Battle of Hall of Famers: Kareem Calls Out Stockton’s Mask Mandate Defiance

It’s time to Break It Down!

Covid-19 has run rampant throughout the United States. The issue has divided the nation into masking vs. anti-masking, and vaxxers vs. anti-vaxxers. One of the latest controversies to emerge is Gonzaga University suspending the season tickets of its most famous alum, NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton. While the current rage in NBA circles centers on The LeBron vs. Jordan GOAT Debate, most of us have forgotten just how much Stockton brought to the game.

To provide context, while no one suggests he is the GOAT, Stockton’s imprint is lasting. He has one, possibly two records that may never be broken, in addition to his ironman legacy. First, he amassed 15,806 assists. For perspective, the active assist leader, Chris Paul, has 8,672 assists after 16 seasons. Stockton has 3,715 more than Jason Kidd, who is in second place. It’s often said, records are made to be broken. Chances are, if the NBA assist record is ever broken, it will be by someone not yet playing in the League. Stockton also has a healthy lead in NBA steals, a category in which he accumulated 3,265. Chris Paul is also the active leader in that category, with 2,002. Also, as with assists, Jason Kidd holds down the Number 2 spot, with 2,684. The separation is not as great here, but keep in mind, Kidd has been retired for more than 8 years. Chris Paul doesn’t have that many active years left. Someone may surpass him, but it won’t be Paul. Finally, in a category that is difficult to even fathom, Stockton played 16 seasons without missing a game, and played all 82 games in 17 of his 19 seasons. That doesn’t even account for playoff games.

As impressive as Stockton’s metrics are, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, formerly Lew Alcindor, is, or at least should be, in the discussion for GOAT. When he retired, he was the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, with 38,387 points. Sidenote, LeBron James may actually play long enough to surpass Jabbar’s point total. However, Kareem also won a league-record six MVP awards, six championship rings, two Finals MVP awards, 15 NBA First or Second Teams, and a record 19 NBA All-Star Games. He was a two-time NBA Scoring Leader, and a four-time NBA Blocks Leader, the 1970 Rookie-of-the-Year, and holds Retired Jerseys in Milwaukee and Los Angeles…to go along with a statue in front of what was the Staples Center, now the Arena.  

So, what made this relative stat comparison germane? Here’s how it started.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, Stockton confirmed he is no longer allowed to attend basketball games at Gonzaga University, his alma mater, because he refuses to comply with the school’s COVID-19 mask mandate. The NBA’s all-time assist leader starred at Gonzaga for four seasons from 1980-84 before a 19-year Hall of Fame career with the Utah Jazz.

In first person, Stockton described it this way:

“Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit. And therefore, they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups — those weren’t discussed, but from whatever it was higher up — they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”

The 59-year-old, who appeared in a documentary last year promoting COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories, also asserted that more than 100 professional athletes had died after taking the vaccine. 

While there is no scientific data that supports Stockton’s claims, this is what he asserted:

“I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead — professional athletes — the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court.”

That’s where Kareem entered the discussion.

Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized Stockton for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. The NBA legend, who has been an outspoken advocate for the vaccines, previously called out Lakers star LeBron James for comparing COVID-19 to other illnesses.

Of Stockton, he said, “I think statements like [Stockton’s] make the public look upon athletes as basically dumb jocks for trying to explain away something that is obviously a pandemic, and the best way to fight pandemics is through vaccination and testing. Those are the means by which we identify the problem and do our best to mitigate it.

I don’t understand anyone saying anything else that makes sense. It doesn’t make sense what he’s saying. This is a preventative measure that has been useful in many different circumstances.”

I’ve have tried to remove myself from the center of this debate. Principally, I decided that I would no longer argue with adults about their need to take steps to protect their health, not to mention the health and well-being of those who they love, and who love them. I can now take comfort in the NBA’s leading scorer doing it for me. “Battle Of Hall Of Famers: Kareem Calls Out Stockton’s Mask Mandate Defiance!”

I’m done; holla back!

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

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MLK, Jr.: Quotes You Don’t Remember…Or Perhaps Never Heard (Relayed by Nikole Hannah-Jones)

It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Over the years, I’ve written a post about Dr. King, the holiday, and how it came to pass. Today, I am again revisiting a post I initially wrote and posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011, and that I reprised January 18, 2017, January 17, 2018, and again, January 23, 2019, examining the advent of the King Holiday. It’s been 36 years since the initial observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (MLK DAY), and 39 years since President Reagan signed the MLK, Jr. Holiday bill into law. Contemporary events continue to remind us that now is an apt time to look into the rearview mirror of time.

