A Time For Giving Thanks!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Originally posted on November 24, 2010, and subsequently on November 27, 2013 by alphaheel

As in the past, since it is Thanksgiving Week, this post will deviate from the standard fare. I know that travel schedules (impeded by weather events this year), meal planning, family time, shopping, football, parades, and if there is any time remaining, relaxation, will dominate this week. However, it is Wednesday, so there shall be a blog! It is definitely brief.

Those among us who have perfected humility, and ascended to a genuine Nirvana state, have no doubt, also elevated giving thanks to an art form. The rest of us must fully invest our appreciation in the notion, “That’s why we have Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, which kicks off what we refer to commonly as the Holiday Season. Almost instinctively, Thanksgiving and Christmas come to mind. Yet, there is so more than that to the Season.

Over the next 54 days, many of us will enjoy succulent feasting at Thanksgiving, exchange gifts and contribute to the needy during Hanukkah. We will buy, give, exchange, and/or receive gifts at Christmas, eat, drink, and celebrate the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa, and party and toast the dawn of 2011 (2014/2015), on New Year’s Day. We will honor the life and works of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on MLK Day. In addition, even in these tough (though improving) economic times, this weekend, millions of Americans will pay (literally) homage to our most celebrated of shoppers’ holiday weekends, Black FridaySmall Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, by rising early, and proceeding to scour the aisles for those perfect gifts…and if not perfect, at least cheap, relatively speaking.

In past years, I have recounted my reasons for being thankful. This year I find that I have more reasons than ever to sit contemplatively in humble repose, and affirm boldly, that I know, without caveat, not only the goodness, no the greatness of God, but also of his inestimable and inexhaustible beneficence. I thank Him for deliverance, and for imbuing me with the sense and sensibility to discern the distinction between kairos and chronos, Greek concepts for God’s time, and man’s time, respectively.

Eons ago, when I was a college student, I joined a fraternity; the Oldest, Boldest, and Coldest…but I digress. The point of this reference is that during the erstwhile pledge process, as prospective initiates, we were required to learn a series of poems. There were many, each selected to convey a specific life lesson. Many of them have stayed with me, but none more than Invictus, written by English poet, William Ernest Henley (1849-1903). The Latin translation for Invictus is Undefeated. You may recall it, but just in case, see it below:

Invictus (Latin for Undefeated) By William Ernest Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

So, as you go about your way tomorrow, and all the tomorrows that follow, recognize that Thanksgiving, at its core, is not simply a day on the calendar. It is a spirit that dwells within us, an impulse that prompts us to thank God (for our being undefeated), and the graciousness to share His blessings with our fellow men and women. Indeed, everyday is “A Time for Giving Thanks!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:













Blue Heaven: One Man’s View

It’s time to Break It Down!

This post in no way purports to be the last word on what for me is a sad and unfortunate situation. Neither is it intended to be the first word, nor an insider’s word. Consider it a personal word, a palliative act, a therapeutic reaction, a cathartic exhaling in response to the constant coverage of my alma mater’s widely publicized transgressions.

I begin by stipulating the obvious. From beginning to end, and we are told that spanned 18 years, many individuals skirted, or down right flouted the rules of convention!

There are those, especially in the media, and card-carrying members of the ABC (Anybody But Carolina) Club, who insist the UNC scandal is “the worst ever”…in the history of the world. Of course I don’t believe that. But I readily concede, I am not only an avid Tar Heel fan; I am a proud alumnus, and Life Member of the University’s General Alumni Association. I have been visiting the campus since the early 1960’s when my mother was treated for cancer at UNC Hospitals. A decade and a half later I earned a Graduate Degree from the Department of City & Regional Planning. I’ve been a die-hard Tar Heel Basketball fan since 1967, when Charlie Scott enrolled, and quickly became the first African American to become a star basketball player in the ACC. As the promo goes at UNC sporting events, I’m Leon Miller, and “I’m a Tart Heel!”

Despite a litany of bases for bias, I am neither blind, nor dense, when it comes to UNC. First and foremost, the purpose and mission of any university, and especially the flagship institution of the State of North Carolina, regularly earning recognition as a Public Ivy, is to provide an exceptional educational experience to those students who enroll and matriculate. Clearly, over a period of 18 years, for more than 3,000 students, the University failed to achieve its mission. It is impossible to stipulate the former without conceding the latter. That is unfortunate. I am disappointed, angry, and embarrassed. I am not, however, abandoning the ship. I’m still a Tar Heel!

There is one reason, and one reason alone that the activities at UNC can be labeled the “the worst ever.” The underpinning for that view is simple. UNC has made more, greater, and more forthcoming efforts to investigate its transgressions, and to subsequently inform, not only a faculty or high-level academic council, but also, the university community at-large, and indeed the world. That in no way reduces the sting, the stench, or the stigma, but it does provide a clear window into the pathway the university is taking to remediate both its internal business processes, as well as its reputation. Carolina remains a font of knowledge, and a Citadel of Learning.

