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    Black clergy shackled, jailed for prayer protest at the Supreme Court

    Faith and prayer have been the backbone of the African American community since we came upon these shores. We have counted on our faith leaders (the roll call would include Revs. Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, James Walker Hood, Martin Luther King, Jr., Wyatt Tee Walker, Jesse L. Jackson, William Barber, Vashti McKenzie, Barbara Williams Skinner and many others) to articulate the justness of our cause and to mobilize us to work for the justice that is called for in the New Testament, especially in Matthew 25: 35-45.

    Our ministers are revered leaders who often stand in the face of injustice. We are not surprised, and indeed, encouraged, when their firm stands in the face of oppression lead to collisions with the law. Still, when faith leaders are treated harshly, it forces us to examine the injustice in our system. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” in 1963, he chided White ministers who made a public statement about his methods, suggesting that segregation should be fought in the courts, not in the streets. His letter moved the White faith community to confront some of the injustices of segregation and to form alliances with the Civil Rights movement.

    King spent eleven days in the Birmingham jail in extremely harsh conditions. However, the oppressor does not learn from its excesses. On June 12, nine faith leaders were shackled and held for 27 hours after being arrested for praying at the Supreme Court.

    The multicultural group of men and women are part of Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign ( A National Call for Moral Revival). Their effort is to bring attention to the amazing inequality and moral bankruptcy of our nation. Their prayers at the Supreme Court were extremely timely given the court’s recent actions to make it more difficult for people to vote in Ohio, and given the injustices, this court continues to perpetuate.

    Like Dr. King, the nine who were arrested—Poor People’s Campaign co-chair the Rev. Liz Theoharis, D.C. clergy the Revs. Jimmie Hawkins, Graylan Hagler and William Lamar IV, and the Revs. Rob and Hershey Stephens from the Fort Washington Collegiate Church in New York City)—were subjected to extremely harsh conditions. No threat to anyone, they were shackled, placed in handcuffs and leg irons, confined to roach-infested cells with nothing to rest their heads on, but a metal slab. This is the 21st century, but you wouldn’t know it by the way these clergies were treated. Yet, their actions and those of the Poor People’s Campaign are writing the contemporary letter from the Birmingham jail. Their brief incarceration, in the name of justice, is part of a larger movement to bring attention to increasing poverty and injustice, even in the face of economic expansion. Like Dr. King’s Poor People’s campaign, this 21st century Poor People’s Campaign, launched fifty years later, is an attack on poverty, racism, and militarism, and also ecological devastation and our nation’s “moral devastation.”

    At the 2018 Rainbow PUSH International convention on June 15, Rev. Barber railed against interlocking injustices that did not begin with our 45th President, but have been exacerbated by the depravity he represents. In a rousing address that wove humor, statistics, public analysis and a scathing attack on our nation’s immorality, Barber argued that “the rejected,” which may comprise more than half of our nation, will lead to the revival of our nation.

    Who would have thought that nine faith leaders would be among the rejected? Who would have thought that Dr. King would have been? But Dr. King eagerly embraced the status of “rejected.” He once preached, “I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity.” Rev. Liz Theoharis told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that the conditions she and fellow clergy experienced, while uncomfortable, were the same conditions poor inmates experienced. That’s the power, in some ways, of the Poor People’s Campaign. Clergy and others are forcing the issue, lifting their voices, making connections, claiming the discomfort and pain of the rejected, embracing the fact that they, too, are among the rejected.

    To shackle clergy simply for praying is to exhibit a peculiar form of cruelty and inhumanity. Shackling is reminiscent of enslavement; shackling is a method of humiliation; shackling is an attempt to use the harsh lash of unjust law on the backs of those who pray for just law. Rev. William Lamar IV, who has been arrested on three consecutive Mondays for protest action said that the June 12 arrests and treatment were the harshest, he has yet experienced. In Washington, D.C., people who are arrested for protesting are usually given a ticket that requires a court appearance and a likely fine. What did the shackling say about the hallowed sacredness of the “Supreme” Court?

    Shackling clergy for praying is like condemning the Sun for shining. Unjust law enforcement can shackle arms and legs, but not movements. Harsh treatment of leaders in the Poor People’s Champaign only strengthens resistance against injustice, racism, poverty, and ecological devastation. 

    By Julianne Malveaux
    NNPA columnist
    @drjlastword

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    COMMENTARY: Death in a EBR parish prison–too common

    Death in a local jail is pretty rare unless you are housed in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. The disturbing part of that sentence is the unfiltered sad, truth that 25 people died in this prison between 2012 and 2016. And these deaths were known and not investigated by any independent entity. What should be the safest, most secure place in the parish is instead by all involved, an unacceptable, destabilized, broken system that doesn’t offer either public safety for the general public or those employed in or those exposed to this system. More than 25 individuals whose lives had meaning to God, their families and their friends deserve this situation to be addressed. Many claim it is too hard but nothing could be further from the truth.

    For those families able to muster the resources to get legal representation they can sue but what remains most frightening is the false narrative that continues to live that everyone housed in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is a hardened felon who has been convicted of a violent crime. The truth is that 89% of all individuals held in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison have not been adjudicated. That is a fancy way of saying they haven’t been convicted of anything. Many people are incarcerated because of minor non-violent offenses and a very large percentage of those who cannot afford to make bail will plea not because they are guilty but because that is the only way for them to be released. We do indeed have an active and thriving debtors prison system.

    Some of the deaths were caused be purposeful cruelty such as inadequate basic protections such as socks and blankets. Some of the deaths were caused by policy and procedures that disrespected the most basic protocols for treating healthcare (including mental illness). Almost all the deaths to some degree were caused by the care and feeding of a mass incarceration industry that specifically requires bodies in the building to make payroll and profit. And none of these deaths should have occurred.

    On Thursday, July 19th family and friends gathered at the levee in downtown Baton Rouge for a vigil to call for action and recognition. These individuals deserved each of their deaths to have an independent investigation as a standard practice of law and policy. Each person who loses their freedom under the authority of the state still retains their right to be treated with dignity. And none of the individuals who died had been sentenced to the death penalty EXCEPT they did receive the death penalty. To learn more about changing the narrative please check out the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition.

    Rev. Alexis Anderson
    PREACH
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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    Thank You from the Odell S. Williams Museum

    I am so  proud of the city. Thank you, Baton Rouge, for answering the call for a Day of Peace in Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    It brightened my day to know that by Wednesday morning, there had been no homicides in the City of Baton Rouge,and for that with pride, we are grateful.

    A Special “Thank You” to all the caring citizens for coming together planting, cleaning, painting and nailing up empty buildings.  Hundreds of volunteers, artists and concerned citizens came together to help create a Better Baton Rouge and a real “Scenic Highway”in Scotlandville.

    I firmly believe that “Little By Little, Day by Day, Working Together, We Can make a Difference.”  We will take this little minute and use the sixty seconds in it to become stronger and better as we work towards justice, peace, and love.

    HARAMBEE! Let’s Pull Together. WE ARE BRPROUD

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph
    Odell S. Williams Now And Then African-American Museum
    Baton Rouge
    Sadie Roberts-Joseph is the founder of the museum. Photo by Daniel Atkinson.

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    Baton Rouge Speaks Event Inspires Community

    Capitol Elementary School’s gymnasium provided a bright and inviting atmosphere for Baton Rouge Speaks: A Conversation about Jobs, Health, and Social Justice in Our Community. The word ‘Harambee’ plastered on the wall reminded attendees of the Kenyan principle to “pull together”. Nearly 100 people attended the event which, for me, evoked the spirit of Louisiana-born civil rights leader Kwame Ture who once said, “The knowledge I have now is not the knowledge I had then.” Ture would also say, that “unity is the greatest power of a community”.

    On June 29, organizers of Baton Rouge Speaks echoed the same message, shared valuable community resources, and honored four men who have been proven to be outstanding community leaders and mentors to young men.

    BR Speaks Dunn CollinsThe honorees were Daryl Hurst, of Elite Sports; Kirwin Sims, of Sims and Sons; Christopher Johnson, of the Baton Rouge Rising Stars Boxing Team; and Marvin Augustus Sr. of Augustus Properties LLC.

    Hurst, of Elite Sports, mentors and builds up children through team sports and other activities. Elite Sports offers programmatic mainstays like tutoring, camps, college campus tours, and community service projects that highlight the importance of giving back. Elite Sports is an umbrella organization that partners with professional athletes who have a Baton Rouge connection such as basketball players Garrett Temple and Terrel Martin. The year-old organization, has sponsored 150 kids in their football camp with another 150 on the wait list. Hurst said his greatest joy is to be a positive role model and see the kids, whose life he impacted, go on to college and beyond to be great leaders”.

    Sims is owner of Sims and Son, BDS Motors, and Big Boys Car Wash. Sims has been doing construction for more than 16 years, completing small construction work, foreman work, paving, and debris cleanup. He was recognized for taking chances on at-risk youth, showing them how to work hard and provide for themselves. He says, “We all get together and look out for each other. If you need a service, come see me at work. If your son needs a job and he doesn’t mind working in the heat, I don’t mind giving it to you.” For fun, Sims leads an ATV riding group called Mud Mafia along with Jeremy Smith, owner of The Spot Barbershop.

    Johnson was honored for his dedication to leading youth through the Baton Rouge Rising Stars Boxing Team. As a trainer, he has discovered and developed the natural skills within young boxers turning fledgling competitors into professionals. He has lead the boxing team for five years, competing in several state tournaments, and a National tournament. Johnson said, “The youth is where it is!” His joy for helping young athletes is genuinely felt. One of his star boxers said, “Johnson is a ‘man’s man’.He is one of those guys that, if you have it in you, he will get the best of you.”

