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December 7, 1941: A Date Which Will Live In Infamy Redux ’21

It’s time to Break It Down!

A decade ago, yesterday, in observance of the 70th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing by Japan, I wrote the following post. The 80th Anniversary seems like an apt occasion to revisit subject. Since I wrote the post in 2011, a few years ago, my wife and I visited Honolulu, Hawaii, and Pearl Harbor, including the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial, and the USS Cisco (Submarine) Memorial Pearl Harbor Historic Sites. It was a great trip with lots of amazing history and artifacts. So, here’s the original post:

Seventy years ago today, an incursion of the highest order befell our great nation.  On that fateful Sunday in early December, the Japanese Empire, with the aid of its naval and air forces, attacked the American military installation at Pearl HarborHawaii.  Although, Hawaii did not officially become the 50th State until June 27, 1959, the Republic of Hawaii was annexed, and had become the incorporated U.S. Territory of Hawaii on July 6, 1898.  To wit, America was, in an instant, immersed in World War II (WWII), by default.

The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) met with the U.S. Congress to request a Declaration of War, and in so doing, uttered these now famous words: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval andair forces of the Empire of Japan.”

This brazen and unmitigated act of war had surprised the American military establishment, and the Country as a whole.  While we as Americans remember the pillage at Pearl Harbor, the comprehensive nature of the Japanese attacks, though amply documented, is less well-known.  In fact, over a two-day span, Japan spread a torrent of carnage throughout the Pacific, including:

·         Torpedoing ships between Honolulu and San Francisco

·         Launching an offensive against Malaya

·         Assailing Hong Kong

·         Raiding Guam

·         Attacking the Philippine Islands

·         Raiding Wake Island

·         Invading Midway Island

FDR’s request was granted of course.  Four days later, on December 11thGermany, and Italy, which had signed a three-nation pact with Japan on September 27, 1940, declared war on the United States.  In his prepared statement, Adolph Hitler declared Germany and Italy were compelled to defend their ally, Japan.  At that point, it’s fair to say it was on!  From December 7, 1941, until Japan surrendered, unconditionally, on September 2, 1945, global Armageddon raged.  Over those 3 ¾ years, many of the key operational dynamics would shift, change, or otherwise be altered, as is always the case during periods of war.  During this time frame:

The War had actually begun in 1939, when Germany invaded Poland on September 1st; it lasted six years.  During that span, in what was the second World War in 25 years, every major world power was involved in a war for global domination.  By the end, over 60 million people had lost their lives.  Ultimately, the conclusion of the war was precipitated by the United States unleashing the cataclysmic and previously unknown forces of nuclear weaponry.  It was only after the U.S. destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a three-day period that the Japanese Empire was persuaded to surrender, which for all practical purposes, ended the war.

So it is with much respect, simple humility, and a heavy dose of sadness that I salute the millions pressed to service to defend the world as we know it against the rapacious desires of those in search of global hegemony and world domination.  In any version of this story America deserves a special place.  As a nation we resisted direct involvement until victimized by a lethal and unprompted frontal assault.  After engaging, we worked with allied forces to try and repel the efforts of relentless transgressors.  Finally, when nothing else worked, we introduced a wild card, the most lethal weapons system known to man, the Atomic Bomb.  The resulting death and devastation was so stunningly pervasive, a heretofore recalcitrant enemy was forced, immediately to “call it off.”

We now live in the nuclear age of course.  Many nations have access to nuclear weapons, while others are trying to attain them.  What the future holds is uncertain.  But we know for sure that any number of countries have The Bomb at their disposal, and there are enough nuclear weapons stored around the world to destroy the earth, many times over.  With what should be mixed emotions, as Americans, we also know that the only nation ever to unleash the fury of this potential “world-ender” is us, as in the U.S.  In that regard, it was then, and remains today, an absolute truth, “December 7, 1941: A Date Which Will Live In Infamy Redux ’21!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read myblog anytime by clicking the linkshttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comand/or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. Find a new post each Wednesday. 

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And Another One!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Over the years, I’ve written about this subject far too many times. With deep regret, here we go again, another school shooting. Yesterday at Oxford High School on Oxford Road, in Oxford, Michigan, it could easily have been Oxford, North Carolina, a gunman shot and killed three teens, wounding eight others. The three decedents were a 16-year-old boy, and a 14 and 17-year-old girl. Of the eight wounded, one is believed to be a teacher. Two of the eight required surgery, the remaining six are in stable condition, despite having been shot.

Gun Violence Archive (GVA) is a nonprofit research group with accompanying website and social media delivery platforms which catalogs every incident of gun violence in the United States. Their database contains known shootings in the U.S. gleaned from 6,500 law enforcement entities, the media, and government sources. GVA, frequently cited by the press, defines a mass shooting as firearm violence resulting in at least four people being shot at roughly the same time and location, excluding the perpetrator.

Applying those parameters, there have been 2,128 mass shootings since 2013, or roughly one per day. The United States has the most mass shootings in the world. This, of course is not surprising since, the country has more guns than people.  Among the motivations for school shootings are depression, revenge, and bullying,

The suspected shooter, a sophomore at the school, was armed with a semi-automatic handgun and several magazines. He was taken into custody without incident, about five minutes after authorities responded to the incident, according to Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe. His parents hired an attorney, and he has not been permitted to talk to police.

This event will surely jumpstart another round of discussions about the need for reforming gun laws. Opponents will insist it’s too soon, officials across the spectrum will render thoughts and prayers, and gun law reform advocates will make another run at the ever-elusive goal to make the events of yesterday more difficult to execute. Meanwhile, relatives and friends will be left to morn, while three kids were executed before they reached adulthood.

I wish I could be optimistic regarding the outcome. But at some point, it’s time to admit, doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. That time has come…And Another One!

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.”

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A Time For Giving Thanks, Redux ’21

It’s time to Break It Down! 

Originally posted on November 24, 2010, and prior to today, subsequently on November 27, 2013, November 26, 2014November 25, 2015November 23, 2016, November 22, 2017, November 21, 2018, November 27, 2019, and November 25, 2020.

As in the past, since it is Thanksgiving Week, this post will deviate from the standard fare. I know that travel schedules (in some cases impeded by weather events, and COVID-19, again this year), meal planning, family time, shopping, football, basketball, parades, and if there is any time remaining, relaxation, will be the dominant theme this week. However, it is Wednesday, so there shall be a blog and it will be 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 commonly refer to as the Holiday Season. Almost instinctively, Thanksgiving and Christmas come to mind. Yet, there is so much 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, and (in far too many instances) return gifts at Christmas, eat, drink, and celebrate the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa, and party and toast the dawn of 2022 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, still further fraught with the consequences of coronavirus, further complicated by soaring inflation, 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. There are even some precociously enterprising businesses that will start the shopping clock Thursday. Sigh!

In past years, I have sometimes 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 chronosGreek concepts for God’s time, and man’s time, respectively. In this the Year of our Lord and Savior, 2021, a.k.a. Year 5 A.D. (After Donald), I have again been reminded, God really does have a sense of humor. In accordance, I thank him dearly and daily for Stephen ColbertTrevor Noah, and SNL. More important, I am thankful this moment also reflects Year 1 A.J. (After Joe).  Amen!

Eons ago, when I was a college student, I pledged a fraternity. It is familiarly known as 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 several classic poems. There were many, each selected to convey a specific life lesson. Some 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 each of us, an impulse that prompts us to thank God (for our being undefeated), and for the graciousness to share His blessings with our fellow men and women. Indeed, every day is “A Time For Giving Thanks, Redux ’21!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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Go Stand In The Well: You’ve Been Censured

It’s time to Break It Down!

Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar has a date in the well of the House of Representatives today. Based on a revised proposal released by the House Rules Committee yesterday, the House is expected to vote on a resolution that both censures Gosar and strips him of his two committee assignments, the Committee on Oversight and Reform, as well as the House Committee on Natural Resources. A censure resolution is the most severe form of punishment in the House and requires the censured member to stand in the well of the House while the resolution is read out loud.

Representative Gosar is on track to be censured due to his posting of a photoshopped anime video to his Twitter and Instagram accounts showing him appearing to kill Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and attacking President Joe Biden. Interestingly, Gosar and Ocasio-Cortez both sit on the Oversight and Reform Committee. The act has produced disparate reactions among House members, depending on Party affiliation. 

Gosar is one of Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress. Not surprisingly, Republicans, by and large, have come to Gosar’s defense. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy remarked that Gosar took down the video and went on to add he (Gosar) had not seen it before he removed it. Democrats, as one might imagine, have been less sympathetic. It is worth noting that, while Gosar did take the video down, he did not issue an apology.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted she was initiating and executing the vote because Gosar “made threats, suggestions about harming a member of Congress. That is an insult – not only endangerment of a member of Congress, but an insult to the institution of the House of Representatives. We cannot have members joking about murdering each other, as well as threatening the President of the United States.” Undoubtedly, Pelosi and her fellow Democrats were also motivated to act because McCarthy and his fellow Republicans were lax in taking any action.

Representatives Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney have distinguished themselves by speaking out against Gosar’s actions. Of course, Kinzinger has announced that he is not seeking re-election. By contrast, Cheney has made no such announcement. Moreover, she has been especially vocal in expressing her disdain for Gosar’s actions, and her disapproval of McCarthy’s inaction. She characterized the Minority Leader’s declining to act against their Republican colleague as “indefensible” – especially considering the GOP hue and cry to punish the 13 Republicans who supported the bipartisan infrastructure bill. She added, “Our party needs a leader who is going to stand up for what’s right and stand up for the truth and stop trying to play these games. The notion that Leader McCarthy won’t full-on condemn what Paul Gosar did on multiple occasions but that he seems to be entertaining this move to push the 13 off their committees, I mean it’s indefensible, morally and ethically, and it’s crazy politically.”

So, Paul Gosar, come on down, and “Go Stand In The Well: You’ve Been Censured!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right 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.

A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects to this post, consult the links below:



A Domestic Threat To Our Constitutional Republic

It’s time to Break It Down!

Legerdemain; another word for deception, or trickery.

GOP bosses are furiously doing everything they can think of to derail the Biden agenda. But, from my vantage point, that’s not the worst aspect of the Grand Old Party machinery’s chicanery. In fact, I would argue, it’s not even close.

One partisan politico phrased it this way yesterday.

“The United States is confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before in the form of former President Donald Trump, who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic, aided by political leaders, who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.”

At first blush, one may be tempted to think those were the words of one of the GOP’s more derided progressive Democratic arch villains, say, New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or possibly, Washington’s Pramila Jayapal. One would have thunk bigly wrong. It was actually Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney

That, however, was not the end of the Dick Cheney scion’s pointed observations. She also rendered a scathing assessment of the enablers, supporters, and sycophants in her Party who continue, even now, to back Trump in his unyielding adherence to The Big Lie, especially the notion, according to Trump’s claim, that the insurrection occurred on Election Day, rather than January 6, 2021.  

She said, “Political leaders who sit silent in the face of these false and dangerous claims are aiding the former President who is at war with the rule of law, and the Constitution (not to mention the truth). When our constitutional order is threatened, as it is now, rising above partisanship is not simply an aspiration. It is an obligation.”

Liz Cheney, along with Adam Kinzinger have become the co-faces of what I refer to as the Republican Resistance. The two are the only GOP members on the House Select Committee charged with investigating the attack on the Capitol. They also were both among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection” following the events of January 6th.

Cheney’s remarks were part of a keynote address for a First Amendment Award given by Saint Anselm College’s Institute of Politics in Goffstown, New Hampshire. There’s a chance Representative Cheney’s broadside against all things Trump is a prelude to her own run for the Presidency in 2024, and an equally good chance that Trump will be at least one of her opponents. Coincidentally, the first Primary will be in New Hampshire.

During her speech, she touted her “conservative republican” bona fides, and mentioned that she strongly disagrees with nearly everything President Biden has done since being in office. She boasted of her support for limited government, low taxes, strong national defense, and family values. Nevertheless, while clearly delineating her differences with Biden, she targeted Trump again and again. She called him a “liar who tragically misled Americans and provoked violence on January 6th.”

