Interviews of Famous People Series: Emery L. Campbell

I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed many famous people. A recent event caused me to rummage through my electronic folders. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

I wrote an article for Yahoo! In the haste of the interview, I was unable to take a picture of/with Emery with my camera. The picture shown here is not mine.


The Full Life of Georgia’s 2011 Senior Poetry Laureate

The e-mail bearing the news that Emery L. Campbell of Lawrenceville, Georgia, has won the title of 2011 Georgia Senior Poet Laureate slipped into my inbox with the modesty and grace characteristic of Campbell.


A true gentleman who age cannot seem to hold down, the 84-year-old business-executive-turned-poet is no stranger to winning contests. This year, the piece that earned him the deserved SPL honor was “Declaration of the Forswearing of Ophidian Decortication.” Chew on that title for a minute.

“This is familiar territory,” Campbell noted, very comfortable in his current position. “I’ve won the title SPL before,” he stated dismissively. “I took up poetry in 1994 after I retired from the commercial scene,” the widely published multi-linguist affirmed.

This year’s 19th annual Senior Poet Laureate competition included participants from all 50 states with 900 poems entered by 219 poets. It was not Campbell’s first success in the contest.

According to the sponsor, Amy Kitchener, Emery has represented Georgia several times by winning the SPL poetry competitions at the state level, and he took the prestigious National Senior Poet Laureate award once in 1999. He has also won numerous prizes in state and national poetry contests over the years.

“My poetry is constructed, not inspired,” he said. “It is mostly rhymed and metered traditional verse. I choose my words carefully, making extensive use of a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus.” When asked about his muse, Campbell characterized it as “a bit of a mystery.”

Campbell admits that the highlight of his life was meeting a Dutch girl in Paris in 1957 who later became his spouse of 53 years. Born in 1927 in Monroe, Wisconsin, he has lived in France for twelve years, including two as a post-graduate student, in England for nine, and in Argentina for seven year.

He has traveled widely in Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the United States, often accompanied by his wife, Hettie. Since 1988, the two have resided in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Their sons, Julian and Lucas, live in the Atlanta area.

A longtime member and past VP of the Georgia Poetry Society, Campbell served as the organization’s contest chair for twelve years. He is also a member of the Southeastern Writers Association, the Georgia Writers Association, and the Utah State Poetry Society.

After serving four and a half years as a U.S. naval aviator, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. His knowledge of French transformed his life by helping him to land his first job overseas. It also enables him to garnish his witty poems with Français.

A 2005 Georgia Author-of-the-Year nominee, Campbell has published two books of his poems and his French-to-English translations: This Gardener’s Impossible Dream (2005) and Selected Fables and Poems in Translation (2010). Several hundred of his poems have also appeared in various other publications, anthologies, and on the Internet, and his work has been compared to that of Ogden Nash.

Early this year, his poem, “A Lawyer More Compassionate than Most,” was accepted for publication in the spring 2011 edition of the Israeli poetry and prose journal.

“A Witch in Time,” one of his pieces about a sorceress whose fear of heights prevents her from flying around town on her broomstick, is being pitched to Kennesaw State University in hopes that its music department may present it as a choral performance next Halloween.

As for words of wisdom to younger poets, Emery advises, “Poetry contests are much like lotteries. You have to keep resubmitting your work. If you win, good. If you don’t, just shrug it off.  Judges have likes and dislikes. Your winning or not often depends on how the judges feel on any given day.”

Over the years, Campbell has acquired a versatile taste in poetry and expresses particular admiration for the work of slam poet, Marvin Ayodele Heath. He often quips that Emory University was named after him, but the University spelled his name wrong.

Interviews of Famous People Series: Professor Nikki Giovanni


Dr. Giovanni speaks to Kennesaw State University about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nikki Giovanni Asks for a Major Motion Picture for MLK, Junior

As Kennesaw State University joins the rest of the nation to mark another deserved birthday celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, it welcomed the world renowned poet, Professor Nikki Giovanni, as its keynote speaker. In her inaugural visit to KSU, Giovanni posed a question worthy of deep consideration.

“Why has there not been a major motion picture in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Hollywood has made movies about drug dealers and criminals, Capone, Dillinger, and so on. You have to wonder why Martin has no movie in his honor,” the bold and critically acclaimed Giovanni demanded during the 2012 annual observance on Monday, January 16.

