Thursday, April 30, 2015


Olga and Babe Ciarlo

Our society will lose alot if we stop writing letters...

Recently in class, we have been studying WWII and using letters exchanged between Babe Ciarlo, his family, and sister Olga to help understand WWII far beyond a textbook. These personal letters were funny, heartwarming, gut wrenching, tragically poignant, and full of love.

One day I asked my students...

"Does anyone write handwritten notes or letters anymore?"

In the age of 6 second attention spans, non-stop text messaging, twitter, snap-chat accounts, Facebook "friends", etc. it seems as though the personal letter/ note may be destined to extinction.


  • The average American sends/receives over 100 e-mails per day.
  • In America, over 500 billion text messages are sent each month.
  • The average teenager sends around 100 texts per day (yes, that is 3,000+ per month)!
  • There has been a drop (mail service) of 10 billion letters in the last 20 years.

To me a handwritten note still means everything...I hope it too will not be crushed by technology.

Receiving notes of encouragement and thanks from my students (also family & friends) means more than a paycheck to me...the extra time it took, the unique penmanship, the sometimes stylish paper, the personality, etc. are reasons why letters are cherished and not discarded into an e-mail trash bin.

One of my favorite letters (it actually doesn't say much-talking about a 1965 Ford Galaxy he had rebuilt for me) from my great-grandpa...a year before he died.

My favorite words from his letter..."with love great grandfather Ed"...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Patton's Greatest Victory?

Recently in class, we discussed The Allied attempt to deceive Nazi Germany into thinking that the expected invasion of France would take place from Dover to Calais (and many other places - as a ruse for the real landing in Normandy) in northeastern France.

The Nazis took the bait!

This was an elaborate plan of military bases (aka the First US Army Group - FUSAG) false communications, artificial harbors/ runways, rubber/ fabric tanks, boats, planes, trucks (this operation used real equipment as well) and thousands of men worked as a phantom army near Dover, England and in Scotland.

The commanding General of the phantom Army (FUSAG) had to be well-known in order for the deception to be credible. The perfect choice was available...George S. Patton.  

As fate would have it, Patton had been sidelined (nearly fired) from the war because of his actions in the Sicily Campaign. During the invasion, Patton had visited hospitals where his men were recuperating from injuries. While visiting the hospitals Patton encountered 2 soldiers who were suffering from "combat fatigue" and he repeatedly berated and slapped them in front of the media and medical staff. The media firestorm led to his "dismissal" in Sicily. But, the Army "gave" him the "option" to lead FUSAG in "the role" of its' acting commander. 

Patton Movie Clips (3:23)

Patton played his part well (probably the most convincing part of the whole deception) and helped The Allies successfully land at Normandy.  For his role Patton was rewarded with a real command -The US Third Army- which played a vital role in the Battle of the Bulge and the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany.

George Patton...a Phantom General!  His greatest victory ever?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

An Empty Chair

A poem...

Oklahoma City

Grieving for no one I know,
I awaken at 3 a.m.
the air 
with the sadness of the multitudes.

Life, like childhood, sacred, to be cherished,
is in an instant crushed-deliberately.
The deaths linger in the air
like a pall
of black choking smoke
coast to coast
that all of us must breathe
collapsing the lungs of our soul
like thousands of pounds of concrete.

April 19, 1995

Twenty years ago today, the Oklahoma City bombing (anti-government "Waco-influenced" terrorist attack) of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people (including 19 babies and children from a day-care center within the building) and injured nearly 700...the blast also destroyed or damaged hundreds of buildings near the blast.

I often think about the attacks of terrorists, "national drones", "police", gang members, etc. on innocent people and the empty chairs they leave in our houses, schools, and hearts...

Will love and trust ever triumph over fear, paranoia, and hatred?  

Will we refuse to tolerate imperialist violence, poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism, military solutions to diplomacy and live in respect of others in the true spirit of human brother/ sisterhood?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Burr Oak "Stories"

Last week our family said "goodbye for now" and celebrated "100 years of life" of our beloved grandmother- Momma ML. She was a strong, sassy, stylish, first-class lady raised in Ft. Gaines, Georgia as a sharecropper's daughter.  Needless to say, there are 100 years of stories filled with struggle, perseverance, hope, faith, and love...

During the 1920's, thousands of African-Americans fled the Jim Crow South (for the Jim Crow North and West) searching for jobs, education, and freedom in places like Harlem, Chicago's Bronzeville, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Oakland, etc.

In Chicago, this migration brought about the need to find a burial site for the burgeoning black community...

In 1927, "40 acres" of land was purchased in unincorporated Cook County (bordering Chicago and the village of Alsip) and dedicated it as Burr Oak Cemetery. But, the citizens of Alsip did not support the idea of a "black cemetery" so near to "their town". They blocked the first burial with the assistance of armed police officers and drove the mourning burial party out of the cemetery. The burial party eventually returned and under the protection of the State of Illinois' Deputy Sheriff interred their loved one.

Our Momma ML

Through the years, the cemetery has become the "final resting place" of nationally prominent (but, historically forgotten) athletes, musicians, religious and civic leaders...probably the most notable people interred at Burr Oak are Emmett Till (murdered at age 14 while visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi for talking to a white woman) and his mother, Mamie Till.

As I stood in this "famous" cemetery, I couldn't help but think about (and feel) the importance of stories and the tragedy of forgotten, marginalized, or untold stories and little I know of these significant trailblazers, grassroots leaders, and even my Momma ML!

I encourage you to learn about your (esp. family) history/stories and hope you will reflect on and appreciate the sacrifices and strength of your ancestors.

Billie Holiday at 100

Billie Holiday

100 years ago today, Billie Holiday was born into a very difficult childhood in Philadelphia.  Many actors, singers, and artists are remembered for only a short time...but, Billie's is a voice (and message) for the ages. Her message is as relevant (maybe more) today as it was in her own lifetime...she is considered one of the first to use her music/ lyrics to protest as an early "Civil Rights" leader.

"My Man Don't Love Me" Live Performance

Billie sang about love, pain, racism, sexism, drugs, feminism, violence, etc. and is considered one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. I believe that if she were alive today she would be more than just a singer (unlike most hedonistic-artists today), using her music to protest the "Strange Fruit" of the 21st Century...racial profiling, police brutality, poverty, unjust wars, objectification of women, political corruption, Native genocide, etc.  I also believe they'll be listening to her music and message 200/ 300 years from now!

Happy Birthday Billie...