Her name is Perl, spelled P. E. R. L., short for Perleatha; but just because there isn’t an “A” in her name, doesn’t make my mother any less of a precious jewel. People like her are rare - and when a name alone elicits respect, reverence, and at times a bit of awe and wonder, it’s an honor just to be called her son.
I’d like to give a great big shout out to Hanau, Germany. It’s not only the birthplace of the Grimm brothers it’s the place I called home during the formative years of my life. While most Germans don’t think of their nation as being kid-friendly at all, Germany as a whole actually has deep-seeded love for children. Nevertheless, despite the overall German modesty when it comes to their treatment of children and those needing protection, I grew up feeling safe. My being the only American and the only person of color in my schools from kindergarten through the sixth grade never felt odd or uncomfortable for me. It wasn’t until I moved back to the United States of America, my birthplace and the country of which I’m a natural born citizen, did I ever feel like an “other” or devalued because I wasn’t born a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant American. It’s sad to admit that the country responsible for the holocaust actually welcomed, protected, and nurtured me – a black boy. Granted, had it been 1942 instead of 1986 – I might have been treated a lot differently. Even so, it took Germany only 4 decades to do what America has failed to do in 200 years – the systematic eradicating of deep seeded hatred.
Today, in 2016, I’m pretty much at a loss for words when it comes to trying to sort the seemingly unconscionable acts of late. For the past several weeks, my family has literally been in a panic regarding my safety. My father, who is not only prior military but continues to work for the Department of Defense as a military inelegance instructor, sends text messages every day and calls at least 3 times a week – just to make sure that no “incidences of concern” have happened on my daily commute to work. And while the pandemonium of the recent shootings has simmered, the intensity of race relations continues to make the schism between black and white America even wider. All this leaves me with this one question: What do I tell Carson?
Carson is my 7-year-old nephew who, like many boys his age, is just as rambunctious and curious as they come. His parents are two of the most amazingly brilliant and God-fearing people I’ve ever known. I’ve never seen two more dutiful and exceptional examples of parenting outside of my own parents than Tony and Gwen Alexander. Carson is the only boy of Tony and Gwen’s three children; hence, you can see where the pressure to be the little man of the house might come into play. So I always thought I’d be the “fun” uncle and get to tell him how to “charm” his way out of punishment, use logic to circumvent some of his dad’s rules, and of course give him his first sip of Kool-Aid. (Just as an FYI, my big bro and sis are ruthless when it comes to monitoring this kid’s sugar intake – so I had to do something fun for the little guy…) But never would I have imaged that I’d be contemplating how to someday talk to him about being in the skin he’s in and how to navigate living in America – knowing that he’ll be treated differently because of his gender and ethnic heritage.
So for the time being, I’ve resigned myself to taking a more “faith-biased” approach to what I’ll tell Carson. Instead of harping on what is, I’ll tell him what should be. I’ll tell him that “by the time you’re in college, you won’t have to worry about being treated differently because your skin is brown.” I’ll tell him that “when you enter the work force, it’s not going to matter if you’re one of many or one of none who look like you.” I’ll tell him that the only colors that will matter to his generation and those that will follow him in America will be those of the American flag: red for the vigor in our pursuit of justice, white for the purity in our endeavor to help others, and blue for the earnest nature of our duty to mankind.
This post is both a thank you and reminder to a pretty dynamic woman. Elisabeth S. Hines (or simply E. as I call her) was a colleague of mine at my first "big boy" job out of college. I was young, stupid, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. While E. had been doing that line of work for longer than I had been alive, she and my supervisor took me under their wings - giving me just enough space to discover my own ability to soar. While she hadn't indented to be "like a mom" to me, she ended up being just that (but in the coolest and most benign way that only E. can).
Today is her daughter's birthday. And it's no surprise that the amazing E. gave birth to the amazing Morgan. Today, in honor of Morgan, I wanted to share some "motherly" things I learned from E.
Awesome Stuff I Learned from E. Hines
E., all those times I sat in your office, on your back porch, in your living room, or at Aubri Lanes – I was listening, paying attention, and taking it all in. I think I turned out ok, don’t ya think? (Don't answer that question, E.! LOL) So on behalf of Morgan and all of the people you’ve mentored over the years, thanks for being one hell of a woman, Elizabeth. And a special thanks to Morgan for letting everyone "borrow" her mom on occasion. Regardless of distance, you'll always be Morgan's mom, Isha's grandma, and a great friend to all of us who love you!
We all have a limited capacity and a finite tolerance for some of the social media garbage that seems to plague the streams of various social platforms. Someone’s choice to be completely off the social grid is both personal and admirable. You may choose to not have a Facebook profile or even a Twitter handle; but, if you’re an educator, not having a LinkedIn profile is inadvertently precipitating the issue of why teachers aren’t considered professionals. The absenteeism of educators on the LinkedIn platform has given way to an even more callous attitude towards an already disenfranchised industry.
You’re at a wedding, a cocktail party, or even a church service and you’re inevitably going to find yourself discussing work, what you do, and/or how long you’ve been doing such. If you’re a teacher you more than likely will get the canned, and albeit feigned, apologetic response from people who believe their vocation to be of higher value than education: “Oh, you’re a teacher. Well, I’m sorry…” They are right to apologize; however, not for reasons of being better but rather for being part of an illogical societal problem in which teachers are denigrated for their chosen profession.
Nevertheless, without educators, we’d have no other professionals. Pro-athletes certainly have their PE teachers and school sports coaches to thank. Physicians of any and all kinds are indebted to their science teachers. And had it not been for social studies teachers, history teachers, English teachers, and civics teachers, highly-paid attorneys wouldn’t have made it through the first-year of law school.
While you may not get the respect you deserve as an educator, you do have the power to remedy this fallacy, one LinkedIn profile at a time. In most cases, people outside the education profession fail to legitimize the vocation because they are unaware of the credentials and experience one has to obtain in order to be an education practitioner. They don’t know that states require certification.
LinkedIn is the perfect place where you can not only highlight your career success and achievement, but also where you acknowledge your education, training, certification, credentials, and awards. When it comes to thought-leadership regarding any professional topic, LinkedIn is a likely place where the discussions are taking place. You can join various groups or form your own in which you can start conversations regarding topics important to the education practitioner.
It’s time for educators to start getting the credit they deserve as professionals. However, the legislator who’s making laws about your salary isn’t going to wake up tomorrow morning and say, “Oh, ya know I really think I should start paying more respect to teachers today…” That would be great, sure – but the fact of the matter is you as an educator have to reeducate society on the legitimacy of your professionalism. Set up your LinkedIn profile today and if you already have a LinkedIn profile, take the time to update it right now. Changing the way the public thinks of your chosen profession starts today and starts with you.
Follow GAE on LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/1R6oQHz
When I attended Kindergarten (and the first few years of grade school) Helga was the name of my lunch lady who served some of the best German cuisine you’d ever have tasted this side of the Rhine River. She did so dutifully every single day. On days when I missed lunch due to a doctor’s appointment or some other reason, Helga would keep a plate of food warm just for me. I’d sit at a table in the kitchen and scarf down potatoes and wurst while she cleaned up from a day of cooking. She’d ask: “What did you learn today?” And without realizing it, I’d recount almost an entire day’s worth of learning. Our chats would make me ready to do homework – even for the more challenging subjects. Little did I know – she’d do that for all the kids who’d missed a meal and would encourage each student to do his or her best in whatever subject they were weakest. You can’t tell me that Helga was “just a lunch lady” – she was more like a superhero, able to inspire a student one plate at a time.
In less than a week I will be turning yet another year older. To say I’m grateful to see another year go by would be an understatement and reeks of a banal platitude – and we all know Herby is nothing if not original. Nevertheless, I’m stoked to be alive – especially knowing the many times I almost didn’t make it. Every year, my mom (the infamous Perl, AKA the black version of Anna Wintour) never fails to some how sneak the story that recalls the circumstances of my birth into a casual conversation. The abbreviated version: It was cold and snowing, and a simple checkup at the doctor’s offices turned into a nearly 3 month early birth.
That story always segues into my inability to walk until I was almost 3 and the exploratory surgery that would have permanently paralyzed me had my parents subjected me to it. And Perl never forgets to add in the part where “the doctors told your father and me that we’d be ‘lucky’ if you made it to 6 or 7 and that you’d probably be a vegetable… but look at God’s miracle…”
Perl and Herb never believed in luck, but rather a higher power (God); they also taught their children to believe in the same. It’s the belief in this higher power that’s kept me alive for over 3 decades. In the past 6 years alone, I have had 3 close encounters with death linked to my random allergies – so, it would be callous of me to think of the outcomes of these ordeals as anything less than divine intervention. But if I should die on or before my birthday, I wouldn’t have walked this earth without having gleaned any wisdom.
Here are just 33 examples of the lessons, facts, and whatchamajigs I’ve come to know while I’ve been on earth:
The Top 33 Life Lessons, Facts, & Whatchamajigs
I can’t say that I have a father like any other. Most people talk about their fathers in rather daunting terms. So, I tend to decline offering up my accounts of my childhood and my father when people begin damning their parents. But I don’t really have a thing to be ashamed about. My dad was, is, and will remain an amazing man, a great father, and a quite force that has helped me become the person I am today.
Growing up, my dad wasn’t always physically in the house due to his career – but he was never absent and seemed ubiquitous when it came to being “there” for his family. Even events as simple as bedtime stories were never missed just because of a TDY (temporary change of duty station) assignment took him out of the house for a few months. During a resent move I found cassette tapes with the titles of fairy tales and bible stories on them. I managed to listen to a few seconds of one that hadn’t fully been destroyed by years of neglect and dust. Dad’s voice: “Hey little man, here’s where you dozed off last time….” Even though I’m a thirty-year-old man, I still wanted to hear him finish reading Rapunzel. Sadly, the tape was no longer audible (as were the rest of the tapes) after that point. Nevertheless, my memory took me back to the years when dad would give each character his/her own voice. Magically, the characters would always have their same respective voices every time he read the story. (How in the world he ever kept up with all that remains a mystery…)
There, he taught me to let my imagination soar and encouraged me to unashamedly be as creative as I wanted to be. I even created characters of my own that had personalities and backstories unique to each character. One in particular was a mad German physicist named “Herr Doctor Dootelwisch.” I would walk around the house with a crazed German accent, a bathrobe as lab coat, a pair of dad’s military safety goggles and pretend to mix bubble bath and all kinds of stuff as my potions to blow up the bad kitties. (Yeah, I was allergic to cats even at that age.) My mother would shake her head and say, “Herb, something ain’t right about that boy…” To that, dad would answer, “You’re right Perl, he’s missing some gloves for lab safety……………and to complete the look!”
I once asked my dad what he wanted me to be when I grew up. I wondered if he wanted me to follow his footsteps into the electronics field or even go into the Army like he did. He answered, “You’re smart enough to be whatever you want to be. You can be a doctor, a toy storeowner, or even a mad scientist. But I want you to grow up to be a happy Herby. That would make me happy….”
Herb Sr. never once showed a judgmental bone in his body. He taught me that each person you meet gets an “A”. “You allow them to prove themselves as anything less than an ‘A’ grade person. Trust me, it won’t take an ‘F-’ grade person to show you his/her true grade. But you got to give everyone a fair shot!” Over the years dad has gone from being the strongest man I know, to the coolest guy I know, to the smartest guy I know, to the wisest guy I know. And it never changes, though now we tend to spend time enjoying jazz music together rather than reading bed time stories. I’m so blessed to have come to know him as much more than just a father – he’s also a great friend and confidant. And when all seems wrong in the world and every person I know has failed to meet the basic human expectations of decent interaction – there he is – a shining example of all things right, a beacon of hope in a sea of mucky ‘F-’ grade people. I’m sure he has his faults and I imagine that he’s had his moments of less-than-perfect behavior. But to me, he remains my constant that restores my faith in humanity and helps me abandon my distrust in Christianity.
So, here’s my belated valentine to my unsung hero – my dad, Herbert A. Agnew, Sr.
Thanks for teaching me that imagination isn’t crazy, that all people aren’t evil, and that love has no barriers and knows no boundaries.
Most people find it hard to believe that I speak another language other than English. So the fact that I think and dream in any other language (aside from what people assume to be my native tongue) might seem a bit far-fetched as well. Nevertheless, my daily life consists of constant internal translations to which I've grown accustomed since the tender age of six (6). It's somewhat like having a UN Translator in my ear on a consistent basis.
Sitting in Dr. Matthew Joseph’s marketing strategy class at Georgia College & State University, I began to see the various points in the universe connect on the convergence of all the things I knew about marketing. Our efforts, regardless of how benign, go toward establishing, distracting from or adhering to a brand. “Marketing doesn’t start with some commercial or ad campaign – and it certainly does NOT end with a consumer’s eventual purchase,” said Dr. Joseph. “One misunderstood concept regarding your product can ensure you don’t get a single customer. One dissatisfied customer can do more damage to a brand than thousands of dollars worth of advertising can repair…”
I hate to admit it, but I would normally doze of around this part of the class. It was a 90-minute class and thirty minutes in was the perfect time for a ten-minute nap to get me to the end of the lecture. But that day, the marketing professor had my undivided attention and by some divine forces or the universe, he was actually making me use my brain to connect the dots and call on knowledge that I already knew to reinforce the concept of marketing towards a brand. “What I’m saying is that if you don’t build your product/service around a solid set of values that define what it is you’re trying to sell, you can forget about going to market!”
I had heard this somewhere before. Those exact words weren’t used, but the notion was similar. Then it hit me – I had first learned of the concept in Sunday school years before even attending college.
Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and
loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (KJV)
Proverbs 22:1 "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to
be esteemed is better than silver or gold." (NIV)
Marketing without substance (i.e. trying to sell something that people are confused about what it is or perceived to be of no value) is like screaming at the wind. I would later come to learn that marketing was an extension of branding – the act of establishing, maintaining and enhancing the brand. The brand itself was the meat on the plate – the main dish. Simply defined, a brand is a particular identity or image regarded as an asset. When people hear names like Coach, Aston Martin, and Hermes, high value and prestige are associated with the brand. What Dr. Joseph and King Solomon (the author of the book of Proverbs) were trying to convey is the importance of the name/brand standing for something.
Before huge corporations and organizations hired marketing and branding specialists to lord over their image, logos and PR events, business was conducted between individuals by individuals through a rather simple exchange. If you wanted the best produce, you would ask “Who collects good fruits and vegetables?” Word of mouth (which in many cases has now has been replaced by TV commercials, web ads, radio spots, billboards, text ads, etc.) would lead you to the best possible produce based on the positive experience of someone else. Truth in the experience was proven time after time and conveyed to others in search of a particular product or service. With this truth, trust was established between individuals. The guy who had fancy marketing tactics might have been able to make an immediate sale, but the guy who was able to back up his reputation with quality was blessed with an established name (i.e. brand) and longevity with a loyal cliental.
What I had learned in Sunday school so many years ago and what Dr. Joseph taught me in marketing strategy class was a concept in branding brought to full circle. But what relevance does branding have to each of us as an individual when the word “personal” is placed in front of the phenomenon? Like organizations, people also have to rely on the basic concepts of brand marketing. Your personal brand tells the world who you are. Given that we now live in the age of social media and social networking, you don’t have to invest millions of dollars to take out an ad in the trendiest periodical to get the word out about who you are as a brand. The world can find out about you and what you stand for just by looking at your Facebook or LinkedIn profile, or by following your tweets.
I have come to realize that we are all “selling” something at any given moment. Depending on what you’ve built as a personal brand will certainly determine who will be buying. So commit today to making a good name for yourself and building a worthy personal brand – you never know who needs to “buy” something from you.
There I was standing in front of the teller at my local Wells Fargo bank and – WHAMO – it happened again. For months now I haven’t had any episodes, so I thought that I had been cured. Apparently, I was prematurely optimistic. Without warning (and with only a few words uttered by the teller as provocation), I burst into song – Stevie Wonder’s "Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing." At first I thought the song was only playing in my head; however, the customer standing at the next teller over began humming along, as the banker handling my request tapped her pen in rhythm with the song.
Before I knew it, the teller looked at me with a big smile and said, looking at my debit card, “Wow, you’ve got some pipes and some soul, Mr. Agnew!” “Oh shoot!” I thought to myself. I felt my eyes widen in sheer embarrassment. “Well,” I said sheepishly, “my bad! I didn’t intend for that to come out.” “Oh no, I just wanna know when the next concert is going to be. I felt like I was in a music video or a musical for a second.” Evidently, her colleague and my fellow bank patrons agreed as I saw nods and heard sounds of affirmation from the peanut gallery.
Sadly, this was not the first time that my everyday life had been likened to a musical theater performance. One of my best friends, Rachel (Pittman) Bishop once told me that hanging out with my sister, Tiffany, and me was like having a front row seat at a hit Broadway show. The slightest mention of a word or phrase would spark a full on rendition of some song – in perfect harmony, mind you – with my sister. All along I thought it was Tiffany who served as the catalyst of my accidental bursts of song. I was obviously wrong.
But what if my random musical interludes were commonplace in our society? What if life was one big musical – an off-off Broadway show? The setting – everywhere; the plot – life; the cast – a star studded ensemble of everyone and frequently featuring you. How awesome would it be if we all sang along as various moments of joy, conflict, woe, and melancholy ignited a song? Just think how you would feel if your next door neighbor sang backup along side the woman walking her dog and the mailman as you belted out the song lyrics:
“I just got a raise….
After so many years in this rat maze
I finally got a raise….”
Celebrations would take on a whole new meaning for even the most conservative cultures, as entire neighborhoods would dance in the streets, stepping flawlessly to complex choreography, while singing in perfect harmony (kind of like that opening dance routine of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery). Moreover, we all know that falling in love makes us all want to sing out loud and shout from the roof tops like Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, “to be loved, to be loved – oh what a feeling…” Unfortunately, the reality is that not every occasion will call for a happy song. Sometimes the human experience mandates the mundane, the inexplicable and the painful.
Let’s face it, as Mary Poppins would agree, music is that spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine (life) go down. A bad day would be so much easier to deal with given that a chorus of perfect strangers would help you sing about your flat tire, job loss, or recent breakup. We might even be able to stomach a state of the union address better if the President sang the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our country's economy. Fortunately, this current President (Barack Obama) can actually carry a tune in a bucket – so, that might be worth tuning in to hear.
What I gleaned from the bank experience is that sometimes we all really want a song, but certainly not all the time. So the next time you feel the urge to sing a little ditty brought on by your present situation, go ahead and sing it out loud. You never know who will help back you up and sing along or serve as your listening audience.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.