Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hattie McDaniel

My next entry is about another of my favourite actresses, Miss. Hattie McDaniel.
Miss McDaniel is what as known as a "handsome woman"
A beautiful, graceful woman, soft-spoken and classy, Miss McDaniel worked hard at her craft as an actress. She didn't just open door for black actors and actresses today; she kicked them wide open.
It is easy to be critical of the roles Hattie McDaniel played; Slave. Maid. Mammy. But during the Golden Age of Hollywood, these were the only roles to be had.
Miss Hattie, as an actress was in great demand.
On Feburay 29th, 1940, Miss McDaniel was the first black actress to win the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy, in Gone With the Wind.
I remember reading about this lovely lady in school. And whenever I took a role in a play, I always had it in the forefront of my mind, "how would Hattie McDaniel played this?"
Married four times, but never had children, she was the role model for so many of us who dreamt big dreams and encouraged us to reach for them.
For me, Hattie McDaniel was the only reason why I would even watch Gone With the Wind.
My favourite scenes when Rhett confronts Mammy, after hearing the rustling of her red petticoat under her skirt. The one he brought back for Mammy. She puts us her skirt slowly, just a bit for him to see.
My Grandmother was a Cook. This path the way for a better life for her children. My mother was a Legal Assist to some of the finest Lawyers in the Untied States. This enabled me to pursuit my dreams as a writer.
Hattie McDaniel did the same thing with the roles she portrayed. For being a maid, she path the way for another actresses to go on to pro tray teachers, lawyers, and even Bond Girls.
Sadly, we lost Miss McDaniel to Breast Cancer in 1952, at the age of 57.
G-d bless you, Miss McDaniel and thank you.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Montague's New Look

Montague has been with us almost three months.
It is hard to imagine our lives without this little guy.
Over the weekend, we learn Montague is really a Papillon. Which for me is an answer to pray, because I have always wanted a Papillon.
And a poodle.
I even found an army doggie jacket for Montague.
After all, we are an army reserve family.
Finally, our tax return came in. And after paying some bills, we figure it was time to take our little Mush-Mush (our nickname for Montague) to the groomers.
PetSmart has a pet grooming section called Paws and Purrs. We went ahead and went for the Spa treatment. This included the brushing of his teeth, nail care and the scent of the month as well as shampoo, conditioner and fur trim.
Since Monte now looked more like a lion club than a dog and this our first time working with a groomer, we put our Boo-Boo in the good hands of the groomer and headed home to take care of a few things.
Three hours later, we arrived back to find a much lighter Montague.
Sorry for the sideways picture, I'm still trying to figure out to straighten such pictures out.

As you can see, after his grooming, Montague truly is a Papillon. And so very cute. I swear he looks a good five pounds lighter.

Which means, more and more pictures. And since Montague loves to have his picture taken, you won't hear any complains.
Oh, and Montague does say, "Cheese."

Tyler Perry

Life has been alittle busy around here: I'd had Jury duty, Mark medical examines and drill and then there is Montague.
Since this picture, Montague has been to the Groomers. More about that later.
One of the difficulties that I have struggled with as a believer is the theather.
Even as a child I loved not only acting, but writing and producing my own plays. I love the magic performed by the Wardrobe mistress, the feel of the wool stage under my feet and the the release of my body when I dance.
And yet, being a modest woman, I have at the same time struggled the morals and values ofter portrayed that are so different than my own.
And while I know there are g-dly men and women in Hollywood and in the theather who believe that can make a difference, I can't say I am one of them.
Until about two years ago, when I heard about Tyler Perry.
I had gone to spend a few days with my mother and she had a DVD she wanted me to see, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I confess, another black movie that makes us all look stupid, ugly and nasty.
But because it was my mother, I agreed.
What I found was a well written story, a story well told. One that made me laugh, cry, scream, cheer and think.

In the movie, a black woman learns that her wealthy is not only seeing another woman, but plans to replace her with the tart and throws sister out on the street. She returns to her family, family she left to please her husband and now must learn to stand upon her on two feet.
After seeing this movie, I wanted to know more about Tyler Perry, not the writer, but the man.
Because to have written such a piece, the struggle of an abused woman learning to stand on her own two feet and find her voice, this man had to have known such pain in his own life.
Tyler Perry did.

Born Emmitt Perry Jr. in New Orleans, Louisiana to Emmitt Perry, who was a carpenter  and Willie Maxine, Tyler was the eldest of four children.
Tyler said his father's only answer to everything was to beat it out of you. Sadly, this is a pain that is still all too common
When I hear that as a child, Tyler Perry even attempted suicide in an effort to escape his pain, I knew i found someone I could relate to. I often the same way after a beating or after my step-father molested me. In contrast, Willie Maxine took her children to church each week, and like so many of us, Tyler found a sense of refuge and contentment, even if it was for a few hours. At age 16, he took the bold step of having first name legally changed from Emmitt to Tyler in an effort to distance himself from his father.
I never saw the movie Precious; I still cannot. Having been molested for so many years, and knowing the storyline, I still cannot face the movie. But not Tyler Perry. After seeing the film,  he was moved to share for the first time of being molested by a friend's mother at age 10.Before that, Tyler was also molested by three men previous to this, and later found out his own father had molested a childhood friend.
Like Tyler Perry, I did not complete high school,but worked to earn my GED.
The turning point in his life, was in In his early 20s. He watching Oprah and heard someone describe the sometimes therapeutic effect that the act of writing can have, enabling the author to work out his or her own problems
Interesting, I had a Therapist who had told me the same thing. Which caused me to once again begin to write.
For Tyler, this advise inspired him to apply himself to a career in writing. He started first, writing a series of letters to himself, which became the basis for the musical, I Know I've Been Changed.
Financed by his life savings, I Know I've Been Changed, a story of forgiveness, dignity and self-worth while dealing with child abuse and dysfunctional family life, the musical was a failure.
 But Tyler wasn't going to admit defeat. He kept writing, kept producing plays that failed. But Tyler Perry kept going.
He wasn't going to allow the music inside go unheard.
Finally, Tyler successes. The doors began to open, his stories were finally being told.
Now I know why I loved A Diary of a Black Woman. Yes, I saw myself, I saw people I knew. I also saw Tyler's story being played out. His pain and his victory.
Despite his success, Tyler is still a humble man, a thankful man. The kind of man I would what my son to look up to as an example.
And if Mr. Perry had a need for an extra in one of his films, his offer would be the only one I would ever accept.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Look Closely

Boker Tov:
This picture is so powerful, I had to share. I do not know who the artist, but his or her work is so profound, it speaks volumes.
Not a very pretty picture is it?
How often we hear the words: it's my life.
No, it is not.
Like it or not, believe it or not, our lives are a gift from the Creator. Our bodies, souls and spirits belong to G-d and we cannot treat it as we wish and this we will not answer for it.
Yes, it is a hard picture.
 At first glance, some might not get the meaning, but look closely. What is the man doing? Notice the guns, cards, alcohol, and cigarettes on the table? It doesn’t take a genius to know that this man is a bad man, a criminal perhaps. He’s injecting drugs into his arm, and look what it’s doing to Yeshua's. His arm, is Yeshua's arm.
Simple. Whatever we do to our body, we do to G-d too.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

My Beloved Mum

In keeping with yesterday's post, I decided to stick to the not so famous Black Americans, but who have made our nation, our world a better place to live.
And today, I am writing about my beloved mother, Margaret Jordan.
Today is my mother's 78th birthday.
Mother was the youngest of seven children born to Joe and Callie Mixon Prude, born during the Great Depression.
 Known as the "baby of the family" (a nickname she hated) Mother was very close to her mother, my grandmother Callie.
Grandfather and Grandmother parted ways in the 1950s. Grandfather Joe stayed in Alabama and started another family. Grandmother moved the family up north to New York, where she would finish her schooling and years later, my sister and I would be born.
Mother graduated from high school and six-teen and then went to Business School. Mommy once told me she had thought about becoming a lawyer, but after searching the field, found it boring.
But mommy did enjoy being a  Legal Secretary.
My mother was and still is, amazing.
Before her stroke, mommy had the most beautiful penmanship, her shorthand was an art form all its own. When she typed, I swear she would type so fast (with no  mistakes) her fingers never seem to even touch the keys.
In my mind, when the words of Proverbs 31 10-31 were written, the author had me my mother in mind. She sometimes worked two jobs to raise two daughters and care for an ailing mother. When it would have been far easier to just sit back and collect welfare, my mother fought and won the respect of employers and fellow employees alike.
My mother never allowed my sister Eileen and I to make excuses as to why "we can't."
"I can't because they won't let me....."
"Who is 'they?'" Mother would ask. "And are you going to believe the words of 'they' over your mother?"
"I can't because I am a girl'....'I can't because I'm black...."
My mother never brought that nonsense and didn't allow us to.
Mommy believed in me when I didn't. And all those times I thought her mean or harsh, I now realised that was her way of demanding my very best.
In 1974, after he ha won the election, Michael Dukakis asked mommy to join his staff. Such was the respect Mr. Dukakis's for mommy. Mr. Dukakis, a Democratic, asked my mother, a Republican, to come and serve during his term as Governor, acting as Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor. 
After Mr. Dukakis lost the election in 1978, mommy was offered a job working for CBN here in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which she now calls home.
My mother isn't perfect, but she is perfect to my sister and I. She raised us to be strong, proud women; proud of who we are, proud of where we come from, of our people, of our nation.
Despite three major strokes that could have taken her from us some almost 12 years ago, Mommy is still going strong. Though her left side was weaken, she still does her cross-word puzzles; in ink. She still does her jig-saw puzzles. And she has had the joy of welcoming two sons, five grandchildren, seeing two granddaughters and a grandson get marry, five great-grandchildren and now a granddog, Montague.
I am so blessed to have my mother; my older sister in faith as well as my bestfriend.
All good I have ever done, I give all glory and praise to G-d and my mother.
The mistakes are my alone.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Courage to Heal

