The sun falling on downtown Havana showed the true Cuban dream of success had washed away into the Caribbean years ago. An area that was alive with music, families and more in the 1940's and 50's is decaying as if it was struck by a curse in 2000's.Read More
August 2017: Hippie Hill is known for bare feet and hippies. While it is true that not everyone on the hill is barefoot, the hippie ideals of accepting others has always been alive in the small community.
The future of the hill is somewhat up in the air as far as living arrangements go. It appears as if the government has been cracking down on their use of campers verses tent living.
It all has to do with zoning and it being called a primitive camping area verses a campground that allows for long term RV parking, etc.
Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture… Government getting too involved.
While rules are rules, it makes sense to allow for special permits when many who would normally be on the streets are currently living in a community where they feel safe. It is hard to feel safe under a bridge by yourself.
Maximum security sunrise: In 2015 Newsweek Magazine reported that over 2.2 million people are incarcerated in American jails or prisons. America has the largest jail/prison population in the world.
If those numbers are hard to imagine, think of it this way:
If you took the population of Delaware and multiplied it by two and then added the population of Rutherford County, TN - - you would have the number of those behind bars in the United States.
Or… If you took the population of Washington D.C. and multiplied it by three and then added 156,490 people - - you would have the number of those behind bars in the United States.
The number of men and women behind bars is larger than the population of 16 U.S. states.
Still not easy enough to wrap your mind around? More people are sitting in American jail or prison cells than the population of 87 different countries around the world.
Jail Vs. Prison Basics:
If you didn’t realize it, jail and prison are very different. Those who are in a prison have already gone through court proceedings and were found guilty. Their time behind bars is usually one year to life.
Typically, those who are in jail are awaiting their trial or unable to make bond. Others sitting in jails across the country are being held for misdemeanor crimes that don’t exceed 11 months and 29 days. Of course, you could be in a jail longer if convicted of multiple misdemeanor charges or if you are enrolled in a special program.
Children without Parents:
The Casey Foundation reported that over 5 million children in the United States have had at least one parent behind bars at one point or another. Those numbers equal one out of every fourteen kids who have had a parent behind bars during their toddler, early childhood or adolescent years.
The cost of bars:
The cost to keep inmates in confinement equals around $70 billion annually, according to WIRED.com.
Why has the prison population spiked since 1980?
Prison and local jail populations have skyrocketed in the United States over the past 35+ years, but why? Some would blame the problem on laws surrounding marijuana or alcohol consumption. Those who blame such are only correct by a fraction.
Mental Illness is the real contributor to the increased prison and jail system populations.
The Urban Institute reports that over 60% of local jail inmates have mental problems while nearly the same number present mentally ill symptoms.
State prisoners also have a lot of the same issues as local jails. In state prisons, over 55% of inmates have some type of mental problem and another 48% or so show symptoms.
At the Federal prison level, about 45% of inmates have mental issues while 40% show mentally ill symptoms, according to the Urban Institute.
So… there I was in downtown LasVegas and there he was, propped up against a trash can unable to stand. I bent down to speak with him and he said, “You know why I don’t shave anymore (slight laugh), because I can’t stand tall enough to see the mirror.”
His wife was in his wheelchair about 10 feet away. She was not asking for money, just a loan cigarette. She was in the chair to rest as she is usually on foot all day as the two are homeless.
Both of his legs were amputated due to extensive cardiovascular disease. In some cases doctors are able to move veins from one location to another in order to allow for better blood flow. In other cases, that is not possible.
Sometimes it is not possible due to costs so amputation is done as a last resort on a visit to the emergency room. Other times, grants are available for those without insurance to have such surgeries completed - if it is caught in time. I do not know what occurred in this case, nor did I ask as it was in the past.
Author Shannon L. Alder once said, “Before you call yourself a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or any other theology, learn to be human first.” Interesting statement. While those beliefs named are nowhere similar to one another all have one item in common. Humans follow those religions.
If we could only see through titles and learn to talk to others suffering. Listen to others going through struggles - then perhaps harmony would be easier. Life may even be easier for this man without legs because more would stop with ideas on ways to help. Maybe those with different religions would then work to put ideas into action.
She shares only a bedroom with a local resident, but you would think she has a palace. When she describes that room, her eyes light up like a child inside a candy store for the first time.
Previously living on the streets of what some call “Sin City,” she has a special appreciation for clean sheets and a pillow to rest her head on at night.
It is interesting... Today we can look around while standing in a crowd of 1,000 at a large church and see smiling faces from every walk of life wearing their Sunday best. But inside, we are unable to tell what they hide.
Some of those that you see daily have a past that is more painful than your past. Some are struggling with current pain that is undeniably ugly, dark and scary… but they hide it in public to an extent that you would never know. I am not talking about their sins that they participate in outside of the church walls, I am talking about pains thrown at them.
American actor Will Smith once stated, “Never underestimate the pain of a person, because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Some people are better at hiding it than others.” Truer words have never been spoken.
This photo is the most recent in the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center “Hand Project.” The goal is to show the wicked face of domestic violence without actually showing the face of those who suffered.
This woman, who is 53 today, talked about her ex and the violence and torment he caused in a way that would make one vomit. At one point, he broke her ankle so that she could not run from him. When her left ankle finally healed, he broke her right ankle.
To hear a short clip of her story, listen to the audio below:
Who is your Superman? For this young man, I would venture to guess his grandfather who will always be there for him.
"I can't unfeel your pain
I can't undo what's done
I can't stand back the rain
But if I could I would
My love, my arms are open"
"So when you feel like you can't
take another round of being broken
My arms are open
And when you're losing faith
and every door around you keeps on closing
My arms are open"
-ARMS OPEN by THE SCRIPT
He spent 8 years in the U.S. Army and served during the Iraq conflict. He is originally from Dyersburg, TN, but decided to move to Memphis where he was homeless for quite some time while searching for his life, who he was and who he is...
He is now in his own place and doing much better today. He is also looking into his past... He is part Indian and wants to learn more about his family heritage.
"Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to your heart, it knows." ~Native American proverb
“My grandfather was born in 1902, I was born in 1963,” he told me while gazing into the distance. His eyes were fogged over as if he had cataracts. “You’re good with dates,” I told him. “Yea, my mom was born in 1932… My dad was 1922,” he continued as if he wanted to show me he remembered more dates that were floating through his head.
I handed him a new coat as the nights had been dropping into the sixties and he quickly placed it under his legs as if to hide it from passerby’s. “Thank you, thank you sir,” he responded.
The coat, along with his new pants and shirts, were given to me by a friend named Amy Morris. I always love handing out items like that, which are new, as I know most never give those who live on the streets brand new clothes. They always cherish them knowing that the coat, pants or whatever it maybe are theirs from the start - it was meant for them.
I asked, “What were your best times growing up in Memphis?” He sat quietly and then said, “Best times were 18, 18 and younger when with mom.” I asked if his mother was still alive and he said, “Think so, think so – I not seen her.” His mother is Ms. Remell Williams and he knew her exact age, “She 85.”
Darrell was on medication for Schizophrenia, but he ran out. He has been off the medication for a number of days if not weeks. “I’m gonna meet Mr. (mumbled name) at the mission. He’s a good man. He's off today, he is with his family on Saturday and Sunday – he gonna help me,” suggesting that Monday he would see this helper at the mission.
“I went to 12th grade, I was in high school,” he proudly stated. I asked if he graduated high school and he said, “Yea, I done 12th grade.”
Darrell attended Central High School in Midtown. The school was built in 1911 and he attended the school from 1977 to 1981. It is the same school that was once attended by the late Kemmons Wilson who founded the Holiday Inn in 1952. Mr. Kemmons built the first hotel at 4925 Summer Avenue in Memphis and now a plaque remains in its location as it was torn down in the late 1990s. The chain now has 1,145 locations.
“My own success was attended by quite a few failures along the way. But, I refused to make the biggest mistake of all: worrying too much about making mistakes.” - Kemmons Wilson (1913-2003)
Let's all send Isaiah a birthday card for his third birthday on October 22, 2017-address below
(Scroll Down for Interview) Two year old Isaiah Davis will celebrate his third birthday at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville on Sunday, October 22, 2017 and not at his Christiana home. Isaiah was recently diagnosed with Leukemia.
Isaiah’s mother Jessica stays by his side 24/7 as he goes through his treatments. However, it is sometimes hard for Jessica to muster up the energy to hold her son’s hand as she too is struggling.
Of course, any mother watching their child go through Leukemia treatment would suffer emotionally, but for Jessica it is completely draining.
Both mom and Isaiah have similar feeding tubes and both find themselves sleeping most of the day away due to a lack of energy because of their medical circumstances.
While Isaiah has Leukemia, Jessica has Cystic Fibrosis. She was diagnosed with the disease at age twelve and she too went through extensive treatments at Vanderbilt. Today, Jessica is in need of a double lung transplant, but that is the last thing on her mind. Instead, she is focusing her energy on making sure that Isiah has a room filled with birthday cards. The soon to be three year old loves to look up at his wall as he falls asleep and see all of the brightly colored cards that arrive in the mail from time to time.
Jessica is asking people both locally and around the world, to send Isaiah a birthday card… if you are able to.
Birthday Card Address for Isaiah Davis s:
Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital
6th Floor Isaiah Davis
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232
Below you can hear a brief interview with Jessica and her son:
More ways to help:
Lonely is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a state of being without company, cut off from others or producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation.
Emotions are not always easy to spot, but when you see lonely you know it. It is interesting, lonely is one of those feelings that you can feel while surrounded by hundreds, thousands or perhaps even millions.
In prisons, some wardens utilize solitary confinement as a form of punishment leaving an inmate alone in a small chamber for 22 to 24 hours at a time. Some prisons call it “Segregation” while others use the term “Restrictive Housing.”
In 2006, a study by Stuart Grassian led to a report on the “Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement.” The report was released by Washington University Journal of Law & Policy. The research showed that such confinement can cause severe psychiatric harm with long term consequences.
While those in prison who are forced into a tiny cell for hours upon hours face some of the most severe outcomes psychologically speaking, the report listed other major groups that have the same negative outcomes without being held in a 6 by 9 foot cell. Those groups included patients with spinal cord problems that are not mobile, patients who are held in intensive care units for extended periods and patients required to wear ear and eye patches for weeks to months at a time, just to name a few.
That being said… would it be fair to say that many outside the walls of restriction isolate themselves within their own mind for years if not centuries without meaning to? The self-isolation equates to a sea of loneliness or depression which can equal a feeling of not being loved by anyone.
One man felt so deprived of loving human contact that he invented or founded the “Free Hugs” movement. His name, Juan Mann.
The movement of free hugs was started by Mann in Australia in 2004. He started the movement after an ongoing feeling of loneliness, depression and isolation. He quickly found that giving and receiving hugs to complete strangers felt good and actually cheered him up. It also helped others and the movement grew rapidly around the world.
Isolation leads loneliness which leads to depression which turns into feelings that you cannot be loved. It threatens our well-being in hundreds of ways. Be it isolation within ourselves, in the prison system or within medical settings, isolation is more dangerous than it was once thought to be.
“Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I'm most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.” - Anne Hathaway
They sat quietly in their small motel room rolling their own cigarettes to save money. Everything they own was inside the small 12 X 17 foot room that was coated in a smoke filled purple. Lamps lit the space occupied by the couple and their small dog.
Daniel told me the most painful thing he grew up with was his adopted father calling him retarded time and time again due to his learning disability. He said that his step father, who is actually his uncle that adopted him at age two, told him that he would amount to nothing.
Cassie said the most painful memory she has was that her father would tell her that she should not love her mother. Of course, she lived with her mother and three siblings. It was her mother that raised her, fought for her and held down a job while living in a motel so that Cassie and the others would have a place to sleep.
Once you are down, it is hard to get back up. Cassie explained that not too many months back, she had to stay at the motel where her mother lives for two weeks while her mom was hospitalized. She stayed in her mother’s room to look after her two younger siblings that had to be in school each day while her mother clung to life with her kidneys and even heart slowly shutting down.
Like Cassie, her mother is a fighter. She survived. But, it is one thing after another when you are at the bottom. A $20 bill can feel like a $4,000 bill. A $600 motel room is likely equivalent to a $5,000 house payment when you can barely afford food. Help for depression, it is almost nonexistent, as explained by Cassie while sitting in her dimly lit room.
Hear the entire story below (8MIN and 41SEC):
"It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." - Vince Lombardi
Rick is from Syracuse N.Y., but later moved to Kentucky for the local university in Richmond where he says he taught up until computers were brought in as teaching devices.
“How old do you think I am,” he asked me. I did not know where to start guessing, which he could obviously tell as he blurted out, “71, No one believes me.”
He told me about his love for music and said, “I play the French Harp.” Surprised I asked, “You have a harp… Like a giant gold leafed harp?” He smiled and laughed… “They call the harmonica the French Harp. It is a name that dates well before your time.”
“How is it that music can, without words, evoke our laughter, our fears, our highest aspirations?” ― Jane Swan, former Professor of History at West Chester University in Pennsylvania (1925-2010)
Nashville: Some pictures of “LOVE” need not be explained.
“There's nothing you can do that can't be done. Nothing you can sing that can't be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. It's easy…
Nothing you can make that can't be made. No one you can save that can't be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. It's easy…
All you need is love”
-Written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney in 1967. Producers of a television program called "Our World" asked the Beetles to come up with a song that contained a message that could easily be understood by everyone. The band took on the project and later released, "All you need is love."
He was sitting on his bike outside of a bar in downtown Nashville. "LOVE" and "HATE" tattooed to his fingers... He looked like the type who drifted into town with the thought of one night, but likely turned into two and later three.
By ten that evening, he was laying down on his ride with his feet hanging over the rear tire – his head on his handlebars. It was as if he owned the street and if he was told to move on, with a spit he’d say no and sit tight.
The type most would not approach in fear of not being able to walk away, he sat alone as the traffic around him blurred past.
"Got no strings to tie me down
Got no cause to hang around
What difference does it make which way I go
Got an empty feelin' down inside
Still I need to stay alive
Who can tell what waits beyond this road
I'm a drifter, lonesome drifter"
- Johnny Cash, “I'm A Drifter” (Version 2)
Imagine contracting Lime Disease upon your move to Tennessee… possibly from a tick bite. Then, after battling that for a full year imagine a diagnosis of breast cancer that spreads to the bones in your back, your pelvis and even your ribs. That is the life that Cathy Hoag in Murfreesboro has experienced in recent months.
Cathy, who lives in the Barfield area, was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer this past August.
Looking back, after noticing something was not quite right with her breast, she made an appointment with her doctor. The test results of a mammogram appeared normal, but more questions needed to be answered due to the extremely dense tissue that did not allow for a proper diagnosis. So, more testing followed which ended in a single phone call on a sunny afternoon.
It was a call that no one wants. Cathy, a wife, a stay at home mom of two boys ages 7 and 10, plus a home school teacher – heard the phone ring. She answered it and soon found herself in tears while closing the door of her bedroom. Her doctor informed her that she did indeed have cancer. It was soon revealed that the cancer had spread from her breast to her bones and it was given the title of “Stage IV.”
Prior to the diagnosis, Cathy had mammograms annually. But, the start date of the cancer was not fully established. Regardless of when it formed, she is moving forward with treatment at the Cancer Centers of America in Georgia.
