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After 9/11, Some Found Healing by Helping

“They’re all dead,” Erica Belfield screamed while watching the news from her living room the day after the tragedy.

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Merrill and Erica Belfield share in their volunteer work as Bible teachers from their home in the Bay Area. Two decades after the tragic events of 9/11, they find happiness in comforting others using the Bible's message of hope.

“They’re all dead,” Erica Belfield screamed while watching the news from her living room the day after the tragedy.
 
Just 24 hours earlier, practically in the Belfields’ backyard, the disaster at the World Trade Center happened.

At the time of 9/11, Merrill and Erica Belfield from the Bay Area were volunteers at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn.

“I went to the window in our building where we had an unobstructed view of the towers,” Merrill said. “I not only saw the plane as it hit the second tower, but I vividly recall seeing people jump out of the tower in an attempt to save their lives. The events of 9/11 shifted the trajectory of our lives and it’s something we will never forget.”

In the days ahead, what helped the Belfields cope was maintaining their spiritual routine of daily Bible reading, prayer and helping others. “When you go through a tragedy, it brings you joy when you focus on others and not solely on yourself,” Erica said. “It was a blessing to comfort our neighbors in this way.”

Helping others has long been linked to better emotional well-being in psychology research. The book “The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others” describes “powerful” effects, even for helpers who have experienced trauma themselves.

Trauma was all too common among the many volunteers at Ground Zero. Roy Klingsporn, a Brooklynite who volunteered at Ground Zero nearly every day for two months, recalled on one occasion approaching a man who sat slouched in a golf cart near the site’s makeshift morgue.

“When I asked him how he was doing, he burst into tears,” said Klingsporn, now of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He said, ‘I’m tired of picking up body parts.’”

Within days of the attacks, Jehovah’s Witnesses set up teams that spent hours each day in Lower Manhattan, Bibles in hand, consoling everyone from the families of victims to first responders battling physical and emotional exhaustion. It was a work that changed how the organization approaches disasters, with an organized comfort ministry now being an integral part of its response to natural disasters and even the pandemic.

Recalling the gut-wrenching days he spent as one of those volunteers near the smoldering remains of the Twin Towers still stirs deep feelings in Robert Hendriks.

“It was very emotional and extremely difficult for me, but the faces of those I passed on the street said it all,” said Hendriks, now U.S. spokesman for the Witnesses. “They needed comfort, and the best thing I could give them was a hug and a Scripture.”

For Brown “Butch” Payne, the events of September 11, 2001, tore open old wounds, bringing back vivid wartime memories the Vietnam veteran had tried to forget.

From his East Village apartment, Payne recalled the crowds of frantic people streaming north from Lower Manhattan. “That sight stirred up a lot of emotions in me,” he said. “It shook me to the core.”

Payne found relief in rendering aid the best way he knew how. “Sharing the Bible’s message of hope softened the blow for me,” he said.

Offering a shoulder to cry on brought Klingsporn comfort too. “It was satisfying to be of help to my community,” he said.

Two decades later, the Belfields are still battling the mental toll that 9/11 took on them. “Whenever Merrill hears a plane in the sky, he looks up, not knowing if another attack will happen,” Erica said.
 
“But what helped us back then is the same thing that helps us today — focusing on others. Because of the pandemic, we’ve been able to write comforting letters to those who’ve lost loved ones. Many of the feelings we felt back then are the same ones people are struggling with today.”

Payne feels the same. In 2016, after 50 years of marriage, he lost his beloved wife to cancer. On days when his grief feels overwhelming, Payne writes heartfelt letters that lift his neighbors’ spirits — and his own. He shares Scriptures and resources that have helped him, like articles on coping with trauma and loss on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Encouraging others to look to the future helps me to do the same,” he said.

Black History

Queen Calafia Returns to California

There will also be a reception on October 5 for Calafia at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in the Castro in San Francisco.

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Queen Calafia

A celebration of the return of Queen Calafia to California will be held on Sunday, October 3, at 3:30 p.m. in Dunphy Park on Bridgeway between Napa and Litho Street in Sausalito. The celebration will be free. Everyone is invited. Bring a picnic.

The Citizens of California know their state’s name. But few know where the name California came from, and fewer still know that it is named after a mythic Black Amazon warrior queen, according to the announcement.

Queen Calafia is returning to California to change all that.

Queen Calafia and her entourage will arrive by boat at Dunphy Park and will be greeted by the Cal Alumni Band with a fanfare and a rendition of Calling Calafia. The queen will place her foot on California soil for the first time in hundreds of years and then parade to the band shell to be greeted by the mayor of Sausalito, Emperor Norton, and other dignitaries. Proclamations from the City of Sausalito and the City of Oakland will be read. Various performers and presenters from all walks of life will welcome Calafia. The queen will speak to the assembled Californians.

This is history in the making. Come and welcome Calafia back to California. Don’t miss it.

There will also be a reception on October 5 for Calafia at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in the Castro in San Francisco.

To read more about Queen Calafia, go to www.postnewsgroup.com/queen-califia-california-namesake-or-legend/

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Black History

BlackHistoryEveryday.com

Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

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9/22/2021: Carl Bean 1944-2021 singer and founder Unity Fellowship Church Movement, Black LGBT denomination.

9/15/2021: Black Theatre United “. . . stand[s] together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country.”

9/08/2021: Alliance for Digital Equality (Julius Hollis founder) was a “non-profit consumer advocacy organization that serves to facilitate and ensure equal access to technology in underserved communities.”

8/25/2021: Eugene Williams first victim at age 17, by being stoned and drowned on July 27, 1919, during “Red Summer” of 1919 race riot in Chicago.

