Gospel star Byron Cage ready to add reality TV to his plate

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ByronCageBy DERON SNYDER

It was almost 9 p.m. and Byron Cage was exhausted after serving as the Men’s Day guest psalmist at First Baptist Church of Glenarden’s evening service. He had served at the three morning services, too, and was operating on very little sleep.

“I went to bed at 10 [p.m.] and woke up around one o’clock” says Cage, who needed a guest host for his local Sunday afternoon show on Praise 104.1 FM. “I was so wired about doing ministry today. I like to be sensitive and remain in the spirit, all that kind of stuff.”

Dubbed the “Prince of Praise” by Reverend Dr. Jo Ann Browning, the co-pastor at Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Md., Cage and the Men’s Day Chorus treated worshipers to a “well-balanced diet” of music ministry. That was only fitting, considering his success at producing traditional gospel, contemporary gospel, anthems and praise & worship songs.

“I think it’s because I love music and all areas of gospel music, in particular,” he says. “When (FBCG) asked me to direct and prepare the music, I strategically put it together so it wasn’t just one thing, like all quartet or all praise & worship.

“It was a soul food meal, if you will. It had chicken, ham, collard greens, mashed potatoes, dressing, candied yams and sweet tea lemonade. Anybody who wanted something to eat could pull from that plate and that’s what I was trying to do.”

Cage has been doing it since the mid-90s when he and his group, Purpose, released “Dwell Among Us” and “Transparent in Your Presence.” During that time he became minister of praise & worship for Bishop Paul S. Morton and sang lead with the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship Mass Choir on a pair of smash hits, “Shabach” and “Yet Praise Him.”

But a not-so-funny thing happened en route to Cage winning multiple Stellar Awards and a Grammy nomination. After his contract with Atlanta International Records ended, he didn’t record anything else for the next seven years. “I really want to say I was in the desert.”

Potential deals arose but they didn’t make sense spiritually or business-wise. He served as minister of music at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta and later moved to Washington to fill the same position at Ebenezer (where he’s in his 16th year of service). It still was a few years before he recorded “Byron Cage: Live at New Birth Cathedral,” which earned Stellars 2004’s top Male Vocalist, Producer, CD, Contemporary CD and Song (“The Presence of the Lord is Here”).

Regarding the long gap in his career, Cage says “there may have been frustrating days, but there were never doubtful days. I was faithful and just kept quoting Scriptures in my life, saying ‘I don’t know when, but He’s going to turn it around. When ‘Presence of the Lord’ came out, everybody jumped on because they knew I wasn’t a novice or some new person coming along.

“But they also had seen me serve. They saw me be faithful and support everybody else who was hot during that time. I was still going to the concerts and buying CDs. I was still inviting them to New Birth or Ebenezer and funding them to come. So I was always supportive and I think that’s why the Lord honored me.”

More honor was bestowed at the Stellar Awards in January when he was signed by the Inspired People Music label, which is distributed through Motown Gospel. He has begun work on his next album, which is being produced by FBCG’s music/band director Daniel Weatherspoon.

In addition to that project, Cage has been developing TV shows for three years and expects one to air soon. He says rumors that he was leaving gospel music altogether were false. “People thought I was resigning from being minister of music to be in reality TV, and that’s not the truth,” he says. “I create reality shows. Not all of them are faith-based. Although they all have a faith-based answer in the show, it’s not necessarily Christian TV.

“I just believe in becoming all things to all people so we can win them and be the light – even if we go into a dark place. The first show will come out in 2014 and the others won’t be until 2015.”

Meanwhile, Cage will continue to ride his Harley and play as much golf as possible – his two main forms of relaxation. And he’ll continue to make music that aims to “glorify God and point the listener to Christ.”

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Howard University defeats Morgan State for 2014 HBCU Lacrosse title

hulaxchampBy RICK PERRY

ATLANTA – The 2014 HBCU Lacrosse National Tournament was held April 6 at Morehouse College. The four-game tournament was for this year’s bragging rights among the nation’s four Historically Black Colleges & Universities that field men’s club lacrosse programs.

In the championship match, Howard University rallied to defeat Morgan State University, 6-5. The Bison trailed, 4-2, at halftime but tightened their defense after the break. The second half featured rain and a field with scattered puddles full of pollen, which made for challenging, yet exciting, lacrosse.

The Bears fought hard and won most of the ground balls due to the Bison’s multiple passes that were missed or dropped. But Howard was relentless in its position defense and played with confidence in its offensive sets, producing four second-goals to dethrone the 2013 HBCU national champions.

HUlax2The rivalries at B.T. Harvey Stadium was so thick and the competition so fierce, fans might have thought teams wouldn’t shake hands afterward. But the handshakes took place, as did the traditional photo featuring the teams that had just battled.

The tournament began with Howard taking on Morehouse. Hard hitting resulted in several game stoppages due to injury and a bench-clearing “almost brawl.” With high energy brewed from early-season trash talk and tempers flaring throughout the contest, offensive technical prowess was at a minimum, but the physicality of lacrosse was pushed to the limit.

There were several ties until Bison captain Chris Ard ripped a bounce shot with about 90 seconds remaining to give Howard a 7-6 victory.

In the other semifinal, Morgan State jumped to an early lead against Hampton University and cruised to a 12-4 win.

Hampton beat Morehouse in the third-place game, 8-6.

‘Professional’ volunteer’s passion has new target – his church

JahiDavisBy DERON SNYDER

Making money quickly became second nature to Jahi Davis, when he started his first business as a 12-year-old. He trained for a year, borrowed funds from a cousin, bought some supplies and soon was pulling in $1,500 per week as a barber. “Money was not an issue,” he says.

But a near-fatal car accident changed his outlook on life as high school graduation neared. Davis was in critical condition for a month, suffering from a broken jaw, cracked back, collapsed lung and multiple cuts on his face. That brush with death caused him to re-evaluate his life’s trajectory. “It was like, ‘God kept me on this earth for something,’” he says.

He found his purpose in serving and giving back, through volunteer and non-profit organizations. Davis won a national service award – presented by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush – for his work with AmeriCorps in 1997. In 2010, a volunteer program he created for a nonprofit in D.C. became the national model for Operation Hope.

Now he’s turning his attention to another pressing need, assisting First Baptist Church of Glenarden in launching its Volunteer Ministry. Davis wasn’t looking for a leadership position when he responded to an announcement in the bulletin last summer. He just wanted an opportunity to “stop being a leech” and start giving back at his church.The new ministry was perfect.

“I was one of those people with a lot of different interests, but a work schedule that’s so combustible I really didn’t have time to give to the church in a meaningful way,” says Davis, who has 17 years of experience with nonprofits. “Short-term assignments sounded good to me, whatever was needed. I was really hoping to have various assignments throughout the year that I can jump in and jump out.”

Elder William Jones, who’s spearheading the ministry, had a different idea when he looked at Davis’ email. “I said, ‘This guy should be running this thing.’ That’s what he’s been doing. I feel like God sent him my way at the right time. Even when I started, I didn’t intend to be the head forever.”

Unlike FBCG’s other 100-plus ministries, the Volunteer Ministry was created to serve the church’s business operations staff. “It’s really put in place to help the people who work at First Baptist,” Elder Jones says. “It’s not about going out to nursing homes and things like that, but to assist those people who run things at the church. It keeps us from having to hire all the time.”

He says more than 80 members responded by year’s end. Many saw the ministry as a way to give of their skills and time and not be tied down with attending regular meetings, rehearsals, etc. Volunteers are entered into a database based on their skill sets. When a FBCG manager or department head has a need, the database is screened for possible matches.  Assignments or specific and short-term, after which volunteers go back into the database.

Elder Jones said the Ministry Support department accounted for 20 percent of the referrals in December and Reverend Annie Darden, the department head, raved about the difference volunteers made. Elder Jones said such success stories will help encourage other departments that have been slower to utilize the Volunteer Ministry.

Another concern is the number of men who volunteer, only eight through December. Elder Jones believes Davis can help in that area.

“We always have more women volunteers then men, but men play a significant role,” Davis says. “You have to be strategic with men. In my former organization, once they got involved and we had specific roles for them, they were involved. We have to do the same thing at church.”

Davis believes he has found a home with the Volunteer Ministry and others can use it to “engage, get off the bench and really just give generously, whether in church or outside the church.

Just use the opportunity while you have it,” he says.

Howard University Bison Express has a mystery man

From left, Bison Express chairman Bruce Williams, H.U. athletic director Louis “Skip” Perkins and Bison Express vice chairman Thomas Payne.

From left, Bison Express chairman Bruce Williams, H.U. athletic director Louis “Skip” Perkins and Bison Express vice chairman Thomas Payne.

By HOWARD MANN

Howard University athletics director Louis “Skip” Perkins was at work one day, minding his own business, when a Bison Express member stopped by. Perkins is hoping that many more visitors bring such good tidings to his office.

Shortly after the welcome interruption, $25,000 was added to the budget. Perkins, Bison Express chairman Bruce Williams and vice chairman Thomas Payne took a picture with “the check” on Feb. 1, as North Carolina Central visited Burr Gymnasium for men’s and women’s basketball games.

“This came from a tremendous donor who wants to remain anonymous and totally help the athletic department,” Perkins said. “It’s just someone who genuinely cares about the athletic program and wants to see us succeed. He knew we had some facility issues and things like that. We’re very grateful.”

Perkins said it marked the largest single donation from an individual during his tenure, which began in January 2011. Twenty-five grand is a lot of money, even with the acknowledgement that dollar amounts are relative.

At the Charter Day gala on March 8, the university announced a $4.9 million gift from the trust of Dr. Richard “Frank” Jones, who received his bachelor’s from Howard in 1919 and his M.D. in 1922.  Another seven-figure donation came from Radio One CEO Alfred C. Liggins, who gave $4 million to the School of Communications in honor of his mother, Radio One chairwoman/founder and Howard alum Cathy Hughes.

Those gifts were the lion’s share of more than $10 million raised as Howard celebrated its 147th anniversary. But Perkins doesn’t want folks to focus on the number of zeroes on a check.

“It doesn’t matter if someone is writing a check for $250, $100 or $2,500 dollars,” he said. “Every bit counts. As athletic departments, we all operate at a deficit. Only 11 schools in the country don’t. We have so many different needs – from facilities and scholarships to books and equipment. It all helps and it all counts. We appreciate anyone who reaches out to help us.”

The challenges facing HBCUs, in general, and Howard, in particular, have received a lot of attention over the last several months. Alumni giving – or lack thereof – comes up often in such discussions. “I Love Howard,” a grassroots effort, began recently with the modest goal of raising $20,000 for the university’s endowment.

Perkins said the instinct to give has to be instilled before students become alumni.

“We have to train our young people once they come to HBCUs as freshmen,” he said. “They have to know we’re going to need their support once they walk out these doors in four or five years. We have to educate them and help them understand how important it is.

“The best part is they can give anywhere because we need help in all areas. Whether it’s an academic major, athletics, the library – there’s no donation we can’t accept. It can be in-kind, cash, estate, will, whatever. We just can’t wait until they graduate and they’re gone 10 years and ask them to write a check. We have to find ways to keep them connected and embrace them at all times.”

The mysterious Bison Express donor insisted on remaining anonymous and Perkins assured him that would be the case. The gift wasn’t earmarked. Perkins said it probably will go toward the athletics department’s academic center and weight room, “which we’d like to have done before the end of this fiscal year.”

Whatever the goal, Perkins’ department was $25,000 closer after his special visitor that day.

Anthony Brown & group therAPy have ‘Testimony’ for the ages

Anthony Brown & group therAPy rehearsing for the Stellar Awards in January.

Anthony Brown & group therAPy rehearsing for the Stellar Awards in January.

By DERON SNYDER

Anthony Brown has a vivid memory of  singing in his parents’ church when he was 5 years old. Wearing a blazer, short pants and knee-high socks, he stood on a chair alongside his brother. That’s when he began watching the Stellar Awards, being blown away by the gospel artists he loved so much.

Fast forward to January 2014. Many of those same artists were blown away as Anthony Brown & group therAPy performed Testimony, their smash hit that was Billboard’s No. 1 gospel song in 2013. Onlookers would be shocked to learn that he created the choreography and re-arranged the song just days earlier.

“I spent two months trying to figure out what I was going to do, says Brown, who won Stellars for Contemporary Male Artist as well as Group/Duo of the Year. “Meanwhile, I had the Christmas play at church and I couldn’t focus. The producers kept calling and asking what I was going to do. I didn’t have a clue.”

But God showed up and showed out, which was the case throughout an incredible 2013 for Brown. The showers of blessings actually started in October 2012, when he got a call to join Mary Mary’s “Go Get It” tour. “From that moment on it’s been a mind-blowing experience,” says Brown, whose performances also included BET’s “Celebration of Gospel,” the Essence Music Festival and TBN’s “Praise the Lord” show. “The Bible says your gift will make room for you and bring you before great men. That’s exactly what I saw happen in my life.”

With calls coming in virtually every weekend with inviations to minister here and there, he couldn’t meet the demand. “I even got a call from BET’s ‘Sunday Best’ and had to turn it down because I was already engaged somewhere else.”

Brown got a chance to see how far his music extended – and how big God is – when he was nominated for a Dove Award. Those awards focus predominantly on contemporary Christian music, a field that doesn’t feature many African Americans. Attending that awards show in October 2013 helped open his eyes wider.

“If your only experience is the black church, you’re only getting a sliver of God’s influence,” Brown says. “I was rubbing elbows and talking to Pastor Rick Warren and other CCM artists, big names who sell out auditoriums and stadiums singing about Jesus Christ.

“It just gave me a reference point for how big and broad God is. We want to make this music thing so people from every race and every style can learn about who God is and be encouraged by this music,” he says.

Anthony Brown StellarphotoPlenty of folks were encouraged by Testimony, which Brown jokingly calls “the song that wouldn’t die.” Released in May 2012, it spent the vast majority of 2013 in the Top 10. “Artists wait a lifetime to get a song that lives like that,” Brown says. “You certainly don’t expect it on your first effort.”

Brown would love some airplay for a few other songs on the group’s self-titled album. He wanted to perform a different song for the Stellars, but the producers insisted. Instead of moving on to one of the other 11 songs on the project, radio stations have asked for the Stellars’ re-mix version. “They will not let Testimony go,” he says.

He understands there are no guarantees in the recording industry. Artists put out projects all the time and most enjoy limited exposure – at best. Brown knew he had a tremendous support system in First Baptist Church of Glenarden (Md.) – where he serves as Assistant Minister of Music – and Pastor John K. Jenkins Sr. But Brown had no idea of the incredible blessings ahead.

“When I saw this music reaching out to people I don’t know, that’s when I was aware of God’s presence with that project,” he says. “God’s  wind was on that. It was nothing that I could do on my own. I’m aware of His presence and I’m really grateful for it.”

It’s true: We don’t live on bread alone

danielfastBy DERON SNYDER

As part of a men’s discipleship class at my church, I embarked on a 21-day Daniel Fast last month. It was an incredible experience for me and – judging by their testimonies – my fellow Brothers In Discipleship  brothers.

My previous experiences with fasting were mostly along the lines of not eating prior to 6 p.m. As I listened to brothers who had done the Daniel Fast and I read handouts on it, doubts arose in my mind. I was uncertain about my ability to complete it in the manner I heard others describe.

My facilitator and assistant facilitator told our class what an amazing 21 days it would. They said we wouldn’t believe how good we felt, how much energy we had or how clear our minds would seem. They said there’d be some tough moments but, overall, we’d complete the fast with relative ease as long as we increased our time with God through prayer, studying His Word and meditation.

That sounded great. But in my mind I was thinking, “Yeah, right. They’re just trying to pump us up.” I decided from the start that I wouldn’t participate fully with the “no meats, no sweets, no TV” gameplan. I cut out all TV except the NFL playoffs. (To balance it out, I gave up listening to any music, news or talk shows while driving, no small sacrifice in itself.)

Three weeks later, I couldn’t believe what had happened.

Shawn and Darryl were absolutely correct in their prediction. I sustained myself on fruits, vegetables and nuts and it was OK! Even more amazing, I didn’t feel famished or weak. I felt strong and sharp. I read more, prayed more and meditated more. I replaced physical nourishment with spiritual nourishment and kept it moving!

I don’t want to say it was easy, but it felt easy. I kept thinking that wouldn’t last. I thought the level of difficulty would ramp up sooner or later, and I’d be a miserable, dragging, starving child of God. I was expecting it to grow more challenging as it went on and, frankly, I was surprised that it didn’t.

Maybe it was the novelty of it and it’ll be more of a test in years to come. Maybe one year I’ll have a freak-out moment about halfway through the fast – like Shawn shared with us – and feel like I can’t go on without eating “real” food. Maybe I’ll slip up.

But like the Scriptures, there’s enough to concern myself with today without looking ahead for possible concerns tomorrow!

Going through the fast reminded me that God is in control and, through Him, I have more control than I think. It was a wonderful, awesome, encouraging, inspiring and instructive experience. As an added bonus, I lost 15 pounds. Praise be to God!

Wilson’s links to HBCUs, Black history fuel his confidence

RussellWilsonBy HOWARD MANN

Unlike the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson didn’t post eye-popping stats in his triumph.

Washington’s Doug Williams threw for four touchdown and a Super Bowl-record 340 yards when he led his team past John Elway’s Denver Broncos. Wilson’s numbers were much more modest Sunday night – two touchdowns and 340 yards – in leading his team past Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.

Williams is part of HBCU football royalty, a former Grambling State star who played for legendary coach Eddie Robinson. Wilson played his college ball at North Carolina State and Wisconsin.

But he has strong ties to HBCUs beneath the surface.

Wilson’s grandfather Harrison B. Wilson graduated from Kentucky State, was a highly-successful basketball coach at Jackson State and later became president of Norfolk State. Russell’s grandmother Dr. Lucy Wilson graduated from South Carolina State.

A great-great grandmother, Elizabeth “Bettie” Price Ayers, graduated from Wilberforce University in 1901. An aunt, April Woodard, is a professor at Hampton University.

His connection to the past wasn’t lost after the game.

“It’s something I think about, to be the second African-American to win the Super Bowl,” he said. “That’s history right there, man. It’s something special and it’s real.”

Wilson’s father died of complications from diabetes in 2010. But the belief he instilled in his son lives on, which helps explain how a 5-foot-11 quarterback can win the Super Bowl in his second NFL season.

“He always used to tap me and say, ‘Russ, why not you? Why not us.’”

That’s the question, indeed.

Whether we’re products of HBCUs, PWCUs or no CUs…

Why not us?

Competing, not complaining, is best option for HBCU football

Kadeem Edwards

Kadeem Edwards

By HOWARD MANN

There’s no denying that African Americans have come a long way since the days of Jim Crow. There’s also no doubt that integration helped lead to the gradual weakening of once-burgeoning black businesses and institutions.

Take HBCU football, for instance. The game used to bethe main attraction, with talents such as Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State),  Bob Hayes (FAMU), Walter Payton (Jackson State), Willie Lanier (Morgan State), etc. But nowadays, the vast majority of NFL-caliber prospects go elsewhere for college ball, leaving HBCUs better known for bands and halftime rather than stars and highlights.

“The HBCU halftime is part of the culture, and I love the bands,” Tennessee State’s Kadeem Edwards told Aljazeera America. “It fills me with pride. But, man, the football is more important to me. I don’t want the people to leave the game before the third quarter. Stay and watch us.”

Edwards was the only HBCU player selected for the 2014 Senior Bowl. He believes that HBCU football “is slowly dying” with diminishing crowds and fewer impactful recruits. South Carolina State safety Christian Thompson was the only HBCU player drafted in 2012 and only two HBCU players were drafted last year; as recently as 1996, 17 were drafted.

Former Arizona Cardinals star Aeneas Williams, who played at Southern, said mid-major schools and up-and-coming FBS schools have dented the influx as much as traditional powerhouses such as Alabama, Texas, Florida State, etc. He said HBCUs need to do a better job of marketing and promoting their legacy (while also upgrading their facilities).

“We need to be blowing the horns for our players who have the skill set to play at the next level,” he said. “Football can be the eyes for people to see into your university.”

Clearly, there’s no going back to the glory days, but there’s no reason HBCU football can’t be a quality product.

A number of players will continue to transfer from FCS schools, for a variety of reasons. And while former Tennessee State cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – who will line up for Denver in the Super Bowl – is the only first-round draft pick in the NFL, other HBCU players have reached the league via the undrafted free agent route.

It’s understandable that Edwards is frustrated by fans who barely pay attention during the game and leave after halftime. But continuing to compete is the best way to change that behavior.

Complaining isn’t the answer.

Another one getting it done off the field

RayAndersonBy HOWARD MANN

The overwhelming majority of student-athletes at Howard and other HBCUs – just like the preponderance of their peers at predominantly white colleges and universities – will never cash a single paycheck for playing sports.

That’s why it’s vitally important to offer them a quality education and encourage them to take their academics as seriously as their athletics. They just might end up in a state legislature and broadcast booth, like former Howard quarterback Jay Walker.

Or they could work their way through the business side of sports. They could go from law school to a sports agency to an NFL team to NFL headquarters, before being picked to run a FBS athletic program.

Like former Stanford athlete Ray Anderson.

Currently completing his eighth season as the NFL’s executive vice president of football operation, Anderson will start his new gig – Arizona State’s vice president for athletics – after the Super Bowl. He joins a very short list.

According to the most recent report from The Insitute for Diversity & Ethics in Sport, of the 120 athletic directors at FBS schools, only nine were African-American as October 2012.

Unlike the others, Anderson doesn’t have any prior experience as an administrator at the collegiate level. But Arizona State president Michael Crow had a ready explanation for the hire during Anderson’s introductory press conference on Jan. 9.

“I have no doubt Ray can be a significant contributor to whatever we need to do to advance whatever resouces we need to move Sun Devil athletics forward,” Crow said. “Here we have a person that has demonstrated that he can learn, adapt, solve problems and move forward in any circumstances he encounters.”

That could be a motto for our Howard students, athletes and non-athletes alike:

“Learn, adapt, solve and advance – regardless.”

Being colorblind is no way to live

By DERON SNYDER

We’re accustomed to hearing racists and bigots argue that black folks need to get over the issue of skin color. But a lot of well-intentioned liberals suggest the same thing, too, kind-hearted individuals who say they forget sometimes that President Obama is black – and that’s meant as a compliment!

Unfortunately, both groups have misconstrued a portion of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which is shame as we celebrate his birthday once again.

King never said a word about anyone’s eyesight. So why do people insist we must lose our vision to achieve his dream?

I’m talking about the poor, misguided souls who believe that “colorblind” is the ultimate goal, the litmus test for our nation finally overcoming its contentious racial history. I’m talking about the folks who sniff, “I don’t see color,” as if that’s a sign of moral superiority.

Actually, it’s a sign of total denial.

King’s message has been co-opted and contorted by those who won’t acknowledge that white privilege exists, or won’t acknowledge the role it played – and continues to play – in current conditions. If they can ignore the visual differences between light and dark skin, it’s easier to ignore the socioeconomic differences (and political consequences).

Some folks honestly and naively believe they’re subscribing to King’s principles, pointing to a part of the speech where King dreamed “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I absolutely, positively agree: Skin color should never be a basis for judgment. So let justice be blind.

The rest of us have no good reason to forsake the blessing of sight. Being “colorblind” is absurd, as fanciful as suggesting we can be “heightblind” or “weightblind.” It’s as realistic as noticing no distinctions between blondes and brunettes, or perms and dreadlocks.

There’s a huge difference between acknowledging that people (gasp!) come in different colors, and determining the treatment of people based on color.

Noting the obvious doesn’t constitute a character flaw. When you’re trying to describe someone or help a friend realize who you’re talking about, it’s fine to say, “Well, she’s kind of tall,” or “He’s kind of chubby.” No one has a problem with you using those characteristics in a description. “But you offend the colorblind camp’s sensibilities if a description includes, “He’s dark-skinned,” or “She’s white.”  In their warped sense, it’s like you’re passing judgment.

And that’s the genesis of the problem, the historical assignment of values to skin color. As the old saying goes, “Light is alright; brown can stick around; black can get back.” A preponderance of research shows that pigmentation variations lead to dissimilar treatment – often subconsciously – both from outside and within ethnic groups.  It might be your initial response to flashing pictures of light and dark faces. Or little black girls favoring white dolls. Or black and white candidates, with identical credentials, receiving opposite results at the bank, the rental office or the job interview.

Ignoring blatant differences in melanin isn’t the solution. We can revel in our colors without ranking them. If we couldn’t enjoy the splendor of rainbows or the spectrum of roses, life wouldn’t be as sweet. Likewise, if we can’t enjoy the beautiful variety of our skin colors, shades and hues, our picture is cut short. We’d be deprived, unable to savor the range of complexions from Halle Berry and Serena Williams to Angelina Jolie and Cicely Tyson. From Soledad O’Brien and Oprah Winfrey to Michelle Obama and Gwen Ifill. (Women, substitute males of your choice).

No one needs to be colorblind. We can enjoy people for who they are and see them for who they are – without letting color impact our perceptions or limit their possibilities. I’m positive that’s what King meant. I’m certain he would agree with his lieutenant Jesse Jackson, who said at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, “Our nation is a rainbow – red, yellow, brown, black and white – and we’re all precious in God’s sight.”

You don’t deny the existence of something precious, something that’s a gift from God. You celebrate it. That’s what Carter G. Woodson did when he instituted “Negro History Week” in 1926, to compensate for glaring omissions – kind of like “black holes” – in textbooks and social consciousness. The relevancy and importance is no less today, two generations removed from the Civil Rights Act.

So to all the well-meaning “colorblind” folks out there: Take off the blinders! It’s not like they actually work.

And we should be glad that they don’t.