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Monday, March 27, 2017

Dear Hannah: LEarning - Honor Role (The Power Of Mentors)

Dear Hannah,

Multiply your influence through mentoring.



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"LEarning (Honor Role - The Power Of Mentors)"
By Derrick Brown

American history has not been kind to Paul Robeson.

Robeson was a complex individual.

Even complex individuals can be erased - one dimension at a time.

As an actor and singer, he was erased - even as one of the most powerful and popular performers in the world.

As a football player, he was erased - even as a Rutgers University All-American.

As a civil rights activist, he was erased ("blacklisted") for his "un-American" support of communism and The Soviet Union.

Despite these concerted efforts, we still have choices regarding how we remember Robeson.

We can either acknowledge his considerable achievements and prowess - or dismiss them.

We either agree on, disagree on, or misunderstand his politics.

There are two noteworthy nuggets that have earned my respect, though.

First, Robeson could find a way out of "no way".

When the United States seized his passport (to stem his worldwide popularity and activism), he still gave concerts via radio, telephone, and at the geographic border between Washington state and Canadian British Columbia.

Second, Robeson left a legacy through his mentoring.

Follow this anthropology with me.

Actor / Activist Harry Belafonte (who was almost 30 years younger) looked up to Robeson.

Belafonte served as a pallbearer at Robeson's funeral.

Belafonte was also blacklisted during his career because of his views (which were influenced by Robeson).

His career survived, though - as did his activism.

Belafonte supported Martin Luther King, Jr. financially - because fighting for freedom ain't free.

He financed the 1961 Freedom Rides.

He helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington.

He financed the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer (with $60,000 carried in a suitcase), and entertained crowds with Sidney Poitier.

Poitier was also at the 1963 March on Washington.

Years earlier, Belafonte and Poitier (who are the same age - born 10 days apart) used to purchase a single ticket to attend local plays.

One would watch the first act, then they would trade places - and the other watched the second act.

They would compare notes about the play during the seat exchange.

Actor / Activist Ossie Davis (who was ten years older than Belafonte and Poitier - and 20 years younger than Robeson) wrote a play called "Paul Robeson: All-American".

Davis also attended the 1963 March On Washington.

He made his film debut in Sidney Poitier's 1950 film "No Way Out".

Davis gave the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral.

He also paid tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at a Central Park memorial the day after MLK was killed in Memphis, TN.

See, even as an "Invisible Man", Paul Robeson contributed to the growth and work of our visible, well-known leaders.

To anyone who has ever been marginalized, oppressed, or subverted - and lost the spotlight as a result ...

Do not mistake that activity for achievement.

A transferred legacy is timeless, indelible, and far more powerful.

Copyright © 2017 Derrick  Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Dear Hannah: LEarning - The "Real" Matrix

Dear Hannah,

There is sometimes folly in faith ... and there is sometimes faith in folly.



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"LEarning (The "Real" Matrix - in 5 minutes)"
By Derrick Brown

A long time ago, a movie called "The Matrix" captured our attention.

The movie conveyed that reality was not "real" - but simulated and imagined.

It made lots of "real" money, though.

A few years after, author Sophia Stewart sued the key players behind "The Matrix" for copyright infringement.

She also sued the key players behind "The Terminator".

She alleged that both movies were based on works she created in the early 1980s.

Court documents show that Stewart did not win her lawsuit.

They also suggest that she did not win because her case was legally difficult to prove - not necessarily because it was false.

Stewart had to show that the defendants viewed her works, and had to show how they were incorporated into both films.

I have studied many technical papers, musical compositions, song lyrics, and movie screenplays.

I know that is not hard to make a "new" idea by combining a couple of "old" ideas.

It happens more than you know.

Stewart admitted to being inspired by "Star Wars" to create her works.

"Star Wars" contains elements inspired by the Bible ("May The Force Be With You") and a popular Japanese film.

"Alien", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "The Lion King", "Toy Story" - all "appropriated" other movie plots to craft their stories.

Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" ... Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" ... Ray Parker, Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" - all "appropriated" other works.

There is a far more fascinating story here, though - one that makes it hard to draw conclusions.

