Bayou Classic brings family, friends and memories together

Kevin W. Brown at Grambling State University graduationEugene Sutherland at Southern University graduation

Many people will head down to New Orleans for the annual Bayou Classic. The Bayou Classic is one of the biggest happenings among historically black colleges. In this case, it’s the annual football game between Southern University and Grambling State Unniversity.

Though the football game is the biggest event of the weekend, it’s not the only event. There’s plenty to do for the entire family.

Grambling and Southern reach the entire world as their graduates touch every facet of society.

In the Nov. 15-31 issue of The Light, read how these two schools have touched the lives of two of its gradutes. nov-15-31-the-light.pdf

Louisiana mother turns into investigator to clear son’s name

Sharon SykesAlvin Washington III

Sharon Sykes of Alexandria is convinced her son is innocent.

That’s exactly why she’s leaving no stone unturned as she works to get him released from a Baton Rouge jail with a clear name.

Sykes said the Baton Rouge Police Department has accused the wrong man in three armed robberies of pharmacies. There’s no way Alvin Washington III, 22, of Alexandria, is involved in the crimes, the mother said.

Evidence, according to Sykes, clearly shows that Washington could not and did not commit the crimes. The dates, times and other facts just don’t add up, she said.

 Read the full story in The Light newspaper. nov-15-31-the-light.pdf

Are they heros or criminals?

WINSTON, Ga. (AP) — A crowd gave a hero’s welcome to a 20-year-old freed from a 10-year prison sentence imposed on him for having underage sex in a hotel room at a New Year’s Eve party.

Genarlow Wilson, like the Jena Six in Louisiana and NFL quarterback Michael Vick, is the latest young black man to draw support from many in the black community who seem willing to look past alleged offenses.

For three years, the West Metro NAACP chapter led the fight to free him from the prison term. “Free Genarlow” became a rallying cry across the country as the case turned him into an example of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed, freeing him on Oct. 26 with a 4-3 decision that called his sentence “cruel and unusual punishment.”

On Saturday night, hundreds rose to their feet and gave Wilson a standing ovation before honoring him with the chapter’s first Staying the Course Youth Award.

Nationally syndicated radio host Warren Ballentine, who has used his show to speak out against racial injustices including Wilson’s case, called the award “a wonderful thing.”

Wilson, applauded for refusing to accept a plea bargain and continuing to contest his sentence, appears humbled by his experience. Sheepish and soft-spoken in interviews, he comes across as polite and respectful — a contrast from the cavalier teen who is shown smiling in a grainy videotape of the hotel room encounter that led to his prison term.

“We’re not awarding him for the video,” said Ballentine, the keynote speaker at Saturday’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People fundraiser. “We’re awarding him for fighting … This young man is a champion.”

Still, the attention is sparking a debate over whether accolades are in order.

“I admire that he stood his ground,” said Cassandra Dillard, who was in the audience. “He made a mistake. But I don’t know what he has done that warrants an award.”

Even Wilson acknowledged that the accolades are a bit awkward.

Bryant Purvis and Carwin Jones, two of the so-called Jena Six, looked less than modest when they appeared on the red carpet at the BET Awards in Atlanta last month. They are accused of beating a white teen in a case that galvanized thousands of blacks who saw disparate and excessive prosecution in the small central Louisiana town of Jena. Charges weren’t filed against three white teens accused of hanging nooses in a tree at the local high school shortly before the attack.

While the Jena Six themselves were not honored and BET distanced itself from the fight, the teens received a standing ovation from the audience when they took the stage to help present the Video of the Year award.

Still, there was a perception that they were acting more like superstars than defendants who may have been treated unfairly — but are not necessarily innocent.

Some in the black community may be ignoring such wrongs out of frustration, said Jeff Johnson, an activist and former national youth director of the NAACP.

“I don’t think that it is an intentional negligence on our part,” he said. “It is an optimistic desire to be able to stick it to a justice system that has stuck it to us for so long. But we can’t do that at the cost of justifying behavior that we know is unacceptable. What we’ve got to be able to do is get to the point where we can hold everybody accountable at the same time.”

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference came under fire in August after suggesting it would recognize Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick. Although the organization did not say it would honor Vick — who is scheduled to be sentenced next month on federal charges related to a dogfighting operation — it later clarified its position.

“He might’ve made a mistake, but it’s not enough to throw this man away as a human being,” said SCLC President Charles Steele. “This is an opportunity to bring about healing.”

Kimberly Alexander, president of the NAACP chapter, said that while Wilson made some mistakes, his case is still a success story. And audience member Dillard said she respected Wilson’s perseverance, but wasn’t sure she could go beyond supporting him.

“There are so many people who are wrongfully arrested, wrongfully prosecuted, wrongfully incarcerated,” Dillard said. “Do we give an award to all of them? Is it that we’re so in need of heroes? I don’t know.”

Last Jena Six teen pleads not guilty

Bryant Purvis

By Associated Press

The last of the so-called Jena Six to be arraigned in the beating of a white high school student pleaded not guilty Wednesday to reduced charges of battery and conspiracy.

The trial for Bryant Purvis, 18, was set for March. Purvis had initially been charged with attempted second-degree murder, but that was reduced to charges of second degree-aggravated battery and conspiracy.

The six black teens known as the “Jena Six” were arrested after a December 2006 attack on Justin Barker, who was knocked unconscious.

Their case fueled allegations that prosecutors were treating blacks more harshly than whites, because charges weren’t filed against three white teens accused of hanging nooses in a tree at the high school shortly before the attack. In September, the case prompted one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years.

Four of the other accused teens also had the charges against them reduced after initially being charged with attempted second-degree murder. Charges against the sixth teen, who was booked as a juvenile, have been sealed.

Is there something wrong with prospering preachers?

Is your pastor riding in a Bentley and flying in a private jet while his or her members are riding the bus and living in one-room apartments?

Now, let’s be clear. I’m all for prospering and I’m well aware of the scriptures that people use to justify this “new” gospel, but I’m convinced we’ve swung too far from the foundation of the faith, which is Jesus Christ.

Currently, I’m in a class at a Baptist church where the pastor in a series is teaching such topics as how to eliminate debt, budgeting, investment strategies and the like. I have no problem with such teachings. The rubber hits the road for me when the preacher no longer teaches Jesus Christ and him crucified. Rarely, do you hear the prosperity talking about Jesus Christ.

These are my thoughts. What about yours? Check out the story below. 

By the Associated Press

Acting on tips about preachers who ride in Rolls Royces and have purportedly paid $30,000 for a conference table, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday he’s investigating the finances of six well-known TV ministers.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said those under scrutiny include faith healer Benny Hinn, Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar and one of the nation’s best known female preachers, Joyce Meyer.

Grassley sent letters to the half-dozen Christian media ministries earlier this week requesting answers by Dec. 6 about their expenses, executive compensation and amenities, including use of fancy cars and private jets.

In a statement, Grassley said he was acting on complaints from the public and news coverage of the organizations.

“The allegations involve governing boards that aren’t independent and allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as private jets and Rolls Royces,” Grassley said.

“I don’t want to conclude that there’s a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code.”

Those ministries that responded Tuesday either said they were cooperating or committed to financial transparency and following the law.

The investigation promises to shine new light on the kind of TV ministries that were crippled by sex and money scandals in the 1980s. Experts also say it stands out as an unusual case of the government probing the inner workings of religious organizations.

Most of those under investigation preach a variation of the “prosperity gospel,” the teaching that God will shower faithful followers with material riches.

Grassley’s letters went to:

_ Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas, a $20 million organization and prosperity gospel pioneer. Questions were raised about the transfer of church assets to a for-profit company, Security Patrol Inc., a $1 million loan from Gloria Copeland to the group, and a “personal gift” of more than $2 million given to Kenneth Copeland to mark the ministry’s 40th anniversary.

A Copeland spokeswoman released a statement saying the ministry is working on a response to Grassley’s letter, follows all laws and best practices governing churches and religious nonprofit groups, and “will continue to do so.”

_ Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga. Grassley’s letter asks for records on private planes, board makeup, compensation and donations and “love offerings” to visiting ministers. In a statement, Dollar called his ministry an “open book” and said he would cooperate. He also questioned whether the investigation could “affect the privacy of every community church in America.”

_ Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas, is asked about use of a private jet, a home in Dana Point, Calif. and “layover trips” while traveling on ministry business. Hinn did not respond to requests for comment.

_ Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga., was questioned about his salary, a $1.4 million real estate transaction and whether he, and not the board, holds sole authority over the organization. Long plans to fully comply with the Senate’s request, and his church has “several safeguards” to ensure transactions comply with laws governing churches, according to a statement from Long’s spokesman.

_ Joyce and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., who were quizzed about receiving donations of money and jewelry and the handling of cash from overseas crusades. They also were asked about expenditures at ministry headquarters, including a $30,000 conference table and a $23,000 “commode with marble top.”

