Tuesday, February 26, 2008



Right Now!

Easter is on April 8, and Father's Day is on June 17, but don't wait until then to add Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach to your library. Place your order at Amazon.com, Lulu.com, or on this site.
Donated copies of both books are available for check out at the public libraries in Jasper County, S.C., and Colleton County, S.C.

2012 Book Signing @ UPTOWN, Columbia

Vasilisa will be reading and signing copies of "Dakota's Easter Wish" at UPTOWN gift shoppe in downtown Columbia, S.C., this spring. Bookmark this site for the latest, and read an excerpt at www.lulu.com. Enter "Vasilisa Hamilton" under the search feature. A reading and book signing is also planned for "Papa Didn't Preach" prior to Father's Day weekend 2012.

Uptown is located at 1204 Main Street; phone 803-661-7651;

E-mail: martha@UptownSC.com

Sunday, March 25, 9 a.m.

Vasilisa will present “Sing Praises to His Name: He Forgets Not His Own” during the Celebration Service.

Wesley United Methodist Church

1725 Gervais Street, Columbia

The Celebration Service is held weekly from 9 to 10 a.m.

I hope you can make it.

Up and Coming

Vasilisa is working on a new project, a book that has the working title: "Confessions of a Mac Girl in a PC World." Visit this site for the latest details.

Announcing the Moral Message Movement, 2012

We wear all kinds of T-shirts featuring various and sundry messages about human anatomy, humor, and even photos of family and friends. How about wearing something that enhances morality, kindness, and good will—something like a T-shirt designed in a joint venture by Columbia’s J& S Enterprises and The Hamilton Group?

Your colorful, eye-catching options are available in children’s and adult sizes. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

Don’t worry about tomorrow; God is already there.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

If you can READ THIS, thank a TEACHER!

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

And the God of Peace shall be with you ALL WAYS!

I Tweet for JESUS! (image of a dove)

Tweet this: JESUS LOVES YOU!

Sweet and Gentle Flower (with image of an amaryllis)

Honey, not vinegar (image of a honey jar)

I formed you in your Mother's Womb

Before you ever came to be, I knew you.

To learn how you can purchase a one-of-a-kind artistic MMM creation, e-mail Vasilisa.hamilton@gmail.com.


Here and Now!

Easter is on April 24, and Father's Day is June 19, but you can share and enjoy Vasilisa's books anytime. To order, go to lulu.com or amazon.com. You can also find Vasilisa on Facebook.


Right Now!

Read some of Vasilisa's articles and share your thoughts.

The Children We Cannot Forget

By Vasilisa Hamilton

In spite of the perilous journey she took to get here, like all children, baby Montana is a blessing. Born Feb. 15 with jet-black hair, brown eyes, cherub cheeks, and weighing just over five pounds, Montana is one of the lucky ones.

The obstetrician feared he’d have to induce labor because her birth mother’s blood pressure became dangerously high. She delivered Montana via natural childbirth at Columbia’s Palmetto Baptist Medical Center.

When little Montana came into the world, her adoptive mother was ready, willing, and able to take on the endless joys, triumphs, and challenges that mothers and fathers experience.

Montana’s birth mother is a 24-year-old college student. She chose not to see Montana after she was born. But she wants Montana to meet her brother when she’s older. Montana’s adoptive mother pledges to keep her birth mother informed about how Montana is progressing and assures her that Montana will meet her brother.

Choosing Montana’s new mother wasn’t easy. The finalists were baby Montana’s adoptive mother and a married couple who already has a toddler. Her birth mother decided to give Montana to a single professional woman who has a fiancee. She loves Montana enough to give her a chance for a better life. She and the adoptive mother have been practically inseparable since she was admitted to the hospital Feb. 13.

In January alone, eight babies who were born at Palmetto Baptist Hospital joined South Carolina’s foster care system because no one came forward to adopt them. “Currently, there are 5,200 children in South Carolina’s foster-care system,” says Marilyn Matheus of the state Department of Social Services. “They range in ages from newborn to 21.”

As I waited at the security desk to be escorted to the adoptive mother’s room, I met the sister of a young woman who just learned that she is expecting. According to her sister, she just turned 18 and already has a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old. She was rushed to the emergency room with a high fever, nausea, and vomiting.

“If this is her third pregnancy, isn’t she familiar with the symptoms,” I asked. “No,” she replied. “She didn’t have those symptoms with the other two. That’s why we thought it was the flu or a virus.” I didn’t get to meet the mother-to-be because she was still receiving treatment.

In 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available, among unmarried girls and women ages 10 to 19 in South Carolina, there were 3,981 live births. Among that group, the total number of pregnancies was 9,543 (this number includes live births, fetal deaths, and abortions).

“Among 14- to 17-year old unmarried females who gave birth in South Carolina in 2004, there were 1,597 live births and 3,339 estimated pregnancies,” said Mary Glover, assistant manager of data quality and management at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Clearly, teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births are complex, multifaceted issues. Where do we begin?

I believe we can start by loving and caring for the children who are in our lives ­– and for those who nurture and support them. We can also support family and child-friendly quality-of-life initiatives such as preventative and prenatal care; affordable, high-quality day care; childhood immunizations; early-childhood education; faith-based training and character education; etiquette workshops; violence- and drug-prevention initiatives; and comprehensive afterschool programs.

Each of us can make a difference. We can’t afford to wait.

This Guest Column/Commentary was originally published in The State, Columbia, S.C.

In Today’s Changing World, What About the Children?
By Vasilisa Hamilton

As most of our state and nation’s schools end another school year, I’ve been reflecting on what education means to me. I say this, not because I work in higher education, but as the daughter of a hard-working farmer and a no-nonsense schoolteacher and the sister and cousin of generations of educators.

My mother, Alneatha Salley Hamilton, was an award-winning veteran educator who “left no child behind” long before the Bush administration adopted the name for its education initiatives. She was born in 1929, less than a decade after women received the right to vote and decades before black Americans received it.

When Mom retired after 48 years of teaching, in lieu of traditional retirement gifts, she asked family and friends to help her establish a scholarship for aspiring educators. She awarded the 15th annual scholarship less than three months before she passed away.

Whenever I meet people, I always tell them, “I’m from the ‘Corridor of Shame,’ but I’m not ashamed.” That’s because when I was growing up, to be educated meant everything in our community, and educated people were expected to lead. An education meant you would live your life more intelligently; that you were always open to broadening your horizons through lifelong learning, and that you’d always have greater earning potential.

People looked to those of us who were educated to help solve problems in the community. If older people needed help balancing their checkbook, deciphering a letter from the doctor, their children’s school, or even the gas company, they’d come and sit at my parents’ kitchen table and ask, “How do you understand this?” which meant they wanted you to explain it in layman’s terms.

If there was a problem at their workplace, you might be asked to help draft a letter explaining their side of the story. When it was time to vote, they expected you to explain how a referendum would affect them and why you would, or would not, support a particular candidate.

That’s why I don’t think education should end for our children when the school doors close for the summer. Education is, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “the great engine of personal development,” which means our children should continue reading, writing, visiting the library, and participating in summer enrichment and physical activity programs such as Vacation Bible School.

For a sobering look at the issues our children face today, consider these statistics from South Carolina native and Children’s Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman’s book,
The Sea Is Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation (2008). These numbers are based on seven-hour calculations per school day based on a 180-day school calendar:

“Today in the Life of American Children”

Two mothers will die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth, and four children will be killed as a result of abuse or neglect.

Five children or teens will commit suicide, and firearms will kill eight children or teens.

Seventy-eight babies will die before their first birthday, and 155 children will be arrested for violent crimes. Two hundred ninety-six children will be arrested for drug crimes, and 928 babies will be born with low birth weight.

One thousand, one hundred fifty-four babies will be born to teen mothers, and 2,421 children will be confirmed as abused or neglected.

Two thousand, four hundred sixty-seven high school students will drop out, and 2,483 babies will be born into poverty.

Three thousand four hundred seventy-seven children will be arrested, 4,184 babies will be born to unmarried mothers, and 18,221 of our nation’s public school students will be suspended.

As she reflects on the state of America’s children, Edelman offers this prayer for 21st-century children:

God help us to not to raise a new generation of children with high intellectual quotients and low caring and compassion quotients
With sharp competitive edges but dull cooperative instincts
With highly developed computer skills but poorly developed consciences
With a gigantic commitment to the big “I” but little sense of responsibility to the bigger “we”
With mounds of disconnected and unsynthesized information without a moral context to determine its worth.
With more and more knowledge and less and less imagination and appreciation for the magic of life that cannot be quantified or computerized
With more and more worldliness and less and less wonder and awe for the sacred and everyday miracles of life.

God, help us to raise children who care.

Vasilisa is a publications editor/writer at the University of South Carolina, a member of the League of Women Voters, a volunteer preschool teacher’s assistant at Wesley United Methodist Church, a friend of Richland County Public Library, and director of communications for the Alneatha Salley Hamilton Memorial Scholarship. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Science in Professional Writing from Towson University in Maryland. You can e-mail her at vasilisa@gwm.sc.edu.

Greyhound, Human Nature, and Me

By Vasilisa Hamilton

Last weekend, I traveled from Columbia, S.C., to Washington, D.C., to attend my 99-year-old Aunt Minnie’s funeral. A few years ago, I vowed never to take the bus again, after an excruciating ride to Columbus, Ohio, when a dear friend passed away and again when I took the bus to Norfolk, Va., for a friend’s 30-year Marine Corps retirement ceremony and missed my bus back to Columbia after over-sleeping.

After a long time on the bus, I usually feel the need to be “ironed out.” In this instance, I felt I had to travel by bus because air travel was cost-prohibitive, the train was inconvenient, and I could not recruit a driver to share the ride.

I left downtown Columbia at 12:30 p.m. Friday, arrived in D.C. around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and returned to Columbia at 6:50 a.m. Sunday. All told, I logged around 27 hours on the bus between Friday and Sunday.

I’ve always thought of riding the bus as sort of a study in human nature, only this time, I wondered if Greyhound should require all passengers to complete an etiquette course or sign a code of conduct before boarding.

On the return trip to Columbia, we had been rolling along for just under an hour when suddenly the bus driver pulled off the road and turned on the lights. His facial expression changed as he walked up and down the aisle.

“I announced the rules before we left the station, but someone has chosen not to follow them,” he shouted. “Someone on this bus is smoking, and until I get a confession, this bus will not move. And when it does move, I will take all of you back to Washington, and no one will get where he needs to go.”

Some of the passengers began to complain. “Smoking is a federal offense,” he snapped, “and I read the rules from the beginning.” “Who has the cigarettes?”

A young man sitting about two rows behind me slowly raised his hand. “I do. I didn’t know we couldn’t smoke,” he said, sheepishly.

“It’s also printed on your tickets,” the driver said. “Let’s go. Come sit behind me, and I’ll drive you to the nearest police station. You are breaking the law.”

Some passengers again started to complain. “Anyone who has a problem with this can go with the smoker when the police come,” the driver said.

Rather than taking the offender to the police station, the driver pulled off at the next exit and called the police, who questioned the man for about 20 minutes before taking him into custody. While the police were talking to the young man, the driver apologized to the other riders on the bus for the commotion. He said smoking was a personal issue with him because his father is a lifelong smoker and was dying of heart disease.

Then he passed out forms for each of us to voluntarily fill out verifying what happened and where we were seated when the incident occurred.

We got back on the road about 30 minutes later, and each time we stopped, a bunch of guys raced toward the exit, nearly trampling anyone who stood in their path. I wondered if they’d never been taught courtesy.

When you travel on Greyhound, each passenger is responsible for his or her own luggage, unless they are elderly or handicapped. When we stopped in Fayetteville, N.C., for a layover, a young man was getting his luggage when it fell on a woman’s foot. Rather than apologize, he looked up and said, “My bad,” not, “I’m sorry, are you okay?” Or, “What can I do you assist you?” I was surprised how fast some of those men and boys reached the exit, because a few of them were running with their “pants on the ground, pants on the ground, pants on the ground.”

A couple got on in Fayetteville and behaved in a very “interpersonal” manner, oblivious to all the other passengers and children who were on board. I’m thankful the seats had a limited range of motion.

Even though I was disheartened by some of what I saw on the trip, I was encouraged by a family who boarded in Florence, S.C. A young woman got on with with her three small children headed to Wisconsin. Before the bus stopped, her sons shared the task of hauling their huge bags from a car trunk to the side of the bus. They politely waited for their mother and sister to take their seats before they sat down, and they thoughtfully excused themselves if any of their belongings touched others.

From Richmond to Fayetteville, I shared a seat with Jody, a veterinarian from Boston who was traveling to volunteer in the Gulf region, treating animals harmed in the oil spill. She told me she has only practiced as a vet for three years, having gone back to school at age 32. Before that, she was a classical ballerina who had been in training since childhood and formerly danced professionally with the Joffrey Ballet, America’s premiere dance company, in New York and Ohio.

Jody now works at an emergency veterinary hospital in the Boston area and is paying back $250,000 in student loans. She said she loves her new career and would have soon been sidelined by injuries if she continued to perform with the ballet. She said her husband is a novelist and they have no children.

I asked her to tell me about the funniest thing that ever happened to her when she was a ballet dancer. We laughed out loud when she said it was when she told her veterinary school classmates that she used to be a dancer. Their next question was always “at what bar?”

When I travel by bus, I envision a microcosm of society in all its grit, grandeur, and glory. You see the decadence and desperation, but you also see hope, promise, and the triumph of the human spirit.

As Jody and I continued talking about our lives, I thought of the song, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” from the album of the same title, in which Hill sings, “I look at my environment, and wonder where the fire went.” Last week’s bus trip reminded me that the fire still burns in each of us, even if it sometimes ablaze and sometimes barely flickers.

Vasilisa is a publications editor/writer at USC, the author of two books, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the League of Women Voters. She can be reached at her Web site, www.papadidntpreach.com.

Easter is on April 4 and Father's Day is June 20, but anytime is a great time to add Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach to your library. Learn more at this site, on Lulu.com, and on Amazon.com.

Vasilisa will be the mistress of ceremony for Springtown United Methodist women's annual garden party, 2 p.m., April 17. Springtown is located north of Walterboro. Keynote speaker is Mrs. Henry Tisdale, first lady of Claflin University, Orangeburg, S.C. Proceeds will support mission work.

Vasilisa will present "What About the Children"? during the University of South Carolina Black Faculty & Staff Association awards luncheon, noon, May 25, at Russell House University Union. Contact any BFSA member for more information.

Please join Vasilisa, her sister Shelia Hamilton Cato, and family & friends at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Pocotaligo, S.C., for the presentation of a gift in memory of their parents Alneatha Salley Hamilton and Merritt Hamilton, 2 p.m., Aug. 28.

Coming soon … "Dakota's Pascua Deseo," the Spanish version of Dakota's Easter Wish, in time for Easter 2011. Return to this site for the latest details!


Latest and Greatest

Cousin’s Wedding Was ‘Cloud Nine’ Event

By Vasilisa Hamilton

Here I am in Atlanta at the J.W. Marriott in Buckhead—Valentine’s Day 2009. God has blessed me indeed, and my heart is merry. My cousin Dawn, the beautiful, doe-eyed Ph.D. candidate who earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Howard University, is getting married to Sam, the man of her dreams. I’m so excited about this wedding that I believe I can fly. Dawn is already on cloud nine.

I am thrilled to see beloved family and friends for a happy occasion—not a funeral or memorial service—and not in a “season of distress and grief,” as the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer” mentions.

Dawn is one of what I call my two “dishwasher-detergent cousins.” She and Joy, my other dishwasher-detergent cousin, share their names with popular consumer products. Joy married in Maryland (no pun intended in summer 2001 in an African-themed wedding. I haven’t seen some of my relatives since then.

Today’s wedding was Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July all at once. While there were no fireworks, it was more than spectacular. Magnificent red roses cascaded from luminous candelabras. Delicate chiffon adorned the winding staircase and exquisite crystal chandeliers. There was the pouring of the sands (red and white, of course), and the ringing of the bells, a game in which bells were placed on each dinner table. When the DJ played “Ring My Bell,” Anita Ward’s disco hit, each person seated at the table rang the bell. Every time the music stopped, the person holding the bell won a prize.

Everyone grooved to “The Electric Slide.” No wedding reception is complete without it. There was also a “candy” bar lined with apothecary jars, each one filled with Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, Cherry Sours, Starburst Fruit Chews, Laffy Taffy, and cinnamon Imperials. Each place setting held a personalized chocolate bar with the guest’s name on it.

A ballet company whirled and twirled to Stevin Wonder’s “Ribbon In The Sky.” Family and friends held hands and formed a circle as the newlyweds greeted each guest with a hug, kiss, fist bump, or high-five within the allotted time frame. For winning this promotional contest, Dawn and Sam won a honeymoon trip to Hawaii.

Although I fancy myself a wordsmith, in many ways, I’m at a loss for words. The entrance of the bride was breathtaking, as she was serenaded by “When I First Saw You,” Jamie Foxx’s hit song from the movie Dreamgirls: “When I first saw you, I said, ‘Oh my! Oh my… That’s a dream … That’s my dream.’”

Read Vasilisa's commentary, 'Thank you' is important, in the Feb. 19, 2009, edition of the Orangeburg Times and Democrat at http://www.thetandd.com/articles/2009/02/19/opinion/13515074.txt.

Read Vasilisa's letters to the editor in the Jan 20, 2009, inauguration issues of USA TODAY and The State newspapers by going to http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/01/president-obama.html#more and www.thestate.com/letters/story/658035.html.

Vasilisa will give a mini presentation on "What Being Black Means to Me" at 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28, during the Black History Month program at Wesley United Methodist Church, located at 1725 Gervais Street, Columbia, S.C.

You'd be surprised to know that …

When Vas graduated from Ridgeland High School, Ridgeland, S.C., at age 16, she was ranked third in her graduating class.

Vas started first grade at age 4, Jonesville Elementary School, Jonesville, S.C.

Along with her best friend, Katrina Busby (now Reed), Vas was one of only two eighth graders ever allowed to join the RHS yearbook staff in 1978, after undergoing a rigorous interview process with teachers/advisors Ms. Hyman and Ms. Sanders. Katrina is a U.S. Army veteran (thanks for serving) and teaches English in Rochester N.Y.

When she was in the eighth grade at RHS, Vas was a winner of Jasper County's "If I Could Talk to the President" essay contest and won a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet President Jimmy Carter.

Vasilisa has been an avid collector of gemstones and minerals since she was in third grade (age 6).

Reading is fun and fundamental …

Easter is April 12 and Father's Day is June 21, but it's always a good time to read and share books! Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach can be checked out from the Jasper County Public Library in Ridgeland, S.C., and at Colleton County Public Library in Walterboro, S.C. Both are available online and can also be purchased from Pupcakes Pet Boutique & Bakery, 2732 Devine Street, Columbia, S.C.; 803-461-0236; and from The Curiosity Shop, 202 Richland Avenue, Aiken, S.C.; 803-644-0004.

Check it Twice—Editorial Consulting Services

Not sure you are "writing it right"? Vasilisa provides editorial consulting services on a limited basis. Her clients include the U.S. Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand; the U.S. Embassy, Taiwan, Republic of China; the U.S. Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and the U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C.

South Carolina-based clients include Vennie Deas Moore, artist, author, photographer, and freelance field researcher, whose latest work is "A People of The Land: Lowcountry Portraits," and Yesteryear Jewelers, LLC, Midtown at Forest Acres, Columbia.

Dreaming of publishing your own book? Vasilisa can help take your ideas from conception to completion. She can also assist with marketing and public-relations strategies.


Dakota's Easter Wish
Is Released

Vasilisa C. Hamilton announces the publication of Dakota's Easter Wish in time for Easter 2008. Dakota's Easter Wish is the humorous but touching story of how a child's quest for a prize leads to a "malodorous" outcome. This read-to-me book is especially suited for children ages 3 to 8.

"I was inspired to write the book after trying unsuccessfully to win the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Sunday School's prize for finding the most Easter eggs during my childhood," Vasilisa explained. Dakota's Easter Wish is based on a true story and is Vasilisa's first children's book.

Dakota's Easter Wish can be ordered online, or you can purchase it from The Happy Bookseller in Columbia, S.C., 803-782-2665 or 800-787-1503. Contact Carrie (carrie@happybookseller.com) to reserve your copy.

Sunday, March 16

Vasilisa will read Dakota's Easter Wish during the 10 a.m. Sunday-school youth class at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1725 Gervais Street, Columbia, and again during the children's moment at Wesley's 11 a.m. service.

Sunday, April 27

Vasilisa will read Dakota's Easter Wish during the 11 a.m. service at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Pocotaligo, S.C. This is the church, located in the Lowcountry of Jasper County, which held the annual Easter-egg hunt that Dakota always looked forward to.

Tuesday, April 29

Vasilisa will join Alcorn Middle School teacher Sarah Walker and the children from the After-School Program from 4 to 5:15 p.m. to celebrate National Poetry Month and "Poem in Your Pocket Day" at The Happy Bookseller, 4525 Forest Drive, Columbia. Each participant will share a favorite pocket-sized poem. Refreshments will be provided, and students who make the A-B Honor Roll will receive autographed copies of Dakota's Easter Wish, along with other prizes.

Saturday, May 17

Vasilisa will participate in the Belmont Center Public Library May Festival in Charlotte, N.C., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dakota's Easter Wish and Papa Didn't Preach: Words of Wisdom for Daddy’s Girls will be featured at this family-friendly event. For more information, visit www.plcmc.org.

Thursday, July 10

Vasilisa will be a guest speaker during the Adventures in Writing course for 6th–9th graders presented by the University of South Carolina’s Pre-University Programs. The adventurers will meet at 3:45 p.m. in Maxcy College on the University’s Columbia campus. Vasilisa will discuss the two-year process of publishing Dakota's Easter Wish.