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Inner Strength insights from the world of sports, disability, entertainment, business, politics and everything else I’d like to share with you.

A Front Row View Changes Everything!

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By Greg Smith

Saturday night, while attending the Mississippi Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra concert at the Saenger Theatre in downtown Biloxi, I remembered a lesson I learned from listening to my own show. It was a lesson taught by Marilyn Sherman on my second-ever podcast. (Episode 19)

My parents were invited by Randy and Denise Doyle.  Denise serves on the board of directors for the Symphony.  Your’s truly, the undatable one, was the 5th wheel. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Mary Mahoney’s restaurant and we were so engaged in conversation and laughter that we lost track of the time. We had to rush, but we made it just as the maestro was saying his first words. Of course I was escorted to “wheelchair row” which is at the very back of the theatre, farthest away from the stage.

The music was familiar and soothing: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.  But from so far back in the theatre, I had to squint to get any focused view of the orchestra.  I found myself reclining back in my chair,  closing my eyes and enjoying the music.  I became a little drowsy.

During the intermission, I made my decision.  “After everyone is seated and out of the aisle, I’m gonna roll up and sit in the front row!”

I asked Denise for permission.  She was intrigued by the question and went to get an answer from somebody else.  But my mind was made up. “Nobody is going to interrupt the performance of the orchestra to walk down the aisle and  make me move away,” I thought.  After everyone was seated, and before the performance began, I made my move.

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The first two rows were empty.  I made sure my presence was not blocking anyone’s view.  When I arrived up front, the bassist and a couple of cello players looked at me, smiled and nodded.

I was rewarded for my courage immediately by the selection the orchestra played!  It was Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition which is a piece we played in high school!  I knew this music well!

For the next 30 minutes, I was deeply engaged. I could see the fingers of the musicians moving up and down their instruments, plucking at the strings.  I could see their facial expressions as the music flowed through their souls.

I’ve seen Miles Davis from 30 feet away.  I’ve seen Stevie Wonder, The Who, Journey, Neo, Genesis, the Pretenders, John Legend, Carlos Santana… I don’t want to take the time to list them all right now.  This performance by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve ever attended. Moving up to the front row in life definitely changes everything. Don’t settle for what you are initially given in life.  Always strive to get a better view!  Thanks Marilyn!!

 

Warning for Teens and Young Adults: “Beware the Social Devil!”

Berkeley Blog

Guest Blog By Berkeley Smith

Are you addicted?

I’m fed up. I’m exposing this because I want to help others who are going through the same thing and don’t even realize it.  This originated as a post on Facebook and I invited my friends to “read it until the end or unfriend me.”  It was directed to teens and young adults, but applies to everyone.

As I sit here and try to find myself I question all existence. Who am I and what have I become? Like everyone, there are still things about myself that I am afraid to bring to surface out of disappointment.  I just keep these thoughts quiet and promise to never do them again.  But this is one I feel a responsibility to share.

I’ve turned into some kind of monster who feeds off of other people. Where did that creative butterfly go? Where is the “me” from a couple years ago who sat in her room plotting her own success, writing music, creating goals for herself? Doing these things was my passion. I want to know what it is that dragged me away from myself. What happened?

The question forced my brain to answer.  Suddenly, I realize why my life hasn’t been the way it should be. Social Media: “The Social Devil” of all devils who feeds off distracting you from your life and what’s really important.

It became a habit or some sort of addiction. If I think about how much time I actually spent on my phone, scrolling through timelines, Googling celebrities who I don’t know anything about, or watching Vines, I realize that if I continued down this path my life would be a disaster.

Young adults are trapped into this life and still don’t know it. Some people may read this and laugh at how ridiculous it sounds. The ones who laugh are already too deep into it. The same people who laugh are the ones who constantly scroll their thumbs and try their hardest to escape into this world focused on other individuals instead of themselves.