Forty-four years after his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr., is yet to earn a big-screen, sole-title movie right as Malcolm X and numerous other black history makers and heavyweights.

In an unpredictable mixture of history lecture, entertainment, chastisement, and religious sermon, Giovanni kept up a stream of surprising influx that kept attendees laughing hilariously and continually. Without warning, she sent them bristling from her criticisms and feeling grateful for uncountable legacies at the same time.

A distinguished professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University—Virginia Tech–since 1987, Giovanni sneaked in another title to numerous others (mother, writer, poet, commentator, and activist), that of a comedienne, as she caused riotous laughter to erupt smoothly and repeatedly.

The “Princess of Black Poetry” recanted childhood stories of her grandmother’s link to Civil Rights legends such as Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon (who bailed Parks out of jail), and MLK, Jr. She reminded us of a very painful fact: “We lost Martin too early. He was just 39.” Ironically, Giovanni’s writing career was born in the year of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Giovanni recited a very moving tribute to “the incomparable Martin” from her poetry collection, Acolyte. “In the Spirit of Martin,” demanded “the world to see what they did to my boy.” It traveled through civil rights cities and envisioned a present-day Martin, “the voice of his people,” wearing a tattoo and with braided hair.

One of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends,” Giovanni uplifted the mixed-race audience by urging Caucasian female writers and historians to tell the story of the frontier woman whose courage in the face of insurmountable danger has not begun to be told yet.

Georgia’s third largest university, Kennesaw State honored the woman who came to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., with a medley of orchestrated events such as songs by the KSU Gospel Choir, a rendition of the “Black National Anthem,” and remarks by President Daniel S. Papp.

A 30-minute book-signing session followed Giovanni’s speech, but the long line that curved inside the Student Center kept the famous poet signing books all evening and taking pictures. She had a smile for each adoring fan and did not show any sign of fatigue.

Interviews of Famous People Series: Chika Unigwe

In class today, students were reading an article on author Chika Unigwe, and I informed them that I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed the author when she visited Smyrna, Georgia, from Belgium before she relocated to Georgia with her family. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Author Chika Unigwe Brings a Cause Célèbre to Atlanta

The harbinger of uncomfortable and eye-opening news, Nigerian author, Chika Unigwe, came four thousand miles to expose Atlantans to a festering human condition spreading too rapidly worldwide. Unigwe proffered unflattering details on the cancer of human trafficking during a gathering in her honor on Friday, November 18, 2011, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marietta.

The much publicized writer and the winner of numerous international awards and fellowships, Unigwe elaborated. “The incident is so prevalent that it has created a new middle class in Nigeria. Parents receive money from strange men in Italy to groom their daughters, and Italian men pay the tuition. The parents traffic their daughters once they graduate from high school,” Unigwe continued, deeply concerned.

When Amy Edwards of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Smyrna learned that the author was coming to visit her sisters in the Atlanta area, she acted expeditiously and arranged the reading of On Black Sisters’ Street, Unigwe’s novel. Using the book as a platform for the exposure of the rancid disease of selling humans, Edwards revealed the inconvenient truth that Atlanta is one of the top U.S. cities–and an infamous hub–for trafficking modern slaves.

The mother of four boys, Unigwe disquieted her fans as she revealed unsavory facts of legalized prostitution in European countries and the enslavement of thousands of Nigerian girls who are bonded to pimps and madams in Belgium for a minimum of five years.

According to Unigwe, “The daughters are given to men or are sold into slavery to women in the United States, Belgium, Italy, and other countries as long as the girls send money to Nigeria. Some of these girls want out, but they are bound and gagged by their parents’ need for the money they send. There have been reported incidents of pastors involved in the sale of humans.”

The condition reached an alarming proportion locally that it prompted Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to launch the “Dear John” program in 2006. The Georgia General Assembly followed by passing HB 200, “Freedom from Human Trafficking Act,” in 2007 and revised it in 2011.

Despite local, national, United Nations, and other international laws, “The problem of human trafficking continues because of widespread corruption. A staff at Heathrow smuggled Nigerian girls into London through employee exit,” Unigwe narrated.

“As part of my research for my novel, and with my husband’s approval, I dressed as one of those girls on the streets in Antwerp to gather first-hand materials. The difference between European and Nigerian pimps is that European pimps control with drugs; Nigerian pimps use psychology.”

Edwards encouraged attendees to get involved by connecting with the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, Not For Sale, A Future Not a Past, and Street Grace.  These organizations are dedicated to awareness and prevention of child exploitation as well as to the restoration of victims. Any person can help by reporting any incidents or possible victims of child sex exploitation and human trafficking to the Georgia Care Connection Office.

Interviews of Famous People Series: Mayor Shirley Franklin

In class today, students were reading an article on Mayor Shirley Franklin, and I informed them that I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed the Atlanta mayor. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate that article since Yahoo! Voices no longer exists. Here is the picture from my camera.

Mayor Shirley Franklin Speaks at Kennesaw State University

Interviews of Famous People Series: Kayongo

In class today, students were reading an article on Derreck Kayongo, and I informed them that I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed Mr. Kayongo. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Here is the article with accompanying pictures from my camera.


Kayongo Challenges KSU Students to Go Beyond Soap

The founder and chairman of The Global Soap Project foundation posed several challenges to Kennesaw State University students during a speaking event hosted by the American Democracy Project, an arm of the University, on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, in Kennesaw, Georgia.

An agent of change, Mr. Derreck Kayongo, who has been nominated as one of The top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011, roused the audience with the initial question of “Can you be creative when you are hungry or are being chased out of your home?”  Resounding verbal “No!” and energized negative headshakes greeted his declaration.

With a passion for saving the world’s marginalized millions, whether through CARE or through his own foundation, Kayongo meshed the issues of global poverty, children’s welfare, women rights, creativity, history lessons, economic development (and lack of), environmental stability, global healthcare, social justice, and the crippling effects of culture in his hour-long delivery as a backdrop to his daring message to the students.

A child refugee himself, Mr. Kayongo, the social entrepreneur, warned, “Lack of rights is a bottleneck on economic development.  If women do not have the right to own properties, they cannot be a part of an economy and cannot obtain loans to better themselves and their families.  This is the crippling effect of culture on economics.”

Kayongo, who has given more than 300 speeches on key issues, added one more today as he challenged these future entrepreneurs. “Do not go out into the world with a lukewarm approach.  Have gumption, creativity, and ambition.  Find simple solutions that can save the world.  Build a network of creatively influencing people.  Combine your education with practicality.  Having an education is not enough.  What practical things can you do with it?”

Continuing his impassioned plea, the Regional Director at Amnesty International charged, “Travel.  Get the heck out of here.  Use your professors.  They are well connected.  Use them to boost more than your education.  Use them to step out into the world.”

The father of two children and the winner of the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, Kayonga jelled his message from CARE, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, with his message from his own non-governmental organization, which he started with his wife, Sarah, in the basement of their house two years ago, for which he cashed his 401K.  The hospitality industry’s soap wastage spurred the birth of The Soap Project.

“You have no idea how important soap is until you try taking a shower without one.  The bottom billion of the world’s 7 billion people cannot afford soap.  If labor is unhealthy with sanitation problems, diarrhea, malaria, or other diseases transmitted through unwashed hands, the other three factors of production are at a halt.  For every 15 cents invested in production, humanity saves $7 worldwide when all GDPs, from the most developed countries to the countries with only a $300 per capita income, are combined.”

Kayongo, whose childhood in an upper middle-class family was unceremoniously upturned one day in his native Uganda under the infamous dictator Idi Amin, spoke of governance and freedom as the two keys in human survival.  “With continuing poor governments globally, economies stay the same or get worse.  You have freedom, the only people who can knock on the doors of your congressional representatives, tell them off, and still be safe enough to come home and sit down to dinner with your family.  Use your elected officials.”

As he awaits the December 11, 2011, worldwide telecast of the outcome of the online votes for the finalist from The Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011, the former adjunct professor at Beulah Heights Bible College and the Senior Advocacy Coordinator for the Southeast region with CARE International never rests.

The donor of unopened bars of soap to homeless shelters is working with Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta to explore best avenues for increased volume and delivery to more recipients worldwide to accommodate the ever growing needs of millions to help him scale over the 20 countries he currently serves, including Swaziland, Kenya, Haiti, Uganda, and Ghana. Kayongo is canvassing inlets for finances and volunteers for his NGO.

Wrapping up his speech, the man who has monitored elections with former President Jimmy Carter in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, charged KSU students with, “Discover your passion with gumption, be visionaries, and let those visions save the world.”