During the month of Black History, we tend to think of the famous men and women who made a difference in our nation, in our world.
But for every Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks, Oprah and Bill Cosby, there are others who in their quiet of the world, working to make our world place to be.
Take my cousin Renae. Her life is the story of one who had the courage to be healed.
During our growing up years, mostly in the summer and holidays, it was Elayne, Eileen (my sister) and Renae. She was very much a little sister to me. We loved each other, we fought like cats and dogs. And we loved each other.
Renae came one year to live with us. I don't remember why, but I tend to remember with a smile. The beauty of her mother, my aunt Lola and the wit and brains of her father, my uncle Oscar, Renae always had a way with words.
In her youth, like so many, Renae got caught in the drug scene. How often aunt Lola would call mummy, asking for her prayers.
It's Renae story to tell and I hope one day she will indeed write her story and publish it. For hers is a story of faith, courage and victory over the demons that could have taken her from us.
Many years ago, Renae, while in prison, turned her life around. She became a believer in Yeshua HaMessiah, married a wonderful man, a minister and is now the First Lady of her husband's church which she is very active in.
I know it wasn't easy, but Renae made the choice to change, to live. Renae took hold of the demon of drugs and beat that sucker to the ground and dared it to even try to come back. A struggle yes, but she did it.
Renae chose life.
And because Renae chose life, our world is a much better place to live.
I love you, Renae

Monday, 13 February 2012

Igbo Jews (Nigeria)

I saw this today and thought it was just too cool. I hope my readers find this as interesting as I did.

Igbo Jews (Nigeria)

Modern Igbo outside Siyahh Yisrael Synagogue
The Igbo Jews of Nigeria, who call themselves the “Benei-Yisrael,” are part of the larger Igbo ethnic group. Most of the Igbo Jews live in an area which straddles the River Niger, near the Anambra states.
The Igbo Jews are said to have migrated from Syria, Portugal and Libya into West Africa around 740 C.E. It is claimed that the initial immigrants were from the biblical tribes of Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali. Later, they were joined by more Jewish immigrants from Portugal and Libya in 1484 and 1667 respectively.
Some of the Igbo Jews claim that the river Sambation (beyond which the ten lost tribes were dispersed by the Assyrians) is in Africa.
In a paper distributed by the “Igbo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria,” three possible migration routes of Jews into Africa are proposed:
  1. Through migrations west from the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Sudan.
  2. Through trade and travel of North African Jews within the West African Kingdoms of Mali, Songhai, and Kanem-Bornu. According to accounts from explorers of the region, several of the rulers of the Songhai Empire were said to be of Jewish origin.
  3. Through Jews traveling with Kel Tamasheq (Tuareg) trade caravans from various parts of Northeast Africa into West Africa.
Possible Migration Routes of Jews into Africa
Another possibility described by a 9th century Jewish traveler named Eldad ben-Mahli (also known as Eldad the Danite) is that his tribe, Dan, migrated from the land of Israel so as not to take part in the civil war at the time of Yeroboam’s secession, and were residing in the land of Havilah beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. According to Eldad, three other tribes in addition to Dan – Naphtali, Gad and Asher, as mentioned above – were with them; these had joined in the times of Sennacherib.
Eldad wrote that the Igbo Jews in Africa had an entire body of scriptures except for the books of Esther and Lamentations. They knew nothing of the Mishna nor the Talmud; but they had a “Talmud” of their own in which all the laws were cited in the name of the biblical Joshua. Eldad described a specific law dealing with the rules pertaining to the killing of animals for food.
Jewish communities throughout Muslim-controlled lands suffered greatly and in many cases were destroyed. The Igbo Benei-Yisrael lost whatever written documents and other written traditions that may have existed. The communities strived to maintain at the least a knowledge of their Israeli origin and to practice certain traditions in secret.
An early statement on the history of the Igbo Jews was published in the autobiography of an Igbo man, Olaudah Equiano, a Christian-educated freed slave who remarked in 1789 on “the strong analogy which… appears to prevail in the manners and customs of my countrymen and those of the Jews, before they reached the Land of Promise, and particularly the patriarchs while they were yet in that pastoral state which is described in Genesis — an analogy, which alone would induce me to think that the one people had sprung from the other.”
Even with the loss of written records, many religious practices of the Igbo Jews correspond with mainstream Jewish practices. These include:
  • Circumcision eight days after the birth of a male child
  • Observance of some kosher dietary laws
  • Separation of men and women during menstruation
  • The celebration of holidays such as Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Passover.
  • In recent times, the communities have also adopted holidays such as Hanukkah and Purim, which were instituted only after the tribes of Israel had already dispersed.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sent a team to Nigeria between in 1995 to search for the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” Western rabbis and educators have since sent books, computers, and religious articles to Nigeria. However, the State of Israel has, to date, not officially recognized the Igbo as one of the Lost Tribes.
Jews from outside Nigeria founded two synagogues in Nigeria, which are attended and maintained by Igbo Jews.
Igbo Benei-Yisrael clan
Because no formal census has been taken in the region, the number of Igbos in Nigeria who identify as either Israelites or Jews is not known. There are currently 26 synagogues of various sizes. Some researchers estimate there may be as many as 30,000 Igbos practicing some form of Judaism.
However most of these “Jews” are probably Messianic; only some 1,500 – 2,000 of them no longer believe in Christian doctrine, according Rabbi Howard Gorin, a a rabbi affiliated with the Conservative Jewish movement, who has visited the community. Gorin adds that he would only count a handful of the community as Jewish according to halacha (Jewish law).
Gorin has posted a number of short videos on YouTube of the Igbo community singing songs in Hebrew and chanting from texts.
Rabbi Brant Rosen visited the Igbo with the help of the Kulanu organization.“Are the Igbo, in fact, descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel?” he asks. “I don’t know that there will ever be any way to prove this conclusively one way or the other…but as I see it, whether or not they are actually lost Israelites is relatively moot in the face of the fact that the Igbo absolutely believe it to be true.”
Daniel Lis, a Swiss-Israel “social anthropologist” also writes about his trip to visit the Igbo. He refers to Remy Ilona, an Igbo lawyer in Nigeria who has written a book with the title The Igbos: Jews in Africa? and accompanied Lis during his visit.
This Wikipedia article on African Jews has a short section on the Igbo Jews.