I’m not here to talk about anyone else’s problems. I’m here to talk about my own. It got to the point where I sat around scrolling on Instagram and other entertainment websites for hours doing nothing beneficial for myself. As of today I will put a stop to this madness!

But it’s not easy. I’ve dedicated so much time into wasting my time, that when I try to do something constructive like study for a test, I reach for my phone. So now I’ve turned my phone OFF and am typing this message on my computer.  And I realize it’s even worse! I get this feeling inside that hurts. It’s like an itch you can’t scratch or an irritation so heavy it hurts.

It actually got to the point where I couldn’t focus anymore. I was reading my schoolwork and replacing words with the word “Instagram.”

No one should have to go through this so it’s easier to just keep up this cellphone/social media routine. But if you’re serious about your life and aim to live the best life possible,  focus on yourself and the world around you by staying away from this demon. It’s a trap, so stop while you can before it’s too late.

This is the hardest thing ever, but I will do it. I will get the original “me” back. Wish me luck.

What are YOU going to do?

If you think its so easy to stop the habit, lets see you try. There’s no way I could continue my studying without getting this off my chest.  I only got on social media to share this message. If you can’t force yourself to get off social media, the least you can do is use it effectively right now by forwarding and sharing and tweeting about this blog so that it goes viral.

That’s all.  Signing off to attempt to study again.

Berkeley Smith is a freshman at Arizona State University.  She gets her writing chops from her father!  

Famous disabled Boston Marathon runner does NOT have muscular dystrophy

The media got it wrong!

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By Greg Smith

(Modified 4/23, 5:25 AM: Changed from press release format to blog opinion piece; added sourcing)

Maickel Melamed, the disabled Venezuelan man who completed the Boston Marathon in 20 hours has a disability, but it is not a form of muscular dystrophy.  His own web site describes the source of his condition: “After a hard and complicated labor because his umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck choking him, leaving his body motionless, he was diagnosed with “motor delay,” which is a state of general hypotonia of the body, ie, it was an inert mass without possibility of movement.”

Advocates with neuromuscular disabilities are requesting media correction.

While the diagnosis of his disability doesn’t lessen his accomplishments as a marathon runner, it is important for people to understand what ‘Muscular Dystrophy’ does. Muscular Dystrophy is an umbrella name for diseases that weaken the musculoskeletal system and hamper locomotion. People with MD endure progressive muscle weakness. Walking as an adult is rare. Running a marathon is simply not possible.

Introducing NMD United a non-profit 501(c)3 organization consisting of adults with neuromuscular diseases

I serve on the Board of Directors for a NMD United, a non­‐profit organization with the mission connecting adults with neuromuscular disabilities. NMD United’s President, Emily Wolinsky, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, founded the organization in 2013 based on her idea that adults with neuromuscular disabilities needed a way to connect, share knowledge, support each other, and empower one another.

“There are misconceptions about neuromuscular disabilities that need to be corrected,” says Wolinsky. “We are not somebody’s ‘kids.’ We are living closer to normal life-­spans. We are working, managing our own lives, marrying, having kids, voting and paying taxes, but we aren’t running marathons. Identifying someone with the wrong disability is like calling a pregnant woman fat. Inaccuracies matter and they hurt.”

As a 30-year broadcasting veteran and graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, I am not surprised by the media’s latest mistake in reporting about disability.  In addition to the wrong diagnosis, in media coverage, Mr. Melamed is referred to as a “victim,” “stricken with,” and “suffering from.” Words such as these certainly don’t help the employment rate among people with disabilities.  I invite executives in the media take a stand to show as much respect to disability advocates as they show to other minority groups.

The National Center on Disability Journalism at Arizona State University has the road map online for journalists in the form of the Disability Style Guide.  And I would welcome opportunities and am available as a resource to help train journalists on the importance of language in disability coverage.

