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    ‘I am that next legacy’

    When Cameron Sterling speaks, the nation watches. In July of 2016, he grabbed the attention of protestors, political leaders, television programs, and the President of the United States with his determined words of peace and quiet demeanor. The 16-year-old admonished protestors to stay peaceful and he explained to the world why his father’s life and those lives of other unarmed, Black men killed by police were valuable. 

    On May 3, Baton Rouge watched Cameron, again, with anticipation when he stepped up to the microphone for another press conference.  His family and local officials met with the U.S Department of Justice attorneys who were investigating the July 5, 2016, shooting death of his father, Alton Sterling, by two Baton Rouge police officers.

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    Alton Sterling

    To the world watching, the soft-spoken young man said, “Everyday, I wake up and miss my dad, and everyday God is with us,” he said with assurance. “No matter what goes on behind those closed doors in that court; it doesn’t matter…God is there for me. I have my brothers and sisters to look after—11 of them. But guess what, I am that next legacy. I am here after my dad.”

    He paused. His voice was steady. “God is with me. God is with all of us.” 

    His calmness was met by the family’s attorney Chris Stewart who said, “We didn’t leave the meeting defeated…We will not let rage run. It is not over! The family walked away after assuring the community that “the fight for justice would not be stopped by the DOJ inaction.”

    Questions quickly rose asking what would justice look like. 

    Justice would be having these officers fired and the state of Louisiana charge them with murder or second-degree murder. However, according the Urban League of Louisiana, charges are filed in only one percent of fatal shootings involving police.

    “There simply is not enough sufficient evidence to proceed,” said acting US Attorney Corey Amundson, but he also said the officer’s behavior—although reckless—may have been in violation of state code which Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office would have to determine. Amundson said use of force experts reviewed the case against BRPD officers Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake II and, although they criticized the officers’ techniques, the experts still determined they could not prove that the officers behaved unreasonably and willfully. 

    “Being reckless is not a basis under the law for a federal civil rights prosecution,” Amundson said. Other attorneys said the officers’ use of force was beyond reasonable. 

    “They (DOJ officials) hands down agreed that the action of the police officers that night were outrageous were inappropriate, were not following procedure, were unexplainable but that meets the threashold of the attorney generals office which is where this case is going,” Stewart said, “In my opinion attorney general Jeff Landry has a phenomenal case against these officers. Not strong, phenomenal case. There can’t be any inaction from Jeff Landry. If you follow his history, he tries to do the right thing.” 

    Stewart said they learned in the meeting that Salamoni pointed a gun to Sterling’s head and said, “I will kill you, b***h.” 

    “We heard from them that Officer Salamoni kept instigating the situation,” Stewart said. “No police officer should conduct themselves like that…We demand that the A.G. proves that the department here has a higher standard and disapproves of the actions of the officers on that day.” He said, pointing out that Landry had persecuted other officers for excessive force earlier this year.

    The Sterling case has been turned over to the Landry’s office who will evaluate all evidence, interview witnesses, and conduct internal investigation of the BRPD. 

    State Rep. Edward  Ted James has sent letters to Landry asking him to appoint a special prosecutor. In the 10-month span, U.S. District Attorney Walt Green resigned at the request of the Trump Administration and Louisiana State Police head Mike Edmundson retired. 

    Their involvement in the investigation is unknown.

    “We are a long way away from getting this resolved,” said Baton Rouge NAACP president Mike McClanahan. “We have got to stay vigilant; we have got to stay in constant pursuit of justice.”

    According to Fatal Encounters, a national project documenting the number of deaths following incidents with police, 451 people had been killed by police since 2003. 

    Alexandria journalist Tony Brown, has record 13 incidents since 2003 where Black men who were unarmed were killed during incidents with local police. To him, the DOJ’s response is a pattern of systemic decision protect officers over innocent, nonviolent citizens. “This would turn out differently if the officers had been Black and the victims white,” Brown said. 

    For 13 years, he has been a central contact for the families of victims and has used his morning talk show “Eyes Open with Tony Brown” to vet emotions and get facts around 

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    Tony Brown

    incidents with police. 

    “It keeps boiling down to the officer’s use of force and whether or not they value that person’s life. We have to remember that the premise of use of force is buried in a system that thrives on inequality. Racial inequality predominately,” he said.

