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Friday, August 15, 2014

Peaceful night of protests after police leadership change

Peaceful night of protests after police leadership change


Peaceful night of protests after police leadership change

Posted: 15 Aug 2014 02:52 AM PDT

With little incident Ferguson, Missouri saw peaceful protests carry until the early morning hours. This protest was in stark contrast to last nights Ferguson / Saint Louis County police debacle.

Today Governor Jay Nixon announced The Missouri Highway Patrol would be taking over under the careful guidance of Captain Ron Johnson. At one point Captain Johnson and some of his Troopers were seen marching through the streets with the protesters.

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Hands up! Don't shoot!

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 11:19 PM PDT

Demonstrators in Portland, Oregon protest incidents of police brutality on August 14, 2014 following the recent death of teenager Michael Brown, who died by police gunfire in Missouri. "Hands up! Don't shoot!" was the protestors' cry as they marched around Northeast Portland.

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Video of NYC Michael Brown Demonstration

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 05:46 PM PDT

On my evening commute home here in New York City, I came across a demonstration regarding the shooting of Michael Brown. Peaceful demonstrators with a powerful message demanding justice.

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Planting the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ferguson, MO

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 03:11 PM PDT

After watching the protests on CNN yesterday morning from my home in Springfield, IL, I decided to drive down to Ferguson, MO. When I arrived on the scene, I saw 10-15 demonstrators holding signs from a parking lot in front of the Ferguson Fire House and Police Station.

 

There was a reverend asking a few of the protesters to keep the angry rhetoric to a minimum. These people were angry and the atmosphere was highly charged. Some of the protesters were old enough to remember where they were the first time they heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recite his dream to the Nation.

 

Then I proceeded to say

 

"In the 50 years since Dr. King gave us his Promised Land Vision, there are all too many weed seeds of hatred waiting to germinate within our consciousness, detaching us from our spiritual roots. If we fight hatred with hatred, then we play into the hands of the police and allow ourselves to remain powerless and to be kept in the dark.  On the other hand, if we challenge them to symbolically "weed out hate" together by tugging no symbolic weeds, this sets the proper foundation for setting all of us spirits free, allowing us to occupy the dream. This is a win-win situation for all concerned.

 

Along with the signs, I handed out specially produced Sunflower Peace Seeds for the protesters to plant next spring.

 

On July 18th, Springfield, IL mayor Mike Houston had issued a Weed Out Hate Proclamation, encouraging all Springfield citizens to root out symbolic weeds of hatred in solidarity with those suffering in the Middle East. City leaders got together and conducted a symbolic weed pull at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. The National Park Service was there to chronicle the event.

 

The seeds of peace that were first sown in Springfield, IL had now reached Ferguson.....

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Ferguson protests near escalation

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 01:56 PM PDT

Monday August 11th saw and the second day of protests in the city of Ferguson, MO.; a small suburb located just minutes from Saint Louis City.

Protesters gathered at the Ferguson fire-police headquarters to voice their concerns about overly aggressive policing in nearby neighborhoods. Monday's protests come on the heels of the tragic shooting of Ferguson teen Michael Brown.

Civic leaders led the peacful march and protest for just over an hour. Tensions reached their highest as county police and protesters stood chest to chest just within a few feet. County, state and city police were dressed head to toe in riot gear- armed with large battalions, clubs and automatic rifles. K9 units were nearby but no dogs were present at anytime during the march. The sounds of police helicopters circling over head were drowned out by the chance of "Hands up - Don't shoot" and "We want justice now".

After leaders moved to another location to protest a few protesters remained to continue. The young men and woman who remained and continued to protest were advanced upon by police in riot gear.. The aggressive maneuver by the police landed several arrests as protesters refused to be muted in their protests.

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BERLIN WALL ANNIVERSARY

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 01:12 PM PDT

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall. It was 53 years ago that it was built to separate the citizens of Berlin. The anniversary is being commemorated with wreath layings at numerous memorial sites in the city to honor the victims who died in their attempt to seek freedom. There are Wall Memorials at the Brandenburg Gate and Bernauer Street. At the Bernauer Street, you will still find long segments of the Wall intact and well-preserved, mounted photos of the victims who were shot while escaping, as well as a guard tower standing in the middle of the death zone on the border separating East and West Berlin. More events are planned in conjunction with the anniversary. In November, a 12-Km long light installation, visible from outer space on a clear day, will be erected with thousands of white, helium-filled balloons, placed along the path of the Berlin Wall and then released at the climax of the event!

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Protests move to Clayton, Missouri - Saint Louis County courthouse steps

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 01:06 PM PDT

Tuesday August 12th. a second day of protests in the city of Clayton, MO.; a small suburb located just minutes from Ferguson, MO and Saint Louis City. Clayton is home to the Saint Louis County Court House.

