Saturday, December 20, 2008

Career in Crisis: Career Confusion

ed phoning home ouch
May 18, 2003

now would not be the best time to mention my senior thesis-- or my grad school major, or the fact that i spent the better part life as a volunteer and advocate for children at-risk.. working to give them hope and a second chance at life.

systematically invalidating such bogus, barnum-type feedback that one typically gets from a MBTI type of personality test that is given during high school or in college. i won’t bother to mention the standardization of SAT scores to help our country feel better-- or the fact that the stanford-binet was created for military issue only.

who gives a shit anymore??? if you told a me a fat bearded lady at the circus could decide my fate and tell me what direction i should choose next-- i’d take it! and throw in a fat tip for being smart enough to know that any answer-- no matter how grim, is far better than just wandering aimlessly through life looking back on what might have been-- at THIRTY! AT THIRTY!!!!

after receiving five letters of rejection from jobs that require nothing more than a GED or a high school diploma, i decided to go to the tennessee career center hoping to find a job that will allow me to afford the most basic necessities of life. toothpaste, toilet paper, cat food... i got hooked up with a counselor that afternoon. he has two masters degrees-- one in educational career counseling, and a second in counseling psychology. could this be the guidance counselor i have been asking for since.. well... since... i was old enough to know was in need of guidance?

surely someone else must have recognized i was in need of guidance, but god knows my parents weren't paying attention, and having good genes just doesn't cut it these days. but now more than ever, i realize that having all the smarts in the world won't get you anywhere if you never learned how to apply them.

i am the exact same five year old who needed to win the spelling bee. in college, i was the one to set the curve, not just make it. the one to break the rules, and, break them i did, but there is no glory in being second best, second smartest, second brightest, or second anything.

i wish i could say that after all this time i developed other ego strengths and finally felt okay with who i am, you know.... “just being me,” but i am sad to report that my “condition” (diagnosis) was amazingly accurate and predictable. just like all the doctors said! i wonder if they derive joy out of being right-- if they crack open a bottle of aged liquor in my fathers office and say, “see, we told you so. we told you their was nothing you could do." and so nothing they did.

and by doing nothing, and i do mean nothing-- the illness will just take will its course. and i am now, in fact, nothing. nothing costs nothing (at least to them) and daddy made another fine investment. on the other hand, nothing has drained every hope, fear, security-- every chance-- and every last breath from my body. i might have believed in me. but i know i’m alive because a tear just rolled down the side of my cheek. i am home.

but i still haven’t learned. for some reason with all of my failures i am reminded of in so many ways... me, myself, as i watch them play out every time i shut my eyes or open them. yes- blink.

sometimes i ask myself, how did i get here? how did this happen? what happened to all of the plans i made for myself? where did they go? where did I go? constantly replayed over and over and over again in my mind. i must be FUCK1NG CRAZY!

but at this moment, here, even as i say the words, i am not truly insane, i am merely in pain. what a tragedy that those two words rhyme-- they ruin what could have been a very profound misnomer of the human condition and the labels we hold so dear.

i am the exact same 5 year old who needed to ACE the spelling bee, set the curve, not just make it; break the rules, and, break them i did. there is no glory in being second best. second smartest, second brightest, or second anything. being second sucks. it sucks every god-damned second of the day.

and so my search for mediocrity continues and i wait for it each and every day hoping it will find me beaten and worn from the storm. all of the storms, but dammit, its still there. i still have questions those damn elyssa questions that made all my professors so proud, damn ideas, damn thoughts, damn hope.

my mother still calls me everyday to see if i went to get food stamps to feed myself, fuck her, and her fucking things. fuck diamonds and couture and fuck that life. i was here mom, the whole fucking time. just not pretty enough with out any surgery. not pretty at all, with all those damn scars.

i hope someone out there still loves me. i do actually believe that i deserve love and kindness despite the obvious fact that i am a royal pain in the ass. i refuse to work in burger king. for right now, at least.

so goodnight my dear friends. let's all try to have sweet dreams. pepe awaits, as does alanis, and a pack of smokes that i can already taste.

yes, what could have been, what should have been-- what MIGHT have been if you let me be

"When written in chinese, the word Crisis is composed of tvo characters: One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." -JFK

Friday, December 19, 2008 Obama's Stamp of Approval

The campaign, produced on behalf of, is timed for National Mentoring Month, which has been observed each January since 2002.

Obama's Stamp of Approval, Prepresidential

President-elect Barack Obama will soon be doing something before his inauguration that has long been the province of presidents: appearing in a public service campaign.

Link to the New York Time Article

Celebrating An Historic American Night: HACKING BACK

The Music City USA Barack Obama Presidential Inaugural Ball

Tuesday January 20, 2009


Millennium Maxwell Hotel Ballroom

Rosa Parks Blvd.

Nashville, Tennessee

"Celebrating An Historic American Night"

Formal Attire Please

Proceeds will be donate to nearly 20 community organizations, services, and institutions: Little League Teams, three Nashville High Schools have been selected, several college scholarship awardees, after school academic enrichment tutoring programs, and youth development programs are just a sample of the wonderful Nashville community groups that will recieve much needed donations of 500, 1000 up to 5000 dollar grants from this marvelous charity celebration.

Tax Deductible Invitations go on sale December 15, 2008. The price is $100.00 per person. Live music, dancing, food, cash bar, eight foot television screens tuned to DC, Obama Memorabilia, personal fun photos with President Obama, slide shows, and America's newest hit dance, "The Music City Obama Slide".

Our Special Guest:

"Bob the Builder"

Yes We Can

Change We Need: Mentor A Child

"I am not too proud to beg for a job or take some free advice if it will help me to get from here to there. I need someone, anyone, willing to give me a chance to prove myself. I need someone to invest in me!

I believe I deserve more out of life than this, and I think that if you knew me, you would think so too. Help become the person I was meant to be. Try to the see the person I could become. I have so much to contribute, but few resources get there. All I want is a chance. All I need is a mentor. Will someone please take the time to invest in me?" -Elyssa Durant, December 16, 2008

From my recent publication:

Morally Bankrupt: How Much Am I Worth?
Help me become the person I was meant to be. Try to the see the person I could become. I have so much to contribute, but few resources get there. I believe I deserve more out of life than this, and I think that if you knew me, you would think so too.
View more »



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008


The Music City

USA President Inauguration Day Ball

Tuesday January 20, 2009


Millennium Maxwell House Hotel

Rosa Parks Blvd.

Nashville, Tennessee

On the morning of January 20, 2009 Barack Obama will take the oath of office as America's 44th president.

Listings number hundreds of traditional events in and around the nation's capital in honor of the new president on Inauguration Day.

But outside the overcrowded nation's capitol in Nashville, Tennessee, a "Host Committee of 44" people are supporting The Music City "USA President's Inaugural Day Ball".

The Nashville Inaugural Ball is spearheaded by longtime Nashville pastor, the Reverend Enoch Fuzz. The "Host Committee of 44" consist of some of the community's most notable persons including:

Davidson County Sheriff Darren Hall, Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, Gospel Music Icon Dr. Bobby Jones, Criminal Court Judge Monty Watkins, Award winning newspaper journalist Tim Chavez, Metro Parks Director Roy Wilson, attorney Linda Jones, Metro School Board Members; Karen Johnson and Mark North, acting Schools Director Chris Henson, Metro Council At Large Member Megan Barry, the Reverend Edwin Sanders, Rev. Dr. ray Richardson and former Dean of TSU School of Engineering Dr Ed Isibor.

And some who did not vote for Obama -- but feel it is now in the best interest of our city and nation to work together and hopes for the new president to have success -- include several former Metro Council members, business owners and community volunteers.

Successful Nashville business owner, Carol Jenkins of Priority Hospice and the New Hope Foundation has signed on her company as a major sponsor of the event. Jenkins who served on President Bush's Small Business Advisory Council volunteered her company's support when asked to serve on the Host Committee of 44 saying:

"I feel this is an effective way to create positive opportunities in our community."

The proceeds from the Music City USA President's Inaugural Ball will be donated to twenty one selected nonprofit community organizations and programs. Some of the groups that will recieve $1,000 or more are:

Northwest YMCA, Maplewood HS, Whites Creek HS, the Inner City Boy Scouts, the College Trust Fund, AT&T Community Network Tennessee, the First Response Center, Faith Family Clinic, several little league ball clubs, some academic tutoring programs, job mentoring, and faith based programs are also included.

Ticket Invitations to attend the formal attire event are $100 per person and can be purchased online starting December 22, 2008. Those attending the Music City Ball will dine on awesome Southern food, dance to the music of DJs and live bands, be entertained with stand up comedy acts, and stay abreast of all the official Washington, D.C .,Inaugural Ball activities by way of 10-foot television screens in the grand ballrooms at the elegant Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.

Many at the Nashville Celebration may seem closer to the Obamas than those in D.C. The event organizers estimate that near 200 invitations to the Nashville Ball have been requested as word got out about the event and expects it will be sold out one week after tickets go on sale December 23.

Stay tuned for invitation information.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is Equal Opportunity Just A Myth?

Is Equal Opportunity Just a Myth?
America claims to be dedicated to equal opportunity, yet equality is not sufficient in urban communities. These kids need more. We need to think about equity, not equality. It is not enough to hide them away. These are visions we should never forget.

