Posted by: rongeri | October 21, 2017

Baked Mac & Cheese, Music, and Me

Baked macaroni and cheese jpeg.  music staff

The person I am today is a by-product of baked mac & cheese and music. And by that I mean not the calories but a by-product of character building.And though I cannot share the taste of the food with you here, I hope you enjoy some of the sounds at the music links. In fact, to fully enjoy this blog it is essential that you listen to a least some of the musical hyperlinks. I promise it will be very much worth your while.

Dad portrait My dad loved to cook. He taught me how to cook. Everything from how to break eggs without getting the shell in the pan, to how to make great cheese eggs, to the world’s best meatloaf. meatloaf

One of his favorite dishes was baked macaroni and cheese and the way I make it today was the way he made it and taught me. He also loved to baste a turkeybaste a turkey and when I do that, I also think about him doing it. Mom taught me how to make gravy . How-To-Make-Gravy-I-howsweeteats_com-7 When I make baked macaroni and cheese now on Thanksgiving and Christmas, or make gravy, I think of my dad and my mom in a special way that only a son or daughter can after they have passed. I have never explained that to my daughter Kimberly or my son Michael, but I need to do some of the cooking during the holidays. Its part therapy, part honoring memory, part something else, but it is something important for me and I cannot function without that memorial process.

Music and Me
I grew up playing a musical instrument. Starting in elementary school, I “had to take” piano lessons. And though I did not learn about him until I was an adult on the Board of Trustees of The Studio Museum in Harlem, I sometimes felt like I was in a Romare Bearden painting.


Then I wanted to play trumpet (after listening to Louis Armstrong Louis Armstrong. And if you want true insight into this musician, about whom Miles Davis (a.k.a. the prince of darkness miles davis prince of darkness jpegKey Club international jpeg) said “I never heard a bad note come out of his horn”, get the exquisitely written book “Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong” by Terry Teachout).

Eventually, after having worked up to 120 minutes of practice on the trumpet and then on the piano, I moved more to my horn than tickling the ivories. Despite the shift, I was still good enough to win 2nd place in the New Jersey state Key Club International convention—playing an original composition, part of which involved my playing piano with my left hand and trumpet with my right.

In High School, in addition to being on the varsity Swim Team and the JV Basketball team, I played in the marching band, the concert band, the Community Band, and also took conducting classes. While some of my contemporaries collected comics , I was into albums . My collection numbered in the low four figures.

During my junior and senior years at Rutgers College, my beautiful college girlfriend and kindred spirit Suzanne Zeman , introduced me to modern dance ,Andres Segovia’s classical guitar (Segovia:
, Dvorak’s New World Symphony , to Buffy Sainte-Marie (“Until It’s Time For You To Go”), to the Blues and artists such as Muddy Waters ( Hoochie Coochie Man: B-B King (“The Thrill Is Gone”), and Alberta Hunter (My Castle’s Rockin from her Live From The Cookery album Alberta Hunter:

Reciprocally, I shared my lifetime love of jazz. I loved to listen to, and tried to play my trumpet to some extraordinary musicians. If I had to summarize this aspect of music for me, I would express it this way: Like the “Ode to Joy” in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or the “Unto Us A Child Is Given” or the “Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, or the chanting of “A Love Supreme” on John Coltrane’s album of the same name , you were transported to being a little closer to the Supreme Musician when Rhassan Roland Kirk, Freddy Hubbard,, Horace Silver, and the other musicians referenced below were really cooking in their own musical Genesis.

• Freddie Hubbard (who played a flugelhorn in a way that transported you to other realms)

• Lee Morgan (checkout his album “Sidewinder” I know some generation Y person will be asking “What’s an album?”. Morgan was only 33 years old when he passed; “Morgan was murdered in the early hours of February 19, 1972, at Slugs’ a jazz club in New York City’s East Village where his band was performing. Following an altercation between sets, Morgan’s common-law wife (Helen Moore, a.k.a. Morgan) shot him in the chest.” According to a Wikipedia article, “The injuries were not immediately fatal, but the ambulance was slow in arriving on the scene as the city had experienced heavy snowfall which resulted in extremely difficult driving conditions. They took so long to get there that Morgan bled to death. He was 33 years old.”

• Miles Davis (Kind of Blue:
Sketches of Spain , Bitches Brew

• And in addition to MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet) , Dave “Baby” Cortez, Jimmy Smith and Dr. Lonnie Smith (all of whom played jazz organ like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel played their genres; and Lonnie did it on the Hammond B-3 organ )
• Dorothy Ashby (jazz harp, Afro-Harping, and the Koto, the national instrument of Japan. and and of course Alice Coltrane (jazz pianist) ,
• Rufus Harley (jazz bagpipes)

• Dr. Yusef Lateef (who was named 2010 American Jazz Master by the National Endowment of the Arts; my favorite of all times was is “Live at Peps”—I played along with every tune). I
I encourage you to learn more about Yusef at this link: (“Yusef Lateef is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest masters and innovators in the African American tradition of autophysiopsychic music – that which comes from one’s spiritual, physical and emotional self. As a virtuoso on a broad spectrum of reed instruments – tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, and taiwan koto – Yusef Lateef introduced delightful new sounds and blends of tone colors to audiences all over the world, and he incorporated the sounds of many countries into his own music. In 1987 he won a Grammy Award for his recording of “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he performed all the parts.”)
• Check out these two links: and’s.htm

• The one and only Rahsaan Roland Kirk (for me, a once in a lifetime, true musical genius; able to play three saxophones and a nose flute at the same time, in harmony. One Saturday night when I was at Slugs Saloon/a.k.a. Slugs in the Far East in NYC (, Rhassan came off the bandstand, playing “Don’t Plug Me In ‘Cause I Got To Walk” and the tables parted like the Red Sea. Rhassan stopped a few feet from where I was sitting at the bar, and gave everyone listening a musical epiphany. His wife Dorthaan Kirk works for and is a co-founder of WGBO in Newark and I count her as a friend from my Bethany Baptist church days in Newark, and the Montclair Jazz Festival. Rahsaan wrote the following lyrics for the song “Bright Moments”

You know it’s good to be in a place that feels like you’re in your house, you know.
Now, it’s a beautiful thing, we’re glad you people are assembled here with us on this Saturday night … You know what I mean? You don’t feel like Saturday night people. Some Saturday night people, that’s the only night they get out and they act like it.
Now we would like to think of some very beautiful Bright Moments. You know what I mean?
Bright Moments.
Bright Moments is like eating your last pork chop in London, England, because you ain’t gonna get no more . . . cooked from home.
Bright Moments is like being with your favorite love and you’re sharing the same ice cream dish. And you get mad when she gets the last drop.
And you have to take her in your arms and get it the other way.
Bright Moments.
That’s too heavy for most of you all because you all don’t know nothing about that kind of love. The love you all have been taught about is the love in those magazines. And I am fortunate that I didn’t have to look at magazines.
Bright Moments.
Bright Moments is like seeing something that you ain’t ever seen in your life and you don’t have to see it but you know how it looks.
Bright Moments is like hearing some music that ain’t nobody else heard, and if they heard it they wouldn’t even recognize that they heard it because they been hearing it all their life but they nutted on it so, when you hear it and you start popping your feet and jumping up and down they get mad because you’re enjoying yourself but those are bright moments that they can’t share with you because they don’t even know how to go about listening to what you’re listening to and when you try to tell them about it they don’t know a damn thing about what your’re talking about!
Is there any other Bright Moments before we proceed on?
Bright Moments.
Bright Moments.
Bright Moments is like having brothers and sisters and sisterettes and brotherettes like you all here listening to us.

Because he mastered rotary breathing he could breathe through his nose while playing continuously and his Prepare Thy Self To Deal With a Miracle is a complete side of an album without taking a breathing break.

• Nat and Cannonball Adderley and I could go on, and on.

During the six years I was in Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, and my first year at ITT World Headquarters, I was also in the New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York Army National Guard, where I played in the band. After many marches behind horses who left their morning feed in the streets through which we had to march, I became Drum Major. It was a strategic decision to do so. Mounted police riding Clydesdale size horses were frequently at the front of the parades in Massachusetts. Our marching band was directly behind these horses, which frequently somewhere around mid-parade route would deposit their morning feed in the streets through which we had to march. I became Drum Major so at least I could avoid the horse deposits and lead the musicians behind me around these manure mines. It’s not easy trying to play a Sousa march such as Stars and Stripes Forever, while marching around one of those mines, and the band musicians appreciated when I gave a special baton signal to take evasive stepping action. One of the nicest times I had in the band was when Dorian McGee, formerly from Elizabeth, now in East Orange and a Facebook friend, joined the same National Guard Company I was in. Dorian was one of the most fantastic drummers I ever heard. For many years he played with the road company of the Broadway musical” A Chorus Line”. If Dorian had kept his drumsticks in the trunk of his car, I believe that either Sorcerer Apprentice like , or like the Cylons in the original sci-fi version of Battlestar Galactica , those drum sticks would have materialized from that trunk, marched over to Dorian, and bowing their tips would have uttered four words: “Master, by your command!” When I gave the special signal for evasive step action, Dorian added some special side taps to his drum, and even musicians who missed seeing my baton signal heard his drum warning.
This activity also contain a leadership lesson, namely that a leader also needs vision (the ability to see ahead and what is coming), a sense of direction (including where you are and how much farther you need to go to successfully arrive at a specific end destination or goal) and change management skills[xiii]. In order to be an effective drum major, you have to know the music by heart, you have to be able to lead (conduct) facing away from those who are following you, and you have got to know what you are facing on the field or in the street. In order to be an effective drum major, you have to know what you are doing, where the band is supposed to be going, and the best way to safely and efficiently get the band to where it is going. It takes multiple skills to be able to play music while walking or marching as part of a group. You cannot look down and you have got to have one band and one sound. And whether you are a drum major leading a group or a member of a group following a drum major leader, you should do it with creativity, with passion, with class and a commitment to excellence. Benjamin Zander , conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, expressed it best this way: “The conductor, a magical figure for the audience, enjoys a leadership mystique of significant magnitude. It may seem strange to the orchestral musician that the corporate world would be interested in hearing a conductor’s views on leadership or that the metaphor of the orchestra is so frequently used in the literature of leadership, because, in fact, the profession of conductor is one of the last bastions of totalitarianism in the civilized world.” “A monumental question for leaders in any organization to consider is this: How much greatness are we willing to grant people? Because it makes all the difference at every level who it is we decide we are leading. The activity of leadership is not limited to conductors, presidents, and CEOs, of course—the player who energizes the orchestra by communicating his newfound appreciation for the tasks of the conductor… is exercising leadership of the most profound kind.” The drum major is a musical leader, a walking conductor. In order to perform successfully and to ensure the success of those who are following, the drum major or leader has to know the score thoroughly. For example, a drum major needs to thoroughly know what is entailed in correctly and professionally playing some (of my) favorite and well known John Phillip Sousa marches such as Semper Fidelis, The Washington Post march, The Thunder march, or the Stars and Stripes Forever. He or she also needs to know what is entailed in correctly and professionally playing the somewhat different Johnny Owen march, sometimes referred to and known as the Regimental March of the 7th Calvary. The former and the latter tunes are marches but they cannot be conducted or performed as though they were identical. They are played, performed, and executed differently

As any Reservists knows, the two weeks active duty each summer requires adjustments. And active duty is, well, active duty. You do everything on military time, ranging from when you get up to when you eat. It’s doing your duty and fulfilling your obligation. Rarely, is the word “fun” associated with it. But for me, one of the things I really enjoyed was when our military band played late afternoon pop concerts featuring a medley of Broadway show tunes for the troops and also for civilians near Fort Drum in New York. These tunes beautifully arranged, a pleasure to play, and always well received: “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” and “Get Me To The Church On Time” from My Fair Lady, “Comedy Tonight” from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum, “Camelot” from the musical of the same name, “One” from A Chorus Line, “

Before Joe Sample , one of the pianist I loved (after Nina Simone , who was trained at Julliard, and who once told me that if I ever wanted to truly learn to play, I had to learn classical before I tried anything else) one of my favorite players was Horace Silver . Horace Silver wrote the tune Song for My Father, and it was one of the favorite songs I used to love play along with on my flugelhorn. Here’s a link to the song: Wikipedia provides this background about it: “Song for My Father is a 1965 album by the Horace Silver Quintet, released on the Blue Note label. The album was inspired by a trip that Silver had made to Brazil. The cover artwork features a photograph of Silver’s father, John Tavares Silva, to whom the title song was dedicated.
“My mother was of Irish and Negro descent, my father of Portuguese origin. He was born on the island of Maio, one of the Cape Verde Islands” (Horace Silver, quoted in Leonard Feather’s original liner notes)
A jazz standard, “Song for My Father” is here in its original form. It is a Bossa Nova in F-minor with an AAB head. On the head, a trumpet and tenor saxophone play in harmony. The song has had a noticeable impact in pop music. The opening bass piano notes were borrowed by Steely Dan for their song “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, while the opening horn riff was borrowed by Stevie Wonder for his song “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”. Earth Wind & Fire also borrowed the opening bass notes for their song Clover.”
When I hear Song for My Father today, especially around the Holidays, I think about my dad. When I go up yonder, it is my hope and prayer to be able to sit in and play along with that group of Heavenly musicians who praise the Lord with the trumpet, the harp, with every instrument every created and those yet to come into being. I also look forward to making some celestial baked macaroni & cheese, meatloaf, turkey, and gravy, and sopping some Beatitude biscuits.
romare bearden piano lessonLouis Armstrong

Rongeri's Blog



Richard Owens went home to heaven this week. He was 106 years old. The back of the program for Mr. Owens Going Home service contained these words, written by him in 1979:


“Our morning thought concerns one of the most significant aspects of human life: Our Representative Capacity. We all have in us the power to stand for something. The way we use it, determines as hardly anything else does, our personal quality. In the first Chapter of the Book of Acts, for example, Jesus is reported to have said to his disciples: ‘Ye shall be My witnesses’. He is making a direct and definite appeal to their representative capacity, as though to say, you can be more than yourselves. You have the power to stand for high principles and worthy enterprises in your generation. Hardly, any element in you is more influential than the this power—to…

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On Veterans Day, November 11, 2015, I looked back on this blog I posted a few years ago. I looked back as a direct result of three things. One was the passing on November 6, 2015 of Charles V. Bush, someone I met in graduate school and who was the first African-American graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. When I met Chuck in Business School, I knew he was an intellectually heavy dude (and also a heck of a nice guy) but I had no idea about the scope of this achievements in the military (how many African-American males did you know that were fluent in Russian and Vietnamese) and beyond. Here is a link from the U.S. Air Force Academy about Chuck’s passing: The second thing that prompted me to look back was the extraordinary Blacks on the Banks conference I attended last week at Douglass College and Rutgers University. Several of the panelists remarked about how their college years were bracketed by some period of military service and how that impacted them. The third thing that prompted me to look back was the National Museum of African-American American History and Culture spotlighting African American Military Heroes. Here is a link to that spotlight:

Today I send a special salute not only Chuck but to other friends and family who served in the military. This updated blog is part of that special salute.

