Monthly Archives: November 2009

IN REMEMBRANCE: 11-29-2009


Published: November 23, 2009
Dennis Cole, a chiseled former model whose face became familiar to television viewers in the 1960s when he played the first of his panoply of roles in more than a dozen prime-time series, died on Nov. 15 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 69 and lived in Fort Lauderdale.
Suzanne Vlamis/Associated Press

Dennis Cole in 1978.

The cause was renal failure, said Mr. Cole’s publicist, Edward Lozzi.

With the looks of a California surfer — though he was born in Michigan — Mr. Cole moved to Hollywood in the early ’60s and worked as a model for men’s magazines and as a stuntman. His first big acting break came in 1966 when he won a leading role as a hunky detective on the ABC police drama “Felony Squad.” The show ran for three years. In 1971 he starred with Rod Taylor in “Bearcats,” about two adventure-seekers roaming the country in their Stutz Bearcat sports car in the early 20th century.

Through the ’70s and ’80s Mr. Cole appeared in many other series, including “Bracken’s World,” “Medical Center,” “Police Story,” “Fantasy Island,” “Trapper John, M.D.,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Barnaby Jones,” “The Love Boat,” “The Streets of San Francisco” and “Charlie’s Angels.”

In 1978, on the set of “Charlie’s Angels,” Mr. Cole met and soon married one of the angels, Jaclyn Smith. They divorced in 1981.

Mr. Cole was born in Detroit on July 19, 1940. He is survived by his brother, Richard. Mr. Cole’s first marriage also ended in divorce. His son from that marriage, Joey, was shot to death during a robbery in the Venice section of Los Angeles in 1991. That crime remains unsolved.

In his later years Mr. Cole moved to Florida, became a real-estate broker and performed musical acts on cruise ships.





Published: November 26, 2009
Hugh Morgan Hill, who as the storyteller known as Brother Blue captivated passers-by on the streets of Boston and Cambridge, Mass., with his parables, life stories and idiosyncratic retellings of Shakespeare’s plays, and who became a fixture at storytelling conferences and gatherings in the United States and abroad, died on Nov. 3 at his home in Cambridge. He was 88.
Hugh Morgan Hill

The death was confirmed by his wife, Ruth.

Mr. Hill, a playwright by training, began attracting audiences in the late 1960s when he took to the streets and started declaiming as Brother Blue.

He was hard to miss, a gangly black man dressed from head to toe in blue, with blue-tinted glasses, a blue stocking cap or beret, and blue butterflies drawn on his face and palms with a felt-tip pen. Blessed with a resonant voice and a commanding stage presence, he was equal parts entertainer, shaman, motivational speaker and, as he liked to say, “holy fool.”

“He was the John Coltrane of storytelling,” said Warren Lehrer, author of the 1995 book “Brother Blue: A Narrative Portrait of Brother Blue, a k a Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill,” who first encountered Mr. Hill in the early 1980s. “He had his repertoire, but he would improvise, working off news items, or things he was seeing at the moment, or people in the audience, with parenthetical digressions as thoughts occurred to him.”

Mr. Hill was born on July 12, 1921, in Cleveland, where his father labored as a bricklayer and raised his family in a white neighborhood. “He would say, ‘We were one black button in a field of snow,’ ” said Rob Evans, a management consultant and longtime friend of Mr. Hill’s.

His younger brother, Tommy, who was retarded, had trouble pronouncing his brother’s name and settled on “Brother Boo,” which Mr. Hill changed to Brother Blue when he began telling stories in prisons in the ’60s.

A grade-school teacher, Miss Wunderlich, recognized that young Hugh was a bright student and encouraged him to excel. Her words later found their way into an oft-repeated story, one of many Mr. Hill told to inspire listeners to dream big and push themselves to achieve. His brother’s fascination with butterflies also provided him with an important symbol for his stories, which often dealt with personal transformation.

During World War II, Mr. Hill was in the Army, where he served in the European and Pacific theaters and rose to the rank of first lieutenant. Under the G.I. Bill of Rights he attended Harvard, from which he graduated in 1948 with a degree in what was then called social relations, a combination of psychology, sociology and anthropology.

After marrying Ruth Edmonds in 1950, he earned a master’s degree in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama in 1953. As he struggled to write plays, his wife said, he would describe them to friends, and from these sessions he developed his storytelling persona.

Brother Blue would declaim to an audience of one or a hundred, fixing listeners with a stare that, more than a few believed, penetrated to the deepest recesses of their souls. It made perfect sense when the film director George Romero cast him as a modern-day Merlin in his Arthurian biker film “Knightriders” (1981) “I was blown away by this wild man telling stories on the street,” said Laura Packer of Malden, Mass., who screwed up the courage to become a storyteller after meeting him. “He looked into my face and said, ‘You have the power.’ That was it for me.”

Brother Blue dealt in uplift and inspiration, telling stories from his own life or folk tales from Africa and Asia. He often performed short versions of Shakespeare’s plays, taking all the parts himself and translating the main plot points into street language. “Don’t be no fool, be cool,” his King Lear told Cordelia, in the play’s opening scene. “Go for the gold, baby.” At intervals, he would recite lines as written by the man he called “Willie the Shake.”

Mr. Hill earned a doctorate in storytelling from Union Graduate School, an experimental “university without walls,” in 1973. His thesis, on prison storytelling, was performed with a 25-piece jazz orchestra.

In addition to his wife, who is the oral history curator at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, he is survived by a sister, Beatrice Hill, of Streetsboro, Ohio.

Mr. Hill regarded storytelling as a sacred duty and a path to universal harmony. “When you tell a story, you tell it to all creation,” he once said. “It’s cosmic. It never goes away.”




Published: November 27, 2009

Jan Leighton, an actor who conjured a career by dressing up as historical figures, appearing in so many commercials, print advertisements and industrial films as George Washington, William Shakespeare and Christopher Columbus that he was both ubiquitous and anonymous, died on Nov. 16 in Manhattan. He was 87.

James Shannon

Jan Leighton made a career out of impersonations, which kept him in demand onstage and off.

The cause was complications after a stroke, said his daughter, Hallie.

Mr. Leighton, who was listed in the 1985 Guinness Book of World Records as the actor who had played the most roles (2,407), began his professional career as a legitimate actor, appearing on live television dramas and at least once on Broadway, in a 1960 Cy Coleman musical called “Wildcat,” starring Lucille Ball. But when the jobs became scarce, he reinvented himself as a walking, talking hall of fame, an impersonator for hire. He researched the characters, created his own costumes — he had more than 400 of them in his Manhattan apartment when he died — and often did his own makeup.

In disguise, Mr. Leighton might pop up in almost any medium. On television, he lit a cigar as Fidel Castro in a commercial for Bic lighters and sold Toyotas as Albert Einstein for a Southern California car dealership. He promoted a Minnesota savings bank as Abraham Lincoln and an Arizona department store as Robert E. Lee. For one bank commercial he portrayed Clark Gable, Groucho Marx, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, all complaining about other banks that charged for checks. He pitched Cheerios as Alexander Hamilton, beer as Johann Sebastian Bach, early mobile phones as Dracula and cough syrup as the Frankenstein monster. He even played Mr. Whipple’s twin in a commercial for Charmin bathroom tissue.