    Augustus was acknowledged for providing jobs to members within the community from his real estate and heating/cooling businesses. For his dedication, Augustus Properties LLC and Marvin’s Heating and Air Enterprise LLC are flourishing, He says he isn’t a “boss”. “He leads a team and everyone is important”. After being imprisoned in his youth, he was stuck working temporary jobs with grueling labor. His wife found an opening for a maintenance job that put him on the path to a lifelong career. He used those skills to open his own business, which has seen 17 successful years. “There is no such thing as poverty. You do well and increase productivity, your pay comes up as well,” he said. He is an active member of Living Faith Christian Center. He has been married for 31 years and has fathered three children. Augustus said, “He is proud of the reputation that he has built for himself and his businesses”.

    Speakers at the event; such as personal trainer and wellness coach Gary Ausbon, told the audience that health comes from the inside out. There are small changes that can be made to start feeling and looking better. “Pay me now or pay me later,” he said, explaining that it is important to be mindful of health on the front end means the rest will take care of itself later. “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” he said, encouraging everyone to put information to action and get past the starting line.
    Web Baton Rouge Speaks Dr. whitfield
    Dr. Rani Whitfield reiterated that diet is everything. Many foods are genetically modified, containing steroids and compounds that do more harm than good. His rule of thumb, “If it has more than five ingredients, it probably isn’t good for you.” Whitfield also described the difference between a community and a hood. A community is one where its residents own businesses and establishments; where everyone is responsible for the mental, spiritual and financial wellness of the collective.

    The Reverend Reginald Pitcher brought that message home. He spoke on issues within the Black community, stressing that whatever problems we have, we are the solution. He touched on “home training”, the education system, community policing, and more. We have idle power that needs to be awakened, gone stale in the time since we were fighting for basic civil rights. A dose of real talk and old school examples from this seasoned activist and leader was met with affirming “Mmhmm”s and “Amen”s from the audience. Pitcher urges those who are scared to sit down, and for those who are sitting down to stop complaining; “Can’t nobody save us for us, but us”. He ended on a positive note, that a change in our environment takes nothing but creativity to build and shape it.

    Terry Simmons of T. Simmons and Company built and shaped his own change. T. Simmons is a brand development, talent optimization, and new business development firm in Baton Rouge that works with novice and large-scale clients. Part of his motivation stems from seeing the need to build a competitive workforce throughout Louisiana. He said, “Developing our potential is top priority especially since this state keeps most of its workers”. He schooled the audience on the importance of hard skills, soft skills, industries in demand, and how your social media page isn’t just for fun. He encouraged each of us to be competitive and share resources on how to get a leg up.

    The Baton Rouge Speaks Event was a sight to behold. The positive energy reverberated in every guest as they walked out of the Capitol Elementary School’s doors and returned to their own neighborhood more knowledgeable and empowered. It was great to see the collaboration of community leaders, agencies, and residents gathered to discuss the critical issues that have not be addressed within our communities.

    Representatives from the Louisiana Urban League, Metromorphosis’ Urban Congress, Baton Rouge AIDS Society, Employ BR, The CEO Mind Foundation, Southern University Ag Center’s Communities of Color Network, and United Healthcare shared resources. Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis and State Representative Edmond Jordan were also present. Catering was provided by Boil & Roux Southern Kitchen.

    By Carmen Green
    Contributing Writer

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    COMMENTARY: Enough is enough

    There some things I can accept.

    I can accept that some people support candidates no matter what they say or do.

    I can accept some sports teams may never win a championship in my lifetime.

    I cannot accept an educational system that kills the spirit of young children, including far too young black males.

    I cannot accept a system that either sets low expectations or no expectations for young children, especially young Black males.

    I cannot accept a system that takes credit for knowledge children acquired outside of the school setting, while simultaneously refusing to accept responsibility for their failure to effectively teach them in accordance with their specific learning styles.

    Parents should know as much about teaching and learning as they know about their child’s conduct on any given day. Many teachers live outside of the communities they serve, are unfamiliar with diverse populations factors which may impact daily conduct grades. Assigning daily conduct grades to students is virtually unheard of in many school districts across the country.

    I cannot accept (nor should any of us accept) the lack of commitment to an excellent education for all children as evidenced in the examples mentioned previously and many others. School buses with missing back windows are not acceptable. An entire grade in decade old FEMA trailers, substituting as classrooms, do not send a message that a community values education or that the children in certain schools, particularly majority minority schools, are valued.

    The “things” we should not accept are apparent in our schools from pre-k and onward. The things we should not accept have fed a school-to-prison pipeline, crushed the intellectual curiosity and confidence of our children, sent graduation rates plummeting and dropout rates through the roof, led some to propose secession and the creation of new cities, and have caused some parents of color to opt-out of traditional public schools altogether. These are among the very factors so-called education reformers point to in their quest to draw parents and students away from traditional public schools to untested, shiny, new, tuition-free, charter and magnet schools, which enrich their bottom lines placing profits over pupils.

    Free tuition at public colleges and universities will mean very little for students trapped in the types of schools described here. Discussions about increasing the diversity of public school teachers and college faculty will continue to go nowhere as generations of students of color are underserved at a time when their curiosity and ability to absorb new ideas is greatest.

     

    By Lori Martin, Ph.D.

    Lori Martin, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology and African American Studies. She is the author of Big Box Schools: Race, Education, and the Danger of the Wal-Martization of Public Schools in America.

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    National Week of Action, Oct 12 -18, focuses on Victor White III’s death

    DRUM CALL: OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY

    Victor White III was a 22-year-old whose death in police custody is becoming known as a “Houdini Suicide.” Police in New Iberia claim Victor committed suicide in the back of their police cruiser. They allege that after being pat down twice and being detained in the back of a police car,  Victor produced a gun and shot himself in the back while his hands were cuffed behind his back. The coroner’s report later showed that the bullet entered in his chest.

    How did Victor produce a gun in the back of a police cruiser after being searched twice? How is it possible that Victor shot himself in the chest while his hands were bound behind his back?


    Victor’s father has a simple question: “My son was not Houdini.  So, who [did] it?”


    The Justice for Victor White Committee is working directly with the family of Victor White III for a National Week of Action to be held in New Iberia and Lafayette, October 12-18, 2015. We seek to honor the life of Victor, raise awareness of his untimely death, demand accountability for law officers’ actions, and ensure transparency in future investigations.  We invite organizations, community leaders, elected officials, and citizens to stand with us in this fight for justice.

    The Victor White case embodies a blatant disregard of human rights.  Here’s how you can stand with Victor White’s family in their fight for justice:

    1. Attend the March Against Police Violence on October 17th at 11 am  in New Iberia, La.  and connect other organizers to this event.
    2. Participate in Week of Action (October 12-18) events as a host, guest speaker, or attendant. The week will consist of coordinated student walk-outs(Oct 12), Police Brutality Symposium(Oct13th), a two-day teach-in workshop series Oct 14-15), a music concert (Oct 16th), March Against Police Violence on (Oct 17), and day of healing on (Oct 18). See www.justiceforvic.com <http://www.justiceforvic.com>  for more details on events.
    3. Make a donation at GoFundMe.com/JusticeforVic. Financial support will be needed to make these efforts successful. You can also send donations directly from your Paypal account to the email address JusticeForVictorWhite@gmail.com. To be listed as an Official Sponsor, please contact Dawn at (337) 344-4462 <tel:%28337%29%20344-4462> .
    4. Make an in-kind donation. We need signs, shirts, water, printing services, etc,
    5. Attend Justice for Victor White planning meetings held every 2nd and 4th Thursday at Imani Temple (201 East Willow Street – Lafayette, LA 70501).
    6. Share Victor White’s story.  Commit to sharing Victor White’s story everyday, like us on Facebook, share his story on social media using the hashtag #JusticeForVic, etc.
    7. Tell your story. Post a video or message completing the prompt, “I want to trust the police, but…” Be sure to use the following tags: #IWantToTrustThePoliceBut, #JusticeForVic, @Justiceforvic [instagram],  and @JusticeForVW3 [Twitter].

     

    Victor White’s case deserves more local, regional and national attention. We believe Victor White was murdered by police while in police custody. His death and subsequent cover-up represents a systematic failure to hold police accountable for a growing trend of abuse, which disproportionately impact people of color.
    Join us in this fight.  Please contact us by phone or email to let us know how you and/or your organization can support this effort. 

    Justice for Victor White Committee

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    Family walks and 3,100 petition for justice

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson holds “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge

    On Monday, July 6, the family and friends of Lamar Alexander Johnson, led a peaceful protest in downtown Baton Rouge in response to the controversy surrounding Johnson’s death while in police custody.

    The 27-year-old’s death has sparked controversy about the series of events that led to his passing while being held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson to “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge. (From Facebook page)[/caption]While the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office has claimed Johnson hung himself from his isolated jail cell, Johnson’s family and friends have insisted that this could not have been the case, especially considering Johnson believed he was being held for minor offense.

    IMG_2404Johnson, a father of three who was engaged to be married, was arrested on May 26 after an officer pulled him over for a window tint violation. According to the family, Johnson admitted to the officer that he had an outstanding 2011 warrant for what he believed, at the time, was a failure to appear for a traffic violation. On May 30, when the family tried to inquire about Johnson’s status, they were informed he was in the hospital, after prison officials said they discovered him hanging from his bed sheet in his cell. Johnson’s family said Lamar had no history of mental illness or depression.

    “Throughout the process, I stayed in touch with my son,” said Linda Johnson Franks, Lamar Johnson’s mother. “He kept assuring me that this was small potatoes and he’d either serve a few days or figure out how to pay whatever fines might be levied. This wouldn’t make sense in any situation, but especially if you knew Lamar. No way.”

    Johnson passed away on Sunday, June 10 from a total brain injury due to lack of oxygen.

