Nov28

Naima Lett and Husband Face Death, God Says Not Yet

The year was 2002 and things couldn't have been going better for Naima Lett. The aspiring actress who'd graduated from Howard University drama program with top honors and spent time at the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre, the British American Drama Academy at Oxford and the Fellowship for the Performing Arts, before traveling with her own highly-acclaimed one-woman plays about women of the Bible, had just married the love of her life, Kevin Lett, a music producer, songwriter and certified audio engineer.

"By our sixth month anniversary he was in constant pain," says Lett. "He started losing weight and had night sweats. Because we were in our twenties, the doctor kept mis- diagnosing him, never thinking it could be cancer."
"Our first really big argument was about him going back to the doctor. He wasn't getting any better, so I made my own appointment to go to his doctor as well and told him we need- ed to find out what was wrong with my husband. He was like, 'Wait, you made an appointment just to talk to me?' That was the first time he began to take it seriously and run the right tests."
With her husband's job transfer came a move to Dallas and a new doctor.
"By that Thursday we found out he had stage four Hodgkin's Disease (cancer of the blood) and was dying," recalls the actress whose onscreen credits include The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fox's Prison Break, BBC America's Wire in the Blood and Lifetime's Inspector Mom. "When we went to one of our fol- low up meetings with our new doc- tor in Dallas, I told her that I 'm so angry with the doctor from the east coast for misdiagnosing my husband. She was the one that said to me, ' A doctor is only as good as their test. I may have misdiagnosed because you're so young. In your 20s you don't think cancer. I might have even misdiagnosed. Thank God you all kept coming back'. That's when she explained that each person is in charge of his or her own health care.

"I learned a whole different way to pray for my friends and the people in our congregation who ask for prayer with regard to sickness," Lett continues. "I pray the Lord will reveal the truth. That whatever is going on in their bodies will be known quickly and I call upon this spirit to reveal it. God loves to answer to that prayer. He is the truth."
The revelation, however, hadn't made things any easier for Lett, whose 6'2" husband once weighed 190, had lost 45 to 50 pounds was fading fast, and because her Mom had died from cancer, it was a really scary place for her.
Ironically, the actress says she didn't truly become saved until her mom passed away from stomach cancer.
"I was going through immense grief and could not handle my mom passing. I did go back to school but I began to leak through the cracks so to speak. I was a sophomore at Howard and remember having that moment of saying, 'Okay Lord, if you're real, I really need you.' That's when my faith became real for me and not just me vicariously living through my mom's faith. When I prayed there was a comfort. I felt his holy spirit and knew that He was indeed real."
But even that didn't prepare the actress/writer/producer and the first graduate with a Masters in Media and Communications from Dallas Theological Seminary for what was to come.
"We had a community of faith praying for us, still it was really hard. With proper and early diagnosis, there was a high rate of survival, but they told us that we had to get him in chemo immediately because the cancer was moving rapid- ly and was already in his bone marrow. We were fighting for our lives," recalls the actress whose mission is to offer audi- ences hope.
"I would be up every night until 3am crying. I cried because we hadn't even been married a year. I was saying Lord where are you? I'd been around the world ministering his gospel.
"In the third month, I couldn't handle it. I had to face that my husband might be taken home and if that's the case, somehow God will get us through it. There were times I did- n't even have a prayer. I would just sing John 11:4 back to the Lord. Our lives were truly devastated."
"The chemo totally wiped out the cancer and a whole lot of other things," When he would lose his hair, I grieved. When they said we might not be able to have children, I grieved. Everything was just a grieving process. I make the analogy of us living through an earthquake. Everyday was an exercise in depending on God, but by Thanksgiving that year he was can- cer free.
"We had another scare where they said he had to have a
complete bone marrow transplant and the Lord worked that out as well and then we went through a year of marriage counseling.
Counselors likened the couple's experience to them hav- ing survived a war but still bleeding from a wound they could- n't see. That was ten years ago and every Thanksgiving they celebrate Kevin's healing.
"Coming out of that is when we looked at each other and said whatever God has given us to do, we have a second chance."
With that second chance they created Lett's Rise Productions, whose goal it is to create inspirational films, the- atre and music that spur audiences toward truth and hope; Hollywood Christian ministries to help artists and profession- als find their God-given purpose and follow their dreams without losing their faith; and Hope In The Hills, a weekly Bible fellowship.
"We just filmed the promo for my upcoming book release, Confessions of a Hollywood Christian and we're going to do the film for it," Lett reports. "The book is a part of a series."
Baptized at the age of eight in an Augusta, Georgia Baptist church where her Dad led the men's ministry and her mom was in charge of the prayer ministry, Lett's parents raised she and her three bothers to believe that they could do anything, and the actress whose acting debut came at the age of four as "Toto in the Wiz," believed them.
"They put me in dance classes when I was three," Lett recalls. "From fifth to twelfth grade I was in performing arts all day everyday so it wasn't a surprise when I said I wanted to major in acting and got a full four-year academic scholar- ship."
It was however in seminary that a professors advised her to think about Hollywood. Following his lead, she sent out her headshots and resume and landed several interviews with agents. Within a month she had her first couple of auditions and was working. Needless to say, she never looked back.
"The number one question I get is, "how can you be a Christian in Hollywood?" I'm not sure why people think you're going to be beat down if you have some sort of convic- tion. Everybody out here deals with that and for the most part people don't really care that much. I've probably faced more turmoil within the body of Christ than in Hollywood. I tell people, you have to be able to live the truth. People respect that," says Lett, who co-pastors Hope In The Hills with her husband as she finishes up her doctorate in ministry and preaching at the school of theology at Biola University.
"God didn't call Hollywood to be the light. He called us to be the light. So if the light is not here, if it's dark then it's because we are not fulfilling our purpose.
"Going through the cancer gave us the fire to really get it done. We didn't know how much time we'd get together. Just because you're in your twenties doesn't mean you get another day. We faced death and God said not yet. So as long as he's saying not yet, with every breath we have we will use it doing exactly what God has called us to do."

Nov28

Parents Unrelenting in Pursuit of Justice

kenneth mcdade

Kenneth McDade spends a great deal of his days pretending. Pretending to be okay. Pretending to focus. Pretending that the words those who mean well are helping. He can even manage a smile here and there.

Nights, however, are not so easy. "At the end of the day when I get to the house", he says, tears streaming down his face, "this is where I'm at." Over and over again he replays the events of March 24, 2012 almost as if the outcome won't be the same. And night after night, he wakes up with the realization that his 19-year old son, Kendrec is indeed dead.
Fact is, things will never return to normal for McDade, whose life's purpose—at least for now— is getting to the bottom of what happened that night.

His real-life nightmare began a day later, early the morning of March 25 when he went to his front porch to have coffee and noticed a police helicopter hovering above. Curious, he was walking around the corner to see what was going on when a friend tells him that there has been a shooting and his son might have been involved. "I get around the corner and everything is blocked off—police tape and everything," McDade recounts. "I'm asking police on the scene what was going on, but they were just telling me to get back. Overhearing the exchange, a news reporter approaches McDade.
"I told her who I was and that I was looking for my son who was about 19 years old and had- n't come home last night. She started telling me what she knew—that a crime had gone down and one of the guys involved was killed and the other one had been arrested."

McDade then goes back to the police and a detective finally comes to talk to him, escorting him back to his home to verify his identification. On the subsequent ride to the police station, McDade gets the police account of what hap- pened. Police had been responding to false 9-1-1 call of an armed robbery by Oscar Carrillo, whose car, it turns out, had been burglarized. Pasadena Police Chief Sanchez claimed to be in possession of a videotape shot near the taco truck where the alleged theft occurred showing a 17-year-old minor reaching into Carrillo's car and allegedly grabbing both a backpack and a laptop computer while McDade acts as a lookout.

McDade, a college student and high school football standout, was spotted by police two blocks from the site of the alleged burglary and reportedly ran from police until one of the officers used the police car to block his path. Neither the cruiser's sirens or lights—which reportedly would have activated the car's video camera—were on. "He said that Kendrec was reaching for a waist- band and the officer thought he saw a gun. One police shot out the window and the other police shot from behind. I never heard of a police officer shoot- ing out of a car—that's a drive by to me all day, and then he rode down the street and posted up".

McDade felt uneasy about what police were say- ing from the very beginning.
"Everything he was saying was incriminating— like my son's a criminal and I know better," he says of the teen who lived with his Mom in Azuza while visiting his Dad in Pasadena most weekends. "I never had no problem out of him like that. Regardless of the fact of what he tried to tell me, I know my kid and I know how these officers are. They'll just lie to cover their selves and that's what he was doing the whole time. "The [police] chief came to the hospital that night and he was telling me that he had kids and this, that and the other. Like I told him all this is just like something scripted you're used to saying all the time, you can save all that." McDade was more interested in answers to ques- tions that were surfacing. Why were the officer's headlights not on. Had they actually identified themselves as police before they started shooting? Why no police video? Why handcuff his dying son, instead of providing medical assistance? Why shoot him seven times —most of the bullets shot at a downward trajectory as if the teen was falling at the time of the shooting or while surrendering to police in a kneeling position? Perhaps most importantly, what threat had his son ever really posed to police?
"They know the answers. Tell us, if you're not try- ing to hide anything."

He wasn't alone in his desire for answers as the shooting—which occurred less than a week after Trayvon Martin's death exploded on the national news scene— captured the attention of local news, the Pasadena NAACP and the likes of the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, sparking independ- ent investigations by the FBI, the Pasadena Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Officer Involved Shooting team.

In their own efforts to get to the truth, McDade and Kendrec's mother, Anya Slaughter, retained

Nov28

To Spank or not to Spank - That is the question.

Danielle C. Belton

I can count the number of "whoopins" I had as a child on one hand, and in the end – I only remember
one of them. Oh, there were threats of whoopins. But rarely was one doled out. Yet, my sisters and I were all freakishly well-behaved, respectful chil- dren. My parents – who both grew up in pro-whippin' households – were very reluc- tant to hit us, as they felt a lot of kid behavior could be controlled in other ways without resorting to that.

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit www.firstladieshightea.com
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