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    Young Investors plan for future financial growth with local bank

    Fourth grade students at Glen Oaks Park Elementary School and their parents will soon learn the value of using even small savings to invest in tomorrow’s goals. These 66 Baton Rouge students are the in the inaugural class of Young Investors Children Savings Account Pilot Project class of LABEST.

    “As I crossed the threshold, I overheard a suited man talking to some students clad in their collared uniform shirts and holding brightly colored plastic piggy banks. He said, ‘Feed the pig and we’ll put interest on that…free money! Now, that’s what I’m talking about!’,” said Carmen Green, a policy fellow with the Louisiana Budget Project.

    The Children Savings Account is an initiative of The Middleburg Institute in collaboration with LABEST, a statewide coalition of organizations seeking to influence public polices and improve the lives of low wealth communities over a lifetime. TMI established the Young Investors elementary school savings project with support and research provided by Howard University Center on Race & Wealth, Washington University in St Louis, CFED and the Ford Foundation Building Economic Security over a Lifetime Initiative (BESOL). The Project teaches students the importance of savings and how to develop habits of making money, saving money, and spending wisely.

    Young Investors will raise money to deposit into the accounts. In addition to the personal deposits that students and their parents can make, the Young Investors will try their hand at entrepreneurship. They will engage in monthly fundraising activities for regular deposits so they can witness their accounts grow.

    The Young Investor’s program is partnering with Rhonda Jefferson and Lorraine Oubre, owners of Grandma Tootsie’s Creole Pralines. They plan to make and assist in selling pralines to raise money. In house, Young Investors may be “hired” as tellers in the school bank, and oversee daily accounting.

    The program features financial literacy coaches, professionals, and advisors including those from Edward Jones, Junior Achievement, and local banks who are available to students and parents during monthly learning opportunities.

    Alarian Brown, 10, already has ideas on money management. “With all the money I get, I want to save more,” she said. “I’ll keep it in the bank and when it comes to stuff I need, I’ll get it out.”

    Alarian, who has plans to be an orthodontist, is looking forward to the fundraising aspects of the program, including selling lemonade and pralines.

    That “free money” did not grow on some special cash tree. Financial advocacy group LABEST, The Middleburg Institute, and Gulf Coast Bank partnered to set the students up with a real savings account; each with $40 seed money. State Rep. Rick Edmonds ‘pledged a donation to the Young Investors program increasing the seed money for each enrolled student.

    As a member of the legislative education committee, Edmonds is well aware of the disinvestment in education and equality in the state and took his commitment to another level, said James. He plans to bring the students to the capital for a Young Investors Day this spring. This will give them exposure to state government.

    “As children and parents learn more about money management, it is our hope that this will influence change in behaviors as it relates to investing,” said Joyce James, LABEST state director. “Families may create workable budgets and start an emergency fund. We are able to say we changed behavior and increased the financial future for our children.”

    Green explained that these students will be able to grow into young adulthood with a little investment which they can use in high school or college for the ever-increasing tuition and dissipating scholarship opportunities. “Students will start to make the connection between production, cash and government, through exposure to entrepreneurs and local representatives,” she said.

    “I cannot determine the long-term effect on the city of Baton Rouge or on the lives of the students, but I see the potential. It feels like the Black community is brushing off the dust and moving forward,” Green said.

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    ‘I am that next legacy’

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

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

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    Alton Sterling

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

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

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

    Questions quickly rose asking what would justice look like. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Their involvement in the investigation is unknown.

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

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

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

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

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    Tony Brown

    incidents with police. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate
     

    OTHER RELATED STORIES

     

     

     

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    Read the entire Department of Justice statement on the Alton Sterling investigation

    The Justice Department announced on May 3 that the independent federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges against Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II. Career prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with officials from the FBI and the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, met May 3 with Sterling’s family and their representatives to inform them of the findings of the investigation and the decision.

    Attorney General John Landry said his office will start reviewing the case with state police. Community leaders and organizations–including The Urban League of Louisiana, Together Baton Rouge, Congressman Garrett Graves, The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, and others–have released statements surrounding this finding.

    Here’s the complete report from the Department of Justice as presented by acting US attorney Corey R. Amundsen on May 3.

    Overview

    The Department conducted a ten-month, comprehensive, and independent investigation of the events surrounding Sterling’s death. Federal agents and career prosecutors examined evidence from multiple independent sources, including all available footage from police vehicles that responded to the scene and the body-worn cameras from responding officers; cell-phone videos of the incident; interior and exterior surveillance video footage from the store where the shooting occurred; evidence gathered by the BRPD’s crime lab; BRPD documents related to the shooting; personnel files and background material for both involved officers, including prior use-of-force incidents; BRPD policies and training materials; all relevant dispatch recordings between and among local law enforcement, including the originating 911 calls; forensic evidence reports; the autopsy report; photographs of the crime scene; toxicology reports; EMS reports; and extensive additional electronically-stored evidence. As part of the investigation, the FBI laboratory conducted an expert forensic analysis of the video footage capturing the incident between Sterling and the officers. The FBI also interviewed dozens of witnesses, including civilian witnesses who were present at the scene and officers who responded to the scene after the shooting. The Department also consulted with two independent use-of-force experts whom the Civil Rights Division has previously used as government witnesses in criminal prosecutions of civil rights violations.

    Applicable Law

    The Department examined the facts in this case under all relevant federal criminal statutes. The federal criminal statute applicable to these facts is Title 18, United States Code, Section 242, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law. In order to proceed with a prosecution under Section 242, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a law enforcement officer acted willfully to deprive an individual of a federally protected right. The right implicated in this matter is the Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable seizure. This right includes the right to be free from unreasonable physical force by police. To prove that a police shooting violated the Fourth Amendment, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force was objectively unreasonable based on all of the surrounding circumstances. The law requires that the reasonableness of an officer’s use of force on an arrestee be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with added perspective of hindsight. The law set forth by the Supreme Court requires that allowances must be made for the fact that law enforcement officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.

    Additionally, to prove that a shooting violated section 242, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted willfully. This high legal standard – one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law – requires proof that the officer acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids. It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake, or even exercised bad judgment.

    Although Sterling’s death is tragic, the evidence does not meet these substantial evidentiary requirements. In light of this, and for the reasons explained below, the federal investigation concluded that this matter is not a prosecutable violation of the federal statutes.

    Factual Summary

    While this summary is based on, and consistent with, all facts known to the government after a thorough investigation, it does not include or discuss all facts known to federal law enforcement officials or gathered through this investigation. Many of the facts gathered through the federal investigation are not permitted to be disclosed, and other particularly sensitive facts and evidence are not being disclosed in order to protect the integrity of the State Attorney General’s inquiry into whether any state statutes were violated.

    The investigation revealed that at approximately 12:30 a.m. on July 5, 2016, an individual called 911 from a location near the Triple S Food Mart (“Triple S”) and reported that he had been threatened outside of a store by a black man wearing a red shirt and selling CDs. The caller reported that the man had pulled out a gun and had the gun in his pocket. The caller’s first call disconnected, but he called back a few moments later and reiterated his report. Dispatch relayed that information to Officers Lake and Salamoni, who responded to the Triple S, where they saw Sterling, wearing a red shirt and standing by a table with a stack of CDs.

    The subsequent exchange between Sterling and the officers happened very quickly, with the events – from the officers’ initial approach to a struggle on the ground to the shooting – happening in rapid succession. From the moment when Officer Lake gave his first order to Sterling, through the firing of the final shot, the entire encounter lasted less than 90 seconds. More specifically, from the start of the officers’ physical struggle with Sterling on the ground, through the firing of the final shot, the encounter lasted less than 30 seconds.

    Multiple videos captured portions or the entirety of the officers’ interaction with Sterling. These include cell-phone videos, surveillance video from the store, and video from the officers’ body cameras and a police vehicle. FBI video forensic experts also provided enhancements of relevant videos for the portion of the struggle that immediately preceded the shooting.

    The videos show the officers as they arrived on scene and engaged with Sterling. The videos show that the officers directed Sterling to put his hands on the hood of a car. When Sterling did not comply, the officers placed their hands on Sterling, and he struggled with the officers. Officer Salamoni then pulled out his gun and pointed it at Sterling’s head, at which point Sterling placed his hands on the hood. After Sterling briefly attempted to move his hands from the hood, Officer Lake then used a Taser on Sterling, who fell to his knees, but then began to get back up. The officers ordered him to get down, and Officer Lake attempted unsuccessfully to use his Taser on Sterling again. Officer Salamoni holstered his weapon, and then tackled Sterling; both went to the ground, with Officer Salamoni on top of Sterling, who was on his back with his right hand and shoulder partially under the hood of a car. Officer Lake joined them on the ground, kneeling on Sterling’s left arm while Officer Salamoni attempted to gain control over Sterling’s right arm. Officer Salamoni then yelled, “Going for his pocket. He’s got a gun! Gun!” Officer Salamoni then unsuccessfully attempted to gain control of Sterling’s right hand, while Officer Lake drew his weapon and yelled at Sterling, again directing him not to move. Less than one second later, during a point at which the location of Sterling’s right hand was not visible to the cameras, Officer Salamoni again yelled that Sterling was “going for the gun!” Officer Salamoni then fired three shots into Sterling’s chest.

    After the first three shots were fired, Officer Salamoni rolled onto on his back, facing Sterling’s back, with his weapon still drawn. Officer Lake stood behind both of them with his weapon drawn and pointed at Sterling. Sterling began to sit up and roll to his left, with his back to the officers. Sterling brought his right arm across his body toward the ground, and Officer Lake yelled at Sterling to “get on the ground.” As Sterling continued to move, Officer Salamoni fired three more rounds into Sterling’s back. Within a few seconds, Officer Lake reached into Sterling’s right pocket and pulled out a .38 caliber revolver. Investigators later confirmed that Sterling’s gun was loaded with six bullets at the time of this exchange.

    Following the shooting, Officers Salamoni and Lake each provided a detailed statement offering his version of how and why this shooting happened. According to the officers, Sterling was large and very strong, and from the very beginning resisted their commands. The officers reported that they responded with multiple different compliance techniques and that Sterling resisted the entire time. Both officers reported that when they were on the ground, they saw Sterling’s right hand in his pocket, with his hand on a gun. Officer Salamoni reported that he saw the gun coming out and attempted to grab it, but Sterling jerked away and attempted to grab the gun again. Officer Salamoni then saw “silver” and knew that he had seen a gun, so he began firing. Both officers reported that after the first three shots, they believed that Sterling was attempting to reach into his right pocket again, so Officer Salamoni fired three more times into Sterling’s back.

    Discussion

    In light of the officers’ explanations of the shooting, the government, in order to prove a Fourth Amendment violation, would be required to (1) disprove the officers’ accounts, (2) prove an alternative account that demonstrates that the officers’ actions were objectively unreasonable; and (3) prove that the officers knew that their actions were unreasonable and took them anyway. The evidence in this case is insufficient to bear the heavy burden of proof under federal criminal civil rights law.

    To fully assess whether this shooting constituted an unreasonable use of force, federal investigators closely examined, among other things, all of the evidence concerning the location of Sterling’s right hand prior to the first set of shots. As mentioned, although the videos do not show Sterling’s right hand at the time those shots were fired, they show that Sterling’s right hand was not under Officer Salamoni’s control. The evidence also cannot establish that Sterling was not reaching for a gun when Officer Salamoni yelled that Sterling was doing so.

    Federal investigators interviewed numerous civilian witnesses to determine whether they could provide additional relevant information on the question of whether Sterling reached for a gun.

    Only two witnesses reported to the FBI that they could see Sterling’s right hand, and they indicated that his hand was not in his pocket. However, because of other inconsistencies in their statements, and because of the fact that parts of their accounts are materially contradicted by the videos, their accounts are insufficient to prove the position of Sterling’s right hand/arm beyond a reasonable doubt at the time the shots were fired. Although the Department found no reason to doubt the sincerity of the witnesses’ accounts, this incident happened in an instant, and the witnesses may have had no reason to be specifically watching for the precise location of Sterling’s right hand at the time of the shooting. Given the inconsistencies in the civilian witnesses’ perspectives and recollections and the fact that the video establishes that Officer Salamoni did not have control over Sterling’s right hand just before the shots were fired, the evidence simply cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt the position of Sterling’s right hand at the exact time of the shooting, a split-second later. The Department therefore cannot disprove the officers’ claim beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The investigators also consulted with two independent, nationally recognized use-of-force experts with whom the Civil Rights Division has previously consulted in civil rights cases. While both experts criticized aspects of the officers’ techniques, they also concluded that the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances and thus met constitutional standards. The experts emphasized that the officers were responding to a call that someone matching Sterling’s description had brandished a weapon and threatened another person; that Sterling was large and strong; and that Sterling was failing to follow orders and was struggling with the officers. The experts noted that the officers also attempted to control Sterling through multiple less-than-lethal techniques before ultimately using lethal force in response to Officer Salamoni’s perception that Sterling was attempting to use a gun.

    The investigators’ review of BRPD files revealed no prior incidents involving substantiated allegations of misconduct by Officers Salamoni or Lake.

    In light of these facts, the evidence gathered during this investigation is insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the use of force leading up to and including the shooting violated the Fourth Amendment.

    The federal investigators also considered whether the evidence proved the distinct statutory element of willfulness. To establish that the officers acted willfully, the government would be required both to disprove the reason the officers gave for the shooting and to affirmatively establish that the officers instead acted with the specific intent to violate Sterling’s rights—meaning that, in shooting Sterling, the officers knew that what they were doing was unreasonable or prohibited, and chose to do it anyway.

    For many of the same reasons described above, the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers’ actions were a willful violation of the Fourth Amendment. When Officer Salamoni first reported that Sterling was going for the gun, he said, “Going for his pocket, he’s got a gun! Gun!” Significantly, Officer Salamoni did not shoot Sterling at this point, and, instead, attempted to gain control of Sterling’s right hand. Officer Lake also warned Sterling not to move. Seconds later, Officer Salamoni yelled again that Sterling was “going for the gun!” and only then did he fire his own weapon. This evidence suggests that Officer Salamoni fired his weapon when he believed that Sterling was going for his gun a second time, after Officer Lake had warned Sterling not to move. In order to prosecute this matter, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt not only that Sterling was not reaching for his gun, but also that, despite Officer Salamoni’s contemporaneous statements to the contrary, he did not believe that Sterling was reaching for his gun after being warned not to move. The Department lacks the evidence to prove either of those propositions beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The investigators also considered whether Officer Salamoni’s second series of shots was a prosecutable Fourth Amendment violation. Although the videos show that Sterling’s right hand was not in or near his right pocket, Sterling was continuing to move, even after being shot three times and being told again not to move by Officer Lake. Meanwhile, the officers were behind Sterling, and Officer Salamoni was lying on the ground, facing Sterling’s back. Given these circumstances, the evidence cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it did not appear to Officer Salamoni that Sterling was reaching for his pocket. Nor could the Department prove that the officer’s conduct was willful.

    Conclusion

    In sum, after extensive investigation into this tragic event, career Justice Department prosecutors have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officers Salamoni and Lake willfully violated Sterling’s civil rights. Given the totality of the circumstances – that the officers had been fighting with Sterling and had attempted less-than-lethal methods of control; that they knew Sterling had a weapon; that Sterling had reportedly brandished a gun at another person; and that Sterling was much larger and stronger than either officer – the Department cannot prove either that the shots were unconstitutional or that they were willful. Moreover, two different, independent experts opined that this shooting was not unreasonable given the circumstances. With respect to the first series of shots, the experts assessed that it was not unreasonable for Officer Salamoni to use lethal force, in light of all of the circumstances referenced above. With respect to the second series of shots, both experts emphasized that officers are trained to eliminate a threat, and that Sterling appeared to pose a threat because he was still moving and his right hand was not visible to Officer Salamoni. Accordingly, the federal investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution. Federal officials intend to provide the investigative file to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, which intends to conduct its own investigation into whether the conduct at issue in this investigation violated state law.

    In this case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and the FBI each devoted significant time and resources to investigating the circumstances surrounding Sterling’s death and to completing a thorough analysis of the evidence gathered. The Justice Department remains committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all serious allegations of civil rights violations are thoroughly examined. The Department aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.

    Civil Rights Division
    Civil Rights – Criminal Section
    Community Relations Service
    Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
    USAO – Louisiana, Middle

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    Farm to Work program enrollment extended

    Farm to Work program participants receive fresh, locally grown and seasonal produce delivered directly to the work site during the 10-week spring/summer and fall/winter growing seasons. In addition to the produce, participants receive reminder emails, recipes, tips and storage guidelines to get the most from their produce.

    The Farm to Work Program will be offered at the Dow Westside YMCA, Paula G. Manship YMCA, A.C. Lewis YMCA and Southside YMCA. The program will run from May-June during the summer season, and again from October-December during the winter season.

    Those wishing to participate in the program should enroll by April 21st in order to receive your fresh produce in time.

    Cost:
    One time per season $5 enrollment fee, plus:
    5 Box Plan: $25/box x 5 boxes = $125 total cost, every other week delivery
    10 Box Plan: $25/box x 10 boxes = $250 total cost, every week delivery

    ONLINE, click here.

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    Two-day celebration planned to honor Malcolm X, May 19-20

    Although, May 19 is not an official holiday, organizers in Baton Rouge are inviting residents to a two-day celebration honoring civil rights activist Malcom X.

    Called Malcolm X Day, the May 19-20, event is the brain child of Jasiri Basel of JB Digital Ventures and organized through a partnership with THE CEO MIND Foundation and East Baton Rouge Councilman Lamont Cole.

    The event celebrates Malcolm X’s birth and work for national change.

    “All citizens can celebrate which ever holiday we deem to celebrate; it is not necessary to be given permission to do so.   Malcolm X Day is one of those days that definitely needs to be celebrated; his life, his thoughts, his change and his impact are things that we should pay tribute to despite what the ‘official’ calendar says,” said Basel.

    “So, on this day May 19th, we celebrate intelligence, wisdom, unity, strength, and forward progress as a community. On this day we work toward making a real effort to do better , to have more impact and to improve the conditions of our community.   We do so for our future and in honor of Malcolm X!”

    Basel answered more questions about the Day.

     

    Who are the supporters of Malcolm X Day?

    Some key supporters of the event include: Jeremy Jackson of State Farm; State Representative C. Denise Marcelle; Ma’at Adorned

    Ray Automotive; Attorney Jerrard Young; and James Gilmore, PhD., Assistant Chief Administrative Officer to the Mayor. Most importantly the Streetz and the people of Baton Rouge who want to see real positive change. These are not all of the supporters and the list is growing everyday. So we welcome all who support positive unity within our community to solve and change things , to reach out and connect.

     

    How did the idea originate?

    For the past couple of years I’ve thought about doing something to celebrate the hero Malcolm X , but usually due to me being too busy or out of the country, it didn’t take place.  This year we decided to make the event a priority.

     

    Why host a Malcolm X Day?

    It’s needed to celebrate the life, accomplishments, and legacy of Malcolm X.   It’s needed to communicate the message that we don’t have to be told who to celebrate and why.  It’s need to unify our community for forward progress.   It’s needed for our future.

     

    What are all the activities for the two days?

    Friday May 19th -  Mixer and Listening Event at Club Culture, 450 Oklahoma Street, Baton Rouge. This is where we bring together members of our community who want to see progress for us as a people.   There we will be a uniquely choose sound track that will be the focal point of the evenings event. Those in attendance will get to network with others of like minds as step forward in building something that has not been done before.   There will be light refreshments served.

     

    Saturday May 20th – Malcolm X Community Cookout. This event is about unifying our community and our people.  A coming together to provide some simple steps that those in the community can do to help with progress for themselves.  This event is about empowering our community.  This event will make a statement that we will pick and celebrate our heroes and we don’t need permission or day designated by them to do so.  We will provide food for the community, games for the kids, and will replay the sound track.   (Other details are to come)

     

    Are there any rainy day plans? 

    Yes, this event will take place despite the weather.

     

    As of now what other groups or people involved in the activities?

    We are attempting to get every organization that is doing work for positive change in the community involved. We have and are reaching out to every organization we can think of,  and if by chance we haven’t reached them yet and they want to get involved, we are totally open to have them. So please reach out.  Visit the site www.MalcolmsDay.org for more information. There are a lot of moving parts to an event of this nature, a lot of mental power, planning, manpower, and resources are needed.  Those involved are doing their part in support.

     

    Is this an annual event? 

    Yes, this is the first of an annual celebration that we expect to see become more impactful every year. We are planning with other partners to ensure that the holiday will be officially celebrated in several cities across the nation next year.

     

    What do you expect to be the result?

    Various leaders coming together to do work towards long term objectives that benefit the community and the youth. The community taking to take more responsibility for the outcomes that directly impact their kids, their community, and their lives.

     

    Is this event connected to the Manhood 101 event and Saturday in the park that your organization hosts?

    Yes, everything we do is connected in one way or another because all of our programs and outreach have a common goal of empowering, impacting, and providing real, tangible pathways to strengthen individuals and the community as a whole.  The Malcolm X Day events are directly in alignment with that purpose.

     

    Is registration required to participate?

    It’s not specifically required, but it is suggested as it will help us prepare for the amount of people that will be attendance. Those who have registered may receive some surprises and benefits that those who have not might not. We ask that everyone check the site www.MalcolmsDay.org on a regular basis as it will stay updated with information regarding the event, pre contest, supporters, etc.  Be sure to check out the FAQs on the website as well

    Basel is founder of THE CEO MIND Foundation focuses on engagement, empowerment,  education and pathways for individual and collective progress of the community. The foundation hosts manood courses, provides meals on Saturdays in the Gus Young community of Baton Rouge, through its Grill & Connect initiative, and host community dialogues on technology and opportunities for community sustainability.

    ONLINE: MalcolmsDay.org

    THECEOMIND.org

     

     

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    Youth culminate traumatic year through poems of resilience

    “Here Still” was the mantra of this year’s ALL CITY Teen Poetry Slam Festival, a theme imagined from a season of tragedy that both publicly and personally affected festival participants. Held over two weekends in April throughout downtown Baton Rouge, the festival’s culminating event on April 8, punctuated the youths’ tribute to the resilience of the city in the aftermath of a turbulent summer, which included the sudden passing of 2016 festival participant and McKinley High School graduate Kaiya Smith.

    “The theme of this year’s festival saw our students examining the tragedies of last summer from both a critical and cathartic lens,” said Donney Rose, marketing director and events coordinator at Forward Arts. “About half of our festival participants wrote poems that carefully examined what it was to live in a city engulfed in civil unrest and natural disaster. The other half wrote a great deal about what it was to process the loss of a friend with whom they had shared a festival stage just last year.”

    To further tribute Smith, festival coordinators, joined by Smith’s mother, Petrouchka Moise, infused her words and images throughout festival displays, even presenting the first-ever Kaiya Smith Award for WordCrew Excellence to Tyler Scott – a member of Forward Arts’ afterschool poetry writing collective and festival participant. The award gifts the recipient an all-expense paid trip to the 20th annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival (BNV) to be held in July in San Francisco, where the top ranked poets of ALL CITY grand slam finals will compete. Smith was a member of the 2016 team that ranked 5th in the world.

    Olivia Williams, Chazzi Hayes

    Olivia Williams and Chazzi Hayes perform tribute poem in honor of Kaiya Smith. Photo by Leslie D. Rose.

    “This year has been bittersweet. Every moment with our team is a painful reminder of what we’ve lost – My Kaiya. Our Kaiya,” said Chelsea Schilling, English teacher at McKinley High School and co-coach of its poetry slam team. “Although it hurts, we are still here. We will continue to write, continue to perform, continue to be heard, for us, and for her. I am truly amazed at what these students can do and I am so thankful that Forward Arts gives them a space where their voices will be heard.”

    McKinley High School placed second, following a team from Baton Rouge Magnet High School who won the title of 2017 ALL CITY Champions. Finalists also included a second BRMHS team and a team from Port Allen High School. All poets who performed individually had the chance to earn a spot on the 2017 Forward Arts All Stars slam team to compete at BNV – this year they are Jazmyne Smith, Olivia Williams, Chazzi Hayes, Kalvin Morris, Imani Sundiata, and Imani McCullam.

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    2017 ALL CITY champions Baton Rouge Magnet High School poets Donovan Thomas, Jayda Jefferson, Rikki Willis (coach), Chazzi Hayes, Kalvin Morris, and Olivia Williams. Photo by Leslie D. Rose.

    Forward Arts has sent a team to BNV since 2006. The first ALL CITY festival was held in 2007 and remains the only festival of its kind in the region, having hosted hundreds of youth poets, ages 13 to 19. It was created to provide an elevated platform to youth voices, while also appealing to Louisiana’s storied festival culture. Throughout its 12 year history, youth from Baton Rouge and surrounding rural communities have found an outlet through Forward Arts’ programming.

     

    “Students were able to express this year’s theme through acceptance, support, and encouragement for all participants,” said Michael Hilton, assistant principal at Donaldsonville High School and coach of its poetry slam team. “We all were able to connect to the theme: flood victims, rural community students who tend to be forgotten, minorities, and those with preferences different than the majority of us – we are all connected; we are all vitally important to our future; we are all Here Still.”

    Hilton was the recipient of the 2017 ALL CITY Coaches Award that honors coaches who showcase exemplary dedication to their team.

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    2017 Forward Arts All Stars slam team Imani McCullam, Kalvin Morris, Chazzi Hayes, Imani Sundiata, Jazmyne Smith and Olivia Williams. Photo by Leslie D. Rose.

    The Spirit of the Slam award was presented to the Louisiana School for the Deaf for displaying noteworthy sportsmanship throughout the festival. This year the school had so many students interested in participating for the ALL CITY that they sent two teams to compete.

    “This event affords each of our students the opportunity to share with others their life experiences as young deaf people, as well as their own heartfelt issues, and we can’t thank Forward Arts enough for providing such a venue,” said Lisa Cook, instructor of high school language and theatre at Louisiana School for the Deaf and coach of its poetry slam team. “The support of the other teams, as well as the validation of their ‘voice,’ is invaluable.”

    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, such as executive director Chancelier ‘xero’ Skidmore, a former world poetry slam champion, and program director Desireé Dallagiacomo, a multi-time international poetry slam finalist and viral video sensation. The staff of Forward Arts collectively has more than 15 years experience as teaching artists and administrators of youth spoken word poetry.

    Forward Arts, Inc. fosters personal and social transformation by providing arts instruction, literary education, and youth development in Southeastern Louisiana.

     

     

    By Leslie D. Rose
    Special to The Drum

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    The Roosevelt seeks the most deserving mom for giveaway

     The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, is offering everyone the opportunity to take their Mother’s Day gift to the next level this year with an over-the-top luxurious weekend for mom. The iconic Crescent City hotel is excited to award the Mother’s Day surprise of a lifetime to the “Most Deserving Mom.” Everyone is called to nominate a mom to win an overnight stay at The Roosevelt New Orleans, as well as a luxurious spa treatment at the Waldorf Astoria Spa and full breakfast with the family in the hotel.

    “At The Roosevelt New Orleans, we see first-hand that mothers are the ones making plans and taking care of their family members every minute of the day,” said The Roosevelt New Orleans Resident Manager Sebastian Stutz. “This Mother’s Day, we are thrilled to provide the ultimate luxurious experience to the mom who truly deserves relaxing and care-free family time.”

    To make a nomination, visit this link and explain why your nominee is the most deserving mom. All are asked to share their favorite story or heart-warming examples of the many ways their nominee has been a devoted and selfless light in someone’s life. Upon receipt of all nominations by the closing date of Wednesday, April 19, The Roosevelt New Orleans team will select the winner and bestow the gift of a lifetime to the “Most Deserving Mom.” The Roosevelt New Orleans will publically announce the “Most Deserving Mom” on April 26,  on the hotel’s Facebook page.

    This is one of two awards The Roosevelt New Orleans proudly honors local women with throughout the year. The Reigning Spirit of the Sazerac, honored by the hotel during its annual Stormin’ of the Sazerac event in September, is a woman embodying strength, determination and courageousness who makes an indelible impact in her community.

    The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, is one of America’s most luxurious and revered properties in one of the world’s greatest cities. This iconic hotel offers 504 rooms, including 125 suites, along with ballrooms and meeting space for every event from elaborate galas to private groups, weddings and more. Built in 1893 and boasting its signature block-long golden lobby with dozens of sparkling chandeliers, The Roosevelt has created its own history with the renowned Blue Room, Sazerac Bar, Waldorf Astoria Spa, fitness center, Rooftop Bar, Teddy’s Café, Fountain Lounge, Emporium Gift Shop and its true Waldorf world-class service. Located steps from the history and excitement of the French Quarter, The Roosevelt New Orleans is the crown jewel of New Orleans luxury.

    ONLINE: www.waldorfastoria.com/theroosevelt

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    Omarosa shocks, angers publishers as she walks out of ‘Black Press Week’ breakfast

    Omarosa Manigault, President Donald Trump’s director of communications for public liaison, walked out of a breakfast meeting she had requested to attend, hosted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association last week.

    The sudden move by the minister and reality star clearly shocked NNPA members and their guests in the March 23 meeting; especially since Manigault had called the chair of the historic group the night before and “asked to attend”, according to NNPA Chair Denise Rolark Barnes. During opening remarks, Manigault had praised Black journalists for historically asking “the tough questions”.

    Manigault became agitated after a reporter asked a question following up on a story published by the Trice Edney News Wire Jan. 8. The story quoted civil rights lawyer Barbara Arnwine as stating that Manigault promised the “first interview” with Trump to NNPA President Benjamin Chavis during a Jan. 4 Trump transition team meeting with Black leaders.

