Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final vision and Dr. Claud Anderson’s prophecies

“I fear, I am integrating my people into a burning house!”

Before I start this piece, I want to acknowledge the creator of its primary image. It was generated by “Creative Designs” by the very talented Tamara Coleman. If you want to learn more about Tamara and her work, contact her via email at: Tammy-cole@hotmail.com.

This Black History blog post falls under my principles of “Critical Thought” and “Financial Literacy/Money”. Here on my blog and on my YouTube channel, Big Discussions76, I challenge readers and viewers to question things and not just accept the images and messages fed to them. This is particularly important for this election year where we voters and sure to be slammed with all kinds of propaganda biased reporting by the mainstream news sources.

One of the interesting things about history is that he or she who controls the narrative controls the minds and the perceptions of the masses regarding what happened for a given person or event. Some argue that all the technology we have today has made the world worse, and there are cases where that’s true. I usually counter that sentiment by arguing that in some ways it has made it better. One way it has made the world better is through the ability to share information, so that more accurate and complete stories can be told.

When we think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we often think back to his historic ‘I Had A Dream’ Speech, his philosophy of non-violence, the marches, his time spent in jail and then his tragic assassination. But there was so much more to the legendary face of the Civil Rights Movement. In my 2019 blog post entitled, Whose Job Is It To Teach Black History?, I discussed Dr. Michael Eric Dyson’s revelation that Dr. King had extramarital affairs and why I thought it was important to know about them – something also covered in the movie “Selma”.

Another important revelation for me regarding Dr. King was my mentor sharing that just as many black people wanted to take his life as white people, if not more. It’s odd (and unsettling) to think something like that could happen, but information and perspectives that are being shared now may give insight as to why. Something that classically hasn’t gotten as much exposure, but which is now gaining traction in certain circles today, is Dr. King’s final thoughts on his life’s work.

Dr. King’s signature victory was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it turns out that before his death, he wondered if he’d spent his life fighting for the wrong things. He pondered if he’d led his people in the wrong direction as discussed in the opening quote of this blog post. This is a good place to ask an important question. What exactly happened in 1968 that warranted Dr. King’s assassination as opposed to one of the previous years? A prevalent theory is that Dr. King’s focus had shifted from social integration and desegregation to economic and financial equality/power and empowerment. His final effort was in fact the “Poor People’s Campaign”.

* * *

“In a race-based society, it’s what you own and control that determines your opportunities, rights and privileges! This doesn’t have a darn thing to do with Civil Rights! That’s a waste of time! It doesn’t have anything to do with voting!”

At this point I want to introduce Dr. Claud Anderson and then I’m going to bring the two men together at the conclusion of this piece. For those unfamiliar with him, Dr. Claud Anderson is an author/economist/historian and a former cabinet member of President Jimmy Carter. For 40 plus years of my life, I was unaware of Dr. Anderson and I only became aware of him due to the vigilance of Dr. Boyce Watkins, who I watch regularly on YouTube and who I also follow on Twitter. This, in part, underscores the good our new technologies have done.

Dr. Watkins is unapologetically black, a staunch advocate of black love, is considered controversial by some and while he regularly weighs in on some of the social issues of the day (recently Lizzo for example), his background is in economics, money and investing. His core messages are thus about black people learning how to invest and build businesses. He’s very, very passionate about black kids learning to buy stock and build businesses as early as possible and has programs for teaching such skills to both children and adults. He argues that this is more important than our kids learning to do the latest dances or excelling at football or basketball.

I don’t recall when Dr. Watkins started bringing Dr. Claud Anderson onto his show, but once he did it was easy to see why, and why he looks upon Dr. Anderson with such reverence. I’d encourage any readers to look up any of Dr. Anderson’s discussions with Dr. Watkins, and then any of Dr. Anderson’s abundance of interviews available on YouTube. He had a powerful discussion with the popular ‘Breakfast Club‘, and over the holiday season I stumbled upon an interview of Dr. Anderson from 1995 in Detroit. He had another powerful interview with Rock Newman here in DC. I’d embed these interviews right here into my blog post, but I don’t want any kind of copyright infringement claims against me. I’ll thus share the links to the interviews:

Dr. Claud Anderson Discusses America’s Race Based Society, Powernomics + More (The Breakfast Club)
Dr. Claud Anderson on the Rock Newman Show
Powernomics – 1995 Detroit Black Journal Full Episode

What’s remarkable about the 1995 interview was that Dr. Anderson spoke on everything that’s unfolding today. One point was the efforts to bring in immigrants into the United States to undermine the black vote and I’ll leave that there. It’s a very polarizing topic as ironically many black people support the same politicians who are looking to enforce these policies. The year of 1995 was just prior to the internet becoming mainstream. Interestingly, even when transferring to my Historically Black College/University (HBCU), I don’t remember any mention of Dr. Anderson, which is very strange. As noted before, the same is true for intellectuals like Dr. Thomas Sowell and Dr. Walter E. Williams, black conservatives, but ‘intellectual heavyweights’ nonetheless.

Then again, it’s not strange as Dr. Anderson discussed how the individuals who decide which books will be used at HBCUs don’t want his books there during his interview with the Breakfast Club. While I recommended three of Dr. Anderson’s interviews above, and while I’m going to recommend his books below, in watching and reading Dr. Anderson’s content, I must warn you. If you’re a Barrack Obama enthusiast who was in love with the symbolism of his presidency, or even a staunch Democrat, his words aren’t kind to either. He’s not a pro-Trumper by any means, but he’s very open about the political class’ role in the state of Black America now. By the way, many, many criticisms of Barrack Obama’s legacy are emerging within the black community these days and can at least in part be attributed to what happened to Senator Kamala Harris in the Democratic primary.

With the videos I’ve listed, you can go watch and learn more for yourself. For the sake of this post, I’m just going to focus on three things. The first is Dr. Anderson’s plan for empowering black communities across the United States, much of which can be done by the communities themselves without outside help. He described the following points with hosts “DJ Envy” and “Charlemagne THA God” on the Breakfast Club. He described black economic empowerment (by the black community itself) as building a proverbial building with multiple floors:

First Floor– Build a community and practice ‘group economics’; particularly making the money ‘bounce’ in the community 8-12 times before it leaves (discussed below).
Second Floor– Politics; without economics there’s no ability to influence politicians or elections as a group; Voting is immaterial and a game of entertainment; You buy or rent the politicians.
Third Floor– Use the politicians to influence the court systems and law enforcement to decrease things like police brutality.
Fourth Floor– Media; If you don’t own media, you can’t organize, communicate or motivate.
Fifth Floor– Education; Interestingly the final level, but according to his logic it makes sense as there would theoretically be the existence of black businesses for our young professionals to start working in.

The second point I want to focus on is that of black people relearning how to ‘bounce’ their money in the black community as described above. In this context, bouncing simply refers to spending money within the community to give those there the opportunity to benefit from it long-term. Dr. Anderson argues eloquently that of all the other races and ethnic groups, the black dollar bounces the least within its own community before quickly leaving. In the Black History-related piece following this one, I’m going to discuss whether racial desegregation irreversibly started the process of destroying black businesses. An example of supporting a black business is patronizing the above-mentioned Tamara Coleman who created the primary image of this piece.

My final point regarding Dr. Anderson is that of ’Reparations’ which is basically the reconciling of the debt and economic disparities by the United States believed to be owed to the descendants of slaves created by the ‘Chattel Slavery’ and Jim Crow. I’m not going argue whether black people should get them here, though it is interesting that groups like Japanese Americans got something following World War 2. Other groups apparently got similar severances. I’ll just say that Dr. Anderson is a staunch advocate of reparations and don’t be surprised to see a further fractured black vote in the 2020 general election due to this one issue which was in large part brought to the forefront by the Obama Presidency.

* * *

I’d encourage readers to purchase copies of Dr. Anderson’s books which it seems are not available at HBCUs as described above. I asked for and received Dr. Anderson’s three books last year for Christmas: Powernomics, The Black History Reader and Black Labor-White Wealth. Again, he has in large part been kept out of mainstream media and, based upon his messages, it’s not surprising why. I would also encourage readers to visit Dr. Anderson’s “Harvest Institute” to learn more about his efforts and to make a donation if you’re motivated to do so.

So, what does all this have to do with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? Well, it relates directly to his vision of the burning house. Were his efforts in large part directed in the wrong direction? Was it always economics? Did desegregation ultimately have harmful effects on Black America, causing all our black businesses to wither away and die? Also, have we become a permanent underclass as described by Dr. Claud Anderson?

In terms of reparations, based upon responses by then Democratic candidate, Kamala Harris, and remaining candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I’m not going to hold my breath for them. Part of Dr. Claud Anderson’s ‘Gospel’ regarding economic empowerment though is hopeful and suggests that black people as a group can still coalesce and build something. The question is ‘will we?’.

It would require a mass shift in mindset which is the hardest part. If you watch Dr. Boyce Watkins’ content, he’s shared frustrations numerous times about black people as a group not being interested in learning about economics and financial literacy. Some are, but personally I thought it was odd that it took something like Jay-Z’s ‘444’ album to get black people talking about these topics at least for a little while. Again, some of us are interested in this stuff and actively talk about it and study it, but the majority isn’t. A small group will thus likely thrive while the majority may not as much.

If money, financial literacy and business topics fascinate you, I have a wealth of content on that now right here on the Big Words Blog Site. As a matter fact, my blogging platform was rated one of the “10 Best Financial Education Blogs” by the company “Expertido” for 2019. I’ve written several ‘literary’ pieces about some basics of budgeting and topics regarding things like “Matching Contributions”. My pieces are usually personal stories discussing my journey learning these concepts.

Working with a collaborator, I’ve published profuse amounts of content in the areas of Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. These are smaller informational pieces you can read through in five minutes or less. Just go to the categories tab on my platform and choose one of those categories. I also discuss money topics on my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Please stop by, subscribe and find the playlist entitled, “Big Discussions Financial Literacy”.

As Black History Month approaches, I’ll be publishing another piece specifically focusing on whether Civil Rights and desegregation hurt Black America. Thank you for reading this piece. I want to thank Dr. Boyce Watkins for his hard work in trying to get his money messages out to our people, and for getting Dr. Claud Anderson out into the spotlight where he has always belonged. Again, for 40 years of my life I had no idea who he was and I’m not alone. That’s a major problem, but if you understand economics and media as I do now, it’s not unexpected.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

Should HBCUs teach their students financial literacy and about the business of higher education?
Are you Cooning? Thoughts on Black America’s new favorite racial slur, critical thought, and groupthink
A Black History Month reflection on Percy Julian
A Black History Month interview with Dr. Vernon Morris
A Black History Month look at West Indian Archie
A review of Marvel’s Black Panther
A review of Hidden Figures
A review of All Eyez On Me

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. I’ve recently started a YouTube channel, so please visit me at Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

A basketball interview with Damien Foster, the other half of Buffalo Traditional’s dynamic duo

“From that point it just got better and better. Your confidence starts to build, and half of basketball is confidence! Once you get your confidence, you can go anywhere!”

One of the key principles of my blog is ‘Creating Ecosystems of Success’. A key pillar of creating them is hearing the stories and experiences of those who have made it to where we want to be. Like many kids, an early dream of mine was to play basketball. That dream didn’t reach fruition, but the lessons I learned playing in the Buffalo Public Schools’ ‘Yale Cup’ high school city basketball league laid the groundwork for me to go on to further my education and start my science career.

