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  • School to prison pipeline can be dismantled says juvenile judge

    The statistics are clear. During the 2018-2019 school year, nearly 95% of East Baton Rouge Parish Schools students suspended out-of-school were Black as was 89.4% of students with in-school suspensions. The overwhelming majority of them are males.

    In a school district with a 78.1% Black student population, 92.7% of the students referred to law enforcement from EBR schools were Black students.

    These statistics were familiar for some of the 200 people who gathered to hear Division B Juvenile Court Judge Gail Grover‘s presentation on the school to prison pipeline.

    For others, these numbers are startling.

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    Do they indicate systemic problems with discipline?
    Do they reveal behavior and attendance challenges?
    Do they signal a greater problem in the school to prison pipeline?

    “Yes. We can see manifestation of the problem,” Grover said. “We have work to do but the work is definitely doable.”

    According to Grover, the parish’s school to prison pipeline “is not the police being called to the school and those children being taken to detention,” she explained. “It is actually the result of young people not being in school as a result of expulsions or suspensions or truancy.”

    She said 54% of East Baton Rouge Parish students are truant which means they have 5 or more unauthorized absences or tardiness within one school semester. These truancy numbers give a degree of what the problem is and what our solutions have to be, she said. “It’s going to take all of us,” said Grover who has served in juvenile justice for 23 years. “We can interrupt the pipeline. I am convinced.”

    To do so, Grover suggested the development of a multi-disciplinary, inclusive team that is “always together and always looking at policy and research.” Then, she suggested catching absenteeism immediately on the fifth day, creating a screening instrument to determine if a student needs to be removed from school versus detailed; expanding trauma training; building trust and connecting families with caring mentors; and incorporating restorative justice models when removing students from school.

    Grover said these trauma and trust-building training will begin the process of dismantling the school to prison pipeline. “If we don’t do the work, (these students) will have a lifetime of unmet potential and failed experiences,” she said.

    Grover present other strategies the parish’s juvenile courts have begun, including:

    • Meeting with school system leaders and child welfare officers,
    • Reducing inappropriate and unnecessary detainment of students in school environments,
    • Developing new mentorship initiatives to help students return to schools,
    • Focusing on a high school truancy docket each third Tuesday and first Thursday with due-diligence processes,
    • Conducting thorough IEP reviews to consider student disabilities and special needs as it impacts their school behavior, and
    • Increasing transparency of how courts are handling juveniles

    According to Grover, the parish has seen a 50% reduction in youth entering the juvenile system more than 10 years. She said her office is connecting with mentoring organizations to implement programs at the beginning of the next school year as well as researching the Open Table grassroots model where 8-10 people adopt one family to help them face social challenges.

    “You may not be able to do it alone, but I know you have eight friends. This is work we can do..So when we are asked, ‘How are the children?’ We want to say, ‘The children are well’.” she said.

    Grover presented “Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline” on Feb. 18, as part of VIPS’ Partners in Education Business Luncheon. VIPS volunteers Christopher Drew Murray and Dorothy Kemp encouraged the audience to step up and volunteer.

    Following the luncheon, Grover posted on Facebook, “It is HIGHLY important that we not only work within the judicial system to fix truancy but that the community and those involved in education input their questions and experiences into the conversation.”

    ONLINE: vipsbr.og

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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  • A Louisiana girl with California wines

    Dawna Jones, Ph.D., remembers having an amazing childhood in Opelousas with her parents, Randolph and Priscilla Darjean, and three siblings. But one distinct memory may have unintentionally guided the 43-year-old plant pathologist into the winemaking business.

    “My mother dabbled in making various fruit wines when I was very young, but I do not remember assisting in the process aside from picking the fruit, usually pears, from the trees that grew in our backyard. I do distinctly remember the smell of the fermenting fruit. I loved that smell,” she said.

    That fermentation science would fascinate Jones who “loves science deeply” and has been interested in agriculture since she was a teenager in public school.

    Today, Jones is a first-generation winemaker and owner of Darjean Jones Wines.

    As a student, she researched plants and plant diseases at Southern University and A&M College, University of California – Davis, and the US Department of Agriculture. Her dissertation research focused on Pierce’s Disease of grapevine, requiring her to spend countless hours in California vineyards.

    “I kind of fell into wine gradually,” she told HelloWoodlands. “I do remember tasting a Merlot grape one day while walking through the research vineyards and thinking that if wine tasted half this good, it must be fantastic.”

    Following graduate school, she worked as a diagnostic plant bacteriologist for the government while her husband, Chauncey, completed fellowships in anesthesiology. (Dr. Chauncey Jones is also an SU grad who studied animal science.)

    While in Maryland, she tested plant material brought into the country, developed testing methods, and investigated outbreaks of plant disease. For seven years, she was a national security analyst. Then, his career required them to settle in Texas. That move nearly 10 years ago was the impetus for her career shift back to grapevines and a new adventure in winemaking. It was then that her husband asked, “What would you do if you could do anything you want?” and she answered, “I’d make wine!”

    “Winemaking, for me, seemed a natural progression,” said Jones who is now a mother of two with an international WSET Level 3 Certification for grape growing and winemaking. Through partnerships with six California vineyards, she has created and produced eight boutique Darjean Jones Wines that are “spirited, adventurous and possess a charisma that will seduce wine lovers of all kinds.”

    Since 2010, her wines have won 34 competition metals and debuted in Tyler Perry’s “Nobody’s Fool.” Darjean Jones Wines are served at top restaurants in Texas, sold at wine cellars in California, and have a national wine club following. The website features wines that are available for direct order and recipes perfect for pairing with her wines. “The love of good food and drink is coded in my DNA,” Jones said.Dawna Jones Darjean Jones Wine.jpeg

    When asked about the future of agriculture, Jones said, “I would like others to understand the limitless number of careers that fall under agriculture, including economics and technology. I would like more children to consider careers in agriculture. From organic farming to high tech laboratories, there is a place for all of us to assist in feeding our growing world.”

    “It is so important for our youth, SU students and alumni to see the homegrown talent and successes of Dawna and Chauncey who share their racial identity and are both graduates of the Southern University College of Agricultural, Family, and Consumer Science,” said Renita Marshall, DVM, associate dean of the College. “Having Dawna as a role model is vital to signaling a sense of belonging for women of color. Her continued pursuit of excellence in ag research and business are definitely not going unnoticed in the African-American community nor the Southern University Ag community. ”

     

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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    EBR Schools updates employees and students on resources, medications, meals

    Governor John Bel Edwards signed a proclamation that closed schools effective March 16, 2020, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

    “The mandated closure asks for schools to reopen on April 13, 2020. That date coincides with our previously scheduled spring break. We are still evaluating options on whether or not spring break dates will need to be changed. We will have an update on this by the end of the week. Governor Edwards advocated for schools to continue to support students during this time and we are stepping up to meet that call to action,” said Superintendent Warren Drake.

    Educational Resources:

    • Although our district will not provide distance learning, it will provide online links to optional enrichment and educational resources for parents. These resources will span core content areas – ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies for students PreK-12th grade. Activities will be made available on EBRPSS website by Wednesday, March 18.
    • Some of our schools may have already issued resources on Friday, March 13. Those items are also optional and students will not receive a grade.
    • Individual schools will be working with their teams to address options for Dual Enrollment courses based on guidance received from our local colleges and universities.

    Medication:

    • EBRPSS is working with Health Centers in Schools to finalize a distribution schedule for parents/guardians/emergency contacts to retrieve student medication if needed. All details will be communicated on the district Facebook page and on our website Tuesday, March 17th.

    Student Meal Pick-Up Locations:

    • The EBRPSS’s Child Nutrition Department will be serving free, grab-n-go breakfast and lunch at seven school sites beginning Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Grab-N-Go breakfast and lunch will be served at:
      1. Northeast Elementary
      2. Progress Elementary
      3. Woodlawn Elementary
      4. Wildwood Elementary
      5. Capitol Middle
      6. McKinley Middle
      7. Park Forest Middle

      While supplies last, families will be able to pick up pre-packaged breakfast and lunches for children 18 years of age and younger, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays during the mandated school closure period (March 16, 2020 – April 13, 2020). At least one child must be present in order to receive school meals. To learn more about EBR Child Nutrition and to view the menu, please visit ebrschools.org/child-nutrition.

