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WSSN Stories


Lou Coleman

Lou Coleman

By Lou Coleman

“Many times we talk about being hurt and broken, and we believe the saying that time heals all wounds, we believe that a few comforting words, a little sympathy will make everything alright, and we don’t understand when people don’t seem to bounce back from something the way we think they should or as soon as we think they should. We believe that time should have healed their hurt by now, but what we fail to understand is that there is a difference between being hurt and being broken. And since we don’t understand that, we cast judgment on them and say things like they just need to get over it; let it go;…..Hmm… I’m going to be direct and even a bit cynical at points. But I really want to get my point across.

Children are growing up in a society that has pushed them aside, cast them off, and rejected them as normal, acceptable, and viable members of the social order, they have even classified them as being called “Generation Z and Generation Alpha” the unknown. They are becoming adults that have no direction in their lives, wondering aimlessly, bound, confused, and perplexed. Some have been mentally, physically, and sexually abused. Feeling rejected, dejected, and alone, they are hopelessly waiting to die, imagining that everything will be over if what they have experienced to be life would just cease from being.

Many people in society are being incarcerated mentally, physically, and spiritually. Although free from the human judicial system, are regretfully imprisoned in a far crueler and ultimately eternal prison. They are sentenced with a life sentence of emotional emasculation, depression, anxiety, low/no self esteem, and phobia’s; some are on the habitual death row of deadly narcotics, alcohol, and careless, unsafe, and uninhibited sexual activity. Others have been placed in a solitary confinement of physical pain, discomfort, and disease. They are being held captive behind these seemingly impenetrable bars and inescapable walls, being made to believe that this is all there is to life. Mentally messed up, emotionally emasculated, and spiritually lost, they are aimlessly wandering through life busted, disgusted, and broken.

Their lives are shattered, their dreams are non-existent, their hope is gone, they are being battered by the angry sea of sin, tossed to and fro, bouncing from relationship to relationship, being drug down through the gutters of degradation. Their self respect has been broken, their esteem has been broken, their reputation has been broken, and their innocence has been broken. They are disappointedly unable to see that God has a far more excellent and abundant life. They are struggling trying to break free unable to come into the freedom that is promised to them. They are unable to understand that the price of their freedom has already been paid. And people who try to encourage those who are hurting can’t seem to say the right thing. So how do you begin to heal? How can the hole in your heart that is gaping open begin to close?

First and foremost, understand that it’s okay to hurt. Secondly, realize that each new day of your life is a gift from God that He wants you to live fully. But know that if the pain you’ve suffered in your past is still impacting your life now, you can’t fully embrace the new life God offers you because you’re stuck in a frustrating cycle of brokenness that leaves you feeling hopeless. So just like you tell a doctor your symptoms, tell God how much you were wounded and need His healing touch. He will hear the cries of the broken. [Psalms 56:8], tells us that God was so aware of David that He even collected his tears. Ask God to break the hold that your past has over you and show you what useful lessons you can learn from it so you can begin moving forward. I tell you, God is much more powerful than your history, and when you trust Him, God will start to transform your pain into healing and wisdom in your life.

Lots of people are hurting in our world, including God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians. I hope you are not hurting right now, but if you are, be encouraged. God wants to give you His fellowship, His forgiveness, and a fresh start in life….Broken but I’m Healed” [Byron Cage Lyrics]

From Homelessness to Hairstylist — Early Struggles Spur Beautician to Success

img_45536By Avis Thomas-Lester, Urban News Service

Evalyn “Evie” Johnson has traveled the world to share the hair care techniques she’s honed over 20 years as a stylist. 

She’s taught natural hair styling in Los Angeles and hair-loss prevention in Australia. She’ll be featured in New Zealand next month at the International Association of Trichologists’ Hairdressing Conference. 

“I do a lot of speaking engagements, so I travel a lot,” said Johnson, 38, of Bowie, Maryland.

It is ironic that travel plays such a significant role in Johnson’s life now as a celebrated stylist and co-owner of the E&E Hair Studio in Mitchellville, Maryland. She and her family were once so poor that her parents, Julius and Elizabeth Peterson, couldn’t afford to send Johnson or her 11 siblings on field trips around Washington, D.C. 

“We were homeless,” Johnson said. “We slept in cars sometimes. We ate syrup sandwiches and mayonnaise sandwiches. We lived where there was no power…I knew there was so much money out there, but we couldn’t get any of it. I didn’t understand.”

Johnson attributes the family’s poverty largely to her father’s heroin abuse, which led to his incarceration at D.C.’s prison in Lorton, Virginia. In his absence, the Johnsons lived on public assistance, she said.

When she reached adolescence, little Evie rebelled. At 13, she got pregnant by her boyfriend, Antonio Reed, Jr., then 15. They both lived at the city’s homeless shelter at 14th and Park Street, NW.img_45516

Her mother dispatched her to Lorton to inform her father, the only time she visited him behind bars. Julius Peterson made her promise not to get pregnant again until marriage. In return, he promised to kick heroin.

When her son, Antonio Reed, III, was 2 months old, he became ill with Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation of blood-vessel walls. He spent seven months at D.C. General Hospital.

Each day, Johnson attended school, then took Metro or two buses to the medical facility, where she studied and nurtured her baby.

“It was important for me to do well for him,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want him to think that his mother wasn’t smart.”

The Washington Post highlighted Johnson in 1994 for graduating with a 4.0 GPA from then-Kelly Miller Junior High School. She was 15. 

“I was on Cloud Nine,” Johnson said. “I was accomplishing things…It was a matter of proving – against the odds and what people said – that I could accomplish everything that I was supposed to accomplish.”

Johnson had dreamed of becoming a stylist since she was very young. She braided her sisters’ hair, kept her brothers shaped up, and styled her mother, relatives and friends.

After beauty school, Johnson worked at area salons before she and Earlisa Larry, who met as stylists at a J.C. Penney salon, opened E&E Hair Solutions in Largo in 2006. They moved a few blocks to the current salon earlier this year.

Johnson specializes in natural styles, hair bleaching and hair loss reversal.  She co-founded Stuart Edmondson Hair Loss and Restoration, which makes products to improve thinning hair.

Johnson also is a master stylist for Mizani, a L’Oréal hair products company, and works as a platform stylist at hair shows. She has coiffed such entertainment notables as Tasha Smith, Ari Nicole Parker, and Trey Songz. She has styled artists for the Grammy and BET awards.

Johnson was scheduled to be a featured stylist at the Washington/Baltimore Area Beauty Expo on Sept. 26 at the Martin’s Crosswinds banquet center in Greenbelt. The program was emceed by Johnny Wright, First Lady Michelle Obama’s hair stylist. 

“I love Evie!” said Wright, who toured several cities and educated stylists with Johnson as the “Dynamic Duo.” 

“She is a premiere educator and very talented at her craft,” Wright said.

Clients also sing Johnson’s praises.

“If I had enough time, I’d come twice a week,” said Shaina Taylor, 41, of Upper Marlboro, admiring her “wheat blonde” faux hawk moments after Johnson styled her hair recently. “I get tired of people stopping me talking about my hair.”

Johnson and her husband, Joe, a transportation project manager, have four children in their blended family: Taquan, 24, a writer and actor; Antonio, who recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania; Taleya, 17, a high school senior who answered phones at the salon one recent afternoon; and Jordan, 15, an accomplished basketball player. 

Johnson said memories of the hard times keep her moving forward.

“I’m excelling, but I’m still growing,” she said.

Why Did Jesus Weep: Because #BlackLivesMatter Too?

Keith Magee

Keith Magee

By Keith Magee

For the last four visible years America has endured, once again, the polarizing effects of racism and injustice. Yet, instead of the perpetrators wearing white sheets and lynching African Americans and with coral ropes as they did decade’s prior, they now wear blue uniforms and use issued firearms.

The loss of Trayvon, Eric, Tamir, Sandra, Freddie, Korryn, Alton, Terence, Keith, and all of the others we name, came not because their assassins feared them but, because they believed their lives didn’t matter. Secretly, I’ve wept at my core when I hear the news that they have taken another life. Even when I’m driving my car with my 2-year-old Zayden, I pray that our lives will matter.

As the numbers of African-American lives continue to be disproportionately taken, many onlookers (primarily Millennials), have come with demands and questions about whether those in power believe that #BlackLivesMatter. And if so, why is injustice prevailing in the loss of these lives? The Black Lives Matter movement does not assert that other’s lives do not matter. It aims to draw attention for the need for understanding if those who enact, execute, frame and inform the law also value Black lives.

In my youth, every evening we had to offer a scripture, after prayer, before we could partake of supper. We would all eagerly go for “Jesus Wept” because it was the easiest to remember. As I sit most evenings unable to eat, sickened to my stomach, praying and searching the scripture for meaning, I ponder why did Jesus weep.

The scriptures have three recordings of Jesus weeping. The most notable is because he loved Lazarus, and Martha and Mary. Even in knowing that Lazarus would be raised again, Jesus’ human nature and pain mourned, both in relation to their present pain and even their unbelief. Jesus also wept when the chosen people failed to keep the city ‘holy’ and set apart from other world powers …He saw the city and wept over it. The other prominent presence of his weeping is found in a garden. Jesus wept sweat “…like great drops of blood,” as he prayed to his Father, knowing his time had come to die for a humanity that might never get it.

Why did Jesus weep? Was it because he was fully human and, yet, fully divine, feeling the spiritual and nature pain of the people? Was it from his humanity and divinity, where he felt love, disappointment, loss, grief and sadness-every human emotion that evokes tears from the heart?

One doesn’t have to be dead to grieve death and dying. Grieving calls us into an experience of raw immediacy that is often devastating. In A Grief Observed, a collection of reflections on the experience of bereavement, author C.S. Lewis reveals that “No one ever told me that grief was so much like fear.

Tears, the lachrymal gland, responds to the emotion of awe, pleasure, love and, yes, sorrow. They are the fluids that rest in the ducts that can cause you to lose sight and can run down into your nose, all because of sorrow not joy. And, when the heart weeps it is beyond the liquid into the small channels that flow into the tear sac. It is a pain that is likening to the sound of sorrow from the mothers, fathers, family members, who have lost their loved ones in the midst of these murders and executions. “I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.” As an African American male, I can relate to Lewis because seemingly everyday my life is at risk. I swallow grief and fear that I, or one of my brothers, our children, or mothers, are next.

It was the sorrow of a suffering people that gave cause to ecumenical faith leaders becoming the catalyst for a civil rights movement for a “Righteous America.” These faith leaders used their sacred spaces to address the grave concerns for the least-advantaged among them. As an American society founded on a hunger and thirst for religious freedom was turning a deaf ear to the pleas of a marginalized people, certain that God’s creation suffered no stratification; these likeminded humanitarians, across racial identity, leading the charge for equality. They understood why Jesus wept, as did Jehovah, Allah, the Buddha, and many others spiritual leaders who wept too.

Recently, America lost an African-American male musical icon, Prince, though not at the hands of those in Blue. I mostly remember him for Purple Rain, in particular “When Doves Cry.” Though is it understood that these lyrics spoke to a failed relationship between two people, I purport that it speaks more to the sound of the doves. When doves cry, as they soar, it is a sorrowful song and yet in the sound we find a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.

Could the Prince of Peace be sending us a prophetic message that even in these moments of tragedy there is hope for better days? As we stand through our sorrow, will we be able to earnestly declare that #BlackLivesMatter too?

Keith Magee is a public intellectual who focuses on economics, social justice and theology. He is currently Senior Researcher of Culture and Justice, University College London, Culture; Director, The Social Justice Institute at the Elie Wiesel Center on the campus of Boston University, where he is a Scholar in Residence; and Senior Pastor, The Berachah Church at the Epiphany School, Dorchester Centre, MA. For more information visit www.4justicesake.org or follow him on social media @keithlmagee.