I’m working on a project chronicling my early journey, and as a part of the research for that project, I’ve interviewed numerous Yale Cup players from my era. On October 19, 2019, I had the honor of interviewing Damien Foster. Damien, alongside Jason Rowe, spearheaded Buffalo Traditional High School’s ascension to the top of ‘Section VI’ basketball, leading his Bulls to the ‘Far West Regional’ each of their four years, and then to State Tournament in Glens Falls in their final two years, before winning it in their senior season. In part one of this two-part interview, we discuss his background, and his storied playing days at the Buffalo Traditional High School. The pictures in this interview come from an archive of Section VI basketball assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and Section V and VI playoff programs by my first Coach at Hutch-Tech High School, Dr. Ken Jones. Other pictures were generously shared by Damien himself and Jason Rowe.

Anwar Dunbar: Thank you for this opportunity to interview you, Damien. I’m working on an ambitious writing project about my high school basketball experience. It was my first major success and failure life lesson. While I didn’t play organized basketball beyond the 1993-94 school year, my high school experience on our team at Hutch-Tech gave me the tools I needed to earn my Ph.D. in a STEM-field – not quitting during the hard times, dealing with adversity, finishing what I started, and so on.

In my project I also tell the story of the Yale Cup in that era, and you can’t properly tell it without discussing the Buffalo Traditional Bulls, as you were the premiere program/team. As a part of my research, I’ve reached out to some of the other Yale Cup players to gain insight into what it was like to play at Bennett High School, City Honors, Kensington High School, Riverside High School, and others. I’ve also spoken with players from Hamburg, LaSalle and Niagara Falls Senior High School. As you know I spoke with Jason Rowe, so I know some things about the Buffalo Traditional Bulls, but I thought it would be great to talk to you as well.

Damien Foster: No problem. Thank you for allowing me to speak.

AD: The Buffalo Traditional Bulls were a big deal. I know you went on to play in college after graduating from high school, but when you came into the Yale Cup and Section VI, Buffalo Traditional became the game that everyone circled on their calendars (laughing). Let’s go back to the beginning. Where are the Fosters from? Are you all originally from Western New York or somewhere else?

DF: My Dad’s side of the family is from Saginaw, MI. I have lots of family in Saginaw. My Dad’s family is bigger. My Mom’s side of the family is from Greenville, SC.

AD: I attended the University of Michigan for graduate school, so I’m a little familiar with that state. Did they come to Buffalo for the steel jobs?

DF: Yes, my Dad’s oldest brother left Saginaw back in the 1950s or 60s. He came to Buffalo and left his younger brothers behind. He and his wife moved to Buffalo where he opened a bar and got into real estate – he owned property in Buffalo. Sure enough as the saying goes, when one brother leaves, the younger brothers follow. My Dad and my uncles who followed him, is what landed them in Buffalo. They visited and stayed. As far as my Mom’s side, my Grandfather married my Grandmother when they were in Greenville, SC. They were trying to get away from all the racial stuff down south and it was common for folks to go north. My Grandfather didn’t want my Grandmother around that type of stuff, so that’s what landed him in Buffalo.

AD: In the mid-1990s when you and Jason (Rowe) were juniors, they wrote a feature in the Buffalo News capturing his history. They pointed out that he basically came from a ‘basketball family’, but I don’t recall seeing anything about your start. Do you come from a basketball family as well? How did you start playing the game?

DF: I have a brother who is nine years older than me. He’s one of the reasons I started playing basketball. He played for Bennett High School and was on their 1987 team that made that run with Trevor Ruffin (pictured), ‘Boo’ Alexander, ‘Crow’ and all those guys. They were undefeated around Buffalo and in the Yale Cup; and they lost the state championship. I was around 10 years old when they played the Yale Cup championship game. It was Bennett vs. South Park and it was held at the Canisius College Koessler Center.

My Dad took me to that game, and it was the first game I ever went to. I remember my brother needing these ‘Air Jordans’ so bad for this big game – the Jordans were ‘popping’ back then. I went to the game and saw how many people were there and it was crazy. I saw him play and ever since that day, I was inspired to play basketball. They say that if you get inspired as a kid, that’s huge. I was inspired, and it took off from there for me. I was just ‘jonesing’ to play and learn the game – to just be around the game. My Dad also played a little bit in the military. So, it wasn’t a huge basketball family, but my brother and my Dad played.

AD: You eventually grew to 6’4” or 6’5” right?

DF: I grew to 6’4.5”.

AD: Was your father tall?

DF: My Dad was 6’1” and my brother ended up being 6’2.5”.

AD: I remember you becoming an ‘all-around player’. You developed your ‘guard-skills’. You could shoot it from long-range, you could handle the ball – everything. Did you start on your elementary school team? Did you start going to camps?

DF: So, taking it from 1987, I was 10 years old and I watched my brother play in that game. From that day on I wondered how I could get a basketball hoop. How could I practice? I’m ‘jonesing’, I’m a kid. Back then I was in a single-parent home. Mom didn’t have money to buy a basketball hoop at that time, so I got creative. In the winter I’d hustle by shoveling snow to make money.

I ended up buying a rim – just a rim alone. I figured out a way to start making my own basketball hoop. I’d get two by fours and plywood. I’d nail the rim to the backboard, tie it to a fence and there was my basketball hoop. I’d also tie it to a pole and then I eventually ended up putting it in my back yard. I’d play every day in my backyard for hours and hours – just being curious. I started inviting my friends over to play – you need somebody to practice on. We’d play for hours every day. It got to the point where it would rain, and it would snow, but I’d still have that jones to play and I’d go in the snow to play.

So, it started there and then my Mom was able to eventually buy me a real basketball hoop. When we put it in the ground in the backyard, my backyard became considered ‘the spot’. I was 11 or 12 years old and we were in the back yard all day. We’re talking seven days a week playing basketball all day.

Eventually it went from the back yard to running into one of my now mentors, Garcia Leonard. I met him at 12 years old at the Masten Boys & Girls Club. At the Boys Club, I learned the culture. The Boys Club back then was considered ‘the Mecca’ of basketball for all the people who came out of Buffalo. The type of people that were coming through the Boys Club at that time were some big names including: Glen Taplin, Ray Hall, Trevor Ruffin – you name it and those guys were coming through there and that was just the pick-up games. At that age I was playing with them and catching on. I was also tall for my age back then.

I wasn’t quite 6’4” then, but I was at least 6’. They worked with me. I was fortunate and very lucky for them to be able to come back and recognize the talent that I had and to just give it to me raw. They treated me like I was a grown man at 12 years old. At 13 years old if you step out there on the basketball court, you’ve got to be treated equally like everyone else and these were grown men! I learned so much from them and they took the time out just to break the game down and instill certain skills in me.

It went from playing in my backyard to playing at the Boys Club every night. Now I’m going to the Boys Club five days a week and we’re running every night. Ozzie Lumpkin was the director at the time. He played ball as well and he’d literally open the gym at 11 pm or 12 midnight.

AD: Wow.

DF: He would call it ‘runs’, so now we’ve got 15 guys down there like Ray Hall and others. We’re literally running in the middle of the night and learning the game of basketball. I’m 12-13 years old and I’m thinking to myself, this is great stuff in terms of learning to compete. I was able to pattern myself after grown men. Jason would come around as well. He got the same treatment. We were very lucky, and timing was everything at that point. It was beyond crazy because they were playing professional at the time – Trevor, Ray Hall and those guys. So, to get that one-on-one teaching and competition from them was just huge.

The next thing you know, my skill set started to develop. You’re playing with grown men so eventually your skills are going to go beyond the kids your own age. When the kids your own age can’t keep up with you they start scratching their heads wondering where you’re getting it from and how you’re doing it.

By the time I got to the sixth grade, I was at Campus East. I tried out and made the basketball team. The coach at the time was Mr. Spindler. He put me on the team, and they had seventh and eighth graders. It’s funny, one player on that team was Ben Franklin. Wait, was it Ben Franklin? Yes, Benjamin. Was Franklin his last name? He went to Riverside High School.

AD: Was it Ben Rice?

DF: Yes! It was Ben Rice. Ben Rice was at Campus East with me. He was in eighth grade. Who else was on that team? Was it Chuck or Henry? Anyway, I was the youngest player on that team, and I didn’t get any time. The two games that I did get in, my Mom is sitting in the stands and I’m nervous as heck. In the sixth grade you don’t know what to expect. I got in the game and held my own a little bit. I scored my first two points and they were pretty cool, Ben Rice and my other teammates in terms of showing me little things. They weren’t big headed.

After Campus East, I went to Build Academy for the seventh and eighth grades. There I hooked up with my boy, Roosevelt Wilson, and we started in the seventh grade. That’s where it really, really took off because you must remember that I was still playing at the Boys Club. I could see myself advancing a little bit further than the average player in the seventh grade and by the time the eighth grade came around, I was dunking the ball. I could dunk in the eighth grade!

AD: Wow.

DF: Yes, I was dunking in the eighth grade! That summer going into the eighth grade we’d play street football, pole to pole. Jason lived a few streets over from me. He lived on Ada Street. We’d play street to street to street and we ended up playing his street. He’d quarterback and I’d quarterback. We played against each other, and then in eighth grade in basketball, we played against each other for the championship – he was at Traditional and I was at Build Academy. They won, but it was a good game. That’s when Jason and me kind of meshed in terms of asking each other, “What are you doing? Which high school are you going to?”

After eighth grade, I took a few tests. I think the schools were St. Joe’s and Canisius. I just said forget it and decided that I’d go to McKinley High School. I couldn’t really make up my mind and my Mom was really on me about it. She said, “You need to make up your mind! The school year is about to start –.” So, I was decided, alright McKinley it is.

The day before school starts, I get a call from Jason and he says, “Man, we really need you over here –.” I said, “I’ll come, but my Mom is really on me!” I was so indecisive, and my paperwork was already at McKinley. Jason said, “You know what, I’m going to have Card (Coach Joe Cardinal) call you.” He had Cardinal call me and he said, “Look. Don’t show up at McKinley, show up at Traditional!” So, I’m leaving out the door (laughing), and my Mom thinks I’m going to McKinley, and she didn’t know that I was going right down the street to Buffalo Traditional.

AD: Wow. Really?

DF: And that’s how that happened. That’s how me and Jason ended up at Buffalo Traditional. It was a last-minute decision for me. The next day I showed up and just walked into Traditional.

AD: And they just enrolled you?

DF: Yes, it was one of those things where they enrolled me and got all the paperwork straightened out. Everything was taken care of and I was like, “Okay, let’s go!”

AD: Okay, before we start talking about the Buffalo Traditional Dynasty, which neighborhood did you and Jason grow up in?

DF: We grew up in Cold Springs. We were cut from the same cloth, same environment, everything.

AD: You told me about Trevor Ruffin, were there any other college or professional players that you looked up to? Did you look up to Michael Jordan? Were you into any of the UNLV teams?

DF: My favorite professional player was Scottie Pippen. I liked Scottie Pippen and that’s why I wore No. 33. It was Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. That was pretty much it back then. I was a Bulls fan.

AD: Yes, me too. So, you talked about Trevor Ruffin. Were you also familiar with Ritchie Campbell and Marcus Whitfield?

DF: I was familiar with them because again I studied the game as a player coming through the ranks and coming through the Boys Club. You had no choice but to study the players before you. I heard about Ritchie Campbell. I saw him play one time, and that’s when him and Trevor Ruffin went head to head in “The Randy”, the Randy Smith League. I was young. I want to say 13 years old maybe. But I remember that game. I just remember seeing Ritchie come down and just ‘letting it fly’ – two steps across half court and just letting it fly. I was like, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’ Ritchie Campbell never really came through the Boys Club. Neither did ‘Ice Cream’ (Marcus Whitfield). They played more so downtown. They were down at ’Live at Five’.

AD: Did you say Live at Five?

DF: Yes, it was called Live at Five and I think it was at the Pratt Willert Center. That was something for the downtown guys.

AD: Okay, one more question before we get back to Buffalo Traditional. Did you ever go down to Delaware Park?

DF: Oh yeah. We went down to Delaware Park. I was 13 when my brother first brought me down to Delaware Park, getting that experience playing, seeing Cliff Robinson pull up, all the old school legends. And I was able to hold my own with them at a young age. I had my fair share of Delaware Park, but not so much as we did at the Boys Club.

AD: When I was at Hutch-Tech I heard stories about your nickname being ‘Mush’. Was that your nickname?

DF: Yes, my nickname was ‘Mush’. Back at the Boys Club, we all used to rib and play ‘the dozens’. The names just stuck with me and everyone has known me as ‘Mush Damien Foster’. At first, I didn’t care for it, but it stuck, and I got used to it.

AD: When you and Jason got to Buffalo Traditional, you two coincided with what I call the ‘Fab Five Era‘. What was your mentality? Where you going in thinking that you were taking over the team? Or were you thinking that you’d get together with the players that were there and make the best of things?

DF: To be honest, Jason and me were cut from the same cloth, so going in we knew what we were capable of doing because we’d been doing it for so long at the Boys Club. We knew that skill-wise, we were advanced. It was just a matter of going on the court, showing and proving it because when we got there, there were seniors on the team – Andre Montgomery and Jeff Novarra. We didn’t really know what to expect, and I remember having a conversation with LaVar Frasier. At the time he was a sophomore. I called him the day before practices started. We had a conversation on the phone, just trying to get a feel for some of the players.

That first day of practice, we were going at it and there was some serious business going on. In terms of my mentality I felt like I had to go out and prove myself and that I belonged on the team. Making the Varsity as a freshman is very rare. Usually you go to the Junior Varsity (JV) and you do that for about a year, and you move up to the Varsity. My mentality was straight “Mamba” (Kobe Bryant) – to just ‘kill’ everything and that’s what we did!

We went in and showed off all our skills sets. We competed and the returning players on the team – I could read their body language and facial expressions. They were blown away with what they were seeing from us as freshman. From that point it just got better and better. Your confidence starts to build, and half of basketball is confidence! Once you get your confidence, you can go anywhere. It was just very competitive that first year walking in there. From day one they respected us – Coach Cardinal and the players. They started us as freshman – “Young Guns” (laughing).

AD: So, Jason basically said the same thing in that there was a ‘basketball circle’, and you got that extensive hands- on training before you went to Buffalo Traditional. I wasn’t in that circle, so the first time I saw you play was in my junior season. I was injured and wasn’t playing much. I do vividly remember hearing some buzz about some new younger kids at Buffalo Traditional before that game, and I didn’t know who or what people were talking about.

My former teammates might not like this, but you all came out and laid the beatdown on us, literally. You beat us 96-73. You made the game look so easy. Your teammates were feeding off what you and Jason were doing, and I’d never seen anything like that before (laughing). I was amazed at what I was seeing – your ability to shoot it, your ability to gracefully handle the ball in the open floor, and so on. But you caught a lot of teams off guard that season right?

DF: Oh yeah! It was one of those things whereas a freshman you start off with three or four ‘non-league’ games. You start off against teams that are not in the Yale Cup – St. Joe’s and the other private schools and the suburban schools. And to me those were hard games. We had St. Joe’s my freshman year and they had Jeff Muszynski who was a senior. Jeff Muszynski was a star. We played St. Joe’s on their home court and when he got the ball in the layup line, all you saw were the cameras going off. You saw cameras pop and this guy is just laying the ball up. I’d never seen anything like it.

And then at the jump ball, we held our own, but we lost the game. I want to say that I had 12-13 points that game and after that we just kept getting better. I still remember our first Yale Cup game and it was against McKinley High School. I’m saying to myself, ‘Okay, these guys have a lot of seniors!’ I want to say at the time that they had ’Fats’. Do you remember Fats?

AD: Yes. Chelston Martin.

DF: Moses Tolbert and those guys – they were nice! In my freshman year, McKinley was in our building and we ‘lit’ them up. I couldn’t believe it. I had 37 points that game and I was like, ‘Wow, I gave Fats and Moses 37!’ I’m a freshman and it just starts to go from there. You start building confidence and you start to build a swagger. I don’t want to say its arrogance. It’s kind of arrogance, but it’s confidence as well and you start to build that thing up. And with each game, you’re running into players who are seniors. Do you know what I mean? You’re making a name for yourself because they’re hearing about you!

I remember the Riverside game. This is when they had Ben Rice, so I’m able to see Ben Rice in high school now – I’m catching him in his senior year. When I was in the sixth grade, they were ahead of me, so now I’m a freshman and they’re on their way out and I’m catching Ben Rice and Ed Harris. Riverside had a nice team with ‘Russ’ (Coach Bill Russell). I remember that game because I think they were No. 1 at the time in the Yale Cup.

We ended up beating them at the buzzer. We were down by two and eventually it was tied, and they were on the free throw line. I ended up getting the rebound off the missed free throw with six to seven seconds left. I dribbled to half court and hit a ‘runner’ off one leg. I let it fly and it went in. That’s what put us at No. 1 in the polls and in the Yale Cup and we beat them. Our team was just jumping all over me and hugging me. I remember looking at the expressions on Riverside’s faces and they were so mad because they were getting beaten by freshmen. It was unheard of for freshman to start on the Varsity level and then to get beaten by freshman – it was a surreal thing back then.

AD: Well, if you figure that they were the Yale Cup Champions the previous year in addition to the Section VI Class C Champions, they probably expected to repeat. I think I saw the same thing happen to our team when you came in and beat us. There was a bit of disbelief as that game unfolded. It’s like the Mike Tyson-Trevor Berbick championship fight. This young guy is coming in and he’s whipping the older guy, and the older guy can’t believe it’s happening.

AD: I asked Jason this, and I’m sure you heard this too. One of the knocks on Coach Cardinal was that they say he wasn’t teaching you any basketball and that you were just playing ‘pickup’ basketball in practices and in games. Is that true and what do you think when you hear that?

DF: I’ve heard it 1,000 times! Coach Cardinal heard it 1,000 times and we all heard it. Most of the time you’d hear it from the suburban coaches and schools. My opinion on that is that Cardinal wasn’t trying to be something he wasn’t. Cardinal was more so a father figure to us. He was there for us. We could come to him for anything and he’d give us advice whatever the case may be. You’re dealing with city kids – kids that come from single parent homes. You’re dealing with a lot of things and lots of these kids don’t have structure in terms of playing organized basketball, so they come to the city schools and play on these teams. With their attention span, you draw up a play and they get in the game and they might forget the play. Or they might not have that discipline to run a play.

I’m just saying that was the majority of what they were dealing with in the past before we even got there. They were inner city kids and a lot of the coaches were gym teachers, so it was a lot about how you related to the kids. The kids in the suburban areas, they were coming from ‘organized’ basketball, their parents were putting them in camps, and they’re going to the best schools like Timon and St. Joe’s. They get in there and they learn the ‘Xs and Os’ with no problem. It’s just a different animal when you’re dealing with city kids.

I always thought he got a bad rap for that. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of room for us to learn things coming out of Traditional. As far as the practices go, we had practice. We practiced and competed. Were there times when we went light in practice? Absolutely. Xs and Os, that wasn’t our thing. Our thing was we’re the fastest team in the Yale Cup and we’re the most skilled and talented team. We’re going to run this motion thing. We’ve got inbound plays. More so me and Jason, we were able to apply a lot of the stuff that we had learned and bring it to Traditional and bring it on the court in situations when we needed it. I either had the ball in my hands or he had the ball in his hands. When the games were winding down, Jason and me could overcompensate for a lot of the lack of coaching because we were the leaders on the court and they followed us. The chemistry was just natural. It was there and it was from us playing together all along.

Card said he was going to retire and write a book and name it, “All The Way Without A Play”. And when we won the state championship and went all the way, the media didn’t like that. He got criticized for saying that. Who in the hell thinks like that? And other coaches in the area and in the suburban schools looked at our teams and said, ‘You have got all this talent on this team. You should be winning the state championship every year – all four years!’ And I can say honestly, yes, that was the goal. It didn’t work out that way, but there was still a lot of success. But they looked at our team and said, “If you had a different coach, you would’ve won every year!” He got criticized for that, but Cardinal was a good person. He had a good heart and I respected him because he had his own unique way of relating to us and getting us motivated. It wasn’t like he didn’t motivate us. He motivated us, and he kept the team together as a family – we were a really tight family.

AD: Well, that family piece was important. Not every team had that. In terms of motivation, would he say stuff like, ‘They’re saying we can’t beat them because you all aren’t good enough?’ Would he use reverse psychology on you guys?

DF: Well, not so much that because most of the teams were gunning for us nightly, trying to get a name off us. He more so kept it to where he made sure we went out and competed every night. He made sure we left it all on the court. He made sure we focused throughout the day during school – all the little things that go on behind the scenes that go into the game. He was just that guy and I want to say that his swagger, just Card being himself – his personality, he gave off an aura where you wanted to play well for him. You wanted to do good for Card. It’s Joe Cardinal. You know he was one of those types of coaches where you want to give him your all. Not a lot of players will do that for certain coaches. So, he had his own unique way of motivating us and talking to us and keeping it real – not sugar coating anything.

AD: And his Assistant Coach was Ellis Woods?

DF: Yes. Ellis Woods was his Assistant Coach.

AD: Okay, well going back to your freshman year. I got cut from my team for grades and other struggles. I was home every night of the 1993 boys’ basketball playoffs and I remember watching the nightly news and seeing you go on your first sectional run. I remember one night seeing you do a ‘finger roll’ layup against Roy-Hart or Newfane, again with ease. Another night I saw a clip of Jason stealing the ball from one of Newfane’s guards and laying it up with ease. When the playoffs started, did you look at the bracket and think you could win the whole thing? What was your mentality going in?

DF: My freshman year we started learning about postseason play and going to Glens Falls and we said, ‘We’ve got to get to Glens Falls! That’s the goal at this point!’ You look at your team and you see what you’ve got and how you’ll measure up in the sectionals. We had some great leaders on our team in Andre Montgomery and Jeff Novarra (pictured above with the 1991-92 Bulls). Those were tough players and we went out there and competed. We were trying to get to Glens Falls my freshman year. We fell short, but it was a learning experience. We got a lot better from it and we worked on our games.

AD: You beat all suburban teams. Did those teams try and fail at slowing you down? Were you just athletically better?

DF: Teams always tried slowing us down. They’d run lots of half court sets. They’d try to ‘screen’ us. They didn’t want to run with us, because they knew they’d get run out of the gym! That was a lot of teams’ strategy, not just the suburban schools. You’ve got to remember that we were solid in terms of the fundamentals of basketball. We knew how to get through picks for example. We were able to rub all that energy off onto the other players of our team as well.

AD: You made it to the “Far West Regionals” as freshman where you lost to Marion. Coming back as sophomores, I like to say that you were the new ‘Kings’ of the Yale Cup. It was your second year, and a lot of teams graduated their seniors and were young. You graduated two seniors and reloaded with more talent (the 1993-94 Buffalo Traditional Bulls pictured above). Did you look at it that way going in? How did you go into that second year?

DF: Yes, because we acquired Darcel Williams. That was huge for us, but now we had a big guy inside. He was grabbing all the boards and could score and –.

AD: Yes, to go along with Adrian Baugh and Lavar Frasier.