Contacts:

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“The Strength Coach” – Greg Smith Broadcaster, Author, Speaker

228-424-3896

www.TheStrengthCoach.com

greg@TheStrengthCoach.com

@strengthcoach

facebook.com/StrengthCoachPage

Skype: thestrengthcoach

 

 

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Emily Wolinsky – President, NMD United

512-698-1554

www.NMDUnited.org

emily.wolinsky@nmdunited.org

http://www.facebook.com/NMDUnited

 

 

 

 


 

LISTEN TO GREG’S PODCAST:

TIMEOUT WITH THE STRENGTH COACH!

Guest Blog: When the Going Gets Tough

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Terry Brock is a friend, mentor and expert on business success strategies and the effective use of new technologies.  

by Terry Brock

Life can be tough at times. Any successful business person knows that. It can sometimes get really draining, and sometimes we don’t know how to move forward. If you’ve ever had some of those times that are very tough, and you wonder how to keep going, I want to share some thoughts with you that have helped me and others.

You might have heard the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This has been attributed to both Joseph Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy, and to American football player, Knute Rockne. Who ever said it, I think it’s a good idea. Billy Ocean had a hit song with this title back in the 80’s.

There are those that cynically say,”Wait a minute. Does this mean that the tough only get going when the going is tough?” No, I think that people who succeed (meaning “the tough”) are the ones who were always “going.” Those who succeed are continually doing the right activities based on the right thinking patterns and they succeed because of their mental and physical toughness.

Here’s some pointers that can help you so that you are ready to move forward whatever comes along.

1. Be prepared. This adage, which is a model of the Boy Scouts, is very important to succeed. I would also further say that we need to constantly be in a state of preparing. I’ve found many times in my life that the greatest challenges come when I sit back and take it easy thinking, “WOW! I’ve done a great job and I can rest on my laurels.” Instead, successful people know that they must constantly prepare by looking at what the environment is today versus what it was like before. They read, they learn new material, they continually find ways to better themselves. This is the best form of preparation.

2. Make training like the real world. The Russians have a saying, “ Тяжело в учении, легко в бою.” which means “Hard in training, easy in battle.” This reminds me of what US Navy SEAL team 6 founder, Richard Marcinko, has said.”The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.” Make your simulations and training as much like the real world as possible —- or even tougher! The tougher you are from your rigorous and disciplined training the better you’ll be able to face whatever life throws at you.

3. Focus on what matters. Have you heard of that thing called the Internet? That thing called Facebook? Well, those two wonderful distractions can eat up to gobs of your time and take you away from what’s most important. Don’t get me wrong. I use the Internet and Facebook extensively for business like many do. However it is easy to lose focus on what matters most. One of the best ways that you can keep going when things are tough is to focus on the most important task at hand. Always ask yourself the question “Is this the most important thing for me to do right now?”

4.Keep your goal in sight. It was the philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche who said, “Develop your why & you can bear almost any how.” A worthwhile goal serves as the fuel that you need to drive your engine toward success. Don’t ever forget that. Keep your goal vividly in mind and focus on the activities and accomplishments which move you forward.

5. Get the right people (Like The Strength Coach) around you! Associate with people who will inspire you and educate you. Sometimes these people also can frustrate you when they bring out areas of your life that need to be improved. That’s alright. Today we can build alliances with key supporters around the world through regular video connections. Make it your goal to have the right people, and avoid the wrong people in your life.

You don’t have to give up with the going gets tough. It will get tough. By embracing these success principles you can do more than just “get going.” You can succeed!

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a note on Facebook or Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,
Terry
Terry Brock, MBA, CSP, CPAE
www.TerryBrock.com
Connect with me on Social Media
Twitter – @TerryBrock,
Facebook – www.facebook.com/MarketerTerryBrock
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Business-Building Videos- http://www.youtube.com/terrylbrock

Disability “My Worst Enemy?”

Photo on 4-17-15 at 12.03 PM #3

By Greg Smith


What did he say???

I just blurted out the words! While recording my podcast last night, a sentence left my tongue that I didn’t fully catch until I was done producing the show and listening to the final product for technical snafus.

“My disability is a constant enemy that I fight every day.”

Rip the needle off the record! Did Greg Smith — a man who preaches that disability is a natural part of diversity; a man who talks about disability pride; a leader in the promotional battle to get the truth about disability rights out there in the media… that guy — Did he actually say that his disability is a constant enemy?

My first thought at 2 o’clock in the morning was to re-record the segment because I knew how the choice of words could be misinterpreted. Many of my followers in the disability world would be outraged by that as a stand-alone statement. But I decided to let it speak for itself and not edit it out. Here’s why:

Without question, my worst enemy is my disability, muscular dystrophy. Equally stated, my closest friend is my disability, muscular dystrophy.

My worst enemy

There are times when I absolutely despise my disability. I have a neuromuscular condition that slowly deteriorates muscle tissue. Gradually, all my life, I have become weaker. This means that throughout my life, I have been losing abilities.

If you had it, you would understand that it happens so slowly that you barely notice it until one day, you can no longer do something you have been able to do your whole life. When you realize you can no longer do something, you curse the disability as an evil enemy.

My best friend

There are also times when I love my disability. It connects me to a rich culture of people around the world who have a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity. It is a fraternity that most non-disabled people wouldn’t want to join, but as a member, I can say that there is a definite sense of pride and a connection with others that is magical and unique. But what I love more than that is how much my disability motivates me internally.

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t find myself in the middle of a “crip moment.” That means that I’m in a challenging physical situation that requires concentration, determination, patience and creativity to overcome.

Usually there are two choices: I can either “man up” and do it myself, or I can call for help.

What I love about my disability is that it constantly gives me opportunities to exercise my determination muscle. Depending on my energy level and my schedule, sometimes in “crip moments,” I go into game-time mode and I decide that I will solve the problem on my own. During those moments, the disability is the evil oppressor who must be defeated. It’s personal.

These are situations where I am stretching the bounds of my abilities. I’m using creative resources and tools. I’m figuring out how to do the impossible. And when I triumph over the challenge, the feeling is excitingly addictive. That’s when my disability transforms from worst enemy to best friend.

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“Crip moments” are when something is out of reach and I need to figure out a way to use leverage and momentum and rock my arm back and forth and then hurl my hand in the direction of the thing I need to reach… and coming millimeters short, resting, making another attempt, compensating for what went wrong with the last effort and trying to do it again, as many times as it takes.

Swinging my dangling foot from the wheelchair into bed late at night because I don’t want to bother my family to help me into bed is another example. Sometimes, that that takes an hour.

Another common example is when I’m sitting back in my chair and I need to lean forward. I don’t have the neck muscles to hold my head upright. So as my torso is leaning forward, gravity and my heavy head work in tandem to force my skull onto my back with my chin pointed up at the sky, which is a bad and painful position to be in. My solution is I literally throw my thumb into my mouth and gently bite down to allow my arms to keep my head forward for the transition.

“Crip moments” are when the coffee mug is too heavy to lift so I grab my right wrist with my left hand and pull both hands upward to raise the mug to the level where I can get a sip.

Having to face these daily battles has created a determination deep inside my soul that gives me the experience to have earned the title “The Strength Coach.” But I am not alone. There are millions of us out there who have the same best friend and the same worst enemy. To personify my disability would be to compare it to an old spouse or an old friend. Sometimes he or she makes you want to kill. Sometimes you appreciate and adore what that person does for you. Your worst enemy can be your best friend.

Guest Profile: Andy Imparato, Executive Director of Association of University Centers on Disability

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Spread the word!

Andy Imparato will be on Greg Smith’s Podcast next week!

Next week on Timeout with The Strength Coach, the topic is depression and mental health.  Greg reached out to an old friend who is good at telling his personal story, Andy Imparato, who is now the Executive Director of the AUCD.  In the interview, Andy talks about the onset of his disability, how he decided to come “out” with it and gives advice to people who might have symptoms of depression and bipolar tendencies.

The show will be available on Monday morning at midnight, 12:00 am Eastern Time.  In the meantime, enjoy these bonus segments featuring Andy discussing his new role at the AUCD.

Please spread the word about the podcast… “Timeout with the Strength Coach.”

You can subscribe on iTunes.  Just search for Greg Smith or the name of the show and click “subscribe.”  You can also listen online at webtalkradio.net.

 

Overcoming Negative Body Image: Loving the Living Skeleton

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By Greg Smith

I can’t believe I’m posting this!

I’ve reached a milestone. I have achieved a victory over an enemy that has dominated me and limited me for as long as I can remember. And as I stand over this monster with my foot on its neck it feels so good!

The bully… the monster… the enemy has been my negative body image. At the risk of getting my “man-card” revoked, I am publicly admitting that all my life, I’ve struggled with the way my body looked.

I’m skin and bones and very little else. I have weighed 65 pounds for as long as I can remember. It never mattered that I had an excuse called ‘muscular dystrophy.’

My arms and legs are bony, my neck and face are thin. But to me, the most embarrassing part has been my torso. My ribs protrude through my chest. My clavicles pop out. I have no pectoral muscles. No chest. It is just skin and ribs.

Since the time I became self-aware, my teenage years, I avoided being seen without a shirt on. I can count the times on one hand that I’ve been swimming in a public pool. I’ve never gone shirtless while out on the boat. I’ve never felt comfortable wearing shorts, exposing my bony knees and legs.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve always held a great deal of self esteem. I’m comfortable with my overall appearance. I think I’m a very handsome guy. I have always felt that I could hide my literal frailty behind clothes and use my wisdom and personality to compensate quite well.  But self consciousness about my boniness was always with me.

Devastating Impact

Being skinny was always a barrier to full enjoyment in life. It had a tremendous impact on my love life in particular.

I didn’t want women to see me with my shirt off until after we became intimate. “Shirt on and lights off” was my modus operandi. Revealing my body was a gradual process that I only allowed to happen after I was certain that I would be accepted and loved regardless of the physical flaws.

I knew they knew I was thin, but they did not know the true horror of the condition. If they saw me with my shirt off, they would be repulsed by it and that reaction would outweigh any feelings they allowed themselves to develop for me.

And that actually happened to me a few times. I’ve had women who cared deeply say they’ve tried to think of me in that way but they just couldn’t do it.  So I’ve gone through life as a mind, a face, a voice, a smile but without a body that was acceptable enough to be presented.

Forget the physical limitations of having muscular dystrophy. I dealt with those things and figured out ways around the literal weight of life and the battle against gravity. But there was no way around my appearance.

The Living Skeleton

I recently started receiving in-home physical therapy to expand the range of motion in my neck. My therapist, Wendie Hawkins, made me realize that being so skinny might have its advantages. She was amazed at being able to look at my body and clearly see bones, joints, muscles, arteries… things she had learned in anatomy class. My clavicle, scapula, scapula winging, sternocleidomastoid muscle, sternum…

“Medical students could learn so much from you. You’re like a ‘living skeleton!’ I can actually see your heart beating in your chest!”

That led to the idea of presenting myself to universities as an option for anatomy classes. The thought of posing shirtless for young med students terrified me at first, but then I thought about how it could lead to income while helping future doctors, nurses, therapists, researchers.

So I embraced the idea. In order to proceed, we would need to take some pictures. With her iPhone, Wendy snapped a few shots. When I saw the pictures, I was literally shocked and amazed by my reaction. I had never seen my shirtless body from multiple angles before. What I saw was not repulsive.

What I saw was asymmetrical artistry, the result 51 years of weathering, like a piece of driftwood, shaped into its own distinctive beauty by the elements of scoliosis, surgery and unique positioning.

