Curiosity trumps fatigue in the quest for growth

Living the life I love
 Lucy Shaw

Dear Lucy: It is nearing the end of December already. It seems that so many people pass away during this time of year. Many of them are older people. It seems like they just decide that they don’t want to do another year. Maybe they know something we don’t know. So much is changing in the world and so fast. It’s time for another year and I can’t get excited about it. I’m not depressed, just not excited. Am I the only one tired?

– PK

Dear PK: I suppose that if I could ask the question just right, I could Google and find out if it’s true that December is the big month for deaths of a certain age. So often I tend to be more aware of death or birth or birthdays or anything else simply because I am thinking about it and paying greater attention. In the last three weeks, I had a personal stake in three different deaths ranging from ten years old to ninety. As I focused on these deaths I began to pay attention to the whole subject of death and dying including the ending of one calendar year and the start of another. So I feel a little of what you are talking about.

This is the time of year when we ask many life-changing questions. There will be many essays written and sermons preached on this topic for the next month or so. The essence of growth is curiosity. Curiosity is our spiritual birthright. We are constantly asking who, where, why, when and what. The trick to success is asking the right question and having the wisdom to balance our search for the answer with the patience and ability to wait and be quiet so that we can hear the answer.

Sometimes we ask “why?” just to wallow in the “why.” We don’t really want the answer and if we had it we wouldn’t use it or stop asking “why” long enough to learn the lesson contained in the why. Quite often the answer is looking back at us when we look in the mirror. I am the “who,” the “why,” the “when,” “what” and “where.” Sometimes I look so hard outside myself for answers that I forget how absolutely resourceful, wise and wonderful I really am.  What seems like the fatigue of having to face another year could just be my curiosity getting the best of me.

How I wish I knew what the next year will bring! But, I don’t. I can expect to see some people come and some go. I can expect some super days and some not so super. The big definite is that I can expect change. We live in a world of constant change...this is a fact. This change is tiring, invigorating, scary, encouraging, all at the same time depending on one’s viewpoint. And what we do have control over is our viewpoint.

There was a jeweler in Memphis named Las Savalle who passed away this year. Each time someone he knew or someone well known in the city passed away, he would put their name on his store marquee in honor of their lives. No matter who it was or what they had done, he would simply create a headline that said, “Memphis is a better place because John Doe was here.” I remember shortly after my husband’s death, the shock and simultaneous comfort I felt when I passed the store and looking up read, “Memphis is better because Harold Shaw was here.”

Las was a truly fine gentleman and what he knew was that we are all connected and we are all important. And this brings me to the question I want to ask of myself this year: “What am I willing to do this year to become better in ways that not only enrich me but also bless the rest of the world?”

What I do is important and makes a difference. I won’t judge according to what anyone else thinks about me. I will judge according to what I know I can be. I can be the one who will be missed by the entire world simply because I lived and made a choice to make a difference by elevating my own mind, and spirit.

I make a choice to remember that what I think about myself as connected to every other person, place and thing in this world is an awesome responsibility. Everyone I reach out to touch with love may not choose to touch back. I don’t control that. But I do control my willingness to keep on reaching, caring, giving, sharing and being curious. If that makes us tired sometimes, PK, we will just have to wait for the inevitable change!

Happy New Year!


Check out Lucy Shaw’s website at You may send your questions to her by U.S. mail to: Heartworks4U, LLC; 4646 Poplar Ave. Ste 201, Memphis, TN 38117 or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy’s new book, “BE NOT ANXIOUS.” Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site

Trusting in the ‘One’ treasure

Living the life I love

Dear Lucy: I was looking on line at the items at Christies Auctions that belonged to the actress Elizabeth Taylor. There are millions of dollars in jewelry. I don’t know who will buy them or who will actually get the money for them. But the pieces are unbelievably beautiful and unbelievably expensive.  How could someone spend that kind of money on jewelry?

– M.S.

