Hike4Life – Out of the Hoods & Into the Woods!

kike-4-life-logoA few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going on my very first Hike4Life adventure, at the Middlesex Fells Reservation in Stoneham, MA. The long and short of my experience on the hike is that I had a fantastic time, traversed some beautiful scenery, and met some wonderful people. That said, my experience on the hike is secondary to the vision and accomplishments of the man responsible for the Hike4Life movement, Jerel Ferguson. I got to know Jerel during the hike and found him to be a very bright, driven, and passionate individual.


He has a sincere appreciation for nature’s beauties, and an even greater desire to share such with others. All are welcomed to join Hike4Life’s periodic missions, but Jerel’s made a concerted effort to introduce the joys of hiking to Greater Boston’s inner-city and urban communities, who historically have not engaged in these activities. As much as I enjoyed the hike itself, it was this central sentiment that I found most fascinating, important, and admirable.

Jerel was kind enough to send me some background information on both himself as well as Hike4Life to assist with this post. His write-up was genuine, thorough, and much more poignant than I myself could attempt to recreate by paraphrasing and/or condensing. As such, I felt it best to present his write-up as it was presented to me, so as to most accurately capture who Jerel Ferguson is, and the drivers behind his ambitions.  What follows are Jerel Ferguson’s own words:

My name is Jerel Ferguson from Boston Massachusetts and I am Executive Director of Hike4Life. I am a passionate outdoorsman that loves nature and Hiking. I enjoy various outdoor sports, I’m a conservationist (a tree-hugger) naturalist, environmentalist and a Father to 3 wonderful sons. Growing up in the city among fortresses of brick and stone, I really didn’t have much exposure to nature. The only wildlife I had known growing up were the neighborhood squirrels, pigeons, stray cats and dogs and occasionally rats. Now, while all of this may sound demeaning, it has made me appreciate the wildlife that I discover now as an adult even more.


Hike4Life began in May 2010 when I along with a friend co-founded the idea for this great organization. We basically said, “Let’s get a bunch of our people together and go on hiking trips.” This wasn’t an easy thing to do in our early stages. We decided to use technology to our advantages: Facebook, Twitter and a startup website, all in the same day, to get our intentions out into the world fast, free and no time wasted.

Getting Black people to try something ‘new’ was challenging and still is. I’ve been hiking for almost 20 years and at the time of our inception had been actively engaging other people of color (POC) hikers for about 3-4 years, so to me it was normal. But, to other people of color it was taboo.

“Black people don’t hike!”

woodland-pathsThis was preached, screamed, hollered, texted, emailed, written and [conveyed] on the phone. I was beside myself when I first heard it, and then I had to think.  Why don’t Black people hike? It never dawned on me until it was put in my head that it was to a degree, true.

There could be historical-reasoning. Black men and women were forced to escape from slavery through the woods and wilds of Slave Era America. Whether it was encountering wild animals or slave catchers dogs, we could never find solace or peace in the woods. Saying that there may be an ingrained fear in our DNA of the wilderness isn’t really an overstatement, it could be that an inter-generational phobia could have been passed from generation to generation due to the experiences of our ancestors.

On my many trips to the outdoors, I was the only one. I would never see people that looked like me out on the trails. In light of that realization I accepted the challenge and vowed to break that urban myth and get people that looked like me, “Out of theHoods & Into the Woods!” 


Rap Flashback – Black on Both Sides

black-on-both-sidesToday’s Rap Flashback features Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, who released Black on Both Sides on October 12th, 1999.  A year after his wildly successful Black Star collaboration with Talib Kweli, Yasiin’s first solo release is a deep, strong, intelligent look at the state of Hip Hop during one of its most successful and transitional eras.  The album would go gold just four months after its release. Black on Both Sides was powered by lead singles “Ms. Fat Booty” and the soulful “Umi Says”.  This album was more than two tracks deep however.

Tracks like “New World Water”, “Rock n Roll”,  and “Mathematics” tackle cerebral subject matters with mainstream appeal.   Yasiin’s  lyrical dexterity is certainly on full display throughout the record.  While he and Kweli would continue to collaborate and tour, retaining their title as Hip Hop’s most unofficial duo, Black on Both Sides showed that these artists, lightning rods for the sub-genre known as “conscious rap”, were no less powerful as individual entities.

Yasiin would go on to release 3 others albums, his second The New Danger was also an October release, on the 19th in 2004.  Big ups Mos Def, Yasiin Bey, or whatever name he may come up with next, because either way you slice it, the man delivers on the mic.  Salute!

Your Weekly Oddball: A poem by Robert Joe Stout

Your Weekly Oddball at #JPLMagazineThe Old Philosopher Begins His Work Day

Computer screen a blank, opaque. Forehead
against thumb he re-thinks Zen and meditation
…clear the mind, achieve a oneness

that is all and nothing… Nods …achieve
then let it slide away, details of daily
living always creeping in…
He taps

the ? key, squints at its curve …man
pulled in opposite directions, one part
seeking to become the everything

and nothing, the other wanting the unique,
the I am I, singular and separate…

Starts to type then stops …primordial man

edged away from the perception
that he was part of all around him—left
the Garden as it were but kept the yearning

to belong to something greater than
himself. Formed groups, communities,
nations even: I am Manichean, noble,

Lion, Whig, seeking always that return…
The screen catches movements of the light
behind him, clouds that form, pull apart

then form again …like human particles
in a great moving mass…
He sighs, peers

down at blue-veined, wrinkled hands

…distinct for just a twinkling, the I am I
a fragile myth, death the uniting force…


Artwork by Richie Montgomery

Robert Joe Stout writes about Mexico, people, life experiences, politics, baseball, being young, growing old. He has spent his literary career among journalists, dropouts, indocumentados, softball players, actors, mechanics, liars, editors and artists. He currently lives in southern Mexico.

Richie Montgomery: “My philosophical surrealistic drawings are known for their unique twist on life and our perspective of it. The “hidden in plain sight” details of my work are ruminants of the great masters like M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali. I have been drawing my entire life and have had no formal training other than just my own desire to create from the time I could hold a crayon or pencil. I enjoy many different types of art yet surrealism holds my passion the most.”

“air and light and time and space” by Charles Bukowski

charles-bukowski“– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

The Oddball Show with Emilio Phoenicio

The Oddball Show podcastTonight on the podcast the Oddballs welcome poet Emilio Phoenicio, a New England area poet whose work is deep, reflective, and often intense. His reading style is subdued yet charismatic, effortlessly painting vivid pictures with words without forcing the issue. Tonight we’ll discuss the process of balancing personal life and artistic endeavors. How does one find the space among our daily obligations and activities to create? How do you keep one from limiting the other? We’ll also talk about his book ‘Living, Breathing Poetry’ available through his Facebook page, and we’ll find out what’s next for this talented artist, all on this week’s #OddballShow.


Pertinent Links

Emilio’s Facebook page

Read more about Emilio here.

Agents of SHIELD Season 4: Ghosts and Ghost Rider

Agents of SHIELD: Ghost Rider

Welcome back, fellow Agents of SHIELD fans! Though last week’s was an exciting premiere for the fourth season featuring a badass Ghost Rider, this week’s episode introduced many of the upcoming through-lines for the season and the mysterious, possibly canonical elements that we fans love to explore.  How will the new characters shape the show’s tone?  Will the restructuring of SHIELD feel like a process we’ve already undergone in previous seasons (though now somewhat in reverse) or will a whole new SHIELD emerge as they once again make the clandestine organization public?  And how will a character like Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider fit into the new world of the Sokovia Accords?

Agents of SHIELD: Ghost Rider

Agents of SHIELD: Ghost RiderOver the Summer some of us were concerned that adding a character like Ghost Rider – big name, heavy CGI – would be a poor move for the show, overpowering the ensemble style while not adding the correct level of intrigue.  There were also those that worried using the fifth, in some ways lesser, version of the Rider (without the signature bike, not a true Spirit of Vengeance, etc.) would leave a sour taste with diehard fans. Thankfully, we critics have been proven wrong, seeing a complicated and mysterious but defined Robbie Reyes, well written so far and well performed.

Furthermore, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen spoke at this year’s SDCC about the connection between Ghost Rider’s arrival and what may be the series’ most curious theatrical tie-in yet, November’s Doctor Strange:

Along with and in mysterious connection to Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange, this fourth season of Agents of SHIELD has already introduced some interesting comic book canonical elements and new plot directions.  In the name of avoiding SPOILERS, True Believers, let’s hit the READ MORE link and look at what’s coming on this season of Agents of SHIELD…

*****SPOILER WARNING FOR THE TWO EPISODES OF Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and the upcoming Doctor Strange film SPOILER WARNING*****

Ghosts, magic books, and pesto aioli.. READ ON…

Blockhead Customs – Urban Art & Apparel

ali-tysonCreated by Atlantic City, New Jersey area natives Rene “June” Ortiz and John Morris, Blockhead Customs is a grass-roots art & apparel company with an abstract style and a strong Hip Hop / urban foundation. A chance meeting at the post office sparked a conversation between the two. They quickly realized that they both shared mutual friends in the Greater Atlantic City area, and more importantly, a mutual taste for urban art.

While this talented twosome typically showcases their work at the Noyes Arts Garage out of Stockton University, they’ve also been featured at Planet Rose Karaoke Bar at The Quarter within Tropicana Casino and Resort, and of course have a strong web presence and social media following. The Blockhead Customs brand consists mostly of murals and clothing apparel, including hats. The subjects of their paintings range from influential artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, to iconic sports figures such Tyson, Ali, and Jordan, Hip Hop legends such as Tupac, Biggie, and Rick Ross, and of course, fabled cartoon star Mickey Mouse. A quick glance at the art samples on this post reveal an abstract, part-despondent, part-hopeful, and always colorful theme across their work. It’s a signature style that permeates Blockhead Customs’ murals and much of its apparel.


Along those lines, the company’s most recent push has been towards its “Love’ll Get You Killed” themed clothing. love-duoWith its trademark broken heart logo, “Love’ll Get You Killed” apparel, particularly the hats, are building significant momentum in the Atlantic City area. As Morris notes, “we are not street artists or graffiti artists. We are just creative individuals. Today we may be doing art, tomorrow we may be in the fashion industry. Who knows?” One can see that both Ortiz and Morris have a passion for their work, and as such, promise to keep developing and delivering their vibrant, vivid, and unique style for years to come.

love-killed-2So if you’re not yet hip to the game, add some culture to your life and check them out. There’s sure to be something in their portfolio that catches your eyes or touches your soul. Blockhead Customs art & apparel are available for purchase at Blockheadcustoms.com. In true artist fashion, the duo doesn’t shy away from challenges and welcomes customized requests which can be made via the website. Be sure to check out Blockhead Customs on the web and to follow the movement on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram.