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A tribute to mothers, sisters, friends

tribute 2I never truly understood the role of a mother until I lost my mother, Cora Jones, the night before Thanksgiving in 2007. I also lost the person who informed me of her death. My little sister, Chakita Jones, was murdered four days before her 26th birthday. My sister and mother were not perfect, but they did their best to give their kids the best. As a mother of seven, my sister gave her life to save her son’s life. When my sister was killed, she was shielding my nephew from bullets. During her last six months of life, my mother was more worried about me, Kita, and Josh than the fact that she was dying. Her biggest concern was making sure that I finished high school and enrolled in college. But, when Kita called me, my entire world changed. I had never experienced the death of a family member. When I lost my mother, I felt numb for months. When I lost my mom, I lost unconditional love. I lost my direction in life, motivation, and my will to continue with life. Yes, I had suicidal thoughts. While many will not admit it, this is a reality for many of us who have lost our mother. You will never get over it. Every year, I, like others, am reminded of the importance of a mother.

Mother’s Day is bittersweet for those who do not physically have a mother. We take the time to reflect on the beautiful memories she left us. However, we are constantly wishing that we can have one more conversation. Everyday, I wish that I can go back to 1360 Davis Street and sit on the steps under the tree with my mom while she has a cold beer after a long day of work at the cleaners.

 On Mother’s Day, me and Kita would visit her gravesite and reflect. Now, Kita is gone and I have to visit two gravesites. When my mom passed away, Kita was that last living piece of her that I had. Kita was four years younger than me, and no matter how much we would argue, I always knew she was going to be there. She provided that unconditional love that I needed at a trying time. We did not judge each other. When she had my niece, I watched her grow from a girl to a woman fast. Though she was young, she understood that she had to care for this life she was bringing forth. As we grew older, Kita had more kids and loved each one equally. At the time of her death, she was the mother of seven beautiful children. Realistically, I was in no position to take on the responsibility of seven more kids alone. So, I am forever thankful to my cousins Brittany, Courtney, and Iesha for being there. These women along with all the other females in my family stepped into a void that was created by a senseless act of violence. Before my mom passed, she met this woman that lived across the street from my aunt and they became friends. Over the years, Kia grew to be more like family and would become grandmother to all 10 of my mother’s grandchildren. She does her best to be present for every special occasion concerning the kids, just as my mother would.

 I will never forget the day I told Kita and Kia I was about to have my first child. They acted as if they were more excited than me. However, nothing will ever top the moment that my kid’s mother jokingly threw two positive pregnancy tests on me and said “congratulations, you a daddy now.” I jumped out of the bed and grabbed her instantly. She made me the happiest man on earth and gave me a reason to push forward. I was already confident in her mothering skills because she had a child prior to us meeting. I was the one who had to learn how to be a parent. She was the greatest teacher. When my son was born, I was constantly wondering if I was doing the right thing. I would always ask questions like “can I hold him,” “how am I supposed to do this,” or “are you sure I’m not hurting him.” She would always laugh while she helped me and reassured me that the baby is good. Like many mothers, G has made sacrifices to ensure that me and my boys can have peace ... and clean clothes. As a father, I must commend the mother of my children. She is a mother and business owner that loves to give back. Last summer, in the late stages of her pregnancy, she participated in marches and helped to serve the homeless at the Market House. Her maternal gifts allow me the opportunity to focus on providing for our family. There is no amount of gratitude that can be shown to express how I feel about her.

 She recently donated her time and hands to mothers that lost their sons in combat. Her company, Royal Stitches, provided handmade red, white and blue roses named American Flowers to veteran nonprofit Southern CC, Inc. as a part of their “Tribute to Gold Star Mothers.” CEO Tony Brown and his organization honored Gold Star Mothers with a day of pampering. Mothers received a makeover courtesy of Fusion Hair Salon. After receiving makeovers, the group of women were escorted to Pierro’s for dinner and Hummingbird to make candles. During dinner, the mothers were serenaded by Tony and a group of men. Before departing, each mother was given a gift bag that included American Flowers among other gifts donated by small businesses throughout the community.

 A mother is the most important person you have in your life. As men, we will never know what it is like to carry a child. Witnessing childbirth changed my life. I can only imagine how it feels to birth a child. But, women do it every day. So, salute to every mother. Happy Mother’s Day. Salute to every activist getting active. Peace.  

 

Pictured below: (left) Author Rakeem Jones and his sister Chakita.  (right) Cora Jones, the author's mother.

Photos courtesy of the author.

Keem and Kita

Keem Mom Cora Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating motherhood is not just for Mother's Day

11 N2105P21004CIn 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson officially recognized Mother's Day as a national holiday. More than a hundred years later, the holiday has become a global celebration to honor the mothers who made sacrifices to raise generations of children and support them through adulthood.

While flowers or chocolates are a perfectly suitable way to say thanks, it's the way you live your life, the special words you say to her, or even those you write in a card that mean the most.

Before I even turned 18, I left home to join the Army, and never returned except to visit. And while I can still hope that my life in some way is a tribute to the mother who raised and launched me into the world, so much of what I know about mothers and their adult children I've learned from a front row seat to an amazing mother and grandmother — my wife.

On a recent Saturday, she made plans for as many as wanted to join us to gather their Nerf® guns and follow us, or to see how many we could fit inside each vehicle for a drive-thru dinosaur hunt in a neighboring county. It was a day of silliness including a lunch-on-the-road and picking strawberries at a local farm.

Later that same day, our son knocked on the door with his children who were excited to give us some small gifts they picked out for us while on a Spring Break vacation. As if that weren't enough, the following day, our daughter invited mom and me over for fresh strawberry pie and some fun conversation.

This is some of what being a mom is about. Loving your children, giving them your time and attention, and watching them blossom into parents who do the same. It's not all dinosaur hunts, gifts and strawberry pie, but those things stem from a life well-lived, and children well-loved.

The Bible has much to say about the joys, challenges and rewards of motherhood. In Proverbs 31:26 it says "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." That's what I see when I look at the woman — the mother — I've spent more time with than any other. Wisdom and kindness. A mother who loves her children and theirs. A mother who wants the very best for every single one of them, and stops to call, video chat, and pray for each of them on a regular basis.

There's not enough I can't say enough about the importance of motherhood, so if you're a mom — thank you. If your mother is still living, I hope you'll take it from here. Call her. Write a letter. Fill a card with words that will honor her and place it in her hands.

As you celebrate all that motherhood is and means, let me point you again to the Bible. If you only have time to read one small chapter, read Proverbs 31 where you'll find this in the 28th verse – "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

Raquel Welch and the dinosaurs

03 Pitt dinosaurToday we are going to visit the wonderful world of Tyrannosaurs courtesy of Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine and Mr. Science. Let us begin with a song: “Pack up all your cares and woe/ Here you go/ Singing low/ Bye-bye Tyrannosaurs.”

Sometimes life is stressful. Sometimes life is disappointing. Sometimes life is dangerous. Today’s lesson is intended to lift both of my readers from their Slough of Despond into a happier place. A place without a pack of hungry Tyrannosaurs on the look-out for human sushi. That’s right boys and girls, things could be worse. Right now you are probably asking yourself: “Self, how could things possibly be worse?” Well, they could.

Suppose you had been born in the late Cretaceous period, which was 95 million to 75 million years ago? The Grim Reaper says you would be dead by now. Mr. Science says you might have achieved your demise by being eaten by a pack of Tyrannosaurs.

Some may say, “Wait a minute. People weren’t around in the Cretaceous period, so dinosaurs could not have eaten them.” Au contraire, as the French say. No less an authority on ancient times that the enormously talented Raquel Welch proved people and dinosaurs occupied the same time zone. In her excellent documentary “One Million Years B.C.,” Ms. Welch played Loana the Fair One while co-starring with multiple
dinosaurs.

The film opened with “This is a story of long, long ago, when the world was just beginning. A young world, a world early in the morning of time. A hard unfriendly world. Creatures who sit and wait. Creatures who must kill to live. And man, superior to the creatures only in his cunning.” Raquel existed due to her beauty as well as her cunning.

A recent article in The Washington Post by Juliet Elpirin blew the lid off the long-held rumor that Tyrannosaurs not only bowled alone but also hunted alone. Paleontologists had believed that T-Rex was so cranky he wouldn’t associate with other T-Rexes except during the Cretaceous form of the Dating Game. While one T-Rex could ruin your day, imagine what a pack of Tyrannosaurs hunting together would do to your usual sunny disposition not to mention your bone structure.

Paleontologists are never happier than when they are digging in rocks or dirt. It’s a paleontologist thing that mere mortals can never understand. Just accept that premise. Super star paleontologist Alan Titus and his buddies were out digging in the “Rainbows and Unicorns Quarry” in the Utah desert when they discovered the Tyrannosaurs equivalent of the Brady Bunch dinosaur burial grounds. The Quarry got its name because lots of groovy dinosaur bones discovered there. It doesn’t take much to excite a paleontologist. The recent Quarry find got a whole lot of shaking going on among dinosaur diggers.

They found the bones of four or five T-Rexes who had been caught in a flood. Their bones ended up in a lake where Alan found them millions of years later. Using Mr. Science’s tool, they determined that the pack of T-Rexes ranged in age from 4 to 22 years old at their demise. Just like the Brady Bunch, these T-Rexes were all in the same place at exactly the wrong time. It is unclear which T-Rex was Marcia Brady but the implications were clear to Alan. They had all been out hunting together in a pack.

Alan said: “A lot of researchers feel like these animals simply didn’t have the brain power to engage in such complex behavior.” To quote Al: “There it is, a very sad day in Southern Utah 76.4 million years ago.” A paleontologist with the soul of a poet, reflecting on the unhappy ending of a pack of dinosaurs millions of years ago. After 76.4 million years, it may still be too soon to make jokes about the death of these particular dinosaurs. So, I won’t.

On top of the unnerving knowledge that T-Rex hunted in packs, Science magazine just reported that North America was the happy hunting ground for many T-Rex families. The report estimated that “20,000 T-Rex lived at any one time and about 127,000 generations of T-Rex lived and died. Those averages imply that a total of 2.5 billion T-Rex lived in North America.”

That is a lot of Tyrannosaurus whoopee making. Any way you look at it, 2.5 billion T-Rex are a major passel of hungry meat eaters. The T-Rexes didn’t have Uber Eats. They hunted other dinosaurs and cave men just like in Raquel’s movie.

So why should any of this paleontology lore make you feel any better about your life in these times of The Rona? Allow me to retort. Cheer up, Binky. Look on the sunny side of dead T-Rexes. When you leave your house are you going to face up to 2.5 billion T-Rex? Not very likely. Or even if you only had to face 20,000 T-Rex on your way to work, would you like those odds?

All you have to deal with is the traffic on Ramsey Street or Raeford Road. As bad as the traffic is, it cannot compare with a pack of five hungry Tyrannosaurs deciding you looked like lunch. That alone is something in which to take heart. You are not going to be eaten by a dinosaur today no matter how bad things may be going.

Put on a happy face. Let a dead T-Rex be your umbrella.

Show us the details, Fayetteville

01 PWC FHUNote from Publisher Bill Bowman: I am yielding my space this week to Fayetteville resident, PWC ratepayer, and former District 8 Fayetteville City Councilman Ted Mohn. He is known for his laid-back common-sense management style, keen insights into complex city issues, and his razor-sharp analysis of what constitutes fiscal responsibility and good municipal business practices. Below he raises 13 pertinent questions about the proposal made to our city by Bernhard Capital to manage our Hometown Utility. These questions need to be answered before any further consideration is given to this proposal.

Fayetteville PWC is correct to request being released from the non-disclosure agreement with Bernhard Capital LLC. Citizens of Fayetteville and FAYPWC ratepayers deserve answers on this proposal. Fayetteville City Council should join our FAYPWC in being released from the NDA. Our Hometown Utility belongs to us and we deserve answers in a reasonably timely manner.

In June 2019, I attended a meeting at City Hall along with Mayor Mitch Colvin, Councilmember Tisha Waddell, FAYPWC Commissioner Darsweil Rogers, select Fayetteville senior staff and members from Bernhard Capital. Bernhard provided us a handout with background company information and the basic concept of how such an agreement might work. No specific financials were ever discussed. Everyone agreed much due diligence was needed for any further discussion for an initial financial proposal of this magnitude. June 2019 was the last time I heard of Bernhard’s idea until I noticed a closed joint-meeting between City Council, our FAYPWC Commission, Bernhard members and select city and FAYPWC senior staff. That meeting occurred on December 1, 2020, at Fayetteville State University. I thought it was odd at first but then I realized the extra space was most likely needed because of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements.

Fayetteville taxpayers and FAYPWC ratepayers outside city limits deserve details of the Bernhard proposal. Below are some of my simple questions:

1. How much actual cash will the city be provided upfront from Bernhard?

2. Is Bernhard going to pay-off all current city debt in addition to the upfront cash?

3. Who will set the FAYPWC customer electric, water and sewer rates?

4. Who will negotiate with Duke Energy for long-term bulk electric rate purchases in the future?

5. Will Bernhard pay actual property taxes versus how FAYPWC now pays Fayetteville money from their electric fund as payments in leu of taxes (PIT) as specified in the City/FAYPWC charter?

6. Will the potential new annual property tax payments from Bernhard be greater each year than the PIT money currently paid by FAYPWC to the city per the charter?

7. Will Bernhard actually build a satellite headquarters in Fayetteville and bring 200+ jobs like they told Lafayette, Louisiana, they were considering back in 2018 and never did?

8. Bernhard says they make their investment back by being more efficient in running business. During their due diligence what aspects of running FAYPWC will they make more efficient to save money which would go back to their investors?

9. Fayetteville PWC is a not-for-profit utility. Will the NC General Assembly have to update the charter to allow FAYPWC profits to be turned over to Bernhard and their investors?

10. Fayetteville PWC currently takes what could be considered profit and turns around and uses that money for infrastructure upgrades, extensions and improvements. Will Bernhard take that money to repay their investors or will they continue to invest in infrastructure upgrades and replacements?

11. Will Bernhard want some type of revenue sharing agreement where they automatically get “x%” of the initial annual revenue from the electric, water and wastewater fund regardless of projected/planned infrastructure needed upgrades identified by the FAYPWC?

12. Who will have regulatory oversight of Bernhard’s management of our FAYPWC’s electric, water and wastewater departments and funds?

13. How many years does this proposal last and what happens at the end of this proposal to the city, FAYPWC ratepayers and Bernhard investors?
Many questions still need to be answered and I’ve only scratched the surface. If Bernhard has done their due diligence to make this a win-win for the city of Fayetteville, FAYPWC ratepayers and their investors, I’d like to see their amortization tables on who is held harmless, who makes out and who gets the short end of the stick. I need to see these projections from Bernhard broken down by each utility fund to better understand what is being proposed and projected. I also want to see projections from our FAYPWC senior staff and whomever the city of Fayetteville might have hired to review all of this.

Residents and FAYPWC ratepayers deserve transparency on this proposal and we need it before our City Council and FAYPWC Commissioners take public votes on the Bernhard proposal.

The Queen as my mother

02 royals pic from instagramEditor's note: The original version of this article ran 10 years ago this month. Columnist Margaret Dickson updated it for those of us who have recently been thinking of the royal family.

The Windsors were a part of our household when I was growing up. I saw them frequently and viewed the Windsor children who were close to my age as my chums. Our mothers dressed us in much the same ways, and it seemed to me that we had common interests and experiences as “baby boomer” children growing up in the decades following World War II. It did not register with me that the Windsor children’s mother was Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and all its dominions, and mine was, well, my mother.

My father had been an Army medic in England, and he and another soldier boarded in the home of an English widow. My father, a personable and courtly southerner, struck up an acquaintance with the widow, Mrs. Fox, which endured until she died many years later. I suppose because the two young families, the Windsors and mine, were in the same stage of life, she sent us many books about the British Royal Family.

I did not recognize this then, of course, but the books were well-crafted public relations efforts to portray the Royal Family as — almost — regular folks. Like similar books about the Kennedy family during the Camelot years, these books were filled with wonderful and charming family photographs. Some were formal portraits involving crowns, scepters, and robes trimmed with ermine. Most, though, were family scenes, concocted I am now sure to garner and keep the affection of the Queen‘s subjects. The Queen’s son Charles, who much later would be humiliated when a recording of him expressing a wish to be in his mistress’ “trousers,” was actually a cute little boy and her daughter Anne had Shirley Temple-like yellow curls. They and their younger brothers were pictured swinging, playing with their dogs, and, occasionally, getting into some slight mischief.

I loved these books and once asked my father to ask Mrs. Fox to invite the Windsor children to visit us in Fayetteville. I imagined they would enjoy running around with the children and dogs in our Haymount neighborhood as much as my sister and I did, and they probably would have. Maybe they would even have gotten dirty. Needless to say, they never showed.

There has been much water over the dam since then for both the Windsors and my little family, but I still have a soft spot for the Windsors, and a special and enduring fondness for the Queen who reminds me of the mother I continue to miss 46 years later.

The Queen has remained unruffled and serene for well over half a century as she presided over everything from the final dismantling of the once-global British Empire to the toe-sucking antics and infidelities of my long-ago imaginary playmates and their ever-wacky spouses. Think of watching your empire shrink as the European Union took hold. Imagine what it felt like to see the monetary system adorned by your own face and those of your ancestors be eclipsed by the drab but convenient Euro.

Now, she is marking both the death of her husband of more than 7 decades and her own 95th birthday the same month.
Queen Elizabeth has done all this and more with dignity and a constant and unwavering hairdo that could have been styled at a downtown Fayetteville beauty parlor in 1965.

I have a favorite Queen Elizabeth story that pretty much sums her up, at least my vision of her. It seems the Queen was out walking her beloved Corgis one day, her security detail at a discrete English distance. One of her subjects approached and cluelessly observed, “My, you certainly look like the Queen.” To which Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and Defender of the Faith, replied serenely, “That’s reassuring.”

As she stays calm and carries on, I wish I could send my own birthday greeting, coined long ago by a toddler who could not quite get it all out.

“Hap to you, your Majesty.”

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