    “What these officers did to Mr. Sterling was provocative to say the least and they should be prosecuted,” “Unfortunately, we in Louisiana have seen officers walk away too many times even when they are blatantly violent towards citizens,” Brown said, referring to his list of victims. “We can not forget the history here,” he said. According to Brown’s records, these unarmed Black men have died in Louisiana: 

    • Marquise Hudspeth, 25, March 15, 2003, in Shreveport. 
    • Edward Ned Jr, 48, Nov. 11, 2004, in Lake Charles.
    • George Temple II, 24,  Feb.17, 2006, in Baton Rouge
    • Baron “Scooter” Pikes Jr, 21,  Jan. 17, 2008, in Winnfield.
    • Bernard Monroe Sr, 72, Feb. 20, 2009, in Homer.
    • Richard Goss, 36,  Nov. 26, 2008, in Alexandria
    • Harold Phillips, 54, July 2009, in Colfax 
    • Robert Ricks, 23, Feb. 5, 2011, in Alexadnria. 
    • Victor White III, 22, March 3, 2014, in New Iberia
    • Cameron Tillman, 14, Feb, 23, in Houma
    • Keenan Ardoin, 24, Dec. 4, 2014, in Ville Platte. 
    • Michael Noel, 32, Dec 21, 2015 in St. Martin

    “All of the victims were Black, all were unarmed, all were killed by police,” Brown said, who reported exclusively on six of these killings.

    “With the exception of the Harold Phillips murder in Colfax, all of the killer cops were exonerated. No charges were filed,” said Brown .

    Alton Sterling, 37, was shot six times at close range while held down on the ground by two Baton Rouge police officers. Sterling was selling CDs in front of a convenience store. Police were calledby someone reporting that a man was selling CDs and threatening people with a gun. Although the store manager said he did not see a gun, the officers shouted “gun” before killing Sterling.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate
     

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    COMMENTARY: #BlackWomenatWork will be respected, not intimidated

    “She can’t be the owner.”

    “Can you be a little less aggressive?”

    “We can only pay you this amount.”

    These are the phrases that echo in the ears of many working African-American women. The sly remarks of their superiors, colleagues, and sometimes, even friends, all cause African-American women to perform daily self-assessments. So, it wasn’t by chance that the moment White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attacked journalist April Ryan and Bill O’Reilly commented about U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, we all fell to our knees in disgust and understanding. It was by chance the first time the feminist voice met the racism cry accompanied by the “Black head nod”. Because, quite frankly, we knew that experience of inferiority and unsolicited comedy, with the focus on us all too well.

    I guess you would think it wouldn’t be such a big deal. How could a hashtag draw so much attention? Well, for the degreed sister, the one who had to climb the corporate ladder alone; the one who consistently holds the Angry Black Woman stereotype under a professional subtle demeanor; the one who over dresses daily and under asserts her authority; the one with the alphabets behind her name or the desire to open that business;  the one who contemplates braids versus a relaxer;  who tries desperately not order poultry at the fancy dinner and commits to ensuring that her colloquialisms are far from connected to the urban area she grew up in…. she finally found relief in seeing the #BlackWomenatWork hashtag. The hashtag meant that she wasn’t alone and neither were her inner most feelings.

    #BlackWomenatWork

    So, for clarity, Black women are not insecure. In fact, we are extremely educated and many times over qualified.  Yet, in the doors of the corporation, African-American women are immediately and unapologetically mistaken for “The Help” and, quite frankly, we’re tired. It is time that every Black woman garner the respect and credibility that we’ve worked hard to achieve. We can’t let a Trump administration infused with misogyny and racism, or the boss that is only succeeding because of your work ethic, or the looks received on your corporate trip from the concierge allow you to give in to the  ridiculous labeling of the Black woman.

    See we admit and concede to the fact that our femininity connects us to the same struggles as our sisters of other races. We don’t down play their struggle, but even Hillary Clinton had to step out in outrage over the attacks received by the Black woman in the public view. Let’s examine the attacks: not one experienced by Representative Waters or Ms. Ryan have been embedded with anything more than focus on physical appearance and gestures. Why is that? It’s because there is nothing else to attack her on. Not her education. Not her qualifications. Not her experience. So, the oppressor resorts to low blows and calls out the things that only an immature bully can get others to see.

    What does this all do to us? Well, we start a fight among ourselves, better known as “double consciousness,” as coined by the great W.E.B. DeBois. We feel so marginalized that our inner fight grows to conducting ourselves to be accepted; and we sometimes silence our voice and accept being underpaid, however, the one thing we do and we do well is keep pushing. We outwork our counterparts. We quit jobs that never valued our work ethic. We start our own businesses. We stay in positions to help the next Black girl get in.  You’ll probably never hear us complain because we’ve learned a long time ago that doesn’t solve anything. But this year, we’ve screamed enough. We’ve banned together with a measly hashtag and demanded everyone realize that #BlackWomenatWork WILL be respected and NOT intimidated.
     Erika Green

    Erika L Green, ESQ

    I’m reminded of a statement written a century ago that summarizes the conflict that the Black woman experiences. Soujourner Truth said, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?” We will continue to work and eat just as much as our counterparts but the lash ends today!

    By Erika L. Green
    Guest columnist

    Erika Green is managing attorney at Law Office of Erika Green  and Baton Rouge City Councilmember District 5. Follow her @erikalgreenesq

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    What did Che’dra Joseph say?

    “Can everybody give Che’ a big round applause”? said President Barack Obama, to a crowd of more than 700 citizens who gathered at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, Thursday, Jan. 14, for a town hall meeting.

    Che’Dra Joseph, the daughter of Jessica Bornholdt and granddaughter of Mary E. Joseph, welcomed the crowd to McKinley
    and introduced the president.

    “We could not be more proud of her. I was backstage; I asked her, ‘Are you nervous?’ She said, ‘No, I got this. I’m fine.’ That is a serious leader of the future. And we are so proud of her,” said President Obama.

    So, what did this Student of the Year with a remarkable 4.6 grade point average tell the world as she introduced the President?

    Che'Dra and President Obama. Photo by Yusef Davis

    Che’Dra and President Obama. Photo by Yusef Davis

    Good morning, McKinley alumni, students, faculty, town hall participants, esteemed guests, and viewers at home. I am Che’dra Joseph, McKinley High School’s 2015-2016 Student of the Year and a finalist for East Baton Rouge Parish Student of the Year. Neither my experiences nor my environment have always been conducive towards forming a foundation for my ambitions. My upbringing has given me the insight that hardships do not limit
    opportunities. A journey towards self-actualization is not as easy for all of us, as it is for some. It is challenging for marginalized Americans to succeed. However, remaining focused
    on ambitions and education allows opportunities for moments of surrealism, similar to this one. I am here, in spite of, not because of, my circumstances. I have defied statistics, and I will not falter in my aspirations to dismantle the glass ceilings
    imposed on women, people of color, and minority groups. McKinley has been a significant factor in my personal development due to its ever-present, but often unacknowledged historical value. In 1907, McKinley became the first institution in Louisiana to offer
    Black students academic advancement. Furthermore, its first graduating class of 1916 was all female. McKinley was a win
    for Black excellence, and a win for women. Today, McKinley is home to educational opportunities that allow for a progressive,
    inclusive environment that stimulates informative and insightful dialogue among people who exhibit diversity in everything from skin color, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and religion. I am honored for the opportunity to introduce myself and the President. As a representative of McKinley High School,
    Baton Rouge, and Louisiana, I offer the President our gratitude for giving America a nontraditional model of success that proves
    adversity does not restrict opportunity and for choosing McKinley High School to make history. Ladies and gentleman, McKinley High
    School proudly welcomes, The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

    The gym erupted with applause.

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    Set in Louisiana, ‘Sugar’ is a vivid read for youth

    In Jewel Parker Rhodes’ novel, Sugar, 10-year-old Sugar is adventurous and brave. In this book, you go through her expeditions and the ups and down. Even having a forbidden friend, Billy (the white plantation owner’s son), Sugar is careful about what she does. When Billy tells her about the China men who were coming to River Road Plantation to work with them, she becomes more curious about the world. When they arrive, she goes over to their sacks to greet them and share stories from their country. Having her mother die and her best friend move north, Sugar is accepted into the Beals’ family and becomes friends with the Chinese family. When the plantation owner Mr. Wills fired the overseer he got revenge and burned the mill. Mr. Wills had no choice but to sell River Road. The big lessons of Ms. Parker Rhodes’ book, Sugar, is too never be afraid to overcome every obstacle and to allow nothing to interfere with your friendship, not even race.BuytheBook

    This book review submitted by a Glen Oaks Park Elementary student. To send your review, email news@thedrumnewspaper.info

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  • Men We Reaped: A Memoir

    Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward leaves the reader spinning through their own convictions and deeper insights of the prevailing difficulties men (Black and in unequal situations) are forced to live…..and ultimately die in. Ward presents a very intimate recollection of the men in her life–so common among us all–but at the time of their deaths. We readers are pulled into an inner diatribe against society’s unequal treatment of these men. We are angered by these men whose lives we’ve reaped. And we are convicted by Ward showing this constant battle of man vs. poverty where man is again defeated. BuytheBookref=sr_1_1

    Ward is a former Stegner fellow at Stanford and Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her novels, Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, are both set on the Mississippi coast where she grew up. Bloomsbury will publish her memoir about an epidemic of deaths of young black men in her community. She is an assistant professor at the University of South Alabama.

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    Woman to Watch: Angela Myles

    On any given day, conversations with Greensburg , La. native Angela Myles can veer from excitement about the young 4-H club members she mentors to worry about the unkept community garden tucked away at St. Helena College and Career Academy and  closed for the summer. If you stick around her for a while, the talk moves from one of her nine Godchildren and church VBS plans to a lively discussion on the  extraordinary cattle and goats roaming  small farms throughout St. Helena parish and the teenage farmers preparing to compete in the next statewide livestock show or cookery competition.

    In fact, Myles’ conversations are much like her smile and personality: broad, bright, and full of energy. The 34-year-old extension parish chair supervisor for the LSU Ag Center is working passionately in agriculture–a career many people expected to be replaced by machines and technology. And she’s using the national 4-H model to teach it to a new generation along with lessons on nutrition, technology, rockets, and leadership.

    A self-described farm girl, Myles said she wanted to go to the military but instead earned two degrees from Southern University in agriculture family consumer science and in education leadership. She now plans specialize in youth development and earn a doctorate in education leadership.

    This summer she is teaching a STEM camp,  taking a group of  preteen 4-H’ers camping in Polluck, La.,  and traveling to Baton Rouge with high schoolers who will attend the 4-HU’s Clover College and compete in ATV, computer simulation, and forestry challenges.

    “I love what I do,” said Myles who started her 10-year career at the Southern University Ag Center and the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service as a parent educator then as a youth specialist.

    “My church is where I started being a leader for my community. I would like to thank the late Rev. Stanley J. Carter for his leadership and helping to mold me into the person I am today. I have to tell all of my parents in St. Helena Parish thank you for trusting me with your child and helping me to make this a great program a success for your child and their family,” she said. For that, she is a woman to watch.

    Meet Angela Myles, 34
    Professional title: Parish Chair and associate extension 4-H Agent St. Helena Parish with the LSU Ag Center

    Hometown: Greensburg, LA
    Moves made in 2014: Reached out to youth in areas of, 4-H youth development through livestock, club meetings, Jr. Leader Club, cookery contests, nutrition, gardening, camps, character development, reading literacy projects, STEM projects, and reaching youth through and in schools.

    What to expect from you Expect for youth in St. Helena Parish to live by the 4-H slogan “To Make the Best Better”. We will attend 4-H camp, 4-H U at LSU, STEM Summer Camp, Louisiana Outdoor Skills and Technology (LOST) Camp, Challenge Camp, 4-H club meetings, robotics club meetings, livestock meetings, and character development.

    Personal Resolution: To read a new book every other week with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. Develop and maintain website for different companies. Donate to a needy organization in the state of Louisiana whether if it’s items, money, or time.

    Professional Resolution: Seek more professional development from the LSU Ag Center.

    Life/business motto: LSU Ag Center Mission Statement: to innovate, to educated and to improve lives. My personal motto is to have a “The sky’s the Limit” approach to life. Never be afraid to dream big and do bigger, you know that you can do anything you set your mind to.

    What music are you dancing to? Gospel, I love to give God praise through singing and dancing!

    What are you reading? The Spirit of Leadership by Myles Munroe 7 Habits of Effective Leaders by Steven Coyey, and The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

    Mentors or Role Models: My mother Mary E. Hickerson was my role model until her death in 1990. My other role model was my adoptive mother Margaret P. Overton until her death in 2013. At this point in life, I look up to my oldest sister, Cynthia, for support and advice. I have developed to become my own role model and I consider myself to be a role model to many youth in my community and across the state of Louisiana.

    ONLINE: Rockets to the Rescue featuring Angela Myles.

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    Woman to Watch: Sevetri M. Wilson

    Throughout Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Sevetri Wilson is quickly becoming the business leader who needs no introduction. Not because of the uniqueness of her name–which means “of royalty”–but because of the aggressive growth of her company, Solid Ground Innovations LLC, and its vast list of successful projects.

    She has been named a top 40 under 40 by both the Baton Rouge Business Report and the Baton Rouge Black Professionals Association. Her work has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration and included in USA Today, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Inc Magazine, and ESPN.

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    Sevetri Wilson

    Wilson and the SGI team manages strategic projects for the Tyrus Thomas Foundation, CC’s Coffeehouse, Aetna Better Health of Louisiana, Chicken Shack, Simple Joe’s Cafe, First Financial of Baton Rouge, and BR MetroMorphosis–to name a few.

    While, Wilson generally stays quiet on most projects until they are completed, she recently shared with her 8,500-plus social media followers that SGI is beginning a “new journey” and used hashtags #newproducts and #techstartups.

    She is an accomplished musician, a sought-after business branding consultant, and strategist who manages capital campaigns, sports philanthropy, and event planning, among a slew of other services.

    For this, she is a woman to watch. Meet Sevetri Wilson, 29

    Professional title: CEO, Solid Ground Innovations, LLC

    Hometown: Hammond, LA

    Resident: Dual Residency in Baton Rouge and New Orleans

    What music are you dancing to? When I want to dance around my home, maybe while cleaning or something, I always turn on Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody”

    What are you reading? I am currently reading “Leaning into Leadership”.(She set a goal to read one business book a month for 2015 and shared her reading list at http://www.sevetriwilson.com/sgireads2015/ )

    Mentors or Role Models: My mother, Shirley M. Wilson, is and will always be my #1 role model

    Moves made in 2014/Accomplishments: Started a spin off tech start-up from one of our company’s service lines was in my opinion my accomplishment. In addition, for the fifth consecutive year, I continued the upward growth of my company in revenues and staff. In 2014, our company, SGI, celebrated five years in business. I suppose I could talk about some of the awards and recognitions but truly without those accomplishments, I would not even be recognized.

    <em>Personal Resolution: Try to balance work and life to the best of my ability

    Business/Company Resolution: Continue to grow quality clientele and sales, continue to innovate our service lines, and ensure operations work for our team members to execute to the highest of our capability.

    Life/business motto: When all else fails, do what is right.

    Where to find you online? You can find me via all social media platforms at @sevetriwilson ; organizations can also book me for speaking engagements via my website at www.sevetriwilson.com

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    We, the People, are intelligent enough

    Since this is THE DRUM, I want to sound out a message that communicates a crucial warning for us which may have devastating effects on the lives and health of We, The People.

    On Tuesday, March 31, 2015, the doors closed to the emergency room of Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Midcity. On April 15, 2013,  the doors of Earl K. Long Medical Center closed and on  August 5, 2012, Woman’s Hospital moved out of the community and on  August 6, 2012,  opened  at a remote location much further down Airline Highway.  I am not writing this column to allay blame. Quite the contrary, this calls to attention the need of a more responsible and watchful public whose purpose should, at least, make it more uncomfortable for policy makers and business leaders to fail to consider the concerns of all citizens. In the areas of health, politics, and economics, we all must push to have our say.  When the community fails to use its voice, the silence is deafening and dangerous.

    We, the People, can no longer allow our voices to remain silent while we announce that God “is perfecting those things that concern us,” and we do nothing to perfect them ourselves.

    I speak of my own failure to be more vigilant for I am a part of the equation as well. My complacency was driven home with the realization that a T.I.A (mini stroke) caused me to be admitted to a hospital which was open then but not now.

    It is time to become more proactive in the things that could potentially become a matter of life and death.  The “BEFORE” picture is crucial but the “AFTER” picture stands to be tragic when the lives of our families are at stake.

    We, the People, are intelligent enough, sophisticated enough, watchful enough to know who to vote for ENOUGH, to make our stand respected and considered.

    By barbara w. green
    Columnist

    barbara w. green is a licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, ordained minister, and motivational speaker. Her columns are distributed nationally by the Jozef Syndicate. Follow her at www.barbaragreenministries.com.

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  • Children’s book ‘Bonyo Bonyo’ expands mission

    Bonyo Bonyo is such a brave and loving story that transcends cultures. When the death of a young sister sparks the desire in her older brother to become a doctor because of the lack of health care in the country, a Kenyan family unknowingly becomes bonded to society and the readers are taken on the journey captured in this 42-page children’s book.  Bonyo faces financial challenges that limits him from continuing school until his father sells the family radio and sends Bonyo to study medicine in the United States of America.bonyo bonyo

    The young, brilliant Bonyo carries a personal conviction to become a doctor for his country but after graduating he begins a stronger commitment to the country by sending on doctor every year to care for the people in Africa. His determination pays off and he is able to impact society. This true story based on the life of Dr. Bonyo Bonyo gives the clear message that we are all impacted by life and death but the dreams and determination of one another can improve society and our personal lives.  This message was reinforced after discovering that net proceeds from book sales would go to the Bonyo’s Kenya Mission in Ohio.

    Bonyo Bonyo: The True Story of a Brave Boy from Kenya is written by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blanc. The book is available online at www.http://vanitabooks.com/

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