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Friday, May 31, 2013

About Walls. . .

There were barricades as tall as The Great Wall of China and they extended across our community. Few knew that these walls would veil our deepest secrets; or that they shaded and protected our most primal selves. Yet, most times they did; they shielded our imperfections and never exposed us for the frauds that we were.

Walls… what are they really good for anyway?

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What are we all so busy hiding from?

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There were some fools and envious clowns who got their jealous jollies by referring to us as: “Those Proud-ass Swintons…”

Names and labels are invented for the sole purpose of reducing the core of our spirits. In the end, when we’re all dead and gone, will it really matter anymore what people said or thought, or what the hell they called us?

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Snatching JOY(!) At The Second Anniversary of My Extended Life...

True story: I no longer take anything or anyone for granted. I make no assumptions about anything or anyone because assumptions can only lead to profound disappointment.

None of us, not a single one of us should take this hour, this day, this year, this life, or the people in it for granted.

Neither should we ever take the fact that we awakened this morning, or that tomorrow is a given to be absolute.

Life doesn’t play that way… and neither should we.

May 27th Marks The Second Anniversary of My Heart Surgery, and on that fated Friday morning, I was given a second chance at life.

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'Above all...guard your is the wellspring of life.' Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Heart disease will kill you if you don't detect it and treat it in time.

That is true - physically and spiritually. It's why the Bible states, 'Above all...guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.'

Wanting to look your best is admirable. It can enhance your sense of self-worth and improve your prospects in life.

But it's not a very gracious act to dwell upon one’s appearance and yet neglect the upkeep of your character. When all is said and done, '...Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.' (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)

This is where the Bible comes into play. It's like a mirror; it shows you the condition of your heart at any given moment. So, how's your heart today?

What kind of thoughts are you entertaining? Are you constantly comparing and resenting? Do you get easily upset? When you hear gossip do you silence it or spread it?

Jesus said, 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.' (Matthew 5:8 KJV)

In other words, when you start to see things God's way you'll begin to act accordingly. If the water in the well is polluted it will make you sick. Indeed, if you drink enough, it can kill you. What's the point?

Simply this: it's not enough to try to change your bad habits; you've got to go to the heart of your problem - which is the problem of your heart!

The Psalmist realized this so he prayed, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.' (Psalm 51:10 KJV)

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If you want God to prosper you, get your heart right.

That’s it. That’s all.

Thank You, Dr. Alexander Delvecchio for your God-given gifts… and thanks to Professor Mark Addis for your wisdom.

Snatch JOY!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Horrified... Haunted... Heartbroken

Like most everyone just awakening to the news, I am completely horrified, haunted and heartbroken over the tragic events that befell the citizens of Moore, Oklahoma, yesterday afternoon.

In the tornado's wake, as the numbers rise and the stories grow sadder, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, the first responders, and the wounded survivors.

With such profound devastation of this magnitude, one can only consider the children who were lost, knowing that with every death of a child, a part of the future diminishes.

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Anyone willing and able to help the victims of this catastrophe can contact:


One Love.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Yet Another Tragedy For The Family of Malcolm X

The Amsterdam News has learned, and the U.S. Embassy has confirmed, that Malcolm Shabazz - grandson of Malcolm X, was killed in Mexico. Several reports around the circumstances of his death, still unconfirmed, have rumored that he died early Thursday morning, May 9, 2013 from injuries sustained after he was thrown off a building or shot as he was being robbed in Tijuana.

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"I'm confirming, per U.S. Embassy, on behalf of family, the tragic death of Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X. Statements from family to come," wrote close friend of the Shabazz family Terrie M. Williams on twitter. Family members have confirmed his death and that he was in Mexico but have not confirmed the exact location or circumstances of how Malcolm Shabazz died. Malcolm Shabazz is survived by two daughters, his mother and several aunts. Malcolm Shabazz pled guilty and was found guilty of manslaughter and arson and was sentenced to 18 months in Juvenile detention. His stay was extended and he was released four years later. Years later he told the Amsterdam News that he had not set the fire. Malcolm Shabazz was in the process of writing two books, at least one of which was a manuscript, and he was attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. * * * *

So sad.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

For Mother's Day, A Remembrance

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The Sickness


As most every young kid does, I truly loved my mother. I did. Still, as time progressed and my observations grew sharper, there were some things about Dakota Swinton that I did not particularly like. It went beyond her deceptions, her mind-games, and even her hoarding of secrets. What I liked least about her was the sum of her weaknesses. The weakest thing about her was the lack of willpower it took to ever quit her nastiest habit: smoking. She smoked entirely too much. She’d had asthma since she was a child. She’d never gotten over it, never outgrew it, and still she smoked. It’s like she was slowly trying her best to commit suicide, and if she killed the rest of us in the process, well, that would just be a bonus.

