New Year, New Song, New Podcast

New Year, New Song, New Podcast

2016 is finally over.

For many, it was a particularly brutal year.  For me, it was one of the best years of my life.

Mind you, it still had its challenges, from being laid up with injuries to having my car in the shop nine times, and my laptop — the heart of my business! — dying in the summer.

But mostly, it was a great year.

I bought a nice house less than three miles from my mom and dad, got my hands dirty and did some pre-move construction and finishing with my best friend, and moved myself and my queen in in February.  We took out the above-ground pool, and installed a fire pit, around which we hosted two fun parties with many of the awesome people in our life.

I bought a great car and use it to drive for Uber and Lyft, which has proven to be both a viable source of income to cover my household overhead and a way to retain my agency as an entrepreneur.  I get to listen to podcasts — I like to learn while I earn — and meet cool people, some of whom have become fans of my music.  (Remember: Tip your Uber or Lyft driver!)

I’ve been reading anywhere from 20-80 pages of a book every day, and will include my recommended reading list below.

I got hired as a freelance writer and editor by my local newspaper, and conducted a 3-hour strategy session with them to help determine their core values as a business.

Because of the experience with my local paper, along with my blog, I ended up being hired by a candidate for Wayne County Circuit Court Judge to write a 14,000-word story of her life and career, which became the centerpiece for the grassroots social media movement I coordinated to maximize its impact.  She ultimately won the election, and the votes needed in order to secure her seat on the bench were a direct result of my efforts, according to her social media manager.

I also began training in Wing Chun Do, a self-defense-focused martial art developed by Grandmaster (“Sijo”, see-jo) James DeMile based on his years of practicing and learning with Bruce Lee in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I had the opportunity to meet and learn directly from Sijo this past August, when he travelled from his home in Hawaii to bequeath the Wing Chun Do system and Grandmaster title to my personal instructor, Rocco Ambrose.  I’m excited and fortunate to be learning from the Grandmaster of a martial art!

There wasn’t really a single thing that I would consider to be the best thing that happened to or for me in 2016, but I think overall, I’d have to say that I learned a lot about myself and my capacity to get things done, to become my best self.  And I learned a lot about others, too.

Every day, I effort to learn something new.  Whether it’s through reading a book, or listening to a podcast, or talking with a rider when I’m out driving, I’m constantly learning and applying the knowledge gained.

I think that having a student-like mindset is a great way to approach life, and I encourage others to ask tough questions, to seek deeper knowledge in all things.

But I always keep in mind something Sijo said during his visit: “If it doesn’t work for you, it’s pure entertainment.”

So this year, I encourage you to find what works for you, and use it to help you become better at whatever you’re doing and get closer to whatever it is you’re working toward.  (I’d love to hear your story!)

What works for me is operating from a place of authenticity, and creating the best content I can.

I’m happy to announce that starting in 2017, I am now delivering content in three forms:

My blog, which, now that I have a new laptop (yay!), I will endeavor to publish on a weekly basis…

My music, of which a new song was released yesterday (the general consensus among the feedback I’m getting is that it may be my best song to date)…

Finally, my new podcastGet After It! w/ John Kay, the first installment of which was published today at 5:00 AM!  I’ve already interviewed five guests for Get After It!, respectable mavericks each of them, and plan to release a new installment on Monday of each week.

The first installment features my interview with Emily Schaller, the CEO of a Detroit-based non-profit organization called RockCF, which raises funds and awareness for the fight against cystic fibrosis.  Emily’s story and life are inspiring, and every time I talk to her I feel the need to kick my butt a little more in my own efforts.  She truly is a ray of brilliant light, and everyone can learn something from listening to her.

I’m grateful to anyone reading this right now, and to anyone who listens to my music and my podcast.  If you like my music, please buy it.  If you like what you hear on my podcast, please subscribe to it.

2016 is over.  The best is yet to come!  🙂

New song, “We Know We’re Gonna Die”: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com/track/we-know-were-gonna-die

New podcast, interview with Emily Schaller: http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/4951467

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com

My 2016 recommended reading list:

Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman
I was raised on the Beatles, classical music, and country music.  Anyone who is a Beatles fan generally has a favorite Beatle, and mine was always Paul, although the songs that I loved the most and wanted to learn were usually George songs.  This 800+ page book, a birthday gift from my parents, grabbed me from page one and I read it voraciously, at one point over 125 pages in a day.  Paul was the meticulous one, the one who focused on the details, staying late into the night at the studio to get his bass parts just the way he wanted them, which is to say, perfect.  This book reached into my soul, and I found myself empathizing with Paul in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible if someone told me so.  The author had McCartney’s ‘tacit approval’ to interview anyone and everyone who knew Paul about anything and everything, so this truly is the definitive Paul McCartney biography.  A must-read for anyone interested in one of the biggest superstars in the world.

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook
I hear all the time about how new music is no good, the radio sucks these days, all the songs sound the same.  Well, this book explains why.  From ABBA to Ace of Base to Kelly Clarkson and Rhianna and more, the evolution of pop music’s dominance is thoroughly broken down.  You get the inside scoop on who really writes the music we hear everywhere — mostly white, middle-aged, Scandinavian men.  This book was fascinating from start to finish, and I recommend everyone reads it.  It’s full of delicious and salacious stories, from Ke$ha’s turbulent lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke, to the time Kelly Clarkson bawled her eyes out in Clive Davis’s office because he insisted on including “Since U Been Gone” on her sophomore record (it would go on to win the Grammy for Song Of The Year).  Treat yourself to this book.  You won’t regret it, even if it does disgust you.

Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
I need to read this book again, this time with a highlighter.  That’s something I have been doing more of, highlighting books as I read them.  This year I’m going to transcribe the highlighted passages from my books onto index cards and create what’s known as a ‘commonplace book’ for myself.  A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations, and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.  The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking, or whatever it is that you do.  Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books.  Marcus Aurelius kept one, which more or less became the Meditations.  Petrarch kept one.  Montaigne, who invented the essay kept a handwritten compilation of sayings, maxims and quotations from literature and history that he felt were important.  Thomas Jefferson kept one.  Napoleon kept one.  Bill Gates keeps one.  I first heard of the idea of a commonplace book from Holiday’s blog, and liked the idea so much I decided to apply it.  This book will be one of the first to get transcribed.  It’s relatively short, and one can likely read it in a day or over a weekend.  Beneficial to anyone.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
This one hits you where it hurts: your smartphone.  Everywhere we turn, most people seem to be looking down at a device.  It’s the reality of the culture in which we live.  But there are devastating side effects to our new habits that are only now being discovered.  This book sheds light on those side effects.  There’s a group of friends going out to dinner and mandating the creation of a ‘cell phone tower’ in the middle of the table, where everyone stacks their device on top of the others, and the first person to grab for theirs when it rings has to pay for the entire meal.  Or consider that many young professionals fresh out of college and beginning their careers would rather talk to their colleagues, bosses, and employees through text, email, or Gchat, than have an actual one-on-one, face-to-face conversation.  We are connecting with our devices more than we are with each other.  According to Turkle, based on her research, this is a growing epidemic, the results of which are a general lack of empathy toward others and an inability to tolerate natural lulls and awkwardness in conversation.  Sound like the world we live in?  Ever since reading this book, I have effort to ‘elevate the conversation’ whenever possible.  Instead of emailing, I’ll text.  Instead of texting, I’ll call.  Instead of calling, I’ll drop by.  By elevating our conversations, we can reclaim our empathy and our connection to one another.

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
Believe me, no one was as shocked as I that I purchased something from Arianna Huffington.  Regardless of any opinion one may have about her, the information in the book is immediately applicable.  Since reading it, I do my best to get at least 7 hours of sleep every single night.  You should, too.

Kelly Ann Ramsey: Looking Through the Lens of Compassion

Kelly Ann Ramsey: Looking Through the Lens of Compassion

A Cultural Mission

No story about the life of Kelly Ann Ramsey would be complete without taking time to acknowledge her decades of experience as an international photojournalist, and the cultural impact she is seeking to make through her artistic efforts.

Though she has earned some renown as of today, Ramsey’s development as a photographer had humble beginnings.  Her father gave her her first camera, and from then on, wherever Ramsey traveled she kept it by her side.

“My father took me to the wilds of Canada, he took me into the middle of wilderness.  It was beautiful.  I’ve been surrounded by monuments, or the Grand Canyon, all of those places that you’re supposed to take children.  I always went with my camera, and I always took photos.”

Many years ago, Ramsey’s daughter, Alexis, worked in Africa at a ‘TTC’, Teacher’s Training College.  She went there with civil rights leader Leon Sullivan to teach teachers how to teach.

“She would go into the villages with their college graduates and help them with lesson plans, et cetera,” Ramsey says.

The first morning upon arriving in Africa, after a two-day flight, Ramsey got up and went to work with her daughter.  “After I spent some time with her in the classroom, got her settled and looked at where she worked, I went on a little adventure of my own.”