See, many people want to believe Sophia Stewart's claim, and have for years circulated Internet stories claiming that she won her lawsuit - and was awarded billions in damages.

Just as many people do not want to believe her claims, and have portrayed her as "flaky".

They cite the court's decision without acknowledging that it was based on narrow technicalities set forth in copyright infringement laws.

Laws that are sometimes designed to protect the guilty more than the innocent.

We see and portray things as we would like for them to be - and do so often when we do not know one way or the other.

Sometimes this is an exercise of faith.

Sometimes this is an exercise of folly.

The real folly, though, is when you and I debate - with me in support of my faith and against your folly ...

... and claim that there can only be one winner.

There may be two losers ...

It might be closer to the truth to recognize that there is sometimes folly in faith ... and there is sometimes faith in folly.

I said that once, but please hear me twice.

Copyright © 2017 Derrick  Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Dear Hannah: LEarning - Crossing Paths (The Story of Tim Reid, New Millennium Studios, and The Spook Who Sat By The Door)

Dear Hannah,

Sometimes detours help you see what you might have otherwise missed.



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"LEarning (Crossing Paths (The Story of Tim Reid, New Millennium Studios, and The Spook Who Sat By The Door) - in 11 minutes)"
By Derrick Brown

A long time ago (1997) in Petersburg, VA (where my wife Keisha was born and raised), Tim and Daphne Maxwell Reid launched New Millennium Studios - a 15,000-square-foot full-service movie production studio on 60 acres of land ... land with a rich Civil War history.

It was the only full-service movie production studio in the state of Virginia.

Tim Reid (a native of Norfolk, VA) may be best known as "Ray" - Tia and Tamera's dad on the 1990's sitcom "Sister, Sister".

He was also the star of the underrated, award-winning 1980's CBS sitcom "Frank's Place".

Daphne Maxwell Reid was "Aunt Viv" (the second one) on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".

She was also on "Frank's Place".

After me and Keisha married in March 2011, that Christmas holiday I took her to New Millennium Studios for their guided tour.

We arrived and thought we were the only guests who signed up for our time slot.

It turned out that we were the only 2 people in the studio besides Tim and Daphne.

Daphne was our tour guide.

This lady epitomizes style and elegant grace.

She explained that the Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln" had just wrapped up filming at New Millennium.

That was part of the reason why it was so quiet during our visit.

She took the time to tell us the history of the studio, the land it sat on, and the reality of the tough times they were enduring.

Their vision was for New Millennium to become the centerpiece of a Virginia film community.

The growth of their business in Virginia was hindered, though, by a lack of state-supported film production financial incentives.

As she led us through their offices, I spotted Tim Reid at his desk and we made eye contact.

Before I could go into starstruck mode, though, the eye contact said "I ain't got time to do the tourist thing right now".

So we kept it moving towards a hallway showcase contained cases of all of the film DVDs the studio produced and distributed.

Included among them was a DVD copy of the bootleg video "The Spook Who Sat By The Door".

I started tripping ... you mean to tell me that Tim Reid starred in "The Spook Who Sat By The Door"?

I need to use my Blackberry Curve to post this on Facebook!

No, no, no ... slow down, youngblood.

This kind of "snap judgement" is how we empower misinformation.

Let's take a pause and a slight detour ...

"The Spook Who Sat by the Door" is a 1973 film (directed by Ivan Dixon) based on a novel of the same name by author Sam Greenlee.

It is both a satire of the 1960's civil rights struggle in the United States - and a serious attempt to highlight Black militancy.

Main character Dan Freeman (played by Lawrence Cook) is recruited into the CIA's spy program as its token Black.

After mastering his training, he leaves the CIA to train Chicago youth as "Freedom Fighters".

If you attended college in the late 1980's (like I did), you know that the CIA and NSA made great efforts to recruit Black Southern college students with scholarships, cars, jobs, and living allowances.

Life does imitate art.

The reaction to the film in 1973 was one of "shock and awe" ... like "awe heck no - you will not release that film in these United States and provide a blueprint for Black revolt".

So, the FBI (the REAL FBI) made the film "disappear".

Now this satirized truth is "hidden", and everything is under control.

The revolution will not be televised - nor will it be shown on the big screen.

As you were, folks.

This is how the movie became the underground classic and bootleg video that I was told about by some of my activist classmates at Clemson University.

But I never made seeing the film a priority.

I was focusing and preparing myself to contribute my mighty intellect and ideas to the corporate work force - that now provided me the same opportunities afforded to others in 1991.


I now recognize that this "error of commission" may have been the idea behind suppressing the film's message.

In 2004, though, the film's negative - which was stored under another title - was discovered ... by none other than Tim Reid.

Reid then released the film on DVD.

After we got home from our Christmas trip, I bought the DVD and watched it.

Life does imitate art ... and vice-versa.

See, the title "Spook Who Sat By The Door" is a history lesson by itself.

"Spook" is a somewhat outdated and lesser-known racial slur.

It is also a slang term for "spy".

The rest of the title is social commentary on affirmative action.

Affirmative Action is a programmatic attempt to provide job opportunities to traditionally disadvantaged, disenfranchised minority candidates - to counter the programmatic effort that disadvantaged them in the first place.

When companies hired their first Black candidate, they would seat the candidate "by the door" - so that all who entered were aware that the company was playing "by the rules".

This type of thing still happens, but in more subtle, sophisticated ways.

Nowadays your office is placed next to the copier or water cooler - and your photo and story are featured on web sites, brochures, and newsletters.

You may even star in your company video.

But I digress ... there is no need for affirmative action anymore ... is there?

Alright, let's get back on track.

As I close, this story has a couple of footnotes ...

FOOTNOTE 1: Petersburg, VA is also the home of NBA legend Moses Malone, singer Trey Songz, and actor Blair Underwood. It is a city rich with African-American history.

FOOTNOTE 2: Tim and Daphne Reid sold New Millennium Studios (and the 60 acres is sits on) in 2015 for $1.5 million. The buyers planned to use it as storage space. Tim and Daphne have relocated to a smaller studio in a Richmond, VA suburb.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

If Tim Reid and I had sat down in his office during that tour 5 years ago, there is a chance that I would not have learned about "The Spook Who Sat By The Door".

There is a chance that I would not have understood how he crossed paths with the "hidden" film that inspired him - in a way that now allows it to inspire others.

There is an even greater chance that I would not have told you this story - complete with its purposeful detour and history lesson.

Copyright © 2017 Derrick  Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Dear Hannah: LEarning - Bring Your Own Bible (The Story of The Printing Press)

Dear Hannah,

Read the Bible while you are in church (and when you are not).



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"LEarning (Bring Your Own Bible (The Story of The Printing Press) - in 3 minutes)"
By Derrick Brown

The printing press was invented a long, long time ago by Johannes Gutenburg.

He initially used his invention to print Bible copies.

Gutenberg was nearly bankrupted by his venture - but he persevered (to his own detriment).

Perhaps he was driven to - and through - his good work by an unusual motivation.

See, in the "old" days many societies required that Bibles be owned solely by priests.

Part of a priest's training was handwriting their own copy of the Bible.

When you possess exclusive access to "the law", you have a great moral responsibility to use it to set the captive free.

You also have the abject authority, though, to further ensnare them in bondage.

Whomever controls the diameter of your learning, controls the circumference of your knowledge.

Whomever controls the diameter of your steps, controls the circumference of your path.

Or - in other words - balance is provided in this equation when we all have equal access to understanding "the law" ...

... 'cause if you don't know the law - you will owe the law.

All scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, training, correcting, and rebuking - so that the man of God is thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If you are paying close attention, you know that I did not quote this scripture word for word (2 Tim 3:16-17).

If you are really paying attention, you know that I explained the scripture from my study and understanding.

I hope that is alright - because it is.

When we all possess, digest, and wrestle with God's word - we win every time we lose ...

... lose our arrogance, pride, envy, greed, lust, bias, and myopia (near-sightedness).

Next time you head to church, make sure someone catches you in the act reading the Bible while the pastor preaches.

Your pastor will appreciate the accountability.

Be thankful, too, that Johannes Gutenberg's purpose far exceeded his ambition.

His work gives us an eternal chance to be better.

Copyright © 2017 Derrick  Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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