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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