Friday, February 19, 2010

Urban Hero - Paul Joseph Adams III

(winter leaves make me blue!)

Last night I attended the third of a series of four movies sponsored by State Farm at ICE Theatre commemorating Black History Month. The movie was about Paul Joseph Adams III and the phenomenal job he and his staff are doing at Providence St. Mel School. All of its students come from the inner city, communities plagued with poverty, drugs, crime, urban blight and neglect. They are placed in a safe and structured environment with competent and caring teachers who want to teach and the magic begins. The statistics speak for themselves: 100% of their students go on to college and 50% attend tier 1 colleges. All of them garner financial aid for college and many receive full scholarships.

The visionary responsible for the initial success is Paul J. Adams III. Paul was born September 14, 1940, He learned the value of education from his parents, Patsy Lois and Paul Adams, Jr., who enrolled him in private elementary and high schools in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. After receiving a B.A. from Alabama State University, Adams moved north to Chicago, where he worked in mental health education while earning his M.A. in psychology from Northeastern Illinois University.

In 1971, Adams was hired as director of guidance for Providence-St. Mel School, a private Catholic high school in Chicago. He became the school's principal a year later. When the Archdiocese of Chicago withdrew funding for the school in 1978, Adams spearheaded a national campaign to raise money for the school. In response to his publicity-seeking efforts and the support of the Providence-St. Mel students and community, the school received local and national media attention. Donations poured in from across the country, and Adams transitioned Providence-St. Mel into a not-for-profit independent school.

At Providence-St. Mel, Adams focused on developing a strong academic standard while enforcing strict disciplinary codes. To guarantee the safety of his students, he moved into the vacant convent inside the school to ward off thieves and vandals. His dedication became legendary and over the next three decades, Adams successfully transformed Providence-St. Mel into a premier learning institution for African American students.

Since 1996, Adams has served as president of Providence-St. Mel School, managing an annual budget in excess of $6 million. He is still very active in planning the curriculum for the school, which has expanded to include elementary and middle grades. Under Adams' leadership, every one of Providence-St. Mel's graduating seniors have been accepted to institutions of higher learning.

Adams has received numerous awards for his efforts, including the McDonald's Education Achievement Award, the African-American Male Image Award, the Rozell R. Nesbitt Community Education Award, and four honorary doctorates. Adams was named an American Hero in Education by Reader's Digest and was voted Man of the Year by the Chicago Urban League. The School was visited twice by former President Ronald Reagan and cited as a "shining star."

The school is renowned for its mission that is recited daily by all of its K through 12th grade students and staff and concludes with words that clearly are responsible in part for their success, "We either find a way or make a way."

Recently Providence St. Mel School spearheaded a charter school in a public school that had been closed because of poor performance. It improved students performance from 9% to 52%. The national average is 50%.

For more information about Paul J. Adams and his staffs amazing success, go to

(Source: This original article was written by The HistoryMakers® Video Oral History and edited by Qiyamah A. Rahman)

Question: What is the legacy you will leave your children and their children's children? What are you doing to improve the quality of life in your community?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Monday, February 15, 2010

For Lucille Clifton

Passing Through the Doorways of Life (photo taken by Qiyamah A. Rahman)

Former state poet laureate Lucille Clifton, a National Book Award winner whose work was lauded for its "moral quality," died Saturday at Johns Hopkins Hospital after a long battle with cancer and other illnesses. She was 73.

With a mix of profundity, earthiness and humor - amply evident in her 11 books of poetry - Ms. Clifton often defied conventional notions of poetic expression, but in many ways her themes were traditional, Wallace R. Peppers wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.

"She writes of her family because she is greatly interested in making sense of their lives and relationships; she writes of adversity and success in the ghetto community; and she writes of her role as a poet," according to Mr. Peppers.

Ms. Clifton, a resident of Columbia, was a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and was honored on many other occasions during her career. She was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Maryland and Towson University. She was the poet-in-residence at Coppin State College between 1971 and 1974.

She was the second woman and the first African American to serve as poet laureate of Maryland, a position she held from 1979 to 1985.