Protesters gathered at the Saint Louis County court house to voice their concerns about overly aggressive policing in nearby neighborhoods. Monday's protests come on the heels of the tragic shooting of Ferguson teen Michael Brown.

Civic leaders led the peacful march and protest for just over an hour.

Unlike the protests in Ferguson, the protests netted zero arrests. The Clayton police department that formed a line in front of the court house were not dressed in battle gear and showed no aggression towards the protesters allowing them to march and move about in peace.

The sounds of police helicopters circling over head were drowned out by the chance of "Hands up - Don't shoot" and "We want justice now".

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Ferguson protests near escalation

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 01:00 PM PDT

additional photos from Ferguson protest 8.11.14

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Robin and the Lost Boys

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 08:23 PM PDT

Such a kind man to the boys in the cast and the Moms

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Robin's final gift to me

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 03:44 PM PDT

It was my first acting job, I was a featured extra, a student in Robin Williams' classroom in Good Will Hunting. For me, this was already a dream come true - being in the same room as the man who had inspired me to become an actor and carried me through those awkward teenage years with laughter. I was giddy with excitement anticipating his arrival on set. It was surreal. But this day would turn out to be so much more in my life than a thrilling moment..
My first impressions of Robin were that he was everything I hoped he'd be. Meeting your idol could turn out to be very disappointing, but not with him - in fact, he became even more of an inspiration to me as I watched how he used his time that day. I saw him meet with children from the Make a Wish Foundation, perform a 20 minute set for the room while the next shot was set up, after being told by the AD that "he didn't have to do this, he could go back to his trailer" to which he replied "These guys are working for squat. The least I can do is give them a free show," and then I revelled when he joined us for lunch at our table.
Robin made a point of talking to each individual in the room, and when it came my turn, I said something that made him laugh - which isn't hard to do. I don't remember what it was, but I remember the joy I had in sharing this moment with him, and I remember as the set photographer snapped him, having this talk with me. I said to myself, I have to get that photo. More on that later.
The scene progresses and Gus van Sant decides he'd like to start the shot on me, pulling out to reveal the whole room. He tells me that he needs me to be disinterested, "wanting to get out of this class". The point was that they wanted to establish that Robin's character wasn't satisfied as a professor, and that is why he'd accept the offer of going back to his practice to take on Will Hunting. Well, Robin never does anything in a limited way, and he did the scene several ways, including as an entertaining, funny teacher, to which the whole class is enthralled with laughter. This is of course the version that made the cut of the film, but there is one student not laughing - me. Not because he wasn't funny, but because I was so worried about doing the "wrong thing", that I forced myself to disconnect, and just play the direction. "Be bored," I said to myself, "be bored." Of course they didn't use the opening shot on me as planned, but they might have if I was going along with the scene and reacting to him properly.
When I saw the film, I realized where I had gone wrong. Robin had in fact just taught me the most important lesson I would ever learn as an actor - that the key to a scene is to listen and react, not play a direction - the scene is about discovery, not replication of an idea.
I wanted nothing more than to tell Robin of this epiphonal experience, and one day I had that chance.
Back to the photo... a couple of years later I found a press still for Good Will Hunting of Robin in the classroom. It was the one! The photo I saw them take, the photo of when he was talking to me! I'm not in the photo of course, I'm at the back of the room and this is a shot towards him, and it is actually portrayed as a character shot from the film even though he wasn't "in character" - he had his hands in his pockets and was simply riffing between takes, but it didn't matter, probably no one but us would know it wasn't a still from the film. I wanted so much to talk to him about the photo, and share with him my lesson learned.
Years later, after a performance of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, I had that chance. Despite the rain, the crowds, the fact that he had two shows to do the next day, he stopped to talk to me and really listened to what I had to say. It was everything I wanted - to get that off my chest to him, and say both thank you and sorry for not reacting to what he was giving me in the scene, and he accepted it with grace. I showed him the photo, and whether he remembered the circumstances or not, he at least pretended to. He personalized it to me, and wished me the best in my career, and thanked me for taking the time to tell him this.
When I had heard through a text message that he had passed, I went online and the first thing I saw was an article that used that very photo. It occurred to me that this was his final gift to me, he was such an important part of my life, and even though in a very small way, I am somehow part of his story as well. I can look into his glowing eyes in this photo and know that for one brief moment, I was able to give back some joy to him.
Here is that photo, and one of the moment he signed it to me years later.
I am blessed to have met him those two times, as I know so many people who are disappointed that they will never have the chance. Well I can say to them with certainty, if he had his way, they all would have.

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My Two Hours With Robin Williams

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 02:44 PM PDT

In 1999, I was fortunate enough to meet Robin Williams at a fundraising event for Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. For those not familiar with the camp, Hole in the Wall is a camp for children with cancer and other serious illnesses. A childhood cancer survivor myself, I was a camper there from 1994-1996, and Hole in the Wall asked me to come and speak at their fundraising event in 1999. While there I got to meet Robin Williams, one of my childhood and teenage idols.

I grew up with Robin. From the time I was a wee lad, I can remember Mork and Mindy playing on our television set. My father was a tremendous fan of Robin's movies and comedy. Dead Poet's Society was routinely quoted in my house. To say Robin was a fixture would be an understatement, and getting to meet him was going to be a very special treat for me. But nothing could have prepared me for the experience of sitting down and just talking with him.

I approached Robin when he was coming off stage after a rehearsal (the fundraising gala always had a little show that went with it). I asked him if I could get a picture and ask him a few questions. He gently put his arms around me, smiled that emblematic smile, and said, "I would love to." We snapped a few pictures and then he sat down with me, and I asked him some questions about some things he had done in his early career – his 1978 standup special at the Roxy, his 1986 appearance on SNL, things that his average fan did not ask him about. He answered my questions and then proceeded to ask me about my life, who I was, who my parents were, what it was like to deal with cancer, what my plans for the future were, and before I knew it two hours had passed us both by.

The entire time I talked to him I felt like I was getting to see something not everyone got to see. When it came to Robin, everyone always expected to see the extemporaneous crazy man who like a juggernaut of perpetual motion blazed up and down the stage like lightning, but the real Robin Williams was much much different. He was calm, gentle, witty, kind, playful, and genuinely interested in the lives of the people he met throughout his life. I have never forgotten how kind he was to me, and how for two hours I didn't feel like I was talking to a celebrity…just a person who loved life and people. That's the Robin Williams I knew…and that's the one I will remember.

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Run Sofia; YES, you saw Robin Williams

Posted: 13 Aug 2014 12:21 PM PDT

June 2007 - I was in VEGAS at my cousin´s Bachelorette. My sister and I were at Caesar´s Mall just walking around when suddenly I saw Him, YES!! it was Robin Williams, one of my favorite actors. At first I was shy but He was walking so fast!! My sister told me: Sofía Run and say Hi! to him. So I ran (my sister ran with me) and I  touched his arm and said: Hi Robin, I would love to take a picture with you. At first he also was shy (of course, he was all dress in black with sun glasses inside a Mall, he don´t want to be recognized :P), at first He was going to say No :(. But then he said: you are such a nice girl, of course I would like to take a picture with you too!! OMG I was so happy I could´t believe it! I was next to one of the most amazing actors ever!! At the end he gave my a short but nice hug and said: THANK YOU!! I feel really please and happy. This is how I´m going to remember him!! With that smile that bring so much happy times at my home. Thanks Robin Williams for give so much in every movie. You always be love and we will remember you as a loving, happy and free person. We will miss you a lot!!! I Love you…

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A White Man's Response to Ferguson

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 02:20 PM PDT

Although I grew up visiting the Atlantic Ocean, I recently traveled to the Gulf of Mexico with my family and recognized an interesting illustration of our society's view of racism. There is a striking difference between these two bodies of water: clarity. The Atlantic is darker and you can't see your feet once you're 12 inches in the water. The Gulf, however, is clear and provides a great view of the ocean floor, even at depth.

While there we heard a common phrase: "I see a sting ray! Be careful, move toward the beach!" My wife and I had different reactions to this. I laughed. She, as a loving mother should, took it more seriously. I explained my reaction: "Kristin, there are also many sting rays in the Atlantic. In fact, we've caught them surf fishing, near the shore. It's a reality that they're present, but you can't see them, so you don't think about them."

In recent interviews with a writer interested in publishing a story about Rebirth: East St. Louis and the local high school football team, one theme has come up almost each time: my passion for racial reconciliation, and my willingness to confront my own racial biases. One question asked of me was, "Were you nervous to say before a church congregation (in a message posted on You Tube)—that you're not immune to racial biases and prejudices?"

It was a great question, and extremely valid. Taken out of context, that statement could ruin me, negate over 6 years of efforts in East St. Louis, and potentially end Rebirth.

But there is a reality I cannot avoid: I'm a broken person living in a broken world. Things aren't what they're supposed to be and I'm a part of it. Political and economic systems, family structures, and individual self-concepts are all broken, and this brokenness is not without its repercussions.

So, what was my answer? In every corner of our world, racism is present. Perhaps that sounds bold, but if racism is the presence of prejudice and biases—even those fleeting, reactive, racially rooted thoughts all of us have had—then it would be hard to contend that any man has lived his entire life free from any form of racism. It might not be on the surface, but it's there. In mindsets passed down from generation to generation, in experiences that form a worldview, and in countless other ways, racism is present, and as humans we cannot be unaffected by the culture we live in. It rubs off on us, and in our most honest and transparent moments, we can dig deep into the ways our hearts are tragically wicked.

What's more, I told the writer, much racism is still present within our society, but it's more disguised than it has been historically. It's there, but often you can't see it, so you don't think about it.

And by "you", I generally mean people of the majority culture. The majority culture rarely experiences racism, since it's driving and dictating the culture. In our nation, the dominant culture is Anglo, or white.

If you're white (as I am), or you're of a minority who has largely assimilated into the dominant culture, you understand most of how our society operates. Yes, within the dominant culture there are various subcultures. But, generally speaking, if you're a part of the majority, you know how to interact in most of the situations you'll face in your educational and career pursuits.

And because you're in the dominant culture, doors open for you that you don't even realize. Many of us reject this idea of white privilege, but it does exist, I promise you. And often those of us who benefit from it don't even know it exists until someone calls it out.

Now, don't hear that and think, "Is he saying I'm racist because I'm white?" No! I am certainly not. But there has been error in the majority culture, especially historically, and because humans are still not without fault, errors will continue to be made, but I'm not pointing a finger at anyone in particular.

What I do want to point out, however, is that, unfortunately for the majority of us, it takes an event like this—a teenager's tragic death, a community's passionate response, and a nation's eyes on a suburb of St. Louis called Ferguson—to expose the reality of our world: Racism is not a dead issue.

As I've written before (http://rebirthesl.org/2014/03/04/racial-reconciliation-not-simply-apologizing/), I have great concern that much of our nation views racism as a thing of the past. We frame it in disturbingly realistic movies such as "12 Years a Slave" or "Crash", we acknowledge its wickedness, and we tragically praise ourselves that we don't take part in such racism.

And then we marvel that the events taking place in Ferguson are still possible. Sadly, it takes a tragic death, protests, and a riot to force us to confront the reality that racial tensions are alive and well.

I mourn, reaching my capacity for news coverage. I've seen firsthand the anguish of mothers whose sons were killed in their teenage years, and I sympathize with the mother of Michael Brown as she voices her pain and the struggles of raising her son to complete high school and pursue college.

But I also want to scream, "Wake up people, why is this so surprising?! We live in one of the most racially divided and charged areas in our nation!" If you don't believe me, just look at this demographic map of our region (Green dots represent Black residents; Blue dots represent White residents).

The St. Louis Metro area is indeed racially divided, as if there are boundary lines segregating communities. It's almost surreal, and it will continue to have devastating consequences until residents pursue an alternative: reconciliation.

I love talking about racial reconciliation. Unfortunately, it's an uncommon concept, although it lies at the core of our God-designed humanity. And until men, women, and children realize that we are made in the image of God, and that all human beings— from every tribe, language, people, and nation—share this same dignity and design, then division will reign, and unity will be tragically absent.

By definition, reconciliation includes "the restoration of friendly relations." Thus, there is an intentional pursuit of a future where men, women, and children of various races and cultures are in genuine relationship with one another. And their interactions take place in non-obligatory settings and at spontaneous times, just as one would do with a longtime friend.

It's not easy to cross racial and cultural lines in this way. If someone says it is, they're lying to themselves and to you. There are countless obstacles, many of which have existed for generations. But there is hope, and there is an unmistakable beauty that's visible when I and a brother or sister of another color or culture recognizes our own brokenness and the baggage we carry and, rather than burning bridges, we choose to enter into a redemptive friendship.

Racism isn't something to be dismissed and swept under the rug. It's something to be brought into the light and be healed by God himself. Jesus died to unite men to God and men to one another (Ephesians 3:14-16). For the sake of our true humanity, may we all be willing to be exposed. This is my hope for myself, my family, and our world.

The picture above is from a project by the University of Virginia (http://demographics.coopercenter.org/DotMap/)

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Robin at the Starlight Theatre, KC

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 10:12 AM PDT

I was a concert caterer in Kansas City back in the 80's, I got to meet a lot of celebrities. Robin played the Starlight Theatre in '82 with John Sebastian. I was thrilled to be meeting them both. I brought them famous KC barbeque from Gates and they loved it. Took the whole family backstage because we were all big 'Mork' fans, Robin was very sweet to the kids. He asked them if they had seen 'ET' yet, it had just come out. Mork had been cancelled and he was worried that he'd never work again. Shine on, Morkie...

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