    Manigault doesn’t dispute having promised the interview. However, she was incensed because the story said she promised Chavis “the first” interview.

    The Jan. 8 story reports:

    ‘”Manigault’s promise of the interview was disclosed after a representative of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) stressed the importance of Black reporters interfacing with the president. Both Chavis and NABJ representatives participated in the closed door meeting held Jan. 4 at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in North West DC.
    Trump aide Omarosa Manigault listens to question from reporter Hazel Trice Edney. Photo: Shevry Lassiter

    ‘”When NABJ said we need to make sure that somebody Black interviews the President first, [Omarosa] said, ‘Oh no.  Ben Chavis and I have already spoken and he’s going to be the first interview,’” recounted Arnwine, president/CEO of the Transformative Justice Coalition, in an interview. Arnwine said Chavis then “acknowledged that that was correct – that they had already been in touch with him about it.’”

    Hearing of Manigault’s denial this week, Arnwine seemed puzzled.  “It was to me a highlight. I had hoped that it really meant that African-American journalists were being repositioned into a higher priority for the incoming administration,” she said. “And I am surprised that this representation is unfortunately being dropped or not followed through. I was in the room and it was not said once. It was said twice.”

    It is not clear whether the Trump staff recorded the meeting since it was off the record. Since the meeting, some have speculated that perhaps Manigault meant Chavis would be the first Black Press representative to interview Trump rather than the first journalist.

    After seeing one White media reporter after another interview the President, this reporter, a former NNPA editor-in-chief invited to the breakfast by Barnes, followed up on the Jan. 8 story:

    The first question pertains to “the promise that Ben Chavis would get the first interview with the president; then I have another question,” this reporter said after being acknowledged by Manigault.
    Manigault strongly responded, “Ben Chavis was never promised the first interview. He was promised an interview, but not the first. And I was very surprised because we’ve always had a great working relationship, Hazel, that you wrote such a dishonest story about a closed off the record meeting that I invited NNPA to to make sure that we had a great relationship, that we started early. I was really surprised that you made that a press story because that was inaccurate. And moreover, you weren’t in the room.”
    The publishers were in Washington observing NNPA’s annual Black Press Week, this year celebrating the 190th anniversary of the Black Press. The exchange, during a breakfast meeting at the Dupont Circle Hotel, quickly went downhill with both professionals clearly agitated.
    “It was not inaccurate, and I have my sources right here. The question is when is the interview going to take place? That’s the question,” this reporter insisted.
    Manigault responded, “We’ve been working for months because we have that kind of relationship…We had been working very closely to make sure that NNPA was on the front row and at the forefront of what happened. Your article did more damage to NNPA and their relationship with the White House because it’s not just me. So you attack me, they circle the wagons. So you can keep attacking me and they will continue to circle the wagons, but that does not advance the agenda of what NNPA is doing,” Manigault said. “I’m going to continue to work with Ben Chavis, who I adore, to make sure that we do what we said we were going to do. Interestingly enough, we were just talking about this privately over here. And so, if you want to make another headline or do another story about it, I think that is really not professional journalism.”
    This reporter responded, “It’s professional journalism.”
    Actually, the Jan. 8 story did not attack Manigault. In fact it quoted Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church as calling her a “great leader” and NAACP Vice President Hilary Shelton as saying, “I have a lot of respect for her.”
    Chavis, in the Jan. 8 story, had made it clear that the meeting was off the record for him and the other dozens of organizational leaders in the room Jan. 4, including several non-working journalists.
    This reporter and CNN’s Betsy Klein staked out the Jan. 4 meeting for more than three hours standing in winter weather outside the building on the sidewalk. Some organizational leaders spoke guardedly after the meeting that day while most, including Chavis, declined comment.
    Neither Manigault – nor any of her colleagues – would speak on the record Jan. 4 and this reporter has not been able to reach Manigault for comment since. Also, until the March 23 breakfast, Manigault had said nothing to this reporter about disagreeing with the article.
    At one point during the breakfast back and forth, Manigault turned to Chavis saying, “He’s right here. The source is here.”
    This reporter said she would not divulge her sources; then asked Chavis to recount what he had “told me”. He repeated, “What I told you was it was an off the record meeting.” He told Manigault that she had promised him an interview. She stressed that she had not said “the first.”
    This reporter’s question was not isolated as it pertained to Black Press access.
    Stacy Brown, a reporter for the Washington Informer and NNPA contributor had actually asked the first question at the breakfast, noting Manigault’s opening words about the importance of Black Press coverage. “Just as important for us is access,” Brown stated, “What kind of access can we expect from this administration? When I say we, I’m talking about the Black Press,” Brown asked.
    Manigault responded, “I know that [White House Press Secretary] Sean Spicer and the rest of the press team are working to make sure that the NNPA gets access so I think it is important that they stay engaged.”
    Referring to President Trump’s March 22 meeting with Congressional Black Caucus leaders, Manigault said she believed the White House “had a historical number of African-American journalists covering it and given access to that particular event.”
    But, Washington Informer photographer Shevry Lassiter, quickly responded, “Except us.” Lassiter said she was told that too many people had signed up for coverage, giving her the impression that “We were too late.”
    When Manigault responded, “Your paper work has got to be right,” Lassiter clarified, “It was right. We got notice and sent it in; then couldn’t get in. She said they had too many,” Lassiter said, referring to a staffer.
    “Are you bashing my young staffer?” Manigault asked. “I’m not going to let you do that. I’m not going to let you do that. I’m not going to let you do that.”
    That exchange was just before this reporter’s question and the brouhaha that followed. When this reporter asked to move on to the second question, Manigault abruptly walked out with staffers in tow a little more than 10 minutes after arriving.
    Publishers were aghast.
    “Did she just walk out? Did she leave?” someone in the audience said quietly.
    “How is she going to come in here and just walk out?” asked Chicago Crusader Publisher Dorothy Leavell, standing. The former NNPA president and NABJ Hall of Fame Inductee said, “And any other Black Press person ought to be insulted by what she did,” said Leavell. “It was totally disrespectful.”
    A man’s voice called out, “We are insulted!”
    “That’s how the Trump people act. This is Trumpism! This is Trumpism!” said another publisher.
    The criticism was not just aimed at Manigault. Some in the room said this reporter was as much at fault in the way the question was posed.
    GOP political commentator and consultant Paris Dennard, also present at the breakfast meeting, said in an interview that the question was adversarial.
    “With all due respect to you Hazel, it came off as a bit confrontational,” Dennard said. “It came off as being a little bit on the attack.”
    Dennard continued, “What I know is it was a priority for Omarosa to be here…I know that it was not her intention to come in and leave. No one gets up, comes to NNPA with people that she’s known and worked with to make a scene and leave. That wasn’t her intention.”
    Barnes had given Manigault a glowing introduction, calling her a “top strategist” who helped get Trump elected.
    “There’s so many things that I could say about Rev. Omarosa Manigault and I just want to say that some of us really do consider her a great friend. I know that she’s a supporter of NNPA. And that is why she asked to come to speak to us this morning.”
    Chavis sought to calm the group after Manigault walked out, stating that he believes the interview is still on.
    “Let’s collect ourselves,” he said. “It’s in our interest to have an interview with the President of the United States. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish and I believe we will accomplish…If Omarosa can help us facilitate that engagement, I think it’s in our interest. But as journalists, I know you have to ask your questions.”
    Barnes, clarifying that she was speaking momentarily as publisher of the Washington Informer instead of NNPA chair, concluded that Manigault’s conduct was unacceptable.  “That was totally unnecessarily. She doesn’t start a conversation saying ask the ‘tough questions’ and then run away from the tough questions…And so we’re going to have to bypass her. She’s not the only person in the White House if we want to deal with the White House.”
    Later, in an interview speaking as NNPA chair, Barnes said, “To me, I almost feel as if we were baited…I expected a different presentation from her, which would have led us into asking a different set of questions about the issues she was going to raise and not get into this personal confrontation with a journalist. So, I’m disappointed that she didn’t – in my opinion – come in and speak on the President’s and on the administrations’ behalf about things that are important to this administration that the Black Press should be focusing on. That didn’t happen. It was a lost opportunity for the President. And it was definitely a waste of time for NNPA.”
    By Hazel Trice Edney
    TriceEdneyWire.com
    Photo by Shevry Lassiter. NNPA President Ben Chavis discusses prospective interview with Manigault during heated exchange. 
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    Madam Mayor: Meet Louisiana’s Black Female Mayors

    Village of Mansfield mayor Dessie Lee Patterson was known across Louisiana as a lone ranger in her fight for universal civil rights. On March 14, 1971, she became the first Black female to serve as mayor in the state when she was appointed to fill an unexpired term in the Village of South Mansfield. Prior to becoming Mayor she was involved in politics and community activism decades earlier. Patterson was one of the pioneers in the Civil Rights Movement in the local area. She joined federal officials in the 1950s and 1960s to encourage Blacks to vote since elections in South Mansfield  were hampered by the lack of registered voters.

    Louisiana's first Black female mayor Dessie Lee Patterson of Mansfield.

    Louisiana’s first Black female mayor Dessie Lee Patterson of Mansfield.

    Patterson was murdered Tuesday, March 11, 2008. Born July 6, 1919, the 88-year-old community servant was brutally stabbed to death by suspected killer, Bobby Harris for $200 in $1 bills. “The small amount of money he took makes it even more senseless and tragic,” family said to reporters at the time. Her term was set to expire in December 2008. Patterson was described as a sweet-spirited person who gave her life for this community and worked tirelessly in her role as mayor.

    “The story of how she got into office and what has happen to her since provides a classic illustration of trials and tribulation suffered by African Americans in some parts of the country when they aspire to be an elected officials,” wrote her grandson, Kerwan Reed, in a tribute. “As we look forward to our future we must not loose sight of those who paved the way for us.” Because of Patterson, the state now has 17, Black female mayors serving in large cities, villages, and towns.

    The mayors are: Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge, Lori Ann Bell of the Town of Clinton, Irma Gordon of the Town of Kentwood, Erana Mayes of Melville, Trashier Keysha Robinson of the Village of Tangipahoa, Ollie Tyler of Shreveport, Shaterral Johnson of Grand Coteau, Demi Vorise of Maringouin, Jennifer Vidrine of Ville Platte, Johnnie Taylor of Powhatan, Josephine Taylor-Washington of Clayton, Rose Humphrey of Natchez, Alma Moore of the Town of Boyce, April Foulard of Jeanerette, Donna Lewis Lancelin of Baldwin, Dorothy Satcher of Saline, and Wanda McCoy of Rosalind.

    “This class of Black women mayors represents the single largest group to serve the state simultaneously,” said Vernon “Step” Martin, president of the Louisiana Municipal Black Caucus Association who, along with The Network Coalition, honored the mayors. They gathered at Star Hill Baptist Church, Feb. 23, for a special Black History Month salute.

    Meet some of the current Black, female mayors of Louisiana.

    Photo: Mayors Irma Gordon, Lori Bell, Shaterral Johnson, Sharon Weston Broome, Erana Mayes, and Trashier Keysha Robinson are among the 17 Black, female mayors of Louisiana, the largest group in the state’s history. Photo by Sailor Jackson.

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    Meet the Players; Louisiana’s longest known married couple

    Since January 27, 1935, Lawrence and Varrie Player, of Benton, La., have been together, making them Louisiana’s longest-known married couple. They have been married 82 years. Last year they were honored by the Louisiana Family Forum during a reception at their home.. The second-longest married couple is Will Henry and Virgina Teasley, of Bryceland, who have been married for 80 years.

    State Rep. Mike Johnson presents Lawrence and Varrie Player with an award as the Louisiana Family Forum's longest married couple during a special reception in their honor on Feb 12, 2016. Mike Johnson photo.

    State Rep. Mike Johnson presents Lawrence and Varrie Player with an award as the Louisiana Family Forum’s longest married couple during a special reception in their honor on Feb 12, 2016. Mike Johnson photo.

    “It is a true delight to honor these two great couples for their examples and their commitment,” State Rep. Mike Johnson said.  “In a day when the stability of so many marriages and families is in jeopardy, these folks stand out as exceptional models for all of us.”

    The longest-known married couples are honored by Louisiana Family Forum to encourage individual marriages, build a stronger marriage culture and to remind those in the state that lifelong marriages benefit everyone. Each couple was presented an official statement of special recognition from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. Their names also are entered into Louisiana Family Forum’s Marriage Hall of Fame.

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    ‘Bloodline’ earns Kenny Neal Grammy nomination

    Louisiana’s swamp blues master and multi-instrumentalist Kenny Neal’s latest album “Bloodline” has clinched a 2017 Grammy nomination for best contemporary blues album.

    Born in 1957 in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge, Neal began playing music at a very young age, learning the basics from his father, singer and blues harmonica player, Raful Neal. Family friends like Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo contributed to Kenny’s early musical education. At 13, he joined his father’s band and, four years later, he was recruited and toured extensively as Buddy Guy’s bass player.

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    Kenny Neal horizontal by James Terry III.jpg

    A member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and a multi-award winning talent, Neal has shared the stage or worked with a who’s-who list of blues and R&B greats, including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Muddy Waters, Aaron Neville, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. Since signing with Alligator Records in 1988, Neal has released a series of consistently lauded albums featuring his laid-back, Baton Rouge blues, with a modern spin on the Louisiana sound he grew up with.

    “One of a mere handful of truly inventive young contemporary guitarists, Neal has something fresh to say and the chops with which to say it,” wrote The Chicago Tribune.

    Blues Revue agreed, calling Kenny “one of the brightest young stars on the blues horizon, and a gifted artist.”

    According to Cleopatra Records, Neal has never sounded better than he does on ‘Bloodline,’ offering some of the most moving songwriting and electric performances of his incredible career. Eight members of the Neal clan lend their musical talents to the album, making it a true family affair and proving beyond doubt that the blues is most definitely in Neal’s Bloodline.

    ONLINE: http://kennyneal.net

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    Elementary schools, Kids Orchestra create harmony

    15 Kids Orchestra Trumpets

    Baton Rouge’s Kids Orchestra is the largest elementary-age after school music program in the country. Last month, elementary students from Brownfields Magnet, Ryan Elementary, and J.K. Haynes Charter ensembles of wind and percussion instruments during their combined Neighborhood Concert.

    Now in its fifth year, Kids’ Orchestra provides opportunities for 800 kindergarten through fifth graders to study instrument and perform in an orchestra or sing in a choir. Students are given instruments on loan for the school year after paying a modest tuition.

    In group settings, kindergarten and first graders are introduced to musical concepts in the Foundations class. Second through fifth graders choose and study instruments in brass, percussion, strings and woodwinds. Vocal education and theory are essential in the K-6 choir program.
    15 Kids Orchestra main photo

    Kids’Orchestra offers mentorship, tutoring and homework help, and a healthy snack at each session to ensure each child is prepared for success regardless if they pursue music once graduating from our program.

    Each student has the opportunity to perform in Neighborhood Concert Series, while honors level students perform during Kids’ Orchestra three orchestras, two choirs, and special community performances.

    Kids’ Orchestra’s mission is to bring children of all cultures and backgrounds together using music education as a vehicle to foster teamwork, develop understanding and emphasize excellence.

    The program is modeled after the principles of El Sistema: fostering teamwork and understanding, crossing economic barriers, emphasizing excellence, and learning instrumental skills and brotherhood within the orchestral system.

    15 Kids Orchestra FlutesRecent research has shown that quality music instruction impacts academic achievement. Kids’ Orchestra offers high quality, standards-based music education designed to improve lifelong learning.

    Photos by Yusef Davis

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    Celebrating Down Syndrome State Conference scheduled Jan. 21

    Blessed by Downs will host the first Celebrating Down Syndrome State Conference and Celebration on January 21, 2017. This conference was created to serve as a day of education, awareness and advocacy for individuals with Down Syndrome.

    This event will be held at 400 East 1st Street in Thibodaux, LA. The conference will take place from 8 a. m. to 3 p.m., and the celebration will take place from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. This event will feature guest speakers Sara Hart Weir and Dr. Brian Skotko.

    To register please email: Blessedbydowns@yahoo.com. 

    Photo from http://imgarcade.com/1/black-kids-with-down-syndrome/

    Read more »
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    Historians rank President Obama’s legacy highly

    Supporters and critics alike may eventually come to view President Barack Obama’s two-term White House tenure the same way.

    His determination for change never appeared to cause him to stumble on his goals, be it Obamacare or commuting the sentences of so many who were imprisoned for so long — primarily because of antiquated laws that punished mostly low-level minority drug offenders.

    Even as Obama is set to leave office, he took unprecedented steps to retaliate against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Obama labeled Russia’s action as significant, malicious and cyber-enabled and sanctioned six Russian individuals and five Russian entities while ordering dozens of Russian diplomats to leave the country.

    The president also gave them and their families just three days to pack up and leave.

    “These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” Obama said in the statement released by the White House.

    It’s the kind of action that some said will make them miss the progress of the past eight years and critics will come to realize that Obama’s place in history will be a lofty one.

    “The biggest tragedy of the Obama presidency was the relentless and often irrational unwillingness of Republican lawmakers to work with him to achieve meaningful objectives,” said Mario Almonte, a public relations specialist who also blogs about politics and social issues. “Even so, many years from now, when the history of his presidency comes into better focus, our society will come to recognize the enormous impact Barack Obama had on American culture and possibly world culture as the first Black president of the United States.”

    And, as Kevin Drum a writer for Mother Jones wrote, Obama has moved forward on eight substantial executive actions over the past month – aside from the Russian sanctions – including enacting a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic Seaboard; he’s refused to veto a UN resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank; designated two new national monuments totaling more than 1.6 million acres – Bears Ears Buttes in southeastern Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada; and he’s instructed the Department of Homeland Security to formally end the long-discussed NSEERs database.

    Obama has also instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to deny final permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline where it crosses the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and he’s issued a final rule that bans the practice among some red states of withholding federal family-planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other health clinics that provide abortions.

    Also, the outgoing president completed rules to determine whether schools were succeeding or failing under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

    “He was most effective as a normal president, and he helped put the presidency back on a human scale,” said Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “He was a devoted and involved father, a loving husband, a man with acknowledged – albeit – vices, and someone who made it clear that he did not regard himself as omniscient.”

    “As president, he showed that effective governing requires careful deliberation, discipline, and the willingness to make hard and imperfect decisions, and he let us all watch him do just that.” Walt said future historians will give President Obama “full marks” for never acting impulsively or cavalier.

    Daniel Rodgers, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, emeritus and historian of American ideas and culture who taught at Princeton University, wrote that what buoyed Obama’s aspirations was not a program, but a dream that in his person, the people might come together and shape politics to their will and common aspirations.

    “That was what the ‘we’ in the brilliant ‘Yes We Can’ slogan in the 2008 campaign was essentially about,” Rodgers said. “He has not called the nation to new feats of courage — ala Kennedy — to make war on poverty — as Johnson did — even to dream more freely than ever before — as stated by Reagan. What Obama’s words have called for is for Americans to be the people they already are.”

    The single, biggest impact on Obama’s presidency has been the shattering of psychological obstacles in the American psyche toward electing a non-White president, Almonte said.

    “When Hillary Clinton first ran for president, her gender was a major issue among voters. The second time around, it was not,” Almonte said. “With this psychological barrier removed, in future elections, we will see candidates from all walks of life, genders, nationalities, and possibly even lifestyles pursue the presidency with greater ease than they could have before.”

    Even as Donald Trump and other Republicans promise to do all they can to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obama’s signature piece of legislation, historians wrote in New York magazine that it has been the president’s greatest accomplishment.

    They noted that presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton failed to accomplish a passable affordable health care law.

    “Obamacare is easily the signal accomplishment of this president, assuming current efforts to unravel it will be defeated,” said Thomas Holt, the James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African-American History at the University of Chicago.

    “It’s an achievement that will put Obama in the ranks of [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] with social security and Lyndon B. Johnson with Medicare because of its enduring impact on the average American’s well-being,” Holt said. “He won’t need bridges and airports named after him since opponents already did him the favor of naming it ‘Obamacare.’”

    The Affordable Care Act’s progressivism stands out as the embodiment of Obama’s best intentions, said Nell Painter, an American historian notable for her works on southern history of the nineteenth century and a retired professor at Princeton University.

    “Some three million poor people have gained access to health care, thanks to the extension of Medicaid. But those people will not be in deep-southern states where poor people are numerous, but Republicans rule,” Painter said. “I see this convergence as a consequence of watermelon politics, as unsavory a legacy of Obama’s time as Obamacare is fine.”

    Finally, one historic trend-break that occurred during Obama’s presidency that has major significance for the well-being of African-Americans has been the beginnings of a decline in the national prison population, after decades of expansion, said Gavin Wright, professor of American Economic History at Stanford University.

    “The Obama Administration deserves a fair share of credit,” Wright said. “In 2010, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing prison time for convictions involving crack cocaine.”

    Wright said, “Under Attorney General Eric Holder, sentencing guidelines were made retroactive, leading to the release of thousands. To date, the reductions have been small compared to the total incarcerated population, but the reversal is historic, and its disproportionate significance for African-Americans is evident.”

     

    By Stacy M. Brown
    NNPA News Wire Contributor

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    New Orleans native Adam Rodney ranked #1 Epee Fencer in the US

    NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans native Adam Rodney will represent the United States and his hometown of New Orleans, La. at the World Fencing Cup in Heidenhiem, Germany.  According to a recent announcement by the United States Fencing Association, Rodney is the #1 ranked Epee Fencer in the United States following his accomplishments at the December North America Cup in Richmond, Virginia this past weekend.

    After earning a bye in the first two rounds, 

    Rodney recorded three victories in the third round of pool play action and in the table of 64 he upset the No. 3 seed Yeisser Ramirez in a tightly contested 14-13 bout. He then cruised past his next two opponents to advance to the quarterfinals to set up a showdown with Zeyad Elashry. 

    In a back-and-forth bout on the strip, Rodney won the final touch to take a 15-14 triumph and moved to the semifinals. Next up, he defeated Lewis Weiss, 14-9, to advance to the championship, before falling to Jacob Hoyle in the finals to take home a silver medal.

    Rodney is a member of The Peter Westbrook Foundation in New York, a not-for-profit organization that uses the sport of fencing to enrich the lives of young people from underserved communities in the New York metropolitan area. Founded in 1991 by legendary sabre fencer and Olympic bronze medalist Peter Westbrook, the foundation is committed to empowering participants with essential life skills. The St. John’s alum competes as a member of the New York Fencer’s Club.

    Rodney, who was a close call to make the 2016 Olympic Team, has since represented the United States in the World Cup in Bern, Switzerland.   Rodney also roared to a Silver Medal finish in the North American Cup Championship in Detroit Michigan in November.  He is a graduate of the famed St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, and St. John’s University. Many of his matches are featured on you tube and fencing promotions. 

    Rodney, who always identifies himself as a New Orleanian, but fences with the Olympian Peter Westbrook in New York and as a member of the New York Fencer’s Club, was a close call for the 2016 Olympic Team. He has been selected to represent the United States in the World Cup in Bern, Switzerland later this month.  He is also scheduled to visit Cuba in an exhibition.

    Read more »
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    Broome announces transition committees, community input teams

    Mayor-President Elect Sharon Weston Broome and her transition co-chairs, Christopher Tyson and Donna Fraiche, announced that the transition will occur under operational review committees and community input transition teams. The operational review committees will evaluate and report on the inner-workings of City government. Each committee will be responsible for conducting an in-depth assessment of departmental functions and performance, including issues such as organization structure, personnel, budget and overall effectives.

    The Community Input Transition Teams have been established to anchor a wide-ranging public engagement effort Mayor-Elect Broome deems critical for the transition effort.

    The committees and co-chairs are as follows:

    1. Finance –  Jacqui Vines-Wyatt, Dr. Jim Llorens
    2. Public Works (Building & Grounds, Environmental Services, Transportation and Drainage, City Garage, Dev., Maintenance) – Co-Chairs: Justin Haydell, Matthew Butler
    3. Public Safety (Fire, Police, DPW Subteams) – Rep. Ted James, Don Cazayoux
    4. Office of Community Development – Darryl Gissel, Brian Lafleur
    5. Human Development and Services – Johnny Anderson, Pat LeDuff
    6. Homeland Security – General Russel Honore, Paul Rainwater
    7. Information Services – Curtis Heromann, Sonia Perez, Padma Vatsavai
    8. Purchasing – Monique Spalding, Ronald L. Smith
    9. Internal Organization – Christel Slaughter, Dennis Blunt
    10. Arts, Culture and Leisure – Fairleigh Jackson, Walter “Geno” McLaughlin
    11. Flood Recovery – Perry Franklin, Bryan Jones
    12. Infrastructure, Transportation and Mobility – Scott Kirkpatrick, Ann Trappey
    13. Economic Development & Enterprise – Rolfe McCollister, Donald Andrews
    14. North Baton Rouge Revitalization – Cleve Dunn, Jr.; Elizabeth “Boo” Thomas
    15. Healthcare, Social Services and Mental Health – Alma Stewart, Dr. Stephen Kelley
    16. Housing and Land Use – Candace Parker, Keith Cunningham
    17. Metropolitan Organization – Mary Olive Pierson, Domoine Rutledge
    18. The Millennial Agenda – Courtney Scott, Matt Adams
    19. Women’s Issues – Rachel Hebert, Tawahna Harris
    20. Race Relations – Dr. Albert Samuel
    21. Education – Sherry Brock, Diola Bagayoko, Ph.D.

    Co-chair information, as well as, future updates on committee member assignments on the official transition website, BRtranistion.com.

    Read more »
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    The Genius of Ted Ellis

    New Orleans native deserves exhibit in national museum

    There needs to be something shared worldwide about the works of Ted Ellis, New Orleans-born visual artist. He uses the stroke of his brush on canvas to present again the scenes, emotions, and story of the lives of the most beautiful Americans. From a scene of Baptist children wading in murky waters, donning white robes, scarfs, headscarfs and struggling under the grip of an elderly man’s hand as they head to the minister whose hand is raised clutching a white handkerchief to a canvas donning the sideview of a tiny girl bowing a violin with her eyes half opened and her spirit wrapped into her own sound.

    Ellis captivates art critics who have called his work “genius.”

    “Ellis creates much more than images.  He creates a mood…an atmosphere…and an awareness that one is actually on the scene…in the scene,” write curators at The Sylvan Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

    He memorizes the novice who stands enthralled at his Houston studio full of emotions of connectedness to the eyes of an elderly man with African features but whose face is full of blues, greens, purples, and crimson. “He’s the Colored Man,” Ellis said. That’s understood by all the colors beaming from the 3-foot-by-6-foot canvas, but it is also understood by his eyes. So much like the great grandfather on the porch or the old man sweeping away dirt outside the Alabama country store. Ellis’ hand, his eye, his imagination grabs it all and delivers it in his work—work that he says he was born to do. His work—his life’s work is apparent: to create the artistic account of history.

    16 civilfight ted ellis feature photo“I was put here to record history—all aspects of American culture and heritage. My sole purpose has always been to educate through my art,” he said. With each piece, he makes it a point to leverage the importance of visual literacy and preservation of culture and history.

    Ellis said one goal was—and is—for him to to be a cultural, artistic historian. And he has done so for 30 years. His work has been commissioned by Walt Disney Studios, United Negro College Fund, Avon, the City of Selma, Alabama, Arts Council of New Orleans, and United Way.

    Ted Ellis

    Ted Ellis

    Although it doesn’t hang there now, a following of curators and supporters are petitioning the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to establish a Ted Ellis collection within the museum. His work has hung in the Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center, the Russell Rotunda of the Richard Russell U.S. Senate Building, and appears in the movie “Almost Christmas.”

    “I paint subjects that are representative of the many faces of American life as I know it,” Ellis said.

    A self-taught artist, Ellis has published a limited edition collection of his work, Pride, Dignity and Courage: A Survey of Art of Ted Ellis, and a collective calendar. His blend of realism and  impressionism  captures glory of a rich American heritage. His business, T. Ellis Art, has sold more than 10 million prints and posters from his Houston, Texas studio.

    “This is a culture business and my culture is priceless.”

    Ellis, who is a former chemist, said his work is designed to “build you up consciously and subconsciously of yourself by speaking to your importance everyday.” And he has done so repeatedly and remarkably.

    Since he began in 1996, Ellis has since become, by many accounts, an artistic historian. In 2005 he captured the Deltas 100th year commemoration, the Obamas in 2008, and the Juneteenth 150th year commemoration in 2015. These are the pieces, he said, would be some of the first offered to the museum as they archive the most critical bends in Black life of this century.

    Ellis has amassed an impressive body of work, remarkably over the years. He has also established a platform and mechanism for other artist that will give them value.

    “I am giving medicine—a dose of cultural nutrition,” he said.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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    Youth to Watch in 2017

    Every year, The Drum presents individuals who our readers need to watch and take note of. For 2017, we begin with youth to watch. Because of their leadership skills, gifts, talents, and personality, twelve Louisiana youth have been selected as Youth to Watch in 2017. “These youth show exceptional character and work ethics. They have vision and ability to be successful with excellence.”

    Meet:

     

    Read more »
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    Master P to host flood benefit concert

    Master P is on a mission to help the victims of the recent deadly Louisiana floods.

    During the annual NBA All Star Weekend celebration on February 18, 2017, which will take place in his hometown of New Orleans, the music mogul is hosting a benefit concert and fundraiser in the city to help displaced families in Baton Rouge get back into their homes.

    “Together we will entertain and give fans a great show but the real mission is to help get families back into their homes,” Master P wrote on the event’s website. “In Baton Rouge, there is still a lot of pollution in the air, water damages and mildew.”