In summary, she said, “I love my Party, I love its history, I love its principles. But I love my country more. I know this nation needs a Republican Party that is based on truth.” She made a compelling case that Donald J. Trump is…“A Domestic Threat To Our Constitutional Republic!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right 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.

A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects to this post, consult the links below:



Critical Race Theory: This Year’s GOP Boogeyman

It’s time to Break It Down!

The 2020 Election year ended with the GOP ranting and raving about election integrity, all the while falsely embracing The Big Lie that Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump. Courts high and low, several with Trump appointees included, aided by GOP Elections officials in Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania exploded that nonsensical myth…again and again. In the 12 months since last year’s elections, hundreds of new laws have been manufactured, ostensibly to ensure only eligible voters are permitted to vote.

That’s a great idea, but the functional result of many, if not most of these new provisions is to make it more difficult for citizens unlikely to vote Republican to exercise the franchise. But wait; we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This year’s off-peak Election Year rabbit out of a hat surprise is the false flag otherwise known as Critical Race Theory, or CRT in shorthand.

CRT is a technical legal term introduced by Harvard University Law Professor Derrick Bell in the 1970’s. It is a branch of legal scholarship that challenges the validity of concepts such as rationality, objective truth, and judicial neutrality. That one sentence is probably more than almost anyone who will read this has ever heard about the subject. With that in mind, here’s all you really need to know. CRT is not taught, nor has it ever been taught in anyone’s elementary, middle, or secondary school. That is not even a point worth arguing; it simply has not happened, nor is it likely to ever happen.

School Boards, parents, local and state elected officials, even Governors races have been immersed in the faux premise that children, ostensibly White children, must be rescued from the onerous dictates that apparently shame White students, while simultaneously painting Black students as victims.

There’s a lot that could be said about this topic. What needs to be said, more than anything else, is that no matter how much some parents do not want to hear it, American History has been bastardized, so that the historically dominant culture can feel good about itself, while avoiding and evading some of the dastardliest deeds known to man. Yes, our exceptional forefathers owned human beings, beat them mercilessly, bought, sold, and abused them, practiced Jim Crow, made Strange Fruit of Black men and women swinging from trees, took land from its owners, executed the scourge that was the Trail of Tears, redlined Blacks into undesirable communities, massacred Blacks in Tulsa, Wilmington, and Rosewood, just to name three, interred Japanese Americans, and more. Let’s be clear. Recounting atrocities such as those is not the basis for some theoretical framework called CRT. No, those events are actual practical examples of American History, and let’s get real; the aforementioned items do…not…even…scratch…the…surface!

At the end of the4 day, politics is not tiddlywinks. We can be certain the progenitors of this charade are sharing Champagne toasts, and redoubling their commitment to the well-known principle, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Congratulations. Critical Race Theory: This Year’s GOP Boogeyman!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right 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.

A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects to this post, consult the links below:


Take 3: I Got The Booster Yesterday

It’s time to Break It Down!

A year ago, I penned one of my shortest posts ever; 194 words. We were days away from one of the most consequential Presidential Elections ever. What may now sound like hyperbole landed then like outrageous understatement. Four more years of Trump? Come on man!

Today’s post is personal. I secured my COVID-19 Booster Shot yesterday. This is not a message in a bottle. You don’t want the shot? Do you. But if your bravado results in a case, be just as bodacious in declining a hospital bed needed by someone who adhered to medical protocols. “Take 3: I Got The Booster Yesterday!” (191 words)

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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WHO Honors Henrietta Lacks: Better Late Than Never

It’s time to Break It Down! 

On February 3, 2010, I posted a blog about the story of Henrietta Lacks. Mrs. Lacks is a little known (to much of the world) legend (in the fields of cervical oncology and cellular biology). If you haven’t heard of her, it’s likely due to the fact she earned her fabled status on the patient side of medical miracles, not the scientist or physician side.

Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization honored the late Henrietta Lacks, whose cells have been used for innovative scientific research for decades, with an award in recognition of her contributions to the advancement of medical science.