Dear M.S.: I went online and took a look at what you are referring to. You are correct. The collection is awesome! One would have to have a mega-movie star status to even have an occasion to wear most of the pieces. Elizabeth Taylor was certainly a mega-movie star and much loved by her husband’s and by her friend Michael Jackson.

There is a diamond watch in the collection valued at $500,000 given to her by Michael Jackson. It occurs to me that she must have been the very rare friend and spouse with the capacity to inspire a level of love and admiration that caused people to want to give her the gifts that caused her the greatest pleasure. This is quite an attribute for anyone to possess, so my hat is off to what this says about her capacity to inspire such giving in others.  

Who buys such expensive jewelry?  It’s pretty simple…people who can afford it and value it intrinsically and extrinsically.

Beauty and value is in the eye of the beholder. Beyond any judgments about “why,” I was reminded of the temporary nature of life. I am certain that at some point in time before her departure from planet Earth, Miss Taylor had cause to consider that she would not get to take any of her physical possessions with her.  In fact, there will be an equally extravagant and dazzling auction of her clothing! It may be that this lady had the wisdom to enjoy all of her possessions in the moment and let them go. I have no idea what her capacity for philanthropy was, how she gave or to whom she gave in ways that are lasting.

So what can we take away from your question?

This week, I did a workshop for two groups titled, “What’s In Your Treasure Chest?”    Today, during seemingly tough economic times, many of us are convinced that our earthly “Treasure Chest” is dwindling or at the very least it is not growing.  When most people are asked to select their most treasured life experiences for placement in a “Treasure Chest,” they will tend to choose only the “good” or “nice” things as treasures.

Yet, it is the mix of ups and downs, good and bad, happy and sad that teaches us and grows us into wonderful, useful human beings capable of giving meaningful service to ourselves and the rest of the world. By God’s sweet grace, I am certain that Miss Taylor had the opportunity to look into her “Treasure Chest” of life experiences and honor and cherish those that created permanent, enduring and endearing life lessons for her. I was so blessed by looking at that collection of hers that I was able to look into my own Treasure Chest in which I have stored rich memories of both hardships and joys that I am so very grateful for.  Many of them cost me a lot of lost sleep, tears, some sorrow and a few cost me some money. But, what I received in return is absolutely priceless.

As it gets closer to year’s end, do you know what’s in your “Treasure Chest?” While there are many scriptures to choose from about treasures, here is one of my favorites:  “Some trust in horses and some in chariots, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God…” How often have I called upon that name when nothing else would do!

Trusting in the “One” treasure, for you and for me,


(Check out Lucy Shaw’s website at You may send your questions to her by U.S. mail to: Heartworks4U, LLC; 4646 Poplar Ave. Ste 201, Memphis, TN 38117 or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy’s new book, “BE NOT ANXIOUS.” Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site

Hip-Hop pioneer shares his vision for the Occupy Wall Street movement

Hip-Hop pioneer shares his vision for the Occupy Wall Street movement

Russell Simmons was among the handful of celebrities making a daily show of support of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) via a very visible presence on the ground in lower Manhattan and other cities. But since the police began banning and bulldozing the group’s campsites all across the country, it seems that the activists might have lost some of their momentum. So, I decided to track down Russell to see whether he thinks OWS was just a flash in the pan or if it will be revived despite the recent crackdown.

Kam Williams: Hey Russell, thanks for the time.

 “We don’t want the heads of the biggest industries to make all the decisions, because they’re not for the people. They’re for the corporations. Power to the people!” – Russell Simmons (Courtesy photo)

Russell Simmons: Hey, man.  

KW: Why did you join the Occupy Wall Street Movement?  

RS: Well, I have certainly been one of the people who’s been very vocal about the government’s being more concerned about special interests than the needs of the people who elected the officials. There’s always been talk about this, and now we have a chance to have a real dialogue. Wall Street controlled the future of the people participating in the occupation.