8/18/2021: Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

8/11/2021: Enslaved Africans politically correct term coined for slaves who landed on the now U.S. shores in 1619.

8/4/2021: Trini Ross nominated to lead the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of New York based in Buffalo, if confirmed she will be the first Black woman to head that office.

7/28/2021: Kimberly Drew born 1990 art curator and writer. Former Metropolitan Museum social media manager.

7/21/2021: Ketanji Brown Jackson born 1970, in 2021 elevated by Biden to U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. and is a contender to be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

7/14/2021: Mary Ellen Pleasant 1814 – 1904 “The Mother of Civil (or Human) Rights in California.” Also a chef.

7/7/2021:  Florence Price 1887-1953 first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

6/30/2021: Skylar Heath, 20, Black transgender woman shot and killed in Miami, FL in November 20, 2020.

6/23/2021: Dior H Ova (aka Tiffany Harris), 32,  Black transgender woman, killed July 26, 2020 in Bronx, NY.

6/16/2021: Danika “Danny” Henson, 31, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 4. 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

6/9/2021: Alexus Braxton, 45, Black transgender woman aka Kimmy Icon Braxton, killed on 2/4/2021 in Miami, Florida.

6/2/2021: Serenity Hollis, 24, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 8, 2021 in Albany, Georgia.

5/26/2021: Cassie Ventura born in 1986 is a Black and Filipino singer, songwriter, actor, and dancer.

5/19/2021: Naomi Campbell born 1970. British actress, business woman and model of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese-Jamaican descent.

5/12/2021: George Maxwell Richards 1931-2018, first president of Trinidad and Tobago to be of Amerindian (and Chinese) descent.

5/5/2021: Marabou is Haitian and means mixed-race including European, African, Taíno and South Asian.

4/28/2021:  Thelma Harper 1940 – 2021.  First Black woman elected to the Tennessee legislature in 1989.

4/21/2021:  Baby Esther born Esther Lee Jones 1918 – 1921, date of death unknown.  Singer and child entertainer in the 1920s.

4/14/2021: Tishaura O. Jones born March 10. 1972, first Black woman mayor of St. Louis, MO in April 2021.

4/7/2021: Something Good—Negro Kiss 1898 first recorded kiss between Black folks on film.

3/31/2021:  Jayla Roxx first transgender woman of color to launch a beauty brand, “BatMe! Cosmetics” in the United States.

3/24/2021:  Nnenna Stella founded The Wrap Life out of her exploration of her individuality and the wraps are for everyone.

3/17/2021:  Maia Chaka first Black woman to officiate in the NFL.

3/10/2021:  Sheila Edwonna Branford 1/27/1960 – 1/29/2021  created Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

3/3/2021:  Katrina Adams born 8/5/1968. First Black president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

1/27/2021: Calendly is a Black owned scheduling app.

 

more facts log onto BlackHistoryEveryday.com

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Black History

Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie: First Black Grammy’ Winners

Two Black performers left the event that night with Grammys in hand: Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917–1996) for Best Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Jazz Performance, Individual; and William James “Count” Basie (1904–1984), for Best Performance by a Dance Band and Best Jazz Performance, Group. Recognition for the pair was well overdue as their roads to the Grammy were storied.

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Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie, the first two African Americans to win Grammy awards, 1958. Photo courtesy of 9gag.com/gag/aQREN3K

It was the late spring of 1959. The music industry’s elite converged inside the Grand Ballroom of Los Angeles’ Beverly Hilton. Others were gathering at a function held simultaneously in New York City.

That night, the Grammy Award’s first show took place, and no one knew then that it would become a historic event for African-American performers.

Two Black performers left the event that night with Grammys in hand: Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917–1996) for Best Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Jazz Performance, Individual; and William James “Count” Basie (1904–1984), for Best Performance by a Dance Band and Best Jazz Performance, Group. Recognition for the pair was well overdue as their roads to the Grammy were storied.

Fitzgerald was a teen when her mother died. Her aunt then took young Ella from her home in Yonkers, N.Y., back to Newport News, Va. Shortly after, Ella’s stepfather died. These events brought on depression. Ella began failing school and frequently skipped classes. After getting into trouble with the police, she was sent to a reform school. There she endured beatings by the caretakers. The brutality forced her to escape.

At age 15, she was alone and struggling to make a life for herself. But things would change when she was in New York City about five years later.

In 1934, young Ella performed at the Apollo’s Amateur Night. The crowd booed her; shouted “What’s she going to do?” A frightened Ella decided to sing. She asked the band to play Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy,” one of her mother’s favorites. Her voice silenced the audience, and by the song’s end they begged for an encore.

Two years later, Ella made her first recording, “Love and Kisses,” under the Decca label. The rest was music history.
Later dubbed “The First Lady of Song,” Ella was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. On June 15, 1996, she died in her Beverly Hills home. She’d taken home 14 Grammys throughout her career.

Basie, born in Red Bank, N.J., was one of the all-time great jazz band leaders. Dubbed the “King of Swing,” his career started in clubs and speakeasies in Asbury Park and Long Branch, N.J., then New York City (1924) and later Kansas City (1927).

His music served as inspiration for artists including John Lewis, Thelonious Monk, and Oscar Peterson. Along the way, he faced discrimination but overcame barriers to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

“Every day, we used to say, ‘Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me,’” musician and producer Quincy Jones said of the racism that he and Basie experienced back then. “It was horrible. It ain’t much better now.”

Basie wrote in a letter: “I can’t remember when I did not experience discrimination … And I didn’t let it bug me.”
The Count won nine Grammy awards over the course of his career. He died on April 26, 1984, in Hollywood, Fla.

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