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"Free and critical minds can emerge only by a return to the source-the primary sources. A free and critical mind takes nothing for granted and is not intimidated by "authorities" who frequently may be more confused than the general public. Free and critical minds seek truth without chauvinism or shame." - Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III (1)

“One single bit of information, if missing, incomplete, out of order or just plain wrong, has the potential to significantly alter thought processes, conclusions, decisions and behaviors, even when that one single logic entry exists in a sea of accuracy.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Transcending Black History: Thomas H. Miller, Sr.

Thomas H. Miller, Sr. is a visual artist, graphic designer and inventor. At age nine, he began to explore the spark that ignited his imagination. He transformed this gift with passion, a Federal Art School Scholarship and thirty-three years of application in graphic design. He honed his craft by completing 200 drawings per week. “I just wanted to draw!” Mr. Miller explained. He didn't have the money to afford paper but overcame limited resources by being resourceful. He filled his wagon with paper scraps collected from the trash of printers.

Thomas Miller's raw talent, study and practice enabled him to execute a flawless portrait of Mayor Harold Washington. This mosaic now lights the east entryway of the DuSable Museum in Chicago. Other “Miller Mosaics” were commissioned by the museum and the Michael Jordan Foundation. Several galleries and collectors in Europe have acquired a taste for his creativity. His design papers are part of the permanent collection at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Miller at the DuSable Museum in 1996. The following year we collaborated with others on an art show of his works. Enjoy a few examples below.

The King's Vase, Carved and pressed foam

Untitled Mask, Carved and pressed foam

Ball & Confusion, Mixed Media 2D

Transformation, Paint & Pencil

Mr. Miller not only mastered numerous mediums but had a broad inventive mode. He invited me into his home and shared one of his designs to prevent basements from flooding that was of simple construction and easily fit over basement drains using the basic principle of water seeking its own level. The inspiration for this invention may or may not have had something to do his basement workshop overflowing with completed and partial works, designs and memorabilia of several types, Though the space was small, his giving nature made the experience without bounds.

Thomas Miller's first accomplishment was the full embrace of his gifts. His talents endured and matured beyond the visual to illuminate the spiritual and the possible.

Related articles on Thomas H. Miller, Sr:

Pioneering Artist Honored For His Stellar Career

Thomas H. E. Miller Design Papers

Thomas Miller (visual artist)

Thomas Miller Mosaics

African-American Designers: The Chicago Experience Then and Now (Lecture)

African-American Designers: The Chicago Experience Then and Now (Book)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Poetry Included: Right By Default Of My Own

Prose Poem Included

One option is not a choice but it is child proof

Many of the things I believe, I acquired early on. During childhood, my trust in authority figures such as parents, siblings, relatives, tv, schools and churches was at its zenith. Despite a child's tendency to ask more questions, a child is more likely to believe any answer. I did. I rarely went beyond the answer into individual inquiry from alternate sources. My beliefs were based on the beliefs of those I trusted as a child.

It's pretty easy to get a child to believe in Kris Kringle, who should mingle, some form of God, chastising but sparing the rod, Leprechauns, perfect lawns, groundhog shadows, human chattel, Easter Bunnies, bees dying but not from lack of nutritious honey, pots of gold, new better than old, ghosts, accumulating the most, goblins, problems cost too much to solve them, products for beauty, killing as patriotic duty, Cupid, some people born stupid, tooth fairies who chip in, living pretend and only for weekends, soldiers as policemen, getting hitched cheaper than to un-marry, caged canaries, myth, hiding behind the 5th, superstition, woman's work in the kitchen, folklore, food comes from stores, history lessons, science-based mystery guessing, cheese moons, wedding Junes, wishing wells, working hard you'll always prevail, normal is sex sells, businesses fined instead of jail, corporate veils, looking pretty is about, some kind of clout, what's safe to eat, trick or treat, prescriptions good, herbs backwoods, acceptable wrongs, who belongs, age alone makes you grown, which god-given talents are best, just what is success, flat earth, what has worth, politics and businesses aren't part of gangs, beginning from big bang, from an explosion systems came, what sounds different isn't the same and nearly anythang.

By the mere force of first and only, repetition, participation and duplication by others, these beliefs solidify. Borrowed beliefs can become facts hard to crack. My beliefs became restrictive shells shielding me from possibilities. Beliefs should serve as cocoons allowing me to mature into my higher self (my soul's experience with the Creator combined with the best of my human experience). This is the evolution - an individual growing into a fuller oneness.

As I mature into adulthood, I should be able to loosen my grip on beliefs that were simply given to me. I held my caregiver's hand, then wanted to let go, needed to let go. I may yet hold that hand again, but only if it is the best option available, not because it is easiest, quickest, most readily available, familiar and feels safe.

The nature of human maturation is to have say-so in what I believe and not give this say-so over to beliefs first heard. This is called free will. The Creator wants me to have it and use it. The Creator did not design me to automatically accept his teachings and therefore did not design me to automatically accept any human idea or interpretation, no matter how prevalent the notion.

More than a few unexplored ideas could be helpful, even in part or smidgen. Unless I read, study, investigate, compare and contrast these ideas, I could simply be feeling right by default, if what I believe is the only choice I've ever fully considered. As a result, I have never stopped mindlessly doing as I was told because I've never stopped innocently believing as I was told - proof I've never stopped being a child.

Related article: "Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things, relinquishing preconceived mindsets, and then acting on the new observations."