The ministry’s lawyer released a statement describing the ministry’s work and public release of several years’ worth of audits. He also said the IRS found in October that the group continues to qualify for tax-exempt status.

_ Randy and Paula White of the multiracial Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla. are asked about home purchases in San Antonio, Texas, Malibu, Calif., and New York, credit card charges for clothing and cosmetic surgery and the reported purchase of a Bentley convertible as a gift for Bishop T.D. Jakes, a prominent Texas preacher and televangelist. An e-mail to a spokeswoman for Jakes was not immediately returned.

In a statement, Randy and Paula White declined to comment on specifics, saying they needed time to review the letter with their lawyers. But the Whites called the Grassley letter “unusual, since the IRS has separate powers to investigate religious organizations if they think it’s necessary.”

Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar all sit on the board of regents for Oral Roberts University, which is mired in a financial scandal of its own.

The Senate Finance Committee has chided secular nonprofits for governance and compensation problems in the past, but this level of scrutiny for what are basically “non-pulpit churches” is unprecedented, said Ken Behr, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Because the groups have tax status as churches, they are not required to file tax forms open to public inspection.

The Light, Nov. 1-14 issue


Here’s the Nov. 1 issue of The Light newspaper, published in Alexandria, LA. Inside you’ll find Leonard Ford’s column saluting churches in the black community; Peabody Magnet High School’s Cheronda Cooper and the $25,000 award she received; and Good Hope Baptist Church’s 100th-year celebration with lots of photos.

Remember, “If you’re not reading The Light, you’re in the dark!”

Right person + right position = success

Lately, it seems that I’ve been talking and thinking a whole lot about the importance of knowing the place where you’re likely to make the most positive impact.

Many people are frustrated because they are in the wrong position at church, work and yes, even, school. That frustration has to do with the person’s temperament not matching the task as assigned. Your temperament, not to be confused with your personality, is the “combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person; natural predisposition,” according to In other words, it’s your internal makeup that makes you more suited for one thing over another.


Here’s a prime example:

As the oldest grandchild of my now 92-year-old grandmother, Viola, she determined that I would be the teacher she wished she could have become. For Ms. Viola, a teacher was the top profession for  women. She wanted to go to school, but her father thought his girls would make better homemakers, forcing Ms. Viola to miss out on being the successful teacher I know she would have been.

I know this because it was Ms. Viola who prepared her grandchildren for a successful education. When we arrived for kindergarten, we were actually ready for first grade

Ms. Viola never lost her quest to have a teacher in the family. When my mother took an alternate route in the nursing field, Ms. Viola began to groom me to be her teacher. For a long time, I too thought I would be a teacher. That is until I began to see that there were other opportunities for women, unlike in Ms. Viola’s day.

After taking several assessments that gauge your aptitude and temperament, I quickly realized I wanted and needed to do something else. Much to Ms. Viola’s dismay, I no longer wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a news reporter.

A journalist, that’s what I wanted to be. It matches my temperament, which suggests that I’m more inclined to be bored and restless with jobs that are routine and structured. I’m better suited for a career that allows me independence and freedom

 In other words, I don’t like doing the same thing, the same way the same time every day. Yes, that pretty much sums up my three years as a public school teacher.

NOW LET’S BE CLEAR. I have the utmost respect for teachers who are the only people who can truthfully say they impact all other careers. However, my natural makeup doesn’t allow me to be in one place for too many hours in the day. Being in the news business allows me to be the best me I can be. No day is the same. That would be frustrating for people who do their best work in a structured environment.               

Take Cheronda Cooper for example. Cheronda is a teacher a Peabody Magnet High School. Her dedication and passion for the profession recently brought her the Milken Educator Award, which is no small feat. The award comes with big prizes and big national recognition. That would not have happened if Cheronda had been in the wrong position.

Like me, Cheronda tried to do something else before getting to the classroom. Like me, she realized she was in the wrong position. Like me, she’s now in the right position and doing well.

Are you the right person in the right position at the right time? If not, I know you are totally frustrated. If you are, good for you.

Oh, I almost forgot. Ms. Viola does have several educators in the family. My brother, Kevin, is an assistant principal at Horlick High School in Racine, Wis; my cousin Matthew, is a math teacher in the Atlanta area; and my aunt (in-law) is a principal in the Denver area. Guess what? They love every minute of it, and I love every minute of having a crazy, unpredictable day.