Seven Years

Boker Tov:
A Blast from the Past.
This entry is from our blog: We Made Our Own Huppah

Thursday, 20 November 2008

It Rained that night, too:

Picture of Mark and I, Blessing Dinner, 2006From 13th 2005
When: A Sunday.
The place: Beth Messiah Synagogue.
The Event: The Blessing Dinner.
For several years, the men of our Synagogue got together and made dinner for their wives, daughters, mums as well as the single, divorced or widowed women of the congregation. The idea was that of Carl Steven. The thought behind it was to make sure everyone in our mist was honoured.
 The Sunday chosest to Valentine's Day was picked. It was called Blessing Dinner to bless the women in the men's lives. It was a potluck meal where the men did the cooking. Roses and other flowers were brought for the evening. For woman who were Bat Mitzvah (over the age of 13) she would receive a rose. Girls under 13 receive another type of flower.
The men setup, serve the meal and clean up. After dinner, first the husbands, one by one would stand up and play tribute to their beloved and afterwards, represent her with a rose. The men would also pay tribute to their mums and daughters. Rabbi would give roses to the women who, for whatever reason, was without a mate. This way everyone received at least one flower on Lovers Day.
There was in one sweet moment when a young boy got up and gave a rose to his mother, a dear woman who's raising three sons on her own.
Mark and I were courting at the time. For several weeks we had talked about marriage. And Mark by his own admission suffered from a serve case of cold feet.
We were suppose to meet earlier in the day, do a little shopping and then I would dress at his apartment.
But at the last minute there was a change in the plans and Mark didn't realise that the project he needed to finish would put him last by several hours.
So here I sit, wondering what happen. Was he sick? Did he get into an accident?
And then, around four in the afternoon, he walks in, thinking everything was fine.
It wasn't.
We exchanged words and almost did not go to the dinner.
But we went to his apartment so I could change. I wore a studding midnight black dress that had ripples at the hem and moved every time I did. I took my braids out and let my wavey hair fall down my back and laced in it little hairpins with pearls and diamond's. I was looking good.
Mark looked up from his test when I walked out and then looked back into his book! My heart sank. Guess I didn't look as good as I thought. Maybe someone will think I'm pretty...
 Mark then stood up, placed his hands on my shoulders and asked; "excuse me, who are you and what have you done with my Laini?" That made me smile. He really did notice. According to remarks Mark would later make ; "she looked gooooood!"
Like tonight, it was pouring down rain and since I was wearing heeds I wasn't use to, I had to hold onto Mark's arm.
Heads turned when I walked in. While most were used to seeing me dress for the services, no one had seem me dressed to the nines. Or my hair loose and free from braids.
Until tonight.
After the meal, Mark wondered out loud: "I wonder what I am going to say about you."I said: "Just ask the Father. And the words will then come."
He did and they did.
At one point I notice Mark had left the table we were sharing with friends. I thought he had gone to the bathroom.
 Then I heard his voice.
 Coming from the front of the room.
 Now you have to understand, Mark didn't wait until all of the husband had spoken.
This in itself caused a buzz in the room.
Mark picked up and rose and began to tell everyone how I had prayed for him, cared for him, how I supported him while he was in Iraq and now during his cancer treatment. That G-d had truly blessed him when He brought me into his life. He spoke of his love for me and said everything but; "will you marry me?" He then came over and handed me the rose.
 He asked if I liked what he said. I told him; "I love every word, and you have no idea what you just did.""What did I just do?""You just asked me to marry you in front of almost 130 people."
It took a few moments, but when Rabbi asked: "you didn't see that coming did you?" Mark realise what he had done. To say the room was abuzz was an understatement.
On the way home we talked about what he had done. And when he came to a red light, Mark turned to me and said; "well, you want to set a date?"And that is how is all began.
Seven ago tonight. Around 7:00pm.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Benjamin Bannker.

African Americans have played a vital role in the history and culture of our nation since its founding. Many of their stories have been told. Many more, have not..
For example, until last week, I have never heard Benjamin Banneker. Born 1731. Died 1806.
November 9, 1731, Benjamin Banneker was born in Baltimore County, Maryland. He was the son of an African slave named Robert, who had bought his own freedom, and of Mary Banneky, who was the daughter of an Englishwoman and a free African slave.
 Benjamin grew up on his father's farm with three sisters. After learning to read from his mother and grandmother, Benjamin read the bible to his family in the evening. He attended a nearby Quaker country school for several seasons, but this was the extent of his formal education. He later taught himself literature, history, and mathematics, and he enjoyed reading.
As a young adult, Banneker inherited the farm left to him by his grandparents. He expanded the already successful farm, where he grew tobacco. In 1761, at the age of thirty, Banneker constructed a striking wooden clock without having ever seen a clock before (although he had examined a pocket watch). He painstakingly carved the toothed wheels and gears of the clock out of seasoned wood. The clock operated successfully for forty years, until the time of his death.
After the death of his father, Benjamin Banneker lived on his father's 100-acre farm.
Benjamin and his sisters lived a largely secluded from the world. He was self taught in the fields of astronomy and surveying, Benjamin Banneker assisted in the survey of theFederal Territiory of 1791 and  calculated ephemerides and made eclipse projections for Benjamin Banneker's Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack and Epheremis, published during the years 1792-1797.
 Benjamin Banneker retired from tobacco farming to concentrate wholly upon his studies.
Banneker forwarded a copy of his calculations to Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826),  who was then secretary of state, with a letter criticizing Jefferson for his proslavery views and urging the abolishment  of slavery of African American people. He compared such slavery to the enslavement of the American colonies by the British crown.        
 Mr. Jefferson acknowledged Banneker's letter and forwarded it to the Marquis de Condorcet, the secretary of the Académie des Sciences in Paris. The exchange of letters between Banneker and Jefferson was published as a separate pamphlet, and was given wide publicity at the time the first almanac was published. The two letters were reprinted in Banneker's almanac for 1793, which also included "A Plan for an Office of Peace," which was the work of Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745–1813). The abolition societies of Maryland and Pennsylvania were very helpful in the publication of Banneker's almanacs, which were widely distributed as an example of an African American's work and to demonstrate the equal mental abilities of the races.     
The last known issue of Banneker's almanacs appeared for the year 1797, because of lessening interest in the antislavery movement. Nevertheless, he prepared ephemerides for each year until 1804. He also published a treatise on bees and computed the cycle of the seventeen-year locust.
Benjamin Banneker never married. He died on October 9, 1806, and was buried in the family burial ground near his house. Among the memorabilia preserved from his life were his commonplace book and the manuscript journal in which he had entered astronomical calculations and personal notations. Writers who described his achievements as that of the first African American scientist have kept Banneker's memory alive. Recent studies have proven Banneker's status as an extremely capable mathematician and amateur astronomer.

What a rich history we have as a people. As Black Americans.
As Americans.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Teach Your Children

"And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Deut. 11:19

Yesterday, I saw the most precious picture on facebook.
It was a friend of my, saying morning prayers. His little daughter came up beside him and picking up the hem of him prayer shawl, joined her Abba (daddy) in prayer. Thankfully, his wife caught this moment on camera.
Because I do not have my friend's permission, I cannot show you the picture.
Another friend, his facebook profile picture is his holding his baby granddaughter, reading the Bible to her.
It is said that faith isn't just taught, but caught by our children. Our children, like it or not watch us very closely and will mimic us.
 How often do we hear "I want to be like my mummy or daddy, when I grow up."
I remember when Aries was about four-teen months old, I found him sitting on the floor, with my new Bible and marking in it.
Yes, at first I was upset, but then I looked at the old Bible sitting on my desk, its pages filled with the notes I had written. Aries had watched me write in my Bible and thought it was OK.
So how can I be mad?
I remember how Aries loved to dress up in suite, making him feel grow up, so proud to look like his step-father. I remember times coming into his room and he was teaching his stuffed animals from the Bible.
I remember one night when he was about six, kneeing at his bed and praying for my sick child. And his fever breaking.
Years later, when I was recovering from surgery, Aries prayed for me.
Yes, it is cute and sweet and even brings tears to our eyes.
But it also makes us as parents and grandparents aware of how much they truly are watching, and even learning from us. The important role we do play. How we have the power to flame belief in their souls. Or put it out.
"But Yeshua said to them, “Let the children come to me and do not forbid them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” From the Aramaic Bible.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Black Woman's Prayers


"Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
Who has made me according to His will."
(Part of the morning prayers)

On this day, I would like to honour the jewel in our crown, the heartbreak of every black family, the silence strength of our nation.
The Black Woman. Our Mothers, Sisters, Aunts. Our Soul.

One of the reasons I believe that we as a people have survived is because of the Black Woman.

She has stood tall and strong as a queen next to her king.
When dragging from her homeland in chains, she held in her heart, in her soul of the stories of home, the lessons learned at the knee of her mother.
She has worked the cotton fields beside her man, cared for the Big House and willed not to roll up into a ball a die when her man was stole to pay the Master's debt or see her Mistress hand her newborn baby to a relative as a birthday present.
And yet in the midnight hour she prayed. She prayed for freedom; for herself, for her man and children, for her people.
She taught her children to pray, to seek the face of their Creator, knowing it was not He that commanded their enslavement, but another. She gave them hope for a better day.
She passed that hope to her daughter, the daughter would past that hope on to her daughter and so it would go.
Until we were free.
But the Black Woman didn't stop praying.
On her knees while scrubbing other woman's floor, she prayed. While nursing another woman's child, she prayed. Working in another woman's kitchen, she prayed. She prayed for her husband to get that and keep that job. She prayed her children would be good in school and learn their lessons well. So that when her daughter grows up, the only floor she would scrub would be her own. That the only her son would open, would be the woman leading to his house.
Black Women prayed during times of war and peace. During good times and bad.
Black Women went from being maids and cooks to teachers, doctors and lawyer. Preachers, dancers and singers. Many would go to into business for themselves.
And many would chose to stay home and raise their children, create a peaceful, nurturing home.
The Black Woman's Prayers.
Prayers whisper next to a bedside, while sweeping a floor or nursing a baby.
The prayers of all women have been the force, the power, the strength of the family.
We who are alive today are the answers to those prayers utter in slavery.
May we each live our lives in a matter that makes our mothers pround.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Boker Tov;

