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    New Orleans minister defends new ‘Emoji’ R&B single

    Switching genres is any creative space isn’t an easy task. Artists, writers, and musicians who do so seamlessly can often be met with resistance. There is always the expectations of fans to create better books, music, or art but often within the scope of the performers’ known area. Recently, Kanye West was met with criticism following his Sunday Service performance at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

    Critics said West’s project is blasphemous–among other things.

    “We really have to unlearn what we have been trained to believe is ministry,” said New Orleans minister Roosevelt Wright III who recently released an R&B single, “Emoji.” The song is mainstream, pop, and high-energy—not quite what people have come to expect for ministry music.

    “Emoji is a fun song with a nice Afro-beat groove but if you listen to the words carefully, you’ll see it’s really just a song about communication. I believe the root of a great relationship is the ability of two people to let nothing hinder them from being able to talk to each other. More importantly, tell each other how they feel. Check up on each other and lift each other’s spirit,” Wright said.

    The song was released mid-August on more than a dozen platforms including iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon, and Deezer. It is the first single for Wright’s upcoming full project release, “How To Love”.

    The music was produced by Skirmisher Beat Squad.  Wright wrote and arranged it while producer Brandon Barre mastered and engineered it. Wright clarifies the message of his latest–and 11th–project.

    ‘Emoji’ doesn’t fit the praise and worship, Gospel music genre but sits smack in the R&B, love song mix. As a minister, why would you create an R&B love song and album without the mentioning of God or salvation?
    WRIGHT: We’ve been taught that ministry is Worship music only. Worship music is a resource for ministry, and a very vital ingredient, but it is not the only tool God can use. If ministry is truly about healing and building all of God’s people, then that includes those who may not be members of a particular church and may not gravitate to the Worship arena. My God is not in a box and if God is really going to reach this generation then Chance the Rapper is just as important as Tye Tribbett. Kanye West is just as anointed as Kirk Franklin. If my marriage is going through a rough spot and I need to relight the fire in my relationship, why exclude God from that? R&B has the power to make people love and care about each other. Isn’t that what God asked us to do? R&B music can be just as anointed as Gospel when it is created with purpose.

     How can you say this single, “Emoji,” and the “How to Love” project is God-led? What’s the message or messages you’re delivering?

    WRIGHT: Well it’s definitely God-led… These songs are definitely from the soul and written with a purpose.. People fall in love in one minute and in less than a month they are already done with each other. It says to me there is a deeper issue in our community that we seem to avoid and ignore.
    We don’t know how to love. We have workshops and retreats and forums but many times they are so “churchy” that the people who really need the advice don’t even participate. If the church is serious about saving marriages and building young adults, then we have to seriously look at measures which go beyond the parameters of the traditional version of ministry. I want every child to grow up in a great family structure. I want every woman to leave her house confident that her man is being faithful. I want every man to be excited about being a husband, a father, or just a good dude who cares about his lady. Most people have good intentions. We simply lose focus.

    Can you be more specific?

    WRIGHT: I want this project to make couples give it another shot. I want this project to give hope to people who feel they are successful yet still single. We all have a lot to learn about love. Even us. But we hope our journey can help our peers understand how to make it work in a way that has truly helped us.

    How have you addressed those people who challenge your message in this project?

    WRIGHT: I learned a long time ago… I will never fit into religious boxes. I don’t think what I am doing will surprise any of the clergy because I have always been an outsider anyway. I am strategic and purposeful in everything I do and most times they don’t understand it until they see the results that I have ALWAYS produced. I love the culture…I’m cut from a different cloth and I do not play with my purpose. I think churches should invite my wife and me to speak. The way we are structured makes sense. We are cultivated in the Word yet we are not so religious that we can’t connect with our peers. We love being who we are… young, free, eclectic, and saved.

    How welcoming do you expect churches or congregations to receive these messages around love? Is a church tour a possibility?
    WRIGHT: I’m an optimistic person. I think people who are truly Kingdom-minded will understand that this is an emergency. Our churches and families are failing because we neglect to talk about the things that are urgent in their lives. Sexual frustration is tearing up Christian relationships. Lack of communication is destroying families.

    Misunderstanding of our roles in a relationship kills it before it really gets started. Most importantly, being over religious ain’t never kept a fire burning. Many of us are imprisoned and so indoctrinated by improper religious teachings that we think we’ll go to hell if we make love with our own spouses. We don’t have those problems in my house! We truly believe you can love God as a priority and love each other with exclusivity and it is supposed to be exciting. We can’t say God created everything but exclude Him from intimacy. That is important to God too and the more we avoid it the more issues we will have with broken families and heartbroken adults who really want to share their life with someone.

    Your style has been highly charged for 20 years, how is this an extension of what you’ve done creatively and as pastor in New Orleans?
    WRIGHT: I don’t look at any project as an individu
    al entity. Everything is just another chapter in a collective body of work…I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time. Much of my success is centered my work with building relationships. I’ve produced a movie about it (“Get The Ring Keep The Ring”) and I’ve also written books about it. Through social media I connect with thousands of people daily and we are all growing together. This is just an extension of all of that… a continued effort to keep spreading positive vibes and light.

    How important has it been for you to do so many facets of creating and not just focus on one thing?
    WRIGHT: I’ve always been told I had to be a certain way to thrive within a genre and I have let that strip me of who I am. If you are a minister you’re supposed to dress like this. You can’t say this. You can’t listen to this. You can’t be seen over there with them. It’s a bunch of rules that God never orchestrated. I’m free in my mind and in my spirit and I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do. Everybody won’t be used the same way. We are all built and cultivated for the assignment on our lives. If you know me or have ever met me then you know I am built for this. I don’t have to be a preacher to preach.

    ONLINE: www.rotivation.com

    By Candace J Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter
    @JozefSyndicate

    REad the entire interview at Jozef Syndicate.

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    Cassandra Chaney chronicles police brutality, African-American community in new book

    Given the increasing attention to unarmed African Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of police, LSU School of Social Work professor Cassandra Chaney examined community sentiment regarding police in her new book titled “Police Use of Excessive Force against African Americans: Historical Antecedents and Community Perceptions.”

    The book delves into how the early antecedents of police brutality like plantation overseers, the lynching of African American males, early race riots, the Rodney King incident, and the Los Angeles Rampart Scandal have directly impacted the current relationship between communities of color and police.

    “Each public incident of mistreatment, such as assault and murder, of African Americans erodes the trust members of this group have of police and makes it more difficult for honorable law enforcement officers to effectively do their jobs,” Chaney said. “As a child and family studies scholar, I know well that these events do not just affect the person, but the families and communities of which they are a part.”

    Cassandra Chaney

    Cassandra Chaney

    Chaney and co-author Ray V. Robertson, an associate professor of sociology at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, further studies how African American college students perceive police in order to delve into how race, gender, and education create different realities among a demographic. The scholars chose to study the attitudes of African American college students because this demographic is typically at a developmental stage of life when they are becoming more aware of their values and what is happening in the world around them.

    “In my experience, African American college students have a lot to say about what is wrong with the world, and they see themselves as potential agents of change. Furthermore, their perceptions and sentiment of police mistreatment, such as assault and/or murder, is based on their personal experience, the experience of family and friends as well as the experience of African Americans throughout the nation,” Chaney said.

    Based on their findings, Chaney and Robertson offer recommended policies and strategies for police and communities to improve relationships and perceptions between the two.

    Chaney recently was awarded a Dean Larry Davis Social Justice Fund grant by the National Association of Deans and Directors for her project titled “Nothing Can Change until It Is Faced: Community Sentiment of Police in Low-Income Disenfranchised Communities.”

    “In this project, I will continue my work in this area by examining how African Americans of different ages perceive members of law enforcement. In particular, this work will examine how attitudes regarding law enforcement form, conversations African American parents have with their children regarding police and strategies individuals and families in low-income communities use to maintain safety in their communities,” she said.

    Chaney is a Black families’ scholar with broad interests in the formation, structure, and function of Black families. In particular, her research examines the narratives of single, dating, cohabiting, and married Blacks, as well as how religion and spirituality support these families, both historically and today. Using a variety of theoretical lenses, she qualitatively explores intimacy and commitment in Black heterosexual relationships, emphasizing how demonstrations and perceptions of masculinity/manhood and femininity/womanhood shape this discourse.

    ONLINE: Police Use of Excessive Force against African Americans: Historical Antecedents and Community Perceptions: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498539180/Police-Use-of-Excessive-Force-against-African-Americans-Historical-Antecedents-and-Community-Perceptions

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    Twins’ superhero party at Knock Knock museum gives lessons, toys to others

    Diamond Sherrod and husband, Dr. Rome Sherrod hosted a birthday party with a cause for their 5-year-old twin sons, Rome and Paten.

    Diamond Sherrod rented the Knock Knock Children’s Museum Saturday, Sept. 28, and invited 50 of their friends, but the boys did not receive gifts. All of the gifts that their party guests brought were given to homeless children at St. Vincent de Paul.

    “I want to foster a spirit of empathy, gratitude and giving back in my kids and others, while bringing awareness to the difference between the socio-economic experience of their lives and the lives of kids who are homeless. (We) want to raise good human beings,” said the mother.

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    “I also want to encourage other parents to do the same,” she said. “Some of our kids are growing up with a sense of entitlement and even though they are young, it’s important to instill in them the value of practicing gratitude.”

    Sherrod said she and other parents are guilty of what she calls “perfectionist parenting.”

    “We’re worried about getting them into the best schools and getting the best grades or what they will be instead of being concerned with how they will be. This party experience (was) about changing the narrative of their lives to center around empathy, gratitude and giving back. We’re helping to create their story now.”

    During the Superheroes-themed party, she explained her goal and told the young guests that they are Superheroes of Louisiana for helping those in need.

    “True superheroes are giving, caring, courageous, kind, vulnerable, and empathetic,” Sherrod said.
    In addition to enjoying activities at the museum, the children made capes, had their faces painted, and took pictures with superheroes.

    Each child received a Superhero cape and a certificate. The twins also received Superhero of Louisiana certificates signed by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.

    Sherrod asked parents to join her in donating to an organization that hosts birthday parties for kids at homeless shelters. She’s raised more than $1,400–surpassing her goal of $1,000.

    Event planner Qunitina Ricks, of Flare Event Design, said more than 250 gifts were collected for homeless kids in Baton Rouge, and more than 150 guests attended Rome and Paten’s Royal Avengers Birthday Party.

    By Michelle McCalope
    The Drum Contributing Writer
    @thedrumnews

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  • In This Issue

    Cover story: Picture of Health Exhibit of people living with Invisible Illness
    Features: 3rd generation farming, Emoji R&B single, 5-year old twins host superhero party, ​Understanding Black suicide
    Ads: John bel Edwards, Tim Temple, Preston Castille, The Collective, Louisiana Lupus Foundation, Dr. Rani Whitfield, Louisiana Book Festival

    Read and share this issue now.

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    Tuquisha Adams takes marines to the fight aboard U.S. Navy Warship

    SAN DIEGO – Petty Officer 3rd Class Tuquisha Adams, a native of Shreveport, Louisiana, was inspired to join the Navy after her mother passed away.
    “I lost my mom and I was on a mission to make her proud,” Adams said. “One morning I woke up and the military was on my mind just out of blue.”

    Now, two years later, Adams serves aboard one of the Navy’s amphibious ships at Naval Base San Diego.“This is my first command,” Adams said. “Every day is a different experience. You never know what you’re going to get, but so far so good. I have had a learning experience. I have grown since I’ve been here.”

    Adams, a 2008 graduate of Fair Park High School, is an aviation boatswain’s mate handler aboard USS Essex, one of four Wasp-class amphibious assault ships in the Navy, homeported in San Diego.

    “I am a landing and launching aircraft petty officer,” Adams said. “I’m also training petty officer and assisting yeoman.”

    Adams credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Shreveport. “I learned to choose my friends wisely and never let anyone determine my future,” said Adams.

    Essex is designed to deliver U.S. Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts. Designed to be versatile, the ship has the option of simultaneously using helicopters, Harrier jets, and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles in various combinations.

    Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

    Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Essex. More than 1,000 men and women make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 1,200 Marines can be embarked.

    “They’re hard workers,” Adams said. “It comes with the field that they’re in.”

    Serving in the Navy means Adams is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

    A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.“Our priorities center on people, capabilities, and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

    Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Adams is most proud of earning a promotion to third class petty officer.

    “I was proud to see that my hard work didn’t go unnoticed,” said Adams.

    As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Adams and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

    “Serving in the Navy means that I’m a part of something huge,” Adams said. “I am fighting for people I would never meet a day in my life and that’s a good feeling.”

    By  Jerry Jimenez
    Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class
    Navy Office of Community Outreach
    Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jackson Brown
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    Southern’s enrollment climbs above 7,000

    Southern University and A&M College released its fall 2019 preliminary enrollment report giving indication of significant enrollment gains over the last few years at the institution. This year, Southern will host 7,031 students, representing a 5.1 percent increase in enrollment over the 6,693 students enrolled in the fall 2018 semester. Since the fall 2016 semester, when 6,357 students were enrolled, Southern has grown its enrollment by 10.6 percent over that time span.

    “We are certainly delighted that our flagship campus is once again booming with students who are seeking a dynamic higher education experience,” said Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System and chancellor of Southern University Baton Rouge. “This is a great testament to the hard work and dedication of our faculty, administration and staff. They have truly invested their time and knowledge in the academic progression of our students.  We believe that the university is moving in a positive direction and anticipate even greater gains in the near future.”

    The increase can be attributed to aggressive recruitment strategies, retention and intrusive advisement initiatives, and additional wrap-around services for students who may need increased assistance.

    The new enrollment numbers offer even more great news for Belton’s recently released strategic plan for the Baton Rouge campus, “Imagine 20K.” Recently released score card updates compiled by the Office of Strategic Planning, Policy and Institutional Effectiveness show that the Baton Rouge campus met or exceeded 89 percent of its expected outcomes for fall 2018 that included increases in dual enrollment, online enrollment, transfer enrollment, degrees awarded, grants awarded and number of financial gifts donated.

    “Imagine 20K,” the strategic plan to increase Southern’s student population to 20,000 by 2030, can be viewed at www.sus.edu/strategicplan.

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    Wyche named Deputy Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, making history

    For the first time, a Black woman was named deputy director at NASA’s Johnson Space Cent, the Houston Chronicle reports.

    Vanessa Wyche, 54, who has spent almost 30 years with the space agency, will be the second in command at the Houston facility where 10,000 civil service and contract workers are employed.

    She is the first African American to hold the position.

    The Johnson Space Center is one of NASA’s biggest locations and is run by Mark Geyer, per reports.

    “I am incredibly humbled to take on this role at JSC, and also excited to assist Mark with leading the home of human spaceflight,” Wyche said in a statement Wednesday, according to the Chronicle. “I look forward to working with the talented employees at JSC as we work toward our mission of taking humans farther into the solar system.”

    According to the Chronicle, Wyche hails from South Carolina and began working at the Johnson Space Center in 1989 as an engineer.

    In her NASA career, Wyche’s roles have included being a project engineer and acting director of Human Exploration Development Support.

    “Vanessa has a deep background at JSC with significant program experience in almost all of the human spaceflight programs that have been hosted here,” Geyer told the Chronicle. “She is respected at NASA, has built agency-wide relationships throughout her nearly three-decade career and will serve JSC well as we continue to lead human space exploration in Houston.”

    Wyche received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering and bioengineering, respectively, and previously worked for the Food and Drug Administration, according to reports.

    Credit – www.blackpressusa.com

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    Tekema Balentine Crowned Miss Black USA 2019

    Newly-crowned Miss Black USA 2019 Tekema Balentine, who has a strong desire for civic engagement, plans to use her platform to advocate on for mental health awareness.

    Balentine is an activist, scholar, and social justice advocate from Madison, Wisconsin who is a also pursing a nursing degree at Madison College.  She is a caregiver, track and field coach and sits on the board for the P.A.T.C.H organization (Providers and Teens Communications for Health), which is an organization founded to advocate for health awareness and mental health resources for teens and adults.

    Balentine said she has a strong desire for civic engagement and plans to use her platform to advocate on for mental health awareness in the Black community. During her reign, she will serve as a celebrity advocate for the Heart Truth campaign to raise awareness of heart disease and promote healthy lifestyles.

    According to Black PR Wire, the pageant, a week-long event kicked off August 7 and culminated with the crowning of Balentine on August 11.  The event was live streamed as contestants opened with an upbeat dance number wearing heels by Liliana footwear, the official shoe sponsor.  Contestants were judged in Evening Gown, On Stage Interview, Talent and Personal Fitness.

    1st Runner up –  Miss Black Nevada USA – Aisja Allen

    2nd Runner up – Miss Black New York USA – Shannon Alomar

    3rd Runner up – Miss Black Tennessee USA – Alexis Cole

    4th Runner up – Miss Black Virginia USA – Hollis Brown

     

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    NAACP leads largest delegation of Blacks to Ghana for the Year of Return

    Nearly 300 Americans reconnected with their African roots in the journey of a lifetime marking the 400th Anniversary of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

     

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People led a delegation of nearly 300 people, ranging in age from four to 90, on a transformative journey from Jamestown, VA to Jamestown, Ghana to reconnect with their African roots and commemorate the Year of the Return – a landmark spiritual and birth-right journey inviting the global African family, home and abroad, to mark 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the United States.

    “In the Twi language of Ghana, ‘Sankofa’ translates to ‘go back and get it.’ We are standing in our ‘Sankofa’ moment,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “We are proud to return to Ghana to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and reaffirm that our existence is one of strength, power, resilience, and liberation.  This experience has brought us all closer together and we have the knowledge we need to continue to fight for all of mankind. Strangers became sisters, fathers became mentors, children became playmates and a generation of the Black diaspora found their home.”

    The journey began August 19 with a ceremony at the Jamestown Historic Center to honor the first enslaved Africans to arrive at Point Comfort and Fort Monroe near Hampton, VA.  The reflective, yet uplifting event included a processional, remarks from local and national NAACP leaders and an opportunity for participants to write messages to their ancestors. The following day, the group visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC before traveling from Dulles International Airport to Accra, Ghana.

    Here are highlights from Ghana:
    Akwaaba! Homecoming Celebrations

    Drummers, dancers and local residents greeted the NAACP delegation at Kotoka International Airport, which included actor and humanitarian Danny Glover, as the group made their long-awaited arrival for the Year of Return. The group was first welcomed to the Jubilee House – the residence and office to the President of Ghana – for a photo opportunity, before heading to the Accra Visitor Center to meet with representatives from the Ghana Tourism Authority.

    Per Ghanaian tradition, the group paid a visit to the Mayor of Accra and Jamestown chiefs, who to announce their arrival welcomed them with a blessing. Warm greeting remarks were also provided by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana. The group also paid visits to the village chiefs and elders in Cape Coast, as well as the Ashanti Queen Mother, a direct descendant of Nana Yaa Asantewaa – one of Ghana’s most acclaimed heroines.

    Emotions Run Raw During Visits to Cape Coast Slave Castle & Assin Manso Last Bath River

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    The group visited Cape Coast Slave Castle – one of several castles along the coast of West Africa –  where millions of Africans suffered in dungeons at the hands of European slave traders. As the group wandered from chamber to chamber, hanging on to every word as the guide narrated the painful history of the ground they walked on, the agony in the air was almost tangible.

    “This has been the most life-changing moment of my life,” whispered an elderly woman to her daughter as they exited the female dungeons and walked toward the Door of No Return – the last port of exit before slaves were taken away from their homeland forever. On the other side of the door stood a placard that read, ‘Door of Return.’

    “They called this the ‘Door of No Return,’” said one of the tour guides. “They didn’t want you to come back but look at us now. You have returned. You have survived, and you have returned to us.”

    Following the tour, nearly 80 participants received the results of their African ancestry, through AfricanAncestry.com. People traced their roots to Cameroun, Togo, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal and more. The Haynes family, a multigenerational family of women traveling from Howard County, MD, were the last participants to be called. The crowd erupted in cheer and tears of joy when it was announced they were matrilineal descendants of the Akan people of Ghana.

    Business and Labor Summits; City Tours Encourage Year of Return Visitors to Invest in Ghana

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    Participants in the Jamestown to Jamestown journey, explored two complementing sectors in Accra, the cultural landmarks and monuments, and the prime opportunities for investment in the city, and to a larger extent, what the country represents for the Black Diaspora. Hosted by the Ghana EXIM Bank, NAACP President Derrick Johnson gave poignant remarks as to the purpose of the Jamestown to Jamestown trip, reminding the group that the threat to exploit Black labor is still an unfortunate reality across the world, and the need to recognize the value and power of Black labor and consumerism.

    The group also took part in a variety of group tours in Accra and the surrounding area, visiting sites such as the home and museum of one of the founders of the NAACP, W.E.B. Du Bois, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Park, the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine, and the very first cocoa farm in Ghana, the Tetteh Quarshe Memorial Cocoa Far

    ONLINE:https://www.naacp.org/ghana/

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    SU graduates 14 farmers from Ag Leadership Institute

    SU Ag Center holds Graduation Ceremony for 7th Small Farmer Ag Leadership Institute

    Fourteen small farmers from seven states received certificates of completion during a graduation ceremony for Cohort VII of the SU Ag Center’s Regional Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute.

    The ceremony was held on Friday, August 16 in the Cotillion Ballroom of Southern University’s Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union.

    Fourteen participants from Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, Texas and Ohio graduated from the year-long course.

    Dawn Mellion Patin, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Extension and Outreach at the SU Ag Center, served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony. During her presentation, Patin discussed how the leadership institute was developed and encouraged the graduates to help other small farmers.

    “We expect you to share what you have learned in conversations with aspiring small farmers,” said Patin. “We expect you to host field days, workshops, and pasture walks so others can see what you are doing,” she said.

    The Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute is designed to guides small, limited-resource and minority farmers through the process of becoming more competitive agricultural entrepreneurs.

    The overriding goal of the Institute is to promote small and family farm sustainability through enhanced business management skills, leadership development and the utilization of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services.

    The Cohort VII regional graduates of the Regional Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute are:
    Anthony Barwick, Ohio; Kay Bell, Texas; Keisha Cameron, Ga.; Mark Chandler, Va.; Debora Coleman, Miss.; Felton DeRouen, II, La.; Hilery “Tony” Gobert, Ga.; Royce Martin, Ala.; Lennora Pierrot, Ala.; Gregory Smith, La.; Brad Spencer, Miss.; Joy Womack, La.; Virgil Womack, La.; and Oliver Whitehead, Va.

    ONLINE: http://www.suagcenter.com/page/small-farmers.

    By LaKeeshia Giddens Lusk

     

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    Blind DJ inspires BR, Shreveport music scene

    Alton Dalton was born visually impaired in Amite. He is the youngest child of Wilma Dalton who moved the family to Baton Rouge for her young son to attend the Louisiana School for the Blind.

    As a child, Alton Dalton displayed a natural talent for music. His favorite memory was going to the Ziegler Music Store on Florida Blvd. listening to bands practicing using stereo equipment. He learned to play the drums as a child and often was allowed to play in church. While at the Louisiana School of Music, Dalton was exposed to turn-tables by a blind DJ. He instantly took to learning the equipment and practicing his DJ skills.

    In 2004, Wilma Dalton moved her family to Shreveport. There, his DJ career took off.

    From 2004 – 2013, he became a popular DJ known as “DJ K-Rock”. He began receiving DJ gigs at local clubs, birthday parties, and also worked for a short time as an online DJ for KHAM Radio. Word around town spread about an outstanding DJ who happens to be blind. “At first, people did not believe I was really blind. They would say, ‘no way someone blind could be doing that’,” he said.

    KHAM Radio's Alvin "DJ K-Rock" Dalton with David Banner at theShreveport Convention Center March 18, 2017

    KHAM Radio’s Alton “DJ K-Rock” Dalton with David Banner at the Shreveport Convention Center March 18, 2017

    He has been a featured DJ at Club Voodoo, Club Chicago, Coco’ Pellis, Disco 9000, Club Status, Mr. Bees, Club Lacy’s, Player’s Club, Club Navels, and Brickhouse–all in Shreveport. Veteran Radio Host and DJ Marvin “DJ Jabba Jaws” Williams on 102.1 KDKS Radio Station speaks highly of Dalton’s DJ skills and how he could control an audience.

    After 2013, the DJ business began to decrease and Dalton decided to relocate Baton Rouge to be close to his mother while still traveling to Shreveport for DJ gigs. Dalton usually spends his days monitoring the health and welfare of his mother, while being an active member of the Way of Holiness Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

    Earlier this year, he decided to put serious efforts into advertising his DJ Services in Baton Rouge. He reached out to several local night clubs about being a DJ but no one gave him serious consideration. He could not help to think that perhaps his disability was causing club owners to shy away from him.

    “I am not sure if they do not believe I can do it or just do not want to give me the opportunity to prove I can DJ,” he said. Not to be deterred, Dalton has taken a grassroots approach to promoting his DJ services. He has offered to DJ local birthday parties as a way of getting his name out in the Baton Rouge community. Alvin is determined to show inspire others that although you have a disability you can accomplish great things if you do not give up.

     

    Submitted by Laurence Williams

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    Keeping finances fresh throughout the year

    (Family Features) For many Americans, reaching and maintaining financial stability is a goal that tops their checklists. However, the strategies necessary for achieving that goal can quickly fall by the wayside.

    Consider these tips from Bank of America Credit Cards Executive Jason Gaughan that you can put in place to help keep your finances in check throughout the year.

    Make Financial Goals More Attainable

    The key to achieving financial goals is to make them measurable. Try to focus on achievable outcomes that slowly push you in the right direction financially. For example, if you are planning to make a large purchase, give yourself a specific, short-term goal like saving $50 from a paycheck so you can effectively measure your progress and build toward your purchase over time.

    Redeeming your credit card rewards wisely can also help you more seamlessly reach your financial goals. Some cards allow you to redeem cash rewards directly into a checking or savings account or to apply to your credit card balance. In some cases, rewards can also be applied into longer-term investments like 529 accounts for college savings or a retirement fund, letting your everyday spending help fuel your future goals.

    “Earning cash back on everyday purchases can provide extra funds to invest, splurge on a family vacation or put a down payment on a new car,” Gaughan said. “Whatever your financial goals are, a rewards card can help you get closer to achieving them.”

    Reduce the Number of Credit Cards in Your Wallet

    A Bank of America survey found 52% of Americans weigh down their wallets with multiple cards to earn rewards across different categories. By choosing a flexible credit card that allows you to earn benefits across various categories, you can consolidate and eliminate the need to juggle a variety of rewards cards.

    One flexible card option is the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, which allows you to choose from one of six categories – gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement – to earn 3% cash back on purchases each month along with 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, up to $2,500 each quarter. Cardholders also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cards such as this reward all your purchases, especially those in the places where you spend most frequently so you can maximize your cash back.

    Cut Unnecessary Spending and Tackle Debts

    If you’re dreaming of financial freedom, a budget is one of the first steps toward getting there. Start by reviewing bank and credit card statements from at least the past three months to gain a better understanding of your spending habits and identify areas you could improve. While cutting back on non-essentials is typically a good place to start, this is also an opportunity to identify areas you can get better deals by switching providers for things like car or homeowner’s insurance as well as your cellphone, internet and other home services.

    Once you’ve addressed your expenses, consider tackling your debts. To determine which debts need to be prioritized, look at the interest rates and principal costs of each and focus on paying off debts with higher interest rates first. Reducing your debt should take priority over most savings goals.

    Discover New Ways to be Rewarded

    You may be eligible to enroll in a banking rewards program like Bank of America Preferred Rewards, which gives members access to a variety of everyday banking benefits including credit card rewards bonuses on eligible cards from 25-75%, home and auto loan discounts, free stock trades, ATM fee waivers and more.

    Layering your banking rewards program together with airline, hotel, credit card, dining and shopping rewards programs can help boost your financial rewards earnings to the highest level.

    Use Digital Banking Tools to Gain Full Visibility Into Your Finances

    When using a combination of multiple rewards and savings strategies, it can be hard to keep track of where and how much you’re earning and saving at a given time.

    Your bank may offer digital tools that provide assistance and resources to simplify your banking experience. For example, some digital dashboards allow cardholders to track their rewards earnings and redemptions, and discover additional benefits. Those using their bank’s application on their computer or phone can typically manage their rewards, deals and benefits across multiple rewards programs.

    Keep Tabs on Your Credit Reports and Scores

    A numeric representation of your credit, your credit score signifies to lenders what kind of borrower you are. Because it influences everything from mortgage and auto loan rates to credit card approvals, keeping an eye on where you stand can be important in achieving your financial goals. It’s smart to periodically check your credit score to make sure everything is accurate and know where you stand. You can check your score through the major credit bureaus, and some credit card issuers even allow you to view your score for free through online or mobile banking.

    The key to keeping your finances fresh is to create a simple strategy that allows you to push toward your financial goals all year long. By consolidating your wallet, creating realistic goals and budgeting, you can set yourself up for financial success. Find more solutions at BankofAmerica.com.

    Earn Rewards Where You Spend Most

    According to the spending analysis of more than 50 million Bank of America credit and debit cardholders, the average cardholder spent $3,174 on groceries, $2,430 on dining, $2,319 on travel and $1,627 on gas last year.

    “Regardless of whether your spending priorities change frequently or remain steady, you should consider a flexible card that allows you to earn cash back across multiple categories that align with your spending patterns,” Gaughan said.

    Photo courtesy of Getty Images

     

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    Southern University plants first seeds in medical marijuana venture

     Southern University this week officially planted its first seeds in its unprecedented partnership to supply medicinal marijuana for patients in Louisiana. Present were representatives from the Southern University System administration, Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, and Southern product vendor Ilera Holistic Healthcare.

    “This has been a historic week for the university,” said Ray L. Belton, Southern University System president-chancellor. “As one of two institutions in the state and the only historically black university in the nation to be actively involved in the medicinal marijuana industry, Southern looks forward to working with our vendor to provide quality medication for the people of this great state. This will not only make yet another mark in how we excel in STEM disciplines but also how we greatly contribute to our communities.”

    Southern received final clearance from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry on Monday, July 22, after a final walkthrough of the facility located in Baker. Planting began on Tuesday, July 23.

    “We remain on target with all of our benchmarks,” said Janana Snowden, lead researcher and director of Southern’s Institute for Medicinal Plants. “We look forward to having products to the market soon.”

    Snowden, who is also an agriculture professor, said opportunities are on the horizon in academic, research, and other disciplines at Southern.

    The University is slated to receive more than $6 million over five years per its agreement with its vendor. Another beneficiary of the plan is the north Baton Rouge area, with the facility set to employ more than 40 people who will be responsible for growing, manufacturing and distributing pharmaceutical grade medicines from the cannabis plant.

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    Hundreds honor slain civil rights icon, museum founder remembered for living a life of purpose

    Hundreds of people including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, BatonRouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, other elected officials, community leaders, and even residents who barely knew Sadie Roberts-Joseph filled the pews at Living Faith Christian Center to say goodbye to a woman who was remembered for living a life of purpose.

     “What she has done has inspired me and all of us,” said Edwards.  “That’s why we’re all here.”

    Roberts-Joseph, the founder of the Baton Rouge African American History Museum formerly known as the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American History Museum, was found dead in the trunk of her car on July 12. She was 75.

    The mother and grandmother who was affectionately known as “Ms. Sadie” was also a civil rights icon who hosted the city’s Juneteenth celebration. She was known for her dedication to bringing peace and unity to the community.

    “She was a lady small in stature, but mighty in spirit,” the governor said.  “I hope everyone will continue telling Ms. Sadie’s story. Let us never forget what Ms. Sadie stood for – education, love, and community. She was a leader in this community.”

    Broome echoed those sentiments.

    “Sadie Roberts Joseph was a beacon of light in our community. She was the matriarch of our community,” said Mayor Broome.  “She lived a life of purpose. She was a woman on a mission.”

    People from all walks of life came to pay their final respects. Big spray flowers and a quilt that had been donated by a man in Arkansas flanked her wooden casket as her big family (she was one of 12 siblings) and others looked on.

    Many who came barely knew her but admired her spirit and dedication.
    “I had met Ms. Sadie maybe one time, but I just felt like I needed to show my support,” said Patricia Francois.  “I liked what she was doing for people. She was trying to help everybody.”
    Roberts-Joseph also received several proclamations from the governor,  mayor, several state representatives, and U.S. Congressman Cedric Richmond.
    Her nephews remembered their aunt as someone who was curious about life and asked a lot of questions. She was also the one in the family who didn’t have a lot of rhythm, they joked – someone who marched to the beat of her drum.
    “She lived a life offbeat, but on purpose,” said her nephew the Rev. Shalamar Armstrong.
    Community leaders promised to continue to support the efforts started by “Ms. Sadie.” They urged those in attendance to do the same.
    “Just don’t talk about what she stood for,” Broome said.  “Stand for what she stood for.”
    On July 16, Baton Rouge police arrested Ronn Bell, 38, Robert-Joseph’s tenant, and charged him with first-degree murder. They say Bell was $1, 200 behind on his rent.
    By Michelle McCalope
    Special to The Drum
    Read more »
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    From cotton fields to NASA: Southern alum and professor recounts working on Apollo 11 mission

    Growing up picking cotton in St. Joseph, Louisiana, Morgan Watson never in his wildest dreams envisioned that he, along with six other men, would become the first Black engineers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and participate in sending the first man to the moon.

    “It was a great feeling knowing that I would be in the number to help get the first man to the moon,” Watson said. “Our group was among the best and brightest engineers working on the (Apollo 11) mission.”

    During his administration, President John F. Kennedy pledged to the nation that before his tenure ended that man would successfully land on the moon and return back to Earth. Amid a divisive political climate where segregation reigned heavily below the Mason-Dixon line, a group of Black engineering students from Southern University in Baton Rouge was chosen to “break the ice” on a new initiative and become interns for one of the country’s prestigious organizations-NASA. The young men moved to Hunstville, Alabama, to work at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Watson worked on several missions, including the Saturn Rocket Missions where he worked testing rocket components.

    “We were treated professionally and assigned meaningful tasks,” said Watson, describing his work experience. “We couldn’t fail because we knew that we were paving a legacy. I, personally, didn’t want to fail because I knew where I would end up — back in the cotton field.”

    Beyond the integrated grounds of NASA, Watson and his fellow students were not free from the familiar treatment of the Jim Crow South. Watson recounts attending a Ray Charles concert where there was a “rope right down the middle between the white and Black attendees.” However, familial bonds were quick to form among the students as they went to church services and participated in other activities together. They also lived with other Black families who treated them like blood relatives.

    When the Apollo 11 mission commenced, Watson was tasked with testing engine components for the launch to ensure its viability. Being in a room with senior engineers didn’t intimidate him. In fact, he had an advantage academically with not only taking the first computer science course at Southern but he also continuously took additional courses at a local college. He even wrote his own coding programs used to complete his tasks.

    “After watching recent reports on the mission’s anniversary, it brings back memories of how important my work was and the impact it made,” Watson said. “Because I grew up picking cotton in Northeast Louisiana, it was hard to visualize that my life would take a dramatic turn once I entered college and started working for NASA.”

    After success with the mission and his exceptional work ethic, Watson graduated and was immediately hired to work for NASA to work on the thermodynamics of the Saturn V in New Orleans. In 1968, he returned to Southern to work as a faculty member in the engineering department. Upon retirement, he established an engineering consultancy firm where he assists local and state agencies on community projects. At the 2016 Founders’ Day ceremonies, Southern awarded Watson and his fellow classmates with the President’s Medal of Honor.

    As Watson reflects on the 50th anniversary of the mission, he is proud of his work and the opportunity granted to forge an unwavering legacy. He is indebted to his alma mater, Southern University, for affording him this opportunity and being a “bridge over troubled water” for Black students.

    By Jasmine D. Hunter
    Contributing Writer

    Read more »
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    Community honors historian, activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph

    For more than three decades, Sadie Roberts-Joseph was an exceptional force of civic and cultural life in Baton Rouge. Often called an activist, matriarch, and a ‘tireless advocate of peace,’ the 75-year-old  founder of the city’s African-American history museum was found dead in the trunk of a car on Friday, July 12, about 3 miles from her home. Police did not explain what led them to the car where they found her body.

    Investigators believe she was suffocated before her body was found. Within days, Baton Rouge Police arrested and charged a male tenant from one of Roberts-Joseph’s rent houses with her murder. He was allegedly $1,200 behind in his rent.

    “You stole light,” said her son Jason Roberts. “You stole a warm loving giving and caring woman and it wasn’t just for her family. She cared for the city. She cared for you. Her life should not have ended that way. She did not deserve that, but she would want forgiveness for you.” In 2001, Roberts-Joseph founded the Odell S. Williams Now & Then African American Museum, which features exhibits of African art and tells the stories of minority inventors. It also includes displays of historical artifacts from the civil rights era, including a 1963 bus used during the Baton Rouge boycotts.

    Leading up to this year’s Juneteenth Celebration, she’d begun rebranding the museum as the Baton Rouge African American History Museum, which some recognized as an astute move to market it as the city’s museum and to connect it to other Black museums in Southeast Louisiana.

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph is the founder of the museum. Photo: Daniel Atkinson.

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph is the founder of the museum. Photo: Daniel Atkinson.

    “She was one of the standout matriarchs of Baton Rouge,” said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who knew and worked with Roberts-Joseph for 30 years. “We will make her legacy a priority because of what she gave so many here.” Roberts-Joseph was also the founder of the nonprofit organization Community Against Drugs and Violence, and she organized the state’s recognition of Juneteenth in Baton Rouge.

    Roberts-Joseph grew up in Woodville, Mississippi. Her family later moved to Baton Rouge, where she studied education and speech pathology. She consistently called for unity and togetherness, often explaining how the city and nation needed to heal from the legacy of slavery. “What my mother wanted in life came to fruition–ironically–in death,” said Angela R. Machen, Ph.D., “and that was inclusiveness, togetherness, and diversity.”

    Machen challenged the community to keep her mother’s legacy by living “a better life. Give a little more effort to make the whole better.” She said her mother was committed to community service and excellence, “Whatever you believe in, work hard in it. Give your dead-level best.”

    The family has created The Sadie Roberts-Joseph Memorial Fund at Hancock Whitney Bank and is hoping to raise funds that will go toward museum operations. The Southern University System Board of Supervisors presented a resolution to the family. The resolution outlined the commitment of Roberts Joseph to both her family and the city of Baton Rouge. These commitments included founding the museum. She was an alumna of Southern University.

    Baton Rouge's 2065 Plank Road is the site planned for a mural of Sadie Roberts-Joseph

    Baton Rouge’s 2065 Plank Road is the site planned for a mural of Sadie Roberts-Joseph

    “Our love for Sadie Roberts-Joseph will continue. We will demonstrate it in very tangible ways,” said Broome. For starts, the Mayor’s Youth Workforce Experience participants, led by The Walls Project and Build Baton Rouge, will paint a mural of the revered activist at 2065 Plank Road–the corner of Plank Road and Pawnee Street in North Baton Rouge. On Friday, July 20, LAMAR Corporation began erecting billboards around the city in memory of Roberts-Joseph.

     

     

     

     Lamar-Corporation-erects-this-bilboard-around-Baton-Rouge-in-memory-of-Sadie-Roberts-Joseph


    Lamar-Corporation-erects-this-bilboard-around-Baton-Rouge-in-memory-of-Sadie-Roberts-Joseph

    The community shares their memories and tributes:

    Gov. John bel Edwards: I am heartbroken and sickened by the disturbing death of Sadie Roberts-Joseph. @FirstLadyOfLA and I are praying for her family and the members of the Baton Rouge community who, like us, are struggling to understand this senseless act of violence. Many knew Sadie as the founder of Baton Rouge’s African-American History Museum and for her annual Juneteenth celebrations, but she was equally known for her kindness, vibrant spirit, and passion for promoting peace. Sadie was a storyteller, and I believe we have the responsibility of keeping those stories alive and working to, as she once said, “build a better state and a better nation.”

    Mayor Sharon Weston Broome: In the midst of managing a major weather event in our parish, I was hit with some devastating news – the murder of a dear friend and a mother of the community- Sadie Roberts Joseph. I’ve deliberately waited to comment because of the level of love and respect I had for Sadie; and because it was such shocking news. She loved this city and its people. Her commitment to the cultural and educational fabric of our community is beyond description. The development of The Odell S. Williams African American Museum is a testament of her visionary and pioneering leadership. In the days to come, I look forward to offering a more comprehensive tribute.

    h8-Sadie-Roberts-Joseph-dead-trunk-baton-rouge-african-american-museum

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph at the Odell S. Williams African American Museum

    State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle: My heart is empty… as I learned last night that Ms. Sadie Roberts Joseph was found murdered! This woman was amazing and loved her history. She never bothered anyone, just wanted to expand her African American Museum downtown, where she continually hosted the Juneteenth Celebration yearly. I loved working with her and am saddened by her death.

    Judge John Michael Guidry:  My friend Sadie Roberts-Joseph often had me as her Speaker for her Juneteenth Celebrations in South Baton Rouge or her Veterans Observance at Port Hudson. We bonded over 25 years ago when as a State Senator, I worked with the community group CADAV which she led in the Banks community. Her life was one of sacrificial service to others. She gave herself away so that God could use her. She reminded us of our history and has earned her place in the history of our community. Her death was tragic, but her life was a treasure. I choose to focus my thoughts not on how she died, but on how she lived. My condolences and prayers are with her family.

    State Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith: As I sit remembering my dear dear friend Sadie I know the tears I’ve shed do no more than help relieve my emotions. A lot of people knew or knew of Sadie but really didn’t know her. For those of us who did, who grew up in her time we knew a bit more.  Sadie’s death isn’t an opportunity for news sound bites without knowing her family or involving her family. I am disappointed. This is indeed a time for ALL who knew her and really want her legacy to be enshrined AND the perpetrators brought to justice to come together in unity. NO MAN IS AN ISLAND and we should be embracing her family and referring news outlets to them.  Some may not like this post but I respect her family and for as much time as she and I spent together dealing with the museum issues I could never politicize her death and there are others who feel as I do. I LOVED SADIE FOR WHO SHE WAS AND ADMIRED ALL SHE WAS TRYING TO DO FOR OUR COMMUNITY.  UNIFY FOR THE LOVE OF Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph!

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph from The Drum archives

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph from The Drum archives

    Donna Collins Lewis: My heart is aching. I have known Ms. Sadie for over 30 years. A wonderful, sweet and quiet soul. Soft-spoken with a passion for the community and African American History and Art. I pray for a quick resolution in bringing the person responsible to justice. I pray Gods strength and peace for her family and the many lives who are saddened by her death. May her legacy and work continue to live through the African American Museum and the many efforts she championed in the community. She leaves her footprint on the entire parish and far beyond.

    NAACP Baton Rouge Branch. We lost a Cultural Legend Yesterday!#RIP Sadie Roberts Joseph. From reviving Juneteenth, to the Culture preserved at Her Museum, she was a trendsetter and icon in this City.

    The King Center: ‪We mourn. Sadie Roberts-Joseph was the founder and curator of the Baton Rouge African-American Museum, which she started in 2001. She was a tireless advocate of peace.

    Baton Rouge Police Department: The Baton Rouge Police Department joins the community in mourning the loss of Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community. We had opportunities to work with her on so many levels. From assisting with her bicycle give away at the African American Museum to working with the organization she started called CADAV. (Community Against Drugs and Violence) Ms. Sadie is a treasure to our community, she will be missed by BRPD and her loss will be felt in the community she served.

    California artist Nicholas Smith of Nikkolas Design shared this rendering of Sadie Roberts-Joseph

    California artist Nicholas Smith of Nikkolas Design shared this rendering of Sadie Roberts-Joseph

    Broderick Bagert: Shocked & saddened by the death of Ms. Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph. She founded the Now & Then Museum of African American History in Baton Rouge on a shoestring as part of her life-long project to teach Black history & civil rights. She was part of Together Baton Rouge from its earliest days. Ms. Sadie was a calm presence. And a fierce presence, in every fiber of her being. May she rest in peace. And may the rest of us live up to her legacy, STARTING by supporting her vision for the Then & Now Museum.

    Paula Johnson-Hutchinson: On this day, Ms. Sadie told me that writing books of our lives and culture ensures the sustainability of us and that we wouldn’t be forgotten. She also said that sharing knowledge and being true teachers of our children will provide a pathway that will long outlive us.

    LSU Office of Diversity: Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph founded the Baton Rouge African-American Museum which tells the stories of African-Americans in Louisiana throughout history from the cotton grown in the museum’s garden to artifacts like a 1953 bus from the year of the city’s public bus boycott protesting racial segregation. Ms. Roberts-Joseph gave away bicycles at the museum and started a community organization to fight drugs and violence. She was known as a quiet leader and tireless advocate of peace in the community. Our LSU family mourns her tragic loss.

    Res-Brother StanleyWe have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph and Judge Trudy White at the annual Kwanzaa celebration. Photo by David Modeste

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph and Judge Trudy White at the annual Kwanzaa celebration. Photo by David Modeste

    David Modeste: Much respect to Sister Sadie for her tireless efforts to uplift the community in every way she knew how. We especially appreciate her active contribution and participation in the Baton Rouge Kwanzaa Celebrations sponsored by Afrocentric Focus Group of Baton Rouge.

    Walter Geno McLaughlin: We’ve all posted about it and reacted to the news locally. And now we see the lens of national news outlets focused on the death of Miss Sadie. Fitting, yet unexpected. It’s strange how in death we seek to honor those who have done so much to uplift our community on a daily basis. But this video shows how she lived; with a smile on her face, a quiet force of nature, motivated by the need to narrate & curate our own stories. One of the last times I saw Miss Sadie, she was hopeful that with all the renewed energy towards investment in underserved neighborhoods, her little museum would not be forgotten and would receive the resources to make it sustainable. This woman did so much with so little. And like many others who do this work, probably never knew the full weight of her impact. It is why it’s important to clap for people while they are here, and give them the fuel to keep moving forward. I’m left to wonder who would do such a thing to someone we all loved, and at this tender age. There is speculation beyond the normal motives, and we must ask tough questions. But as we all prepared for the coming storm, I believe she was likely still helping people, not fully aware of the dangers, whatever they were. What I do know is that her funeral will be full of dashiki wearing brothers and sisters emulating the look she was synonymous for. Rest in Power Queen. We will take it from here.

    Niles B. Haymer: This morning I visited the African American Museum that was so loved by her and I could feel her spirit and presence throughout along with her love of displaying African American History in Baton Rouge. I got a chance to speak with Ms. Sadie this past February at a Black History Program sponsored by Councilwoman Erika Green where I promised Ms. Sadie that my kids would soon visit her museum for a photo op with her. My oldest son even wondered loudly why I’ve never taken him to the museum in front of Ms. Sadie. Of course I was embarrassed and gave him that look of “I’ll deal with you later.” Unbeknownst to my son, he was right, many families of all races should have supported this historic museum and still have time to do so. Sadly, that day never came for my kids, Ms. Sadie and that well-anticipated photo op. Violent crime in Baton Rouge is an unspeakable epidemic that’s stealing the soul of this City. I know that the candlelight vigil this evening will be well attended and I wanted to just take in her life’s work without disruption. Rep. C. Denise Marcelle has assisted the family in setting up the Sadie Roberts Joseph Memorial Fund at Hancock Whitney Bank. This is our chance to give to a worthy cause by keeping this museum open and well funded.#JusticeforSadie

    Councilwoman Erika Green: Today, I speak Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph’s name! Though her life was taken by a heartless person in this city yesterday, I am comforted in remembering the community and the African-American history she carried in her soul. She loved and told the story of our people.

    Sketch of Sadie Roberts Joseph by Antoine GHOST Mitchell. 225.933.7090. @the_art_alchemist  AntoineGHOST.  Facebook: PoeArtry Creative Movement, LLC

    Sketch of Sadie Roberts Joseph by Antoine GHOST Mitchell. 225.933.7090. @the_art_alchemist AntoineGHOST.
    Facebook: PoeArtry Creative Movement, LLC

    Shenena Armstrong Merchant: Aunty Sadie was a light to the Armstrong family, she taught me through her actions how to smile through it. So in spite of my tears, I’m smiling because her legacy lives on; bigger, stronger, and more loving.

    Jeremy L. Blunt: My heart mourns today at the loss of such a pillar of our community. I met Mrs. Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph as a teenager and can still remember our conversations where she encouraged me to keep striving for others. She told me that one day, I too would be one of those on her wall. We have to not just seek justice for her but seek betterment in our community by how we treat one another. Love is a universal language that does not discriminate. Remember what she lived for and carry that message on.

    Lloyd Benson II: Thank you, Queen, for always inspiring and encouraging us to learn, respect, and appreciate our heritage.

    Sadie Roberts Joseph. Photo by Jason Shi Roberts

    Sadie Roberts Joseph. Photo by Jason Shi Robert

    Tiffany Littlejohn: My Aunt Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph always wanted to be famous. Her story is breaking twitter, being shared by CNN, CBS, ABC, ESSENCE magazine, BET, Instagram, US News, New York Times, Perez Hilton, New York Daily News, and the list goes on and on… TAKE YOUR PLACE QUEEN, TAKE YOUR PLACE.

    LaNeir Roberts: Aunt Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph was beautiful, smart, truly a phenomenal woman, and loved the Lord. I will never forget our Christmas light adventure. Never saw the Christmas lights but we managed to find the railroad tracks (lol). When we asked to listen to the radio Aunt Sadie turns it to the politics station; and we expressed to her that we wanted to listen to rap music… she started banging on the steering wheel lol. Aunt Sadie was definitely a character but she was also an educator and loved by so many. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Please please please continue to pray for my family as we support each other through this difficult time. Rest in paradise Auntie, until we meet again.

    Quentin Anthony Anderson Sr.: So, it was great to see everyone at Ms. Sadie’s vigil last night. But many of y’all admitted that it was the first time you had ever stepped foot on the campus of that museum. That’s fine, a lot of people hadn’t and it speaks volumes to how big of an impact Ms. Sadie left on Baton Rouge that so many people were touched by her and hadn’t even see her in her purest element as a historian and curator. But that museum is our history, Black Baton Rouge. And it’s her legacy. If you were willing to come out in the heat and endure an entire church service and 4 closing prayers for Ms. Sadie yesterday, the least you can do is support the museum-going forward. Visit the museum. Take your kids. Volunteer (Ms. Sadie really wanted to maintain those column murals and the maps on the ground, hint hint). Donate monthly to keep the museum open. Sharon Weston Broome, designate the museum as a local historical landmark and protect it from greedy developers. We all have a part we can play as a community. As my friend Myra Richardson says, make this a movement, not a moment. Make this important to you beyond just today, beyond it trending on your favorite timeline. If you truly care about Ms. Sadie and her legacy, let’s protect and preserve it by supporting her crown jewel.

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph speaks during the 2019 Juneteenth event.Photo by Yulani Semien

    Myra Richardson:Last summer, Byron Washington and Ms. Sadie asked me work with the museum because she said she needed some “youthful energy”. I’m eternally grateful for both of those relationships. However, one of the things that struck me was when she told me the Museum was an extension of her. Every piece collected in that museum passed through her delicate fingers, every tour was different as she would recount how she got a different artifact. I thought I was an intense person but spend a few days a week on a hot bus with that women and she’ll learn you a thing or two. She made me read endlessly but she talked to me more about how important oral history is and passing down stories. She was a walking book and just wanted to share the museum with the world. She dreamed of renovating the building and connecting it to the building behind it, even thought of renaming it once. The last piece of literature she had me read was about Oscar Dunn. In 1868, Dunn became the first elected Black lieutenant governor of a U.S. state. His sentiments were written during reconstruction hailing from the great State of Louisiana but Ms. Sadie wanted me to draw parallels that he was essentially asking for the same thing 151 years ago that we’re asking for today. She viewed knowledge of history as an equalizer, she wanted me and youth across Louisiana to have access to that museum purely because knowledge is more than power … it’s a labor of love. That museum is Ms.Sadie, that museum is more than a legacy … it’s a living breathing organism birthed from her dreams, travels, relationships and love for all of us. That museum is my chief priority and should be yours as well.

    Byron Washington: Many people will rightly so build memorials and vigils. I think the best way to Honor Sadie is to honor her legacy. Honor what she put her heart and soul in. Donate, find funding sources, and promote the museum. Make it so the doors will never close and we will never lose its memory. Learn your local history and embrace your local culture. It is unique and should be celebrated from the mountain tops.  So instead of buying a bunch of flowers, although you certainly are within you right and in many cases should let’s put that money into the facility. Let’s put our energy into the grants. Let’s put our focus into promotion.

    Stephanie Anthony She was a fellow worker in the vineyard, a kind, sweet lady I can’t wrap my mind around what our city has become capable of these days. What a great loss. Prayers for her family.

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph at mic

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph at mic

    Johnny Anderson: The recent murder of my dear and sweet 75-year-old friend Sadie Roberts-Joseph has greatly disturbed me, personally, and Baton Rouge, collectively!! I have so many questions but, I know my friend, Baton Rouge Chief of Police Murphy Paul will do his all to find and appropriately charge the person or persons who committed such a horrific crime!! What is on the mind(s) of anybody to kill a 75-year-old Christian, mother, grandmother, humanitarian, community Activist, human and civil rights activist, African-American historian and protector of the culture, lover of arts, fighter for the people’s cause…! Not only kill her but, stuff her in the trunk of a car!!?  So many times, when I was in government, at the state or federal level, Sadie had no problem making her way there to my office and express her opinion on issues or to advocate for help for the least! I never knew her children, grandchildren or relatives because she never came asking for help for them, it was always about helping others! One of my more recent memories of her was she coming to my office to express concerns with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) where she had taken upstate property for her Museum expansion, painting African-American heroes on State post and was NOT moving it!  Then on another occasion to have me as her guest speaker at the Museum! I was so hot that day, looks like it was 90+ degrees but, she thought that my removing my jacket, on the OUTSIDE, where I was speaking, would lower the dignity of her activity/event…and I was crazy enough to listen to her and kept my coat though they got a shorter version of my speech!! She was always soft-spoken but, very forcefully about her position, that was not easily change! Sadie had a small voice but, strong convictions about her causes! She hardly shouted at anyone but, she never stop coming to the “gate” to help others! She often reminded me of the woman in the Bible that came night and day to “bother” the one in authority until she ultimately got what she wanted!! Sounds familiar LA DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson and Attorney Joshua G. Hollins?!  Sadie Roberts-Joseph was persistent! She knew how to ask you for financial support for the Annual Juneteenth Celebration without ever asking you for a penny,  which by the way, should now be appropriately entitled the “Sadie Roberts-Joseph Juneteenth Celebration!” I want her murderer(s) to be brought to justice!! Did they even know what this women embodied…who she was…what she meant…who she fought for…her commitment…her love…did they know?!!! Rest well my friend…you wrought well while here!!

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter
    @jozefsyndicate

    READ MORE:

    • Sadie Roberts-Joseph on Wikipedia:20190717_091734_resized https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadie_Roberts-Joseph
    • BRPROUD. Sadie Roberts-Joseph impacted the lives of several in her community https://www.brproud.com/news/local-news/sadie-roberts-joseph-impacted-the-lives-of-several-in-her-community/
    • CNN: Sadie Roberts-Joseph exuded a ‘quiet power’ as she enriched her community. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/16/us/sadie-roberts-joseph-profile/index.html
    • Smithsonian Magazine: Sadie Roberts-Joseph, Slain Activist, Showed How Museums Can Raise Up Their Communities
    • ABC News: African American museum founder discovered dead in car trunk 
    • CNN: Baton Rouge police chief is ‘very confident’ they will make arrest
    • Washington Post: Activist who spotlighted African American history found dead in trunk of car, police say
    • ESSENCE: Sadie Roberts-Joseph, Founder Of Baton Rouge’s African American History Museum, Found Dead
    • NPR: Founder Of African American History Museum Discovered Dead In Car Trunk
    • VIBE: Suspect Arrested For Death Of Activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph
    • Big Easy Magazine: African American Museum Founder Sadie Roberts-Joseph Found Dead in Car Trunk
    • The Insider: A beloved Baton Rouge activist and founder of African American Museum discovered dead in the trunk of her car
    • Democracy Now: Historian and Civil Rights Activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph Found Killed https://www.democracynow.org/2019/7/16/headlines/historian_and_civil_rights_activist_sadie_roberts_joseph_found_killed
    • Teen Vogue: Sadie Roberts-Joseph, Activist and Museum Founder, Is Remembered by Friends and Family After She Was Found Killed. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/sadie-roberts-joseph-activist-museum-founder-remembered-by-friends-family-murdered
    • WTOC. Family of Sadie Roberts-Joseph mourns activist’s death. https://www.wtoc.com/2019/07/17/family-sadie-roberts-joseph-mourns-activists-death/
    • USA TODAY. Baton Rouge mourns after beloved activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph found dead in trunk of a car. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/07/15/baton-rouge-mourns-death-sadie-roberts-joseph-autopsy/1733992001/
    • THE ADVOCATE. Our Views: Sadie Roberts-Joseph’s grace should live on. https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/opinion/our_views/article_5a05cc9a-a805-11e9-8fb0-ff04c0cecf02.html?fbclid=IwAR05C0L86YY5Jc26WOyfWriCCnF3ivVQWKbLXyc5ozv5RFmsRiWjfyD53HU

    Share your memories and photos of Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Email news at thedrumnewspaper dot info, comment below.

    Read more »
  • ,

    ‘I became a FarmHer by default’

    A young pioneer in Internet radio, Nicolette “Missy” Gordon started MissyRadio.com in 2011, trending through an online business model that had only surfaced on the national scene.  The path made sense for a 20-something broadcast journalist who’d been “on the air” with Citadel Broadcasting’s WEMX-FM Max 94.1 for years. From there, she went on the graduate studies only to return to her alma mater as an area youth agent at the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

    But it was a memory of a conversation she had with her grandfather, Robert Pope, that gives her a “mission” today.

    “When I told him I was going back to school, he asked me ‘Why are you doing that? I’ve given you everything you need,” she said.

    And he had.

    Grandpa Pope and his wife, Ora, left 128-acre farm in Greensburg, La., to a family of seven granddaughters with Nicolette being the one to pick up their legacy and return to farming.

    “I became a FarmHer by default,” she often jokes, “but in all actuality, it was destined to happen.” The third-generation farmer has pulled her talents and skills in youth development, small business management, community organizing, and nontraditional teaching to develop one of her largest personal projects: managing the family farm which includes livestock pasture and woodlands.

    “My family has been farming for centuries, I have a sharecropping document from my great-great grandpa,” she said.

    Her ultimate goal is to make sure that nobody in my community is hungry, and that our youth never forget what self-sustainability really looks like, she said. “As an assistant area agent, working with youth is 90 percent of my appointment. It’s been quite amazing to see the many youth that are still interested in agriculture.

    “I have noticed that urban farming is has taken on a life of its own, and it’s a wonderful thing. It’s one of the easiest ways that we can eradicate food deserts in inner cities such as Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” she said.

    However, she believes we’ve become too far removed from self-sustainability. “I can remember, as a child, we shelled our beans for dinner at Big Momma house…At eight years old, I knew how to plant, harvest, and shell speckled butter beans and crowder peas.”

    “My grandfather would always talk to me about preserving his legacy,” said Gordon. She began learning the business management side of farming and in 2018 she was selected to participate in the Southern University Ag Center’s Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute. She is a certified master gardener with a certificate in farm risk management. Missyradio

    Now, she is known in Ag circles as FarmHer Missy.

    What’s your mission/goal with your land? Basically, my mission is to pick-up where my grandfather left off but developing an Ag Enterprise.

    How much time are you currently spending in agriculture? I like to think every day is a teachable moment in agriculture. Agriculture is literally tied back to everything that we do, be it the workplace or at home. In the near future, we will open our farm for farm demo, and professional development opportunities.

    Who’s farming with you now? It’s definitely a family affair! My uncle, Robyn Pope, is a very important component of our farming operation because he knows every detail about our farm.

    Why are you farming when so many people are leaving agriculture and farming because of the labor and low wage? Farming is fulfilling, therapeutic, and it keeps me humbly connected to my roots. It is so important to never forget that farming was the only way of life for many of our families in rural America. So in essence, it can never be primarily about earning a wage for me.  This is the preservation of my families legacy for me, and there’s no amount of money that can ever top that… I love it! Many of the Baby Boomers will say, “Farming is hard work!” My reply is always, “Somebody gotta do it!”

    By Candace J Semien
    Jozef Syndicater reporter
    @jozefsyndicate

    ~~~~~~~~~~
    This feature, ‘Pensiri: A Talk with..,’ is a fascinating spotlight using narrative interviews and quick peeks into the interesting and unique lives of “average” human beings. From their spontaneous adventures, triumphs after tragedies, comical failures, and even the oddities of their personality, everybody has a story and every life has meaning. Enjoy the stories they share with Jozef Syndicate writers.

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  • ,,,,

    Following a residency with Jacksonville Symphony, Courtney Bryan takes her music to Rome

    Composer and pianist Courtney Bryan, Ph.D., has been awarded a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. She was awarded the esteemed Rome Prize for music composition in April. Bryan teaches in the School of Liberal Arts’ Newcomb Department of Music at Tulane University in New Orleans. She recently completed a two-year residency with the Jacksonville Symphony in Florida, where she was the Mary Carr Patton Composer in Residence. Her work incorporates jazz, experimental music, gospel, classical, and R&B to bridge “the line between the sacred and the secular,” she said.

    Bryan explores historical themes and political issues in her art.

    While in Rome, she will be working on an opera, musicals, and a special melodrama titled “Caracalla: Inner Monologue of an Emperor”. Out of 982 applications nationwide, independent juries selected 30 American and six Italian artists and scholars–including Bryan– as this year’s winners, each of which receives a stipend, workspace, and room and board on the Academy’s campus in Rome. Last year, she won the 2018 Herb Alpert award which is given annually to five risk-taking mid-career artists.

    According to Tulane University, one judge of the Herb Alpert award wrote, “We value your breadth, the ways you gather and create communities, and your creation of a new kind of cosmopolitan classical music imbued with fierce urgency of the moment and a real story to tell. We appreciate your concern for and commitment to spirit, social justice, and shifting power dynamics and we celebrate your profound connection to the human voice. We perceive that you are on a powerful journey and as listeners, we’re lucky enough to be on it with you.”

     

     

     

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  • ,,,,

    Seed to Stomach: Grow Baton Rouge’s Food Cubes, other innovations tackle hunger

    For organizers and volunteers of Grow Baton Rouge, the fight against food deserts in North Baton Rouge is beyond the “last mile” of getting fruits and vegetables to the community.

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    Produce on the Fresh Cube

    “We are committed to resolving this major problem, not only through our gardens, urban farms, and mobile markets but through an upcoming wave of innovative efforts and initiatives that will definitely have a great positive impact of NBR and the city as a whole,”said Jasiri Basel, executive director of THE CEO MIND Foundation.

    Innovative has been the perfect word to describe the ongoing presence of THE CEO MIND Foundation and its Grow Baton Rouge throughout the city. Since 2017, the group has established 11 gardens and two urban farms, launched three “Fresh Cube” mobile market vehicles, and a bus called “The Desert Destroyer.”

    It also houses science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics initiatives and programs ranging from a mobile innovation lab called “The Transformer” and Grill & Connect to a high-tech Youth Empowerment Zone at the MLK Community Center on Gus Young Ave. They also host Girls EmPOWERed, Womanhood 101, and Manhood 101 forums.

    The Transformer

    The Transformer

    Through the Grow Baton Rouge initiative, the foundation expands its mission into agriculture by providing seeds, launching community gardens in neighborhoods around the city of Baton Rouge, and giving 300 residents the knowledge and tools to begin growing at home.

    According to Basel, Grow Baton Rouge has a model that encompasses the full supply chain and logistics that involves area farmers, businesses, ag specialists, and certified growers–for starters.

    The latest Fresh Cube designed by THE CEO MIND Foundation for Grow Baton Rouge

    The latest Fresh Cube designed by THE CEO MIND Foundation for Grow Baton Rouge

    “It’s critical for communities to be able to feed themselves through sustainable farming. It not only aids overall but it’s critical for health and wellness. North Baton Rouge contains many miles, areas, and neighborhoods with food deserts and swamps,” said Basel.

    “We believe that as long as a community has land to grow food, that no one deserves to or should go hungry,” he said.

    Grow Baton Rouge hosts Market Days weekly at different locations. Visit the website, www.growbatonrouge.com, for times and locations.

    ONLINE: http://growbatonrouge.com
    www.THECEOMINDFoundation.org
    By Candace J. Semien
    @JozefSyndicate

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    South Baton Rouge Wellness Walk and Talk focused on ‘saving a life’

    The 2019 South Baton Rouge Wellness Walk and Talk was held on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at at the Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center on East Washington Street.

    The half-day event commenced with opening remarks from State Representative Patricia Haynes Smith. The welcome was given by Theta M. Williams, and Mada McDonald, Chair and Co-Chair.  The opening prayer was led by the Reverend Dale Flowers of New Sunlight Baptist Church.  Warm-up exercises were conducted by Theresa Townsend and the Sensational Seniors.  The Walk was led by Grand Marshal Helen Turner Rutledge and the Michael Foster Project.  Different arrangements of music were played, leading the crowd in Second Line renditions.

    first pic

    After the Walk, it was time to Talk.  The Program began with Greetings, offered by Jeffery Corbin, assistant director of the Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center.  Delores Newman gave a soul-stirring prayer, and a beautiful song was sung by Candace Addison, soloist.  The Walkers were then welcomed by Jared Hymowitz, as a representative of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s Office, and also by Theta M. Williams and Mada McDonald, Chair and Co-Chair of the SBR Wellness Committee.

     

    Acknowledgments of the 2019 SBR Walk and Talk Committee were made.  Grand Marshall and Committee Honorary Chair was Helen Turner Rutledge. She conceived of the 2018 South Baton Rouge Breast Cancer Walk and Health Fair.  In her honor, she led the Walk riding in a fully decorated white Mercedes Benz. It was also her idea to host the 2019 South Baton Rouge Wellness Walk and Talk. All of the SBR Wellness Committee members were introduced.

    Jeffery Corbin introduced the Keynote Speaker and the Panelists taking part in the discussion about various health concerns.  The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Cordel Parris of Parris Cardiologist, CIS. The panel consisted of Dr. Rani “The Hip-Hop Doc” Whitfield, who served as the panel facilitator; Shirley Lolis, executive director of Metro Health Education; Dr. Burke Brooks, of the Ochsner Health Care System; and Randy Fontenot, speaking about Mental Health.  Following the panel discussion, the attendees participated in a Q and A session.nine

    Lunch was prepared and served by SBR Wellness Committee member Ann Brown Harris and her Supporting Angels. The meal was healthy and delicious.

    There were 18 vendors on-site from numerous and various groups and organizations giving out valuable information.  Booths and tents were set up to meet and greet all attendees.

    Outside, several mobile units were present: Cancer screenings – breast, prostate, and colorectal – were conducted by Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center/Prevention On-the-Go Program; Mobile Mammography was done by Woman’s Hospital; HIV testing was provided by Metro Health in their clinic within the Leo Butler Community Center.

    The East Baton Rouge Police Department provided on-site security.  The walk began at the Leo Butler Community Center and proceeded up East Washington Street to Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive, up to Louise Street, passing McKinley Middle Magnet School, leading to Thomas Delpit Drive, left in front of the McKinley Alumni Center, and back down to East Washington Street, to the Leo Butler Community Center where the walk ended.

    In 2018, the focus of the South Baton Rouge event was Breast Cancer, which was an outstanding event.  In 2019, the goal was to introduce healthy initiatives, health awareness tips and techniques to the participants.  The primary concentrations of this year’s event were heart health, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS and mental health.

    On May 18, 2019, a testimony that touched many touched and saved one life after a female had her mammogram screening.  Immediately she was sent to one of the local hospitals for further testing, after having an abnormal screening result.  Talk about “saving a life”.

    Joseph London of “A Family Blessing” was the photographer for the event and captured all aspects of the Walk and Talk.

    The South Baton Rouge Wellness Walk and Talk Committee members are: Jacqueline Addison, Marian Addison, Jeffery D. Corbin, Jr., Jennifer Cortes, Linda Daniel, Jonathan Dearborn, Sandra Elbert, Ann Brown Harris, Jared Hymowitz, Cynthia Jones, Glinda Lang, Mada McDonald (Co-Chair), Dynnishea Miller, Helen Turner Rutledge, DeTrecia Singleton, Christine Sparrow, Rene Smith, Dr. Susan Thornton and Theta M. Williams (Chair).

    All of the attendees and participants received a gift bag full of assorted items.  Special thank you to all individuals, businesses, and organizations that provided the items for the bags in support of the event, and to the Baton Rouge Community for their support of the 2019 South Baton Rouge Wellness Walk and Talk.

    By Mada McDonald
    Community Writer

    Photographs by Joseph London
    A Family Blessing

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  • ,,

    Whitney Plantation: A tour of truth appropriate for Juneteenth

    EDGAR, La—On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned they were free from the United States institution of slavery. It was a great time of celebration and great trepidation. Thousands of the newly freed people had nowhere to go so they stayed on the plantations or near it, maintained the crops, and kept the plantation operational. Some lived as freed people. Some unknowingly continued living and being treated as slaves. This was the case of more than 300 African Americans living at the Haydel plantation from the late 1860s until 1975. To understand their stories and their brilliance within the confines of slavery and sharecropping, one would need to visit the Whitney Plantation in Edgar, Louisiana.

    “Use this time of Juneteenth to reflect on our individual families and their lives following slavery,” said genealogist and historian Antoinette Harrell who has followed family lineages in South Louisiana. According to a series of interviews published by Vice, Harrell has uncovered long-hidden cases of Black people who were still living as slaves a century past the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. She even interviewed a St. Charles, La. family who had been enslaved through the 1960s.

    Antoinette Harrell

    Antoinette Harrell

    “This is a time of celebration but it is also time to challenge ourselves to know more about our own families, to research and find out what happened to them at freedom, in slavery, and before then,” she said.

    This reflection and research has been done for the Haydel family who were the original owners of the Whitney Plantation. (It is now the nation’s sole plantation that tells the story of slavery through the eyes of the enslaved children who lived there.) This reflection is also being done by visitors—like the Semien family from Baton Rouge—who walked the grounds earlier this month.

    Here are the children’s thoughts:

    I really enjoyed the Whitney Plantation and loved how the guide made Black brilliance and intelligence a main part of the tour. She pointed out many times how knowledgeable the enslaved people were and that they were selected because of their intelligence and strength. Hearing that about my ancestors made me remember that I should always work hard and strive to do my best. It also made me wonder where my family is from. I believe that we are from Senegal or the Senegambia region of Africa like she explained because most of the Africans stolen and brought to Louisiana plantations as slaves were from that area. I also liked learning that these Blacks were actually powerful and brilliant and we saw that they created everything the white people needed and everything the plantation needed to make money with sugar cane. Another big thing that I took away from this experience was if my ancestors didn’t have anything but their intellect and still found a way to be successful, why can’t I strive for excellence with everything, too?

    —Yulani, 11

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    The guide at Whitley Plantation told about the legacy that was stripped from history books until now. We toured through concrete memorials with thousands of names and dates of slave purchases, births, and deaths etched in each. We were told about the horrors of living on the plantation and of slavery and the brutal ways people were treated and punished; and even after slavery was over, how they continued to disenfranchise Blacks to keep their minds, money, and bodies enslaved. Slaves were shackled around their necks and ankles as a way of punishment. Some were being buried alive. She shared how Catholicism and religious leaders were predators who benefited off the institute of slavery here and in France. However, slaves fought back in subtle ways. Breaking tools, pretending to be sick, working slowly, stealing small items or treats, and sneaking off into the bayou were examples of resistance. The guide said the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery New Year’s Day 1863 but the Whitney Plantation was up and running with the same families until 1975! That was only 44 years ago. When the slaves found out they were free, they had nowhere to go so they ended up sharecropping—which was still a form of slavery—until the closing of the plantation.

    This experience made me see the relationship between modern behavior and previous practices towards Blacks. The most impactful part was when the guide explained how Blacks were kidnapped for their intellectual skills and physical characteristics. She explained how the Africans’ knowledge was used to make the plantation profitable. In school we are taught this land we are living in is the land of the free, home of the brave even though the truth of the bravest people have been omitted or watered down in textbooks. Whitney Plantation told us the truth in many ways. What sticks with me the most is the fact that the enslaved people were brilliant architects and agriculturalists, great musicians, and amazingly strong. If they could do all that while in bondage, then there is much more that I could do.

    - Condoleezza, 13

    web whitney chains

     

    After discussing with the tour guide the different ways Africans built and worked around the plantation we realized some of the traits presented by the Africans on the plantation are also represented by their descendants today. The tour guide discussed the way that rice growing technique was enhanced by Blacks who never grew rice Africa but knew agriculture so well they could cultivate it in Louisiana better than their owners. She also explained how they were smart architects and carpenters who built the big house at Whitney without nails and placed it where air could circulate in the house based on the location. Some slaves were good at building and construction and were making houses or blacksmithing while others would harvest crops and manage the master’s home. Slaves with special talents—like playing instruments or singing— would work in at the plantation, then the overseers or masters would rent them out for their talent so he could make more money off the slave and his friends be entertained. This tour has stressed the importance of self-confidence and education. It helps us to see where we came from and some of us are shown that we have potential and can complete any task.

    - Collin, 14

    ONLINE: WhitneyPlantation.com

     By Cora Lester
    The Drum Managing Editor

    Read more with The Drum

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  • ,,,

    To Dad, With Love

    Gift ideas for a fantastic Father’s Day

    Dads can be notorious as the hardest family members to shop for, but come Father’s Day, there’s little doubt you’ll need a gift that shows dad just how much he means.

    Truth be told, your company is probably all dad really needs, but you can help deliver a little something he wants with these diverse ideas for all different kinds of dads. Remember, the secret to great gifting is giving something that shows you know and care about his personal interests.

    Find more ideas for all your gifting occasions at eLivingToday.com.

    A Sizzling Gift14734_B_UF
    Gift dad everything he needs to throw an impressive cookout any time he wants with the Father’s Day Gift Package from Omaha Steaks. He’ll be set for summer barbecues with steaks and more on-hand, including two tender filet mignons; two rich and indulgent ribeyes; four robust, juicy burgers and more. The package also includes German Chocolate Cake for a sweet way to end a backyard meal. Find more information and gift packages for dad at omahasteaks.com.

     

     

    Keep Him Connected14734_C_UF
    For the dad who’s always tuned in, there’s a way to provide him with entertainment and connectivity while protecting his hearing all at once. Whether he’s using a power saw or mowing the day away, dad can stream his favorite music with the 3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector with Bluetooth wireless technology to make his day both enjoyable and comfortable. With built-in features like high-fidelity audio, comfortable ear cushions and a low-pressure headband, he can even make and take phone calls without missing a beat. Find more information at 3M.com/WorkTunes. (Content courtesy of 3M)

    Subscribe to Style14734_D_UF
    Keep dad in style with all the latest looks with a clothing subscription. You can choose from services that coordinate complete outfits, options for accessories only or providers that select a handful of garments for each shipment. It’s a simple solution for a dad who takes pride in his appearance but never has time to shop or dislikes the shopping experience itself. Pricing varies quite a bit; in some cases, dad will need to pay a styling fee while with other services he’ll pay only for the items he keeps.

    A Cut Above
    Practical tools can be the perfect gift, and a pocket knife is such a useful choice that it’s hard to go wrong. For a more sentimental approach, consider a knife with a laser-cut personal message, or go ultra-functional with a multi-tool design. Keep in mind that lesser quality blades may require more frequent sharpening, but they’ll generally do the job just as well as pricier models. Also be conscious of the weight and features like safety catches that may affect comfort and usability.

    Game for Golf
    An avid golfer never tires of golfing gear, so it’s usually a safe bet for gifting. If you’re knowledgeable enough about his preferences, you can always add a new club to his collection. However, there are plenty of other useful gifts a golfer can appreciate, from a sleeve of quality balls to a book about a legendary player. A new set of gloves can improve his grip (and his game) while a new hat or shirt can give him something he can sport on the course.

    By Family Features

     

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    Residents urged to prepare for 2019 hurricane season

    The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1, 2019 lasting through November 30, 2019. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a “near-normal” 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

    Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (MOHSEP) urge the residents of East Baton Rouge Parish to plan ahead for the potential threat of hurricanes. Throughout the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, Mayor Broome advises East Baton Rouge Parish citizens to, “Be Red Stick Ready by having a plan that will keep you and your family safe from any severe weather that may affect our area, stay informed, build a disaster supply kit, and use the Buddy System™.”

    2019 Hurricane Preparedness Tips:

    • Make a Family Communication Plan at www.brla.gov/DocumentCenter/View/5697/Family-Emergency-Communication-Plan?bidId=
    • Restock your emergency supply kit with the necessary items.
    • Make sure your home is prepared.
    • Trim or remove damaged trees and limbs.
    • Secure and clear all gutters.
    • Fuel your vehicles, generators, and gas cans. Consider purchasing a portable generator.
    • Use the BuddySystem™ to check on your neighbors, friends and family.
    • Check your insurance coverage.
    • Visit www.redstickready.com for more preparedness tips.

    For more information contact MOHSEP at  (225) 389-2100, follow @RedStickReady on Facebook and Twitter, and download the Red Stick Ready mobile application – free on Apple and Android devices by searching “Red Stick Ready”.

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    SU students commemorating Ghana’s ‘Year of Return’ through study abroad program

    With this year being coined as the “Year of Return” by Ghana president Nana Akufo-Addo, many African Americans are planning to travel to the West African country to commemorate the 400th year since transatlantic slave trade began. Joining in the number of celebrities and other tourists will be a group of Southern University students and faculty.

    “I cannot think of a better way for our students to pay homage to the defiant and indomitable spirit of the ancestors and the legacy of strength, endurance, and self-love that we are called to build upon,” said Cynthia Bryant. “They will be able to fully engage in what I believe will surely be a memorable and transformative pilgrimage to the Motherland.”

    The Southern delegation is participating in the African Diaspora Studies in New Orleans and Ghana program, along with participants from University of Oregon and Xavier University. This four-week program will explore the transformative journey of Africans living in America. Focusing on the broad spectrum of human experience related to the African diaspora, the program will examine the relationship between Louisiana, where the program begins, and West Africa, where it will conclude.

    For the first part of the program, participants will spend 11 days in New Orleans, which was the first port of entry for many Africans enslaved in America. The itinerary includes visits to historical and cultural sites, many of which are still in use today, and course lectures.

    The second part of the course will be spent in Ghana, where participants will be completely immersed in the country’s culture while living with residents and going on excursions. Course lectures will continue to expand on the emotional, cultural, and socio-economic impact of forced migration and displacement of Africans in America.

    The program starts July 7 and runs until Aug. 1. Though participation in this study is funded through a partial grant, students welcome contributions to defray costs, including airfare, lodging, and fees associated with the trip to Accura, Ghana.

    For more information about the trip and to give donate, visit http://bit.ly/sughanatrip.

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  • ,,,

    PRIDE RESTORED: Jaguars dominant in 15-0 win

    After a 10-year hiatus, Southern University baseball claimed the program’s first Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament title since 2009 with a dominant 15-0 shutout of Alabama State Sunday afternoon at Wesley Barrow Stadium.
    Tyler LaPorte, who shared the league’s Player of the Year award with Alabama State’s Yasil Pagan, capped a phenomenal SWAC tournament with a 2 of 4 performance, which included three runs scored and a three-RBI home run in the top of the sixth inning.
    Southern pitcher Eli Finney made his second start of the tournament and baffled Hornet hitters from the start, pitching 8 and 1/3 innings, allowed no runs and scattered three hits. Finney fanned six hitters while the SWAC’s 2019 Relief Pitcher of the Year, Connor Whalen, entered in the bottom of the ninth to close the game. Whalen forced Alabama State shortstop Eriq White to groundout to Malik Blaise at short to ignite a post-championship dogpile that was 10-years in the making.
    Finney only allowed five Alabama State baserunner and Alabama State failed to land a runner in scoring position until shortstop Cristopher DeGuzman reached second base on a passed ball in the bottom of the eighth.
    Centerfielder Javeyan Williams and second baseman Johnny Johnson led Southern with four hits each and combined to score five runs and plate four RBIs. Catcher Bobby Johnson finished 3 of 5 at the plate and hit a two-run blast over the left field wall to spark Southern’s offensive onslaught.
    The Jaguars belted out 16 hits and left absolutely no doubt who wanted the championship more.
    Southern landed the first blow thanks to an RBI double by Ashanti Wheatley that scored Tyler LaPorte, who drew a leadoff walk. However, the Hornets ended the damage there as Hunter David flied out and Wheatley was tagged out at third following the ensuing throw-in.
    After a 1-2-3 inning, the Jaguars added to the lead with Johnson’s two-run blast to lead 3-0. The sides traded scoreless innings until the top of the fifth, where the Jaguars added to their lead. There, Coby Taylor was hit by a pitch and Javeyan Williams laid down a bunt, beating the tag at first before LaPorte dropped a flare to right for a two-run triple.
    Johnny Johnson scored LaPorte on a double down the left field line and stole third, scoring on an RBI sac fly by David. LaPorte later put the contest out of reach with a three-run shot over the left field wall and with the Hornets unable to figure out Southern starter Eli Finney, the Jaguars added five runs for insurance down the stretch, cruising to their first SWAC tournament championship since 2009.
    Southern will head to Chicago for a post-season exhibition tune-up in the inaugural HBCU World Series against North Carolina A&T Thursday afternoon before learning where they will play in NCAA Regional on May 31.
    By Christopher K. Jones
    Read more »
  • ,,,

    Applications now available for the SU Ag Center’s Summer CLIMATE Program

    Applications are currently being accepted for the SU Ag Center’s Cultivating Leadership Innovation by Motivating Agricultural Talents through Education (CLIMATE) Program.

     CLIMATE is a two-year summer program for current high school juniors. The program will provide supplemental instruction and assist participants in qualifying for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarship. The participants will also be given the opportunity to gain pre-collegiate work experience during a professional internship in their home town or a neighboring parish.

    During the first year of the program, participants will spend four weeks on the Southern University campus preparing for the ACT test and participating in educational courses and field trips.

    At the completion of the four weeks, the students will receive a $500 educational assistance award.

    Students will further their knowledge during the second year of the program by working for eight weeks in an agricultural related internship with either a state or local government agencies or community organizations. The returning participants will receive a $2,000 stipend after successfully completing the internship.

    Participation in CLIMATE is free of charge, however, only high school juniors will be accepted into the program.

    To apply, applicants must submit an application with an official transcript and a one and a half page double spaced essay which includes:

    • •An introduction of the applicant to include what he or she would like the selection committee to know about him/herself.
    • •The applicant’s definition of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences.
    • •Why the applicant believes that Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences are important.
    • •The applicant’s goals and aspirations for the future.

     

    Additionally, applicants must have at least a 2.5 cumulative grade point average and scored between a 14 and a 19 on the ACT.

    Applications are due May 20.

    To obtain an application or for additional information contact, Dr. Dawn Mellion-Patin, Vice Chancellor for Extension and Outreach, at 225-771-3532 or via email at dawn_mellion@suagcenter.com.

    Read more »
  • ,,,,

    Private, online therapy could be best choice when help is needed

    From her virtual private practice in Baton Rouge, Shameka Mitchell Williams helps people who are overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. Her focus is singular: help them recover from pernicious experiences and toxic relationships. “I hold space for people who are hurt and confused to talk about what that relationship or marriage is really like without any judgment about how they should feel,” she says.

    A graduate of Louisiana State University and Washington University in St. Louis, Williams is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Louisiana and Texas. She says she believes in the importance of helping her clients understand how their thinking shapes their experience and also how they are influenced by societal systems.

    Williams, who is the owner of The Chrysalis Center, LLC, is one of 300 licensed therapists in Louisiana who offers online video counseling according to the Psychology Today database. This Pensiri: A Talk with Shameka Mitchell Williams explores online video therapy, who can benefit from it, and why.

    As a therapist with more than a decade of experience in community-based programs, schools, psychiatric hospitals, and correctional facilities, you’ve seen mental health professionals expand their services from in-person counseling to teletherapy and now to  online video therapy. How should we be defining therapy and who can practice or treat people with therapeutic needs?
    SW: Therapy is a specialized, systematic, formal interaction between a mental health professional and a client (an individual, couple, family, or group) during which a therapeutic relationship is established to help resolve symptoms of mental disorder, psychosocial stress, relationship problems, and/or difficulties coping in the social environment. It is also to help the client achieve specified goals for well-being. The term “therapy” is used interchangeably with counseling. While many therapists provide both therapy and counseling, not every counselor is qualified to provide therapy. The term “counselor” is often applied to highly trained mental health, education, or legal professionals, but it is also used for volunteers with minimal training and for paid workers who provide guidance and structure in group settings (as in camp and dorm hall counselors).

    Shameka Williams

    Shameka Williams

    Is virtual or online therapy a growing service among practitioners? When did it begin?
    SW: Online therapy is definitely a growing service. It may have first begun taking shape as early as the 1960s, and it began growing as most people know it today in the early 2000s. Earlier names for it included teletherapy and telemental health care since clinicians started offering sessions by telephone before beginning to utilize email, chats, and video. Today, many clinicians offer a mix of in-person and online services, and some offer online services exclusively. There even exists an International Society for Mental Health Online, which formed in 1997.

    How can we tell if we need or could benefit from therapy? (in general)
    SW: If you are experiencing distressing changes in your normal mood or functioning that are present more days than not for a period of at least two weeks, you may want to consider consulting with a professional. It can be good to start with talking to a medical professional to rule out any physiological reasons for the changes.

    Should there be some type of diagnosis or referral to seek therapy?
    SW: You don’t need to have a diagnosed mental disorder to benefit from therapy. If you are simply feeling overwhelmed with what life is throwing at you, and your usual coping mechanisms are not working, you may benefit from having a therapist to help you identify and remove obstacles that are blocking the progress you’d like to make. An obstacle could be as simple as a negative thinking pattern that you do not recognize on your own.

    What are signs that a person may need therapy?
    SW: You could benefit from therapy if you find yourself.

      • Eating more or less than usual
      • Sleeping more or less than usual
      • Having unusual difficulty concentrating or focusing
      • Experiencing intrusive thoughts that are distressing
      • Worrying or feeling nervous more than usual
      • Withdrawing or isolating yourself from family and friends

    Are there any specific conditions or needs that someone would have that would make them a good candidate for online therapy over in-house therapy?
    SW: People who suffer from mental health disorders that make going out in public difficult, such as agoraphobia

      • People with limited physical mobility and those who do not drive or who have limited access to transportation
      • People who live far away from their nearest mental health professionals
      • Stay-at-home mothers with young children who would rather not arrange childcare and other caregivers who cannot be away for long periods of time
      • People who need/want a provider who is credentialed in a specialty, such as an intensive trauma-focused treatment, energy psychology, or perinatal/postpartum mental health
      • People who would not seek in-person treatment due to fear of being recognized at/near a therapist’s office
      • What are the pros of online therapy?
        SW: Convenience, Efficacy, and Privacy. Research has found online therapy to be just as effective as traditional in-person therapy for many issues including depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

        What are the cons?
        SW: Online therapy is not appropriate for clients who are a danger to themselves or others (i.e., suicidal or homicidal) or for those whose mental health is seriously impaired as with psychosis, delusions, or uncontrolled mania. Some elements of nonverbal communication will be missed when the ​client and therapist can only see each other from the​ ​ cropped view of a screen. Confidentiality could become an issue if the therapist is not using HIPAA-secure software, sites, or apps or if clients are not careful with securing their own electronic devices. Some insurance companies do not cover online therapy.

        Williams admonishes anyone considering online video therapy to do additional research to make sure their potential therapist is qualified and licensed to provide the service they are seeking.

        By Candace J. Semien
        Jozef Syndicate reporter
        @jozefsyndicate

        ONLINE: https://thechrysalisctr.com
        PsychologyToday.com
        BetterHelp.com
        talkspace.com
        breakthrough.com

        Read more »
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    ‘I couldn’t protect her’

    A parent never thinks they would one day have to rescue their young daughter from a sex trafficker, but that’s exactly what Juanita Carruth, her husband, and cousins had to do.

    After searching several days for their daughter who was a habitual runaway, Carruth said they received a call from person who had “sold” her daughter to a local pimp and demanded more than $10,000 for the teen to be returned.

    “At that point I knew they were trafficking my daughter,” said Carruth who later found out that the caller was a well-known sex worker in New Orleans. For days the parents were taunted on social media and through text messages, until her father was able to retrieve her.

    “Even with a loving, two-parent home (and) even though we lived in the suburbs of New Orleans, my daughter became a victim. It made me felt like a failure that I could not protect her,” Carruth admitted.

    Today, Carruth shares her family’s story to help law enforcement officials and parents do a better job protecting children who can be preyed on and pulled into sex slavery.

    According to the national Human Trafficking Hotline, 71 cases of human trafficking have been reported in Louisiana since January. Although that number has the state ranking 22nd in the national, Louisiana received an A grade in enforcing human trafficking from Shared Hope International in 2018. (Read More juvenile human trafficking victims identified in Louisiana)

    With changes to policy, officials with the Governor’s Office said combating human trafficking is a more coordinated national, state, and local effort.

    Dana Hunter, Ph.D. Executive Director, Children’s Cabinet

    Dana Hunter, Ph.D. Executive Director, Children’s Cabinet

    “We are starting to win,” said Dana Hunter, Ph.D, executive director of the Children’s Cabinet. “We are becoming more aware and more educated. Our law enforcement, hospitals, parents, everyone. We are being vigilant.”

    For several weeks, The Drum staff has collected social media posts that alerted followers of suspicious activities.

    One post shared photos of a white van and truck that circled the neighborhood near children’s bus stops after changing license plates. Another shared links and photos believed to belong to recruiters and people who would track the whereabouts of potential victims.

    Family and friends of Nahendra Faye Davis, 35, of Baker, La., have shared photos, QR codes, and posted billboards in Baton Rouge to help find the missing mother of two.

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    Hunter said posts like these are helpful and should be shared with law enforcement. “We can not under-estimate the power of educating our families that these predators and situations are out there.”

    Families often have the fear that their missing loved ones will be ignored especially if the missing person is a runaway. But, with the knowledge that traffickers go after runaways, people who are homeless, and those showing low self-esteem or lack of love, law enforcement and social service providers are being trained to recognize the connection between trafficking and reports of missing persons and runaways.

    img_20190225_182258-e1554666427204img_20190227_181339-e1554666557327

    Last month, the FBI released the age progression photo of Keiosha Marie Felix who went missing, April 20, 2012 at the age of 15. At the time, she was identified as a runaway later reclassified as an endangered missing person. Finding Felix is a joint investigation by the FBI, New Orleans Division, Lafayette Resident Agency, the Louisiana State Police, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Department and the Duson Police Department. She is believed to be in the Baton Rouge area and her photo has appeared on coupon mailers in the city.

    Law enforcement are not treating these cases as just kidnappings or runaways. The change in federal law indicates that if sex is involved, it is human trafficking, Hunter said.

    Trafficking a minor under 21 years of age is prohibited without regard to whether force, fraud, or coercion was used to cause the minor to engage in commercial sex acts.

    “We are becoming more aware and educating everyone on human trafficking and putting resources into protecting and recovering victims,” she said.

    Her office recently secured a $1.2 million grant to combat human trafficking statewide. Louisiana is the seventh state to be granted the award.

    “We have leadership at the highest level (in Governor Edwards and State Senator Ronnie Johns) who makes this a priority. This is an issue Louisiana has been very progressive on,” said Hunter.

    The state is one of only 16 states that require human trafficking training that includes child trafficking. The grant will fund multi-agency training and will allow the state to staff an expert coordinator in each region for providers to centralize responses to these crimes.

    Sex traffickers can get up to 20 years in jail and be charged with federally and locally with crimes ranging from kidnapping to racketeering.images

    As of press time, 5,147 cases were reported to the national Human Trafficking Hotline so far this year. Last year, 8,759 human trafficking cases were reported. The goal is for cases to lead to arrests and convictions. “It is very difficult to convict predators. Oftentimes victims recant and witnesses won’t take a stand. Last year, there was only one conviction,” she said.

    As for Carruth, she said it is time for the community to take care of one another. “There is a trending behavior of people–especially kids–looking for a certain type of love to fit in that they are being so easily manipulated. In schools, the babies are recruiting babies. It’s an epidemic where girls are going missing every week. We all see it. Some of these girls and women are being tattooed and branded. It needs to be us taking care of us.”

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter
    @JozefSyndicate

    Feature photo is by Michael Mims on Unsplash

    Read more »
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    They Beat the Odds

    Sometimes life just doesn’t seem to be fair.

    We start off as little children with big dreams of what we’re going to be when we grow up, all the things we’re going to own and all the places we’re going to go.

    At the time, a lot of our dreams are unreasonable but we’re too young to know it so just keep dreaming.

    Then we grow up more and somewhere along the line we realize our limitations and our dreams become more realistic.

    But then, especially if we’re aiming to be good people and do good things for others, hindrances and lessons from the school of hard knocks come along. We get the props knocked out from under us.

    Sometimes it’s circumstances beyond our control and sometimes it’s we ourselves getting in the way. Maybe bad decisions and wrong choices cause us to give up hope, give up trying.

    Recently I interviewed Ponchatoula’s successful businessman Larry Terry and was surprised to hear how young he was when he figured out what it would take to realize his dream.

    Usually when I ask high school students in sports what their plans are, I’m given a simple answer: “I’m going to play for the NFL.” Studying only enough to stay on the high school football team and I feel like crying. They don’t have a chance.

    But listen to the difference at what Larry Terry told me:

    “I knew as a little boy I wanted to play for the NBA and to accomplish that, there were certain things I had to do. So I set my goals.”

    (I couldn’t help but think at the age he was describing, I didn’t even know there wasan NBA!)

    He continued, “I knew I’d have to study and make good grades, stay out of trouble, and live with a basketball in my hands.”

    And that’s just what he did, making the honor roll all through school and college, breaking records in sports because he practiced any time he wasn’t studying, staying out of trouble by placing himself out of its reach.

    At the age of only 21 when he graduated from college, he was sought by the NBA and began his long-dreamed of career in professional basketball, first for big name teams in the United States then for another ten years on national teams of other countries around the world until he retired.

    . Terry is a  real success story.

    But what about others who’ve come along at different times, faced with different family situations, physical and emotional difficulties, racial prejudices, learning disabilities? Times when hindrances were more common than help.

    Well, the Ponchatoula Library, 380 North Fifth Street, is inviting you to come hear four panel members share their stories of how they overcame their seemingly impossible situations to finally realize their dreams.

    So, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 6:00 p.m., come take new heart and new encouragement and bring along your young people who feel like giving up.

    From 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., come listen to Eddie Ponds, Ella Badon, Sandra Bailey-Simmons and Kathryn Martin and learn how “They Beat the Odds!”

    By Kathryn Martin
    Contributing Writer

    Read more »
  • ,,,,

    COMMENTARY: Call it what it is: racism

    Talking about and understanding issues related race is tough for some people and some organizations. News organizations, like the Associated Press, recently changed the way it will address race, which has the potential to impact news outlets across the country. How do explain ongoing racial problems? What do we call the system that serves as the engine for the race-based train that has passed through every American epoch, including contemporary times?

    Call it what it is:  racism.

    Much has been written in scholarly works and in the popular press about how racial disparities in America have over the past several decades been increasingly explained in non-racial terms. Colorblind racism, new racism, and the New Jim Crow are all terms that seek to describe how the dominant racial group in America, en mass, changed expressions of anti-Black sentiments from overt to covert expressions due to social and political changes. However, recent events involving the targeting of symbols associated with the Jim Crow era point to the enduring power of racism.

    What is striking about the attacks on these symbols of an era gone by is that many of the perpetrators of these cowardly acts were not even alive during the Jim Crow era and undoubtedly never learned about it, especially from the perspective of Black people.

    How do we explain this white rage? Understanding racism for what it is and what it is not is an important step forward. Racism is a multilevel, multidimensional system of oppression whereby the dominant group scapegoats racial minority groups.

    When we understand racism for what it really is then we can see how, why, and in what ways misery is heaped upon Black people and other people of color. We see the manifestations of misery not only in the embers of 150-year-old churches in rural Louisiana, or on a legendary civil rights training ground, or in the glare of tiki torches, but also in persistent racial differences in wealth and access to a quality education.

    We can see clearly how race continues to matter in outcomes associated with interactions with the criminal justice system, including who lives and who dies, and which lives truly matter to whom, how—if at all.

    We can better understand why investments are disproportionately made in some areas, while others remain chronically underdeveloped. We can more easily comprehend why access to an emergency room and other health care routes is hard and adequate transportation systems and housing remains elusive.

    Let’s be clear. Racism is dangerous. Racism has been aptly described by many, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a cancer. Anyone who has the unfortunate experience of watching a loved one suffer through any type of cancer knows how the disease can take over, attacking the basic building blocks of the body.

    Racism in America is at once a fundamental and foundational building block of society and one of the greatest threats to itself. Much like many auto-immune diseases, it attacks itself.

    It is important that we understand racism for what it truly is. While functioning much like a disease, racism is not about biology.

    We must understand the myriad ways racism manifests in the lives of individuals, communities, groups, and in the nation as a whole.

    The nation can not afford to lull itself into a false sense of security with claims that the nation is not where it should be on matters about race, but the nation is not where it used to be. There is an abundance of evidence to the contrary.

    Let us agree not to disagree on this one. Racism is what it is. There’s no new racism. There’s no new Jim Crow.  There is just racism and the evidence of it is all around us.

    We should express the same degree of indignation at public policies and private practices that consistently place black people at a disadvantage in virtually every area of life as when historic symbols are attacked.

    Dismantling America’s racialized social system is no easy task but generations of Black people have slowly chipped away at it. We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to future generations to make our own marks however insurmountable the task may seem and irrespective of how bleak our pace of progress might seem.

    Lori Martin

    Lori Martin

     

    Lori Latrice Martin, PhD
    Professor, Department of Sociology and African & African American Studies Program
    Louisiana State University
    Feature photo from Black Metal Music.
    Read more »
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    Charting a path for Black male progress: local, national leaders convene in Baton Rouge 

    The Urban Congress on African American Males, a strategic initiative of Baton Rouge nonprofit, MetroMorphosis, hosted its fourth annual General Convening, on Saturday April 13 at the McKinley Alumni Center in Baton Rouge. The theme of the convening, “The Village Renewed,” was attributed to the continued pursuit of partnership and collaboration in the work of transforming social systems that negatively impact African American males in Baton Rouge. The Convening featured speeches from Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.

    During a 40-minute keynote to the 100+ attendees, Benjamin Evans, co-founder and National Fellowship Director of BMe Community, said, “To define a person by their challenges is the definition of stigmatizing.” He also stressed the importance of urban communities taking ownership of telling the positive stories often missed in mainstream outlets. “You have to influence the storytelling. If you can’t influence the storyteller, create the storyteller,” he said. BMe Community is a national movement of people of all races and genders dedicated to building more caring and prosperous communities together.

    The centralizing moment of the Convening occurred when delegates of the Urban Congress took part in “Charting The Movement”. For more than an hour delegates brainstormed, visioned and scripted plans for the future of the work. They were tasked with creating hypothetical future news headlines that would tell the story of their work accomplished two years from the present.

    The annual convening also featured a panel discussion from the moderators of the Urban Congress’ “Barbershop Talk” series, a celebration of the year’s work and a special award presentation to Jasiri Basel, founder of The CEO Mind Foundation, who was honored as the 2019 Urban Congress PaceSetter Award Recipient.

    Jasiri jribasel is recognized as the PaceSetter by the Urban Congress on African American Males

    Jasiri Basel is recognized as the PaceSetter by the Urban Congress on African American Males

    The Convening was a continuation of the Urban Congress’ monthly work group meetings held at the McKinley Alumni Center where dedicated community members gather in self-selected working groups to generate strategies designed to enhance the quality of life for African-American men and boys in Baton Rouge. Work groups vary from public policy to workforce engagement to educational outcomes to financial literacy/entrepreneurship, and are centered around specific goals to aid the Urban Congress’ mission of establishing long term, systemic progress towards enriching the state of African-American males in Baton Rouge.

    ONLINE: www.theurbancongress.com.

    Feature photo is of Benjamin Evans, Co-Founder and National Director at BMe Community, served as the keynote speaker for the 2019 Urban Congress on African American Males General Convening. Photo by Perry Productions

    Read more »
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    AKA’s regional conference focuses on global leadership, brings Kamala Harris to New Orleans April 19

    More than 5,000 women will converge in New Orleans April 18 – 21, for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated’s 87TH South Central Regional Conference.

    Katina.11-2

    Katina Semien

    Dr_Glenda_Glover_01_186_courtesy_TN_State_University_web_t670

    Glenda Glover, Ph.D.

    Under the leadership of International President, Glenda Glover, Ph.D., and South Central Regional Director, Katina M. Semien, members will engage in four days of leadership training and seminars highlighting the sorority’s International program theme, “Exemplifying Excellence Though Sustainable Service®”. In linewith the sorority’s Global Impact target, attendees will collaborate with Lions Club International and Soles4Souls to donate gently worn eye glasses and shoes to be distributed to recipients around the world.

    During the conference, Senator Kamala Harris – also an Alpha Kappa Alpha member – will deliver the keynote address at the public luncheon on Friday, April 19, 2019.

    The purpose of this year’s public luncheon is to increase awareness of child trafficking. During the event, the sorority will honor the agencies that are working to combat this global crisis.

    The South Central Region is the 2nd largest region in the sorority with more than 7,000 members, and is comprised of members from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico. The conference is expected to attract a record number of members in addition to their families and guests, where attendees will assemble at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Members will be taking in all that the Crescent City of New Orleans has to offer and lodging in numerous hotels in the downtown area. These members will generate thousands and thousands of dollars for the New Orleans area businesses over the four-day conference and the sorority plans to leave a substantial mark on the city.

    Alpha is America’s oldest service organization founded by college-trained African-American women.

    Read more »
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    Urban Congress seeks to create better outcomes for Black males through annual convening, April 13

    The Urban Congress on African American Males – a strategic initiative of Baton Rouge nonprofit organization, MetroMorphosis, will host its fourth annual General Convening, Saturday April 13 at the McKinley Alumni Center, 1520 Thomas H. Delpit Drive, Baton Rouge. The theme of the convening, “The Village Renewed,” is attributed to the continued pursuit of partnership and collaboration in the work of transforming social systems that negatively impact African-American males in Baton Rouge.

    “The key to [the convening] remains the people in the room who are committed to creating a different narrative and experience for the Black males around us,” said Raymond Jetson,  chief executive catalyst at MetroMorphosis. “This day is about the village coming together and renewing itself. It is a time to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones. It’s an opportunity to recognize people and organizations who are making a real difference.”

    For more information on the Urban Congress on African American Males and the General Convening, visit www.theurbancongress.com.

    WHEN:
    Saturday, April 13
    8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    WHERE:
    McKinley Alumni Center, 1520 Thomas H. Delpit Drive, Baton Rouge.

    WHO:
    Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards,

    East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome 
    Benjamin Evans, Co-Founder and National Fellowship Director of BMe Community – a national movement of people of all races and genders dedicated to building more caring and prosperous communities together.

     

    Read more »
  • ,,,

    Southern’s Victor Mbarika earns third lifetime achievement award for IT work in developing nations

    In recognition of his contributions to the growth of education in Nigeria and other African countries, Southern University professor Victor Marika was recently honored by  the Anglican Communion, Church of Nigeria, Nsukka Diocese, in Enugu State, for his work in information and communication technology.

    Mbarika is an endowed professor of information and communication technology at Southern University and A&M College. He also directs the International Centre for IT Research and Development at Southern which focuses on advancing IT research and training worldwide with emphasis on developing nations.

    Victor Mbarika

    Victor Mbarika

    During the 25th anniversary of the church, the Anglican Bishop of Nsukka Rt. Revd. Aloysius Eze Agbo said Mbarika–who is  Cameroonian–has “distinguished himself in the promotion of education system in the country, through empowering the youth in the area of ICT. He said such services to the country deserve commendation and reward.”

    “This is the third lifetime achievement to Prof. Victor Mbarika, in recognition of his outstanding entrepreneurial achievement, which has created job opportunities to numerous people in our society,” Agbo said. He previously received a lifetime achievement award from the African Society for Information and Communication Technology for his “contribution to ICT research and education” and another  from the Cameroon Association of Engineers and Computer Scientists for “outstanding contribution to computer science and telecommunications”.

    Mbarika is also the founder and president, Board of Trustees of the Information and Communication Technology University, that trained more than 20,000 students across the globe. He said he is delighted in the honor and promises to continue to assist Nigerians and others in the acquisition of quality education. “I am  delighted  in the honor given to me and promised to continue to assist Africans and others in the acquisition of quality education, adding that in due course, i would establish ICT university in Nigeria, as obtained in Cameroon, Uganda and other African countries,” said Mbarika.

    ONLINE: Southern University

    Read more »
  • ,,

    More juvenile human trafficking victims identified in Louisiana

    The number of reported juvenile trafficking victims rose by 20 percent in 2018, while the number of adult victims decreased by 17 percent, according to data submitted to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for its 2019 report on human trafficking.

    The annual report, now in its fifth year, compiles data from human trafficking service providers throughout the state for reporting to the Legislature under Act 564 of 2014. Of the 58 service providers identified by DCFS, 35 agencies (60%) provided information for the 2019 report – the highest response rate for any year to-date. Twenty-four agencies provided data for last year’s report.

    While the number of service providers who report trafficking data to DCFS has increased steadily over the past five years, the majority of sexual assault centers and refugee/migration service agencies do not participate. This limits the amount of information available on adult sexual abuse and labor trafficking.

    “We have to do everything we can to prevent and end the heinous crime of human trafficking,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “It’s the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the United States, with thousands of victims identified in Louisiana alone in recent years. One of the reasons we’re identifying more victims is our work with law enforcement and other agencies who come into contact with these victims. Increasing awareness, collaboration and information sharing are essential to ending this modern form of slavery.”

    Earlier this year, Gov. Edwards announced Louisiana had been awarded a $1.2 million federal grant to help fight human trafficking. The grant will fund a multi-year federal project known as the Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative, being implemented by the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet.

    “Trafficking is not just a problem happening somewhere else. It’s a problem right here in our own back yards,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters, who serves on the Governor’s Office’s Louisiana Human Trafficking Prevention Commission (Act 181 of 2017). “Victims are often from vulnerable populations – domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, homeless or runaway youth and even young children. The more we know and the more we work together as a state and a community, the better we can fight against it and protect those who are most at-risk.”

    Overall, 744 confirmed and high-risk (prospective) victims of human trafficking were identified in 2018 – an increase of 63 victims (9%) over 2017. The overwhelming majority were victims of sexual trafficking (710 victims or 95.4%) and female (678 victims or 91.1%).

    Victim Ages

    Juveniles accounted for 428 (57.5%) of the reported victims, a 20 percent increase over 2017, when service providers reported 356 juvenile victims. Some 223 adult victims were identified in 2018, compared to 269 in 2017. Age was unknown or unreported for 93 victims this past year, compared to 56 in 2017.

    Forty-two victims identified in 2018 were age 12 or younger, down from 72 victims reported in 2017.

    The reported ages for all victims ranged from 5 months to 65 years old.

    The increase in reported juvenile victims can be partly attributed to an increase in the number of agencies providing data. Additionally, there have been increased efforts in identifying juvenile victims.

    Trafficking Locations

    Orleans, Caddo and East Baton Rouge were the parishes most frequently identified as the trafficking locations for both adult and juvenile victims. However, the proportion of adults to juveniles varied by location.

    Orleans and Caddo parishes both saw significantly more juvenile victims reported than adults: 83 juveniles and 34 adults in Orleans; 92 juveniles and 16 adults in Caddo. Whereas, East Baton Rouge saw a more even distribution that tilted toward adults: 59 adults and 47 juveniles.

    Those three parishes were also the most common parishes of origin for victims, along with neighboring parishes Jefferson and Bossier. Overall, victims were from more than 30 parishes throughout the state.

    Some 54 victims were from outside Louisiana, and 10 were from other countries.

    Other Findings

    Other findings in the 2019 report:

    • 710 victims (95.4%) were sexual trafficking victims; 7 (0.9%) were labor trafficking victims; 18 (2.4%) were victims of both sexual and labor trafficking. There were also 9 victims for whom the type of trafficking was not identified.
    • 678 (91.1%) of the victims were female; 44 (6%) were male; 13 (1.7%) identify as transgender; and 9 (1%) did not have a gender identified.
    • 366 (49%) of the victims were African American; 233 (31%) were white; 8 (1%) were Asian; 25 (3%) were multiracial; 58 (8%) were reported as other; and 54 (7%) were unknown.
    • 333 (45%) were confirmed trafficking victims, and 285 (38%) were reported as high-risk or prospective victims. Another 126 victims (17%) did not have a victim status identified.

    The most frequently provided services by the agencies reporting data were mental health services, referral to community services, health services, forensic interviewing, housing and education services.

    View Reports

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    City of Ponchatoula to become smoke-free

    NO PUBLIC SMOKING OR VAPING

    The City of Ponchatoula has joined the almost 700 cities nationwide in going smoke-free. The City’s new smoke-free ordinance goes into effect on May 12, 2019. In addition to smoking restrictions that already exist under state law, there will be new restrictions on smoking and vaping (use of electronic smoking devices) in many locations across the city.

    The City of Ponchatoula will host a smoking ban town hall educational meeting in the City Council Chambers May 1, 2019, at 5:30 PM.

    This ordinance protects the public’s health by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and encouraging smokers to quit. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at work are more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer, and approximately 1,000 children and adults in Louisiana die each year from secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco use-the leading preventable cause of death in the United States-causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases (such as emphysema) and diabetes. More than 20 million people in the United States have died from smoking-related diseases since 1964, including 2.5 million nonsmokers as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.

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    Missing & Forgotten: Bias and non-attention given to Black girls who ‘disappear’

    Have you heard of Andreen Nicole McDonald of Texas?

    She’s young, just 29 years old, pretty, married to a military husband and missing.

    Like thousands of other black females who’ve gone missing, there has been no national media coverage of her disappearance.

    Earlier this month, her husband, Andre McDonald, was arrested in connection to his wife’s disappearance. Andreeen is still missing, but presumed dead.

    Police say that Andre McDonald bought a shovel, an ax, two five-gallon drums of gasoline, work gloves, heavy duty trash bags and a “burn barrel,” after friends reported his wife missing.

    “He tried to destroy the receipt for those items to conceal the timing and whereabouts of his purchase,” said Deidra Robey, founder of Black and Missing But Not Forgotten, a nonprofit based in Baton Rouge, La.

    Deidra Robey, founder of Black and Missing But Not Forgotten

    Deidra Robey, founder of Black and Missing But Not Forgotten

    “After his arrest, the news coverage seemed to stop. It did not go beyond local news, and even though the FBI is involved in the case, the story was never picked up nationally. I can only imagine that this is because she’s just not the right color,” Robey said.

    When Victoria S. Wright was last seen, at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, the 13-year-old was clutching a silver fannie pack and standing on the porch of a family member’s home along Dale Drive in Portsmouth, Virginia.

    Wearing a black hoodie with white writing, light colored blue jeans, and light blue and white tennis shoes, Victoria suddenly vanished.

    Police suspect she may have run away. However, there’s a chance that the longer she’s missing Victoria, like McDonald and so many others, will join an ever-growing list of black girls who are gone and have been sadly forgotten by mainstream media, where coverage is too-often manipulated by the latest thong or see-through attire worn by a Kardashian, or the most recent tantrum thrown by President Donald Trump.

    As Trump cries that a border wall is needed to eliminate an imaginary crisis, organizations like the Black and Missing But Not Forgotten, the Black and Missing Foundation (BAM) in Landover Hills, Maryland, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in Alexandria, Va., struggle to shed light on the real emergency that is of the nation’s missing.

    More than 424,066 girls of all races have gone missing since the beginning of 2018, according to NCMEC.

    More than half of the total are women and girls of color, according to BAM, who, like NCMEC, rely on statistics from the FBI.

    missing-and-exploited-children-featured-web-678x381“The majority of these children most likely come from marginalized communities, and are primarily low-income people of color,” said Ronnie A. Dunn, an interim chief diversity & inclusion officer and associate professor of Urban Studies at Cleveland State University.

    “Given this nation’s racially stratified socioeconomic class hierarchy, as evidenced throughout institutions in America where poor children of color have worst outcomes on all quality of life indicators, their lives are devalued in relation to upper class white youth,” said Dunn, whose authored two books, Race Profiling: Causes & Consequences, and Boycotts, Busing, & Beyond: The History & Implications of School Desegregation in the Urban North.

    Dunn said, “And even within that, while this nation espouses the valuing of children in general, this does not appear to be the reality as evidenced by the failure to act in the face of the onslaught of mass school shootings from Sandy Hook to Stoneman Douglas where the majority of those killed were middle class white youth. Therefore, we see less media attention paid to missing children, particularly those of color.”

    The ignorance toward the black and missing isn’t a new trend.

    Black and Missing But Not Forgotten, BAM and NCMEC each maintain a database that dates back decades.

    For instance, Margaret R. Dash went missing from her home in Clearwater, Florida, on June 14, 1974. Today, she would be 83.

    Ethel Louise Atwell went missing from Staten Island, N.Y., on Oct. 24, 1978. If still alive, Atwell would be 86.

    Jeffrey Lynn Smith, who today would be 49, went missing on Dec. 4, 1985, from her Hot Springs, Arkansas, home and hasn’t been heard from since.

    Other Black women and girls missing since the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s according to BAM, include Cynthia Renae Rodgers of Forestville, Maryland; Beverly Gail Johnson-Sabo of Ventura, Calif.; Trina Ann Winston of South Bend, Indiana; Erica Heather Smith of Ashburn, Virginia; Debra Dianne Sellars of Burlington, NC.; Bianca Lilly Jones of Detroit, Michigan; Crystal Keyona Anderson of New Carrollton, Maryland; Sandra Jean Cunningham of New York City; Yamisha Thomas of Columbus, Ga.; Mitrice Richardson of Los Angeles; Priscilla Ann Rogers of Wilmington, NC; Rochelle Denise Battle of Baltimore; Leslie Marva Adams of Atlanta; Chantel Bryant of Virginia Beach; Nancie Carolyn Walker of Chicago; Verlisha Littlejohn of Gaffney, SC; Theresa Bunn of Chicago; and Barbara Dreher of Washington, D.C.

    “I’m a forensic psychiatrist and legal analyst on television, so I pay attention to media reports of crimes and missing children,” said Dr. Carole Lieberman.

    “The media doesn’t do enough reporting of all the missing children, especially Black children … this tells the viewer that it’s more important to find white children,” Lieberman said. “There aren’t even any – or many – pictures on milk cartons of missing children anymore because they decided it was too upsetting to children eating breakfast. We need to do more to find missing children and do more to stop the family problems such as abuse that causes them to be vulnerable to predators or leave home to begin with.”

    By Stacy M. Brown
    NNPA Newswire Correspondent
    @StacyBrownMedia

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    Who to Watch: Ava Brewster-Turner Ph.D., 63

    A retired educator with 40 years of service,  Ava Brewster-Turner, Ph.D is the Founding Artistic Director of UpStage Theatre Company in Baton Rouge. She earned her BS from Grambling State University; M.Ed. from Southern University; and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.  The 63-year-old is the recipient of numerous recognitions including The Southern Black Theatre Festival’s Trailblazer Award; Hall of Fame Inductee (Augusta, Arkansas); Outstanding Theatre Director (American Association of Community Theatre); multi-year scholarship recipient- New York’s Playback Theatre; multi-year honoree- Who’s Who Among American’s Teachers; Past President of the National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts; and Past President of the Charles P. Alumni Chapter of the Grambling University National Alumni Association. She holds memberships in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Black Theatre Association, and The American Association of Community Theatre.  

    What has been a deciding moment or an experience that pushed you forward?   When I was told early in my pursuit to become a theatre company owner that it would never work; that I was wasting my time, energy, and money on something Black people would never support.

    Business resolution:   We believe that the general populous of our community have not fully realized the power and persuasiveness of the arts; therefore, one of our primary business goals for this year is to embark upon ways to educate our community about the power of the arts.  For example, we are familiar with the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks regarding Civil Rights; but not many people consider how the powerful documentary Roots advanced civility among the races.

    What is your #1 priority right now?  To expand to UpStage Theatre Company’s brand, now in its 17th Season… into a well-known theatre arts company.

    Best advice you’ve ever received?   “Treat others the way you want to be treated”

    Moves made:   Relocated UpStage Theatre after 15 years from its 50-seat Black Box on Wooddale Blvd to a 200-seat theatre in Cortana Mall.

    What to expect:  Knowledge is power, and education is the key to succeeding. In order to prepare aspiring playwrights, I plan to implement The Playwright’s Pen Series. Presently, UpStage host an Emerging Playwright Project producing scripts submitted from playwrights from across the country. With the Playwright’s Pen Series, aspiring playwrights will have an opportunity to learn from established writers, which will equip them to learn the essentials of developing an idea into a stage play.

    Other projects:

    • Also, establishing the UpStage Theatre Star Scholarship.  Two scholarships will be awarded to high school students who plan to pursue a degree in the performing arts.
    • Hosting a three-week summer arts camp.  This camp will expose students to learning the aspects of writing and developing a script; filming, editing, and producing the script.
    • Saturday Acting classes.  Students will learn skills that are key to building acting and performance techniques, and building confidence to interact effectively in a group.

    Life/business motto:  “With God all things are possible” ; “Believe in Yourself”

    Role Models:  My mother Berlin Brewster Conner

     What’s on your playlist?   Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross Greatest Hits

    What are you reading?  The Ground on Which I Stand by August Wilson

    What’s entertaining you? Classic movies and television shows and Shiloh Baptist Church Weekly Podcast.

    Website:  www.upstagetheatre.biz

    Email:  info@upstagetheatre.biz

    Twitter: @Upstagedirector
    Instagram: @upstagetheatre
    Facebook Page:  @upstagetheatrebr
    Facebook Group: UpStage Theatre Company

    Ava Brewster-Turner,  63
    Founding Artistic Director of UpStage Theatre Company
    Hometown:   Augusta, Arkansas
    Current location:   Baton Rouge, LA

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    Women in State Law Enforcement leave indelible footprints

    There are countless Louisianans who have contributed significantly to our state and nation’s history.  They are the trailblazers and pioneers who have left an indelible imprint that continues to inspire.

    Among the most well-trained law enforcement officers in the country, Black female Louisiana State Troopers are proudly and courageously paving the way for others to follow. They are saluted for their service and for inspiring all women to never give up on their dreams.

    According to the most recent data, there are 1063 Louisiana State Police troopers, out of which 45 are women and of that number, eight current female troopers are African-American.  Women were allowed to join the force in 1974.  Trooper Joyce Stephanie Isaac Thibodeaux, now deceased, started her career with the Lafayette City Police Department and in 1976 she became the first Black woman to join the Louisiana State Police Dept. She retired after 21 years of service.

    “I was fortunate to work with her,” said Lt. Charron Thomas who joined in 1992. “She faced a lot of struggles being the first one, and she gave me a lot of advice that helped me.”

    After a career in the Army National Guard, Lt. Thomas knew she wanted to become a trooper. And 27 years later, she is still going strong.  “Being in a male-dominated workforce is a challenge for all women, which is why we have to support each other, but it is a rewarding career.”

    “I consider myself fortunate to be able to stand on the shoulders of the previous Black female trailblazers such as Lt. Thomas and the late Trooper Thibodeaux,” said Senior Trooper Zuleika Joseph. “I hope that I set a good example for our youth and that some little girl who sees me may one day want to be a trooper or maybe even the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police.”

    Read more at Women in State Law Enforcement leave indelible footprints.

    Read more »
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    Square Collection featured at West Baton Rouge Museum

    Graduates of Grambling State University, where they met, Lawrence and Gay Square started collecting art 40 years ago. Today, their private collection is on display at the West Baton Rouge Museum through March 24.

    The Square Collection features fine art from some of America’s most distinguished artists including 20 figurative sculptures by the internationally renowned sculptor Tina Allen.

    The Square’s Black art collection includes paintings and prints by acclaimed artists: Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Ed Dwight, Charles Bibb, John T. Scott, Charles Dickson, Jim Wider, and Manuelita Brown, as well as slave shackles, rare historical documents, autographed books and memorabilia from sports icons like Michael Jordan.  Whether created in the medium of oil, pen, Lucite or bronze, these carefully selected pieces beautifully portray strength, character, beauty, and the collectors’ love of history.

    When asked, “Why do you collect?” Lawrence Square’s answer is always, “I buy what I like.”

    The West Baton Rouge Museum is happy to share this exhibit in its first Louisiana public showing

     

    Feature photo by Lucie Monk Carter. Read more at Country Roads.

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    Researchers find community-wide programs make a difference in healthy behaviors

    Researchers from LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center have found that a community-level approach to obesity can inspire participants to adopt healthier weight-related behavior.  Their findings were published this fall in Health Promotion Practice, which includes peer-reviewed articles devoted to the practical application of health promotion and education.

    The results of the study are based on participants in 11 community-wide projects across the state funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.  Through its Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana (“Challenge Grant”) project, the Foundation awarded more than $10 million in grants to local coalitions who implemented health-focused infrastructure improvements, policy changes, and programs like farmers markets, cooking classes and exercise classes.  Ultimately, Challenge Grant projects attracted more than $20 million in investments and included hundreds of partners.

    6 Health group exerciseAt the conclusion of Challenge Grant activities, there were indications for improvements in healthy eating and physical activity. Participants who were exposed to the program’s physical activity components were twice as likely to adopt the consumption of fruits, showed a more than two-fold increase in odds of consuming vegetables once per day, and showed a more than two-fold increase in the odds of engaging in physical activity and exercise outside of a regular job

    Participants who were exposed to the healthy eating component of the program were also almost twice as likely to report eating fruits and vegetables at least once per day.

    “The results of this study indicate that the Challenge Grant program resulted in positive changes in weight-related health behaviors among participants,” said study co-author Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, FACSM, associate executive director for population and public health sciences at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

    “The results are consistent with the ‘small changes’ approach to obesity prevention.  In other words, small, positive changes in health-related behaviors are believed to be important in sustaining long-term health habits,” he said.

    The study’s co-authors stress the difficulty in controlling for factors that influence health outcomes in community program evaluation.  As a result, many other studies in this area have not produced measurable results, which makes the Challenge Grant evaluation stand apart.  Pennington researchers believe that the trends in behavioral changes observed in this study may yield significant results down the line.

    “As with many public health outcomes,” said study co-author Stephanie Broyles, PhD and associate professor of research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, “the benefits of community-level efforts to reduce obesity may not be evident for many years.”

    The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation said the results of Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana have led it to continue funding similar efforts.

    “Based on this evidence, we are even more certain that communities working together to solve complex health problems stand the best chance of making systemic changes in health,” said Michael Tipton, president of the Blue Cross Foundation.

    The Foundation is currently accepting grant applications from community coalitions working to address public health issues and the upstream factors that cause them.  For those interested in submitting an application for the Foundation’s grantmaking program, Tipton encourages them to reach out to Foundation staff to begin a conversation.  Applications are accepted throughout the year, and it can take six to eight weeks to put together an application.

    Information about Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana, contact information for Foundation staff members, as well as information about the organization’s grant programs, can be found online at www.bcbslafoundation.org/CHL

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    Into the Fire: A.Z Young marches the people of Bogalusa to Baton Rouge

    During the turbulent years of Jim Crow a group of brave residents of Bogalusa made a historical march from Bogalusa to the courthouse in Franklinton to express their concern about the lack of opportunities for African Americans in Bogalusa. The march was led by A.Z. Young and others community leaders.

    Since the famous march from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge and Young’s death, little has been said or written about Young. On March 23, 2018 a Louisiana State Historical Marker was dedicated in front of Young home.

    Emma Dixon, president of the neighborhood homeowner’s association and head of the local AARP organized the event, said “the goal of this event is to educate our youth and give them more pride in the community.”

    Dixon also said, “I want this marker to inspire young people that they could do great thing with their life. Motivate them to achieve academic and economic success and be victorious over generational poverty.”

    “When you think of Bogalusa you think of A. Z. Young, the city was known across the nation for the civil rights struggle and its leadership” Dixon said.

    Marchers continuing toward Baton Rouge under the watchful eyes of State Troopers and Deacons for Defense.

    The late civil rights leader was remembered for his courage and is an active member of the civil rights movement in Bogalusa.

    On August 10, the Bogalusa Voter and Civil League (BVCL) continued their struggle when they embarked on a, 106-mile long march to the state capitol of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. Young planned to present a list of grievances to Governor John McKeithen on the steps of the capitol.

    The march dramatized the violent repression of Blacks in the areas along their route. The stretch of highways that the marchers traveled was home to the most active of Ku Klux Klan chapters in the state.

    Under pressure from the U.S. Civil Rights Division, Governor John McKeithen agreed to dispatch nearly 700 National Guardsman and 500 state troopers to protect the demonstrators as they walked down the center of Highway U.S. 190.

    When the marchers were met in Hammond by local community leaders they slept the night on Greenville Park High School football field.

    Just outside of Satsuma, a group of whites, some of them children, broke through the ranks of the troopers and attacked A.Z. Young and others. The march was postponed for one day because of the attack, which allowed Young to demand more troops to protect the weary marchers.

    web 4 March with sherrif

    Federalized National Guards and state troops were required to protect the marchers through Livingston Parish. They were confronted with violence in Satsuma and Denham Springs. The march was lead by A. Z. Young, Bob Hicks, and family members.

    Before more troops arrived, 50 more Blacks from Bogalusa and the surrounding area joined the march, bringing the total number to almost 80 marchers. Angry white onlookers threw eggs and bottles at the Blacks, while others spread roofing nails and broken glass in front of the march. The soldiers found dynamite under one of the bridges the marchers were going to cross, which was later identified as only a dummy.“

    When the marchers reached the outskirts of Baton Rouge, Governor McKeithen increased protection to a total of 1,500 National Guardsmen. Pouring rain kept most of the Klansman indoors. The tired and cold marchers took shelter in a wooded area.

    That evening allied civil rights demonstrators held a rally at the Capital Junior High School.    A youthful crowd of 400 sang freedom songs and rallied behind A.Z. Young and Lincoln Lynch as they addressed the crowd. That same night, the Klan held a rally in a nearby field, where they burned a 15-foot cross and the flag of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front (a political grouping the U.S. was fighting in South Vietnam).

    When the marchers reached reach the steps of the capital, more than 600 supporters. Eight robed members of the Ku Klux Klan and 300 more spectators followed the demonstrators up the steps. More than 2,200 National Guardsmen and policemen watched as both groups held separate rallies. There were no reports of violence.

    A.Z Young, Bogalusa civil rights leader

    A.Z Young, Bogalusa civil rights leader

    In his speech A.Z. Young voiced complaints about employment discrimination and called for the election of 10 Blacks running for local offices in Bogalusa.

    The marchers‘ direct route through Klan territory forced the federal government to ensure that they were protected, a major step forward for the civil rights movement. Young died in 1993.

     

     By Eddie Ponds and Alex Garcia

    Featured photo: The 1967 march from Bogalusa to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Marchers enter the City of Hammond. Leading the march  from left to right R. T. Young, Gal Jenkins, A.Z. Young, and Robert “Bob” Hicks.

    Editor’s note part of this article  includes exerpts of “From Bogalusa to Baton Rouge” by Alex Garcia

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    Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance holds inaugural meeting at the SU Ag Center

    The Southern University Land-Grant Campus hosted the inaugural meeting of the Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance (LIHA) on Monday, January 14.

    The meeting, which was held in Fisher Hall on Southern University’s Campus, was convened to address new legislation regarding Industrial Hemp.

    “Industrial Hemp has been around for millennia,” said Arthur Walker, Chair of the LIHA. “It is a grain in the family of Cannabis Sativa L. The difference between it and other versions of the cannabis plant is in the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. It has a level of .3% and below. Marijuana, its cousin, has THC levels of 5 and above,” he said.

    THC is the psychotropic component of the plant that can cause individuals to experience a “high.” Making it virtually impossible to get high from the Industrial Hemp plant.

    However, it was still classified as a schedule I drug, along with marijuana, by the Nixon administration in the ’70s. Making it illegal to be grown in the United States, but, the purchase of imported raw materials to manufacture products from the plant was legal.

    Many of these products include clothes, soap, fiberboard and insulation.

    “For a number of years the US has spent morethan $150 million per year on importing Industrial Hemp products just from China alone,” said Joe Lavigne, LIHA member. “We feel that Louisiana is the perfect safe space to take a fraction of that market and really drive the Industrial Hemp economy.”

    “The small farmers and the small business owners of Louisiana need that infusion of opportunity,” said Walker.

    The 2018 Farm Bill officially removed Industrial Hemp from the schedule I classification. Industrial Hemp is now classified as a commercial commodity like corn, sugarcane, and rice.

    “Now farmers can get crop insurance and receive financing opportunities from the federal government to start growing Industrial Hemp,” said Walker. “The whole commodity designation and moving Industrial Hemp from the Department of Justice, where it was a schedule I drug, to the control of the Department of Agriculture is a game changer.” 

    As of the end of December 2018, 40 states had passed legislation that allowed their farmers and business owners to get involved with Industrial Hemp. Louisiana is among the last 10 states to have no legislation for the commodity.

    “With the passage of the Farm Bill, those 40 states that have passed legislation are now ready to go to commercialization, as long as their laws are modified to fit under the federal umbrella,” said Walker. “Louisiana has to have something established from ground zero.”

    The Alliance hopes to influence legislation in the state of Louisiana to allow the state’s small farmers and business owners to involve themselves in the commercial end of Industrial Hemp.

    If legislation is passed, the Southern University Land-Grant Campus plans to assist small farmers in the propagation of the crop.

    “Part of the Southern University Land-Grant Campus’s mission is to work with small, limited resource farmers throughout the state. We will assist the LIHA in helping to teach small farmers how to grow, cultivate and prepare this commodity as a value-added crop that can be exported throughout the world,” said Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D., Chancellor-Dean of the Southern University Land-Grant Campus. “It is our hope that this crop will enable small farmers to remain on their farms and be able to earn a decent living by growing Industrial Hemp.”

    The Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance’s mission is to aid in the acceptance of the free marketing of Industrial Hemp as an agricultural crop in Louisiana. The organization is dedicated to a free market of Industrial Hemp, Low-THC varieties of Cannabis, and to change current laws to allow Louisiana farmers to grow this crop and Louisiana processors to process this crop on a commercial scale.

    The Southern University Ag Center and the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences together are called the Southern University Land-Grant Campus.

    For additional information about the Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance, contact Arthur Walker at artw@communicationsone.com.

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    Southern University System Board installs new chair, members

    The Southern University System Board of Supervisors today convened for its first meeting of the new year at Southern University Baton Rouge. Atty. Domoine D. Rutledge and the Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert Jr. were installed as the new chair and vice chair, respectively.

    “We have been entrusted with a tremendous responsibility by way of Southern and I approach it with a seriousness of purpose that it warrants,” Rutledge said.

    The two-time Southern alumnus said he had three major objectives for himself and his fellow board members of the system of five campuses — Southern University Baton Rouge, Southern University New Orleans, Southern University Shreveport, Southern University Law Center and Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

    “…Increased attention and focus to enrollment management,” he said. “Students are the lifeblood of this university. We have to ensure that they have a quality experience academically and otherwise. We must also focus on the alignment of the academic inventory with workforce demands. It is one thing to have a degree but another to have a job. We must ensure our students have marketable skills to compete in a global marketplace.

    “And finally, we cannot ignore how a disinvestment in education — particularly higher education — forces us to create new revenue streams through public and private partnerships and other means that will bear tremendous fruit for this institution for years to come.”

    Also installed to the 16-member board were Raymond Fondel and Leon R. Tarver II — both reappointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. New appointees, Sam Albert Gilliam and Arlanda Williams, were installed as well.

    Gilliam is a former member of the Board (2000-2006) and most recently served as interim chancellor at Southern University Shreveport. Williams represents Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District and is vice chancellor for workforce development and institutional advancement at Delgado Community College. CrBOekRI

    The Board and others presented tokens of appreciation to Ann A. Smith, outgoing chair, and the Rev. Donald R. Henry, outgoing vice chair, as well as immediate past members Michael Small and the Rev. Joe R. Gant. The Board’s “Above and Beyond” award for Southern University System exemplary employee service went to Patricia Coleman, a payroll accountant at Southern University Baton Rouge.

    Other meeting highlights included more information on the rollout of Southern University System President Ray L. Belton’s working strategic plan for the system; reports from campus chancellors and other administrators; and infrastructure update. The board is scheduled to meet again on Feb. 22 on the campus of Southern University Shreveport.

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    Working past 65? Here’s what to know about Medicare

    If you plan to work past 65 and keep the health insurance you’ve had from your job, you’re likely to wonder what, if anything, you need to do about enrolling in Medicare.

    About one in six older Americans now remains in the workforce beyond what was once the traditional retirement age. And the number of older workers will only grow over time.

    One reason is that Social Security now requires you to be at least 66 to collect your full retirement benefits. Retiring earlier means a smaller Social Security check.

    Then, too, a number of sixty-something workers continue to pursue their careers because they can’t afford to retire. Still others simply prefer to stay engaged and on the job.

    Whatever the reason for postponing your retirement, you still need to consider Medicare as you approach your 65th birthday and qualify for the health care coverage.

    First, you should visit with your company’s human resources manager to determine how your employer-provided insurance will fit with Medicare. That’s also true for anyone turning 65 and receiving health care through a working spouse’s group plan.

    Most workers will want to sign up for Medicare’s Part A, which usually has no monthly premium and covers hospital stays, skilled nursing, home health services and hospice care.

    Of course, like most rules of thumb, there’s always an exception. And this one is no different.

    If your employer coverage takes the form of a high-deductible insurance plan with a health savings account, you should defer enrolling in Part A. That’s because the Internal Revenue Service forbids you to continue contributing to your tax-advantaged savings account once you have Medicare.

    When you sign up for Medicare’s Part B, which covers doctor appointments and other outpatient services, mostly depends on how large your employer is.

    If your company or your working spouse’s company has 20 or more employees, your employer-provided insurance will remain your primary coverage and will pay your bills first. You can delay enrolling in Part B until you stop working.

    If you or your spouse’s company has fewer than 20 workers, Medicare will become your primary coverage, and your employer coverage will be secondary, so you should sign up for Part B.

    Assuming that you’re not yet receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll need to enroll in Medicare by contacting Social Security at 800-772-1213 orwww.socialsecurity.gov.

    Completing the online application is fairly simple and typically takes 10 to 30 minutes.

    You should do this during what’s called your “initial enrollment period,” which runs from three months before the month you turn 65 to three months after your birthday month. For example, if your 65th birthday is in September, you can sign up any time from June 1 until Dec. 31.

    There’s also the question of whether you’ll need to enroll in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage, also known as Part D, when you turn 65 or whether you can put off that decision.

    Again, you should consult with your company’s benefits manager. If your employer plan includes drug coverage that’s at least comparable to Part D coverage, you won’t need to sign up right away.

    When you do finally stop working, you’ll be able to enroll in Medicare (Parts A or B) without risking a late penalty during a special eight-month enrollment period.  You’ll also have two months to select a Medicare drug plan without a penalty.

    To learn more about how your employer health plan works with Medicare, visitwww.medicare.gov/publications and view the booklet “Medicare and Other Health Benefits: Your Guide to Who Pays First.” Or call 800-633-4227 to request a free copy.

    Understanding how your insurance choices fit together as you continue working beyond 65 will help you get the best care for your dollars.

    By Bob Moos
    Southwest public affairs officer
    U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
     

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    Habitat for Humanity Opens 2019 Application

    Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge is now accepting applications for the homeownership program through February 28, 2019. Applications can be accessed online at habitatbrla.org or in person at either of their two ReStore locations or at the local Habitat office, located at 6554 Florida Blvd., Suite 200 in Baton Rouge.

    Those seeking more information will be directed to additional information, including the application process, requirements for the program and income requirements (with minimum and maximum income based on family size needed to qualify).

    Habitat for Humanity works with each prospective homeowner partner through their 255 required “sweat equity” hours and their path to an affordable mortgage. Families/individuals are selected based on need, ability to pay a monthly mortgage, willingness to partner and Louisiana residency.

    Applications can be submitted in person Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. until Thursday, Feb. 28. No late applications will be accepted. For information, call 225-927-6651.

    ONLINE:  habitatbrla.org

     

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    Symposium to discuss ‘The Color of Currency’ in Baton Rouge, Feb. 2

    The Color of Currency is a one-day symposium designed to assist prospective Black entrepreneurs and current business owners with best practices around raising capital/providing resource information to aid in the enhancement of an existing business and development of a start-up business. Presented by Black Out Loud Conference, LLC in association with 100 Black Women of Baton Rouge, MetroMorphosis, and other community organizations.

    The event will feature a panel discussion with Black economic leaders in the Baton Rouge area, break out sessions, a keynote address from ExemptMeNow CEO, Sevetri Wilson, mini consultation sessions, food, music and more.

    Sponsored in part by Renee Marie.

    ONLINE: Color of Currency

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    Master Sergeant Bianca S. Sellers-Brown retires with 30 years civil service

    USAF - 1980-1Master Sergeant Bianca S. Sellers-Brown retired Nov. 3 with 30 years federal civil service and 34 years in the U.S. Air Force.State Rep. Barbara Norton acknowledged the occasion as Bianca Brown Day. Brown also received proclamations from Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senator W. Jay Luneau. According to her husband, Tony Brown, she has “commuted from Woodworth to Barksdale AFB in Bossier–282 miles a day–for more than 15 years. She has driven 1.1 million miles in that time she says for God and Country.”

    Master Sergeant Bianca S. Sellers-Brown is the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge for the 307th Mission Support Group Commander’s Support Staff, Barksdale Air Force Base, LA, responsible for managing the administrative support functions for over 400 personnel. She has the additional responsibility of Wing Focal Point for the Unit Training Assembly Processing System (UTAPS), managing the participation records for over 1,400 Reserve personnel assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing. As a Wing Focal Point, she also provides training and helpdesk support to all personnel requiring access to UTAPS and the Air Force Reserve Orders Writing system (AROWS-R). Because of her wide breadth of experience and expertise in her career field, she was also appointed to the Wing Inspection Team. Her willingness to assist when required resulted in her being requested by name to provide backfill administrative support to almost 200 personnel assigned to the 489th Bomb Group at Dyess AFB, TX. She has served over 34 years in the United States Air Force and the Air Force Reserves combined.

    Sergeant Sellers-Brown was born in Redlands, California and enlisted in the Air Force through the delayed enlistment program in January 1980, while a senior in high school. After graduating high school, she departed for basic military training in July 1980. She graduated Administrative Support Specialist technical training school at Keesler AFB, MS in October 1980. Her first active duty assignment was overseas at RAF Fairford, England with the 7020th Air Base Group. In January 1983, she was transferred to the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, the “Flying Tigers”, at England AFB in Alexandria, Louisiana where she attended Noncommissioned Officer Leadership School in November 1987 and received the award of Distinguished Graduate. Her final active duty position was serving as the Military Secretary to the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing Commander. She separated from active duty in December 1992.

    In March 1997, she joined the Air Force Reserve, serving with the 917th Transportation Squadron at Barksdale AFB, LA. While assigned to the Transportation Squadron, she deployed as a transporter to RAF Fairford, England in support of Coronet Astro (Jun 1998), Elmendorf AFB, Alaska (Jun 1999), Australia in support of Operation Tandum Thrust (May 2001) and Istres, France (Sep 2001).

    In July 2001, she accepted a full-time position as an Air Reserve Technician (ART) with the 917th Maintenance Squadron. She earned recognition as the 917th Wing Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter, Apr-Jun 2002. In April 2004, she was hired as the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the Commander’s Support Staff (CSS) with the 917th Mission Support Group (MSG), working directly for the Mission Support Group Commander and promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant in May 2004. In Jan 2011, the 917th Wing inactivated and was reactivated as the 307th Bomb Wing. She remained assigned to the 307th MSG as the Unit Program Coordinator until 1 Oct 2017 when she was assigned the task of standing up the newly reorganized Group CSS for the 307th MSG.

    Her awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Ribbon Long Tour, Air Force Longevity Service, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, USAF Noncommissioned Officer Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon (Rifle) and the Air Force Training Ribbon.

    Sergeant Sellers-Brown is married to Tony Brown of Lake Charles, LA and together they have three children, Shayne (Danielle) Daney, Joseph Brown, and Sydney Brown and six grandchildren, Jaynila, Joseph Jr, Joeria, André, Adrian, and Jylell. Tony is a news journalist and owner of Eyes Open Productions, who was recently featured in a television documentary by Investigation Discovery.

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    Unity leads to spiritual growth for Black, White congregations during transition

    Manuel Pigee III boldly prayed in 2015, asking God to lead United Believers Baptist Church to a rebirth at a new property.

    After three years of fasting and praying, God presented the steadily growing African-American congregation with the opportunity to move into a facility utilized by Oakcrest Baptist Church, a predominantly Caucasian congregation, whose Sunday morning worship attendance was in steady decline.

    Since United Believers Baptist Church said, “Yes,” in January to sharing the campus, the congregation has seen God move in more ways than they ever imagined.

    “When I became pastor of the church, I said to them I want you to know I am praying God would do something no one could take credit for — that God would get the glory,” he said. “The way He opened the door and solidified this partnership has generated a great spirit of joy and peace. We are overwhelmed by God’s grace.”

    United Believers Baptist Church was formed after Hurricane Katrina forced Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans to meet at three separate locations, including the Baton Rouge campus.

    Within a year, many members of the Franklin Avenue congregation returned to New Orleans, but a remnant of around 100 stayed behind, growing to 136 in 2017.

    In 2011, Pigee was called as pastor of the church, which was still a campus of Franklin Avenue.

    Four years later, on April 15, 2015, the congregation voted to rename itself United Believers Baptist Church, adopting Psalm 133:1 as its mission – “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”
    During their three-year search for a new home, the congregation was introduced to Oakcrest Baptist.

    At one time, that congregation had as many as 600 participating in Sunday morning worship, but as the demographics around the neighborhood changed, attendance steadily declined, with fewer than 20 attending last year.

    After a meeting among representatives of the two churches, in June and then another in October, Oakcrest Baptist leaders told Pigee God was leading them to allow United Believers Baptist to share the space, which is located on Greenwell Springs Road in Baton Rouge.

    Charles Bennett, pastor of Oakcrest, and Manuel Pigee III, pastor of United Believers Baptist Church in Baton Rouge

    Charles Bennett, pastor of Oakcrest, and Manuel Pigee III, pastor of United Believers Baptist Church in Baton Rouge

    “They told us we were the church that could reach the community for years to come, and they wanted to work out an agreement with us to gracefully phase out,” Pigee said. “I said to my people this is a great privilege the Lord has allowed us to walk alongside this aging congregation. With the racial divide that is happening in America, it’s amazing to see an aging Anglo church willing to partner with an African American plant as God allows us to escort them to glory.”

    Charles Bennett, pastor of Oakcrest, said the relationship between his church and United Believers Baptist has been pleasant. “We felt we had a choice,” Bennett said. “We could let the buildings not being used to deteriorate, or, we could look for a group we felt good about coming in to use the facilities; and, we wanted a Southern Baptist group in here. Our people are very open and appreciative by the way they have come in and made a difference for Christ.”
    Tommy Middleton, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, applauds the members of Oakcrest for seeing the need for ministry in its facility for generations to come.

    “To the credit of Oakcrest and the leadership and sensitivity of United Believers, it’s turned out to be almost a textbook of how it’s supposed to be in terms of support, cooperation and love,” he said.

    “In many churches throughout our state and national conventions, churches go through seasons of great growth and then that season passes,” he continued. “If there is not a renewal and a shift to address cultural changes in the neighborhood, that trend continues downward. When they recognize how to correct it or change it over to another church, it allows for a vibrant Gospel witness to continue in that area. Sometimes we hang out with stubbornness — you’ve got to let it go.”

    Since moving into the new building, United Believers Baptist has spent most of its time upgrading the property and building relationships with residents of the neighborhood.

    Members have spruced up the landscaping, restriped the parking lot, installed lights in the parking lot, and placed monitors and additional lighting inside the worship center. Ministry efforts at its new campus have included a spring revival featuring Middleton and Franklin Avenue Baptist Pastor Fred Luter, a Mother’s Day tea and door-to-door visitation. Future ministry plans include a class to prepare young boys and girls for adulthood and after-school tutoring on Wednesdays.

    “One piece of feedback from the community is they want a place for children to go for spiritual enrichment and learn practical life skills,” Pigee said. “We want to do social ministry as a way to create bridges and bring people to the Kingdom through a life-changing relationship with Christ.

    “I anticipate us really impacting the community and touching the lives of families and youth through our social outreach programs,” he said. “We are integrating ourselves more into the community. More than anything we want to be a lighthouse, where people’s faith is being shaped and they are being taught to practice it.”

    ONLINE: unitedbelieversbc.org

    By Brian Blackwell
    Special to The Drum

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    MILESTONES: Eddie Ponds turns 80 with more than 500 published issues of The Drum

    Fall of 2018 is a special time of recognition and appreciation for Ponchatoula’s Eddie Ponds, a man known and respected far beyond the city limits.

    Image (144) HIGH SCHOOL

     

    He’s celebrating having published the 500th edition of his newspaper, “The Drum,” which has readers around the nation and beyond. Now, that’s a lot of papers and that’s a lot of work!

    With his friendly smile and quiet demeanor, one would never guess the long, sometimes rough roads it took to get so far in the world of media.

    Born in the Millville area of Ponchatoula 80 years ago, little Eddie was fourth in a family of ten children and grew up in a far different world than today.

    In a time when Italians could not live in Ponchatoula and had to be out by sunset, Blacks could not walk on the sidewalks if a white person, even a child, was there.Image military 1

    In the Ponds’ home, a high standard of living was instilled by teaching and by example. Both parents had third-grade educations and stressed the importance of education and solid work ethic. A family of faith, they walked together to services at Millville’s Star Valley Baptist Church.

    Eddie attended the Ponchatoula Colored School before going on to Hammond’s Greenville Park High School. Ponchatoula High School was just across the tracks — but Blacks weren’t allowed to cross the tracks.
    Further puzzling to youth was that on Saturday nights, teenage boys, all friends from both races, enjoyed hanging out at Billups Gas Station but they just couldn’t go to school together!

    Regardless of color, many young people got jobs out in public before they were old enough. Eddie’s was doing dishes in Little Ory’s diner where he worked all through high school.

    After graduation, it was off to the Army during the Viet Nam era, where he was in Ft. Benning, Georgia, and Hawaii for Advanced Jungle Training. Just before he was sent to fight, the situation changed and he returned home to marry Carrie Wells. For two years he worked at the sawmill until following his father-in-law in construction. Three times the salary, but some of the work in those days was brutal.

    After telling his wife he’d really like to save to go to college, she asked, “Why haven’t you said something before? You could have started this semester!”

    At some time, Eugenia “Sis” Hebert of PHS, had shown him how to do papers and thanks to the GI Bill, he was able to enroll. He earned his degrees at Southern University in Physical Science and P. E. along with his Teacher Certificate and his Master of Education at Southeastern. He and his wife both held two jobs to make it all possible and he commuted to Algiers to teach at L. B. Landry his first year.Drum 30 yrs

    Ever since high school he’d been interested in photography and even in the Army, where he also played saxophone in the military band, after hours he learned film processing. Hearing that teachers could attend Tulane at half price, he enrolled in Photography but had read every book on the subject he could find. Ponchatoula Librarian Clara Heitman called him any time a new book came into the library behind Little Ory’s, now the Library Room at Roux and Brew Restaurant.

    By now he was teaching at Ponchatoula High School and over the Photography Club. Some of his club members today are professional photographers, saying they owe it all to him.

    “How to Make Money with Photography” said that world was open to journalists so back to Southern University he went to study creative writing. This introduced him to owner and editor of the “Ponchatoula Times,” Brian McMahon, who gave him his start, hiring him to cover City Hall, thus deepening his interest and love for newspaper work.
    For in Eddie Ponds’ heart, he’d recognized early on the only news reported about Black people was for heinous crimes and he wanted to bring awareness and credit for good. He observed that even when famous Civil Rights leader, Julian Bond, spoke at Southeastern, no press covered the event.

    Image (149) ponds taking picturesLeaving a City Council meeting alongside Don Ellzey from “The Ponchatoula Enterprise,” Ponds expressed a desire to start a newspaper to “put things in perspective for the Black Community.” Ellzey offered the use of his facilities along with helpful hints in laying out a paper from start to finish.

    Thus, 1986, the fifteenth year of his teaching at Ponchatoula High School, saw the first edition of “The Drum”.
    That was the day “cut and paste” really was “cut and paste” and when it was time to go to press, he’d sometimes be up three nights in a row. On those days, he made his lesson plans for lots of activity so he could be on his feet to stay awake in the classroom.

    Ponds is known for his “positive” press as he avoids negativity and doesn’t even include police reports. “The Drum” and his good name have opened doors to meeting folks from all walks of life including officials and governors.
    He humbly considers himself “recording African American history” and, for the past year, has added videoing, especially the older population.

    Recently he was recognized by the Baton Rouge Metro Council with a proclamation for his service and on November 3, was honored with a proclamation by Ponchatoula Mayor Robert Zabbia declaring it “Eddie Ponds’ Day” before the whole congregation of his New Zion Baptist Church family.

    ponds familyEddie and Carrie Ponds have passed along the tradition at home as well, being the proud parents of two daughters, Sharon
    Ponds of Ponchatoula and Michelle Nesbitt of Conyers, Georgia—both graduates of Southern University and both educators. Following them are one grandson, one granddaughter and one great-grandson.

    What a credit this fine gentleman is to the innumerable lives he touches in person and through media! Congratulations, Eddie Ponds!

    By Kathryn Martin
    Contributing Writer

     

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    ‘Ms. Meta’ on frontline, empowering others facing HIV in Baton Rouge

    Meta Smith-Davis, 62, remembers the time she would sit on the porch saying, “You know they say that girl got that gangsta’?”

    “Yeah, she got AIDS,” she would say.

    Now, “Mrs. Meta” is the girl with HIV and a beloved counselor to hundreds of residents in and near Baton Rouge who are HIV-positive.

    Her message to them is clear: “There is nothing you can say to stop me. Nothing. You cannot stop me from loving you, from being here for you, for doing all I can to help you. There’s not any thing that you can tell me that I have not experienced personally, and​ I can tell you this, you do recover!”

    She is insistent with newly diagnosed clients, telling them, “You don’t have to die! People are living longer and fuller lives with HIV. Nothing in your life has to change when you take your meds and remain undetectable.”

    meta davis on screen

    As the assistant director of prevention for HAART: HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two, Smith-Davis is usually the first professional counselor​ to tell a client that they are HIV-positive. And she’s also the person who helps them develop a plan so that they are less afraid of living with HIV.

    “I do anything and everything that I have to do and can do to enhance the lives of someone living with HIV,” she said. Her commitment starts​ the moment she meets a client—whether their results are positive or not. Facing the results of an HIV test is frightening for many people and the team at HAART is focused on supporting people living with HIV/AIDS immediately.

    “We don’t let a client get out the door without helping them,” she said.

    Tim young

    Tim Young, HAART CEO

    This type of commitment is a standard the executive director, Tim Young, established at HAART. “He’s by far one of the finest men I’ve ever worked with. He’s fine human being,” she said. The non-profit organization is the largest in the state that offers a continuum of services for people with HIV/AIDS including primary health care, medications, housing, employment assistance, testing, and prevention education.

    Just after Smith-Davis was diagnosed in 2001, she walked into the HAART office for case management. She didn’t know anyone with HIV and needed help and support. “There was nobody. I felt disconnected from the world. (HAART) felt like home,” she said.

    She returned to HAART for ongoing care and to volunteer facilitating a workshop for women living with HIV. “Those women made me realize a sisterhood far greater than I knew I could have.” And it is that type of support and love that Smith-Davis said she sets to give every client. She goes to their medical appointments and helps them plan how to live their new life, especially if the client has to do so in secret.

    “I don’t care if they have to hide 30 pills in 30 different places in order to take the medicine, we will figure out how to keep them safe and how to keep them virally suppressed,” she said.

    She also shares strategies for safe sex based on the individual’s situation including same-gender sex. For one client she’d encourage them to use a condom correctly every time, for another the more realistic goal was to increase condom use by picking one day a week when they would always use a condom, then add days.

    Meta davis and menSmith-Davis, who is also a great, grandmother,  takes particular care of clients who appear to be in violent relationships. “Disclosing an HIV-positive diagnosis to a partner can add to or even start a violent relationship. So we counsel our clients very carefully. We don’t want a situation to escalate because one partner believes they can harm the other who is HIV-positive.”

    Her job, then, becomes to get the client to be as honest with her as possible. Especially, since it is required by law to disclose HIV-positive status prior to having sex. “This is required for the rest of their lives or they will face criminal charges and be labled a sex offender.” (Read: Things to understand about living with HIV)

    The self-described to’ up from the flo’ up, ex-con, drug-addicted, homeless Black woman living with HIV, said there’s nothing they can tell her that she has not dealt with personally. “That is truly one of the gifts God left me with coming from where I came from: I have the ability to relate to people in a whole different way,” she said. She uses this relatability to get youth—including her grandchildren—to talk about sex and HIV/AIDS. “We have to keep an open dialog or the streets will tell them all the wrong things.” She said the truth is no one has to get HIV. There are ways to prevent it.

    Meta davis award

    As the state co-chair of the Positive Women’s Network USA, Smith-Davis has met with politicians to advocate for better health services.

    After several sessions—even years—together, Smith-Davis and many of her HAART clients are now friends who she has helped reclaim their lives by getting healthier, pursuing education goals, having families, moving into apartments, and living open with HIV. She has worked with the Baton Rouge Stigma Index Project, and was named a Most Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016 by HIV Plus magazine.

    She’s often celebrated as a hero for her work, but she said, “All I did was clean their mirror so they could see what I saw… All I did was clean the mirror so that they could do the work.” The work, she said, is being able to come to terms with an HIV-positive diagnosis and doing everything necessary to live a whole, healthy life.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate writer

    More stories like this:
    Who Would’ve Thought?
    Fact: Eliminating stigmas can reduce the spread of HIV
    With HIV rates topping the nation, Baton Rouge needs HAART, Open Health, and PreP

    Read more »
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    Gov. Edwards Launches Council on the Success of Black Men and Boys

    IMG_9628This week, Gov. John Bel Edwards hosted a reception to launch the start of the Council on the Success of Black Men and Boys. Edwards signed legislation creating the Council, Act 103, during the 2018 Regular Legislative Session earlier this year. The bill was authored by State Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge.

    State Rep. Ted James

    State Rep. Ted James

     

     

    “I am excited that we are beginning the important work before us because we understand all of our children need champions,” said Edwards. “These members have been charged with recommending ways in which we can grow pathways of opportunity for more of our children to pursue higher education, develop job skills that are in high demand, connect with careers that can sustain families for a lifetime and live lives that they can be proud of.”

    The Council held its first meeting this week and will issue its first report by February 2019.

    Members include the following:
    Rep. Ted James – Chair of the Council
    Rep. Barbara Norton
    Rep. Royce Duplessis
    Sen. Wesley Bishop
    Sen. Yvonne Colomb
    Rev. Edward Alexander – President, Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention
    Dr. Adren Wilson – Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor
    Kenneth Burrell – Deputy Secretary,Louisiana Workforce Commission
    Matthew Butler – Director of Sales, CSRS Incorporated
    Ryan Clark – LSU alumnus and ESPN analyst
    Rick Gallot – President, Grambling State University
    Rev. Raymond Jetson- Chief Executive Catalyst, MetroMorphosis
    Eric Williams – Pastor, Beacon Light Church Baton Rouge
    Dr. Walter Kimbrough – President, Dillard University
    Victor Lashley – Vice President of Global Trade and Sales, JP Morgan
    Reginald Devold – District C Vice President, Louisiana NAACP
    Dr. Roland Mitchell – Dean of the College of Human Sciences and Education at LSU
    Judy Reese Morse – President and CEO, Urban League of Louisiana
    Terri Ricks – Deputy Secretary, Louisiana Dept. of Children and Family Services
    James Windom – Executive Director, Capitol Area Reentry Program

    Click here to read Act 103.

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    Young ‘lawyers’ win in high school competition

    The Southern University Law Center Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project held its tenth annual Regional High School Moot Court Competition on November 2 and 3, 2018. Sixteen students from area high schools participated in the competition. The initial rounds of the competition were held at the Law Center.

    Four students advanced to the final round that was held at the First Circuit Court of Appeal. The finalists were Schyler Shelmire of McKinley High School (first place winner), Skyler Evans of McKinley High School (second place winner), Guevara Johnson of Southern University Laboratory High School (third place winner), and Myisha Hudson of Scotlandville Magnet High School (fourth place winner). The panel of judges that judged the final round was Trudy White, Judge, 19th Judicial District Court, Fred Crifasi, Judge, 19th Judicial District Court, and Wendy Shea, Professor of Law, Southern University Law Center.

    Pictured from left to right are Guevara Johnson, Myisha Hudson, Schyler Shelmire, Professor Wendy Shea, Skyler Evans, Judge Trudy White, and Judge Fred Crifasi.

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    Buddy Stewart Music Foundation honored during Henry Turner Jr Day Music Fest

    Henry Turner Jr. honored the Buddy Stewart Music Foundation’s Philliper Stewart, Sonia (Trudy) Stewart and Cardell Stewart with the 2018 Henry Turner Jr. Day Music Festival Community Award. A Certificate and Commemorative plaque of the “Baton Rouge Theme Song” were presented on Saturday, October 27 at the 2nd Annual Festival held at North Boulevard Town Square on the Galvez Plaza Crest Stage.African Queen Z Dance Troupe

    Henry Turner Jr.Day was established in 2017 to salute individuals, organizations and companies, in the greater Baton Rouge area, for their ongoing philanthropic efforts to improve the quality of life for people in the community.

    As a musician, bandleader, singer/songwriter, promoter, activist and musical entrepreneur Henry Turner Jr. is well known for mentoring musical talent. For his contributions both October 28, 2015, and October 28, 2017, were proclaimed Henry Turner Jr. Day by Mayor Presidents’ Kip Holden and Sharon Weston Broome. As a direct result of these honors Henry Turner Jr. Day now pays homage to others whose on-going efforts continue to make Baton Rouge a better place.

    The Buddy Stewart Music Foundation was chosen as it has served the Baton Rouge community for over 30 years. The former business was originally known as Buddy Stewart’s Rock Shop. It was, at one time, one of the largest minority family owned and operated music stores in South Louisiana. It came about as a result of Buddy’s passion for music. As a bandleader with a big band sound and the ability to sing, write, play and promote the art of music he understood the historical impact of music in people’s lives. Last year’s honoree was Families Helping Families.

    Lilli Lewis

    Lilli Lewis

    The festivals’ lineup included Louisiana Red Hot Records’ Lilli Lewis and featured Universal Music Groups Brett Barrow on guitar playing with Henry Turner, Jr. & Flavor. Additional performers included Clarence “Pieman” Williams and the Rouge Band along with Henry Turner Jr.s’ Listening Room All-Star’s April “Sexy Red” Jackson, Lee Tyme, Xavie Shorts, Uncle Chess and the Groove Band, Larry “LZ” Dillon, Dinki Mire and comedian Eddie Cool. Dance troupes included the Chinese Friendship Association of Baton Rouge, Yuan’s Dance Studio and African Queen Z. Famed drummer Joe Monk led a jam that closed the show and featured SmokeHouse Porter and Miss Mamie, Robert “The Juice” Lenore, Andrew Bernard of John Fred & his Playboy Band and 7 Goddess. Teddy “Lloyd” Johnson of Teddy Juke Joint served as Emcee.

    Feature photo: Henry Turner Jr. presenting the Buddy Stewart Music Foundation with the Henry Turner, Jr Day 2018 Community Award and Commemorative plaque of the “Baton Rouge Theme Song.”(L-R) Sonia (Trudy) Stewart, Philliper Steward, Cardell Stewart and Henry Turner, Jr.

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    Baton Rouge leaders mix it up in Washington D.C.

    WASHINGTON DC—There is something to be said about leaders who push beyond boundaries to forge relationships and gain cooperation from others. For all intents and purposes, that’s what leaders from Baton Rouge are doing on a national scale following with a networking mixer held last month with leaders in Washington DC.

    A delegation of elected and appointed officials from Baton Rouge attended the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference to build allegiance around issues citizens face and find resources to bring to their Louisiana districts.

    Along with participating in many CBC conference activities, the Baton Rouge leaders attended the first “Baton Rouge Meets Washington D.C.” networking mixer hosted by the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s office, the Southern University System, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

    One goal was “to build on national relationships and use resources to develop and fund programs and projects for Baton Rouge and Louisiana,” said Cleve Dunn Jr., chairman of the airport commission.IMG_4351

    “In particular, for the Baton Rouge Metro Airport, it is our goal to leverage those relationships to develop the land surrounding the airport, fund capital improvements projects, and enhance our air service development by increasing the number of direct flights that we offer at BTR.” As an organizer of the mixer, Dunn said he believed the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference would be a great place to start the national relationship building process for the Baton Rouge leaders in attendance.

    “Not only did I feel that our leadership team should attend the conference, but I also felt that we should create and host a Baton Rouge signature event that would promote the city of Baton Rouge, the parish of East Baton Rouge and several of the cities economic drivers,” he said.

    More than 100 leaders attended the networking mixer.

    “Governmental officials, elected officials, developers, private equity professionals, and business owners; all focused on how we can help the city of Baton Rouge and the parish of East Baton Rouge reach its fullest potential,” Dunn said.

    The Baton Rouge Airport heavily relies on grants and federal dollars to expand runways and to complete capital improvement projects. Likewise, the city of Baton Rouge, the state transportation office, and the Southern University System pull most of their resources from federal dollars and grants. Leaders in attendance said the event gave them all a platform in the nation’s capital to present upcoming projects and programs to Congressional delegates and to potential funders and partners.

    We asked attendees to tell us about what they expected from the mixer and its outcome.

    Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport’s interim director of aviation Mike Edwards and Gregory D. Pierson, interim assistant director of aviation, said: “Support for infrastructure funding and our new air service initiatives is always at the forefront when meeting with delegates from any industry. However, one key expectation was to promote the diverse development opportunities available at BTR. Through doing so, we were also able to begin some preliminary dialogue about partnerships with other institutions from other industries that can further stimulate land development and business opportunities within the North Baton Rouge area.”

    President/CEO of the Indigo Engineering Group, LLC, Delicia N. Gunn, said, “My sole CBC Conference expectation was to meet with executives of the Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.”

    State Rep. Edmond Jordan (BR—District 29), said, “My expectation was to network with other African-American leaders throughout the nation to compare ideas related to creating wealth and building businesses within African American communities. Additionally, I was there to promote the Baton Rouge region to other attendees who are located throughout the U.S.”

    What was the outcome for you and your agency in DC?

    Edwards and Pierson said, “The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport was able to establish some key contacts towards formulating a coalition for promoting targeted routes for direct air service. We were also able to promote our Aviation Business Park along with all the economic development incentives that accompany doing business at BTR.”

    Rep. Jordan said, “I was able to network with business owners and elected officials; as we shared ideas, strategies, and successes within our community. Specifically, there were seminars related to federal government contracting and accessing venture capital that were engaging and thought-provoking.”

    How were your outcomes met through the Baton Rouge Meets Washington DC Networking Mixer specifically and through other activities?

    Edwards and Pierson said, “Through our (BR airport’s) discussions with legislative officials and other government partners, the mixer afforded us with the platform to solicit support and funding for capital improvement projects that improve the safety, operation, and development opportunities at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. We were also able to meet and connect with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises from other regions which will help us to continue to grow our DBE resource pool and further our outreach efforts.”

    Veneeth Iyengar, assistant chief administrative officer, at the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, Office of Mayor-President, said, “From City-Parish’s perspective, any opportunity that we have to pitch and export “Baton Rouge and the Parish” is a huge win for the community. The event was very important for Mayor Broome’s administration to connect with organizations and groups, whether entrepreneurs, thought leaders, folks from non-profits and the Federal Government on how we collaborate and work together. The enthusiasm we saw based on the individual and group conversations at the mixer especially in wanting to help our community was great and we look forward to following up quickly on those offers for help.”

    Gunn said, “Although my Washington DC-based firm, Indigo Engineering, has had the privilege of providing engineering and construction management services for cities across my home state of Louisiana, my biggest desire was to work with my hometown city, Baton Rouge….The mixer’s presentation of its airport and city goals provided me with inspiration and information regarding upcoming business opportunities. The casual setting afforded me an opportunity to have in-depth industry conversations that are often stifled around a business table. The event was a perfect recipe for successful networking.”

    Rep. Jordan said, “Baton Rouge was represented in a positive light and promoted throughout DC. There is no doubt that the mixer will lead to business opportunities and an infusion of capital for the city; and hopefully, a direct flight from BTR to DC.”

    What’s next?

    Edwards and Pierson said, “As with most things, the follow-up and ongoing collaboration is critical. We must ensure we build upon the strategies discussed at the most recent event to leverage those relationships established at the mixer for all future initiatives.

    Gunn said, “My next steps are to build relationships and to create partnerships with Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. It is my desire that my firm becomes a trusted advisor and business partner to these two agencies. I seek to achieve this goal by sharing my life, work and play experiences in the nation’s Capitol with city planners to provide a unique, urban perspective for our growing metropolitan city of Baton Rouge. I also seek to leverage my established business relationships and contacts with private and government sectors to help the Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development meet its business and planning goals.”

    Rep. Jordan said, “As this was just the first step of many to come, we must continue to cultivate relationships while implementing some of the ideas gained from the conference. We can’t become complacent or lose the focus and energy gained from the conference. Otherwise, it will be lost opportunity. We are better than that. Baton Rouge is better than that. Now let’s prove it to the rest of the country.”

    Also in attendance were Baton Rouge Councilmembers Erika Green, LaMont Cole, Chauna Banks, and Donna Collins-Lewis;Metro Washington Airport Authority Vice Chairman Earl Adams, Jr. ; State Reps. Ted James, Rodney Lyons, and Randal Gaines; State Senator Ed Price; Metro Washington Airport Authority Rep. Kristin Clarkson;‎ Federal Aviation Administration Rep. Nick Giles;‎ US Department of Agriculture Rep. Danny Whitley;‎ BREC Commissioner Larry Selders; Makesha Judson with the ‎Mayor President’s Office; Louisana DOTD Chief Legal Counsel Josh Hollins; Former Southern University SGA President Armond Duncan; Perfect 10 Productions CEO T.J. Jackson; and Rise of the Rest Fund Partner David Hall.

    By A.G. Duvall II
    Drum Contributing Writer

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  • ,,

    Fashion’s next big designers–Christopher John Rogers, Oonarissa Brown-Bernard–hail from Baton Rouge

    When it comes to fashion destinations Baton Rouge is city that could be at the bottom of the list, but Christopher John Rogers and Oonarissa Brown-Bernard are changing that.

    Besides dominating the charts this year?  What do Cardi B and Sza have in common? They turn to Rogers for his ‘80s glamour meets punk rock inspired designs to make sure their style, just like their music, reigns supreme.

    While Rogers, who made his New York Fashion Week debut this year, is poised o be this season’s breakout designer he said this collection’s inspiration comes from a number of sources rather than one single theme. “I really like to allow my mind to wander,” he said. This year’s collection had a variety of influences ranging from 1930s French couture to 1970s West African photography.

    Brown-Bernard, the designer behind the labels OonaNicole and DoubleOSeven, is already preparing for her fashion debut on both coasts in 2019.

    “What I hope to gain from the experience is to increase exposure for my brand and ultimately have my garments sold in retail stores and boutiques”, said Brown-Bernard

    As many will begin 2019 with resolutions, Brown-Bernard will beginning the new year with a debut both coasts at New York Fashion Week and in Los Angeles at Style Fashion Week.

    As Brown-Bernard resides in Austin and Rogers has put down roots in Brooklyn, the two designers take the time away from their studios to discuss, their inspirations, design processes and most importantly the effect a Louisiana upbringing had on their careers.

    10 OonaNicole

    What inspired you to pursue a career as a designer?

    ROGERS: All of the greats — Todd Oldham, Issac Mizrahi, John Galliano. Also anime, manga, cartoons — the idea of clothing being a transformative vehicle and allowing the wearer to tap into a certain power that they’ve always had.

    BROWN-BERNARD: My mom who taught me how to sew when I was 12 years old, however, my husband is the reason I am pursuing my career as a designer.  I started out as an actress and I was ultimately pursuing a career as an actress.

     

    Did you study fashion and if so where?

    ROGERS: I graduated from Baton Rouge Magnet High School and then I went to Savannah College of Art and Design

    BROWN-BERNARD: I graduated from Southern University Lab School and then I studied fashion at The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, California

     

    What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about those who work in the fashion industry?

    ROGERS: That everyone’s super materialistic and doesn’t go deeper than face value.

    BROWN-BERNARD: The biggest misconception people have about those who work in the fashion industry is that anybody can be in the fashion industry.  Many people think that one style of fashion is suitable for everyone and that’s not true. Each person has his or her own individual style.  You have to have an eye for fashion to be able to decipher what will look good on each body type but also represent the individual’s personal style.  Not everyone has a full understanding of what it takes to create a garment from scratch.  They think its simple like 1, 2, 3 and for basic design it is, but once the garment gets detailed its a totally different ball game.

     

    You made your New York Fashion Week debut this year, what was that experience like and what do you hope to gain from it?

    ROGERS: Hah, super overwhelming! I learned a lot about sticking to time lines, being ridiculously organized, and how to directly communicate your vision with as much clarity as possible. We’re working on building an actual business; so increased visibility towards stores was the goal.

     

    Where do you find inspiration?

    ROGERS: Mostly through color, and the idea of treating it like an object as opposed to just an abstract concept placed onto other things.

    Brown-Bernard:  I am a retro, vintage type of designer.  I love classics so I get my inspiration from the costuming in certain films.  Jackie O, Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Christian Dior, and Alexander McQueen inspire me. I’m also inspired by the thought of being the first well-known African American female menswear designer.

     

    How do you see the fashion industry changing over the next few years?

    ROGERS: A sense of increased accountability and transparency that’s come with the proliferation of social media. I think it allows artists and brands to be more direct with what we say through our work and connect with people who actually understand what we’re trying to say.

     

    Brown-Bernard: I am not sure because fashion is forever changing as the world keeps evolving. It’s a cycle. What is old to us is new to the new generation with just a different name.  I would really like to see fashion return to a place where you don’t have to expose your body to be sexy.

     

    Did living in Louisiana have an influence on your designs? Is there anything you miss about it? 

    ROGERS: For sure! A sense of needing comfort in clothing (depending on the garment), and understanding that things have to function. I absolutely miss my family, 100%.

    Brown-Bernard: Living in Louisiana did not have an influence on my designs; however, it influenced me to be a great designer because of where I come from and always pushing to be better. I definitely miss my family and the good food.

     

    If an aspiring designer came to you from Baton Rouge and said they wanted to follow in your footsteps, what would be your advice?

    ROGERS: Work as hard as you possibly can, and then work harder than that. It’s all about the end game, so learn as much as you can and always say “yes”.

    Brown-Bernard: My advice would be intern or work under a reputable designer and learn as much as you can. This would be very difficult to accomplish in Louisiana, so my next bit of advice would be to travel and attend networking events so you can see what fashion looks like outside of Louisiana. Work on your craft and build your resume, and most importantly don’t give up. It’s a long and rough journey, but if you’re serious about fashion it’s worth it to see it through.ℜ

     By Cameron James
    Special to The Drum

     

    ONLINE:

    www.christopherjohnrogers.com

    @christopherjohnrogers

    @oonanicole007

     

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Floor of Hammond’s Historic St. James AME Church succumbs to termites

    HAMMOND—On March 26, of last year, the Greater St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated their 150th anniversary. St James was the first Black church in Hammond.
    During a funeral on September 10, the floor of the historical church foyer collapsed with about a dozen of people falling in the hole.
    “I was scared. My husband immediate jump in the hole helping seniors out,” said Stephanie Turner.
    “It was chaos for a short time, the young people panic and forgot about the older peoples,” said the Reverend Carl Turner. The Hammond Fire Department arrived and completed the rescue, he said.
    Later reports stated ternite damages was the cause.

    Hole in church floor

    Hole in church floor

    St. James was organized by Rev. Charles Daggs, who served the church faithfully until his death. As a coal burner after the Civil War in New Orleans, his work brought him to Hammond. Upon his arrival, he and a small band of worshippers went “from house to house holding prayer meetings.” After finding there was no place for Blacks to worship, he sought to organize a church for Blacks.

    Antoinette Harrell

    Antoinette Harrell

    After a period, they were given permission to worship in a small school house. According to historian Antoinette Harrell, the band then moved on a site that was donated by Charles Cates, a wealthy citizen of Hammond.
    Under the leadership of Daggs, the first church was erected.
    Naming the church was easy. It church was named in honor of Daggs’ home church in New Orleans. When, Daggs came to Hammond, that name was deeply rooted in his heart. He desired the same spirit in the newly erected Hammond church, said Harrell.
    According to Harrell, in 1923 the present site of the church, 311 East Michigan Street, was bought by two of the church members, Israel Carter and Albert Gibson, who mortgaged their homes. The architect,

    Alexander Cornelius Evans, and the builder, John Noble, were also church members. Church construction was completed in 1925. In August 2, 2017, St James was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    By Eddie Ponds
    The Drum Founding Publisher
    ONLINE: nuturingourroots.blogspot.com

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  • ,,,

    Paris McClain wins Louisiana National American Miss Jr. Preteen

    Nine-year-old Paris McClain has won the title of 2018 Louisiana National American Miss Jr Preteen.  She also won 1stRunner Up Actress and 3rdRunner Up Talent, Overall Best Resume, and Overall Best Thank You Letter in her age group. Her hobbies include volleyball, softball, dance, acting and arts. She also enjoys participating in the Destination Imagination STEM Club at Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts School. Paris also loves to volunteer at the food bank, feeding the homeless, and collecting clothing for girls in need.

    As the 2018 Louisiana National American Miss Jr Preteen, she received an $1,000 cash award, the official NAM crown and banner, a bouquet of roses, and air transportation to compete in the national pageant at Disneyland® in California the week of Thanksgiving. She will also be touring the famous streets of Hollywood while in California as part of her prize package.

    She said she plans to share her platform with girls all over the state. Paris wants to encourage young ladies to believe in themselves and always chase their dreams, just as she does.

    The National American Miss Pageant system is the largest in the nation. The focus of this organization is to create future leaders and to equip them with real-world skills to make their dream a reality.  The program is based on inner beauty, as well as poise and presentation, and offers an “All-American spirit of fun for family and friends.” Emphasis is placed on the importance of gaining self-confidence and learning new skills, such as good attitudes about competition, as well as setting and achieving personal goals. The Louisiana pageant was held June 2, 2018 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. National American Miss is a pageant system for girls ages four through 18. Contestants competed in four overall categories including Formal Wear Modeling, Personal Introduction, Interview, and Community Service Project.  National American Miss also offers optional contests such as the Top Model Search, Talent, and Actress.

     

     

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  • Celebrating 80 years!

    The Drum’s founding publisher Mr. Eddie Ponds is 80 YEARS YOUNG and is publishing the 500th issue of The Drum this fall. Help us celebrate!

    Take over an eighth of a page or a half of a page within the print issue of The Drum and place your photo, company logo, and words of congratulations in color. Your congratulations will be posted on our website, Drum Beats eblast, and social media pages through December 31st We invite you to congratulate Mr. Ponds on his 80th birthday and for publishing 500 issues of The Drum.  Email for more.

     

    Reserve your space now in the November issue.

    Read more »
  • ,,

    With HIV rates topping the charts, Baton Rouge needs HAART, PrEP, and Open Health

    The HIV AIDS Alliance for Region Two, Inc., or HAART, is the 19th largest nonprofit in the state, with a budget of more than $25 million. But with an HIV AIDS population of more than 5,000 people in the nine-parish Baton Rouge region, and more than 20,000 people in state, the need for HAART services far surpasses its budget.

    “We have been assisting those with HIV for nearly three decades and it’s been an uphill challenge from the beginning, said Tim Young, HAART CEO.

    In 1995 when HAART first opened its doors, the medical community was focused on keeping people with HIV alive. Since then, doctors and researchers have learned to treat HIV more effectively, which means fewer people are dying and people are living longer with their disease, said Young.

    “When I began working at HAART, new medications were literally getting people out of their death beds,” he said.

    Many people were seeing health improvements from the new medications that were becoming available, but many still were not, and even those who did often experienced serious side effects.  Today, the medications are so effective that someone who acquires HIV can have a normal life expectancy if they adhere to an effective medication regimen.

    “Now, we are learning how to assist people who have been living with HIV for as long as HAART has been in existence. That’s an amazing advancement. We assist many to cope with the challenges of helping to raise their grandchildren, something many thought would never be possible,” Young said.

    HAART’s original role was to anticipate the services people living with HIV needed and weren’t receiving and to serve as the fiscal agent for Ryan White funding in the Baton Rouge area with other organizations to provide direct services. “The first thing we did was to recognize the need for a larger network of providers to serve an increasing number of people who were living with HIV disease with the advent of new effective medications.  In the late ‘90s, we added Volunteers of America, Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, and Care South to the network of Ryan White funded providers.”

    These relationships aid HAART in providing medical treatment, medication assistance, and case management to assist patients in navigating the health care system. HAART also provides medical transportation, dental services, and mental health services. HAART has established Baton Rouge’s Open Health Care Clinic, located at 3801 North Blvd., to expand medical services and serve the wider community. “Over the past three decades years we’ve built an enduring community asset and positioned it to become an integral part of the health care network for decades to come,” Young said.  “HAART has grown from a small organization, coordinating funding for a network of providers for a single disease, to one of the largest community health centers in the state, poised to grow its own network of clinics across the city, serving both children and adults from every walk of life.”

    “The day of novel treatments is actually already here. Early on, patients had a complex medication regimen that was difficult to achieve and often had side effects, some almost as serious as the disease itself.  Multiple pills, some with and some without food, every four hours meaning interrupted sleep and other complications were normal. Now, for most with HIV, treatment is one pill once a day. That’s remarkable when you consider how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time, although a lifetime for some and sadly too late for others.  And they achieve complete viral suppression, so no more damage can be done to themselves by the virus and they can’t transmit it to others,” Young said.

    But, in a city with the highest rates of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the nation, is HAART positioned to slow down the spread of the virus that cause AIDS? Young explained, “Despite the educational messages, many continue to participate in risky behaviors which expose themselves and others to HIV transmission.  We’ve always relied on people changing their behavior and now we have a biomedical preventative that can protect them even if they don’t take other measures to protect themselves.

    The newest weapon against HIV is a one-a-day pill called PrEP. This Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis pill is a daily dosage of the HIV medication Truvada.

    “It works a little like birth control (pills) where a person takes it everyday to stop the virus from attaching to the immune system if they become exposed,” said Eugene Collins, director of prevention for HAART.

    “HIV disease is not just a threat to those who acquire it, but to potentially much larger numbers of people if left unchecked. It’s our responsibility to assist persons with HIV, not only to improve their personal health, but to ensure they don’t pass it on to others,” Young said.

    After testing positive, Baton Rouge residents are provided services through HAART’s Red Carpet linkage program that gets them connected “immediately” with medical and mental health appointments, employment assistance, and housing. “We provide a total continuum of care, medically and socially,” said Collins.

    According to Young, the strongest tools for HAART are the dedication and commitments of the non-profit’s board and staff. “We bring strong technical skills in the areas of medicine, psychology, finance, and marketing to bring awareness about the epidemic in our community and the solutions to limit and reduce its growth. Our new PrEP program, our new opioid-abuse outreach program ,and the broad spectrum of health and wellness services we bring to our patients are our strengths, thereby strengthening the community,” he said.

    HAART has survived for 22 years despite the constantly changing health care environment, and HIV care changes even more than health care in general.

    “We’ve been successful as a health care resource because we’ve been guided by a strong community-based board of directors, made up of experienced professionals who help us to look ahead and chart a successful vision for the future. Health care will continue to evolve and HAART will adapt to change so we may continue to pursue our mission and commitment to our community.  I’m confident of that,” said Young who is also CEO of Open Health Clinic. ℜ

     By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter
    @jozefsyndicate

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  • ,,,,

    Study looks at whether exercise improves older African-Americans’ memory

    Scientists at LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center are recruiting participants for a study on dementia prevention in older African Americans.

    The project is unique because few studies to date specifically developed behavior change interventions for older African Americans that target preventing dementia, said Robert Newton Jr., who designed the project with Owen Carmichael, Ph.D.

    “The goal of Program for the African American Cognition and Exercise (PAACE) study is to increase our knowledge of the effects of behavior change programs on dementia prevention,” Newton said. Study participants will be randomly assigned (flip of a coin) to one of two behavior change programs:

    • A 12-week physical activity program, which includes weekly physical activity sessions; or
    • A 12-week successful aging program, which includes weekly small group seminars.

    Each program will take place in a community setting.

    Pennington

    Pennington

    “African Americans experience dementia, or severe problems with thinking skills that impact the ability to live independently at a higher rate than members of other ethnic and racial groups. Behavior change programs are safe, well-tolerated, and have shown some promise in reducing risk factors for dementia,” Newton said. “We hope to reduce people’s risk of developing dementia.”

    However, before Newton and Carmichael could study the effects of behavior change interventions, they first had to develop a program in which older African-American adults would participate. While there have been several interventions developed for African-American adults, those plans were not specifically designed for older African Americans.

    “Our first aim is to gather information directly from older African Americans, aged 65-85, about the kinds of activities they want to engage in and use this information to develop behavior-change programs,” Newton said. “Our next aim is to determine if the interventions will be effective in a group of older African Americans.”

    If the behavior change programs work as intended, Carmichael and Newton may be able to achieve their final aim – determining if the intervention affects participants’ thinking skills.

    Newton is an associate professor and director of the Physical Activity and Ethnic Minority Health Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical. His primary focus is examining how physical activity and exercise training interventions affect the health of African-American adults and children.

    Carmichael is an associate professor and director of biomedical imaging at Pennington Biomedical. His research focuses on brain aging.

    Funding for the study was provided by BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit supporting research on Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

    For more information about the study or to participate, visit here, call 225-763-3000 or email clinicaltrials@pbrc.edu.

     

    Read more »
  • ,,,,

    Lashley means business in the Big Apple

    Growing up in Franklin, La., LSU graduate Victor Lashley may have come from a small town, but he’s making a name for himself in New York City.

    “My very first day in New York City was the day I moved here for my summer internship. I packed my bags, got in a cab and pretended to know the address that I gave my taxi driver,” said Lashley.

    Lashley said the internships and connections he made at LSU set him on a path for success.

    “The College of Business has a lot of good partnerships with a lot of different companies, so they would come into the Finance Club and with a lot of opportunities for internships or careers and JP Morgan was on my radar. I just worked with the Olinde Career Center to be a qualified candidate. I applied and started interning when I was a sophomore.”

    During Lashley’s first summer at JP Morgan, he worked in the prime brokerage operation within their investment bank. Lashley returned to JP Morgan for a second summer, this time working in treasury services. After graduating from LSU in 2012, he became an official employee of JP Morgan, working as a sales associate.

    “Every 6 months I went to a different role, so during my first two years I had four different jobs. And then after that program finished, I placed permanently in trade finance and that involves importing, exporting, and working capital transactions internationally.”

    Lashley has since worked his way up to vice president of global trade at JP Morgan.

    “The day-to-day responsibilities are connecting U.S. customers with either a buyer or seller in an international market. So, (working with) a U.S. manufacturer selling to an emerging market or a U.S. company that’s sourcing or purchasing somewhere overseas,” Lashley said.

    While a student at LSU, Lashley majored in business marketing with a minor in leadership development.

    “I did a program in the Honors College called LASAL (Louisiana Service and Leadership), which is all about partnering with Louisiana locally to address poverty and coastal land loss, so it was a combination of two unrelated topics that gave me a very diverse experience in terms of class and activities.”

    Lashley said that experience at LSU, along with everything he learned through his various internships, has helped him get where he is today. And he’s not the only LSU graduate who is enjoying success in New York City.

    “LSU gives you the world in South Louisiana. It’s definitely very cultural, very rich in spirit and the LSU brand will stay with you for the rest of your life. I meet people in New York City who may recognize my class ring, or maybe purple and gold when I wear it, and it’s a connection that’s always there.”

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Historic Tangipahoa Parish Training School–nation’s first vocational school for Blacks–to be auctioned

    KENTWOOD, La–The Tangipahoa Parish desegregation lawsuit, filed over 51 years ago in the federal courts in New Orleans, has still not been resolved.

    In 1911, the Tangipahoa Parish Training School opened as the first Black training school in the nation. Vocational and industrial education offered students specialized training. The school provided teacher training so that the graduated could staff the Black schools in rural towns throughout the South. The training school was the beginning of secondary public education for Black in South.

    Professor Armstead Mitchell Strange was born in 1884 in Waterproof, Louisiana. He earned his college degree from Alcorn College, where he finished in 1902. Strange came to Tangipahoa Parish via Collins, Mississippi. He came to Kentwood, LA in 1910. Strange joined several local white businesses, and donated money to establish Kentwood Industrial School for Blacks. He raised the money, purchased land, and erected the building, one of which was named for him. The scholastic year 1911-12, marked the beginning of the Training School Movement as far the Slater Fund is concerned. Professor A.M. Strange wrote to Dr. James H. Dillard, general agent for the John F. Slater Fund (a philanthropic fund for the advancement of Negro education), soliciting aid for a Black school that would be located in Kentwood, Louisiana. Professor Strange established Kentwood’s first training school for Blacks.

    O.W. Diillon

    O.W. Diillon

    In 1917, Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon came to Kentwood to take charge of the one-room, one-teacher, two months a year school. That year Dillon received $1,000 from the Brooks Scanlon Lumber Co. and the Natalbany Lumber Co. in order to hire three other teachers and extend the school term to a full nine months for 200 students. In 1919 the school board appropriated $1,000 to construct a two-story, five-classroom building at the school. Another $1,200 was spent to purchase 85 acres adjoining the school.

    Professor Dillon appealed to the local board to buy a machine, and to make cement blocks. After securing the machine he implored Black people in the area to supply labor. They made 40,000 cement blocks, one at a time and erected a building for educating area children.

    According to the genealogy research of Leonard Smith III and local historian Antoinette Harrell, Professor Strange was one of seventeen children born to Tillman and Millie Hunter Strange. His brother Tillman moved to Chicago and became a physician. Professor Strange started other schools and colleges in the South. He helped many young Black students get their education.

    Harrell’s research revealed that the greatest gospel singer Mahalia Jackson performed at the school in the ’60s. Many of the students who attended the school were the children of sharecroppers and farmers who wanted their children to get an education. Having the school auction would create a massive void in the community.

    Deon Johnson, executive director of O.W. Dillon Preservation Organization, attended every meeting to address this situation with the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and hasn’t had much success. “How could they auction off our legacy?” He asked. “Our ancestor worked with the sweat, tears, and blood to build this school,” said Deon.

    Basketball star LeBron James opened the free “I Promise” school in Akon, Ohio. The school offers free uniforms, transportations, access to a food pantry for their family. Professor Strange and Professor Dillon did the same thing in Kentwood. They solicited the support of the community who gave their resources and labor to build the oldest Training School for Blacks in the Nation.

    “Today the school is up for auction and has caused a great deal of pain and heartaches for the African American community,” said  Johnson. “A lot of sweat and hard work built this school,” he said. “Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon and men of the community made the very bricks and mortar to build the school. Please help us to keep this historic school and preserve our legacy.”

    ONLINE: owdillonpreservation.org

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Local campers visit Baton Rouge City Hall, Mayor Broome

    2018 Camp U. N. I. T. E. D. participants visiting Baton Rouge City Hall and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome.  Standing on bottom row from left to right: Kayleigh Tran and Heaven Adams; Second row left to right:  McKenzie Milton and Madison Lathers; Third row left to right:  Aarionna Barg, Tyra Porter, and Haven Franklin (Teen Volunteer);  Fourth row left to right:  Brooke Butler, Nyrielle Davis, and Adelay Smith.

    2018 Camp U. N. I. T. E. D. participants visiting Baton Rouge City Hall and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome. Standing on bottom row from left to right: Kayleigh Tran and Heaven Adams; Second row left to right: McKenzie Milton and Madison Lathers; Third row left to right: Aarionna Barg, Tyra Porter, and Haven Franklin (Teen Volunteer); Fourth row left to right: Brooke Butler, Nyrielle Davis, and Adelay Smith.

    Several local campers spend a summertime of learning and fun by participating in a local program called, Camp U.N.I.T.E.D. over the past few weeks. Camp U. N. I. T. E. D. (Uplifted, Nurtured, and Inspired Together Each Day), they had the opportunity to participate in daily workshops that focused on leadership development, healthy nutrition and body image, time management skills, communication skills, internet safety, and community/public service.  The girls’ primary focus was on the three paths to empowerment as they start their journey into middle school.  Their unique journeys began with discovering their individual personal power or the power within.  Then, they moved to the power of team or the power of reaching across to work with others.  The final path was the power of community/public service or the power of reaching out.  The highlights of their camp were a 90 minute SKYPE session with girls their age in Migosi, Kenya, Africa and a field trip to City Hall to meet with Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, Councilwoman Tara Wicker, and Councilman Chandler Loupe.  Each girl received a certificate of commendation signed by Mayor Broome and was also given the opportunity to visit the new Metro-Council chambers where they were allowed to participate in a mock Metro-Council meeting.  These girls have experienced a unique summer filled with awesome opportunities.

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    New business comes to the Village of Tangipahoa

    Village of Tangipahoa Mayor Trashica Robinson along with the board of aldermen and special guests gathered July 17 to break ground on a Big Boss Travel Plaza and Bella Rose Estates, a combination convenience store and restaurant to be located off Highway 440.

    “We’ve worked hard for the past two years to bring new business to the Village of Tangipahoa,” said Robin son.

    “It’s been more than 20 years since a new business came to the Village. New business means more sales tax,” said Robinson. “In the process (the businesses)create some local jobs.”

    She said, “This is a good location, travelers can leave the interstate get a quick breakfast, gas up, and continue to work.”

    “When this project is completed it will bring economic benefit to the town, she said. ℜ

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    Baton Rouge native participates in world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise

    PEARL HARBOR – A 2017 Scotlandville Magnet High School graduate and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).

    Seaman Apprentice Crystal Paul is a culinary specialist aboard USS Dewey, currently operating out of San Diego, California.

    A Navy culinary specialist is responsible for cooking for the entire crew.

    Paul said she applies the lessons she learned from Baton Rouge to her work in the Navy.

    “I learned how to deal with different people and not to overreact to everything which helps me in the Navy every day,” said Paul.

    As the world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring safety at sea and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.

    The theme of RIMPAC 2018 is Capable, Adaptive, Partners. The participating nations and forces exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces. These capabilities range from disaster relief and maritime security operations to sea control and complex warfighting. The relevant, realistic training program includes, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as amphibious, counter-piracy, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal and diving and salvage operations.

    “I’m looking forward to meeting new people during this exercise,” said Paul.

    This is the first time Israel, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are participating in RIMPAC. Additional firsts include New Zealand serving as sea combat commander and Chile serving as combined force maritime component commander. This is the first time a non-founding RIMPAC nation (Chile) will hold a component commander leadership position.

    Twenty-six nations, 46 surface ships, five submarines, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise. This year’s exercise includes forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

    As a member of the U.S. Navy, Paul and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

    “I never saw myself as a risk taker, but being here showed me that I am,” said Paul.

    Additional information about RIMPAC is available at http://www.cpf.navy.mil

    By Electa Berassa
    Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class
    Navy Office of Community Outreach
    Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Theodore Quintana

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    Facing the nation: Making inclusion a priority in Baton Rouge aviation

    Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport and its commission chairman Cleve Dunn Jr. are facing two national nominations for being catalysts for diversity inclusion. This first-time praise comes from the Airport Minority Advisory Council, the only national, non-profit trade association dedicated to promoting the inclusion of minorities and women in contracting opportunities within aviation and aerospace industries. Dunn has been nominated for the AMAC Advocate of the Year Award and the AMAC Inclusive Leader Award. As a result, the airport earned the nominations as well. The advocate award recognizes an outstanding spokesperson, educator, innovator, advocate,  and strategic partner with AMAC for diversity inclusion. The leadership award honors an organization for demonstrating diversity inclusion within its corporate structure of procurement and employment.

    Earlier this week, Dunn discussed the nominations and the airport’s work with minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

    THE DRUMSince this is the first time you and the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport have been nominated, what does this nomination say for the BR Airport?

    DUNN: It simply says that the leadership has changed and the culture at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport is changing and becoming more inclusive.

    THE DRUM: What were the specific actions/programs you initiated or completed that encourages minority opportunities at the Baton Rouge airport?

    DUNN: During my time on the Baton Rouge Metro Airport board of commissioners there has been no new program rollout to encourage minority opportunities. What I chose to do as a commissioner for the past 5 years and now the chairman of the board is to aggressively advocate for inclusion and diversity in every thing that we do at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport (BTR). That includes assuring that minorities receive jobs and career advancement opportunities at the airport, making sure minority owned and disadvantaged businesses are in our pipeline for contracting opportunities, and making sure that we are exposing children from our community to the aviation industry. As a result, our administration is more culturally diverse than it was five years ago, BTR is much more visible in the community and BTR is supporting more North Baton Rouge businesses, organizations and non profits than ever before.

    Sean

    Sean Joffrion

    Sean Joffrion, director of fine arts at the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, said, “Because of Mr. Dunn’s passion for showcasing Baton Rouge and what it has to offer, he advocated for one of Baton Rouge’s premier schools, McKinley Middle Magnet, to have a wall space in Baton Rouge Metro Airport. This space allowed our diverse multi cultural population the opportunity to showcase art work which depicted the students interpretation of Louisiana and its culture. It also gave travelers the opportunity to get a first hand look of what our school and school district could offer to prospective students/parents. This amazing partnership between the school, district, and airport allowed McKinley the opportunity to recruit students to our program. Cleve is an amazing guy who knows the importance of having relationships between our community and business.”

    THE DRUM: What had been barriers for diversity inclusion at the airport when you arrived as a commissioner? How are you leading or assisting the commission and the airport leadership in removing those barriers?

    DUNN: In my opinion leadership sets the tone and creates the culture for any business or organization. The leadership team has to be passionate about an issue or project and get buy in from the rest of the staff and/or team members in order for that initiative to be implemented successfully.  Our barrier at BTR was that our leadership was not passionate enough about inclusion and diversity as we needed to be to bring about a culture of inclusion at BTR. That is why I lead the charge in advocating for a national search for us a new aviation director. I felt it was very important for us to evaluate the best and brightest aviation professionals around the country; who could develop the land surrounding the airport, grow our air service by adding airlines and destinations and work with our board of commissioners to create a culture of inclusion at the airport. The airport’s aviation director search committee, made up of three metro council members and myself as one of four airport board commissioners concluded our work on July 9. After vetting the group of 39 candidates, conducting video interviews, reviewing their resumes and  several in person interviews; we narrowed the group down to three candidates that the committee chose to recommend to the metro council. The metro council is scheduled to choose a director from the group of three finalists in the weeks to come.

    Baton Rouge Airport Commission Chairman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    Baton Rouge Airport Commission Chairman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    THE DRUM: You are now in your second term on the commission and first term as chair, how do you plan to continue building business capacity for the airport? Plans for supplier diversity?

    DUNN: Supplier diversity has been and will continue to be a top priority for me. One of the first things I proposed as chairman is a board retreat where the commission and the staff could meet and develop the annual mission and goals for the airport. During my previous five years on the commission we had not been given the opportunity to have this level of input prior to budget review. Our first retreat will happen in the next 30 days or so; it is during this retreat where we will create and assign action items to board members and staff that will help us to build business capacity and increase our supplier diversity numbers.

    THE DRUM: Do you or other commissioners help develop aviation or aerospace career interests among local students? K-12, technical school, or college students? If not are there plans to do so?

    DUNN: Yes, I do help to develop aviation career interests among local students. I often times bring young people to the airport, give them a tour of the airport and let them sit in on our commission meetings. I also work with Big Buddy and local colleges to give students internships at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport.

    Lauren Smith Marrioneaux

    Lauren Smith Marrioneaux

    The program operations director for Big Buddy’s LevelUp program, Lauren Smith Marrioneaux  said, “After finding out that Cleve served on the Baton Rouge Metro Airport Board, I contacted him about the airport becoming a host site for the Big Buddy Level UP! Summer Internship Program. He committed to making it happen and he did just that! He made it happen and helped increase the employability of the youth in our program. Because of Cleve’s help and support the Level UP! Summer Internship Program and the Baton Rouge Metro Airport has exposed several teenagers in the Baton Rouge area to the aviation industry. After this experience some of our students later gained employment in the aviation industry.”

    THE DRUM: What is the status of the airport  as a growth opportunity for businesses and North Baton Rouge?

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    DUNN: I’m a native of North Baton Rouge, and I’m very passionate about the areas growth and development, as well as the people of North Baton Rouge being benefactors of that growth and development by improving their quality of life through jobs and contracting opportunities. We have some 4,000 jobs at the airport and hundreds of contracting opportunities there as well. I will make sure that people living in and around North Baton Rouge are aware of the job and income opportunities and do what we can to help them get those opportunities.

    As director of programs and events for the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Black Chamber, Troy R. Lee, said, “it was imperative that I secured sponsorship for our Inaugural Minority Business Conference and Expo. I called Mr. Dunn and explained the need to have a successful expo and without hesitation he made sure we had sponsorship from the Baton Rouge Metro Airport. Without his timely assistance our expo would not have been the success that it was. BR Metro Black Chamber members and myself are eternally grateful for Mr. Dunn’s kindness and belief in the fact that it does take a village to make things happen especially in underserved communities.”

    THE DRUM: Who are you acknowledging as you receive this nomination?

    DUNN: I am honored to receive the Catalyst award nomination from such a prestigious organization like AMAC. I want to thank the AMAC Catalyst award nominating committee for valuing and recognizing the work that many of us do around the country to promote minority-owned businesses, increase contracting opportunities and professional advancement for minorities in the aviation industry. I do not accept this award nomination alone. I also accept it on the behalf of all the current and former Baton Rouge Metro Airport board of commissioners who have advocated for minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses while serving on our commission. Finally, I’d like to thank the Baton Rouge Metro Airport administration and numerous staff members who have been committed to inclusion and increasing the participation of minority owned and disadvantaged business enterprises.

    Winners of the AMAC awards will be announced during the 34th Annual Airport Business Diversity Conference in Seattle, Washington, Aug 21-25.

    ONLINE: http://amac-org.com
    ONLINE: www.flybtr.com

    By Zenobia Reed
    The Drum contributing writer

     

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    Trading Black Histories: Louisiana, California middle schoolers meet by chance while competing in national research contest

    SILVER SPRINGS, MD—In life, there are many times when things happen and very few words can convey what’s occurred. That’s exactly what happened when two studentsfrom opposite ends of the United States happened to cross paths while competing in the 2018 National History Day contest held at the University of Maryland, College Park.

    The young researchers had an interesting experience that will likely be etched in their memory for the rest of their lives when Condoleezza Semien, of Louisiana, and Thiana Aklikokou, of California,  met.

    Both women share a fervent love for Black history and research which led to them winning National History Day contests at their school, district, and state levels in order to advance to the semi-finals in Maryland.

    More than 3,000 students from across the nation and countries like Guam, Korea, and China advanced to the final competition, which was held June 10-14 to culminate a year-long academic program focused on historical research, interpretation and creative expression for 6th to 12th grade students. Of those students was Semien, a seventh grader, and Aklikokou, an eighth grader.

    In April, Semien placed first in the state NHD junior presentation division with the oral presentation, “But You Claim that I’m Violent: A Lesson on Influence and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense of 1966.”

    “I wanted to relay the truth about the Black Panther Party and how their actions turned into programs and policies for our nation,” Semien told national judges. “We’re not taught these things in school. When a group came to Baton Rouge to protest the Alton Sterling shooting, I wanted to know why they were trying to connect themselves to the Panthers when their messages where drastically different.”

    Founded in California during the racially-charged 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense galvanized as a response to police brutality in California. While the Black Panther Party maintained a focus on armed self-defense, the organization did not uphold resorting to violence to resolve issues, Semien explained.

    “Historical texts do not record this truth,” Semien said before explaining that the Black Panther Party’s relentless efforts ultimately impacted federal food and health policies.

    “They developed more than 30 social programs over the span of 10 years and are actually responsible for many of the federal food, head start, and sickle cell anemia programs still being utilized today,” she said.

    The Black Panthers thrived, expanding to more than 63 U.S. chapters that provided free clothing, grocery, and breakfast programs, community protection patrol to combat violence and police brutality, free health clinics, political education classes, ambulatory services, and screening people for sickle cell disease, free libraries that primarily housed works by Black authors, legal assistance and early education programs.

    “But you claim that they’re violent!” Semien said ending her presentation during the semi-finals. One judge responded, “You really did a great job dispelling myths surrounding the Black Panthers!”

    The 12-year-old was later told she’d earned National Honorable Mention and placed second in her class of competitors—just shy of reaching the final rounds, said Adam Foreman, NHD state representative and student programs specialist at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

    On the same day, Aklikokou, 14, presented a historical paper on the 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott–Semien’s hometown.

    While touring the United States Capitol as guests of Congressman Garret Graves, Aklikokou and Semien met.

    “My grandmother remembered seeing (Thiana) on television talking about her research, and she introduced us to each other. She was excited, telling Thiana about my research and telling me about Thiana’s,” Semien said.

    There, the girls shared their amazement that so few people knew the history that they had researched about each other’s states. In 2015, Semien danced in the Manship Theatre’s production of “The Fading Line: A Commemoration of the 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott.”

    “I wasn’t surprised that people in California didn’t know, but I came to Baton Rouge and people still had no clue what I was talking about; it was a little surprising,” said Aklikokou.

    Most history books only detail the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott which has often been regarded as the first large-scale United States demonstration against segregation. However, it actually wasn’t the first of its kind.

    In 1953, Blacks in Baton Rouge and the Reverend T. J. Jemison organized the first large-scale boycott of a southern city’s segregated bus system. Two and a half years later, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. conferred with Jemison about tactics used in Baton Rouge, and King applied those lessons when planning the bus boycott that ultimately defeated segregation.

    “I found it interesting that nobody talked about it at all. It was always the Montgomery (bus) boycott. But no one ever talked about what Baton Rouge did which was set it up for Montgomery,” she said.

    Earlier this month, Aklikokou traveled through Louisiana and Mississippi for more in-depth research on her topic of choice just before heading to Maryland.

    Aklikokou and Semien’s chance encounter in the nation’s capitol proves that spontaneous moments in life are often much sweeter than the ones strategically planned.

    By Meaghan Ellis
    The Drum Contributing Writer

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    Harris, first Black to walk in space, visits Baton Rouge

    On June 26, Dr. Bernard Harris, CEO of the National Math + Science Initiative (NMSI), visited Baton Rouge to kick off NMSI’s Laying the Foundation Teacher training at Woodlawn High School.  With ongoing support from ExxonMobil, the popular training program was recently expanded to an additional 400 teachers across the state, doubling the number of teachers from last year.  In addition to his role at NMSI, Dr. Harris is the founder of The Harris Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports math and science education programs for America’s youth.  Harris worked at NASA for 10 years, where he conducted research in musculoskeletal physiology and disuse osteoporosis.  During his career at NASA, Harris became the first Black person to walk in space.  A veteran astronaut for more than 18 years, he has logged more than 438 hours and traveled more than 7.2 million miles in space.

    Dr. Bernard Harris talks with Summer STEM Lab campers .

    Dr. Bernard Harris talks with Summer STEM Lab campers .

    Dr. Bernard Harris autographs a space mural in North Baton Rouge at Kuttin’ Kornerz Barbershop.

    Dr. Bernard Harris autographs a space mural in North Baton Rouge at Kuttin’ Kornerz Barbershop.

    While in town, Dr. Harris joined ExxonMobil for a tour of the local community.  He interacted with North Baton Rouge students at Summer STEM Lab, a BREC summer camp designed to curb effects of summer learning loss and to increase interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics topics and careers.  Campers were inspired by Harris to realize their potential through problem solving skills learned in STEM courses.

    Dr. Bernard Harris New Orleans artist, Lionel Milton, at Kuttin’ Kornerz Barbershop stand in front of a space-themed mural in North Baton Rouge.

    Dr. Bernard Harris New Orleans artist, Lionel Milton, at Kuttin’ Kornerz Barbershop stand in front of a space-themed mural in North Baton Rouge.

    Following the camp visit, he autographed a space-themed wall mural painted by New Orleans artist, Lionel Milton, at Kuttin’ Kornerz Barbershop.  He wrapped up his tour of Baton Rouge at Knock Knock Children’s Museum where he participated in space related pop-up activities with museum guests.

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    Documentary explores controversial death of Victor White III while in New Iberia police custody

    Discovery Communication’s Investigation Discovery is exploring the controversial death of a New Iberia man who police say shot himself while handcuffed in the backseat of a patrol car.

    The show, “Sugar Town” will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Victor White III, who was 22, on March 2, 2014,

    Called the “Houdini Handcuff Case” by some in the state, White’s killing has brought simmering racial tensions to a boil in the small town known for its sugar cane production.

    New Iberia residents are separated by railroad tracks—residents to the north of the tracks are predominantly white, while largely Black neighborhoods lie to the south.

    Kimberly Nordyke reported in The Hollywood Reporter, “The tracks created a strong history of racial divide predating the American Civil War in New Iberia, and many residents would argue that a Jim Crow south is still very much alive.”

    “Sugar Town” will focus on the central mystery of what might have happened to White and chronicles the family’s search for justice for their son’s suspicious death while in police custody.

    The investigation also reveals “a larger story of power, corruption and racial injustice nestled within a divided southern town, with Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal — a man shrouded in controversy — at the center,” according to the network.

    “Victor White III was a father, a son, a brother — and sadly, I fear, a victim of injustices rooted in New Iberia,” said Henry Schleiff, group president for Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel and Destination America. “Tragedies like these unfortunately catapult people into becoming activists, and we are humbled to share the White family’s crusade for answers in Sugar Town. We are reminded that corruption and racism exist in our society, today, and we hope that ID’s airing of this documentary will help spark informed dialogue about larger social injustices to ensure that White’s death was not in vain.”

    White’s family members, including his father, the Reverend Victor White; mother, Vanessa; and two of his eight siblings, sister Lakeisha and brother L.C. are featured in the documentary along with local radio journalist Tony Brown, The Daily Iberian journalist Dwayne Fatheree, and activist Donald Broussard. Anthony Daye, who said he experienced  brutality at the hands of New Iberia’s law enforcement, civil rights attorney Clayton Burgess, and the White family’s attorney, Carol Powell Lexing are interviewed in the documentary.

    The two-hour program premieres at 7pm CST on Monday, Aug. 6.

    ONLINE: Investigationdiscovery.com

     

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    Son shares father’s legacy of Cook’s Theatre

    The North Baton Rouge Blue Ribbon Commission hosted “Meet and Greet with Dr. James Cook Jr., son of Cook’s Theatre founder, the late James Cook Sr.​, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Scotlandville, June 10.
    Dr. Cook, a cardiologist in Medford, Oregon, discussed the history of his family, local community, and the theatre business. According to Councilwoman Chauna Banks, the event “brought back great memories of Cook’s Theatre and the legendary entrepreneurial spirit that was alive and well in the Scotlandville community.”
    Submitted by Rachel Emmanuel Ph.D.
    Feature photograph is of Myrtly Ricard, Lyle Mouton, Natalie Ricard, and Dr. James Cook
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    Judge Piper Griffin named Louisiana Judicial Council Chairperson

    Louisiana boasts the largest number of Black  judges per capita and the Louisiana Judicial Council/National Bar Association prides itself on being the voice of its membership.  The Council recently installed as the organization’s 10th chairperson was Judge Piper D. Griffin during its 20th annual meeting in Baton Rouge last month.

    Griffin has served as the organization’s secretary for many years and most recently as its Chair Elect. Judge Griffin currently serves on the Orleans Parish Civil District Court since her election in 2001. She also serves as Chair of the 4th and 5th Circuit Judges Association, Secretary of the Louisiana Judicial Council Foundation/NBA, Treasurer of the Louisiana District Judges Association, President of the St. Katharine Drexel Prep Board of Directors (formerly Xavier Prep) and President of the Crescent City Chapter of the Links, Inc.

    Other judges installed to new board included Judge June B. Darensburg as chair-elect, Judge Regina B. Woods as treasurer, Judge Rachael Johnson as secretary, Judge Angelique Reed and Judge Adrian Adams as district representatives, and Judge Madeline Jasmine, past chair.

    With a theme of “Advancing Judicial Competence,” organizers said the meeting saw meaningful continuing legal education and dialogue amongst the bench and bar. The Conference began with a community service activity and frank conversation with civil rights activist and attorney, 99-year-old Johnny Jones. A reception honoring retired Baton Family Court Judge Luke A. LaVergne took place at the home of former Congressman and State Senator Cleo and Debra Fields. The meeting was chaired by Judge Wilson Fields of the 19th Judicial District Court. Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson swore in the newly elected officers.

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    Southern University wins in NIS national oral and poster competitions

    Southern University and A&M College was well represented by 30 undergraduate and 5 graduate students who participated in the 75th Joint Annual Meeting of the National Institute of Science and Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Honors Society, in Washington, DC.   This scientific conference, hosted by the University of the District of Columbia, aimed to provide young scientists the opportunity to disseminate their research findings and to network with students and peers of like minds.   This Diamond Anniversary Year represents the 75th one for the joint annual meetings of Beta Kappa Chi (BKX) and the National Institute of Science (NIS). Southern University students won several awards at the conference.

    Oral Presentations

    Irene Lewis   1st Place Agricultural Sciences undergraduate

    Kirstin Brooks 2nd Place Psychology undergraduate

    Gagandeep Kaur 1st Place Environmental Tox. graduate

    Poster Presentations

    Prathusha Bagam 1st Place Environmental Tox. graduate

    Demario Vallier 2nd Place Poster Biology graduate

    Students and faculty were elected to national offices as well.  Deadra James Mackie was elected as national executive secretary for the 18th year, student officer, Joenique Woods, was unanimously chosen as the Southcentral Regional Vice President for Beta Kappa Chi and secretary for the National Institute of Science.  Honors student, Ikea McKay, was elected president of the National Institute of Science and Darrell Harry was chosen as student secretary for Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Honor Society and Treasure for the National Institute of Sciences.  As expected, the Jaguar nation made an indelible mark on the conference.

    Beta Kappa Chi Honor Society was founded in Lincoln, Pennsylvania in 1921, and chartered in 1923.  BKX is a member of the certifying body, the National Association of College Honor Societies (www.achsnatl.org).

    Travel to this endeavor would not have been possible were it not for the financial support of the Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes Honors College and the Timbuktu Academy, both led by Diola Bagayoko, Ph.D., the Southern University Foundation, through the Office of Robert Easley, the College of Sciences and Engineering dean Patrick Carriere,Ph.D., and the Department of Biological Sciences.  Collective contributions from these units allowed the students to have scholarly and professional experiences. The students’ advisors were Eric Pugh, Deidra Atkins-Ball, Phyllis Okwan, and Deadra James Mackie. Bagayoko said “the Jaguar Nation is very proud of them for their intellectual and leadership accomplishments.”

     

    Pictured: (first row) Deadra J. Mackie, Dr. Deidra Atkins-Ball, Paige Mitchell, Wes Washington, Joenique Woods, Ashley Lewis, Irene Lewis, Eric Pugh, Chloe Washington, Tiara Johnson, Dr. Phyllis Okwan and Brandon Parker; (Second row) Terani Dillahunty, Kirstin Brooks, Kelvin Wells, Jacara Glover, Jonathan Sumbler, Ikea McKay Naila McCraney, Darrell Harry, Demario Vallier and Edgar Perez

     

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    SU Commencement speaker wants graduates to ‘be the change’

    “Will your degree serve you or will you use your degree to serve others.”

    Angela Rye, political commentator and social activist, was the keynote speaker for the Spring 2018 Commencement Exercises at Southern University, Friday, May 11, in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. More than 650 candidates earned degrees.

    “My responsibility to you today is Truth,” said Rye, who can be seen regularly on several media outlets including BET, CNN, NBC, HBO, ABC, MSNBC, and TV One. “My responsibility to you today is ensuring you are adequately equipped to survive in a 2018 America. And in the America we create together for the future.”
    web KaylaClancy13
    The political strategist went on to convey that she had a message for the graduates. Her message was to “wake them up” before they become bogged down by society’s obstacles.

    “We cannot keep talking about the problems, and not playing our respective parts to change them.”

    “Be the change. Be courageous. Be bold, like your lives, our lives, depend on it because they do.”

    “Create the community you know we can be. Create the country you deserve to see. Create the world in which you want to live.”

    With smiling faces and teary eyes, the candidates soaked up their final moments. As names were called, family and friends burst into excitement with screams, laughter, and sentiments. 

    _5118024

    The ceremony was presided by Ray L. Belton, president-chancellor of the Southern University System, and James Ammons, executive vice president/executive vice chancellor.

    The spring 2018 chief student marshal was Chicago native, Kayla Clancy. She graduated with a degree in psychology and a cumulative grade point average. 

    Through her strong support system, she has been pushed outside of her comfort zone in order to accomplish great things, especially being chosen chief student marshal for the commencement. The top grad plans onattending Louisiana State University to work towards a master of education in clinical mental health counseling.

    The SUBR spring graduating class included 419 undergraduate candidates and 198 graduate candidates. The class had 137 honor graduates, (one summa cum laude, eight magna cum laude, 27 cum laude, and 101 honorable mention).

    Along with the class, the university commissioned three Army and three Navy officers.

    The Golden Class of 1968 was celebrated and donned gold robes. More than 30 members represented the class and were ecstatic to be included in this momentous occasion. 

    Southern also awarded a doctor of humane letters to civil rights attorney Johnnie A. Jones Sr.

    Encouraging support system leads to Chicago native to become SU top grad

    “Hard-working” and “high-achieving” are adjectives that are not new to Kayla Clancy. Through her strong support system, she has been pushed outside of her comfort zone in order to accomplish great things, especially being chosen chief student marshal for the 2018 Southern University Spring Commencement.

    “Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without my support system. My mother has been my backbone through it all,” says the psychology major who will lead more than 700 grads during spring commencement, May 11, in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. “Since losing my father at the age of nine, my mother was all that I had and she has truly been everything to me and more.”

    Clancy’s support team not only included her family, but mentors that made sure that she was headed for greatness. When choosing her next steps, Grambling State University was top on her list until a mentor, Frances Thibodeaux-Fox, told her to keep her options open and continue to research Southern University. Through constant communications with SU admissions representatives and being awarded a scholarship through the SU Alumni Federation Chicago Chapter, she chose to continue her next steps at Southern University in the fall of 2014.

    After coming to Baton Rouge, Clancy made herself at home and found support within friends and professors, such Reginald Rackley, a Southern University psychology professor, and Mark Gaines, a personal friend. They pushed her “outside of [her] comfort zones showing [her] that being uncomfortable promotes true growth.”

    This advice proved true for the top grad as she devoted herself to her studies and involving herself in extracurricular activities. She held various offices within Psi Chi: International Honor Society in Psychology, Collegiate 100 Black Women of Southern University, and the Beta Psi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. To prepare her for her future career, she participated as a research assistant in a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research internship at University of Chicago during the summer of 2017.

    Looking back on her college journey, she is proud of the woman she has become. Being chosen as the chief student marshal was an accomplishment that was unexpected.

    “More than anything, I am truly honored. I didn’t think that I would be granted this opportunity, but I’m blessed to say that I am here,” she said. “I owe this to God because without him I am nothing and would not be here. I tell my little sisters all the time that everything I do is for them because I want them to see that the sky is the limit. So, for me, this large achievement is, also, for my little sisters,” says Clancy.

    As she prepares for her final exit, she feels her future is full of bright possibilities. In the fall, Clancy will be attending Louisiana State University to work towards a master of education in clinical mental health counseling. Also, to honor her father’s memory and assist students with having higher education resources, she has decided to start a scholarship in his name at his alma mater in Chicago.

    By Jasmine Hunter
    Special to The Drum

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    COMMENTARY: Bishop Curry’s message could’ve blended Malcolm X’s message that love equals self defense’

    Yesterday’s pomp-filled royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was indeed a captivating, majestic, “heaven on earth” event. Despite the fact that it was held at the St. George church in Windsor, a vibrant American soul-stirring sermon on love stole the spotlight from the stars of the show. As millions of Americans witnessed history, the Most Reverend Bishop Michael Curry delivered a sermon that intertwined the power of love and the prophetic tradition.

    The first African-American Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church skillfully linked dynamic quotes of “The old slaves in the antebellum south who explained the dynamic power of love…,” “When love is the way , poverty will become history,” and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s quote, “We must discover the power of love , the redemptive power of love , and when we do that we will make of this old world a new world. For love is the only way.” The mentioning of Dr. King is what led me to write this opinion piece.

    Yesterday was also El Hajj Malik Shabazz’s birthday. Better known as Malcolm X, Shabazz was an African-American Muslim Minister who was an American icon who also preached the good news of love. He was a man who loved his people so much that he delivered a speech on Valentine ’s Day in 1965 at the Ford Auditorium in Detroit, Michigan after his house was firebombed the same day. America must begin to love the many contributions Malcolm X deposited into the spirit of the American narrative. After returning from his trip to Mecca, in this speech, he said, “And when I got back into this American society, I’m not in a society that practices brotherhood.” He also said, “Black people are victims of organized violence perpetuated upon us by the Klan, the Citizens Council and many other forms, we should defend ourselves.” His heart poured out much love when he mentions his observation of a Black woman in Selma, Alabama who was knocked down and dragged down the street while Black men just stood there.El Hajj Malik Shabazz Valentine

    He articulated love in another form: self-defense. His message was not of violence but of love or self-defense during a time of lynchings and brutal forces of discrimination terrorizing African-American communities. Even though he was an independent voter, if alive today he would probably join the ranks of those who staunchly support the second amendment of the United States constitution.

    Embarrassingly, in the year 2018, it is still considered by many Americans as a sign of heresy to openly quote the words of Malcolm X and this misguiding violent narrative of him must be revisited by all Americans. I’m pretty sure Bishop Curry thought of using a few quotes from perhaps another speech delivered by Malcolm X in honor of his birthday, but Curry probably knew he would have had to endure harsh consequences in the long run. I close by adjusting the closing words of Bishop Curry, “But if humanity ever captures the energy to love {Malcom X}, it will be a second time in history that we have discovered fire.”

    By Billy Washington
    Guest Columnist

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    New Orleans poet wins world title, uses platform to promote social change

    Kenyan-born New Orleans poet and activist, Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa, has made her voice her life’s work. She has been a writer and performer since middle school, with her activism-based poetry amassing almost two million online views, including an official TED talk titled “Black Life at the Intersection of Birth and Death” in 2017. She has received recognition as an activist in the Movement for Black Lives and in the Reproductive Justice field through her work as a founding co-chair of the New Orleans chapter of BYP100, and her work with Women With A Vision, Inc. Now as Poetry Slam, Inc.’s 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPS) champion, FreeQuency intends to use her new platform to do even more.

    Most immediately, FreeQuency will travel to speak and perform at the Breaking down Borders African Youth Summit in Gauteng, South Africa, May 14-18. This performance and speaking engagement is perfectly aligned with her mission, as the summit’s theme is a call to action to African youth to start and continue taking steps and making strides in creating an Africa they imagine for themselves that can also be bequeathed to future generations. That visit will be followed by an intense summer working trip to Nairobi, Kenya, where she will continue co-creating a women’s activist poetry scene called Paza Sauti: Women of the Word. (Paza Sauti is Swahili for ‘Raise Your Voice’). The two upcoming visits to the African continent are not FreeQuency’s first travels abroad to elicit change, her activism track record consists of previous trips to South Africa, Kenya, and Brazil to connect, build and perform alongside local activists and artists, as well as her time working as a featured artist, workshop leader, and festival planning assistant for the 2017 Paza Sauti: Dar es Salaam Youth Poetry Festival, for which she is now partnering for her summer initiative.

    “I really want to use my WOWPS title to allow me to bring activist poetry into spaces that would not normally invite those kinds of poets,” FreeQuency said. “Similar to Darfur-born poet and activist Emi Mahmoud – who used her 2016 WOWPS title and platform to speak at the United Nations as a Somalian refugee and start a peace walking campaign – I view the title as less of an accolade and more as another piece of a platform. I plan to expand this platform for the antiracist, LGBTQ+ advocacy and decolonization work I do. It means something to be a Kenyan-born person winning this award too, and I hope it allows me to speak to more people back home as well.”

    FreeQuency often speaks to creating the world she wants to live in as she calls out this theme in her work, using what now seems to be the catchphrase: “Words Create Worlds.” Examples of such include the poetry she used to land her WOWPS title. Among these works are poems that address issues such as how Disney movies socialize girls into oppressive ways to exist, ways toxic masculinity shows itself on men with a happy resolution, black motherhood in the era of Black Lives Matter, ways religion has been used as a tool for colonization on the African continent, ways in which white supremacy manifests, and the lack of attention the deaths of black women murdered by the state receives.

    Through her poetry, activism and role as a youth worker, FreeQuency said she also hopes to inspire the young people that she works with from east Africa to New Orleans to use their voices as tools for social change. She is the coordinator of the New Orleans Youth Poetry Festival and a founding member of the New Orleans Youth Open Mic, and hopes to help cultivate this space into one focused on pushing community and societal change through writing, similar to the ways she was brought up in the tradition of poetry as protest. While she has been a change agent for much of her life, the 26-year-old finds that holding the highly-sought after poetry slam title will enable her to further her mission of utilizing her voice and words to promote social change. She will use her title to continue shedding light on various issues across the world.

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    Floyd Anthony Johns Jr. takes ‘Black Panther’ stunt role into ‘Avengers’

    Former Baton Rouge Community College student, Floyd Anthony Johns Jr., will appear in the upcoming film, “Avengers: Infinity War,” in a reprisal of his stunt role as a member of the Jabari Tribe from the Marvel Studios film, “Black Panther”. The Jabari Tribe served as members of Black Panther character, M’Baku’s (Winston Duke) army and were featured in the prominent fight scene that took place during the downfall of the film’s villain, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Details on how the Jabari Tribe will be featured in Avengers: Infinity War are not available.

    Johns appeared in his first major motion picture while he was a student at BRCC, with a stunt role in The Butler (2012). Since then, he has 48 film and television credits to his name, including the films Get Out as a stunt double for lead actor, Daniel Kaluuya, and Spiderman: Homecoming as a stunt double for both Bokeem Woodbine and Herman Schultz. In television, Johns has credits in two episodes of the popular ABC drama, Scandal, three episodes of the FOX musical drama, Empire, and two episodes of CBS’ action-adventure series, MacGyver, among many other roles that include individual stunts, stunt doubling, and driving.

    Floyd Anthony Johns Jr. as a stuntman on the set of Black Panther

    Floyd Anthony Johns Jr. as a stuntman on the set of Black Panther

    While at BRCC, Johns studied Criminal Justice. He also showed a high interest in writing and was a member of the I, Too, Am America club, as well as the film production club. Johns’ essay “Born in America: But, Jamaican by Blood” was featured in the BRCC student-produced journal, “America, The Beautiful In Spite of It All”.  He was later invited to present the essay at the 2014 National Association of African American Studies Conference. Johns credits his time and experiences at BRCC for preparing him for life after college.

    “BRCC really prepared me for the real world by getting me organized and giving me the ability to communicate with different people from different backgrounds,” Johns said. “It helped me become very efficient in networking, which is a key tool for the real world.”

    Johns said he gives back to BRCC every chance he gets. He was on campus this February donating his talents in film production to the I, Too Am America club for their annual Black History Month Celebration. He presented a series of videos that reflected the importance of earning a college education, along with those who inspire him from Black History. He also told the students how being casted in Black Panther impacted his life, and how appreciate he is of the many experiences he had as a BRCC student.  

    Johns is now filming a stunt role for the 2019 reboot of Shaft, titled Son of Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson. An additional Avengers film, set for a 2019 release, will feature Johns in a stunt role.  

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    Angela Rye to speak at Southern University Spring Commencement

    Political commentator and social activist Angela Rye will be the speaker for Southern University’s spring commencement. The ceremony will be held in the F.G. Clark Activity Center on May 11 at 10 a.m.

    A prominent strategist, Rye can be seen regularly on several media outlets including BET, CNN, NBC, HBO, ABC, MSNBC and TV One. She has also been featured in publications such as Marie Claire, Ebony and the Washington Post. Her dialogue from political campaigns to legislation and administration policies that have long-term implications nationally and internationally.

    Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Rye says she learned the importance of advocacy through her family’s political and community activism. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Seattle University School of Law.

    Rye is principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy firm in Washington, D.C. Her past appointments include serving as the executive director and general counsel to the Congressional Black Caucus for the 112th Congress. In this role, Rye was tasked with developing the overall legislative and political strategy for the Caucus. Prior to working for the CBC, she served as senior adviser and counsel to the House Committee on Homeland Security under the leadership of Congressman Bennie G. Thompson. Upon moving to Washington, Rye co-founded IMPACT, a nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage young professionals in three core areas: economic empowerment, civic engagement, and political involvement.

    Rye serves on the boards of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee (CBCPAC), the Seattle University School of Law Alumni, Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, Inclusv, and Wilberforce University. She is a member of The Links Inc., National Bar Association, American Bar Association, and the Washington Government Relations Group.

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    COMMENTARY: Dr. King, Alton Sterling, and the Difficult Days Ahead

    Fifty years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was there on behalf of Memphis sanitation workers marching for higher wages and better working conditions. Their cause was central to King’s Poor People’s Campaign, the final phase of his movement for civil and human rights.  The King of 1968 had evolved considerably from the early years of the movement.  In a May 1967 report to the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King wrote:

    We have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights, an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We have been in a reform movement…But after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be the era of revolution. We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.

    King’s assassination cut short his pursuit of this more radical vision.  In many ways it also marked the beginning of a new chapter in America’s sordid problem of the color line.

    chi-mlk26loot-20080228Amid the riots that followed King’s assassination, President Johnson signed the long delayed Fair Housing Act of 1968.  The Act promised to interrupt the processes of Black ghettoization and white suburban flight that were well underway by the end of the 1960s.  After decades of weak enforcement, however, cities today remain racially segregated. Moreover, the nation’s legacy of racist housing policy has led to an ever-widening racial wealth gap that has emerged as a defining feature of the much larger issue of growing economic inequality.  As an affordable housing crisis grips most American cities, the public is increasingly in tune with concerns over gentrification and the need for equitable redevelopment.  Said differently, there is a growing recognition that we must aggressively pursue the hard work of correcting for the failed urban policies that have long had as their chief objective the exclusion and marginalization of Black communities.

    As the urban redevelopment consensus grows, so too does our appreciation of the depths of the problem.  The determination to ensure Black social and economic subordination shaped twentieth century urban policy.  Consequently policing and incarceration emerged as the dominant policy responses to the government-mandated racial segregation that destabilized Black communities in the first place.  Decades of redlining, wage theft, dilapidated infrastructure, and the many other deliberate assaults on Black humanity were casually forgotten.  Black “culture” was deemed solely responsible for the condition of poor Black neighborhoods and marked them for the most draconian, inhumane, and extra judicial treatment.  The resulting tide of mass incarceration further destabilized those neighborhoods while taking a devastating toll on Black families and individual lives.

    These nationalized trends manifested themselves in a variety of locally-specific ways.  In Baton Rouge the record-setting 47-year fight over school integration effectively reshaped one city into two. It gave birth to “North Baton Rouge,” a local shorthand for the geography of Black poverty and social exclusion.  For those who have internalized the logic of racial stratification, having a geographically adjacent zone of racialized mass disinvestment was a small price to pay for the satisfaction of punishing the Black communities they were convinced deserved such contempt.

    Alton_Sterling_just_before_being_shotRacial tensions exploded in the summer of 2016 when cell phone video captured the killing of Alton Sterling while two Baton Rouge police officers pinned him against the pavement.  Last week the Baton Rouge Police Department finally released the body camera video from the fateful encounter. The video shows Officer Blane Salamoni –abandoning any semblance of police protocol or basic human decency– rush a confused Sterling, hurl expletives in an enraged tirade, threaten Sterling’s life before needlessly taking it, then cursing his dying corpse while callously rifling through his pockets for an alibi. It’s shocking and horrific. The tragedy follows a seemingly unending succession of similar tragedies around the nation and a growing consensus that decisive action is necessary.  In spite of all of this, neither the Department of Justice nor the Louisiana Attorney General could find probable cause to impanel a grand jury for a possible criminal indictment.

    The chorus of bigotry and hatred from those who populate the online comments sections of the city’s papers or those who have voiced their unyielding support of Salamoni – even in the face of the new video – is drowned out only by the silence of many, many more.  Part of the trauma many of us experience watching the Sterling videos and others like them is tied to the indifference of those who refuse to accept that something pathological, intentional and historically driven is at play.  It’s likely only a matter of time before we receive the next hashtag about a Black body racked with bullets after making some armed, trained officer fear for his life.

    This is America 50 years after King’s assassination.  The relative progress made in civil rights since April 4, 1968 is rife with tragic contradiction and complexity.  King likely did not dream that after climbing to the “mountaintop” our first words would not be “free at last” but rather “Black lives matter.”

    In his last speech King prophesied that we had some difficult days ahead.  That is as true in 2018 as it was in 1968.

    By Christopher Tyson
    Guest Columnist
    Christopher TysonChristopher J. Tyson is the Newman Trowbridge Distinguished Associate Professor of Law at LSU’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center, where he teaches property and local government law. He is also the son of former U.S. Chief District Court Judge Ralph Tyson. Follow him at @chrisjtyson.

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    ALL CITY Teen Poetry Slam Festival takes over Baton Rouge April 18-21; April 27-28

    Following its huge 2017 victory at the 20th Annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival (BNV), Baton Rouge based arts nonprofit Forward Arts, Inc. is gearing up to select its 2018 All Star Team, by way of its 12th annual ALL CITY Teen Poetry Slam Festival, April 18-21; 27-28, downtown Baton Rouge. This year’s theme, “Defining Brilliance”, gives a nod to Baton Rouge’s youth poets who are setting a standard for what literary excellence is in their generation. All events, outside of opening ceremonies, are open to the public. A full schedule is available at Forwardarts.org.
    ALL CITY serves as both a community event, as well as an opportunity for area youth, ages 13-19, to experience performance poetry on a large scale, including a chance for six lucky young poets to represent Baton Rouge at the 21st Annual BNV to be held this year in Houston. The festival also includes workshops, panel discussions and specialty open mic events. At Grand Slam Finals, to be held April 28 at the Manship Theatre, the top ranked team of poets of the competition will be named ALL CITY champions and the six top ranked poets will become the 2018 Forward Arts All Star Team and represent the city at this year’s BNV this July. The 2017 Forward Arts All Star Team won BNV to become the top ranked youth poetry slam team in the world and the first team from the south to win the two decades old competition.
     Web ALL TEEN Poetry Slam
    More than just a competition, ALL CITY has been a springboard for many youth in Baton Rouge to take a career in the literary arts into serious consideration. Five of the festival’s former participants were accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s First Wave spoken word cohort – the only program of its kind in the nation. Of the students who already graduated, more than half have pursued careers as educators in the field of English. The festival also adequately prepares youth participants for larger competitions like Brave New Voices.
    “ALL CITY allowed me to perform my poetry in front of a huge audience,” said 2017 BNV champion and Forward Arts youth, Imani Sundiata. “Having ALL CITY also gave me a deadline to work towards and help with my time management, because if I wanted to get on the BNV team, I would have to work hard and push myself to finish poems and practice performing them. That training and opportunity gave me the stage experience I needed to feel confident in my poems and writing ability. Altogether, ALL CITY gave me the tools to make me a better performer.”
    A poetry slam is an Olympic-style spoken word poetry competition in which poets perform original writing within a three minute time limit. Originality, physicality and vulnerability are some the hallmarks of successful slam poems. The youth of Forward Arts are under the tutelage of internationally-acclaimed slam poets – executive director Chancelier ‘xero’ Skidmore, Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, 2013; program director Desireé Dallagiacomo, a multi-time international poetry slam finalist and viral video sensation; and Donney Rose, a 2018-2019 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. The staff of Forward Arts collectively has more than 15 years of experience as teaching artists and administrators of youth spoken word poetry.
     Anyone interested in volunteering at the festival may contact volunteer coordinator, Roe Lewis, at Roneshialewis@mybrcc.edu.
    The ALL CITY Teen Poetry Slam Festival began in 2007 and is the only festival of its kind in the region. It has hosted hundreds of youth poets in the Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.FA_SlamFlyer-Back_2018-edited
     Forward Arts, Inc. fosters personal and social transformation by providing arts instruction, literary education, and youth development in Southeastern Louisiana.
    Festival Schedule
    Wednesday, April 18thCYPHER NIGHT (competing participants only)

    5:30-8:30PM
    Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, 427 Laurel St.
    Thursday, April 19th & Friday, April 20th
    PRELIMINARY BOUTS #1-6
    5:30-9:30PM
    Mid City Ballroom, 136 S. Acadian Thruway
    Saturday, April 21st
    POETRY + LIVE MUSIC Concert
    7:00-10:00PM
    Mid City Ballroom, 136 S. Acadian Thruway

    Friday, April 27th

    ReVision
    7-10PM
    The Parlor, 705 St. Joseph St.
    Saturday, April 28th
    GRAND SLAM FINALS hosted by Ebony Stewart
    6-9pm
    Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St.
    *Tickets available at manshiptheatre.org*

     

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    Nurses focus on ‘community medicine’ to restore healthcare desert

    There is a new healthcare provider in north Baton Rouge. That news alone should spark hope in many residents from Zachary, through Baker and Scotlandville, and on to Mid-City. But most residents do not know that the Champion Medical Center on Howell Blvd. now houses the Louisiana Healthcare Services and its three providers. Open every day, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the new clinic provides medical care for the entire family, a Medicaid application center, family planning services, as well as onsite lab services.

    Most importantly, Louisiana Healthcare Services provides these services in the middle of a healthcare desert in East Baton Rouge Parish. “We are a drop of water in this desert,” said registered nurse Nicole Thomas.  She and Leah Cullins, FNP, own Louisiana Healthcare Services which opened at 7855 Howell Blvd. in June 2017.

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    Thomas said when she and Cullins began planning the clinic, they looked for an area with the greatest need. “The first thing both of us said was north Baton Rouge,” Thomas said. “Knowing that there were a lot of things that were going to fight against us. Lack of resources are in this area, and not just health resources but food resources; resources period are just scarce,” she said knew that those would be a battle for us, we decided to push through them.”

    In 2013, Earl K. Long Memorial Hospital was closed then later demolished in 2015 and replaced with the LSU Health Baton Rouge North Clinic with 15 treatment chairs. An ER was opened in 2017 as an 8,800-square foot addition built adjacent to the existing clinic. The facility includes an infusion clinic and services for primary care and oncology. It sits on Airline Hwy, 3 miles away from Louisiana Health Services. The Jewel Newman Community Center still houses the Baton Rouge Primary Care Collaborative Health Center at 2013 Central Road—nearly 5 miles north. And the Margaret Dumas Mental Health Center is open a mile away on 3843 Harding Blvd for mental health and substance abuse treatment. None of these facilities are designed for patients to regularly see the same health care provider in order to manage their health. Similarly, there are no other doctor offices or primary care facilities within the five surrounding zip codes.

    “There have been so many barriers to care for so long in the community,” said Thomas who grew up in the same community. As a student at Glen Oaks Medical Magnet High School, she was introduced to healthcare through the school’s medical training classes. She graduated from Southern University School of Nursing and worked as a nurse at what she called “the best hospital ever,” Earl K. Long Memorial Hospital, then to home health, and managed care with United Healthcare. It opened her eyes to the business of healthcare although she still had a “yearning for the clinical aspect.”

    IMG-4407

    She said she began asking herself what more she could do to have an impact. “What legacy am I going to leave behind?” she asked. “For me coming back to open a clinic here was purposeful. I realized that every single step of my journey that I went through, every job, every up, and every down was to get me to prepare me to be here,” said Thomas.

    “Here” for both she and Cullins is in north Baton Rouge providing what they called “community medicine.”

    DSC_8414

    “This (at LHS) is where you come to establish a relationship with your doctor,” said Collins. “This is where you come for the personalized care.” As a child, Cullins watched this community medicine being practiced by Black doctors in South Baton Rouge. “I saw how these doctors cared for patients. Taking whatever they could afford to pay at the time. Sometimes it was some type of commodity or produce; most times patients paid in cash.”

    Thomas said she saw the same community medicine being practiced while she was a high schooler completing clinical rotations with nurses at Earl K. Long Hospital emergency room. “This nurse gave it literally her all. Seeing how she was able to truly provide care for the patient and make an impact,” she said. “You change the entire course of their lives.”

    As a result, Louisiana Healthcare Services allows patients to pay a minimal fee of $65 for visits without insurance and providers make house calls to care for established patients.

    “This is the type of care people deserve,” Cullins said. As a nurse practitioner, she is the primary care physician for hundreds of patients.

    Along with family care, the clinic offers wellness screenings, immunizations, HIV and chronic disease management, illness treatment, and family planning services. The extended hours of 8am to 8pm allow LHS to accept walk-ins. There are three providers—one bilingual—and an onsite lab. Medicaid application assistance are available. Cullins said they partner with specialists across the city who provide obstetrics, cardiac, dermatology, and pharmaceutical services for LHS patients. In the near future, LHS will house specialists “so that our patients won’t have to travel out of their communities — miles from their homes—to be cared for,” Cullins said.

    “We’ve hit many brick walls,” said Thomas. “We are writing our own blueprint as we go. We are doing what matters in order to impact this community the most.”

    For instance, in January, a team from LHS joined volunteers with LaMOM at the Baton Rouge Free Health Clinic and provided dental, medical, and vision care to more than 1,400 residents over three days. “This service was so needed, and with all the providers and medical staff there, we couldn’t assist everyone. There were so many,” said Thomas.

    IMG-4228

    “People stood out in the freezing cold as early as 4am, lined up waiting for the doors to open,” said Cullins. Many of them had not been seen by doctors for years. Cullins remembered siting with one patient who need to received dental care but their blood pressure was too high. “They were hypertensive and had no medicine and no doctor,” she said. After sitting with them and explaining the severity of their health and its impact on their teeth, Cullins said she was surprised when the patient said, “You’re the first doctor to sit next to me and touch my hand.” After some time, Cullins said, they were able to lower the patient’s blood pressure so that the dentist could repair her teeth.

    IMG-4577“We’ve got to start seeing doctors who care about us,” said Cullins. One of their goals is to build on their partnerships with providers and specialists who will care for patients on site. “We (LHS) are needed,” she said.

    The surmounting HIV and AIDS cases in Baton Rouge is also a major concern for Collins and Thomas. The city is number one in the nation for new HIV cases. In 2015, more than 3,700 residents reported having the disease and the number is growing quickly. “We can prevent this and we can help our patients live longer with the disease,” said Cullins who specializes in HIV/AIDS management.

    “This is a vulnerable community, from hypertension, diabetes, HIV, and other conditions” said Thomas. “Their care starts with a primary care physician not in urgent care or the emergency room.”

    “We both know how it feels to be disadvantaged and being told no for services…This is a legacy we’re building here,” Cullins said.

     

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

    Photos by Hodge Media Group

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    Southern rolls out Ag mobile during annual small farmer conference, hundreds in attendance

    More than three hundred small farmers from throughout Louisiana gathered at the Felton G. Clark Activity Center for the Southern University Land-Grant Campus’s 8th Annual Louisiana Small Farmer Conference. The three-day conference themed, “Transforming and Elevating Louisiana Small Family Farms,” was held March 15-17, 2018.

    Events kicked off on March 15 with a ribbon cutting for the Southern University Agricultural Land-Grant Campus’s Mobile Education and Technology Center.

    IMG_0770

    The mobile center will be used to provide educational training, bring Internet access, hands on testing and live instruction to low-to-moderate income families residing in the most marginalized areas and remote corners of the state.

    Sessions held during the day included grant writing, emergency preparedness, and integrated pest management.

    IMG_0848

    La Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain DVM

    The second day of the conference began with an address from Louisiana’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, DVM. The keynote address was delivered by Leonard Jordan, the acting chief of the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service.

    IMG_0856

    Leonard Jordan

    Session included Programs for Veterans, Intensive Small Scale Farming, Agro-Tourism, Farm Liability Insurance, Social Media Marketing, Biodiversity on Your Farm, Estate Planning, Record-Keeping and Urban Farms.

    The Louisiana Living Legends Banquet was held on the evening of March 16 following the conference’s sessions. This banquet honors individuals who have made significant contributions to Southern University in the areas of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences.

    The 2018 honorees were Winzer Andrews, retired county agent/ parish chairman with the LSU AgCenter’s Cooperative Extension Service in Caddo Parish; State Representative Barbara West Carpenter, Ph.D., dean of International Affairs and University Outreach at Southern University; and Veeraraghava R. Bachireddy, Ph.D., professor emeritus of plant and soil sciences at the SU College of Agricultural, Family, and Consumer Sciences.

    The three join 24 others who have been honored with this recognition since 2005.

    Anthony Reed, director of special projects for the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences at Alcorn State University, served as the speaker for the banquet.

    20180316_143715 (1)

    The conference concluded with a workshop on Managing Feral Hogs. During the workshop Gene Cavalier, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry spoke to the attendees about the rules and regulations for feral hogs in Louisiana. Derrick Banks, extension agent at Prairie View A & M University also made a presentation on managing feral hogs.

    By LaKeeshia Giddens-Lusk
    Contributing Writer

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    There’s a Juke Joint in West Baton Rouge

    The West Baton Rouge Museum is pleased to announce the grand opening of the Juke Joint exhibit on April 6th at 6:30PM. This new permanent exhibit will interpret the rich blues heritage of West Baton Rouge. It is one of the first projects of the museum’s new curator of exhibits Kathe Hambrick.

    Kathe Hambrick, Curator of Exhibits, West Baton Rouge Museum

    Kathe Hambrick, Curator of Exhibits, West Baton Rouge Museum

    The Juke Joint grand opening is a tribute to Slim Harpo with living legends Henry Gray and Carol Fran along with tomorrow’s legends Carter Wilkerson and the Riverside Blues Band and Rudy “Trey” Richard, III. We will be frying fish and serving up Juke Joint beer from Tin Roof and the all new “Baby Scratch My Back” cocktail invented just for us by Cane Land Distilling Company, said museum planners.
    A P1390039
    Juke joints have a history that is deeply rooted in small towns throughout the south. West Baton Rouge was famous for the juke joints that provided relief to the workers coming in from the sugarcane fields and long hard days of work on the Mississippi River. The night time establishments in West Baton Rouge Parish drew crowds as the Blue Laws of East Baton Rouge did not apply on the west side. You could hear live music playing all night through open windows across the canebrake. Ernest Gaines is quoted in his memoir, Mozart to Leadbelly, “Baton Rouge was a dry town on Sundays; so I…would go across the Mississippi River into Port Allen, into The White Eagle bar.” He wrote about hearing Bobby Rush, Bobby Blue Bland, and Ernie K-Doe in The White Eagle.

    Learn more of the juke joints and the Blues musicians that made West Baton Rouge famous. Be prepared to dance and share your juke joint stories from West Baton Rouge Parish.

    ONLINE: http://westbatonrougemuseum.com

    Photos by James Terry III

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  • ,,,

    SU Land-Grant Campus holds successful 75th Annual Livestock Show

    For 75 years, Southern University has continued the tradition of providing an opportunity for youth throughout Louisiana to gain valuable knowledge and skills at its Annual State Livestock and Poultry Show. The event was held March 1 – 3 at the Maurice A. Edmond Livestock Arena.

    “We are excited to celebrate 75 years of holding a livestock show. Southern is the only Historically Black College or University that currently holds a livestock show and we are very proud of that,” said Dawn Mellion-Patin, Ph.D., SU Land-Grant Campus vice chancellor for extension.

    To qualify for the state show, competitors had to have won first place at a parish livestock show.
    Thirty-nine young people from across the state were named state champions in various breeds of dairy and beef cattle, lamb, goat and poultry during the show.

    Southern provides a holistic experience for its participants, the community and college students enrolled in the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences.

    “Our participants are learning about every aspect of the livestock industry,” said Patin. “They are responsible for feeding the animal, taking care of the animal and ultimately selling the animal and using the money from the show to purchase another animal and repeat the process over next year.”

    Patin also discussed the importance of this 75th anniversary.

    St. Joseph mayor and retired Tensas Parish Extension Agent, Elvadus Fields, has travelled with participants to Southern’s Livestock Show for 57 years.

    “I think it (SU Livestock Show) aids in the development of responsible womanhood and manhood,” said Fields. “Most of all that child is responsible for that animal. If the animal eats, the child has to feed it. If the animal gets sick, the child has make sure the animal gets well.   The child has to learn how to discipline the animal and be disciplined as well,” said Fields.

    Seventeen year-old Destinee Morris is an example of the development that Mayor Fields talked about. The West Feliciana Parish native has been showing steers at the Southern University Livestock Show since she was 11. She said participating in the Livestock Show has helped her learn to enjoy nature.

    “In the past I did not like being outside at all, but now I enjoy being around animals and different farm animals and taking care of them,” said Morris.

    She credits her sister for peaking her interest in showing steers after seeing pictures of her participating in Southern’s Livestock Show.

    This year is Morris’ last year participating in the Livestock Show. The high school senior plans to attend college out of the state in the Fall. For her final show she took home Reserve Champion in the Market Steer Division and placed 3rd in Showmanship.

    The Southern University Livestock Show is like no other show in the state. “Our show is unique in the fact that we offer guided school tours that include a petting zoo, gardening station and educational presentations while the participants are showing their animals,” said Harold Mellieon, Ph.D., director of Livestock Show Programs. “The tours provide an opportunity for many youth in the Baton Rouge area to see live farm animals in person for the first time. We also have college students from Southern’s College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences assisting with every part of the show. This gives our college students hands on experience in the field,” he said.

    Southern also holds a “Night with the Stars: Old Fashion Livestock Decorating Contest” on every Friday evening after all the animal have been judged.

    “We hold this event to give the participants an opportunity to have fun with their animal one last time because the Jr. Auction on Saturday morning,” said Mellieon.

    The “Night with the Stars’ winners are:
    Kyle and Wyatt Sonnier, both from Calcasieu Parish, dressed as the Cookie Monster with Borden’s milk and a cookie in 1stplace; Brady Hayes from Jefferson Davis Parish, dressed as Elvis & The King in second place and Zabadiah Ates from Union Parish, dressed as St. Patrick’s heifer in 3rd place.

    The first, second and third place winners received a $100 and a Ozark Trail 26 Quart High Performance Cooler, $50 and a EndZone Bubba Keg and $25 and a Coleman’s Oversized Quad Chair, respectively.

    The following is a list of additional winners in various livestock categories and their home parishes. Each winners received a premium, ribbon, rosette and trophy belt buckle.

    Registered Dairy
    Grand Champion – Wyatt Sonnier, Calcasieu Parish
    Reserve Champion – Kinsley Windom, St. Tammany Parish

    Commercial Dairy
    Grand Champion – Camille Sonnier, Calcasieu Parish
    Reserve Champion – Kyle Sonnier, Calcasieu Parish

    Dairy  Showmanship
    Grand Champion – Wyatt Sonnier, Calcasieu Parish
    Reserve Champion – Kinsley Windom, St. Tammany Parish

    Brahman Bull                                                           
    Grand Champion – Caplan Young, Winn Parish
    Reserve Champion – John Michael Pickett, Winn Parish

    Non Brahman Bull                                                   
    Champion Non-Brahman – Skylar Primm, Caddo Parish

    Brahman Heifers
    Champion Brahman – Jesse Sandel, Sabine Parish
    Reserve Champ Brahman – John Michael Pickett, Winn Parish

    Non Brahman Heifer                                    
    Champion Non-Brahman – Hailee Daigle, Ascension Parish
    Reserve Champ Non-Brahman – Zabadiah Ates, Union Parish

    Commercial Heifer
    Grand champion – Ashlyn Natali, Calcasieu Parish
    Reserve Champion – Trevor Mclendon, Sabine Parish

    Beef Showmanship
    Grand Champion – Tanner Browning, Sabine Parish
    Reserve Champion – Brenden Ford, Sabine Parish

    Market Steer
    Grand Champion – Brady Hayes, Jefferson Davis Parish
    Reserve Champion – Destinee Morris, West Feliciana Parish

    Market Lamb
    Grand Champion – Jacob Reyenga, Bossier Parish
    Reserve Champion – Caroline Dupree, Bossier Parish

    Market Lamb LA Bred
    LA Bred Champion – Jacob Reyenga, St. Martin Parish
    LA Bred Reserve Champion - John Adam FontenotBossier Parish

    Lamb Showmanship                                      
    Grand Champion – Tanner Browning, Sabine Parish
    Reserve Champion – Brenden Ford, Sabine Parish

    Market Goat                                         
    Grand Champion – George Chambers, Bossier Parish
    Reserve Champion – Katlyn Mathews, Bienville Parish

    Market Goat LA Bred                                     
    LA Bred Champion – Katlyn Mathews, Bienville Parish
    LA Bred Reserve Champion - Luke Padgett, Claiborne Parish

    Goat Showmanship                                     
    Grand Champion – Madison Green, Winn Parish
    Reserve Champion – Katlyn Mathews, Bienville Parish

    Market Hog                                          
    Grand Champion – Brady Hayes, Jefferson Davis Parish
    Reserve Champion – Jada St. Pierre, St. James Parish

    Hog Showmanship                                        
    Grand Champion – Palynn Fontenot, Cameron Parish
    Reserve Champion – Jada St. Pierre, St. James Parish

    Broiler                                                             
    Grand Champion – Jamie Kile, Rapides Parish
    Reserve Champion – Taylor Martin, Rapides Parish

    Broiler  Premier Exhibitor                           
    Grand Champion – Addisyn Robinson, St. Landry Parish
    Reserve Champion – Cedrick DeRouen, East Baton Rouge Parish

    By LaKeeshia Giddens Lusk
    Contributing Writer

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  • Rose selected for national recognition at The Kennedy Center

    Baton Rouge poet and teaching artist, Donney Rose, has been selected for the 2018-1019 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow Recognition. The Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow Recognition is an award that highlights Citizen Artists across the country who utilize their art form for positive impact on communities and who live up to the ideals of service, justice, freedom, courage and gratitude that are inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s legacy.

    As part of the recognition program, Rose will attend the 2018 Kennedy Center Arts Summit, “The Future States of America: Using the Arts to Take Us Where We Want to Go,”  April 15-16, held in Washington, D.C. He is also invited to collaborate, share practices, and receive mentorship from Kennedy Center artistic partners and staff at the Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellows Retreat, tentatively confirmed for Sept. 21-24. He will receive ongoing professional development opportunities with Kennedy Center staff and partners; information regarding national convenings to attend, potential grant applications, and other resources from top partners such as the Aspen Institute, National Endowment for the Arts, ArtChangeUS, and Citizen University. Rose is also invited to attend, present, and participate in Kennedy Center’s 2019 Arts Summit.

    Rose was nominated for the fellowship by Maida Owens, Louisiana Folklife Director, Louisiana Division of the Arts. The nomination process included recommendation letters from which Rose received high praise in varying areas of his work by attorney and LSU Law professor, Chris Tyson; former Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon; LSU English professor Sue Weinstein Ph.D.; Love Alive Church pastor Ronaldo Hardy; and Humanities Amped co-founder Anna West, Ph.D.

    Rose began his work as a poet through spoken word and competing nationally in poetry slams. A graduate of Scotlandville Magnet High School, Rose has always sought ways to better his hometown and as such, is invested in the city’s youth development scene. He began working in youth development in 2008 through Louisiana Delta Service Corps. He has worked full time as a teaching artist and marketing director for Forward Arts, Inc. for nearly a decade. He was named to The Drum‘s Men to Watch in 2015 and  Business Report’s Top Forty under 40 class in 2017. He was the recipient of the inaugural Making a Mark award at the 2017 Ink Festival (Tupelo, Miss.) and the 2016 Humanitarian of the Year award from New Venture Theatre. His writing has been featured on Button Poetry, All Def Digital, and in Nicholls State’s Gris Gris literary journal. Following the turmoil of Baton Rouge’s summer of 2016, Rose was a pivotal voice in the community and was interviewed by the BBC, Democracy Now, the New York Times, Huffington Post, and The Advocate.

     

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  • ,,,

    COMMENTARY: Teachers have Been Armed!

    A couple of days ago, I read a blog post from a sister who works within the public fool system. She stated emphatically that if white teachers were to be armed, she would immediately remove her Black son from the school.

    Trust me. I think that that’s a great idea.

    My only issue is that we are so reactive.

    If white folk do this, I’ll do that.

    If Dump becomes president, I’m moving to Afrika. (I wonder how many have actually repatriated.)

    Always reacting.arming-teachers-28166604_10108801548667945_659648788552076372_n-680x680

    The reality is that teachers have always been armed with the weapons of miseducation, cultural misorientation, and low expectations. They, Black and white teachers, have been dealers in mentacide for the longest. That “mental gun” has shattered more dreams and lives than we can ever calculate.

    We don’t need anything else to happen within the schools to know that the public, private, and charter fool system is no place for the young Afrikan mind.

    Let’s be proactive. The proactive posture fills us with power and puts us in control of our lives and our children’s education.

    This reactive stuff is LAME.

    With or without guns in the classroom, our Afrikan minds don’t survive in the contaminated soil of the Eurocentric educational system. But we can do something about that.

    Revolutionary Love,
    Baba Dr. Brotha Samori Camara
    from Accra, Ghana

    P.S. Mississippi has already begun the process of arming teachers. Now what? Read about it HERE.

    Samori Camara, Ph.D., is an Afrikan warrior scholar, director of Kamali Academy–which began in New Orleans, educational consultant, life coach, and motivational speaker. Follow his @SamoriSpeaks

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  • ,

    ANALYSIS: La’s non-unanimous jury law: an instrument of legal, political, social oppression

    While Louisiana fought the Civil War, Booker T. Washington was a child slave.  After the Civil War, both he and the state of Louisiana had a new course to charter. Louisiana, faced with the emancipation of approximately 331,000 slaves, had to confront issues including voting rights, education and criminal justice. Washington was tasked with shedding his identity as an object—a piece of property—and embracing the world as a human with rights, feelings, aspirations and a purpose. History records Washington as the victor.

    Washington, a great orator, writer and respected advisor to Presidents, founded a university and became one of the most influential Black intellectuals of the late 19th century. Instead of true transformation, Louisiana opted for cosmetic reform. It went from a state that trafficked people for their free labor in a financial and a social caste system to a state that criminalized and incarcerated people within the same caste-based structure.

    With high hopes, Washington pleafully penned an open letter to the Post-Civil War, 1898 Constitutional Convention:

     Since the war, no State has had such an opportunity to settle for all time the race question…as is now given to Louisiana…Will your Convention set an example to the world…?…It requires little… statesmanship to repress, to crush out, to retard  the hopes and aspirations of a people, but the highest and most profound statesmanship is shown in…stimulating a people so that every fibre in the body, mind and soul shall be made to contribute…to the usefulness and nobility of the State.

    His sagacious words met resistant ears. In reflection on their accomplishments, the Convention of all white males haughtily expressed: “Our mission was…to establish the supremacy of the white race…to the extent to which it could be legally and constitutionally done.…”

    Non-unanimous verdicts, used in non-capital, felony cases, made its way to the Constitution of 1898. They allow convictions on a vote of as few as ten jurors. Besides Louisiana and Oregon—the only free state admitted to the union with an exclusionary clause prohibiting African Americans from residing or owning property there and once an embracing home to the Ku Klux Klan—all other states have a unanimous jury system, requiring all twelve jurors to vote in favor of a conviction in these types of criminal cases.

    In 1803, when Louisiana became a territory, unanimous verdicts were required. The change from unanimity was to: (1) obtain quick convictions that would funnel people into Louisiana’s newly-created convict leasing system (as a replacement for free slave labor); and, (2) ensure Black jurors would not block convictions of other African Americans.

    This Jim Crow Era law was revisited during the 1973 Constitutional Convention.  A change from nine to ten of twelve was made.  “Efficiency” was cited as justification for maintaining the system.

    In the 1972 case of Apodaca v. Oregon, the United States Supreme Court endorsed this system. Citing Apodaca, Louisiana courts won’t consider challenges, despite over forty-five years of credible research establishing that unanimous verdicts are more reliable and more thorough.

    There’s evidence that non-unanimous juries contribute to wrongful convictions, mass incarceration and the marginalization of women and minorities. This law causes different Sixth Amendment standards between federal courts (which require unanimous verdicts in criminal cases), the other forty-eight state, criminal courts (which require unanimous verdicts) and the Louisiana and Oregon state courts. The impact is tantamount to a form of gerrymandering in that it dilutes a voting block within the jury.

    The law allows a prosecutor to circumvent jury discrimination rules preventing race from being justification not to seat a juror by simply silencing the voice of Black seated jurors after-the-fact. It shows flagrant disregard for the American Bar Association’s position that unanimous juries should be used in all state and federal criminal courts.  The law also promotes oppression and discrimination and undermines public trust in the Government.

    Courts are not the sole solution. The legislature could initiate or endorse a change in the law, which will ultimately have to be removed from the state constitution.

    Racism, oppression and discimination are sustained not only by humans, but also by laws, policies, and systems. Efforts to address one, but not all will produce outcomes instead of changes. Emancipation was not just about physical freedom. The Civil Rights Movement was not just about physical presence. The struggle has always been about social, legal and political equality. The 1898 Convention officials knew the consequence of denying these things.  They observed:

    Whatever is unjust carries in itself the seeds of defeat and decay. Justice is irrepressible. No matter how you may trample it…its voice is never silent. It clamors…with a force that is irresistible until at last its voice will be heard and the structure whose foundations rest upon its violation will crumble into ruin….

    The Sixth Amendment assures an impartial jury and the Framers envisioned that to be a unanimous vote of twelve.  It is our collective duty, “with a force that is irresistible, to crumble into ruin this unjust system.”  Washington did what he could.  Will you?

    Angela Allen-Bell

    Angela Allen-Bell

     By Angela A. Allen-Bell

    Angela A. Allen-Bell is an associate professor of legal writing and analysis and B.K. Agnihotri Endowed Professor at Southern University Law Center. Follow her @AngelaAllenBell

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Feature image from http://www.courts.oregon.gov/courts/lincoln/jury/Pages/default.aspx

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  • ,,

    Louisiana creatives flourish in light of Black Panther

    As the sun rises on the blockbuster Black Panther movie, it illuminates the work of Louisiana Black creatives including an English professor who writes and lectures on Afrofuturism, a comic creator who uses historic air legends to pen a new future, and an artist who embraces the imagery and passion of Afrofantasy in developing the culture for his labor of love.

    A recent Baton Rouge expo brought the three together. Mid City Micro-Con: Welcome to Wakanda was a launch party for the release of Marvel’s Black Panther. The micro-con had a Black Panther theme highlighting a range of comic styles and fandom groups. It featured discussion panels, a comics and arts marketplace, cosplay, workshops, film screenings, games, and competitions.

    The Black creative forces in attendance were quick to explain that Black Panther isn’t revealing the birth of impactful Black roles in the sci-fi, comic book world, but it is shining light on the efforts that have been at play for decades, if not centuries. LSU professor Isiah Lavender III is a latter-day scribe who melds race, science fiction and historic fact vs. fiction. He’s a New Yorker who attended Southern University, completed his master’s work at LSU, and returned to teach at LSU after earning a Ph.D.

    Isiah_Lavender

    Isiah Lavender III

    imageloader

    Lavender is the author of Race in American Science Fiction and Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction. Lavender studies American literature and popular culture with an emphasis on Black American literature. “I study race and ethnicity in speculative fiction, particularly Black writers in the science fiction genre,” he said. “I think the more important question is why study race in science fiction at all?”

    Consuming his theme, Afrofuturism, is no easy task. He explains that Afrofuturism involves the past, present and future of race in sci-fi. “Science fictional Blackness comes into being, dating back to the enlightenment era that remains as a part of the world into this contemporary age,” Lavender said. “I mean science fictional in a sense that these flights of fancy have used science to create a fiction of race as it is applied to Black people, indeed, all people of color.”

    “Now Afrofuturism has emerged to understand the science-fictional existence that Blacks have always experienced living in the new world, an unreality driven by economic demands, would-be science, and skin color.”

    Lavender uses a plethora of beautiful words that signify that he really “liked” Black Panther and is thrilled that this movie, with such a strong Black influence is seeing great success at the Box Office. “We want to see complex images of race and racism and we want to discuss the implications,” he said. “We want to see Black creators do their own thing.”

    Me

    Marcus Williams, comic artist

    Enter children’s book author Greg Burnham ready to do his own thing with Tuskegee Heirs. Burnham is a graduate of Bossier High School and Grambling State University. He and his co-creator Marcus Williams, comic artist and illustrator, have developed a fictional world based on the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, Black World War II pilots.

    Tuskegee Heirs is a futuristic sci-fi that takes place about 80 years from the present in a time when man-piloting is illegal. All air flight is remote or with the use of drones. “These five teen pilots are learning how to fly in the old P-51s that the Tuskegee Airmen flew,” Burnham explained.

    Tuskeegee_Heirs1

    Zachary Robinson enjoys meeting BlackCreatives of the Tuskegee Heirs during Mid City Micro-Con: Welcome to Wakanda at the Main Library in Baton Rouge.

    The Tuskegee Airmen were the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, that later became the U.S. Air Force. They received their training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama and flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Their performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses and helped encourage the integration of the American military.

    The celebration of Black Panther was also the celebration of #BlackCreatives and the Tuskegee Heirs  creators showed no evidence of competition. In fact, Tuskegee Heirs hosted an exclusive Black Panther movie premier event for fans in Atlanta.

    Tuskegee Heirs stands with Black Panther in many ways including the use of strong female characters: Ayanna, a unit leader; Genesis, the mission briefer; and Jena, the mechanic. Tuskegee Heirs is a six-book series that the creators hope to push toward animation.

    Flying solo and not far behind is Baton Rouge visual artist Antoine “GHOST” Mitchell who has nurtured a stunningly beautiful collection and is moving toward a comic book release.

    Mitchell’s labor of love, Sankofa’s Eymbrace, is scheduled to be finished at the end of this year. He describes his concept as “Afrofantasy.” He employs fantasy settings, but the characters are Black people. “I’m taking elements of different African spiritualities and ways of life and building something imaginative from that much like what JRR Tolkien did with the Lord of the Rings, taking a lot of Norse mythology,” Mitchell said.

    Mitchell_comic_art

    Sankofa’s Eymbrace by Antoine “GHOST” Mitchell

    If differs from Afrofuturism, but his admiration and excitement for Afrofuturism is through the roof. Mitchell explained that Afrofuturism, as what is seen with Black Panther and Wakanda, does not mean the setting is in the future, but that it employs futuristic technology emerged in the current time setting. It is “a marriage of sci-fi and Black culture.”

    Mitchell’s art is vibrant, stunning and Afrocentric. He has not summarized his storyline, but the words released in conception reflect his background in poetry as well as art:

    In the beginning was the beat.
    The beat became the Dual Rhythm.
    The Dual Rhythm became Sankofa, the two Swans of Balance.

    They would become the A’she, or Magical Spiritual Energy,
    Wielded by the chosen Sankofa Children
    Who would stand against the reoccurring force of DysOrder
    .

    Mitchell sees a refreshing wind blowing as more embrace the hashtag #BlackCreatives. “They are anyone who is Black and creative working in creative industries like movies, comics, cosplays, jewelry making, artists, and more,” he said.

    Mitchell, growing up in a small rural town in East Feliciana Parish, sparked an imagination that helped him embrace worlds like Wakanda and realms now open for travel through Afrofuturism and Afrofantasy. “I’ve been doing this since I was 11 and always wanted to do comic books,” he said. “I had this idea of wanting to do super hero-type comic books, but after I got more into fantasy, I wanted to create something that tells an epic story and uses a lot of elements that I’ve mentioned.”

    Story and photos by Frances Y. Spencer
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

    BONUS: Blerd-ish podcast–https://www.mixcloud.com/blerdish1/mid-city-micro-con-special/–promoting the Mid City Micro-Con! Guests include Samantha Belmont, organizer; TaLynn Kel, Cosplay Judge and Body Image in Comics & Cosplay Panelist; and Chenese Lewis, Body Image in Comics & Cosplay Panelist!

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  • ,,,,,

    11-day Arts Fest features creative writing workshops, spoken word performances, art demos, showcases, live music

    Baton Rouge Community College will present its 10th Annual Arts Fest, March 12-23, throughout three of its locations – Mid City Campus, 201 Community College Drive; Acadian Site, 3250 N. Acadian Thruway E.; and Frazier Site, 555 Julia Street. The festival includes art demos, lectures, discussions, creative writing workshops, spoken word performances, student showcases, and live music.

    Sponsored by BRCC’s Division of Liberal Arts and the Student Government Association, this year’s festival will celebrate community, throughout a variety of morning, afternoon, and evening events and programming, presented by local and student artists, as well as nationally and internationally renowned visiting artists. All events, unless otherwise noted, are free and open to the public.

    The festival will kick off at BRCC Mid City on Monday, March 12 with a breakfast for BRCC students. Festival highlights include a variety of art and printmaking demonstrations by professional visiting artists and BRCC professors to be held at Frazier and Acadian; a series of creative writing workshops and spoken word performances by renowned writers including local talents, as well as internationally acclaimed visiting artists, Hanif Abdurraqib and Ebony Stewart; and the Mid City Jazz Festival, which is in its third year.
    Below is a schedule of events. A detailed schedule is available below.

    Monday, March 12

    Kick-Off Breakfast, 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Bienvenue Student Center, Mid City

    The BRCC Art Club will run ceramics and printmaking demonstrations, and music will be provided by BRCC’s own Dr. Charles Brooks

    Silk Screening Workshop/Textile Printing Demo with BRCC Instructor Jerome Rankins, noon to 2:30 p.m., Old Print Shop, Room 131, Acadian

    Students and guests will be able to screen print their own canvas bag and koozie can holder.

    Jerome Rankins, BRCC adjunct graphics instructor and former Istrouma High graphic arts teacher for 15 years will do a demonstration on textile printing. He will be talking about screens, screen preparation; materials needed and proper clean up to preserve your screen.

    Chronicling Community with anthropologist Malcolm Shuman, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room 127, Louisiana, Mid City. Local writer and anthropologist Malcolm Shuman will this discussion of the material culture of three communities—prehistoric, African American, and European—at one site, over time. What can we understand about these communities from analyzing the artifacts they’ve left behind? What was the role of art in each community?

    Malcolm Shuman has been practicing archaeology for more than 40 years, and publishing fiction even longer. After serving in the US Army, he earned a doctorate in anthropology from Tulane University in 1974, and has traveled much of the world, carrying out archaeological and anthropological work in the U.S., France and Mexico. MysteriousPress.com has recently re-released fifteen of his novels published in the 1980s and 1990s, including the books in his three mystery series–the Micah Dunn mysteries, set in New Orleans (St. Martin’s Press), the Pete Brady mysteries, set in one of those small north Louisiana towns where murders never (and of course, always) happen (St. Martin’s Press), and the Alan Graham mysteries, featuring a Baton Rouge archaeologist who solves mysteries past and present (Avon Books).

    Tuesday, March 13

    “Voices of a People’s History of the United States” performed by students from East St. John High School (Reserve, La.), 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City. Voices of a People’s History of the United States brings to life the extraordinary history of ordinary people who built the movements that made the United States what it is today, ending slavery and Jim Crow, protesting war and the genocide of Native Americans, creating unions and the eight hour work day, advancing women’s rights and gay liberation, and struggling to right wrongs of the day.

    Performances of Voices are put on around the country; in schools and in places like Lincoln Center. It is a series of dramatic readings of letters, speeches, and diaries by groups of oppressed, marginalized, or forgotten figures in American history. Based on the work of historian Howard Zinn, Voices challenges a white cisgender, heteronormative, patriarchal narrative of history. Students and special guests will perform these readings as monologues, with narration before each.

    Narrative Creative Writing Workshop with Julie Wedding, Noon to 1:15 p.m., Academic Learning Center, Magnolia, Mid City. An Arts Fest favorite, Julie Wedding, returns this year with her popular narrative poem workshop.

    Creative Writing Workshop with former Baton Rouge Youth Poet Laureate, Brittany Marshall, 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., Academic Learning Center, Mid City. In this workshop, attendees will be asked to share aloud their thoughts on/experiences with community. They will collectively discuss aspect of their identities, interests, or hobbies in attempts to find ways to connect with each other and form a collective identity. The text “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks will also be explored.

    Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Brittany Marshall was Baton Rouge’s Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate (2016). She is now enrolled as a senior at Louisiana State University where she is studying English Secondary Education and Spanish. She has represented LSU at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (2017), and is the author of musings of a black girl (May 2017, Penmanship Books).

    ReVision Colorism Healing Creative Writing Workshop with Sarah Webb of Colorism Healing, 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Academic Learning Center, Mid City. Colorism is the bias and discrimination against people of the same race based on their skin tone and other features like hair texture. Participants in the ReVision workshop will explore the topic of colorism from a multicultural perspective by engaging in a sequence of creative writing activities designed for writers at all experience levels.

    Sarah L. Webb is a Ph.D. candidate in English who studies intersections of race, gender, literacy, and technology. In 2013, Sarah founded the website Colorism Healing through which she hosts annual writing contests, publishes books, and provides information and resources related to colorism. She has been a professional writer, teacher, and mentor since 2007, working in a range of industries such as universities, non-profits, small businesses, K-12 public education, magazines, and TV news. Her writing has been published in numerous places online, such as For Harriet and Blavity, and in print books and magazines such as Teaching Tolerance and Dig. ColorismHealing.org

    Wednesday, March 14

    Etymology Creative Writing Workshop with Taylor Scott of Forward Arts, Inc., 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City

    In this 60 minute writing workshop, participants will create a poem from a saying or phrase that they hear so often – whether it stems from pop culture or a particular family member. Ultimately, each participant will take a phrase and create new meaning, turning the phrase on itself in such a way it is unrecognizable from its intended usage.

    Taylor Scott is a writer, performance artist, and director from Baton Rouge who works as a teaching artist through Forward Arts. She is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s First Wave program – the only collegiate hip hop and spoken word community of its kind in the country. She has graced many stages including the Little Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway, Contacting the World Theatre in Manchester, England, and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. She directed the Bellhops, a Madison-based blues and hip hop theatre ensemble. In 2014, the Bellhops premiered Honey In My Tea, a 45-minute production that centers the narratives of black women, at the Overture Center for the Arts. The following year, the Bellhops released a 6-track EP, Hero of My Own Tale, which is available on Bandcamp. Scott is now pursuing a master’s degree in English at Louisiana State University, where she has an individualized, interdisciplinary course plan that includes black diasporic literary and performance studies.

    Joy & The Elegy Creative Writing Workshop with Hanif Abdurraqib (5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City. The workshop will center on the elegy, and look to find ways to extract joy out of a form that is usually reserved for grief. We’ll look at different elegies before using the blueprint of the form to write elegies for living things, for things we find the potential to be hopeful in.

    Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much was released in 2016 and was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in fall 2017 by Two Dollar Radio.

    Spoken Word Showcase featuring Brittany Marshall, Taylor Scott, and Hanif Abdurraqib; Hosted by Donney Rose, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Magnolia Theatre, Mid City

    A showcase of spoken word poetry by some of today’s most gifted and accomplished writers. Readers/Performers include Brittany Marshall – Baton Rouge’s inaugural youth poet laureate (2016); Taylor Scott – alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s First Wave program, the only collegiate hip hop and spoken word community of its kind in the country; and Hanif Abdurraqib – renowned and internationally acclaimed poet, essayist, and cultural critic. The show is hosted by teaching artist and area poetry legend, Donney Rose.

    Thursday, March 15 (Frazier Day)

    Instant Zine Print Workshop with Hope Amico of Gutwrench Press, 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., Print Shop, Frazier. At its simplest, this tiny folded book can be made with one sheet of paper, a pair of scissors and a pen. Once we master the basic form, the possibilities are endless. We will start by using a Vandercook Proofing Press to number the pages of your future zine. Then we will use drawing, collages, and other materials (all provided) to create one-of-a-kind books that can be photocopied and shared (or traded in true zine fashion). What is a zine? Short for fanzine, these photocopied booklets were once small magazines devoted to a certain subject. In the past years, book artists and zinesters have exploded the realm of possibility creating everything from books of basic instruction to complicated art books.

    Hope Amico founded Gutwrench Press in 2008. Gutwrench Press is dedicated to better correspondence through letterpress printed postcards, unique hand-bound books and zines exploring our connections to our hometowns. We re-purpose materials whenever possible and encourage you to write back through the Keep Writing Postcard Project. Hope has a BFA from Louisiana State University, focusing on printmaking and book arts. She has worked with letterpress printers in Louisiana and the Bay Area, is currently a member of the New Orleans based letterpress shop, Baskerville. In 2016 she returned to New Orleans where she now resides. In her other life, she teaches yoga to all sorts of people.

    Friday, March 16

    Student Art Showcase, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Winners announced at Noon, Magnolia Gallery, Mid City. Join us as we celebrate the student artists at BRCC, whose work will be featured in the Magnolia Gallery. The top placing artists and artworks will be announced at noon.

    Monster Mugs with Caroline Smith, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Ceramics Studio, Frazier. Ceramics Demo + Talk — come make your own MONSTER MUG!

    “STEAM Day” Event: “The History, Artistry, and Science of Brewing” by German-born brewmaster, Henry Orlik, 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City. Henryk Orlik is a German born Brewmaster. In his more than 40 years in the industry, Henryk has brewed in Germany, and all over North America. Although currently at Legal Draft in Arlington, Texas, Henryk has strong ties to Louisiana, having worked at Heiner Brau in Covington, Abita, and was also contracted to brew specialty beer for Chef Josh Besh and Zea’s. On Friday, March 16th, BRCC’s Art Fest in conjunction with the STEM department is proud to have Henrk Orlik speak on “The History, Artistry, and Science of Brewing”. This talk will examine the German roots of brewing as well as the current trend of the emerging microbrewing industry, explaining both the science behind brewing as well as the artistry.

    Monday, March 19

    Intro to SUMINAGASHI - Designing with a Dip with Petrouchka Moise of Mooi Labs, 3 p.m., Frazier. Have you ever wondered how do they get cool psychedelic swirl pattern on fabrics, nails, or paper surfaces? Have you seen the latest dip designs on Facebook or Pinterest and wanted to try it out for yourself? Now it’s the time for you to learn to swirl with your favorite colors. Come and unwind and as we teach you how to make colorful creations on silk with the use of dyes, and resists. No prior painting or art skills required. Suminagashi, Japanese for “floating ink”, is what we call is also known as “Marbling”. This is a technique used to create these surface designs that resemble the patterns found in water. It’s been used for many years to create book covers and endpapers, and now we are seeing in high-end nail salons, fashion brands, and home décor.

    Petrouchka Moise is the founder and artist/teacher of Mooi Lab. Mooi Lab is a creative pop-up concept for individuals and their friends to try out their inspirations and passions. Through Mooi Labs, Petrouchka promotes the importance of art, culture, and education across Louisiana and the Caribbean. Petrouchka is a creative driven by the “aha” moment. She is a first-generation Haitian-American from Brooklyn, New York, who’s been living in Baton Rouge for almost 20 years and is loving every minute of it. It’s all about the discovering what makes life more authentic, colorful, and priceless. Petrouchka believes in the power of art. After a severe car accident in 2012, she lost her ability to see colors, to connect with the world around her or even have the confidence to pick up a brush. As she learns to regain her life back, Petrouchka’s artwork has been the source of her healing. “My art helps me daily in learning how to cope with PTSD, communicate my thoughts to others, and find joy in redefining myself”. Silk painting has created a new chapter for Petrouchka. “The silk takes me on a journey of color and collaboration”. Through silk, she is currently working on a collection of art to share with others her process of being a survivor of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

    Tuesday, March 20

    Careers in the Arts Panel – Local Artists for Panel TBA (10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Recital Hall, Governors, Mid City. Members of the local artistic community share their experiences in making their way in their respective fields. There will be a moderated talk followed by a Q-n-A, time permitting.

    Speech and Theatre Showcase (noon to 1 p.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City. BRCC’s stellar speech students share their work in a special performance.

    “Models of Diversity” Fashion Show spearheaded by Jada Titus, BRCC Liberal Arts student and fashion designer, and BRCC Art Professor and fashion designer Cynthia Giachetti 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Magnolia Gallery, Mid City. BRCC’s Inaugural Arts Fest Fashion Show. The theme is Models of Diversity and is spearheaded by Jada Titus, BRCC Liberal Arts student and fashion designer, and BRCC Art Professor and fashion designer Cynthia Giachetti. There will be fanciful fashion, music, and refreshments.

    Spoken Word Performance by 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, Ebony Stewart, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City. The performance will consist of a collection of poems centered on the theme of ‘community’. Ebony Stewart strives to speak her truth from a black woman in America’s point of view, undo systematic thinking, and inspire marginalized voices. Following the performance, Ebony Stewart will facilitate a Q&A period.

    Ebony Stewart is an international touring performance artist and slam poet. She is the 2017 Woman of the World Poetry Slam Champion (hosted by Poetry Slam, Inc., Dallas, Texas), and the only three-time adult woman slam champion in Austin, Texas. Ebony Stewart is the story of the black girl winning.

    Wednesday, March 21

    Voices from the Bayou, one year later discussion,  3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City. The student authors of the book, Voices from the Bayou will share their experiences during their book tour since the book’s publication last year.

    “Merchandising Museums: The Unanticipated Consequence of the American System of Cultural Patronage?” by LSU professor, Kevin Mulch, Ph.D., 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dumas Conference Room, Magnolia, Mid City. Mulcahy is the Sheldon Beychok Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Louisiana State University, where he has taught since 1980. Mulcahy is the author of numerous articles and books. On Wednesday, March 21st, Mulcahy will present his article “Merchandising Museums: The Unanticipated Consequence of the American System of Cultural Patronage?” at BRCC. This article is from his book Transforming Nostalgia into Novelty-The Merge of Museums and Creative Industry. In the talk Mulcahy will examine “Merchandising Museums”, the current trend of museums to cater to the wants and wishes of wealthy donors and corporate sponsors, and the negative effects this can have.

    Ceramics Demonstration with Osa Atoe, 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Frazier. Functional Pottery and Ceramics Demonstration.

     

    Thursday, March 22 (Frazier Day part II – Self Portrait Cycle)

    Self-Portrait Photography Workshop with Heather Weathers, 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., Design Room, Frazier. Self-Portrait Photography Workshop utilizing performance art methods. A camera phone is required.

    Self-Portrait Video Workshop with Bernadette Vielbig, 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., Design Room, Frazier. Self-Portrait Video Workshop utilizing performance art methods. A video phone/smart phone is required.

     

    Friday, March 23

    Mid City Jazz Festival III, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (competition); 7 p.m. (concert), Magnolia Theatre, Mid City. The Mid City Jazz Festival is an annual event that fosters Jazz education and performance for middle school and high school students. They interact with each other and nationally recognized Jazz Artists in a friendly and competitive environment. The adjudicators will give constructive feedback to all participants to enhance their performance and interpretation of Jazz as an art form. This years’ judges will be local artist and international touring tubist, Michael Foster, Willis Delony Virginia Martin Howard Professor of Keyboard Studies & Professor of Jazz Studies at LSU, Yamaha recording and performance artist  Rex Richardson. That night, after the competition, the judges, and the festival founder, Charles Brooks, will give a free concert which is open to all participants, their families and the general public. For more information on the Mid City Jazz Festival go to thecharlesbrooks.com/MidCityJazzFestival.

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    Black mothers keep dying after giving birth, researchers blame racism

     Tennis superstar Serena Williams recently made international headlines after telling the harrowing story of how, after giving birth to her daughter, she had to demand life-saving treatment from hospital staff who didn’t take her seriously. Her story renewed public interest in a topic that needs more attention: Black women in the U.S. are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women.

    According to the CDC, a pregnancy-related death can occur not only during pregnancy but also within one year after the end of pregnancy. There has been a steady increase in U.S. pregnancy-related deaths, but Black mothers are disproportionately affected.

    In Louisiana, Black women are nearly four times as likely to die within one year of birth as White women, Louisiana obstetrician Dr. Joia Crear Perry, president of National Birth Equity Collaborative, wrote in an essay for The Root. The maternal mortality rate for the state is 19.6 per 100,000 live births, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.Joia PerryWhile chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes are usually said to be the main culprits, research shows that some other issue may be to blame for this disparity: racism.

     In a joint investigation, NPR and ProPublica collected more than 200 stories from Black mothers, and revealed that “the feeling of being devalued and disrespected by medical providers was a constant theme.”

    Black mothers from around the country told terrifying stories about how doctors wouldn’t believe them about health conditions until it was almost too late and even regularly dismissed their pain. These stories revealed how Black women are facing these issues regardless of education and income.

    20171207-shalon-in-uniform-inline

     

    The publications also highlighted the story of Shalon Irving, a 36-year-old mother and an epidemiologist from Atlanta who collapsed and died three weeks after giving birth. She insisted to nurses, “It just doesn’t feel right” and was sent home anyway with only a prescription.

    As reported by NPR, Irving was researcher working to eradicate disparities in health access and outcomes who has become a symbol of one of the most troublesome health disparities facing Black women in the U.S. today: disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality.

    Chronic stress caused by racism outside of the healthcare system also influences the health of Black mothers, reproductive justice advocate Elizabeth Dawes Gay, MPH, wrote for The Nation.

    “Black people experience chronic stress resulting from exposure to overt and covert racism and micro-aggression, which can range from something as basic as intentionally avoiding eye contact to the extreme of being harassed, abused, or killed by police,” Gay wrote.

    293884104_4358392094001_1280

    Erica Garner on Time.com

    Some believe this chronic stress contributed the tragic death of activist Erica Garner, daughter of the late Eric Garner. Vox reported that the stress of her father’s chokehold death by police, combined with her chronic health issues, could be the reason why the 27-year-old mother died just four months after giving birth to her second child.

    “The US has failed to deal with its high rates of maternal mortality on many fronts — particularly for women of color,” Vox staff writer P.R. Lockhart wrote.

    These grim statistics reveal that something needs to be done about pregnancy-related deaths among Black women. But what will the solution look like?

    Gay said the first step is acknowledging racism’s role.

    “We won’t go far in solving the American maternal-health problem without first acknowledging and then addressing how racism—both inside and outside the health-care setting—harms Black moms,” she said.

    By Anastasia L Semien
    Contributing writer
    Anastasia Semien is an award-winning digital journalist whose work has been published in publications across the country. This article was featured at WeBuyBlack.com. Follow her at @AnastasiaSemien
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    Protect and Serve Louisiana First

    First Black State Trooper reflects on dealing with racism 
    On August 10, 1967, A.Z. Young, president of the Bogalusa Voters and Civic League (BVCL) began a 105-mile march from Bogalusa, Louisiana to Baton Rouge. The ten-day march began with 25 participants but grew to as many as 600 near its conclusion, as they successfully made it to the state capitol. Though the event was organized as a peaceful demonstration in an effort to bring attention to a number of local and state employment discrimination issues, over 2,200 National Guardsmen and policemen were ultimately required to protect the march participants. One of the issues that the BVCL sought to challenge then Governor John J. McKeithen on was integration of the Louisiana State Troopers law enforcement body.
    In response to that public challenge, McKeithen stated that he would agree to hire black personnel for the State Troopers, but was unaware of any capable candidates. After watching that statement on television Ernest Marcelle Jr., who had graduated from college with a degree in criminology, had served as a military policeman, and had a previous stint with the New Orleans Police Dept., called the governor and made him aware of his previous experience and a desire to take on a position with the State Troopers. After speaking with Governor McKeithen, Marcelle was told that he would put him in touch with a black attorney working with the governor who would process his information. Following that conversation the attorney told Marcelle that the governor’s office would make contact with him in a few days.

    AZ Young

    AZ Young

    “To be honest I thought that that would be the end of it. But a few days later I did get a letter from the Superintendent of the State Police,” Marcelle said in a recent interview with the Shreveport Sun about his time with the department. “He interviewed me and afterwards I was selected. That was in July (1967) and they gave me a notice to come back in November (training period). There were 39 whites and I was the only black, so of course being the only black in the class it was a little rough. They wanted us to sleep in the barracks together just like it was done in the military. They tried different things to discourage me. They gave a test every Saturday morning and if you failed one you were out of the academy. So one of their strategies was to get me frustrated where I would either fail one of my tests or just quit all together. During that time I did a lot of praying, and I was able to make it through successfully.”
    Reflecting on his first days actually serving with the State Troopers, Marcelle said, “They did not want to put me in an (official) uniform so they started me out as a detective working in the Wildlife and Fishery building in the French Quarters in New Orleans. I worked there for about a year and a half, but at the time I was working for a captain who sent me in to Homer, Louisiana to work undercover. I was building narcotics and prostitution cases. My cover involved working in an auto dealership at the time. Nobody (locally) was supposed to know who I was. After building up a bunch of cases over a few weeks, one of the drug dealers that I had built a case on came into a restaurant where I was one morning and called me out by my real name. I ignored him but he told me that he knew who I was. He told me that he knew that I was building a case against him and told me that if I didn’t get out of there in a hurry that I would be going back to New Orleans in a box. He then described the captain that I was working under to me … He (the captain) went to Homer and talked to some of the drug dealers telling them who I was and that I was building cases on them. He felt that the drug dealers would then wipe me out.”
    Maecelle said he quickly fled back to New Orleans and tried to contact the Superintendent for the State Troopers regarding what happened, but never was able to reach him. Shortly thereafter he utilized contacts he had with local media outlets in New Orleans and recounted how he was being set up. After gaining some attention with the subject, Maecelle then received a call from the Superintendent who advised him to relocate to Baton Rouge and serve in Troop B, where he remained throughout the rest of his time with the department.
    Ernest Marcelle Jr. Louisiana's First Black State Trooper

    Ernest Marcelle Jr.
    Louisiana’s First Black State Trooper

    “My very first day I walked in for roll call in Troop B, there was a Shift Lieutenant who walked up to me in front of everybody and told me that this was a white man’s job, ‘We don’t want any niggers here and we are going to get rid of you.’ He spent his whole career trying to get rid of me,” Marcelle recounted. He added that the Lieutenant made it a habit to look through the tickets or arrest reports made by Marcelle seeking out white offenders. If he found them the Shift Lieutenant would routinely contact them and get them to file false complaints reports against Maecelle, attempting to get him fired. The scheme ultimately failed.

    After seven years with the State Troopers, Marcelle was an active participant in the National Association of Black Police officers. He helped to organize his local chapter in 1973. During a convention that he attended in Louisville in 1975, Marcelle and three other black State Troopers that were hired later were approached by a representative from the U.S. Justice Dept. The representative made them aware of an opportunity for the four of them to file suits against the state regarding discriminatory practices. Ultimately Marcelle ended up being the only one of the four troopers to file a suit against Louisiana through the Justice Dept.
    After the process became public knowledge Marcelle recalls his time serving on a desolate patrol route during the late evening. Of particular note he felt very odd about a series of communications from his superiors eager to pinpoint his specific location. Feeling that he was being setup for some type of ambush he gave them inaccurate information.
    Additionally he recalls several other attempts to sully his official record and his reputation whereby his superiors would tell him that his work schedule had been changed and he would then be reprimanded later for failing to show up for work. Marcelle said that they used a similar scheme — giving him notice that he would be required to testify in court on a particular issue, but giving him the notice after the trial had ended. In conjunction with some other generally minor infractions on his record, for which he never saw his fellow white officers reprimanded, Marcelle was terminated from the Louisiana State Troopers in 1967. This occurred two months before he would be able to qualify for his retirement benefits.
    Marcelle recalls being frustrated by the move mostly because he was passionate about his role in the department. During his interview he stated that his time in the department was not always bad, and remembers serving with some decent and fair-minded white colleagues.
    Currently  Marcelle  serves as chaplain of the Disabled American Veterans Association. He also speaks about his time as a State Trooper to various audiences across the state.
    by Ronald Collins Jr.
    Shreveport Sun News
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    We’re over the moon about ‘Hidden Figures’; Celebrate the One Book One Community selection

    It’s that time again – time to begin the 2018 One Book One Community (OBOC) celebration! Everyone in the whole family is invited to join us for a FREE, fun, family friendly LAUNCH PARTY at the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Blvd., at 6 p.m. Saturday, February 24, in honor of this year’s selection Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. The title was first announced at the annual Louisiana Book Festival downtown in October 2017.

    There’ll be FREE food, music, games, prizes, stargazing and even a Moon Walk (cake walk)! Our special guests include Tamiara Wade, Ph.D. former Learning Expert at the NASA Stennis Space Center, and Alyssa Carson, a 16-year-old aspiring astronaut who attended Space Camp seven times, Space Academy three times, Robotics Academy once, and is the youngest to graduate from the Advanced Space Academy! Learn more about Carson at www.nasablueberry.com. Partners Forum 35 also will be on hand to welcome the NASA STEM Team!

    There are various other events, programs, movie nights, book talks, crafts and more related to the book and OBOC that will be scheduled throughout the community all spring long. All the events are FREE. A schedule and related information, as well as an InfoGuide, is posted at www.ReadOneBook.org, and it will be updated with additional events periodically.

    Here are some upcoming related events:

    · Mid City Micro-Con: Welcome to Wakanda | FREE!
    10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, February 10, Main Library at Goodwood

    · LASM Discovery Dome Presents Magic Tree House: Space Mission & We Are Stars
    Presentations run March 5 – 28; For a full schedule, pick up a copy of the Library’s monthly newsletter The Source, or visit the online calendar at www.ebrpl.com.

    · Book Talk with Author of The Radium Girls Kate Moore
    7 p.m. Saturday, March 24, Main Library at Goodwood

    · Hidden Figures Movie Night on the BIG Screen
    7 p.m. Friday, April 6, Main Library at Goodwood

    · The World Behind Hidden Figures with Dr. Renee Horton
    2 p.m. Saturday, April 7, Main Library at Goodwood

    · History of Flight with Jim Slade & Katharine Wright
    2 p.m. Sunday, April 22, Main Library at Goodwood

    Read more »
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    Who to Watch 2018: McClanahan, Banks, Emery, Gilmore, and Harris in Baton Rouge

     

    Twelve Louisiana residents have been selected by The Drum’s publisher and staff as people to watch in 2018. In this issue, we introduce five: NAACP State President Michael McClanahan, councilwoman Chauna Banks, novelist Lynn Emery, anti-domestic violence activist Twahna Harris, and policy advisor James Gilmore Jr. Ph.D.

    Read their individual stories:

    Chauna Banks office

    Chauna Banks

    Michael McClanahan

    Michael McClanahan 

    WHO TO WATCH James Gilmore headshot

    James Gilmore, Ph.D.

    Who To Watch Twahna Harris headshot

    Twahna Harris

    Lynn's Promo Photo016[6]

    Lynn Emery

    Read more »
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    City sees community pharmacies expand

    Following the closure of Community Pharmacy 1 Baton Rouge’s first Black-owned closed-door pharmacy, the city began to see an increase of pharmacies opening around the city and particularly in North Baton Rouge.

    Community Pharmacy focused on providing prescription drugs through health care providers like nursing homes and mental health facilities rather than directly to individual consumers. It wasn’t until 2008 that Baton Rouge customers would have other options for purchase medicine instead of at big-box pharmacies like Rite Aide and Walgreen’s. That year, Kimberly Murphy Paul, a registered pharmacist, opened Noah’s Pharmacy in Brusly, La. This has led the way to a type of surge in Black pharmacies opening in the city.

    According to state records, Belford Johnson and Duston Stacia, PharMD, became owners of Affordable Pharmacy in 2009. In 2015, Johnson and Jabari Alexander open a second location on Gardere Lane, Brent Landry opened Brent’s Pharmacy in Mid-City Baton Rouge. In February 2017, Eric Peters, PharMD, opened Lagniappe Pharmacy on Drusilla Lane while operating two locations in Gonzales since 2014.

    Each pharmacy has unique service or distinction. Noah’s Pharmacy has a digital app. Brent’s Pharmacy is a Health Mart franchise. Affordable Pharmacy, which offers free delivery, has earned AIDS Drug Assistance Programs credentials. All locations of Lagniappe Pharmacy has online prescription refills.

    The area will see its sixth Black-owned pharmacy, Parker’s Pharmacy, open in the Broadmoor Shopping Center on Florida Blvd this month. Owner Orlando J. Palmer Jr., Pharm, and brother Kyle will operate the new location which Orlando calls their “first”.

    Orlando Palmer is a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy with a doctor of pharmacy.

    How would you describe what you do? As owner and Pharmacist in Charge, I am responsible for the day to day business aspects of the pharmacy. From filling patient prescriptions, counseling patients on their medication, training, coaching and managing employees.

    How did you get started? I’ve always known that one day I would start my own community pharmacy. My brother and I have been planning our vision for Parker’s Pharmacy for over two years. We both left Baton Rouge after high school to pursue college and professional goals. After 10 plus years away, we collectively decided that Baton Rouge was where we needed to be to continue our vision.Orlando Parker Pharmacy

    Where did your interest in pharmacy start? I always had an interest in healthcare growing up. I was going to be a pediatrician, anesthesiologist or pharmacist. The first two years of Pre-Med/Pre-Pharmacy college curriculum was the same. I decided to become a pharmacist and the rest is history.
    My pharmacy career consisted of retail pharmacy experience (Walgreen’s and CVS Pharmacy) and nuclear pharmacy experience (PETNET Solutions, a Siemens Company). Managing a nuclear manufacturer was very rewarding. Every single day, we assisted in the diagnosis and management of various cancer and Alzheimer’s disease patients.

    Why did you choose Baton Rouge? Baton Rouge is home, born and raised. My brother and I collectively made the decision to move back to Baton Rouge to grow our family and business.

    Why the Broadmoor area? The Broadmoor area needs a community pharmacy. It met all of our target site selection criteria. We have other Parker’s Pharmacy locations planned for the Baton Rouge area.

    What is most challenging aspect of your business? Poor service in business has been a documented issue. This include the retail/community pharmacy industry. It will be a challenge to decondition patients, to choose a better pharmacy experience, from the only thing they may currently know.

    What’s most rewarding? Improving patient health outcomes of family, friends and the community where I was born and raised.

    What are two things you wished everyone understood about pharmacy and medicine? Pharmacy, specifically prescription medications, is only one main component to improving and managing your health. Healthier food choices, diet, physical exercise, smoking cessation are also key components. The world of medicine will constantly evolve and Parker’s Pharmacy will be there for their patients to help guide them through those times.Parker family

    What do you think is the most important aspect of pharmacy? This is a tough question. I have gone back and forward with education and adherence as the most important aspects of pharmacy. Ultimately, I conclude education. Educating your patients on their new or current medication regimen and course of therapy. This includes directions, side effects, drug-drug interactions, drug-food interactions, any additional supplements needed, nutritional education, etc. The more time you take to educate your patients will ultimately improve adherence to medication. It’s a direct correlation to improved patient health outcomes.

    What are your goals or future plans? My goal is to provide an exceptional pharmacy experience to all patients. This includes customer service, education and awareness and improving the overall health of my community. We have plans for multiple Parker’s Pharmacy locations around the Baton Rouge metro area.

    Who works with you in the pharmacy? My brother Kyle Palmer is co-owner of Parker’s Pharmacy. His role is Director of Community Outreach Services. We also employ a team of pharmacist and pharmacy technicians.

    Should you (a pharmacist) be asked clinical questions? How do you handle clinical questions when asked? Every single day a pharmacist answers clinical questions. The intense college curriculum, clinical rotation requirements, national and state board exams and work experience allows pharmacist to continue to be one of the most trusted professionals. If a pharmacist is unable to pull up information from memory, there are ample clinical resources readily available.

    What unique business relationships or partnerships do you have in Baton Rouge? As we launched our business venture, we have partnered and aligned our services with many great organizations. These organizations are top notch when it comes to execution and results. Off the top of my head they include:
    1. The BYAN Group led by Courtney Scott for strategic planning and marketing
    2. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber for business development
    3. The Maxine Firm led by Ellen McKnight for nutritional support and logistics
    4. The CEO Foundation led by Jasiri Basel for community outreach
    5. Louisiana Healthcare Services led by Dr. Leah Cullins and Nicole Thomas for clinic services

    Why are you here? I love this question. This venture is way bigger than the impact of a neighborhood pharmacy on a community. My brother and I are here to build and strengthen our hometown community of Baton Rouge. We are here to provide HOPE to the community where we were born and raised, specifically 70805.

    ONLINE: parkersrx.com

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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    Study: Blacks work 30 jobs at high risk of automation

    Innovation is changing America, from self-checkout lanes in grocery stores to driverless cars. New jobs will emerge, like technicians who service these technologies. Other jobs will be eliminated, such as some cashiers and drivers.
    To what extent are Blacks—whose unemployment rates are already twice as high as those of Whites—currently represented in jobs at high risk to automation?

    According to a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, joblessness among Blacks is expected increase more because 30 jobs Blacks work in are at high risk of automation.

    “Twenty-seven percent of Black workers are concentrated in 30 occupations at high risk of automation. By comparison, these 30 occupations account for 24 percent of all white workers and 20 percent of all Asian-American workers,” according to the report Race and Jobs at High Risk of Automation.

    There are 3.3 million cashiers and 580,000 are Black or 3.22 percent of the Black workforce compared to 1.92 percent of the white workforce and 2.54 percent of the Asian workforce.

    There are 500,000 taxi drivers and chauffeurs and 143,000 are Black or 80 percent of the Black workforce compared to 21 percent of the white workforce and 87 percent of the Asian workforce.

    At risk are retail salespersons, cashiers, secretaries, administrative assistants, cooks, waiters, waitresses, laborers, freight and stock movers, hand construction laborers, accountants, auditors, receptionists, information clerks, grounds maintenance workers, office clerks, sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, food preparation workers, real estate brokers and sales agents, production workers, security guards, gaming surveillance officers, miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators, agricultural workers, inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, weighers, insurance sales agents, industrial truck and tractor operators, shipping/receiving traffic clerks, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, sales workers and truck drivers, billing and posting clerks, paralegals and legal Assistants, bus drivers, fast food workers, operating engineers, and construction equipment operators.

    “While automation will create new types of jobs, the Black community faces a unique combination of well-documented challenges that make it particularly vulnerable in labor-market transitions,” the report said. “These challenges include: an average household net worth that is one-tenth of whites, making periods without income particularly difficult.”

    The study also noted that automation could increase the Black unemployment rate from 7.5 percent to more than 20 percent. However, the study reported that economic disruption can create new opportunities that address long-standing social inequities. The Joint Center is a research and policy analysis institution focused exclusively on issues concerning people of color.

    ONLINE: jointcenter.org

    By Cora Lester
    The Drum reporter

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    Mission to help Baton Rouge kids move more

    Three quarters of children in the United States are not meeting physical activity recommendations, according to a recent report authored by concerned health experts from around the country and by scientists from Baton Rouge at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The report, compiled by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, indicates that nearly 63 percent of children are exceeding screen time guidelines, meaning that a majority of kids are sitting more and moving less. These habits put our country’s children at risk for obesity, diabetes and related chronic disease as they get older.

     Here in Louisiana, one out of every two children is considered overweight or obese*. That statistic is unacceptable to Amanda Stain, Ph.D., an assistant professor of research in the Pediatric Obesity and Health Behavior Lab at Pennington Biomedical, who is working to find creative ways to improve children’s health.

    “We know that if we can help children develop healthy habits such as moving more when they are younger, they are more likely to continue those habits past adolescence into adulthood,” said Staiano.

    According to Staiano, the first step to helping kids move more is understanding why they aren’t already moving enough. That’s why she is leading the TIGER Kids research study, which is researching ways to increase kids’ physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior to improve their overall health.

    During the course of the study, Staiano and her team are using state-of-the-art technology like activity trackers and global positioning systems (GPS) to follow kids’ physical activity patterns for seven days to learn more about what prevents them from being active and what motivates them to move more. Kids in the study will also use a mobile phone app to share more information with researchers about who they are with and what they are doing—for example, spending time at the park with friends—when they are most physically active.web tigerkids_poster 9.75x9.75

    “This is a great way for me to teach my daughter about healthy habits,” said Brandy Davis, whose daughter, Ariamarie, is participating in the TIGER Kids study. “Both my son and I have been a part of research studies at Pennington Biomedical before, and we have really gotten some great health information from participating in those studies. My daughter was so excited to be a part of the TIGER Kids study because she is fascinated by the activity trackers and all the great information she’ll get about her own activity levels.”

    Staiano said the TIGER Kids study is still looking for children between the ages of 10 and 16 to participate in the study. In addition to great health information they can share with their doctor, participants who complete the study will also receive compensation for their time.

     

    TIGER Kids Study with Pennington Biomedical

    Study Purpose

    The TIGER Kids research study will evaluate ways to: increase kids’ physical activity and reduce sedentary behavior (help kids move more and sit less), encourage healthy eating, and assess other factors that may influence school performance, body image, stress and mood.

    TIGER Kids participants will also receive valuable health information at no cost. Each participant is eligible to receive a copy of:

    • their lab work; including blood sugar and cholesterol tests;
    • a printout of their DXA scan, which includes total body fat, total muscle mass, total lean mass and bone density readings; and
    • a copy of body measurement data including height, weight, waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure and heart rate.

    Study Qualifications

    To qualify, participants in this study should:

    • Be between 10 and 16 years old
    • Not be on a restrictive diet

    Compensation

    Total compensation for the completion of this study is $100.

    Study Contact

    Parents, are you ready to see if your child qualifies for the TIGER Kids study? Visit http://www.pbrc.edu/TIGERKids to screen online or call 225-763-3000.

     

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    John Gray to marshal Mid City Gras parade

    Acclaimed jazz musician and music teacher John Gray has been chosen as grand marshal of the inaugural Mid City Gras parade, which rolls Feb. 4, at 1pm, from North Blvd to Baton Rouge Community College.

    The McKinley High School and Southern University graduate is a full-time teacher at The Dunham School. He also performs professionally with The JGrayJazz Trio, The Michael Foster Project, The Soul Jukeboxx, The Uptown Jazz Orchestra and The Treme Brass Band.

    Gray has been named one of The Drum’s People to Watch, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s Teacher of the Year, and a Top 40 Under 40 Black Entrepreneur.

    He is also a recipient of Dunham’s Master Teacher Award and The LINK’s Role Model of the Year award, one of Louisiana Life Magazine’s Louisianans of the Year, and an Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge Arts Ambassador.

    To apply for Mid City Gras, see the Parade Application Tab at www.midcitygras.org or  email hello@midcitygras.org.

    ONLINE: midcitygras.org

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    Oil and gas industry challenged to engage STEM talent in Black communities

    WASHINGTON DC–When it comes to preparing the next generation for careers in science, technology engineering and mathematics, also known at STEM, Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said that leaders in the oil and natural gas industry have to answer the “awareness question.”

    “There are many people out there, today, that don’t really understand the oil and natural gas industry or the opportunities that it can present for them, their families and for well-paying careers,” said Gerard. “It’s incumbent upon us, as an industry, to have this dialogue more often and to intensify this discussion, so that people really understand,” the connection between the oil and natural gas industry and their everyday lives.

    The American Petroleum Institute and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, recently hosted a panel discussion focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM careers and in the oil and natural gas industry. API, the only national trade group representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry, according to the group’s website, supports 10.3 million jobs in the United States and nearly 8 percent of the U.S. economy.

    The panel discussion coincided with the release of a new RAND report titled, “Postsecondary Education and STEM Employment in the United States.” The report, which was prepared for API, examined national education trends and the relationship between degree attainment and employment and wages, specifically in STEM fields.

    “Many of tomorrow’s best paying careers, at all levels, will require some kind of training or education in a STEM discipline,” said Gerard.

    STEM degrees can lead to higher earnings and can help to close the wage gap between Blacks and Whites. Those higher earnings are even more pronounced in the oil and gas industry.

    Blacks with STEM bachelor’s degrees earn $45.15 in hourly wages in the oil and natural gas industry, compared to Blacks with non-STEM bachelor’s degrees, who make $28.10 per hour, according to the RAND report.

    Whites with STEM bachelor’s degrees make slightly more per hour than Blacks with STEM degrees working in the oil and natural gas industry ($45.26 vs. $45.15).

    The hourly wage gap is higher between Whites and Blacks with non-STEM degrees that work in the oil and gas industry ($37.73 vs. $28.10).

    According to the 2016 report titled, “Minority and Female Employment in the Oil & Natural Gas and Petrochemical Industries, 2015-2035” by IHS Global prepared for API, “nearly 1.9 million direct job opportunities are projected through 2035 in the oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries” and “African Americans and Hispanics will account for over 80 percent of the net increase in the labor force from 2015 to 2035.”

    Gerard said that over the next 10 years about 50 percent of the oil and natural gas workforce is going to “turnover.”

    According to the IHS Global report on minority and female employment in the oil and natural gas industry, Blacks accounted for 6.7 percent of the total workforce.

    Gerard said that as the current workforce reaches retirement age, the industry will need a rising generation to fill those jobs. Understanding the demographic shifts the industry has to get more aggressive in addressing that challenge, added Gerard.

    “If we’re going to do the things that are necessary to move the needle to impact those 1.9 million jobs, we have to go where most people don’t want to go and that’s in the Black and brown communities,” said Calvin Mackie, Ph.D., founder of STEM NOLA. “We often talk about STEM in a way that a common man and common woman really can’t grasp.”

    Mackie, who is an engineer in New Orleans, said that millions of Black and brown boys play football and basketball every Saturday, dreaming of making it to the NFL or NBA, even though their chances of achieving that goal are statistically low.

    “If we’re going to solve this problem, we have to go to the communities and make sure that on every Saturday there are a million Black and brown kids doing STEM, hoping and believing that, 15 years later, they will become,” millionaires and billionaires, said Mackie.

    Mackie runs a program that exposes elementary and high school students from underserved communities to STEM principles and STEM careers.

    Gerard said that leaders of the oil and natural gas industry recognize that they have to engage more effectively with minority communities, in order to build relationships and train and recruit their future workforce.

    “We need help from people who have been on the frontlines for many years,” said Gerard.

    Overton said that working with groups like the National Newspaper Publishers Association can improve the oil and natural gas industry’s outreach in the Black community.

    Overton also shared an anecdote about the African American women who were depicted in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

    African American NASA mathematician Dorothy Vaughan predicted that an incoming IBM computer would displace “human computers” in the 1960s. In anticipation, she learned the computer language Fortran, and she taught it to her team of Black women mathematicians. When the IBM arrived, the team was ready and took over new jobs operating the IBM, Overton said.

    “We are in this moment of rare opportunity…we can be proactive instead of reactive, like those women in ‘Hidden Figures,’” said Spencer Overton, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

    Mackie said that in order to increase awareness about STEM careers in the oil and natural gas industry, programs have to be culturally and environmentally relevant.

    “When we start talking about STEM education…sometimes it’s disenfranchising our children, because it’s not exposing them to the possibility of the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the oil and gas industry,” said Mackie.

    Mackie said that the nature of work is rapidly changing, driven by innovation and technology; that rapid change has the power to change lives for those individuals who have access to the resources to harness those tools.

    Some education advocates fear that Black children, oftentimes don’t have access to those resources.

    “America is in trouble,” said Mackie. “We have to make sure that we expose every kid to the possibility of STEM, because the future will belong to those that can play in it and create it and all of our kids deserve that possibility.”

    Gerard noted that the oil and natural gas industry contributes to the production of the energy efficient screens found on windows, the paint on the walls in our homes and offices, the fiber composites in the carpet, and the plastic components in smartphones.

    “We have to make our industry more relevant in those conversations, so that rising generations realize that there are vast opportunities up and down the continuum,” said Gerard. “So, we don’t scare them with the STEM conversation, but we teach them that everything that they do is grounded in this industry and the opportunity within that space is very significant.”

    Gerard continued, “If we can work on this together, we’re going to see a lot of opportunities out there, because people will start making those connections between [the oil and natural gas industry] to things they take for granted and to well-paying careers.”

    By Freddie Allen 
    NNPA Editor-In-Chief

     

    PHOTO CAPTION: Calvin Mackie,Ph.D., engineer and founder of STEM NOLA, talks about diversity and inclusion in the oil and natural gas industry, during a panel discussion at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

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    Baton Rouge sailor reflects on year of recruiting in America’s Navy

    First Class Jalisa Green, a recruiter assigned to Navy Recruiting District San Antonio, shows that not shying away from hard work and responsibility does not go unnoticed.
    Green, a Louisiana native, longed to travel and see the world beyond her hometown of Baton Rouge.  She believed joining the Navy would give her that opportunity.
    After enlisting in 2009, she was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, serving on USS Cowpens with follow-on assignments on USS Spruance  and USS William P. Lawrence.
    “Working on a ship was challenging; it meant long hours, a lot of sweat, dirt, and wrench-cranking, but I loved it,” said Green, a gas turbine system technician (mechanical).
    Although her passion is to travel as much as possible, early in her career she knew one day she would transition to shore duty as a recruiter.
    “I had a great recruiter, who has been a positive influence from day one in my decision to become a recruiter, and continues to support me throughout my career,” said Green.
    Recruiters are representatives of America’s Navy and act as ambassadors in their communities.  To become one requires previous experience in the Navy or other branch of the military, an outgoing personality, creativity, initiative, and strong organizational and time-management skills, among other skills.
    For some Sailors, transitioning from the fleet to recruiting can be challenging.  Many find it difficult adapting to office work after spending time in more operational rates on a ship.
    “For me the biggest difference was all the paperwork,” said Green.  “But the long hours and dedication you have to put in are the same.  Ship life had already groomed me for that.”
    Green has proven her strength and ability to adapt within the recruiting world.  As a second class petty officer, she was given the position of leading petty officer (LPO) for her division, a role that is traditionally given to a first class petty officer.
    “Becoming a LPO was a tough experience.  I had to make sacrifices in my personal life for my career,” admits Green.  “It was hard, at first, to find that balance and to remember to take care of myself and make time for other goals, like college.”
    Green says she finds strength through her many mentors in the recruiting community as well as through her family.
    “I reach out often to my chief, division leading chief petty officer, and my first class petty officers,” said Green.  “They all encourage me to never back down and to always strive for more from myself and my recruiters.”
    Green’s grit and strong work ethic made her a standout Sailor within the recruiting community and lead to her meritorious advancement to first class petty officer through the Meritorious Advancement Program  on June 30.
    Earning meritorious advancement was a huge milestone for Green, who says she was completely surprised by her selection.
    “I honestly did not think it was an achievable goal for me,” she explained.  “It is hard to be competitive within your rate as a recruiter, so I did not think it would happen.”
    Successful recruiters can apply for reclassification under the Navy’s Career Recruiting Force (CRF) program.  Green has chosen not to convert to CRF, instead hoping to one day return to the fleet.
    “As much as I have enjoyed recruiting, shore duty has reminded me of why I joined the Navy in the first place, which was to travel and do something different,” Green said.  “I have not traveled enough,” she said.
    Green said making first class has not been a big change for her.
    “Serving as the LPO for my division as a second class made me already think like a first class, so this advancement is only the beginning and makes me want to work harder to achieve my goals,” said Green.
    Those goals, Green said, are to eventually finish college and make chief petty officer or become a commissioned officer.
    “I am thankful for this opportunity, but personally it is not enough; I need to keep pushing,” she said.  “I also need to humble myself and remember all the recruiters and chiefs who have gone before me and to those whom have given me guidance to get me where I am today.  I wouldn’t be here without their help.”
    By Giselle Christmas
    Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class
    Navy Recruiting District San Antonio Public Affairs
    PHOTO CAPTION:
    171020-N-ND850-679:  CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Oct. 20, 2017) Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Jalisa Green of Baton Rouge, La., is a recruiter assigned to Navy Recruiting Station Corpus Christi, Navy Recruiting District San Antonio.  After enlisting in 2009, Green served aboard the USS Cowpens (CG-63), USS Spruance (DDG-111), and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110) before becoming a Navy recruiter.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Burrell Parmer, Navy Recruiting District San Antonio Public Affairs/Released)

     

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    Grambling takes 44th Bayou Classic, heads to SWAC Championship

    NEW ORLEANS - The 44th Annual Bayou Classic was all about unity. During the weekend, the theme “We Are One” was echoed from the Superdome to the French Market and throughout the various venues which hosted Bayou Classic events across the city. The Grambling State University Tigers took the victory for their third straight Bayou Classic, but the exciting back-and-forth game, combined with family fun events, and HBCU pride made everyone a winner.
    IMG_2022
    The Annual Bayou Classic brings fans from Grambling State University and Southern University and A&M College to New Orleans for an HBCU experience like no other. Students, fans and alumni unite to experience the historic rivalry and take part in the unique tradition and pageantry.
    IMG_2689
    The attendance at the 2017 Greek Show presented by McDonald’s and Battle of the Bands presented by the U.S. Marine Corps was 28,730. The attendance at the game was 66,550. This year, the electrifying halftime show was presented by P&G’s Crest 3D White Toothpaste.
    For the second year in a row, the game served as a playoff for the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Championship game. The Grambling State University Tigers will go on to face Alcorn State on December 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The SWAC champion will then play in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia on December 16.
    Dottie Belletto, President and CEO of New Orleans Convention Company, Inc. (NOCCI) said, “It was a great year and now we have begun the planning for our 45th Bayou Classic Anniversary for 2018.”
    Highlights of the 44th Annual Bayou Classic include:
    • With the Grambling Tigers winning the Bayou Classic with a score of 30-21 against the Southern Jaguars, the Tigers lead the series holding 23 victories in the 43-game series.
    • With the win, the Grambling State University Tigers move onto the SWAC Championship against Alcorn State to be held in Houston on Saturday, December 2, 2017.
    • Grambling’s Devante Kincade and Southern’s Austin Howard were named MVPs of the 44th Annual Bayou Classic.
    • Louisiana Seafood presented a 44-foot po-boy to commemorate the Bayou Classic’s 44th Anniversary at the Bayou Classic Press Conference.
    • The theme of the 44th Annual Bayou Classic was “We Are One” to promote unity amongst the HBCU community.IMG_2801
    • In 2017, fan voting via the Bayou Classic App played a larger role in choosing the winner of their favorite step stem at the Greek Show and MVP of the game. There were 1,121 people that voted for the winner of the Greek Show and 493 people voted for the MVP of the game.
    • Over the Bayou Classic Weekend, the Bayou Classic App peaked in downloads at number 34 out of the top 200 Sports Apps. The app had 8,279 downloads and was more popular with fans this year vs. the debut year in 2016.
    • First place winners of the Bayou Classic Greek Show presented by McDonald’s, Beta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Psi Beta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., were presented with $3,000 checks for their victories.
    • This year the Bayou Classic Parade changed the date from Thanksgiving Day to pre-game on Saturday. The Bayou Classic Parade had an attendance of more than 65,000 attendees. The parade featured 11 high school marching bands, three of which were from out of state.
    • Bayou Classic Fan Fest presented by Cox with entertainment by iHeart Radio reached capacity for the first time and the entrance gates to Champions Square were closed. Over 12,500 people attended Fan Fest on a flow.
    • iHeart Radio provided artists including K Camp, Young Greatness and Cupid along with headliner T.I., presented by Coors Light at the Bayou Classic Fan Fest presented by Cox.
    • Six teams comprised of 21 students were selected to present their final presentations at the Bayou Classic BizTech Challenge presented by Nexus LA. The winner of the $10,000 Grand Prize was Team OurGlass from Southern University who created a portable 3D-printed device that brews tea, so that users can brew and drink tea “on the go”. The team is working with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Clinic at Southern University’s Law Center to patent and trademark their intellectual property, and set up legal structures to enable them to start selling their product.
    • The top three finalists of the Bayou Classic BizTech Challenge received $10,000 in free legal services from Stone Pigman Law Firm to advise them on next steps.
    • Approximately 150 people attended the Bayou Classic BizTech Challenge at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
    • Sheryl Underwood, actress, comedian, and personality as seen on The Talk judged the Greek Show along with Elvin Ross, founder of Elvin Ross Studios, and Music Director of the beloved Tyler Perry films. Singer, songwriter, model and actress, Solange Knowles was in attendance for the show.  Omar J. Dorsey, actor in Queen Sugar was in attendance for the game.
    • The U.S. Marine Corps Band played an instrumental rendition of the National Anthem before the big game.
    • Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, Bryan Terrell Clark who plays George Washington in the Broadway play Hamilton, and Anthony Pope, senior vice president and region manager for Cox’s Southeast Region conducted the coin toss before the big game.
    • The Bayou Classic partnered with the inDEFINED Initiative, Bryan Terrell Clark’s fashion line which supports inner city arts education. inDEFINED sold a special edition Bayou Classic tee at Fan Fest which benefited arts education programs in New Orleans.
    • Grambling’s Devante Kincade and Southern’s Lenard Tillery were inducted into Bayou Classic’s MVP Club during the Coaches Luncheon in honor of being named MVPs of the Bayou Classic in 2016.

    See more photo highlights by Yusef Davis, photojournalist 

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