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson to “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge. (From Facebook page)

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson to “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge. (From Facebook page)

    While the EBRSO said it conducted an internal review of the incident that confirmed their original story, the family has called for EBR city-parish officials to sanction an “uninterested, third-party investigation” into the series of events that led to Johnson’s injury. An online, Change.org petition started late last week calling for the same had 3,078 signatures at the time of this story.

    “We’re not making any accusations, we just want answers,” said Karl Franks, Lamar’s father. “And to get them, the investigated shouldn’t be conducting the investigation. That’s just common sense.”

    ONLINE: Change.org
    TWITTER: #JusticeforLamar
    FACEBOOK:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-for-Lamar-Johnson/1116391165045014?fref=ts

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    COMMENTARY: Black History Month, Giuliani, Jindal, and the Minimum Wage

    The distinguished contributions of Blacks to the health and wealth of this country should be celebrated.

    Black leaders from Ida B. Wells to Rosa Parks have both written and showed us the best of what America has to offer intellectually and sacrificially. Black scientists like Dr. Ronald E. McNair, who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, help us understand the capabilities of the Black citizens when given the opportunity learn and serve.

    But the deck is often stacked against African-Americans. Four hundred years of the slave trade built America, followed by Reconstruction, every manner of peonage, the convict leasing system, and Jim Crow racism. Even today, rich people fight against raising the minimum wage for no better reason that it will help keep minorities and the working poor down, “in their place,” and without economic power.

    Louisiana incarcerates more men and women than any other state or country in the world, and most of these inmates are Black males. Make no mistake, there is a direct relationship between Louisiana’s stratospheric incarceration boom and its role as one of the major purveyors of American slavery. This is not an opinion. It’s the historical record.

    The struggle for human rights is never over. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a martyr, was hated during his later years. He was hated not only because of his fight for Civil Rights but because he also dared to stand up and demand economic justice for all poor people, and he vigorously opposed the Vietnam War, a conflict that sent poor boys from America to fight poor boys in Southeast Asia.

    Yes, the struggle for justice, human rights, dignity, and integration is never really over. The struggle often times covertly manifests itself in political sideshows.

    For example, last week when former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani attacked President Barack Obama, not out of legitimate disagreements over policy, but because of who the President is as a person. He said, “I do not believe—and I know this is a horrible thing to say—but I do not believe that the president loves America.” Giuliani, stumping for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, continued, “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

    One has to be living in willful ignorance to not know that Giuliani’s remarks were laced with racial overtones and hate of “the other.”

    Not to be left out of the media spotlight for a moment, Gov. Jindal called Giuliani to congratulate him on his retrograde remarks.

    We need not focus outside of our own backyard to see rank racism and injustice. When we witness Earl K. Long Hospital bulldozed, the Baton Rouge General Mid City ER closing for lack of promised state funds, the attack on Louisiana’s public hospital system statewide, and the denial of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion for 250,000 working Louisiana citizens—we understand this is fueled by Jindal’s racism against Black citizens and disdain for the poor.

    Because I believe in justice, the appropriate place to send Jindal and his inner circle is The Hague for a trial. The charges? Crimes against humanity.

    The assault on Black America and the poor among us is not over. Every one of us has a responsibility to speak up and care for “the least of these my brethren,” as Jesus said. Stand up for the voiceless and tell the truth about American history and Louisiana right now.

    By Dayne Sherman

    Guest Columnist
    Dayne Sherman’s new novel is Zion. Signed first editions available from the author. His political blog is TalkAboutTheSouth.com.

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    Month with Mada: ER closure will have to answer to God

    MADA

    Mada McDonald

    It is with all prayers and positive beliefs/convictions from this community that their is a dire need to keep the doors opened to the Emergency Room at the Baton Rouge General Mid-City Hospital. Speaking only for myself, it would be a terrible move not to have an emergency room accommodation to meet the need of the inner city citizens,closed. Everyone does not have durable means of transportation to receive medical care?

    It has been more than enough to accept Governor Bobby Jindal shutting down the Earl K. Long Hospital to facilitate and assist those individuals in health care needs. It is more than enough that pregnant women have to travel almost out of the East Baton Rouge Parish City limits to deliver their newborn baby/other(s) needs to be addressed ? Baton Rouge does not have a bus transit system that can accommodate just not the less fortunate, but many who have health care benefits, durable means of transportation, but must travel far and beyond to to get medical treatment? This is a bit much to accept and receive that closing the emergency room is the final answer. What must we as a people do, what can be done to keep the doors opened?

    It is my belief that problems have solutions. Whomever, whatever has to be done to save the Baton Rouge General Medical Hospital Emergency Room is in my best interest. The next thing to follow will be to close the entire hospital? The fate of our citizens in this city and the fate of health care assistance to carry on as health care patients/providers pay to keep health care services intact and keep on-going concentration as long as we as a people need help from the medical professionals and keep medical areas within the city limits available to all, that is truly a needed service. Most importantly, many people who will lose their jobs, too many individuals will become unemployed and what a way to start a new year? The BR General Hospital’s emergency room closure will have to answer to God.

    I can only hope/pray that the matters will be addressed in good faith and none of us in this community/outline parishes will be affected by the closure, the effect from this situation will be settled and we can keep a much needed medical facility in the inner City of the Baton Rouge Community.

    By Mada McDonald
    The Drum Columnist

    Month with Mada shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge. Leave your comments below.

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    COMMENTARY: Manage resolutions like the 50-plus group

    I WAS RECENTLY ASKED IF adults 50 years old and older still make New Year’s Resolutions. I laughed and said “yes, but with a mature spin on it”. We, the “aging gracefully” segment of society tend to take New Year’s Resolutions with less of a grain of salt than others, I believe.

    At our age, we tend to take the lighter things of life, lighter. Of course there are some who might argue with me on this because when we are older, we should take things more seriously, I suppose. But, without a doubt, New Year’s Resolutions probably do not rank as high as, say, hugging our family members or kissing our grandchildren.

    The truth is 50-plusers know that we don’t need a December 31st mandate to start a January 1st resolve.

    Here are just a few of the reasons, we 50-plusers smile at the idea of starting over in the New Year but soon “get over it”, when we miss making the goal on or about the third or fourth week. When you are as “seasoned” as we are, you realize that it is never too late to begin…again. As long as we have breath in our bodies, we know we can always start over. You see, we realize that starting over and finishing are two precious gifts that we have the privilege of enjoying. So the New Year and the resolutions we fail to keep are less painful when we know what to do: begin again.

    We are less likely to get all bent out of shape about not keeping resolutions because we recognize that the expectations we have of ourselves should line up with the grace God affords us when we miss the mark.

    When pride beats some of us up when we do not keep the resolutions, my peers will say, “Oh, well, next time”. See, when you are as mature in age as we are, light things remain light and grace to begin again is heavy, in comparison.

    Since we are already weeks into the New Year and may have a few resolutions lingering, evaluate where you are at accomplishing your goals and if you’ve stopped the pursuit, I urge you to follow the 50-pluser lead and let the light things remain light, give yourself grace, and begin again. Happy New Year!

    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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    COMMENTARY: Time to fix the legal, judicial systems from within

    OFFICER-INVOLVED KILLINGS of unarmed Black men–including Oscar Grant, Michael Brown,John Crawford, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice–is not a new phenomenon. Police have used deadly force against Black civilians nearly twice per week between 2005 and 2012, according to FBI records.

    Accusations that Black males like Grant, Brown, Crawford, Garner and Rice would be alive today if they merely complied with police officers’ commands are erroneous–and fail to truthfully acknowledge stereotypes towards Black men that
    are prevalent throughout the legal and judicial systems.

    Black men are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and given longer sentences than any other demographic group–despite there being no evidence showing that they commit more crimes than anyone else.

    This disproportionate policing has resulted in more Black men being incarcerated or on parole today than were in slavery during the 1850s. Law enforcement is not the only segment of society that racially profiles Blacks. In several academic studies of first-person shooter tests (where participants must rapidly decide whether to shoot individuals holding either guns or harmless objects), civilians taking the tests were consistently more likely to shoot unarmed Black men than unarmed White men. These studies highlight the fact that society is not colorblind. We see color, and we see it clearly.

    Prejudices towards Black men are deeply rooted in stereotypes that are not supported by facts and statistics. But facts and statistics are not likely to change the opinions of people who hold deep prejudices and racial biases towards Black men. Ignorance, bias and privilege tend to obstruct logical reasoning. It is only possible to help someone who wants to be helped. And many people do not want to be helped. But that does not mean society should stop trying to improve the legal and judicial systems.

    One of the most direct ways to ensure that unarmed Black men are not denied justice is by serving on a jury. After all, it was a jury that decided not to indict the police offi cers involved in the deaths of Brown, Crawford and Garner. Additionally, it was a jury that decided to convict the officer who killed Grant with involuntary manslaughter instead of murder, and a jury will determine the faith of the officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

    Since jury pools are culled from voter registration lists and active voter lists, it is imperative that people register to vote and participate in every election–not just the presidential elections. Mayors, city councils, judges, district attorneys and other local elected officials play a significant role in shaping the laws that govern society.
    Ensuring that elected officials are responsive to the community’s needs and demands is of paramount importance.

    The situation in Ferguson, Mo., magnifies the significance of voting in local elections. Ferguson’s population is more than two thirds Black, but the mayor and five of six city council members are White. While Blacks in Ferguson overwhelmingly believe their local government treats them unfairly, very few participated in the most recent election (52 percent of voters were White). To turn the tide, Black voters need to participate in future elections and elect representatives that are willing to respond to the community’s needs.

    History proves that marches and protests (both peaceful and not) have their place in changing society, too. For example,
    the (non-peaceful) Boston Tea Party, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the march on Washington
    to protest the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War have all shaped today’s laws and systems of government.

    Marching and chanting about the importance of Black lives fits within this historical narrative,but it is imperative that advocates for change work to fix the legal and judicial systems from within, too.

    David Gray is a New Orleans native and has spent the majority of his professional career at the nexus of political advocacy, social innovation and community service.

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  • ,,

    COMMENTARY: Is Obama trying to kill Black colleges?

    Is Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, trying to kill Historically Black Colleges and Universities? If he’s not, he’s going to have a difficult time convincing HBCU presidents, trustees and alumni. Surprisingly, Obama has become their worst nightmare.

    George Curry

    George Curry

    Neither President Obama, the First Lady, the Secretary of Education or the president’s closest advisers attended an HBCU and, consequently, are tone death in recognizing what is broadly viewed as sound policy can inadvertently harm our nation’s HBCUs.

    President Obama’s proposal that the federal government pick up the tab for a worthy student’s first two years of community college is a case in point. Without a doubt, a move toward free, universal higher education is an excellent decision.

    But if the president had consulted the major organizations representing HBCUs, he would have heard suggestions on how to tweak his proposal so that it would not needlessly harm Black colleges, which it is certain to do.

    The amended Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”

    HBCUs enroll only 3 percent of college students yet are responsible for nearly 20 percent of all bachelor degrees awarded to African Americans. In some fields, the figures are significantly higher.

    President Obama noted, “America thrived in the 20th century in large part because we had the most educated workforce in the world. But other nations have matched or exceeded the secret to our success.” And the U.S. can’t afford to lose the valuable contributions of HBCUs.

    HBCUs compete directly with community colleges. Both enroll students who may need some additional tutoring or training before they are college ready. More importantly, students who enroll in community colleges and HBCUs are in dire need of financial assistance. If you make the first two years of college free to community college students – and not to HBCUs – you don’t have to be a rocket or social scientist to see that Black colleges will come out the losers.

    And the bleeding doesn’t stop there.

    If and when community college students decide to continue their education, they may be more inclined to transfer to a state-supported public university, where costs are cheaper than those of a private or public HBCU. In many instances, that state-supported university might accept all of the student’s credits whereas the Black institution might accept some of them.

    Public HBCUs are likely to suffer under this scenario as well. If a Black student has attended a community college in Alabama, for example, he or she may be more prone to enroll in the University of Alabama or Auburn than they would if they had initially enrolled in Alabama A&M University or Alabama State. And given the costs, those students might totally bypass Tuskegee University, Talladega College or Stillman College, all private institutions.

    Colleges such as Spelman and Morehouse, though harmed, can probably sustain the drop in enrollment. But without any adjustments, it could be the death knell for many others, including Miles College, Tougaloo, Paine and my alma mater, Knoxville College, which already has a foot in the grave.

    With Republicans now in control of the House and Senate, it would have been far wiser for Obama to huddle with Republicans – whose presidents have been strong supporters of HBCUs over the years – to come up with a proposal that both sides could support. Going it alone, especially in this environment, virtually guarantees that the America’s College Promise program will go nowhere.

    What should be done?

    As one educator told me, it would have been better if Obama had said the federal government would pick up the first two years at a two- or four-year college. That would be better for most HBCUs. Because public tax dollars probably would not be designated for private colleges, the private and religious-affiliated institutions would still be in a bind.

    As for the Republican majority accustomed to saying “no” to everything when they were out of power, education would be a good thing to say “yes” to. And correcting the blunders made by the White House may even help in reaching out to a broader political base, a goal the GOP claims it wants to achieve.

    In the meantime, this new community college proposal, coming on the heels of the administration dropping the ball on Parent PLUS student loans that caused some HBCUs to lose as much as 20 percent of their student body and a proposed federal rating system that could also disadvantage some HCBUs, has some of Obama’s ardent supporters wondering if this is part of a plan to kill Black colleges. If it’s not, it may have the same sad effect.

     By George Curry
    NNPA Columnist

    George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

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  • COMMENTARY: Nearly half Black female teens have STD

    Forty-Eight percent of Black female teens have a sexually transmitted disease.

    The above figure is not a new statistic. My concern is that it has become the norm and is unacceptable. One fourth of White female teens have an STD. That figure would be a little more acceptable. Is the Black community in denial? Do we feel it’s okay if almost half our female teens have an STD? When I speak nationwide to youth, many of them tell they are virgins. I then ask how can you be a virgin with an STD? They then tell me it was oral or anal sex which they feel did not violate their virginity.

    Were you aware that the leading cause of death in the Black community is abortion? Each day, 1,786 Black children are aborted. Can you imagine 52% of Black pregnancies are aborted? Again, this not a new statistic, my concern like with STDs, is that it has become acceptable. Are 52% of all pregnancies aborted acceptable to you? Has abortion become the new form of birth control?

    Blacks are 13% of the U.S. population male and female. I would expect Black females to be 13% of females in America who are HIV positive. The reality is that Black females are 64% of the women in America who are HIV positive. Again this is not a new statistic. Are you okay and accepting of the fact that 64% of all women in America who are HIV positive just happen to be Black? Has this become the norm? Is that our reality? Are Black people in denial? Have all the statistics made us numb?

    How can we reduce these statistics? While writing Raising Black Girls, I discovered that Black girls start puberty before anyone else. They start at eight years and eight months while White girls start at 9.7. Black girls also start their menstrual earlier than anyone else at 12.06. Whites start at 12.88. In writing the book, I wanted to understand why. I discovered a relationship between puberty, menstruation and sexual activity. In addition, I also found a relationship between puberty, diet, exercise, body mass index and being breast fed.

    I want to close with a positive statistic seldom if ever is mentioned. There are thousands of Black girls who wear chastity rings and have taken the oath of abstinence until marriage. I salute and applaud you!

    By Jawanza Kunjufu, Ph.D.

    image

    By Jawanza Kunjufu, Ph.D.

    Excerpt from Raising Black Girls and Educating Black Girls

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  • Who’s in charge?

    There are eight elected member of the state board of elementary and secondary education.  They are elected in what has been redistricted from the old original eight congressional districts.  These people represent a very large group of constituents.  Their base is larger than any of our elected state senators or representatives.
    In order to hire a new state superintendent it takes eight votes, a super majority.  What is amazing is that the governor spent a lot of effort making sure this board was the one he wanted.  Therefore it baffles me that when the leadership sends two proposals over to him, he rejects both.  It baffles me that the leadership and the board seem to abdicate their elected role by totally deferring to the governor.
    Who should the governor be meeting with to iron out the issues?  I believe it is the leadership of the board along with the hired staff (Superintendent White).  Well what looks like happened is the governor met with the hired staff, did not reach an agreement, then the hired staff brought the message back to his employer, the board.  The issues today are critical.  It just seems as if the meetings should be with the employer rather than the employee.  Now understand the governor may be meeting with his appointees, at least one because of the way the votes have been going.
    Then we have this tit for tat going on, Jindal and his Chief administrator make a statement, then White makes a statement to counter their statement, then the administration makes a new statement and then White answers.
    Some days it feels like little children arguing over gets to play first, then some days it feels like no one is minding the store.
    However in all the adult infighting, I am at a lost as to who is caring about the children, I am at a lost as to who really is concerned about what the teachers will teach in three weeks and then I worry about what will be assessed.  Again, the big question is who is really in charge?
    By Linda Johnson
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  • Faith, poverty drives a ‘real’ queen

    THE MAKING OF A REAL QUEEN is simple, yet many see it as a position of privilege.

    A real queen is someone very much like my mom, sisters, and me—women driven by faith, poverty, discrimination, color, gen- der and health issues.

    My faith to pray and trust God to give me di- rection as I pursued my dreams and visions em- powered me. My mother believed if you could pray about, it would be all right, and change would come in God’s time if you let go and worked to make it happen. Faith she would always say, can’t work through lazy folk, they quit trusting too easy and want success fast!

    Poverty, as defined by my mother, is a state of mind. Poverty was some- thing that I did not under- stand because as a child when opportunities were presented to me, my mom had prepared me to the best of her ability to accept the challenge and succeed. Poverty to some was not having what you needed. That did fit my mom’s def- inition! Poverty to her was not having food on the table, clothing, or shelter, from the sun, storm and rain. Poverty was not hav- ing the freedom to pray or family support.

    I experienced discrimination at an early age when our school bus broke down and all of children had to walk down a long, muddy gravel road. Another bus came by and the driver stopped to speak to our bus driver that looked white.

    When he discovered he was Black, his next reply, was those kids can’t ride the white bus! I shouted, “we can ride because the bus is yellow!” After walking about ten miles in my white tennis shoes, filled with mud, finally we were home. I told my mother of the conversation.

    Her advice was, see this as an experience in this life, many cars and trucks will pass you by, but the time will come when you will drive your own. These are hard times, and it will get better, I know, I am not in

    the field no more. Often times because of my skin color, I was not seen as someone that would not succeed or give back to society, but take from it. Being Black, my mother would say, defined strength that many did not possess – your color one day will not matter, God got plans for you and your color don’t make you or break you.

    My gender has been an issue with the vocations I have chosen, and having been ordained, called and chosen by God to do them. As a minister of almost 48 years, still my gender is an issue with that good old boy’s club. I am seen as ag- gressive instead of asser- tive because I am a woman, speaking truth to power, standing for what I believe,

    unwavering in my faith and teachings by a real queen.

    My many health is- sues, challenges, losses, disappointments and pain taught me how to be a real queen. Following my mother’s example as she is a real queen overcom- ing the struggle and stigma of a single mother rearing five daughters after a sepa- ration from her husband, making sure the words “I can’t”, never become a

    part of her daughter’s vo- cabulary. What makes me a real queen, are the les- sons I have learned, and life journey, I experienced. The ability to stand when I find myself standing alone, but not really alone, for I stand on the shoulder of my mother, the real queen. My mother did not write a best seller, but as a queen, her character and service to the community will leave a legacy of fun memories and lessons on family values, faith and perseverance. I am the daughter the real queen, writing what I hope to be a part of history, not in books, but in the hearts and minds of women and children, attempting to forge a better generation for the future, encouraging, empowering and en- bolding the next real queen to not accept the criticism of society that choose to define her, but to forge her path to greatness and her true purpose in life, creating another real queen!

    By Joyce Turner Keller,

    Th.D., is founder of Trav- elers of Christ Evangelistic Ministry. She is a global advocate for HIV/AIDS.

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  • Are you ready to SACK it?

    HAPPY NEW YOU EVERYBODY! When I think about spring I think about all things fresh and brand new. I think of how the budding tree survived a brutal winter and is now bringing forth new life. I think about how some animals emerge from hibernation owning their place in the animal kingdom as if they never left. Then I think about you.

    Just as spring makes me think of new, so do you. In this moment and place in your life the opportunity to refresh and become anew is available. Ask yourself the question – have you too survived a harsh season in your life, like the tree in the winter – and you are now ready to bud with phenomenal possibilities? Are you ready to release yourself from a stagnant place and reclaim your territory like the animals within their kingdom?

    If you are in agreement to what I’ve said thus far or answered yes to any of the questions, it’s time for you to join the ranks of the Southern Jaguars and LSU Tigers in your personal spring training camp of life, and preparing to overcome the opponent that’s trying to block your new path.

    It’s Time to SACK IT!

    SACK is an acronym of action that I challenge many of my clients with. SACK means to See It, Accept It, Change It and Know It. So I now challenge you. I challenge you to look at your life and make an assessment and commitment to spring into better by SACK-ing whatever lies between you and the ball. You must win at this game called life.

    So let me coach you to your win. See It – This is the assessment stage of your life, where you look into at what has been, what is and what you envision to come and analyze what you did wrong, what you did right and what must be done differently.

    Accept It – Now you must accept whatever has happened.It simply is what it is. This is the part of the process in which you must take ownership of not just the hits, but also the misses.

    Challenge It –It’s time to make a decision that you are up for the win. Be intentional about what you want and make up your mind that you won’t settle for the small plays that will attempt to compromise your big win.

    Know It –Confidence in your new is a must. Therefore, an action plan and strategy must be in place to maintain that high level of confidence needed to conquer.

    So, there are four easy steps to spring you into a new you. Start practicing today for tomorrow’s win. I’m convinced you have enough strength to SACK it!

    Marvin Anderson is a speaker, author and owner of Insight Business Group, LLC, a coaching, consulting and success strategies company in Baton Rouge. 

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  • The Michael Foster Project remembers Isaac Greggs

    The Michael Foster Project is one of the most sought after brass bands in Louisiana. Its founder, Michael Foster attended Southern University where he was a member of the “Human Jukebox” under the leadership of Isaac Greggs. It was there that he met many of his band mates. Members of the Michael Foster project who marched under Greggs’ leadership share some of the most valuable information they received from Isaac Greggs.

    Michael Foster – sousaphone

    Human Juke Box Member from 1985-1989

    “When he invited the seniors to join him at his table at the Zulu Club at the end of the Zulu Parade.  Being in the band wasn’t easy, but if you worked hard and marched all four years, you knew you earned a seat at the table with Doc. He would offer you some of his special cognac. Just knowing that you made it four years and you earned the right to be at that table with him was my best memory of him.”

    Rod Jackson – saxophone

    Human Juke Box Member from 1995 to 1999

    “He saw something in me as a saxophone player before I took an interest in jazz music.  He took me into his office and gave me three cassette tapes – he gave me a Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon tape and a Coltrane tape. I still have those tapes, listen those artist and apply what I’ve learned from them to how I play today.”

    Jeremy Thomas -trumpet

    Human Juke Box Member from 2003 to 2006

    “A lot of the wisdom he was able to pass down to me was just well received. I had a young, fertile mind and so everything he said, I soaked up. He was very wise man, he would say things like “The tallest building will fall if it doesn’t have solid roots.””

     

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  • ‘But eating healthy is so hard’

    THERE’S NO LOGIC BEHIND THE MODERN DAY PHILOSOPHY OF “eating healthy is hard to do”. It’s not hard, but it does take willpower and a few adjustments and by making those minor changes, you can actually make a huge difference in your health.

    Let’s take one of America’s favorite dishes for example, good ole spaghetti. Why do we like it so much? Well, it’s pretty much the easiest meal to make. Most of us go right into the supermarket, buy the cheapest pack of spaghetti noodles (usually the generic brand), our favorite sauce (which is why we got generic spaghetti noodles – to afford the sauce) and the cheapest ground meat we can find (again, we really want to make sure the sauce tastes the best). We then rush home to prepare it and in about 25-30 minutes – BAM – we are instant chefs.

    Now let’s go back to the supermarket and take it a little slower. We grab the spaghetti noodles, but instead of grabbing the cheapest brand, let’s just look at some other options. Most of the cheaper brands are made with enriched white flour. The problem with the word “enriched” is that you think it means something good— in the tricky food industry, not so much. Enriched flour is flour in which most of the natural vitamins and minerals have been extracted. This is done in order to give it a finer texture, increase shelf life and prevent bugs from eating it. The crazy thing is that even bugs will die if they attempt to live off it.

    You read that right, bugs will die if they attempt to live off of it, yet the Food and Drug Administration says it’s perfectly fine for us. It makes absolutely no sense, but we do have options. Let your eyes wander over to whole-wheat noodles. Whole wheat is better for your body and your overall health – just read the ingredients label as some wheat is enriched as well. Okay, so maybe you’re not a fan of those noodles, there are still other healthier options. You can find some pretty inexpensive vegetable based noodles in most grocery stores. These are made from a variety of vegetables ranging from zucchini to tomatoes, and in some cases even both. Personally, I like the zucchini based pasta noodles with my spaghetti because it heightens the flavor of the sauce.

    Now, if you have selected one of the better pasta choices then you have already upped the health ante on your easy spaghetti. Let’s just move on to your

    favorite sauce. This is actually the easier part because most spaghetti sauces aren’t that bad for you health wise.

    Again, look at the ingredients label to make sure you can pronounce al the ingredients and to ensure that it’s not loaded with added sugars or meat. The preloaded meat sauce just isn’t a good thing. I mean think about it, would you eat meat that has been sitting on a shelf in a jar for who knows how long? If you want to add a little health kick to your sauce, then get the ones with more chunky vegetables. The added veggies will be good for you. Spend a little money too, the more expensive the sauce, the better the quality of ingredients and the better the taste.

    It’s finally time to select the meat for your spaghetti! I’m going to make this pretty simple, if you pinch a penny to save on anything, let it be so you can save to afford a better quality of meat. The truth is, the more expensive the meat, the better it is for you. Select a ground chuck over a ground beef. Yes, it will cost a little more, but the quality will be a lot healthier for you. Ground chuck will contain less fat and more nutrients and protein than ground beef. You can also look at ground turkey as an option. The average price of ground turkey is 35 cents lower than ground beef, and you can also get ground turkey in a fat free option for the same low price. Or why not try veggie style spaghetti, forgoing all the meat content for extra zucchini, or chunks of fresh cut tomatoes or even a few broccoli trees added for an extra protein kick. Why not try all three?

    All in all, these simple things may only end up adding a couple of dollars to your spaghetti if you incorporate all three – maybe a few cents just trying one or two of the options. Either way, you’ll win by making a choice that will benefit you in the long-term commitment of health. Aren’t you worth those few extra dollars? I think you are. I think you’ve worked hard enough that it’s time you reward yourself with a simple and decent healthy meal. It’s time to treat yourself right – you deserve it!

     

    By Alvin Temple

    Alvin A. Temple is a wellness coach, owner of Pure Yoga.

     

    page1image26264

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  • A journey into world of Asperger’s and Autism

    by Carissa Cropper

    WE BEGAN OUR JOURNEY INTO my son’s fascinating world on October 16, 2010, after having a conference with his teacher. Sh described Tyler as being a great student, smart, and intelligent. She said that he would use his vocabulary words constantly throughout the day in an effort to master them and the way his mind worked out a math problem was truly unconventional.

    All the things that a mother and father want to hear about their child. However, she had several concerns with his social interactions with the other students. She noticed that he found it difficult to make connections with other children in his class.

    Oftentimes he would become overwhelmed with emotion over the smallest of mistakes and he would exhibit little quirks and facial expressions when he was placed in an uncomfortable situation. I agreed that I had noticed some of the same things, along with other behaviors, at home.

    His teacher suggested that we go and talk to his doctor about our concerns to see if Tyler was just a “shy” child or was it some- thing else going on. After seeing his doctor it was confirmed that my son had Asperger’s Syndrome.

    This form of Autism is a high functioning form that focuses on more social behavior than anything else. We had to begin teaching our child how to cope with “scary” situations that he was faced with in a daily basis. We had to begin to grasp that when a child with Asperger’s Syndrome tells you that he’s afraid – it means that their mind has imagined the worst thing in the world happening in that situation – so much so that they would rather not even attempt it then face their fear. I learned then that if I did not educate myself on the way to help him better cope in everyday life that this could cripple him, and that was just not an option.

    The first thing we taught Tyler was to embrace his fears. My mother taught him to ask himself this question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen and can you deal with that?” If the answer was “yes” then that’s something you can do. If not, then lets go back to the drawing board. We also taught him to “talk” – don’t just agree. You have feelings about things and they are important. He learned that he has a right to feel anyway he feels, even if it is afraid. The last thing that we worked on is accepting your “quirks”. Sometimes when Tyler is uncomfortable he will hold his hands straight out to the side, he also makes awkward noises at the ends of his sentences and his sporadic tongue thrust that often come out when someone is really crowding his space are what make him Tyler.

    My daughter often tells him that he’s awesome because he always thinks for himself. He never allows anyone to tell him how to feel about something, and she believes that makes him strong.

    I believe that I have been blessed with a very unique gift. My son challenges how I think and how I view things and people everyday. He is my reason for educating others on the importance of acknowledging differences and the acceptance of those differences. This journey is exciting and we welcome the challenges that come with the territory, as Tyler says ” this ride that were on comes with twist and turns, but you just need to wear your seatbelt!”

    Carissa Cropper is a Baton Rouge Comedienne and starring in New Venture Theatre’s production of  “Step Off”

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  • Diagnosis motivates mom of 5 to run

    by Chequita Renee Hilliard

    AFTER GOING TO MY PRIMARY PHYSICIAN IN January 2014, I left in tears as I drove home with me was disturbing news, “You have high blood pressure and need to take this pill every morning.” As a registered nurse i knew he was right because I had taken and recorded my blood pressure for 3 months, but just hearing him say those words al- most killed me.

    At that moment I decided to do some- thing about it because I refused to pay for medication the rest of my life and I have my children who need and depend on me. This was a life sentence that I did not want.

    As I drove home in tears, I wanted to make change but, I didn’t want to go through all the fade diets that everyone was doing. I wanted to do the right thing the right way.

    I started working out on my own at home and eating a healthier diet. Later I joined Black Girls Run Baton Rouge and linked up with Varsity Sports. I had decid- ed to make a lifestyle change. I was going to run/walk to get this weight off.

    hilliard crossing finish line

    Since January, I have lost nearly 30lbs, lots of inches, my blood pressure is down and I participated in my first half Mara- thon, the annual Run Like a Diva Half Marathon in Galveston, Texas.page7image38800

    Although I didn’t place in the top amongst the 2800 runners, at the begin- ning of the race I asked God to do two things, let me finish and do not let me be last; he honored both my wishes. Because of that, I am a WINNER indeed. I’ve done what most in my town and age group have never done and I’m thankful.

    Chequita Renee Hilliard is a wife, mother of five, and grandmother to one. She is a reg- istered nurse, owner of Mountain High Photography and Videography Production and Mountain High Training Academy. 

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  • Is conservatism working?

    WE LIVE IN A RED STATE. That’s no secret. So many Louisiana residents take pride in our state’s conservative values. Traditional notions of family, “small” government, emphasizing the importance of being business friendly,

    being tough on crime—violent and victimless alike— and the preservation of unborn pregnancies are all key tenets of this mindset. Does this mindset behoove us at all?

    Louisiana’s legislative session recently got under way and this is the time of year the ideologies of our state are most apparent. One of the most controver- sial bills thus far has been HB 388 also known as the safe abortion act. This bill requires doctors to have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic and would force 3 of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics to close. One would think that such legislation would come from some old white male Republican, right? WRONG.

    This legislation was sponsored by Katrina Jackson, 16th district state representative who happens to be an African American Democrat. When asked—by several people—why this bill was necessary, Jackson failed to provide any statistics for the state of Louisiana and resorted to only posting links from anti-abortion websites like Lifenews. com that had nothing to do with this state whatsoever. Rep. Jackson is no stranger to such conservative ideals as she sponsored a bill that would allow students to voluntarily participate in the Lord’s Prayer—as if they were prohibited—at school? Wouldn’t you think someone who has the town with largest wealth gap in the nation in her district would have different priorities?

    Also this session, the House Commerce Commit- tee has killed a bill aimed at prohibiting housing dis- crimination against LGBT individuals? Maybe I am missing something but

    who exactly does allowing discrimination help? Also there is the ever present problematic way in which Louisiana handles its pe- nal system. House bill 227 makes it more of a crime to assault referees than to assault the general population.

    Another recent bill added a mandatory minimum for those who flee from law enforcement—regardless of reasoning—and would punish those who violate

    traffic laws in this process more harshly than those who violate them in under other circumstances?

    Given the amount that this state is already spending on incarceration, can we really afford any of this? Is conservatism working for Louisiana?

    Terry Young is a survey researcher for the LSU Public Policy Research Lab in Baton Rouge. 

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  • Easter the season of renewness, restoration

    IT IS OFTEN SAID WE ARE “spiritual beings” having a natural experience.

    How many of you are “spiritual beings” having a “spiritual experience” in this season of restoration? How are you being restored? Are you searching your soul and making necessary changes to move forward? Will you do self-inventory to see how well you are doing as a Christian? Are looking back at days of yesterday and reliving bad and trying times?

    Having this season upon us, is giving us a time to truly be restored to wholeness in Christ, or whomever we serve, mat- ters not name by which they are called!

    Will you spend this sea- son forgiving others as you seek forgiveness as Christ did on the cross? Will you turn this season into one of commercialization by shopping for that special outfit, go- ing to church once a year, prepared the perfect dinner, painting eggs and have a family out- ing; or will you wrap your- self in a “spiritual experience” praying, rejoicing, living, loving, forgiving, giving, and lifting up your Savior?

    Will you be seeking daily to forgive and be for- given, to be a better you and carry a lighter load?

    In this season of renewness and restoration, are you a conformist or a transformer? How have you grown since last years’ “Easter Holiday of  restoration?” How many lives have you transformed or have you conformed to the ways of those that you are seek- ing to transform? In this season of holiness, let it not end with Easter Sunday, but continue to be a life-line to eternity. In this season of “re-newness and restoration” I will be prayerful, forgiving, and I pray to be forgiven?

    Joyce Turner Keller, Th.D., is founder of Travelers of Christ Evangelistic Ministry. She is a global advocate for HIV/AIDS. 

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  • With justice and discrimination for all

    by Alvin A. Temple

    A VOTE THAT HAPPENED IN Louisiana on March 31 may seem slightly hard to believe in this day and age.

    At a time when we elected a president who campaigned about mov- ing forward, our House of Commerce took a colos- sal step backwards as they voted 13-5 against a bill that would prevent hous- ing discrimination against citizens regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

    I understand that everyone has different stances when it comes to marriage equality because of religious beliefs (and that still doesn’t make it right in a civil case), but this? This is about Civil Rights. This is about discrimination and the right one has to be protected from such. As a gay man, I wake up, go to work, vote and pay my taxes just like everyone else in this country.

    So I truly believe I deserve the same rights as everyone else. I deserve the same protection as every free citizen in the state of Louisiana and in the United States of America.I am outraged that this bill was denied, and even more so that it was denied 13-5. Thirteen votes against it and only five votes for it seems utterly absurd to me. What’s next – separate drinking fountains; will we have to enter buildings from another door; will we have to sit on the back of the bus while all the heterosexuals sit up front? We’ve seen this political machine work in the past – it begins with something as minute as this and escalates into the state passing a law that states businesses have the right to refuse service to the LGBT community.

    Oh, wait. That just happened in Mississippi on April 4. That’s right, the Friday of the very same week that Louisiana denied HB 804.

    This is the slow deterioration of what so many people fought and even died for. This is where we start rolling back the clock and using religion as a tool to repress free citizens in our nation. It’s a slow poisoning that turns into a sickness and develops into a plague of hate wrapped up in a pretty package disguised as religious freedom. You may very well believe that it is religious freedom, but you should also understand that is a complete violation of civil freedom. Do we honor the legends of the fight for civil rights by allowing such political atrocities to go without standing up and making a powerful noise against it? There was a time when great advocacies of civil rights would have leapt up and cried in outrage, and made such a noise that the world as a whole would stand up and take notice then join the fight. Now, however, we just sit silently and say, “Well, what did you expect?”

    I expect my rights to be protected by the governing body and elected officials of this state and country – THAT IS what I expect! That is what the citizens of this state and country deserve. This is what they are entitled to. We have

    taken our advocacies of civil rights and made them feel embarrassed to stand up because if they do, if they dare open their mouths against these acts of hatred and discrimination, they are called out by church heads and officials for supporting a gay agenda.

    A gay agenda? The only agenda I see our LGBT community fighting for is that of equality, a fight for the pursuit of happiness in a country that prides itself on its liberty and justice for all. Maybe you are familiar with such a movement.

    Just know that as a gay man in the state of Louisiana, I too have the right to deny you this sale or rental. See, that’s the interesting part of this law, or as the case may be, the lack of this law. If there are no existing laws that protect a person from discrimination regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, then understand that this gives me and any other member and supporter of the LGBT community the right to deny housing to those who identify as heterosexual.

    We could start our own gay community – and we’re good with catchy little phrases so maybe we’ll call it a Gaymunity! It would have the most fabulous houses, the finest lawns and would be the envy of all the strictly straight neighborhoods. You know what, maybe we should embrace this law because most of us know how it feels to be discriminated against, to have someone look at you in disgust and hate. To have churches say cruel and heartless things, to be made to feel unwelcomed in places that preach of love and healing and then to just watch our House of Commerce teach us the harsh reality of the hateful act of legal discrimination. Yes, we to know what discrimination feels like, and our House of Commerce just made it legal. So maybe, we should embrace this law and act accordingly.

    But we won’t. I strongly encourage our community and supporters not to do this. When we win this fight, and we will win this fight, we will do it by becoming better than the injustice shown to us. We win with compassion.

    Alvin A. Temple is native and proud resident of Baton Rouge. He is a wellness coach, owner and instructor of Pure Yoga, and an avid Egalitarian. 

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  • Obama’s “My Brothers Keeper Initiative” has promise

    Earlier this month White House and President Obama formally launched his promising new initiative to effectuate meaningful change in the Black community. This has been something I had hoped for since that first euphoric moment when I learned that a Black man had been elected President of the United States.

    The initiative will build on policy changes Attorney General Holder has made in theDepartment of Justice to address one of the greatest threats to the Black community – their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. It also will give practical form to the commitment the President made recently in his State of the Union speech to directly address the disparate negative outcomes young men of color face in America.

    Reminding us of the deeply moral framework that underpins this cause, the President has named this initiative – very appropriately — “My Brother’s Keeper.”

    Young men of color, especially Black and Latino males, suffer from a host of injustices, including disproportionate poverty rates, school suspension and expulsion rates, poor health outcomes, and particularly incarceration rates.

    For instance, a recent study published by Public Counsel and the Black Organizing Project revealed that in Oakland, CA, although only 29 percent of the city’s youth are Black, they comprise 73 percent of all juvenile arrests. And the issue is not one of more Black crime. As the recent groundbreaking film, “The House I Live In,” revealed, Black people use cocaine at the same rate of their population in the country, about 13 percent, but Black people make up a shocking 90 percent of all those serving federal cocaine sentences.

    When I worked in New York City as the Deputy Commissioner of Probation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a $120 million Young Men’s Initiative to improve the outcomes of young Black and Latino males in the city. One of the many programs funded by this initiative is Transformative Mentoring, where young people on probation go through a life skills and cognitive behavior therapy class and are then matched with a mentor from their community.

    The President’s team certainly can look to NYC’s initiative as well as to The California Endowment’s $50 million “Sons and Brothers” Campaign, which also seeks to improve the outcomes of young Black and Latino men as models for success. It also can learn from other local public-private partnerships, such as Oakland’s anti-violence program, Ceasefire, which exemplifies key tenets of the MBK goal: to build and strengthen positive bridges of understanding and communication between young men of color and law enforcement while reducing incarceration rates.

    This is the promise and potential of “My Brother’s Keeper.” It recognizes – as have these local programs – that while the amount of the investment is key, the effectiveness of the interventions are more important. In doing so, MBK should proceed with eyes wide open about the limits of government, the importance of partnership, and the cautionary track record of the numerous former government programs that have spent billions of tax payer dollars and have been proven ineffective.

    Indeed, to be most effective, “My Brother’s Keeper” should offer a different policy path: one that will lead to measurable outcomes, and evidence based results, and lead to real savings for our cities, our communities and our tax payers.

    One shining example of this new thinking – and new approach – is the President’s Pay for Success (PFS) initiative. Also known as Social Impact Bonds, this program will create an innovative financing structure through which private investment will pay the upfront costs for programs that the government pays back only if the intervention has proven to work. Such programs are currently underway in New York City and Boston, both of which seek to reduce prison recidivism which in turn will produce huge government savings.

    Innovative, data driven partnerships and programs such as these have the potential to achieve – and replicate across the nation – measurable outcomes that can save tax-payer money while reducing social inequity and building stronger, healthier communities.

    At its core, if implemented well, lawmakers can point to “My Brother’s Keeper” as a model for innovative, non-partisan public policy and the kind of practical problem-solving that all Americans want from our political leaders. Together we can create opportunity and much needed justice for boys and men of color in every corner of America. MBK is indeed a keeper, and potentially a transformative one.

    by David Muhammad, New American Media

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  • Chicken boxing and April Fools’ Day

    On April Fools’ Day, the Louisiana Legislature was in session. Perhaps the apex of legislative insanity ensued on April 1 when our elected officials debated the legality and ethics of “chicken boxing.” It was not a joke.

    Yes, chicken boxing became both a great occasion for humor and an embarrassment to the state. News outlets nationwide picked up the story. Sen. JP Morrell (D-New Orleans) proposed legislation to close the loopholes in the state cockfighting ban. Slick and enterprising fowl breeders bypassed the fighting cock prohibition by using sparring “gloves” during rooster bouts. In other words, they’ve turned the birds into boxers instead of fighters.

    This is the logic of Louisiana politics on public display.

    No doubt, when the legal authorities aren’t watching, the gaffs and knives come out and cockfighting is back to the bad old days.

    Undone by Morrell’s attempt to make cockfighting paraphernalia illegal, Sen. Elbert Guillory (R-Opelousas), a rising star in GOP politics, defended the practice of chicken boxing, which he understood to be well within in Morrell’s legislative sights. Guillory, a man with an unparalleled love for the photo-op, posed for pictures while holding little rubber boxing gloves fitted for roosters.

    Guillory, an African-American, was a Republican but then switched parties in order to win his seat in a heavily Democratic district. Last year he switched back to Republican with much fanfare. He is also a man who made headlines a year ago for his praise of witch doctors as a rationale to keep Louisiana’s embarrassing creationist K-12 “science” law on the books.

    Indeed, the debate over chicken boxing will continue, as will Louisiana being the laughingstock of America.

    However, we have another debate that is to me just as insane as boxing birds, perhaps worse.

    Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond) is on the defensive about HB 244, the “gun shows on college campuses bill.” The proposed law, according to Broadwater, is simply a gun safety bill.

    I have read HB 244 bill, gotten an email and a text message from Rep. Broadwater regarding the bill, and read articles written about the bill.

    Two facts come to mind. First, there is NOTHING in HB 244 to prevent gun shows on college campuses or even in the facilities of the elementary and secondary laboratory schools at SLU, Southern University, and LSU. If Rep. Broadwater had wanted to prevent “gun shows” from occurring, he could have written into the language allowing for no more than two or three guns to be auctioned or sold at events.

    Second, if Rep. Broadwater wanted to make a real statement promoting campus safety, he could have stopped any and all groups from selling or auction guns on campus under the Gun Free School Zones Act.

    This did not happen. We now have a bad bill that makes a bad statement. We can do better.

    I am proud of SLU professor Dr. James Kirylo and the SLU faculty senate for making a strong statement against gun sales on college campuses through a recent resolution. In a climate of fear created by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s assault on higher education, it is courageous when college employees take a stand on an important issue. LSU’s faculty senate is scheduled to take up a similar resolution soon.

    We don’t need to get stuck on the words “gun shows” or “gun auctions.” Likewise, let’s not get distracted by “chicken boxing” or “chicken fighting.” Who cares?
    At the end of the day, all of this is a bunch of foolishness as Louisiana continues to go to the birds. We have elected officials who make it April Fools’ Day all year long here in the Pelican State. Unfortunately, we allow them to bring embarrassment to the state when we create an atmosphere of disaster by voting them into office.

    Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula. He covers the South like kudzu and promises that he never burned Atlanta. He is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website is daynesherman.com

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  • ,

    Comedian Howard Hall reacts to Obama’s Between Two Ferns interview

    OUR PRESIDENT BARACK Obama is by far in my opinion one of the smoothest, confident and smartest presidents we have had in this great country. (May I add he married Michelle Obama… Smart Move) He has a way of placing himself in certain situations where he can get the most impact for his agenda. Case in point… Funny or Die’s Exclusive “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis.

    watch it here

    In this interview Zach is known for his offend questions and his straight face insults to his guest but the President handled it in style. I know President Obama can only say certain things due to being the leader of the Free World but I, comedian Howard

    Hall, can be the voice of what he really wanted to say. This is how the interview would have went:

    Howard: Hi my name is Howard Hall and welcome to “Between Two

    Ferns” and my guest today is Bara.. President Barack Obama.

    President Obama: Mess my name up one more time and you will come up missing.HOWARD-HALL

    Howard: Ok… Did you send Ambassador Rodman to North Korea? I heard you were sending Hulk Hogan to Syria.

    President Obama: No but I will be sending

    AmbassadorJoe Biden in here to choke slam you back to your high school weight. Which is 7 pounds less than what you are now by the way.

    Howard: How does it feel to be the last African

    American President? President Obama: How

    does it feel to talk to the last black person you’re going to see on this earth?

    Howard: Ok…That is all I have before I end up on the wrong end of Government Conspiracy.

    Then President Obama kicks over the two ferns and salutes the camera.

    End of Interview

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  • Today is only the beginning

    A commentary by  Dr. Joyce Turner Keller

    I awake this morning to find that my past is not yet my past.

    Looking back over my life, it has become abundantly clear that some of the people we love and let go of, never really go away.   It is so strange that you spend so much time trying to do the right thing, to be a good giving person, attempting to make a difference in the live of others, only to find that you cannot trust the word of someone you loved and lived with for years.  When you move on and the other person doesn’t, is it fair for them come back years later and try to hurt you, discredit you, destroy your reputation?  The question is ringing loudly in my ear, why is this person so angry at me, when it was his choice to move on and I accepted his decision.  It is always good to have relationships without strings attached, which is what I thought we had.  This person lifted me up when I was down, stood by me when I was alone, embraced me when other pushed me aside, believed in me when others gave up on me, saw my worth when others dismissed my existences.   I am strong, restored, and stable because of him, and grateful to him.  I have chosen to not live in the past, but use my life journey as a roadmap to a better future.  It wounds me to know that many years of my life has become a tug of war of emotions.  A time when darkness was all I saw, based on the struggles I faced on a road back to wellness.  I have come to the conclusion that he is not my problem, and his emotions are his own, his choice was his, and my freedom and future is mine.

    Today is only the beginning of the bright future I have chosen; the decision I have made is to be whole and complete.  Today, I will continue to be the best I can be and not take responsibility for the actions of someone from my past!  Today my past is my past, and the beginning of a time to move forward without reservations and regrets!

    It is important to know that some people will never be happy unless they can make you unhappy!

     

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  • When the deck is stacked against you

    LIFE IS A JOURNEY, DEATH A destination! I choose to enjoy every moment of my journey, my life. It does not matter the state that in which I find myself.

    Today, like every day, I am so very blessed. It makes more sense to me to look at how abundant is my bounty, rather
    than how bare the cupboard.

    After having two surgeries in seven days, getting a horrible infection, unbelievable sweating, vomiting, and a frightening hair weave experience, it was time to find a sense of calm.

    After being told cancer was found in my right breast, no matter how large or small, the word cancer is all you hear. I responded by saying, “this is the one thing I told God I did not want, cancer!” Suddenly I am reminded that He never said it would not happen.

    At that moment I know God has given me another opportunity to testify to His power of healing, grace and mercy, another part of my journey, my purpose. Looking back at how many times the deck has been stacked against me I reflect on how the

    hand was played that was dealt to me. I fought my way back one step, one hour, one day, one prayer at time.

    This time I look in the mirror and I see the weave standing like tall grass in an un- kept yard. I call a beautician to work her magic, no luck, I buy products to do my own hair, no luck, I cannot do it myself

    because of the surgeries. Deciding to be pro-active against “cancer,” I thought it best to get rid of every woman’s fear, what her hair look like. I look at myself and see a beautiful, tall, strong, prayerful and determined woman, Me.

    Thank God for hair clippers and a razor. I shave my head, put on my pearl earrings and necklace, breathing sigh of relief. My hair does not define me, at least not today, it is in the trash can. Now I can truly focus on what really matters, my healing, resting, and taking the best care of myself that I can. People, some of you may think this a drastic move, but it is what is best for me. This is my storm and I will weather it the way God, my doctors and I think best. I know not the end of the story, but I do know that I am prayed up and prepared to continue this journey called life.

    It is important that we walk in wisdom, to sur- round yourself with posi- tive people with positive thinking. I have been well trained to handle the trials, struggles, losses, and dis- appointments of this jour- ney. It is an honor to know that the best and prepared are always put in the game first, called on to make the winning shot, chosen for special teams to represent

    their country, school, orga- nization, political party, or church.

    I am excited to know that I am a soldier in the Army of God, chosen to be on His special team, al- ways put on the front line, because I know He will not put more on me than I can bear. I am a proud soldier that will wear every diag- nosis or scar as a badge of honor. For it is an bless- ing to be not only called but chosen. Take care my friends, and play well the hand you are dealt, when the deck appears to be stacked against you!

    by Joyce Turner Keller

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  • Fighting injustice at Southern University

     

    I LIKE TO SEE COLLEGE STUDENTS protesting injustice. So it was encouraging to hear about Southern University student sup in arms after the shenanigans surrounding the effective firing of Chancellor James Llorens.

    When students are en- gaged it shows they care. I don’t, however, want to be guilty of throwing cold water on student fire. But it seems the protests hap- pened in the wrong locale and toward the wrong lead- ers.

    Sit-ins on campuses are nice – good theater. But if you want to know who is really hurting Southern University, it’s Gov. Bobby Jindal.

    At the end of the day South- ern University is facing insolven- cy – reinstating Llorens for an- other year won’t change that in the least.

    One of Gov. Jindal’s floor leaders in the House, Rep. Steve Carter from Ba- ton Rouge, expressed fake frustration in The Advocate: “We have to find a governor that prioritizes higher edu- cation. The governor is the key . We have an opportunity as a group to make sure the candidates who run for governor list higher eduction as a top priority.”

    Carter has been like a rose tattoo on Gov. Jindal’s posterior. But he wants everyone to forget his solidarity with the Jindal regime. This shows that things are starting to heat up in legislative districts, and some representatives are dreaming of voters with short memories when it comes to the devastating cuts to higher education.

    Let me be clear: The vast majority of Louisi- ana Republicans in and out of politics would be happy to see Southern University and all other HBCU’s closed. This sentiment is embodied in Gov. Bobby Jindal, the public face of the GOP in Louisiana.

    I’m no fan of System President Ronald Mason or James Llorens. As longtime Southern professor Sudhir Trivedi wrote recently: “He [Llorens] has been the most incompetent chancellor we have ever had. This is evident from the probation imposed upon us by SACS in December 2012 and the censure imposed upon us by AAUP in June 2013.”

    The big problem for Southern University is at the State Capitol. That’s where the nonvio- lent action needs to take place. That’s where the real problems can be solved.

    The sit-ins need to be at Jindal’s office, 4th floor, Louisiana State Capitol. He’s never there, but he’ll get the message from his lackeys – the rest of the state and nation will too. Keep stand- ing up by sitting down, but make sure you are a few miles south of Scott’s Bluff when you pro- test.

    Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula. He is the author of “Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel”.

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  • ,

    Dunn verdict exposes value we place on makes

     by Marc Morial , president and CEO of the National Urban League

     

    ANOTHER MOTHER’S anguish. Another unarmed Black teenager in Florida shot dead for no good reason.

    Another indefensible instance of Stand Your ground rearing its ugly head.  Eight months after the stunning acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, justice again has been compromised in the fatal shooting of 17-year- old Jordan Davis.

    On November 23, 2012, Michael Dunn, a 47-year- old white man, fi red ten rounds into a parked SUV after arguing over loud rap music coming from the vehicle with Jordan and three other unarmed African American teenagers inside.  Jordan Davis was killed at the scene.  Like George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn claimed self-defense and used Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to bolster his justification of the killing, as his lawyer stated in his closing argument, “His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” Dunn claims Jordan Davis brandished a gun so Dunn shot first.  But there is one big problem with his story. Jordan Davis had no gun and neither did anyone else in the SUV.

    On Saturday night, a jury found Dunn guilty of four counts, including three for the attempted murders of Jordan’s three friends.  But they deadlocked on the fifth count  first-degree murder in the killing of Jordan. Dunn may spend the rest of his life in prison for the four lesser counts. But the failure to convict him of murdering Jordan Davis raises critical questions about the devaluing of the lives of young Black males in America and confirms the need for a repeal of Florida’s repugnant Stand Your Ground law which sanctions the use of deadly force by anyone who merely thinks – or claims – they are in danger from a perceived assailant.

    Regardless of whether Dunn or Zimmerman chose to fully exercise Stand Your Ground provisions in their defense, this law was very clearly at the center of both cases.  It is even clearer that the “shoot fi rst” laws across the country are contributing to needless bloodshed and are ripe for unequal application based on race.

    A recent Urban Institute analysis found that in Stand Your Ground states, “When the shooter is white and the victim is Black, the justifiable homicidstates with “Stand Your Ground” laws, the justifi able homicide rate is 34 percent. When the situation is reversed and the shooter is Black and the victim is white, shootings are ruled to be justifiable in only slightly more than 3 percent of cases.”  Last September, the National Urban League, in collaboration with the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition and VoteVets, issued a report showing that in the 22 states with “Stand Your Ground” laws, the justifi able homicide rate has risen by an averagehas risen by an average of 53 percent in the fi ve years following their passage.   In Florida, justifi able homicides have increased by 200 percent since the law took effect in 2005.

    These statistics and their underlying racial disparities, tell us that expansive self-defense laws such as Stand Your Ground are doing more harm than good, and when coupled with implicit racial bias and unfounded preconceptions, young Black males are especially at risk.  Dunn’s own bigoted words in letters from jail clearly show his disregard for their lives, as he wrote: “The jail is full of Blacks and they all act like thugs. This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these (expletive) idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” and “The fear isthat we may get a predominantly Black jury and therefore, unlikely to get a favorable verdict. Sad, but that’s where this country is still at. The good news is that the surrounding counties are predominantly white and republican and supporters of gun rights!”  This view and those like it are why we must commit today to action against the devaluing of our young Black lives.

    Even as the Michael Dunn trial was getting underway, we learned that Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, had planned to capitalize on the death of a young Black male by participating in a “celebrity” boxing match – when his only claim to fame is killing an unarmed Black teenager – and getting off. Such a blatant disregard for the value of a Black male’s life should be a wake-up call to all Americans.  We must intensify our fi ght against Stand Your Ground laws – and the underlying mentality – that justify the killing of young Black men whose only “offense” is being Black .

     

     

     

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  • Yes, Chas, parents and students deserve better

    Linda Johnson

    former BESE represenative

    VERY RECENTLY THERE HAVE been articles about alleged cheating in East Baton Rouge schools.  The television headlines said wide spread cheating in EBR.

    The president of BESE said studentsand parents deserve more.

    Well I agree,so I called the elected BESE representative for the majority of the schools in EBR and she had no knowlodge to credit she immediately began a series of e-mail correspondence to understand what was happening.

    It is amazing that the email thread indicates that the alleged wide spread cheating was not under investigation, however the LDoE is looking into the fact that EBR self reported  a student who graduated without meeting the graduation requirements and also what processes had been put in place so that this would not happen again.

    Now I know there are those of you who are reading this and of course cannot possibly believe me because you are so conditioned to believe ” the  white’s man ice is colder”.

    My question is how do you make wide spread comments prior to getting the facts? What is the real motive?   How does a conversation become one whereby a local reporter says he has the documents and then there are no documents.

    Let me see if there are some reasons.  Well it seems to be well known that the state would like to have more of the schools in EBR.

    EBR surprised all when the school performance scores came out and the schools they thought would fall to the state managed to improve.

    The next question are persons on BESE and the stateinvolved in the break- away city? The president testified at House Education that he could support the break-a-way school district.  Well the timing on the alleged cheating seems poised to help that situation especially when one looks at the state of the city message given by the mayor.

    I don’t know why this happened but I do know this it is time to stop fatten- ing frogs for snakes.  Most of us know that phrase “fat- tening frogs” but if you don’t let me explain.

    Some of you reading this will run to get the real facts from the very persons who started the rumor, well you are fattening frogs, some of you reading this will also be glad to kill the messenger, I suggest  you kill the message.

    If you choose to kill the messenger then of course you are fattening frogs.  And then there are you reading this who will agree but will never speak out or support are fattening frogs.

    The next time you read or have the media provide you with information that does not seem real, well get the facts, get the documents, ask to see the information, talk with your elected BESE member, ask community leaders to help you understand, involve the religious community because sometimes these are moral issues as this one is, then use that great gift the Almighty gave each of us, our own brains and the ability to think for our-selves.

     

     

     

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