The University of North Carolina has not only conducted numerous reviews, both internal and external, it has terminated, prosecuted, and or forced retirement of the principals tied directly to fostering and executing the nefarious scheme that led to the scandal. In addition, UNC has initiated a vast array of new and revised policies and procedures designed to ensure that administrators never again repeat such academic indiscretions.

The University has launched several initiatives to strengthen the academic experience for its nearly 800 students who are athletes. Those include “Carolina Leads,” a strategic plan that is a roadmap for all aspects of Carolina athletics, including academics as well as the department’s alignment with the University, competition, finances, community service, and the hiring and training of coaches, administrators and support staff.

Those initiatives also include the creation of the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group led by Provost James W. Dean Jr. and Cunningham; the hiring of Michelle Brown to direct the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes; and an increased role for the Faculty Athletics Committee.

The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes now reports directly to the provost, the University’s chief academic officer.

Even among Tar Heel faithful, the debate rages about whether the scandal was academic or athletic. While it’s clear an academic dreamed up and executed this horrible scam, I tend to agree with Chancellor Folt, who in the aftermath of the now infamous Wainstein Report, declared, “Wainstein’s findings definitely show that the fraud was both an academic and athletic problem.” She went on to say, “The bad actions of a very few and inaction of many more failed our students, faculty and staff and undermined our institution.” She termed it an “inexcusable betrayal of our values.”

There is yet another shoe to drop. The NCAA still must weigh in on this matter. I have no crystal ball, so I will not even hazard a guess as to the scope of their prospective actions. I know many folks, who do not cheer for the Tar Heels hope one or more Basketball Titles will disappear. I have heard others posit that scholarships should be withdrawn. Any or all of that could happen; anything is possible. Those who follow the NCAA know the Body is capable of the unpredictable.

My alma mater is culpable in this matter. I neither seek, nor expect sympathy for their case. What I would hope for is a more balanced presentation of the facts. Broadly speaking, the media too often does what it does. That is, tell a sensationalized version of the story, that while mostly true, omits or deletes key details necessary for the presentation to be fair and balanced. For example, I saw an article this week in a national publication that asserted that 3,100 athletes took the paper classes of a period of nearly 20 years. The Wainstein Report was released a month ago. That is lazy journalism. Yes, 18 years is nearly 20, but not only is it more economical to say “18 years,” it’s also accurate. Speaking of accurate, it is flat inaccurate to claim 3,100 athletes were in the classes. It is true that 3,100 students took the classes, but…less than half those were athletes. That is a huge piece of statistical misinformation.

I get it; the story is not going away. OK, fine, tell the story, just get the facts straight. That’s all I’m asking. And that, my friends, is my story, and I’m sticking to it. “Blue Heaven: One Man’s View!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:





















“The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month!”

Five years ago, I wrote a post in recognition of Veteran’s Day, and the service personnel we as a nation honor on that day. In 2009, as will be the case next year, Veterans Day fell on Wednesday, and as such, the stars aligned perfectly for that week’s blog post. As our nation continues to grapple with conflict overseas, I decided to re-post the Veteran’s Day 2009 Edition of “Break It Down!”  

It’s worth noting that while our fighting forces officially exited Iraq in December 2011, we still have military personnel there.  Our forces are expected to leave Afghanistan (the other hotspot referenced in the initial post) by 2016.  Also, for the record, we have a variety of personnel in Iran, Syria, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Pakistan, Philipines, and Yemen…lest you think the world is a peaceful place.  

Enjoy, and if you didn’t take the opportunity to thank a veteran yesterday, reach out and do so today. Moreover, to all of you who are veterans, “Thank you for your service.”

Many of you know, or at least faintly recall that I frequently alter the blog format to integrate holiday traditions into the discussion. Often holidays are expanded by days away from work, long weekends, travel, and a host of leisure activities. In those cases, I prefer to scale back in recognition that aside from road map directions, GPS instructions, and the like, very little reading will be taking place.

As most Americans know, today is Veterans Day. At a time when the United States is engaged in twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and working fervently to ease tensions in a trio of other hot spots, including Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea, American service men and women are regularly front and center. The unfathomable horror visited upon soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas last week makes the value and vulnerability of one of our greatest resources resonate even more palpably. But what do we really know about this day that has been set aside to honor real American heroes and sheroes?

Well, first, Veterans Day is not Memorial Day, and vice-versa. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day is intended largely to honor Living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty. Memorial Day honors those veterans who died in the service of their country, particularly those killed in combat, or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

We also know that Veterans Day is a different kind of federal holiday. With the exception of Sundays, it falls on its actual date. In 1968, Congress approved the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This law, which took effect in 1971, amended the observance of certain federal holidays so that Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day would be observed on Mondays instead of fixed dates.

Congress passed the Act to increase the number of three-day holiday weekend for federal employees. After a loud and persistent outcry from veterans and veterans groups, who argued the historical significance of November 11th was compromised by the change, Veterans Day observance was returned to November 11th in 1978.

So how did this affinity for November 11th come about? As with many historical facts, it evolved. Veterans Day began as Armistice Day. The significance of Armistice Day is that it was the day of the signing of the Armistice that terminated World War I (WW I). In effect, WW I ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. That was when the Germans signed the document, ending hostilities that had begun in 1914. President Woodrow Wilson subsequently proclaimed the first Armistice Day, November 11, 1919.

WW I was deemed The Great War, and was thought by many, at the time, to be “The War That Ended All Wars.” It was, as the numeric designation suggests, the first World War. Of course, more wars would ensue. There was World War II (WW II), later the Korean Conflict, and then Vietnam.

In 1953, a store owner in Emporia, Kansas, Al King launched an idea to honor all veterans, not just those who served in WW I. The idea took root, sailed through Congress, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law May 26, 1954. Congress amended the Act November 8, 1954, changing Armistice to Veterans, and thus it has been ever since.

So today, especially around The 11th Hour of This 11th Day of the 11th Month,” to augment a popular bumper sticker, “If you can read this, thank a teacher…and a veteran!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:


















Electoral Trilogy: The End of the Story

Yesterday was Election Day in America. Three weeks ago, I challenged my home state, with a directive, “North Carolina Raise Up,” and vote, as the state’s Early Voting process kicked off. My homies responded. The voters of the state recognized what was at stake, and came out in stout numbers throughout a legislatively (I believe vote suppressing) shortened Early Voting session.

I followed up the first week’s primal urging with a clarifying question, “#TURNOUTFORWHAT?” In that post, I explained what was at stake, pointing out a number of clear and pressing reasons for anyone with a moderate-to-progressive outlook to tune out the noise and just go vote.

Disregarding the cacophony of media talking heads that have been predicting for weeks that the Senate would almost certainly transition to a Republican majority, I chose instead to focus on what I believed to be an opportunity for Democrats to control their own destiny. North Carolina, at this juncture in time, is a purple state. Still, in a statewide race, unencumbered by the heavily partisan gerrymandering of a Republican State Legislature, Democrats retained an opportunity to do their part to resist the inexorable push to turn the Senate Red.

As I wrote, it is likely that when the dust settled, the GOP will control the Senate, and conceivable that Senator Hagan would not be able to hold on to her seat. Ultimately, that is precisely how it played out. There are still a few votes to be counted, but the Republicans will control the Senate and NC.

In the final analysis, I observe with bemusement that that the GOP message, intent on tapping into a wave of discontent with President of Obama was not only successful for its base, it was so effective that many Democrats eschewed any attachment with the President. At least one Senate candidate even refused to admit she voted for the President, despite the fact she served as an Obama Delegate…twice. I am not a politician, and I have no desire or inclination to become one. I do admit, I find it dispiriting to see candidates, even in states the President won, in effect, advising the President to stay the heck away.

I voted early, and continuously advised others to vote, either early, or on Election Day. But, while I lamented the GOP’s brazen acts of voter suppression, I confess, it does not surprise me that African Americans and young voters, staples of the Obama Coalition, voted in much lower numbers than in 2012. Yes, it’s true Americans vote less across the board in midterm elections. However, I think yesterday may have been a preview for a systemic issue that may haunt Democrats in 2016.

The famed Obama GOTV (Get Out The Vote) mechanism proved formidable in 2008, and again in 2012. Yet, in 2014, just as in 2010, it proved to be a vastly different tool when Barack Obama was not on the ballot. It is a formula, but I submit, the secret sauce is the President. Without him, it will not be the same. The theory among the candidates who distanced themselves from the President was that the President was toxic. He would have been a burden, not a boon, were he to have campaigned for them. They believed, by shunning the President, white folks would come back to the Party. How’d that work for them?

The truth is, Democrats have one loyal voting block…African Americans. The President has for six years gone out of his way to establish that he is the President of America, not black America. However, despite not catering to them, African Americans voted overwhelmingly for President Obama over two elections, giving him an average of 95% of their votes.

Republicans blame the President for every ill the country experiences, from Wars in the Middle East to Ebola. Simultaneously, they refuse to credit him for the improved economy, the robust Dow, the elevation of the S&P 500, relative GDP Growth, the reduction of the deficit, the increase in consumer confidence…even lower gas prices. Democrats just ran from him. Political Scientists will discuss this for the foreseeable future, but in some of the closest races, Florida, and North Carolina for example, a Presidential presence, versus absence, may have made a difference. There may not have been enough traction to prevent flipping the Senate…but then again, there might have been. So, alas, we’ve come to this…”Electoral Trilogy: The End of the Story!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: