Earl is 68 years old, grew up in Harlem, and lives in the Bronx. He said he has been a street hustler all his life— starting by shining shoes on 42nd street when he was 10 or 11 years old, selling hotdogs, having a bread stand, and working as a caregiver.
Earl has navigated career paths in broadcast journalism, advertising, community outreach, motivational speaking, and entrepreneurial business. He owns and runs a baking business called Mr. Lucky’s Down Home Sweet Potato Pies and Peach Cobblers, and the slogan is, “Just like momma used to make.”
Earl’s mother and father were part of the great migration north. They were sharecroppers from their uncle’s plantation in South Carolina, where the entire family once lived. Southern cuisine was a big part of their culture.
As a boy living in Harlem in the late fifties and early sixties into the seventies, Earl recalls standing in the kitchen, often watching his mother prepare meals. On the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas in particular, there were always great things to eat in his home. His mother made a fantastic sweet potato pie, and he would hang around in the kitchen to watch her prepare her recipe. Earl said, “She would use her strong arms and large spoon to beat the batter, and it would make a wonderful musical sound— ba boom, ba boom, ba boom, and that’s how you knew it was good.” Once she stirred up the batter of ingredients, she would give him the empty bowl and spoon to lick clean.
His father worked for over fifty years at a factory out on Long Island, placing, mounting, and finishing crates and boxes. It involved lots of corrosive glue and straw products. His father also drove a Hilo (forklift).
Earl said during those years, Harlem was the kind of place where everyone had to hustle; everybody did something on the side. It was also during the regentrification years of Harlem when there were a lot of condemned buildings. Earl said his father was a self-made man with a photographic memory, and there was not much he could not do. He opened one of the abandoned storefronts and sold watermelons, cantaloupes, and shell peanuts that he received from past connections when living in South Carolina. His mother would complement his father by selling her homemade sweet potato pie and peach cobbler.
During that time, Earl used the acumen from his experience and connections working at ABC Eyewitness News. He and his mother went into business together and sold sweet potato pies and peach cobblers out of their apartment. Earl continues with that business today, called Mr. Lucky’s Down Home Sweet Potato Pies and Peach Cobblers.
Cataracts, Glaucoma, and Surgery
In 2022, Earl would wake up in the mornings and would not be able to see very well. He thought it would eventually go away, but that never happened. When Earl awoke one morning, it was like looking at a light blue screen out of his left eye. A week passed, and he decided to go to a vision specialist. He was diagnosed with cataracts and severe Glaucoma in both eyes. Earl was informed by his doctors that he had lost 90% of his vision in his left eye and 70% of his vision in his right eye.
At that moment, his ophthalmologist decided that immediate surgery was necessary to try to save as much of his vision as possible. Following the surgery, Earl’s vision was minimal.
Earl Connects with Lighthouse Guild
A friend called Earl and informed him about Lighthouse Guild and provided him with the contact information for Outreach and Referral Coordinator Lisa Miller. Earl called Lisa, and she could tell he was angry. Earl said Lisa responded to him with, “I need you to take a deep breath. You do believe that what we do here, the things that you’ve read about and the things I’ve told you, that I am here to help you, right? And you need to trust me.”
Earl said, “Lisa connected me with a wonderful guy at Lighthouse Guild— Rehabilitation Specialist, Angel Guzman, and he came and sat down with me in my house, and he gave me a watch that when you press a button, it tells me the time, he gave me a clock to place at my bed and when you press a button it tells you the date and the time, he gave me a great electric shaver to use so I would not cut myself. It was at this point that I realized that I’ve got some hope. He made me feel really good.”
Earl said, “Lisa Miller and Lighthouse Guild turned out to be a treasure island and the mother lode for me. Because everything she told me came to fruition.”
Lisa followed up by connecting Earl with Orientation and Mobility Instructor Jeffrey Ambury. Earl said, “Jeffrey has come to my home a couple of times and brought me the official white cane, and he showed me how to use it to access the stairs, how to cross the street. For the first time, I was not afraid.”
Earl said, “Lisa has my complete trust, and I began calling her regularly to say I just want to give you a quick wrap-up of what I’ve been doing and how things are going.”
Low Vision Exam
After a complete low vision examination and assessment and receiving low vision glasses, Dr. Zimmerman informed Earl that he had a lot of vision left in his right eye. That was an incredible feeling for Earl because it let him know he would not be in total darkness. That was so uplifting for Earl to hear. Zimmerman informed him that he had extreme Glaucoma and said it was insidious. She set him up with a Glaucoma specialist in his neighborhood so he would not need to travel too far away from his home for follow-up vision appointments.
Earl said, “Dr. Zimmerman was just top of the line. She was so wonderful.” My first appointment with Dr. Zimmerman was in April 2023. She explained to me that she hears what I’m saying to her, and she could hear my anger and rage. She held my hand and said, ‘You have to be aware that you may not receive the same treatment from doctors outside of Lighthouse Guild because here, that’s what we do. We hold your hand through this crisis, and we let you know that we are with you.”‘ Earl said, “At that moment, I knew I had come home. She was so nice and as personable with me as if she were a member of my family.”
About Lighthouse Guild
If ever diagnosed with low vision or blindness, Earl says, “You should reach out to Lighthouse Guild for their help. I’m so appreciative of Lighthouse Guild because they are providing a service that is invaluable to people who are blind or have a vision impairment. I have a great appreciation for the Lighthouse Guild organization because they will set you on a different course, and you will feel encouraged. I want to live and learn more and go forward. I am encouraged, and it’s all due to Lighthouse Guild.”
Earl says, “The kindness and understanding from Orientation and Mobility Specialist and Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Jeffrey Ambury, Rehabilitation Specialist Angel Guzman, and Lisa Miller have been great. Lisa is responsible for getting the ball rolling for me. I started the process with Lighthouse Guild in early March 2023. Things just started coming together, and they continue to come together. They have great empathy, and in the past couple of months, they’ve made my life much better.”
Earl says he’s looking forward to joining the group therapy sessions at Lighthouse Guild, where everyone discusses their issues, questions, and concerns in managing their vision loss, as well as the technology classes to learn about the different apps for Android phones and iPhones, and lessons to learn about the other accessibility apps for people with low vision.
Earl says he’s looking forward to taking the train to Lighthouse Guild and being around people like him who have things in common. He’s looking forward to making new friends in the neighborhood where he once worked for Eyewitness News. He shares, “This is a whole new time for me in my life, and I have never felt so trusting and giving.” Earl is writing a book entitled “Rude Awakening: From Harlem to Hell to Healing.”