I sometimes think that the extent of awareness of African-Americans who have served in the military is disproportionally derived from films such as the 1989 film “Glory” with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freemen or Denzel Washington in the 1995 film “Crimson Tide” , or Mykelti Williamson as Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue in the 1994 film “Forest Gump” or Jim Brown in the 1967 film “The Dirty Dozen” , or the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman” starring Louis Gossett, Jr. . Spike Lee’s 2008 film “Miracle at St. Ana” about the all black 92nd Buffalo expands our awareness.

“Glory” and “The Dirty Dozen” cover two different wars and present different views of the participants. Without characterizing the second film in any way, the first presents insightful and moving portraits of the members of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment
, and that film captures some of the camaraderie that takes place between people in the same fighting unit, regardless of the theater, time, or circumstances that brought them together.

However, I think it is very important that a broader appreciation of African-American military service is presented than is captured in Hollywood films, and I think the best way to do that is to start with the memories of our own family members.

Another reason I think this is very important is that we should rightfully claim and be proud of African-American military service to our country, ranging from revolutionary days, through the Buffalo Soldiers, the Red Ball Express drivers, from Crispus Attucks to Colin Powell, right up until the present with

Three star Vice Admiral and Navy Inspector General Anthony Winns.

Vice Admiral Winns says that “Diversity is critical to mission accomplishment. We’ve got to access, mentor, and retain the best talent available.” As Naval Inspector General, he stresses the following four elements of accountability as the ‘conscience of the Navy” in that position:

“First, you need to educate the organization. People need to know that they are going to be held accountable and what they are going to be held accountable for. Secondly, there should be an element of trust in an organization between the senior leaders and the most junior people and everybody in between. Commanding officers sail on billion-dollar Navy ships and take care of hundreds of people It’s like a floating city. We trust the commanding officer to take care of the ship and the 18-year-old kid from North Dakota just starting out. They do a fine job. Then there’s feedback. The organization must provide feedback on the things that we’re doing well as well as the things that we are not doing as well so we can learn and grow from the mistakes that we make. Finally, there needs to be action taken when people purposefully or intentionally violate the rules and regulations. That’s a little different from falling a little short and making a minor mistake. You can learn from that mistake and move on. But if you have a gross neglect of rules and regulations, or if there is intentional malice or a criminal offense, then action needs to be taken, and that action needs to be swift and forthright. It needs to be consistent with other past infractions, and then you educate the force on what was done. So it’s education, trust, feedback and then the hammer, if you will, or the action taken, so you can put some meat behind the accountability.”

In my view, we need to take pride in the accomplishments of African-Americans who have served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces at all levels.

Let me amplify that point. When I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. and saw the name of Manzie *****, someone I went to high school with, it touched me to realize how young Manzie was when he died in Vietnam. In addition, when I visited the World War II National Memorial in Washington D.C.
, I was singularly moved to see veterans of World War II in wheelchairs with youngsters who were probably their grandchildren standing near those servicemen. As the service men were wheeled up to the pillars with the names of places in which they served, tears would frequently come to their eyes as they thought back and they would be consoled by their own children and grand children. In addition, many visitors placed small flags and photos of servicemen at these locations. And I, for one, was particularly moved to see a photo of an African-American serviceman among those photos. I must also confess to feeling a bit disturbed when I periodically saw National Park Service vehicles collecting those photos and other memorabilia from the sites. When I asked about it, a person doing that work pointed out the extraordinary volume of such items placed at the locations, and that unless the NPS periodically collected it, the entire site would become one mass collection of it.

I was absolutely amazed to discover the breadth and depth of military service rendered by members of my biological family and by members of my extended church family. In the truest sense, these family members where drum majors, and if you will pardon a mixed metaphor, they were in an extraordinary way, also Star Trekkers, who boldly went where no African-American man or woman “had ever gone before” without the benefit of a space suit or a star ship but equipped with faith in God and a determination to discharge their responsibilities no matter whether they faced contemporary Star Trek like Klingons, Romulans, Kardasians, or others who sometimes treated them as other than equally a human being. I was particular enriched to learn, for example, that my uncle Harrison Fitch served as a members of the legendary “Red Ball Express” during World War II. (The footnote below contains a hyperlink to a video which includes comment by a member of the Red Ball Express.)

I must confess to not knowing anything about the Red Ball Express until doing the research for this reflection. Among the things I learned was that in 2004 the United States Congress passed the following resolution honoring those who served on the Red Ball Express:

Honoring the members of the Army Motor Transport Service that served during World War II and participated in the trucking operation known as the Red Ball Express for their service and contribution to the Allied advance following the D-Day invasion.

Whereas June 6, 2004, is the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, during World War II that marked the decisive moment in the war against the Nazis;

Whereas on June 6, 2004, Americans will commemorate the sacrifices of the individuals who fought to preserve the liberty and freedom of the people of the United States;

Whereas on August 21, 1944, the Army Transportation Corps created a trucking operation called the Red Ball Express;

Whereas the Red Ball Express was a massive 82-day convoy effort that supplied the Allied armies moving through Europe after the successful D-Day invasion;

Whereas the convoy system stretched from Normandy to Paris and eventually to the front in the northeastern borderland of France;

Whereas the Red Ball Express played a major role in the defeat of the Nazis by ensuring that United States and other Allied soldiers were properly supplied;

Whereas members of the Red Ball Express persevered through arduous driving conditions and constant threats of ground and aerial ambushes and performed their duties with precision and efficiency;

Whereas, by the time the Red Ball Express ended in November 1944, Red Ball Express truckers had delivered nearly 500,000 tons of fuel, ammunition, food, and other essentials needed for the Allied forces to succeed in Europe;

Whereas during World War II many commanders believed that African-Americans were not suitable for war and relegated them to service and supply outfits;

Whereas the majority of Red Ball Express drivers were African-Americans;

Whereas the success of the advance through France was due in great measure to those individuals who drove the supply trucks; and

Whereas the members of the Army Motor Transport Service that participated in the Red Ball Express contributed unselfishly to the war effort despite the indignities and double standards that they endured: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress honors the members of the Army Motor Transport Service that served during World War II and participated in the trucking operation known as the Red Ball Express for their service and contribution to the Allied advance following the D-Day invasion.

Passed the House of Representatives June 14, 2004.”

Here is some additional and important information about the Red Ball Express:

“Patton’s tanks were grinding to a halt, not from enemy action, but because there was no gasoline. On an average day, Patton’s Third Army and Lt. Gen. Courtney Hodges’ First Army consumed a total of 800,000 gallons of gas. But there was no logistical system in place to deliver sufficient quantities. It was in these desperate days of late August 1944 that the Red Ball Express was conceived during a 36-hour brainstorming session among American commanders. Its name came from a railroad phrase–to “red ball” something was to ship it express–and from an earlier Red Ball Express in Britain that rushed supplies to the English ports during the early days of the invasion. The second Red Ball operation lasted barely three months, from August 25 through November 16, 1944, but by the end of those critical months the express line had established itself firmly in the mythology of World War II. More than 6,000 trucks and their trailers transported 412,193 tons of supplies to the advancing American armies from Normandy to the German border.

What is most often overlooked about the Red Ball Express is that three-quarters of all Red Ball soldiers were African American. The U.S. Army was segregated during World War II, and black troops were most often relegated to service units–many served in the Quartermaster Corps. They served in port battalions, drove trucks, worked as mechanics, and served as “humpers” who loaded and unloaded ammunition and supplies. When the Red Ball was formed, it was the African-American troops in large measure that performed admirably and kept the express line rolling. The need for supplies was so great that the Red Ball reached its peak performance within the first five days of operation. On August 29, some 132 truck companies, operating 5,958 vehicles, carried 12,342 tons of supplies to forward depots–a record that went unmatched during the next 14 weeks of the operation’s existence. The Red Ball Express was a classic American “can-do” response to a problem that might have proved insurmountable in another army.”

“A generation after World War II, Colonel John S.D. Eisenhower, a veteran of the European war and son of the supreme Allied commander in Europe, wrote: “The spectacular nature of the advance [through France] was due in as great a measure to the men who drove the Red Ball trucks as to those who drove the tanks.” Colonel Eisenhower concluded, “Without it [the Red Ball] the advance across France could not have been made.” As the saying of the day went, “Red Ball trucks broke, but didn’t brake.”

In a 2009 interview with the then 84 year old James Rookard, a Red Ball Express driver when he was 19 years old, Mr. Rookard stated:

“I thought I helped make a difference in the war, I really did. It was a great experience for me. I was glad I was able to come back home, and I hope I don’t ever have to go through anything like that again. You couldn’t sit around and not do your duty. You had had to be on the ball. The Red Ball, that is.”

The following is perhaps the best summary of why the Red Ball Express is remembered as it is:

“The operation is remembered, in part, because it fits so well into American folklore. Americans have had a long love affair with the road and the truck. The speeding Red Ball drivers, thumbing their noses at military authority and the enemy to speed supplies to the front and to victory, symbolized American individualism and embodied the spirit of the frontiersmen and cowboys who had tamed the American continent. The Red Ball drivers were the first true road warriors.”

As a result of this research, I was also able to learn about more recent family member service in Vietnam, the first Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm. I hope you will join me in acknowledging that service with a virtual or actual salute.

Harrison E. Fitch (written by his son, Harrison “Birdie” Fitch)

Enlisted in February 1943, six months before the birth of Harrison “Birdie” Fitch, July 4, 1943. The military was segregated then and Dad initially served in all black outfits.
I have some photos of Mom and me in Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Dad was most proud of landing in Normandy in the initial waves of the invasion of Europe. Few black men were landed on Omaha beach. Dad served in the famous “”Red Ball” Express, the truck convoys that logistically serviced Gen. Patton’s Third Army in the breakout through the hedgerow country in Normandy and relief of the Airborne in the Battle of the Bulge.

Dad graduated from the U.S. Army’s School for Cooks and Bakers and was a graduate of one of the Army’s Desegregation Schools in Arkansas. This latter point is very significant; it took five years to begin to implement Truman’s executive order.

Dad later served in Korea with the 24th Infantry Regiment (Buffalo Solders) from the Texas and Indian Wars. He was wounded in Korea.  Remember the story about Dad winning the money for our 66-68 East Jersey St. house in a poker game in a hospital ship? After the Chinese came in the war, I would sit by the radio in N.J. and Ohio as news was broadcast of the stragglers who made it to the Pusan Perimeter for news of Dad.  By the way I have the Irondale Ohio enlistment book which lists Dad with Roosevelt Hart ( my granduncle), William Stanford Hart (my uncle and the first black mayor of East Orange), John Timothy Hart( my uncle), various cousins and other black men who served in WWI and WWII. In 1953 Mom and I went to Germany to join dad with 42nd Field Artillery Battalion stationed in Stuttgart. Dad came home in January, 1954, ill and was sent to Fitzsimmons Hospital in Denver, Colorado. That year, I went to school in Ohio, N.J. Germany, Ohio and finished in N.J. It was two years before my records caught up with me.

In 1956, we returned to Germany. Dad went to Lebanon and we came home in 1959. Played basketball in Berlin before the Wall was built. Also played in Logrono, Italy, Wheelus Air Force Base, Turkey, and Chateraux, Lyons and Paris. There were 40 American High Schools in Europe. Garmisch, Wurtzburg, Augsburg, Berlin, Bremerhaven Augsburg were included. Remember Nuremburg where Hitler made most famous speeches and the inscription “Lauf Owns” commemorating Jesse Owens’ four gold medals. Remember that Marty Glickman the famous high NY_NJ sports announcer, was cut from the 1936 relay team so that Owens and Metcalf, the black runners could compete and not offend Hitler who did not want Aryan athletes to lose to Jews. Nuremburg stadium was beautiful, but not a beautiful chapter in our history. The American IOC president was a Nazi sympathizer who later sent John Carlos and Tommie Smith home from Mexico City for their famous “Black Power” salute. Sorry to ramble, but nothing happens in a vacuum. The John Carlos-Tommie Smith story is important because it shows what impossible demands were made by this society on black athletes no matter how well they performed. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar refused to participate in the Olympics that year and has never recovered from it.

Dad served until 1964-5 when he retired, (WWII, Korea, Lebanon, Viet Nam era veteran, according to his tombstone,) medical for illness contracted in Korea. In addition, uncles Roy Fitch served in Air Force for 20 or more years, Calvin Hart served in Navy for many years, Tellius Fitch served in Army, circa 1950’s, uncle Arnold N. Hart, my namesake served in Airborne and Vietnam. You may recall that military service was a way up for our people.

“Clarence”, was our Aunt Ann (Tootie)’s’ fiancée who died in the death march in Korea. His photo used to hang in the main entry at Thomas Jefferson High. Roy Fitch adds the following:Also Aunt Tootie’s fiancé was Cecil Fleming, who came from Dickinson St. in Elizabeth.  His brother Jackie died on the steps in Thomas Jefferson High School in 1949 at age 16. We were very good friends.  I remember the last time I saw Cecil before he went to Korea.  I was in the school yard and he came by in uniform and said “how ya doin, brother-in-law”. As vivid today as it was then, that was 1950, I was 15, 60 years ago.  His youngest brother Albert, my age just recently died.  Young people who grew up around that time in Elizabeth were very tightly knit, as were those attending Shiloh Baptist Church.
We can all look forward to Jehovah God’s word (the Bible) when all wars will cease, no need for military.”