Ramsey focuses her attention on a photo of a woman walking, carrying something on her head.

“My daughter lived in Africa for three years, and I made four trips to visit her.  This is the first picture I took.  This was the first shot and it is today, still, my favorite shot from Africa.”

The title of Ramsey’s first photo is A Long Walk Home.  At first glance, it’s an obvious choice.  But if one knows Ramsey’s story, her childhood and how she grew up, the indelible events which shaped her life, then one understands the subtle metaphor.  Ramsey has had many long walks home of her own, both figuratively and literally.

“This woman has already walked the six miles into town, did her shopping, and is now six miles back and is walking toward her village.  She’s already done twelve or maybe fifteen miles in those bare feet.”  Ramsey points, “This, I guarantee you, on top of her head, is at least forty or fifty pounds.

“Just magnificent.”

When did Ramsey come to understand that she had a gift for photography?

“I guess I was always good, I just didn’t know it,” she offers.

“Most of my photography is just ‘click-click-click-click-click, done.’  I normally don’t plan my work.  I just walk around and take shots.

“I didn’t realize that I was a good photographer until I met Jodi Burton.”

Jodi Burton would become a close family friend.

“I was having my photographs developed at Ritz Camera, and Jodi was a technician there.  All of a sudden, she was my favorite.  I’d call and ask for her schedule, and would only drop off my film when she was working.”

Why all the fuss over who processes Ramsey’s photos?

“When I was in Africa, I was shooting film.  This is 35-millimeter.  It’s not as easy as dumping it into your computer and printing it out yourself.”

Burton met Ramsey over ten years ago when she was a photo student.  “I was working at a camera shop where [Ramsey] used to drop off her film,” Burton says. “One day I was in the lab and heard a woman’s voice over my shoulder, ‘Excuse me!  Are you the young woman who develops my film?’  I swung around, startled, because no one ever yelled into the lab unless they had an issue with the images they were getting back.  Instead, Ramsey exclaimed how pleased she was with the photos and didn’t want anyone else to work on [her film] but me.”

Ramsey recalls Burton being persistent.

“Jodi would ask me over and over who I was shooting for.  I told her that I was just snapping pictures during my trips to Africa to visit my daughter.

“I don’t think she believed me,” Ramsey suggests.

“I was so curious and a little intimidated by this woman.  ‘Who are you?  Do you work for National Geographic or something?’, I finally asked after years of processing her photos.  ‘Hah!’ she laughed.  ‘No, no, I am a juvenile referee for Wayne County!’  I was speechless and had so many questions.  I was so fascinated by the images she was capturing,” Burton remembers.

“I have a ‘perfect problem’,” Ramsey admits, “everything has to be perfect.”

When asked to describe the feeling of capturing a perfect photo, Ramsey says that when she sees it she becomes so moved that her eyes fill with tears.

She becomes impassioned when she sees the photos she’s taken over more than thirty years, because preservation of culture is Ramsey’s mission as a photojournalist.

Burton sees the beauty and importance in Ramsey’s work, and has helped with her photography for many years.

“I have gotten to know her and her family,” Burton says.  “She became a mentor to me.  To see how much she truly cares about people has been something that I admire about her.  She donates all her art to raise money for her foundation For The Seventh Generation, which gives to children in need.”

Lorraine Weber, Executive Director of For The Seventh Generation, says about Ramsey’s photography, “Each photo reveals aspects of both the [outer] and inner life of the subject through a clear and compassionate lens.  Each child’s face reminds us of the importance of each generation to our future.

“[Ramsey’s] photographs,” Weber continues, “reflect the common dignity of children of different races, nationalities and circumstances.  She seeks to bring the special and unique personality of each child to our attention.  She wants us to recognize and appreciate each child’s worth.”

Burton adds to her praise of Ramsey, “I’ve seen her go out of her way many of times to help people, including myself.  She has more energy and passion for humanity than anyone I’ve ever met.  I have known Kelly almost my entire adult life, she has become [not only] a mentor, but someone who has inspired me, a great friend, someone I look up to and consider family.”

“I’m not advertising ‘Photos by Kelly Ramsey’,” Ramsey declares.  “I’m trying to make a point, here.

“This is my work.  It says something.”

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Ramsey at her home in Livonia in November 2016, in front of a selection of her photos from China. Photo by Jodi Burton.

 

An Oceanic Feeling

Ramsey has captured photos in China, Vietnam, Cuba, Guatemala, Egypt, the wilds of Canada, and many more places around the world, including her home state of Michigan.

Of all the places Ramsey has photographed, which impacted her the most?

“Africa,” she says without hesitation.  “There’s nothing quite like Africa.”

Ramsey gestures at her photo Fishing For Life, which depicts three young boys standing on rocks in a body of water at dusk, fishing poles in hand.

“That’s Monkey Bay on Lake Malawi,” she explains.  “Malawi is very close to the Equator, so it’s six A.M. light, six P.M. dark, twelve months out of the year.  Getting to Malawi is not easy because you’ve got to go into Nairobi first, and then you go to a very tiny plane to get into Malawi.  It’s a two-day flight.”

Fishing For Life would end up being accepted as part of the 2010 Peace Project.

The Peace Project is a non-profit which solicits artists working in any type of medium to submit a work which can be reduced to a 12”x12” square.  They then take numerous squares from the tens of thousands of submissions and create a collage which travels to New York, Los Angeles, and goes to other countries around the world.  People can purchase individual squares and the proceeds benefit war-torn countries through providing medical supplies, education for children, housing and more.

“Most years, I submit a piece,” Ramsey says.  “Twice, I got in.”

The Peace Project requires the artist to write something in addition to their work as to why the art represents peace.

“I wrote a piece on [Fishing For Life] that these boys are fishing for their life.  What are we doing in our world by polluting the water?  I mean, look at those whales that were recently found dead, and they had plastic and auto parts in their gut.  What are we doing?  How we’re living our life over here is destroying this culture over there.  That’s the point.”

Ramsey’s attention turns to China.

“Following three years in Africa, my daughter moved to Beijing.  My favorite place in Beijing,” she beams, “is the Temple of Heaven, and when I’d visit Alexis I would try to get there a few times during my stay.  It is my favorite park in Beijing.  It’s just a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful park that is filled with people who enjoy themselves, and take a stroll.

“I went there once a week because I liked to walk down the Long Corridor, which probably goes for a mile, maybe less.  People bring their crickets, and their birds, and they dance…”

Ramsey points at a picture of an elderly man doing the splits on a rail, “…and this guy sits and that guy does yoga, and people sing, and there’s a guy dipping a long brush into water and writing and drawing in the dust on the floor, and people play cards, and, oh my goodness, they socialize.”

Ramsey emphasizes the word socialize because, based on her numerous years of experience, many children and families in the United States aren’t communicating with each other on a deep enough level for strong emotional development and character reinforcement.

Sherry Turkle supports this position of Ramsey’s in her 2015 book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.  As a “preeminent media researcher, Turkle has been studying digital culture and communication” for over three decades.

“Face-to-face conversation,” Turkle writes, “is the most human — and humanizing — thing we do.  Fully present to one another, we learn to listen.  It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy.  It’s where we experience the joy of being heard, of being understood.  And conversation advances self-reflection, the conversations with ourselves that are the cornerstone of early development and continue throughout life.”

Ramsey next holds up a picture of a little girl kneeling in a village in Africa.

“Look at her.  Everyone would think she’s poor,” she states, “but I don’t think she’s mainlining heroin.  Perhaps it’s because she and her family eat dinner together every night and have conversations instead of withdrawing into their phones.”

As a juvenile court referee, Ramsey used her photography to help her respondents and litigants see the light.

“There was a time when I had panels of pictures in my courtroom, all the way around the room, to remind people what we’re dealing with.  When I’m elected, the first thing I’m gonna do is take those panels back out and remind people of what we’re doing.

“I think that it’s important for some of the children in our communities,” she continues, “who consider themselves poor, to understand that this is poor, you’re not.  Even the most socio-economically strained individuals in this country are not poor by world standards.  This is poor.

“But are these children concerned about what they have on?  Do they even have shoes on their feet?  This is poor.  This child is living in this house.  Our children aren’t poor.  Even the poorest neighborhoods in Detroit are not poor by world standards.”

Ramsey always does her best to change the perspectives of the people who end up in her courtroom, to get them to experience what bestselling author Robert Greene calls “an oceanic feeling” in his book The 50th Law, a collaboration with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.

From The 50th Law: “We share the same fate with everyone; we all deserve the same degree of compassion.  …This is what is known as an oceanic feeling — the sensation that we are not separated from the outside world but that we are a part of life in all its forms.  Feeling this at moments inspires an ecstatic reaction…”

Ramsey recalls a morning waking up in Malawi.

“I was in a tent, and I wake up and I look out and there’s a [monkey] looking at me.  And I’m looking at him.  We connected for a moment.”

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Ramsey at her home in Livonia in November 2016, in front of a selection of her photos from Africa, including A Long Walk Home (top left) and Fishing For Life (top center).  Photo by Jodi Burton.

 

A Higher Paradigm

Of all the photos Ramsey has captured, if she could be remembered for only one, which would she choose?

“Probably my favorite little girl…”

She’s speaking of a girl she photographed in Sa Pa, a mountainous town in northwest Vietnam, home to many ethnic minority groups.

“I have been known to say that I breathe better when I am there,” she offers.

In 2012, Ramsey was fortunate to spend four days in Sa Pa, where she traveled through the region’s many hill villages, met many people, and observed firsthand their culture and daily activities.

“I have hundreds of pictures of stunning children.  This is my favorite.  This is the most favorite picture of a child I have…”  As her voice cracks and trails off, Ramsey’s eyes begin to water.

“Let’s give her a steady dose of sex, drugs, money and violence, thong underwear at eight years old.  How ridiculous, just utterly ridiculous, what we’re doing here.”

Sa Pa is a town unlike what most people experience every day, and by world standards, Ramsey suspects it is among the poorest.

“[This girl] lives in unbelievable…what we would define as poverty.  She doesn’t have her hair cut, her outfit is tattered and torn.  But there’s a richness to her culture that is far more valuable than a fancy house or a lofty bank statement,” Ramsey declares.

And the people weren’t buried in their respective technological devices, ignoring each other.

“Nobody had a smartphone there, nobody had a computer.  They were sitting and making beautiful clothing, and handmade earrings, and they were communicating with one another.

“They cared about one another,” Ramsey finishes.

Sa Pa is known for both its stunning scenery and its cultural diversity.

“When it comes to natural beauty, the people of Sa Pa see it.  Our children walk right by it.  They’re not going in the woods anymore.”

Ramsey directs her attention to multiple photos of children from China.

“Look at these children.  These children are happy.  They’re happy.  Their clothes are tattered and torn, but they aren’t sex objects, they’re not climbing over each other to get ahead in life.  They…I’m sorry…”

Ramsey pauses a moment to collect her emotions, to keep from weeping.

“They’re happy.  They are worth saving.  We’re destroying these people, and in doing so, we’re destroying ourselves.  We’re destroying us.”

The conversation turns back to the lessons she does her best to impart in her courtroom.

“Our kids aren’t poor.  They simply don’t take advantage of what’s offered to them today.”  Ramsey gestures to her photos from Africa, “What’s the suicide rate here?”

She brings up a good point, as there are many people in the world who are unable to comprehend the idea of doing harm to one’s self.  It’s just not a thought which occurs to them (“Why would I hurt myself on purpose?”).

And yet, according to the November 2016 TIME Magazine article “The Kids Are Not All Right”, we live in a country in which “a spectrum of angst that plagues 21st century teens” is resulting in many of them resorting to cutting themselves as a “compulsive manifestation of the depression and anxiety that…millions of teenagers in the U.S. are struggling with.”

The article continues, “In 2015, about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.  More than 2 million report experiencing depression that impairs their daily function.  About 30% of girls and 20% of boys  — totaling 6.3 million teens — have had an anxiety disorder, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.”

In regard to the villages depicted in her photographs, Ramsey posits, “So many people in our communities would say ‘Oh, we’ve gotta bring technology here, and we’ve gotta bring them the internet, and high-speed computers.’  But these people are happier here.

“Why can’t I leave a nightclub in Detroit without someone coming up to me and whispering ‘I need to talk to you about my granddaughter.  She’s living in a car with four kids, there’s something wrong with her…?’  This woman told me she had to shave her great-grandkids’ heads because their hair was so matted down, it couldn’t be brushed out.

“I hear stories like hers constantly.”

What does Ramsey think the big difference is between kids’ cultural inputs over there and back here at home?

“I think that the focus on education in this country doesn’t have the weight [it does in other countries],” she affirms.  “My daughter has taught in Asia for around fifteen years now.  It’s cool to be smart there.  It’s a huge part of their culture.  That’s the philosophy of the children whom my daughter teaches.  That’s why they’re not getting in trouble, not having school fights, not showing up late.  They understand that those things would bring dishonor to their families.”

It is evident that the children in many of Ramsey’s photos, even at their young ages, have somewhat of a skill set to do something in their village which is needed or necessary.

“We don’t have that heightened responsibility of being the best that we’re capable of being, which I see culturally when I leave this country and go back to the schools at which my daughter teaches to speak to the children.”

Ramsey believes we need to bring some of that culture back here, and she does so by way of her photojournalism.  She believes we need more simplicity, more understanding, more compassion.  Less violence.

She recounts turning her respondents’ attention to her photography in her courtroom.

“‘You won’t do your homework, you won’t go to school.  You’re out on the street corner trying to look tough and cool, selling drugs, idolizing that lifestyle.'”  Ramsey would then point to the panels of her photography circling around her courtroom, “‘This is what you should be thinking about instead.’”

As she cycles through photos on her computer, hundreds of photos of children and families and nature, Ramsey asks one question, out loud, over and over.

“What are we doing?  What are we doing?”

Ramsey’s photography is another way for her to reprogram the brains of the families of Wayne County, to get individuals to perceive things differently, to embrace a higher paradigm regarding what life is really all about.

“I just don’t understand why people don’t see what’s happening to our children.”

You don’t have to go to Africa, or China, or Vietnam, to see beauty.  You can see it in your own community, in your own backyard, in your own life…

You just have to decide to look through the lens of compassion, through the lens of reality…

As Kelly Ann Ramsey does.

“When I find myself on the road less traveled, or in a place where one lives his or her life harmonious with nature, I am more at peace and feel more fulfilled.

“I have often wondered whether or not people are happier in a less connected world.”

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Ramsey at her home in Livonia in November 2016, in front of two of her photos from Sa Pa, Vietnam, including her all-time favorite photo (top). Photo by Jodi Burton.

This is an addendum to the seven-part story Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now.

Contact the author:
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay

Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 7

Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 7

Lesson Of A Lifetime

Kelly Ann Ramsey has a firm focus on the future in everything she does.  One of the ways her future-focus manifests positive results is in her work as co-founder of For The Seventh Generation (ForTheSeventhGeneration.org), a community-based volunteer program for the special needs of children who are wards of the juvenile court, just as Maryann Bruder once was.

About this unique, low-overhead program supporting foster children, Ramsey says, “To be truly effective, our juvenile justice system must look beyond the mere survival of the children in our charge.  We must recognize that the actions we take today will have an impact far beyond the current generation.  How we deal with the most vulnerable children today will affect their progeny for years to come.  We must work for the seventh generation.”

She then speaks of the Executive Director of For The Seventh Generation, Lorraine Weber.

“Oh, I love Lorraine Weber!” Ramsey beams.  “Oh, my goodness.  I have so much respect for her.  Tremendous respect.”

The child Ramsey is most proud of?  Her daughter, Alexis.

“She’s the best,” Ramsey says of her daughter.  “She’s the cat’s meow.  She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s kind, she’s a great mother.  She teaches at the United Nations International School of Hanoi in Vietnam, and I could not be more proud.”

What makes the woman who has no sense of humor laugh?

“My grandsons make me laugh.  I’ve been collecting some of their sayings,” she smiles, “recording their cuteness in beautiful personal journals that I bought for each grandson at birth.”

How does anyone rise in our current culture without a support system?  For Ramsey, it’s not just about the bottom line.

Ramsey has lived a life dedicated to honoring and creating a legacy, both for her and her family, and all of the people whose lives are impacted by her decisions in court.  She encourages all individuals to hold themselves accountable first, and fosters a sense of self-belief, empowering them to take control of their lives through positive intention and action.

When everyone else says there isn’t enough money, or it’s too much work, or there’s too much going on, or it will take too long, Ramsey says ‘I’m willing to do the thing that others are unwilling to do.  I’m going to do the uncomfortable thing.’  And in doing so, she differentiates herself from those colleagues who aren’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices, who aren’t willing to do what it takes to create incredible experiences for people, who would rather just sit behind a laptop all day, writing emails, and experience people that way, as opposed to bringing a community together.

Ramsey spends her time doing what is outside the comfort zone of most of her colleagues, that is to say, she reverse-engineers the hopes and dreams of her respondents.  She switches their focus from immediate impossibilities to positive potential, and it lasts a lifetime.  She teaches her litigants, and all others in her courtroom, that anything is possible through hard work, perseverance, and self-discipline above all.

According to Justin Moscarello, neuroscientist at New York University’s Center for Neural Science, “The world is how you assess it.  It’s your belief about your agency that ultimately determines your emotional outcomes.”

By exploring possibilities, by putting herself out there, by stretching, by growing, by doing things that excite her, that scare her, that are meaningful to her, Ramsey is able to impact others.

And she teaches everyone that they can do the same.  Because when you step out of your comfort zone, you give people permission to live a great life.

“Everybody knows that I was born and raised in the city of Detroit,” Ramsey says.  “My childhood home on Rutherford is still standing tall, and the shutters on the sides of the windows were made by my father.”

Of all the lessons Officer Robert W. Ramsey taught her, if she could only keep one to remember, which lesson would Ramsey keep?

“Be the best I’m capable of being,” Ramsey affirms.  “People have more talent, and more ability, than they can possibly imagine.  I think that it is a sin to waste your God-given talents.  I plan to live every day to the best of my ability.

“What would the impact be if we all lived like this?” Ramsey wonders.  “Would we then live in the world that each of us claim we want to live in?  Would we not gift our children with the dream we hope for them?

“This takes time…but isn’t someone worth saving worth the time?”

For Ramsey, it’s not about winning votes, it’s about winning hearts and minds.

There are few who work in the judicial system who think, care, and are willing to be patient and follow-up the way Ramsey does — too many are in it to get their pay and go home.  Perhaps they got into politics for altruistic reasons, perhaps not.  Regardless, many of those who hold titles or positions of power and influence within government have forgotten the true purpose of their respective roles in American democracy.  Ramsey has not, and she honors that responsibility day in and day out.

Ramsey has immense pride in knowing that the people whose lives she has impacted with her teaching are still doing what she taught them to do, that she made enough sense to them when it truly mattered, and that their lives are better because of it.

“I have so many things to be proud of,” Ramsey smiles.  “Whether it’s my beautiful daughter and grandsons, For The Seventh Generation, or one of my respondents saying ‘if it wasn’t for you, I’d have been dead on the street, and instead I’m a college graduate’, or Maryann Bruder’s letter to Governor Snyder urging him to appoint me to be a Third Circuit Court judge, it’s things like that.”

Ramsey has the love Wayne County needs now.  And rather than thinking of it as ‘tough love’, case after case, and experience upon experience, has proven that it is indeed a ‘righteous love’.  A love that respects others, holds people accountable to rise to the expectations bestowed upon them, and puts children first.  She has a firm focus on the future, always taking time and care to look at everything through the lens of reality.

“I often ask a child in my courtroom,” Ramsey offers, “‘What is the best gift you could ever give your parents?’  Of course, I get the more obvious answers, ‘a new car, a new house’.  Without supplying the answer, I carefully guide the respondent, and at some point the light bulb goes on — the best gift a child could ever give their parents is for a child to make their parents proud of them.”

Ramsey recalls her father sitting in the back of her courtroom years ago, holding back tears as he heard his daughter speak to those in front of her using the same words and guidance she learned from him.

“If I was waking up from some drug-induced daze right now, rest assured,” she remarks, “I could come up with a laundry list of excuses for my bad behavior — ‘Poor Kelly, she was just a little girl when her mother became ill, she lost her mother so young, a runaway and pregnant at 17, a high school drop out…’  Yep, the same nonsense I heard from so many, day after day after day.

“Instead, I want my mom, Delphine Ramsey, and my dad…to be proud of me.”

A Judicial Joan Of Arc

“The first problem with the news,” writes Neil Strauss in his October 2016 piece in Rolling Stone, “is that it must be new.  Generally, events that are both aberrations from the norm and spectacular enough to attract attention are reported, such as terrorist attacks, mass shootings and plane crashes.

“But far more prolific, and thus even less news-worthy, are the 117 suicides in the U.S. each day (in comparison with 43 murders), the 129 deaths from accidental drug overdoses, and the 96 people dying a day in automobile accidents (27 of whom aren’t wearing seat belts, not to mention the unspecified amount driving distracted).  Add to these,” Strauss continues, “the 1,315 deaths each day due to smoking, and the 890 related to obesity, and all the other preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and liver disease, and the message is clear: The biggest thing you have to fear is not a terrorist or a shooter or a deadly home invasion.  You are the biggest threat to your own safety.”

You are the biggest threat to your own safety.  Kelly Ann Ramsey knows this, and gets the individuals in her courtroom to realize it as well.

“It would make logical sense, then,” Strauss concludes, “that if Americans were really choosing politicians based on their own safety, they would vote for a candidate who stresses seat belt campaigns, programs for psychological health to decrease suicide, and ways to reduce smoking, obesity, prescription-pill abuse, alcoholism, flu contagion and hospital-acquired infections.”

Think globally, act locally.  Do you believe that investing our time and energy into our children will make the world a better place?  We can start right here, right now, by voting for Kelly Ann Ramsey for Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge.  She’s on a crusade for the community.

She’s a judicial Joan of Arc.

“I haven’t burned out.  I’m never gonna burn out.  I know exactly who I am, and I can work non-stop,” Ramsey declares.

This is the final installment of a seven-part story.  To read the story from the beginning, click here.

Contact the author:
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay



Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 6

Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 6

The Voice Of God

“You know, there’s no more respect in this world today, there’s no more,” Kelly Ann Ramsey pauses a moment, “deference to the police, or to the elderly, or to teachers.”

Accountability is a hot-button issue for Ramsey, something she communicates with the litigants in her courtroom.

“In addition to understanding having no mom, I also understand the addict, and I understand the incorrigible child,” she says.  “I also understand making a decision that changes your life — being pregnant at 17.  So don’t tell me ‘I can’t do it’.”

“Don’t tell me ‘I can’t do it’” is about owning your decisions, and deciding with intention to achieve what you are destined to accomplish.  Success is the result of better decision-making over time.

“You cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result,” Ramsey asserts.  “Bad behavior is always wrong.”

Ramsey is her own best coach: she talks to herself out loud in the mirror from time to time, has a song she sings to herself to calm herself down, and will admonish herself with a “What a nutball,” when she screws up, which she says isn’t often.  She is known to say, “Success is a pattern of behavior, and so is failure.”

Rather than expecting self-discipline from only the children, Ramsey also holds parents accountable for being present and involved in their child’s life, and even gave assignments to the parents whose children were removed from their care and custody, too.

“You can’t keep your thirteen-year old home from school to babysit your five-, three-, and one-year olds because you’re too stoned or drunk to get up in the morning, or because you simply had too many children than your life strategy could reasonably allow,” Ramsey states.  “I’m sorry, but the truth is no one is entitled to have children they can’t afford.”

And Ramsey says the children parents are able to afford need to be disciplined according to their behavior.

“We are justifying ‘Oh, it’s no big deal’.  There’s way too much of that going on.  It’s just wrong.”

In calling for parents to hold their sons and daughters accountable, Ramsey has the community in mind.

“When we say ‘I don’t wanna be a snitch, I’m not gonna tell anybody that, you know, we know who’s breaking and entering in the neighborhood’, our failure to hold that person accountable means that everybody in the neighborhood becomes violated,” she says.

“Our children must be held accountable for their actions at the earliest stage possible.”

Ramsey then opens up about an influential time in her life, when she was disciplined by her parents.

“I was kicked out of religion class more than once,” she admits.  “Some things in class just didn’t make sense to me, and I raised questions and spoke my mind about it.  I can recall my mother and my father driving me to school, begging me the entire one-mile drive to keep my mouth shut in religion class.  ‘Do not say a thing in religion class.  Just do it.’”

For Ramsey, religion is a legitimate path to enlightenment, not a sword to be used to keep people in line.

“My mother was a devout Catholic, born and raised, and my father was spiritual, following indigenous Indian spirituality practices and rituals,” Ramsey informs.  “The months when we were away on wild, northern Canadian lakes, it always bothered me that there wasn’t a church, but I often went to the Indian church.

“Still, one of the fondest memories I have of my father was being in a canoe, at dawn, going out fishing.  Steam rising off the water, magnificent scenery.  It was so quiet.  We were alone, and my father said to me, over and over, ‘Shhhhh…you can hear God talking to you here.’”

A Measured Patience

Does Kelly Ann Ramsey believe in God?

“I believe.  I would like to say that I’m spiritual.  I was born and raised Catholic.”  She goes on, “I believe that there’s a higher being and I think we’re gonna answer to that being.”

What works for Ramsey, she explains, can be summed up by the button she slides across the table at Las Palapas which reads “All Children Are Our Children”.

“I think that God…if this button is the center of the universe…says ‘We all have to get to here.’” Ramsey taps on the button with her finger.  “And if I choose to follow Catholicism to get to here, maybe you wish to follow the Quran to get to here, or somebody wants to be Episcopalian, or Baptist, or follow Indigenous American and Canadian Indian spirituality…we all have to get to here.”

Ramsey leans forward, taps on the button a few more times, and then sits back in the booth.

“However you want to get there is okay by me,” she says.  “I don’t think that God is going to say ‘There’s only one path to being a good person.’”

So how does Ramsey practice her religion?

“From my perspective, I look for and attend Mass mobs.  I love to go to Baptist churches, I love to get my Baptist on.  I loved listening to some of the Baptist preachers, I loved some of that.  I love going to high Catholic masses where they use the incense.  And I love doing a Native Indian sweat lodge.

“I have a meditation room in my house.  It is filled with things, powerful things, in my opinion, which are very meaningful to me, that I’ve collected for years, from around the world.  I do my best to visit it daily.

“So, I think we’re all trying to get to here,” Ramsey finishes as she taps the button one more time.

What does Ramsey think will happen when she meets God?

“I think God only has one question for us,” she states.  “‘Did you use the gifts I gave you to the best of your abilities, and for what purpose?’”

Ramsey has many supporters among the religious communities of Wayne County.

“I speak at churches all the time,” Ramsey smiles, “and many pastors have looked at me and said, ‘You should be up here.’”

The church appreciates Ramsey’s focus on the future.

“We have to look at the bigger picture of making the conscious decision to not hold a family accountable for their actions.  It would mean we are enablers,” Ramsey believes, “of generational neglect, generational criminality, generational drug use, generational incest.  If we don’t break that cycle of abuse, we are going to pay for it later, whether in the prison system, the quality of our educational system, hospital visits, health care, mental health care.  Not to mention, the costs of ensuring the safety of the community, the police department, et cetera.  So until we honestly address the needs of our community’s most vulnerable, we’re just delaying the cost and spreading it out.

“You have to take all the time that is needed.”

In order to honor the power of this country’s judicial system and help shape the community, Ramsey operates with a measured patience.

The biggest complaint about Referee Ramsey on the bench is ‘she takes too long’.  That complaint comes not from the respondents, but the attorneys and the staff.

“Certainly not all, but many of our attorneys are court-appointed, and are some of the poorest-paid attorneys in the nation.  The reality is they may need to handle many cases a day in order to make a decent living, which impels them to buzz around in the hallway, flipping their cases among each other.  ‘You do these three, and you do these,’ and so on,” Ramsey says.

“Too many are not prepared to defend their clients, and all they desire is expediency, rubber-stamp it.  ‘Oh, is this what DHS wanted?  Got it.  Done.  Anybody disagree?  Next case….’”  Ramsey shakes her head, “It’s just toooooo sad.

“If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, then you need to slow down the juvenile court system.  You have to see and understand the whole picture, that is to say, the whole family, the whole person.  Because if you don’t understand every issue, and turn over every stone,” she insists, “then you are going to be left with inadequate solutions and services, kicking the can down the road.

“All of us need to recognize the end goal, and work toward it.”

Affiliated With The Truth

Kelly Ann Ramsey’s focus on the future polarizes her from her colleagues and rivals.  While many politicians and public officials are first concerned with the inherent costs — the bottom line — of running Wayne County, Ramsey instead looks ahead to the ultimate results of the decisions made, and how they will affect families for generations.

“[Many politicians and officials are] just trying to spread the costs out,” she asserts.  “‘Well, you know, I reduced costs in this department’, or ‘I’m the new so-and-so’, or ‘I’m the new chief of this-and-that.’  They just spread it out.  But it’s costing us.  Because there’s generational abuse, neglect, delinquency, incest, drug addiction, violence, poverty…and we’re not solving the problem.

“Too often in the juvenile justice system, decisions are made based upon price, what it costs in dollars.”  Ramsey sighs, “But we have to look at the bigger picture.”

There are approximately 14,000 foster children currently in Michigan, down from 20,000.  According to Ramsey, that number is lower because, “We leave too many kids at risk.  But you can’t look at that situation and say ‘I can’t do anything, the number’s too big.’  If you individually said, ‘What could I do for one child or one family each year?’, we could solve this problem.

“We continually redefine the harm to our children — for example, instead of calling it ‘rape’ when a child is sexually assaulted by a family member, we call it ‘incest’ — and we are not focused on the long-range impact.  They become psychologically impaired for years, which impacts their productivity in society.

“When people ask my party affiliation,” Ramsey says, “I tell them ‘I’m affiliated with the truth.’”

The truth is what Ramsey is always seeking, both in and out of her courtroom.

The final item in Ramsey’s folder of assignments — the ninth item — is a fifteen-page booklet called How to Study, which guides one toward developing life-long habits of planned learning.  On the front of the booklet, in her own handwriting, Ramsey writes “‘Being Smart’ is a job.  You need to show up for this job.  Referee Kelly Ann Ramsey.”

One of the ways Ramsey shows up for the job of being smart is in how she spends her hard-earned taxpayer income.

“I drive a car with 353,000 miles on it,” she volunteers.  “I’ve made a decision about what’s important to me, and how I spend my money, and what I ride in isn’t on my list of important things.  I use what works for me.

“The amount of money that some people make is simply wrong — CEOs, talk show hosts, entertainment and sports figures,” she pauses, “…that’s outrageous.  It’s outrageous.  It’s wrong.  It is unfair that the so-called ‘average American’ can’t afford to take a family of four to the ball park.  How much, you know, a reality TV star makes, a pop star makes…outrageous, out of control.”

Where does Ramsey think Wayne County should be spending its money?

“I believe that there is a famous quote: ‘You can judge a society by how it treats its children.’  Yikes,” she grimaces.  “What does it say about us when we feed our children a steady diet of sex, drugs, money and violence?  Ever wonder why bullying and school fights are out of control?

“We have to invest in our children,” Ramsey says, “and there is a great social responsibility to that.  All children are our children.

Immediately important to Ramsey is her own race to become a judge in Wayne County’s Third Circuit Court.  While Ramsey refused to comment on her opponents, she offered, “Judges should be elected or selected based on their merit and experience only.  If elections were based on credentials, I’d win.  Hell, I would have won in 2012,” when she lost to more “big” names.  “What a coincidence, that two of the same names I’m running against in 2016 were the same names I lost to in 2012.  What are the odds?” she asks.

Ramsey adds, “Dynasty politicians and judges, what a shame.  Look how this practice is destroying a nation.”

The Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association’s Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee (JCEC), comprised of 34 attorneys from the metro Detroit area, rated judicial candidates for the courts of Wayne County for the 2016 election cycle.  The JCEC evaluates the fitness of each candidate for judicial office based upon the candidate’s legal ability, trial experience, integrity, honesty, judicial temperament, and reputation, without regard to party affiliation, race or creed.

The JCEC has four categories of ratings: Outstanding, Well-Qualified, Qualified, or Not Qualified, with some candidates receiving No Rating.

According to the JCEC, Robert Ficano is Not Qualified to be a Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge.  Moreover, Melissa Anne Cox received a rating of Qualified, and Thomas J. Hathaway received No Rating.

The JCEC deemed Ramsey as being Well-Qualified.

This is the sixth installment of a seven-part story.  To read Part Seven, click here.  To read the story from the beginning, click here.

Contact the author:
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay



Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 5

Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 5

Neurobiological Warfare

In everything Kelly Ann Ramsey does, she’s operating directly from her value system.  This includes how she perceives what she sees on television, in the movies, what message she hears in current music, and on and on.  She looks at culture through the lens of reality, and breaks it down to its impact on an individual’s neuro-programming.  She questions how what is playing on a child’s TV is going to affect their psyche, and how it is going to change their behavior, their brain.  What happens when a child hears vulgarity, witnesses glorified violence, a sex scene, and so on?

To Ramsey, if it isn’t educating or enriching somebody, it’s merely entertainment, a time-waster.  What disturbs Ramsey about what she sees in children’s cultural inputs is the disregard for decency, deference, rules, a lack of personal discipline, childish emotional displays.  Pure entertainment.

Babies first get what they need by crying, and children will continue to use emotional displays for personal benefit until properly disciplined.  Kids are fascinated by emotional displays, such as end zone celebrations in the NFL, violent outbursts on an NBA court, a Spice Girl throwing water on someone because of a silly comment.  Their malleable brains think “if they can do it, and they’re rich and famous, then why can’t I?”  They don’t realize that they are being psychologically manipulated and marketed to.

According to Andrew Huberman, a neurobiology professor at Stanford University, “Campaign strategists and certain media are taking the opportunity to engage us in a form of strategic neurobiological warfare.”

Looking through the lens of reality at the NFL, for example, they have the Play 60 in-school curriculum, created in partnership with the American Heart Association, so they appear to have kids’ best interests at the front of their minds.  But they also have heavily-tattooed players who twerk in the end zone when they score a touchdown, or beat their spouses, or have permanent brain damage from colliding into each other on a consistent basis.

The NFL doesn’t care about your child’s brain, Ramsey does.

“I also watch Project Runway, and I like Heidi Klum.  But we need to re-think Victoria’s Secret commercials.  They, too, are a disgrace,” Ramsey declares.  “After the election, I’d like to pen a letter to Klum, too.”

The fourth item in the assignment folder is the one which leaves Ramsey’s litigants’ mouths hanging wide open — The Rules.

There are technically ten rules in total, but rule number four contains a litany of impermissible behaviors, including, but not limited to, no TV in their bedroom and all use of television must be intelligent, no Facebook or social media, no music about sex, drugs, money or violence, and no friends in the house if parents aren’t home.

In “Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear”, Neil Strauss writes, “Instead of having to turn on the TV or radio to see what’s going on, the news comes to us.  Between our phones and browsers, most of us are plugged into a nonstop feed of headlines and opinions that are responsive to our specific interests and fears.”

A Dedication To Discipline

In an increasingly autonomous world, there is great temptation to simply enjoy the day-to-day distractions of our time.  The key to harnessing our true power as individuals, history has shown, is in our commitment to constant education and self-improvement in all aspects of life, seeking balance along the way.  Kelly Ann Ramsey honors that history every day in her courtroom.

“I’m not suggesting that all of our children need to go to the Maxey Boys Training School.  I’m not suggesting that at all,” Ramsey insists, “but there have to be real consequences for bad behavior, and that has to start as a child.”

Ramsey gives an example of when she had to be firm with her own daughter, Alexis.

“I was taught as a young child: No means no.  Alexis was taught that same lesson.  I thought about that discipline the day I found her on the other side of the road…she had done something wrong, when I briefly turned my head, the bad behavior was immediately addressed, and she received a permanent life-lesson.

“I once caught my daughter on the other side of Rutherford,” she continues.  “She was maybe four.  She was swiftly and firmly disciplined.  Years later, a neighbor knocked on my door to tell me what she observed about my daughter: when all the other kids ride their bike in the street, as soon as possible, they turn the corner where the parent can no longer see them, but not my child — Alexis would continue to ride her bike on the sidewalk, circling the block, whether or not I was able to see her.  The neighbor asked, ’How do you get your daughter to do what she is told to do?’  Simply put: I expect that of her.”

As a Juvenile Court Referee for over twenty-three years, Ramsey has seen her fair share of parents who neglected to properly discipline their children and hold them accountable.

“You can’t allow your child to go spend the night at their best friend’s house when they skipped school on Tuesday and got all Fs on their report card,” she admonishes.  “One has to come to understand that privileges and responsibilities are parallel lines.  Going to your BFF’s house is a privilege, only acceptable if you’ve done your job of going to school and receiving the grades you’re capable of.”

Ramsey practices what she preaches.

“It’s the same thing with me.  I can’t afford a manicure or a pedicure or a new hairdo before the gas, water and electricity bills are paid.  I can’t go on vacation if I can’t make the house payment.  I can’t buy a boat if I can’t afford my child’s education.”  She finishes, “Children cannot afford to watch television and play video games if they are failing in school.”

And when the defendant in her courtroom protests?

“‘No way.  Here’s the Kelly Ann Ramsey Rule List.  You’re gonna follow these rules,’” Ramsey would order, “‘and when you get done following these rules, then you have earned your privileges.’  You can’t tell your children to finish their dinner or they won’t get any dessert, yet, give them the dessert notwithstanding,” she states.

Ramsey often gave out more than one copy of her rule list: “One for the refrigerator, one for the bathroom mirror, and one on the entrance to the child’s bedroom door.

“You have no idea how many people, both throughout the years and while out campaigning, come up and tell me ‘I still have your assignments.’  It makes me proud.”

Shaped And Scarred

Kelly Ann Ramsey says she saw all types of kids from all walks of life come through her courtroom, and that she took care to judge them equally under the law.

“I have a very interesting perspective on race,” she says.  “My father never ever allowed me to identify anybody with race.  Period.  You couldn’t say ‘Oh, you know that black guy that I work with?’  My father would have went nuts on that statement.  To identify someone, and call out their ethnicity, was impermissible at my house.”

Ramsey can’t stand racist jokes, or most “jokes” for that matter.

“I have been told…by more than one man,” Ramsey reveals, “that I have no sense of humor.”

She lets out a big laugh.

“I just hate stupid humor, slapstick,” she continues.  “I don’t get stupid humor.  I don’t.  On the other side of the coin, I think George Carlin was fantastic.  He had something to say, important things, and he delivered it in a way that made total sense to me.”

Hypothetical: If two people each have a dollar bill, and they exchange those bills with each other, neither of them are any worse off, but they’re not any better off, either.

Now, if a person has wisdom, and they are able to communicate it in a way you can understand, and you use that wisdom to improve your station in life, you are both better off, and nothing was lost except the time invested to communicate the wisdom and act on it.  This is called reciprocal altruism.

“The assignments that I give my children, all of the assignments at the top of the page say ‘Why did Referee Ramsey give this to me?’,” she explains.  “I’ve received stunning answers back.  Stunning.  The answer that I liked the best is the one that says, after seven pages of a life story, the last sentence was ‘Thank you for seeing someone worth saving.’

“The fact is, that’s all I ever see in my courtroom — people worth saving.”

“I can still hear her speeches,” Bruder says in her letter to Governor Snyder.  “Many times, court staff and caseworkers would sit in her courtroom, just to watch.  Other judges, staff and attorneys brought their own children or other clients in to her courtroom for the wisdom and help delivered from Ramsey’s bench.  I have heard clients say ‘I can feel her love’.”

Bruder is lavish in her praise for Ramsey, and cites example after example of her good work.

“She has a gift that I rarely see in other judges: the ability to understand and reach people and to help them make sound choices which result in a positive and long-term change to their lives.  I have seen it during not just a few cases,” Bruder goes on to testify, “but more than I can count.  While assigned to her courtroom, not a week went by that someone did not stop in to let her know that they were still drug-free, still crime-free, still in school or still employed.  Many would ask for a hug before they left, often shedding tears of joy.

“Referee Ramsey understands, expects people to change, and then gives them the tools they need to do so.  She expects people to seek the best in themselves, and models that behavior herself.  Referee Ramsey expects the litigants to work hard and to bring a solution to their problem,” Bruder continues, “and she expects this of caseworkers and attorneys as well.  Maybe this is how Ramsey gets the much-needed job done so efficiently and effectively….The citizens [of Wayne County] deserve a judge of this caliber.”

Ramsey awakens something in each of her clients, though she hates using that word, ‘client’.  To her, they aren’t just another client, another file on the docket to be processed.  They are a human being, shaped and scarred by the events of their life, just as she is, and as we all are.

What Ramsey awakens is the pure person one was, before they were manipulated, taken advantage of, hurt, abused, denied.  By way of their guilt, she returns them to innocence with a firm-but-loving approach.

In “Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear”, Strauss says, “If we are to address the very real and numerous problems facing the country and the world today, we must do so without fear and anxiety, but with our heads clear and a sense of compassion for everyone, not just the people who look like or agree with us.

“The fact is: Anything can happen in the future.  For some people, that’s exciting.  For others, that’s scary.  And even if both kinds of people are working toward a better world tomorrow, only one of them gets to be happy today,” Strauss concludes.

Ramsey would agree.

This is the fifth installment of a seven-part story.  To read Part Six, click here.  To read the story from the beginning, click here.

Contact the author:
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay



Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 4

Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 4

Anything But Average

Kelly Ann Ramsey is a go-getter, an overachiever, the kid in class who ‘sets the curve’.  People of this type have a tendency to compel others to do one of two things: raise their standards and output to meet them on their higher level, or try to knock them down to their own lower level.

“I’ve heard it my whole life, ‘You’re making everybody look bad, Kelly,’” she says, in a whiny, bratty voice.  “I have struggled with that my whole life.”

How does that struggle affect Ramsey’s ability to do her job the way she wants?

“I sometimes have trouble with people I work with.  I do.  I’m never the gal that gets asked out to lunch with the group.  I’m always working hard, never off the bench early.”

As her frustration mounted regarding interpersonal dealings at work, she turned to a mentor.

“I had a particularly hard day and vented to my boss at the time, who is like a surrogate father figure to me, about the problems I was having dealing with people at the office.  He said to me ‘Kelly, you’re too pretty and too smart.  People will be taking pot shots at you for the rest of your life.’”

The message resonated.

“I was 20 or 21 years old at the time.  I’ve had to repeat his words to myself my entire life.”

Ramsey sighs, “There’s a lot of politics involved.”

Does she have any regrets?

“I’ve often wondered,” she offers, “if I did the right thing by leaving the prosecutor’s office.  When I became the chief referee at juvenile court, I just worked non-stop.  I quit doing Tai Chi and hot yoga.  My daughter still scolds me about it.”

Ramsey’s goal is to capture enough hearts and minds to secure the votes needed to win a seat as a judge in Wayne County’s Third Circuit Court.  She lost the election in 2012, but Kelly Ann Ramsey doesn’t allow a loss to deflate her spirit for long.

“When I lost the 2012 election, did I scold myself because I lost?  I was sad, I cried, I cried.  I was disappointed.  But I also could not say that I should have worked harder, because my entire life I’ve held the expectation for myself that I will always do the best I can to become the best I can possibly become.”

Ramsey recalls a poem, Are You Average?, which impacted her life.

“It was first given to me when I was about 19 years old and it impacted my life,” she says.  “It reminded me of the core values taught to me by my parents.  I carried that poem with me to work on January 6, 1992, the day I started my job as a referee.”

The sixth item in the assignment folder is a letter on choosing one’s own attitude, and the importance of being in charge of that attitude.  This is followed by Are You Average?, which ends with the statement “to be ‘average’ is to commit the greatest crime one can against oneself”.  The poem is followed by a story which teaches the payoff of moving toward goals and aspirations one day at a time, one step at a time.

The Most Important Job In The World

“We cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.” – Max DePree, Leadership is an Art

Max DePree is an American businessman, and author of Leadership is an Art, which sold over 800,000 copies.  DePree fostered the idea of an inclusive corporation, one in which all voices are heard.  He was known for his efforts to combine a caring organization with business success.

As opposed to the idea of a golden parachute, DePree proposed the idea of a silver parachute, in which terminated employees who had worked more than two years for a company would receive benefits according to the number of years served.  He encouraged open communication in the organization.  He was often heard to say “Err on the side of over-communication.”

In late September 2016, Kelly Ann Ramsey attended the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit Summit, a national summit for communities addressing previously untested sexual assault evidence kits and subsequent cold case investigations.  Much like Max DePree, she chose to err on the side of over-communication at the event.

“Are we looking at a bigger problem based on what we’re feeding our children?  My personal response is…I think so,” she stated at the conference.

Ramsey met two Washington State Representatives during the four-day event, and they kept bumping into one another, exchanging thoughts.

“This is a great conference,” she said to the reps, “and I understand how people have been victimized…but I don’t know how it will get any better when we continue to feed our children sex, drugs, money and violence.

“When twelve-year olds are playing video games and they can shoot and kill the police, buy and sell drugs, carjack, and the winner is rewarded with a prostitute, and we’re at a conference addressing sexual abuse in our society, you gotta start before the end.”

Maryann Bruder, who represents abused and neglected or delinquent children, wrote a letter to Governor Rick Snyder on September 1, 2016, urging him — begging him — to appoint Ramsey to the vacancy on the Third Circuit Court bench.

“One day,” Bruder writes, “I came across a woman who was walking up and down the court’s hallways, looking through the window of every courtroom door she passed, crying.  I stopped to ask her how I could help.  ‘Please find Referee Ramsey for me, I need more help with my son.’  I called Referee Ramsey at home and asked if she would get in contact with this woman.  I’m certain she did.”

Ramsey confirms, she did.

“I only wish,” Bruder’s letter finishes, “that we had been in Referee Ramsey’s hands when my brothers and I were children.”

Bruder grew up ‘in the system’.  She and her siblings were removed from their biological parents at a young age and fell victim to an overtaxed system.  Bruder became a permanent court ward and a victim of a failed adoption.

“I vowed then,” Bruder states in her letter, “to become an attorney to make a difference in the lives of children.”

Imagine Bruder’s surprise to learn how many of those entrusted with the lives of others couldn’t care less about making a difference, whether it be in the life of a child or the system itself.

“Way too many people,” Bruder testifies in her letter, “many in high places, simply lay back, shrug their shoulders, and watch the system continue to crumble, muttering lame excuses that ‘it is what it is, always has been’, and there is nothing they can do about it.

“Referee Ramsey does no such thing.”

Ramsey talks about how grateful she is that Bruder championed on her behalf, and elaborates on Bruder’s message.

“It brings up the entire point that, when you get up on stage and say ‘Fuck the rules!’, what kind of behavior are we modeling for our children?  All children are our children.”

Ramsey is referring to a recent concert at the Fox Theater in Detroit, headlined by Atlanta rapper Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, professionally known as ‘Future’.

Wilburn has released several singles certified gold or higher by the Recording Industry Association of America, including, but not limited to, “Move That Dope”, “Fuck Up Some Commas”, and “Low Life”.  He has followed his dreams, and has tasted success.

But Wilburn has also fathered four children with four different women, and as of 2016 is being sued by two of those women.  One of the women, who is suing Wilburn for his failure to pay child support, stated that their son “suffers from emotional and behavioral issues stemming from Wilburn’s neglect as a father”.  The other woman is suing him for defamation, slander, and libel.

“We’ve become such a loose society,” Ramsey laments.  “We’re overly concerned with being a friend to our child.”

So what do we do?

In a recent speech she gave at a senior center, Ramsey told the audience, “This is always my message for our children: Am I mad about the stolen car?  Yes, I am.  Am I mad about how you treated your neighbor?  Yes.  But I am angrier when you’re not in school.  You’re wasting your talent and your ability.”

Ramsey has the love Wayne County needs now.

“In my courtroom, I say ‘Children, you have more talent and ability than you could possibly imagine.”  She adds, “Being smart is a job — you’ve got to show up for that job.’”

The Root Of The Problem

Kelly Ann Ramsey’s thoughts drift to some of the many cases she’s adjudicated.

“I find some of what’s happening in the world heartbreaking,” she says.  “I can hear somebody’s story, when I’m on the bench and have to be neutral, and really have to take that deep breath to not cry.  There are horrible circumstances in the world that bring tears to my eyes.”

It’s not always a horrific story that makes Ramsey tear up.

“I can cry over a really good book, too.”

The third thing in Ramsey’s assignment folder is a list of book suggestions for every grade level, from pre-school and kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade.

Ramsey understands what bestselling author Neil Strauss wrote in his piece “Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear” for Rolling Stone.

Strauss writes, “If people change their cultural inputs, their outputs will change too….This doesn’t mean that we should completely unplug, live in ignorance and accept…all the other problems in our world….The goal is to separate real threats from manufactured ones.  And to find a balance where we are not so scared that we’re making bad decisions that hurt us and our freedom, but not so oblivious that we aren’t taking steps to protect ourselves.”

Ramsey speaks more about her talks at the DNA rape kit conference.

“While the two legislators from the state of Washington and I were engaged in conversation about ‘what a wonderful conference’ it was, I agreed, but until we deal with the reasons why we are in this predicament…”

After a pregnant pause, she continues, “Yes, we’re bringing honor to the victims.  We’re doing what needs to be done.  We’re dealing with it, they deserve to go forward.  But we’re not gonna solve sexual violence in this country if we continue to have rap songs that talk about ‘bitches and hoes’, music videos which are softcore porn for practical purposes, video games of ‘here’s the prostitute’…”

Ramsey has been ushering for twenty-five years in and around the city of Detroit.  Working as an usher has become another way for her to connect with the community, along with staying informed about shifting cultural tastes and preferences.

“At the Future concert at the Fox [Theater], one of the performers gets up and says ‘Fuck the rules!’ and lights a joint up on stage.  And the audience did the same.”  Ramsey shakes her head, “It creates, in my opinion, an absolute slap across the face to the beauty of that building when everybody’s crushing a joint into the floor with their feet.

“Why was he invited back a couple months later?”

When asked why she volunteers to usher at events which obviously displease her and offend her value system, Ramsey says it’s all part of being a good judge.

“I volunteer to usher because when I speak publicly to our teenagers, I can’t speculate,” she says.  “I have to be able to say ‘I attended the Future concert, so don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I was there.’”

Foul-mouthed, rule-breaking rappers from Atlanta aren’t her only target.

“I don’t wanna just pick on Future.  Let’s pick on our professional athletes and other celebrities.  There are all kinds of children across this country, with tattoos up their neck and on their hands, that can’t get a job,” says Ramsey.  “I think that there needs to be a much greater social responsibility, especially in our sports figures and our entertainment figures and our children’s idols.”

What does Ramsey enjoy for entertainment?

“I love to watch The Voice, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, any of those shows that talk about ‘I’m best, I’m gonna do it, I want to be the winner.’”

But even the shows Ramsey enjoys don’t hold water under her scrutiny.

“It’s all I can do to not take a pen to paper and write an editorial about Mel B. throwing pop on Simon Cowell,” she explains.  “Simon digs in, makes a funny comment, most likely inappropriate, and more than once there has been a scene where Mel B. takes her pop or water, and they run around like they’re seven- or eight-year old children.”

While many would dismiss it as a playful act, Ramsey does not.

“Here’s the point: they’re celebrities, and this is a show that the seven-year old, the ten-year old, the thirteen-year old, are watching.”  Much like her courtroom speeches, Ramsey’s feelings regarding celebrities’ contributions to the cultural climate are succinct.  “I think celebrities need to be mindful that kids are going to duplicate that behavior in the fourth grade, when it isn’t funny.”

This is the fourth installment of a seven-part story.  To read Part Five, click here.  To read the story from the beginning, click here.

Contact the author:
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay



Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 3

Kelly Ann Ramsey: The Love Wayne County Needs Now, Pt. 3

An Unforgettable Tragedy

“I can walk for miles and miles and miles along an ocean, walk for miles and miles and miles in the woods, lose complete track of time…and love every minute of it, following in my father’s footsteps.”

Kelly Ann Ramsey is sharing more about her trips as a child to the wilds of Canada with her dad during summer breaks from school.

“We continued [our Canada trips] every June, and every August he allowed me to travel with his brother, my Uncle Don, and his family.  By the time I finished high school, I had been to almost every state and seen every historical attraction, thanks to my Uncle Don and Aunt Phyllis,” she beams.

“My father walked probably three to five miles a day in the woods.  One time I went searching for him, and discovered him sitting on a tree stump.  I said ‘What are you doing out here?’, and he said ‘I’m talking to your grandfather.’”

Ramsey has had an intimate relationship with mortality for nearly her entire life.  She understands, through her mother’s example, that we each carry our death inside of us.  Most of us don’t know exactly when we will die, but we know it is inevitable.  This knowledge creates a deep sense of urgency in Ramsey to make an impact, leave a legacy.  And her energy levels respond accordingly.

“The first funeral I ever went to in my life was my mother’s.  It was awful.  I would never have done that to a child, ever.  A mistake was made there.  I remember running.  Running and screaming and crying at the cemetery.

“The most vivid memory that I have of my mother is watching her die.  My mother died at the age of…” Ramsey stops the number before it comes out of her mouth.  “…in her mid-forties.  I was twelve.  She died a very…cancer treatment was barbaric in the Sixties.  It’s brutal how you treat cancer today.  It was worse then.”

Ramsey talks about how mom did her best to keep her illness private.

“I’m not sure I really realized how sick she was at the time, but there was an incident which caused me to suddenly realize how sick she was, which was tragic.  And I struggle with tears talking about this story…”

But she tells the story anyway, because Ramsey can deal with struggle.

“I was maybe ten years old,” she begins, “and I came running into the house because I had to use the bathroom, and I came skidding into the bathroom and my mother was in the tub.  And I had never seen the mastectomy before, and I had never seen the impact of radiation therapy.  She was in the tub, obviously naked, and was instantly startled by the abruption of the ten-year old running into the bathroom.”

What did ten-year old Kelly do?

“I stood there screaming at the top of my lungs.  Her chest was concave because she never had reconstruction surgery…I think she knew she was going to die.  And I’ve had a nightmare about it as recently as a couple years ago.  I was really plagued with this nightmare for…decades, decades of my life.”

What sticks out about the incident the most?

“It isn’t the scar, the one missing breast at the time.  It was the burnt-ness.  She was undergoing radiation at the time and she was fire-engine red-orange crispy.  You could see the pain emanating from the skin.  I think I knew right then that she was gonna die.

“And I can still see it,” she finishes.

The indelible events of Ramsey’s life say a lot about who she is, and they inform not only why she does what she does, but they inform the way that she does it.

Mother Figure 

Kelly Ann Ramsey is trying to be a mom for sons and daughters who either don’t have one or have an absent mom.  She knows what it’s like for a child to not have a mother in their life, and a mother who is not present or involved in their child’s growth and development is just as heartbreaking as not having a mom at all.

“Even though I lost her so early in life, the impact of her was ever-present.  People loved her dearly, and while most of them have passed on, they made sure I knew her legacy,” she says.

Ramsey mentions that one of her mother’s former social work colleagues, after years of seeing Ramsey in the press, sent her a letter sharing a remembrance of Ramsey’s mother.  The framed letter hangs proudly in Ramsey’s home, for all to see.

“But my father was never the same.  I’ve never seen a man love a woman more than he loved her.  And he struggled with that.  He struggled with that.”

After her mother’s death, Ramsey’s father became addicted to sorrow, the sorrow of losing the only woman he ever truly loved.  This woman, through her love, increased R.W. Ramsey’s station in life.  In his mind, without her, he was lost.

“My father never remarried.  I’ve never seen a man love a woman more than my father has loved my mother.  I’ve never seen that.  I’m certain that plays a role in [my personal relationships].  I’ve never seen a man love a woman more than he loved her.”

For young Kelly, the loss of one parent was soon followed by the disappearance of the other.

“I lost my father when I lost my mother.  Period.  My father never missed a day of work, he was never reprimanded as far as I know.  He cooked dinner and we ate together every night.  He retired, never was on suspension, I never remember him coming home saying he was suspended.  But after dinner my father went downstairs, and was there until he fell asleep, night after night after night.”

How did this make her feel?

“He didn’t do it to be mean to me.  He never beat me, he never was abusive to me, there was always food, the house was always clean.  He was simply absent, absent in his own sorrow.  I felt so alone.  I missed my mother and I felt so sorry for him.  He got up every morning and went to work until he retired.  He was a professional.  But the story was the same most nights.”

Ramsey, an only child, essentially had to raise herself.  So as she talks about values to kids in her courtroom — sacrifice, measurable growth, accountability, excellence, respect — what she’s really imparting, without telling them her story, is “If I can do it, you can do it.  Yeah, you made some bad decisions.  Yeah, you screwed up, but you can change your life around.  All it takes is action.  Decide to do it, and act on it.”

“Counsel Sean K. Kowalski sent a letter to the governor on my behalf when I previously applied for an appointment to the bench,” Ramsey says.  “I have always been honored by his praise, and it is to that very standard that I aspire every day to conduct my courtroom.”

From Kowalski’s letter: “Frankly, I have absolutely no knowledge of Referee Ramsey’s personal life, except for that which she shared with litigants in the context of a case. But what I have seen of her professional abilities forces me to take the time to write. She brings an obvious understanding of the stories behind the people who stand before her.  This understanding produces respect.  The respect in turn infuses her praise with meaning and her criticism with credibility.  In short, she ‘connects’ with the men, women and children whose lives come before her.  Because she cares about the litigants, she works hard for them.  Her courtroom, her staff, and her decorum all reflect the work ethic of someone who values, not disdains helping troubled families.”

“Not Cadillacs…Just Chevrolets”

All life has been about since the dawn of humankind, since cavemen and cavewomen were focused on surviving the winter, is improving our station.  What puts kids in Kelly Ann Ramsey’s courtroom, at the core of their behavior, is a deep-seated separation anxiety.  Ramsey recognizes this in her litigants, and helps them overcome their anxieties through practical application of timeless wisdom, thus improving their station in life.

One day, after years of drowning himself in sorrow, R-Dub finally decided enough was enough.

“When I was an undergraduate,” Ramsey says, “my father said to me ‘I’m going on a trip’.  He came back, and just snapped out of it.  He never had another drink, and remained that way for the last twenty to twenty-five years of his life.”

Her father has since passed on.

“My fortieth birthday was at the hospice center with him.  He had his heart attack and stroke when I was thirty-nine, so I was an orphan at thirty-nine for all practical purposes.”

With a smile, Ramsey adds, “But even at the height of his sorrow, he never missed a day of work, a home-cooked meal, or that June trip to the wilds of Canada.”

The fifth thing in Ramsey’s assignment folder is a list of movies whose narratives focus on individual and team achievement, persevering through adversity, and reaching goals, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes.

But there’s a certain type of adversity lurking below the surface of Wayne County.  A seedy underbelly of dishonesty and manipulation.

Ramsey begins to lead us down the rabbit hole.

“I’ve been marching in the peace rallies in Detroit.  When the march in honor of a murdered two-month old — a murder which occurred a few blocks from my childhood home — took place, I walked with the people.  I’m well-known in that pocket of the city, and of course other pockets.  During the march, a man came up to me whom I recognized, but couldn’t place his name.  I apologized for not remembering who he was exactly, and he said ‘I’m so-and-so from such-and-such congressional district.”

Ramsey says she stopped dead in her tracks, and became indignant.  She looked the man in the eye, poked her finger in his chest.

“I said, ‘Please explain to me why I can’t get an interview for an endorsement.’  He put his hands on my shoulders, gave me a little pat and said ‘Come on, Ramsey.  Everybody knows you don’t pay to play.”’

Anyone with even a cursory exposure to what’s going on in the U.S. right now realizes that a lot of government is corrupt.

We are living in a fascinating time in an amazing country, where one can get ahead and improve their station in life through hard work, perseverance, and self-discipline.  The fact is, the deck is becoming increasingly stacked against the poor, the working class, the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised.

Ramsey wants to level the playing field for everyone.  But not all agree that everyone deserves our best help.  She provides an example of the indifference some have, illustrating how tilted the playing field has become.

“I have had some horrific bosses in my life.  And I am of the opinion that when you can’t attack someone’s credentials, the ugliest of us attack them personally.  That’s their idea of leveling the playing field.  They can’t meet me up here,” she lifts her hand above her head, “so they try to bring me down.

“One time I had a boss call me into their office.  They said, ‘You’re working too hard, Kelly.  You’re gonna burn yourself out in a couple of years.’”

Ramsey flashes a look of disgust and shakes her head at the thought of ‘burning out’.

She continues, “‘You don’t understand, Kelly — we’re not making Cadillacs here, just Chevrolets.  Stop treating every litigant as if they’re a Cadillac.’”

Her face contorts into obvious anger.

“I have loathed and resented that comment since the moment I heard it, because it speaks to the problem of generational neglect and abuse, and the mentality which prevents solving that exact problem.  That [upset me].  That conversation still blows my mind,” she finishes.

This is the third installment of a seven-part story.  To read Part Four, click here.  To read the story from the beginning, click here.

Contact the author:
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay