L.A. Banks's Blog
March 13, 2011
Thought for the day… that could devolve into a rant… warning…
How is it fair to hit the inboxes of working authors, asking them to step away from their writing or their lives to literally walk you through all the knots and rigors of getting published… when they don't even know you? Just sayin' – and not that you do this yourself… this is a rhetorical question for those that don't and aimed at those who do this sort of thing.
For those who adopt such an annoying research method of learning about publishing, this says to me you're not serious—because you have clearly not invested in your own personal education. This is the lazy man's approach. You haven't gone to a conference, taken up a writing workshop, or immersed yourself in the world of "knowledge-building" for your intended craft. What you want is a quick and dirty hand-holding session by a well-known author, so you don't have to really do any kind of meaningful investigation on your own. Be honest. Be real. That is what you want. And you don't care who is inconvenienced at the time, because it's all about you. I get it.
But here's the message you are conveying, whether you realize it or not—and I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you really don't get it yourself: When you send blind requests to someone's FB inbox and solicit advice, and in most cases not even being familiar (having read) that author's body of work, it's really disrespectful, when you think about it. The larger question is, why should that author or person stop, drop, and roll because you suddenly had a eureka? Why should they stop and do one-on-one counseling on-line (when their time is a serious premium), versus teaching at workshops or conferences where they can dispense this knowledge efficiently to a mass audience or group? Why shouldn't they instead elect to answer such questions in the many college settings where they are compensated for their knowledge, time and talent—just like you one day hope to be? However, the FB inbox abuser doesn't think of that because social media has made things "informal" and so casual to the point where it's easy to lapse on basic common courtesy. Somehow being on-line seems to make people feel entitled—yes, I used the word entitled, to "hit you on FB" with a "quick question" (that is by no means quick or simple. BIG SIGH.
So, my new paradigm is "delete." I feel like this, if I'm not jumking up your inbox with requests for money, advice, time, "quickie career questions," financial help with my documentary film, and solicitations to join groups you've never heard of or care to join, then don't do it to mine. This new world of social media has vast potential and can be fun, but the down side is that it also allows people to THINK they have the "right" to parachute into your life unannounced and to then get a reasonable answer. NOT.
Let's therefore start to be more mindful of how we approach others using this new toy and tool. I can't tell you how many people I've had to put on blast for adding me to a group that I never asked to join—or worse, posting some BS solicitation of "theirs" on MY wall—clearly an attempt to prostitute the numbers on my friend list… very tacky. I don't post my events on other people's walls… there's an event invite feature to "ask" folks if they want to participate, and it's about mining your own contacts not trying to take a free ride on someone else's. Possibly even worse are the abusers who set up an inbox conversation between you and fifty people you don't even freakin' know—so that you then have to get caught up in the comments and replies of inane conversation that have NOTHING to do with you whatsoever. In order to opt out, you then have to take action—not always accessible by a smart phone… which means you have to remember to do that when you get to a desktop. But my question is why? If I didn't start the action, if I never asked to be a part of the "group" conversation and was hijacked into it, then WTH – why do "I" have to be inconvenienced to now fix what someone else did?
My promise is to not vent about it, respond to it, or get myself bent about the level of rudeness on FB and other social media sites any more (FB being the worse offender, smile.) I'm going to start using the block feature with a heavy hand… so be forewarned would-be abusers… I am SO NOT THE ONE… (LOL!)
I guess this qualifies more as a rant than a "thought for the day," LOL – my bad… very sorry… and it comes after cleaning out my inbox for the gazzillionth time on an early Sunday morning. I may blog this further with my fellow writer buddies at The Liar's Club later this month, because trust me, I'm not alone. I hear this from EVERY published author I know. Seriously. I'm just the one with the big mouth from Philly who stopped this morning after cleaning out my inbox and getting annoyed who said, "Aw hell to the no. This has got to stop!" Who has time for this?
Just a Philosophical question BIG SMILE…
That said, for the rest of you lovely, compassionate, non-abusive, fun FB people and fam, THANK YOU for being the way you are—AWESOME!
BIG HUG and stay in the Light!–Leslie
February 28, 2011
I guess it's no secret that the publishing industry is evolving at lightening speed, making authors jump like panicked frogs from stones to lily pads in a fast-moving brook. Learning curves on new technologies have to be absorbed to stay leading edge… knowledge about which publishing house is collapsing under its own weight and where the next place to be is are now ever-present realities one must cope with in "the business," all amid the bookstore chain fallout of Borders–our jobs as authors ain't what they used to be. Meanwhile, with ever increasing demands that a writer stay abreast of social media (also imposed by shrinking marketing department resources within the publishing houses), by regularly blogging and FBing, and tweeting… maaaan… where does one carve out time to write any more?
It is the age old and quintessential question we all struggle with, whether we so-called write full-time for a living or write after our stable 9-5 occupation… time is always a fleeting resource because one's Muse can be so fickle. Yet, at the expense of fighting "her," and thereby alienating her from us–a writer's worst nightmare–I say if you give her a regular schedule and forum to express herself, most times she'll cooperate and give you a little something in return during the time you've carved out for her. But woe be unto you if you regularly fail her BIG SMILE! Social media can be an exotic, sexy, and very seductive lover… just like the telephone and TV can be. (Just say no! LOL) Cheat on your Muse all the time, and sooner or later she'll leave you high and dry. That said, this is why you see me in bursts on the various media, and then I hide… all so I can be true to my Muse and get that next book out that you want–so forgive the blog gaps, inability to answer all messages on FB, et al. Just keeping it real.
BIG HUG, Leslie!
PS: And, yes, I got hooked up into yet another web venue, LOL… VYOU.com and posted a video response to a question I got about how one finds time to write! OMG!
February 26, 2011
Hey, y'all… I know I've been AWOL — writing, traveling, flu, and back, smile… but Simon and Schuster/Pocket Books introduced me to VYou – a way authors can communicate with readers in video messages. It is so cool! Check it out… VYou.com/LA_Banks
Have a great night!
January 5, 2011
This is just a quickie blog blurb — I'm doing a chat tonight on Twitter at 9pm EST at #YAlitchat and will be giving away books… also will have a contest running for a month at the following site. Now's a chance to win your free copy of Shadow Walker!
December 15, 2010
Happy Holidays, everybody! Wowâ€¦ what a CRAZY Year, huh?
SHADOW WALKER IS HERE!(Book 1 in the YA Trilogy)
Well, despite the madness, I decided to venture out into the world of self-publishing and epublishing. I wanted my â€œbabies,â€ the children of the famed Neterus in The Vampire Huntress Legend seriesâ€¦ and all the kids of the Guardians, to be set in a universe that I had envisioned. Seemed like nobody was gonna let that happen but me – yeah… they 'took me there' this year!
Therefore, with great trepidation, I stuck my toe in the water and ya know whatâ€¦? WOW! Not only wasnâ€™t it as hard as I expected, it wasnâ€™t as scary. What a way to celebrate my birthday (12/11) I was up into the wee hours and got the file out on 12/12â€¦ it felt like giving birth, LOL!
So armed with Joe Konrathâ€™s able crew (Rob, Cheryl, and Carl), we set out and pulled together a cover, interior layout, and got the files convertedâ€¦ then uploaded and Voila! But I canâ€™t forget the savvy editors, Leslie Wainger and Chandra Sparks Taylor â€" plus Lissa Woodsonâ€™s hand-holding and expert graphics for marketing materials.
Now weâ€™re ready to go â€" just in time for the holidays! Hereâ€™s the links to get it on Kindle, PDF, TEXT, Sony Reader, and iPad.
But I DIDNâ€™T FORGET ABOUT PRINT FOLKS, nooosiree!
In about a week you should see it on Amazon.
The Vampire Huntress Legends series is aliveâ€¦ yepâ€¦ it lives on in many modes. Weâ€™ve also got the comics out… issues #1 & #2 are out now, issue #3 will be out in late January, issue #4 in late March, and the graphic novel/trade will be out in April 2011.
So, we have the parentâ€™s entire saga (12 books), now the next generation (appropriate for Young Adults) â€" Shadow Walker, in both ebook and print (soon)â€¦ plus the comics!
If Vampires are getting old for you, though… look for Surrender the Dark (April 2011) and Conquer the Dark (October 2011) — a brand new angels vs demons series from Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster – Yaaay! These are definitely angels with dirty wings though, LOL! (muy caliente, these angels are Hawt)
Then, of course, if you just want hot-action… Sizzle & Burn (July 2011, St. Martin's Press — writing as Alexis Grant); this is Men of Delta Force non-stop action. What can I say… doesn't the cover say it all about this series, LOL?! (OMG!)
May your Holidays be HAPPY!
Much Love and Stay in the Light!
Hereâ€™s the Back Cover Blurb from Shadow Walker:
Sarah Rivera has a lot going on in her life. Itâ€™s bad enough that sheâ€™s being shipped off to Temt Tchaas Academy also known as Neteru Academy, a high school for future Guardians of the Light who have special powers, but she has to go there with her cocky twin brother and the rest of her compound brothers and sisters. To make matters worse, everyone has ridiculous expectations of her all because her parents are like supernatural rock stars for saving the planet sixteen years ago. But what nobodyâ€"not even her best girlfriend Tamiâ€"seems to be getting is the fact that Sarah doesnâ€™t think sheâ€™s special, doesnâ€™t want to be a demon-hunting hero and is even afraid of the dark!
So what that her mother was a Warrior Angel and her dad used to be a Hell Council-level Vampire? Opposites attract. Go figure. As far as Sarah is concerned, all she got from the combination was a pair of fangs that lengthen at inappropriate times to embarrass her in front of her secret crush; whereas her brother, Alejandro, got the good looks and cool wings. However, what her parentsâ€™ status has created is drama in her life by ensuring that the mean girls at school will make her life a living nightmare. Sarah knows her familyâ€™s renowned slayer reputation will also ensure that everyone at school will assume she had it easy and should be able to do everything her famous rebel parents can do, when the heartbreaking truth is, she canâ€™t. Not by a long shot.
Once at the hidden boarding school in the Appalachian Mountains, things go from bad to worse as Sarah tries to fit in. Her nightmares increase, and it isnâ€™t just anxiety; her second sight is suddenly developing at a record pace. Layers of secrets are held in the building, held by her parents, and nothing is as it seems. There is something really bad going on at the school, worse than badâ€"deadly. Only, faculty and administrators donâ€™t know where to begin to look for the cause as students start to disappear. Sarah must then make a choice to stand on the sidelines or to help use her gifts to save someone dear. But to do that means facing all of her greatest fearsâ€"along with a demon or two.
August 10, 2010
Trip to Kemet (Egypt)â€¦ Travel Log â€" Star Date 08-10-10
This was not a vacation. This was an odyssey of mind expansion and a test of oneâ€™s physical endurance. It began with an Amtrak ride to NYC to meet up with my girlfriend, Toniâ€"my trip partnerâ€"dragging way too much luggage through Penn Station, into a cab, and up to Brooklyn, where she and I both laughed at the fact that we had to get it all up to her third floor brownstone walk-up without the aid of an elevator. But because sheâ€™s faithful with her gym workouts and belly dancing class, between the two of us, (her pulling more than her fair share), we got all my stuff up the stepsâ€¦ also realizing what came up had to come back down first thing in the morning.
Excitement thrummed through us as we contemplated the fact that in the morning weâ€™d be headed back to Africa, back to the motherland, back to the source of all science and math, technology, and art and architectural wondersâ€"Kemet, aka, Egypt.
We couldnâ€™t sleep. She packed until three in the morning; I dozed and chatted as she hummed around readying for our adventure. My late great auntâ€™s words reverberated through my soul as I finally succumbed to sleepâ€"â€œBaby, our people came from the East side of Africaâ€¦ Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Egypt.â€ Before DNA testing, I thought my auntâ€™s words were simply urban legend passed down through the family in an attempt to claim that somehow we were associated with great empiresâ€¦ as many elderly African Americans still to this day detest remembering the tragedy of slavery. Therefore, to many, West African and its â€œdoor of no returnâ€ represents pain, not a point of prideâ€"so I thought my auntie in her later years was trying on a little revisionist history to distance herself from the â€˜Great American Scar.â€™ I believed that until a few years ago when I took the IBM Gene Experiment DNA Test offered for $100 through National Geographicâ€¦ six weeks after swabbing, my mitochondrial DNA came back from East Africa!
That said, I fell asleep wondering how my folks got caught up in the conflict that dragged them halfway around the world. My auntie said a trade caravan was raided and one of our ancestors wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I canâ€™t confirm or dispute her claim, because sheâ€™s gone now. But at least one half of her story held up under DNA testing, so Iâ€™m inclined to believe her oral report on the matter. That added to my excitement and sense of anticipationâ€¦ I was going back to ancestral lands.
The morning of the trip, I sat up before the alarm sounded, even though I had every reason to be exhausted. Toni bounced into the room I was sleeping in and announced, â€œToday is the day, girl! Did I mention weâ€™re going to Egypt?â€ That started the trip in earnest, and she had so much energy that, while I was repacking my overnight bag, she hauled my suitcase down the steps solo!
Laughing, gabbing, squealing in intervals, we headed to JFK Airport in her SUV. At points it seemed like time was standing still on purpose, or was messing with traffic to delay our arrivalâ€"but in NYC it isnâ€™t personal, smileâ€"just crazy morning traffic. By the time we got to the airport we were like little kids. She took her car to long term parking and I figured out a balancing act to take both our wheeled, too-heavy suitcases, along with carry-on luggage, into the terminal to meet the group.
It was a sight to behold. All gathered around Master Yoga Instructor, Yirser Ra Hotep, were smiling, eager faces just waiting for the Egypt Air desk to open. People were so nice, they just walked right up and said, â€œHi, my name is Sherri and Iâ€™m Kimâ€"weâ€™re from DC. Are you going with us?â€ Thatâ€™s how it started. I met people from Phillyâ€"Rhonda, Nisa and her mate Muneerâ€¦ met folks from Florida, Brother Ankh and Brother Gui. Ladies from Costa Rica, our seniors on the travel, who were awesomeâ€¦ baby brother, Darien from Chicago, who is a sophomore in college (all the Mommas looked out for him)â€¦ Anika and her mom Pricilla, and of course Dr. Sunyatta (who I call Dr. Sunny for her bright spirit and awesome comic relief), her daughter, Amina, and her sister, beautiful â€œMomma Cheryl.â€ Soon, author Wayne Chandler joined us, aka â€œThe Professorâ€ on the tripâ€¦ and I met Princessâ€"my sister who wound up sitting behind me on the bus for too many laughs, a second Rhonda, Tecumaâ€¦ comedic spiritual preacher of deep truthâ€"Armel (a Chicago firefighter), I know Iâ€™m forgetting someone, but forgive me. We had 27 people in allâ€¦ and if you do the numerology, it comes to 9, the number of completion went on the trip.
Finally, after hanging out in the airport from noon till 6:00pm, it was finally time to board. Thus began the second leg of the endurance testâ€"a twelve hour flight over the Atlantic and Europe. Dozing to Arabic films with English subtitles, I recall it got dark, then suddenly the flight attendants were coming down the aisles with breakfast and coffee. The windows opened and blaring sun entered the cabinâ€¦ not like sun Iâ€™ve ever seen on the east coast even on the brightest of days. This was equatorial glare that had been bouncing off of white hot sand for centuries, and in the distance (called out by the captain upon final approach) one could see the Pyramids of Giza!
I swear my heart rate kicked up a notch. I was spellbound. Human beings had done this without the aid of modern technology and so far, not cranes or anything else we have now has been able to duplicate the majestic structures.
My patience was near the fraying point as we waited on luggage and customs clearance, but patience and solemn quiet was the only way to deal with it. Once the group was released from the airport, we got slapped in the face with a blast of desert heat that made us simply stare at each other.
On the best of days, it was 118 degrees in the shade. I thought about our men and women in the Armed Services, wearing helmets, flak jackets, fatigues, and carrying about a hundred pounds of equipment, and knew I had no reason to complain in a tank top and a cotton skirt with flip flops.
Onto the bus, we didnâ€™t even stop at the hotel. You had to wash your face and take a bird bath on the plane, as we were headed to Cairo Museum to see actual mummies (still with eyelashes), King Tutâ€™s gold, Egyptian wigs and jewelry from antiquity, and marvels of the world. The guide said that they had so many pieces that if you looked at each one for one minute, it would take you NINE MONTHS to see everything in the museum. But even sadder was the truth he revealed on the bus that, Italy stole 17,000 pieces, France stole 4,000 pieces, and Britain stole over 7,000 piecesâ€"and that was just what they knew of. In the early days, wealthy people would send private excavations (tomb raiders, of the Laura Croft variety) to Egypt and there was no law about what was to remain in the country. It is feared that the best and most expensive pieces still reside in private collections. Plus, it was only in 1972 that the world agreed to uphold Egyptâ€™s law about returning any stolen goods (after 1972â€"but nothing beforeâ€¦ and that sucks.)
Truthfully, all the really great finds happened way before 1972â€¦ do not get me started on a political rant, but it made me wonder what France would have done to a country that stole itâ€™s priceless collections from Versailles, or what Britain would have done to royal grave robbers that had their Queenâ€™s jewels or body on display in Cairoâ€¦ or if the Vatican (that has a LOT of this stuff) would mount a modern-day crusade to get back their priceless relics? You know? Just sayinâ€™.
Anyhowâ€¦ I pondered these questions after I saw what was left, and it really burned deep into my consciousness as our tour guide explained how there were more of Egyptâ€™s treasures in the British Museum than in Cairo. Something seemed so wrong about that. But my only solace was that, when we looked outside, standing in downtown Cairoâ€"the Great Pyramids were a part of the cityâ€™s skyline.
Imagine, going downtown in your hometown and seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World as a part of your cityâ€™s natural skyline. Yet, in a bustling, congested city of 20 million people in Cairo, no one looked upâ€"only us tourists. It was also a clash of timelines and East meets West, with litter-filled streets, fast food joints, sprawling telephone lines and street lights, half-built apartments under constructionâ€¦ all set against the backdrop of ancient majesty. The cognitive dissonance was indescribable.
But when we finally arrived at a five star hotel, we were all so exhausted we could barely take it all inâ€"that is until I got to my room and opened up the drapes to see that my room faced the pyramids. I turned off the lights and sat on the bed watching the sun set in a rose-orange glow against the great structuresâ€¦ thinking with a sad smileâ€¦ â€œDamnâ€¦ I remember when I wrote this about Damali.â€ Even the quality of light was the same as Iâ€™d envisioned.
For me as a writer, this journey was as much an outward, Indiana Jones style expedition as it was a journey to the very core of my being. I was seeing places I had written about, and for good luck, just as I had my heroine doâ€"I collected stones at every temple to bring home with me.
Filled with brimming expectation, the first real day after our arrival, we headed to the Pyramids of Giza, where we got to see just how small and antlike we were against the amazing architectural wonders. Each block of the Great Pyramid was 4 tons, some reaching 40 tons in weight and much taller than me. Iâ€™m six feet tall and was dwarfed by what I stood next toâ€¦ and yes, there were camels.
These contrary, magical, smelly beasts bite and spit and complain under the weight of their loads. I admit, I punked out and decided it was far better to capture the essence of a caravan in digital pics than to actually get up on one of those things while they fussed and walked sloo-footed into the desert.
Yet, even that was surreal. Guys in white desert uniforms like in a Hollywood movie and toting AK47s with duct-taped double banana clip magazines guarded the monuments while tourists roved the outer walls and vendors hawked their wares. Camel drivers lazily swatted flies and bargained for the price of a mount, haggling loudly as though theyâ€™d stepped right out of the Middle Ages. Then, if you turned around quickly in the other direction, youâ€™d see tourist buses from our era and people speaking all languages from every country flocking to see the breathtaking sight of what Pharaohs had left behind. (For the record: We were told that slaves did not build the pyramids, but skilled artisans didâ€"and new information and research confirms that these were highly skilled workers paid significant money for the task. They were that eraâ€™s middle class.)
From there it was a blur of daysâ€¦ sailboats down the Nile to reach the Temple of Philae (just like a scene out of the VHL!), cruising down the Nile to Aswan, a night belly dancing and whirling dervish show, hiking up temple steps cut into the side of mountainsâ€¦ where some of our crew took an actual camel caravan through the Sahara to a Nubian Villageâ€"I drew the line at camel dung, camel sweat, and camel flies and opted for the Nile cruise by lux motorboat to meet them there. BIG SMILE! The ladies from Costa Rica, by way of Brooklynâ€"Ruby, Ms. Norma, and Momma Narissa, hung back with meâ€"we had on flip flips are werenâ€™t trying to really step in the full experience, LOL! (BTW, Momma Narrisa made it up the inside of the Great Pyramid!)
But can I tell you that watching the sunset while going down the Nile was something out of a fairy tale. Coming up on a village where people grabbed your arm and put theirs next to it and called you, â€œMy Nubian sister!â€ brought tears to my eyes. Guards and local children, women and villagers were all fascinated to see â€œdarkâ€ Americans that looked like them pile out of a tourist bus. I got many offers of marriage tooâ€¦ a man offered Dr. Sunyatta MANY camels, some chickens, and other livestock if she would agree to marry him, LOL!
Ahâ€¦ and hereâ€™s where there was some very deep cultural diversity. In the hotels and on the cruise ship, there was not one local woman to be found. These were jobs for menâ€"not even in housekeeping did you find Egyptian women. Also, no matter what we said, we were ignored (the ladies on the trip.) We had to pair up with one of the guys in our tour group and claim him as a husband to barter or buy anything without a hassle. It was truly deep. Several of us would gather around one of the men on the tripâ€"weâ€™d agree who was wife number 1, 2, 3 and so forth, THEN weâ€™d head out. If a vendor pestered us, all we had to do was point at the guy in the center of our little group and then the vendor would bow to the guy and back off. It was completely amazing and maddening all at the same time.
At one point, I got trapped in a market with very eager vendors and male offers, and Yirser (who is about 6â€™4â€ with a very imposing frame) walks by with five of the ladies from the trip and shouts, â€œLeslie! Why? I told you no shopping!â€ Now, had we been home and in Philly, Iâ€™da taken my earrings out, ha ha ha. But he was saving me, LOL! I covered my mouth, the vendors backed off, and I pointed at my so-called â€œhusbandâ€ and told them, â€œYou must ask him.â€ That was the end of it. Yirser stood there with five wives with me running to catch up as the straggling, errant 6th wife, like heâ€™d parted the Red Sea. The vendor who really wanted more than a dress sale asked, â€œMilady, do you think he might sell me one of you?â€ I just looked at the man, and realized this was all just cultural differences and the poor man was quite genuine and meant no harm. I took the compliment with a smile and shook my head, no and he left me with a sigh. From that point on, I became known as â€œMischief Wife,â€ my girl Toni who is real chill became â€œZen Wife,â€ and our friend Nebhet was known as â€œSpicy Wifeâ€ (because she would fuss about the inequities in a heartbeat, LOL.) Like I said, crazy and surreal.
The bus was baseâ€"safetyâ€"where we could get back together as disoriented Americans and chatter away about what weâ€™d just experienced. Horse carriage rides that would turn your hair whiteâ€"not like the easy rides you see going around Central Park or in Independence Mall in Philadelphiaâ€¦ oh, no. These were more like Ben Hur chariot jousts at rush hour with road rage â€œhorse cabbiesâ€ jockeying for position as their withered mares sprinted to the temples though narrow, winding dirt streets. Yâ€™allâ€¦ it was beyond deep. I did a LOT of praying in Egypt! I prayed for strength as I crouched to make my way up pyramid steps hunched over and going through chambers meant for tiny priests with teeny feet. I prayed when a rocket hit the West Bank of Jordan and the Israeli Prime Minister thought it came from Egypt and retaliation was in the air. I prayed as a guy got on the bus with a Glock 9mm and an Uzi to ride shotgun, literally, with our bus driver as a military convoy took us to the edges of the desert 60 miles from the border of Sudan. I prayed as I looked down at the public toilets at rest stops, where you had to pay for toilet paper, and feared even squatting over the hole that was replete with flies. I prayed for water. I prayed for sleep. I prayed our bus would make it through the rural roads that were barely passable. I p[rayed thereâ€™d be no need for the military convoy that escorted us. I prayed for air conditioning. I prayed for forgiveness for taking so much for granted in my everyday American life. Oh, yeah, yâ€™all, I was in deep prayerâ€"not just in the temples when I put my fist in a beam of white hot light or felt the presence of ancestors.
Through it all, the group became like a little familyâ€"a funny, outrageous high school bus trip that Iâ€™ll never forget. There were comedians, philosophers, heavy fact deliverers, peace keepers, healers, complainers, and enforcers. We came from all over the country, and each of us probably only knew one or two people on the trip before we all got together. But then the group gelled like a rag tag Guardian team. We looked out for each other, shared toiletries like sunscreen and hand sanitizer. We made sure no one was left behind, and shared meds for whatever ailed people. And in the midst of all of that, we did yoga and belly dancing and laughed until our faces hurt.
Let me seeâ€¦ we traveled by bus, overnight train (sleeper cars right out of the 1940â€™s as though on the way to Calcutta!), boat, cruise ship, camel, sail boat, ferry, horseâ€¦ we ate dust and swatted flies, but always had our mindâ€™s blown when we got to our destinations. How does one account for a glyph that is of the ancestors, next to a leg, next to a series of stars, next to a doorway, next to a scroll? Dr. Sunyatta found it, and decoded it to meanâ€"â€œOur ancestors traveled from the stars with knowledge.â€ Beyond profound, and the story boards are all over the walls etched in granite.
What can I tell you of my tripâ€¦ my time-travelerâ€™s expedition?
I stood in the footfalls of queens and kings; I put my writing hand in the celestial light of the Temple of Ausar. I felt the chills of dÃ©jÃ vu as familiarity washed over me. I was humbled to silence. I saw tombs carved into the side of granite cliffs and monuments created out of single pieces of massive stone. I fought back tears at the desecration of ancient black faces and beautiful womenâ€™s bodies when the Romans invaded and then the Crusades in the Middle Ages deemed the naked female form unholy. I saw technology beyond my comprehension. I saw art that made me gasp. I saw myself, my people, my culture. I SAW THE NETERUS!!!! I saw engineering marvels; I saw mysteries of the cosmos. I saw the unlimited power of the human imaginationâ€¦ and I saw a whole new arc of characters and storylines come to life against the soft black background of my closed eyelids. I saw Atlantis when made aware that the Sphinx had been covered with seashells at its base, yes, in the middle of the desert. I saw a collision of flora and faunaâ€"great palm trees and lush vegetation if I turned left, and pure barren sand for as far as the eye could see when I turned right. I saw dreams and could imagine what the Great Pyramids looked like when in their full glory covered by white alabaster and having gold and copper capstones before invaders came to steal it away. And despite the ravages of time and conquest, it was all still there, still waiting to be discovered again for the first time, itâ€™s ancient ancestral ghosts whispering to each of usâ€"â€œWelcome back, daughter, welcome back, sonâ€¦ you can do anything you set your mind to.â€
If you get an opportunity in this lifetimeâ€"GO. Anything I tell you will not do the vision justiceâ€¦ and everything Iâ€™ve told you is only half of all that went on. How can I capture all the jokes, funny moments, breathless experiences? You just have to see it for yourself.
BIG PHILLY HUG from someone who has been changed foreverâ€¦ Leslie!
PS: See the pics on Face Book under "Leslie's Trip" at Leslie Esdaile Banks.
March 21, 2010
Hi, family… I had to share this incredible book with you–it's called, "The Body Restoration Plan," by Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton, a human metabolism expert. As most of you who know me knowâ€"Iâ€™ve been on a health quest now this last year after going through some health challenges and also fighting with insurance companies. Iâ€™ve completely changed the way I eat, have yoga on my docket, go to the gym, and do the â€œorganic thingâ€ â€" I live at Whole Foods Supermarket and my kitchen now looks like an organic lab, smile. Well, while I was at a speaking engagement in Tennessee, my good brother-friend in Nashville, Dr. Jeff Menzise–awesome brother (with an equally awesome wife), told me about the above-mentioned book when cautioning me not to use antibacterial hand sanitizer. I was like, "Aw, c'mon–why can't I use it? Whatâ€™s wrong now?" He patiently said, "Sister Lez, it'll make you fat." He had my attention–I was like, "Whaaa…? Be serious! We need to use it to guard against HINI, right?"
At the time this controversy broke out, we were at a restaurant with another colleague from Morehouse College, Dr. Moore, a psychologist and brain & melanin metabolism expert/author, who concurred. (Yeah, it was a heavy health conference that I was attending at Fisk & Vanderbilt Universities. Also in the mix was yoga master Yirser Ra Hotep and author and martial arts Qi Gong master, Wayne Chandler.) Then Dr. Jeff pulled out his Blackberry and ordered the book for me right then and there and sent it to my house from his phone, explaining that this was info that I needed to know about. When I got home from the road the book showed up at my home as heâ€™d promised via UPS, and I set aside my other reading and writing to see what he'd been urgently trying to tell me.
This book is literally opening my eyes and changing my life—as it explains something I've fought with all my life and it's the KEY to childhood obesity in this country. It talks about how the chemical saturation in society makes us as human beings fat. Now before you say, "Oh, some people are skinny and this is bull," please hear me out and let me explain why it's deep.
It talks about that fact–yes, some people do not exhibit obesity as a side effect of toxic saturation… and how some people's bodies, genetic make-up, and stress factors make them more or less able to throw off the toxins in our food chain… but essentially the hypothalamus gland in the brain, our sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen), wherever our body is at structurally when the toxins come in, and the nutrients we get (or not), are all under attack by toxic substances. The chemicals in our food chain… namely bovine growth hormone, low levels of antibiotics (which cause weight gain at low levels), DDT, plus other pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, solvents in cleaners, steroids, and the stabilizers in food preservatives and cosmetics, all make you gain weight by damaging the body's weight regulation system.
Because of the way livestock is fed, the chemicals that make farming more economic–namely, by making the cow or chicken get fatter with less food, has been transferred to us. All of the sprays used on veggies and fruit has been found to suppress the hormones in the brain that tell you when to stop eating and also produce ravenous hunger at the same time. They also break down sex hormones so the body cannot produce as much muscle mass as it once did. It jacks with the body's natural set point, as well as the "fight or flight" hormones in our bodies, known as catecholamines–which shut down–but when working properly regulate fat burning. Without those working properly (or if your adrenal glands are burnt out due to stress and/or a combo of stress & toxicity), you won't effectively burn fat storehouses, okaaay. There's more, a lot more… but when you follow the SCIENCE of this madness you realize that the epidemic has really nefarious causes.
This malfeasance by the food industry is frightening, because some folks may be lucky and just get fat (with all its attendant preventable illnesses)–but others who stay slim are still at risk to get things like leukemia, or childhood diabetes, or cancer, or weird food allergies never heard of before 20 years ago, etc. So being slim does not absolve you or save your kids from this chemical onslaught… that's why I'm sending this out for the folks I care about and love–you. Pass it on.
I sat down and got quiet for a bit once I got a third of the way through the book and thought back on my own struggle. My mother took DES in order to conceive me. (She didn't need to take it to conceive my sister, thank God.) That drug seriously impacts sex hormones in the infant (and the nursing mother), also damages the hypothalamus gland and catecholamines in the system. It was so toxic a drug that it got pulled from the market right after I was born and so-called â€œDES babiesâ€ are medically tracked well into their twenties for organ abnormalities. Enough said.
Maybe that had no bearing on my circumstance, but it did make me thinkâ€¦ I was an abnormally big kid with a big appetite; my mother was tall and slim, as was my father, and I was not. Obesity didnâ€™t run in our family, per se. My Mom cooked from scratch; we didnâ€™t eat out a lot or do McDonalds. We all ate the same things. But I was the only one who was overweight. Believe me, I took a LOT of family razzing because of that. AND that fertility drug was taken off the market because of deadly side effects and birth defectsâ€¦ hmmm.
Anyway, I can remember being really hungry for sugar and carbs as a kid–almost like a crack-head (smile) and not knowing why. Could my metabolism have been compromised? Weâ€™ll never know. But itâ€™s worth investigatingâ€"or at the very least considering toxicity as a factor. Then I read the passage in the book that said, "Damage sends the person into ravenous spikes craving refined carbs." It also said keeping food away from the kid is not the answer. The body is crying out for nutrients. The old 1950′s model of understanding = reduce the food and up the exercise, no pain no gain doesn't work–because a person with a compromised system will respond by their metabolism shutting down further to insure they stay at the same weight and their body will then increase the hunger… why? Because that's what the toxins are designed to do–keep the animals that are being sent to the market to slaughter weighing an optimum weight with as little food and exercise as possible. It literally works on the chemicals in the brain to produce lethargy–so your kid isn't necessary "lazy" they are freakin' drugged! The ONLY way to break the cycle is a chemical detox and then to add a serious nutritional supplement regimen to increase the nutrients so the body gets healthy and resets and heals itself. (This toxicity stuff also impairs mental functions significantly, too–so yes, America is being drugged stupid. Test scores are dropping, people are following a mob mentality in the media, et alâ€¦ who knows but maybe some of thisâ€"albeit not all of it–could be linked to toxicity if we dug deeper, I bet. But that's a different discussion for another day, however.)
The normal body resets happen at puberty, menopause… can happen at other times too, but has to be forced by a cellular cleanse if there's severe toxicityâ€"according to the book. When I think back on it, I got sick and dropped a LOT of weight between 8th grade and 9th grade when I went into puberty… I kept thin and any exercise I did netted results until I hit a stress wall at Penn during my sophomore year in college. Severe stress, not eating right, and my body set point reset againâ€"but higher, slower. I had to struggle to take the weight off again. Get the picture. If your system is stressed, already weakened in that area, you're gonna be affected. Look at the kids in society today that are way bigger than their parents, sexually maturing faster, with bigger breasts, facial hair coming in early… all of it's a result of the toxicity in the food chain.
My daughter was born a normal weight, but after 17 surgeries from her childhood burn injury, she started packing on the pounds–even though she didn't eat more than the other kids. I remember asking the doctors if all the anesthesia, antibiotics, steroids, and drugs to help her burn wounds heal would have any affect. Of course they told me no (sad smile.) They probably didn't know. Now I'm reading that the toxicity from these chemicals is so serious that chickens/cows fed these toxic substances can eat 40-50% less and still weigh in at the market almost twice the size of the same animal that wasn't treated.
I had one of those "ah ha!" moments… Have you ever seen the old sci-fi movie, "The Fly" — where the scientist finally realizes "Eureka!" and has this â€œOh… my… Godâ€ out-of-body moment when he realizes that he's been poisoned and that's why he's been crazy and didn't know it? Yeah… kinda like that just happened to me.
I hit a point in my reading when I said, "Jesus H Christ…" then jumped up and ran to the computer to write my inner circle. Then I just decided, oh what the heck, blog itâ€"so others will be able to get some help from this. People need to know!
But I swear I'm sitting here tonight connecting so many dots, half laughing and half crying… when I think of all the ridicule that my kid went though at being heavy (as well as all the slings and arrows and drama I went through)–a lot from well-meaning family members who'd tell her (or me) to simply push away from the table… or who would get in my face about making my kid overweight. People would take one look at me and then look at her and say, "Les, you need to do something." What they didn't know was that I was dancing as fast as I could. I was cooking meals from scratch, putting my kid in after school activities like karate and basketball… you name it… I was going to the gym and half starving myself–and she was eating like a normal kid, as well as playing yard games, swimming in the summer, jumping rope, running around–this wasn't a sit at home and watch video games kid… and the dial on the scale wouldn't move–or if it did, it was just for a short time until it reverted back. But I wasnâ€™t doing organic. I was buying regular fruits and vegetables from the regular supermarket, because at that time I couldnâ€™t afford the premium for holistic, non-toxic, organic foodâ€"and had NO IDEA of the potential harm I was feeding my family. I didnâ€™t understand why we were getting colds, or I couldnâ€™t lose weight, and I was solving these health issues with over-the-counter remedies hawked on TV as safe. I was adding chemicals on top of chemicals! Who knew? OMG! NOW I KNOW WHY THINGS WERENâ€™T RIGHT, HEALTH-WISE! Whew! Okay, mystery solved.
So… all that said, The Body Restoration Plan explains about how this toxicity even creates muscle sluggishness–mitochondria in the cells won't fire with the toxins in the body like that–so the fit person goes to the gym and works out and comes home feeling zippy and energized… the overweight, toxic poisoned person comes home and collapses, not experiencing the "runner's high" or whatever. The first time I took my daughter to the gym with me and forced her to get on an elliptical machine, the girl fainted and they literally had to call an ambulance. Meds from surgeries and toxic food may have suppressed her metabolic system for years, DES, heavy stress, and toxic food may have suppressed mine… if you have a problem in this area–or have a kid that does, or know of one, GET THIS BOOK.
I'm just getting to the part now about how you reverse this. The good news is, it can be reversed. But the information was so deep and so compelling that I just had to share it right away before I got through the entire book. It deals with stubborn pounds packing on the mid-section, all of that. Every natural health care provider, Reiki therapist, body work professional, PT, personal trainer, coach, parent, should read this. In fact, the FLOTUS needs to read this–if she hasn't already, to help guide her in her personal quest of fighting childhood obesity. This is beyond deep. Maybe you guys already know this stuff and I'm slow… but I just wanted to be sure you knewâ€¦ because I care.
Big Hug and much love, Leslie!
PS: Thanks Brother Jeff for putting this info in my path!
March 9, 2010
Meeting the POTUS wasâ€¦
Surreal. Yesterday was one of those magical moments that defy words. I may be an author but Iâ€™m struggling to capture the magnitude of this experience.
Here I was, sitting at home, reading through health care insurance bills, trying to digest what they were telling me, and I reached a personal tipping point. I was so upset and frustrated that I was crying. The fat cats in the executive offices and the big wigs who make the monster salaries had moved the goal post on me again and were laughing at me. Yep, sitting at the table with a pile of household bills in front of me, my kidâ€™s tuition bills scaring me, while trying to compile FASFA informationâ€"student financial aid stuff, which meant I had to get my taxes done early to meet their March 1 deadlineâ€¦ and Independence Blue Cross was saying that my rate would go up from $301/mo to $659/mo and my kidâ€™s insurance coverage cost would also double, unless I wanted to purchase their really BAD policy that has a $5,000 deductible (versus the one I had with a $500 deductible.)
Slowly my outrage turned to rage when I realized that the insurer was holding me hostageâ€"and being from Philly (smile) the â€œfightâ€ in me rose up. I got up from the dining room table and said, â€œAw hell to the no!â€ I knew that since I had type 2 Diabetes, I probably wouldnâ€™t be able to get another insurer to take me. Iâ€™d be denied on the basis of a pre-existing condition, but my daughter was in the clear. So, my first move was to find her a policy. In my mind, at least the rat bastards at IBX wouldnâ€™t get my money for her. But I was still really, really, really angry. And the more I watched my favorite news showsâ€"yes, I admit it, Iâ€™m a news junkyâ€"and I watch Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Ed Show, then Keith Olberman, and Rachel Maddow to stay up on current eventsâ€"the angrier I got when I realized that the issues in Washington werenâ€™t about policy disagreements; this was all about power and not allowing our current President to appear to have â€œa win.â€
That realization translated into a flaming email supporting health care reform and supporting their drive to get it done sent to the White House â€" through their websiteâ€¦ then to the websites of my Senator, then my Congressman, then my Governorâ€¦ then to MSNBC. It was a morning of email venting, LOL. When I was done I felt slightly better albeit my life was still the same. So, I went about my daily business, trying to figure out what this self-employed, divorced single mom was gonna do.
Unfortunately, I didnâ€™t have the luxury to go into a deep funk. I had to keep it moving. As an entrepreneur the first thing you learn is that, there are no â€œsick days,â€ no paid vacation days, no disability, or other benefits of being employed by someone else. If you donâ€™t go to work, you donâ€™t get paidâ€"and I had book deadlines looming. Iâ€™m not complaining, just stating this as my reality. Itâ€™s a blessing to be able to work for yourself. But itâ€™s a blessing that cuts both ways. The good news is you work for yourself. The bad news is that you work for yourself. All employer benefits are paid by youâ€"because YOU are the employer of yourself. I know, I know, it sounds a bit Alice In Wonderland-esque. But you get my point.
Anyway, the fateful day when I had my meltdown was February 11th. Weeks went by and I had truly forgotten all about it. The moment I pushed send on the electronic White House form, I had already accepted that I was one of MILLIONS of people with the same problem, one of countless others who had a long story, and one of an unfathomable number that probably vent on their elected officialsâ€™ emailâ€"that I assumed never got read by anyone anyway.
But one day I happened to get a call from a lady claiming to be from the White House. Initially I laughed, thinking Iâ€™d been pranked. Then when she remained serious, I thoughtâ€"Uh, oh, Homeland Security maybe didnâ€™t appreciate the tone of my email outburstâ€¦ am I in trouble (?) However, Ann assured me that they found my letter interesting and compellingâ€¦ and, explained — with many caveats about not being able to promise anything â€" that â€œifâ€ I passed vetting, then â€œmaybeâ€ I could introduce the President of the United States at his rally.
When the call ended, I set down the phone very slowly and very carefully. I told my daughter, but wouldnâ€™t allow her to get all excited or to tell anyone in the family, because I thought, â€œYeah, right, me vetted. I write vampire novels and about werewolves in the US Militaryâ€"FAT CHANCE!â€ Then I laughed out loud at the absurdity of my writing genre and that â€œIâ€ would get a call from the White House. I figured, no way. I put the â€œincidentâ€ of the call out of my mind and went to my stepmotherâ€™s party that she was having in Trenton for her 90 year old motherâ€™s birthday.
Thoroughly enjoying myself, Iâ€™m sitting at a lovely banquet with friends and family all around. My sister and daughter are cutting up with my aunt and cousins and my cousinâ€™s husband, and then my cell phone goes off. Initially I was annoyed at myself, having forgotten to put my phone on vibrate. But when I pulled it out of my purse and I saw the number with a 202 area code, instinct kicked in and I answered it.
Yâ€™allâ€¦ to hear the words, â€œThis is so & so from THE WHITE HOUSEâ€ is deep. It creates a moment of cognitive dissonance, a surreal otherworldly feeling like youâ€™ve been zapped into a TV or movie script, or an episode from The West Wing.
The ebullient young woman who Iâ€™d spoken to the first time was on the line with a very cheery voice. She said, â€œWell Ms. Banks, youâ€™ve passed vetting and weâ€™d like you to introduce the President.â€ Mind you, the whole time, my family is telling me to get off the phone so we can take pictures, and Iâ€™m trying to shoo them and shush them while mouthing the words, ITâ€™S THE WHITE HOUSE! And they think Iâ€™m playing, LOL!
The moment the call ended, I started squealing (low timbre, just for the tableâ€"because a whole program was going on and the outburst would have caused a big disruption.) But after several tries, the word ripped around the huge banquet table and all ten of us seated were on the same page. Then the outburst began in earnest. A gazillion questions hit me, and I had no answers. My daughter and I floated on the ride home with my cousin and her husband, who drove. All I could think wasâ€¦ this is really happening. But then I braced myself thinkingâ€"plans change at the last minute. Some big wig with a lot more juice than me might get picked to ultimately do this. Iâ€™m just honored that somebody up the food chain heard my little cry in the wilderness.
I got home and sat down and took a deep breath. My daughter was already on Face Book telling her friends. Then the phone began ringing with instructions from the White House â€" Ms. Banks weâ€™ll need to see your remarks via email by 2PM. Ms. Banks weâ€™ll need you to come up to do a walk through and security check. Ms. Banks youâ€™ll need to pick up your tickets from your Congressmanâ€™s office. THATâ€™S when I knew it was real. Thatâ€™s also when I started lobbying to get my daughter, my sister, and my stepmom in, LOL. I shamelessly begged for more than the one ticket they had set aside for my child. Yes, groveled, BIG GRINâ€"ainâ€™t too proud to beg. This was HISTORY. And the angels above must have heard me because I was able to get them, much to the screaming delight of my family members.
It was a day of days. Butterflies consumed my stomach. The night before I couldnâ€™t sleep. I pressed my suit twice. I put too much hairspray in my hair. I kept hard candy in my mouth, because I kept feeling like I was having a hypoglycemic crash. I couldnâ€™t tell if it was nerves or if I was really going to do a diabetic pass out thing and mess up really badly.
On the ride up to the event Monday morning, my family was chatting excitedly but I was trying to memorize my short speech, the whole time thinkingâ€¦ my binder will touch a podium that has the Presidential seal on it. I will be standing where President Obama will be standing. Even if Secret Service doesnâ€™t allow me to actually meet him, Iâ€™ll have stood there where heâ€™ll stand, right in front of the American flag. Wow.
When we arrived at Arcadia University it was organized chaos. My family got to park in the VIP area, which had us screaming again in the car. Weâ€™d be cool, pass a security checkpoint. Iâ€™d give my name and IDâ€"the Secret Service guy would say, â€œAll right, Ms. Banks, right this way,â€ AND WEâ€™D SCREAMâ€¦ after we drove away, of course.
However, my sister, stepmom, and daughter had to go get in a line that was two blocks longâ€"and with trepidation we separated. I told them not to worry and that I didnâ€™t even know if I was going to meet him, but since they had â€œblueâ€ VIP tickets that guaranteed them a chance to be in the front section, it would be okay. The rest was up to God and prayer.
With my heart beating out of my chest, I waited to be collected at the side door by the designated staffer, Sally. Like Ann and Joelle, she was wonderfully nice. Before too long, the pleasant, smiling staffer came and got me. She beamed and said, â€œAre you ready, Ms. Banks?â€
Ready? Ready? OMG, who could be READY! But I smiled back at her, nodded, and then stepped into the building and waited as my purse was searched and my body was wand scanned. The staffer apologized, but said that it was a necessary formality for those in close proximity to the President. I was almost in tears with excitement and would have submitted to a strip search if theyâ€™d asked!
After that brief delay she ushered me through to where people would sit behind the velvet rope and I watched as other staffers began putting down name pages on seats for senators, congressmen, et al. My ears were ringing and my face was flushed as the gymnasium began to fill and elected officials started coming into the section where I sat very quietly, clutching my handbag and my binder, in shell shock. I was going to meet the President. I was going to speak before the President.
From the corner of my eye I saw my family and then that broke me out of the trance. I waved at them and blotted my nose, then grabbed my compactâ€"my face had oily t-zone and there was no glamour in that. Nerves made my voice stick in my throat. People began wondering who I was and a few elected officials came and shook my hand. But when the staffer came to collect me and I stood up, it was all I could do not to pass out.
It was a total out-of-body experience as Sally pressed back the blue curtain and led us behind the stage. Me, a young man giving the invocation, a professor leading the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language, and a choir that would sing the Star Spangled Banner all filed behind Sally nervous and excited. Once behind stage weâ€™d stepped into a frenetic scene with Secret Service guys, TV monitors, folks buzzing around with headsets, walkie talkies, and people murmuring into their watches. Everyone had a wire in their ear and every guy in a suit seemed like heâ€™d stepped out of the movie, Men in Black.
After the others went on stage I was told to stand alone in an alcove. The President was going to meet and greet the VIPs from the University and other dignitaries, and then Iâ€™d hear my cue to go on. But then a really kind staffer, Tim, said to the very nice woman that had been giving me instructions, Sally, â€œAfter that, bring Ms. Banks back in, sheâ€™ll have a private moment with The President, then cue her up for the stage.â€ I almost fainted.
The guys who surrounded the President must have seen that look of deer in the headlights before, because one of the â€œMen in Blackâ€ said in a completely deadpan expression, â€œMaâ€™am, when you meet the POTUS, there are two things you cannot do.â€ Eager and breathless, I said, â€œWhat?â€ He smiled and said, â€œDonâ€™t puke and donâ€™t faint.â€ It took me a moment to realize that he was just trying to loosen me up, and then I laughed. Thatâ€™s when six burly guys came forwardâ€"two in front of President Obama, two on his flank, two behind him, and a couple were behind me, I think.
I just stood there, mouth slightly agape, frozen, and the President walked forward with that big ole, dashing smile of his and said, â€œYou must be Leslie.â€ The warmth he exuded was authentic. Then he said, â€œI want to thank you for doing this,â€ as he shook my hand. But I shook my head and told him, â€œNo, Mr. President. Thank YOU for all youâ€™re doing for USâ€"for fighting for us and for being you.â€ Then he just hugged me and told me to â€œKnock â€˜em deadâ€ with my speech.
The handlers then hustled me to the curtain. But my speech had gone out of my head! Things Iâ€™d wanted to sayâ€"like telling the President how I took my fatherâ€™s tie and my motherâ€™s ring into the voting booth with me because they didnâ€™t live to see him get electedâ€¦ or how my daughter had just turned 18 years old and how she and I went together early in the morning to vote for her first time by pulling the lever for him. I didnâ€™t get to say any of that. It was an amazing, ephemeral moment that went by in a flash like a dream.
The only thing I had to hold onto to steady myself were the encouraging words the President said. Then I thought of my parents whoâ€™d gone on to Glory. I thought of my Dad and my Mom, and then my grandmothers and all my dear aunties as the announcer made the preamble introduction. I whispered a little prayer to themâ€"â€œPlease donâ€™t let me mess up. Please let me do you proud.â€ Then I asked God himself, â€œPlease let me say what You want me to say in a way that can help people.â€ Then I stepped through the curtain into the bright stage lights. Truthfully, it felt like a near death experience.
But the only thing that I could focus on was, I had said a prayer and I was gonna tell the truth. Millions of people were suffering because some politicians were playing games, and the man backstage who I metâ€"the honorable man of good character who was also a husband and father, whoâ€™d watched his own mother die while insurance companies made her last days a living hell, was behind the curtain waiting for me to say something real that would warm up the crowd. I was being given the honor to warm up the crowd for the most important individual in the free worldâ€"a global leader.
Outright panic set in as I put my binder gently on top of his. Iâ€™d been instructed to be sure not to move his and to take mine away when I was done. My family would either witness my success or my humiliation, if people booed me or if I made a terrible gaff. Then I took another deep breath and from somewhere Divine calm fell over me. I realized in the back of my mind that someone really bigâ€"like up in Heaven kinda bigâ€"had to make so many dominoes fall â€œjust the right wayâ€ in order for someone on the Presidentâ€™s staff to pluck me from obscurity, then to put me on that stage. Thatâ€™s when I knew the Most High was not going to allow me to mess up. Couldnâ€™t happen. I had work to do.
And as I said the words, and as feeling started to build in my speech rhythm, and folks started nodding, then clapping, and shouting, â€œYeah!â€ — I knew it was going to be okay. I was almost there; all I had to do was say what an honor and a privilege it was to introduce President Barack Obamaâ€¦ and it was! THAT was the TRUTH!
When I said it, I felt the tips of my toes tingle. I felt my fingers tingle. I felt like light was shooting out of the top of my head. Then they played the Presidential anthem as the crowd roared and I was frozen where I stood. Theyâ€™d told me to wait for him to get to the podium before I took my leave. Andâ€¦ when he finally reached me, after shaking hands with as many people as he could along the way, I was expecting maybe a formal handshake, but he opened his arms and gave me a big hug and said â€œThank you, Leslie.â€
I collected my binder and tried to walk away with as much dignity as I could muster, but tears blurred my vision. I couldnâ€™t see the first step down off the platform and said another prayerâ€"â€œGod, please donâ€™t let me misstep and mess this up for the President. Just get me down and into a chair without passing out or hyperventilating.â€
I made it to my seat, I canâ€™t even tell you howâ€"and then promptly put a piece of hard candy in my mouth because â€œthat feelingâ€ of wooziness was back. I think I shook several hands in my section on the way to my seat. People were congratulating me after the event for seeming calm and poised, and I was asked if I had I done lots of rallies before.
No. There is NOTHING that can prepare you for an experience like this. Nothing.
Once the Presidentâ€™s FABULOUS speech was over and the crowd thinned, and the POTUS had cleared the building, I found my family. Reunited, they were squealing and hugging, and heâ€™d shaken their hands too! THAT really made my day! My daughter was waving her hand around saying, â€œMommy, he shook my hand!â€ LOL! Then somehow along the way and in the midst of the personal pandemonium I managed to answer the questions of a wonderful reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer (Annette Hall) â€" she saw the tears, she saw the excitementâ€"she understood what I was saying.
Now on a mission to find lunch and celebrate, in the parking lot I turned on my cell phone. My phone had BLOWN UP with messages, BIG SMILE. My daughter, who has one of those sexy new gadgets, she went on Face Book and just burst out laughing.
In a huge booth in TGI Fridays we toasted and celebrated until we all realized just how emotionally exhausted we wereâ€"and went home. I took off my shoes and suit and sat down heavily on the side of the bed, and then began going through the messages on both my home and office phones. One particularly urgent one, however, made me stand up. The call was simple: â€œMs. Banks, this is The Ed Show on MSNBC. We need to have you in the studio at the top of the six oâ€™clock hour. Please call us back.â€ Then came a second call. â€œMs. Banks, this is The Ed Show againâ€"â€
I didnâ€™t even listen to the rest of it, but called the number that had shown up on my caller ID. Meanwhile I was yelling to my daughter, â€œDonâ€™t get undressed, theyâ€™re sending a car!â€ She screamed in the background as the call connected and I got the details, all the while hopping into my suit one leg at a time.
A big black Lincoln Towne Car pulled up to my house and we were on our way to a studio uplink location. But then my cell rang in my purse and it was local news channel NBC 10. They wanted to know what it was like to introduce the President and wanted an interview that would air on the 11 oâ€™clock news. So we made arrangements for them to meet me back at my house when the car brought us back.
Quick in the chair at the studio for a hit of make up, then into the camera room to be wired for sound, and it was five, four, three, two, one, â€œYouâ€™re on after a four minute intro, Ms. Banks.â€ OMG!
Breathe, breathe, I kept telling myself. The questions came fast and crisply, then they told me through the ear wire that I was done. Whew!
Back in the car, my daughter was laughing as we sped our way homeâ€"and when we got there a huge NBC 10 News van was parked in front of my house! But, of course, someone had let their dog leave a pile right in front of my steps. On all days!!!! My daughter was mortified as the lovely news anchor, Claudia Rivera, stepped out of the news van with her camera man.
Being mom, I told my kid to run in the house and to get me a plastic bag and a paper towelâ€"and I talked to the anchor while I cleared dog poop from the path in my suit and designer handbag and heels, then tossed the refuse in the can in my side yard and welcomed her in. The anchor laughed as I explained that I needed to wash my hands firstâ€"and said, â€œHey, this is Philly, ya knowâ€¦ some things arenâ€™t glamorous and most things like this donâ€™t change.â€
One more interview down. I was too weary to worry about the fact that Iâ€™d been on book deadline and my house had dust bunnies. We laughed when I told them to make it a tight shot so folks wouldnâ€™t REALLY see how I kept house while writing. Miraculously, the phone didnâ€™t ring during the entire interview process, but the moment the van pulled away from the curb, again, my phone went crazy.
Until well past midnight and then beginning again at 5AM my phone has been ringing off the hook. Face Book is crazy. My deadline discipline is shotâ€"so sorry to say, this book Iâ€™m working on may be a little behind schedule, but with good cause. Itâ€™s not every day that oneâ€™s dreams come true.
Ironically, the news anchor made me realize that Iâ€™d had a collage on my wall for a couple of years â€" one of Obama and his family that my cousinâ€™s friend Larry had made for me. You know how you have stuff in your house or on your walls that you see everyday but that are so part of the environment they no longer register in your mind? Yeahâ€¦ like that. The collage was just a part of the living room wall.
But that was the first thing the news anchor went to and asked, â€œDid you just put this up?â€ I told her, â€œNoâ€¦. wowâ€¦ Iâ€™d put it up when he was running for office and really itâ€™s just like a fixture on the living room wall. Iâ€™d forgotten about it.â€ Just like Iâ€™d forgotten about the little campaign flyer Iâ€™d taped to my front door window and the bumper sticker thatâ€™s on my car.
Hmmmmâ€¦. Very fortuitous. Maybe there are no coincidences after all?
I believe in this President, like no other before. I believe in what heâ€™s trying to do. I believe in health care reform and Iâ€™m willing to fight for it. I believe we ARE our brotherâ€™s and sisterâ€™s keeper. I believe that what happens to the least among us IS important. I believe that food, shelter, clothing, education, and access to health care is a fundamental human right. No person should go hungry or homeless or be left to die because they donâ€™t have the money to pay. To not make a way â€" especially in the richest nation on the planet — for people not to die in the streets or be crippled by bankruptcy for the sake of their lives, is frankly barbaric to me. I never dreamed in my wildest imagination that Iâ€™d get a chance to stand up somewhere and say that on behalf of so many whose voices have not been heard. And to do so before the person we elected to make a differenceâ€¦ there are simply no words. I am humbled and grateful, and completely blown away. I say a prayer for President Obama and his entire family.
THANK YOU ALL for the wonderful words of encouragement, support, well wishes, and for allowing me to share this story and this fantastic journey with you!
Much love and a BIG PHILLY HUG, Leslie!
May we ALL stay in the Light!
February 5, 2010
Hi good people… below I cut and pasted in an announcement from the following University event that will be happening later this month. If you are in the Nashville area, come on and check us out. But in the meanwhile, for those in the northeast–stay safe and warm during this pending blizzard!
Stay in the Light!
Fisk Univeristy's Academic Success Center and Office of Career Services, in partnership with Vanderbilt University's Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center Presents New York Time's Best Selling Author L.A. Banks Thursday February 18 and 19, 2010.
On Thursday February 18, 2010 Ms. Banks is the featured guest on a panel entitled "Black Sexuality" co-hosted by Vanderbilt University's Black Student Association (BSA). Later that evening, the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center will host a reading and book signing of Ms. Banks award winning novels.
On Friday February 19, 2010 Ms. Banks will host a writer's workshop on the campus of Fisk University and will also do a book signing and reading. She will then be joined by Kemetic Yoga Master Yirser Ra Hotep, Melanin Scholar T. Owens Moore and Pranic Healing and Qi Gong Master and author of Ancient Future Wayne B. Chandler for a series of lectures and a panel discussion in Fisk University's Appleton Room located in Jubilee Hall. This starts off a Wellness Weekend of Free and Open to the Public Yoga and Qi Gong workshops sponsored by the Fisk-Meharry HBCU Wellness Program.
For more information on these events, please contact Dr. Jeff Menzise at 615-329-1389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.