She smoked like some minor demon, roasting in Hell, and I hated it!

This had long ago become her lifestyle, and her shackle. She was a pack-a-day smoker when Gig first met her. While Gig blew smoke so coolly from his horn, Dakota blew smoke from her Kools. Maybe back then she didn’t know the harm, or that cigarettes were so dangerous, but she smoked obsessively when she was pregnant. It seemed that nothing, not even the fear of miscarrying… could stop her from inhaling all those damned toxins.

To make matters worse, she smoked obsessively whenever she became upset. She smoked when she was nervous. She smoked the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. She smoked when she was pissed at Gig; smoked during and after their fights, and she smoked after they’d kissed and made up. She smoked after every meal, and then she smoked in between. The woman was clearly a fiend for nicotine.

She smoked even more when she was sketching— oh, most especially then. Gulping steady cups of java and hits of nicotine awakened the creativity sleeping in her brain. It wasn’t her greatest sin, but it was a telling sign of her inner weakness and how it manifested outwardly. It was hard to picture Dakota without a lit cig nearby. It would have been like a street bum without his trusty brown paper bag, because in many ways, those smokes provided her with a much-needed crutch.

But the woman had asthma, and still she smoked…most days, most nights, much times too much.

As a kid, you can’t stand the stink of it. You hate hearing that harsh rattling sound in her throat as your mother began coughing, sometimes uncontrollably. You hate it with all your heart, and yet there is little you can do about it. You just become an inhaling prisoner of it. Still, even death-row prisoners eventually get used to their surroundings.

You get used to the foul smell of cigarettes and the odor they leave in the smoker’s wake. You get used to the reek in the hallway coming home from school, and the lingering stench in each one of the rooms. You get used to it being like another presence in your home, in the curtains, on the furniture, and even in your hair and in clothes. It was never pleasant, but you get used to it.

Dakota smoked, as if it didn’t really matter that she had asthma. It was crazy. I worried about her. Addy did too. Gig smoked only occasionally and even then just to be seen as cool amongst the other players. He was never in the same league as Dakota.

She had asthma and she smoked. Wasn’t that a recipe for very bad things?

In addition to her long-lasting affair with nicotine, there were all kinds of pills and potions in our bathroom cabinet. The one bottle that stood out contained something called Betamethasone. She must have taken it for most of her life because it had been prescribed to treat her chronic asthma. But a lifetime intake of this steroid, I later discovered, only led to her bouts with chronic depression.

No one, much less we family members, seemed to understand that her despair was caused by this medication which had been prescribed for her. We just thought Dakota was peculiar, moody and sometimes deeply, most profoundly melancholy.

Then came that one traumatic day, when I arrived home from school to find the spinning red beams of a police car and two ambulances parked outside our building. There were all these curious gossips and people milling about the street. Some were peering out from their fire escapes, and others were looking out of their windows. I didn’t know what had happened or which one of our neighbors was in distress.

I didn’t sense much fear or much of anything else, until Miss Lola emerged from the building, looking shaken, and visibly disturbed. It appeared as if she’d been crying. I knew Miss Lola loved a crowd, so she was either trying to gain attention by over-dramatizing some minor situation, or else there was something seriously wrong. And then her eyes widened when she saw me.

She spoke softly to one of the emergency attendants but it was loud enough for me to hear: “Oh my God! That’s her son.”

Suddenly, I was overtaken by an intense kind of dread and it filled me with a fear like none I’d ever known.

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* * * *


From Like Litter in the Wind Now available on

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chapter 2 "The Anguish" ~ Excerpt From: Like Litter in the Wind (a novel by L.M. Ross)

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As she left the squad room which had held her captive for so many hours, on the way through the thin corridor housing a few weary cops in their cubicles, she saw a waste paper basket protruding into her path. Without even thinking, just out of pure anger and frustration Dakota Swinton kicked that can violently out her way. The noise alone jarred the attention of the other assembled policemen.

Once leaving that precinct, Dakota felt completely exhausted. Her body had grown so weary that every part of her ached from fatigue. Her mind felt shaken, thrown into some dark and sociopath alley—where her skull would lay, aching in its bony cage and riddled by terrifying thoughts.

She just wanted to crawl into bed, bury her head beneath the sheets, to fold her body into a fetal position and weep. She wanted to pray that when she awakened, this maddening nightmare would be over and done. It had been almost more than she could stomach just to endure that extended interrogation. Now she had to drag herself home, alone, inside that relentless storm. The clamor of the weather surrounded her with the furor of lightning and the clashing of elements at war in a fight for attention.

She’d tried in vain to hail a taxi, but none would stop. And so, she kept walking. She was walking inside that storm, if only to keep sane.

The rain on her skin felt as if the sky was spitting hailstones at her. The high soprano winds moaned in that haunting way it sounded whenever angels cried. The thunder became like a bounding chorus of howls and rumbles and still that disharmony of cop voices echoed in her mind. This was clearly one of those terrible days, perhaps one of the worst in her life. It was a time and a season that truly tried any mother’s soul.

She weighed along a windswept West 110th Street wondering if people, even those who didn’t know her, would look in her direction and recognize her story. Could they see and read it now? Was it in her face or did it reflect some place inside her eyes? Her irises were hurting because she’d long denied them the privilege or the permission to cry. Her eyes momentarily traced the sky, as if she were expecting to find someplace inside the clouds, the crying windswept face of God.

The Creator was otherwise engaged.

As they always had, people glanced at her in passing. Some did so because she was quite beautiful and a most striking woman. They’d told her this with a slow approving smile. She had a face and figure that could stop some people dead in their tracks. Perhaps it was the mesmerizing sable-colored eyes and the soulful gaze which often appeared inside them, especially in those times when she wanted to cry. When people looked at her, they undoubtedly noticed the full and sensuous lips which were, by turns, sometimes alluring and then determinedly matter-of-fact. Her high rattlesnake cheekbones projected a slightly aloof quality. Dakota Swinton wasn’t really so aloof, but she didn’t care if others thought her to be. No matter how attractive some found her physically, she was, first and foremost, a resilient Black Woman, in her own selfish element: frank and stridently outspoken, and she didn’t make a habit of suffering fools too gladly.

While walking though the streets of Harlem, she tried to wear her bravest face. That day, it seemed frozen that way as if bravery were a mask she was afraid to forsake. As the uptown parade bopped forth and drifted by her, there were times when she would almost forget her celebrity status. Yet, people would look at her curiously, having seen her work, and having admired her for it. But even those glances from the strangers felt somehow... different now. She turned to look behind her. She saw a few people trailing her in the rain. She wondered if those people were following her. For a moment, one insane and unbalanced moment, she imagined those people would stone her.

As Dakota walked and tried to keep her head held Swinton-high, she wondered if God was now ashamed of her—not for her past, but for her present. She wondered if something in her stride, her carriage, her posture or in her back silently told the others of this crime. She pondered whether that crowd rushing, shifting and sliding past her thought that she was a corrupt human being now.

With each step, she longed for enough strength just to reach her building. All she wanted to do right now was just to get home, just to shake off the rain, just to cover her ears and scream LOUD enough to drown out the sound of Harlem.

She opened her door slowly and just stood there, gazing into the room. Aside from the careless disarray the cops had left behind, beyond the toppled and trampled furnishings, there was something unfamiliar within the walls and the floorboards of her home now.

She thought she’d known the people who had lived there quite well. They were, after all, her family. But family is often just a word for disparate souls who happen to share the same bloodline.

The reality was beginning to dawn upon her that they’d been nothing more than dwellers within the same space at the same time. As family, they knew each other’s moods, strengths, and weaknesses. She knew the reckless dance of their tantrums, but even she could not always decipher the odor of their secrets.

There was a sad and pronounced odor to the room behind that door now. What was it exactly? Was it the pitiful stick of a loveless home?

The darkest thoughts flew like sightless birds inside the cage of her mind:

I wonder if he still believes in God. If he does, did he bother to think that this awful, unholy thing he’s done is making God cry? I truly do believe that God cried today.

He must’ve looked down upon this earth and saw the way we’ve kept Him out of our lives. He’s seen how little we cared about each other and how we rob, hurt and... kill each other. I see how it’s storming... raging outside. I have to believe it’s Our Father crying. And I swear by all that’s inside me, I never thought someone I knew... someone I raised and taught, and loved with all my heart, could ever make God cry.

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