Articles submitted by Guest Columnists

Allison Kugel

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Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons and Justine Simmons Part II

    Justine Simmons: My husband also really tried hard to not take things in that direction, like, "No, we're not doing that, because it might start this."

    Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Right, it might bring a wedge between me and my wife. We were very careful with that. I put a little bit into business, but I think I put more into my family than I do into chasing business deals, my ego, and trying to be the top entrepreneur, or the top rapper, or top anything anymore. I can see the pitfalls coming toward me, and I’ve watched it too much. I can just feel that if I put too much energy in another direction it will hurt my family. My intuition knows best.

    Allison Kugel: Your faith in God and the guidance that both of you get from your bible study, it's a tremendous part of your life and your marriage, and it's woven throughout your book. We know that everyone has different beliefs when it comes to God, religion and spirituality. Do you think it's possible to get through this earthly life, to weather the storms, and to be able to answer the big questions, without having a relationship with God?

    Joseph Rev Run Simmons: No. I believe that you do the best you can; you push, and then you hope for the serendipity and the grace. You want that favor. I read a quote that once said, “I don't believe in miracles, I depend on them.” I love that quote. Justine had a friend years ago and she used to just say, “Jus, He did it again!” I thought it was so cute. I didn't know how religious her friend was, but that used to always touch me and tickle me. God really likes to come and play with us, talk with us, help us, encourage us. I know that faith without works is dead. But works without faith is also dead.

    Allison Kugel: Let's talk about parenting. I am of the mind that if a child is starting to go off course, or anyone you love for that matter, my feeling is the last thing they need is screaming and yelling, and punishing, and being made to feel further isolated. I feel that if a child is making poor decisions, it's because they're in pain and in need of healing. I think the best thing you can do is to move closer to them, communicate with them, show them compassion, hug them, and listen to what is causing that pain or confusion.


Read more "Rev. Run" SCOOP USA Media, February 7, 2020, page 13

Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons and Justine Simmons open up about their marriage

This article is dedicated in memory of Kobe Bryant (1978 – 2020), Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli,

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    In a time when life feels fragile and love can seem fleeting, there are signposts reminding us that life holds immeasurable meaning and love can last a lifetime if we have vision and faith and accrue the tools to sustain what we hold dear. Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons is a living example of iconic musical accomplishment and steady business acumen, but more importantly, as he sees it, he is living example of how to live one's life in faith and love. As Rev Run and his wife Justine Simmons speak with me about their marriage and their new book, Old School Love: And Why It Works, it further brings home the lesson that faith and love are actions we must take every day to ensure a life of substance; one where our relationships and being of service to others takes center stage.

    During the 1980s and 1990s, Simmons' rap group, Run-D.M.C. pioneered a powerful hip hop sound that acted as a wrecking ball to break new ground and cross into the mass consciousness. Run-D.M.C. helped pioneer rap music's journey from underground urban sensation to mainstream cultural phenomenon. According to Simmons, the fame, wealth, product endorsement deals and magazine covers did little to quell what was lacking within. His first marriage had ended, and he felt he had no spiritual center from which to rebuild. For him, Christianity was the catalyst that helped him find his center and higher purpose, which created the foundation from which to build his marriage to his beautiful wife, Justine Simmons. Audiences then fell in love with their blended family on the long-running MTV docu-series Run's House, and subsequent television shows on The DIY network and the Travel Channel. Their new book, Old School Love, certainly saves the best for last as they open up like never before, sharing the ups and downs and intimate details about their life and their marriage.


Read more "Rev. Run" SCOOP USA Media, January 31, 2020, page 13


The Healing Power of "Love-in-Action" Part I

    Deepak Chopra has been a mentor of mine from the day of my first interview with him more than a decade ago. I will never forget the day in 2008 when I asked him to explain such existential concepts as the distinction between the brain, mind and soul; the concepts of space and time, and how meditation benefits our physical and mental health. His answers then were clear and precise and without hesitation; on my end it felt like waking up from a dream and setting about on a continuous path of discovery. 

    He and I sat down once again, this time to unpack the pressing issues of isolation, anxiety and depression and the growing epidemic of suicidal ideation and suicide, which has taken sharp incline over the past eighteen years. Deepak Chopra is now part of a team spearheading the Never Alone movement, a grassroots movement that aims to create community-led organizations around the world to help people in emotional distress who need community support. Never Alone is being funded through a GoFundMe campaign that has already surpassed its original goal. 

    In tandem, Deepak Chopra, has released his latest book, Metahuman (Harmony Books/Random House), which delves into the true essence of our nature when we break free of societal constructs and embrace a higher level of consciousness and greater zest for living on this planet. 


Read Love in Action  in SCOOP USA Media,October 18, 2019, page 14

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The Healing Power of "Love-in-Action" Part II

    Allison Kugel: You're a part of creating the Never Alone movement to provide support communities around the world, which we hope will prevent suicide and help people feel connected to real support systems. How will the Never Alone platform work, and will it be accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and geographic locations? 

    Deepak Chopra: Right now, the Never Alone platform will be run by GoFundMe. We are helping create an advisory board for the GoFundMe campaign. Our goal is to create self-sustaining grassroots movements across the world, because even in very impoverished parts of the world, people now have access to wireless technology. In wisdom traditions, a healthy community has three things: people dedicated to serving the community; spiritual practice of reflective self-inquiry and getting together with other people in the community. Today we can do that online, but we can also do that by creating our own localized communities and centers. This is not a Deepak Chopra campaign, or anyone's campaign. It should be a totally grassroots, self-sustaining campaign where we create an ecosystem for helping each other in [times of] distress. 


    Allison Kugel: With the film The Offering that you've recently raised funding for, this is not a documentary, correct? This is a work of fiction that is based on real stories about suicide? 

    Deepak Chopra: The sister of the actress Gabriella Wright, was a very accomplished musical artist in Europe, who committed suicide at the age of 28 or 29. This is a film for awareness, in which actress Gabriella Wright is playing the role of a mother whose son commits suicide. We hope to use the film as a tool for bringing awareness to this cause, and to the Never Alone movement. When you give facts alone, some people are moved by the facts, like you were moved by the statistics. But by themselves, facts can be very dry. When they are linked to an emotional response, people feel compelled to look at the facts in a different way. We are hoping that The Offering will be a film that will bring some insight to the epidemic of loneliness. The film is only one aspect of this movement. After that, the goal of the Never Alone movement is to encourage other people to produce videos and films, and to share stories to increase awareness and create their own communities both offline and online.


Read more "Love in Action" SCOOP USA Media, October 25, 2019, page 12

The Healing Power of Love, Part III

    Allison Kugel: Have you, yourself, at any point in your life had a suicidal thought or feeling, and if so, how did you work your way out of it? Or has a loved one of yours ever experienced something like that? 

    Deepak Chopra: I have personally never experienced this kind of extreme ideation. But when I was in active practice as an internist and an endocrinologist and emergency room physician, I saw it all the time, several times a day. And then I looked at my own family; cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts. And I don't find a single family, including my own, where this type of extreme desperation has not resulted in a suicidal act. From my medical school days, to my internship and residency, I have witnessed these kinds of ideations and this kind of outcome of extreme desperation, which we call suicide. It's never been out of my awareness, not even a single day, since I became a medical student. And I do remember also in my early growing up years, becoming aware of relatives in my extended family who have done that, so it's a daily reminder that we need to do more to alleviate everyone's suffering. Our own personal happiness is dependent on the happiness of others. In fact, all the data shows that the most effective way to be happy is to make someone else happy. The easiest way to make someone happy is to give them attention, which means to listen to them, not advise them, but listen to them. You don't try to change another person. It's hard enough to change yourself when you want to. But if you listen to them and you are there to support them, then they change, especially if you care.


To read more "Love in Action" view SCOOP USA Media, November 1, 2019, page 12


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Rick Ross on Living the American Dream and Not Fearing Death (part 1)

by Allison Kugel

    One conversation with rapper Rick Ross will have you questioning the definitions of success, wealth and opportunity; how to identify opportunity, how to achieve success and how to maintain it while keeping your soul and bodily faculties intact. Ross, born William Leonard Roberts II, rose to prominence in 2006 with his breakout single, Hustlin', a word that defines his character and approach towards life. Though Ross doesn't speak like a scholar, his wisdom permeates our conversation. He is an alchemist; aware of his power to transmute base metals to  gold. Rick Ross' fans are believers in his use of language, and his unabashed celebration of riches. He's proud to remind people that he created a palatial oasis out of the urban desert that was his early life.

    Where many others in the Carol City district of Miami where Ross grew up saw few options, Ross saw the opportunity to translate his experiences into music. He came on the scene as hip hop left its golden era behind in favor of corporate commercialism, and then helped to usher in a rap renaissance of which he has become one of the genre's most powerful voices. 

    The way Rick Ross explains it to me, the flash and cash his lifestyle portrays goes deeper than flagrant materialism. It leaves a roadmap for others behind him to follow - from no way out to a yellow brick road of possibilities. Even Ross' palatial Georgia residence can be dubbed rap's incarnation of The White House, with A-listers paying homage to the famous property (once owned by Evander Holyfield) on occasion. 


Read more in SCOOP USA Media, September 20, 2019, page 11


Rick Ross on Living the American Dream and Not Fearing Death (part II)

by Allison Kugel

    Allison Kugel: You've been quoted as saying that you never question God. Even in your darkest moments, you've never asked, "Why?" or questioned Him in any way?

    Rick Ross: If I have, it was many years ago before I began to understand what life is. Life can be a cruel place; it can be a cold place. But it also can be as beautiful as you make it. I didn't even question Him on the morning I woke up with my closest friend dead in the room next to me. We had just been together three hours earlier, and now three hours later, he's dead and gone (Ross recounts this story in his book, Hurricanes: A Memoir/Hanover Square Press). I never questioned when my other closest homeboy was gunned down in a home invasion in front of his two, three and four-year-old sons. I'm not going to question the Big Homie. Whatever his plans are, that's his plans. However I go out, it's destiny.


    Allison Kugel: Have you ever stopped to reflect on, and question, the violence that has surrounded you throughout your life? 

    Rick Ross: Growing up where I grew up, I never questioned it because questioning it did nothing for it. Hearing AK 47s going off for sixty seconds at a time, you can cry, you can pray, you can question it, but you better just sit back, shut the fuck up, and wait for the ambulance to come. Year after year of seeing and hearing it and walking to school while passing a dead body, it gets to a point where you don't question it. You got to decide, am I going to survive or am I going to die? 


Read more in SCOOP USA Media, September 27, 2019, page 10


Rachel Slaughter - "The Reading Quilt"

October - December 2019

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Little Fires Everywhere

    Like a family crest, secrets are kept close to the vest.  Often the silence which perpetuates the family secrets become the invisible thread in that crest. In the novel “Little Fires Everywhere,”  (2017) Celeste Ng, New York Times best-selling author introduces us to a cast of characters who bear secrets in various ways. Mia Warren, a transient artist and gentle soul, drives her secret in the passenger seat of her tan Volkswagen, shaking up an idyllic affluent suburban neighborhood of Shaker Heights. 

Each month “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book that a teacher may use to  spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help students understand human behavior. Using the acronym QUILT, Slaughter offers readers information about the Quality of writing, and Imaginative plot, as well as a mini Lesson plan, and Talking points that stem from the book’s premise. 


Celeste Ng

    Celeste Ng, an American author, was born in Pittsburgh, PA. She also spent some time in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Warrensville Township, a location featured in Ng’s book, is southeast of Cleveland. Daniel Warren, the first settler arrived to the wooded area in 1808. A graduate of Harvard, Celeste went on to earn an MFA at The University of Michigan. Her writing career began with essays, which were met with accolades and awards while appearing in publications like New York Times and The Guardian. Celeste’s first novel Everything I Never Told You (2014) was a New York Times best seller. To date, the novel has been translated into two dozen languages.


To read more "The Reading Quilt" visit SCOOP USA Media, November 8, 2019, page 9

The Marva Collins’ Way

Back to School

   Education is paramount: This is a popular maxim and a powerful one in the African American community. When we flip through the pages of African American history, we meet a host of academic activists who opened the doors for African American children to learn and discover our vast world. Notable twentieth century scholars like Cornel West, Ta-nehisi Coates, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. walked freely through academic halls paved by scholars like Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, and Angela Davis.

   “The Reading Quilt” provides a short synopsis of a book that a teacher may use to  spark conversations about culture and race. This month “The Reading Quilt” shines a spotlight on the late Marva Collins who worked passionately to help educate African American children who were dismissed as learning disabled, bad, or unloveable.  Often using her personal finances, Collins devoted her life to providing quality education to those most in need. Her book "The Marva Collins' Way" was published in 1990.

Read more Scoop USA Media, October 11, 2019, page 9

January - June 2019

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Dads are reading heroes

by Rachel Slaughter


A boy’s father is his first hero. While looking to his father for guidance, a boy will imitate his father’s every move. Despite a father’s best efforts to keep any flaws undercover, his son will emulate his father’s actions. This phenomenon creates a wonderful opportunity to foster a boy’s education. For children, actions speak louder than words. In instances where African-American boys may show little to no interest in reading, imitation can be a positive force in a boy’s reading success. Through “reading role modeling,” a dad can ignite his son’s imagination and reinforce his academic school work while having fun at the same time.

Read more Scoop USA Media, January 18, 2019

Realistic fiction can be tricky in the middle school classroom

By Rachel Slaughter 


Realistic fiction feature stories that mimic real life making the genre an attractive choice for educators. Always curious about human nature and how to maneuver in this complicated world, young people have made realistic fiction, with its highlight of adult topics, the popular choice. But with topics that range from police brutality to mail-order brides, realistic fiction--marketed for the adolescent reader--can be a tricky choice for the middle school classroom.

Read more, Scoop USA Media, February 1, 2019

The Mother-daughter relationship

by Rachel Slaughter

The “Mother-daughter relationship” is a phenomenon that psychologists will never stop studying. Like an onion, it features many fine layers that can be peeled to release an unfavorable odor. Often characterized by psychologists as the most significant relationship a woman will ever have, the mother-daughter relationship is detailed to ad nauseam in movies, songs, and books. 

It is not uncommon for a woman to spend countless hours with a therapist or confidant in the effort to unravel how the relationship shaped the woman she has become. In an article in Psychology Today, author Peg Streep details what she describes as “eight toxic patterns” in mother-daughter relationships. Often described as combative, or unhealthy, these patterns are not the sentiments of mother’s day cards. But, Margarita Tartakovsky in an article in Psych Central offers several ways moms and daughters can extend the olive branch to each other. 

Read More, Scoop USA Media, February 15, 2019

Is Black Literature a problem?

by Rachel Slaughter, ABD

For many African American educators, it is emotionally and mentally draining to read the excuses that detail why there is a dearth of African American literature in American public schools. A phenomenon that ignores the benefits of multicultural literature, a lack of multicultural literature in schools is a travesty. Research shows that by the year 2050, ethnic minority children will make up the majority of the United States public school classrooms, and in some cities this change has already taken place.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, February 22, 2019

A Carefully Planned Classroom Library

by Rachel Slaughter, ABD

Teacher Joyce, an energetic reading teacher, has stayed up half the night writing lesson plans, and planning centers that incorporate the middle school Common Core Standards. In the classroom, she organizes her print-rich classroom of diverse literature featuring beautiful and colorful characters and exciting stories. Teacher Joyce reviews, with the students, the charts that make up the elaborate, but engaging “literacy block” directions. When she directs the students to the stations, teacher Joyce is surprised to hear the students’ collective grumble. Despite her best laid plans, the students do not want to read.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, March 1, 2019

Juneteenth

Each month “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book that a teacher may use to spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help students understand human behavior. Using the acronym QUILT, Slaughter offers readers information about the Quality of writing, and Imaginative plot, as well as a mini Lesson plan, and Talking points that stem from the book’s premise. This month, a book that details a legacy of fortitude and strength against the cruelty of slavery, is the focus of QUILT.

Read More, Scoop USA Media, June 14, 2019