If I didn’t have muscular dystrophy, I’m quite certain that I would have a perfect body in the traditional sense. I’ve always stressed the importance of physical fitness to my children and all three of them are athletic specimens.

 

What about you?

If you are not happy with the way you look and it is impacting your level of enjoyment in life, you have two choices:

You either decide that it is impossible to change your body and find comfort in your own distinctive beauty.

Or you can do the work and go full-strength to make the changes that are within the realm of possibility.

As “The Strength Coach,” I’m not allowing you the option of letting your negative body image diminish your quality life like I did. Nor am I allowing you the freedom of lying to yourself about your ability to make the changes necessary to build the body you desire.

It either is what it is, or it is what’s possible. You decide and embrace your choice.

Listen to my podcast this week as I discuss the “Living Skeleton” with my therapist, Wendie Hawkins, and Alice Wong, who also has muscular dystrophy and similar thoughts about her body.  Subscribe and download Timeout with the Strength Coach and please spread the word!

More about “On A Roll”

I can’t believe it has been 10 years since the “On A Roll” documentary.  I’m so excited that the film is coming back to the Web throughout the month of July.  Over a million people in the US saw it, but now millions more around the world will have the opportunity.

Here’s what they were saying a decade ago:

From ITVS Web Site

(San Francisco, CA) — Two million Americans use wheelchairs. 54 million Americans have a disability. From his state-of-the art radio studio in his parents’ Mississippi house, Greg Smith—“the wheelchair dude with attitude”—uses his popular nationally syndicated radio program to offer advice, encouragement and inspiration to not only the huge number of disabled Americans but all Americans. His upbeat, tough, and often humor-filled message closes the gap between the abled and disabled by stressing that we all need help from each other, everyday. Directed by Joanne Caputo, ON A ROLL will air nationally on the acclaimed PBS series Independent Lens on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 at 10 P.M. (check local listings) in conjunction with Black History Month.

Greg Smith sounds like a normal dad as he talks to his daughter on his cell phone and calls her “sweetie pie,” but interviews with his three kids prove opposite: “He needs help using the bathroom and getting in bed. He can’t play baseball that good.” Yet daughter Berkeley also knows what he can do: “He can move and drive… and talk.” It’s an accurate description as we hear Smith telling listeners about his new power wheelchair that can zoom around at 8 miles an hour.

Smith looks tiny and emaciated, but with a deep announcer’s voice he interviews Christopher Reeve, then blows the whistle on Clint Eastwood, Nike and Rush Limbaugh, all guilty of insensitivity to people with disabilities. We soon realize that he is no ordinary 65-pound man. He’s the host of On A Roll Radio who began broadcasting after a disability job discrimination experience in 1992.

By 2000, more than 40 cities air Smith’s program, but without major syndicator support. It’s part of the “institutionalized bigotry” that people with disabilities face regularly, according to Smith’s producer, Mike Ervin. Becky Ogle (former White House Disability Task Force director) and Judy Huemann (The World Bank Disability advisor) tell us about more concerns fueling current disability activism—nursing homes, independence vs. interdependence and the power of the growing disability voting bloc, now at 40 million.

Though Smith believes there’s a difference between disability discrimination and racial discrimination… (keep reading)

On A Roll Again

Disability Pride as ADA turns 25

Who is “The Strength Coach” and what is he about? The book I’m currently reading has forced me to look closely at my brand. I’m a motivational speaker, but what makes me different? What makes me stand out from other speakers? After an extensive process, I have realized that I left out a major part of my identity as I marketed “The Strength Coach.” I left out my disability.

How could I forget? I’ve had muscular dystrophy my whole life. I hosted a syndicated radio show on disability for 14 years!  10 years ago, I decided to branch out and become a mainstream motivational speaker. But the mistake I made was that I left behind the source of my strength:  My disability.