    Since Aug. 12, more than 112,000 Baton Rouge residents have been affected by flooding, which also destroyed approximately 40,000 homes, and left 13 people dead ― making it America’s worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to the Red Cross.

    “I want all the athletes to come out, we are going to have all the top celebrities there from Usher to Lil Wayne,” he told Vibe on the event’s mission.

    “When people look at the floods and a lot of victims, they are not back in their homes yet in Baton Rouge, and I feel like for All Star Weekend, even though this will be a fun event, It will be a way for everyone to do their part, so this concert will be great for our people and Baton Rouge.”

    Read more »
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    Legislators say they will closely monitor Joe McKnight killing

    Louisiana Senators Troy Carter and JP Morrell, along with State Rep. Rodney Lyons, who all represent Jefferson Parish, released this statement on killing of Joe McKnight during a road rage incident earlier thi

    s week.

    In this divisive, racially-charged environment, which is in no way unique to our community, we fully appreciate and share in the public’s concern over the killing of Joe McKnight.

    We are monitoring the investigation closely to see that it is thorough and transparent, and ultimately, that justice is done in accordance with the law. We are working closely with local law enforcement, state law enforcement, and oversight agencies.

    We will continue to advocate for all of the people of Jefferson Parish who we represent. Our prayers are with the family of Joe McKnight, because violence is never the answer. The laws of the land shall prevail and the Jefferson Parish Delegation of the Louisiana Legislature will be monitoring this matter closely.

    State Senator JP Morrell, District 3
    State Senator Troy Carter, District 7
    State Representative Rodney Lyons, District 87

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    Rep. Richmond Elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 115th Congress

    Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have elected Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02) to lead them over the next two years as chair. When the next Congress convenes January 3, 2017, Richmond will lead the largest CBC in history, as victories in the last election have grown the caucus to 49 members.

    “I’m honored and humbled by the confidence my colleagues have placed in me to serve as the chair of this revered Caucus, the conscience and intellect of the Congress,” said Richmond. “As we move into a new Congress and the onset of a new Administration, our Caucus will remain committed to the values that have made the CBC among the most influential institutions in the nation.”

    Also elected were: Andre’ Carson (IN-07), 1st vice chair; Karen Bass (CA-37), 2nd vice chair; Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Secretary; and Gwen Moore (WI-04), Whip.

    “As we face the challenges before us ─ from economic justice and upward mobility, to voting rights, policing, and criminal justice reform ─ we will approach each of them with vigilance. We will strive to harness the energy of our constituencies to enact policies that will have the greatest positive impact,” Richmond said. “I look forward to working with our membership, as we embark on an ambitious agenda. I stand on the shoulders of a choir of brave African-American women and men whose struggles made way for our progress. I will work every day to make them proud.”

    Read more »
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    National 100 Black Women charters Baton Rouge chapter, installs officers

    The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. proudly chartered the 100 Black Women of Metropolitan Baton Rouge on November 6, 2016 at the Bell of Baton Rouge with more than 200 guests to witness organization’s official formation.

    Chartering officers elected during the ceremony were: Dr. Leah Cullins, president;  Tamiara Wade Ph.D., 1st vice president of membership; Raushanah Hunter, Esq., 2nd vice president of programs;  Ni’Shawn Stovall, Ph.D., 3rd vice president of finance and fund development; Sonya Murray, treasurer; DeShone Smith, financial secretary; Nicole Grimes, recording Secretary; Alsie Dunbar, corresponding secretary; Cheria Lane, Ph.D., parlimentarian; and Rokeya Morris, Esq., historian.

    The 100 Black Women is an organization that advocates an enhanced quality of life for individuals and families of color by facilitating programs that address their needs and unites the public and private sector of Baton Rouge to ensure progress of Black women.

    While establishing a sisterly bond, these programs foster leadership, educational opportunities, economic partnerships, women’s health issues and political strength.

    The mission of the coalition is to advocate on behalf of Black women and girls in order to promote leadership development and gender equity in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment

    The 100 Black Women believe in gender equity, inclusion, respect, racial and social justice, integrity and accountability, economic empowerment, and collaboration.

    Tamiara Wade, Ph.D., Michele McNiel-Emery,  Dr. Leah Cullins, and Ni’Shawn Stovall, Ph.D.

    Tamiara Wade, Ph.D., Michele McNiel-Emery, Dr. Leah Cullins, and Ni’Shawn Stovall, Ph.D.

    The organization’s agenda includes health, education, economic empowerment, strategic alliances, and civic engagement. According to the website, the 100 Black Women’s purpose is to:

    • Foster principles of equal rights and opportunities;
    • Promote the awareness of Black culture;
    • Develop the potential of the membership for effective leadership and participation in civic affairs;
    • Take action on specific issues of national and international importance, and
    • Cooperate with other persons and organizations to achieve mutual goals.

    “We are looking to select an eclectic group of women that are “movers and shakers” in the greater Baton Rouge area with a desire to meet the mission of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Membership is open to individuals who possess demonstrated leadership experience with evidence of participation in local community, government, service, business or political affairs,” organizers said.

    The organization meets monthly and can be followed on Twitter @100BlackWomenBR, Facebook at /100BlackWomenBatonRouge, and on Instagram: @100BlackWomenBR

    ONLINE: www.100blackwomenbr.com/

    Read more »
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    Tina, Solange, Kelly, Beyoncé to ‘Love on Louisiana’ Nov 20 in Baton Rouge

    Holiday event aims to raise $1 million for Louisiana flood relief


    The state of Louisiana is set to receive much needed relief following August’s devastating flood.  Tina Knowles-Lawson, Solange Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Beyoncé  will partner with Essence to raise $1 million for those affected by the flood in Baton Rouge.

    On Sunday, November 20, they will host Love on Louisiana: An Essence Hometown Heroes Tribute celebrating the resilience of the Baton Rouge community.

    “Louisiana is a special place in my family’s history and we are committed as a family to never forget the city and the people of Baton Rouge,” said Tina Knowles-Lawson. “It breaks my heart to see the unimaginable disaster and destruction caused by the flooding, and we will stand and support every effort in place to help the people most affected.”

    The holiday dinner and awards ceremony, set at Raising Cane’s River Center, will honor standout students and teachers for their commitment to serving and rebuilding their communities. With support from the City of Baton Rouge and the State of Louisiana, the event will serve as a call to action to raise $1 million to help families recover in the wake of this summer’s catastrophic flooding, which produced seven trillion gallons of water—three times the rainfall total of Hurricane Katrina.

    In addition to the award recognition, gift baskets containing donated goods will be distributed to students, teachers and families who are still largely affected by the severe flooding. The event will also galvanize citizens from around the world to support Louisiana by donating here to fund new homes for local families via Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge.

    “I extend my deepest appreciation to Ms. Tina Lawson, Essence and Time Inc. for their commitment to helping the people of Louisiana,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “The Essence family has a long and rich history with our state and the ‘Love on Louisiana Tribute,’ which celebrates the strength of our families and students, is especially meaningful. This is the time of year when families, friends and communities come together. Our people have endured many setbacks over the last several months, but they are resilient and determined to come back stronger. But we cannot do it alone and that is why it is so gratifying to know that you support us and that your hearts are with Louisiana.”

    “Baton Rouge is especially proud to host this event that not only recognizes students and teachers who have contributed to rebuilding our community, but will also raise much needed funds to help families recover,” said Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden. “The power that these amazing sponsors bring to this event means it will be a tremendous success, and they have our deepest appreciation.”

    Join the conversation online by using the hashtag #LoveOnLouisiana and by directing supporters to donate here. Follow Essence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to learn more.

    Read more »
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    New Venture to present ‘Black Nativity’

    For more than five decades, “Black Nativity” performances have swept International theaters. The play is a is a powerful retelling of the Nativity story from a Black perspective. In Baton Rouge, the New Venture Theatre will present this soul-stirring rendition of the Christmas Story that fills the theatre with thrilling voices, exciting dance and glorious gospel music.

    Directed by Greg Williams Jr. of New Venture, the two-hour show will be performed at the LSU Shaver Theatre. The show runs Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3pm. The show is G-rated and appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $27 before December 1.

    The original Black Nativity was written in 1961 by poet Langston Hughes. The cultural viewpoint and gospel music make Black Nativity a unique performance piece. Often adapted, this version of the production will take the audience from a traditional black church to an Africanized Jerusalem through dance, powerful spirituals and anthems, and toe-tapping gospel numbers.

    The play tells the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey through song and dance, culminating in a rousing finale surrounding the birth of Christ. According to New Venture, the importance of the play is that, though an expression of Christian belief via the African-American perspective, the show appeals to all walks of life.

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    The Drum readers show solidarity with #WhatADoctorLooksLike

    Black doctor asks to help Delta passenger, denied by flight attendant

    On October 9, Dr. Tamika Cross was more than a Delta Air Lines passenger heading to Minneapolis. Cross, a physician from Houston, was a sympathetic medical professional who “jumped into doctor mode” to aid an unresponsive passenger. But, her effort to assist was shunned by a flight attendant because she did not look like a doctor.

    In a detailed Facebook post, Cross wrote, “the attendant said, ‘Oh no sweetie put your hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you’. ”

    Cross, a resident OBGYN physician at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said when a second call was made for a physician on board to “press your button” to assist, she did. While the man was still in need of help, the same flight attendant then asked to see her credentials and bombarded her with question such as, “What type of doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?,” Cross said.

    Then, when a “seasoned white male approached the row and said he is a physician,” the flight attendant told her “thanks for your help, but he can help us, and he has his credentials.” 10 Cover doctors

    In her post, Cross explained that the flight attendant shunned her because of her race and was confident in the abilities of the white male doctor who also did not present credentials.

    Cross said that about 10 minutes later, when the ill passenger’s health began to improve, the flight attendant actually asked her advice about what to do next. Cross complied with the request and said vitals were needed and a glucometer to test blood sugar levels. The flight attendant eventually apologized several times to her, even offering her SkyMiles.

    “I kindly refused,” Cross wrote. “This is going higher than her. I don’t want SkyMiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right.”

    In a written statement, Delta Airlines said it reached out to the doctor and is investigating the incident. “We are committed to treating all passengers with kindness and respect,” it stated.

    Diversity magazine wrote, “Many Black doctors have had similar experiences when their abilities have been questioned due to appearance.”

    Cross’s post went viral with more than 88,000 likes and 42,000 shares. Black female doctors stood in solidarity with Cross and began posting pictures of themselves using the hashtag: #WhatADoctorLooksLike.

    The Drum readers proudly shared photos and names of South Louisiana doctors, giving local awareness to the tag.

    Read more »
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    Young scientists explore propulsion, alternative energy in Baker

    New Orleans scientist Calvin Mackie, PhD, brought the STEM NOLA team of engineers and scientists to Park Ridge Middle Magnet School and challenged more than 150 students attending the first Saturday STEM Baker event on Oct 29. For four hours, scientists as young as three years old conducted experiments in alternative energy, flight, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and paleontology, buoyancy, 3-D construction, flight, and propulsion.

    Read more »
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    Caught You on the Pacific Ocean

    Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Airman Willie Ward, from Baton Rouge, loosens bolts on a re-reeving machine to prepare for landing cable replacement on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck. John C. Stennis is underway conducting proficiency and sustainment training. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Cole C. Pielop)

    Read more »
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    Real Fathers. Real Support

    >Advantage Charter Academy officials shared breakfast with students and their fathers and father figures. The Baker LA charter school enrolls students in grades kindergarten through seventh grade.

    Read more »
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    ‘Things get uncomfortable’ when protesters Blackout BR, interrupt policing meeting

    As officer-involved shootings continue to plague cities around the country, frustrated citizens are continuing their fight for justice. With each shooting that has occurred, dash cam footage has been released, surveillance and other forms of film have been released to ensure complete disclosure. But, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with the deadly shooting of Alton Sterling.

    After nearly three months, only the cell phone videos filmed by spectators has been released. In addition to the withholding of dash cam footage and surveillance, Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II are still on administrative leave. No charges have been brought against the officers and citizens are wondering why. The recent officer-involved shootings that led to the deaths of Philando Castile and Terence Crutcher have resulted in charges brought against the officers. But, law enforcement officials in Baton Rouge have remained silent.

    Now, citizens and protesters are demanding answers. Why has the footage been withheld? Why haven’t the officers been charged? Monday, Sept. 26 was declared #BlackOutBR, a day where local citizens wore black clothes and did not work, go to college, or shop. A rally was held at the steps of City Hall calling for information on the Alton Sterling case.

    BlackOutBR flyer

    After the rally, protesters entered a police reform meeting to hear the committee’s plans and to demand answers and action.

    “The problem is, with an exception of a few, we don’t see these people in the community,” businessman Cleve Dunn Jr. told the committee. “When you look around and you don’t see the community, there should be no meeting.”

    The committee included District Attorney Hillar Moore; councilmembers Tara Wicker, Donna Collins Lewis and Erika Green; BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie Jr; local pastors; and residents. 

    “What happens when leaders & protesters disrupt a meeting on police reform? Things get uncomfortable, they get real, and then they get a seat at the table, alongside the chief of police, the DA, & the DOJ,” wrote artist Walter Geno McLaughlin on Facebook.

    More than 30 protesters lined the walls of the small meeting room, including Sterling’s aunts.

    “We want to press upon our local government but also go all the way to feds that we want a decision on the investigation, said Dunn who explained the reason for the gathering and expressed protesters’ demands. “We are pressing upon the Department of Justice, our mayor, Kip Holden, as well as our Governor… to solicit a timeline of some type of idea of when we can get a decision.”

    “This issue of Alton Sterling has been divested from the people in this room as much as we hate to hear that,” said Will Jorden, who is an assistant district attorney and prosecutor. “We hear the frustration. I am frustrated. These pastors are frustrated. But what this (committee) does is give the people a sense of legitimacy and to be able to move forward with positive change.”

    Wicker said, “This group today is not the group trying to come up with solutions. That’s not our charge. That’s not our job. That’s not what we are doing here. Our charge is to setup an infrastructure so that what you are saying can actually be heard, documented and put into a policy paper that will be submitted as the voice of the community.”

    Several protesters asked the committee for better communication and circulated a paper to add email addresses for future contact. They also presented a list of demands.

    In addition to the demand for a decision in the July 5th shooting, they are requesting that changes be made to city and state flood contracts. The change to contracts would require the cancellation of current contracts in order to include Black-owned firms in renegotiations.

    Community leaders argue that the exclusion of government resources is a strong contributing factor to the financial inequity in the black community. The officer-involved shootings in impoverished areas of the city are also arguably attributed to the lack of economic development.”You cannot prevent an Alton Sterling encounter without economic development in black communities,” the list states.

    The third demand is in reference to police reform. With incidents of alleged injustices resolved with internal investigations, community leaders and local citizens adamantly believe there needs to be a task force in place on state and local law enforcement levels to reform police across the city and state. 

    Here’s the list of demands:
    1. A Decision in the Alton Sterling Case from the Department of Justice.
    We request Mayor Kip Holden and Gov. John Bel Edwards both send letters to President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting that the DOJ swiftly conclude its investigation. The most powerful government in the world shouldn’t take longer than a district attorney from Tulsa Oklahoma to decide which way to proceed in an investigation, with all the resources at their disposal. Our community deserves to be able to move forward.

    2. Cancel Current State & Local Flood Contracts and Include Black-Owned Firms In Renegotiations. Currently, our state and local government are handing out millions of dollars in contracts relating to flood relief. Black-owned businesses are not reaping from the resources that are on the ground. The exclusion of black-owned companies is one of the primary causes of inequity in our community. You cannot prevent an Alton Sterling encounter without economic development in black communities. Black businesses owners hire black people, giving second chances to people like Mr. Sterling which puts them in our workforce and makes them productive citizens. There should be DBE Mandates equal to the percentage of the population in order to ensure fairness and equity in how our state and local government does business.

    3. Reform Our Police Department
    The murder of Alton Sterling has surfaced issues within our police department that must be addressed. We request a task force convened on a state and local level to reform policing in the city and state. The task force should not just include members of law enforcement and elected official, but local protestors and community advocates who have taken to the streets to oppose the tactics of police departments around the country.

    The list of demands has garnered criticism from local news outlets and citizens with opposing views. Many readers said they believe the demands are far-fetched and argue federal authorities have refrained from filing charges because they haven’t been able to gather enough evidence against the officers involved. But, despite the arguments, the footage is still being withheld, which leads protesters to believe local authorities have something to hide.

    “These demands, especially the first two, are silly. The prosecutor should make a decision only when all the evidence is in. The flood recovery companies should only hire the best companies and people for the job,” wrote writers with The Hayride.

    The question remains: will officers Salamoni and Lake be charged in connection with the shooting death of Sterling? At this point, no one knows what the outcome will be.

    The case is currently still under review by federal authorities. It is still unclear whether charges will be filed against Salamoni and Lake.

    By Meaghan Ellis
    Community Reporter

    Read more »
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    Stantec promotes aspiring engineer through North BR program

    Stantec, a Baton Rouge engineering and design firm, recently extended a full-time internship opportunity to Elvis Richard Jr.  Richard is a senior at Scotlandville Magnet High School and aspires to be an engineer.

    Richard was first introduced to Stantec through UREC’s North Baton Rouge Youth Development Program (NBR) two years ago. Through the NBR program, he was afforded the opportunity to job shadow and receive direct professional mentorship from engineers at Stantec.

    The exposure has resulted in significant growth for Richard, who says he is more disciplined and serious about his future as a result of the opportunities he has received.  He also has great respect and appreciation for his Stantec mentors for pointing him in the right direction.

    Since 2014, Stantec Engineer Matthew Davis has supervised Richard, ensuring that his understudy obtains the technical and soft skills needed to be competitive.  Similarly, Stantec Project Manager Joseph Cains III serves as the company’s NBR liaison; he holds Richard accountable on researching colleges and scholarship opportunities.

    “It builds you up. It motivates you to be successful because I wasn’t on the right track,” Richard said of his Stantec opportunities.

    Evlis Richard Jr_NBR 2014 - Copy

    As a result of the experiences, Richard improved his presentation and technical writing skills.  He also leveraged his NBR experience to grow his relationship with Stantec.

    ONLINE: www.urecbr.com

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    Online resources increase for flood survivors

    imagesPublic and private entities have information online ready to help if you’re a survivor of Louisiana’s recent severe storms and floods. Here is a listing of many online resources available to disaster survivors.

    Clothing, Food, Shelter, etc.
    2-1-1 is a single access point for resources like food, clothing, shelter, financial assistance and health resources. Visit www.louisiana211.org and follow @211Louisiana on Twitter.

    Wage or work issues
    The Workplace Justice Project / Wage Claim Clinic out of New Orleans is available to assist anyone with wage or work issues relating to the flooding, including workers who did not receive pay because of flooding and resulting business closures or other wage claims or other issues arise in the weeks and months of recovery. We are working with state and federal agencies to handle claims as efficiently as possible. Call the clinic at 504-861-5571, email  wjpnola@gmail.com, or check the website www.wjpnola.org.

    Situational awareness in Louisiana
    The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) contains links to disaster planning guides and situation updates at gohsep.la.gov.  You can also get emergency news at emergency.louisiana.gov and the governor’s website at gov.la.gov.

    FEMA
    Access FEMA’s website for the recent severe storms and floods at www.FEMA.gov/disaster/4277. It has the latest news and information on the disaster in Louisiana. Also, ‘like’ the FEMA Facebook page and follow @FEMAregion6 on Twitter.

    Also, www.DisasterAssistance.gov  has links for survivors to register and update your contact information, community resources, government directories and alerts. You may also call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. If you who use TTY may call 800-462-7585. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.

    U.S. Small Business Administration
    Low-interest disaster loans from the SBA are the largest source of federal disaster funding for businesses, private nonprofits, homeowners and renters. Learn more at www.sba.gov/disaster.

    Disaster Recovery Centers
    Get answers to your disaster assistance questions at a Louisiana DRC. Go online to find your closest center at fema.gov/disaster-recovery-centers.

    Volunteers and Donation
    Volunteer and donation opportunities are available at volunteerlouisiana.gov. You may email 2016FloodDonations@gmail.com to coordinate donations.

    Parish contact information
    Your parish leaders may be able to give information on how to dispose debris properly and provide information to assist your recovery. Get their contact information online at gohsep.la.gov/about/parishpa.

    Transitional Shelter Assistance hotels
    Find hotels that participate in TSA at femaevachotels.com. You may also find participating hotels by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. If you who use TTY may call 800-462-7585. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.

    Rental resources
    Find available rental resources that are participating in FEMA’s rental assistance program by going to FEMA’s housing portal at asd.fema.gov/inter/hportal/home.htm. The list is routinely updated.

    Insurance contact information
    Get your company’s contact information online at the Louisiana Department of Insurance: www.ldi.la.gov/onlineservices/ActiveCompanySearch.

    National Flood Insurance Program
    Learn more about flood insurance at www.floodsmart.gov. Contact your insurance company to start a claim. Get your company’s contact information online at the Louisiana Department of Insurance: www.ldi.la.gov/onlineservices/ActiveCompanySearch.

    If you have flood insurance questions call 800-621-3362 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and select option 2. Call center staff are available to assist with information regarding your policy, offer technical flood guidance to aid in recovery and answer other flood insurance questions. You can be transferred to your insurance carrier for additional assistance if you have further questions. If you use TTY may call 800-462-7585. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.

    Repair, rebuilding and clean up information
    Get repair and rebuilding tips at fema.gov/louisiana-disaster-mitigation. Get information about mucking out your property at crisiscleanup.org or call 800-451-1954.

    • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; 1-800-451-1954
    • Mennonite Disaster Service; (330) 473-5956
    •  Habitat for Humanity; (225) 927-6651
    • First Baptist Association of Southeast Louisiana; 1-877-487-4658 (assistance for all areas); 318-541-1398 Livingston Parish; 225-295-0775 Baton Rouge Area- Istrouma Baptist Church;  225-261-3434 Central Area Zoar Baptist Church
    • St. Bernard Project; 504-277-6831; www.sbpusa.org
    • Austin Disaster Relief; 512-806-0800; www.adrntx.org
    • Operation Blessing; 225-753-2273
    • Healing Place Church at 569 Florida Ave SW Denham Springs 70726; www.healingplacechurch.org
    • Rotary Foundation for building supplies, appliances, furniture; 337 237-0628
    • Cajun Army; www.thecajunarmy.com
    • The Multi-Family Lease and Repair Program (MLRP) may provide funds to make your rental units habitable again in order to lease them to provide temporary housing to eligible FEMA applicants.
      • Repairs or improvements do not need to be storm- or flood-related.
      • You may choose your own contractor after you’ve agreed with repair costs with FEMA. FEMA is interested in working with Louisiana property owners in hard-hit communities with a lack of housing. Call 225-382-1464 or email fema-ia-dhops@fema.dhs.gov if you’re a property owner interested in repairing your rental property and assisting disaster survivors.

    Food assistance
    Go online to www.foodpantries.org/st/louisiana to see a database a statewide food banks.

    General health and welfare
    The Department of Health and Hospitals has health information at dhh.louisiana.gov. Search for “CDC” on Facebook and follow @CDCEmergency on Twitter for information from the Centers for Disease Control. The hotline for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is 800-321-OSHA (6742).

    Baton Rouge Primary Care Collaborative, Inc., also located at the Jewel J. Newman Community Center, 2013 Central Road Baton Rouge, will provide medical care to flood survivors during normal weekday hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Flood survivors who are unable to contact their regular physicians or lack transportation can be seen at the medical clinic.

    Mental health services
    The Louisiana Directory of Mental Health Services is online at new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/97/n/116. For children and youth services, call the state health department at 225-342-9500 or visit the Children’s Special Health Services website at dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/740  for information or to apply for services for developmentally disabled children.

    UnitedHealthcare Healing Together Initiative will host weekly Healing Together Recovery Workshops at the Jewel J. Newman Community Center, 2013 Central Road every Tuesday during the month of September (6, 13, 20, 27), 11:00am-12:00 noon. The workshops are designed to provide a holistic road map to recovering from the challenging and often devastating effects of the Great Flood. T

    Children
    Contact your local school district if you have not been able to enroll your child in school in the town where you are currently living, or if you have not been able to return to your home school district. Find contact information to your schoolboard at www.lsba.com/PageDisplay.asp?p1=798.

    Family Road is now providing women, infant, and children items to those individuals and families impacted by 2016 floods. If you are need of assistance you can call Family Road at (225) 201-8888, or visit 323 East Airport Avenue between the hours of 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Be prepared to provide: DSNAP card, SNAP card, ID/Driver’s License or other proof of residence (i.e. flooded area).

    Child care service is now available for Louisiana survivors while they are visiting the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at Celtic Studios, 10000 Celtic Drive in Baton Rouge, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday through Sunday. )Parents of children ages 3-12 may use the free child care service while they conduct business at the Disaster Recovery Center. The child care service is not a day care and children cannot be left at the Disaster Recovery Center. The child care service is provided by volunteers of Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry of the Church of the Brethren. All child care volunteers are trained in a 27-hour workshop. The child care service is offered in a secure location at the Disaster Recovery Center. Upon check in, a parent is given a numbered badge that is identical to one placed on his or her child. This badging process ensures that only the child’s parent can check the child out of the care service.

    Senior citizens
    Louisiana Aging Services administers federal and state-run services for senior citizens. It also oversees the Area Agencies of Aging in each parish, which develop coordinated community-based systems. Visit new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/subhome/12/n/7 or call the Aging and Adult Services Helpline at 866-758-5035.

    Persons with disabilities or access and functional needs
    Louisiana has several agencies that deal with different groups of people who are disabled or have access and functional needs. To learn more, visit the Department of Health and Hospitals online at dhh.louisiana.gov or the

    Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network at latan.org/index.php/programs-services/emergency-preparedness/23-emergency-preparedness/27-emergency-preparedness-program.html.

    Environmental health
    The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences provides documents and resources in English, Spanish and Vietnamese that address emergency preparedness in hurricane and flood situations. Links are at tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/index.cfm?id=2472.

    The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has a resource page www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal with fact sheets and information on environmental issues, including disaster debris management. The Environmental Protection Agency’s website, www.epa.gov, has a section on water issues. Find “EPA” on Facebook, follow @EPAgov on Twitter or call 888-283-7626.

    Legal services
    Louisiana Legal Services provides free civil legal assistance to low-income residents. Visit them at louisianalawhelp.org.

    The Disaster Recovery Law Clinic at the Southern University Law Center helps clients file and register with FEMA and other government aide groups, as well as assisting with insurance claims and applying for public benefits. The Clinic operates weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended hours on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Appointments are encouraged to help ensure quality assistance. Call (225) 771-3333 or come into the clinic office located at the Southern University Law Center, 2 Roosevelt Steptoe Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70813.

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    Street Justice: Thousands demand arrest of BR Police

    Whether it was a gathering of 300 in front of the Triple S convenience store, small groups of 50 meeting at area churches, nearly 400 at city hall, dozens painting signs at LSU, or a thousand marching through downtown, Baton Rouge residents and visitors are protesting the death of 37-year-old man, Alton Sterling, who was shot by Baton Rouge police officers, July 5.

    The shooting drew public attention immediately and protests began taking their cries for justice to the streets, starting on North Foster. of the shooting. Demonstrations for Alton Sterling followed in major cities across the nation.

    Protests have been largely peaceful, however local, city, and state officers’ use of force when arresting protesters have resulted in injuries. Reports have serviced of police attacking, beating, and illegally arresting protesters.

    This treatment has been publicized in national media. Following closed meetings between Black elected officials and the US Department of Justice, East Baton Rouge metro councilman Lamont Cole said the group has “some serious concerns” about how protesters have been handled by police.

    ”I don’t think the police need to make any more arrests or push the people to make an arrest,” Moore said.

    The American Civil Liberties union of Louisiana agrees. On July 13, the group filed a lawsuit against the BRPD, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, EBRP Sheriff’s Department, and State Police for using excessive force and “violating the First Amendment rights of demonstrators who were protesting peacefully against the killing of Alton Sterling.” The ACLU has requested a restraining order that would put restrictions on how protesters can be scattered and detained during future demonstrations. under the order, officers would not be able to use chemical” agents—such as tear gas— without clear warning and authorization from the governor. It also would only allow officers to work protests if their names, agency and identifying number were clearly displayed. The ACLU said protestors were verbally abused and physically hurt.

    “These protests are and will continue to be one of the strategies our citizens use to bring attention to the issue of police brutality and demand justice in the death of Alton Sterling,” said Michael McClanahan, president of the NAACP Baton Rouge Chapter.

    On July 5, BRPD officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II were responding to a call from 911 saying there was a “man with a gun” at the Triple S on North Foster Drive at Fairfields Avenue. There they met Sterling who was selling CDs outside the store with the owner’s permission. Two videos of the shooting surfaced online via Facebook within hours, raising doubts about whether the police officers were justified in the shooting. Defenders of the police say other video exists that will exonerate the officers.

    At the request of Gov. John Bel Edwards, the U.S. Department of Justice took over the investigation and the officers were placed on paid, administrative leave. District Attorney Hillar Moore III recused himself due to personal ties to Salamoni’s parents, who are also police officers. The state Attorney General will be in charge of prosecuting any state charges.

    Groups from across the nation have traveled to Baton Rouge to join protestors, train observers, and organize activists for the longterm work of demanding justice. Organizers of rallies have said the work for justice will continue. Across nearly every part of the city, citizens—Black and white, elected officials, and police—are working to find solutions in closed meetings, criminal hearings, at policy meetings, during city council and legislative sessions, at mass, on the stage of poetry slams, and in safety briefings. “But the work began in the streets,” said McClanahan.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate

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    I Fit the Prototype: large and black. Am I Next?

    It has been more than a week since the viral video revealing the shooting death of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers flooded social media timelines. The footage ignited widespread fear of local law enforcement and proved that the nation’s woes were no longer just on television but right in residents’ yards, literally.

    Now with the home front being a national headline, three Baton Rouge men tell their stories of what it is to be the prototype victim for police brutality. As they leave their homes everyday with the notion that they could be “next” just because they are large, Black men.

    Dominique Ricks, a 24-year-old educator from Baton Rouge whose first negative encounter with police occurred when he was 13 years old.

    Officers approached Ricks and a friend who were opposite descriptions of the suspects for whom they were looking. Ricks recalled that his mother came on the scene and told the officers that the two were good kids. Officers responded that they didn’t know if Ricks was a good kid, and they didn’t know if they were talking to an honor student or Saddam Hussein.

    “I’ve always feared interaction with the police,” Ricks said. “Ever since then, I’ve had a certain understanding: they don’t know who I am (and) a lot of times, they don’t care who I am, so it’s best for me to stay in my lane and avoid them.”

    Now at 6-foot-1, 291 pounds, his fears have only heightened as his hometown has become a hashtag.

    “I’m afraid that my son might end up growing up without a father, and it’s not because I’m not going to be a part of his life, but because I might get taken away,” Ricks said.

    But he continued that the Sterling incident did not shock him. He is only happy that it was caught on camera. He said he hopes justice will be served.

    Meet radio and television personality, Tony King, a 36-year-old Houston native who is 6-foot-2, 271 pounds and admittedly has a negative history in the criminal justice system. He said he accepts responsibility for his previous actions and has since turned his life around.

    “That one mistake doesn’t define who and what I am, and it does not take away the value of my life,” King said.

    “There’s a level of humanity that is being missed, and when you have people in the community who refuse to see the humanity in everybody–not just people who look like them–then to me, that’s a problem.”

    King, much like Ricks, hasn’t experienced heightened fear of interactions with police. Instead, King said, he’s always been afraid. “My fear looks the same as it has always been,” King said. “Every time an officer pulls up behind me, my chest tightens.”

    Meet Marcel P. Black, a 32-year-old youth development worker and local emcee from Ardmore, Okla. Black, who considers himself an activist, has lived in Baton Rouge since attending Southern University and A&M College, and has started his family in the city.

    As what is referred to as an underground emcee, Black, who is 6-foot-3, 350 pounds, said many times he has sold CDs in front of establishments. “I could have been Alton Sterling,” Black said. “I wear cargo shorts a lot, I wear red t-shirts a lot. We are about the same skin tone, about the same size. That could have been me.”

    Aside from seeing a mirror image of himself in Sterling, Black also said he believes there is a lack of concern for north Baton Rouge that contributes to residents feeling undervalued and creating a culture of unsafe interactions with law enforcement officials.

    “The city created these conditions in north Baton Rouge,” Black said. “North Baton Rouge is under-funded: no hospitals, no healthcare, no jobs, no access to mental health, no healthy food, and then they want to police it, and you wonder why there is unrest.”

    Black is a facilitator of a conversation group called Black Men Talk. The group meets monthly or as needed to discuss issues relating to Black men, mostly in regards to current events. But it’s just conversation. Black said action must be taken to prevent further unrest.

    “We got work to do. Our lives are different now. Our lives will never, ever be the same,” Black said. “Let’s talk prison reform, let’s talk police reform. We got work to do. Lord willing, we stay mobilized and organized, so we can keep doing this. I want to encourage everybody: this is our fight from here on out.”

    Work to be done is a sentiment that Black shares with national NAACP president Cornell William Brooks. Brooks warns that all work headed towards success in justice must be planned and well-thought-out.

    “We cannot be called upon as a community to serially grieve,” Brooks said. “We have to prevent these horrific videos and hashtags and tragedies from occurring again and again.”

    This month Brooks is celebrating two years as national president, and the time is eerily similar to when he was just two weeks into the role, when Eric Garner was killed by officers in Staten Island, New York. Garner was detained after selling loose cigarettes.

    “I would assert that people participating in this so-called underground economy, which is basically small entrepreneurship.This is nothing anybody should lose their lives for, so we’re here to send the message that we’re not going to grieve serially. We have to call for specific policy, legislative reform.”

    But before talking reform, Brooks encourages the community to allow a moment to grieve, followed by a moment to come together and then a decisive course of action.

    “Everybody needs to come together,” Brooks said. “And beyond that, a plan. We are at a time of both increased activism and heightened apprehension. There’s a reason to be vigilant, however it’s not a reason to be paralyzed. We cannot outsource the safety of our community to other people.”

    He said, “We gotta act now.”

    Understanding that there are people who will be fearful to stand on the front lines in times of social and civil unrest and police misconduct, Brooks compared the movement to that of a band.

    “One band, one sound, but that doesn’t mean everyone plays the same instrument,” he said.

    “When you see your sons and daughters being profiled, when you see your people being disrespected, when you see your community being disrespected, now may be the time to engage in activism, even if that’s not your thing,” Brooks said.

    “Beyond that, if you can’t stand on the front lines, then you raise some money for the people standing on the front lines, then you register folks to vote so that they can support the agenda of the people standing on the front line.

    The point being, in this post-millennium civil rights movement, there is a role for everyone to play.”

    Brooks encourages individuals who want to participate in taking action to visit NAACP.org for resources, including research based data for each state in regards to protest and demonstration laws. He also encourages citizens to let their fears motivate them to join together with others who seek justice.

    By Leslie D. Rose
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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    Protesters, leaders vow: ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community’

    Alton Sterling’s death has inspired nationwide protests backed by thousands of Americans who want to end police brutality and the unremitting laws that seem to protect those who are employed to serve and protect citizens.

    Sterling’s name is being called by people all over the world who are partaking in public demonstrations, rallies, and protests seeking justice for his death and that of Philando Castile, Dylan Noble, and others who were killed by police officers. With the continued efforts being taken to protest, many people are optimistic about the possibility of justice being served this time around, but what happens if the verdict isn’t in favor of the victims? How will supporters feel? Will the public outcry lead to a volatile response from protesters? In Baton Rouge, leaders are extending a strong message to citizens currently fighting for justice and against police brutality. They are saying, with microphones in hand and in casual conversations, “Rioting and looting aren’t effective forms of retaliation. We will not destroy Baton Rouge.”

    In the past, America has seen the devastating aftermath and retaliation from outraged protesters and residents following seemingly “unjust” verdicts. Many of the most highly publicized officer-involved shootings have resulted in non-indictments, non-guilty verdicts, and dropped charges.

    Despite facing incriminating evidence and unedited videos of their attacks, overly aggressive—and often violent—police officers have managed to walk away from cases with judges ruling in their favor. Instead of serving time, these officers end up getting a slap on the wrist or a severance package to move on with their lives. Only to be met with violent uproar within the communities left on the other side of justice.

    Local community leaders and elected officials have stepped into what could’ve been riotous moments during the protests following Sterling’s killing and deescalated situations in an effort to keep peace. With emotions and tensions at it peak, these leaders say they aren’t personally concerned about the possibility of local looting, but some residents are.“I don’t have a concern about looting, but I’m a business owner and a property owner so, I do know other business and property owners may be worried about those possibilities because they aren’t as close to the situation as I am,” said businessman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    “(Baton Rouge has) done things differently from a lot of other places around the country because we’ve had the opportunity to learn from the lessons and previous mistakes other communities have made and observed that if you tear your community up, once national media leave and professional protesters leave, we’re left to deal with the aftermath.”

    To that, Black leaders throughout the city stress the importance of refraining from destroying the community, saying the aftermath would be detrimental to the advancement of the community.

    “Destructive protests do not accomplish anything because generally our people are the ones who hurt the most from it,” said Doris Gaymon, 64, a lifelong resident of North Baton Rouge. “We tend to destroy our own areas and properties and it defeats the purpose of the message we hope to send. In many cases, the areas destroyed are not insured and total destruction on those locations have made owners apprehensive about rebuilding in the impacted areas due to fears of repeated destruction.”

    For Gaymon, Sterling’s death is quite disheartening and many of the strikingly intense photos from recent protests mirror those from Civil Rights era demonstrations. The images and emotions signify the fight for equality and the ongoing battle against police brutality.

    “It appears we haven’t gotten beyond destruction,” she said.

    Gaymon remembers the 1972 rally at Southern University where Denver Smith and Leonard Brown were fatally shot by white deputies while protesting on campus. Although their protests weren’t centered around police brutality, they were fighting for a number of on-campus changes and the resignation of certain administrators.

    “The death of Alton Sterling has only culminated a deep-rooted problem that has been festering for many years. Hopefully, we, as a people, can understand that destruction does not resolve anything,” Gaymon said.

    In spite of all the horrific events Baton Rouge has experienced—including the shooting death of Sterling, attacks on peaceful protestors, and the deaths of three uniform officers—most residents agree emphatically that retaliation in the form of rioting and looting won’t relay the message of justice the community is hoping to send.

    “At every opportunity, you will hear leaders and residents all over saying, ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community!’,” said Dunn. “And we will not. This is ours.”

    By Meaghan Ellis
    Special to The Drum

    Originally published July 2016 in the print edition of The Drum

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    Scotlandville Alumni and Vanderbuilt star center Damian Jones makes history.

    Scotlandville Magnet High Alumni Damian Jones was chosen by the Golden State Warriors as the 30th pick of the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. With this, Jones is the first player from Scotlandville to enter the NBA Draft. In preparation for the draft, Jones, a Vanderbilt University star center, practiced with the pheonix suns, San Antonio Spurrs, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, and Orlando Magic teams.

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    US Express Track Club makes huge gains in lew of national competition

    The United Southern Express track club’s 4x400m relay has punched their tickets to the AAU National Junior Olympic Championships in Humble, Texas next month.
    In the image you have the members of the winning 17-18 boys 4x400m relay: Heisman Woods, Yusef Davis, Keiveo Chandler, amd Kyshawn Dominique. Out of the 104 athletes who competed in 300 events at the AAU Qualifier in Covington, LA, there were three meet record breakers and 77 athletes to qualify for the AAU National junior Olympics in 119 events.

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    Mayoral candidate Smokie Bourgeois releases statement on Sterling shooting

    Smokie Bourgeois, candidate for Mayor-President, released an official statement on the recent shootings earlier today:

    “When I came of age, my daddy had a serious talk with me. He started with the phrase ‘violence begets violence’. He went on to make it clear to me that anytime I encountered police officers, it would be a good idea to follow their instructions. If I ever wanted to argue or fight with police, nothing good would come of it. He said to save my arguments for the judge. His words ring as true today as back then.

    Of all the horrific crimes committed and reported in Baton Rouge, one story has caught everyone’s attention; the death of Alton Sterling. Media reports, supported by video, make one fact very clear, Alton Sterling refused to follow police officers’ repeated instructions.

    Smokie Bourgeois

    Smokie Bourgeois


    To anyone who wants to treat police officers as shooting targets, you cannot win, you will only lose. The emotional tide sweeping this city and country will turn against you. All lives matter, particularly those of the men and women in law enforcement who place their lives on the line every day to protect you. In every civilized society, the rules of law and the authority of those who protect us must be respected and followed for the safety of all.

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    The world is watching Baton Rouge

      Media around the world are watching Baton Rouge:

    MSNBC:Protests have erupted in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after the shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling by police early Tuesday morning

    CNN: Louisiana lawmaker calls on Justice Department to investigate police shooting death

    New York Times: Alton Sterling and When Black Lives Stop Mattering

    Wallstreet Journal: U.S. Justice Department to Investigate Police Shooting in Baton Rouge – http://www.wsj.com/articles/louisiana-officer-fatally-shoots-suspect-protests-erupt-1467796285

    BBC: Alton Sterling death: Fresh protests over Louisiana shooting – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36731378

    Philadelphia CBS: Demonstrators Hit Philadelphia Streets Protesting Death Of Alton Sterling – http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2016/07/06/demonstrators-hit-philadelphia-streets-protesting-the-death-of-alton-sterling/

    Black America Web: #AltonSterling Is The Latest Victim Of A Culture That Dehumanizes Black Men – http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/07/06/altonsterling-is-the-latest-victim-of-a-culture-that-dehumanizes-black-men/

    IMG_20160706_225507

      Social Media:

    Hillary Clinton: “The death of Alton Sterling is a tragedy, and my prayers are with his family.” – https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/750851893480521728

    Governor John Bel Edwards: Gov. Edwards’ Statement Following Recent Officer-Involved Shooting in Baton Rouge – http://gov.louisiana.gov/news/statement-following-recent-officerinvolved-shooting-in-baton-rouge

    Jessie Jackson: “The shooting of #AltonSterling in #BatonRouge is a legal lynching. Justice must prevail. #Outraged” – https://twitter.com/RevJJackson/status/750648298415853568

    Drake: “It is impossible to ignore that the relationship between black and brown communities and law enforcement remains as strained as it was decades ago.” – https://www.instagram.com/p/BHim8QWjFTx/

    Glen Davis: “I knew Alton Sterling and he wouldn’t hurt a fly” – http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/nba-glen-davis-knew-alton-sterling-wouldn-hurt-fly-article-1.2701263

    Shaun King: “Officers Blane Salamoni & Howie Lake should already be arrested by now. That latest video of their execution of #AltonSterling is enough.” – https://twitter.com/ShaunKing/status/750870151554174976

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    Museum celebrates 22 years of sharing Louisiana slave history, Black resilience

    DONALDSONVILLE – THE RIVER ROAD African American Museum started as a vision to tell the stories of the Black slaves who worked on plantations in south Louisiana, but over the past 22 years, the RRAAM has expanded to also tell the stories of freedom, resilience, and reconciliation. Kathe Hambrick-Jackson, inspired to be the voice of the people who provided the slave labor to sugarcane plantations in Ascension Parish, spent three years researching before opening the non-profit museum. Her research showed her the wider mission of educating the public with the full story of her ancestors’ journey. “When I went on plantation tours, there was no mention of slavery whatsoever,” Hambrick-Jackson said. “They would sometimes refer to the Black people who worked on the plantation as servants or workers.”

    RRAAM opened its doors in March of 1994 on the Tezcuco Plantation on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish. On Mother’s Day 2002, a fire destroyed the museum and it was relocated to the corner of Railroad Avenue and St. Charles Street in downtown Donaldsonville and it has remained there for the past 13 years.“It’s really been a good thing for us to move here in Donaldsonville, because of the history,” said Hambrick-Jackson.“It is the third oldest city in the state; it was the capitol before Baton Rouge in 1830; and Donaldsonville had America’s first Black mayor,Pierre C. Landry, elected in 1868.”RRAAM is filled with artifacts, art, and information that highlights important figures from Black history and how they relate to Louisiana, as well as important historic south Louisiana events.“We are a public history institution and it is important that this museum remains open so we can clarify the difference between fact and fiction, and teach the next generation no matter what their ethnic background is,” Hambrick-Jackson said. “It is important that people around the world know that we as African Americans have made a tremendous contribution to the economy and the cultureof this world and that is what this museum is about.”

    A red room is the first thing visitors see when entering the museum. It features the history of the people enslaved in the south Louisiana region. The room showcases famous photos, runaway“wanted” ads,historic artifacts, and names of slaves. One photo that stands out is of a Louisiana slave named Gordon. His name isn’t famous,but his picture has become one of the most recognizable and redistributed photos in history. The famous photo of Gordon, taken in Louisiana, has been shown worldwide.“Gordon’s story is really unique, he was a slave in Mississippi who escaped three times,” Hambrick-Jackson said. “He made his way to Baton Rouge and joined the Union Army, and it was the Union doctors who took the photo that so many of us has become familiar with.” Hambrick-Jackson said she believed Gordan’s story was special because he was a slave who didn’t travel north, but stayed in the South to become a part of the Louisiana Underground Railroad.“When we think about freedom, resilience, and reconciliation, Gordon is one of those names that needs to be lifted up,” she said.

    The yellow room exhibits reconstruction, Black inventors,and the musical history of Louisiana.“People do not realize that Madam C.J. Walker was born in Delta, Louisiana,” Hambrick-Jackson said. “One thing we emphasize at this museum is that Madam C.J Walker was the first female entrepreneur millionaire. She did not inherit the money,and she did not marry the money, she made the money on her own by building her own enterprises at the time when we did not have telephones or fax machines. She hired more than 2,000 women around the world.” Hambrick-Jackson added that Walker’s story helps accentuate the freedom message the museum portrays. The final room showcases famous Black rural doctors. “If you look at these exhibit as you leave the museum, we often ask the question how did these men make it to medical school and graduate one generation out of slavery.” Hambrick-Jackson said. “Certainly, if those men could make it to medical school one generation out of slavery, there is nothing young people can’t achieve today.

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  • Orchestra Festival provides opportunities for aspiring musicians

    NEW ORLEANS — Students from the Greater New Orleans area and around the state experienced a fun, but intensive week at the 18th annual Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestras Summer Music Festival at Loyola University June 6-10.

    The festival provides an opportunity for students to engage in small group instruction, participate in performance opportunities and enjoy social interaction with other talented musicians. Younger children participated in a string ensemble while students 12-18 participated in the full orchestra.

    Acclaimed fiddler/violinist and Grammy Award winning recording artist Mark O’Connor was the featured artist in resident. O’Connor, who performs with the O’Connor Family Band and has been hailed as “brilliantly original” by the Seattle Times, combines bluegrass, folk, jazz and classical genres to create a uniquely American sound. He has developed a patented training program for strings called The O’Connor MethodTM and holds workshops all over the country.

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    Renowed conductor Jean Montès, DMA, the Director of Orchestral Studies and Coordinator of Strings at Loyola University, is the Artistic Director of The Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestras (GNOYO) where he conducts the Symphony Orchestra. A musician and conductor who enthusiastically promotes music of all world cultures, Montès is in constant demand as a conductor, clinician, judge and lecturer with orchestras and schools at all levels throughout the country.

    Baton Rouge-area parents Scott and Frances Spencer traveled with their daughter Cecilia, a cellist, so she could experience what they considered a “game-changing” experience. “I’m not usually at a loss for words, but this orchestra festival was a healing and reaffirming moment for all of us,” Frances Spencer said. “Cecilia came out of her shell both socially and musically as she learned, engaged, tried new things and had fun. This was a massive confidence-booster.”

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  • And the winners are…

    PONCHATOULA – More than 50 Junior high school students participated in the first G.T. Carter Poetry Contest (when). Katelyn Vaughn, a 7th grader at Hammond Junior High Magnet, won first place for her poem “Bullying.” Kylie Burks, a 7th grader at Ponchatoula Junior High School, won second place for her poem “Just Because.” Traven Jones, a 6th grader at Independence Middle Magnet won third place for his poem “The Bird of Feelings.” Redasia Caston, a 7th grader at Hammond Junior High, won honorable mention for her poem “Too Fast.” The management and staff of The Drum thank all the schools, students and judges that participated. A special thanks to Theresa Hamilton for her assistance and making it all happen.

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    University leader calls high school decision to keep athlete, ban valedictorian ‘height of hypocrisy’

    The following is a copy of Dillard University president Walter Kimbrough’s letter to Tangipahoa School Superintendent Mark Kolwe in regards to the national embarrassment:

    Last night, I watched “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore. In the first segment, he discussed the case of Andrew Jones at Amite High School. Living in New Orleans, I was already aware of the case, but I watched Wilmore present the absurdity of this situation to the nation. For the past week, this case has been a national embarrassment to the school, the parish, and the entire state. For me, it represents a tremendous lack of judgment and a colossal failure of leadership. It also exposed blatant hypocrisy present in your school system, Mark Kolwe, Superintendent Tangipahoa Parish School System.

    So, I began to research this situation more closely and I want to present my findings. My hope is that you will issue a public apology to Mr. Jones and his family. Additionally, since this once in a lifetime event was ruined because of what appears to have been an ego contest with an 18 year old, I recommend that you offer restitution to him in the form of a scholarship for college.

    beard20n-3-web4

    In your letter, which appears in the Amite Tangi Digest, you write: The Tangipahoa Parish School Board Student Dress Code Policy states that “beards will not be allowed.” As Superintendent, I am obligated to ensure that all Board policies are followed.

    Indeed, the Student & Parent Handbook explicitly states this on page 8 under Student Dress Code, item #1 under dress code regulations grades 4-12. On page 9, it then describes how dress code violations will be handled, with the first violation resulting in a notice to parents and students (essentially a warning), and a subsequent violation resulting in a one day suspension due to disrespect of authority.

    Jones and his family contend that he has worn a beard all year, and that he shaved part of it before the ceremony. I tend to agree with them, not because I know them, but by this story in the Hammond Star recapping the basketball season found here: http://www.hammondstar.com/sports/season-in-review-amite-warriors-district—a/article_ad9875c6-12e2-11e6-932f-47ef2c0ac71f.html).

    The picture shows a young man, wearing a #3 on his jersey, who looks like Andrew Jones to me, with the fuller beard as he has described. I then checked the roster for the Amite Warriors and confirmed that Andrew Jones wore #3. (http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/amite-warriors-(amite,la)/basketball/roster.htm).

    So the question is, why would you wait until graduation, after he has completed all requirements to graduate and will no longer attend the school, to finally enforce a policy that has been unenforced for an entire year? More specifically, why would you punish your top student, 4.0 grade point average, and three-sport athlete with academic and athletic scholarships to Southeastern Louisiana University, on the very last day of his formal association with Amite High School?

    Yes, you are obliged to ensure the policies are followed. But policies were ignored during the football season. He was allowed to play football against Bogalusa in October, where the Amite Tangi Digest reported, “This would help set up a scoring drive that resulted in Walker hitting Andrew Jones for a 33-yard touchdown reception.” He was still playing in November, as the team played against Port Barre, The Advocate wrote “A fumbled punt snap gave Amite the ball at the Port Barre 39, and Walker drilled Andrew Jones with a 39-yard touchdown pass that made it 40-0.” He wore a full beard, in plain view, all through basketball season in the spring.

    The height of the hypocrisy is that you personally made a case for an exception to a rule in the name of fairness for students. In late November, a fight between Amite and Bogalusa resulted in Amite being removed from the football playoffs for violating the Louisiana High School Athletic Association rule that players are automatically suspended for the next game if they leave the bench area during an altercation. In fact, you sued because you felt the decision was too harsh. In an Advocate article, it reads “Taking away the opportunity for senior players to continue their quest for a state title was also deemed unfair by the Tangipahoa contingent.”

    At a school where only 36% of the students go to college within a year, where 80% of them are Black, and the average ACT is below 16, you are more willing to fight for students to participate in athletics than you are for an athlete who shows academic accomplishment to give his valedictory address at his only high school graduation.

    This facial hair rule, one that was not enforced all year long, is now non-negotiable at the very end of the year. Again referencing the handbook, page 10 explains discipline and indicates that administrators will “implement the Student Code of Conduct in a fair and consistent manner” (#3), “implement Board policy in a fair and consistent manner” (#7), and “use professional judgment to prevent minor incidents from becoming major challenges” (#5). There is nothing fair or consistent in the implementation of this rule, and now this minor incident has become a national embarrassment.

    The interim principal, and you as superintendent, failed on these responsibilities. However, if you are willing to exercise leadership, you can work to make amends to Andrew Jones and his family. Here are my suggestions:

    1. A public apology should be issued to Andrew Jones and his family. It is still okay to say “I’m sorry” and “We made a mistake.”
    2. Work within the local community to find a venue for Andrew to give his commencement address. He should still be afforded that opportunity.
    3. Some form of restitution would be appropriate in the form of a scholarship to assist with his first year of college. That moment has passed and cannot be relived, but a scholarship would serve as a tangible expression of regret.

    Please understand that these actions display a, hopefully unconscious, bias that allows you to advocate for Black students on the field or court, but to be punitive when it comes to academics. The vast majority of them will never be professional athletes, but they can use their athletic ability to pay for college. And so when you have a true scholar athlete like Andrew, he must be celebrated profusely so that he becomes a role model for others to follow.

    It is my hope that you will rectify this situation as best as possible.

    z4j1f6mgx9kvyl8i5pqw-1Walter M. Kimbrough, Ph.D.
    President, Dillard University
    2601 Gentilly Blvd.
    New Orleans, LA 70122

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    STEM NOLA revolution takes on Baton Rouge

    “GO. SEE. DO,” IS THE MESSAGE CALVIN MACKIE, Ph.D., is spreading with a STEM revolution that is exposing young people to
    math and science interactively. The mission is to grow future innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs through inspiration,
    engagement, and exposure.

    “There is power in doing,” said Mackie. “At some point we have to get up off our behinds and do. We have to stop talking and planning and actually do something.”  #LetsGoPeople is the hashtag Mackie adds to the end of every Facebook post, prompting his more than 16,000 followers to action. “I remember speaking with Dr. Cornell West and I whispered to him, ‘I am going to bring social justice to STEM,’” said Mackie, who taught engineering for more than 12 years at Tulane University in New Orleans. To do so, he established STEM NOLA to give children and teens opportunities to experience and gain knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics once a month—and in a big way. “If we give our kids the right skills now in math, science and technology, paired with their own creativity, they can create things the world never seen before,” said Mackie who has mentored thousands of college scientists. He has taken this message to audiences at NY Life, Morehouse University, Hillsborough Community College, and to researchers with the J Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, Discovery Communications, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The award-winning science mentor uses the STEM program to emphasize the importance of taking what is learned to create something new and compete with other youth from across the globe. He said for someone to own the future in the 21st century, “he or she must first create the future and for people of color to find a genius in their community. It is not enough to invest in only a select few, but to support and build up every child, teen, and young adult.” “We celebrate the fact that we have a million boys and girls playing sports dreaming to be one of 60 to get drafted,” he said. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Tulane University eliminated its engineering program and fired Mackie. “So I decided, as Lebron James says, to ‘take my talents back home’.” Mackie said and chuckled. 

    Stem Nola 2

    After 12 years of dedicating his life to students in the classroom, the Morehouse graduate felt he could reach a larger number of young people and make a bigger impact by working directly in the community and enlighten his students on the importance of STEM in today’s world. “Why should I prepare my kid to go through a crack when there is a wide open gate of opportunity to go through”? He shared that opportunity in conjunction with Baton Rouge Community College. The STEM NOLA team came to the capitol city to give high school students the opportunity to experience life science, energy, and force using Mackie’s interactive module. What sets STEM NOLA apart from the classroom experience is the high energy activities the students complete in small groups in order to retain the information that was taught during a lecture. For three days, sixty high school students met the STEM NOLA challenge during Spring Break. On the first day, the lecture and lab covered life science and the heart. Mackie taught the importance of a healthy lifestyle in relation to the heart and how proper rest affects the heart’s circulatory system. Afterwards, the students built a four-chamber mechanical heart out of everyday materials and had the opportunity to dissect the four-chamber heart of a sheep. The next day was energy day. Students spent the first part of the day learning about active and passive solar energy. To aid with the understanding of solar energy, the group built solar energy houses that were placed outside to see which house allowed the least amount of sun inside. To track the amount of sun that each house allowed in, the rate of the increase heat for each house was measured. The house that increased at the lowest rate in heat was declared the winner and received a prize. Later that day, Mackie’s group was given windmill kits to put design and measure the amount of voltage from the windmill. The final day featured force in motion using paper and other household materials to create a rocket that could be launched by compressed air. The group launched solid rockets that could reach up to an altitude of 700 feet with the right booster.  “BRCC saw what we did in New Orleans and said the kids in Baton Rouge deserved to experience something like this,” said Mackie. STEM NOLA is held in New Orleans every second Saturday of the month. It is also part of a national maker movement. ONLINE: www.stemnola.org

    BY BRIANA BROWNLEE
    JOZEF SYNDICATE REPORTER

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    Entergy supports Tangipahoa’s Black heritage museum

    PONCHATOULA–Eunice Harris, Entergy customer service representative, recently presented Delmas Dunn Sr., president of the Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum & Veterans Archives (TAAHM&VA), with a $1,000 check.  The funds will be used toward a joint community development project whereby the board members will partner with community volunteers to landscape the grounds of the TAAHM&VA.  They will purchase live oak trees, stakes, fertilizer, mulching soil, garden hose, etc., and develop the area along the 1600 block of Phoenix Sq.

    The mission of the TAAHM&VA is to preserve, maintain, and educate the public about the history of Black ancestors in the State of Louisiana and the U.S.; to collaborate with other organizations with a common vision, both nationally and internationally, through artistic endeavors.

    The TAAHM&VA welcomed/hosted 3,890 visitors in 2014 and 2,530 visitors in 2015 from Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, St. Helena, Livingston, East and West Baton Rouge, Jefferson, and Orleans parishes.  The halls are lined with nearly wall-sized, colorful paintings and murals depicting Black American history, inventors, entrepreneurs, culture, musicians, war heroes, pioneers, slavery, leaders, historians, buffalo soldiers, civil rights activists, underground railroad, family, and kings and queens of Africa.  It also has on display Black American and African artifacts and inventions such as the butter churn, traffic light, smoothing iron, cow bell, ice scraper, meat tenderizer, kerosene lamp, brownie camera, to name just a few.

    “Entergy is proud to reinvest in its vast diversity of cultures within the communities it serves,” said Harris.  “And it’s always a good thing when volunteers come out and participate in community development projects – it shows joint ownership” Harris continued.

    To schedule a class, group, or individual tour, please call 985-542-4259.  ONLINE: http://www.taahm.org/ 

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  • ,,,

    Time to get SMART, set goals addressing diabetes

    Diabetes takes a disproportional interest in the minority community and one Baton Rouge area mental health professional thinks it’s time for the community to return that interest with deliberate game plans aimed at limiting the devastation caused by this chronic-disease killer.

    Charles Martin

    Charles Martin

    Charles Martin, Capital City Health Center director of behavior health, has both professional and personal viewpoints regarding the challenges of diabetes. His parents and grandparents were insulin-dependent and he is recovering from a diabetes-related limb amputation. Even when the challenges seem great, Martin invokes the daily prescription of NFL coach Chip Kelly: Win the day.
    Instead of simply resolving to turn the tide on diabetes, Martin encourages another tactic: Goal setting.

    “We people living with diabetes may have the fear that we will be gun-ho in January with everyone else making New Year’s resolutions,” Martin said. “But then, are we going to burn ourselves out?”
    “We start fast and we fizz quickly, but it goes back to Chip Kelly and that motto ‘Win the day.’ We are just going to take it one day at a time. It goes back to this attitude that this is something that we have to do daily. When we think about renewing the mind, we should be reminded that our prayers ask ‘give us this day, our DAILY bread.’”

    Martin encourages the ‘attitude of daily’ as a tool in diabetes management. “We must remember that we are consistently inconsistent,” he said. “The goal is to be consistently consistent. To do that, we must take it one day at a time and try to max out that day.”

    10 black_hands_testingThis deadly opponent packs a daunting record against Blacks who are greatly disproportionately affected by diabetes. More than 13 percent of all Blacks above the age of 20 are living with diabetes. In addition, Blacks are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.
    Diabetes is one disease that can spawn serious complications or makes a person susceptible to related conditions. Blacks are significantly more likely to suffer from the diabetes complications of blindness, kidney disease and amputations.

    No matter how great the challenge, Martin said setting goals helps properly address the fear. “A goal is just a tool to put you to work,” he said. “It puts me in charge!”

    Good health is important, but it will not just happen. SMART Goals provide a road map to success because those goals are Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

    If you want to accomplish a task, you set a plan, you set deadlines and you take action. Most people are familiar with SMART goals in the workplace, but they also apply to health. For example, let’s say you wanted to an A1C of 7.5, but your level is now 11. It would be unrealistic to say you wanted reduce your A1C to 11 in next month. It would be more realistic to set up a SMART goal:
    • Specific – I will decrease my average fasting blood sugar by 2 points each week. 10 SMART-goals
    • Measureable – I will keep track of blood sugar levels three times daily so I can track my
    progress towards my goal.
    • Attainable – Is the goal attainable for me? Your diabetes care team should be consulted about ways to reduce your A1C and risk of complications.
    • Realistic – Is the goal realistic for me? Lowering one’s blood sugar is a great goal, but drastic drops can increase changes of hyperglycemia.
    • Timely – I will make an appointment with my care team every three months in 2016 to evaluate my A1C with hopes to start 2017 near 7.5.

    Other goals that will impact blood sugar control include getting regular and sufficient exercise, gaining or losing weight, following a diabetes nutrition plan, and being more compliant to medication schedules.

    Diabetes is associated with an increased risk for a number of serious, sometimes life-threatening complications in minority communities. Good diabetes management, however, can help reduce risks, but many people are not aware that they have diabetes until they develop one of its complications.
    Martin warns that even those with the best goal-related intentions can face the obstacles of anxiety and depression. Anxiety can feed the overwhelming fear of failing to control one’s diabetes. “It is the fear that I’m not going to reach my goal so I stop before I even get started,” he said.

    It is important to know the warning signs of depression and plan ahead to combat it. “Exercise does help with depression,” Martin said. “Take a walk. If you are bound to the inside, use can goods to do arm curls. You will feel better if you make efforts to get more exercise.”
    “We often get so depressed that we isolate ourselves and we don’t have the social connections that we need. If you are aware of the possible pitfalls of depression, you are able to make a plan and incorporate that into your ‘I’m going to win the day.’”

    The counselor puts himself in the classroom in which he is teaching. In this calendar year, he will attempt to achieve tighter blood sugar control and with the aid of physical therapy, learn to walk using a prosthetic limb. There will be 365 days in his year, but his mantra will remain “win the day.”

    By Frances Y. Spencer
    Special to The Drum

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    Gauthier leaves McKinley to serve with Naval Beach Group TWO

    NORFOLK–A 2014 McKinley Senior High School graduate and Baton Rouge native is serving in the U.S. Navy with Naval Beach Group TWO (NBG 2). Seaman Tyran’e Gauthier is working with the beach group operating out of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
    A Navy seaman is responsible for training other new personnel and handling check-in for incoming personnel.
    “I like being able to welcome new sailors and get them started on the right track to success,” said Gauthier. “I also like being responsible for training because I feel it is important.”
    Commissioned in 1948, NBG 2 is designed to organize, man, train and equip forces to execute, combat support, and combat service support missions. NBG 2 is made of four commands, Assault Craft Unit TWO (ACU 2), Assault Craft Unit FOUR (ACU 4), Amphibious Construction Battalion TWO, and Beach Master Unit TWO (BMU 2); who have their own individual missions that assist to ensure the overall mission of NBG 2 is complete.
    Gauthier serves with ACU 2 who operate the Landing Craft Air Cushion and provide combat ready craft that fully meet operational tasking worldwide, on time, every time.
    “I like that this command does not see rank,” said Gauthier. “They give you responsibility regardless of rank.”
    Approximately 30 officers and 300 enlisted men and women make up the beach group. Their jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the command running smoothly. The jobs range from operating boats to maintaining engines and handling weaponry.
    “The sailors here never cease to impress me with the effort they put into their daily work,” said Capt. Jeffrey Hayhurst, commodore commander of NBG 2.”Their dedication and hard work make me proud to be in command of Naval Beach Group Two.”
    Although NBG 2 is made up of four separate commands, they all work together to complete their mission of providing the Navy personnel and equipment to support an amphibious operation or exercise.
    These exercises can include evacuation of American citizens from a hostile territory, delivery of food and medical supplies after a natural disaster, the bulk delivery of fuel or fresh water from a ship anchored off the coast through a pipeline to a shore facility, and nearly any other task that involves moving from ships offshore to the beach.
    “Since joining the Navy, I have matured a bit more,” said Gauthier. “I have always been a leader but now I am a bit more organized.”
    As a member of the one of the U.S. Navy’s most unique commands, Gauthier and other NBG 2 Sailors understand that they need to have the ability to complete a variety of missions to help keep America safe from enemies foreign and domestic.

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    New Venture’s ‘Rasheeda Speaking’ opens March 19 at LSU

    New Venture Theatre continues its 2016 season with “Rasheeda Speaking.” This show is directed by April Louise and will be performed March 19 and 20 at the LSU Studio Theatre.

    The PG-13 performance is about a white physician attempts to oust his Black receptionist by enlisting a white female coworker as a spy. Tensions rise as relations between the two women quickly deteriorate, turning their once-cordial workplace into a battlefield of innuendo, paranoia, and passive aggression. With wit and close observation, “Rasheda Speaking” mines the subtleties of “post-racial” America to explore what we are really saying when we refuse to talk about race. Greg Williams Jr. is scenic director and Christian Jones is the costumer. The cast includes Dorrian Wilson as Jaclyn Spaulding, Lee Kelly as Dr. David Williams, Kelly Lockhart as IIeen Van Meter, and Chelsie Ciccone as Rose Saunders.

    The Saturday, March 19, performances begin at 2pm and 7:30pm. On Sunday, March 20, the performance begins at 3pm. Children under the age of four will not be allowed in the theatre and all children ages 4-13 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are  available through the New Venture Theatre box office at 225.588.7576, or visit nvtarts.org

    New Venture Theatre is a local non-profit organization and one of Louisiana’s premiere theatre companies. Since the theater’s founding in 2007, New Venture Theatre has produced over 40 productions throughout the Baton Rouge area and produces a full main-stage and second stage season.

    ONLINE: www.nvtarts.org

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    New multicultural dating site launched as NuPassion

    OHIO–New Passion or should we say NuPassion is already here and has been for almost a decade and some have not yet discovered them. Whether your passion is intelligent conversation, religion, political beliefs, a shared lifestyle or the environment, passion is always better shared, isn’t it?

    “The world can be an adventurous place, but can be difficult to travel it alone and not nearly as much fun,”” said Curtis Nicholson, founder of the site.

    At NuPassion.com, they’re committed to helping you find the perfect person who will share your passion. NuPassion is a place where you can connect with like-minded people looking for the exact same thing you are so desperately seeking – fulfillment. Their services are for every lifestyle and different backgrounds, for people who really just want to find those soul mates they can connect with and share all of life’s great and terrible moments.

    According to a corporate press release, “Using NuPassion.com, you can connect with people who you may become lifelong friends with and will undoubtedly meet people who become something much more than that. Focused on that one person who finishes your sentences and shares your greatest loves, NuPassion’s goal is to open that door for you. Maybe you’re just looking for companionship, someone to chat with and share experiences. NuPassion.com provides you a way to widen your social circle and enhance your romantic choices.”

    ““A very diverse site with lots of options. A site you could look forward to meeting new people,”” said one member.

    NuPassion is a Black-owned company that provides a diverse online dating platform. Having been around for almost 10 years, NuPassion has continually served the online community and is becoming a premiere diverse dating site. Believing that communication is the key to any successful long-term relationship, the web site provides the perfect arena for interpersonal communication.

    ONLINE: www.NuPassion.com

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  • ,,,,

    COMMENTARY: ‘Mardi Gras, big fat lies’

    Saturday, February 6, 2016, was a historic day in Baton Rouge.  It was also a day filled with contradictions that are characteristic of the State Capital.
    image

    In one section of the city residents gathered to remember the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott with the dedication of a memorial bench by The Toni Morrison Society.

    In another section of the city confederate flags were waving and a float was preparing to parade down public roadways mocking the killings of unarmed Black men and women.

    As shocking as the images were for some—and as predictable as they were to others—what was even more disturbing and revealing were the efforts by some people to justify and rationalize the presence of confederate flags, but especially the float as mere satire. 

    Furthermore, descriptions of the float as a joke that may have gone too far and dismissals of the negative reactions that followed revealed what many people have already known; the idea that we are living in a post-racial or colorblind society is a big fat lie.  Race matters as much today as it did more than 60 years ago when blacks were legally forbidden from owning their own buses lines, saddled with a bus fare increase, and forced to stand while seats reserved for whites remained empty.  Through collective action, the community forced changed.  The change was not necessarily the type everyone in the community envisioned, but it helped move hundreds of thousands of people to renew or establish a commitment to social justice. 

    Now more than ever there is a similar need for people of all walks of life to demand more of their friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues.  Remaining silent about things that matter cannot be a viable option in the face of such offensive and unjust actions.  Mocking a contemporary iteration of a struggle as old as the nation itself is no laughing matter.  We should all feel a sense of righteous indignation when unarmed mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are killed not on foreign battlefields, but on American streets.  In far too many cases, the victims’ families are left to not only mourn but in the case of the shooting of a young man in Chicago and his neighbor, now they also have to ward off l

    image

    awsuits from the very person who pulled the trigger. 

    Sadly, the float during the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade that displayed a brutalized pink flamingo and baton meant to resemble one carried by a law enforcement officer, and bearing the moniker, “Pink Lives Matter,” points to the sad truism that throughout our nation’s history the lives of people of African ancestry have mattered less to some people than animals or even beloved cultural symbols. 

    Mardi Gras season is a time for celebration. Sadly, the season is also a time when big fat lies about race and racism are on parade. 

    By Lori Latrice Martin, PhD
    Guest Columnist

    Lori Martin is an LSU associate professor of sociology and African & African American studies

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  • ,,,,

    What did Che’dra Joseph say?

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

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

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

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

    Che'Dra and President Obama. Photo by Yusef Davis

    Che’Dra and President Obama. Photo by Yusef Davis

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

    The gym erupted with applause.

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    Resolutions that will challenge Black America in 2016

    Whenever we begin a new calendar year, it can be useful to make New Year’s Resolutions to prioritize and focus for the immediate future. Beyond the traditional litany of making very personal and oftentimes private resolutions at the beginning of a new year, Black America as a whole, I believe, should be vocal and public about our determination to keep pushing forward for freedom, justice, equality and economic empowerment.

    What should be our collective goals and strategic objectives over the next 12 months? Recent academic studies by the Dominican University of California on the importance of “goal setting” to overcome individual and social procrastination revealed that writing down your resolutions and sharing your goals with others that you care about will help you work more diligently to achieve those goals.

    Every time I pick up and read a Black-owned newspaper in America during this season of annual proclamation, it is always informative to see a written list of New Year Resolutions that challenge Black America to continue strive for excellence and achievement in all fields of endeavor. I am obviously proud of the trusted impact of the Black Press of America. Check us out at www.NNPA.org and www.BlackPressUSA.com.

    We have another critical election year coming up in 2016 and the Black American vote will have to be mobilized in every primary election and across the nation next November in elections in every precinct in every state, county by county. Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts, therefore, will be a top priority and we must collectively resolve that in 2016 we will ensure the largest voter turnout of Black voters in the history of the United States.

    Remember, we had a record voter turnout of Black voters both in 2008 and in 2012. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “66.2 percent of Blacks who voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic Whites who did so…This marks the first time that Blacks have voted at a higher rate than Whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting by the eligible citizen population in 1996.”

    We cannot afford to let the Black vote be taken for granted in 2016.

    Politics and economics are inseparable in the United States. Yet, even though Black Americans spend in excess of $1.2 trillion annually in the nation’s economy, that kind of spending volume has not translated into real economic power: increasing the ownership of global businesses and billion-dollar revenue-generating investments. We still have a long way to go to achieve economic equality and parity in America.

    We should resolve, therefore, in 2016 to improve and expand the economic development of Black American families and communities. Although the American economy continues to recover under the Obama Administration, for Black Americans we have not closed the wealth gap. White Americans today have 12 times the wealth of Black Americans. We must, without hesitation and without apology, be more determined to end poverty and to generate more wealth for Black America. Therefore, we join in complete solidarity with the resolve of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) in the goal of striving to increase Black homeownership in 2016.

    We are very encouraged that the 2016 NAACP Image Awards will once again be broadcast on TV One. We all should support Radio One, TV One and Interactive One. We all also should support The Impact Network and other Black-owned media companies as well as the publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).

    Ending mass incarceration, reforming the criminal justice system, and stopping police brutality are related urgent matters that demand the resolve and activist involvement of Black America. Yes, in 2016 our national outcry will continue to be “Black Lives Matter!”

    The highest quality education for our children and our young adults requires our vocal support and energetic involvement from pre-school to post graduate higher education. At every level of the educational process and journey we must be vigilant in our demands and commitments to attain the best education for our families.

    Thus let’s renew and strengthen our dedication to support the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) as well as work to sustain all of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs). Lastly, we are a spiritual people. All African people are spiritual. We resolve lastly to support and strengthen our religiously institutions: churches, temples, mosques and synagogues.

    I asked the Chairman of the NNPA, Denise Rolark Barnes, who publishes the Washington Informer for her perspective about 2016 New Year Resolutions. She emphasized resolutely, “In 2016, our first priority should be to commit our lives and our dollars to those individuals and institutions that represent our best interests. Let’s strive to be the ones that will make a difference in our own communities. Be mindful that ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’”

    Benjamin ChavisBy Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
    Columnist

    Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis  Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.

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  • ,,,,

    Poet plans to sail into Black history

    ASTORIA, OREGON — The port of Astoria on the Columbia River is the home of Black History in the making as Niccolea Miouo Nance prepares to set sail with The Emuna Endeavor. The Oregon-born, Arizona-raised poet and artist has put her creative work on hold to learn seamanship and navigation at Clatsop Community College in preparation for the June 2016 departure date.

    Sometimes we as individuals going about our daily lives fall accidentally into something much larger than ourselves. This is one of those stories.

    In July of 2012, Niccolea’s  (pronounced “nick-cole-yah”) best friend Dovid, who was planning on sailing around the world, knew she wanted to travel so he invited her to join him. Since then she has been researching others who have done the journey and discovered that there are no Black American women on record who have sailed around the world.

    Nance was born in a land locked small town in the southern part of Oregon just north of the California border. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona and was a desert dweller pretty much all of her life. As such she didn’t have a rich nautical background so she enrolled in maritime studies at the community college.

    Niccolea said, “My whole life has been a lesson in diversity and tolerance (or lack thereof). I am a Black-white biracial so since birth I have been an example of the unification of different people from different backgrounds. Being raised by my Caucasian stepfather and white mother gave me a perspective on race relations that is totally different from my friends who were raised in totally Black families, neighborhoods, etc. I have seen racism first hand, but I have also seen great tolerance and love firsthand. I choose to focus on the good in life and people. I want to continue to be someone who adds to the positivity in this world.”

    Even with the lessons she learned in her life, she said she is filled with cultural stereotypes of pretty much every place in the world and would like to shed that. “I believe that travel will help me to be a better person overall by experiencing things outside my norm. This trip will be a means to becoming a more culturally aware and more life-educated person.” With modern technology it also gives her a chance to show others what she is learning so we can all learn together via her blog and the trip site and YouTube channel.

    “This is more than just a trip for me… It is the beginning step to a goal of creating a bridge between like-minded people with this project as a catalyst. It’s more than a vacation, this is more than just a grand adventure and a test of my physical and mental strength and stamina… it is a chance to learn about the world and the people in it and hopefully create a chain of positivity on a global scale.”

    According to the website, the Emuna Endeavor is the journey of two friends who’s cause is to take you along vicariously on a world wide sailing trip making stops to create community and hopefully unity along the way.

    Then Nance found out that she will inadvertently be a part of history. So far only one Black woman of any nationality has sailed around the world. There was a single sentence in a Wikipedia article about circumnavigation records (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_circumnavigations) that mentioned a woman named Maria Victor; 2007-2013; first woman of African descent (Barbados) to perform a circumnavigation (with stops, past Cape of good Hope, through Panama Canal). There is one other Black woman named Katia who plans to sail around the world who is from Cape Verde and left from Brazil recently (within the past year). As of this writing, she is approximately half the way around. Katia is sailing with her boyfriend Josh (who is from the Netherlands) on SV Hope (http://www.joshandhope.org/). Even with these two ladies, Niccolea will still be the first American of African descent to take on the task.

    ONLINE:  http://emunaendeavor.org/
    Contact: info@emunaendeavor.org/

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  • ,,

    Students use arts to bring World AIDS Day awareness

    KENTWOOD—French poet Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words.” On Dec. 1, this statement was backed by three lyricist at Kentwood High Magnet School as they battle rapped during the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center’s, “Dream Big! End It” World Aids Day event.

    Contestants were challenged to develop an artistic piece for their peers that would bring awareness about ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

    More than 200 students filled the Kentwood High School gym anxiously waiting to cheer on their favorite contestant. AIDS Healthcare Foundation Regional Coordinator Sashika Baunchand told students about the startling statistics on HIV/AIDS cases that were just released this month.

    Kentwood High School Battle Rapped winners from left are Corey Moore second place winner Lil' James Gibson third place winner and Cornelius Moore first place winner

    Kentwood High School Battle Rapped winners from left are Corey Moore second place winner Lil’ James Gibson third place winner and Cornelius Moore first place winner

    For example, the Baton Rouge metro area ranks second among major United States metro areas for new HIV infection diagnoses, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

    Comedian Tony King told the youth that these statistics were not being “shared to scare them, but to help them make sound decisions when it comes to things that can ultimately affect their future.”

    “Ending the AIDS epidemic is possible, but only by educating our youth and connecting them with people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services,” said Baunchand.

    The World AIDS Day activities began at the St. Helena College and Career Academy, as gifted and talented art students Shy’Janae Hookfin and Javier Smith unveiled the “Dream Big! End It” social change mural.

    Students at Kentwood High Magnet School gathered during their lunch shift for a Poetry Slam, using word play to encourage their peers to dream big and end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

    Organizers said “Dream Big! End It” means empowering youth in Louisiana, to take a stand for people who may not necessarily be able to stand for themselves.

    “It encourages the students to be a voice of reason when their peers are being pressured into compromising situations. It also opens the door for dialogue with key decision makers in congress when youth dream big to end this crippling epidemic,” said Nicolette Gordon, assistant area youth agent at the SU Ag Center.

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  • ,

    Journalists meet with NYT editor

    The Baton Rouge Area Association of Black Journalist president Michelle McCalope, vice president Gerron Jordan, secretary Gheni Platenburg, secretary, and treasurer Kelli Palmer, along with a dozen members and LSU faculty met with New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Nov. 30, at Louie’s Cafe.

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    Student organizations collect 200 drinks for BR Sickle Cell

    Southern University student organizations, Association of Women Students (AWS) in conjunction with the Alpha Tau Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. held sports drink drive to benefit Baton Rouge Sickle Cell.

    To share the spirit of giving AWS and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. rallied the Jaguar Nation together in support of sickle cell. The end result was collecting nearly two-hundred bottles of sports drinks. During this long event students flocked to the Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union Cotillion Ballroom to leave their contributions. The completion of the drive and the foundations recent participation in a health fair at the university is cultivating new ideas for future partnership.

    “I understand the importance of giving back especially during this time of year. I’m also familiar with the trials of the disease because I know someone who lives with it which contributed to the need for a successful drive. I look forward to helping Baton Rouge Sickle Cell more in the future,” said Harris.

    Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease that affects red blood cells. It changes the cells from flexible disks into rigid crescents. Dehydration is a severe complication of sickle cell disease caused my loss of water in the body. Dehydration can create slow movement in blow flow causing a painful event for a person with sickle cell disease. The Baton Rouge Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, Inc. is a 42-year-old non-profit that provides support and advocacy services to more than 600 individuals living with Sickle Cell Disease in 11 parishes.

    ONLINE: www.brscaf.org
    ###

    Pictured from left to right: Zana Harris President AWS, Lorri Burgess Executive Director Baton Rouge Sickle Cell, Sarah Thanni Vice-President AWS and Dorlissia Robinson Secretary AWS.

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  • ,,

    Black designer lights up General Motors

    If you’re driving down a highway, street or tunnel anywhere in North America and you see the shimmering new headlights on the latest Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC or Buick approaching you, there’s a good chance you’re seeing the work of Martin Davis, a talented, young African American designer who works for General Motors.

    Since 2012, Davis has led the exterior lighting and design studio for the automaker’s North American division, the team responsible for the exterior lighting for every brand under the General Motors’ umbrella.

    Davis traces his love for design and innovation back to elementary school. He didn’t like Hot Wheels and the Lego sets that he owned weren’t intricate enough to hold his attention even at 5 years old. He found that he didn’t like any of the toys sold in the stores, so he started making his own.

    The Detroit-area native started collecting empty cardboard boxes that were used for transporting fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, bring them home and just start cutting. He molded shapes with glue, tape and construction paper. There was a small closet in the entryway of his parents’ house, just big enough for a chair and his creations: interior designs for a car including a dashboard and center console. Then he invited all of his friends over to “test drive” the car. He rolled out a new model about once a month.

    His father, then an employee at Ford Motor Company’s stamping plant in Dearborn, Mich., shut down young Martin’s burgeoning auto operation fearing that letting the neighborhood kids play with cardboard in their closet presented a safety hazard.

    That didn’t stop him from sharing his talent for design with others, including his father’s employer.

    “One day I decided to send my sketches into Ford. I was still in middle school. I found an address to Ford in some magazine and put a few of my drawings in an envelope and put it in the mail,” Davis explained. “I didn’t tell my parents anything.”

    A few months went by, and the young designer began to lose hope and figured that nothing would come of his letter. Then one day after school when he got home, his brother was waving a piece of paper at him.

    “’This guy from Ford called you here’s his number and he wants to call you back,’” Davis recalled his older brother saying.

    So Davis anxiously dialed the number and the Ford employee who answered, thanked him for his interests and told him that he sent the drawings over to the design department, and that someone would get in contact with him.

    He received a follow-up letter from the design department with some career advice and a list of schools.

    The list of schools included his eventual choice. Following the advice that he received from Ford, while still in middle school he set his mind to attending the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in downtown Detroit.

    After he graduated from CCS, he applied to a number of companies. At one point he believed that he would follow in his father’s footsteps at Ford, but despite earlier interest in the middle schooler’s work, he never got an offer from the company.

    But he did get an offer from GM.

    “My time at GM has been amazing,” said Davis. “I couldn’t have imagined it being better.”
    Davis admitted his first day on the job was nerve-racking, and it took him awhile to find his way around the mammoth General Motors complex.

    “I remembered sitting at my desk that first day looking around at all designers thinking, ‘How am I going to compete with all of them?” said Davis.

    But the young designer did compete, gaining confidence with every completed sketch. Davis’ work began to catch eyes of the design managers and they started selecting his sketches among dozens plastered on the 20-foot wall in his studio at GM.

    “The early days were a lot of fun,” said Davis. “There was a freeness. I remember doing sketches for the 2004 Oldsmobile show car, the last show car they did.”

    One of his sketches was selected as the theme sketch for the car. That Oldsmobile show car would be built at the world-famous, now defunct Gruppo Bertone design house in Italy.
    Even though Davis wasn’t selected to join GM designers in Italy, he didn’t sit on the sidelines for long.

    A few months later, as the end of his first year with GM approached, the auto company gave him the opportunity to travel to Birmingham, England to work at an advanced design studio that primarily focused on Cadillacs. There he worked on the Cadillac Cien, a two-seater, mid-engine concept car.

    The assignment, originally scheduled for two months stretched into two years.
    “It was a really great experience to work on such a high-profile concept car,” said Davis.
    After the two-year stint in Birmingham, the Detroit area native worked on a number of production programs, including the GMC Acadia and the auto company’s Cadillac group in China.

    When Davis returned to the United States, company executives were having ongoing discussions about General Motors’ exterior lighting designs compared to some of their competitors.

    Davis said that as the conversations were happening about the direction of the new project wholly-focused on exterior lighting, he jumped at the opportunity and volunteered to do it.
    “It was almost like a huge experiment,” said Davis. “We never had a dedicated, exterior lighting design studio, but we wanted better lights, so we said, “Let’s see how this work.’”

    Davis and his team took on the exterior lighting responsibilities for three well-known “programs”: the GMC Acadia Chevy Traverse and the Buick Enclave. Management immediately recognized how valuable having dedicated focus on lighting could be.

    “Not long after that they made it an official studio and made me the first manager of that studio in 2012,” said Davis. “That was really cool.”

    Davis said that he still loves to draw, but in his current position he’s more like the conductor of an orchestra than an individual musician.

    “I don’t have an instrument. My team has all of the instruments they need and I have to remember that,” said Davis. “Now my job is to make sure that my team knows where each brand is going and understands how to use technology to create a design that is appropriately styled to the character of each vehicle.”

    At first some designers of General Motors other brands were apprehensive about giving up that much control of a central element in the cars overall style, now Davis said all of them want his team’s designs.

    Ed Welburn, General Motors’ vice president of Global Design, praised Davis and his team for their creativity.

    “Martin is doing a phenomenal job,” said Welburn. “Lighting on that [Cadillac CTS] is so striking. It wasn’t too many years ago that every headlight was either round or rectangular. Now lighting is so much a character of the car. It really is the eyes of the vehicle. Our organization is really dependent on Martin.”

    Davis said educators, parents and support groups first have to raise awareness among students of color about opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and then help them to understand that they can also excel in those professions.

    The GM design manager mentors children in the Detroit metro area and recommended that all students get focused at a young age and seek educational and career development programs that can assist them with achieving their goals. Davis added that his presence in the automotive design field shows students, especially students who look like him, that they can also be successful in that field.

    “I think that goes a long way,” he said.

    And Davis has come a long way, too.

    “It almost feels like a dream that I have this responsibility,” said Davis. “You think of [General Motors'] history, this 100-year-old company that’s been making cars forever and now there’s this opportunity to shift focus to another part of the vehicle, a part of the vehicle’s face, the face of each brand. It’s a humbling experience. I really do appreciate the privilege and the opportunity to fulfill this role.”

    By Freddie Allen
    NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

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  • ,,,,

    Quinton Jason turned love of the Web into a life-changing career

    Quinton Jason was first drawn to the instant gratification of coding in a high school computer literacy class. What started as an interest grew to a passion, which eventually led him to graduate with a computer science degree. However, in the years that followed, Quinton drifted away from the industry. Instead, he dabbled in retail work, the food industry, and telemarketing, but continually found himself uninspired and unfulfilled.

    When a position as a customer support technician led Quinton back to the keyboard, he made the decision to return to his original career path and chose the East Baton Rouge Parish Library and Treehouse to help him accomplish that. Before long, Quinton had gained a solid foundation of skills and was ready to embark on a career in the web industry.

    Today, Quinton is the interactive director at Xdesign in Baton Rouge. He has also taken his love for the web one step further by speaking at tech conferences, including Future Insights Live 2015. Quinton is proud of his new career path and is embracing the opportunity to share his knowledge and passion for the industry he’d always dreamed of being a part of.

    Read Faye Bridge’s interview with Quinton on TeamTreehouse.com

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    Scenes from police brutality teach-in

    Groups of community activists from Baton Rouge, New Iberia, and Lafayette gathered at the Unitiarian Church Oct 13 to discuss for a two-day teach-in workshop on police brutality and the Victor White III case. The Justice for Victor White Committee worked directly with the family of Victor White III for a National Week of Action, […]

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  • ,,

    19 farmers graduate from SU ag institute

    Nineteen small farmers from LOUIsiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia,Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas were honored during a graduation ceremony on Friday, Sept. 18 for completing their two-year course of study in the Southern University Ag Center’s Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute.

    The graduation ceremony marked the completion of the Institute’s 10th class.

    United States Department of Agriculture’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Joe Leonard served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony. Leonard praised the SU Ag Center’s administrators and Dawn Mellion-Patin,Ph.D., director of the Institute, for sharing the program with not only the citizens of Louisiana; but the Southern region of the country.

    “This is the best part of my job,” said Leonard, “meeting you all.” Leonard went on to thank the participants for the time they invested
    and encouraged them to continue to learn. “We see you and honor the accomplishments that you have made. We are looking forward to greater accomplishments,” said Leonard.

    The Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute graduates are Decetti Taylor, Tuskegee, AL; Travis Collins, Eudora, AR; Howard Brown,
    Eudora, AR; Alvis Hicks, Pensacola, FL; ShyeastaCullars– Athens, GA; Eric Simpson, West Point, GA; Elmer Miller, Stanford, KY; Ronnie Venson – Boyce, LA; Michael Atkins, Bastrop, LA; Terry Jackson, New Orleans, LA; Valerie Milligan, Jackson, LA; Roberta McKowen – Jackson, LA; Evelyn Jackson, Jackson, LA; Theresa Brewer-Cook, Crystal Spring, MS; Ronald Simmons, Kenansville, NC; Chase Reynolds, Salisbury, NC; Henry Houser, Bowman, SC; John Frazier, Salters, SC; and Jessie Denise Prejean, Hempstead, TX.

    L. Washington Lyons, Ph.D, executive administrator of the Association of Executive Administrators presided over the program. SU Ag Center interim chancellor Adell Brown Jr., Ph.D., provided a welcome and opening remarks and vice chancellor for extension Gina E. Eubanks, Ph.D., provided the program’s closing remarks. The ceremony was also attended by Kevin Norton, Director of Louisiana’s USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Craig McCain, Director of Louisiana’s USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). About the Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute The Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute is a two-year course of study specifically designed
    to guide small, socially disadvantaged, limited resource and/or minority farmers through the transformative process of becoming successful agricultural entrepreneurs.

    The goal of the Institute is to promote the sustainability of small family farms through enhanced business management skills and leadership development. The leadership institute has taken the majority of the participants from being just small producers through the mindset of being great producers with limited acreage, herds or holdings.

    The SU Ag Center is collaborating with the Southern University Law Center, Alcorn State University – Small Farm Development Center, Prairie View A & M University – Cooperative Extension Program and North Carolina A & T State University – Cooperative Extension Program to bring the Institute to the farmers in various locations.

    ONLINE: www.suagcenter.com/small-farmers.
    Photo by Cheryl Ferlygood

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  • ,,,,

    High school students travel to protest Mississippi flag

    Twenty Louisiana Students Traveled to Mississippi to Rally & March over State Flag

    Students from Kentwood High Magnet School and St. Helena College and Career Academy,traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, on October 11 to participate in the One Flag for All Mississippians March and Rally.

    The 20 students were engaged during their civics classes on the importance of letting their voices be heard, and the many ways they can get involved to do so. This sparked their interest in participating in the history making event.

    The march and rally–which attracted more than 200 participants–were organized by local leaders and was led by South Carolina State Representative Jenny Horne, rapper and former Southern University SGA president David Banner, and civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams to show support of Initiative 55, which calls for the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the State of Mississippi’s flag.

    Standing from left on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol during a rally following the One Flag for All March are, South Carolina State Rep. Jenny Horne, civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, rapper David Banner, and Mississippi activist Sharron Brown.

    Standing from left on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol during a rally following the One Flag for All March are, South Carolina State Rep. Jenny Horne, Civil Rights Activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, Former SU SGA President & Rapper David Banner and Sharron Brown.

    The march began at the intersection of J.R. Lynch and Rose Street and ended at the steps on the south side of the Mississippi State Capitol, where the rally lasted from 3:40 p.m. to 5 p.m.

    “We shouldn’t have a flag that represents a bad time in our history,” said Sharron Brown, who proposed Initiative 55 to the Mississippi legislature which would force a constitutional amendment to change the flag. Brown has started collecting signatures for the initiative, and she said she is hoping to see it on the state’s ballot in 2018.

    The students traveled from Baton Rouge with Southern University Ag Center’s assistant area agent Nicolette Gordon, youth coordinator Toni Melton, and St. Helena College & Career Academy’s civics teacher Idella Smith.

    Submitted by the Southern University Ag Center

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    Attorneys say Moore vs. Tangi schools far from over, community needs to act

    Gideon Carter and Nelson Taylor

    Attorney Gideon Carter, NAACP Tangipahoa president Pat Morris, and attorney Nelson Taylor

    HAMMOND—Lead attorney for the ongoing civil rights case against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board Nelson D. Taylor and Gideon T. Carter told parents and community leaders that the case is not over and the courts have not approved the Duncan Plan, although some reports state 0therwise. Parents and leaders gathered at the African American Heritage Museum were concerned about the large number of students transferring to different schools under the Duncan Plan.

    Under the Duncan Plan, 200 white students from North Loranger will be bus to Amite, 300 white students from the Champ Cooper Robert area will be bused to Hammond. Three hundred Black students west of Hammond will be bused to Ponchatoula.

    Sandra Simmons and Angela Baldassasro

    Sandra Simmons and Angela Baldassasro

    Loranger resident Angela Baldassaaro said, “if the school board accepts the Duncan Plan my child will be attending a failing school in Amite. Make Amite schools like Hammond schools I will be glad to send my child to Amite.”

    Residents from the North and South ends of the parish want all schools to be the same. Taylor said racism is alive in Tangipahoa Parish.“Black students are being expelled from school like running water,” he said, “the school board is hostile toward the court appointed compliance officer.”

    “The school board continues to do what they always did. Don’t hire Black teachers and fire the ones they do have. They promise to build three new schools, and they are not building them. There is a power circle in this parish (with) the school board and judges. The Black community needs to take action,” said Taylor. “We are up against some top-notch lawyers. The community needs to raise some funds, because we need to talk to some people, we need depositions and that cost money. Raise funds and manage those funds,” said Taylor.

    By Eddie Ponds
    The Drum Publisher

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    ‘God is the goodest’: Port Allen native releases lighthearted book about Jesus

    One thing 29-year-old Keion Jackson is pretty sure of is that God has a sense of humor. His newly-released book “Because Jesus” was written to show just that.

    “Often when faith is discussed, we forget that joy is a part of God’s personality.  Laughter is one of the greatest gifts he’s given us,” Jackson said. “I wanted to write this book to inspire people in a fun, new way that explores the humorous and lighthearted parts of faith.”

    And even though this Port Allen, La. native is in Kansas City where he’s undoubtedly missing Louisiana staples such as boudin, étouffée and crawfish boils, Jackson is making his mark in the industry as an accomplished writer and author, having published several children’s books.

    “Because Jesus” is filled with small, funny reminders that God’s love is all around. Jackson, who writes for Hallmark, uses simple things most people come into contact with on a daily basis- such weather,

    image

    technology and even food- to show that.

    “He did not come to condemn. One of the many ways God is not like the comment section on YouTube,” one page of the book says.

    “‘Don’t worry- I got this” is pretty much the essence of the whole gospel,” another page reads.

    Jackson’s favorite part of the book, which has received positive reviews, is its accessibility. The playful phrases, colors and imagery on each page make “Because Jesus” a page-turner and instant favorite.

    “I’m not a pastor. I’m not a bishop. I’m not even a deacon. I’m just a regular dude who’s been touched by the love of Christ,” Jackson said.  “It’s cool that I get to share the faith from that point of view. I’m trying to live this thing out according to The Word, and it’s not always easy.”

    “But this book gives me the chance to talk about God’s love and forgiveness in a fun, lighthearted, down-to-Earth kind of way.  That’s really exciting to me,” he added.

    “Because Jesus,” available on Hallmark.com, is the first installment of Jackson’s faith-based collection that will be released in Hallmark Gold Crown stores and online in 2016. The collection will feature items such as mugs, plaques and journals.

    Jackson doesn’t have any inspirational quotes or mottos that he lives by, but simply a Bible verse: Romans 8:28.

    “It’s a reminder that God is working on situations in our lives, even when we can’t see it.  He’s got an eternal viewpoint,” he said. “He’s looking down on us from forever, with a perspective we can’t see from the middle of our situation. This verse is a reminder that—no matter what—things will eventually get back to good.”

    He says that due to social media usage, today’s young people have a strong grasp on the value of individual voice and understand that their perspectives matter. He hopes his work can inspire those wanting to follow in his footsteps.

    “Believing your voice is worthy of being heard is a big part of being a writer.  But it’s not enough.  Young writers must pair that with education.  Learn the craft.  Learn structure.  Learn literary devices,” he said.

    Jackson is Clark Atlanta University graduate who enjoys filmmaking, volunteering and watching TV in his spare time. Fans can expect more books from him in the near future. If he gets his way, some of them will be about his home state and the teenage condition- always with extra doses of humor and optimism.

    “Life is interesting; there’s a story everywhere you look,” Jackson said.

    By Anastasia Semien
    Jozef Syndicate

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    Car Review: Lexus GS 350 F Sport

    HOUSTON – After more than a week, it felt like we drove the Lexus GS 350 F Sport sedan through every one of the 600 square miles that comprise this city. And we only found a few irks to complain about.

    Actually, we drove the Lexus GS 350 F Sport to New Orleans and back here. After 10 days and almost 1,000 miles, we came away with a healthy respect for the road worthiness of the midsize luxury sedan.

    Except for going over some rather spacious expansion joints on the causeways that slice through southern Louisiana, not once did any road noise make its way into the cabin.

    Although the Lexus GS F Sport has an available rear-wheel-biased all-wheel-drive system, how often are you going to get inclement weather beyond heavy rain in this region? Anyway, that is a long-winded way of saying that we had a rear-wheel-drive model of the F Sport and it was just fine.

    Still, the car had what Lexus called an adaptable variable suspension that came with its sport package. Settings were normal, sport, sport +, eco and snow. Even though regional gas prices ranged from $2.47 to $2.62, they were cheaper with cash, we set the car in Eco mode because of the distances involved on the trip.

    That mode set throttle mapping and seat heating and climate control systems for optimal fuel economy. In ECO mode, the instrument meter lighting changed to blue. But the sport package is more than an extra setting, sport +, in the drive mode selector. We had a full tank of fuel when we left, we filled the tank again once we arrived and we filled it once more for the return trip.

    The visit to New Orleans included a side trip to Hammond, just North of Lake Pontchartrain, and the place we gassed up the second time.

    Our test car had an EPA rating of 19 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. Considering the 1,000 miles we drove, it was relatively easy on fuel.

    The sport package was comprised of chassis enhancements, a sport tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, larger front brakes that were appreciated with all the sudden slowdowns from Interstate speeds because of traffic congestion and high friction brake pads. Our test car also had lane keep assist and a rearview camera.

    Of course there were firmer springs, thicker stabilizer bars and special bushings.
    Although our test car was not equipped with it, the Lexus GS 350 F Sport has available dynamic rear steer that can add up to two degrees of rear wheel turn that enhances cornering and lane changes.

    No matter whether we were traveling at 80 mph or 8 mph, our 3.5-liter engine performed flawlessly. It generated 308 horsepower, 277 pound-feet of torque and it was mated to an eight-speed transmission. There was no herking or jerking, no searching for the correct gear and the car accelerated swiftly when needed.

    We thought the side view mirrors could have been shaped differently; they didn’t provide a wide enough view of what was on the side of the car. But the blind spot alert system made up for that lack. And in an age of portable electronic gadgets, we thought the car could have used more than one USB jack.

    However, these gripes were mere inconveniences that were more than offset by the driver experience of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport. Our test car was swathed with a black perforated leather interior. The front seats were heated as well as cooled and the driver’s seat was 18-way power. Aluminum pedals and brushed aluminum trim completed the interior’s sport motif.
    The car featured Lexus’ 12.3 inch dual information screen. We spent a lot of time in navigation mode and that gets us to our third quibble. The navigation system will not mute the audio system when giving directions to the driver. A moderate decibel level when playing the radio will drown out the directions being giving by the voice of the navigation system. Yes, there is a map with a designated route but you can miss those directions as well, if your eyes are on the road where they are supposed to be.

    Still, the system had predictive traffic information that included detour preview, ETA calculation and low-fuel coordination with available fuel stations. We didn’t avail ourselves of the traffic information in the navigation system and ended up getting it off the traffic app in the Enform App Suite.
    Either or, this trips marks the last time will travel back to Houston from the Big Easy on the Sunday after Turkey Day. The traffic was as thick as molasses in some places.
    The information system had the usual compliment of stuff: Bluetooth, satellite radio, media capability, meaning it would and did play stations off the Pandora app on our smartphone and there were voice controls.

    Other equipment on the Lexus GS 350 F Sport included adaptive cruise control, land departure warning, pre-collision warning, a 17-speaker 835-watt premium audio system, a rearview camera and folding side mirrors.
    Our Lexus GS 350 F Sport was a quality midsize sedan in one of the most competitive segments of the luxury market. The car had a base price of $47,700. Add options that included the sport package and a $910 freight charge and the final tab was $60,784.


    By Frank S. Washington
    AboutThatCar.com.

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    Southern University campuses boast ‘significant’ freshman class

    SU System overall fall enrollment up

    Targeted recruitment campaigns, an innovative alumni enrollment initiative, and creative recruitment strategies helped boost Fall 2015 enrollment for the Southern University System, said university officials in a news release.

    Overall enrollment for the SU System increased by 490 students (12,884), nearly four percent.

    Enrollment numbers show the overall enrollment for the SU System flagship campus in Baton Rouge increased by more than 200 students over the previous year.

    The freshman class enrollment increased by 31 percent. A breakdown of the Southern University Baton Rouge (SUBR) enrollment data indicates 6,389 students with 1,210 new freshmen.

    “These figures are encouraging for a number of reasons. First, they signify the much-anticipated news that Southern University’s enrollment woes have bottomed out and that we are entering a new era of modest, yet consistent, enrollment growth. I am confident that 2015 marks the beginning of a new chapter in this institution’s history. Second, our enrollment increases will infuse more general fund and auxiliary dollars into the Baton Rouge campus to support academic instruction, research, student support services, and campus life programs,” said SU System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton.

    Last year, the Baton Rouge campus began a recruiting campaign, “Pathway to Prominence,” that directly correlated to an influx of applications for admission. Campaign tour stops in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Texas allowed students to hear from University administrators and student government leaders, as well as hear and see the SU Jaguar Marching Band and cheerleaders perform.

    The SU National Alumni Federation and the SU Foundation provided critical support for the SUBR Office of Admissions to hire three additional recruiters that are housed in Illinois, Georgia, and Texas.

    “This year’s success is the result of the shared effort of Jaguars across the country. Southern University is witnessing the first significant enrollment gain in nearly a decade. Despite my satisfaction regarding our student count, it is what we cannot count that means the most to me. We will never be able to count the hours that students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners contributed to realizing this goal,” said Brandon K. Dumas, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, SUBR.

    The SU Baton Rouge fall freshmen class comes from 30 states and the District of Columbia. The top five states are Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, and Florida. The top five declared majors include nursing, business management, criminal justice, biology, and mechanical engineering.

    Southern University Shreveport’s (SUSLA) enrollment count for Fall 2015 is 3,174, compared to 2,952 last year, constituting a 7.1 percent increase in enrollment.

    Recruitment efforts at the Shreveport campus also combine both traditional and new protocols. “Southern Sundays have proven to be beneficial,” said SUSLA enrollment management director Terrence Vinson.

    The Southern Sundays initiative involves administrators, faculty, staff, and students attending local and regional churches to disseminate information about enrollment opportunities at SUSLA. Additionally, SUSLA has targeted recruitment of HiSet graduates. HiSet students are those students who have successfully completed the Educational Testing Service HISET® exam, the new alternative to the GED® test, which allows them to have a state-issued high school equivalency credential. 

    Southern University New Orleans (SUNO) fall enrollment stands at 2,704, compared to 2,674 for Fall 2014.

    The 2,704 students include 210 first-time freshmen, a 45 percent increase from the Fall 2014 figure of 145. With the addition of 206 students enrolled at SUNO in a joint-program with SUSLA, close to 3,000 students are currently taking classes on both SUNO’s Park and Lake campuses.

    “I am happy to report that we met our enrollment goals this year,” said SUNO Chancellor Victor Ukpolo. “The increase is the result of the hard work demonstrated by our faculty, staff, and administrators to provide the best educational environment for incoming students.”

    Bucking the trend of declining enrollment for law schools across the country, the Southern University Law Center (SULC) enrollment for Fall 2015 is 617, up by 37 students.

    SULC Interim Chancellor John Pierre said the Law Center has implemented a number of strategies and programs for prospective students, to try to get them in the door.

    “One important item the Law Center is emphasizing to prospective students is cost and value,” said Pierre. “Nationally, Southern still has one of the lowest tuition rates, but with an exceptional legal program for students that offers an experience that most other law schools can’t compete with.”

    In addition to touting the value of their programs, SULC is offering enrollment options that will allow students greater flexibility and time to complete their degrees. One particular option is the part-time, day and evening program.

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    La. NAACP denounces racist overtones in Secretary of State’s race

    Leaders of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP have taken up issue with LA Secretary of State Tom Schedler following several blog and social media posts on Schedler’s campaign website that the organization and others said are racist and troubling. NAACP state president Ernest Johnson sent this letter to Schedler and NAACP members:

    The last place Louisianans want or expect to see racist overtones and the denial of the history of voter suppression is in a race for Secretary of State- the official who is responsible for overseeing fair and impartial elections.

    We are concerned that this scenario is playing out in the campaign of Tom Schedler, our current Secretary of State. First, an article on Mr. Schedler’s website titled “We Now Have a Campaign Issue in the Secretary of State Race” takes pains to point out that Chris Tyson is a “Black Democrat” who should not be taken seriously in running against a “Republican incumbent.”

    In a separate and even more troubling article,“Tom Schedler Reflecting on the Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act”, Schedler defies logic by asserting a commitment “to the spirit of the Voting Rights Act WITHOUT the need for Federal oversight and intrusion.” 

    As recent events with the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, Bogalusa City Council, and West Feliciana Parish Council clearly show, without federal oversight, Louisiana will revert to voter suppression tactics clearly designed to destroy representative government.

    The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP is calling upon Schedler, the top elections official in this state, to curb this divisive rhetoric and to focus on legitimate issues of the campaign- that is, focus on an inclusive process that maximizes voter participation.

    Ernest L. Johnson, Esq. President

    Read more »
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    Don’t call her a champion!

    Call Colette Greggs a hero or a champion and she would snap back “no I’m not!” She also doesn’t want to be called a healer, a life giver, or a living donor.

    But the truth is Colette Greggs is all of that.

    The moment she entered Oschner’s Medical Center after having donated her kidney to Muriel Haysbert, who has suffered with lupus for a decade, Greggs became one of 6,000 living donors who will give an organ this year.

    She also became Haysbert’s hero even though Greggs refuses to accept the label. “I am so blessed. God used her as a vessel to return my life (and) to give me a quality of life that I wanted.”   Read entire story.

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  • ,,

    Woman to Watch: Blair Imani Brown

    Last year, when hundreds of students gathered at LSU by candlelight in response to the Mike Brown indictment decision, it was the organizing work of Blair Imani Brown and Peter Jenkins. The event became the catalyst for the group now known as Baton Rouge Organizing, and Brown, Shamaka Schumake, Majdal Ismail, Zandashé Brown, Aryanna Prasad, and Leonela Guzman became co-founders. Soon after, they organized a Die In on LSU’s campus, an #ICantBreathe A Rally for Eric Garner on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol, a rally for Victor White III, a Google Hangout about Freddie Gray, while providing support for events outside of Baton Rouge including a Die In and Solidarity March in Lafayette. They have also organized to push for animal rights and push against homophobia and sexism.

    But those efforts at social justice only seem to reveal the tip of Brown’s passion for equality, giving meaning to the work she has begun around human rights. The budding lawyer said she’s learned how important it is to change policies. “I’m a nerd about the civil rights movement,” she said. “I’m enchanted by it and it’s transferred into an urgency to be part of changing how we think of things through law. The push right now is education because (we) don’t have the ability to initiate public policy.”

    At 21 years old, Brown has stepped up to address the daunting, and often times risky, challenge of fighting for equal rights and fair treatment of all humans. Her demands have lead to her being threatened by email, followed to her apartment, and called a N*gr B. They have also lead to changes at LSU. For one, Brown was able to have the Odell S. Williams African American Museum included on in the Department of History’s internship program.

    “When I found out about the museum was not a part of the program, I was confused and I spoke to professor… What kind of failure of the institution is this?” she said with a laugh. “But I believe it was just miseducation and they sincerely did not know and were not overlooking. It was important that they acknowledged it and willingly corrected it.” Now the university can introduce students to the city’s only public museum dedicated to Black history.

    Through Baton Rouge Organizing, Brown and the other leaders galvanized students to push the LSU police department to change how it identifies suspects on the campus wide alert system. The police would announce that the suspect was a “Black male wearing a hood” and the group used that in a 15-person demonstration on the campus where they wore hoodies and held up signs that stated “He fit the description.” The demonstration included students and the university’s director of diversity. They also sent a letter to the LSU PD requesting that they “respond responsibly”.

    “(We used a) combination of the wide spread social media presence and main stream media and LSU media,” Brown said, “It was something that couldn’t be ignored.” The system now offers more detailed descriptions on campus alerts.

    “Education is the best vehicle for awareness and change,” she said. As her awareness of injustices increased, Brown said she began noticing that the women around the world had similar experiences, “I founded Equality for HER a women’s empowerment organization dedicated to bring awareness to women’s health, education, and rights…and to address the intersections of one’s identities that constitute their being.”

    She has been able to work with women as far away as Latin America, Egypt, and Lagos.

    “I feel that too often we are made to choose one part of identity in order to join a given group. For example there’s often a narrative that I must divorce my heritage as a Black person in order to “focus” on women’s rights or conversely remove my identity as a women in order to work on LGBTQ or minority rights. While this narrative is unfortunately very prominent, I think I have proved it to be false.”

    For that, Blair Brown is a Woman to Watch.
    image

    Blair Imani Brown, 21
    LSU Student
    Founder and President, Equality for HER
    Co-Founder, Baton Rouge Organizing

    Hometown: Pasadena, CA

    Moves made: In January 2014, As I began my efforts with Equality for HER, I simultaneously worked as the assistant organizer of the Louisiana Queer Conference in 2014 with student activist Michael Beyer…I developed an intersectional presentation on dating violence. I was able to do a few presentations at Louisiana State University, develop a web module about Breaking the Cycle on EqualityforHER.com, and provide commentary about Louisiana’s issues with domestic violence for media outlets…After the decision was announced not to indict the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, Peter Jenkins and I used social media to bring the Baton Rouge Community together for a candlelight vigil in less than 24 hours. The Baton Rouge Organizing Facebook group turned into an amazing phenomenon. With Equality for HER, we have just finished our Women’s History Month features where in we feature a variety of multicultural women achievers that have made contributions to our society. However, perhaps the most inspirational endeavor I have been a part of is the work with the family of Victor White III…and getting a petition circulating on Change.org urging the New Iberia coroner to change the cause of death from suicide to homicide. This petition was delivered (to the coroner’s office) on the anniversary of Victor White Iasi’s death. More than a year after his mysterious death we still await justice for Victor White III.

    What to expect from you: This year began with all eyes on Baton Rouge Organizing. We have been able to initiate, sponsor, and promote various protests around many issues. We have held rallies, demonstrations about racial profiling, vigils for “Our Three Winners” Deah, Yusor, and Razan who were victims of Islamophobia. Shortly after the (Victor White III) petition’s delivery, I visited Howard University Law School, and I made the decision to attend there in the fall…Working with Rev. Victor White Sr. and his family has further encouraged me to pursue a legal career, so that much like Attorney Marilyn Mosby, I can be apart of the systematic change required to root out the racism and corruption within the court system…I continue to organize events surrounding social justice issues.

    What music are you dancing to? Anything from Motown Records. I love the empowering message of the protest songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s. I have also found a renewed appreciation for the rap music of the ‘90s.

    What are you reading? “Death of a King” by Tavis Smiley

    Mentors and Role Models: My mother, Kristina Brown, she has taught me strength and resilience. My father, DeWalt Brown, is someone who I also admire because of his commitment to social justice and belief in humanity. The person who I both identify with and aspire to emulate is Attorney General Kamala Harris. I also look up to Representative John Lewis, Dr. Terrence Roberts, and Melissa Harris Perry.

    Personal Resolution: My personal resolution for 2015 is to find a balance between my efforts in social activism and my academic career. I have resolved to take on less projects while cultivating leadership skills in my peers. I have also become committed to being an advocate of causes that I may not directly identify with. I have recently converted to Islam and getting closer to God has given me a lot more strength and helps me give up my fears and worries to him.

    Company Resolution: With Equality for HER, we will be transitioning the brand under the leadership of Sophia Herzog as we work in collaboration while I am starting my first year of law school.

    Life motto: To create and implement change and to advocate for all marginalized people.

    Where to find you online? www.BlairB.com or on LinkedIn.

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    SUS Million Dollar March kicks off

    The Southern University System Foundation kicked-off its second annual Million Dollar March campaign July 23, 2015, at the Donald C. Wade House on the Southern University Baton Rouge campus.

    The 90-day viral campaign endeavors to bring campaign volunteers and the business community together via email, text, and social media posts in effort to secure philanthropic contributions to support the five campuses of the Southern University System.

    Southern University System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton Ph.D. said, “I am overwhelmed to have the opportunity to be in the midst of the Southern University supporters who give unselfishly of themselves to the Million Dollar March, and I am excited to be among those who make sure the University has the infrastructure to support the goals and aspirations of the Southern University System.”

    SUSF Foundation Board Chairman Domoine D. Rutledge said the success of the Million Dollar March means the University will continue to grow and remain stable. Rutledge reminded the audience that, “as we work for Southern we must remember that we are remnants of the legacy of Southern and with that comes the great obligation to stand and confront the challenges and overcome those challenges to embrace the future of our University.”

    Agricultural sciences and animal science major, Robert Easly Jr. echoed the sentiments of Rutledge, as he stated his experiences as a SU student and his gratitude to the SUSF donors who support students like him. SU student Robert Easly Jr. The Opelousas native is a testament of the positive impact of philanthropy, and says that he is proud to serve his University as a SUSF Jag Talker. “As a first-generation college student, I was afraid of the challenge I was about to face. Today, I can say that Southern University not only paved the path that led me to my highest potential, but also did the same for countless of other students. I learned about resilience, tradition, and pride. Most importantly, I learned that the true purpose of living is to take what you have received and give it back,” said Easly.

    Last year, the MDM generated $1.2 million in cash. That success stemmed from the dedication of volunteers who contributed their time and loyalty to the cause to support SU. “People give to people for good causes, and the success of the Million Dollar March will be based on the work that we do as volunteers,” said Alfred E. Harrell III, chief executive officer for the SUSF. Harrell adds that, “The impact of that success can be seen from the work of the SU family.”
    SUSF Chief Executive Officer Alfred E. Harrell III

    The MDM Campaign will end on October 1, 2015, with a one-day giving blitz. The amount raised will be announced on Saturday, October 17, 2015, during the homecoming football game halftime show.

    The Mission of the Southern University System Foundation is to promote the educational and cultural welfare of the SU System by generating annual reoccurring financial support for its five campuses.

    ONLINE: milliondollarmarch for more details.

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    Woman to Watch: Erika Green

    Erika Green prides herself on hanging her shingle out fairly quickly as a lawyer, community activist, and juvenile justice advocate, but she still faces the daunting challenge of balancing a burning desire for community and the demands of private practice.

    “I intentionally try to provide as many resources, programs, and events to my community (in) the north Baton Rouge area,” she said. In fact, Green has led thousands of participants for the MLK Day of Service, BREC’s Black History Program, and political forums.  “I use each organization I am in to promote inclusion and encourage youth. I think that’s the hard part of my life—juggling speaking engagements, community organizing and full time business.”

    After sitting under great mentors and working in two law offices while she was a student at Belaire High school and Southern University Law Center, Green credits her abilities as a successful lawyer and organizer to the consistent training she received throughout her time at Southern.

    She has volunteered in private law firms, the East Baton Rouge Public Defenders Office and gained a strong connection with Juvenile Court. She is a board member of  Gloryland Educational Resource Center, The Butterfly Society, LLC. (A domestic violence nonprofit), and JK Haynes Charter Schools.

    She can be seen actively advocating for justice and equality of services for residents. “I love the city and that’s why I do what I do,” Green said.

    The Baton Rouge native is a family lawyer who doesn’t back down from high-profile criminal juvenile cases or hot-button issues.  For that, she is a Woman to Watch.

    Meet Erika Green, 30:

    Juvenile Criminal Conflict Attorney for the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court, family law attorney at the Office of Erika Green, LLC, and Child in Need of Care Attorney with Southeast Legal Services.

    Moves made: Recipient of the Daniel Ellis Byrd Community Service Award by the Louisiana State NAACP Conference; chaired the 3rd Annual MLK Day of Service with more than 1,500 volunteers in the Scotlandville area; organized a high school lecture series on racial profiling, voting, conflict resolution, and the juvenile justice system along with the NAACP Baton Rouge Branch

    What to expect in 2015: Continuing to be an advocate for children in the juvenile system; connecting the North Baton Rouge Community with more programs and services; and co-chairing a city-wide Black Lives Matter Summit Baton Rouge Delta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. on August 22.

    Personal resolution: To use my position—whether it is as an officer in an organization, committee member, or board member—to help produce tangible results and programming that will ultimately effectuate change in this city.

    Life/business motto: “Passion Drives Greatness”

    Business resolution: I desire to grow the consulting portion of my business for nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and do more speaking engagements especially to young people.

    Role Models: Stephanie Brown James. She is young, tapped into community needs and issues, and committed to empowering young women.

    What are you dancing to? Mali Music “Yahweh”; and India Arie “Just Do You”

    What are you reading? “Hard Choices” by Hillary Clinton and “Black Robes, White Justice” by Bruce Wright

    Online: www.eglawoffice.net

     

    Read more »
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    Attorney announces candidacy at demolished hospital

    Jordan seeks to represent Dist. 29

    Using the partially demolished LSU Earl K Long Hospital as his backdrop on yesterday (July 15), Brusly attorney Edmond Jordan announced  his candidacy for the Louisiana House District 29.

    “I will fight to balance the disproportionate economic disparity between north and south Baton Rouge….We need to bring businesses to District 29 and help rejuvenate this district,” Jordan told the small gathering of supporters.

    “If we do things the way that they’ve always been done, then things will remain the way that they’ve always been… It’s time to change what we’ve been doing. Let’s work together to stop the decline in the quality of life for the citizens of Louisiana,” Jordan told the small gathering of supporters.

    image

    Edmond Jordan

    State Representative Regina Ashford Barrow has termed out of the District 29 seat after having represented the area since 2005.

    For Jordan this is an opportunity for meaningful change.

    He said an individual who knows how to fight for the best interest of people should hold the office of State Representative.

    “The time is now to elect such an individual. I am that individual,” he said.

    Jordan said he will travel throughout the district, which covers a portion of North Baton Rouge through West Baton Rouge, and reach “like-minded citizens searching for strong, responsible and inspirational servant leadership” for the district.

    A life-long resident of Brusly, La., Edmond Jordan is a graduate of Brusly High School, Southern University A&M College and the Southern University Law Center.  Jordan has been an attorney for 17 years, representing the Louisiana Public Service Commission, LDEQ, and the United States Department of Homeland Security.  Additionally, he a co-owner of Cypress Insurance Agency in Baton Rouge, LA. 

    He currently serves as director/trustee on the boards of Essential Federal Credit Union, South Louisiana Charter Foundation and Capitol City Family Health Center.

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    Family walks and 3,100 petition for justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    COMMENTARY: When different is the same in EBR schools

    Our Schools Our Excellence, an initiative of MetroMorphosis, which the Rev. Raymond Jetson created in Baton Rouge, is a great example of a different approach to addressing the educational needs of our children. The initiative was founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education.

    Sadly, every child is not getting an excellent education. Students within the same school districts-even students in the same building-are not receiving an excellent education. This is especially the case in magnet and charter schools in districts where many of the traditional public schools are considered “failing.”

    In the East Baton Rouge School District, most of the majority minority schools in North Baton Rouge are considered failing. At the same time, new charter schools are cropping up across the parish. There is a highly sought after magnet school, Baton Rouge Magnet High School, in the district that is popular, in part, because of the many advanced placement course offerings. The school is 38 percent White and about 43 percent Black. About 34% of students receive free or reduced lunch. The school district is about 45 precent Black and over 80 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunch as if October 2014, before recent changes making all students in the district eligible.

    Another magnet school, Lee High Magnet School, which is in year two of transiting from a failed traditional public school to a magnet school, is increasing in popularity because of a focus on science, engineering, and math, and dual enrollment courses with the state’s flagship institution, among other reasons. Traditional public schools either offer no such classes or dual enrollment classes with Baton Rouge Community College.

    As Lee High Magnet continues to transition, many minority students who survived the turbulent first year may get to the mountain top, but seeing the promised land is doubtful. They are in a “different” situation than many in their cohort who were ill-prepared to maintain the required grade point average and were ultimately sentenced to serving out the remainder of their high school careers in failing neighborhood schools. The students who survived will not have access to all the promised technological changes, internships, additional course offerings, etc. as these will be phased in for new cohorts. For example, new cohorts are scheduled to enjoy Chrome Books with e-versions of all required textbooks and older cohorts will continue to haul around heavy and costly textbooks in new aged buildings that don’t have lockers or desks where books can be stored.

    EBR schools are not alone in these regards. Administrators of magnet and charter schools in districts with “failing” schools across the country apparently read from the same script, which requires the repeated use of the term, “different.” Magnet and charter schools, the administrators often contend, will have “different” curriculum, or produce “different” results, when compared with traditional public schools, when in fact, many of these schools represent more of the “same.”

    The schools represent the perpetuation of an unjust system that privileges some people, and is at the same time a continued source of misery and despair for others, especially people of color and the poor. The celebration of “difference” is in many ways an indictment of the quality of education available to communities of color and the poor. It is also an acknowledgement of the existence of a two-tiered system, which prepares some for success and citizenship while simultaneously reminding others of their place in a social institution, and in the broader society, that perpetuates inequality all the while extolling the virtues of fairness and justice.

    It’s time to take off the blindfolds and throw out the pacifier that is privilege.

    According to these administrators of choice schools, considered by some the mouthpieces of a misguided movement to use public schools as a profit generating machine, parents with children in their schools should feel grateful that their children have the opportunity to enjoy a “different” academic experience. On the contrary, parents, community leaders, school administrators, teachers, elected officials, etc. everywhere should all feel the “same” moral outrage. Our Schools Our Excellence got it right. “Every” child deserves an excellent education and no one should turn a blind eye to the injustices that are preventing the initiative’s rallying cry from becoming a reality.

    Lori Martin, Ph.D.

    Lori Martin, Ph.D.

    By Lori Latrice Martin
    Guest Columnist


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

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    Woman to Watch: Angela Myles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ONLINE: Rockets to the Rescue featuring Angela Myles.

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    Does the education of Black children matter in Tangipahoa?

    The Fight Continues: 50th Years of Moore v. TPSB

    The fight to ensure equality for all children and employees in the school has extended through its fiftieth year. On May 3, 2015, the lawsuit filed by M.C Moore against the Tangipahoa Parish School System turned fifty with no resolution to the desegregation suit. The lawsuit was initially filed on behalf of his daughter, Fannie Moore, who was disenfranchised and not given an opportunity to receive an equitable and fair education, which is guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The name of this case was later changed to Joyce Marie Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School System, and was named after his younger daughter, thus becoming a Class Action Lawsuit with the plaintiffs being the class of Black parents and their children in Tangipahoa.

    Fifty years later, the question remains whether or not education in the lives of Black children matter. The answer is emphatically, yes it does, because the fight continues for equity in this school system. Unfortunately, there is very little resolve towards settling this decades old desegregation lawsuit.

    Moreover, many are keen to talk about or write pieces about what happens or does not happen in the public school system in Tangipahoa Parish. Consequently, I process and attempt to find balance with personal ties to the conflicts in Tangipahoa Parish race relations and injustices found in our school system that have had my attention for decades now.

    As we begin to reflect on the importance of this lawsuit, we think of the lawsuit being filed in 1965. As a result of this filing, Mr. Moore was ostracized. For instance, he and his family were threatened, and his livelihood and means of providing for his family were taken away through his logging business being sabotaged, which resulted in his having to bake cakes to sell to provide for his family. Men guarded his home at night after his home was shot into early one morning. His wife heroically crawled through grass and weeds to a neighbor’s home to call the police because their telephone lines were cut on the outside of their home. Those bullet holes remain in Mr. Moore’s home to this very day. Despite having his life threatened and his livelihood compromised, Mr. Moore pressed on. Thank you, Mr. Moore, for your courage and tenacity in ensuring equality for African-

    American children, and ultimately all children.

    After this case was filed and opened in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, with the late Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin as the presiding judge, the Tangipahoa Parish School System was forced to integrate its public schools in 1969. Judge Rubin ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating, in pertinent part, that the Tangipahoa Parish School System was segregated and did not provide equitable educational access to African-American students. As a result, the school board was ordered to reinstate the jobs of all terminated African-American employees as one of the wrongs the Tangipahoa Parish School System committed following forced integration in 1969.

    The plaintiffs’ case was led by Attorney Nelson Dan Taylor, Sr., who is now the Lead Attorney in the Moore Case. This case was Attorney Taylor’s first case as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund.

    Unfortunately, the school system did not comply with Judge Rubin’s order, and the case became dormant following Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin’s untimely death.

    The case was later reopened in 2007 at the urging of the Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP because of numerous complaints of the school system’s wronging of African-American children and African American employees. Evidence was provided to prove that the same segregated conditions still exist in Tangipahoa Parish School System. The test case used to reopen the M.C. Moore desegregation case was the case of Coach Alden Foster, who became the first African-American head high school football coach hired in Tangipahoa Parish. Coach John Williams was reportedly the first African-American head high school football coach in Tangipahoa Parish. However, after speaking to several others, including Coach Williams, we discovered that he was not given the position of head football coach at Hammond High School in Hammond, La., despite being appointed by Judge Rubin. Instead, Coach Carmen Moore, a white coach, was named as the head football coach at Hammond High.

    The discourse of this article is too long to write all of what has happened over the past fifty years in the Moore Case, however, a Master Thesis done by Dr. Wayne Brumfield is found in the Southeastern Louisiana University public library.

    As we commemorate the lawsuit’s fiftieth anniversary, let us remember to thank God for the stamina of Mr. Moore, his trials endured, and triumphs he and others made for every child attending school in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Let us be mindful, as well as thankful for all of the accomplishments seen and unseen in this case having been reopened, because without such, sitting conservative judges would have dismissed this case due to its inactivity.

    While there are some 36 unopened desegregation cases, let us be mindful that the M.C. Moore lawsuit has set a precedent for subsequent desegregation cases. As President of the GTPB NAACP, and as I walk in the shoes of the late Mr. M.C. Moore, I feel his pain many times, and my heart breaks as I continue to witness the disenfranchisement of African-American children in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Despite the many wrongs of this school system, I am reminded by Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not given to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor the bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.” With these words in mind, the fight for equality will not end, and it cannot until “justice rolls down like a mighty stream” for every student and employee in this school system. There can be no other way, and no person will be left behind.

    Patricia Morris
    NAACP Tangipahoa Branch President
    Ponchatoula

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    Woman to Watch: Lue Russell

    Lue Russell, Th.D., is a passionate lionhearted woman. As chapter chairwoman of the National Congress of Black Women and state organizer with the PICO National Network, Russell fights for equality, justice, and change within the Black community throughout in Louisiana.  She is also the pastor and executive overseer of ministry fellowship at Hearts of Fire Ministry in Hammond, La.

    Born in Tunica, La., Russell attended Xavier University and Trinity Christian University.  Beyond her formal studies is the conviction she has to help her community grow. 

    “It is not even as simple as ‘I want to be a leading voice.’ It is not and never was my desire. I’d much rather simply be home and be my husband’s wife and my children’s mother, but . . . I am a minister of the gospel and have been called to an assignment and I am answering my call. God has a way of taking you places you can’t even imagine, and he prepares you. He does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” 

    Russell said she finds her joy in answering her call to help the Black community. This has allowed her to create initiatives to meet the needs of her community, and to hold leadership positions in several national as well as local programs. For that, she is a Woman to Watch.

    Meet Apostle Lue Russell, Th.D., 56.  (Read “Called to Fight, serve, and minister” by Hailey Zamora)

    Professional title: Chapter chairwoman, National Congress of Black Women, Greater Baton Rouge Region Chapter, state organizer, The Micah Project/PICO National Network, and founder, Hearts of Fire Ministries and  Hearts of Fire Five Fold Fellowship Alliance where I serve as chairman of the Board.
           
    What music are you dancing to? “God is on Your Side” by Leandria Johnson and Mississippi Mass Choir.  I love Gospel and ‘60s Soul music.  

    What are you reading? The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Fit for YOUR Assignment by Reina Olmeda

    Mentors or Role Models: Dr. E. Faye Williams, Prophetess Debra Morton

    Moves made : Appointed statewide Organizer for Micah Project and PICO National Network working to organize people of faith around social issues that affect families of color in Louisiana particularly childhood obesity and mass incarceration.  

    Appointed Host Committee Chairwoman, for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and was instrumental in securing this Conference to be held in Baton Rouge July 23-26, 2015.

    Organized and structured the Greater Baton Rouge Region Chapter of the National Congress of Black Women

    Organized, coordinated and hosted a Summit on the State of Families of Color in Louisiana at Southern University Feb 27, 2015.  Work began in 2014 including the commission and oversight of a study by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Southern University that verified the structured injustice and deep rooted racist inequalities that drives many of the problems in communities of color.  The Summit was called to develop solutions to the problems the study revealed.

    What to expect from you: I will be working to organize a Clergy Table of Leaders that will serve as the voice of the people of Baton Rouge as we prepare to address unjust public policy and laws that govern mass incarceration in this state.  At the same time I will be working to mobilize congregations and pastors to work with their members and community to prepare them to vote by assuring they are registered, trained on how to vote and then transport them to voting polls.  Teaching as many as we can reach the necessity of voting that we can build power across this state.

    Will continue my work with the National Congress of Black Women to move forward in serving Black women and their children by removing or addressing barriers that prevent families of color from doing well.  Our focus is to assure that all communities of Louisiana have healthy children and thriving families.

    Celebrating my 10-year pastoral anniversary May 31, 2015.

    Personal Resolution: My personal resolution is to continue to march for justice, to love and enjoy family and friends as much as possible and to stand with my husband, Rev. Terry Russell, in our ministry and works across the state.  To spend as much time as possible with my two daughters, an attorney and a network administrator.

    Business/Company Resolution :
    To build our Chapter of the National Congress of Black Women to be one of the most impactful and active chapters in the country.  To create a movement for justice as I work to organize faith leaders across the state and to reach souls for Christ through our ministry, Hearts of Fire!

    Life/business motto: Success is to be measured not so much by what one has attained in life as to the obstacles he has had to overcome while trying to succeed recognizing that only what you do for Christ shall last.

    Where to find you online?
    Dr. Lue Russell on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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    Woman to Watch: Sevetri M. Wilson

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

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

    image

    Sevetri Wilson

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

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

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

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

    Professional title: CEO, Solid Ground Innovations, LLC

    Hometown: Hammond, LA

    Resident: Dual Residency in Baton Rouge and New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Woman to Watch: Alma C. Stewart

    With the Louisiana Legislative session in active mode, this health care advocate is busy mobilizing Louisiana citizens and elected officials around all health equity issues from funding the Affordable Health Care Act, expanding Medicaid, and improving citizen’s access to health services.

    When Louisiana legislators in both the House and Senate Health and Wellness committees voted against two bills that would expand Louisiana’s Medicaid program so the working poor could get government-funded health insurance, Alma C. Stewart was there along with several hundred other advocates.

    In fact, if there is a conversation on state or national health care policies, Alma Stewart, is in the room or leading the discussion. For that, she is a Woman to Watch.

    Meet Alma C. Stewart
    Age: A Baby Boomer.

    Professional title: President and Founder of Louisiana Center for Health Equity and talk show host of “Today’s Health Topics” (which airs on WTQT 106.1FM every Monday at 7pm). I am also the CEO and owner of A. Charles Stewart Consultants.

    Organization: Louisiana Center for Health Equity
    The Louisiana Center for Health Equity works to address the increasing disparities in health and health care across Louisiana. A statewide nonpartisan, nonprofit IRS 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt, organization established in January 2010, LCHE is the only statewide non-profit organization in Louisiana with a mission solely of addressing disparities.

    Hometown: Natchitoches, LA, the “City of Lights,” and reared in Germany during the sixties.

    Moves made in 2014/Accomplishments: I lead two phenomenal collaborative initiatives. Over the past two years, I have organized the Campaign for Healthcare for Everyone – Louisiana, a broad diverse group of organizations and individuals fighting for expanded access to healthcare for ALL Louisianans. The Campaign is leading policy advocacy and grassroots efforts to close the coverage gap by allowing low income, mostly working, adults to obtain healthcare insurance through federal Medicaid funds as authorized by the Affordable Care Act. I also convened the Together We Are More Adolescent Health Collaborative, a community effort that implemented the inaugural Youth Peace Olympics to promote healthy living and help curb youth violence in Baton Rouge.

    What to expect from you in 2015? I am very pleased that the Louisiana Center for Health Equity will be celebrating our fifth anniversary. This is a monumental milestone for an organization that is making an impact throughout the state of Louisiana. Our Anniversary Celebration will highlight LCHE’s accomplishments. We will continue building momentum for better access to healthcare and closing the coverage gap, and addressing inequalities that affect individuals and families in Louisiana.

    Personal Resolution: To live a lifestyle that praises Jesus Christ and to enjoy His blessings, especially my family and friends.

    Company Resolution: To work to improve healthcare and health outcomes in Louisiana with a focus on inequalities through collaboration, community engagement, education and advocacy.

    Life motto: To joyfully and diligently be of service as a resourceful resilient advocate for health equity in Louisiana.

    What music are you dancing to? Variety

    What are you reading? Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History 1513 – 2008 by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This book intrigued me because it is such a thorough historical collection. Initially, I was especially interested in learning more about what I missed as a child during the sixties when my family and I lived overseas because it was during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. I believe understanding history is important, especially for our youth.

    Mentors or Role Models: I have been fortunate to have people throughout my life that encouraged and coached me in different areas that were and still are enormously helpful. There are several people whose advice I value and seek for various purposes. Those who probably have the most influence are those who share spiritual wisdom and guidance as I strive to be Christ led.

    Watch her online at www.lahealthequity.org and or on facebook as alma.stewart.39

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    Elm Grove leads community to anti-crime action

    “Protesting is our most powerful weapon against the atrocities of our day,” said the Rev. Errol Domingue, pastor of Elm Grove Baptist Church. “Things will not change unless we (the community) use our prophetic voice to bring about action.”

    For Domingue and his congregation, “action” meant holding a gun buyback program, a neighborhood march, and a community-wide rally against violence in the Eden Park community where more than 100 people, including officers with the East Baton Rouge BRAVE program, participated throughout February.

    The church sits mid-city Baton Rouge in the 70802 zip code where neighborhoods are riddled with mostly violent crimes.
    “Today is a new day and the violence has to stop,” said Jane Walker, Elm Grove Baptist Church rally organizer. “I’m for what is right. If protesting is needed to get the point across, I’m for it,” she said.

    Many of the violent crimes in the area are due to acts of senseless killings, participants said.

    Community activist Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed and members of the Nation of Islam spoke to the crowd along with BRAVE officers. Reed encouraged other churches in the community to rally against violence while BRAVE officials said to also focus on broadening the discussion of violence into homes.

    A crowd of about 60 marchers took to North 38th street to protest and make a bold statement against violence in their community. The weather appeared gloomy but it didn’t affect the rally. Baton Rouge City Police assisted with escorting the protestors which included toddlers and senior citizens to the park.

    Lennard Hawkins and Yvonne Sutton, relatives of Jermaine Jackson

    Lennard Hawkins and Yvonne Sutton, relatives of Jermaine Jackson

    Members of Jeremy Costley’s family were present along with family members of Jermaine Jackson. Both were victims of gun violence and no one has been identified as the shooter in both cases.

    “When standing against the wrong thing we are being leaders and maybe people will start following behind the right people to change the bad things that are happening in our communities,” said Armani Pitts, relative of Jeremy Costley.
    Harold Melvin and the Blue Note’s “ Wake up Everybody” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” played during the intermission portions of the rally.

    “It is very disappointing to hear on the daily news that someone has perished due to a bullet and no one has been arrested for the crime,” said Keisha Moore, organizer and emcee of the rally. “I remember when people settled their differences with words or even fists, not guns or a ‘shoot and run’ move. Families are now left with a disappointment, unanswered questions, and hurt,” said Moore.

    By Billy Washington
    Contributing Writer

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    Phat Boyz Pizza fills Black-owned void in North Baton Rouge

    Being the only Black-owned pizza business in Baton Rouge is a handicap and a blessing, according to Armand Sonnier, owner of Phat Boyz Pizza, the city’s newest pizza joint.

    Since the closure of the local Pizza Hut chain owned by Lundy Enterprises, Sonnier is now the sole minority pizza vendor.

    He said many people are hesitant to try his pizza because they are not used to Black ownership.

    “They always think that the pizzeria belongs to Whites only,” he said. Bearing a name many know as the acronym for “pretty, hot and tempting,” one bite into the PhatBoyz’s extra large specialty would change their hesitancy into addiction.

    In fact, Sonnier’s customer base is steadily increasing with many repeat customers.

    For nearly 30 years, Sonnier has been in the pizza-making business, starting as a driver for Domino’s Pizza. He also waxed floors for extra income.customers who love his pizza.

    Over the years, his appreciation for the pizza business grew. One day while on the job, he picked up Pizza Today magazine and came across a pizza oven priced at $10,000. At the time, he was making enough money to afford the oven. He decided to start his own business and work for himself. Once he left Domino’s, he began laying out plans to become an owner in the pizza business

    His main objective for Phat Boyz, he said, is to provide affordable pizza, using quality ingredients, and to provide delivery to communities throughout North Baton Rouge.

    Sonnier and his staff make their own dough, buy products from local distributors, and make a special blend of sauces and topping combinations to appeal to customers. “We do everything ourselves,” he said.

    Armand Sonnier ,owner, phat boyz

    Armand Sonnier ,owner, Phat Boyz

    Competition with other pizza establishments is not the primary focus for Sonnier because his business is independent.

    He is focused on providing customers with quality pizza at an affordable price. He used his own money to fund the building they are using to operate the pizza business. His fiancé, Carolyn Haymond, children, and grandchildren help with the business.   According to him, customers are looking for a good place at a fairly decent price. He says that these are the reasons why the pizzeria has continued moving forward.

    Sonnier’s other objective for this pizzeria was to make his pizza available to communities including Glen Oaks, Southern Heights and Zion City. He felt it was not right that other establishments refuse to deliver to certain areas throughout Baton Rouge.

    wingsHe has dealt with many startup difficulties including equipment failure and lack of knowledge of state laws in the beginning stages of the business.  Throughout the tribulations, he has learned to stay up with certain things such as employee forms, taxes, and laws that were discovered. Sonnier put his all towards not only his pizza designs, but he also strives to makes sure that his customers are satisfied with what they order. He isn’t worried much about being the only Black- owned pizza place in Baton Rouge. He would rather have the people recognize him for his work rather than for being a Black business owner in a predominately White industry.

    Phat Boyz is located at  9186 Greenwell Springs Rd . It is  open Mon. – Fri., 10am – midnight and onWeekends 10am – 10pm and delivery orders can be placed by calling (225) 923-3433. ONLINE: http://www.phatboyzpizzabr.com/

     By James Teague
    Contributing Writer

    This article was originally published in The Drum newspaper June 13,2014

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    Stewart named La. House communications director

    The Louisiana House of Representatives has promoted Cory Stewart to director of communications. Having previously served as public information specialist and deputy director of communications for the House of Representatives, Stewart has 13 years of legislative, communications and organizational leadership experience. His work has received local, state, and national recognition and awards. Stewart is the Chairman of the National Association of Legislative Information and Communications Staff and is the recent recipient of the national Legislative Staff Achievement Award given by the National Conference of State Legislatures. A graduate of Southern University and A&M College, Stewart began his career in public service with the Louisiana House as an intern in 2002 and joined the full-time staff in 2006.

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    Everybody with Diabetes Counts classes offered Mondays through May 18

    Everyone with Diabetes Counts program is partnering with Jewel J. Newman Community Center to provide free diabetes education in North Baton Rouge and surrounding areas Mondays, April 13 – May 18, 10:30am in the Recreation Center of the Jewel J. Newman Community Center, located at 2013 Central Road.

    The EDC program is a national initiative of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It is administered by Quality Insights in Louisiana as well as Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The program offers free classes that are open to people with diabetes, their family members and caregivers. Individuals with pre-diabetes can also benefit from these classes. The classes are designed to empower each participant with the knowledge to effectively manage diabetes, meet glucose targets, and prevent or manage complications from the disease. Participants will learn about diabetes risks, nutrition, weight management, stress control, how to properly manage medications and much more. Past participants have reported weight loss, improvement of lab results and a decrease in medications.

    “We are very excited to partner with the EDC program,” Carla Powell, Manager at the Community Center, said. “The need for diabetes education is so great in our area and we feel the community will greatly benefit from the classes. We hope our community members will also consider registering.”

    The classes will be by the Quality Insights Quality Innovation Network. For more information or to register for the upcoming class, email jjncc@brgov.com.

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    Legislators say their top priority is North Baton Rouge’s health care service

    With the closure of the emergency room at Baton Rouge General Hospital Mid City, North Baton Rouge area state legislators issued the following statement regarding the closure and next steps to insure that citizens have continued access to health care services.
     

         “For months we have worked tirelessly with other community leaders, citizen groups, hospital executives, the medical community, and state health and hospital officials to avoid the closure of Baton Rouge General’s emergency room in Mid City. Sadly those efforts were not successful. And while we are encouraged that the state along with its private hospital partner Our Lady of the Lake have made an effort to expand the health care services available to residents at both the LSU Mid City and North Baton Rouge clinics, we are convinced that will not be enough to protect the health, safety and welfare of tens of thousands of hard-working North Baton Rouge area residents.

         What is particularly discouraging is that there are alternatives. Expansion of eligibility for the federally- funded Medicaid program would provide health care coverage to over 200,000 Louisiana citizens and ease the financial burden on health care providers and emergency rooms who now care for those uninsured. It is working in other states, like Arkansas, and it can work here.

         Another option is to re-think the state’s partnership with Our Lady of the Lake Hospital to provide additional state financial support for those hospitals and healthcare providers who treat the uninsured outside the public-private partnership agreement. A direct appropriation to those other hospitals that are impacted by the changing health care landscape should also be considered.

         Anyone who thinks that the closure of the Baton Rouge General Mid City emergency room will not have a ripple effect across not only East Baton Rouge but surrounding parishes as well is not grounded in reality. The effect of the closure will not only impact those who have depended on those services but anyone who is need of emergency health care services in the region, regardless of their insurance status or geographical location. For many it may be a matter of life or death.

         As state legislators and proud residents of East Baton Rouge Parish, we will continue to fight and advocate for a health care system that preserves the lives and livelihoods of our parish, our communities, our neighborhoods and our families.

    —From State Senators Sharon Weston Broome and Yvonne Dorsey Colomb and State Representatives Regina Barrow, Pat Smith, Ted James, Dalton Honore, and Alfred C. Williams.

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    Black Journalists honoring four journalism pioneers, April 23

    The Baton Rouge Area Association of Black Journalists (BRAABJ) will honor four pioneering journalists at its third annual Scholarship Luncheon on April 23.

    The former journalists are John Williams, the first Black photographer at The Advocate (posthumously); Jean West, former WAFB Channel 9 anchor and the first Black anchor in Baton Rouge;  Ivory Payne, publisher of The Weekly Press newspaper which has served the African American community in North Baton Rouge for more than 40 years,  and Genevieve Stewart, former host of “Question of the Day” on KQXL-FM.

    “This is our way of saying thank you to those who paved the way for other Black journalists in our area to pursue a career in the media,” says BRAABJ President Michelle McCalope. “We realize that without them there would be no us.”

    The luncheon will be held at 11:30 a.m. at Boudreaux’s , 2647 Government Street in Baton Rouge. Tickets are $25 and sponsorships are also available. You can purchase tickets online at brareabj.org.

    Proceeds from the event will provide scholarships to Southern and LSU journalism students. Since 2012, the luncheon has raised nearly $30,000 and provided scholarships to six students.

    Last year, the organization sponsored three students at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Boston.

    For tickets or more information, call (225) 678-1472 or (225) 229-1906.  Visit BRAABJwebsite at brareabj.org.  The association is a non-profit organization made up of local media professionals. Our goal is to highlight and support journalists of color and give back through mentoring and scholarships. It is an affiliate of the National Association of Black Journalists.

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    Community Meeting Snap Shots

    Share photos from your recent community meeting with The Drum readers. Email photos and cutlines to news@thedrumnewspaper.info or submit your photos online.   The Southern University Ag Center recently held an official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Sustainable Ag Urban Demonstration Farm located on the Baton Rouge campus, March 19. Two local schools attended  along with […]

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    ER closure creates ‘Jindal Death Zone’

    Baton Rouge legislators and citizens gathered on the steps of the capitol regarding the proposed closure of the Baton Rouge General Mid-city  Hospital Emergency Room.   Almost before the diverse crowd could finish saying “amen” for Victory and Power Ministries Pastor Ralph Moore’s invocation, Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb was at the  mike laying out the problem with closing the only emergency facility for people in the heart of the city pointing out if you work downtown, live or work for Exxon  or business in the chemical corridor you are in a “Jindel Death Zone”.  The District 14 democrat called the plan to shut down the last critical care facility in central Baton Rouge “bad government”.  “We know that if Mr. Jindal gets sick he has a helicopter at his disposal,” Dorsey-Colomb said.

    Republican Governor Bobby Jindal  has refused Medicare Expansion causing millions to be without insurance coverage. One colleague of then legislator Bobby Jindal reminded those present at the rally that he had helped push LaCHIP through in 1998. It is a Medicaid expansion program for children.

    State Representative Edward “Ted” James was on hand for what he considers and emergency situation.  The lawyer and McKinley High School grad wishes Earl K. Long had not been shut down before he was elected to office.  The District 101 representative says he wants to work to help fix this problem.

    Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb calls the center of Baton Rouge a "Jindal Death Zone" with the proposed closure of the last critical care emergency room in the area. Photo by Stephanie Anthony

    Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb calls the center of Baton Rouge a “Jindal Death Zone” with the proposed closure of the last critical care emergency room in the area. Photo by Stephanie Anthony

    Father Richard R. Andrus pastor of Saint Paul Catholic Church told the crowd, “the Gospel demands justice”. He also said that in the case of heart attack or a stroke every moment counts. “Our Lives Matter!,” Andrus said.

    Senator Sharon Weston Broome served as moderator of the rally and although the Baton Rouge delegation has not thus far been included in the conversations for solutions they have made individual suggestions including having major corporations like Exxon donate annually to the General.  Another suggestion was to readjust  the state contribution to the B.R. General emergency room to be on par with its contribution to Our Lady of the Lake Regional ME=edical Center.  A stop gap suggestion was to extend the shutdown date beyond 60 days. Several participants suggested that all urgent care clinics operate 24 hours a day until the crises is over.  Most agreed the best long term solution was to have Go. Jindal accept the federal Medicaid expansion.

    By Stephanie Anthony
    LDPnews

    Feature Image: Student activist Blair Brown holds sign with a question at the February 11, 2015 rally at the Capitol regarding the closing of the Baton Rouge General Hospital Emergency Room. photos by Stephanie Anthony

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    Men to Watch: Leroy ‘Bro. Jay’ Vallot, 50s

    Media Activist with Reel Talk Radio Show, Digital Soul Media, and Community Defender TV Show

    Location: Lafayette, LA

    Moves made in 2014: successful radio talk show on KJCB and also getting access to more events for the TV show

    What to expect in 2015: more dynamic guests and interviews for media

    Personal Resolution for 2015: finish open projects

    Business/Company Resolution for 2015: mentoring / educating our young people about acquiring our own media outlets

    Life/business motto: “Information is Power!”

    Mentors: My father Leroy Vallot Sr.and TV producer Khadijah Assata Rashad on Community Defender

    What music are you dancing to? R&B, Southern Soul and old school

    Online: www.digitalsoulmedia.net

     

    Louisiana is home for many talented, intellectual, cultured, and politically savvy people. THE DRUM staff and editors have identifi ed the people to watch in 2015 from Ponchatoula and Hammond to Baton Rouge and Lafayette. We introduce them to you here and encourage you to follow these leaders. Read about them all at MEN TO WATCH 2015.

     

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    Men to Watch: Donney Rose

    Program Director/Teaching Artist

    Forward Arts, Inc. in Baton Rouge

    Moves made in 2014: Organization granted official 501(c)3 status, coached Baton Rouge National Poetry Slam, and was published and featured in Nicholls State universty’s literary journal, Gris Gris.

    What to expect in 2015: Chapbook of poetry, “The Crying Buck,” which deals with Black masculinity/vulnerability; the facilitation of Black Men Talk Baton Rouge, an African-American male dialogue group which will serve as a physical space to host regular discussions on various issues affecting the Black community locally and abroad

    Personal Resolution for 2015: To take care of my body as I have been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; to continue to move my art/voice forward by taking on that which isn’t always comfortable.

    Business/Company Resolution for 2015: To continue to effectively serve in my role as program director for Forward Arts and to help shape it into one of the premier youth arts organization/literary arts organization in the country.

    Life/business motto: Plan for tomorrow but don’t feel entitled to it. Make the present count.

    Role Models: Xero Skidmore, Anna West, Sue Weinstein, and Ava Haymon

    What music are you dancing to? Grooving currently to “Black Messiah” by D’Angelo

    What are you reading? mostly news editorials, blogs and random books of poetry

    Online: www.donneryrose.com

     

    Louisiana is home for many talented, intellectual, cultured, and politically savvy people. THE DRUM staff and editors have identifi ed the people to watch in 2015 from Ponchatoula and Hammond to Baton Rouge and Lafayette. We introduce them to you here and encourage you to follow these leaders. Read about them all at MEN TO WATCH 2015.

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    Men to Watch: Lemar Marshall, 54

    Hammond City Councilman-District 4

    Practice Administrator at North Oaks Obstetrics & Gynecology, LLC 

    Location: Hammond, LA

    Moves made in 2014: Re-elected to the Hammond City Council; started the Hammond Youth Education Alliance; Became a White-Riley-Peterson Fellow studying after-school policy at the Riley Institute at Furman University; started two pilot sites for the launch of our citywide after-school program; was honored by Southeastern Louisiana University College of Education for my commitment to education improvement in Hammond; and served as head coach for U11 Hammond Hurricanes Basketball and won five, fi rst place awards during our 2014 season.

    What to expect in 2015: Just recently was honored by the Tangipahoa Public Library with the 2015 Service Award. I plan to be a very successful on the Council. I want to see us implement a citywide afterschool program for middle and junior high level students. I will be working on several ordinances to enhance the overall quality of life in Hammond communities, and I will support the work needed to be done to start a Greenville Park Revitalization Initiative.

    Personal Resolution for 2015: Stick to a healthier lifestyle, lose 40 pounds, and spend more time with my family.

    Business Resolution for 2015: Accomplish our NCQA National Committee for Quality Assurance Certifi cation.

    Life/business motto: It does not matter who makes the decision as long as it is the right one.

    Role Models: My grandmother and Uncle Sam Rouse

    What music are you dancing to? Stuck in the ’80s

    What are you reading? “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough

    ONLINE: www.facebook.com/lemar.marshall

     

    Louisiana is home for many talented, intellectual, cultured, and politically savvy people. THE DRUM staff and editors have identifi ed the people to watch in 2015 from Ponchatoula and Hammond to Baton Rouge and Lafayette. We introduce them to you here and encourage you to follow these leaders. Read about them all at MEN TO WATCH 2015.

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    Men To Watch: John Gray Jr, 34

    Musician with Continuum Music Educator at The Dunham School

    Location: Baton Rouge

    Moves made in 2014: Baton Rouge Symphony’s Teacher of the Year; The Links Role Model of the Year; Selected to the 2015 class of the BR Chamber Leadership program; and Louisiana Magazine’s Louisianan of the Year.

    What to expect in 2015: Looking forward to another great festival season with my students. Spring semester is what I like to call our football season for the various bands that I direct at the Dunham School; Also looking forward to recording a new album with The Michael Foster Project.

    Personal Resolution for 2015: Find more balance in my personal and professional lives….connect with family and friends more….invest more in the culture of Baton Rouge and South Louisiana.

    Business/Company Resolution for 2015: Develop a tighter advertising marketing game plan for reoccurring projects and raise the level of professionalism in every aspect of our business dealings.

    Life/business motto: If my life was a book or a movie, I’d like for it to be interesting and inspiring enough for people to read or watch it! So everyday, I’ve got to work, play, and love with passion and discipline!

    Role Models: Alvin Batiste, my parents, and too many more to mention What music are you dancing to? AS OF NOW, I’m jammin to D’Angelo’s new album “Black Messiah”

    What are you reading?
    “FREAKONOMICS: The Hidden Side of Everything” by Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner

    Online: www.jgrayjazz.com

     

    Louisiana is home for many talented, intellectual, cultured, and politically savvy people. THE DRUM staff and editors have identifi ed the people to watch in 2015 from Ponchatoula and Hammond to Baton Rouge and Lafayette. We introduce them to you here and encourage you to follow these leaders. Read about them all at MEN TO WATCH 2015.

    Read more »
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    Men to Watch 2015

     

     

     

     

     

    Louisiana is home for many talented, intellectual, cultured, and politically savvy people. THE DRUM staff and editors have identified the people to watch in 2015 from Ponchatoula and Hammond to Baton Rouge and Lafayette. We introduce them to you here and encourage you to follow them.

     

     

     

    John Gray Jr, 34john gray web
    Professional title: Musician with Continuum Music
    Educator at The Dunham School
    Location: Baton Rouge
    Read more about John

     

     

     

    Nathan B. Haymer, 36Nathan Haymer
    Professional title: Director of Bands
    Organization: Southern University
    Location: Baton Rouge
    Read more about Nathan

     

     

     

    Lemar Franklin Marshall, 52Lemar MArshall
    Professional title: Hammond City Councilman-District 4/Practice Administrator
    Organization: City of Hammond/North Oaks Obstetrics & Gynecology, LLC
    Location: Hammond
    Read more about Lemar

     

     

     

    Bishop Samuel McGill III, 42sAMUEL mCgILL
    Professional title: Presiding Bishop and CEO of All Nations Radio, LLC.
    Organization: All Nations Church International & All Nations Radio
    Location: Hammond and Ponchatoula
    Read more about Samuel

     

     

     

    Donney Rose, 34donney Rose
    Professional title: Program Director/Teaching Artist
    Organization: Forward Arts, Inc.
    Hometown: Baton Rouge
    Read more about Donney

     

     

     

    Chancelier “xero” Skidmore, 43Xero
    Title: Executive Director
    Organization: Forward Arts
    Hometown: Plaquemine, LA
    Read more about xero

     

     

     

    Leroy “Bro. Jay” Vallot, 50s Leroy Vallot
    Professional title: Media Activist
    Organization: Real Talk Radio Show, Digital Soul Media, and Community Defender TV Show
    Location: Lafayette, LA
    Read more about Leroy

    Read more »
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    South Baton Rouge Wall of Fame opens to tours, Feb. 2

    In observance of Black History Month, the Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center, 950 East Washington Street, is inviting local churches, youth groups and schools in the South Baton Rouge Community to tour the center’s “Wall of Fame”.

    Housed in the center, the South Baton Rouge “Wall of Fame” displays pictures of African Americans from the South Baton Rouge area who made profound and significant contributions to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the nation, as educators, politicians, entertainers, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, athletes, law enforcement officers, and community activists.

    Organizers said this is truly an educational opportunity for our children/youth and Baton Rouge residents/others to visit the Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center.  Overall, the project was a fifteen month planning/research endeavor culminating with a community unveiling on Sun., May 18, 2014, at the community center.

    The SBR Wall of Fame is a learning experience. It highlights the individuals in the SBR community whose success reflects the arts and culture of South Baton Rouge and the State of Louisiana. This is a historical landmark, said members of the planning committee.

    Guided tours will begin on Monday, February, 2, through Friday, February 27. To schedule tours, call (225) 389-4860. Hours at the community center are 8am – 3pm, Monday – Thursday, and 8am – 2 pm on Friday.

    By Mada McDonald
    The Drum Community Reporter

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    BLM chapters, movement grow nationwide

    WASHINGTON– The last several months have seen an outpouring of activism, with slogans coming in waves: “Justice for Mike Brown,” “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and “I Can’t Breathe.” But the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has emerged to bind each flashpoint into one cause.

    www.blacklivesmatter.com

    www.blacklivesmatter.com

    The 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin and acquittal of George Zimmerman served as the first of these flashpoints, snowballing in August with the murder of Michael Brown. “Ferguson is the birthplace of what’s happening right now. In many ways, Ferguson is like ground zero of these protests,” said DeRay McKesson, who has been protesting and organizing in Ferguson since August. He also co-produces a daily Ferguson newsletter with Johnetta Elzie.

    “When I think of Black Lives Matter, that’s the way people talk about the work as it spreads. It’s easier to say, ‘Black lives matter,’ but I think the Ferguson Movement and Black Lives Matter are one in the same.” Although McKesson is currently focused on ending police brutality and unaccountability, he said he believes in the importance of eventually dismantling all social and political oppression, particularly the types that target Black communities. “If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t have to be here talking about Black lives matter,” he explained. “What we’re seeing is people confronting injustice. You see a collective confrontation against injustice…it’s a creating of a radical new space in Black politics.”

    Black Lives Matter has also become an organization. Three activists, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi co-founded the project in the wake of the Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013. Initially, the partners set up BlackLivesMatter.tumblr.com and encouraged activists and organizations to share tactics and broadcast their efforts to uplift Black communities via the website. “[The website] was an interactive project and a way to really promote the need for Black organizing in our communities,” said Tometi, who also serves as the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Even if you’re not working on police brutality explicitly, there are many other issues that are impacting our communities.”

    Today, there are approximately 15 chapters of Black Lives Matter across the nation and one in Canada that are focused on a range of concerns in Black communities, including housing, youth activism, and LGBTQ rights. Its other website, BlackLivesMatter.com, allows Black organizations to meet, network, and collaborate. The project has also adopted a list of demands, including the arrest of Darren Wilson, an end to supplying law enforcement with military weapons, and reinvestment in Black communities devastated by poverty. “Our lives are being systematically attacked all across the board…it is not just at the hands of police,” Tometi said. “Black Lives Matter is a movement about bringing some of those issues and people who are on the margins to the center, and not forgetting about the Black undocumented immigrants, the Black trans person or Black queer person, or disabled people. All Black lives matter. It’s not just having a movement that’s solely about Black heterosexual men, but about all of us.”

    For Chinyere Tutashinda, founding member of the Bay Area-based BlackOUT Collective, the movement is about love for Black people and a desire for justice. “It [started] around dealing with deaths, dealing with the murders, because that’s right there in your face – a life has been taken, there’s a sense of urgency to that,” she said. “But it is beyond that as well. It’s also really about how are we ending the war on Black people, and ending the way Black people are oppressed in this country.”

    On November 28, members of the Collective chained themselves to a BART train as part of a series of actions to disrupt Black Friday consumerism. The Black Lives Matter movement had declared a national day of protest and economic boycott, with some groups successfully causing the closure of shopping malls, Wal-Marts, and other retailers. The news of these protests, and the Black Lives Matter movement in general, has primarily spread through social media and Black media instead of  White-owned major mainstream outlets. Even when retailers saw an 11 percent drop in Black Friday sales, most mainstream media outlets did not include the movement’s efforts in their analyses of the profit loss. “The media follows where the fire is. They have followed the fire really well… but I think that they’ve only done that because we made sure people were out on the streets,” Tutashinda explained. “The reason that Black media and Black journalism came to be was because we understood as a people and as a community that our stories weren’t being told. It’s ok [for Black journalists] to know that their role is to help this [movement] move forward.”

    essence black outBlack media has not only amplified the voices of those on the ground, but has also attempted to further conversations, most recently seen in Essence’s February 2015 issue. The magazine dedicated its 45th anniversary issue to the Black Lives Matter movement, featuring 15 essays from luminaries such as Angela Davis, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Al Sharpton. It is the first time in the publication’s history that its cover did not feature an image, opting instead for bold words against an all-black cover. “Black media has always brought attention to conversations that are happening throughout our community, and sometimes we’ve been the only source for some of the issues that are important. But what’s happening right now is that Black social media has not only been driving the conversation, but also the movement,” said Essence editor-in-chief Vanessa K. De Luca. “A number of the people included in the package, they’re all saying that this isn’t just a movement emerging out of chaos. There really is a lot of organization and planning and thought around this whole movement,” she said. “What I think is so important, especially for Black media, is that we can surface that information.”

    In addition to the issue, the publication is launching a new Civil Rights Watch series to chronicle the movement’s developments, wins, and losses moving forward. A few gains have already been made. The Justice Department is investigating police conduct in a few cities. Seven bills aimed at police regulation and accountability have been introduced in Congress. One was signed into law: the Death in Custody Reporting Act requires states receiving certain federal funds to record all citizen deaths in police custody, and for state Attorney Generals to analyze this information and develop a plan to reduce such deaths. A handful of police indictments have also been attained, for the shootings of Rekia Boyd, Levar Jones, and recently Bernard Bailey, who was killed by a police officer four years ago in South Carolina.

    “It’s great to see publications such as Essence magazine…have a special edition issue called Black Lives Matter. Media plays such a critical role in informing our people. And NNPA publications are so important for our communities especially in rural areas and big cities; this might be the only thing that they read about this movement for black lives,” Tometi said. “[Media] thinks they have to do a balanced story… but in giving two sides equal platform it skews our understanding of how many people really agree with what. The way press culture operates provides a false sense of balance, when overwhelmingly, there’s support for the movement.”

    By Jazelle Hunt
    NNPA Washington Correspondent

    Read more »
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    Business building opportunities increase in South Louisiana

    With the continuation of the monthly DrumLine Business Showcase, The Drum newspaper has expanded to online, social media, and additional Business Builder ad campaigns to help small businesses throughout South Louisiana reach more than 30,000 readers.

    The Business Builder ad includes a black and white, eighth of a page ad, a color DrumLine Business Showcase ad, and a month-long listing online in the showcase. Social media posts and links to your site will be shared randomly on The Drum’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Select advertisers will also be featured on The Ed Show at WSTY-TV in Hammond. Sign up quickly, because only 12 Business Builder ads are available each month.

    Entertainers, politicians, and large corporations can find the 2015 media kit has been updated to include online advertising and special campaigns. Reserve your ad place now through March 2015 or call an ad representative at (225) 927-3717.Business Builder 15

     

    Read more »
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    DuVernay, cast excel with ‘Selma’

    Rest in peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Your story has been told. Your legacy passed on. Your strategies for non-violent demonstrations shared. Your ability to change hearts, minds, and laws has been well-documented.

    Released Christmas Day, director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” in the most inspiring way, relays MLK’s state of grace. It is a worthy homage befitting of America’s most iconic civil rights leader. A monumental achievement. In 1965, Black Americans, though guaranteed the right to vote in the 1870s under 15th Amendment, were routinely denied the privilege and given literacy and civic tests filled with trivia few would know.

    image

    Ava DuVernay

    In Selma, Ala., Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) prepared herself for the de-humanizing poll tax experience, but even she couldn’t answer all the questions and was denied her right to vote. She wasn’t alone. In Alabama, there were whole counties where no Black person had ever been allowed to vote.  Something had to be done. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had been organizing peaceful demonstrations for voting rights for years, to no avail. Rev. Frederick Reese (E. Roger Mitchell, from the film “Flight”), head of the Selma Teachers Association, invites Christian Leadership Conference President Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo, from the film “Middle of Nowhere”) and one of SCLC’s chief strategists, Hosea Williams (Wendell Pierce, from HBO’s “The Wire”) to Selma. A change is gonna come.

    King and his inner circle plan a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. to bring attention to the plight of Blacks who are denied the right to vote. Meanwhile, he has been in talks with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, from the film “Michael Clayton”), pressuring him to push Congress to pass a Voting Rights Act. Johnson doesn’t take kindly to the pressure, and is waiting for the “right time.” King looks for ways to force Johnson’s hand. The two engage in a war of wills as Selma is about to explode on the 6 o’clock news.

    Providence brought DuVernay on board this ambitious project. Her family hails from Hayneville, Ala., a small town between Selma and Montgomery. She directed David Oyelowo in the intimate romantic indie drama Middle of Nowhere. She knew how to help him inhabit MLK’s persona. She knew how to tell a personal, humane story.  She took those strengths and masterfully added them to one of the most landmark moments in American history. DuVernay excels at directing the marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and restaging the inhumane beatings of demonstrators by White police, directed by an evil Sheriff Jim Clark (Stan Houston) and condoned by the segregationist governor George C. Wallace (Tim Roth). The behind-the-scenes, devious manipulation by J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) seems duly vile and sinister under her guidance. The brotherhood and sisterhood of King’s inner circle has the majesty, dignity and reverence fitting for heroic characters, under her eye. Even with all those big events on her plate, DuVernay, uses her skills directing relationships to pay special attention to King’s personal life.

    image

    There’s a scene in the movie when Hoover has sent incriminating tape recordings of two people having sex to King’s stalwart wife Coretta (Carmen Egojo). That moment when she confronts her husband is one of the most dramatic, intimate and upsetting moments in the movie.  It shows the depths to which the FBI was willing to go to destroy King.  It demonstrates that a strong love between a husband and wife can even endure sabotage. It also reveals that the man who led this country out from the shadows of segregation and influenced civil rights movements for decades to come, was simply human. He had foibles.  He had regrets. Yet, his irrepressible spirit endured. It helps that the producers and screenwriter Paul Webb, with re-writes by DuVernay, chose to show just one major achievement in MLK’s life.

    The March on Washington, Nobel Peace Prize, and assassination, are not in this film. Most location shots are in Selma or the White House. You focus on the stops, starts, setbacks and triumphs of an historic march from Selma to Montgomery and the hopeful passage of the Voting Rights Act.  The dialogue between MLK and his disciples, his wife and the president are often electric.  Especially the sparring between LBJ and MLK over Johnson’s snail-pace movement towards justice: “I came here prepared to talk to you about people. People are dying in the street for this. Punished for wanting, for needing, to participate in the American political process. It cannot wait, sir.”

    David Oyelowo was born for the role.  He looks like Martin, especially after adding a few pounds, a pencil mustache and razor haircut. The voice. The movements. The oratory skills. It’s as if MLK entered his soul. Carmen Egojo is the essence of Coretta in appearance and nuance. When she talks, you feel like she is telling secrets from the past. The casting of King’s inner circle is excellent: Cuba Gooding, Jr. as civil rights attorney Fred Gray; Common as social activist James Bevel; André Holland (from the film “42″) as Andrew Young; Stephan James as John Lewis, one of the last surviving Freedom Riders.

    Two strong supporting female performances are at the heart of the film too: Oprah Winfrey as the courageous Annie Lee Cooper, who smacked a police officer. Lorraine Toussaint ( from the film “Middle of Nowhere”) as Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson, a legendary activist who was beaten unconscious during the massacre known as “Bloody Sunday.” Both give sterling performances. Bradford Young’s ( from the film “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) cinematography is rich, graphic  and mood-setting. Ruth Carter (from Lee Daniel’s “The Butler”) recreates the clothes of the era perfectly and her designs peak in the scene when MLK and Coretta are walking arm-in-arm during a march. Editor Spencer Hart’s ( from the film “Middle of Nowhere”) timing is precision as 122 minutes roll by and you can’t remember when you weren’t at the edge of your seat. John Legend and Common team up for the song “Glory,” and Legend’s old school voice is the perfect conduit for the era.

    These days, as demonstrators fill the streets for various causes, sometimes it’s important to put events into perspective. To gauge what will happen next, you have to look back in time. Unrest brings progress. Protest brings awareness. Unity brings hope. The sacrifices we make today may not be felt for years to come.  But “Selma” teaches us that when we strive, things change. MLK knew that better then anyone.

    By Dwight Brown
    NNPA Film Critic
    DwightBrownInk.com

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    Baby Dolls Cafe relocates to larger site

     

    Babydolls

    Baby Dolls Cafe celebrates its second quarter in its new 7869 Greenwell Springs Rd. location in Baton Rouge.

    The owners and staff boast a “good ol’ taste from New Orleans,” with great tasting Southern soul food and seafood. “From our gourmet cinnamon rolls, to our slow cooked falling-of-the-bone ribs, just like Grandma used to cook, our food will certainly guarantee your return. You will experience New Orleans cuisine from the time you walk into our Cajun atmosphere. Locals love us and we love you, come stop by today at Baby Dolls Cafe!”baby dolls ribs

    Daily lunch specials with sides for $6.49
    Hours: 6am – 11pm, Monday – Saturday
    6am – 7pm Sunday
    Call in orders to: (225) 372-2295
    Menu available online at www.babydollscafe.us

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    BR NAACP recognizes leaders

    NAACP Annual AwardThe Baton Rouge Chapter of the NAACP hosted its annual Freedom Fund Brunch, Oct. 4, honoring four community leaders and public servants. Chapter president Michael McClanahan (pictured at left) and chapter members recognized Markita Sweet with the President’s Award, Ronald Marshall with the Public Sevice Award, State Senator Sharon Weston Broome with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Howard White with the Entrepreneurship Award. The event took place at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church and Darrin Goss, president of the Capital United Way was the keynote speaker.

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  • ,

    True BLUE campaign exceeds SU goal

    October 1, 2014, marked the successful completion of the Southern University System Foundation’s TrueBLUE 90-day viral fundraising campaign.

    The campaign raised $1,186,059.60 in cash contributions to assist Southern University System campuses. The success of the campaign is due to the more than 930 donors who gave an average of $1,275 since its launch on July 1, 2014, and to 68 volunteer campaign captains who used email and social media as primary methods of engagement. NFL Hall of Famer and SU alumnus Aeneas Williams joined campaign volunteers to celebrate the during University’s halftime homecoming festivities on October 4, at A.W. Mumford Stadium in Baton Rouge.1 true blue

    SUSF president Anna Jones and SUSF treasurer Domoine Rutledge presented the $1 million check to SU System chancellors Flandus McClinton, SU Baton Rouge (interim); Victor Ukpolo, SU New Orleans; Leodry Williams, SU Agricultural Research and Extention Center; Ray Belton, SU Shreveport; and Freddie Pitcher Jr., SU Law Center.

    “A dedicated team of volunteers made this endeavor successful. The students, faculty, and staff of our campuses will be the beneficiary of their efforts,” said Alfred E. Harrell III, executive director, Southern University System Foundation. Contributions made during the campaign will provide direct support for student scholarships, faculty research projects, and important campus initiatives. Laquitta Thomas, Southern University Alumni Federation first vice president said, “Thanks to all who supported the Million Dollar March. The funds raised will give the next generation of young people the opportunity to be a part of SU’s next 100 years. Donor support allows us to focus on the most critical mission for our campuses to increase student recruitment and enrollment.”

    The Southern University System Foundation is a private, nonprofit corporation securing financial support for each of the five campuses of the Southern University System since 1968. The Foundation bridges relationships with faculty, students, alumni, friends, corporations, and other foundations interested in academic excellence for the University System. The SUSF is a voluntary institute of business and professional leaders, proudly incorporated to establish program enhancements for Southern University students, faculty, and the community at large.

    By Shonda Y. Wessinger
    The Drum Contributing Writer

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  • BLACK MANHOOD: Who’s afraid of a large Black man?

    Who’s afraid of a large Black man?
    No, that isn’t just a book authored by basketball great Charles Barkley, it’s an almost rhetorical question in America, a concept that woes the hearts of Black parents throughout the country.

    Since the days of American slavery Black families questioned whether their sons would be sold away, treated more harshly or killed by slavers. The Civil Rights era found broken hearted parents fearful that their sons would fall victim to civilian and police brutality during equality battles. And in 2014, parents mourn the untimely deaths of unarmed, young Black men who were likely murdered because of the trigger puller’s fear based solely off of the victim’s appearance. And in these fears, history has become a skipped disc – from comparisons of hanged slaves, to the beating death of Emmett Till to the slaying of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and countless others. Black fathers say they are unable to simply have talks with their sons about the birds and the bees without also warning them about the triggers and the fears.

    This, they say, is what being a Black man in America is… The following is what two Baton Rouge area musicians, who are fathers of Black sons, say being a Black man in the American south is.

    The Children

    Marcel and Amari

    Marcel and Amari


    Amari Jabril, son of area emcee Marcel P. Black – whose real name is Marcel Williams – is a 40 pound two-year-old who already stands at two feet, six inches. At 6’3” and over 300 pounds, Williams is not a small man, neither is his father Malcolm who is 6’6”. Sean Griffin Jr. will be 18 years old this month. He’s 5’9” with a slender build of just over 150 pounds. His father, guitarist Sean Griffin, said Sean Jr. wants to study kinesiology and become an athletic trainer or physical therapist.

    The Fear
    With Amari’s size expectations, most parents would be excitedly planning athletic scholarships, but Williams worries that his now stubborn, yet affectionately sweet baby boy will grow into a fearful person’s nightmare. “People like us scare the living daylight out of white people, and we’re guilty till proven guilty by law enforcement,” Williams said. “My son will be the perfect size for a grown ass man with a badge, firearm and system on his side to say he feared for his life so he had to use deadly force.” Griffin is wary that he and his son will be primarily identified by racial identity and not human identity. “The problem with being racially categorized is that too many people have too narrow of a view of what the races are or are supposed to be,” Griffin added.

    The Talk
    Griffin doesn’t talk to Sean Jr. about race. “I tell my son that there is a delicate balance between respect for authority and respect for self,” Griffin said. “Choose your fights wisely. You can escalate or de-escalate a situation based on your own attitude.” “I simply teach him to be a man,” Griffin continued. “I don’t attempt to define who he is, but I let it be known that other people, unfortunately will and he should stay true to who he defines himself to be.”

    Sean Griffin Jr and Sean Griffin Sr

    Sean Griffin Jr and Sean Griffin Sr

    Williams would agree, but with Amari still too young to talk and fully comprehend anything, he tearfully admits that he is conflicted in the concepts he might someday speak with Amari. “I would love to tell him like my dad showed me, just do what’s right, and you don’t have to worry about anyone messing with you,” Williams said. “But realistically, that doesn’t guarantee safety. I’ll tell him to not break any laws, be a good, hardworking respectable man; I’ll tell him none of this matters when you’re in police targets though, because he’s a Black man, white men/the system will see him as a threat, especially if he’s an activist like his father.” “So while I don’t want my son to cower to the powers that be, I want my baby to live forever,” Williams continued. “I’ll teach him to comply so he can survive. But, why the hell am I teaching my baby to survive when encountering people my taxes pay to protect him?”

    The ‘Future
    Amari and Sean Jr. are the future, but there are not alone there, there is also promise. “I believe there has been much progress for Black men in America,” Griffin said. “However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t much more progress left to be made on all sides of the racial equation. The unfortunate recent killings are more of a hybrid of slavery homicides and civil rights homicides in that they seem to have arisen from a mind of superiority and distrust of Black people that has been around since slavery and was pervasive throughout the Civil Rights era.” While Williams said he hopes for promise, he doesn’t believe it as feasible. “Farrakhan said there are white men and a system that doesn’t like that a Black man is POTUS, so while he can’t kill Obama, he’s taking his disdain out on young Black males,” he said based on a prediction of American Islamic leader Minister Louis Farrakhan. However with varying views on rearing Black sons in the American south, Griffin and Williams seem to agree that being a Black man is unpredictable.

    “Being a Black man in the American South is riding a rollercoaster with eyes closed – you never know what to expect,” Griffin said.

    By Leslie D. Rose
    The Drum Contributing Writer

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