On film, he played Albert Einstein in a 1982 science fiction comedy “Zapped!” He motivated Westinghouse employees as George Washington and the salesmen of Scandia trucks as Gen. George Patton. In print he appeared twice on the cover of New York magazine, once as Henry Kissinger and once as Leonardo da Vinci; he was Uncle Sam on the cover of Time. He was the face of Saul Bellow’s title character “Henderson the Rain King” on a paperback edition of the book, and appeared as a host of characters, including Confucius and Pericles, on the book jacket of Gore Vidal’s “Creation.” He made appearances at gala events and private parties as presidents and wizards and such.

He would go anywhere to do a job and would play anyone: Vince Lombardi, Babe Ruth, Gandhi, Mozart, Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes. Ebenezer Scrooge, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Charlemagne, Darwin, Wyatt Earp, Walter Cronkite and even Margaret Thatcher were all in his repertory.

“He was best George Washington of his day,” Jay Pearlman, who worked frequently with Mr. Leighton as a makeup artist said in an interview, adding that Mr. Leighton might get two dozen bookings as Washington in a year.

Mr. Pearlman remembered Mr. Leighton’s going to an amusement park in 1979: “I think it was Ashland, Ky. — and he shot four 60-second commercials in one day. He was a wolf man, he was a grandfather, he was General Patton and he was Groucho Marx. He’d call me up and say, ‘We’re going to San Francisco,’ and we’d fly out to San Francisco, and he’d do one Ben Franklin, and we’d get back on the plane and fly home.”

Mr. Leighton was born in the Bronx as Milton Lichtman on Dec. 27, 1921, and grew up mostly in east Harlem. His father, Harry, owned a handful of taxicabs and vending machines. Young Milton served in the Air Force in World War II, and afterward he studied music briefly at a university in Mexico City. He was living in El Paso and working as a shoe salesman when he decided to pursue what he had loved as a child — acting — and returned to New York. In 1949, like a number of Jewish actors, he changed his name in order to de-emphasize his ethnicity and get more work.

“His features were handsome but regular,” Mr. Pearlman, the makeup artist, said about why Mr. Leighton was so well suited to his work. “He could always submerge himself in makeup and in facial contortions.”

In addition to doing character work, Mr. Leighton was also a hand model, and he did numerous radio voices and voiceovers as well as children’s recordings. He and his daughter, Hallie, were the co-authors of two books, “Rare Words and How to Master Their Meanings” and its sequel, “Rare Words II.”

Mr. Leighton was married four times. The first marriage was annulled and the others ended in divorce. Ms. Leighton, who lives in Manhattan, is the daughter of his third wife, Lynda Myles; he is also survived by a son, Ross Leighton, of Queens, whose mother was Mr. Leighton’s second wife, Ruth Markowe.

The anonymity of his work was something Mr. Leighton embraced. Asked once how he was doing, he replied, “I’m alive and well and living in someone else’s face.”




Published: November 27, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Al Alberts, a founding member of the singing group the Four Aces and a longtime television talent show host in Philadelphia, died Friday at his home in Arcadia, Fla. He was 87.

The cause was apparently complications of kidney failure, his son Chris said.

Mr. Alberts was a founding member of the Four Aces, which recorded hits like “Three Coins in the Fountain” and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.”

Mr. Alberts featured child singers and dancers on his “Al Alberts Showcase” for more than three decades in Philadelphia.

Al Alberts was born Al Albertini. Besides his son Chris, he is also survived by wife, Stella, and another son, Al Jr.






Published: November 22, 2009
MOSCOW — Konstantin P. Feoktistov, a Soviet engineer who was one of the first civilian astronauts and a prominent spacecraft designer, died on Saturday in Moscow, the Russian space agency said. He was 83.
Associated Press

Konstantin Feoktistov in 1965.

Mr. Feoktistov, for whom a crater was named on the Moon, was also the only Soviet astronaut who was not a member of the Communist Party, the agency said.

In October 1964, he flew on the first space flight that had more than one astronaut and carried civilians. He was crowded with two others, a doctor and a military commander, into a small spacecraft called the Voskhod (Sunrise). Aloft for a day, the spacecraft orbited the Earth numerous times while crew members conducted experiments on fruit flies and plants. They also took blood and made measurements to determine how humans reacted to being in space.

The mission was considered a major Soviet triumph, and Soviet television showed both live and recorded footage of the three astronauts.

“Can you hear me?” an announcer on the ground asked Mr. Feoktistov. When he did not seem to react, the announcer added, “I want to see you smile.” Mr. Feoktistov then grinned widely.

The astronauts exchanged greetings with the Soviet leader, Nikita S. Khrushchev.

The fact that the Voskhod carried civilians was called an achievement that heralded a new era of space travel. The Russian space agency said the expedition made Mr. Feoktistov “the first spacecraft designer to have tested his brainchild under real conditions.”

Mr. Feoktistov never joined the Communist Party, much to the irritation of the authorities. At one point, his chances of taking part in the Voskhod mission were said to have been threatened because he snubbed the party, but he was allowed on in the end.

Mr. Feoktistov was born on Feb. 7, 1926, in Voronezh in southwestern Russia, near Ukraine. He fought and was wounded in World War II.

Before becoming an astronaut, he was one of the earliest designers of Soviet spacecraft. In a report in the late 1950s, “A Long-Range Program to Master Outer Space,” he described how the Soviet Union should explore Earth’s orbit, then the Moon, Venus and Mars. He also sketched plans for the first craft for human flight and a proposed landing technique.

After his flight in 1964, Mr. Feoktistov continued to work on the space program as a designer of space vehicles and a senior administrator. He also was a professor in Moscow. No information was immediately available on survivors.



File:Lunar libration with phase2.gif

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12 Ku Klux Klan members rally briefly on campus before LSU-Ole Miss game, crowd hurls insults

OXFORD, Miss. November 21, 2009 (AP)
The Associated Press

Members of the Ku Klux Klan protest on the steps of Fulton Chapel at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Ryan Moore)


About a dozen hooded Ku Klux Klan members rallied briefly at the University of Mississippi before Saturday’s football game with No. 10 LSU.

The members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan spent about 10 minutes waving flags, displaying Nazi-style salutes and occasionally gesturing at a group of about 250 hecklers that included young children. They were protesting the school’s decision to drop a pep song that included “Dixie.”

Some fans had been ending the song by chanting, “The South will rise again.” Chancellor Dan Jones asked the band to stop playing the song after fans ignored a request to drop the chant.

The Klan said it was protesting over lost Southern symbolism at Ole Miss, which has been rocked by racial strife before.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




Twelve clucks, I mean, 12 dummies, no make that 12 knuckleheads who showed up to make asses of themselves. Well, I guess the rest of their members are too ashamed or gutless to appear in public and make useless spectacles of themselves.

The Klan.

Still the same as it ever was…………useless, pathetic entities that take up precious space and breath air that more decent people have a right to.

“Some fans had been ending the song by chanting, “The South will rise again.”
The South will rise when a majority of its residents cease living in the vicious past.
Until then, the South will get no higher or further until it is willing to learn to come to terms with its hated past and come out of the dark ages of racial hatred into the light of respect for human dignity.

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For those of you who own Toyota vehicles, most specifically the Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius, 2007-10 model year Camry, 2005-10 Avalon, 2004-09 Prius, 2005-10 Toyota Tacoma, 2007-10 Toyota Tundra, 2007-10 Lexus ES350 and the 2006-10 Lexus IS 250/350, the following article addresses the acceleration of gas pedals where the occurrences of sudden acceleration or the pedal becoming stuck in the floor mat has led to serious injuries and some fatalities.