Lacks, a Black woman, was suffering from cervical cancer when she was being treated at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. A surgeon removed cells from her cervix without her consent during a procedure and that sample enabled a doctor at the hospital to create the first human cell line to reproduce outside the body.

The cell line, now known as HeLa cells, allowed scientists to experiment and create life-saving medicine including the polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization and gene mapping as well as helped advance cancer and AIDS research.

Lacks, 31, died that same year from cancer, but her influence on the medical science field lived on, leading to the WHO Director-General’s award.

In his statement on the matter, Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “In honouring Henrietta Lacks, WHO acknowledges the importance of reckoning with past scientific injustices, and advancing racial equity in health and science. It’s also an opportunity to recognize women — particularly women of colour — who have made incredible but often unseen contributions to medical science.”

Several of Lacks’ family members, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, attended the award ceremony at the WHO office in Geneva. Her 87-year-old son, Lawrence Lacks, Sr., accepted the award on her behalf.

Lawrence said, “We are moved to receive this historic recognition of my mother, Henrietta Lacks — honouring who she was as a remarkable woman and the lasting impact of her HeLa cells. My mother’s contributions, once hidden, are now being rightfully honored for their global impact.

My mother was a pioneer in life, giving back to her community, helping others live a better life and caring for others. In death she continues to help the world. Her legacy lives on in us and we thank you for saying her name — Henrietta Lacks.”

Below, is her story, as conveyed in my initial blog on the subject:

This past Monday was the first day of February. As we all know, February is the shortest month of the year, having 28 days, with every fourth year, a Leap Year, having 29 days (the next one in 2012). But did you know, during one period, February had 29 days, and 30 days during Leap Years? Augustus Caesar is said to have taken a day from February to add to August, so that the month named in his honor would have 31 days. Moreover, February has had several names, and has only been known as February for a little more than a century.

You also probably know that February has the distinction of having been designated Black History Month in the United States and Canada. As such, there is usually an infusion of ethnic TV programming, media coverage, civic, and religious observances.

In framing topics for exploration, I have seldom settled on a topic, or even a theme, the day before posting. It is most often the truest expression of “just in time” delivery. However, I have decided to depart from my pattern. Over four Wednesdays in February, I plan to explore of four African Americans who made outstanding contributions to this Country; their Country…our Country; America, and frankly in some cases, the world!

  • Who? There are many African Americans, who not only have made enormous contributions to society, but who garnered a fair share of fame and notoriety for their pursuits. Today’s subject is not among that list. Yet, Henrietta Lacks is a giant in terms of the relative importance of her contributions to life as we know it today. Ms. Lacks lived only 31 years, and has been dead nearly twice as long as she lived; succumbing to cervical cancer in 1951.
  • What? Ms. Lacks, a mother of five (2 daughters and 3 sons) died from a virulent strain of cervical cancer. During the course of her treatment, doctors removed cells from her, for research purposes…without her knowledge. This was a common practice then and now.
  • When? On February 1, 1951, shortly after participating in a march in New York to support finding a cure for polio, Ms. Lacks visited Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Though treated for the disease, she would live only 6 more months. 
  • Where? Ms. Lacks was born Henrietta Pleasant, in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1920. After marrying David Lacks, they eventually migrated to Baltimore County, Maryland where David worked in a shipyard. Ms. Lacks was buried in her native home community, in Halifax County, Virginia
  • Why? In most folks’ blueprint of choice, they would acquire fame and notoriety in life, if at all. For some though, it comes, only through death. This was the case with Henrietta. She was posthumously catapulted to what measure of notoriety she has attained because of the unique characteristics of her cells. 
  • How? Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered a scientific breakthrough related to Ms. Lacks’ cells. In a departure from anything the scientists had seen before, the cells culled from Ms. Lacks continued to grow, outside of her body, and after her death. In fact, they did not just survive, they multiplied. In a circular irony, cells from Ms. Lacks’ culture were used to help Dr. Jonas Salk develop a vaccine for polio in 1955. Of course, Ms. Lacks had marched to help find a cure for that disease just four years earlier.

The story of Henrietta Lacks is powerful in its simplicity. Viewed in the absence of the critical lens of inquiry, it has the sound of saga about a young woman who died too soon; but whose death provided the gift of life, and healthier lives for countless others. In reality it is that…and so very much more.

Henrietta was a poor black woman who was treated in some instances as incidental to the research conducted by the staff at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Eventually, as the story gained traction and became more widely disseminated, the precious cells Ms. Lacks “donated” given the name HeLa, in her honor. 

The chief researcher in this matter, Dr. George Gey, had been searching for a way to keep cells alive outside the body. The cells taken from Henrietta were so incredibly aggressive that in a few short months, the cancer had spread throughout her entire body. The very properties that led to Ms. Lacks’ demise, most likely served as the catalyst for Dr. Gey’s success in inducing cells to continue growing for more than a few weeks outside the body. Those properties also led to breakthroughs in cancer research, drug testing, the development of Dr. Salk’s polio vaccine, insight into facilitating the survival of other cells, and ultimately, a new paradigm in biology.

It was discovered eventually, that HeLa cells are so ubiquitous that they literally took over countless cell samples, resulting in contaminating samples, and invalidating research results. That is unfortunate. But I would argue the real victims in the HeLa story are the Lacks. In addition to not gaining permission toextract Henrietta’s cell tissue for research purposes, the virtual explosion of the HeLa phenomenon had been unfolding for decades before the family ever learned of it.

The growth and sale of HeLa, which continues unabated today, has generated countless millions of dollars in sales revenue, lead to saving lives all across America, and around the world, and furthered medical research initiatives for nearly 60 years. So, what have the Lacks gained from this you may ask? 

Nothing; nada; zero; zilch!

Think on that “Profile in Black History: Henrietta Lacks!” Today, you got the remix. “WHO Honors Henrietta Lacks: Better Late Than Never!”

I’m done; holla back!

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COVID-19 & The NBA: Jordan Supports League Vaccine Plan

It’s time to Break It Down!

Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the reigning NBA G.O.A.T., has come down on the side of the NBA’s strategy for player vaccination. As the League’s preseason is underway, presaging next week’s Season Opener, lots of attention has been garnered by several of the League’s marquee players. 

Andrew Wiggins and Kyrie Irving, stars for the Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets, respectively, have been cited in the last couple of weeks for their controversial stances on the vaccine. Wiggins initially, in interviews, stated his refusal to get the vaccine. Irving has declined to state his vaccination status, saying it’s personal. Both of their positions were more complicated than that of many other players because Health Departments in the cities of San Francisco and New York, where the Warriors and Nets play their home games, have established provisions that forbid allowing unvaccinated players from the home team from entering the arena. The proviso does not apply to players from visiting teams.

On September 28th, LeBron James told the press assembled at the Lakers’ Media Day, that he’d been vaccinated, despite his initial reservations. Ultimately, he concluded it was in the best interest of he and his family to get vaccinated. James said he did not plan to encourage other players to get vaccinated, calling it an individual choice. The Lakers Coach, Frank Vogel, indicated that the team is fully vaccinated. On October 3rd, Steve Nash, the Warrior’s Coach, announced that Wiggins had relented and gotten vaccinated.

There is no NBA vaccine mandate. The Players’ Union declared that a nonstarter at the outset of negotiations about determining and rolling out League-wide Covid restrictions. On October 10, Nets Coach Steve Nash announced the Nets expected to play home games without Kyrie; yesterday, General Manager, Sean Marks, released a statement indicating the team has suspended Kyrie Irving until he gets vaccinated. He added, the team concluded their players must be available full-time.

It is within this context that Jordan’s statement emerges. The six-time Champion and Finals MVP, and current Charlotte Hornets team owner made his statement in the wake of James’ overcoming his vaccine skepticism, Wiggins’ reversal, and Irving’s criticizing the League’s Covid Guidelines and resisting vaccination (which led to his suspension). Jordan, who is 58 years-old, voiced his support by saying:

“I am total in unison with the league, and I think everybody, you know, has been speaking about the vaccinations. And, you know, I’m a firm believer in science and, you know, I’m going to stick with that and hopefully, everybody abides by whatever the league sets as the rules.

I think once everybody buys in, we’re going the be fine.”

Despite the lack of a League-wide mandate, the NBA reports that over 90 percent of the League’s players have been vaccinated, including several entire teams. Andrew Wiggins recently received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after holding out until the start of the NBA’s preseason this month. He admitted, he’s still a skeptic, saying in a press conference after the Warriors and Trailblazers played a preseason game:

“The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA. It was a tough decision. Hopefully, it works out in the long run and in 10 years I’m still healthy.

It feels good to play, but getting vaccinated, that’s going to be something that stays in my mind for a long time. It’s not something I wanted to do, but I was kind of forced to.”

In the overall scheme of things, it sounds as if the NBA’s vaccination plan will succeed. Its Ninety percent participation rate dwarfs that of the nation as a whole. It also appears that arenas across the League are implementing protocols to protect fans, players, and anyone who enters the facilities. It’s a long season; it will take time for it to play out in all relevant dimensions. Considering all that has unfolded to date, it’s refreshing to know that while some of the players remain unconvinced regarding the viability of this matter so vital to the health and welfare of all of them, as well as all of us, the G.O.A.T. and the King (and perhaps future G.O.A.T.) are on the same page. “COVID-19 & The NBA: Jordan Supports League Vaccine Plan!”

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And The Winner Is: Bubba!

It’s time to Break It Down!

I’m a southerner, all day long. As the saying goes, “I’m a Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, and when I die, I’ll be a Tar Heel dead. Speaking of the Tar Heels, the nickname for University of North Carolina (UNC) sports teams, and alumni, and more broadly, for denizens of the North Carolina, the Tar Heel State, the name Bubba has been indelibly integrated into our lexicon of appellations. Since November 14, 2011, Lawrence R. Cunningham, familiarly known as Bubba, has served as UNC’s athletic Director. I digress.

This post is about a different Bubba, Bubba Wallace. Meanwhile, I’ll spare you my varied contemplations about guys called Bubba.

Back to the story. Bubba Wallace made history Monday, becoming just the second Black driver to win NASCAR’s Cup Series race, the association’s top series. Wallace is the first Black man to win the Cup Series race since NASCAR Hall of Fame racer Wendell Scott, in 1963. It would be nearly impossible, and totally inappropriate to omit noting that when Scott won the race, he never took possession of the Trophy. Only this past August, NASCAR presented Scott’s family the winner’s treasure.

On December 1, 1963, Wendell Scott won the Cup Series at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. However, Scott didn’t get to celebrate his win and didn’t receive a trophy as part of the standard post-race presentation. At the end of the race, Buck Baker was flagged the winner and it wasn’t until the official scoring review that race officials determined Scott had won the event by two laps – with Baker finishing second.

Even with that revelation, it took nearly 58 years to approximate righting such an egregious wrong. Scott, who died in 1990, never received the spoils of victory. That Wendell Scott lived more than a quarter of a century after winning the race, and still didn’t get his trophy is an abomination. The fact that it took another 30 plus for NASCAR to award the Trophy posthumously is in a word, shameful. But, if they could wait more than half a century, it’s conceivable they could have somehow rationalized never doing it. I guess such abuses of all things civilized are the bases for the aphorism, “better late than never.”

Bubba Wallace is an Alabama native. Though he claimed not to often think about matters in terms of his being just the second Black driver to win the race, he conceded that when he did, he recognized his win brought a lot of joy and emotion to his family, friends, and fans. He deemed it, “Pretty fitting that it comes here in Talladega.”

Wallace came to notoriety last summer when a noose was found in his garage at Talladega. To come full circle from the circus that broke out over that occasion, had to be satisfying. In 2020, he was NASCAR’s lone Black driver, and drove for racing royalty, Richard Petty’s team. After the kerfuffle, he left Team Petty, and later signed with a new team, that was literally a “new team.” Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin formed a team and made Wallace it first driver. The Cup Series win at Talladega was a breakthrough moment for driver and team. Jordan and Hamlin were both already winners. Monday, however, belonged to Wallace. “And The Winner Is: Bubba!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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