A Day In the Life

It’s been a productive and interesting day, for sure.

I woke up, as usual, in a darkened parking lot, this time, not far from a MacDonald’s.
At the other end was Planet Fitness, my “shower, shave and workout” location of choice.
Off to Starbucks to recharge the batteries in my Macbook, iPhone and me.
Then to a library to work on paperwork and avail myself of their printer before going off to speak with middle school administrators to talk about Booker T. Clubs.

An enjoyable lunch at the Columbia West Rotary Club provided me with an opportunity to share my mission with a couple of members who kindly pointed me int the directions of “folks I need to meet”.
So off to meet the Pastor at Brookland Baptist Church, a 4,500 member congregation.
He was not in, but with the initial contact made, I’ll follow up later.

Next, to visit with Earl Brown, Jr., the Deputy District Director (and Rotarian) of a US Congressman.
It turned out, he was associated with the Booker T. Washington Foundation of Columbia SC!
These are the remaining members of Columbia’s BTW HS.
Years ago, it was absorbed by the University of South Carolina when it expanded and was ultimately torn down. He informed me its bricks were re-used (BTW would have been proud!) to form a “Horseshoe” and special walkways at USC.
He was especially proud that the BTW HS trained so many in industrial arts, and instilled character in all.

He promised to put me in touch with the Foundation’s leaders so that to further explore their forming a Chapter of the BTW Society.

But my day wasn’t done.

At Applebee’s I joined folks at the bar for some good natured banter and… lo and behold!
A person I had met three days earlier at MacDonald’s walked up and introduced me to his family! He will introduce me to his daughter’s middle school principal today.

Last note: Before I left, Jennifer mentioned I would find several lovely ladies along the way.
Well, she was right! Here’s me with Chico Power’s youngest daughter.

It doesn’t get any better than this!

Best, Ron

It Just Doesn’t Get Any Better than This!

Ahhh, It’s like Friday Night Lights at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, NC.

It is Homecoming, the kids are pumped, the Band is marching, and there’s no question that “we’re” going to win!
I know, because I’m with one of the athletic coaches at “JB” and rumor had it that the score would be around “40 to 7”

Jack Britt is an exemplary High School, though it’s larger than I’d ever seen, almost 2,000 students, above average in all sorts of areas, starting with academics.

As Assistant Principal Doris Taylor told me, “Many of our students happen to be good athletes, rather than many of our athletes happen to be good students.”

That perspective permeates the school and was brought home to me Wednesday evening as I stood at the finish line of the track meet with Coach Stoker. As some of the cross country racers who had already finished walked by, he pointed to one girl and said, “See that tall one?” “She’s all A’s… And she’s a great runner too.”

Hangin’ with a coach these last couple of days (while also going to area high- and middle schools) brought home to me the critical importance of athletics in academic endeavors. Sure, even the Greeks stressed that several millennia ago.

What I mean is that coaches teach life skills that you just don’t get in a book. Experiencing being knocked down emotionally as well as physically, and yet, getting up and going at it again. If something doesn’t work, try something else.

Accepting defeat as part of growing, but never part of quitting.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” And teamwork, mutual respect, and leadership, and all the rest.

In a word… Character.

As several Jack Britt HS graduates came up to say “Hi” to Coach Stoker, I could see what a positive influence he was (and is still) on his former student-athletes.

Oh yes, the final score was, Jack Britt High School 60, Visitors 13.

Role Model

Speaking yesterday at the Arlington (VA) Rotary Club, I mentioned one of Booker T’s famous quotes (a ton of them are at, www.BTWsociety.org/quotes), “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

I also mentioned that Booker T. is an appropriate role model for young Americans today, bombarded as they are with pop culture’s narcissistic messages.

This morning, I thought about where Booker T., born a slave, might ever have gotten that idea. It didn’t take long to find the answer. On several occasions, he mentioned that he “made it a rule” to read a chapter, “or at least a verse” of the Bible every day.

Proverbs 11:26, says, “A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

Aha! So Booker T. himself had a Role Model – the best, in my humble opinion – rather, ‘IMHO’, as texting kiddoes would put it.

Mixed Messages

So there I was yesterday afternoon at Planet Fitness, PIPin’ out (Pedaling in Place), working up a sweat and feeling good for having gone vegetarian the past few days (thanks to my niece with whom I stayed), and gazing up at the multiple TV screens arrayed before me. There was Dr. OZ, the health guru created by the female Big “O”, expounding on the dangers of fat, while right next to Dr. Oz on the adjacent screen, was a bright, colorful commercial touting the wonderfulness of a Papa John’s Pizza.

Mixed messages! Aaarghh! And we’re smack dab in the middle of the most mixed message season of the year – pre-election posturing by folks who seemingly will to say anything to get or keep their jobs. What to do?
One can only hope and pray that the male Big “O” means it when he acknowledges that our public education system is broken. Hopefully more than the first president Bush (# “41”) meant it when he said he wanted to be known as the “Education President”… or when #42 touted “Education Reform” by investing more in schools and demanding more from them, or when #43 pushed to insure that No child would be Left Behind.”

“The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what the man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. said that a century ago, and it’s as true today.

Experience shows that the best intentions of politicians of every stripe tend to go nowhere. Those in power may “point with pride” while those out of power may “view with alarm.” But at bottom, not much will happen until the individual accepts and embraces the sparks of encouragement tendered by those who care to be better. Ultimately, he or she must take charge of his or her own character, education, and opportunity.

The Exact Moment I became an American (rev.)

The Booker T. Washington Society

By Ronald Court (nee, Courtemanche)

In just two days on September 11, 2010 I will observe the exact moment I realized I was an American and not a multi-hyphenated French-Canadian-American whose grandparents came down from Quebec in search of a living-any living.

It was 11:35am on that fateful day nine years ago in 2001. I had been teaching at Champlain College but as the planes stuck the towers, classes were cancelled. I drove home, but found myself turning off toward the local flag shop. As the realization of what happened set in, that America, our country… my country, me was attacked. I heard myself declare, “I am an American.” I am not French-Canadian. I am an American … of French-Canadian descent.

Today, it makes me ponder why some Americans descended from several generations of American-born ancestors still refer to themselves as African-Americans.

Sure, there’s an obvious answer. But can you tell me who the real African-American in this picture is?

(Hint: Actress Charleze Theron (above) was born in South Africa; Will Smith in Philadelphia.)

Trip, continued

by Ronald Court

      After New Haven on Thursday, it was on to Harlem in New York City to meet a man who happened on our website several months ago. He discovered the Booker T. Way then and has been championing it among friends and acquaintances ever since.
      He even stood up at his co-op meeting to read an editorial I had written that posed the question, “Is there a need for a Black History Month?” here.
      As he read the opening paragraphs aloud, some hasty listeners jumped to the conclusion that it (and he) were ‘against’ BTM and nearly caused a riot.
      So I was very much looking forward to meeting Mr. Herman Amos, a gentleman who risked his own safety to promote the Booker T. Way. He had even kindly taken the day off from work to show me around town.
      First stop of the day, The NY Public Library’s Schomburg Library on Malcolm X Blvd., up by 135th street in Harlem. To get a grounding in African-American (AA) history, this is a good place to start, …except that references to Booker T. Washington were notably absent. I hope to change that, but this is (at least momentarily) Charlie Rangel country, a man who represents (if anything other than his own self-interest) just about everything Booker T. Washington does not.
      Let’s be clear, Booker T. spoke to economic independence and good character, whereas “Representative” Rangel, long under investigation by the Ethics Committee, is a poster child for government dependence. I noticed a campaign sign in a store window that aptly sums up his strategy and perspective: “Charlie Rangel. He delivers.” It’s all about taking, not empowering.
      So there he was, Herman Amos, my guide for the day to NYC, and much more. I discovered “Striver’s Row” a street of elegant brownstones occupied by folks who clearly were enjoying the better life. Then on to the Abysinnian Baptist Church, built by Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee-trained students, and about whom its famous preacher, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. wrote a testimony to Booker T.’s educational philosophy here.
      From there to Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace and finally, to meet Mr. Hector Torres, a gentlemen about to be the first charter member and leader of the Booker T. Club of New York City. Another outstanding individual (introduced by Mr. Amos to the Booker T. Way), and a man who put himself through college, built a career, and has gone on to exercise his entrepreneurial abilities by forming his own security training organization, an ideal candidate for forming and leading a Booker T. Club.
      I’m looking forward to working with Mr. Torres and Mr. Amos as they develop the Booker T. Club of New York City to encourage and equip young Americans to live, learn and lead the Booker T. Way.

Why We’re Not Post-Racial … yet.

by Ronald Court

A couple of Wall Street Journal articles, one from last November editorial and one today by Peggy Noonan indicate that the road we’re on to a post-racial society continues to be bumpy.
      Over time, ‘color’ will, hopefully and eventually, become a non-issue. (note: to be ‘color-blind’ is not to be ‘culture-blind.’ It is to acknowledge skin color as irrelevant in matters that count.)
      The common saying, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ applies, as both Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. attested.
      Still, some don’t ‘get it.’
      Last November Alabama Congressman Artur Davis voted against the health-care bill. He probably expected some grief from his fellow Democrats. But he was also accused of selling out his race.
      He was the only black Member to oppose the legislation, and his vote earned him a rebuke from Jesse Jackson at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation reception. “We even have blacks voting against the health-care bill,” said Mr. Jackson. “You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man.”
      When a politician’s skin color is gratuitously invoked in a debate about whether the government should have more control of health care, you have to wonder if some politicians are seriously interested in a color-blind society. Former President Jimmy Carter suggested that whites who oppose the President’s policies are racists; Mr. Jackson said blacks who oppose them are betraying their race.
      And just this past week, Shirley Sherrod was, “smeared by right-wing media, condemned by the NAACP and canned by the Obama administration” (and then offered her job back). Clearly, some folks, left and right, are simply too quick to infuse race into every issue.
      Ms. Sherrod showed real class in informing the folks at the NAACP meeting that it’s “really about those who have versus those who don’t”.
      It is a shame the media pounced on Ms. Sherrod’s out-of-context words. But perhaps even more so that the NAACP leadership and Obama administration were so quick to judge.
      It reminded me of Proverbs 15:14 “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

First Trip of the Summer

I met the most amazing people last week… people who care about our youth and our country… on a 4-day trip that took me to Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

Thursday, at 6am: out the door to my 1st stop: New Haven, CT, home to Yale University and people blessed with opportunities others seem unable even to dream of.

But I was going to meet a couple at the Varick AME Zion Church, just one mile up the road from Yale: Wendy Tyson-Wood and her husband, Ken Cook.
The run-down appearance of the street the church is on, Dixwell Avenue, gives the immediate impression that this is where those without the dreams live. Yet Wendy and her husband are working to help the church develop its summer camp program into summer enrichment called ‘The Booker T. Washington Academy.’

In researching a curriculum to develop, Wendy came across the BTW Society website and saw how our ‘Booker T. Way’ could be the theme to motivate and tie it all together. They clearly have their hearts into creating a positive learning environment that will bring dividends in brighter, motivated students down the road… perhaps even to Yale!!

I was introduced to the kids in their program, from kindergarten to 7th grade, about thirty in all, and thrilled to see them setting our, ‘I CHOOSE’ motto and ‘Booker T. Way’ motivating principles to a rap beat and words written by Ms. Flake, their instructor.

To see our encapsulated version of Booker T.’s practical approach to education come alive through the energized voices of thirty children was exciting. I’m waiting for the video to show you.
And that was just the start of a great four-day trip. Stay tuned…