    Employee Information:

    • All 12-month employees not assigned to a school building are to begin working remotely and implementing rotation schedules for required on-site work functions. Please contact your direct supervisor for more information.
    • Beginning Tuesday, March 17, school sites should be staffed by one 12-month employee to receive mail and deliveries, and preapproved contractors and vendors. (Feeding sites may also accept donations of new, packaged to-go boxes and unused plastic bags.
    • All school sites and the central office building should be staffed from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

    Who to Call:

    If you have any additional questions or concerns about the Coronavirus, please contact the following:

    COVID-19 General Information hotline:

    • 1-855-523-2652
    • 211
    • If you have an EBRPSS related question, please contact us through email – Hotline@ebrschools.org.
    • ICARE will provide support to parents and employees through this difficult time. They will address concerns at icare@ebrschools.org and reply within 24 hours with resources for support.

    “We promise to share new information and updates with you through our dedicated web page, https://ebrschools.org/news/health-update-coronavirus/ and on social media,” said Drake.

     

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  • Free meals and food service for students in La.

    Free food programs are popping up throughout the state after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to several major school systems. Here are local and state resources (updated frequently):

    Schools in 61 of 64 parishes are serving as feeding sites to provide meals to children during school closures. This list is subject to change as resources and information become more available. US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation. Read: Louisiana Believes


    Tues. March 17. In response to COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Regina Barrow along with several colleagues are partnering with McDonald’s and EBR School System to provide free lunch meals to students in the Glen Oaks and Scotlandville communities. Meals will be available at noon tomorrow, March 17 at Glen Oaks High School, 6650 Cedar Glen Dr and Scotlandville PreEngineering Middle Magnet School, 9147 Elm Grove Drive. For more info call 225-359-9400. Barrow thanks  McDonald’s, EBR School System, Sen. Cleo Fields, Reps. Barbara W Carpenter, C. Denise Marcelle, Edmond Jordan, Ted James, Larry Selders and Eugene Rico Williams.


    Starting Wed., March 18. The EBRPSS’s Child Nutrition Department will be serving free, grab-n-go breakfast and lunch at seven school sites beginning Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Grab-N-Go breakfast and lunch will be served at:

    Grab-N-Go breakfast and lunch will be served at the following schools:

    1. Northeast Elementary
    2. Progress Elementary
    3. Woodlawn Elementary
    4. Wildwood Elementary
    5. Capitol Middle
    6. McKinley Middle
    7. Park Forest Middle

    While supplies last, families will be able to pick up pre-packaged breakfast and lunches for children 18 years of age and younger, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays during the mandated school closure period (March 16, 2020 – April 13, 2020). At least one child must be present in order to receive school meals. ONLINE: ebrschools.org/child-nutrition.


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    Portrait of LSU professor Julian T. White becomes mural in college’s atrium

    At the epicenter of LSU’s Baton Rouge campus stands the College of Art + Design. Sixty-eight feet above the entrance to the building’s atrium, a master artist and his team work in a flurry of color, transforming a once empty wall into a campus landmark. The halls, known for producing some of the greatest visionaries of Louisiana, now directly honors one of the most iconic and boundary-breaking professors: Julian T. White. 

    The portrait mural, championed together by The Walls Project, LSU Foundation, and the College of Art + Design, honors the legacy of the first Black professor at Louisiana State University. When Julian T. White joined LSU’s faculty in 1971 to teach architecture, he paved a way for people of all backgrounds to have equal opportunity.  He spent thirty-three years as an educator at LSU, impacting his students, inspiring them to break barriers, and cultivating several waves of strong architects. White maintained an architecture firm in Baton Rouge with projects at area schools and churches across the country. He also taught at Southern University and Tuskegee University while serving on the State of Louisiana’s Board of Architectural Examiners.

    Julian White

    Julian White

    After his passing in 2011, the LSU Art+Design department honored  White’s work by naming the building’s atrium after him. In addition to this, leadership wanted to memorialize him in a bold and meaningful way.

    “When we were thinking about how to celebrate the naming of this space, we came upon the idea of doing a mural and not just a little bronze plaque that no one would read. We thought that this man’s contribution that freed and opened the doors of LSU to everyone was great enough to be commemorated in a way just as exceptional as he and his teaching was,” said Alkis Tsolakis, dean of the LSU College of Art + Design. Tsolakis said he has inspired by a small picture cut out from Julian T. White’s driver’s license, a gift he received from the late professor’s wife, Loretta White. “His picture sits on my desk and looks at me every day,” said Tsolakis.

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    Robert Dafford and Miguel Lasala create the Portrait of Julian White mural in LSU’s College of Design+Art.

    As the mural design began The Walls Project had 99 public murals in their catalog. The organization was ecstatic for this landmark mural to become its cornerstone 100th public artwork. To complete the job, Robert Dafford, a master muralist with nearly 500 public artworks, was selected for the job. Globally known for his murals, Dafford has painted murals in the United States, France, England, Belgium, and Canada. When hearing about the project he happily accepted.

    “I am very excited to paint something in the arts building and to honor Julian White who was the pioneer minority person who opened the doors for so many that followed,” said Dafford. “That’s an honor for me to get to do this and to paint so much diversity. The student body is so diverse now and I want to reflect that it started with this man leading the way.”

    This mural’s completion has not come easily. Working at an active college campus in a nearly 70-foot space led to some engineering challenges. To combat the foot-traffic and vertical spacing issues, Dafford ingeniously designed a pulley system for the mural to be created as three large canvas panels. Work was going smoothly until Dafford fell from a ladder at his studio and broke his foot and ankle. The injury sustained required surgery and recovery time, halting production for another six months. Despite this setback, Dafford worked with his assistants to finish whatever he could while battling reduced mobility.

    Muralist Robert Dafford

    Muralist Robert Dafford

    By the beginning of this year, Dafford was healed and ready to finally install the panels. The first pieces went up at the beginning of February. Dafford, with his production assistant, Miguel Lasala, began finishing the elaborate and large piece in the heart of the atrium. The project is proposed to be finished in early March for generations of students and faculty to enjoy.

    The Portrait of Julian White mural is already touching the lives of those around it. From LSU’s Art + Design team to the students who see it every day, Julian T. White’s impact is still being made.

    “This project means everything to me. It means another step in freeing LSU and making a home for everyone. Another step in what Julian White did for LSU, for Louisiana, and for the world,” said Tsolakis.

    Feature photo by Micah Viccinelli.

    By Helena Williams
    Special to The Drum

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    Investigation reveals Blacks living, working on plantations in Mississippi

    Antoinette Harrell, known as the “Slavery Detective of the South,” is on a mission to interview and document the oral histories of people who still live on plantations to this very day. Deangelo Manuel and Tyra Climmons, two interns working with Harrell, visited two plantations in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. They set out to discover why people are still living on plantations. What is keeping them there, and why don’t they move away?

    Climmons and Manuel were shocked to see people living on a plantation in the age of the new millennium. Apparently, they just can’t afford to live anywhere else.

    The first person they stopped to interview was a woman named Helen, who was born on a plantation in 1940 in Holmes County, Mississippi. “I picked and chopped cotton until I left the plantation in 1959,” said Helen. “Mama and daddy never really got ahead, every year. They were told that the crops didn’t make good, try again. My mama and daddy left the plantation after the boss man sold the plantation.”

    An older woman living on Buford Plantation said she moved from plantation to plantation with her mother before they settled on the Buford Plantation picking and chopping cotton.

    Due West Plantation, a plantation that consists of 12,000-acres, got its name many years ago. During the 1850s, the farm was part of the Twilight Plantation. Mike Sturdivant, the owner of the plantation, was a highly successful Delta planter and millionaire businessman. Harrell researched the history of the original owner of Due West Plantation, Capt. Ben Sturdivant, and found him to be the Captain of the steamer J.M. Sharp according to the Yazoo Pass Expedition, February 14 to April 8, 1863. He was accompanied by Company C of the 20th Mississippi Infantry with 200 slaves and their overseers.

    Matt Davis told Harrell his mother and father both were born on Due West Plantation. Davis’ grandfather, Richard Coleman, was a farmer from Lincoln County, MS, and went to the Delta searching for farm work, “My father Ladell Davis, Sr. was born in 1934 and worked as a tractor driver,” said Carrie Jean, Matt Davis’s sister. She said she was born on Due West Plantation and remembers her grandma’s “own baby sucking one tittie and Mike’s son sucking on the other tittie.”

    “After I left the plantation and saw the television series Roots in 1977, I realized that I was living the same way,” Carrie Jean said. “We had what you called ‘across the tracks.’ If you lived across the tracks on Due West Plantation, you were a slave. The other side of the tracks was the free side,”she said.

    The old wooden shacks were demolished, and small-framed brick homes were built in the 70s. Most people on Due West Plantation have other jobs off the plantation but still call the plantation home. Kirk Manuel asked a man who also lives on Due West called “Henry” to tell him something about Emmitt Till. He lives just three miles from where they found Till’s body.

    “I heard about it through travelers,” said Henry. “We learned about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through travelers.”

    Henry said he couldn’t believe a person could do that to another human being. “I left the plantation one time and returned back to the plantation because the city life was too much for a country boy. We didn’t communicate with folks on other plantations,” Henry said.

    In May of 1968, dozens of wagons set out from Marks, Mississippi. Dr. Martin Luther King visited Clarksdale, Mississippi for the first major meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. While there, King saw the impoverish conditions Black sharecroppers and tenant farmers who remained on plantations in the Delta faced daily.

    “We didn’t leave the plantation for anything. We spent our coupons at the commissary store. If anyone ran away from the plantation, they left at night. You didn’t have any money to leave. I always wondered how they left,” he said. “After the conversation with Henry, we went to the store and met a man who had a different story but seemed very apprehensive about talking. All he would say was, ‘It was rough.’ He told us that his sister was hung, and he didn’t want to talk about it.”

    Harrell, who lives in Louisiana,  regularly visits Ballground Plantation in Warren County, Mississippi, which consists of more than 1,500 acres. The Simrall family is the third owner of Ballground plantation. The Jeffery family lived on this plantation for five generations. Donald Jeffery, who was born on Ballground Plantation, never knew any other place to call home. He and the present owner say they are like brothers. Donald Jeffery still helps on the plantation but works somewhere else. His mother, Early Mae Jeffery, was one of the cooks and on this visit, she rang the old plantation bell for Harrell, demonstrating how the sound of the bell called in the field hands.

    Harrell said, “the people who remain on the plantation to this very day have been there for generations. One person I know still works for the owners, like most of the others.”

    ONLINE: www.AntoinetteHarrell.com

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    ‘A Lucky Man’ wins Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

    Jamel Brinkley’s  collection of nine short stories has won the 2018 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Set in Brooklyn and the South Bronx where the writer spent his youth before graduating from Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the stories in A Lucky Man explore the charged, complex ties between boys and men who make mistakes that threaten their relationships with friends, lovers, and family members.

    The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence honors Louisiana storyteller, Ernest J. Gaines, and serves to inspire and recognize rising African-American fiction writers of excellence at a national level. The annual award of a $10,000 cash prize is to support the writer and help enable them to focus on the art of writing.

    Ernest Gaines

    A Lucky Man is “intent on recognizing what masculinity looks like, questioning our expectations of it, and criticizing its toxicity — and somehow managing to do all of that with love,” wrote Ilana Masad of National Public Radio.

    Brinkley examines the way men excuse their own attempts at ownership of the world around them. His book “deals in family relationships, love, aging, loss, and disappointment — the universal themes that keep us coming back to literature — while also conveying versions of Black male experience,” Masad wrote.

    In one story, an imaginative young boy from the Bronx goes swimming with his day camp group at a suburban backyard pool and faces the effects of power and privilege. In another, college boys on the prowl follow two girls home from a party and have to own up to the uncomfortable truth of their desires.

    “Brinkley offers visions of manhood and masculinity that demonstrate candor without false intensity, desire without ownership. His male characters have fictional experiences that, in the hands of the right reader, can become equipment for living,” the Los Angeles Review of Books wrote.

    The book award, initiated by donors of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, is now in its 12th year and has become nationally recognized in its role of enhancing visibility of emerging African-American fiction writers while also expanding the audience for this literature.

    Brinkley will be honored January 24, 2019, in Baton Rouge.

    ONLINE: http://www.ernestjgainesaward.org

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    For Quintina Ricks, stronger girls create a stronger world

    Program designed to transform girls into leaders

    During the time where many messages for young girls seem to be conflicting, Baton Rouge teens are experiencing an influx of organizations and programs designed to show them how amazing and powerful they are in the world. From Black Girls Rock on a national scale to the local Womanhood101 initiative and the TransfHERmation program, the brilliance of teen girls are being magnified and strengthened.

    Quintina Ricks

    Quintina Ricks

    “I believe girls are a special gift from God and they should be nurtured as such,” said Quintina Ricks, founder of TransfHERmation, a summer enrichment program for girls.

    For two years, more than twenty girls have experienced TransfHERmation at T. Simmons and Company in Baton Rouge where they developed businesses, vision and mission statements, brand names, and taglines to reflect their value system. These values were explored during sessions on gratitude, respect, public behavior, and relationships.

    The girls created products for their business—most opting for cosmetics—using raw materials and scientific principles to manufacture lipsticks, lip gloss, soap, and candles. During an interactive, real-world stimulation, they took on adult responsibilities and purchased homes, cars, insurance, and childcare services.

    13876464_1767600440190901_603581414478951159_nAs part of their transformation experience, the girls learned strategies to improve and maintain healthy diets, relationships, hygiene, and finances. “Critical to their success and quality of life will be their ability to make healthy lifestyle choices relative to managing stress and friendships,” said Ricks. “We teach young ladies to prioritize their greatest asset which is their health.”

    TransfHERmation is Ricks’ brainchild which she started in 2014 as an exhilarating, multi-faceted summer program that she designed to help girls improve their self-awareness, self-love, and self-worth. Ricks is owner of Ten40 Solutions. She said she is an accountant by trade, event designer by passion, and youth developer by purpose. It is within the structure of her TransfHERmation program that Ricks is able to be most creative in reaching the girls.

    “When we invest in young people the return on that investment is immeasurable. We build the female leaders of the future,” she said. The Drum talked with Ricks to learn more.

    THE DRUM: How was this experience designed to be transformative?
    RICKS: Our goal is to build the female leaders of the future. There’s no denying that women are making huge contributions all across the globe in all walks of life. It’s also no secret that women face unique challenges relative to crushing stereotypes and breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling. Our desire for these girls is that they embrace their femininity, understand their power, harness their creativity, identify their strengths, and visualize their future.13653375_1767598700191075_5907672966460323250_o

    Why was this age group targeted?
    This year’s camp experience was developed specifically for teenage girls. Adolescence is an important time. These young ladies are making critical life decisions that will either serve a setbacks or set ups for long term success. We want to equip these young ladies with the information, tools, resources, and mentors to make solid life decisions.

    What life lessons did you want this experience to teach or be reveled to participants?
    Our curriculum is designed to expose these young ladies to lessons that focus on leadership, introduce the concept of entrepreneurship, teach principles of saving/investing, and also highlight STEM careers and women who are thriving in those fields. Self-esteem, self-love, and self-care is emphasized throughout the camp experience. We want these girls to walk away feeling powerful.

    13872960_1767548013529477_6476131997101244025_nHow did this year meet or exceed your expectations?
    This year exceeded our expectations despite some internal hurdles that we had to cross. Typically when we sponsor these types of programs we plan over 6-8 months. This year we pulled the camp together in less than a month. Our businesses were swamped with new clients, which is a good thing. But we didn’t know if we would have the time or the capacity to host the camp this year. We decided collectively that we had to make it a priority and we were able to pull it off. It was well attended. We worked with an amazing group of girls.

    What were the memorable transformative moments?
    The responses that we get from the parents are always telling for me. When you get an email celebrating academic or social growth that makes all the hard work and sacrifices well worth it. We had a diverse group of girls in attendance this year. Some were from upper middle class households, attending high performing schools, taking family vacations, etc. Other camp participants came from extreme poverty. One young lady in particular had not attended school regularly since the flood. Her mother was on the verge of eviction. They had no water or utilities in their apartment. Fortunately the young lady was comfortable enough to tell us what was going on. Our team was able to get her enrolled in school, purchase uniforms, connect her family with job placement assistance, and reconnect their utilities. Were it not for the camp this particular kid would’ve probably dropped out of school and eventually been homeless.

    How does this program fit within your company’s work or mission? Our company is obviously very diversified in terms of its divisions and the products and services that we offer. The common theme across the entire organization is our commitment to giving back to the communities that have contributed to our success. The way we choose to give back is through building human capital. Investing in young people feels good from an individual standpoint, and it’s smart from a business standpoint. The return on investment is so significant that it’s virtually immeasurable.

    ONLINE:www.TransfHERmation.com 

    By candacejsemien
    Jozef Syndicate

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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.

    _90302733_alton_sterling_fb

    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 

    3910554

    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.

    image

    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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