Link to full text: View more »

In Amazing Grace: The lives of children and the conscience of a nation, Jonathan Kozol paints a vivid picture of the conditions in the poorest sections of New York City. During the early to mid 1990’s, Kozol made several visits to Mott Haven in the South Bronx. As he describes in Amazing Grace, the South Bronx is one of the most severely segregated and poorest Congressional Districts in the United States.

The members of this community have been segregated into a hell plagued with sickness, violence and despair. Kozol argues that this strategic placement serves to isolate the rich from the realities they have thrust upon their fellow man. New Yorkers do not stroll through the streets of Mott Haven, and taxicabs take no short cuts through Beekman Avenue. Many taxicabs will not even venture past East 96th Street. Out of sight is out of mind.

As I was reading Amazing Grace, I remember thinking back to my days living in Manhattan, coincidentally around the same time Kozol conducted his interviews in the South Bronx. I lived in what Kozol refers to as Manhattan’s “Liberal West Side,” an area that was undergoing rapid transformation and gentrification at the time Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took office.

There is no excuse for the conditions in which these people must live. No person should be forced into an apartment that has a higher ratio of cockroaches and rats than human beings.

In 1995, the American Sociological Association (ASA) held its annual conference in New York City. Prior to that meeting, they sent out a fact sheet that may be of interest to ASA members. In this sheet, they too described the same social conditions and asked their members to take note of the changes that occur at 96th Street. I can assure you that the conditions Kozol describes in his book were not exaggerated.

These children are desperately in need of the best schools, yet we give them the worst. They have few libraries, few safe havens, few doctors, and few role models. They have every reason to believe that they are throwaway children and we have certainly not shown them anything else. The social services we have provided are a bureaucratic nightmare. People in need are treated as sub-human, and made to feel ashamed of being poor.

These are among the sickest children in the world. Americans claim to be dedicated to the children and fool ourselves into believing that we are doing them a favor by providing them with medical care, public education, and public housing. Yet, the quality of their neighborhoods speaks volumes of our sentiment and intentions.

Shortly after Amazing Grace was published, managed care rapidly moved onto the New York scene. Around the same time, the Mayor announced he would be closing some of the hospitals that served the poorest of the poor because of financial problems associated with payment and large trauma departments.

Kozol makes the point that people could attempt to gain admissions at a better hospital than Bronx-Lebanon; yet, the privatization of Medicaid has now made this completely impossible. Further restrictions on medical care are inevitable as the result of Medicaid managed care. The law is not designed to protect these people, and this was made obvious in a recent conversation I had with a friend who practices medicine in New York.

My friend John works as a board certified trauma physician at a private hospital on the Upper East Side. The last black patient he treated at Beth Israel was famed rock singer Michael Jackson. I asked him if he ever gets any asthma patients in his ER. He knew immediately of whom I was speaking. “You mean the kids from the South Bronx?” he asked. He told me that they know better than to show up at Beth Israel. “But if they do?” I asked, and he replied, “We ship them back.”

This is the reality. The best doctors treat the wealthiest patients rather than the sickest. Schools educate the best students rather than the neediest. It is no wonder that these children perform poorly in school. By every measure, these children are destined for failure. Their home life is less than enchanting, and they do not benefit from enriched environments and educated parents.

Certainly, there are many dedicated parents who care about their children, but is that enough? When I was in school, children frequently asked the teacher, how will this help later in life. In my class, there was an unequivocal reply, but it could be argued that what children in the South Bronx need to learn couldn’t be taught in the classroom.

There is no doubt that the prevalence of violence in urban neighborhoods affects the ability of children to perform well in school. There is a large body of empirical evidence that demonstrates the effects of chronic stress on memory and the learning process. Rather than taking the children out of these communities, we have constructed prison like buildings for them to attend school. They routinely have gunfire drills reminding them that danger is never far behind.

Children cannot learn in this environment. This constant stress triggers “hot-memory.” Hot memory can be thought of as learning with your heart and not your mind. It is no wonder children perform inadequately in this environment.

It is bad enough that children live in such conditions, must we educate in them too? If we want underprivileged children to learn and grow spiritually, we must create an environment that allows their cool memory systems to take over.

It is only under these conditions that children will permit themselves to learn and develop their intellectual strengths. We have failed to create a safe home environment for urban children, but we can give serious thought to creating a school environment outside of the community so they have fewer fear-driven hours each day.

Studies consistently report lower academic achievement in urban neighborhoods like Mott Haven in the South Bronx. Children growing up in urban neighborhoods have a much higher incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most researchers believe this to be the direct result of living in stressed communities plagued with street crime and violence. The potential impact of chronic stress on academic performance and achievement is not known, but reading scores in neighborhoods like Mott Haven certainly seem to indicate some type of causal relationship. There is virtually no research on looking at the long-term effects of this inflated incidence of PTSD among urban populations. It is important to develop an understanding of the effects of fear on the academic performance of urban adolescents so we can begin to dismantle the myths regarding school performance and minority children.

Under these conditions, it is not surprising to learn that students also report pervasive feelings of fear and do not feel secure despite the added presence of security personnel on school grounds. For these students, school is a mere extension of the violent communities in which they live.

Since urban communities have many different sources of stress, it is important to examine how school policies contribute to the learning environment in public schools. The quick response has been to install weapons detectors and hire school security for urban schools. The presence of school security certainly affects the climate of American public schools by establishing school environments that focus more on student behavior than student achievement. Together, the urban public school and the community it serves are a constant reminder of the poor living conditions and social reality of urban America.

The secured environment is an indication of the roles students are expected to play later in life. This is a lesson they will not soon forget.

Kozol makes it quite clear that there are several exceptional children in this community. There are probably as many exceptional children here as every other community around the country, yet, so few of them will make it out of the South Bronx. Kozol is careful not to dwell on the exceptional cases of children who successfully navigate their way into the main stream of society. Kozol does this so we do not develop a false sense of hope. If we cling to a few exceptional cases, we may come to believe that what we are giving enough to children like Anthony or Anabelle. Clearly, we can do more. Failure should be the exception—not the rule. Success should be the norm, and until it is, we should not give up hope for these children.

America claims to be dedicated to equal opportunity, yet equality is not sufficient in a community like Mott Haven. These kids need more. We need to think about equity, not equality. It is not enough to hide them away. These are visions we should never forget.

Welcome to America. The Wealthiest Nation in the World.

Reference: Amazing Grace: The lives of children and the conscience of a nation. (by Jonathan Kozol)

Link to the assholes who made fortune off this piece...

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Wednesday, December 3, 2008


This business supports Health Care for America Now
This fall marked the beginning of one of the greatest tragedies in American history: Hurricane Katrina. This is further compounded by the potential devastation that awaits New Orleans residents when they return to the unknown losses that await them as Hurricane Gustav looms of the Gulf Coast and inches its way closer and closer to the Louisiana border.

Several years ago, I made an online statement that Nashvillians in need of benefits should apply "before the Louisiana people utilize whatever resources we have left." In retrospect, that statement seems crass and insensitive. Now that several years have passed, I would certainly blame this disgusting war as the main culprit of domestic waste. Unfortunately, I cannot turn back the hands of time, and that statement exists- floating around for all eternity in the magical world of cyberspace. All I can do now is try my best to explain what prompted that statement and hope that those who read my previous piece will also see this retraction.

I would like to take this opportunity to explain what prompted such an apparently callous, insensitive comment and set the record straight.

We live in a country that rallies together when faced with domestic and international crises. We open our hearts, our homes, and our wallets for disaster relief here and overseas. We also live in a world where smaller crises exist everyday albeit poverty, hunger or homelessness. Such domestic problems tend to be chronic in nature and often slip under the radar. The battle lines have been drawn and we lost. We are losing. With every day that passes the casualties grow to astronomical proportions. We failed.

After Katrina, Tennessee residents took in many refugees. The local papers printed countless ads offering shelter, financial assistance, and job opportunities to "Survivors of Katrina." After calling some of these people in response to their apparent act of altruism, I learned that these offers were only applicable to survivors of Katrina and not to local residents. I was angry.

I was angry because in the months before that devastating storm hit the Gulf Coast, there was an urgent call for people to open their homes to the 30,000 children and adolescents in desperate need of foster care. Children without a home. Children without a safety net. Our city did not respond. Our residents did not rise to the occasion and countless children continue to live in uncertain conditions without the necessities they need to thrive in this complicated, fragmented society.

After considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that the media and current policies that allow such unfortunate states of existence are partly to blame, but so too are the American people and the residents of this fine city that I like to think of as home. So why is it that we are so generous in times of urgent need by allowing pervasive states of poverty for our local residents and out children? Are they damaged goods? Are persons in poverty to blame for their circumstances? Are they too week? Are they somehow supposed to magically lift themselves out of the dark and somehow find the path into enlightenment of financial security? Is this the ultimate act of Social Darwinism where survival of the fittest means people who are fit to survive against all odds? Is it just a coincidence that the words indigent and indignant sound so similar?

As Hurricane Gustav approaches, I call upon our local residents to do more than just welcome the fleeing victims to open their hearts and their homes. I challenge each and every one of you to continue this charity after the storm has cleared. Even after the storm in the Gulf has moved past the coast and becomes another chapter in history, there is much to be done right here, right now. Do we accept the indignation of indigence and poverty with indifference? Or do we act?

We can do so much on the home front before our indifference creates a storm of domestic disaster. It is unfortunate for us that people have been too blind, too indifferent, and too complacent they do not even see such a storm brewing. But if you look, and if you listen, it is not hard to see how such a storm is brewing just beyond the horizon.

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.

This business supports Health Care for America Now