I’m bringing that back!  Nothing changes about the essence of what I do.  I teach people how to turn weaknesses into strengths for increased productivity and profits, leaving them feeling “full-strength swag!”  I just feel like celebrating my disability pride right now, which is fueled by the growing excitement over the 25 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, coming up in July!

So the podcast, Timeout with the Strength Coach, will present the challenges I face and the way I maneuver them, offering analogies for how anyone can use difficulty for personal gain.  My speeches will include a little more disability pride, using examples of people with disabilities who showed me the way.  And in July, filmmaker Joanne Caputo and I will be offering a free screening of the award-winning PBS documentary film, On A Roll: Family, Disability and the American Dream. This year is the 10th anniversary of the making of one of the most impactful documentaries about disability ever made.

Keep checking onarollmovie.com for updates and articles.  Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Real Black Men Fight Poverty

A high school football player was walking home from practice past the dog tracks where gamblers tried to beat the odds.

Through a fence, he saw his father, who had forgot to pick him up.  Frustrated, he walked home, past prostitutes and drug addicts to discover the only things in the refrigerator were ice and water. The young boy angrily challenged God to prove he existed. The next day, a bolt of lightening appeared out of the clear blue sky and struck the boy, putting him in a life threatening coma for 4 days. It had hit him in the head, cracked his football helmet, entered the left frontal lobe of his brain and exited through both ankles. His football career was over, but his spiritual life and desire for knowledge was reborn. Getting struck by lightening was the best thing that ever happened to Dave because it connected him spiritually and gave him the intense desire to use the miracle of his life in a special way. David Caruth and I became close friends at Arizona State University. He continued on to earn his Ph.D and summarized his story in his autobiography “God’s Perfect Timing: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty with Education and Faith.”

In honor of Black History Month, his column “Real Black Men Fight Poverty” is featured here as a guest blog.


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By Dr. David Caruth

What ever happened to fighting poverty? I don’t mean the “War on Poverty” where illegal drugs and alcohol were pumped into poor communities, and resulted in addiction, crime, and economic collapse. I mean, what happened to the foundations and philanthropists that once cared about the poor? What happened to the black church, and successful African American men who took action to protect our neighborhoods and families? Have we all abandoned the poor, for the safety of living in up-scale neighborhoods? Or are we busy transforming our minds, so that we can be the change we seek?

We are living in a time where poverty, and the misery index are on the rise, and where killing black males is no longer news. In Washington DC, over 40 people have been murdered so far this year. That number represents a 75% increase in homicides over this time last year. The spike in murders, drug use, and poor education in our communities should outrage us. Are we not free to promote traditional family values, form our own associations, and have our view of the world accepted by the dominant culture?

When I was growing up, my mother taught me that finding a wife was a good thing. To prove it to me, she opened her Bible to Proverbs 31:10, which read: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” I read the following 21 verses, and it was hard to argue with her. However, Proverbs 31 doesn’t begin with verse 10. The first 9 verses were also instructive. Verse 9 states: “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Should we not be more concerned about the lives of the poor who cannot escape poverty, than we are with the opportunity for one gay football player to secure a high profile job?

She went on to teach me the value of a two-parent household, education, and hard work. She assured me, if I had those three family values, together with a measure of faith, I could escape the sure grip of poverty, and live a prosperous life. As Black men, we need to get beyond emotional sensationalism, and turn our individual successes, into a well-oiled movement, to solve chronic dangers in our communities.

On May 19, 2014, Jonathan Weisman published an article in The New York Times where he presented data on President Obama’s economic recovery. By his analysis, the Obama economic recovery has left behind young women and blacks. Perhaps there is a lesson here for young women and black men.

The time has come for Black men to rethink how we go about making positives changes in our communities, and in our lives. We need to redefine how we learn, and determine for ourselves, if the dominant society values our contributions to society. We need to ask ourselves if its O.K., to delay our efforts to save our women and children, because the media wants to celebrate one man’s chance to compete for a job in the National Football League. When you consider the source of your outrage, remember this, dead men can’t vote.