DF: Right. Absolutely. We looked around and said, ‘This is it! There’s no reason why we shouldn’t go all the way! This has got to be the year!’ It didn’t happen. We fell short.

AD: You ran into Mynderse Academy. Unfortunately, I didn’t go to that game, but I remember seeing some of the highlights on TV. I remember you ‘jawing’ at one of their players after hitting three-point (laughing). I went to basketball camp with some of those kids. They weren’t tall and athletic kids, so did they just ‘X and O’ you and slow the game down? Did they out rebound you?

DF: They broke the game down, slowed it down and did the Xs and Os. They were gunning for us. It wasn’t like they were better than us talent-wise, they just wanted it more. At the end of the day, their strategy worked. That was another year that was just lost. I felt that we were better than them.

AD: So, the next year I came home from college and saw you play my Hutch-Tech team at our gym and you beat them handily 111-88. It was very impressive as there were lots of dunks and three-pointers from you all. I remember Jimmy Birden having a good game, as well as he was hitting from long-distance. You guys looked like a ‘well-oiled machine’. What was the key to beating Lyons in the Far West Regional your junior year? Were you just more experienced? Were you bigger and stronger?

DF: Well, that was my junior year, so the summer after my sophomore year. After losing to Mynderse, that’s when things really started taking off outside of Buffalo Traditional. We started playing Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball and our team was strong that summer. Our AAU team was made up of players from Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Schenectady. From this area it was usually Jason (Rowe), Malik Campbell, Tim Winn, Antoine Sims and me. We’d drive up the I-90 to Syracuse to pick up two players, and we’d stop in Schenectady to pick up four players. I stayed away from Buffalo that whole summer.

My junior year, I was the only one from our area who got invited the ‘ABCD Basketball Camp’. I was in the top 50 in the country in my junior year. I’m at camp that summer with Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups, Felipe Lopez – all these guys and then at the Eastern Invitational Camp, and then throughout the tournaments we were playing in that summer. We played in lots of tournaments – thank God for Fajri Ansari for driving us up and down to these tournaments all summer.

We got a lot better and I took my game to the next level just from that summer alone and the experience I had going to camps. So, I think that helped me my junior year as far as beating Lyons and getting to Glens Falls. I felt like this is it. There’s no more losing and you feel like you’re the best. I was playing against the best up and down the east coast at that point. I could measure myself against other players and I said to myself, ‘When I get home, I’m going in!’ So that’s what it was for me. That summer was pivotal going into my junior year.

AD: Coach Fajri Ansari from Turner/Carroll took you to tournaments and camps?

DF: Fajri and Mickey Walker took us up and down the east coast all summer. We joined the AAU team in my freshman year (pictured above with Jason Rowe, Lackawanna’s O’ Tes Alston, and Turner/Carroll’s Malik Campbell and Antoine Sims). They took us to France, and we beat two of their professional teams that summer after my freshman year. We got lots of exposure away from the inner-city basketball. They were dedicated and drove us to Rhode Island, Boston, New York City – playing against the “Gauchos”, Stephon Marbury, Felipe (Lopez) and those guys. We played against them in AAU, and that was the exposure we needed to elevate our games to the next level, so that was huge.

AD: The two kids from Schenectady, was one of them Willie Deane, who went to Purdue?

DF: I know Willie Dean, but he didn’t play with me. It was Devonaire Deas who went to Florida State and then Antone Welsh who went to Notre Dame. Those were the two players from the “Schenectady Crew”.

AD: My Dad lives in Schenectady, so I went out there every summer, and that’s how I knew of Willie Dean. You beat Lyons and then Mechanicville in the state semifinal, and then you ran up against Peekskill in the state final. That game was within your reach, right?

DF: Yes, that game. Oh man, that game. That game was close. I could’ve put it away at the free throw line. I put a lot of blame on myself. I had two free throws to seal the deal. I missed the first free throw. I made the second free throw and I put the game into overtime. We couldn’t contain Elton Brand in overtime.

That game was so crucial for me because I really wanted to win the championship for LaVar Frasier, Adrian Baugh and our other seniors. I really wanted to see them go out with a ring and to win a state championship. Knowing that I had a chance to win the game, missing the first free throw, it just didn’t sit well with me. I just wish it could’ve been different. I know that I gave us a second chance in overtime, but I just wish the outcome could’ve been different. They worked hard.

AD: Well, hey man, that’s athletics, but Jason predicted that you would go back, and you did go back after reloading with some younger players. Losing players like, Adrian, LaVar and Jimmy, did you expect that you’d be able to reload? Or did you and Jason just do more the next year?

DF: That summer came, and we all got invited to the ABCD Camp at that point. We really worked on our games that summer. There was a lot of pressure building up. It was our last run, and we hadn’t won the states yet. You’re looking around and starting to question yourself. I just put it in my mind and determined that I was going to work my ass off. I’m going to do any and everything I must do to raise my game to that next level again. You’re just trying to get better. You’re trying to get better and you’re playing against the best competition in the off season.

So, the season came around and I had a conversation with Jason. I said, “You know this is it. This is legacy time in terms of what we’re going to leave on the table.” It was a focus like no other. We looked at the players on the team. We knew we had Darcel Williams. We had Darnell Beckham. We had the firepower to get there so it was just a matter of how we were going to do it, and that year for me, I remember telling myself that I was going to lead by example. That was the only way I could try to get everyone to be on the same page and that was to lead by example.

That year I said, “Jay, we’ve got to win everything! We’ve got to win the Yale Cup! We’ve got to win the states! We’ve got to win the federation! We’ve got to win everything!” And that was the mindset going into my senior year. That was the mindset the whole time and we went in and put in work, from day one. As soon as the season started, we gelled together as a team. We were in shape and we made sure guys were doing what they were supposed to be doing. We went in there and handled business. We won the Yale Cup. We won the states and I remember the pressure. You don’t want to let the school down – your peers, the teachers, faculty, staff – everybody that’s rooting for you. And you just don’t want to let them down.

At the state championship game against Mechanicville, I think I scored a record. I think it was 61 points over two games – something crazy. I think I broke a record. I was just trying to make sure we didn’t lose. I was just trying to leave it all out there. I said, “There is no way we’re losing this championship!” I won MVP for the state tournament. There’s something that just comes over you and you get that will power. You look deep into yourself and you try to wield that power. That’s what we did.

This discussion will continue in part two of the interview with Damien Foster. In the second part of our interview, Damien and I discuss his basketball career after being a Buffalo Traditional Bull. I want to thank Damien for taking the time out of his busy schedule to participate.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup, and State Tournaments
Niagara Falls basketball legend Tim Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls Coaching Legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp

If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site or add the link to RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. Finally, please check out my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Different things to different people

“The coaches at some of the other Yale Cup schools thought I had an unfair competitive advantage because of the intramural program I started at Hutch-Tech!”

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. I originally published this series on the Examiner back in 2014 and have subsequently began adding to it. As a teen I dreamt of being a basketball player just like a lot of kids – a dream for which one must have lots of ability, drive, and luck to achieve. My experience turned out to be quite the adventure, and I didn’t formally play basketball beyond high school. The lessons I learned there however, not all of them happy and pleasant, helped me as I progressed into adulthood and into my Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career. As mentioned, when I began reposting this series, I’ve started working on an ambitious writing project chronicling my early basketball journey in Western New York.

If I’m able to get my project published, one of the things that will be special about it is that it’s a story involving real people. The project has required me to do multiple interviews. It has been both an interesting and fun experience. As noted by well-established authors like John U. Bacon, who has written numerous books on Michigan Football, some people are open to being interviewed and being characters in book projects, while others are reluctant. Some agree and then drop out of contact, while others are difficult to contact. As a writer I now understand why some names must be changed in the final story.

I consider my breakthrough interview to be that of Jason Rowe, which led to interviews with others, and I want to thank everyone who participated; some of whom I’ve never met personally. My interview with Jason was followed by an interview with Coach Pat Monti and then his star guards, Carlos Bradberry and Tim Winn. It’s been a fun ride with at least one more big interview on the way, so stay tuned.

One of the key figures in my story is Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones, who was the Head Coach of the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team during my freshman, sophomore and junior years. Before he passed away at the end of 2018, Coach Jones told me that he was okay with being a character in my story. In my piece about his basketball camp, I discussed Coach Jones, what I learned from him and what he meant to me.

That was just my perspective though and I discovered many other points of view on Coach Jones in my research. I actually started learning of other peoples’ views of Coach Jones in my junior season where I hit some personal adversities. My struggles, in part, contributed to our team’s struggling and spiraling out of control that season. During my personal storm one classmate sought me out one day and told me that he disliked Coach Jones because he had ‘cut’ his brother years earlier. It was then that I realized that there were many backstories to Coach’s tenure at Hutch-Tech in addition to the successes he experienced my freshman year.

“Most of the time, when somebody is giving you orders and instructions, if you’re not emotionally ready – if you’ve got your mind on the wrong part, you’re not going to try as hard. You’re not going to be into it. You’re not going to absorb as much,” said a player I’ll call “Curtis” about Coach Jones in my interview with him. Curtis was the ‘engine’ that powered Coach Jones’ 1990-91 city and sectional championship team. He said a lot of powerful things during our interview, but this quote very much applies to the relationship between coaches and players, much which I experienced myself, or witnessed with teammates.

One of the cool things about working on a project where you’re interviewing multiple people is that you get to hear multiple points of view. Amazingly, my interviews for The Engineers revealed that Coach Jones was multiple things to multiple people. While there was a group of us who held him in high reverence, appreciated his teachings and the mentoring he gave us, he had several detractors as well. Again, he was multiple things to multiple people. His detractors fell into three groups, some of which might surprise you.

The first group consisted of some of the other coaches in our league called the “Yale Cup”, which was the league for all the Buffalo Public Schools. For those readers unfamiliar with the Yale Cup in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it consisted of fourteen schools. Three schools that no longer exist today are: Buffalo Traditional, Kensington and Seneca Vocational High School.

The Yale Cup was a poorly funded league which lacked a Junior Varsity (JV) program at all its schools to properly prepare its players for Varsity competition. Coach Jones and the Buffalo News called this a “feeder system”. The result was a 14-team league where all of the teams were run differently, and where all the coaches had varying levels of experience and interest. This led to drastically different levels of coaching and attention to detail. Some of the Varsity coaches (Coach Jones included), ran an informal JV program for no extra pay simply because there was a need for it.

We also played in outdated and antiquated facilities. Many of the gyms in the Yale Cup league looked like antiquated factory storage rooms with peeling paint and old industrial smells. Most of our gyms had solid white backboards without ‘break away’ rims. Only a few of the courts, like those at Grover Cleveland and McKinley for example, had ‘regulation-size’ courts with the proper dimensions. Our old little gym at Hutch-Tech was more of a small box than anything. Someone I interviewed recently jokingly said that Performing Arts’ gym resembled a bit of a bowling alley.

“The coaches at the other schools thought I had an unfair competitive advantage because of the intramural program I started at Hutch-Tech,” Coach Jones said during one of our interviews. He shared a lot of things with me that I didn’t know as a teen and probably wouldn’t have understood. There were so many layers – so many things happening at once surrounding the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team in plain sight and behind the scenes. The same is true for Coach Jones’ two immediate successors who I’ll keep anonymous at this time.

One of the hallmarks of Coach Jones’ tenure at Hutch-Tech was his intramural program. The program was for all the boys in the school so that everyone could get taste of competition and where a champion was crowned. More specifically, it allowed Coach Jones to scout the talent in each class. It wasn’t something he was doing for extra pay, but instead it was something for the students and for the school.

“Some of Jones’ players played angry,” a former player also from Coach Jones’ city and sectional championship team who I’ll call “Pep”, said jokingly. My interview with Pep might be my favorite of all of the interviews I’ve done simply because I could hear that he was having so much fun talking about his playing days. In any case, Coach Jones’ second group of detractors were surprisingly on some of his rosters.

Before getting to Hutch-Tech, the program looked like a utopia from the outside. My research though revealed that there were several conflicts and perpetually hurt feelings involving some of Coach Jones’ players. In some instances, there were personality conflicts. In other instances, there were players who felt they had to prove themselves repeatedly and in general felt unappreciated. Some players felt that they didn’t play enough, and others didn’t play at all though they were given roster spots.

The third group of detractors were outside of the team, but in the student body. The individual who stands out the most for this group is the classmate described above, but there were others. The reality in life is that there are winners and losers, and there usually isn’t enough of everything to go around. This particularly applies to a basketball team where a coach can realistically keep up to 18 players, while only being able to play 8-10 regularly.

In short, not every kid at my school who wanted a roster spot got one, and there are any number of reasons for that. I may write another teaser-piece just on the criteria Coach Jones presented on his ‘invite list’. That’s right, during his tenure, you couldn’t just come out for the basketball team, you had to be invited. This cut a lot of kids out of the picture from the start even before having a chance to show him they could dribble the ball, make baskets, play defense or even run one of his offenses.

Why does this all matter? Like the entire story, it was a sample of what was to come throughout the rest of my life in college and then in the adult world. For some of us who earned roster spots and submitted to his coaching, Coach was father figure, a mentor and a leader. Others on his teams felt like his whipping boys and even underappreciated. Other students didn’t feel like they were given a fair chance to play. Some didn’t like his fundamentals-based way of teaching the game. Some of the other coaches in our Yale Cup league thought he was cheating.

This is why interscholastic sports are good teachers going forward in life. Two of the things you learn about in addition to your sport, are people and leadership – neither of which are easy aspects to manage. As a leader, whether it’s a coach, a college professor, a clergyman or a supervisor, not everyone sees you the same way. Depending on our backgrounds, our values, our individual natures, and where our minds are in seasons of our lives, our experiences with that person will vary, and in many instances, vary greatly. It’s also true that because we may see a given person differently, our truths may be different.

Whether it was the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team, my research lab in graduate school, or now within the government agency I work in everyday, there were always individuals charged with leading larger groups or teams. Some people within those teams possess different levels and proficiencies at their crafts. All possess different levels of emotional intelligence. Some are better communicators than others, and some are just better team players than others.

“If I could go back, I would be just as demanding, but more understanding,” Coach Jones said to me several times during our talks. He knew that he drove his players hard and demanded a lot from us. He also concluded that he could’ve been a little more understanding of each player and what they were going through as each of us came from different homes and had different life struggles in our teens.

“If you look at that team that almost made it to Glens Falls, Coach Jones let that team do a lot, but that was all earned. He said, ‘Hey, I’ll let you shoot a three-pointer or a long jump shot outside the offense because I know that we’re playing good enough defense that we’re going to get a possession back,” said a former teammate named “Chris” who played under Coach Jones for four years. Chris was a captain on our team in my sophomore year and a true leader. Some of Coach Jones’ critics thought he was too restrictive and controlling of his teams, particularly on offense.

“When I went to college, I played Division III at the Coast Guard Academy. I didn’t play Varsity, but instead played on the equivalent of our JV squad. We played against a bunch of junior colleges and prep schools. I’ll say that I was able to shoot the ball a lot more,” Chris said. “I look back though, and I think if we were able to play defense like we did in high school, we would’ve been able to keep up with a bunch of those teams. So, shooting the ball wasn’t always the best policy.”

I’ll probably write another teaser-piece just talking about the program Coach Jones created at Hutch-Tech, but for now I’ll just say that if done right, while it can be rewarding, coaching isn’t easy. You must not only have to know your sport and its evolving nuances, but you must also assemble a team of players, develop them and get them to buy into a common goal. That isn’t easy as coaches must also play psychologist, in addition to a quasi-parent in some instances, especially for kids who don’t have fathers or who come from tumultuous homes.

This piece isn’t unique to Coach Jones. He was my coach. If you read my interview with Jason Rowe, Jason stated that while his Coach, Joe Cardinal, was highly scrutinized, his players loved him. Ironically, even though Coach Cardinal was highly criticized, his Bulls coincidentally made deep runs in the post-season play most years. The same is true for Coach Pat Monti who led the LaSalle basketball dynasty. During his 10-year run of dominance leading the LaSalle Explorers, there were numerous critiques about him and his program from the outside. Talking to him and his players on the inside was completely different though.

The first picture used for this post is the schedule for the 1989-90 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Pepsi-Cola of Western New York used to create cardboard schedules for the area high school teams in addition to hosting the Al Pastor Memorial Basketball Tournament for a select number of schools. It was Coach Jones’ second season at Hutch-Tech. I was an eighth grader looking to go into high school and was learning about Coach and his teams through my brother Amahl who was a sophomore that year and his Hutch-Tech yearbooks.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup and State Tournaments
Niagara Falls basketball legend, Tim Winn, discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls basketball legend, Carlos Bradberry, discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls coaching legend, Pat Monti, discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Chris Herren discusses his journey, drug addiction, substance abuse and wellness

If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled Big Discussions76. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

A full-time income on part-time hours revisited part two: Motivations for joining the business

“When my job told me that I’d have to go back to school to get another degree in order to get a promotion, I didn’t want to do that!”

This is part two of my series entitled, A full-time income on part-time hours revisited. Part one of this series introduced Multi-Level Network Marketing businesses (MLMs). Part two will discuss the motivations of people who join these types of businesses.

“Bruce, I want to ask your opinion about a business informational meeting I recently attended. This group helps people get out of their financial debt, but they also aggressively recruit more people into their business,” I said in a discussion with talk show host Bruce Williams in 2007. “It sounds like I could make a lot of money if I join. It also sounds like pretty hefty commitment time-wise, one that I’m not sure that I can fulfill in tandem with my scientific research.”

“What you just described sounds like a Multi-Level Network Marketing company,” Bruce casually commented in his burly, grandfatherly voice. Bruce Williams’ talk show covered a range of topics including politics, current events, economics (personal finance and business), as well as life’s daily issues. “Look guy, I don’t know what it is that they’re selling, but I think you’ll be better off focusing your time and attention to launching your career in science!”

Everyone’s motivation for going into to business is to make money. Unfortunately, not everyone can cook, invent a social media site that will change the world, create a new operating system, or buy a McDonald’s franchise, coincidentally the one franchise often referenced in the Rich Dad Poor Dad books and in Network Marketing informational meetings. It’s not uncommon at a meeting to hear, “McDonald’s may not make the best hamburger, but they are the model franchise,” or something similar. Many also state that, “McDonald’s isn’t in the business of fast food, they’re in the business of real estate,” or something to that effect.

Likewise, Multi-Level Network Marking businesses offer the opportunity to start a business with only a little money down (usually $100-$500), and the potential to make more money than one could ever make on their job through generation of ‘passive residual incomes’. At least that’s how they’re sold. In terms of making money in your sleep which passive income empowers you to do, who wouldn’t want to do that? By the way, business models that are already set up and only require you to buy into them are called ‘turnkey businesses’. Michael E. Gerber has written several books about this, the most popular is entitled, The E-Myth.

The thought of making passive residual incomes is very enticing for people who understand what it is and represents. Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad books were my first introduction to this powerful concept, and I recommend at least reading his first two books. The second is entitled, Cashflow Quadrant. Robert’s books also introduced me to the idea of making money ‘exponentially’ instead of ‘linearly’.

Whatever your venture is, the more passive income you can earn, the closer you come to financial freedom. This is the perfect segue into the time factor. What also gets people’s mouths salivating is the potential to not have to punch a clock, go to an office, and answer to a supervisor. These businesses are also seen as ways of circumventing battling for promotions every year and having to work your way up the corporate ladder as they say. As Robert Kiyosaki says in his books, and as many people have personally experienced, promotions often don’t result in significantly more income for various reasons.

Personally, people have multiple reasons for joining. Some people who have held traditional jobs and careers, eventually sour on a life of having to “climb the corporate ladder” as described above. Some sour on having to be chosen for promotions which often results in more responsibility but not necessarily significantly more take home pay. Others have reached middle age and don’t see themselves being able to retire on what they’ve saved or haven’t saved.

“When my job told me that I’d have to go back to school to get another degree in order to get a promotion, I didn’t want to do that. This business is allowing me to make larger sums of income than my job could ever offer and save for my retirement,” the speaker at a meeting said. Finally, others don’t like the idea of having to go back to school to get more degrees in order to qualify for promotions in their respective organization.

And those are just educated people. Some people haven’t gone very far school-wise for any number of reasons and don’t have the potential to ascend in any job long-term. These businesses thus represent a fast track to wealth which can bypass a traditional education.

“My mother who is deaf and some of her friends weren’t very educated and they saw the business as one of the only ways they could make good money,” a friend shared with me. Her mother got involved in a home-based business that sold water purifiers and they had to go door to door to sell them.

In general, these businesses are ways for people to:

• Achieve financial independence
• Have more control over their lives
• Bypass the traditional paradigm of working for someone else to make money – trading money for time every day

While the benefits of joining like this type of enterprise seem to be limitless, what happens when you pay your entrance fee and sign on the dotted line? And when one does join, what are the actual rigors and expectations? These questions will be addressed in part three of this series.

Thank you for reading this blog post. If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy:

Are you getting your Matching Contribution? A discussion on saving for retirement
A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
Your Net Worth, your Gross Salary, and what they mean
Is there power in budgeting your money?
I still don’t have a car in 2018: A story about playing financial chess
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave comments. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM, and Financial Literacy, there other blogs/sites I endorse which found on that particular page of my site.

A full-time income on part-time hours revisited part one: An exciting business opportunity for you!

“Remember to keep an open mind and get some new information!”

Two key focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. I originally published this series back in November of 2013 when I wrote for the Examiner. Of the businesses that the average working-class person can get involved in, none are more controversial than “Multi-Level Network Marketing” businesses (MLMs). I bought into a MLM when I first started my federal career which was a learning experience. It sounded like a good idea at the time but didn’t go quite as planned. This series talks about what I both experienced and learned during that little experiment.

* * *

This next series of articles will veer off the path of scholastic education and literacy, and venture into the world of financial literacy. This series will look at Multi-Level Network Marketing businesses (MLMs). It’s an subject area rarely explored in print, but one which we’ve all experienced through personal participation, being recruited or being sold a product or service by someone else.

These business models and the people involved with them are already highly scrutinized, thus the intent of this series is not to do more of the same. The goal will be to simply take an objective look at them from multiple perspectives: the business associate, their prospects, friends, relatives and coworkers. As a writer, my goal will be to be fair in my commentary.

This topic will potentially touch multiple people. It’s particularly relevant in this era of recessions, further potential government shutdowns and sequestrations where people are being forced to consider alternative ways of earning income. Again, the goal here is not to sway anyone to a particular side, but simply to educate readers curious enough to read this series.

“Hey man, I want to talk to you. I’ve been watching you. You look like a serious brother, and I have a business opportunity to turn you onto,” a bus driver told me at the beginning of my commute one morning. “I don’t want to drive this bus forever, and I want to make some real money! Take this brochure and if you text me your number, I’ll invite to one of our meetings so you can get some more information!”

I could hear some contempt in his voice, particularly about having to work his job which was interesting. It raised a couple of questions in my mind. Why would someone feel contempt about working their job? Why would someone feel contempt about working a job? Why would someone feel resentful about having a paycheck? Many would say that there’s dignity in working. We’ll revisit this later in one of the subsequent parts of this series.

Besides being surprised that one of the metro bus drivers ‘prospected’ me for recruitment into his business, it brought back memories of my own experiment with Multi-Level Network Marketing. Just briefly, Multi-level Marketing is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of the other salespeople they recruit.

What made this bus driver prospect me? And what made him consider me a “serious brother?” It could’ve been my regular ridership on his route most mornings. Perhaps it was my “serious” appearance and disposition that made me seem like someone who could effectively work in his business and help he and his colleagues achieve their financial and life dreams.

My thoughts reflected to the many network marketers encountered during my travels in person and on social media, and what their motivations were. My motivations at one time for participating in one were: becoming rich, taking advantage of business tax breaks, and being able to walk away from my job.

Since 2005, multiple opportunities have come across my path. The first was from an Indian man in his late 20s in a supermarket late one night just before I moved away from Michigan. After striking up a friendly conversation with me about my life and aspirations, he started talking about an ecommerce business he was involved in. He encouraged me to learn more about it and to, “keep an open mind and get some information,” common phrases used by prospectors. Have you ever experienced anything like this?

Since then there have been numerous offers to participate in businesses involved in ecommerce, financial counseling, travel services, weight loss/health products, legal advice, organic coffee, and health care services. The list goes on. You name it, and someone has gotten it covered.

At their informational meetings, most if not all the network marketing businesses had elaborate presentations, and marketed dreams of:

• Financial independence;
• Making multiple residual passive income streams;
• Walking away from 9-5 jobs;
• Taking vacations whenever desired;
• Making your own schedule and;
• Making a full-time income on part-time hours.

This topic will be examined in greater detail in the subsequent articles. People’s motivation for joining this type of enterprise will be examined in part two of this series.

Thank you for reading this blog post. If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy:

Are you getting your Matching Contribution? A discussion on saving for retirement
A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
Your Net Worth, your Gross Salary, and what they mean
Is there power in budgeting your money
I still don’t have a car in 2018: A story about playing financial chess
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave comments. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM, and Financial Literacy, there other blogs/sites I endorse which found on that particular page of my site.

What are you getting for that? Learning to write and unlocking one of Robert Kiyosaki’s riddles

“When you are young, work to learn, not to earn!”

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success. The idea for this piece came to me at least six months ago. As a writer, sometimes you have ideas that roll around in your head for a while asking to be put on paper. Sometimes the timing isn’t right and then one day, that time comes. This blog post will bring together multiple topics: entrepreneurship, writing and life skills. In fact, I plan to gradually create a series just on writing and blogging, and I hope you enjoy this piece. The images used throughout this piece are from one of the business cards I had made up for myself, when I was a writer for the Examiner.

* * *

“What are you getting for that?” Someone I dated several years ago asked me this question with a bit of snark and petulance in her voice. I suspect it was because she felt that she was competing with my writing activities which had become my passion. I was writing for the online publication, the Examiner, in addition to a host of other activities I was involved in. The Examiner had several rules for its writers, and one of the biggest rules was that contributors had to publish something at least once a month. So, during that time I was always literally ‘on the clock’. Once two weeks lapsed without publishing something, they’d send an automated email reminding you of their policy and its consequences.

“What are you getting for that?” I did receive ‘something’ from the Examiner as I pumped out article after article for them. The publication paid it’s writers on a commission, though it was admittedly only ‘peanuts’. It was by no means enough to pay the mortgage, and it was enough to only get a lunch from time to time. My significant other at the time was tickled when I told her what I typically got for the effort I was putting in.

The dollar amount I received didn’t necessarily bother me though, as deep in my heart I knew that I was after something else at that time. I was after something that couldn’t be easily spent up or paraded around. The most valuable compensation I received from the Examiner wasn’t the money, it was the experience!

“Have you ever thought about taking a writing class?” The impetus for writing for the Examiner was the dream of a book I wanted to write. On a visit back to Buffalo, I showed my mother, a trained writer herself, a sample of what I’d written. I watched nervously as she quietly read it on the couch. She softly responded with the above-mentioned question which was as they say, “letting me down easy.” The message clear though. I may have had some great story ideas, but I needed to learn how to write.

She was right, but I had to go forward with my dream somehow. Thanks to my friend George, I’d read the Passion Test and knew that I had to give it a legitimate try. But where was I going to learn how to write quality content consistently?

Two things happened at the same time right around 2014. I found The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD and took a couple of writing classes there. One was a personal short essay class, and the second was a beginner’s Science Fiction class. I also took a workshop about publishing.

“In order to become a writer, you have to read a lot and you have to write a lot!” As noted in the story of my blog, Dr. Gerald Early gave me this advice back in 1995 when he presented one of his books at the SUNY College at Brockport. He recommended that I could start writing for the school newspaper. I didn’t take his advice back then, but I remembered his advice 20 years later when a woman named Kelley recommended that I apply to write for the Examiner. By chance we met at a STEM fair at Bowie State University.

I subsequently applied to be an “Examiner” and they accepted me. I specifically applied to be an “Education Examiner” as everyone had to specialize in an area. What ensued was a writing adventure that lasted for two to three years. Education was a vast umbrella and I could make almost anything fit under it. I was particularly interested in: education, science, money and life stories about my path as a minority scientist and others.

In addition to their time stipulation, the Examiner had other guidelines. They didn’t want a ‘blogging’ format, so the use of “I” was limited and highly policed. They wanted large paragraphs to be broken up into smaller ones, and they wanted the pieces to be as short and concise as possible. They also gave us the Associated Press’s guidelines to follow for properly abbreviating states, for reporting dates and times, and even for what and what not to capitalize in the titles of our pieces. Lastly, we were to add hyperlinks to our pieces, but only legitimate sources. “Wikipedia” wasn’t considered a legitimate source.

Being on the board of directors of the Friends Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium, I had a guaranteed supply of stories nine months out of the year, and the board enjoyed the free coverage. In addition to any education or life-related pieces I wanted to write, there were always current events in the news that were worth discussing. The racial controversy in the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks’ locker room comes to mind. The blackness of quarterback Russell Wilson was questioned by some of his teammates which set off a firestorm.

The retired and controversial professional basketball player, Charles Barkley, openly talked about the black community’s, “dirty dark secret”, regarding education and, “talking white”, which further fanned the controversy. With my own experiences, I wrote a piece backing up Barkley which temporarily vaulted me into the number one ranked education writer, as it was so racially charged.

When you logged into your online ‘dashboard’, the Examiner ranked its top five or 10 writers in your area. The number one spot was usually held by a woman who I’ll call “Nancy G”. Nancy must’ve written for the Examiner fulltime and didn’t have a ‘nine to five’, because she was always pumping out content.

It was amazing. Some of the black commenters were so worked up over my supporting Barkley’s position, that they confronted me in the comment section of the article which surprised me. It was very educational as I learned about how people can be racially ‘triggered’, even by members of their own race over things that are true. I’ll probably revisit this in the future.

I eventually learned that the internet is like a vast ocean where people are looking and fishing for different things. As a writer, unless you see your number of subscribers rise, or you see your social media likes/shares spike, you don’t know who is looking at your pieces. That said people are out there watching you, even when you don’t know it.

In January of 2015, I was contacted and offered the opportunity to interview actor Hill Harper regarding his collaboration with the National Honor Society (NHS) on its “Honor Your Future Now” campaign. Afterwards I also got to interview the President of the NHS, Dr. Jonathan Mathis. It was a lot of fun and something I never thought that I would do. It was the first of many interviews that I’d do when writing for them.

“You should work to learn, as opposed to learning to work!” This quote from Robert Kiyosaki’s anonymous “Rich Dad” is one of the many riddles found within the Rich Dad Poor Dad series. In his books, Robert’s core messages are about wealth creation and financial independence. He discusses how individuals who are interested in becoming ‘investors’ and ‘business owners’ should be willing to first seek out the knowledge they need to create their wealth, even if it means working with someone or on projects, for little or nothing simply to acquire the knowledge, experience and expertise which can be leveraged later.

This was in part what I was doing as I wrote for the Examiner. I was acquiring the experience as I had other bigger projects in mind further down the road. Up to that point though, I hadn’t had any experience writing my own pieces, and publishing them. One of the biggest rules the Examiner warned us about up front, was that of ‘quality control’. That is every piece we published had to be polished and ‘squeaky clean’ in terms of grammar.

In 2013 I gained a “Press Credential” at the “Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference”. I had published pieces for the Examiner for at least two years and earned the right to directly publish my pieces and bypass their editors. I was hoping to get ‘news worthiness’ for the piece which meant that it had to go up within 48 hours of the conclusion of the event.

Either by doing too many things at once, or just becoming complacent, I tried to publish an overview of the conference which was riddled with errors. One of the main errors was a misspelling of then President Barrack Obama’s name. The Examiner staff flagged it and reprimanded me. I was so embarrassed as I read their editorial comments.

It was my second or third piece which was below standard and my right to publish without the editor’s approval was revoked. I should’ve known better, but before the Examiner eventually closed its doors, I got the privilege back, though I had to earn it. The lesson was clear; don’t attempt to publish poor quality work – a lesson I’ve brought with me here to my own blog.

What I got from writing for the Examiner making ‘peanuts’ was the experience – something money can’t buy. The hours of writing, creating content, and my mother editing my pieces were all to set up some other writing projects I’d always dreamed of writing, and to be able to start my own blog. Back to Robert Kiyosaki’s riddle, depending upon what you’re doing, and what you want to do, acquiring the experience is the critical piece which sets you up to make the money later. It’s one of the reasons he and others stress being “life-long learners”.

* * *

In the process of writing and earning those peanuts from the Examiner, I gained the experience, confidence and I developed my own writing process which includes:

• The initial conception of the idea;
• Creating the first draft of the idea;
• Revising the piece two-three times, and approving of it myself before sending it for final editing by someone else and;
• Making any revisions after final editing as some last-minute ideas sometimes trickle in.

Much of this is not new by the way. I do liken it though to what Berry Gordy learned from working in the automobile industry. He learned the process of creating quality cars and then he translated that knowledge into creating quality records. So, in summary, while earning peanuts while writing for the Examiner, I learned:

• To write quality content (my own ideas and actual events);
• To use visuals with the pieces (with attribution when necessary);
• To add quality hyperlinks to my pieces;
• To write using the Associated Press’s guidelines when applicable;
• To identify specific ‘tag’ words (used five times) in my pieces so that the piece will more readily show up in any Google searches and finally;
• To add the links to my other work at the end of pieces to allow readers to see what else I’ve written in that area or others.

I incorporate all these elements here on my blog. So, yes, sometimes to perfect your craft, or to learn from an expert/mentor, you may need to do it for free or next to nothing. As Stephen Covey stated in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Highly effective people start off with the end in mind!” Furthermore, as Stephen King said in On Writing, if it’s something you love doing, no one will have to force you to do it, and you will likely do it for little or nothing, at least initially anyway.

In closing, thanks to the advent of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), my blog-platform has begun generating more than just peanuts and I’ll just leave it at that. Again, this will be the first of many pieces I’ll generate on blogging and writing. Stay tuned for more. I want to thank the Examiner for letting me contribute to their website.

I want to acknowledge my mother’s eldest sister, my Auntie Melva for introducing the money-term ‘peanuts’ into my vocabulary as a kid. I first heard her use it in one of her many spirited discussions one day with her siblings. That might’ve been my first time in life comprehending that words in the English language can have multiple meanings.

I finally want to thank my mother for helping me along on this adventure. She’s edited most of my stuff. Also, many of the seeds for this were planted several years ago in elementary school when she insisted that my brother and me learn proper typing technique. Neither of us understood why we were doing it at the time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. The following articles that I wrote for the Examiner which have been updated, revised and republished here on the Big Words Blog Site:

The benefits and challenges of using articulate speech
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in academic achievement
Hill Harper discusses Honor Your Future Now campaign
Dr. Jonathan Mathis discusses Honor Your Future Now campaign
A Black History Month look at West Indian Archie: A story of wasted scientific potential

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Important considerations when buying a condominium unit revisited part two

This is a continuation of my series entitled, Important considerations when buying a condominium unit. Part one ended with a discussion of the nuances and caveats of buying into condominium communities. This second part will talk about what can happen when condominium owners must finance common projects within their complex in emergency situations.

To start this discussion, I want to introduce a key financial term, the “Residential Assessment”. Residential assessments are basically lump sums of money every owner must pay which is typically the condominium fee. In some instances, based upon the community’s by laws and constitution, a residential assessment can also be mandated from every owner should a project need to be done affecting the entire complex under ‘emergency’ circumstances.

This was painfully revealed to me when the first of many assessments in my condominium community was due in the Fall of 2010, just after purchasing my unit. Clues that something was up were there before closing though. When visiting my prospective unit for the first time, and when going through the inspection process, a large project was underway requiring the excavation of the land around the foundation of my soon to be dwelling. As a first-time home buyer, it didn’t occur to me to press the seller about what was happening – ultimately a good thing for her.

The question did come up though. She simply said, “Oh it’s just some foundational work.” She didn’t say however that the entire building was sliding and shifting on its clay foundation, and that the entire project would result in an $8,500 assessment for me, my entire Obama Tax Credit. Needless to say, having to cough up $8,500 unexpectedly was a bitter feeling.

Truthfully, the information about this project may have been in the “Condo Docs” or condominium documents. They were a binder of documents (at least 300 pages) provided prior closing. Another piece of advice; take the time to flip through any information given to you about your property prior to purchasing it, especially if it’s in condominium community. In the real estate world, this is part of what’s called doing your ‘due diligence’. Why didn’t I take the time to read the documents? I’ll chalk it up to ignorance and being a novice to the home buying process.

In any case, having the $8,500 Obama tax Credit was a blessing as it saved me from having to take out a loan. In addition to the $8,500 assessment, there was a $1,600 assessment preceding it due to delinquent condominium fees from other owners throughout the complex. This all occurred just after the bursting of the 2008 housing bubble and the subsequent recession, so there were quite a few folks in the community who either lost their jobs, ran out of money, didn’t have enough money on hand, or both. Either way, the rest of us owners had to pick up the slack.

Since those first two assessments, there was another $8,500 assessment to help replace the old underground piping of our complex which seemed to break every winter like clockwork. The board of directors created a payment plan so that the payments could be spread out over three years. The installments would be paid with interest, while those who could make the payment at all once, would be charged no interest. Years later there was yet another $8,500 assessment to cover updates to our HVAC system. If this all sounds like a lot of money, it was.

So, what are the takeaway messages from this? Aside from the points Dave Ramsey made in part one of the series, they are as follows:

• No matter what type of real estate you decide to buy (a detached home, a townhouse or a condominium unit), budget so that you’re as debt-free as possible and so that you have extra money on hand (Dave Ramsey’s Emergency Fund of 3-6 months of expenses for example);
• When you buy into a condominium community, every owner’s destiny and finances are intermingled;
• Before you buy and piece of real estate, ask as many questions as you can of the seller, especially the obvious ones and;
• This last bullet comes from one of Suze Orman’s books. Before you buy into a condominium community, go as far as to hunt down the board of directors and ask questions. Try to figure the history of the community, its overall financial health and any additional issues it may be facing going forward.

Part three will conclude this series and discuss a key part of a condominium community; its board of directors, and the ongoing challenges my community is facing. Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. You might also enjoy:

Are you getting your Matching Contribution? A discussion on saving for retirement
A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
Your Net Worth, your Gross Salary, and what they mean
Is the power in budgeting your money?
I still don’t have a car in 2018: A story about playing financial chess
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave comments. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM, and Financial Literacy, there other blogs/sites I endorse which found on that particular page of my site.

Important considerations when buying a Condominium Unit revisited part one

I’m republishing my series regarding considerations for buying condominium units. I originally published it in March of 2015 on the Examiner. I’d lived in my condominium community for six years, and within that time there were quite a few surprises which I wanted to warn first-time home buyers about.

* * *

Some of my earlier pieces discussed my experiences with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). Recently at the Alfred Street Baptist Church our class went over module number nine which dealt with real estate and mortgages. In the module, Ramsey and one of his teachers, Chris Hogan discussed several dos and don’ts regarding mortgages and purchasing homes. Some of their key points were:

• Don’t rush into owning if you’re not ready as it can have long-term ramifications if not properly prepared for;
• Make sure you have enough money saved up for the down payment and for maintenance;
• Make sure the mortgage payment doesn’t exceed 25% of your monthly income and;
• Don’t agree to adjustable rate mortgages, interest only mortgages, or 3% or less down mortgages.

Watching the video was humbling for me as my own path to ownership involved some of the very things they said not to do, such as agreeing to a 3% down mortgage – something I did out of ignorance. Just briefly, agreeing to something like a 3% down mortgage is bad because the buyer is ‘over-leveraging’, and it usually creates two loans to payback. This will be discussed in greater detail in a separate piece.

My first home purchase was a condominium unit. It was purchased in 2009, just as the damage and after effects of the Great Recession started settling. It was also just in time to benefit from the $8,500 “Obama Tax Credit”. My unit was particularly close to Washington, DC’s metro system (WMATA) which appealed to me since my car was on its last leg. Being so close to the metro, the unit fell in line with the “Location, Location, Location” rule about real estate.

After getting approved for the financing, and closing on the unit, it seemed to be victory. I jumped from being a renter to an owner and good times seemed to be on the horizon. While the purchase of my condominium unit seemed to be a ‘slam dunk’, and all my years of schooling seemed to be paying off, a great deal of heartache and hardship were on the way.

Neither of my parents were familiar with condominium units. They both owned duplexes in Upstate New York (~2000 square feet total for each house) with front and back yards, and garages. Both their homes were ironically valued less than my condominium unit (~950 square feet). Both of their homes had two separate units under one mortgage, something you can’t find in the Washington, DC area, probably due to local laws and ordinances.

Just briefly a condominium is a building or complex of buildings containing several individually owned apartments units. When you buy a condominium unit, you’re not just buying your unit, you’re also buying into a community with a “Homeowner’s Association”, a “Board of Directors”, and more importantly, common financial interests, costs and destinies. The board is charged with maintaining the complex and taking care of repairs to common areas (walls out), while the unit owners are responsible for the maintenance of their own units (walls in).

This short series on condominium units will discuss:

• Why it’s important to ask the right questions when purchasing a condominium unit;
• As a unit owner, why it’s important to plan to keep extra money parked one’s savings and on hand for emergencies;
• What happens when condominium associations don’t plan for routine maintenance and how that catches up with unit owners in the long run and;
• What happens when the board of directors and unit owners are split on issues concerning their condominium community.

As will be described in part two of this article, there are unique issues to buying into condominium communities. Specifically, the importance of doing one’s due diligence and what condominium communities do when money needs to be raised within the community for emergencies and special projects will be discussed.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. You might also enjoy:

Are you getting your Matching Contribution? A discussion on saving for retirement
A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
Your Net Worth, your Gross Salary, and what they mean
Is there power in budgeting your money?
I still don’t have a car in 2018: A story about playing financial chess
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave comments. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM, and Financial Literacy, there other blogs/sites I endorse which found on that particular page of my site.

Mother’s Day 2019: Thankful for my upbringing

The original version of this piece looked much different then this published version. After much consideration, I cut it down. I realized that as a storyteller/writer sometimes less is more and more is less.

With a million and one things on my plate right now, I wondered if I’d have time to craft something for Mother’s Day 2019. After creating pieces in 2017 and 2018, I’ve decided to continue the ritual. If you’re a man and thinking about marrying someone and paying for it yourself, you should read my 2017 piece. It may save your life and sanity. The 2018 piece is a tribute to my maternal and paternal grandmothers. In this 2019 piece, I’m going to reflect on the home my mother created for me and my brother early in our lives.

In the process of discussing my upbringing and some of the tools I had to develop after leaving my home ecosystem, I may have sounded unappreciative of my parents which was an unintended effect. Regardless of how ungrateful I may have sounded of my upbringing as a child, I’m actually VERY thankful for it. As I got older, went away to college and started dating, I slowly realized that everyone’s home wasn’t like mine. I can discuss numerous examples, but I’m just highlight a few.

I’d say that Mom masterfully walked the line between “grace and legality” as Dave Ramsey said in one of his Financial Peace University modules. She established discipline and a behavioral standard that lasted all the way through adulthood for both my brother and me. I picked up on this early in the company of my best friend, who either didn’t have as tight a ‘leash’ on him at home, or he just rebelled against it. I hope reflecting on this doesn’t get me in trouble with him. In a way I admired his rebelling at the time, but it had consequences.

Mom always made sure we were well fed and that we ate together. The first time I realized that all homes weren’t like ours was when we spent the night over one of her close friends’ home who also had boys around our age. After a night of playing around and doing what boys do, I woke up the next morning expecting our typical ‘royal’ Saturday morning breakfast. At our house, breakfasts usually consisted of homemade pancakes or waffles, a meat, and scrambled eggs. Instead we had only had cereal that morning. It was better than nothing, but it was different than our home.

Yes, the pancakes were homemade and they were good. Sometimes we had French Toast instead. On Sundays before church we had donuts from “Tops Friendly Markets” instead of the pancakes. Mom also made those breakfasts for us on Wednesdays before we went to school and before she went to work. We had cereal the other four days, hot cereal during the long Buffalo winters.

“You all had privileges growing up that I didn’t have.” A cousin told me this at a family gathering within the last year. I’m going to keep returning to this revelation because in my community, there’s a fixation on ’white privilege’, but there are in fact ‘privileges’ that black families have over other black families, many of which are driven by the personal choices of the parents.

The cousin who told me this is black, and I agree with her assessment. Yes, my mother was college educated and hers wasn’t, but let’s strip it down even further. As kids, this particular cousin annoyed the hell out of me in terms of her behavior, and she always wanted to come over to our house and stay a while. It wasn’t until I got older that I understood the depth of her situation, and that her coming over was good for her.

I’ll just say that our house was safe and there was a lot of love there from my mother and grandmother. There was no cursing (except when my Uncle Poo-Dee came to town), violence, no abuse of any kind, and there were no illegal drugs being used or sold. In general, there was a certain level of peace normalcy there. Without going into detail, my cousin’s house was the exact opposite of ours which is why she always wanted to come spend time with us.

The point I’m trying to make is that my mother made conscious choices to create a safe and love-filled home environment for us. Had I been born to a different mother, my nurturing at home could’ve easily been very, very different. Check out my YouTube video on the concepts ‘Nature vs. Nurture’ if you don’t understand the interplay between these two concepts and how they impact who we become later in life.

I could expound further on some of these things, but I’m going to shift the discussion to the concepts of love and positive affirmation. How important is it for parents to tell their children that they love them? How important is it for parents to tell their children that they’re proud of them? They’re very important. Some kids never hear these two essential words from their parents.

They’re critical as hearing them impacts our socialization and also the adults we go on to become. As I transitioned into adulthood, I discovered that not every one of my peers received positive affirmation at home, and in most instances, it impacted their abilities to give it to others. In my home, we heard these words all the time.

Why would the parents not give their kids positive affirmation? Well maybe those parents didn’t get it themselves. Maybe those parents received it, didn’t appreciate it and didn’t pass it on. In some instances, maybe they endured some life circumstance that beat it out of them so they couldn’t pass it on. As we get older, we do start to see that our parents are people themselves with their own experiences, flaws, shortcomings and vulnerabilities. They have their own scars and have made their own mistakes.

In terms of our upbringing and home, yes, I think both my brother and me did win the ‘lottery’ of sorts in terms of growing where we grew up and growing how we grew up. My Aunt Adele told me several times when I got old enough to understand things that my brother and myself were ‘sheltered’. When she came to town to visit us, she was frequently amused by how my mother seemed to ‘baby’ us in the mornings as we headed off to school.

As a pre-teen and a teen, yes, I did intuitively see that the other kids knew about more mature things than we did early on. Many of them were more ‘street smart’ and there were pieces socially that needed filling when I left our house to go to college. The lack of some of this ‘Consequential Knowledge’ definitely manifested in the dating arena, and that’s all I’ll say. According the great Dr. Thomas Sowell, Consequential Knowledge is knowledge for which there are consequences if you don’t have it.

As a man being raised mostly by a single mother, many of these gaps have taken years to fill, and for some it’s an ongoing process. A part of my personal message now is that single mothers can’t do everything. Many have their hands full just paying the bills and keeping food on the table. They might not be able to come to every basketball game for example. They might support you playing and may make sure you’re nourished enough to go to school and to participate in your sport of interest, but to succeed at the craft, you’ll likely have to find the expertise you need elsewhere, and you might not find it at all. I’m working on a book project on that right now.

“Of my eight children, your mother is my most loving child Anwar.” My grandmother told me this frequently when we talked, and it might be the thing I remember her saying the most. Not taking anything away from my two aunts and five uncles, but I think myself and my brother did win the lottery in this case because we grew up with a lot – not necessarily all the material items that my best friend and other peers had, but a lot of things you can’t buy with money. And those are the most valuable things in life.

I’m more careful these days about discussing the tools I did and didn’t get in my home ecosystem. If I do venture into those waters, I’m sure to do it with an understanding mind as it’s never to demonize anyone. For ourselves and for our community at large, some discussions with my contemporaries and peers need to be had, and interestingly many of us black ‘Generation X-ers’ have common experiences.

We’ve realized that there was some consequential knowledge that we somehow arrived at adulthood without knowing. Wealth-building and relationships are examples, and we’ve still had to line up with everyone else and run life’s ‘marathon’. Our parents, like all parents, could only teach us what they knew, and it’s up to us to make up as much ground as we can in the race using the tools we have.

I’m going to close by saying that I’m thankful and grateful for everything my mother did for us. Everyone’s home is not the same. At the end of day, it’s about being grateful and content about what you do have. What are you grateful for that your mother did for you? Happy Mother’s Day 2019.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Father’s Day 2018: Dad’s doctor and his lawyer and discussion on careers
Two well-behaved boys left to figure things out on their own: reflections on growing up ‘Blue Pill’
Father’s Day 2017: reflections on some of Dad’s money and life lessons
Mother’s Day 2018: Memories of my grandmothers
Mother’s Day 2017: one of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Are you getting your Matching Contribution? A discussion on saving for retirement

“If you’re not contributing up to the five percent match, you’re leaving money on the table!”

Note. Like my Net Worth piece, the subject matter of this blog post is not new. It has been known for years by those who’ve learned about it in their families, learned about its concepts in business school, or have discovered it on their own. It’s a discussion from my personal perspective which I think is worth visiting. Also, while this is a ‘money’ topic, I’m discussing it from a ‘scholarly’ perspective. I’m not rendering financial advice where I’m telling readers what they should do. In the spirit of the first principle of my blog, Creating Ecosystems of Success, I’m simply introducing a concept and discussing why it’s important for the lay person, so they can make their own life choices.

* * *

At the beginning of this week, a mentor emailed me telling me that April is “Financial Literacy Month”. He asked me if I was writing anything on this subject. I shared with him that I already had something coming out of the pipeline regarding a topic we’d coincidentally discussed at length. He also shared an article with me entitled, There is a savings crisis and many Americans don’t know how to fix it. Here’s how. It serves as the perfect jumping off point for my financial offering for the month of April 2019.

I saw many retirement commercials during my young adult life. They were usually run during sporting events. I wasn’t thinking about my older years at the time, which seemed too far away to imagine. The commercials I remember the most are those by Dean Witter where, in the black and white film, he states, “We measure success one investor at a time!”

My next thoughts of saving for retirement came courtesy of Robert T. Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. I believe it was in his book, Conspiracy of the Rich. In the book he described the “Employee Retirement Income Security Act” (ERISA) enacted by President Richard Nixon. The new law made employees responsible for their own retirement savings, converting most everyone over from ‘Defined Benefit’ (DB) plans (pensions), to ‘Defined Contribution’ (DC) plans. That was during my postdoctoral fellowship and I think I set up a ‘Roth IRA’ at my bank, shortly after reading the book.

It wasn’t until I started working in the federal government that I seriously started thinking about retirement, but it wasn’t due to my own volition. It was due to a friend I was dating at the time. I’ll facetiously say that the relationship didn’t last, but her asking me about whether I started saving in my government “Thrift Savings Plan” (TSP) was a major contribution on her part. She caused me to think about retirement in the relationship context.

I realized that I might be a liability as a partner if I didn’t have my own retirement ‘nest egg’ which in some respects is true. (See my Mother’s Day 2017 blog post to get a feel for the potential dangers of two people settling down when only one has savings and the other one doesn’t.) In terms of relationships, are money and resources everything? No, but they count for a lot and are worth pondering and discussing ahead of time!

At this point I’m going to transition and point out that in the financial world, there are different rules for different people. I first learned this after reading the above-mentioned Robert Kiyosaki’s second book, Cash Flow Quadrant, which discussed the differences between: Employees, Self-Employed Individuals, Business Owners, and finally, Investors. To make a long story short, in addition to having their own unique ‘tax laws’, employees by nature have a ‘working life’, and they must figure out how they’re going to survive once their working life is over. That’s if they’ve thought about it.

Some of my relatives are beneficiaries of the DB plans described above, but they’re “Baby Boomers”. My father is a retired educator who started teaching in the late 1980s. My uncle, a retired firefighter, started his career around that time as well. I could be wrong, but I think that most municipal workers such as the police officers and firefighters receive Defined Benefit pensions. Most teachers now must contribute to a Defined Contribution plan. If I’m wrong, please leave a comment below. What if you’re responsible for your own retirement savings? Read on.

“If you’re not saving the maximum amount so that you’re getting the government’s five percent ‘Matching Contribution’, you’re leaving money on the table!” The first person to point this out to me was a counselor at work who was helping me with relationship issues with the above-mentioned lady friend. By the way, this anonymous friend inspired me to write my piece entitled, The difference between being Cheap and Frugal, so she deserves a lot of credit in terms of inspiring some of my content.

I’d told the counselor that she’d called me ‘cheap’ on multiple occasions, a label which hurt me at the time. One of his immediate questions was about whether I was saving into my retirement account to get my government match. When I told him that I was saving less than the five percent, he responded that I wasn’t taking full advantage of what the government was offering me. Also getting the match should’ve been first and foremost in my mind.

So, what is a Matching Contribution and why is it important? I’m glad you asked. A Matching Contribution is a dollar amount that your employer matches in relation to what you’re saving in your retirement account. For the federal government, it’s five percent, and it differs from employer to employer. Some don’t match at all. The point is that if you’re not contributing anything, you’re not going to get anything, or maybe the bare minimum. If your employer matches what you’re put in, you’re effectively getting free money.

Your employer match makes it easier to get to the holy annual retirement threshold of 15% and beyond. If you’re consistently saving five percent, and your employer is matching that with their five percent, you’re already at ten percent for the year. At that point you must come up with another five percent or more to get to 15%. If you don’t know where you’ll get that extra five percent, look at your personal budget. I wrote a piece on that recently.

If your employer doesn’t match your contribution, should you still save for your retirement? Absolutely. First, if you’re going to work until your 60 years old or more, you do want something for yourself, or else you’ll have to keep working, or someone will have to take care of you.

Second, from experience, your retirement savings contributes to your ‘Net Worth’ and this translates into other areas such as qualifying for mortgages. Most lenders want to see that you can save money and something they consider qualifying you for a mortgage is your Net Worth – the difference between your assets and liabilities. I wrote a piece on that as well.

When refinancing my mortgage two years ago, I realized that that my lender actually had a form entitled, ‘Net Worth’. Calculating it quarterly was routine for me by then. I’d already built up an ‘Emergency Fund’ and I’d started methodically saving into my retirement account, so I knew I was in good shape. This was in stark contrast to when I barely qualified for my first mortgage due to being too ‘overleveraged’ (carrying too much debt) ten years earlier. See my post on Dave Ramsey’s ‘Debt Snowball’, to see how I dug out of my own debt-hole.

Speaking of debt, as an employee living off one paycheck, budgeting, controlling costs, and minimizing debt are all keys to being able to build a retirement nest egg. You want to be able to create enough ‘Cash Flow’ so that you don’t miss the amount going into your retirement account every pay period. Furthermore, you don’t want to be in position to have to raid or borrow against your retirement savings should an emergency arise – both of which could hurt you.

Speaking of Dave Ramsey’s group, a good book to read is Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan. It gives a nice discussion about what retirement is and why it’s important, which brings me to my closing point. If we all know we’re going to age, why doesn’t everyone save for their retirement? I think the answer is a lack of awareness and a lack of understanding of why it’s important.

“You should’ve learned about this when you were 18 years old!” My mentor scowled at me after we finished talking about my retirement savings and why I hadn’t maximized it a couple of years ago. It stung for a moment, but I laughed about it inside afterwards. It would’ve been nice to have been educated on the subject 20 years earlier, but honestly those in my ecosystem back in Buffalo just weren’t talking about investments or retirement savings.

One could argue that the change from DB-pension plans and DC plans needs to be better explained in the school system so that all kids get exposure to these concepts early. I do agree with that, but the reality is that if these things aren’t discussed in your family circle, you must figure them out on your own somehow.

I don’t want to make this racial, but over the years I’ve heard stories of Jewish families regularly and openly talking about money and investments at family gatherings. It’s not race-specific as my mentor’s family which is black, regularly engages in these types of discussions. What does your family talk about at gatherings?

The financial world has a language all its own. When you’re entering your first job fresh out of school, being told to start your retirement benefits and then hearing all the esoteric terms can literally sound like ‘gibberish’. It can be daunting like talking to your surgeon or your auto mechanic. Unless you understand why it’s important to start saving for your later years, you’ll likely neglect it and use your precious resources on other things, but hopefully not for too long, as it’s difficult to catch up beyond a certain age.

Why is it hard to catch up? This brings us to the “Law of Compounding Interest” of which time is a major component. I wrote a piece on that as well which I’m sure you’d enjoy, but the quick version is that the earlier you start your retirement savings, the more time they have to grow and multiply. Furthermore, depending on the nature of your plan, you could be missing out on significant annual tax savings which add up over the years.

The last important piece is figuring out what your retirement savings should be ‘allocated’ in. This is a completely different but related subject. The point is though, that you must have something to allocate first and foremost.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
Your Net Worth, your Gross Salary, and what they mean
The power in budgeting your money
I still don’t have a car in 2018: A story about playing financial chess
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
My personal experience with Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball revisited

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or by adding the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.