To address any concerns you have about your vehicle, contact Toyota at the following websites:


Or owners can contact Toyota at 800-331-4331 or the NHTSA hot line at 888-327-4236.


Dealers To Temporarily Shorten Gas Pedals Starting In January

KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writer

POSTED: 6:00 am EST November 25, 2009
UPDATED: 6:35 am EST November 25, 2009

WASHINGTON — Toyota Motor Corp. will replace gas pedals on 3.8 million recalled vehicles in the United States to address problems with sudden acceleration or the pedal becoming stuck in the floor mat, The Associated Press has learned.
As a temporary step, Toyota will have dealers shorten the length of the gas pedals beginning in January while the company develops replacement pedals for their vehicles, the Transportation Department said in a statement provided to the AP. New pedals will be available beginning in April, and some vehicles will have brake override systems installed as a precaution.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, was expected to provide more details Wednesday on the fix. The Japanese automaker announced the massive recall in late September and told owners to remove the driver’s side floor mats to prevent the gas pedal from potentially becoming jammed.
Popular vehicles such as the Toyota Camry, the top-selling passenger car in America, and the Toyota Prius, the best-selling gas-electric hybrid, are part of the recall. It includes the 2007-10 model year Camry, 2005-10 Toyota Avalon, 2004-09 Prius, 2005-10 Toyota Tacoma, 2007-10 Toyota Tundra, 2007-10 Lexus ES350 and 2006-10 Lexus IS250/350.
On Tuesday, Toyota announced a recall of 110,000 Tundra trucks from the 2000-03 model years to address excessive rust on the vehicle’s frame.
The recall involving the accelerators was Toyota’s largest in the U.S. It was prompted by a high-speed crash in August involving a 2009 Lexus ES350 that killed a California Highway Patrol officer and three members of his family near San Diego. The Lexus hit speeds exceeding 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames.
A family member in the runaway Lexus made a frantic 911 call moments before the crash, telling emergency responders that the accelerator was stuck and the driver couldn’t stop the car. The call ended as someone was overheard urging others to hold on and pray, followed by a woman’s scream.
In Japan, Toyota President Akio Toyoda called the fatal crash “extremely regrettable” and offered his “deepest condolences” to the California family.
Investigators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that a rubber all-weather floor mat found in the wreckage was slightly longer than the mat that belonged in the vehicle, and could have snared or covered the accelerator pedal.
The government has attributed at least five deaths and two injuries to floor mat-related unintended acceleration in the Toyota vehicles and has received reports of more than 100 incidents in which the accelerator may have become stuck. A Massachusetts-based safety consultant who has investigated the Toyota cases, however, has found more than 2,000 incidents involving 16 deaths and 243 injuries potentially tied to the Toyota gas pedals.
To fix the problem, Transportation officials said dealers will shorten the length of the accelerator pedal on the recalled vehicles and in some cases remove foam from beneath the carpeting near the pedal. They said owners of the ES350, Camry and Avalon would be the first to receive notification because the vehicles are believed to have the highest risk for pedal entrapment.
Toyota plans to install a brake override system on the Camry, Avalon and Lexus ES350, IS350 and IS250 models as an “extra measure of confidence,” NHTSA said. The brake override system, commonly called a “smart brake,” will ensure the vehicle will stop if both the brake and the accelerator pedals are applied simultaneously.
Dealers will be instructed on how to modify the pedals before the end of the year and will begin shortening the accelerators in 2010. New replacement pedals are expected to be available for some models beginning in April and will be provided even if the vehicles have already received a modified pedal under the recall.
The automaker and government regulators have been discussing a potential fix for several weeks. In late September, Toyota announced the recall and told owners to remove driver’s side floor mats and not replace them until the company had determined a remedy for the problem. The automaker said unhooked floor mats or replacement mats stacked on top of the originals could lead to stuck accelerators.
In early November, Toyota issued a statement saying NHTSA had confirmed “that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.” But in a rare rebuke, NHTSA accused Toyota of releasing misleading information about the recall, saying removing the mats did not “correct the underlying defect.” Toyota said it was not the company’s intention to mislead anyone.
For more information, owners can contact Toyota at 800-331-4331 or the NHTSA hot line at 888-327-4236.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.


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IN REMEMBRANCE: 11-22-2009


by Gordon Anderson

November 17, 2009 – FAYETTEVILLE — Police in Fayetteville have confirmed that the body searchers found in rural Lee County Monday afternoon is that of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis.

Although police called off the search for the missing Davis after Monday’s discovery, they were slow to confirm that the body was hers.

Several media outlets reported Monday night that police confirmed the body belonged to Davis, although police officials adamantly denied until around 1:50 p.m. today that identification had been made.

A brief press release from the Fayetteville Police Department reads “at this time the Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed the identity of the body found to be that of 5-year old Shaniya Davis. Official cause of death is still undetermined at this hour.”

The press release also indicated that a press conference set for 4:30 p.m. today had been rescheduled until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

The conference has been rescheduled “due to new information received in the investigation,” the press release reads.

Rescue worker describes discovery

A dog trainer who was present when the body now identified as 5-year-old Shaniya Davis was found along a wooded road in North Carolina says searchers initially overlooked the area because they saw only deer carcasses in trash bags.

But Jeff Riccio of Tarheel Cainine Training Inc. said Tuesday his team returned to the area after getting information that the body of Shaniya Davis might be near deer carcasses. The searchers then found the body Monday afternoon underneath kudzu along a rural highway southeast of Sanford.

The child’s mother has been charged with human trafficking and felony child abuse, accused of selling her daughter into sex slavery. Police also charged Mario McNeill with kidnapping after he was captured on a hotel’s surveillance video with Shaniya.

The crime

The case came to Lee County after security footage from the Comfort Suites in Sanford showed Mario McNeill of Fayetteville with Shaniya Davis around 6 a.m. on Nov. 10.

The body was found in the woods off Walker Road near N.C. 87 in the southern portion of the county.

“We’ll put information together as far as charging someone (with murder) if the body is identified as Shaniya,” said Theresa Chance with the Fayetteville Police Department.

The search for Shaniya, which included more than 250 law enforcement officers, fire fighters and search and rescure workers from multiple agencies in the area, stopped after the body’s discovery.

Chance said authorities chose the search area based on “solid information” obtained during the course of the investigation. She confirmed that police “had information that a body may have been dumped” in the area. During their search, crews came upon many deer carcasses and even wild dogs. Recent rains also hindered the search.

Chance repeatedly used the word “exhume” in reference to the process of identifying the body. When pressed by reporters, she wouldn’t say whether the body appeared to have been buried.

“Just keep in mind that we’ve just had two days of heavy rain,” she said and declined to comment on a cause of death or the condition of the body.

Authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl, though his attorney said he will plead not guilty. Although the security footage from the Comfort Suites on Bragg Street in Sanford showed McNeill with the little girl, Chance said the hotel offered no further clues about the case.

“The tapes have been turned over since then,” she said. “That footage was taken Tuesday, and we weren’t made aware of it until Wednesday.”

Davis reported Shaniya missing on Nov. 10. Authorities first arrested a man named Clarence Coe — reportedly Antoinette Davis’ boyfriend — but charges against him were dropped a day later when investigators tracked down McNeill after receiving a tip from a hotel employee.


More than 250 searchers combed more than a square mile of soggy, wooded terrain for nearly two days before the discovery Monday.

After the body was found, a solemn group of searchers met quietly at a nearby fire station to ensure that all volunteers were accounted for.

“We were hoping that someone could carry her home,” said Syd Severe, 42, who came from Raleigh to help with the search. “It’s just sick.”

A cluster of emergency vehicles and law enforcement personnel gathered where the body was found. Authorities blocked access to the road, a rural area popular with hunters that is less than a mile from a large lakeside community.

“I still feel kind of sick to my stomach,” said Angela Jackson, 27, from Sanford, who has a two-month-old daughter but searched for consecutive days.

Particularly disturbing were the accusations lodged against Shaniya’s mother. Police charged Davis with human trafficking and felony child abuse, saying Shaniya was offered for prostitution.

“We’ve got a lot of people out at the scene right now that are torn up,” Chance said Monday. “Detectives have been running off adrenaline to find this little girl and to bring her home alive. You have a lot of people in shock right now.”

Trafficking charges

Antoinette Davis, the mother of Shaniya Davis, was calm and quiet during a five-minute court appearance in Fayetteville on Monday.

Antoinette Davis provided one-word answers to the judge’s questions and held her hands in front of her, without handcuffs. She requested a court-appointed attorney and did not enter a plea.

The investigation into the disappearance of Shaniya Davis yielded the arrest of the mother and two other men, though one man was later released.

Police charged Antoinette Davis with human trafficking and felony child abuse, saying Shaniya was offered for prostitution.

Her sister, Brenda Davis, 20, said outside of the courthouse that she does not believe the charges.

“I don’t believe she could hurt her children,” said Brenda Davis, who was able to speak to her sister at the jail Sunday.

Authorities also charged Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, with kidnapping after they said surveillance footage from the Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford showed him carrying Shaniya there. Authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl, though his attorney said he will plead not guilty.

Davis reported Shaniya missing Tuesday. Authorities first arrested a man named Clarence Coe, but charges against him were dropped a day later when investigators tracked down McNeill after receiving a tip from a hotel employee.

Shaniya’s father, Bradley Lockhart, said he raised his daughter for several years but last month decided to let her stay with her mother. He had pleaded for her safe return.

Lockhart told The Associated Press on Saturday that he and Davis never argued about him raising Shaniya, and Cumberland County courts had no record of a custody dispute. He described his relationship with Davis as a “one-night stand” and said he did not know McNeill.

Davis struggled financially over the years, but she recently obtained a job and her own place, so Lockhart said he decided to give her a chance to raise their daughter.

“I should’ve never let her go over there,” he said Saturday night.

Before Shaniya’s body was found, he said on CBS’s “The Early Show” Monday that he remained hopeful someone would bring his daughter somewhere safe, such as a police station or hospital.

“They can drop her off at Walmart, I don’t care,” he said.

A friend at Lockhart’s home Monday afternoon said Lockhart did not want to speak with reporters.

Gordon Anderson, Jonathan Owens, Caitlin Mullen and The Associated Press contributed to this report

Shaniya Davis

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A little, innocent child, who never had a chance to live. A little growing child who will never be able to run, play, laugh, cry, or feel the Sun on her face again. A little child who will never know what it means to fail, and to succeed.

A little innocent beautiful child who now rests in the arms of Christ, the Saviour who loves all children, who said:  “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for to such belongth the Kingdom of God”.

Rest in peace little one.

Rest in peace.



Published: November 18, 2009

PENN HILLS, Pa. (AP) — Wallace Williams, known as Bucky, a retired steelworker who played for both of the Pittsburgh-area’s Negro leagues baseball teams, died Monday at his home in this suburb of Pittsburgh. He was 102.

Curt Chandler/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bucky Williams in 2006

Williams was born on Dec. 15, 1906, in Baltimore, and his family moved to Pittsburgh when he was a baby.

He began playing for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1928, played briefly with their rival Homestead Grays in 1936, then returned to the Crawfords until they folded in 1939.

After leaving the Negro leagues, Williams continued to play for sandlot and other adult teams, including the Pittsburgh Monarchs and a team sponsored by the Edgar Thompson Steel Works, where he worked as a ladle liner before retiring in 1971.

His wife, the former Marjorie Carey, died in 1977. Survivors include his son, David, and a sister, Veronica Ford.




Published: November 17, 2009

Edward Woodward, a British actor with a long résumé in television and theater who was best known in the United States as the star of “The Equalizer,” a dramatic series about an ex-spy turned righteous vigilante in New York City, died on Monday in Truro, Cornwall, England. He was 79 and lived in London and Cornwall.

November 17, 2009    

Edward Woodward in ‘The Equalizer” in the mid-1980s.

The cause was pneumonia, said Janet Glass, Mr. Woodward’s agent for more than 30 years. Mr. Woodward had heart problems and other ailments, she said.

Mr. Woodward’s career began in 1946, when he first appeared onstage, and lasted for more than half a century. He was a versatile actor with an accomplished tenor singing voice who played a number of Shakespearean roles on the English stage; starred in the Broadway musical “High Spirits,” which was based on the Nöel Coward play “Blithe Spirit” and directed by Coward himself; recorded several albums as a singer and reciter of poetry; and played leading roles in films as various as the occult thriller “The Wicker Man” (1973) and the historical courtroom drama from Australia “Breaker Morant” (1980).

But his enduring fame, both in England and in the United States, was as a television actor who specialized in disgruntled secret agents. From 1967 to 1972, he played the title role in “Callan,” a noir British series (though its last seasons were filmed in color) about David Callan, a counterintelligence agent often called on for his skills as an assassin.

Callan, urbane and capable of charm but embittered and prone to anger, was a kind of anti-James Bond, presenting the spy’s life as glamourless and nearly mundane. Callan became a popular cult figure in England, and when the show was canceled graffiti peppered the walls in the working-class East End of London declaring, “Callan Lives!” and, “Bring Back Callan.”

From 1985 to 1989, Mr. Woodward played Robert McCall, the title character in “The Equalizer,” a former American agent for a never-named intelligence agency who has set up shop in New York to right the injustices done to people whom the police cannot or will not help. McCall was a veritable reprise of Callan, but now in middle age, a man who has seen how the powerless are exploited by the powerful and the innocent by the conniving and who can’t take it any more without doing something about it.

Well-dressed, unthreatening in appearance behind his professorial glasses, McCall was nonetheless a man with a volatile temper and a willingness to pull the trigger. He found his clients with classified ads: “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer.”

Edward Albert Arthur Woodward was born to working class parents in Croydon, Surrey, south of London, on June 1, 1930. As a teenager he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After his first stage appearance, in 1946, he had his London debut in 1954. In 1962, he appeared in “Rattle of a Simple Man,” a comedy by Charles Dyer in which he played an effeminate, sexually inhibited man who spends an evening with a prostitute. The show was a hit; when it moved to Broadway the following year, it wasn’t so well-received, but Mr. Woodward was.

“Mr. Woodward’s Percy is all but perfect,” Howard Taubman, the reviewer for The New York Times, wrote, adding: “He seems so truly the troubled, fearful middle-aged mother’s boy from Manchester that one forgets he is an actor. He speaks Mr. Dyer’s lines as if he had just invented them, and even the way he moves and wears his dull, respectable clothes are expressions of character.”

Coward evidently agreed, because after seeing Mr. Woodward in the role, he cast him as Charles Condomine, the debonair man frazzled by a visit from the ghost of his first wife (Tammy Grimes), in “High Spirits,” a musical that ran for almost a year and also starred Beatrice Lillie.

Mr. Woodward’s first marriage, to the actress Venetia Barrett, ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Michele Dotrice, a daughter of the actor Roy Dotrice; three children with Ms. Barrett, Tim, Peter and Sarah; a daughter, Emily, with Ms. Dotrice; and several grandchildren. All his children are actors.




Published: November 21, 2009

Paul Wendkos, a movie and television director best known for the frothy surfer film “Gidget,” but whose other productions ranged from thrillers to historical dramas, died Nov. 12 at his home in Malibu, Calif. He was 84.

November 22, 2009    

C. Christie Craig, via Associated Press

Paul Wendkos in 1957.

The cause was complications of a stroke, said his wife, Lin Bolen Wendkos.

Mr. Wendkos was assigned to direct “Gidget” in 1958, a year after Harry Cohn, the president of Columbia Pictures, signed him to a contract. The film starred Sandra Dee, then 17, as the tomboyish Francie Lawrence, who doesn’t understand why her girlfriends are so boy-crazy. Francie’s only interest in the guys at the beach is having them teach her how to surf. But love eventually snares her, and she’s soon drinking beer with the Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson) just to make Moondoggie (James Darren) jealous.

Released in 1959, the movie and its sequel, “Gidget Goes Hawaiian,” also directed by Mr. Wendkos, were hits and helped popularize a surfing culture that began spreading to the mainland.

Mr. Wendkos’s first feature film, “The Burglar,” starring Jayne Mansfield, then a little-known actress, had brought him to Mr. Cohn’s attention. Mr. Wendkos had raised the money for the movie, a low-budget thriller whose noirish style foreshadowed many of his later films. Ms. Mansfield played the girlfriend of the leader of a gang that steals a precious necklace and who then goes on the lam.

Among his more than 100 productions, Mr. Wendkos directed television movies about an amphetamine addict and an alcoholic who struggle for love (“A Cry for Love,” 1980); a man tortured by multiple personalities (“The Five of Me,” 1981); and a man who travels the country and marries 82 women (“Scorned and Swindled,” 1984).

Reviewing “Scorned and Swindled” in The New York Times, John J. O’Connor wrote, “Paul Wendkos directs with an unerring ability to make the decidedly bizarre seem almost comfortably commonplace.”

The struggle against slavery and discrimination was another theme for Mr. Wendkos. In 1978, he directed the mini-series “A Woman Called Moses,” starring Cicely Tyson as the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who helped organize the Underground Railroad. In 1989, he directed “Cross of Fire,” about the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana in the 1920s.

Besides the “Gidget” movies, Mr. Wendkos’s big-screen films include “Guns of the Magnificent Seven” (1969), a sequel to the 1960 western “The Magnificent Seven,” and “The Mephisto Waltz” (1971), about a classical pianist whose soul is assumed by another pianist.

Abraham Paul Wendkos was born in Philadelphia on Sept. 20, 1925, to Simon and Judith Wendkos. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he graduated from Columbia University and studied film at the New School for Social Research (now the New School).

Mr. Wendkos’s first wife, the former Ruth Burnat, died in 1978. Besides his wife, Lin Bolen Wendkos, he is survived by his son, Jordan, of Calabasas, Calif.; and a granddaughter.

One of the productions her husband was most proud of, Ms. Bolen Wendkos said, was “Right to Die,” a 1987 television movie with Raquel Welch as a strong-willed woman who is stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease and who must decide whether to go off life support.

“Here is a film that deals candidly and indeed toughly with a profoundly serious issue,” Mr. O’Connor wrote in his review, adding, “There is little pussyfooting and no phony uplift.”




Stefan Simonsen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Robert Enke was a leading candidate for the German World Cup team but feared his depression would break up his family.

Published: November 11, 2009
The official Web site of the Hannover 96 soccer club was blacked out Wednesday except for a simple statement: “Wir trauern um Robert Enke.” We mourn for Robert Enke.
November 12, 2009    

Gero Breloer/Associated Press

Hundreds of mourners in Germany attended a memorial for goalkeeper Robert Enke.

He was the club’s goalkeeper, its captain, its most likely player to make Germany’s World Cup team next year. On Tuesday evening, Enke was hit and killed by a train at a level crossing near his home.

Almost at once, the police talked of suicide, and his widow, Teresa, who had to identify the body at the scene, said at a news conference Wednesday that Enke suffered from a depression he feared could result in their family being broken up.

Germany was in shock. The mood from Chancellor Angela Merkel down was of silent waiting. Enke, 32, had an adopted 8-month-old daughter, Leila, and lived on a farm where he and his wife, both animal rights campaigners, kept many pets.

The German national squad, in Bonn preparing for a friendly match against Chile on Saturday, canceled training Wednesday. The match was also canceled.

Enke could have been with the team but for a recent intestinal infection, and Oliver Bierhoff, the national squad manager, summed it up, “We are too shocked to find words.”

Enke’s car, a Mercedes, was found near the crossing, unlocked and with his wallet on the passenger seat. The two train drivers saw a man on the track and applied the brakes, but at 160 kilometers an hour, or 100 miles an hour, it was too late to prevent the death.

The police said there was a suicide note, and German newspapers ran with two lines of commentary. One was that Enke, a quiet and reserved individual, was a troubled man ever since his biological daughter, Lara, died at the age of 2 in September 2006. She had a rare heart malformation. The other was the loneliness, the uncertainty, of a goalie’s situation.

On Wednesday afternoon, Teresa Enke said at a news conference attended by her husband’s psychologist that he was first treated in 2003. “When he was acutely depressive, he lacked motivation and hope,” she said. “I tried to be there for him. I said football is not everything, there are many beautiful things in life, it is not hopeless.”

The psychologist, Dr. Valentin Markser, said Enke had a fear of failure.

Enke had chosen as a boy to play in the most exposed position, the last line of defense, and the one first blamed when things go wrong. Born in Jena, in East Germany, he joined SV Jena Pharm in 1985, when he was 8.

He moved to Carl Zeiss Jena the next year and had been moving on ever since.

There were three years at Borussia Mönchengladbach, three years in Portugal with Benfica, a squad that went through three coaching changes while he was there and had financial difficulties that resulted in players sometimes being paid late.

Enke’s counseling began when he moved to Barcelona. He was the eternal understudy there, the rising German keeper given just three opportunities with the first team. Barcelona thought highly of him, but lent him to Fenerbache of Istanbul, then to Tenerife. His Turkish misadventure lasted just one match, a loss after which Fenerbache fans bombarded him with firecrackers and missiles in their anger at losing.

Finally, he found relative security at Hannover, where he stayed for five years despite offers to move to more glamorous clubs. He was the team captain, chosen in part by his fellow players. When Jens Lehmann retired from Germany’s national team after Euro 2008, Enke was expected to be entrusted with the jersey.

It was not certain. In goalkeeping, more than any other position, you are only as good as your last mistake. Trust is between the coach and the last man standing, and that presupposes that the goalie has the style, the personality and the authority that defenders in front of him also like and trust.

Enke was being pressed by René Adler, the 24-year-old Leipzig-born goalkeeper. Enke had more experience, Adler has youth, greater height and reach, and the advantage of playing for Bayer Leverkusen, which currently leads Germany’s Bundesliga.

Joachim Löw, the coach, was thought to favor Enke for the 2010 World Cup. But of course no trainer would make such a promise to one goalie, because it would be too great a disincentive to the others.

It seems the professional uncertainty fed Enke’s anxiety. Illness and injury could not have helped. A year ago, shortly after Lehmann left the national squad, Enke lost two months to a broken bone in his hand.

In his final game for the German national team in August, he had a goalkeeper’s dream score, shutting out Azerbaijan. Then he contracted an intestinal virus that cost him another nine weeks. He had just returned to Hannover’s lineup.

The loneliness of a player sidelined for months, the exclusion from the team training and comradeship, are all part of the professional experience.

As fans laid wreaths and lighted candles at the gates of the stadium, Teresa Enke faced the news media there. She said: “He was scared of losing Leila if his depression came out. Now it is coming out anyway. We thought we could do everything with love, but you can’t always do it.”

And so along with his widow, a club and the national team also mourn for a man who took his own life near the peak of his sporting career




Published: November 21, 2009
Elisabeth Soderstrom, the Swedish soprano acclaimed for the plangent richness and intelligence of her singing and for her wide-ranging repertory, including influential portrayals of leading roles in the operas of Janacek, died on Friday in Stockholm, her native city.
November 22, 2009    
Scanpix, via European Pressphoto Agency

Elisabeth Soderstrom as Madame Butterfly in 1953.

Her death came after several years of complications from a stroke, said the Swedish mezzo-soprano Kerstin Meyer, her friend and colleague, speaking by phone from Stockholm. Ms. Soderstrom was 82.

While Ms. Soderstrom was admired by opera lovers around the world, notably in Sweden and England, where she performed most often, within the field she was revered. With her radiant, creamy voice, thorough musicianship and keen dramatic instincts, she was a model for singers.

In roles like the Countess in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,” the Marschallin in Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier,” Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and more, she combined insightful acting with nuanced singing and a lovely stage presence to create alluring and memorable performances. An element of Scandinavian reserve in her dramatic and vocal artistry enhanced her work, lending an elusive quality to her portrayals.

Reviewing a song recital that Ms. Soderstrom gave at the Frick Collection in New York in 1975, the New Yorker critic Andrew Porter perceptively summed up her artistry. Her “quick musical intelligence, her vivid and engaging temperament, and a protean voice not exceptionally powerful but well able to compass soubrette mirth and tragic passion have brought her triumphs in a wide variety of roles,” Mr. Porter wrote.

Anna Elisabeth Soderstrom, born in Stockholm on May 7, 1927, was the daughter of a Swedish naval captain and a Russian mother. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music and Opera School in Stockholm, she made her debut as Mozart’s Bastienne when she was just 20 at the Drottningholm Court Theater, on the outskirts of the city, a company she would direct in the mid-1990s.

Shortly after her debut, she joined the Swedish Royal Opera. She remained a member of that company until her retirement. In her early years she focused on soubrette roles, including Mozart heroines. Soon she was branching out dramatically. Her debut at the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival in England came in 1957 as the Composer in Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos,” and for years she remained a favorite with the festival. Among Strauss singers, she was one of the few to have sung all three lead roles in “Der Rosenkavalier,” as the Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie.

A milestone in her career came in the 1969-70 season with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, when she sang Mélisande in an acclaimed production of Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” conducted by Pierre Boulez, subsequently recorded. That Sony Classical recording, with George Shirley as Pelléas, is considered by many to be definitive.

Another series of landmark performances and recordings involved the Australian conductor Charles Mackerras, an informed champion of the Janacek operas. Ms. Soderstrom became Mr. Mackerras’s soprano of choice for his Decca label recordings of complete Janacek operas, including “Jenufa” and “Katya Kabanova,” with Ms. Soderstrom singing the title roles, and “The Makropulos Case,” a mysterious, haunting work in which Ms. Soderstrom portrayed, unforgettably, the 300-year-old Emilia Marty.

Among the many contemporary roles she sang were Elisabeth Zimmer in Hans Werner Henze’s “Elegy for Young Lovers” and Juliana Bordereau in Dominick Argento’s “Aspern Papers” for the premiere production in Dallas in 1988. She was also an active song recitalist.

Throughout her career, Ms. Soderstrom relied on the support of her husband, Sverker Olow, a retired Swedish naval officer, whom she married in 1950. Mr. Olow survives her, along with three sons, Malcolm, Peter and Jens Olow, and several grandchildren.

Ms. Soderstrom made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1959 as Susanna in Mozart’s “Figaro.” For the next five years, she made regular appearances at the Met, but then drifted mostly to Europe, returning in the 1980s for performances as the Marschallin in “Der Rosenkavalier” and the Countess in “Figaro.”

For her last Met performances, she came out of retirement, essentially, to sing the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades,” a dramatically complex and crucial role with scant vocal demands. She received an enormous ovation.


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Many people by now are very familiar with the movie “Precious-Based on the Novel “Push”, by Sapphire. But, how many of you have heard of the movie “American Violet”? Not many, I would surmise. “American Violet” is an even better movie that addresses how hard-working Black citizens can be railroaded into jail and prison, especially when those charges levied against a Black citizen consist of trumped-up drug charges.

American Violet” involves the story of a single Black American mother, Regina Kelly, who struggles against a racist/sexist system to clear her name after being wrongly accused and arrested for dealing drugs in an impoverished town in Texas. It is base on a “true story” a film based on the racially charged drug war scandal that rocked the town of Hearne, Texas, nine years ago, and the film explores the devastating impact of America’s “war on drugs”. Directed by Tim Disney and written by Bill Haney, the film stars Alfre Woodard, Will Patton, Tim Blake Nelson, Charles Dutton, and Nicole Beharie as Regina Kelly. It is part of a long, sad, and sorry string of incidents in the lives of the mostly Black citizens who not able to afford high-powered legal defense, threatened with long prison sentences, and excessive bail, when wrongly accused of selling drugs. This story is similar to the well-known incident of Tulia, Texas, where many poor residents, mostly Black, some Latinos, and a few Whites who were dating Blacks, were accused of selling drugs to a corrupt racist White cop, Tom Coleman).


Eventually many of the accused Blacks were exonerated. One young woman, Tonya White , was innocent because she had an ironclad alibi————–charges against her had to be dropped when lawyers produced bank records that proved she was in Oklahoma City at the time that Coleman said the drug transaction had occurred.  After the destruction of Coleman’s testimony, the DA’s case aginst many of the accused was torn to shreds. Thanks to the tireless vigilant efforts of The Justice Project, a non-profit organization that works to improve the fairness and accuracy of the criminal justice system, many innocent Black people have actually found justice in an otherwise unjust society, via TJP, with many of those accused living in the state of Texas.

 But, I digress.

“American Violet”, shows how unequal under the law people are where it concerns drugs. How the gestapo, police state storm-trooper mentality seeks the destruction of the Black community and how not only the local police, but the federal government’s involvement in the so-called drug war has escalated in the massive concentration-type arrests of Black citizens who are accused of selling drugs.



File:AMERICANVIOLET Onesheet small.jpg

The so-called war on drugs is unconstitutional. It is racist. It seeks to destroy the very people who do not bring drugs into this country. It paints a face of black on drugs when in essence, and truth, the face of drugs is anything but black:  those who have the big money, boats, planes, money laundering, drug kingpins, and international drug cartel connections to mule-traffic drugs into America.

When a weak, cowardly and sniveling Democratic-backed congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act  back in 1986, they did not realize the maelstrom they set into action, especially with the dichotomy shown between powder cocaine and crack cocaine and drug sentencing  for prison time. Though both drugs differ in looks and composition, they are still drugs which give a feeling of euphoria to the users. But, with the disparate and draconian sentencing that occurs with each drug (crack cocaine users/sellers given stiffer and stronger prison sentencing than powder cocaine users/sellers), the use of federal money and sensational headlines in newspapers across the country, to prosecutors seeking the highest sentence that can be obtained, the so-called war on drugs has let loose a militaristic attack on poor Black communities, to support the drug task forces that storm into and occupy poor Black neighborhoods as if they are some foreign country rife for occupation and decimation.

Power-and-vote-hungry district attorneys have literally taken over the court system with their demagogue law-and-order mantra that poor Black people are the demons to fear where drugs are concerned, and when people like Regina are targeted, they become just one more notch in the scalp belts of district attorneys. The brow-beating of rail-roaded Blacks into copping a plea of guilt to avoid a long prison term, fuels the DA’s desire to obtain more federal monies to create drug task-force units that are funded by the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program (which was refunded under President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan), with the money disbursed based on the number of drug busts and people accused, as opposed to the validity and legal evidence obtained to detain and hold the accused citizens in these bogus drug busts. The more people arrested, the more grants/funding the counties/states receive. Therefore, the stomping on Black citizens is regarded as collateral damage in the war on drugs———–no matter who is destroyed by it. Even a mother with children. Not to mention, that the DA/drug task forces, feel that they will not be challenged on their ruthless actions; the belief that everyone so charged will buckle under their bullying tactics. That no one will speak out against them.

But Regina surprised her accusers and tormentors.

She fought back.

In the ACLU team-led case against the government, Regina and the 16 people who were accused  of drug traffiking went to court, with Regina agreeing to be the lead plaintiff in the case. The so-called drug task force was shown up for what it was:  attackers who cared nothing for the law on which they trampled (putting the Black residents on lockdown, searching and detaining innocent residents, often in handcuffs for lengthy periods of time and  without warrant or cause), but, they also cared nothing for the lives and humanity of the Hearne, Texas Black citizens.

Regina Kelly, and Erma Faye Stewart  (another victim in the Hearn, Tx. case), know what it is like to accused, and arrested, unjustly, as this PBS/Frontline documentary shows.

Facts have long been in need of being faced. . . .

. . . .the so-called “War on Drugs” is a dismal failure, and moreso because of its targeting the Black community.

These race-based sweeps are a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment and the Ninth Amendment.

In fact, some counties are leaving the so-called drug task forces (mainly because their tactics have embroiled them in controversy and tragedy):

“Travis County Leaving Anti-Drug Task Force”

The American Civil Liberties Union has called upon Congress to reform the Department of Justice Grant Program that subsidizes these race-based drug raids.

(See also:

“Congess Scrutinizes the Use of Informants in Drug Law Enforcement Following Accidental Shooting of 92-Year-Old Woman”

“ACLU Coalition Letter to House Judiciary Leadership Urging Them Not to Reauthorize the Bryne Justice Assistance Grant”

If you are able, view “American Violet”.

American violence has fueled the so-called war on drugs, and many innocent Black people continue to be the casualties of war in the pathway of this mindless, senseless juggernaut of inhumanity.

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Founded in 1989, by panel member Karen Evans, the Black Women Playwright’s Group seeks to address the issues that Black women playwrights face in an overwhelmingly White and male-dominated industry. 


Karen L.B. Evans is President and Founder of the Black Women Playwrights’ Group. She has received Individual Fellowships in Playwriting from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. She was a Helen Hayes nominee for “Outstanding New Play” as well as a Sundance Institute finalist. Karen participated in the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference and is a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Center.

At the close of a seminar at the Arena Stage that focused on the African American woman playwright, Karen Evans used her concluding remarks to talk about the loneliness of being Black and female in this profession and asked for the names and addresses of women in the audience who were playwrights.  She held a meeting at her home the following month and became BWPG’s president and founder. Since then the group has met regularly on a monthly basis to provide professional support to its members. Incorporated in 1993, BWPG held its first retreat in 1999 and received 501 (c)3 status in 1999.



The Black Women Playwrights’ Group (BWPG) is a service and advocacy group for African American playwrights writing for the professional theater. The mission of BWPG is to support and promote the work of our members as well as advocate on critical issues within the theater world. Many of our members come to us after being misunderstood or ignored in larger white, and sometimes male-dominated, writing groups. There is an established need among regional theaters for new artists to explore the African American experience, and BWPG is a conduit between African American women playwrights and theaters, ensuring that the voices heard on the American stage are rich and diverse.



  • Monthly writing workshops
  • Year round networking opportunities with directors, producers, designers and actors
  • Encouraging, fun and professional atmosphere

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Founded in 1997 by award winning actress Terri J. Vaughn, who is a product of one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most notorious inner city neighborhoods, the Take Wings Foundation encourages young girls to “take wings and soar” in giving back to their community, by specifically address the needs of the young women living in Hunters Point and similar communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Foundation encourages personal growth and development, and provides a series of workshops geared towards developing positive self esteem. The Foundation also provides a variety of activities for young adult women that give them the opportunity to interact with positive role models, receive academic scholarships, and participate in community service projects.



Take Wings Foundation envisions a productive community of positive, educated, professional and confident young people who are serving their communities by being role models for future generations.



The mission of the Take Wings Foundation is to build self esteem of at-risk girls between the ages of 13-18 living in the greater San Francisco Bay Area by providing positive experiences and role modeling.



Take Wings Foundation provides scholarships to assist graduating high school seniors in furthering their formal education and to provide all participants the opportunity to attend leadership programs.

Community Service

Take Wings Foundation requires all participants to complete 40 hours of community service annually. The purpose is to provide the girls the opportunity to serve their community and to build self-esteem through knowing their participation helps to make a difference in the lives of others.

Life Skills Development

Take Wings Foundation provides life skills training that is comprised of various workshops, group and one-to-one activities that allows girls to experience and learn through (but not limited to) sessions on etiquette, health awareness, conflict resolution, financial literacy, personal leadership and decision making.

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Images of Black Women showcases the skills, talents, creativity and of many Black women in the film industry, whether in front of the camera, or behind it. The site celebrates and promotes women of African-descent in cinema, thereby increasing the visibility, and acknowledgement of women of African-descent in film.

IBW achieves these goals by giving a Lifetime Achievement Award by screening an established woman filmmaker’s work; an Emerging Filmmaker’s Award, a short film competition for 15-minute length films; an Animation Workshop, a program for children between the ages of 8-14-years of age; Young Adult Digital program, for young people 16+ years of age; and workshops and seminars on the film industry, how to navigate it and how to film documentaries.

The festival, back at the Tricycle Theater in London, England, showcases films that seek to dispel the negative images of Black women in film and videos, presents films from directors and producers by African and Black women throughout the Diaspora, and a Q&A panel of actors, directors and producers who will be on hand to discuss their films.  Tickets for the festival can be bought for a weekend pass or on an individual basis for a specific film.

