Category Archives: Attitude

“PMA” – “Positive Mental Attitude”

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.

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…

The Exact Moment I became an American

By Ronald Court.
It was 11:35 in the morning, seven years ago today, September 11, 2001. As I was driving home – classes at the local college where I taught were cancelled for the day – I found myself muttering, then loudly with determination, “I am not French-Canadian, I am an American, dammit , just as I turned off Route 15 to head towards a local flag shop.
Even then, so soon after we had been attacked, a few others were already ahead of me, purchasing U.S. flags in a shared spontaneous impulse to explicitly demonstrate our love of country, come hell or high water.
It occurs to me, as an American (of French-Canadian descent) that the age of hyphenation is over – or should be. It has done little to bring us together, and may contribute to keeping us apart. This is not so say we must set aside differences and disagreements. Indeed, entirely within the spirit of being an American is to celebrate each individual’s freedom to disagree.
Ever since the founding of the Booker T. Washington Society, I’ve refrained from using the term African-American. To my mind, it does more to divide than to define. As fellow Americans, our legitimate struggles are over values, not external characteristics.
Booker T. Washington never lost sight that his role was to improve the people of his race. He did not see alienation as advantageous to anyone’s interests.
So, don’t expect to find “African-American” bandied about on this site. If necessary, you’ll see “black” instead.
Which reminds me, can you tell me which of the two in the photograph below is African-American, and which is American?
A-A photo

Sticks & Stones

By Ronald Court

I let no man drag me down so low
as to make me hate him.

BTW’s signature

It seems that especially lately, a lot of people have gotten upset over the “n—” word. It is a reprehensible word. But the recent incidences brought to mind a response I was taught as a child. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s not entirely true, of course, for words can hurt… and also heal when said sincerely.
Why do some words cause our blood to boil, and others cause us to collapse in laughter or weep in joy? How did they get to wield such power over us? I believe the answer’s simple, if uncomfortable. It’s because we let them. We forfeit our own personal power over our emotions.

Easier said than done, I’ll admit. I’m sometimes offended, but it’s because I let someone get to me.. It’s not business. It’s personal.

“Sticks & stones” serves as a first line of defense to give us time to get back control of our emotions.

“I let no man drag me down so low as to hate him.” Booker T. gives not one inch in those words. And what character… showing that love overcomes all. What CharacterPower.

Character, Not Color

By Ronald Court

A while ago, ESPN Magazine did a story on 24 year-old NBA star Boris Diaw. He came to America from France three years ago to play with the Atlanta Hawks. He’s with the Phoenix Suns now..

He found America’s obsession with race odd…
His closest friend on the Hawks, Josh Childress, said, “He couldn’t get over the fact that there was separation between blacks and whites here. “He was like, “In France, we just look at people as people, not as black or white.” He’d ask why it was like that and Childress didn’t have an answer for him.

Booker T. had the answer. And you can pass it on.
It’s what’s inside that counts, not outside.
It’s Character, not color.

My hero, Bill Cosby

By Ronald Court

Two years ago, (July ’05) when the Society was no more than an idea I was mulling over, I flew to Buffalo NY to attend a Harlem Book Fair. I especially wanted to meet Sarah O’Neil Rush, a great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington who was to participate in a panel discussion on the philosophies of Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois.

Mrs. Rush found herself in a debate with the other three panelists — all ‘DuBoisians’. Yet she acquitted herself admirably. Afterwards, I happened upon one panelist, Prof. Ronald W. Walters alone at a book signing table hawking his most recent book, Freedom is Not Enough.

I introduced myself and asked simply, “What do you think of Bill Cosby?” I wanted to know what others thought about Bill Cosby’s recent NAACP speech challenging blacks to take more personal responsibility.

Bill Cosby at the NAACP

Dr. Walters responded by characterizing Mr. Cosby with a derogatory epithet I shall not repeat here. I was astounded. I asked him how he could say such a thing. Dr. Walters said that Cosby didn’t know what he was talking about… that he wasn’t qualified to…”

I cut him off, telling him Cosby was as qualified as anybody as was Booker T. Washington. Furthermore, he had a degree…”

Dr. Walters then cut me off. “But not a real degree. He…” I cut in again, telling Walters that Cosby held a Doctorate in Education from the U of Mass and earned it after becoming rich and famous (that makes Cos, because he didn’t have to, a double hero in my book).

In retrospect, Dr. Walters may have been referring to the honorary degrees that Booker T. received from Harvard and Dartmouth. I can’t be sure, but surely, even an Honorary Masters from Harvard and an Honorary Doctorate from Dartmouth says more than Walters’ PhD from American U.

He said BTW was a tool of white industrialists, that BTW encouraged blacks to go North to fill the demand for menial labor in their factories. I had to correct Dr. Walters yet again by reminding him that BTW specifically called blacks to stay in the South in his famous 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech to, “Cast down your bucket where you are…”

Dr. Walters responded that he meant BTW in his later years. Then he abruptly ended the exchange by turning away, adding “Perhaps we’ll have a chance to talk again.”

I never anticipated such an exchange. It opened my eyes into a mind-set that seemed to find it too hard to consider even the possibility that accepting a degree of personal responsibility to improve oneself might alleviate some of the distress some blacks experience today.

If Dr. Walters wants to lay primary responsibility for blacks who fail in society at the feet of “whitey,” then it follows that primary responsibility for blacks who succeed in society should be attributed to whitey as well. Such would be the logical conclusion. But here’s a better way. Hear what hero Bill Cosby had to say here.

Meanwhile, Dr. Walters might do well to recall Booker T. Washington’s observation that…

There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well.

(There’s more of Booker T’s wisdom & common sense here. Enjoy.

Who Do You See?

By Ronald Court

The differing perspectives of WEB duBois and Dr. Washington got me to thinking. In this picture below, what do you see?

witch or lady?

Do you see an ugly witch? … or a beautiful lady? Look harder. Can you see the other image also … the lady or the witch?

It’s about perspective. Booker T and WEB clearly saw life differently. For a hundred years, “Duboisians” and “Bookerites” have opposed one another.

I’m a staunch Bookerite, and though the BTW Society is a do tank, make no mistake. Bookerites think as well as do. We can see and understand (as Booker T. did) the view from the other side. However, to understand is not necessarily to agree.

Duboisians over the years have misled people into believing that Booker T.’s view or approach to living, was a “compromise”.

We aim to fix that misperception.

Are you a Bookerite or a Duboisian? This inquiring mind wants to know.

Hmmm…

By Ronald Court

A Florida family learned on the radio that a terrible hurricane was coming. But as they were church going people their father said, “Don’t worry, God will save us.”

Sure enough, the wind and rains came and the river rose. And as it started to overflow its banks, a neighbor drove up in his minivan, offering to help. “No need” said the father, “God will save us.” So the neighbor drove away.

As the water rose and washed into the 1st floor of the house, a guy in a boat rowed by, offering to help. “No need” said the fatherr, “God will save us.” So the guy rowed away.

The water rose up to the 2nd floor, so they clambored onto the roof. The Coast Guard in a helicopter spotted them and offered to take them out. “No need, God will save us,” they yelled up. So the helicopter flew away.

But the water kept rising, and they finally began to fear for their lives, so they called out to God to save them.

At that moment, the clouds parted and a light shone down. Then, a deep voice boomed down from above, saying, “I told you on the radio. Then I sent a car, a boat and a helicopter. What more do you want?”

Personal responsibility. … Booker T. knew all about that.

We’ve Got Work To Do

By Ronald Court

A Boston Globe phone survey last summer, raises a disturbing thought:

Pretty much half of all Blacks polled felt that America is the land of opportunity and are personally achieving the American Dream.

Phone survey-American DreamYet, it looks like only about half of those seem to feel that by working and playing by the rules, they will get to live a comfortable life. Why so negative?

Note the way more positive outlook of Latinos. But all we’ve been hearing lately is how they take all the low-paying jobs “nobody wants.” How can that lead to a “comfortable life?” Oh, wait. They are choosing to work. Many more of them seem to have embraced the optimistic work ethic of Booker T. And it looks like more of them refuse to fall into the “I am a vicitm” trap still being touted by some old-school Black “leaders.” Any shrink will tell you real change come from the inside.

So, for those with “attitude” (negative or positive), what does this tell you? This inquiring mind wants to know. Comment below.