Upon waking up, we offer the following:
מודה אני לפניך מלך חי וקיים שהחזרת בי נשמתי בחמלה, רבה אמונתך.‏
Transliteration: Modeh ani lifanekha melekh hai v'kayam shehehezarta bi nishmahti b'hemla, raba emunatekha.
Translation: "I give thanks before You, Living and Eternal King, that You have returned within me my soul with compassion; Great abundant is Your faithfulness!"

I love this blessing. How often we take for granted waking up in the morning. G-d, in His mercy allows our eyes to open. He allows the breath in our body to flow and out of our mouths we praise Him.
I remember for the longest time, opening my eyes and uttering the words; "good L-rd, it's morning."
But many years ago, when I found this blessing, I remember my grandmother Callie would utter her breath these words of thanks, words she heard her father, Samuel Mixon utter.
I remember when Aries and I lived with my mother for a time, I could hear mummie as she would give up, hearing her slide from her bed to her knees to pray, to give thanks for a new day and for His guidance.
I used to pray; "L-rd, give me a good day. But one morning, I felt Him whisper, "How about just walking with Me today, and let Me guide You." And after all these years, it is still a joy to see where He will lead me.

Shortly after we were married, Mark and I bucked down and really worked on learning these blessings, holy words that have been the life breath of our people. It was during this time I remembered the sweet morning blessing.
During my depression, I forgot those blessings. All I could do was sit and stare into space. Or sit and cry. That's when it is truly a blessing to have a praying husband.
But I also knew G-d could understand the language of my tears.
And then He brought Montague into our lives.

I remember uttering the words, "Thank you, Father for this precious little furball." The G-d of Creation, made this little bundle of furry love and gave him to me. To teach me once again to give thanks. Just those few little words and a doggie's kiss broke the dam.
So once again, when I awake, I give thanks to The Holy One for allowing me this day, a day that holds its own surprises.
As I prepare to take my little guy out for his morning walk, I give thanks. I give that for my health, for my beloved husband, for Montague and for the sunny day I am about go and enjoy.
And I give thanks that my Heavenly Father with be walking with us.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Ladies Who Sang the Blues

Those who have gone before us, set the sample of how they overcame, going us the courage to do the same.
They had grace and pose. Class and style, even as they grew older.
They have been none these ladies since:
Miss Pearl Baily. Born March 29, 1918. Died August 17, 1990. A tall, handsome woman, her low, smokey voice always reminded me of my Aunt Lola. Miss. Baily was the lady who  flamed my interest in the Theatre.
Her father Joseph was a minister and her mother was named Ella Mae. Her given name was Pearly Mae but her parents anticipated she would be a boy and when a girl was born she was nicknamed "Dickie". Her brother was entertainer Bill Bailey.
 Miss Bailey spent her early life in Washington DC where she received her early education. She frequently appeared in the Old Howard theatre in downtown Washington. As a young woman she toured the Pennsylvania mining towns as a dancer and later as a singer in Vaudeville. She starred in the film St. Louis Blues opposite Nat King Cole, which was the biography of W.C. Handy. Her greatest theatre role was in the Broadway musical "Hello Dolly".
A very talented woman, Miss Bailey was a composer, singer and songwriter as well as a dancer. I remember her voice as being delicious smooth, dark and deep, like chocolate.

Miss Lena Horn. Born: June 30,1917 in Brooklyn, New York. Died May 9, 2010. Best known for the jazz ballad, "Stormy Weather.

Miss Horn was a pioneer among African-American performers.  Lena Horne's talent and beauty began to cause cracks the race barrier in Hollywood in the 1940s. A smooth singer of blues and jazz ballads, Miss Horne appeared onstage in Harlem when she was just 14 years old. By age 16 she was singing in the famous Cotton Club. Soon she made her way into films, starring in the popular 1943 musicals Stormy Weather and Cabin in the Sky. In later years she sang in clubs and was a steady presence on TV and radio. Horne's active career spanned six decades, and in 1989 she was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In one episode of the Cosby Show, Lena Horn played herself. Life long fan of Lena Horn, Clare gave her to her husband Cliff, a front front seat to see Miss Horn perform.
Janet Jackson had been picked to play the role of Miss Horn in a 2004 movie. But after Miss Jackson flashed her near naked breast during the half-time show of the Super Bowl, Miss barred Janet from taking the part.

Miss Ethel Waters. Born 31, 1896. Died
 Known as "sweet mama stringbean," Ethel was the child of a teenage rape victim and grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighbouring cities, seldom living anywhere for more than a few weeks at a time.
"No one raised me, " she once said. "I just ran wild."
Miss Waters not only excel at taking care of after herself, but found a career in singing and dancing; she began performing at church functions, and as a teenager was locally renowned for her "hip shimmy shake".
 In 1917 she made her debut on the black vaudeville circuit. She was billed as "Sweet Mama Stringbean" for her tall, lithe build. Her rendition of "St. Louis Blues", which Waters performed in a softer and subtler style than her rivals, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Beginning with her appearances in Harlem nightclubs in the late 1920s, then on the lucrative "white time" vaudeville circuit, she became one of America's most celebrated and highest-paid entertainers.
 At the Cotton Club, she introduced "Stormy Weather", composed for her by  Harold Arlen. She wrote of her performance, "I was singing the story of my misery and confusion, the story of the wrongs and outrages done to me by people I had loved and trusted".
 Impressed, Irving Berlin Irving wrote "Supper Time", a song about a lynching, for Waters to perform in a  Broadway revue.
Miss Waters became the first African-American star of a national radio show. In middle age, first on  Broadway and then in the movies, she successfully recast herself as a dramatic actress.
I remember Ethel Waters in her later years as the "singing evangelist" for the Billy Graham. In a book written about her life, I learned that Miss Waters was a devoutly religious. well-known for being difficult to get along with. During the years of 1992-to 1997, I was the church librarian for my former church. After reading Miss Water's life story in 1992, I began to feature the stories of black Christians during Black History Month.
Each of these women were trail blazers. Today's actresses and performers have these ladies as well as others who know the walls and made the way for them.

How The Torah Scroll is Created Part 2

Next is the quill.
The scribe writes with a feather pen or reed pen, filling its tip from the ink. An iron pen is not use for two reasons:
1. There is a good chance the pen may puncture the parchment.
2. Iron is often used to make weapons of death and destruction, both of which oppose the intent of the Torah, which is life.
The letters of a Torah scroll are written in the "Assyrian" script. The various scripts or fonts in which we see  Hebrew commonly written or printed are not valid. The lines must be perfectly straight and even.  There are numerous laws detail the precise figure of each letter, and if even one letter is missing, even merely cracked or smudged, the entire Torah scroll is not kosher A printed Torah scroll, even if its letters conform to the required form, is not valid.It must me hand written.
Because the Torah scroll embodies the holiness of its message, the scribe's  focus exclusively on its pure text.  Any illustrations or artistic decorations are forbidden.
The Scribe. To become a scribe requires rigorous study and training-and great skill. Certainly, a person who has not carefully studied the laws pertaining to composing a Torah scroll cannot be a scribe. Above all,  the scribe must be a G-d-fearing and pious person, dedicated to the sanctity of the Torah scroll. If the scribe isn't G-d fearing and pious, like an unkosher parchment, the Torah Scroll is deemed unkosher.
The scribe may not rely on his memory.  He must copy the letters, word by word, from a kosher Torah scroll or a copy of a certified Kosher scroll.  Interesting, a right-handed scribe writes only with his right hand; a left-handed scribe, only with his left hand.
Since the  Names of G-d is  contained on the Torah, the scribe must write with utmost purity and devotion. It is customary that the scribe immerse himself in a Mikvah (ritual pool) before beginning his work. He also recites a blessing at the outset of his work and before each time he writes the Name of G-d.
The following is from the Chabad Site;

The Atzei Chayim
(Hebrew, pl., trees of life; sing., aitz chayim) The atzei chayim are the two wooden shafts attached to either end of the Torah.

The Gartel
(Yiddish, belt) The gartel is the sash used to tie the Torah scroll so that the Torah remains closed and secured under its velvet covering. When a Torah scroll is found to be non-kosher (e.g., a letter has faded) and awaits correction, its gartel is tied around its velvet covering, on the outside, as an ostensible reminder that it is out of commission.

The Mantel
(Yiddish, cloak) A valuable treasure is not left exposed and vulnerable. We cover the Torah scroll with multiple coverings, dressing it in a "cloak" before restoring it to its honourable place in the Ark and drawing the curtain. The mantel is an ornate covering that both protects and beautifies the Torah scroll, typically made of velvet and embroidered with golden thread, silk, and ornamental beads. Note; it is NOT called a foreskin.

The Keter
(Hebrew, crown) The Torah is our most precious possession, and we lovingly display that. We adorn it with a crown, typically silver, as a symbol of our endearment and veneration. The keter rests on the wooden shafts, which extend above the scroll.

The Yad
(Hebrew, hand) The yad is the pointer that the reader of the Torah uses to help others follow the written words as he reads. Usually made of silver, the end of this rod is commonly shaped like a hand with its index finger extended. A chain attached to its other end can be used to drape it over the Torah scroll when put away.

I first became interested in the construction of the Torah Scroll several years ago, when I thought it would be cool embroider Torah. I knew there were many laws surrounding the Torah and I didn't wish to do anything deemed unkosher.
It was in my research that what I had in mind would not be considered a kosher Torah. Oh I cane still do it, if I wish. But like a printed scroll, it would be invalid.
I still might do it, just for my own sense of touching the Divine, of feeling each letter of the Torah, making this Torah uniquely mine.



How the Torah Scroll is Created

In my series about the Torah, I decided to add an entry of how a Torah Scroll is created.
I say created because if you have ever seen a Torah Scroll, it is a thing of beauty, a piece of Art that rivals the world's greatest artists.
Mark says this is one of the reasons why the Torah Scroll is called 'She"; because of Her beauty.

