Words & Banter

RED & BLACK … The Sound Of Freedom

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I still can't get over that LinkedIn post that you sent me about Louis Armstrong. I almost put it on my pile of things to "read later" as I'm not a huge fan of jazz, although I loved him in the movie "High Society" with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.


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I figured the subject line, "Connect these dots … Louis Armstrong," would pique your interest.


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Well, it did. Although when I first started reading it, I couldn't figure out what a Jewish family who immigrated from Lithuania had to do with one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.


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Hence the subject line. It is one thing to hire a young black boy to do odd jobs for your business, but that is very different from treating him as if he was your own child, making sure he was well-fed, and treating him with kindness and respect.


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Just think about that. Today, a white family caring for a black child may be more common, but that was back in the early 1900s. It must have been almost unheard of and a brave thing to do.


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And that was on top of any discrimination the Karnofskys may have been experiencing for being Jewish. But they, of all people, would understand the importance of feeling "free" of the prejudice and stereotypes that prevent you from reaching your full potential.


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I think for anyone to feel truly loved, nurtured, and accepted is a gift, but in those days, it must have felt like a miracle.


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Is it a "gift" or should it be a "right"? Regardless, as if that was not enough, they also introduced Armstrong to music. Not only teaching him Russian and Jewish songs, but helping him buy his first musical instrument.


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It sounds like his life, when he was with them, was filled not only with love, but the power of music. I can't help but wonder if he'd have become one of the greatest musicians and composers with such a unique style and sound (both with his voice and his trumpet), if not for the Karnofskys.


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There is no way to know, but their impact on his life was significant enough that for years Armstrong would wear a Star of David around his neck to remind him of their kindness.


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But even if he hadn't "become" Louis Armstrong, I'd still like to believe he'd have had a better life because of them. I'm sure there are many other stories like his, we just don't know about them.


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I am surprised you did not mention Michael Oher and the movie "The Blind Side," especially since we are a storytelling society, and once you hear these stories, it is hard to forget them.


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No kidding. I've always known that sometimes very simple things can make a huge difference in another person's life, but I never really thought about the power of giving someone the "freedom" to be something more.


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Freedom is often taken for granted by those that have it, while prized and fought for by those who do not. But, I am not sure that you can just "give" someone true freedom, as I do not think you are talking about civil rights issues.


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I'm not talking literally. I'm talking in terms of confidence, of opportunities, of not feeling restrained by stereotypes or misconceptions. I think, and I never realized it before reading about Louis Armstrong, how by being appreciated and respected for who you are and given opportunities that others might take for granted – your life can become something truly wonderful. And very different from what it might have been.


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Yes, it can. Now, imagine if everyone had the right to pursue their potential. But, was that not what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they drafted the Declaration of Independence? When they wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."


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It's funny. I was going to ask you what you thought we should talk about for our July column, as we always try to tie it to Independence Day. But I guess this fascinating story about Louis Armstrong couldn't be more perfect.


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Not to mention, he celebrated July 4th as his birthday.


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Seriously?!


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Yes, although after his death, it was discovered that his actual birthday was August 4.


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Do you think it was intentional, or did he genuinely believe he was born on July 4th?


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Or, maybe it was his way of celebrating his independence.

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When we reread the post we did two years ago (see below), we felt it was worth repeating … as even though mental health’s being discussed more, too many people still don’t want to talk about their situations because they feel ashamed and/or they don’t know “Where To Start – Mental Health In A Changing World” (the theme of this May’s Mental Health Awareness Month) or who to contact. (Remember, there’s a 988 lifeline.)

Millions of Americans face mental health issues each year, and it’s important to remember that no one has to face it alone.





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I’ve only recently started listening to country music, mainly because that’s what Sawyer’s always listening to, but I already knew of the mother-daughter duo, The Judds .


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Hard not to, as it was the most successful female duo.


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What’s hard to believe is that the day before her and Wynonna’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame , Naomi committed suicide. As a mother, your instinct is to put your children first, so that shows the overwhelming depth of the depression she was battling.


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I am sure people questioned how someone who appeared to have everything, and was about to be awarded one of her industry’s highest honors, could feel so bad about herself or her life to want to end it.
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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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As you know, I love history, but I appreciate many people don’t.


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I am one of those people, so not sure where you are going with this.


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Exactly. So, when you first wanted to talk to me about the history of credit cards, I should have known something was up.


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Or, at least been curious.


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How was I supposed to know it would make a difference in my life?


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Why else would I want to give you a “history lesson”?
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Photo by mevans on iStock
Let’s be very clear. Autism has no correlation with intelligence; it’s a developmental disability (or what Black refers to as “DIFF-abilities”). And it’s a spectrum disorder, which means each autistic person has their unique mix of abilities, challenges, and ways of seeing the world (can’t that be said of all of us?!) So, as we celebrate World Autism Acceptance Week, remember it’s more than just awareness – it’s about acceptance.

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Did you know that April's Autism Awareness Month? I wasn't aware (pun intended) of it until I read our local homeowner's monthly newsletter and it caught my eye.


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Actually, last month the founding organization, the Autism Society, changed "Awareness" to "Acceptance" to foster inclusivity, as knowing about something is very different from accepting it. But I am guessing that is not the point of this call.


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Although it isn't autism, it reminded me of years ago when we found out that Natasha has learning disabilities.


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I think you mean DIFF-abilities.


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Of course, that's another thing I remember. I was focused on the negative aspects of her diagnosis until you asked me, point-blank, "Why are they called disabilities?" And proceeded to explain that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.


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Exactly! Imagine the world if everyone excelled at math, but flunked English. Or, a world of lawyers, but no musicians. Some people are better at social skills, while others excel at handling technical data. Why not just say that people who have different skillsets and abilities have DIFF-abilities versus making them feel like they have shortcomings?
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