of Something New.

The Richness of Something Borrowed -- I have no doubt that you are a phenomenal woman. It's your birthright. Yet, life has a way of dulling the luster of the phenomenal you. Some days, nothing in your closet or makeup table can restore the magic. Fret not, Valentine, as I have a very special treat for you. Let us borrow from the richness of the Lady forever known as Diahann Carroll. For the trailblazer in you, may you don the crisp white nurse uniform of Julia Baker, the first African-American woman to star in her own weekly TV series. When the funds are short, responsibilities long, children actin' a fool and the Gatekeepers banish you to stereotype-hell, drape yourself from head to toe in the ghetto-fabulous-before-ghetto-was-fabulous dignity of Claudine. For those days when the world insist on closing doors and shutting you out, put on your baddest pumps and kick down the damn door a la Dominique Deveraux. After all, she was TV's first black glamour vixen, not by network choice but rather the phenomenal will of the lady known as Diahann Carroll. One last thing... when you kick down the door, make sure your hair is flawless! Dominique would insist on it!

The Awesome Power of Something Blue - Ms. Valentine, my present would be incomplete without something blue. I'm not talkin' blue as in "woe, I don't have a valentine." No, no, no, my dear -- this is Valentine's Day, not Validation Day. We can, and must, celebrate you just as you are wherever you are. You may not hear a Jerry Butler song today, nor make it to see Something New. You may even put the powerful garments of Ms. Carroll on layaway until a rainy day. But this, the Awesome Power of Something Blue, must be embraced today. Promise?

Whether you do it right now, or later today, I need you to do this one simple task. I need you to go outside. A park would be ideal. A backyard will do. Heck, a Bronx rooftop will do just fine. Just do whatever you must to get outside to a place that offers some measure of peace and quiet. Take a moment to still yourself. Then slowly... slowly... allow your eyes to venture towards the sky. Whether it be powder blue, midnight blue or a slate gray derivative of blue, I need you to look to the heavens. As you gaze outward, hear the words of our ancestors as reintroduced to us by author, Alex Haley...

"Behold The Only Thing Greater Than You."

Happy Valentine's Day from That Johnson Boy!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Part II - Out The Closet And Free at Last


Out The Closet and Free at Last
Part II
While writing Part I, it became clear that the issues surrounding closet captivity extended well beyond a college degree. Indeed, your emails and postings echoed my observation. One writer in particular cut to the core issue with the precision of a skilled surgeon. Aptly named, Anonymous, the writer's comment challenged us to "stop making excuses for being substandard." Substandard? Substandard! But, please don't shoot the messenger. I believe Anonymous' comment requires us to ask some difficult questions. What role does the fear of being substandard play in our lives? After all, what is it that causes intelligent people to:
  • reassess your hard-earned Associates degree as worthless, view your Bachelor's Degree as artwork, your Master's Degree as expensive artwork and your Doctorate... ?
  • push yourself to succeed and ultimately achieve, but stops you from demanding what you should justifiably receive for your efforts?
  • believe your home isn't big enough, bank account not fat enough, wrist not blingin' enough, and your children-"not me" enough?
  • submit to the mindset that maybe the career/house/love of my dreams isn't really in the cards for me.

Feel free to pause here if you need to catch your breath.

Let's be real - no one wants to be labeled substandard. Both the Wall Street whiz kid and the child struggling thru remedial math share a common aspiration to make their mark in this world. If feeling substandard is the cause, then are our standards to blame? Standards, by definition, are a measuring tool and we use them every day to gauge our place in this world. America is arguably the world leader in programming it's standards to the masses. Every time you turn on the television, flip thru your favorite magazine, peruse the newspaper, or go online, a standard is being imprinted and reinforced into your psyche. It is impossible to escape. Yet, as invasive as this assault may be I submit to you that standards, while problematic, are not the core problem.

To identify the core problem, I need to transport you back in time. Next stop: Paradise. Not Taz's garden, but the paradise known as the Garden of Eden. It is there that you will come face to face with the only species evicted from paradise and his name is - you got it - Mankind. Fast-forward to 2006 and Mankind is still suffering from Post-Eden Stress Syndrome (P.E.S.S.). Once lord of his garden dominion, now relegated to being the fierce protector of - you got it - standards. Simple enough, just uphold the standards as written and all is well... right? Not exactly. Mankind has a uniquely human characteristic which Webster's Dictionary defines as Subjectivity. Once again, he is lord of his dominion and no standard, law or scripture is safe from his subjective interpretation. What shall we call them, these lords of standards? Let us call them what they truly are - let us call them the Gatekeepers.

Who are the Gatekeepers? Anonymous defines them in that we don't know who they are. There are no telltale signs or traits. They are the family next door, perhaps your boss, maybe the loan officer or your Department Head. It's the club doorman responsible for managing the door. Simple task, until P.E.S.S. signals the subjective mind that he is now pageantry judge and jury. Pick a law school and witness a similar situation. The Tenure Committee is charged with bestowing tenure upon the most qualified law professor. P.E.S.S. translation: Let us bestow tenure upon the professor created in our likeness. And you wonder why we got evicted from paradise?

Who are the Gatekeepers? Truth is, it is each of us and within all of us. It's our little piece of heaven when exercised for our benefit and hell on earth when abused to our detriment. I believe it is this hellish experience that keeps intelligent people trapped in hellish closets or scurrying back to safety. But, God is good and as much as you may try, you cannot erase the Divinely-implanted movable pictures we call dreams that foretell who you're destined to become.

So, my friend, the question remains - do you want to be free? I'm talking that everlasting, Free at Last, kind of freedom? I know I do but truthfully, I don't have a solution to the Gatekeeper. But an interesting thing happened as I pondered my predicament. I really believe I read and re-read the opening prayer from Part I one time too many. For no logical reason, my eyes gravitated to the clutter underneath my end table, focusing on a little burgundy book entitled, Jesus CEO. The book, written by Laurie Beth Jones, was gifted to me in 1995 and judging by the dust I hadn't revisited it's pages in quite some time. I grabbed the book, and it literally fell open to page 4, the focal point being the Chapter title centered in a sea of blank space. It read:

He Said "I Am"

I stared awhile, then slowly turned two pages. The next chapter title sent chills through my body.

His "I Am" Statements Are What He Became

I flipped back to the opening chapter and read intently as Ms. Jones detailed Christ emergence from His wilderness experience -- 40 days and 40 nights of temptation. He emerged stronger as a result of His experience and shortly thereafter began describing Himself as "I Am..."

  • the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
  • the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  • the Light of the World (John 8:12)

But the thing that blew me away was this: His "I Am" declarations were issued BEFORE they came to be. That's right, He spoke them into existence! I sure hope you didn't miss that!

Perhaps logical standards are invading your thought process. How can I compare your situation to Jesus? After all, He is the Son of God. True, but who are you? But, He...? But, nothing. Who are you?

I told you last week this train was coming to your town. If this is your stop, then you probably know your share of Gatekeepers. You've had your own wilderness experiences -- degree/no degree, no work experience/over-qualified, underpaid/grossly underpaid with an assortment of No, No and No thrown in for good measure. For still others, Jesus 40-day experience is but a weekend when compared to the years you've spent navigating your own wilderness. My friend, wilderness experiences come and go, but how we emerge is the difference between walking in power or limping to Home Depot to fortify your old closet. Through the abuse of subjectivity, the Gatekeepers have kept you reeling. With every failed attempt at their movable targets, your spirit weakens. They are dreams killers. They have attempted to define who you are, and worse, affirm who you'll never be. But if Laurie Beth Jones illustrated anything, it was the indisputable fact that the power of Christ and His "I Am" affirmations are the key to true freedom!

You stepped out the closet -- now go the distance and proclaim boldly that you're Free at Last. In the spirit of Christ, emerge from your wilderness experience and boldly declare your own divinely-inspired "I Am" statements and believe it. Believe it in the face of doubt, in spite of the fear and for the added delight of making mere mortals of the dreaded Gatekeepers. If you aspire to be a Video Game Programmer with an emphasis in Sports, let your paper proclaim I Am A Video Game Programmer and yes, I KNOW SPORTS! If you're a Student, make sure your paper declares I Am A College Graduate. Here is not the place to be generic. Are you an incredible Wife or Fantastic Husband? Say it and believe it. Don't worry, this ain't fantasizing. I'm just asking you to boldly declare and believe those things you've always known yourself to be, even if no one sees it but you and the awesome, omnipotent God who declared "I Am That I Am."

Be Bold. Be Blessed. And most of all, Believe! Don't put it off -- do it today! Kendall King -- please sing my song right now -- and if the Gatekeepers ask "who told you to sing," you tell them That Johnson Boy - that's who!

I Am Free

Praise The Lord, I'm Free

No Longer Bound

No More Chains Holding Me...

(Written by Percy Bady)