A short 12 minute audio interview with Cathy is below:
"Remember how far you've come, not just how far you have to go. You may not be where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be." -Stuart Scott
Some people say that if you don’t enjoy your job, perhaps you are in the wrong field. I say, if you can’t enjoy life, perhaps you’re in the wrong field.
“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don't get so worked up about things.”
- Kenneth Branagh, Northern Irish actor, director
“My name is Vern and only my mom called me Vernon… God Rest her Soul,” he said when I accidentally called him Vernon misunderstanding his quiet whispers when he introduced himself.
He lives in a small apartment located in Nashville that looks more like a former motel. He talked about how crack dealers knew the hours of management and sold only certain times of the day.
“If I were asked to define Motherhood. I would have defined it as Love in its purest form. Unconditional Love.” -Revathi Sankaran
It is amazing to look back at history and see the variety of events that have taken place on the square in Murfreesboro, TN. While the history is not always pretty, it is still intriguing to consider the magnitude of events that literally touch every race, background, religion or belief.
The first documented execution on the local square took place in 1813, according to research dug up by County Historian Greg Tucker. The deceased was described as a black male known only as “Jess.” The Sheriff at the time conducted the execution.
During the Civil War the Union Army took control of Murfreesboro and used the courthouse as an observation and signaling tower in 1862.
Many stories still circulate about a young stranger who happened upon Murfreesboro where he told a crowd that he would climb the courthouse. The man who came to be known as “The Human Fly” did indeed climb the courthouse in 1923 and made it to the top where he slipped and fell to his death while waving. By the way, his body was never identified.
Men draped in white robes, better known as the notorious Ku Klux Klan, marched around the square in 1987.
Uncle Dave Macon Days started on the lawn of the courthouse with banjo pickin’ fun in 1978 and continued on the square until 1989. At that point the event moved to Cannonsbugh.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, go cart races happened around the courthouse. When curbs and islands of concrete were installed it killed the racing idea all together.
For years, the square has been the ending point for the annual Murfreesboro Christmas Parade.
Last year, Muslim Youth met on the square and handed out flowers and cards of encouragement to those passing by.
And now for the second year, the square has been the home to Boro Pride, celebrating the LGBT community - which is where this photo was taken this past Saturday.
Astonishing really to look back and simply observe the variety of groups and individuals that would normally clash.
In closing, a little diversity...
"Well I'm not the world's most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola
Well I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walk like a woman but talk like a man
Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola"
"Well I'm not the world's most masculine man
But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man
And so is Lola
La-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola
Lola la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola"
-The Kinks, "LOLA" 1970
Boundaries, who said we need those? She was a female barbarian…
In life we set these imaginary boundaries of what is off limits for males or females when in reality those limits should never be set to begin with. I am not talking about things that are taboo or bad, but instead things that anyone can do or should be able to do.
Take for example the right to vote. Prior to August 18, 1920 women were not allowed to vote in America. But why? It took over 70 years to make that right happen. In fact, the movement started in 1848.
It wasn’t until 1972 that discrimination based on sex was banned in America. It was called the Equal Rights Amendment. However, most of the wording for the amendment was first drafted in year 1923. The person who wrote it was Alice Paul who was born in 1885 and died just five years after the passage in 1977 at the age of 92, but she saw the change.
As for the boundary breaking woman photographed, she is part of a bachelorette party… her party. She will soon be married.
Benjamin Franklin once stated, “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” I think that quote easily holds true today as many people are closed minded and unwilling to see both sides. Some are unwilling to learn the backgrounds of others to better understand why they made the choices they made.
Free will is something we were given by God. While some have free will that will lead to trouble, it is not for us as a society to judge. We can lead, but to conspire or form group hate will not lead anyone anywhere.
My thought is simple… How you decide to walk is not up to me, but I can lead in some small manner if I feel that I should. Keep in mind that I too may fall, but don’t judge me as I don’t judge you.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ― Anne Frank