Uncle Calvin Hart’s son Jon, was ROTC at Livingston College, Rutgers. He was Commissioned a 1st Lt., Jon served as Missile Launch Officer for ICBM’s in Minot, North Dakota, a huge ICBM and B-52 base. This was in the mid 1970’s. Rickie (Fitch) was based in Mino at the same time. Rick was performing his original ministry on the numerous Native American reservations in North and South Dakota.

Also confirmed that my Uncle Arnold N. Hart was retired from the 82nd Airborne with 20 years’ service.

Of the 140 men in Dad’s company who deployed to Korea, only 9 (including Dad) lived to return to the United States. This kind of battle statistic was commonplace in that conflict; it was one of the most brutal in history. The term “brainwashing” originated with the North Korean/Chinese treatment of U.S prisoners. The term “defector” also was coined to describe U.S. personnel who once captured (or surrendered) decided to remain with their captors. Dad’s outfits included 42nd Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Armey, 13th Infantry Regiment “Vicksburgers”. Lots of blacks served in Italy; remember Edward Brooke, former senator from Massachusetts met and married his first wife while serving in Italy.

At some time in late 40’s or early 50’s Dad was stationed in D.C. or Maryland, I think at Fort Belvoir, VA.  Dad was detailed to take a white prisoner to Fort Benning, Ga. At some small town in Georgia, the white town sheriff got on the train and told my Dad that he would have to handcuff the prisoner to his seat and that my dad would have to ride in the designated “colored” cars.  Dad always smiled about the look on the sheriff’s face when Dad produced the Thompson sub-machine gun with which he was armed and said, “My orders are to shoot anyone who tries to take this prisoner from me.”  The result was that everyone except Dad and the prisoner were cleared out of the car and they had the entire Pullman to themselves. There was an attempt to hold an Article 15, but Dad had written orders. Hard to remember now that a red-necked sheriff could hassle a black solder with impunity in those days, but Dad was well-armed and determined.

Also, Bill Hart, the former East Orange mayor and Hutchinson Hart, his cousin took their initial training at Great Lakes Naval Station, near Chicago. I have picture of Bill in his basketball uniform; both he and Hutch played on the team at Great Lakes. Both Bill and Hutch (Mom and I called him June) played at Delaware State after the war. Another relative, Gwatney, from Plainfield, may have served and played football at Delaware State. Hutch is in the State of Ohio Hall of Fame for football and basketball for first 50 years of 20th Century; Bill and Hutch are in the Delaware State Hall of Fame.  Hutch and his brother Herb also led Irondale in high school championship game against Bridgeport, Ohio, led by John Havilcek’s older brothers. Lost 63-62, Herb scored 11 and Hutch scored 51.

After his retirement from active duty, Dad became driver for the Commanding General at Hanscom Air Force Base, Bedford, MA. Dad received defensive driving training at Quantico from FBI instructors, got a big kick out of “tearing up transmissions” to avoid terrorist attack. Dad also drove the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and Senators on their official visits to Mass. Finally, he retired as civil servants after 20 years service. My mother while not technically in the military worked at federal civil servant and retired as such, served at Ft. Devens hospital for severely wounded Viet Nam vets.

William Hart (Brother of Violet Fitch, and the first Black Mayor of East Orange New Jersey). Served on a destroyer in the Pacific in WWII. His destroyer was caught in the famous Typhoon that hit during the invasion of Okinawa. Many of the U.S. invasion fleet capsized or were scattered across the Pacific by the sheer force of the storm. Bill brought home a little tombstone I still have. It reads “Beneath this stone lies Murphy, they buried him today, he led the life of Riley, while Riley was away.”  WWII humor.

Roy Fitch (The material below was provided by Roy and is in his own words).

Entered the Air Force in March 1955.  Served in Japan from 1956 to 1958.  Served at various bases throughout the US.  Returned to Japan and served from 1962 to 1965.  Served in Recruiting Service from 1965 to 1969.  Served a tour of duty in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.  Awarded several medals for this service, including the “outstanding unit award” and “the distinguished service award “Nominated for the “Bronze Star”  Returned to Recruiting Duty where he ended his 20 year career in 1975.

Harrison and I deployed to overseas areas the same month and year.  He went to Germany (Reggie and I saw him, Violet, and Birdie from Brooklyn Naval Yard) and I went to Japan. Harrison was someone who was always on time.  Example.  When he was stationed in Colorado, and I in Columbus, Ohio, I wrote to him and asked would he pick me up on the way home for Xmas (Dec 1955).  He told me to meet him in the Greyhound Bus Station at Midnight the Friday before Xmas.  At the stroke of Midnight he walked into that bus station.

     Also, I was stationed in California with Jerri Harshaw one of the first black enlisted women to reach the grade of Master Sergeant.  She was a Junior at Tuskegee when the first Tuskegee Airmen arrived there for training.  Four Star General Daniel “Chappie” James, the first black man to reach that status.  Jerri spent 30 years in the Air Force.  She and I remain close friends, over 50 years after we first met. August 1955 – On a bus that left Columbus, Ohio headed for Lexington, Kentucky. We pull into bus station in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Bus driver said “we are shortly crossing over into Kentucky, all  (Negroes – they called us that in those days) must move to the back of the bus now, because that is the law in Kentucky”.  The first time I had seen separate facilities for blacks and whites, even had one drinking fountain for “dogs and niggers”.  Fast forward 14 years to Vietnam, just as much racism with white soldiers bringing those same feelings where ever they went.  Much violence between black and white soldiers, even though they fought a common enemy. I wrote an article that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer some years ago about these same  incidents (in more detail) during Black History Month.

Tellius Fitch – Served in the Philippines during WWII from 1943 to 1945.  Served in Korea from 1951 to 1953, awarded several metals including the “meritorious service” award  from General Matthew Ridgeway during fierce close combat. His brother, Roy, adds the following: I met a guy from the port back in 1976, who remember serving with Tellius in Korea, and who said that Tellius was responsible for saving some lives, something I didn’t know about.  People involved in combat rarely speak of it, namely because of the horrors of it. “

Keisha Harris and Lance Harris (Daughter and son respectively of Joseph and Gwen Harris.) Lt. Keisha Harris, USNR, served on two Marine bases with outstanding performance. She won three Marine medals. She served at the World Trade Center during 9-11. She gave last rites to many people. She was awarded a Medal for support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lance was given four Medals for his service in the 1st Gulf War.

Family Members of
Ruth Ellen McKinney Fitch
(Ruth Ellen is married to Harrison Fitch). Several relatives in Harrison’s family and Ruth Ellen’s are buried in the black section of Arlington National Cemetery. Ruth Ellen’s step-grandfather, Mr. Boggle was a Spanish-American war vet; her grandmother was one of the last women to receive a pension from the Spanish-American war. She died in 1997 at age 97.

Richard Scott Fitch (Late son of Harrison E and Violet Fitch, brother of Harrison ‘Birdie” Fitch). Rickie received an ROTC scholarship for his college in South Dakota. Rickie was named the outstanding ROTC cadet in the 4 state area of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

Trina and Dale Robertson. (Trina is the daughter of William and Sue Reed. Dale is her husband.)Trina’s husband Dale has a sister, Claudette that is in Iraq now and a brother Howard who is in the National Guard. Claudette is actually in Kuwait now but she served many years in Killeen at Fort Hood.

LeRoy Brown, Jr. (Ron’s step-brother)

LeRoy Brown, Jr. was in Army and served in Italy perhaps in WWII or post-war occupation.

Leo Rouse (Brother of Joe Rouse)

Prior to his 2004 appointment as Dean of the Howard University College of Dentistry, Dr. Rouse served as Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Chair of the Department of Clinical Dentistry. Before entering academia, he actively served in the United States Army for 24 years. Dr. Rouse concluded his military career at the rank of Colonel as Commander and Chief Operating Office of the U.S. Army Dental Command, commanding the entire Army Dental Corps worldwide. Dr. Rouse holds a D.D.S. degree from the Howard University College of Dentistry. In 1997, he received the Howard University College of Dentistry Alumni Achievement Award for distinguished service to the country and the profession of dentistry.

The first black commander of the Dental Command, US Army, Leo E. Rouse, D.D.S., Dean of the Howard University College of Dentistry, was installed as ADEA President-elect on March 3 at the 2010 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in Washington, DC. Dr. Rouse will spend a year as ADEA President-elect and become ADEA President at the conclusion of the 2011 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in San Diego, California, March 11 – 16.

“Dr. Rouse’s active involvement in the leadership and governance of ADEA exemplifies his commitment to the Association and the future of dental education. His past experience provides a solid foundation from which the Association will continue to grow,” said outgoing ADEA President Ronald J. Hunt, D.D.S. Dr. Rouse is currently Chair of the ADEA Council of Deans and serves as one of the four ADEA Commissioners on the Commission of Dental Accreditation. In 2009, he was awarded an ADEA Presidential Citation for distinguished service to the Association and dedication to the advancement of the dental education community. He is also active in other dental organizations. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors for the American Dental Association Foundation and the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation.

Lenora Isaac and Erskine Isaac.
Major Clifford Saunders, YN1 Kim Saunders, Specialist Valarie Saunders, Lt. Comm. Tracy Isaac, Stanley Isaac for his Naval service. Lenora’s sister Kim retired from the Navy after 20 yrs and survived the Sept 11 attack on the Pentagon. She now works as a private contractor for the armed forces. Lenora adds about Kim’s office in the Pentagon: “Her office was destroyed, but by God’s grace they were not in it, rather temporarily relocated while the office was being renovated!” Major Saunders writes: “My gratitude is expressed not only from myself but on behalf of the many others in our family, most of whom are no longer among us, who served faithfully in the civil war, both world wars, Korea, Vietnam and Dessert Storm.”

Charles William Harris (Husband of Barbara, father of Lisa and Vicki)

Was drafted into the US Army in 1961-62 era.  Served at posts in the US and then spent the remaining two year stint at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Awarded the “Good Conduct Medal”. Harrison A. (Birdie) Fitch adds this comment: I know that Charles served in Hawaii because I recall a conversation with him in which he confirmed that black Americans were not popular with native Hawaiians.

Edward Fitch (Father of Bruce)

Drafted into the US Army in 1944.  Spent his military service at Fort Dix, New Jersey – receiving an honorable discharge.

Arnold Hart

Edward Fitch

Eddie served briefly in the Army

Joy Carter (first cousin of Harrison “Birdie” Fitch)

Joy Carter (first cousin of Harrison Fitch) (Aunt Marjorie’s) daughter, served as a captain or major in the first Gulf War. Joy is a medical doctor, graduate of Wittenberg College (Ohio) and Howard medical school. Joy was the chief pathologist for KIA at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. She not only served as the principal pathologist for the first Gulf War at Dover Air Force base, she also is the first black female to serve as Chief Medical Examiner for Harris County, Texas, which I think includes Houston, TX and was the first female to direct the Medical Examiner Department in the District of Columbia. Joy is now a consulting forensic scientist for the military and private litigants.

Ron Brown
Served six months active duty at Fort Dix New Jersey followed by six years in the New Jersey National Guard, Massachusetts National Guard, and the New York National Guard. Received Honorable Discharge. Military Occupational Service was Clerk Typist. Played trumpet in the National Guard Band and was a Drum Major in the Massachusetts National Guard., where the lead drummer was Dorian McGhee (also from Elizabeth) who played drums in the Broadway musical and road show, A Chorus Line.

James Burton (church member). James served in the United States Marine Corps. He believes he was the first draftee into the Marine Corps from New Jersey. He did his boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina. His military occupational service (“MOS”) was combat engineer. From 1966-1968 he was stationed in Viet Nam, and spent time in Danang.

Geneva Tootle Mewa Oldest stepson was in NJ army reserve unit out of Jersey City in Grenada campaign. His name is Jason Edwards Flagg. Her husband, Earl H. Flagg, Jr. was a platoon sergeant in Viet Nam. Was blinded at age 19 when a bomb being disarmed blew up in his face. Was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. Attended Newark public schools and Arts High School. Was a commercial art student. .

Vice Admiral, Dr. Joycelyn Elders Dr. Elders is a relative through Geri’s Owens-Tollette family line. Dr. Joycelyn Elders is now Professor Emeritus at the University School of Medicine. She was a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the first African-American and the second woman to be appointed as Surgeon General of the United States. She was the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology. Here is a link to a video about Dr. Elders:

Here is her full biography:

“Joycelyn Elders, the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology, was the sixteenth Surgeon General of the United States, the first African American and only the second woman to head the U.S. Public Health Service. Long an outspoken advocate of public health, Elders was appointed Surgeon General by President Clinton in 1993.

Born to poor farming parents in 1933, Joycelyn Elders grew up in a rural, segregated, poverty-stricken pocket of Arkansas. She was the eldest of eight children, and she and her siblings had to combine work in the cotton fields from age 5 with their education at a segregated school thirteen miles from home. They often missed school during harvest time, September to December.

After graduating from high school, she earned a scholarship to the all-black liberal arts Philander Smith College in Little Rock. While she scrubbed floors to pay for her tuition, her brothers and sisters picked extra cotton and did chores for neighbors to earn her $3.43 bus fare. In college, she enjoyed biology and chemistry, but thought that lab technician was likely her highest calling. Her ambitions changed when she heard Edith Irby Jones, the first African American to attend the University of Arkansas Medical School, speak at a college sorority. Elders—who had not even met a doctor until she was 16 years old—decided that becoming a physician was possible, and she wanted to be like Jones.

After college, Elders joined the Army and trained in physical therapy at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. After discharge in 1956 she enrolled at the University of Arkansas Medical School on the G.I. Bill. Although the Supreme Court had declared separate but equal education unconstitutional two years earlier, Elders was still required to use a separate dining room—where the cleaning staff ate. She met her husband, Oliver Elders, while performing physical exams for the high school basketball team he managed and they were married in 1960.

Elders did an internship in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, and in 1961 returned to the University of Arkansas for her residency. Elders became chief resident in charge of the all-white, all-male residents and interns. She earned her master’s degree in biochemistry in 1967, became an assistant professor of pediatrics at the university’s Medical School in 1971, and full professor in 1976.

Over the next twenty years, Elders combined her clinical practice with research in pediatric endocrinology, publishing well over a hundred papers, most dealing with problems of growth and juvenile diabetes. This work led her to study of sexual behavior and her advocacy on behalf of adolescents. She saw that young women with diabetes face health risks if they become pregnant too young—include spontaneous abortion and possible congenital abnormalities in the infant. She helped her patients to control their fertility and advised them on the safest time to start a family.

Governor Bill Clinton appointed Joycelyn Elders head of the Arkansas Department of Health in 1987. As she campaigned for clinics and expanded sex education, she caused a storm of controversy among conservatives and some religious groups. Yet, largely because of her lobbying, in 1989 the Arkansas Legislature mandated a K-12 curriculum that included sex education, substance-abuse prevention, and programs to promote self-esteem. From 1987 to 1992, she nearly doubled childhood immunizations, expanded the state’s prenatal care program, and increased home-care options for the chronically or terminally ill.

In 1993, President Clinton appointed Dr. Elders U.S. Surgeon General. Despite opposition from conservative critics, she was confirmed and sworn in on September 10, 1993. During her fifteen months in office she faced skepticism regarding her progressive policies yet continued to bring controversial issues up for debate. As she later concluded, change can only come about when the Surgeon General can get people to listen and talk about difficult subjects.

Dr. Elders left office in 1994 and in 1995 she returned to the University of Arkansas as a faculty researcher and professor of pediatric endocrinology at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. In 1996 she wrote her autobiography, Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: From Sharecropper’s Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America.

Now retired from practice, she is a professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, and remains active in public health education.”

George Reed (church member, and a member of the Tuskegee Airman)

Mr. Reed, pictured above in the center, passed on June 29, 2010 at the age of 90. Reed served as a military police officer with the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Reed explained to the students that America’s soldiers endure great hardships and long separations from their families and loved ones as they serve their nation. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first all-African American flying unit in the U.S. military, Served during World War II. The squadron was commissioned by the War Department under increased pressure from the NAACP and other organizations seeking to provide opportunities for African Americans in the armed forces. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. commanded the Tuskegee Airmen’s first graduating class. They flew over fifteen hundred missions and destroyed hundreds of enemy aircrafts without ever losing a bomber to hostile fire.“We fight to preserve freedom for future generations,” Reed explained.

According to his obituary, “In 1941, Mr. Reed enlisted for military service during World War II, and was assigned to 941st Military Police Squadron at the Tuskegee Army Air Field as part of the “Tuskegee Experience,” in which the federal government trained African-Americans to fly and fight in combat. The Tuskegee Experience included training African-Americans to serve as air traffic controllers, airplane mechanics, police and other occupations. Mr. Reed was a member of the Claude B. Govan Tri-State Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., and for the past 25 years had made presentations about the history and achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen to many schools, community groups and corporations. In 2007, Mr. Reed was among the men and women awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service as part of the Tuskegee Experience.

Mr. Reed was a longstanding member of Crawford Crews American Legion Post 251, having served as commander, historian and chairman of its N.J. Boys State and oratorical contest. His many years of dedicated leadership and service to the Boy Scouts of America resulted in his being honored with many awards, including the District Award of Merit and in 1988, the Silver Beaver Award from the Essex Council.”

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Augustine Davis (church member, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, who fought at Pearl Harbor). I consider it a personal privilege and honor to recognize Augustine and to include in this reflection some of his remarkable and powerful words from his “Unsung Black Navy Heroes of World War II”. The first four paragraphs below are verbatim from Augustine’s profile in The History Makers.

“Augustine Davis, survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and pioneering black pharmacist, was born on November 19, 1917, in LaGrange, Texas. His early years were spent helping his family with farm work. Aware of the lack of medical attention available to his family, Davis desired to become a doctor. When he graduated in 1936 from Taylor High School in Taylor, Texas, Davis needed money to attend college, but he was unable to find a working scholarship available for any of the black colleges.

To finance his college education, Davis enlisted in the U.S. Army’s segregated black 25th Infantry, which recruiters told him was the only armed black unit in the Army. After a three-year stint, he still needed tuition money, so he enlisted in the still-segregated U.S. Navy. The pay from the U.S. Navy was a little higher, though all black recruits were assigned special duty in the messman branch. However, Davis’ naval duty, which superseded special duty, was that of a gunner.

At daybreak, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Davis rushed to his gun as the enemy opened fire on the U.S.S. Breese. One plane flew so low that Davis could see the pilot’s face. His loaders never reached him, but somehow Davis loaded his gun and fired back, only to see planes disappear into clouds of smoke. His gun was the only one on the Breese to get into action, but Davis received no citations for valor. He went on to see combat duty in other pivotal engagements, including the Battle of Midway. Davis was placed in charge of a battery aboard the U.S.S. Essex, which consisted of four anti-aircraft machine guns, all manned by black men.

After the war, Davis attended Ohio State University and earned his B.S. degree in pre-medicine, then graduated from the Ohio State College of Pharmacy – one of few blacks to have done so. After a long professional career, Davis is now retired. He has two daughters, six grandchildren and two siblings. He lives with his wife, Gwendolyn, in Montclair, New Jersey. ”

In my view, Augustine is as much a hero of Pearl Harbor as Dorie Miller, and Augustine’s not yet being included in the Naval History and Heritage Command or in the pictorial history of African-Americans in the Navy during World War II, or in the new African-Americans in the Navy page, or in the Pearl Harbor Raid page, or in the Oral Histories of the Pearl Harbor raid is a flagrant omission that should be corrected forthwith! Here, for example, is one photo from that history:

The photo caption states that it shows ” Mess Attendants manning a 20mm machine gun, in a gun tub beside the flight deck, 9 September 1942. The carrier was then en route from Alameda, California, to the southwest Pacific.” There are an even smaller number of photos of African-American women in U.S. Military service during WWII but there is several worthwhile attempts to record that service—including such non-combat service as that of the all-black 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion— and barriers to it. Here are a few of such photos from the Library of Congress as well as a reference to an oral history interview with an African-American WAAC, as well as additional material:

Notwithstanding that omission of many photos of African-Americans sailors such as Augustine, or African-American women who served, the commentary accompanying those pictures that do exist and are published correctly states the following:

“When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, the Navy’s African-American sailors had been limited to serving as Mess Attendants for nearly two decades. However, the pressures of wartime on manpower resources, the good examples of heroes like Doris Miller, the willingness of thousands of patriotic men to participate in the war effort plus well-focused political activities gradually forced changes. Though the Navy remained racially segregated in training and in most service units, in 1942 the enlisted rates were opened to all qualified personnel. In 1944, African-Americans’ aspirations were further gratified when the Navy commissioned its first-ever officers of their race.”

Here are Augustine’s own words from what he describes as his treatise:

On Gunnery School

“I was sent to gunnery school to familiarize myself with the nomenclature of the 50 caliber air-cooled machine gun, which was basically the same as the 30-caliber water-cooled machine gun I used in the army. When I reported to the gunnery school they rejected me. I returned to my ship and reported it to the Executive Officer and he reported it to the Captain. The Captain said to me ‘Go back over there.’ I told him that I would rather not go back there. The Captain said to me ‘Go back over there. That’s an order. I’ll take care of those bastards over there.’ I went back to the school and they did not question my return. Upon completing the gunnery training, I was immediately assigned to a 50 caliber machine gun as my ‘military’ duty aboard the ship.”

About the Surprise Attack on Pearl Harbor

“It has been reported that the fleet was totally unaware of the possibility of any pending danger of an attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. That is absolutely preposterous. I was in the ward room (mess hall) for the commissioned white officers one year before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor when the order to be on the alert for a possible attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese was given by the commander of the Pacific fleet. The preparations that would have to be made were being discussed: (1) Submarine Nets were to be placed across the mouth of the channel going into the harbor; (2) No ship should be allowed to enter the harbor after 6 p.m.; (3) Never allow over 1/3 of the ships in the Harbor at the same time;(4) Reconnaissance planes should take off from Ford Island every morning at 4 a.m. to reconnoiter the area. If all these preparations had been adhered to perhaps the attack on Pearl Harbor could have been avoided. But none of these preparations was adhered to. The Breese, the ship I was on at the time came in from the sea at 8 p.m. that Saturday evening before the attack and the nets were opened to let us in. More than 1/3 of the ships of the fleet were in the Harbor. The planes did not take off from Ford Island that Saturday morning. The two senior commanders of U.S. military forces in the Pacific at the time of the December 1941 attack were accused by the Pentagon of dereliction of duty as late as May 1999, the debate continued in the Senate to exonerate the accused.”

On Special vs. Military Duty

“In each branch you have ‘special’ duty and you have a ‘military’ duty. It didn’t matter what your special duty was, your military duty superceded everything else. It is true that in the messman branch you special duty was to take care of the commissioned white officers. There were no Black commissioned officers in the Navy at that time. However, when the order was given Man your battle station we went were we were assigned to fight in battle. The messman branch was composed of Blacks, and Filipinos who were treated the same as the Blacks. For the most part, most Black men were assigned to the ammunition magazines for their battle stations. I served on three ships in the Navy during WWII and on each of those ships my ‘military’ duty was a gunner.”

On December 7, 1941

“I remember December 7, 1941 as if it were only yesterday. Day had just begun to break and I had just gotten up and only had on my skivvies (shorts and undershirt0. During the entry of the first wave of attack planes we heard a loud explosion. We thought it was an explosion on one of the other ships or some explosion on Ford Island. Away fire and rescue party was given on the PA system. I was assigned to the fire and rescue party, so I grabbed by fire extinguisher and started up the ladder to the top side to join the fire and rescue party. I got about half way up the steps and a screaming voice came over the PA system, “Man your battle stations. This is no drill. Man your battle stations!” I dropped the fire extinguisher and bolted to my gun. As soon as I reached top side, a fighter plane passed over on a strafing run. It was flying so low I could see the pilot. I did not know who it was but when I saw the rising sun on the plane’s fuselage, I knew it was a Japanese plane. When I reached my gun I had to operate it alone. My first loader (white) never made it to the gun. My second loader (white) made it to the gun but every time a plane came in strafing he would take cover.

One plane came in making a strafing run on me, and my gun jammed. I could see his bullets coming across the water like rain drops. He had a dead bead on me. I just drew up for the hit but fortunately not one of the bullets hit me. By the time I was able to un-jam my gun the dive bombers and torpedo planes were coming in. The type of floating sight used on that type of machine gun at that time was not good for fast moving targets. The gunner had to depend on his tracers and when a target was coming straight at him, someone at the gunner’s side had to give him the correct elevation by raising his arm and hand up and down because the gunner can only see the tracer at the highest point of its trajectory. When it reached the target it could be going under it. In Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on us, my 1st and 2nd loaders who are usually on the side of the gun to do that for me were not there. However, that attack the captain was about thirty feet from me on the bridge of our ship watching me. Although I could not hear him because of all the gun fire and explosions, I could see him with my peripheral vision as he motioned up or down with his arms and hands if an elevation up or down was needed on my fire at the in-coming planes. I saw one plane go down and I saw two other planes smoking heavily in the dark black smoke as they went over. I could not see the other side of our ship but the captain watched them. Then he turned to me and motioned that they were down. He also waved both fists into the air in a sense of joy and satisfaction.”

On “Bull” Halsey

“I want everyone to know this about the man they called ‘Bull’ Halsey. I didn’t know what Bull felt about Blacks racially but I do know that if he did have any negative racial feelings toward Blacks they were certainly overridden by his military duty. When I was assigned to the U.S.S. Essex carrier I was assigned to a magazine (where all ammunition including bombs, torpedoes, etc are kept.) Being a steward, often required being in the wardroom (place where the Commissioned white officers are and discussed tactics, etc.) After (General Quarters) was sounded several times, I was in the wardroom when Halsey asked, ‘Where are all these colored boys; when the men are at their battle stations?’ The Captain said, ‘They are in the magazines.” Halsey replied, ‘I want to see these colored boys all over this ship, especially on these anti-aircraft guns. Hell, we are out here to win a war and these boys have proven to be some of the best anti-aircraft gunners have.’

On Black Heroes

“Black heroes. One has to wonder about the countless number of Black navy men who were beyond any doubt ‘heroes’ in the truest definition of that term—doers of great and brave deeds—in service for their Country during World War II, and yet they have not been given any recognition or shown any appreciation for what they did. However, I do not have to wonder. I am one of those Black men. As many other Black navy men, my ‘military’ duty in that segregated Navy was a gunner. I would like to say to you, do not think lightly of those Black men who, because of segregation, were assigned to those ammunition magazines far below decks as their ‘military’ duty in battle….. Heroes they were!…May God bless those Black men who gave their lives and the survivors who are the unsung heroes.”

Augustine was not only a hero in the Navy, but a drum major in civilian life. According to the Introduction in his “treatise”, prepared by Milbrew Davis :

“Upon completion of his tour of duty in the Navy at the end of WWII, Augustine began his higher education journey from Bates College in Maine to Ohio State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-Medicine. His goal was to pursue a career in medicine but unable to overcome the numerous obstacles that confronted him, he decided to pursue a career in Pharmacy. As one of only two Black students in his class, he subsequently earned the doctorate degree in Pharmacology from Ohio State with standing in the upper 3% of his class.

From the time of his graduation in 1955, from Ohio State University School of Pharmacy to the time of his retirement in 1983, Augustine worked as a pharmacist in several hospitals and pharmacy establishments in Cleveland, Ohio and in New Jersey dispensing medicine and counsel to countless numbers of patients. Being able to help people during this career he found most rewarding and gratifying.”

William Penn Reed. (Geri’s dad) Served for about six months in the United States Army. Woodrow Reed. (Geri’s uncle)Went into military service in 1950. He did his basic training at Fort Ord, outside Monterey California. He was stationed in Nuremberg Germany with the 92nd Infantry Division. Maceo Reed. (Geri’s ucle) Drafted when he was a student in Arkansas State College, he entered military service in 1941 in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Hawaii and Okinawa, and was discharged in 1945.

Posted by: rongeri | August 18, 2015

An Open Letter

Last weekend, at the Montclair Jazz Festival, a school principal who is thinking about retiring and relocating gave to my wife Geri to give to me something the principal had kept for 27 years. The principal had kept it because he/she thought it was important, not because he/she was a hoarder. I was really moved by the fact the principal had kept the Open Letter, I now share with you.

May 1988

An Open Letter from a New Board of Education President to the Community of Montclair Concerned with Education

I don’t know how to address you, since no single salutation seems to cover all the people you are. You are not just students, teachers, staff, administrators or members of the Board of Education. You are neighbors, friends and strangers, people presently living in Montclair as well as people who may be moving into the Township or leaving. You may be a child not ready to enter a pre-K program or a graduating senior at Montclair High School.

Because you are so diverse, there is no way I can say something to each of you individually and a letter is a poor substitute for face to face conversation. Nevertheless, I thought it important to say a few things at the beginning of my tenure as President of the Montclair Board of Education, and an open letter was one way to reach out to some people who are not here tonight.

I guess I should begin by telling you who it is that is writing to you. That may not be as easy as it sounds. Let me tell you why.

I was recently in a town barbershop. The barber for the second chair said “Mr. Brown, you’re next.” Mr. Jones, whose haircut was just about finished in the first chair said, “Excuse me, your name is Brown?” “Yes” I said. “R. Brown?” he asked. “Yes” I replied. “Hmm” he said. “Are you a lawyer?” “Yes.” “Are you Ray Brown?” “No.” “Are you Robert Brown?” “No.” “You did say your name was R. Brown didn’t you?” “Yes.”. “Are you Reggie Brown?” “No. I’m Ron Brown.” “Oh” he said. “You use to work for the Urban League, right?” “No.” “Oh, I recognize you now” he said. Brightening and thinking he had attended a recent Montclair Board of Education meeting, I said “I’m sorry, but I don’t recall seeing you last Monday night.” Startled and rising from the chair to put on his coat, Mr. Jones said, “How could you have seen me? The L.A. Rams were playing the Denver Broncos in Mile High Stadium on Monday Night Football. Aren’t you the Ron Brown that had the 80 yard touchdown run in the third quarter?” “No” I said as the barber asked how I wanted the back cut. As he was leaving the shop, and was halfway out the door, Mr. Jones turned back with these final words: “R. Brown, you have an identity crisis. You’d better find out who you are and let folks know or you are going to keep getting mistaken for somebody you aren’t!”

On the chance Mr. Jones could be right on his final comment, if not much more, let me follow his advice and then turn to these six educational matters: our public schools; boards of education and superintendents; teachers; computers; special education; and students. There are, of course, many other educational matters that should be discussed, but they are for another night or another letter.

Who is this R. Brown? I am a product of the public schools of New Jersey. I attended Rutgers University on a partial scholarship, was on the Dean’s List, was an Honors History major and graduated with Distinction in History. My senior thesis was published in The Rutgers Review. I then went to Harvard Law School, was an editor on the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, a tutor and first pre-law adviser at Currier House, Radcliffe College. Following graduation from law school, I went to Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, was a Goldman Sachs Fellow and obtained my Masters in Business Administration. I’ve had a book published, served as a member of the Council of the American Bar Association Section of International Law and Practice, chaired a European Law Committee, published a lead article in The Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business, and written an article in the Journal of Law and Education. I was a member of the ITT World Headquarters Legal Department for thirteen years before joining the Motion Picture Association of America where I had both legal and management responsibility for activities in nine countries and a multimillion dollar program budget. In April of this year I accepted a position as Director of Real Estate Development and Property Management with New Jersey Transit Corporation. Enough about this R. Brown. Let’s talk about education.

Our Public Schools

It is most fitting that we are sitting here at 22 Valley Road. There is a plaque outside the building that says “1740 site of first school house.” Another plaque says “First High School. Built in 1860 as a grammar school, this building became Montclair’s first high school in 1866. It was reconverted to a grammar school in 1893.” Thoughts on our public schools have a long history in this building. Let me add to those thoughts.

The Parent to Parent Handbook is an excellent primer on the Montclair public schools. The fourth sentence of the Handbook captures the essence of Montclair’s schools in a single cogent phrase: stare of the art.

As with any enterprise, staying state of the art requires an investment, in the best people, the best facilities, the best equipment. Here, in short, that is an investment in the best educational environment. You can’t skip a week, or a month, or a semester, or a year of that investment and thing you can catch up later. It’s not possible. Staying state of the art is a daily activity.

The school budgets we prepare must reflect and provide the necessary support for Montclair’s public schools to remain state of the art. No one should expect anything more or accept anything less. May we never be complacent about state of the art educational excellence or be found sitting on our apathy when it’s time to stand up for state of the art educational excellence. I’d like to hear from you and then talk to you about what you think.

I’d like to share with you some answers to three important questions: What do you like about our schools? How can you tell if a school is succeeding? How should schools be organized to help people learn? The answers come from a different district but have significance for Montclair.

Question: “What do you like about our schools?”

Answer: “Very little. They are understaffed, underfinanced, and inadequately resourced. About the only good thing about schools is the number of dedicated, inventive, hardworking teachers.”

Question: “How can you tell if a school is succeeding?”


  1. “Are the children stimulated and lively, or are they bored, aggressive and listless? Are they stimulated to extend themselves , or do they just do the bare minimum?”
  2. “A child may run 50th in a race, but know that when she got tired and wanted to stop she dug into herself and found more effort—so she is 50th but she has learned something about herself. She has discovered that she has courage.”
  3. “When your child comes home full of enthusiasm for a teacher, for an event, a subject, an achievement , any enthusiasm for anything!”

Question:            “How does the school’s organization affect student learning and well- being? Answers:

  1. “It seems a pity that top teachers move into administration for advancement and therefore out of the classroom. I would like to see administration by people with classroom experience and wit that particular ability, but of no higher status than those who remain teaching.”
  2. “Factors which reduce effectiveness of individual teachers are isolation from others regarding teaching matters and day to day classroom affairs. Teachers rarely have the opportunity of working with and observing other teachers in classrooms.
  3. “School organization and management serve as models to pupils—routines, leadership, hierarchies, attitudes, sex-roles, and values . The school environment should reflect school aims and programs with heavy pupil influence.
  4. “Fundamentally a school should be organized so that all involved in its running have maximum participation in decision-making processes. We stand by the essential democratic principle that people are likely to be more satisfied  with something they have helped shape than with something shaped for them.”

These questions and answers come from a draft Report prepared by the committee to review the curriculum for schools. I obtained the Report when I visited the Department of Education in New Zealand.

How are these questions being answered in Montclair? By the Commissioner of Education for the State of New Jersey, by our national Secretary of Education or by other educational leaders? Perhaps all leaders should recall the words of Lao-Tzu who said, “To lead the people, walk behind them.” (Or to paraphrase Bob Townsend, “True leadership must be for the benefit of others, not the enrichment of the leaders.”) What would you answer? I’d like to hear from you, and then talk to you about what you think.

Boards of Education and Superintendents

One of the walls in this room contains the pictures of 10 Superintendents of the Montclair public schools, from 1874 to the present. Another wall contains the pictures of 30 Presidents of the Montclair Board of Education from 1871 to the present . (Mrs. Lennon’s picture is not yet there.) Board members who served with these Presidents and Superintendents are not shown. I would like to share some thoughts on Boards of Education and Superintendents, with everyone whose lives have been, are, and may be affected by Boards of Education and Superintendents.

The Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington D.C. has conducted a study of school board effectiveness, covering about 1600 of the nation’s 16,000 school boards. As reported in an article on the report[1] , the following perceptions and patterns are emerging:

  1. Though 39% of the polled school board members felt curriculum appraisal was “one of the most important board functions”, 42% said they “spent very little time doing it.”
  2. Boards speaking with 5,7, and 9 voices without finding “a common bond—a  sense of what’s best for the whole district,  not just a particular interest.”
  3. Boards “not knowing how to act as a corporate body, how to set clear goals and follow them through.”
  4. Boards arguing a great deal over petty things, being “distracted from focusing on such fundamentals as educational outcomes or strategies.”
  5. “Before meaningful long term education reform can take place, local school boards must learn how to change and educate themselves t policy ideas coming down the school reform pike, and requiring structural changes in schooling—such as new teach staffing patterns and development, or curricula to better help children think analytically about basic subjects.
  6. (8) I will vote to appoint the best qualified personnel available after consideration of the recommendation of the chief administrative office.
  7. (3) I will confine my board action to policymaking, planning and appraisal, and I will help to frame policies and plans only after the board has consulted those who will be affected by them.
  8. A school board member  holds a public trust to help plan and oversee the education of our  youth.[2] Of the many responsibilities we hold, I would like to emphasize the third and the eighth responsibility found in the Code of Ethics adopted by the Delegate Assembly of New Jersey School Boards Association. This Code of Ethics is also found in Section 9271(a) of our Board by-laws:
  9. In short, this school boards’ report card received a “needs improvement” in the area of effectiveness. I hope our board will always be effective.

The third ethical expectation, to my mind, necessarily incorporates the need to distinguish between policy and administration—sometimes a frustratingly difficult distinction to apply in practice—and emphasizes consultation. The eighth ethical expectation emphasizes best qualified, and one of the roles of the superintendent.

Dr. Fitzgerald, I see a superintendent as wearing three hats (and at times on three heads required to do it all.) The first hat is chief advisor to the board; the second is executive office of the district; the third is educational leaders of our community. And there are three words that must apply in a board’s relationship with its superintendent: trust, respect, confidence. The board must trust its superintendent, have respect for (her) professional training and experience, be confident in her ability to administer the district. In providing the board with background information before we make decisions, in administering board policies and letting us know which are working well, and which need changing and by discussing developments and ideas in education, that trust, respect, and confidence are given and earned. Mary Lee, you have my trust, respect, and confidence.


I would lie to adapt some words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “If a person is called to be a teacher, he/she should teach even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote. He/she should teach so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth—and I believe that includes boards of education—will pause to say, here lived a great teacher who did his or her job well.”

I have a fondness for teachers. My sister is a teacher, two of my uncles are teachers, and three of my in-laws are teachers. You, like they, make a daily difference in the lives of someone’s child.

Someone once said the three most important words a person will ever hear are “I love you.” And the two most important words a person will ever hear are either “help me” or “teach me”. I’d like to hear from you and then talk about what you think.


I couldn’t address all our magnet schools, so I decided to talk about computers. The American economist, Leo Cherne, summed up the relationship between computers and people as follows: “The computer is extremely fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.”

Though the problems of cyborg or machine man are not imminent, except in fictional characters like Darth Vader or the Bionic Woman, both the potential promise and problems of computer hardware and software in our lives, must be thought about carefully. (As you may know, video game software has probably provided as much legal discussion and litigation as entertainment.)

Ponder this: Computers have given rise to the birth of something called electronic or desktop publishing. What will happen to “books” as we know them? To print publishing? We are also confronted by new definitions of literacy. Which computer languages do you read and write?

Some further food for thought:

“It is likely that we are on the verge of yet another step in the evolution of literacy. Yet we can feel confident that whatever comes about will not replace existing skills, but supplement them. Neither the printing press nor the typewriter replaced either speech or handwriting. The electronic calculator has not replaced the need to understand mathematics, though it may reduce the need to memorize the multiplication tables.”[3]

“Print is not about to disappear. Books can be conveniently carried to the beach, to the bathroom, and to bed. The printed page neither blinks nor malfunctions; and almost alone among man-made objects, it has never ever been accused of causing cancer.”[4]

I’d like to hear from you than talk about what you think.

Special Education

The lead article in the November 1987 Harvard Educational Review is “Beyond Special Education: Toward a Quality System for All Student.” The authors ask : “how then does one shape an educational system to include students with disabilities, one which is consonant with and builds an inclusive society?
Their answer? “Clearly it is not done by taking students from the general education setting and labeling them as ‘deficient’, nor is it done as in special education, by focusing on the setting in which instruction takes place. Rather, research indicates that we must focus on the features of instruction that can produce improved learning for students.” The authors argue for a new system with curriculum adaptations and individualized educational strategies that would allow both general and special education students to take more difficult courses” with students having “mild and moderate handicaps” integrated into “ general educational programs at the building level.” They conclude with a quote from Edmonds, “Some Schools Work and More Can”:

“We can, whenever and whatever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need in order to do this. Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t done it so far.
I’d like to hear from you, then talk about what you think.

To Students: Two Poems for a Lifetime and Words for Every New Beginning

“If you think you are beaten

you are.

If you think you dare not

you don’t.

Success begins with your will

It’s all in your state of mind

Life’s battles are not always won

by those who are stronger or faster (or smarter)

Sooner or later the person who wins

is the person who thinks he can.

Now is the Time—

To seek more rainbows take more chances and follow more dreams

To smile more—to yourself

and to smile more—at others.

To stretch your arms out to the world

To kick off your shoes more often

wish on more stars,

sing more songs,

laugh more,

love more..

and to treasure the wonder

in every day.

Remember, for each new beginning, the words of James Russell Lowell, which I also believe were part of Mary Bethune’s final legacy: “Life is leaf of paper white, whereon each one of us may write his word or two, and then comes night; greatly begin. Tho thou hast time for a line, be that sublime! Not failure but low aim is crime.”

I’d like to hear from you, then talk about what you think.

I guess I’d better close now, because it’s time to go to work on the business of the Board of Education. I look forward to hearing from you. I hope I’ve stimulated some thought without giving offense. Oh, in case you want to contact me, let’s get together some Monday night, or just send a letter to 22 Valley Road, attention “R. Brown”. We’ll try to figure out who gets it.

God grant that we may each know good health, personal growth, professional challenge, educational excellence, and quiet moments with those who love us.


R. Brown
[1] School Boards Report Cart, the Christian Science Monitor, November 14, 1986

[2] This material draws heavily on the New Jersey School Boards Association publication, Fundamentals of School Board Membership

[3] Compaigne, “The New Literacy”, Daedalus, Winter, 1983

[4] Starr, “The Electronic Reader”, Daedalus, Winter 1983.

Posted by: rongeri | August 17, 2015

The Cold

The Cold

They were cold. It was the coldest that any of the trio had experienced this year in their region. It was the coldest two of them had ever been. One of them had been this cold once before, but that was while standing guard duty in hail and snow while carrying a M-14 and wearing a light poncho. But that was then and this was now. When they exhaled, each saw their breath. It was freezing. Each resembled Linus in the Peanuts cartoon; wrapped in as many layers of winter clothing as they could put on and still be able to walk penguin like. Yet they still felt frozen to the bone. Each silently wondered if help would arrive in time. Help had been promised, several times. But as the hours ticked by, and then turned to days, belief in the promise of being timely rescued gave way to desperation, anger, frustration, helplessness, sluggishness. If help came, would it be too late?

The father was the first who awoke and discovered the problem. There was absolutely no heat. Not a single thermal unit. But they had not used up their thermal unit allocation. They were supposed to be at least 64. But there was no denying the temperature and the inescapable conclusion. If you could see your breath, you were way below 64 thermal units. Why had this happened? There was no time for searching for rationale explanations, only a desperate, time-sensitive need for immediate solutions. Each thought “the cold”, “the cold”, “the cold”. It was bone numbing, aorta slowing, mind freezing. “I don’t want to think” he slowly mumbled, “I just want to lie down and sleep.” But somewhere in the artic recesses that were becoming his mind, he remembered this: Don’t go to sleep when it is this cold or you will not wake up on this side of the pearly gates. So he fought the cold, and the need to sleep, and with a dogged determination, he mentally, physically, and spiritually pressed on. This was not just about him. It was also about his wife, and his son who imploringly wailed from the cocoon of his sleeping bag, blankets, and multiple shirts and pants, “Dad, when are they coming to help us?” So the father got up from under all the blankets. And with dogged determination, he set out to find the cause, whatever it was, and then the solution, whatever was required.

It had gotten cold when it was light. Not it was dark, and that made the cold seem even colder. They wondered what to do. Finally, the wife said to her husband, “I’m going to ask you this only once, and I want you to look me in the eye when you answer!” He replied, “Okay”. Then, through chattering teeth, and with the penetrating glare of a prosecutor in a capital murder case, she asked the question: “Are you sure you paid the PSE&G bill?!”

The events described above are true, with the exception of the last question, which was not asked. But before you ask, the answer to the question would have been (if it had been asked), “Yes, I did pay the bill.”

And here is the unbelievable sequence of events that had us without heat or hot water.

The facts

  1. For some reasons no one can explain, the morning after we had the deluge of rain and deep drop in temperature, I awoke to find no heat, and after turning up the thermostat, went to the basement to see why. Every room in our basement was flooded with more than 2 feet of water.
  2. The sump pump was broken and so did not empty the water. I knew we had to get the water out before we could get PSE&G to come and find out why the furnace kicked off and we had no hot water.
  3. We got a plumber we had recently used (courtesy of a referral from our good friend Joe Rouse) to come over a few hours after the call. (Rarely can anyone get a plumber to come over the same day a few hours after you call them. Thank you Joe! Thank you Jesus!)
  4. I thought a pipe had burst, but there was no running water from a pipe. When the plumber came, he concluded the same thing I did; it was not a burst pipe but something else. But since he did not handle evacuation of water, he gave us the number of a sewer and drain service that did. The service was located one town over from us.
  5. They came the next day, first thing in the morning. (That too was a rarity and a blessing. Thank you Jesus!). However, because of the depth of the freezing water, the guys from the sewer and drain service could not find the cap for the sewer drain to let the water out. The concluded too that this was just ground water, not backed up sewer water. They went out, picked up a new sump pump, installed it, and as the water appeared to be going down, they left for their next job after I gave my check for the pump and their labor (Check #1).
  6. I listened from the top of the stairs leading down to the basement, and heard the sound of what I thought was water being drawn into the sump pump pit. But it turned out that the water going down into the sump pit was just being backed up into a different area of the basement. We called the sewer service back. They came, even though it was 9 p.m. at night. (PSE&G was scheduled to come in the morning to fix the furnace and the water heater, and unlike the guys in the film Men of Honor, they don’t work wearing diving suits or work in deep water.) The sewer service guys finally found the sewer cap, removed it. The water still did not go down. They had to run an 80 foot snake with a cutter through it because the drain was blocked. With what I asked? They later showed me what had blocked the drain: roots from trees along the sidewalk just about 80 feet from our front porch.
  7. Between the new sump pump and the now cleared drain (Check #2. Ouch!), the water was removed. (I am now trying to figure out how to wrap heat and hot water as Christmas presents).
  8. When PSE&G came, the repair man found that the belt that drives the motor on one of the furnaces had broken and that the fuse box had been tripped as one motor could not run the furnace, After replacing the belt, both furnaces kicked back on. Since we had the PSE&G “Worry-free” service, there was no charge to fix the furnace of the water heater.
  9. We had no hot water because the water in the basement had put out the pilot light. He relit the pilot light and the water heater clicked on.

Timing and Faith

These events took place between Wednesday, December 9, 2009 and Saturday, December 12, 2009. And thank goodness it was then. It the events had occurred the prior week, it would have been while Kim and Sean were here to be in Amina Williams’s wedding. If the events had taken place week after next, it would have been over Christmas. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. On Thursday night, to stay warm and be uplifted we went to a service of song and praise, “God is With Us!” The service was in a sanctuary on Church Street in Montclair. During this trying time, and before going to the service, I remembered and reflected on these names of God from a book I am reading, “Praying The Names of God: A Daily Guide” by Ann Spangler: God Almighty Creator—Elohim; The God Who Sees Me—El Roi; God Almighty—El Shadday; The Lord Will Provide—Yahweh Yireh; The Lord My Banner—Yahweh Nissi; The Lord is Peace—Yahweh Shalom. It is well with my soul!

Posted by: rongeri | December 23, 2012




Kim had extolled the wonders of Zumba  zumba 1</a A  senior citizen we see at church from time to timeretired president of all womens college</a, and who is a retired President of an all women’s college, also endorsed the class she takes at the Y.  It was also endorsed by two sistersblack senior citizen females</a , a married couple senior citizen couple><, and some other friends we see at church and at the Y seniors on a treadmill</a.

Since I have never taken a Zumba class, on Friday night Geri and I decided to take one at the Y. When we asked if the class was for beginners, the lady at the front desk replied “Yes, the class is for everyone”.  If I had been Joe Pescii (Vincent LaGuardia Gambini)Gambini interviewing Mr. Tipton in My Cousin Vinny, I might have replied, “You did not answer the question I asked”, but since she looked trustworthy, I didn’t.

As I was soon to find out, looks can be deceiving. I was also later to think  that  the reason we only see the retired President from time to time is that she is recovering from Zumba class I was about to take. And when I later asked our church friends about the class, I was told, “Oh no, never go to the Friday night Zumba class. If you do, you won’t recover in time for church on Sunday. We go to the Saturday morning class.”

When we entered the class area, I noticed I was the only male in a class of about 30 women. They all had Michelle Obama like arms michelle obama's armsand they all were wearing spandex leotards of the type usually only seen on Marvel comics super heroinessexy superheroines in leotards. Though I felt like Rodney Dangerfield in shortsrodney dangerfield, I was determined to hang in there and “get some respect” (post-class) from my daughter who had sounded incredulous that I was going to take the class.

The first time I knew I was in trouble is when I heard a voice say ”Carol, who usually gives this class is home sick, so I will be your instructor tonight.” And she had the same look in her eyes and the same voice as Ivan Drago when he looked at Rocky and said “I must break you.” I must break you 2&A look came over some of the faces in the class that I had only previously seen on Klingon womenklingon women>< . I turned to look at the substitute instructor. I thought she was wearing a top that had the words instructor on the back. zumba instructor 1 On closer examination, I saw that it was not a top but a black tattoo with white and red lettering. She looked like a cross between Grace Jones Grace Jones-Conan</ain Conan the Barbarian , the cyborg in Terminator 3Terminator 3> , Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Nowapocalypse now-Marlon Brando , a Predator Female statuettefemale predator> , and the Borg Queenborg queen .  Saying “resistance is futile” she put on the music from Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries instead of the samba-like music I usually associate with Zumba. Taking a running start, she entered the class with a flip in pike position pike position and then did a move that was a cross between a Michael Jordan leap to dunkMichael Jordan dunk</a , Gabby Douglas on the beamgabby douglas> , and a triple axle in ice skatingtriple axle 1</a . When she finished the move, she was in this position leg split 1& and gave a “Follow Me!” yell  the likes of which I had last heard from a Drill Instructor drill instructor>during basic training at Fort Dix.

Thirty minutes into the class, I felt like Steve McQueen counting the waves before jumping off the cliffsteve mcqueen an the cliff</a and climbing on the coconut raftsteve mcqueen on the coconuts</a at the end of the movie Papillon or Tom Hanks getting off the island in Castaway tom hanks castaway 1 and during a nanosecond break, I saw my chance to escape and I took it. But just like Tom Hanks would not leave Wilson Wilsonon the island, I grabbed Geri’s hand and said “Let’s go!” geraldine reed brown(As you can see, my wife looks beautiful even in Zumba!). A nice sister near the door asked if I was leaving, and I replied yes, I have to go pick up the set of lungs that just went out the window. She laughed and said, “Please come back next week when our normal instructor is here.” Later, when Geri was in the women’s locker room, three other women who had also left the scheduled one hour class early, told her the same thing. So stay tuned for next week’s report, which will either be coming to you live from the Zumba class zumba class 2 or from wherever I have found my lost mind. lost mind>

On Tuesday December 18th, Mike with his beautiful sister Kimberly and I with my beautiful wife Geri took the Newark Light Rail DSCN1063 and then the PATHPATH train into NYC. After learning much of South Street Seaport was closed due to damage from Super storm SandySouth Street Seaport--Superstorm Sandy</a , we decide to go to Herald SquareHerald Square DSCN1066 to see the sights, stop at Macy’s Macy's in herald square DSCN1067gt;a&gt and then go get a bite to eat.

Using a device on her Smartphone, Kim identified a restaurant row near Herald Square in the Korea townKorea Town 1 Korea Town 2 section of Manhattan (which I did not know even existed). Being very price conscious, she proceeded to go down the street, store by store, checking out the fare and the prices. My daughter knows no limits when it comes to seeking a bargain, so she kept on walking. When we hit the 38thd parallel 38th parallel and armed guards said we looked like spies and demanded our passports, I suggested we had walked far enough and needed to return to the United States and New York City, and go back up the other side of the street. She reluctantly agreed and chose a restaurant called Shilla Shilla 2Korea Town 2 with Korean Barbecue. I thought that was great since that was the name of her childhood friend from Montessori daycare and since they had one location in New York City and one in Gardenia California, that sounded good.

First came seven appetizersShilla appetizers (we had not ordered but that came with the meal). One of the appetizers was KimchiKimchi, something that Kim said she enjoyed eating in Seattle. Kimchi (김치) is vegetables (usually cabbage, white radish, or cucumber) commonly fermented in a brine of ginger, garlic, green onion and chilli pepper. Next came the menu, which seemed to be in volumes. As I flipped through volume 1, I looked up and saw a sign at the back of the restaurant. Right away, I knew this was a place that took no prisoners: “Shilla is not a playground or a daycare center. Parents, watch your children.” I looked around and did not see any children. I guess the message had gotten through.

As Kim had been to Korean restaurants before, she easily selected a dish with a raw egg on top Dolsot Bibimbap and Mike chose the same thing. Geri, Kim and Mike decided to share the two orders of this adventurous dish. When I asked what it was, I found out it was Bibimbap (비빔밥, "mixed rice"): rice topped with seasoned vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms, sea tangle, carrots, bean sprouts, and served with a dollop of gochujang (red pepper paste), and variations often include beef and/or egg. Everything (seasonings, rice and vegetables) is stirred together in one large bowl and eaten with a spoon. One popular variation of this dish, dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥), is served in a heated stone bowl, which permits the dish to continue cooking after it is served, and in which a raw egg is cooked against the sides of the bowl.

I picked something which I could not pronounce so when the waitress came, I identified my dish by its letter and number: R14. She gave me a questioning “Are you sure?” look. Trying to look like I knew what I was doing, I responded, “Yes, I think that is what I want.” She asked me something in Korean that my hand Korean to English dictionary translated as “Fire and brimstone chilli sauce comes with that. Would you like it magma magma 2 , basaltbasalt, or obsidian glass like obsidian rock ?” Since I knew all about fire and brimstone chilli from the Food Network,, I gave her a reply in Korean. She then gave me a look that said “If you want your stomach to have the sensation of burning in hell, go there, but don’t do it in my restaurant!” But her mouth said: “That is very Korean. You would not like it. You should choose another dish.” Since I had never had that happen in a restaurant, she sure didn’t have to tell me twice! So I started with something mild and safe. When our orders arrived, the dishes that Kim and Mike ordered were in smoking stone bowls with steam coming up that resembled the mushroom cloud you see in those old A-bomb tests. The waitress then proceeded to add the hot sauce to the dish, so now it looked like molten lava in a crater. The only thing missing was volcanic ash volacanic ash coming down from the ceiling.

When we finished eating we decided to take the PATH train PATH train back to Newark. Doing so reinforced a memory that I thought would never return: How much I hated standing like a human sardine human sardine> from NYC to Newark in a slow moving train next to a guy who hadn’t used deodorant has not showerd in days and could only have worked four straight eight hour shifts in a cesspoolcesspool</a. I had to hold my breath like someone practicing for a part in the film, The AbyssThe Abyss.

Posted by: rongeri | December 20, 2012


Christmas came early this year. It arrived late Friday night on alaska airlines 2, flight 14. And instead of hearing the sound of Oh Holy Night 1 or Ho-ho-ho 1 , I received a three word text message “I just landed”, to which I replied “I am here.” But if you have not been to the new Terminal B-Newark International Airport terminal B at Newark Airport, finding the location of “here” is no easy task. There is nothing on the first level to indicate where Alaska Airlines arrival gates are, where luggage pick is, or anything else. Luckily I passed a small sign (not much bigger than Thumbelina) that said Alaska Airlines luggage area, so I texted back I would meet her in luggage area number two. So I sat down to wait. As I sat in the baggage claim area, I heard two words: “Hi daddy” to which I replied without even looking: “Hi Princess.” African-American princess1Then I gave her a big hug, broken up only when fellow passengers waiting in the area feared I was mugging her. A short time later, back at 180 Union, she said “Hi Michael” to which he replied with a big hug “Hi Kimberly.” Then Geri got her hug. Then I texted Sean that Mrs. Goode had arrived safe and sound.

The gift that arrived early was the gift of the four of us having time together.
DSCN1013DSCN1060 DSCN1058DSCN1062DSCN1082

In real life the jury decides the ending


By Ronald W. Brown, Esq. M.B.A.

“At the core of our criminal justice is the twofold aim…that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer “ Berger v United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88

Part III
Sometimes the person on the witness stand was an eyewitness to an event that is the subject of the trial. If the subject is a criminal matter, that witness may have identified in a lineup the person charged with the crime.

What is a lineup? POLICE LINEUP 4

An article in the National Institute of Justice Journal provides this definition/description of the elements of a lineup:

“At its most basic level, a police lineup involves placing a suspect among people not suspected of committing the crime (fillers) and asking the eyewitness if he or she can identify the perpetrator. This can be done using a live lineup of people or, as more commonly done in U.S. police departments, a lineup of photographs. Live lineups typically use five or six people (a suspect plus four or five fillers) and photo lineups six or more photographs.

There are two common types of lineups: simultaneous and sequential. In a simultaneous lineup (used most often in police departments around the country), the eyewitness views all the people or photos at the same time. In a sequential lineup, people or photographs are presented to the witness one at a time.

Typically, the law enforcement official or lineup administrator knows who the suspect is. Experts suggest that lineup administrators might—whether purposefully or inadvertently—give the witness verbal or nonverbal cues as to the identity of the suspect. For instance, if an eyewitness utters the number of a filler, the lineup administrator may say to the witness, “Take your time . . . . Make sure you look at all the photos.” Such a statement may effectively lead the witness away from the filler. In a “double-blind” lineup, however, neither the administrator nor the witness knows the identity of the suspect, and so the administrator cannot influence the witness in any way.”

Why is eyewitness testimony important?eyewitness testimony 1<

A report in the National Institute of Justice Journal provides a succinct answer to this question:

“Eyewitnesses play a vital role in the administration of justice in this country. Their testimony can provide the key to identifying, charging, and convicting a suspect in a criminal case. Indeed, in some cases, eyewitness evidence may be the only evidence available.”

According to one source, “eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide.” Here, from the Innocence Project, is a hyperlink to one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen about eyewitness misidentification: The Innocence ProjectInnocence Project 1< also published the chart below representing “contributing causes [of wrongful convictions] confirmed through Innocence Project research. Actual numbers may be higher”.
contributing causes of wrongful convictions

We now turn to State v. Henderson, a case involving a lineup, witness identification and testimony, the three word question, and this four word answer from the eyewitness:”that’s the mother [—–] there.”

State v. Henderson
In State v. Henderson , the New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether the then current legal standard for assessing eyewitness identification evidence needed to be revised. Specifically, the court addressed “whether evidence of eyewitness identification used against the defendant was impermissibly suggestive and thus, inadmissible under the two-part test applied in Manson v. Braithwaite , 432 U.S. 98. 97 S. Ct. 2243, 53 L. Ed. 2d 140 (1977), and followed as a state law standard in State v. Madison, 109 N.J. 232-33(1988).”

The following two accounts of what happened in this case are from the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Henderson , and from a Case Note in Harvard Law Review.

“Womble and Harper were acquaintances who occasionally socialized at the apartment of Womble’s girlfriend, Vivian Williams. On the night of the murder, Womble and Williams brought in the New Year in Williams’ apartment by drinking wine and champagnewine and champagne 2> and smoking crack cocaineman smoking crack coccaine</a. Harper had started the evening with them but left at around 10:15 p.m. Williams also left roughly three hours later, leaving Womble alone in the apartment until Harper rejoined him at 2:00 to 2:30 a.m. Soon after Harper returned, two men forcefully entered the apartment. Womble knew one of them, co-defendant George Clark, who had come to collect $160 from Harper. The other man was a stranger to Womble. While Harper and Clark went to a different room, the stranger pointed a gun at Womble and told him, “Don't move, stay right here, you're not involved in this.” He remained with the stranger in a small, narrow, dark hallway. Womble testified that he “got a look at” the stranger, but not “a real good look.” Womble also described the gun pointed at his torso as a dark semiautomatic. Meanwhile, Womble overheard Clark and Harper argue over money in the other room. At one point, Harper said, “do what you got to do,” after which Womble heard a gunshot. Womble then walked into the room, saw Clark holding a handgunsmoking gun 2</a, offered to get Clark the $160, and urged him not to shoot Harper again. As Clark left, he warned Womble, “Don't rat me out, I know where you live.”

“In the early morning of January 1, 2003, Rodney Harper was shot and killed in an apartment in Camden, New JerseyCamden-public housing 1</a. James Womble, a friend of Harper’s who had been celebrating the new year happy new year>< by smoking crack cocaine and drinking wine, was in the apartment during the shooting. He overheard the shooting while being held in a ‘small, narrow, dark, hallway’ by the shooter’s armed accomplice. During the police investigation, Womble identified Larry Henderson as the accomplice in a photo lineup, during which the primary investigators interrupted the procedure to encourage Womble to make an identification.”

“After Womble hesitated to make an identification to the officer conducting the lineup, the investigators entered the interview room and told Womble ‘to focus, to calm down, to relax,’ and to ‘just do what you have to do, and we’ll be out of here’, to which Womble responded that he ‘could make [an] identification’. The investigators then left and the identification process started anew. When shown Henderson’s picture, Womble ‘slammed his hand on the table and exclaimed, ‘[that’s the mother [—–] there.”

“After a grand jury indicted Henderson grand jury indictment</afor first-degree murder, the trial court granted his motion for a Wade hearing to determine the admissibility of the identification. The trial court heard testimony about the identification procedure and then applied the two-part Manson/Madison test. Under this test, “a court must first decide whether the procedure in question was in fact impermissibly suggestive. If the court does find the procedure impermissibly suggestive, it must then decide whether the objectionable procedure resulted in a ‘very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. The trial court, despite noting that the investigators had deviated slightly from approved procedure , found ‘nothing in this case that was improper, and certainly nothing that was so suggestive as to result in substantial likelihood of misidentification. Based on Womble’s in-court identifications and testimony about Henderson’s in-court and out-of-court identifications and testimony about Henderson’s post-arrest statement alone, the juryjury 1</a convicted Henderson of reckless manslaughter, aggravated assault, and related weapons charges. On appeal, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey remanded the case for a new Wade hearing to determine whether the identification was nonetheless reliable.”

During a pre-trial hearing to determine the admissibility of Womble’s identification of Henderson, Womble testified that he felt “as though Detective Weber was ‘nudging’ him to choose [Henderson’s] photo and that there was pressure for him to make a choice” and that when he first looked at the photo array photo array, he did not see anyone he recognized.”At trial, Womble also “admitted that he smoked about two bags of crack cocaine each day from the time of the shooting until speaking with police ten days later.”

Chief Justice Rabner, writing for a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court “modified the framework for assessing eyewitness identification evidence in criminal cases” because the then current legal standard did not” offer an adequate measure of reliability”, did not “sufficiently deter inappropriate police conduct”, and overstated “the jury’s ability to evaluate identification evidence offered by eyewitnesses who honestly believe their testimony is accurate.”

Quoting from Berger v United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88, that “at the core of our criminal justice is the ‘twofold aim…that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer’ “, the court observed that “In the context of eyewitness identification evidence, that means that courts must carefully consider identification evidence before it is admitted to weed out unreliable identifications, and that juries must receive through instructions tailored to the facts of the case to be able to evaluate the identification evidence they hear.

Specifically, referencing the report of the Special Master, the court unanimously concluded that the two step inquiry and a five factor analysis required under Manson/Madison needed to be revised. The Report of the Special Master made this observation: “Designed to make reliability the ‘linchpin’ linchpinof judicial examination of eyewitness testimony, Manson/Madison falls well short of attaining that goal, for it neither recognizes nor systematically accommodates the full range of influences shown by science to bear on the reliability of such testimony.” Stating that the short answer to the Court’s question whether the Manson/Madison test and procedures are “valid and appropriate in light of recent scientific and other evidence” is that they are not.”

The Special Master’s Report identified the following five specific flaws of the Manson/Madison test:

• The first prong of the test addresses only suggestive police procedures, i.e., system variables. The existence and impact of estimator variables are ignored unless the court finds “unnecessary suggestion” on the part of state actors.

• Manson/Madison allows a defendant to challenge an identification only upon making an initial showing of unduly suggestive police procedures. That protocol fails to assure that a defendant is able to discover and expose all of the facts and factors that bear on the reliability of an identification.

• Judges must decide whether suggestive police procedures created a “very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification” and juries must make their reliability determinations “from the totality of the circumstances,” but both are largely left to their own intuitions to decide what is suggestive, what the impact of any perceived suggestion might be or what “circumstances” are relevant to or probative of reliability. The New Jersey model jury charges are appropriately cautionary but similarly lacking in specifics.

• The sole remedy available under Manson/Madison for improper police procedures is suppression of the proffered eyewitness identification. The available evidence indicates that judges rarely impose that draconian remedy: research of court and counsel reveals only one New Jersey appellate decision (unreported) that applies Manson/Madison to suppress an eyewitness identification. See State v. Harrell, 2006 WL 1028768 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Apr. 20, 2006). Because the test allows (indeed, invites, see Madison, 109 N.J. at 244-45) a finding of reliability notwithstanding impermissible suggestiveness, it appears to be of little value in weeding out unreliable identifications.

• Manson/Madison sets forth five factors that may be found by a court or jury to demonstrate reliability notwithstanding a unfairly suggestive procedure, including the “level of certainty demonstrated” by the witness at the identification and the witness’s self-reports of his or her degree of attention and opportunity to view the perpetrator at the time of the crime. But the studies uniformly show, and the experts unanimously agree, that confidence is not closely correlated to accuracy, that confidence is easily enhanced by suggestive procedures and post identification feedback, and that witness self reports concerning degree of attention and opportunity to view are inflated in tandem with inflated confidence. Thus, the science shows that three of the five “reliability” factors are themselves unreliable, for they are strengthened by the suggestive conduct against which they are to be weighed.

The court stated that revising the test” requires an approach that addressed its shortcomings: one that allows judges to consider all relevant factors that affect reliability in deciding whether an identification is admissible; that is not heavily weighted by factors that can be corrupted by suggestiveness; that promotes deterrence in a meaningful way; and that focuses on helping jurors understand and evaluate the effects that various factors have on memory—because we recognize that most identifications will be admitted in evidence.” The two principal changes needed to accomplish this were that “first, the revised framework should allow all relevant system and estimator variables to be explored and weighed at pretrial hearings when there is some actual evidence of suggestiveness; and second, courts should develop and use enhanced jury charges to help jurors evaluate eyewitness identification evidence.”

When the New Jersey Supreme Court remanded the case, it appointed the Honorable Geoffrey Gaulkin “to preside at the remand hearing as a Special Master to evaluate the scientific and other evidence about eyewitness identifications.” The Special Master was present at the Vanderbilt Lecture and was acknowledged with thanks by the Chief Justice.

The Special Master “presided over a hearing that probed testimony by seven experts and produced more than 2,000 pages of transcript along with hundreds of scientific studies.” The Court adopted much of the Special Master’s “extensive and very fine report.” Here are six major points from that Report:
1. The scientific findings can and should be used to assist judges and juries in the difficult task of assessing the reliability of eyewitness identifications.
2. “The Manson/Madison test does not provide that needed assistance. Designed to make reliability the “linchpin” of judicial examination of eyewitness testimony, Manson/Madison falls well short of attaining that goal, for it neither recognizes nor systematically accommodates the full range of influences shown by science to bear on the reliability of such testimony… The short answer to the Court’s question whether the Manson/Madison test and procedures are “valid and appropriate in light of recent scientific and other evidence” is that they are not.”
3. “Because the reliability of any reported “memory” is subject to so many influences, the researchers commonly recommend that eyewitness identifications be regarded as a form of trace evidence: a fragment collected at the scene of a crime, like a fingerprint or blood smear, whose integrity and reliability need to be monitored and assessed from the point of its recovery to its ultimate presentation at trial.”
4. “The study of eyewitness identification relies in the first instance on precepts drawn from the broader studies of human memory. Those studies, pioneered by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, demonstrate that eyewitness performance depends on many variables. The central precept is that memory does not function like a videotapevideotape 2, accurately and thoroughly capturing and reproducing a person, scene or event. Memory is, rather, a constructive, dynamic and selective process.”
5. “At each of those stages, the information ultimately offered as “memory” can be distorted, contaminated and even falsely imagined. The witness does not perceive all that a videotape would disclose, but rather “get[s] the gist of things” and constructs a “memory” on “bits of information … and what seems plausible.” The witness does not encode all the information that a videotape does; memory rapidly and continuously decays ; retained memory can be unknowingly contaminated by post-event information ; the witness’s retrieval of stored “memory” can be impaired and distorted by a variety of factors, including suggestive interviewing and identification procedures conducted by law enforcement personnel.”
6. “The scientific literature and expert testimony show a broad consensus that the reliability of eyewitness testimony is highly dependent on the police procedures used in conducting lineups. The lineup – live or photographic – appears to be the most commonly used police identification procedure. A lineup is essentially a memory experiment. Police conducting lineups have been likened to scientists in that they test a hypothesis (the suspect is the perpetrator) by conducting an experiment (placing the suspect among a group of fillers) in which the group is presented to one or more persons (eyewitnesses) in order to gather data to test the validity of their hypothesis. Scientific experiments commonly call for double-blind (sometimes called blind) test procedures, a “staple of science.” Wells characterized double-blind lineup administration as “the single most important characteristic that should apply to eyewitness identification.” Double blind testing requires that the neither the test administrator nor the subject know the “correct” or “desired” answer; the best known example is the testing of new drugs, in which neither the medical administrator nor the patient knows whether the patient received the experimental drug or a placebo.“

I also note that in 2012 the United States Supreme Court decision in Perry v. New Hampshire held “the Due Process clause does not require a preliminary judicial inquiry into the reliability of an eyewitness identification when the identification was not procured under unnecessarily suggestive circumstances arranged by law enforcement.” Here is a summary of Perry:

“Around 3 a.m. on August 15, 2008, the Nashua, New Hampshire Police Department received a call reporting that an African-American male was trying to break into cars parked in the lot of the caller’s apart¬ment building. When an officer responding to the call asked eyewitness Nubia Blandon to describe the man, Blandon pointed to her kitchen window and said the man she saw breaking into the car was standing in the parking lot, next to a police officer. Petitioner Barion Perry’s arrest followed this identification. Before trial, Perry moved to suppress Blandon’s identification on the ground that admitting it at trial would violate due process. The New Hampshire trial court denied the motion. To determine whether due process prohibits the introduction of an out-of-court identification at trial, the Superior Court said this Court’s decisions instruct a two-step inquiry: The trial court must first decide whether the police used an unnecessarily suggestive identification procedure; if they did, the court must next consider whether that procedure so tainted the resulting identification as to render it unreliable and thus inadmissible. Perry’s challenge, the court found, failed step one, for Blandon’s identification did not result from an unnecessarily suggestive procedure employed by the police. A jury subsequently convicted Perry of theft by unauthorized taking. On appeal, Perry argued that the trial court erred in requiring an initial showing that police arranged a suggestive identification procedure. Suggestive circumstances alone, Perry contended, suffice to require court evaluation of the reliability of an eyewitness identification before allowing it to be presented to the jury. The New Hampshire Supreme Court rejected Perry’s argument and affirmed his conviction.”

In the three parts of this article our objective has been to be edifying, and through the use of dialogues from and hyperlinks to movies, to also be entertaining. We hope we have achieved that objective.

gt;gt;finger pointing out 1gavel and scales of justicea href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-1228″>eyewitness memory


By Ronald W. Brown, Esq. M.B.A..

“At the core of our criminal justice is the twofold aim…that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer ““Berger v United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88

In some instances, stories we read in newspapers published in the United States and elsewhere resemble what could be a scene from a grade “B” film or an episode in a low-rated television show. Here is an example from New York:

“Hour after hour, they pressed him. They showed him photos of the 74-year-old victim’s beaten body. They fed him details of the crime to ‘help him remember’. They hypnotized him, deprived him of sleep and urged him to confess. After more than eight hours of mental and physical torment, Frank Sterling’s body tightened and he began to shake. Then he gave his interrogators what they wanted. ‘I did it”, he said. On the basis of that confession, Sterling spent 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. DNA evidence eventually cleared him of the crime.” frank sterling 2&

Here are two examples from England involving the BBC’s Jill Dando:
Jill Dando 2

“In Fulham, West London, a woman’s piercing screams prompted Mr. Hughes to open his shutters at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, April 26, 1999. He saw a well-dressed man in front of his next door neighbor’s Gowan Avenue house. When he peered out his door to get a better look, Mr. Hughes told BBC News that he was shocked at seeing his neighbor “lying on the doorstep unconscious and covered in blood.” The well-dressed stranger had disappeared. Jill Dando later died of a severe head wound on her way to West London’s Charing Cross Hospital, shortly after her neighbor had discovered her. A post mortem investigation revealed that the cause of death was a single close-range gunshot wound to the head. Almost a year earlier, Dando had told a colleague of being frightened by threatening phone calls and letters. Who had shot one of Britain’s most popular television personalities outside her front door?”

jill dando crime scene investigation 1</a
“In a well-known case in England, Barry George was convicted of the assassination of Jill Dando, a famous TV presenter. The main prosecution evidence against him was that he was identified during the identification procedure by only one of 16 witnesses who attended a lineup. The witness who identified Barry George had not witnessed the murder but saw a man in the street about four hours before the murder. By her own testimony she saw his face for five to six seconds. The identification procedure was held approximately 18 months after the murder. Nevertheless she was a highly convincing witness in court. The judge gave the appropriate ‘Turnbull’ warning to the jury about the problems of eyewitness identification evidence . The jury convicted by a 10 -1 majority. The conviction was upheld on appeal.”

Part II
Regardless of the source of the headline, when a matter goes to trial and a witness is being examined, the witness’ memory of events, what the witness recalls, may be questioned.

In this part of the article, we focus on memory. Let’s begin with two questions that test your memory about Casablanca. This part will end by going back to My Cousin Vinny and the three word question asked by Defense Attorney Vinny Gambini in cross examining Mr. Tipton and Mr. Tipton’s responding “I may have been mistaken.”

Q1. When Ilsa says “Play it again, Sam, for old times’ sake” , is Sam wearing (a) a black suit with a black bowtie, (b) a white suit with a black bowtie, or (c) a shiny tuxedo-like dinner jacket with wide lapels, a black handkerchief in the upper left jacket pocket, and a black bowtie?

Q2. When Rick and Louis walk away into the fog at the end of Casablanca,
is Rick wearing (a) a straight necktie rick in straight neckte with Ilsa or (b) a black bowtie? Rick in bow tie

Now, in a less romantic or sentimental vein, imagine that you are an eyewitness to a crime depicted in one of the motion pictures presented in Part I or in an episode of a television program you have just watched. Now try to answer the following questions raised in The Forensic Handbook: “How good of an eyewitness do you think you would be? Would you be able to identify the perpetrator(s)? Would you be able to remember what they were wearing? What color was their pants or shirt, were they wearing a hat? What did they look like… how tall were they, did they have any facial hair, what color were their eyes, hair, and skin tone?”

I imagine that some readers would be able to answer the above questions about Casablanca or the Forensic Handbook questions while other readers would not. If you were sure of your answers and it turned out that you were wrong, would you feel upset or be surprised? Would you wonder why you could be so sure of your answer and be so wrong?

And before my memory fails and I forget to give you the answers, here they are for the two Casablanca questions above. This is what Sam was wearing in Rick’s Café, when Ilsa asked him to play it again.Play it again Sam-Dooly Wilson So, the correct answer to Question #1 is (c). The correct answer to question #2 is (b). Rick and Louis at the airport

What is memory? change your memory 1<

There are three major processes or stages involved in memory : acquisition (‘the perception of the original event’); retention(’the period of time that passes between the event and the eventual recollection of a particular piece of information’) and retrieval (the ‘stage during which a person recalls stored information”).

Though I know that memory comes in three lengths— short, intermediate and long-term —nevertheless, the first thing I think of when I hear the word “memory” is my computer. change your memory 2 Perhaps that is because of the various occasions when I needed to increase its virtual memory or because it is popular to make analogies about memory in the brain and memory in a computer.human memory 1

“The popular image of memory is as a kind of tiny filing cabinet full of individual memory folders in which information is stored away, or perhaps as a neural super-computer of huge capacity and speed. However, in the light of modern biological and psychological knowledge, these metaphors may not be entirely useful and, today, experts believe that memory is in fact far more complex and subtle than that. It seems that our memory is located not in one particular place in the brain, but is instead a brain-wide process.

For example, the simple act of riding a bike bike ride</ais actively and seamlessly reconstructed by the brain from many different areas. The memory of how to operate the bike comes from one area, the memory of how to get from here to the end of the block comes from another, the memory of biking safety rules from another, and that nervous feeling when a car veers dangerously close comes from still another.”

The next thing I think of when I hear the word “memory” is Alzheimer’s diseasealzheimers disease>, even though I have read that everyone’s brain agesage related brain shrinkage</a, that some memory loss is normal with growing older. I now know that ” as the connections and chemicals in the brain alter with time, many people forget things like names, keys, and what the heck they went in the next room to get [and that is] normal but Alzheimer’s disease alzheimer's gene</ais more than normal memory loss. And though I admit to not being a doctor and to having limited professional experience working with doctors, I confess that I was puzzled when I heard that someone had died of Alzheimer’s disease. I thought, how does loss of memory kill you?, I confess that I was puzzled when I heard that someone had died of Alzheimer’s disease. I thought, how does loss of memory kill you? After a little research, I found the following answer to that question:
“Alzheimer's disease is a complex disease. The disease is not only a memory disease as it manifests initially with a marked memory failure. Alzheimer's affects higher brain functions and learning. When the clinical picture of the disease is fully developed the patient cannot remember who they are, what to do, what they have done and what needs to be done. They do not perform the tasks that keep our body alive and functioning. People in the final stages of Alzheimer's can have problems swallowing or eating. The typical case affects an elderly person in their sixties or seventies or eighties. The lack of self awareness and care, prolonged bedding, feeding failure and incapacity to provide proper nutrients are all factors in the development of other life-threatening diseases. So typically complications of Alzheimer's are heart attacks, thromboembolisms, strokes, kidney failure, and lung infections due to aspiration of food. Multi-organ failure is usually the cause of death in these patients.”

Can memory be distorted?distorted thinking

Yes, memory can be distorted. Here is an example of how it can be distorted.

“Researchers in the 1970s designed a number of experiments to test how and to what extent memories can be distorted. One experiment began by showing subjects film clips of auto accidents. Researchers then asked test subjects to estimate the speed at which the cars traveled, and the answers differed markedly based on the question posed.two cars and memory< On average, those asked “how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” guessed higher speeds than subjects asked the same question with the word collided, bumped, hit, or contacted. The first group estimated a median speed of 40.5 miles per hour when the cars “smashed”; the last group guessed the speed at 31.8 miles per hour when the cars “contacted.” Thus, a simple difference in language was able to cause a substantial change in the reconstruction of memory.
A similar study showed college students a film of a car accident and asked some of them to guess how fast the car was going “along the country road”; the rest were asked how fast the car was going when it “passed the barn” barn 2</aalong the country road. One week later, the same students were asked if they had seen a barn in the film. Approximately 17% of students who were originally asked the “passed the barn” question said there was a barn, and just under 3% from the other group remembered a barn. In reality, there was no barn.

Returning to My Cousin Vinny
When a witness responds to an attorney’s question, the witness may rely on memory in giving an answer. A classic example is found in Defense Attorney Vincent Gambini’s cross-examination of Mr. Tipton. Here it is, verbatim .
Gambini interviewing Mr. Tipton</a
Gambini: Mr. Tipton, when you viewed the defendants walking from their car into the Sac-O-Suds, what angle was your point of view?
Tipton: They was kinda walkin' toward me when they entered the store.
Gambini: And when they left, what angle was your point of view?
Tipton: They was kinda walkin' away from me.
Gambini: So you would say you gotta better shot of 'em goin' in and not so much comin' out?
Tipton: You could say that.
Gambini: I did say that. Would you say that?
Tipton: Yeah.
Gambini: Is is possible, the two yutes —
Judge Haller: Uh, two what? Uh, uh, what was that word?
Gambini: Uh, what word?
Judge Haller: Two what?
Gambini: What?
Judge Haller: Did you say "yutes"?
Gambini: Yeah, two yutes.
Judge Haller: What is a yute?
Gambini: Oh, excuse me Your Honor: two youTHs.
Gambini: [getting back to the witness]. Is it possible the two defendants [glancing over at Judge Haller who displays unmitigated annoyance] entered the store, picked 22 specific items off of the shelves, had the clerk take money, make change, then leave?

Gambini: Then, two different men drive up in a sim — [witness Tipton shakes head "no"] Don't shake your head. I'm not done yet. Wait til you hear the whole thing, so you can understand this thing — Two different men drive up in a similar-looking car, go in, shoot the clerk, rob him, and then leave?
Tipton: No. They didn't have enough time.
Gambini: Well how much time was they in the store?
Tipton: Five minutes.
Gambini: Five minutes? Are you sure? Did you look at your watch?
Tipton: No.
Gambini: Oh, oh, oh, I'm sorry, you testified earlier that the boys went into the store and you had just begun to make breakfast. You were just ready to eat. You heard a gun shot. That's right, I'm sorry. So obviously it takes you five minutes to make breakfast.
Tipton: That's right.
Gambini: Right, so you knew that. Uh, do you remember what you had?
Tipton: Eggs and grits.
Gambini: Eggs and grits. I like grits too. How do you cook your grits? You like 'em regular, creamy, or al dente?
Tipton: Just regular, I guess.
Gambini: Regular. Instant grits?
Tipton: No self-respecting southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits.
Gambini: So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you five minutes to cook your grits, when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes.
Tipton: I don't know. I'm a fast cook, I guess.
Gambini: I'm sorry, I was all the way over here. I couldn't hear you. Did you say you're a fast cook? That's it?! Are we to believe that boiling waters soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than on any place on the face of the earth?!
Tipton: I don't know.
Gambini: Well perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits? I mean, did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?!
D.A. Trotter: Objection, Your Honor!
Judge Haller: Objection sustained.
Gambini: Are you sure about that five minutes?
Tipton: I don't know.
Judge Haller: Mr. Tipton you can ignore the question.
Gambini: Are you sure about that five minutes?
Tipton: I don't know.
Judge Haller: Mr. Gambini, I think you've made your point.
Gambini: Are you sure about that five minutes?!!
Tipton: I may have been mistaken.
Mr. Tipton>

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