She was also the first black woman to win the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize award, in 2007, among the most prestigious awards that can be won by an American poet. It included a $100,000 stipend.

In 2001, Ms. Clifton won the National Book Award for "Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000."

A biography on the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Web site says that Thelma Lucille Sayles was born in 1936 in Depew, N.Y., a small town outside Buffalo. Her mother, a poet, encouraged her creativity, and she began to compose stories and poems as a child. She was the first person in her family to graduate from high school and, in 1953, she won a scholarship to Howard University, where she majored in drama. She left Howard after two years after deciding that she would rather write poetry, according to the Web site.

Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969, and listed by The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books. Her series of children's books about a young black boy began with 1970's Some of the Days of Everett Anderson. From 1971 to 1974 she was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore. From 1979 to 1985 she was Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland.[2] From 1982 to 1983 she was visiting writer at Columbia University School of the Arts and at George Washington University. From 1985 to 1989, Clifton was a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[3] Since 1991, she has been Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland. From 1995 to 1999, she was Visiting Professor at Columbia University. In 2006, she was a fellow at Dartmouth College.

Ms. Clifton had been ill for some time with an infection, her sister, Elaine Philip, told The Buffalo News on Saturday. She had undergone surgery to remove her colon on Friday, but the exact cause of death remains undetermined.

The poet and her husband, Fred Clifton, a philosophy professor at the University at Buffalo, moved to Baltimore in the 1960s and had six children. Her husband died in 1984.

Besides her 11 poetry collections, Ms. Clifton published 20 children's books, and her poems have appeared in more than 100 anthologies, according to her biography.

Besides her sister, Ms. Clifton is survived by her three daughters, a son and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

For Lucille Clifton

You have to know
the world is colder tonight:
not because the snow drifts are piled
high and the roads frozen stiff
from winter's raging

we have known raging before

the tree limbs are brittle
from the whistling wind and ice
formed on the underside of dripping

but you know how easily life can break

my breath is visible like fog
in this moment, and you are silent
as breath has chosen
this day to leave your body,
to take you from us

I know how to rage, but not against this
death--was it a timely, one, Lucille?

i learned to value bleeding
monthly, timely, pain
and wanting breasts
in place of buds that never
seemed to bloom
and glory in wide hips
big bellies
collard greens
wild foxes
and tending to the past

you taught me these in your poetry
you taught me how to praise and to rage

but in this cold, crisp, clear
moment, I do not know
how your leaving and raging
belong together

may I say in your leaving
what I never had privilege
to say in your living here:

I love you mother-sister-warrior-poet
and it is a raging love

(C) Valerie Bridgeman
February 13, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dealing with Loss

The Universe appears to be presenting me with issues of loss through the arts. In the same week I began reading a book that I have had for over a year titled, Tragic Redemption and I recently went to the Court Theatre and watched a brilliant play titled, The Year of Magical Thinking. Both the book and play deal with human loss, something that if we live long enough we will experience first hand. Rev. Hiram Johnson encountered a tragic loss in his early 20s while driving his car occupied by four friends. A young high schooler he had just met was killed when the car hit a tree. Johnson's story recounts how the acccident plunged him into the depths of despair, depression and guilt. The book recounts his efforts to heal and create a life for himself while forgiving himself. In his instance he used his new found faith in God to do so and accepted the theology of forgiveness and redemption that is available to all who believe. Johnson is now in private practice and I wonder how his experiences allow him to help others. I firmly believe that we cannot lead others where we have not gone ourselves. His experiences have prepared him to journey with others in a myriad of ways!

The play, The Year of Magical Thinking, is based on the book by the same name that the author, Joan Didion wrote after losing first her husband and then her daughter within a short period of time. It is almost incomprehensible that an individual could recover from such loss - and yet she did! The emotional self reflection evidenced in the book and play reveal the inner landscape of a grieving individual who struggles to find meaning, in life without the two individuals that she most deeply loved. She is loathe to indulge self pity which she contends: "...remains both the most common and the most universally reviled of our character defects, its pestilence destructiveness accepted as given." According to Deborah Nelson, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago's Department of English Language and Literature, Didion "Reassessing her attachment to the popular music of her grandmother's generation, she comes to realize that what she thought to be tough-minded optimism was, in fact, emotional self-indulgence." Didion finally concludes, "We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all."

Perhaps therein lies the real connection, I felt so moved by both Hiram Johnson's and Joan Didion's tragic losses because they could have so easily been mine. And thus I mourned the realization that I/we are always only a moment away from tragedy. A moment away from death. And that there is little we can do but continue to live our lives as fully and richly as possible and embrace death as fully as we embrace life with its rich complexity.

So we fumble and stumble through some days better than others - five steps forward and two backwards. Perhaps today it will be five steps backwards and two forward - hoping there is a tomorrow to get up and begin anew - to wipe away the restless sadness and despair that lurk just around the corners of our days and that the joy will in the end outweigh the loss and sadness of it all.

Whenever I encounter brave individuals like Johnson and Didion I am greedy to learn from them. I breath in their braveness and thank them for their gifts of reflection and insights. For their finding the courage and discipline to will themselves to return to the pain so that others like me might learn from it.

Thank you Rev. Hiram Johnson! Thank you Joan didion for your gifts!

May your journey be eased and may all that is good and sacred in the Universe hold you when you cannot stand and remind you of the love and the good that you are!
Blessed Be! Rev. Q

Turn Up Your Internal Thermostat and Inspire Yourself

Dreaming bout summertime!

I recently found a very short and rich article by Gay Hendricks in a publication entitled, Natural Awakenings. Hendricks article, The Next Big Leap: Moving On to Ultimate Success resonated with me and so on this Saturday morning as I working to jumpstart my day I reflect on his message.

Applying Hendricks thesis he contends that the reason most people fail to move into the genius is because we possess an inner thermostat that determines the amount of love and success we allow ourselves, a thermostat that is set in early childhood. He believes that when we reach that setting we sabotage ourselves in order to "return to the old, familiar zone where we feel secure." Some of the self defeating behaviors he identifies are: provoking arguments, getting into accidents, and becoming sick. Many of us could generate our own endless list based on our nuanced behaviors. The catalysts that we manufacture that then trigger these self destructive behaviors include: guilt, stress, doubt or worry.

Hendricks does not leave us to despair. Like any good practictioner he reminds us that we can use self awareness to identify our behaviors and reset our thermometers since we all deserve "greater love, creative energy and financial abundance, without the compulsion to sabotage ourselves... if we commit to clearing it out of our consciousness."

He suggests four critical questions:
What do I most love to do?
What work do I do that doesn't seem like work?
In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction tot he amount of tiem spent?
What is my unique ability?

Usually I end with a question(s)and Hendricks ( are so powerful I have no additional questions. See you in your dreams!

There is a dream dreaming me somewhere! African Saying

Blessing! Rev. Q

Thursday, February 11, 2010

16 Year Old Genuis Holds Key to Plastic Degrade

I could not resist sharing this amazing story about a 16 that might change the face of our ecosystem if his discovery is implemented.

Q. How are you using your talents and gifts to serve the world?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Plastic takes thousands of years to decompose — but 16-year-old science fair contestant Daniel Burd made it happen in just three months.

The Waterloo, Ontario high school junior figured that something must make plastic degrade, even if it does take millennia, and that something was probably bacteria.

(Hey, at between one-half and 90 percent of Earth’s biomass, bacteria’s a pretty safe bet for any biological mystery.)

The Record reports that Burd mixed landfill dirt with yeast and tap water, then added ground plastic and let it stew. The plastic indeed decomposed more quickly than it would in nature; after experimenting with different temperatures and configurations, Burd isolated the microbial munchers. One came from the bacterial genus Pseudomonas, and the other from the genus Sphingomonas.

Burd says this should be easy on an industrial scale: all that’s needed is a fermenter, a growth medium and plastic, and the bacteria themselves provide most of the energy by producing heat as they eat.
The only waste is water and a bit of carbon dioxide.

Amazing stuff. I’ll try to get an interview with this young man who may have managed to solve one of the most intractable environmental dilemmas of our time. And I can’t help but wonder whether his high school already had its prom. If he doesn’t get to be king, there’s no justice in this world.

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