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Here is a website, Cinnamongirl, Inc.  that addresses the needs, accomplishments, and positive contributions that Black American and Latina American girls give to their families, communities, and nation. 

The organization seeks to develop “proud, confidant and courageous women”, to empower them, and help them reach their highest potential,  in a world that constantly seeks their annihilation and defamation.

The website’s “Bill of Rights” speaks to the needs of black and brown girls uniqueness as individuals, their right to be loved, to have opportunities in life, to express their intelligence, and their pride in themselves as human beings in this country and this world.

All-in-all, a very worthy organization for more uplifting of black and brown girls.

The site’s overview is as follows:

OverviewThe Cinnamongirl Inc. (CGI) program is designed to complement the education participants receive in school. Each month the 15 participants and 8 mentors spend time organized under three main headings: Relationship Building, Enrichment Activities and Empowerment Dialogues.In these meetings, participants are introduced to a wide variety of experiential activities that promote in CGI‘s participants a sense of belonging to a community in which they explore personal-growth discussions and enrichment trips related to culture, history, health & nutrition, education and career development.

Sharing these experiences encourage support, guidance and “sistership.”

Relationships with Dynamic Women

Participants build long-lasting relationships with professional women across career paths and backgrounds. Participants also establish new friendships with other highly motivated young girls.

Enrichment Activities

Participants will experience a world outside their community. Enrichment trips include visits to cultural festivals, museums, live theatre, career development, Day-in-the-Life…and more.

Empowerment Dialogues

The girls will participate in discussions like, “What Is a True Leader”, “Handling Rejection, Criticism & Failure” and “Developing a Positive Body Image.” Moderators facilitate these discussions and mentors add their feelings and experiences.

The <acronym>CGI</acronym> Program



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A Turned Around Life

By Stacey Kennelly

This article was published on 11.12.09.

Former skinhead TJ Leyden used to recruit kids into the white-supremacy movement. Now, as an anti-racism activist, he teaches children about tolerance.
Combatting hate: TJ Leyden’s lecture was sponsored by the Paradise Center for Tolerance and Nonviolence. Visit for info on upcoming events. He also spoke last week at Chico State.
To learn more about Leyden, visit

One day, while watching a Nickelodeon show featuring black actors, TJ Leyden’s younger son haughtily walked up to the television. The boy pushed the power button and turned around to scold his father.

“Daddy, no nigger-watchin’ in the house,” the 3-year-old chided.

Leyden, who was then a member of the white-supremacy movement, at first reacted with a mix of humor and surprise. However, as he continued to mull what the toddler had said, he couldn’t help but think about his many stints in jail, the time he was stabbed at a party, and his cousin who is serving a life sentence at San Quentin State Prison for stabbing someone more than 60 times.

“If I didn’t want my boys to be that or be me, what was wrong with me?” Leyden recalled asking himself. “What was wrong with my beliefs?”

That startling confession is just a glimpse into Leyden’s transformation from violent bigot to anti-hate activist. Co-author of Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope, the 43-year-old commanded the attention of more than 60 people for nearly two hours Sunday evening Nov. 8, at the Paradise Elks Lodge during a community forum called “Turning Away From Hate.” His story was one of a violent adolescence and a shameful adulthood spent recruiting young men into the white-supremacy movement.

His foray into that world began in the late 1970s. Leyden, who grew up in the Southern California city of Fontana, was a punk-rock kid known for his extreme aggression. Back then, he explained that the scene focused on violence, anarchy and a “might makes right” attitude.

When Leyden’s parents divorced in 1980, he sought further refuge in this subculture. He began spending more and more time on the streets and at punk shows, where he turned increasingly violent. His behavior attracted attention of the worst kind—from older men who were skinheads.

“The older kids saw, and they liked my violence,” said the bespectacled Leyden, whose tattooed forearms showed below a short-sleeved plaid shirt.

Around the same time, skinheads began breaking into two factions: The SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) and the neo-Nazis. Leyden and his white middle-class friends created one of the first neo-Nazi skinhead gangs in Southern California, and began terrorizing others in nearby Redlands—for reasons ranging from race to physical appearance.

Leyden described feeling “intolerance for anyone, even the white kids,” and engaged in beatings of anyone who rubbed him the wrong way. He rattled off a list of gruesome stories involving humiliation, degradation and mutilation of those who resisted recruitment into the gang or offended members in any way. The group used steel-toed boots and other weapons against their victims.

His described himself as “a hood ornament for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department” during that period of his life. On nearly 20 occasions he spent time in jail—a place that only perpetuated his separatist ideology and racism.

Leyden took all that he had learned with him when he joined the United States Marine Corps, which he claims permitted passive racism. He recalled passing out copies of The Turner Diaries to fellow soldiers, sharing with them the racist and anti-Semitic novel written by physicist and ’80s-era white separatist leader William L. Pearce.

“While I was passing out the book in my Marine uniform, someone else was passing out The Turner Diaries in an Army uniform—Timothy McVeigh,” Leyden said, eliciting a gasp from the audience.

His role in the military also allowed him to begin working with separatist groups. He affiliated with the organization The Order (also known as the Silent Brotherhood), a white nationalist revolutionary group that declared “war” on the U.S. government for being controlled by a group of conspiring Jews.

“Seriously, it’s not a game,” Leyden assured the audience. “They think of it as a war.”

Leyden said he was never approached by military officials about the blatant “A” (for Aryan) tattoos, swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols that littered his body, including an obvious symbol tatted on the side of his neck. He had “earned” many of these adornments through race altercations and hate crimes. Eventually, the military sent him to rehabilitation and then discharged him a year early due to violent behavior and drinking.

He married a white-supremacist woman and had his first child after leaving the military. He also hit the streets in an effort to attract young men to the skinhead lifestyle. His recruitment tactics were manipulative and methodical; he focused on boys who showed signs of violent behavior, exploiting their vulnerabilities and malleable senses of self-identity and belonging. Leyden explained how he attended parties filled with young people, where alcohol-fueled violence and a “tear-down-and-rebuild” technique of humiliation and affirmation drew in youngsters afraid of being victimized by skinhead violence.

Leyden remained in the movement for 15 years. The turning point was the day his 3-year-old uttered that racial slur. He left the movement a year and a half later.

His reformation took place with the help of his mother, who lived out of state. Leyden turned over all his racist propaganda to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and debriefed officials about his past. He also reluctantly met with rabbis—with his mother at his side for support—who eventually encouraged him to speak out against his friends in the white-power movement. The decision has made him a target for retaliation.

Leyden made his first appearance at a Bakersfield middle school in 1996, and has since spoken in front of more than 850,000 school kids about tolerance and is active in efforts to remove racist Web sites from the Internet and create stricter hate-crime laws. California ranks No. 1 in the nation for the most hate groups, with 88 active.

He and his second wife, Julia, founded StrHATE Talk Consulting, an organization that fights against intolerance and discrimination through education. Leyden called on the audience to “fight with their minds” to become active anti-racists, and not to engage in the perpetuation of stereotypes in local communities. He noted the positive impact volunteering with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club has on young people, and how mentors can deter children from adopting a lifestyle of hate.

“Help this world stop creating people like me,” he pleaded.


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