A lot of pundits keep asking, “What do they want?” It’s so clear to me what the protesters’ rap is all about. They’re occupying Wall Street and carrying picket signs that say things like, “I couldn’t afford a politician, so I made this sign.” You can trace their grievances and discontent back to all the corporate influence, which has had a huge impact in terms of all the inequalities that people are suffering from. If you talk about the prison-industrial complex, I’ve fought against the prison-industrial complex when I called for a repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws. The biggest impediment to get the laws changed was the lobbyists. Whether you’re talking about healthcare, jobs going overseas, or tax reform, you’re always coming up against lobbyists. Hello! So that issue is critical. And this dialogue is bringing a lot more attention to it.

KW: But are the politicians listening to OWS or to the lobbyists?

RS: The politicians already in office don’t want to change. A few might have it in their hearts to change and to start working for the people, but even some of the most progressive politicians are silent because they know that the candidate with the most money wins.   

KW: So, what’s the solution?

RS: On the day that Mayor Bloomberg cleared out Zuccotti Park in New York, I went up to Boston where I promoted a Constitutional amendment calling for public financing of elections, a very straightforward, no-nonsense, no compromise amendment which prohibits any expenditures by any third party, by any special interests or even by the candidates themselves.

KW: That would certainly level the playing field.

RS: Yeah, the elected officials should be working for the voters who elected them. Money corrupts the process. Why would you be giving a candidate money unless you expect something in return? That’s why I want to get this amendment done. It’s only four lines long. This is not a partisan idea. It’s an American idea. We’re trying to make a true democracy.

KW: Do you think the Occupy Wall Street Movement has been hurt by getting kicked out of park after park around the country?

RS: No, no, no… I think it’s only made it stronger. The movement’s just beginning. It’s only a couple months old. I was at Zuccotti Park almost every day. The kids down there were very compassionate. They embraced the homeless, and they were even kind enough to give free food and tents to inmates just being released from Riker’s Island. And some of those people would come out of jail and find purpose in joining the movement. Unfortunately, a few were disruptive, and the media would give the bad apples the most attention and so OWS’ message was being misrepresented. But OWS was only taking care of people the City of New York should’ve been caring for. So, the cleaning out of the parks just means the revolution has to evolve.     

KW: What would your answer be to people who ask: What, specifically, does Occupy Wall Street want?

RS: We want the government to be controlled by all the people, not by the richest 1 percent. That’s always been the first demand. That’s a simple enough message, and I think it’s pretty clear now, even though much of the media has been disingenuous in its coverage. We don’t want the heads of the biggest industries to make all the decisions, because they’re not for the people. They’re for the corporations. Power to the people!

KW: How will eliminating political contributions help the election process?

RS: Presently, you can’t be a free man and run for office in this country. Everybody wants something! Even individuals who bundle your money want something. The system has to be changed so that the politicians will work on behalf of the people.

KW: Isn’t it possible that you’ll still have politicians taking money under the table?

RS: That’s a different type of corruption. Most people don’t want to break the law. I’m concerned about eliminating perfectly legal forms of bribery. At least 4 out 5 Americans believe that Wall Street and special interests have too much control over our government. So, it’s not just a progressive thing. Remember, even a whole unit of Tea Party members marched with us on the Brooklyn Bridge. They want their elected officials to work for them, too. We see a flaw in our democracy, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to fix it. We want to educate people on this one issue.

KW: What’s tragic to me is the precariousness of the middle class. I’ve seen people lose their jobs, and then lose their home. Or get sick, and then lose their home. Or be working full-time but be unable to afford health care or to send their kids to college. A quarter of the kids in this country now live in poverty. Meanwhile, the Bush tax cuts for the rich remain in effect. Whatever happened to a living wage?  

RS: All of those problems are what makes this so urgent. And at the same time, the stock market just rolls on. It’s a disconnect, a money grab. Things will change when they can no longer exploit the people.

KW: So, isn’t business to blame for these problems more than politicians?

RS: No, I don’t fault business. If you run a corporation, your job is to maximize the return on investment for your investors. Good for you. But by the same token, we have to remember that corporations have no compassion. That’s why legislation and regulations are necessary.

KW: Do you anticipate seeing greater African-American involvement in the Occupy Wall Street Movement?