To create an authentic Torah scroll is a mind-boggling masterpiece of labour, time and skill. Made up of  between 62 and 84 parchment sheets (usually cow skin) which have been-cured, tanned, scraped and prepared according to exacting Torah law specifications. Containing exactly 304,805 letters, the resulting handwritten scroll takes almost year, or a litter more, to complete. An expert pious scribe carefully inks each letter with a feather quill, under the intricate calligraphic guidelines of Ktav Ashurit (Ashurite Script). The sheets of parchment are then sewn together with sinews to form one long scroll. While most Torah scrolls stand around two feet in height and weigh 20-25 pounds, some are huge and quite heavy, while others are doll-sized and lightweight.

A Torah scroll may only be written on parchment from the skin of a kosher animal, usually a cow skin. However, the animal need not necessarily be slaughtered in a ritually acceptable manner. As long as the species is kosher, the parchment may be used for a Torah scroll.
Interestingly enough, a Rabbi once told me that the skin of fish cannot be used to make a Torah scroll. The reason is fish skin exudes an unpleasant odour. And since the parchment is to be used for a holy object, the parchment must be prepared with that in mind.
Therefore, a Jew must carry out or, at the very least, assist in this task. A Torah Scroll written on unkosher skin, and/or written by an non-Jew is not considered kosher.
The scribe first  must mark off the lines on the parchment with slight grooves. The utensil used for this purpose may not leave any colouring on the parchment. It is preferable that this marking, too, be carried out with the intent to write a Torah scroll.
Only black ink is acceptable. Ink of any other colour is not kosher for a Torah scroll.
In biblical times, the ink used for writing a Torah scroll was made by boiling oils, tar and wax,  then collecting the vapours. Afterwards, that mixture would be combined with tree sap and honey, and then dried out and stored. Before its use, it would be mixed with gall-nut juice.
Today, the scribes prepare ink using gall-nut juice and gum. The black colour is achieved by adding various tints.
 I still like the idea of honey being used in the making of ink, however.(Thy Word is sweet).

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Time in A Bottle

Sometime in the early morning, I had a dream, one that has remain with me like the scent of fresh cut roses.
In my dream, I was looking for packing time. I heard my mother suggest I look in the basement. So, I went outside our building and headed for the basement.
But it wasn't the basement of my apartment building. Well lit and clean. And a staircase led to a door that was ajar.
I went upstairs and opened the door.
I closed my eyes and inhaled.
Peppermint candy.
It had been more than forty years, but I knew I had to knock on the door.
"Come in Elayne."
I knew that voice. Called to heaven forty years ago, but I knew that voice.
Grandmother Callie Prude
She sat in the Queen Anne chair next to her dresser, her bible on her lap, wearing a purple dress with a white collar.
I remember asking her when will I get to wear a purple dress like her.
She would tell me, "when your an old woman like me,"
She motioned for me to sit on her bed and I did. I had forgotten this room. I was once again five years old and Grandmother let come in to spend a little time with her.
Grandmother mother Callie lived with us the first five years of my life, then went to live with other family members.
I remember her Bible, a table Bible she loved to read.
A Bible my mother would later use as a study Bible.
A Bible I now have.
I remember the wallpaper the beautiful, soft bed, the light from her lamp was always soft.
Grandmother smiled. I told her she looked just like mummie when she smiles.
Grandmother laughed and said; "your just like your mother.'
I asked Grandmother, "what was mummie like as a little girl?"
Grandmother laughed and gave me a wink and said once again, "your just like your mother."
She then said, "I see you still haven't manage to tame that hair, girl."
I giggled. It's true. It finally has grown back long enough for me to braid, but still untamed.
 I then saw her long, silver, thick braid resting on her shoulder. I always loved to play with her hair.
She reached into the top draw and handed me the packing tape I needed.
I thanked her and took the roll, touching her hand.
Just as soft and warm as I remember. She still of ivory soap, Jergers lotion and peppermint candy.
She asked where I was going and I told her I was going on a field trip to Bush Gardens.
"Let me give you something."
As Grandmother stood, I stepped out of her way.
While I am told I am the spitting imagine of Grandmother, I was not blessed with her height. Grandmother Callie stood at six foot and solid. She was, as they say, a handsome woman.
She opened the drawer and and handled me a camera.
But not just any camera. An major upgrade from the I have, more like one a professional would use. She taught me how to use and then, with a kiss, send me on my way.
I didn't wish to leave, but I knew my time with my grandmother was coming to a close. She sat back down and went back to her bible reading.
Upon walking outside, I saw the group I would be travelling with to Bush Gardens, showing them my new camera.
My friends were amazed. Nothing like this was even on the market yet....
I awoke and felt Mark take me in his arms.
I told him my dream. He listened, amazed by the detail I could remember.
As I write this I still remember every sight, sound, scent and texture. I can see my grandmother's face.
It was as if I was given a few minutes with the woman would changed my diapers, sung me lullaby's, was there to saw my first steps and hear my first words. Who would let me play with her
button collection and loved to dance and sing. Who read me bible stories and shared her peppermint candy. I am a believer that G-d does speak in dreams. And I do believe He is telling me something.n
If only I could save that sweet time in a bottle.
For now, I guess this blog will have to do.