After over three decades of inculcation into the very fabric of our society, it may be largely forgotten that the conceptualization, submission and continual resubmission of the idea, the enactment, and the gradual national observance, was not the product of universal acceptance of a grand and enlightened concept, but rather, was emblematic of the civil rights struggle itself; steeped in controversy, and the eventual victory of a relentless movement to achieve richly deserved, and long overdue social justice.

Several members of Congress, a number of states, and even a President, using a host of creative means, sought to undermine, outmaneuver, sabotage, subvert, and otherwise derail the efforts of the measure’s proponents. Ultimately, the movement was consolidated, snowballed, and would simply not be thwarted.

The effort to create a King Holiday was started by U.S. Representative John Conyers, Michigan, shortly after Dr. King’s death, in the spring of 1968. It was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 1979, but fell 5 votes short of the number needed for passage in the Lower Chamber.

High profile opponents to the measure included Senator Jesse Helms, NC, Senator John McCain, AZ, and President Ronald Reagan. Both Senators voted against the bill, and Senator McCain publicly supported Arizona Governor Evan Mecham for his rescission of MLK Day as a State Holiday in Arizona. The campaign however, reached a critical mass in the early 1980’s. Spurred on by Stevie Wonder penning a song in King’s honor called, “Happy Birthday,” a petition drive to support the campaign would attract over 6 million signatures. It has been called the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. History.

Buttressed by what had become a wildly successful public campaign, Congress soon followed suit. The proposal passed in the House by a vote of 338-90, and in the Upper Chamber by a vote of 78-22. Given the dimensions of this overwhelming support, in the form of bicameral veto-proof votes, President Reagan signed the provision November 2, 1983, and it became Federal Law. The first observance under the new law took place January 20, 1986, rather than on January 15th, Dr. King’s birthday. A compromise in the legislation specified that the observance take place on the Third Monday in January, consistent with prior legislation (Uniform Monday Holiday Act).

Of course, that was not the end of the story. It would take more than 30 years after Dr. King’s death before the Holiday was fully adopted and observed in all 50 states. Illinois holds the distinction of being the first State to adopt MLK Day as a State Holiday, having done so in 1973. Twenty years later, in 1993, for the first time, some form of MLK Day was held in each of the 50 States. 

It was not until 2000 that South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill to make MLK Day a paid holiday for State employees; giving the Palmetto State the dubious distinction of being the last of the 50 States to do so. However, Mississippi also sets itself apart by designating the Third Monday in January as a shared Holiday that honors the memory of Robert E. Lee and Dr. King…two fine southern gentlemen.

Last summer after entertaining a whirlwind, on again off again, job offer at UNC, journalist, McArthur Fellow, Pulitzer Prize winner, and UNC alum Nikole Hannah-Jones opted to choose Howard University as her next employer, over UNC. Ms. Hannah-Jones, who gained notoriety for her work on the 1619 Project, has become a lightning rod for discourse around issues of civil rights, and the much-ballyhooed topic known as Critical Race Theory, #CRT. 

This week, NH-J was invited to give an MLK speech on Monday. She discovered that a few members of the group hosting her wrote and subsequently leaked emails opposing her giving the speech. Those who opposed her felt it dishonored Dr. King to do so and characterized her as a “discredited activist” “unworthy of such association with King.”

This insight motivated her to call an audible. She scrapped her original speech and spent the first half of her speech reading excerpts from several of Dr. King’s speeches…without revealing that they were his words. She subbed BLACK for Negro, to avoid dating the material and giving away the fact that it was from over half a century ago. Literally, that’s all it took to transport to 2022.

Here is some of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 2022 MLK, Jr. Day speech:

“It was in the year 1619 that the first BLACK slave was brought to the shores of this nation. They were brought here from the soils of Africa and unlike the Pilgrim fathers who landed here at Plymouth a year later, they were brought here against their will…”

“White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society…The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and racism…”


“The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power. A nation that continues year after year to spend more $ on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

“The crowning achievement in hypocrisy must go to those staunch Republicans and Democrats of the Midwest and West who were given land by our government when they came here as immigrants from Europe. They were given education through the land grant colleges…”

“These are the same people that now say to black people, whose ancestors were brought to this country in chains and who were emancipated in 1863 without being given land to cultivate or bread to eat; that they must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps…”

“What they truly advocate is Socialism for the rich and Capitalism for the poor… “We know full well that racism is still that hound of hell which dogs the tracks of our civilization.”

“Ever since the birth of our nation, White America has had a Schizophrenic personality on the ? of race, she has been torn between selves. A self in which she proudly professes the great principle of democracy and a self in which she madly practices the antithesis of democracy.”

“The fact is, there has never been a single, solid, determined commitment on the part of the vast majority of white Americans to genuine equality for Black people.”

“The step backwards has a new name today, it is called the white backlash, but the white backlash is nothing new. It is the surfacing of old prejudices, hostilities and ambivalences that have always been there…”

“The white backlash of today is rooted in the same problem that has characterized America ever since the black man landed in chains on the shores of this nation.”

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance…with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that BLACK AMERICANS HAVE come far enough.”

“…for the good of America, it is necessary to refute the idea that the dominant ideology in our country, even today, is freedom and equality and that racism is just an occasional departure from the norm on the part of a few bigoted extremists.”

“If America does not respond creatively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say, that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all men.”

“Why do white people seem to find it so difficult to understand that the Black people are sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to THEM those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America?”

“I never cease to wonder at the amazing presumption of much of white society, assuming that they have the right to bargain with the BLACK for their freedom…”

Oh, the uncomfortable silence as I read Dr. King’s words at a commemoration of Dr. King’s life when people had no idea that these were his words. When I revealed that everything I said to that point was taken from his speeches between ’56 and 67… Can you say SHOOK!

Then I read all the names that white Americans called King: charlatan, demagogue, communist, traitor — and brought out the polling showing more than three-quarters of Americans opposed King at his death while 94 percent approve of him now.

I left them with this: People who oppose today what he stood for back then do not get to be the arbiters of his legacy. The real Dr. King cannot be commodified, homogenized, and white-washed and whatever side you stand on TODAY is the side you would have been back then.

In fact, most white Americans in 1963 opposed the March on Washington where Dr. King gave the “I Have A Dream Speech” with that one line that people oppose to anti-racism like to trot out against those working for racial justice.

When the speech was over, Father Pfleger, who had been cheering me on from the crowd, whispered in my ear: That’s what you call the “You Gone Learn Today” speech and I . Because, yeah.

“This is why the 1619 Project exists. This is why the decades of scholarship that undergirds the 1619 Project exists. Because if we do nothing, they will co-opt our history and use it against us.”

Dr. King was a radical critic of racism, capitalism and militarism. He didn’t die. He was assassinated. And many, including Regan, fought the national holiday we’re now commemorating. “If you haven’t read, in entirety, his speeches, you’ve been miseducated & I hope that you will.”

As it was in 1622, 1722, 1822, 1922, and yeah, remains in 2022… MLK, Jr.: Quotes You Don’t Remember…Or Perhaps Never Heard (Relayed by Nikole Hannah-Jones).

I’m done; holla back!–T2c63h3l3BCwu8

Maya Angelou: She’s On The Money

It’s time to Break It Down!

In 2014, a 9-year-old girl wrote then-President Obama a letter suggesting that Harriet Tubman’s likeness adorn the $20 bill. In 2016, The President warmed to the idea and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the Government would release a “final concept design” for the bill in 2020. However, after a change in administrations, subsequently, in May of 2019, Trump Administration Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the new design would not be unveiled until 2028. Many of the initial reports suggested that the delay was precipitated by Mnuchin slow playing the process. Upon further inquiry, several Obama era officials have stated the 2020 date was unrealistic, and that the timing for release of the new bills remains on schedule.

Meanwhile, this week, the United States Mint announced it has begun shipping quarters featuring the image of poet Maya Angelou, the first coins in its American Women Quarters Program.

Angelou was born, Marguerite Annie Johnson, April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, but became a North Carolina transplant, where she resided in Winston-Salem until her death. She was an author, poet, and Civil Rights activist. Her initial rise to prominence was fueled by the success of the publication, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1969. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou, who died in 2014 at the age of 86 (May 28), was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

The coin which depicts Ms. Angelou’s likeness has a design that shows Angelou with outstretched arms. In the background, there appears a bird in flight and s rising sun, images inspired by her poetry. The new mint program will issue 19 more quarters over the next four years, including 4 more this year; all honoring women and their achievements in shaping our American History.

Future 2022 honorees include physicist and first woman astronaut, Sally Ride, first female principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and first female Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, Nina Otero-Warren, and the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood, Anna May Wong.

Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro, D-Nevada, the Senate sponsor of the legislation directing the Mint to issue the quarters honoring women, applauded the Mint’s selection of Angelou for the first coin. She said:

“This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women.”

It’s a long way from the $20 bill to a quarter. That’s a gap worthy of a blog, in and of itself. But not today. There’s too much else worthy of investing energy on…like President Biden’s voting bills…but I digress. This post is about a deserving author, poet, and civil rights activist. “Maya Angelou: She’s On The Money!”

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-hand corner of my Home Page at; 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.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects related to this post, consult the links below:

What Goes Around Comes Around: 2021…1865 Mindset All Over Again

It’s time to Break It Down!

From time to time, I run across a story which, for my purposes, there is simply nothing to add. Today is one of those times. Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the January 6, 2021 coup attempt; an effort to overturn the duly executed election of the President of the United States. As is warranted, a serious discourse about this subject has ensued over the course of the past year. The country is split over the matter. Meanwhile Donald Trump has continued doubling down on the big lie. Below, the writer explores the countervailing notions that helped fuel the actions of January 6th, and also explain the existence of the ideological fault lines that cause so many Americans to line up on different sides of this issue and others that similarly divide us.

Dr. Peniel E. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in ethics and political values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of “Stokely: A Life” and “The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.” The views expressed here are his own. This Opinion appeared on yesterday’s edition of

Two opposing historical forces have the power to shape American democracy in 2022. These worldviews took shape in the aftermath of the Civil War and have, ever since, undergirded America’s legal and legislative systems, national policies on voting rights and criminal justice and our understanding (or, at times, denial of) of historical memory since 1865.

Centuries later, Americans exist between these two 19th-century poles — reconstructionist and redemptionist — and their opposition deepens the 21st-century social fractures confronting us about everything from classroom curricula to voting rights to the notion of truth itself. Understanding the deep roots of these contemporary conflicts is crucial to any effort in 2022 and beyond to thwart their toxic effects on US politics — and the lives of everyday Americans. 

The racial and political reckoning of 2020, one that spilled over into 2021, played out in large part based on the framework of American democracy that came into being during the Reconstruction period. That’s because the clash between the reconstructionist and redemptionist perspectives was, at its heart, a battle over the story we told the world and each other, about ourselves and our country. That battle continues and will likely define the politics of 2022. 

Reconstructionism grew from the effort to interpret the period after the Civil War as a second American Founding. Abraham Lincoln said as much during his famous Gettysburg Address in 1863; the war, he explained in a mere 270 words, would give America “a new birth of freedom.” Reconstructionists embraced the potential in these words to achieve a new country based on multiracial democracy — long before the modern civil rights movement in the 20th century.

Historians sometimes refer to the violent racial backlash that followed as Redemption. The “redeemer” South, populated by vengeful ex-Confederates and a resentful White working-class, vowed to reject any hint of Black equality and regarded Reconstruction as a political and moral disaster. 

Over time, from the late 19th century until the 1960s, and with a reach that carried well into the 20th century in ways that are still visible today, they successfully reshaped American memory regarding the cause of the Civil War. They enshrined myths and lies of Southern nobility into history textbooks, films, and popular culture — and found willing allies (first in the Democratic Party) in the Republican Party of the late 1960s who, in pursuit of economic greed and political stability, betrayed the struggle for Black equality they had once supported. 

They did so at the expense of the nation’s soul — and this struggle continues to play out in our own time. 

It’s happened quite literally in the public square. Monuments in praise of the Confederacy that sought to forever render Black Americans inferior — themselves erected in a concerted effort to fashion communities in a redemptionist image — took on new dimensions of complexity in the shadow of protests following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Likewise, BLM activists’ call to “defund the Police” were rooted in a Reconstruction-era criminal justice system that targeted Black people for punishment and whose determinations of Black criminality helped to facilitate the grotesque system of mass incarceration that America has today.

These Reconstructionist efforts to end the criminalization of Black bodies, in part by telling a fuller history of how racism shaped the creation of American law enforcement, clashed in 2021 with redemptionist attacks on teaching this history at all. The national controversy over so-called Critical Race Theory and how America’s history of racism should be taught in our classrooms grew louder, even as physical manifestations of redemptionism — Confederate monuments and symbols that dot the nation’s built environment — were removed. 

Late in 2021, news that the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia — the one that helped to spark the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 whose violence may forever mar that city’s landscape — will be repurposed as a work of art helped to illustrate the as-yet-unfinished reckoning with the legacy of the Confederacy. That rally left one woman dead and recriminations that reached all the way back to the White House, where Trump infamously proclaimed that there “were good people” on both sides.

This Lee statue, one of many erected in tribute to the Confederate General who famously surrendered to Union Chief Ulysses S. Grant outside the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia in April 1865, will be transformed by a local African American heritage center into a piece of public art that affirms, rather than denigrates, the ongoing search for racial justice in America. Another Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia, the headquarters of the Old Confederacy, has been removed with the statue and its enormous pedestal scheduled for transfer to the city’s Black History Museum. The Lee statue will become part of a public art effort, Swords into Plowshares, designed to transform symbols of racial hatred into evocative works of public memorial.

This has already occurred in Richmond, where, two miles from the place where the statue of Lee once stood, a new “Emancipation and Freedom Monument” consisting of two 12-foot bronze statues has been erected. This public art display, in contrast to symbols of the Confederacy, memorializes and celebrates the abolition of slavery and the resilience of the Black family symbolized by the statues of a man, woman, and infant child. 

These efforts at repurposing memorials and symbols related to America’s history of racial violence is part of a larger process that may lead to national healing. Consider the recent efforts to atone for a massacre and coup d’etat that took place in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898 and left hundreds dead — a brutal imposition of White political rule after the progress of Reconstruction. 

On November 10, 2021, 123 years later, the city buried Joshua Halsey, a Black man shot 14 times and buried in an unmarked grave. Researchers uncovered his remains, and while the 47-year-old father of four never lived to see an America not threatened by his dreams, his descendants — some of whom were in attendance at his funeral, along with some of Wilmington’s residents and local leaders — might.

Wilmington’s and the nation’s shame in this remarkable instance turned into an opportunity for shared mourning across color lines and political divisions. “There are so many people in our community who had no clue,” Linda Thompson, the chief diversity and equity officer for New Hanover County (where Wilmington is located) told the New York Times. “They are certainly trying, wanting to know more.” Such an example offers a path forward toward the creation of a new politics that is not held hostage by the continual stranglehold of ancient grievances. 

After the grotesque display of violence, privilege and racism at the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection, those who insisted “this is not who we are” were not entirely incorrect. The wildly unhinged (and modern-day redemptionist) attempts to overturn a federal election and to minimize the ongoing threats to our democracy for that purpose are not all of who we are. 

The ongoing battle between reconstructionists and redemptionists will shape American politics in 2022 and beyond. Whether they are the backdrop to the anniversary of January 6, the challenges confronting the Biden-Harris administration or the GOP’s anticipated success in the midterm elections, these competing worldviews continue, for better and worse, to forge our national identity. But they do not predetermine our destiny unless we let them. “What Goes Around Comes Around: 2021…1865 Mindset All Over Again!”

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-hand corner of my Home Page at; 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.

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Happy New Year: Here’s to Auld Lang Syne Redux – 2022 Edition

It’s time to Break It Down!

During this holiday week, here’s a reprised edition of “Break It Down!”

This Issue has been revised from the Break It Down post I originally conceived, created, and published December 29, 2010, and subsequently re-posted in amended formats December 28, 2011December 31, 2014, December 30, 2015, December 28, 2016, January 3, 2018, January 2, 2019, December 30, 2020 and today, December 29, 2021. This is my final post of the month, and of the year 2021. This is the 757th Edition of Break It Down, which debuted August 20, 2007 on the BlogSpot platform. I migrated the principal site to WordPress August 3, 2012, approximately three weeks before the Fifth Anniversary of the blog.  You may find this and most other posts at either site.

With this post I wish you a blessed and bountiful Happy New Year. Now, enjoy today’s blog post.

The one-half fortnight between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a unique occurrence in the unfolding of the American version of the Gregorian Calendar.  It is the only instance in which the space of a mere seven days separates two major holidays. Unquestionably, the timing is propitious.  Even in a second year dominated by the coronavirus, millions of holiday travelers are returning home from their Christmas commemoration and revelry, just in time to get a day off to “celebrate” the New Year…and recuperate from the old, most notably their extracurricular activities, including the exploits of New Year’s Eve. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I hope to the extent feasible, most people whose traditions include Christmas, celebrated, and plan to observe the arrival of the New Year, responsibly.

In last week’s post, I presented a re-formatted airing of my personally crafted Christmas Concert ( from past Noels. This week, I doubled down and revisited my trusty time capsule. Once again, this tack permits new readers to catch-up by seeing the piece, it allows long-time readers to reflect upon both the passing year as well as the theme lifted in the post, and finally, it ensures that those busy readers, with no time to invest in checking out a new blog during the holidays, will not have to miss anything. It’s a win, win…win!

With that loosely framed preamble behind us, here’s this week’s déjà vu all over again:

Since we are still in the Sweet Spot of the holidays, I shall practice minimalism. For your purposes, that means the blog should be available, but not intrusive. To that end, I am taking a page from the Christmas e-concert but going a step further. Instead of a concert, I give you a song…of reflection.

Robert Burns, a Scot, wrote a poem (Auld Lang Syne) in 1788 that has come to symbolize the spirit of mass contemplation that people around the world invoke as the clock strikes midnight, signaling not just the dawn of a new day, but of a new year. Undoubtedly, you have been somewhere, at some time, when you joined those assembled to sing Auld Lang Syne, which loosely translated means, Times gone by.

Once again, that time is upon us. After thoughtful reflection, even during Covid, I have had no choice but to conclude, my travails have been few and small, especially when compared to my blessings, which have been both abundant and vast! All praises to the one true, omnipotentomnipresent, and omniscient God; a mighty fortress is He.

No need to thank me for my inherent thoughtfulness. But, by all means, “Drink a cup of kindness,” or eggnog, or Champagne, or “name your favorite adult beverage,” for me. And, if you are a teetotaler, water will do nicely, thank-you!

As I complete my final post of 2021, and prayerfully and faithfully reflect upon another year framed by the narrative of COVID-19, I leave with you this familiar Irish Toast:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I invite you to click on the links directly below, which lead to an A cappella and a Jazz interpretation of Auld Lang Syne, arranged and performed by the late Lou Rawls (and listen to the remainder of this week’s edition of Break It Down):

It has been my unique honor and privilege to visit with you briefly for each of the 52 weeks this year. I hope you have derived a fraction of the pleasure reading (and occasionally listening to) the blog posts, that I have experienced from preparing and sharing them with you. May 2022 bring you the fulfillment of all your fondest desires, including a winding down of the global Covid plague. As it is shortly after midnight here in the Eastern Time Zone of the U.S.A., I humbly invite you to join in wishing me Happy Birthday (tomorrow). Moreover, as we rapidly approach Saturday, it’s my esteemed honor, and pleasure, on this the eve of the eve of the eve of 2022, to wish you Happy New Year: Here’s to Auld Lang Syne Redux – 2022 Edition!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Twelve Days of Christmas The e-Concert 2021 Edition

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Revised from Break It Down – 12/24/08, 12/22/10, 12/21/11, 12/26/12, 12/25/13, 12/23/15, 12/21/16, 12/26/17, 12/26/18, 12/25/19 and 12/23/20)

According to tradition, mine if no one else’s, my Christmas post includes a complement of Songs of the Season. Today’s issue will constitute the next edition in that tradition. It’s Tuesday night, or in my personal time dimension, Blog Night. In keeping with what I do, let’s make it so, Wednesday’s coming! As incorporated in the title above, many purists celebrate Twelve Days of Christmas. This has been documented in song, book form, at least one movie, and in countless tales and renditions.

It would be patently unfair, inappropriate, and frankly, unimaginable, for me to launch into a Christmas 2021 post without at least mentioning COVID-19, aka coronavirus. Again!  According to the CDC, there have been over 51.3 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States, along with more than 800,000 deaths. Recently, a new variant, Omicron, has emerged. In less than 3 weeks, it has rocketed to the leading variant in the U.S. Since Covid vaccines have been introduced, over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. Oddly enough, though vaccines are the most effective vaccine combatant, many of us still resist getting them, elevating the risk level for their own life, as well as that of others. May each and every single life lost to this scourge, as well as the ones that will be lost, Rest In Peace, and may their memories be a blessing. Let us pray that we solve the COVID-19 riddle, so that we don’t have to have another Coronavirus Christmas.

Here, as scheduled, is the blog. I hope you enjoy the blog/e-concert.

Merry Christmas to you! I know some of you are caught up in the whole “We Are The (Secular) World” trip; thus, you substitute Holiday for Christmas in seasonal greetings. But that really shouldn’t be a problem since the man we call 44 brought Christmas back (wink-wink). But seriously though, in case you don’t know, Christmas never went anywhere.  In fact, a quick check back over the Obama years reveals…Christmas was a staple in his repertoire. (  Of course, those innately curious enough to conduct the requisite etymological research know that the root derivation of holiday is “Holy Day;” but I digress; that is fodder for another day.

By the time you get around to this post, most, if not all of you will already have done whatever it is you do to observe and/or celebrate Christmas. But you know what, herein lies an opportunity to take one more moment, a time out if you will, before returning full tilt to your normal schedule.

As is my custom, I will not use this Christmas Season Post, if you will allow me to call it that, to challenge you to sort through the facts, be they esoteric or mundane. Not the election, or the economy, no wars, and absolutely no (further) references to Presidents, past, present or future.

No, this is your time to take a break and leave all that behind. Notice, I did not say forget it, and I certainly would never ask that you pretend it doesn’t exist. Just give yourself a break.

In the true spirit of keeping it simple for both you and me, I am reprising an amalgam of previous posts. In fact, not just any posts…posts from several Christmas’ past. This is my twelfth e-Christmas Concert. Several years ago, I pressed the reset button on the Concert.  Instead of simply providing 12 standards, I upped the ante and provided 24, 12 by female artists, and 12 by male artists. This year, Christmas Day is Saturday, delivery day, as it were.  Take your time, but give them a listen, if you like Christmas Music.

The English playwright and poet, William Congreve, in the opening line of his 1697 Play entitled The Mourning Bride,” asserted, “Music has Charms to soothe a savage Breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”  I think Congreve was on to something.  If indeed music is capable of enabling us to overcome our basest instincts, and in so doing, ennoble us to pursue our finer impulses, and then indeed, we should take more opportunities to render ourselves captivated by its magical spell. (By the way, it really is breast…not beast; caught you thinking, didn’t I?)

So, I identified and pulled together an assortment of my favorite Christmas Standards by several of my favorite artists. This year’s version includes a variation of the artistic olio I pulled together for your reading, viewing, and listening pleasure several years ago. Below, you will find hot links to YouTube video interpretations and two songs for each of the 12 Days of Christmas listed and included in today’s Yuletide e-concert.

Female Artists

  1. Eartha Kitt is known for having had many talents skills, and abilities, among them acting and singing.  Last year I substituted her most popular Christmas song for “Nothing for Christmas.”  After a 1-year hiatus, I’m bringing back Santa Baby.  As I’ve noted before, the song was born in 1953, and as I will this Sunday, it turned 65 this year.  She slays (or if you’re really in the Christmas spirit — sleighs) it.
  2. Dianne Reeves is a Grammy-winning jazz artist who sings in the vein of Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae, a skilled lyricist and scat singer.  She presents “Christmas Time is Here” as if it’s her own.
  3. Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America.  She had a short and tumultuous reign.  But cream rises to the top, and her talent ensured that losing her title was but a mere speed bump in a star-studded road.  Her rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear” provides a glimpse of her musical flexibility and skill.
  4. Lena Horne was a jazz musician whose career spanned over 70 years.  She was also an actress, dancer, and civil rights activist.  She demonstrates her vocal caliber in this version of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  5. Cassandra Wilson was born December 4, 1955.  Her birthdate alone ensured that I included her on this list; ’06!  But that’s not the only reason she made the cut.  Her range includes blues, country, and folk music, as well as jazz.  Moreover, she stuck the proverbial landing in her rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.”
  6. Toni Braxton is a lot of things: a talented songwriter, singer, pianist, record producer, actress, television personality, and philanthropist. She is known to be sexy, sultry, and an unpredictable reality show star.  She’s still best known for her music though, and her version of “Santa Please” will do absolutely nothing to change that.
  7. The Emotions are one of those classic Old School Girl Groups born in the 70’s.  Influenced greatly by Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire Fame, they continue to perform today.  One of my favorite tunes by them is their version of “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?”
  8. Anita Baker released her first solo album in 1983.  In 1986, she released “Rapture” and it was the dawn of her stardom.  She is known for her trademark “husky” voice, and she is at her Christmas best in this version of “The Christmas Song.”
  9. Diana Ross and the Supremes were the “It” Group of Motown when Motown was the “It’ place of Soul Music.  The Supremes are America’s most successful vocal group with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Here they are with their 1965 rendition of “Silver Bells.”
  10. Ella Fitzgerald is jazz royalty.  Frequently referred to as the First Lady of Song, the Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella, she was widely acclaimed for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, and intonation, as well as a horn-like improvisational ability.  Virtually all scat singing is measured against her. Check out her version of “Sleigh Ride.”
  11. Whitney Houston had a voice known worldwide.  Her recordings accounted for nearly 200 million records sold.  Hers was a clarion voice of our times.  This version of “Joy To The World,” taken from the movie, “The Preacher’s Wife,” is special, as was she.
  12. Ledisi (Anibade Young) is an R&B and jazz recording artist.  Her first name means “to bring forth” or “to come here” in Yoruba.  She was aptly named.  Enjoy her rendering of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

Male Artists

  1. James Brown was renowned for his energetic performances, which earned him another of his many titles, “Hardest working man in show business.” His rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby” is not so up-tempo, but still a reminder that he had earned his chops the hard way, and that he was much more than just flash and dash.
  2. Donny Hathaway was a multifaceted soulful crooner and a product of Howard University who excelled in jazz, blues, soul and gospel music; an Alpha Man.  He suffered from depression and died of suicide January 13, 1979 at 33 years old.  He rendered this marvelous recording of “This Christmas.
  3. The O’Jays were formed in 1965 and have been a staple in Soul and R&B music ever since.  They knock it out of the park with this version of “Christmas Just Ain’t Christmas Anymore.”
  4. The Temptations were a significant part of what made Motown, Motown, in the 60’s and 70’s.  Their rendition of Silent Night lives on as a classic among classics as far as Christmas music goes.
  5. Al Green, soul singer, turned minister, soul singer-minister was at his most popular during the 70’s.  He puts his considerable talents to good use in this version of “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”
  6. El DeBarge was the central figure in the group known as DeBarge, which reached its zenith in the 80’s.  El was one of several members of the group who went on to fashion solo careers.  He nails this version of “Christmas Without You.”
  7. Will Downing has been recording albums since 1988.  I’ve seen him in concerts twice, including a couple of weeks ago, and I own most of his recorded music.  He simply does not disappoint.  This recording of The First Noel is no exception.
  8. Joe (Lewis Thomas) released his debut album in 1993.  He has maintained a presence on the music scene ever since. His nuanced presentation of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is just another fine example of his limitless talent.
  9. Jerry Butler, popularly known as the Ice Man, fitting for an Alpha, is a singer, songwriter, and musician (guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums) who was the lead singer for the Impressions before going on to a solo career. He recorded this classic version of O Holy Night.
  10. Luther Vandross was a musical icon. Period. End of story.  He is one of my favorite musicians, and his treatment of “My Favorite Things” is certainly among my favorite Christmas songs.
  11. The Whispers hail from LA, and have been around since the 60’s.  They became members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003…for good reason.  They got it like that.  And they prove it with this version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
  12. Kem (Owens) is an R&B/Soul singer who has made his uniquely fashioned mark on the music scene since 1999.  He enlists Ledisi (Anibade Young), another single named musical star to create a fabulous rendition of “Be Mine For Christmas.”

That’s it, 24 artists and videos and/or songs. Add it all up and you get “Twelve Days Of Christmas: The e-Concert – 2021 Edition!” Enjoy it throughout the Season, and by all means, remember the Reason for the Season!

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The Juice Is Loose!

It’s time to Break It Down!

O.J. Simpson was granted an early parole discharge last week, according to a statement from the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

Simpson, of course, has known notoriety since his college days as a running back at the University of Southern California (USC). Some may have heard about him even earlier, during his high school days, if you were into that kind of thing.

He went on to break records as an NFL player with the Buffalo Bills. He also engendered fame as a broadcaster, actor, and pitch man. Ultimately though, the Juice eclipsed all other measures of being recognized, by being the subject of what became known as The Trial of the Century, a case in which he was alleged to have murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. In 1995 after the high-profile trial, Simpson was acquitted of two counts of the 1994 murders. However, a civil court subsequently found him liable and ordered him to pay $33.5 million, an amount which has more than doubled over the more than two decades that have passed since the judgment was rendered.

In 2007, Simpson was convicted in Las Vegas on kidnapping and armed robbery charges. After serving about 9 years of his 33 year sentence, he was released on parole in 2017, based on a unanimous recommendation of the Parole Board. His parole had been scheduled to end February 9, 2022. Last month, the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners held an “early discharge hearing,” and recommended his release after input from the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. The decision to grant early discharge was ratified Monday of last week (December 6, 2021).

Arguably, the 74-old Simpson will never be a “free man,” as he now reportedly owes more than $70 million from the civil suit judgment. But, having one more set of proscriptive parameters removed must offer some degree of relief. To that end, in relative terms, at least, “The Juice is Loose!”

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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!”

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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!

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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!”

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