RS: Definitely! Veteran activist Dr. Ben Chavis is coming aboard with his long history and great record in terms of organizing. I know that when the civil rights community joins forces with the unions and with the pop stars of the cultural community, we can make this country much greater.  

KW: Are you at all worried about a possible backlash from the black community the way that Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley were criticized as being anti-Obama when they went on their poverty tour?  

RS: No, this not about Obama. I’m prepared to go on the road to make sure that Obama gets reelected. I’m a big supporter of President Obama.

KW: And what’s up next for Occupy Wall Street?

RS: There’s going to be an announcement made very shortly. I can’t blow it, but I will say this much: I potentially see the unions, the black Church and the cultural community coming together to spearhead a Poor People’s Revolution as a fulfillment of the dream envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King.  

KW: Well, thanks for updating me, Russell, and best of luck with expanding the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  

RS: Thank you, brother.

Memphis legend takes ‘Taxi’ to soul heaven

J. Blackfoot: We will remember

Facebook pages and blogs lit up all over the city of Memphis as the news spread Wednesday (Nov. 30) that the Memphis Soul Legend we all know as “J. Blackfoot” had taken the “Taxi” to soul heaven.

 J. Blackfoot
 J. Blackfoot stirred a blast of blues energy at the 6th Annual Memphis Tri-State Blues Festival at the DeSoto Civic Center in 2008. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)

Born John Colbert in 1946 in Greenville, Miss., he acquired the nickname “Blackfoot” as a child for his habit of walking barefoot on the tarred sidewalks. After a long battle with cancer, he died at the age of 65.

“J Blackfoot was one of the greatest singers that ever lived,” said legendary bluesman Bobby Rush. “He did not do a lot of movement on stage, but the energy in his voice was amazing. Whether singing blues or R&B, you could feel his spirit in his tone and heart.”

Blackfoot’s impact on Soul Music is tremendous.

Did you know that after the plane crash claimed the lives of four members of the original Bar-Kays, for a little less than a year, J. Blackfoot joined the re-created group as the lead singer?

Then there were the Soul Children years from 1968 to 1978. This was a project that Isaac Hayes and David Porter created after the Stax Label lost “Sam & Dave” to Atlantic Records. The Soul Childen – Blackfoot, along with Norman West, Shelbra Bennett and Anita Lewis – recorded 15 charted R&B hits in a 10-year span, with such hits as “I’ll Understand,” “The Sweeter He Is,” and “Tighten Up My Thang.”

In 1983, came the huge hit “Taxi,” which was originally written for Johnny Taylor. The song not only hit the charts in the United States, but in the U.K, eventually crossing over into Billboard’s Hot 100.

Months ago at a tribute event put on by 103.5 radio personality Jackson Brown, Blackfoot was the honoree. During a performance by headliner Michael Cooper of the group Confunkshun, Cooper told a little story that a lot of people had not heard. Confunkshun, he said, started as a backup group for the Soul Children under the name “Project Soul.”

And with a heartfelt tone, Cooper said, “There would be no “Love’s Train,” no “My Baby’s House” no “Confunkshun” without J. Blackfoot.”

Rush said Blackfoot was “a spiritual man.”

“Losing him has left a void, but I know he’s in a better place. I would like to say to his family, keep your head up,” Rush said.

“I will always remember that J always had a smiling hello when you met him and a smiling goodbye when you left. In fact, he would be the one to pull things together when things weren’t going right. He would say, ‘come guys, we are all brothers.’”

Rush last worked with Blackfoot at the Tri-State Blues Show and then in September at the Delta Blues Show. They were scheduled for a New Year’s Eve show.  

“J was kind, easy to work with and an all around gentleman,” said Rush. “I will miss my good friend.”

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

(This story includes contributions from Tri-State Defender staff.)

A mother’s desire is a boss’s beginning: Part II

As a mother inspired to enter business as a way to provide educational services to her children, Arti Balakrishna is a model of the lengths that mothers will go to to provide the very best for their children.