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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.

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    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.
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    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

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    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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    What Will You Find During Medicare Open Enrollment?

    Your health needs change from year to year. And, your health plan may change the benefits and costs each year too. That’s why it’s important to review your Medicare choices each fall. Compare your current plan to new options and see if you can lower some costs or to find a plan that better suit your needs. Open Enrollment is the one time of year when ALL people with Medicare can see what new benefits Medicare has to offer and make changes to their coverage.

    Whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll still have the same benefits and security you have now:

    • Certain preventive benefits – including cancer screenings – are available at no cost to you when provided by qualified and participating health professionals. The annual wellness visit lets you sit down with your doctor and discuss your health care needs and the best ways to stay healthy.
    • Medicare will notify you about plan performance and use its online Plan Finder to encourage enrollment in quality plans.
    • In 2015, if you reach the “donut hole” in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, you’ll get a 55% discount on covered brand name drugs and see increased savings on generic drugs.
    • It’s worth it to take the time to review and compare, but you don’t have to do it alone. Medicare is available to help.
    • Visit Medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare your current coverage with all of the options that are available in your area, and enroll in a new plan if you decide to make a change.
    • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24-hours a day/7 days a week to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
    • Review the Medicare & You 2015 handbook. It’s mailed to people with Medicare in September.
    • If you have limited income and resources, you may be able to get Extra Help paying your prescription drug coverage costs. For more information, visit socialsecurity.gov/i1020 or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778.
    • Get one-on-one help from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Visit
    • Medicare.gov/contacts or call 1-800-MEDICARE to get the phone number.

    This message is brought to you by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

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    Tips offered for a safe Bayou Classic experience

    Louisiana highway safety officials are reminding thousands of fans driving to New Orleans for the 40th Annual Bayou Classic football game and the Battle of the Bands that Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the most risky periods for traveling on the state’s roads.

    “Thanksgiving is one of the most heavily traveled holidays in Louisiana and the nation,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.  “When the normal Thanksgiving traffic combines with the tens of thousands of visitors to New Orleans for Bayou Classic events over a long weekend, the potential for congestion and crashes is significantly increased.”

    Last year, over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, there were 689 injuries and five deaths in vehicle crashes in Louisiana.  Blacks accounted for over one-third of the 2013 Louisiana highway crash deaths.

    Last year, more than half of the people killed in crashes in Louisiana were not wearing seat belts. Of the 140 Black drivers killed in Louisiana crashes, 61 percent were not properly wearing seat belts. Although a 2013 survey found that seat belt use reached a record high in Louisiana, with 82.5 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers buckling up, the 77.4 percent of Black drivers and front-seat passengers who buckled up was below the state average for all drivers and passengers.

    The Commission has provided grants to law enforcement agencies and State Police to participate in this year’s Thanksgiving Click It or Ticket campaign, which runs from Nov. 22 to Nov. 30. Local agencies use the grant money to conduct additional overtime patrols and checkpoints during the holiday period.

    “The Bayou Classic is a popular event that brings together friends and families from across Louisiana and many other states,” LeBlanc said. “We want everybody to make this an enjoyable and safe event.”

    The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission offers the following trips for safe travel:
    - Arrange for a designated driver, call a cab or use other public transportation if you have been drinking alcohol.
    - Buckle your seat belts. Louisiana law requires drivers and front and rear-seat passengers to wear their seat belts when a vehicle is in motion.
    - Avoid driver distractions. State law prohibits drivers from texting and using social media.
    - Drive within designated speed limits.

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  • Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week

    Impact a child’s life with a simple shoebox gift. Fill a shoebox with school supplies, basic hygiene items, and toys for a child overseas suffering due to disaster, war, or poverty. This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to give shoeboxes to 10 million children overseas. To learn more or to find the nearest shoebox drop-off location during National Collection Week, November 17-24, visit www.samaritanspurse.org. More than 4,000 shoebox drop-off locations will be listed beginning October 1, 2014.

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    China trip promotes Ag development

    Five members of the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center faculty and staff will travel to China to exchange knowledge and technology in the area of World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate with Chinese scientists and officials.

    The visit is part of the United States Department of Agriculture/Foreign Agricultural Service’s Scientific Exchange Program (SCEP) with the People’s Republic of China.

    The objective of SCEP is to promote bilateral scientific exchange to promote agricultural cooperation, development, and trade between the United States and China. The Southern University Ag Center hosted six scientists from China in June of 2012. This travel will allow China to host a delegation from the SU Ag Center.

    This isn’t the SU Ag Center’s first experience with international exchange. The SU Ag Center was accepted into the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program in 2011. The program provided U.S.-based agribusiness and collaborative research training to African women from Kenya and Malawi.

    “Because of the great reputation of the Southern University Ag Center with international exchange, the USDA approached us about applying for the SCEP,” said Fatemeh Malekian, Professor of Food Science and Nutrition at the SU Ag Center and Project Director of the program.

    “We are going to get to see a very diverse view of China’s agriculture,” said Malekian. The group will travel to Beijing; Harbin, Heilongjiang Province and Nanning, Guangxi Province during their two-week visit. “Our goal is to learn from the way they are looking at agriculture and apply it here at SU,” she added.

    The delegates going to China are: Fatemeh Malekian, professor of food science and nutrition; Oscar Udoh, coordinator for planning and evaluation; Sebhatu Gebrelul, professor of animal Science; Doze Butler, associate dean of the college of agriculture; and communications specialist Bridget Udoh.

    The group will meet with the Chinese scientists who visited Southern, the staff of the National Agro-Tech Extension and Service Center, the College of Economics and Management at the China Agricultural University, the Division of Market Information at the Agricultural Committee of Heilongjiang and Guangxi Provincial Department of Agriculture; visit extension agencies; manufacturers of ag-products, grains and poultry farms.

    By LaKeesha Givens
    The Drum Contributing Writer

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    Hundreds bring solutions for closing wealth gap

    As the racial wealth gap in the United States continues to broaden, the Southern Regional Asset Building Coalition arrived in New Orleans late September equipped with viable solutions for improving and sustaining communities that have historically high poverty rates and few assets.

    From September 24 – 26, the SRABC hosted its seventh annual conference, “Closing the Racial Wealth Gap: Innovative Solutions for Change,” with a record number of advocates, researchers, activists, and elected officials gathering to share solutions for asset building that would close the national racial wealth gap.

    The conference charged each participant with the mission to engage new stakeholders and discuss challenges and solutions for economic growth for the southern region.

    “Conferences of this nature are designed to bring new and trending information to the southern region. What this conference offers participants is current information that they may not get in any other venue in the country. The conference offers information that is specific to people of color,” said Gena G. McClendon, project director and director of asset building in states and coalitions at the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. “We designed this conference with an outcome that would draw participants to take action,” said McClendon.

    image

    Participants discussed historical data and existing social and economic policy structures that contribute to the growing racial wealth gap. The conference challenged participants to take the solutions back to their communities, begin implementing policies, and establish systems that will close the racial wealth gap.

    “This conference has been a form of empowerment for me. I love the power and knowledge that is at these conferences,” said Sheila Jackson, program coordinator for the Campaign for Working Families with the United Way of Volusia-Flaglar Counties in Florida.

    Closing the Racial Wealth Gap: History, Research and Stories

    “The notion persists that hard work is rewarded with the prosperity of the American Dream, but it is not true for all racial groups,” according to Meizhu Lui, former director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland.

    Lui said, “The wealth gap is not behavioral, but structural,” and therefore is not a byproduct of individual action or inaction. “Wealth doesn’t mean being wealthy, but being financially secure…and is generated by investing in assets that appreciate over time.”

    This includes assets such as homeownership, which Derrick Johnson, state president for the Mississippi State Conference NAACP and executive director of One Voice Inc., said is the biggest wealth builder in any community, especially the Black community.

    In fact, “two-thirds of every single dollar in wealth is [gained] through homeownership,” revealed Thomas Shapiro, director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University.

    Even with such strong data in support of homeownership as a means of accumulating wealth, the gap between Black Americans and Whites endures.

    According to Shapiro, there is a 27 percent difference in growth rate between Black Americans and Whites, and there remains a widening gap in wealth since the recession.

    Darrick Hamilton, associate professor of economics and urban policy at the Milano School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School for Public Engagement in New York, NY, said that the typical Black household has a lower median wealth. “Homeownership is an outcome measure…there are potentially other drivers [of wealth accumulation, such as] intergenerational transfers to purchase an asset,” he said.

    “Wealth is an indicator of economic opportunity, security and overall well-being—an indicator in which Blacks and communities of color are most disparate…Policies and seizure have prevented people of color from accumulating wealth as an aggregate,” Hamilton said.

    Though the same issues affect economic growth among Black Americans nationwide, Hamilton said the issues should be looked at from a local perspective. “Asset markets are local [and we] need to look at asset difference from a local context.”

    Data collected by Hamilton revealed that sub-groups of people of color fared differently depending on the area of the country in which they lived. However, no matter how well or how poorly the group fared, the racial wealth gap still existed between people of color and Whites, regardless of the area in which they lived.

    In the presentation, “Social Innovations and Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility,” Michael Sherraden, founder and director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, presented how assets play a role in the stability of households. He said incomes are declining among the bottom part of the population and race strongly affects income and inequality. Sherraden stressed that the nation must understand these dynamics to address the issue of economic disparities.

    The panelists encouraged SRABC advocates to return to their communities and address local policies that adversely affect rates of homeownership as a first solution to closing the racial wealth gap.

    The Impending Issues

    After a comprehensive review of historical and contemporary economic trends, conference presenters educated attendees on two issues that disproportionately hinder asset accumulation in communities of color: payday loans and child support payments.

    During the “Building Strong Family Legacies” panel discussion, experts addressed the persistent issue of child support and how it plays a major role in diminishing Black families’ ability to generate and sustain wealth. Expert panelists proposed enacting laws that allow for affordable payments. These laws would allow parents remitting payment to sustain themselves, lessen the likelihood of affecting other family members and increase their ability to generate and pass along wealth across generations.

    Gabriela Sandoval, director of policy and research with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and panel moderator, provided the example of how child support not only fails to build wealth but also destroys the possibility of wealth accumulation. “Nate has a four-year-old daughter, Crystal. Her mother Sarah had to sign over rights to the government to receive assistance. Nate’s earned income credit was intercepted and he had his license revoked for child support. He is faced with chronic unemployment. Because his license is revoked, he has no ability to drive, which threatens the piece of job he does have and it limits his income.”

    There are numerous examples of men and women like Nate. Mississippi State Representative and assistant public defender, Adrienne Wooten, added further insight to the child-support discussion and revealed how it is a systemic problem designed to hold back people of color. According to Wooten, “There are two million non-custodial parents in prison, and half of the non-custodial parents who are not in prison are unemployed.”

    Jacqueline Boggess, co-director of the Center for Family Policy and Practice, added that fathers go to jail if they don’t pay child support. Further, burdensome child support falls disproportionately on non-custodial parents least able to pay. The vast majority of parents who owe child support have no job or reported earnings, and those who work make $10,000 or less per year. Of the parents who earned $10,000 or less, the median child-support order was for 83 percent of their income.

    Boggess emphasized that any hope for improvement and positive outcomes must come from the federal government. States have minimal reach regarding child-support issues.

    Outside of child support, the other prevailing issue that inhibits asset accumulation is predatory lending, especially payday loans. A number of legislators, including Alabama State Representative Rod Scott and Louisiana State Representative Sharon Weston Broome, have taken up the cause to fight predatory lending in their respective states, but there is still important work to do.

    With interest rates that soar as high as 400 to 500 percent, “Payday loans do not mitigate financial stress; [payday loans] cause financial difficulty and a higher rate of bankruptcy,” according to Haydar Kurban, associate professor of economics at Howard University.

    A panel of emerging leaders presented original research and proposed solutions for curbing predatory lending, including limiting accessibility, developing alternative loan products and expanding financial education. The presenters were Sienna Mitchell, MBA student at Florida A&M University; Jazmyne Simmons, recent graduate of the Florida A&M University Institute of Public Health; Shantell White, recent graduate of Florida A&M University; Alex S. James, sophomore finance student at Louisiana State University; and Leah Wooden, doctoral candidate of educational administration at the University of New Orleans.

    The conference was capped off by a call-to-action message by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, organizer of the Moral Mondays movement and president of the North Carolina state conference NAACP. Via video, he admonished, “Movements are not built from the top down, but from the bottom up. From Birmingham up. From Greensboro up… That’s what we’ve learned. We must be in a coalition that is transformative and not transactional, and not until just your issue is won. When we make the issues not about Black and White, or conservative versus liberal, but we actually go deeper, into our deeper values, we can build unlikely allies… With the new demographic in the South, and a new language, and homegrown indigenous leadership, with transformative movements that are deeply moral and deeply constitutional, anti-racist and anti-poverty, connecting these together we can, in fact, change, state by state. We can change the South. We can break through the old White southern strategy that has for too long divided us and save the very heart and soul of America.”

    The conference ended with attendees breaking off into individual state coalition sessions lead by the Alabama Asset Building Coalition, RAISE Florida Network, Louisiana Building Economic Security Together, and the Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi. Attendees met each of the sessions with excitement and the strong urge to forge ahead, bearing the charge to overcome existing barriers and implement initiatives designed to aid individuals to accumulate assets and sustain wealth that can be passed down from generation to generation.

    “I’ve never experienced anything like this. My view of how to help low-income people of color has widened and I feel a connectedness that I’ve never felt before. I’m just amazed at this whole atmosphere,” said first-time conference attendee, Dorothy Maddox, family self-sufficiency services coordinator at the Daytona Florida Housing Authority. “I would like to reference [Meizhu Lui’s] rule number three, which uses housing to bring people out of poverty. Really, this conference is changing my life and how I go back to teach and impart.”

    “My challenge is to get those with influence to be a part of this movement by working with the RAISE Florida Network and War on Poverty in Jacksonville, Florida,” said Shelia Jackson.

    As Meizhu Lui reminded us, “[It’s about] lifting as we climb.” With the leadership and solutions of the SRABC as its foundation, the South is prepared to lead the way.

    By Traneisha Jones
    Special to The Drum

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  • LSU crowns 1st Black king

    image

    Bradley Williams, of Lafayette, was crowned homecoming king at yesterday’s LSU vs Ole Miss football game. He is the university’s first Black homecoming king. 

    Williams,  son of Dr. and Mrs. Chris Williams, is a senior mass communication major.

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    WHO TO WATCH: Attorney Alfreda Bester

    There is never a typical day for Alfreda Tillman Bester.

    She is the people’s lawyer.

    But let her tell you, while it helps others, she believes that her legal work also brings her closer to God. “Whatever I’m able to do to help someone who doesn’t have a voice or doesn’t know how to navigate the system is my blessing,” she said. “It is a commitment that I have to the community that I can only say is a gift that God gave me,” she continued. “I love what I do because I get to help people resolve conflicts. It’s a blessing for me and it’s a ministry to me.” And it’s something she said she’s always known she’s wanted to do, except for the intermission of a brief childhood dream to become a physician.

    Incidentally, she credits Sunday school for teaching her everything she knows about life and human interaction, preparing her for a career in law. And also instilling the notion that there is a remedy for lack of knowledge and so she went forth, earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, MBA from McNeese State University, and juris doctorate from Southern University Law Center. All of the education coupled with her communal-caring has led her to tackle some of Baton Rouge’s biggest issues.

    The most notable of her recent work is the fight to preserve representative government at the East Baton Rouge Parish school board. That task included a lawsuit to maintain the districts as they were and continual opposition of the reduction in the number of school board districts.

    As an attorney, Bester said she agrees with the popular American idiom “freedom is not free,” and in regards to her community, warns that it is an easily forgettable phrase when one doesn’t understand rights. “You have to learn what your rights are and you have to know how to assert them,” she said. “If you don’t have someone to be that voice for you, then you need to find an organization.” Bester, who works with the NAACP, said the group, popular for its civil rights era work, is the organization to help.

    “We work for people who have no voice,” she said. “Everyone associates the NAACP with representing the rights of only Black people and that is just not the case.” Bester also encourages the community to lay its own groundwork, assuring that there is a task for everyone who is willing to improve their surroundings, be it letter-writing or making phone calls. “It’s about us becoming the village again,” she said. “Understanding that we are our brother’s keeper and until everyone – everyone in the community is free – until everyone has the rights that every other person has, none of us will be free.”

    And in restoring that village, Bester said it’s important not to wait to consult an attorney, but to call as soon as conflict arises.

    By Leslie D. Rose
    The Drum Newspaper

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    Holder appoints Vanita Gupta to DOJ post

    WASHINGTON DC–U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed Vanita Gupta Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Justice Department. 

    image

    Gupta began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), after graduating from New York University Law School and Yale University. LDF is the leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the  NAACP.

    Her first case at LDF was to challenge the wrongful convictions of 40 Black Americans in Tulia, TX, who were convicted of selling drugs solely on the testimony of one White undercover officer with a history of racial hostility and misconduct.  Her clients were eventually pardoned by Texas Governor Rick Perry and received six million dollars in a monetary settlement for their civil rights violations.  Gupta has received numerous awards and honors for her outstanding work, including the Reebok Human Rights Award.  

    Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of LDF said, “Even among the incredibly talented lawyers who have worked for LDF over the years, Vanita stands out.  Fresh out of law school, she shined a national light on the miscarriage of justice in Tulia and single-handedly amassed and led the legal team which won freedom and restitution for those convicted.  The Tulia case, and Vanita’s leadership of it, will be known to history as a turning point for racial fairness in the criminal justice system.”

    Ifill also said Gupta’s appointment was incredibly fitting for the times:  “The events in Ferguson provide a stark example of the challenges facing our nation when it comes to ensuring racial equality in the criminal justice system.  Vanita’s expertise in bringing law enforcement and communities of color to the same table, in pursuit of common goals of fairness and accountability, is precisely the type of leadership needed in the Civil Rights Division at this critical time.”

    “(Gupta) is a rock star in the civil rights bar.  We are al extraordinarily lucky that Vanita has chosen to serve her country,” said Leslie Proll, director of LDF’s Washington office.

     

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    New Venture Theatre presents CHOIR BOY

    New Venture Theatre continues its 2014 season with Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, Choir Boy. This play is directed by Clarence Crockett and will be performed at the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre located inside the Manship Theatre.

    The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys is dedicated to the creation of strong, ethical Black men. Pharus wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school’s legendary gospel choir. Can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key? Choir Boy is a gripping new play with music that examines, race, sexuality, faith, bullying, education and strained family relationships.

    The cast are: Christian Jones as Pharus, David Sylvester as Bobby, Toi Bonnet as Junior, Greg Williams Jr. as David, Marcus Anderson as AJ, Brandon Lewis as Headmaster, and Roger Ferrier as as Mr. Pendleton. The crew members are: director Clarence Crockett, set designer Kelly Latchie,  costumer Angela Perry, musical director LaNea Wilkinson, and assistant director Nikki Nadkarni.

    This is an adult-rated show for mature audiences only. No one under the age of 12 will be allowed in the theatre. Performances are at the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre located inside the Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St, Baton Rouge, on Thursday, October 23 at 7:30pm, Friday, October 24 at 7:30pm, Saturday, October 25 at 7:30pm, and Sunday, October 26 at 3:00pm. New Venture Theatre is the resident theatre for Manship Theatre.

    ONLINE: newventuretheatre.org

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    Will Ferguson be a tipping point?

    Civil rights leaders across the nation hope to increase Blacks youth voter turnout by citing the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a city where only 12 percent of registered voters turned out to vote in the last city council elections.

    image

    Community organizers in New Orleans and Houston — two cities with a long history of confrontations between Blacks and the police — have mixed views on whether outrage over Ferguson will translate into voter participation. Ferguson may be a rallying call in New Orleans, but it won’t be the dominant theme for staff and volunteers as they work voter registration tables around the city, said Erica Buher of VAYLA-New Orleans, a multi-ethnic community organization focused on youth empowerment. Big Easy youth are attuned and empathetic to Brown’s killing on August 9, but, according to Buher “what happened in Ferguson happens frequently in New Orleans.” Young people have their own Michael Browns to focus on. Their names, Buher said, are virtually unknown outside the city.

    Buher said she remembers when the police officer — convicted of shooting Ronald Madison on Danziger Bridge in Hurricane Katrina’s wake — was freed after a court upheld his appeal in September of 2013. James Brissette, 17, also died on the bridge from police gunfire. Henry Glover was killed in a separate Katrina incident. The police officer charged in his death was also acquitted on appeal last year in December.

    “The court’s reversal [in the Glover case] hit the community hard,” Buher said.

    Just weeks ago, Armand Bennett, a 26-year-old Black man, was shot twice in the head during a NOPD traffic stop by an officer who allegedly turned off her camera before the confrontation. The incident initially went unreported to the public by the police superintendent’s office. Buher said it reminds people all over again of the NOPD’s lack of transparency.

    “We will work to register voters through National Voter Registration Day up until October 6 which is the last day for us,” Buher said.

    Some 23 sites include college and university campuses as well as organizations like Covenant House and Liberty’s Kitchen, which offer services to the homeless and formerly incarcerated juveniles, respectively.

    “We work hard to reach that 18 to 24-year-old transitional age group because they’re such a critical age and they’re the hardest to reach,” Buher said that In Louisiana, “you can actually register to vote when you’re 16. A lot of that under-18 age group is pushing back on the concept that voting is the only way you can be civically engaged.”

    Yet, in Houston, Christina Sanders, the director of the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, is convinced that Ferguson has been an “aha moment” for some of her city’s youth and a catalyst that may yield an increase in voter registration rolls.

    “This is a time when I’ve seen more young people connect to the power of the ballot,” Sanders said. She attributes increased interest to social media. “Social media, like Facebook, and the ability to connect with people around the country who are saying the same thing, feeling the same way, that changes the conversation.”

    Sanders agreed with Buher that voter registration is not a panacea or silver bullet to foster change, but the Houston native sees voter registration as the gateway for young people to become more involved in determining how to define and address critical concerns within their communities.

    “Youth should not expect everything to happen overnight, because things didn’t get the way they are overnight,” Sanders said. “Voter registration isn’t sexy, but if you connect with young people about Ferguson and how it affects people’s lives on so many different levels, you have the capacity to build on the fire in people’s bellies. You can build these small fires into a firestorm. What I say to young people is that voting is an opportunity, but your job is to constantly participate.”

    Sanders maintains that Ferguson has brought out a higher level of interest among African American youth in Houston than any single recent incident, an observation about other cities that is shared by Hazel Trice Edney, former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and current president of the Capital Press Club in the District of Columbia.

    After a recent visit to Ferguson, Edney said she had intense discussions with the media writing class she occasionally teaches at Howard University as an adjunct professor.

    “The students are extremely interested in what’s going on in Ferguson,” she said. “They wanted to know about the disposition of the people, about the next steps the community plans to take. Even more than the Trayvon Martin shooting almost two years ago, Michael Brown’s death has been a wake-up call to many communities.”

    Edney found the stories Ferguson residents told her about police abuse to be appalling, but Brown’s death seems to be a tipping point. “People are in a mood for action. They feel it’s time to do something.”

    By Khalil Abdullah
    New America Media

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  • ,

    Cured of sickle cell

    Baton Rouge native confirmed as first person cured of disease

    image

    In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the nature of Sickle Cell began to become clearer and doctors and researchers proved that Sickle Cell comes from an inherited gene from both mother and father. To date, as many as 140 thousand Americans are living with Sickle Cell  with another 2 million people carrying a gene that could potentially be passed down to their children. But with so many Americans affected and all of the research done over the one hundred years since western discovery, there is no cure for the disease.

    However one Baton Rouge native subsequently had been cured through a marrow transplant meant to save her life from another disease.

    Here’s her story.

    In 1976, Kimberlin Wilson George was two years old and newly diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia. Beginning treatment at Earl K. Long under the care of Dr. Shelia Moore, the Wilson family learned more about the disease and became active participants with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Baton Rouge.

    “Throughout my childhood I would have a Sickle Cell crisis every other week,” George said. “I would remember my arms and legs being in excruciating unbearable pain. I would just lay there crying while parents and grandmother prayed and took turns rubbing my arms and legs. When the pain reached an intolerable level I would be on my way to the emergency room at our Lady of The Lake Hospital where they knew me well.”

    Because of the pain and extended hospital stays, George missed lots of school and activities that children her age would normally be involved.

    “Life as I saw it for me was just going to be filled with lots of pain and hospital stays,” she said.

    But by age 8, George said she experienced a Sickle Cell crisis she will never forget.

    “I was in lots of pain and had pneumonia,” she continued. “Of course I was admitted to the hospital and tests were run only to find more abnormalities. My parents were then put into contact with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Once there more tests were run and the only news I remember is that I had three months to live.”

    It was then that the Wilson family also learned that their daughter had AML Leukemia. She was admitted to St. Jude where doctors decided to experiment with one of their first bone marrow transplants to get rid of the cancer.

    George’s transplant – with marrow supplied by her younger brother Shongo – was done in 1983 in Birmingham at The University of Alabama Medical Center. She was then transported back to St Jude for one year.

    “The outcome of my transplant was miraculous,” George said. “I was not only cured of the Leukemia, but also of Sickle Cell. This stunned the doctors and was also proof that God answers prayers. After I was discharged and returned home, I was confined to the house for a while. This was ok with me because I knew that there would be no more pain and I could now live a much normal life.”

    George returned to school her ninth grade year and graduated in 1992. She went on to study at Xavier University of Louisiana, later transferring to Southern University A&M College where she graduated with a degree in child development.

    Finally healthy, George taught first grade for one year, then opened a childcare center that she operated for 11 years.

    “Throughout my adult life I ran into a few obstacles, the side effects from the medication, I thought that I would never have a family and I had a deteriorated hip bone, but I kept going strong,” George said.

    The only other medical issue George ever ran into again was a total hip replacement in 2002. She has since married and has three children.

    George’s results are extremely ill-typical and she is the first person ever documented to have been cured of the disease, which included chemotherapy.

    “I live a wonderful life, live it to the fullest and thank God for living it every day,” George said. “Because of my family, many other people, the bone marrow transplant and God, I stand before you today the first person in the world to be cured of Sickle Cell and the second person to have had two blood diseases still living.”

    One of the most important things that people can do is to get tested to see if they are carriers of the disease. The next step is to get informed. Sickle Cell Warriors is a fact-packed forum where patients can share information with each other (sicklecellwarriors.com), and the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (sicklecelldisease.org) is a national advocacy group that caters to both patients and health care providers. Next, investigate clinical trials and get vaccinated because almost all sickle cell patients are immune-compromised, it’s all the more vital to keep on top of all recommended vaccinations.

    As a survivor, George would also suggest you get support, likewise many patients report getting tremendous benefit from support groups.

    “Understand you might not be the only one dealing with what you’re dealing with – always remain positive,” George said. “Just be as strong as you can, and always try to involve yourself with positive people.”

    To date, about 25 adults have received chemotherapy-free stem cell transplant for sickle cell disease in recent years. Approximately 85 percent have been cured, including Chicagoan Ieshea Thomas, who was the first Midwest patient to receive a successful stem cell transplant to cure her sickle cell disease without chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant, in 2012.

    By Leslie D. Rose
    The Drum

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  • Are there innovative solutions for racial wealth gap? SRABC says yes

    As Louisiana drops four spots to claim the 44th place In the financial security of its residents, the Southern Regional Asset Building Coalition will host its 7th annual conference, “Closing the Racial Wealth Gap: Innovative Solutions for Change,” in New Orleans beginning Sept. 24, 4pm, at the Astor Crowne Plaza.

    With the goal of engaging discussions on concrete steps to ensure economic inclusion and wealth building for all, the importance of having such a conference in Louisiana is monumental.

    Here’s why. Earlier this year, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) released Louisiana’s number 44 overall ranking in financial security of residents. The scorecard evaluates how residents are faring across 66 outcome measures in five different issue areas— financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, housing and homeownership, health care, and education.

    The state received a “D” in the area of financial assets and income, a reflection of the state’s high level of income poverty, which is the third worst in the nation. Louisiana ranked 47th in the number of under banked households with 27% of households who have an account continuing to use high-cost or alternative financial services. Louisiana received an “F” in the education category, due in part to low math and reading proficiency levels (ranked 49th and 48th) and low rates of educational attainment. The state ranks 48th in high school degrees and 49th in two-year college degrees. Louisiana received a “D” in housing and homeownership and ranked 49th in high-cost mortgage loans. In Health Care, the state received a “C,” with 19% of residents uninsured.

    The state also ranked 23rd in policies adopted to help struggling families.

    And with those statistics, the two-day conference could not come at a better time. It will feature three plenary sessions, concurrent breakout sessions, legislative roundtable and the introduction of an emerging leadership academy sponsored by the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development. 

    Of the featured plenary will be a session titled “Making Change that Matters: Challenging Systems and Transforming Lives,” moderated by Ashley Shelton, director of One Voice Louisiana. Shelton, along with featured panelists State Senator Sharon Weston Broome, and Derrick Johnson, of One Voice in Mississippi, will discuss the intersection of public policy, grassroots advocacy, and organizing.

    Another feature will be a “Building Strong Family Legacies” session moderated by Gabriela Sandoval, director of policy and research with Insight Center for Community Economic Development.
    Sandoval designs and manages research projects focused on building wealth for economically vulnerable people and communities through the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative and other programs.
    Panelists include Halbert Sullivan, the founding president and CEO of Fathers’  Support Center in St. Louis; lawyer and the co-director at the Center for Family Policy and Practice Jacquelyn L. Boggess; and Adrienne Wooten, lawyer and a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. Sandoval will discuss how policy change can improve opportunity and life outcomes of Black fathers, their children and their communities.

    The conference officially opens on Sept. 25 with a welcome by area coordinator Joyce M. James of Louisiana Building Economic Security Together, who has a lifestyle quote that matches much of what will be discussed at the conference.

    “Financially empowered people make Louisiana a better state,” James said. “So how do we do that? By educating people about public policy that hinder their ability to be financially empowered. So if you empower the people to build economic security over a lifetime, we could have a better state.”

    James pointed out that there is a difference between wealth and income and that it’s important to explain this, as well as provide education in financial literacy and public policy.

    The conference will also feature a bevy of keynote speakers including the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and author of Preaching Through Unexpected Pain.

    Barber has helped to lead the fight for voter rights, just redistricting, health care reform, labor and worker rights, protection of immigration rights, reparation for women survivors of eugenics, release of the Wilmington Ten and educational equality. He also serves as a national board member and the national NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee.

    “‘We’ is the most important word in the social justice vocabulary,” Barber said. “The issue is not what we can’t do, but what we can do when we stand together. With an upsurge in racism/hate crimes, criminalization of young Black males, insensitivity to the poor, educational genocide and the moral/economic cost of a war, we must stand together now like never before.”

    The two-day conference will also include keynote speakers Michael Sherraden, founder and director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, and Thomas Shapiro, director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy.

    Shapiro will lead a panel discussion on the racial wealth gap. He will open the session by drawing on the historical context within racial wealth disparities.

    The panel – which includes Darrick Hamilton, associate professor, economics and urban policy at Milano; Meizhu Lui, author; and Anne Price, director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development – will present new research findings in the field and explore the power of stories and narrative as a viable platform for expanding public understanding of the racial wealth gap.

    In 1997, Shapiro co-authored the award-winning Black Wealth/White Wealth, which received the 1997 Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the American Sociological Association. He has also appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show, Talk of the Nation, CNN and On Point.

    Financial literacy and public policies may be serious topics, but attendees will also be treated to live entertainment by Continuum Music during the two-day event and catered meals are included in registration costs.

    Conference ‘registration is $129 and includes a materials packet, pre-conference activities and dinner on Wednesday, breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner on Thursday and breakfast and lunch on Friday. Attendees will be responsible for travel, lodging and other expenses. 

    Review the agenda: 2014 SRABC Conference Agenda.

    By Leslie D. Rose
    The Drum Newspaper
    @thedrumnews

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  • Darrow woman claims $100,000 prize

    Less than a month after the launch of the Louisiana Lotterys new SAINTS scratch-off, Tracy Logan steps up with the golden ticket.

    The 49-year-old Darrow resident claimed the first $100,000 top prize-winning ticket for the 2014 SAINTS scratch-off. Logan said she is primarily into basketball, but she felt a little more like a Saints

    She received $70,000 after state and federal taxes were withheld. Logan said she plans to use the money to pay off her car. She purchased her winning ticket at Gonzales Super Stop in Gonzales.

    The Lottery launched its sixth $5 Saints-branded scratch-off game on Aug. 18. The 2014 SAINTS scratch-off includes three scenes emblazoned in shiny gold metallic ink. The game features three remaining top prizes of $100,000 plus the opportunity to enter nonwinning tickets into a series of four second-chance drawings to win unique game-day prize experiences or official autographed Saints merchandise. The entry deadline for the first of those drawings is Sept. 15.

    image

    Tracy Logan of Darrow shows off her big check after being the first $100,000 SAINTS scratch-off

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  • ,

    Ministers partner to help combat chronic illnesses

    Imagine your next fellowship with a wider selection of fresh fruits and healthy vegetables. That’s the prescription from Baton Rouge’s “Hip Hop Doc,” Dr. Rani Whitfield. It’s also a game plan that nearly 30 Baton Rouge area pastors agreed would work as a starting point for their churches with the end goal of improving the fitness of their congregations.

    That group of pastors gathered at Pennington Biomedical Research Center on August 28 for the East Baton Rouge Area Ministers Day, a time for them to learn more about healthy choices and to join in the fight against chronic diseases affecting our community.

    “More times than not, chronic health problems stem from obesity,” explained Dr. William T. Cefalu, executive director of Pennington Biomedical. “What we do here is try to eliminate chronic disease, and we believe a healthy community starts with you.”

    Diabetes and obesity are the top two chronic illnesses in our country, and the cost to Louisiana is approximately $1.37 billion annually. In many parts of Louisiana, the prevalence of diabetes is 50 percent higher than the national average.

    According to Cefalu, up to 30 percent of people with diabetes don’t know they have it, despite its debilitating effects. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and one of the leading causes of amputations—two very compelling reasons why ministers at the event are partnering with Pennington Biomedical. They want to ensure their members are healthy throughout their lives.

    “The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” said Rev. Donald Sterling, East Baton Rouge Parish Minister’s Conference President, who plans to take the message of healthy living back to his congregation. “The information that we’ve learned today—it’s going to go a long way in helping our people lead healthy lives. We as preachers can’t preach about health unless we take care of ourselves, so we need to be at the forefront, letting our people know they can lead productive lives if they’re healthy.” Rev. Sterling is Pastor of Israelite Missionary Baptist Church of South Baton Rouge and Pastor of Greater St. John Baptist Church.

    Sterling and his fellow pastor, Rev. Conway L. Knighton of St. Mary Baptist Church, were so moved by the statistics on diabetes that they agreed to also help Pennington Biomedical recruit for clinical trials, such as ARTIIS, which examines the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar in Black men.

    “I want to get some of the people from Pennington [Biomedical] to do an orientation, to share the word with people I know about what good health can do for you,” said Knighton.wpid-wp-1410314926550.jpeg

    Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden praised Pennington Biomedical for its in-depth research of chronic issues like diabetes that largely effect the Black population, including his brother, who was a double amputee before he passed away.

    “What we’re doing is trying to pass the message [that] you’ve got to eat right, you’ve got to exercise, you’ve got to watch your weight, because all of these things together can make a difference in the quality of life you have,” said Holden. “Because Pennington [Biomedical] is out there administering all these studies, they’re out there trying to ensure that you live a long and happy life.”

    Pennington Biomedical is also recruiting diabetics for several other studies, including GRADE and D2D, and participants may be paid for their time and in some cases may receive free medicines. To see if you are eligible to participate, call 225-763-3000 or go to www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA.

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  • Artistic protest

    Baton Rouge artist and illustrator Antoine Mitchell creates breathtaking image inspired by the Ferguson, MO, protests of the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, by a police officer. More of Mitchell’s work can be seen at www.poeARTry.net.

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  • Grambling grad creates band to guard against germs

    ID Me Bands 2

    It all started with a mother’s outrage at her child contracting strepthroat while playing sports, when a light bulb went off in Nicole Reeder’s head.

    Reeder, whose son took sick after drinking behind another player, created ID Me Bands, the first functional bottles marker for athletic environments.

    Nicole Reeder ID Bands

    Nicole Reeder ID Bands

    As bands, these markers help athletes uniquely identify their bottles and can also be worn around wrists and ankles. ID Me Bands help combat the epidemic of individuals spreading germs and illnesses to their teammates.

    “You have entire teams getting (mononucleosis) because they’re sharing bottles,” said Reeder, who graduated from Grambling State University in 2004 with a degree in chemistry.

    Read the entire story by Anastasia Semien.

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  • Rising star:Shalyric Self

    18-year-old Shalyric Self is working to brand herself as a multifaceted singer, songwriter, dancer and actress.

    SINGER.

    Self began singing at age four in local youth choirs and her church mass choir. Since then her talents have taken her to the third round of NBC’s “The Voice”. And now she is working on her first album, to be released this fall.

    SONGWRITER.

    Using an iphone, headphones and isolation, Self said she finds inspiration in listening to different variations of music. She said she will be the primary writer of her project produced by Ross Pirelli and her production team at 4th Floor.

    DANCER.

    Stunned by her performance at Scotlandville High as a member of the dance team, Cleo Fields offered the opportunity to dance for the Louisiana Leadership Institute- Dazzling Starlettes.  As a result, Self will be heading to Los Angeles this summer to work with Debbie Allen. During this trip, Shalyric said she hopes that her craft will be perfected.

    ACTRESS.

    Appearing in the film “Mama I Want to Sing” in 2007 alongside recording artists Ciara and Patti LaBelle, Self played the role of Amara.

    DESTINY…

    Never give up,” Self said. “This business is really tough and at one point I used to feel that every time I took one step forward I took three steps but I remember what my grandmother used to tell me [not to] sit down on my gifts.”

    Self has completed what some would deem as impossible. She sacrificed many extracurricular activities and events to be able to move forward with a career that few succeed in. Following the summer, Self will be attending Southern University majoring in biomedical engineering. And with so much already accomplished, Self intends to continue her balancing act en route to her multi-faceted dreams.

    “In school I had to think about my future and how being a good student,” Self said. “In the studio and on stage, I had to think about the simple fact that whatever I put in it is what I get out of it as Mrs. Debbie Allen would say.”

    By Yolanda Brown 

    Contributing Writer 

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  • Danse Noir commemorates fifth season with themed recital

    When Malaysia and Aniya Dunn’s dance program relocated, their father, businessman Cleve Dunn Jr. sought the opportunity to fill the void by opening Danse Noir.

    And while having no prior dance knowledge, Dunn, who opened his studio in 2009, finds a witty comparison to get people to understand his stance. “You don’t have to be a chef to open a restaurant,” he said.

    “In creating Danse Noir we have been able to lay a foundation in North Baton Rouge for students, instructors and other aspiring dancers can work on their craft,” he continued. “Because of the foundation we have laid we’ve been able to contribute to Baton Rouge’s arts community and also be a catalyst for its growth”

    As CEO of Dunn Enterprises – a company that provides logistics for various area companies – he successfully recruited a staff of highly trained dancers to teach ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop classes to more than 125 aspiring dancers annually. DNS 2014 Recital 21st Century Child 166-2 copy

    Of those staffers is 16-year veteran Connor McGrew. McGrew, a Southern University Dancing Doll, said she feels very valued as an employee of Danse Noir.

    “When it comes to the studio’s day-to-day, Mr. Dunn is very involved,” McGrew said. “But he gives us the creative control when it comes to instruction.”

    Since its inception, Danse Noir has given students – ages three to eighteen – access to equipment such as ballet bars, a spring floor and wall-to-wall mirrors.

    A parent observation room is also available, showcasing highly skilled instructors who not only instill an appreciation of dance in young people, but have earned Danse Noir its loyalty from many parents.

    “My daughter has been dancing [there] since the studio opened and they have a very positive impact on the person I’m raising her to become,” said Tara Washington, a Danse Noir parent. “I have watched her grow as a person in the areas of discipline, creativity and communication.”

    mom copy

    To celebrate five years of growth for the studio and its students, Danse Noir held hosted its annual spring recital titled “21st Century Child”.

    Dunn said the studio chose the theme to highlight the issues that this generation is facing and showcase how children of this century are overcoming.

    “Working with the theme was a fun creative process,” McGrew said. “As instructors we spend a lot of time getting to know the students. Performing a recital that deals with some of the issues they face shows them that we listen and we care about them.”

    Dance mom Washington said she is always pleased with the recitals.

    “I feel like the studio values me as parent and my child as student,” Washington said. “Ranging from making sure costumes are age appropriate for all the dancers, to the selection of the venue – they even make sure that shows start promptly.”

    Danse Noir is located at 3330 Woodcrest Drive – the sixth season will begin late August.

     

    By Cameron James 

    City News Manager 

     

    Read more »
  • Local youth poetry group competes in Philadelphia

    For youth ages 13 to19, a safe space exists where they are taught the craft of poetry writing from two of Baton Rouge’s most seasoned spoken word poets, eight-time National Poetry Slam team member Donney Rose and the 2013 Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS) champion Chancelier “xero” Skidmore.

    Skidmore and Rose work through an arts-based nonprofit called Forward Arts, Inc. Its flagship project, WordPlay is the agency in which the two teach poetry writing and performance workshops. Originally founded in 2005 by Anna West – a Baton Rouge native, then newly returned home from building a nonprofit in Chicago – WordPlay Teen Writing Project began as part of the teen programming service unit at the Big Buddy Program.

    In 2011 Skidmore and Rose packed up WordPlay and so it became the first program of Forward Arts.

    Attempting to continue burning the torch that began with West, the two men worked for nearly three years providing the same in-school residencies, after-school writing workshops and annual teen poetry festival ALL CITY. But unlike financially secured veteran nonprofit agencies, Forward Arts did the work all through contracts and donations while awaiting 501c3 approval from the IRS.

    A 501c3 organization is the most common type of nonprofit. This IRS category provides federal income tax exemptions to approved agencies that fulfill purposes such as charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, public safety testing, amateur sports competition, child or animal cruelty prevention.

    On the day of their summer camp’s showcase, Rose, who hosted the event announced that Forward Arts had received its IRS approval and could officially begin the search for lasting grants and accept its own donations. Following that joy, Rose and Skidmore will of course, continue the program’s mission of providing workshops, performance spaces and professional development for young people and adults and fostering social transformation through critical engagement and creative practice – all of which happens on a semester basis.

    But before the beginning of fall programming, the two veteran poets traveled with five youth poets to Philadelphia for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival (BNV) with Rose acting as mentor and Skidmore as the official coach.

    BNV was created by Youth Speaks, Inc. in 1998 after the inaugural Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam in San Francisco – the first poetry slam dedicated to youth in the world. Since that time, BNV has grown to represent youth from all across the United States and several cities and countries from around the world. In fact, this year’s BNV included a team from Cape Town, South Africa.

    The five Forward Arts youth, Amber Torrence, age 16 and Jennifer Deschner, age 17 – McKinley High; Antonio Dupre, age 17 and Brittany Marshall, age 17 – Baton Rouge Magnet High; and Antone Leblanc, age 18 – Scotlandville Magnet High, were the 2014 highest scoring individual poets at the ALL CITY Teen Poetry Festival which earned them their spots on the Forward Arts All Star Slam team.

    A poetry slam is an Olympic style competition where poets are scored zero to ten using a decimal point by five randomly selected judges. The high and the low scores are thrown out leaving the poet with a possible total of 30. At BNV each team competes at two quarter final bouts with their own original material within a time limit of three minutes, thirty seconds.

    The Forward Arts youth began preparation for the big competition in mid May, nearly two weeks after ALL CITY and just less than months before BNV. Committing to a semi-rigorous rehearsal schedule, the young poets were taught the art of revision, crafting of group poems and performance techniques.

    “We did inventory of specific types of poems and we were lacking on group poems,” Deschner said. “We got writing prompts to pour ourselves on the page. And then there’s an editor – I really struggled with editing until xero explained to me that it’s not four poems trying to become one voice – it’s four voices trying to become one poem.”

    While Deschner admits to struggling as a group poem editor, the young author said she has been writing since before she can remember.

    You once asked me why I kept so many secrets,

    made the habits of hiding my dark side and shutting you out like

    birds’ shrill singing on the wrong side of the bed mornings.

    I’ve tried to give you honesty,

    but I still have to force myself not to turn too many pages in my song book soul and

    skip over songs that are too painful for me to try and sing.

    I tried to make rhythms of my flinching when you requested my most haunting tunes,

    tried to persuade you I had lovelier lullabies for you to listen to but

    you would have none of it.

    Excerpt, “Trust Issues” – Jennifer Deschner

    But, spoken word, especially slam is still relatively new to her. Deschner read her first poem at Freshhhh Heat Teen Open & Poetry Slam as a means to pay her friend back a loan or as she jokingly said, by way of blackmail from having owed the money for such a long period of time.

    It was in the trickery that Deschner found her love for performing. She then brought her joy back to McKinley, and thus was able to onboard schoolmate Amber Torrence.

    “Jennifer is my mentor,” Torrence said. “She told me I was good and not to doubt myself – I’m here because of her. Now I’m in love with poetry and when I feel like I need to say something, I write it.”

    Torrence said that while she still gets nervous, she loves performing and being onstage. She shares that love with her teammate Antonio Dupre, who admits before being exposed to slam, he thought poetry was for nerds.

    “I feel like poetry is an addiction at this point,” Dupre said.

    And he’s since gotten quite creative with his words, even crafting persona pieces.

    I dream of being the finger of a hero.
    Sometimes I lightly caress the body of a gun
    just to have some of the glory it sheds
    stick to me.
    My owner tells me that one day,
    we will be paraded in the streets
    for having, holding, and making use of
    a gun.
    He tells me
    that America told him
    that heroes kill people.
    Every other finger I’ve talked to around here
    agrees with me;
    a bandolier is quite hip these days.
    It’s more functional
    AND looks better than spandex.
    It’s a must for any DIY heroes.
    They don’t come with capes or catchphrases anymore,
    but with heavy backpacks and weaponry.
    A bullet is the modern man’s superpower.

    Excerpt, “The Psychosis of a Hero’s Trigger Finger” – Antonio Dupre

    Dupre has also tried his hand at the dreaded group poem editing for a piece with teammate Brittany Marshall, who said 2014 is her first year working on poetry. Marshall and Dupre were also teammates on the Baton Rouge Magnet High slam team at ALL CITY – the team champions of the team/indi competition.

    “I’ve gotten way better with using literary devices now,” Marshall said. “Just within a year I’m going to Philadelphia to compete! I want to see if I can make a name for myself.”

    9 year old me

    thought I could save my mama. 

    that I could write her addiction away.

    10 year old me

    told mama that I’d write her letters

    to express to her how I felt

    mama didn’t remember how to express how she felt

    but by the time 11 year old me came through

    those letters became prayers to

    God

    but the prayers became futile 

    because 12 year old me 

    wasn’t sure God even existed anymore. 

    I’m not even sure God exists anymore

    Excerpt, “Mama” – Brittany Marshall and Antonio Dupre 

    Overall the youth were extremely excited in preparation for BNV and about having a world champion as their coach, even comparing Skidmore to biblical figure Moses.

    “It’s somewhat scary to be coached by the iWPS champ,” Dupre said. “It’s like I don’t want to show him anything because he’s just the best – like when somebody goes to the top of the mountain and sees that old man with a beard and a stick and it’s like ‘old, wise one’ – he’s like a sage of poetry.”

    Deschner didn’t go as far as worshipping Skidmore, but she did acknowledge his immense skill level as a teacher.

    “He’s good at not being too pushy when he wants us to push ourselves,” she said. “It can be intimidating but it’s also comforting to know that someone who’s so passionate is on our side to help us grow. He’s so passionate about poetry and he wants to instill that in us.”

    Fall programming for Forward Arts will begin in September with in-school residencies and after school writing workshop, Word Crew.

    Read more »
  • Cupid releases ‘CuRobiks’ fitness DVD

     

    THIS SUMMER THE LOUISIANA king of dance music, Cupid, is delivering new music to help fans shrink their waistlines.

    The singer, whose real name is Bryson Bernard, said he received the wake up call that it was time to get in shape when he saw the way looked with the extra pounds on television.

    “I saw myself on The Monique Show and I really didn’t like how I looked,” he said. “After watching that interview I new I needed to make the change.”

    The former track athlete realized he could no longer make excuses for his growing waistline and in- stead needed to make time for exercise while on tour.

    He realized he could use his music as a catalyst to get his fans active. So at the beginning of last year, he launched Curobiks DVD.

    “I would see people coming to my shows and dancing to my music and they would be sweating so we took my songs and merged dance moves with aerobic ones,” he said.

    The Lafayette native’s songs “Do it with Your Boots On” and the “Cupid Shuffle” provide the soundtrack for Curobiks, a combination of calisthenics, aerobics and line dancing led and instructed by the singer.

    Since it’s release, the DVD has sold more than 10,000 copies and counting, motivating Cupid to take the life style on the road with the CuRobiks Fitness Concert Experience.

    “This is an experience that will give me a chance to entertain and interact with audiences in way that I have never done before,” he said.

    He said the CuRobiks Experience is a concert and aerobics class rolled into one, suitable for all ages and skill levels.

    Divided into three segments, participants will first learn how to line dance, join in the 45-minute concert/workout led by Cupid and end with a meet and greet where they can also gain health awareness and purchase CuRobiks literature and DVD’s.

    As the singer travels the country en- couraging a more active lifestyle among fans he is still working on new music and has released two singles.

    “A lot of my music is high energy music suitable for all ages. Anytime I try to step out of the box or do something different, the formula just doesn’t work support.”

    He said his newest single “Wham Dance” pays tribute to the high-energy music and people Louisiana is known for.

    “I worked with Mystikal on this single and together we created a song that cel- ebrates the music that makes Louisiana unique,” he said.

    Cupid’s new album will be released this fall along with CuRobiks 2.

    BY CAMERON JAMES

    City News Manager

    Read more »
  • Timothy Carter’s composition performed internationally

    BY THE END OF 2014, Baton Rouge musician Timothy Carter will have a law degree from Southern University Law Center. But that’s likely not going to be the highest point of his year as his first love recently provided him an international surprise.

    A musical piece he began writing in the summer of 2009—which had never been performed publicly—made its debut in Tokyo, Ja- pan, at the Kanto Honor Band Concert at the International School of the Sacred Heart.

    The orchestra was comprised of top musicians from international schools in the Tokyo area, with Carter’s song “Takin’ It On Home” being conducted by one of his mentors, Quincy Hilliard.

    Hilliard kept the debut an acciden- tal secret from Carter because Hilliard was unsure if he would have the or- chestra perform the piece.

    Carter said the song is just as close to Hilliard as it is to him. It was Hilliard who encouraged him to begin writing the composition that would later become “Takin’ It On Home.”

    “The song was always one that Dr. Hilliard was excited about; it’s one he has been wanting to see come to life,” Carter said. “He had been trying about 10 years or so to get someone to write a jazz piece for a concert band. He and I would always talk about opportunities to debut the piece.”

    Carter was not in Japan when his music was played but he received a copy of the program and has admittedly watched a YouTube video of the performance several times.

    “It is an extremely gratifying experience–extremely rewarding,” he said. “It’s also humbling to know that some- thing you spent so many hours, days, weeks, and months working on, could show someone else, (and they could) interpret it and give it back to the au- dience the way you originally had seen it. Those kids in Japan did that and more.”

    Carter said that seeing his composition played internationally has inspired him to work on many more pieces.

    Upon graduating law school, he said he intends to practice copyright law from the expertise and experience of someone who understands the ins- and-outs of both law and music.

    BY LESLIE D. ROSE

    Assistant Managing Editor

    Read more »
  • Sweet Summer: Louisiana Snowballs

    AS STHE TEMPERATURE RISES MANY LOUISIANANS reach for the ever-popular snowball to keep cool. Although it is loved by many throughout Louisiana not many know its origins and other facts about the southern staple. The Drum has found the answers to some of the most asked questions about this southern treat and created a directory of the most popular snowball stands from Ponchatoula to Baton Rouge.

    Is it snowball and snowcone?

    Not to be confused with the snow cone which is made from pre frozen crushed ice, the snowball is made from carefully stored and then shaved-to-order ice. IMG_2922 copy

    Where did the snowball come from?

    According to southernfoodways.org, the first snowballs were sold in New Orleans during the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929. At the time, a serving of shaved ice cost two cents. Most of the earlier snowball
    stands offered patrons only three flavors to choose
    from: strawberry, spearmint, and pineapple.

    How do they shave the ice?

    According to sno-ball.com, it was in 1934 when two snowball pioneers—George Ortolano and Ernest Hansen— revolutionized the industry by creating and patenting the first electric ice-shaving machines. Prior to the creation of the machines, large blocks of ice were shaved by hand. Today, the widely used ice shaver is the Southern Snow Machine; it incorporates more than 60 years of research and technology.

    Why do some snowball stands spell snowball “sno-ball”?

    As the popularity of this frozen treat grew in the 1930soutlets selling them began spelling “snowball”without the “w” to help consumers differentiate sno-ball stands from snowcone stands. Today, many stands are named sno-ball stands to pay tribute to the earlier stands in New Orleans.

     

     

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  • A love for Lululemon

    RUNNING HAS BECOME A way for me to stay in SHAPE and relieve stress, so as I began to pursue it more and more, I wanted a product that would motivate me while ensuring that I look good.

    Spending more time running meant that I needed to invest the same amount of money into my running ward- robe as I do in my other clothing. That’s when I learned that shopping for workout clothes would be different than shop- ping for everyday wear.
    Although it ranked high, looking good was not priority, but func- tionality was. As I looked around, I couldn’t find the two together. I would find a pair of shorts and shirt that look great, but after doing a few jumping jacks, yes jumping jacks, in the dressing room the comfort just wasn’t there. Then I would find something that passed the jumping jack test, but was lacking in the looks department.

    Then I found Lululemon. I had seen their logo before on people as ran the lakes or even on the person, but it was brief conversation at Target that made me want to try the brand. As I stood in the checkout line I heard a man and woman discussing the 7-mile run they had just finished. They looked as if they were dressed to begin a run and not like they had just finished one. I just knew they were freaks of nature. So I asked them “Did you guys literally just finish- ing running seven miles in 70 degree weather?”. The lady looked at me and replied “Yes”. Their faces were red and sweaty, but the rest of their bodies and their clothes were bone dry. I pointed this out to the woman and said that’s why I asked and man replied, “We’re wearing Lululemon”.

    From that brief conversation I knew Lululemon sounded exactly what was I looking for – it would provide comfort, functionality, yet still look appealing.Lululemon 2 (1) copy

    After search online I found Baton Rouge was home to a Lululemon show room. Also through my research I learned that Lulu- lemon began yoga-inspired athletic apparel company, but branched out to provide comfort those who run, work out and participate in other sweaty pursuits.

    I was slight apprehensive about visiting because I thought I’d be entering a place filled with yoga and running enthusiasts who would be nothing but annoyed that an amateur had ventured into their territory. It couldn’t have been more of the opposite, as soon as I entered the small showroom – the sales associate, Amanda began a conversation with me.

    The first product I got was the Metal Vent Tech SS shirt. Not only does it have mesh venting, it’s seam free to avoid chaffing. I also got a pair of Pace Breaker shorts.

    I try to run at least 12miles a week, usually three miles per day, but wearing Lululemon pushed me to run farther. The comfort of their athletic apparel is the best. I usually run without a shirt to help keep cool, but the lightweight feel and moisture wick material of the Metal Vent Tech SS shirt kept me cooler than I would’ve been shirtless. As ran I could feel the breeze through the breathable material as I took each stride.

    I was just as comfortable in the Pace Breaker shorts. I actually want use them for lounging and lunging and I even slept in them one night to ensure I would get up and run. My favorite feature is the strategically placed mesh venting on the sides and the two way stretch fabric allowing the wearer to move easily in them.

    No matter what type of workout you do, you can’t avoid sweat and odor but the Pace Breaker Short and Metal Vent Tech SS Shirt absorb both. When I run I sweat a lot, sometimes to the point I have to wring out my shirt, but when I finished my run, just like the couple I saw at Target, you could only see sweat on my forehead. As far as odor, neither of the products needed to be washed until third or fourth work- out.

    Needless to say Lululemon has found a customer for life in me. The products they sell not only motivate me to want to work harder and sweat more, but also my runs are now more comfortable and enjoyable.

    Cameron James

    City News Manager 

    Read more »
  • Student wins science Olympiad in Africa

    WHILE MOST MIDDLE SCHOOL students doodle to past the time, seventh grader Jalen Scott’s favorite pastime took him to Africa.

    As a student in Elkhan Akuhundov’s science class at Ken- ilworth Science and Tech- nology Charter School, Scott said it was when he looked at his pencil that he came up with the idea for a science fair project.

    “Every year students have to pick a topic to study and present their findings at the science fair, I looked at my pencil and thought to myself, lead has to be found more places than just in pencils,” Scott said.

    Upon joining the sci- ence, technology, engineering, and math program at Kenilworth, Scott decided his project for the science fair would examine elevated levels of lead in soil at Baton Rouge area schools.

    He said he was able to meet with LSU graduate students and professors, who after helping him decide on what to study. also helped him set up experiments and gather data.

    “It was fun working with the professors and I knew my project would be successful, because they know what they’re doing and they will share their expertise with you to make sure you know what you’re doing,” Scott said.

    Scott’s project produced a study of soil at 11 schools in the Baton Rouge area.

    “We used a PXF [Por- table X-ray Florescent] which is an instrument that when you place it in the soil, it tells you the com- pounds that make it up,” Scott said.

    Scott found lead levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency screen- ing limits at four of the schools.

    “The more involved I got in the project, the more I wanted to know and the more I wanted to know, the harder I worked to make this my best project yet,” Scott said.

    Akundov said his stu- dents are very involved in their projects when it comes to performing experiments and gathering data while teachers mainly only serve as the liaison between the students and their mentors at the University.

    “I’ve always been amazed by the interest he’s shown in science – I have always pushed his interest in anything that has to do with education,” said Sherman Scott, Jalen’s father.

    He continued to say that last year he worked with his son on a science project that didn’t receive a high grade so he used that defeat to motivate him toward victory with this project.

    “I learned along with my son, there were times I would look up words I didn’t know or look up ways to show my son how to explain something, I wanted him to see that it takes hard work to be the best,” he said.

    In 2013 when the young Scott presented his project at the science fair,

    his peers and teachers were not the only ones who took notice of the sixth grader’s research.

    “I can definitely see a difference from when I first met him, two years ago, to now,” Akundov said. “Not just from an academic standpoint, but he is more confident, and the experiences he’s had will have an impact on the rest of his life and the way he views the world.”

    Last year Scott’s work was published in the aca- demic journal Soil Hori- zons. This year Akundov entered the child’s work into the 2014 Golden Cli- mate International Envi- ronmental Project Olym- piad in Nairobi, Kenya.

    “I entered the project because it was very successful, it was published, had community impact and extended way beyond a science fair and lead to him being recognized by Arnie Dunckan, U.S. Secretary of Education,” Akundov said.

    Scott flew with his father and teacher to present his findings at the Olympiad where they stayed from April 29 to May 2. His findings were the only entry from the U.S. accepted to compete among 135 entrants from 31 countries.

    Scott left the competition victorious taking home its highest honor, the Wangari Maathai Special Award.

    After receiving so many accolades at such a young age, one would think Scott would want to pursue a science related career, but he said when he gets older he wants to be a graphic artist.

    “It’s something I have always wanted to do, as soon as I go home I draw, as soon as I get in class I draw, as soon as I leave class I draw. I feel like it’s a calling I’ve had since I was little,” Scott said.

    But his teacher believes he has already made an impact on the science industry.

    “It makes me feel important as a teacher being able to help a student accomplish so much with just one project,” Akhundov said. “This proves to everyone that anything is possible if you work hard, put in effort and keep trying.”

    By Cameron James 

    City News Manager

    Read more »
  • Local charter to open in Baker

    BAKER—IMPACT CHARTER Elementary, a locally operated, charter SCHOOL has broken ground to begin construction at 4815 Lavey Lane in Baker. Officials said the free public school will open its doors to students this fall.

    “We found Baker had the biggest need for the type of program we will have and that is what made [it] the best site for Impact,” said Chakesa Webb Scott, CEO of Impact.

    Impact will initially accept students in grades K-3 in its first year. Each subsequent year, the school will add an additional grade up to fifth grade.

    “We want to build an educational foundation with our students starting at the foundation and build on as they matriculate,” Scott said.

    Impact will function as a free public charter school. There are 200 students already enrolled with more students expected by the time school opens on Aug. 11.

    Former principal of Prescott middle Christopher Smith has been chosen to be the school’s academic leader.

    “We worked with and launched a regional search with the [help of the] Re- covery School District. Finding a principal who is already from the area and has charter experience will help us build a solid foundation,” Scott said.

    Construction on the 30,000 square-foot facil- ity began in early May and is expected to be completed in time for the school year opening. The school will have incorporated technology throughout the building, ranging from each classroom having its own air conditioner, to building a multipurpose media lab. The classrooms will also utilize a tool called the Doceri system, rather than old-fashioned chalkboards.  The upgraded system will allow teachers to apply lessons using an iPad projected on a screen.

    Impact will also be the first school in Baker to use the core knowledge curriculum.

    “Core knowledge curriculum has already seen suc- cess in other private schools in Baton Rouge,” Scott said. “This program emphasizes and focuses on the core subjects of math, history, reading and science but also includes art and music component – [it] also aligns with Common Core.”

    According to its mission statement, Impact Charter Elementary School will provide a rigorous core knowledge education for all students in a safe, supportive and challenging learning environment.

    While the school is still taking applications, kindergarten spots have been filled. The school will be the first charter to school provide transportation to students. Students living in Baker and some parts of north Baton Rouge will be receive transportation offered by the school.

    Impact is operated by Education Explosion Inc., a Baton Rouge-based non profit.

    The school’s administration office is located at 201 Sherron Avenue in Baker or call (225) 308-9565

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager

    Read more »
  • Smith introduces controversal sex education bills

    STATE REP. PATRICIA HAYNES- Smith introduced three bills in the education committee designed to alter the conversation on young people and sex in the state of Louisiana on May 13.

    With Louisiana’s two largest cities—New Orleans and Baton Rouge— constantly at the top of HIV infection lists, someone in every parish living with HIV and Louisiana ranking number five in regards to

    the rate of teen pregnancies, many say that something has to be done. One bill would allow nine questions about sexual practices to be added to a national survey that

    Louisiana teens all take. The next would mandate the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals analyze statistics regarding the pregnancy rates and sexual health of Louisiana teenagers.

    The most controversial was legislation that would mandate age appropriate sex education at all grade levels in Louisiana public schools. While the first two passed the committee, and are headed to the house floor, the sex ed. bill did not.

    Smith is very well known for her support of sex education. She has introduced measures to guar- antee it in the state of Louisiana since 2010.

    “I recognized that there was a major problem with teen pregnancy and began to delve into other statistics relating to this is- sue. Bills had been introduced in past legislative sessions and failed and yet the problem still existed. Having served on the school board in EBR, I recalled a town meeting where Dr. Holly Gallen questioned why we had not yet taken this on,” Smith said.

    With the overall conservative nature of the state of Louisiana, it is no surprise that the idea of discussing sex with K-12 students would be met with opposition.

    “The committee make up has changed over the years and has become more republican than before. I have gotten the bill out of committee before for it just to die on the house floor. The religious groups such as Family Forum and Catholic Bishops have always opposed the bill and the governor as well.  rates and have more influence over some legislators rather than them ing at the cold hard facts. And the problem is not going away,” Smith commented.

    There had been a great deal of discussion of what would be ‘forced upon’ Louisiana children if sex ed. legislation became law. However, there would be no stringent requirement—merely that there would be some form of sex education at all levels.”

    The bill did not dictate the curriculum but asked that it be age appropriate. There are many other states that have adopted curricu- lum and the Dept. of Education would have the sole responsibility of determining what would have been appropriate for Louisiana students.

    While the legislation to mandate sex education did die in the education committee, Smith said she remains hopeful about her other two bills. As far as the surveys go, she is hoping that adding those questions will allow the CDC to collect informa- tion that will be eye opening for state officials.

    “The survey can provide a snapshot of the risks stu- dents are taking regarding sex, It is a random selection process and is anonymous. If the sex questions are allowed, we can expect to see the CDC to make some recommendations on interven- tions,” she said.

    She said she feels that mandating that DHH officials prepare a report on teen sexual health in the state will be immensely important.

    “They do not do this at all. Perhaps this will begin a thought process on what to do about eliminating the high, STI, HIV rates and teen pregnancy,” she said.

    The next stop for the bill is the House Floor.

    By Terry Young Jr.

    Contributing Reporter

    Read more »
  • Crowning Glory: Beauty, Brains and Black

    The Miss USA beauty pageant has been held annually since 1952 to select the United States entrant in the Miss Universe pageant. This year the coveted crown will be given in Baton Rouge on June 8, at what will be by then, the newly renovated River Center.

    So far, only three women from Louisiana have ever won the title, and none have gone on to become Miss Universe, but that doesn’t mean that Louisiana women haven’t made a splash in the pageant organization – three titles is actually the median number of wins among the 32 crown-bearing states.

    In all of the years of Miss USA, women-of-color have also been scarce as title-holders. The first Asian American to win was Macel Wilson in 1962; the first Latina was Laura Martinez- Herring in 1985; the first Black was Carole Gist in 1990, who was also first runner-up to Miss Universe that year; and the first Miss USA of Middle-Eastern descent was Rima Fakin in 2010.

    Since Gist’s win in 1990, only five more Black women have won the Miss USA title, Kenya Moore (1993), Chelsi Smith (1995), Shauntay Hinton (2002), Rachel Smith (2007) and Crystle Stewart (2008).

    The reason there aren’t many winners-of-color is because there aren’t very many women-of-color entering the pageant. Roughly four to five women of color are competing at the state level and of course, to have more at the big pageant, one of them would have to win the state crown.

    In some states, that’s not so likely and in other’s, like Louisiana, those victories have only just begun happening within the last 10ears.

    In 2005, Louisiana USA awarded the crown for the first time to a Black woman –Candice Stewart.

    While Stewart acknowledges that she may inspire other Black girls to compete in pageants, she doesn’t want race to be so much the topic of conversation.

    “Beauty breaks all barriers – it’s not defined by skin color,” Stewart said.

    Hebert

    Hebert

    “One of the reasons I did it was to inspire other people. I feel like it is a predominately Caucasian-dominated field, so for me to be a person to break the mold that someone can look up to makes me just hope that people look back at my reign as Miss Louisiana and admire that.”

    Stewart began competing in 1999 at age 15 at the Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageant, placing first runner up. The following year Stewart won the pageant. Additionally she has also held the titles of Miss Teen Louisiana American Coed (2000) and Miss American Teen (2000).

    She competed for Miss Louisiana USA twice, receiving her opportunity to move on to the Miss USA pageant in 2005, while attending Xavier University of Louisiana in pursuit of a speech-language pathology and audiology degree.

    Stewart used her platform to help schools in her hometown Metairie and the Greater New Orleans area. “All of my family is in education, so I went in and spoke at a lot of public schools,” she said. “I encouraged the youth in the city that whatever their dreams are, you can accomplish and live them, because mine was Louisiana beauty pageants and I did it.”

    And while beauty may be a big portion of pageantry, to combat the beauty vs. brains concept, all Miss USA/Universe organization competitors are required to have an extensive resume that shows some form of education, community work and an already active platform.

    “All of the girls typically are educated or enrolled in school and do lots of extra-curricular activities,” Stewart said. “To say that you want to step on stage and have someone judge you, tests your brain power because you’re in an interview, and you not only have to be beautiful, but you also have to be able to express your views on what’s going on in your community and the world.”

    Stewart said that to be in a pageant, you have to be very disciplined. She equated discipline to being goal-oriented and that to success.

    “I believe that pageant women are very successful,” she said. Post pageantry, Stewart has earned her bachelor’s degree from Xavier,been an NFL cheerleader for the Houston Texans, opened up a small pageant coaching and image consulting business in the Houston area and competed on CBS’ Big Brother 15.

    Candice Stewart

    Candice Stewart

    She now works in her field as a pediatric speech therapist assistant.

    “My time as Miss Louisiana USA has far exceeded just a year,” Stewart said. “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to do a lot of great things.”

    Stewart said one of the most exciting things she has gotten to do since being crowned was going to Gabon to work with getting together the Miss Gabon Universe pageant and preparing the first Gabonese to compete at Miss Universe.

    While aged out of competing, Stewart said she still has a very close-knit tie to the pageant form.
    “I think that a pageant gives a girl a megaphone to give whatever message she has,” Stewart said. “For me, it was believing in the beauty of my dreams to accomplish any goal set. When you get a crown on top of your head, you already have an extra megaphone – people want to listen to you, they want to know your message.”

    But Stewart cautions, if you’re not willing to work, then you aren’t going to win. It’s a message that Baton Rouge area pageant coach and reigning Miss Louisiana International also lives by.

    For the past two years, regional transportation safety coordinator Ashley Hebert has represented Louisiana as a pageant queen, most recently as Miss Louisiana International 2013.

    Hebert’s first pageant was at age 27, when she took the title of Miss Black Louisiana USA. Already aged out of the Miss category, Hebert, now 29, held a platform long before she wore a crown.

    She competed in July at the 2013 Miss International Pageant in Chicago with a revamped version of her Miss Black Louisiana USA platform of education. It included a three step process, which was published in USA Today in 2012, to focus on the education of young girls and women.

    “Educational achievements for women have ripple effects within the family and across generations, so I focused more on ways to educate and empower young women through the areas I once worked on as Miss Black Louisiana USA 2012,” Hebert said.

    Hebert, who ranked in top 15 for the Miss Black USA Pageant, said her Miss International Pageant was nerve-wracking.

    “Many of my fellow contestants were career pageant girls with a history of pageants or crowns under their belts, so there was some anxiety there,” Hebert said. “But, once I arrived, I took some time to calm down, get my head on straight and got ready to compete and represent my state.”

    Stewart in Gabon

    Stewart in Gabon

    While Hebert’s reign ends soon, she plans to continue working toward her education platform and empowering young women. She holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from LSU, is on the advocacy board for the Capital Area Heart Association, is a member of the leadership council for The Cinderella Project and involved with their Leadership Academy to help young ladies get into college. Since being chosen as Miss Louisiana International by way of application and interview process, Hebert is working to bring the actual pageant to Louisiana.

    She also intends to continue work with Miss Congeniality Pageant Professionals, the company she started in 2012 to train girls how to win pageants and help queens maximize their reigns using all the knowledge she has gained in her two years as a queen. She said she knows that moreBlack women are going for titles because they have come to her for training.

    Hebert said she hasn’t really experienced racism in pageantry, but has had to over-explain the need for a Miss Black Louisiana pageant.

    “When people ask me why we need it and why there isn’t a Miss White Louisiana pageant too, I say there is – it’s Miss Louisiana,” Hebert joked.

    Hebert’s last appearance as queen was as a dancer at the Big Buddy annual fundraising event, Dancing with Big Buddy in May.

    “What I have learned as a queen is what it means to truly be a role model to young women of this state, which is an honor,” Hebert said. “I have learned that you must do more than preach a message these days, you must be the message to others.”

    Both Stewart’s and Hebert’s firms not only teach competitors how to win, but how to reign, choose appearances and speak as a queen.

     

    By Leslie D. Rose 

    Read more »
  • Southern University’s director of bands to retire

    Director of Southern University’s “Human Jukebox” Marching Band, Lawrence Jackson, is retiring this summer.

    “The best thing is that I’m leaving on my terms. I love everybody, I love Southern University and I have no problems,” he said. “This is the time I have chosen to retire.”

    Jackson’s official last day will be July 1. He has been the band director since 2006, after taking over for the late Dr. Isaac Greggs.

    “Southern University has been blessed to have Mr. Jackson lead the famed human jukebox and continue the great legacy left by former band directors Dr. Isaac Greggs and Dr. Ludwig Freeman,” said James Llorens Chancellor of Southern University

    Under Jackson’s direction, the marching band has maintained the national prominence it  gained under Greggs’ leadership.

    At the end of the 2013 football season the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) named its top college marching bands and the Human Jukebox finished second behind The Ohio State marching band.

    “To be recognized by the NCAA as the second best band, behind The Ohio State band is one of my highest moments. Ohio State has a million dollar budget and we have a bubble gum budget compared to them,” he said

    Jackson played in SU’s band from 1971 to 1975. Nicknamed “Crowley” after his hometown in Louisiana. During that time Jackson won several band awards including, most outstanding, top grade point average and he was a section leader.

    Nathan Haymer, Assistant Band Director, has been named the new band director.

    Read more »
  • Chicken Shack continues seventh decade with new location

    SINCE THE TIME THOMAS DELPIT founded Chicken Shack in 1935—with less than a dollar in his pocket and only a third grade education—the restaurant has remained a fixture in Baton Rouge dining for 77 years.

    Many trials and tribulations have long setback the opening of new Delpit Enterprises restaurants and the company has even had to closed two restaurants over the years.

    But this summer, Joe Delpit expand the family-owned chain again when the third Chicken Shack restaurant opens at the former Popeye’s, 8372 Scotland Avenue, in North Baton Rouge.

    In 1958, Joe Delpit took over ownership of the restaurant that his father Thomas Delpit opened in the front portion of the family’s shotgun home on East Blvd.

    The Delpit dynasty began in 1950 when Thomas realized that his once small, sit-in restaurant had outgrown the home.

    “This was during World War II, and it was hard to get building materials, so my father gave a contractor almost $50,000 and he took the money and ran away,” said Joe Delpit.

    Undeterred by this setback Thomas was still able to open a new location. As the popularity of the Chicken Shack grew, so did the number of celebrities who came to eat including B.B. King and Count Basie. The Chicken Shack also served as a meeting place for Black social clubs who were not allowed

    in white establishments. Even after the death of his father, Joe wanted to uphold his dream of expanding the Chicken Shack throughout Baton Rouge. Delpit decided that the Rebel Shopping Center located in a predominantly white area—which is now where Baton Rouge Community College—would be the best location. He went back to bank to try to secure another business loan, but was denied.

    “I was not denied because the bank did not have faith in me. I was denied because there was high chance that some of the racists in the community would burn it down and the bank would lose their investment.” he said

    Undiscouraged, Joe Delpit put the plans to open another Chicken Shack on hold and continue to focus on the current restaurant – then politics.

    He became the first Black city councilman in Metro Baton Rouge and later became state representative for District 63. There he helped to establish the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.

    All along, he never lost sight of the goal to open more Chicken Shack locations. So when the restaurant chain Jim Dandy was closing, Delpit saw his opportunity.

    As a politician, Delpit was able to make many connections – one of them was with the owner of a bank who was able to secure a $175,000 Small Business Administration loan to purchase three Jim Dandy locations on Terrace Street, Highland Road, and North Acadian Throughway.

    His childhood friend and former Chicken Shack employee Henry Batiste moved back to Baton Rouge and suggested the two open another Chicken Shack, as business partners.

    They purchased another location on Mohican and Pawtucket for only $12,000. They also opened a small store in Southern University’s Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union, which closed after new mangers contracted with the university. All, but the North Acadian location have since closed.

    Now adding a new location, Delpit said he believes it is likely to have more success than its closed predecessors.

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager

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  • Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co drop controversial ingredient

    AS A RESULT OF CUSTOMER feedback and a petition on Change. org, Coca-Cola is dropping the controversial ingredient—br0minated vegetable oil—from Powerade.

    A petition started by a Mississippi teenager noted that an active ingredient in Powerade is linked to a flame retardant and is not approved for use in Japan or the Europe- an Union. The Food and Drug Administration told the Associated Press that brominated vegetable oil is used as a stabilizer for flavoring oils in fruit flavored drinks.

    Last year, PepsiCo said it would drop the ingredient from Gatorade. At the beginning of this month, bottles of Powerade in strawberry lemonade and fruit punch flavors being sold in the Detroit, Omaha, Washington DC, and New York areas no longer list the ingredient.

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  • Spread the truth about Black graduates not myths

    LONG ISLAND TEENAGER Kwasi Enin captured national headlines after becom- ing part of an impressive club: high school seniors who have been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. However, while many celebrated Enin’s achievement, a bitter minority griped that the teenager had somehow gamed the system. The racial subtext was obvious – Enin couldn’t have actually have gotten into all those schools by himself. Why? Well, because he’s Black.

    This type of harmful and wholly inaccurate narrative has been constructed around Black male student achievement for years. Enin is just the latest high profile example of how it hurts all young men, high school high-achievers or not, by implying that the majority of Black boys are hopelessly behind and may never be able to narrow the achievement gap.

    There are, of course, legitimate issues that Black male students face due to a confluence of factors. But even data that shows the
    more dire aspects of Black male achievement does not exist in a vacuum, with researchers misrepresenting or not calculating for the experiences of Black male students.

    The good news is that bright spots like Enin may help raise the profile of America’s Black young men. However, there is a lot of work to be done, beginning with rethinking the way we use these seven common myths.

    MYTH 1. There are more Black males in prison than college.

    Black men are grossly over- represented in the penal system. However, there are more Black males in college than in prison, as of 2011. Howard Univer- sity professor and Baton Rouge na- tive Ivory A. Told- son found in his research that there are about 600,000 more Black males enrolled in higher education than are in jail.

    This myth has been used by education experts, the media and even President Barak Obama, despite the fact that over the last decade, Black boys have largely avoided the school-to-prison pipeline.

    MYTH 2. Less than 50% of Black males graduate from high school.

    The high school drop- out rate for Black males has actually hit a his- toric low. According to a 2013 Education Week study, about 62% of Blacks completed high school in 2010 (the most recent year for which the necessary data was available), com- pared to 80% of white stu- dents. The increase repre- sents a 30% narrowing of the gap between Black and white high school students.

    Indeed, Black males are graduating at historic levels. According to the Schott Foundation for Pub- lic Education, in 2009-10 the national graduation rate for Black male students was 52%. The graduation rate for white, non- Latino males was 78%. This is the first year that more than half of the nation’s Black males in 9th grade graduated with regular diplomas four years later. At the same time, overall high school dropout rates have decreased steadily since 1990, and there is no indication that the rates won’t continue to fall, given the trend over the past two decades.

    MYTH 3. Black males don’t go to college.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Black students [enrolled in college] rose from 9% to 14%. During the same period, the percentage of white students fell from 83% to 61%.

    The Congressional Black Caucus report “Chal- lenge the Status Quo,” meanwhile, found that there are 12.5 million Black adult males living in Amer- ica, who make up 5.5% of the total population, and 5.5% of the students on college campuses across America are Black male students. The percentage of Black male students en- rolled in college is proportional to the 5.5% of Black men college-age or above living in the U.S. today.

    MYTH 4. Black student-athletes graduate at higher rates than their non-athlete Black peers.

    Often college coaches boast about how teamwork and sportsmanship trans- late to academic success. However, according to a University of Pennsylvania report on Black male stu- dent-athletes in NCAA Divi- sion I college sports, 50.2% of Black male student-ath- letes graduate within six years, compared to 55.5% of Black undergraduate students overall. And the disparity is even larger if Black male student-ath- letes are compared to other student athletes: 66.9% of overall student-athletes graduate within the same six-year period, represent- ing an 11.4% gap between Black student-athletes and their teammates.

    MYTH 5. Black male students have the same opportunities as their peers.

    This is an important one, part of the narrative that allows casual racism like the kind experienced by Kwasi Enin. In fact, a recent U.S. Education De- partment’s 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection sur- vey noted that the Ameri- can school system treats Black boys unfairly. Black male students receive a disproportionate number of suspensions, detentions and call-outs, and have a much higher rate of being expelled from school. In addition, schools attended by Black males have less ac-

    cess to experienced teach- ers and advanced place- ment classes, according to the survey.

    At the same time, the Casey Foundation recently found that Black students face the highest barri- ers to opportunities. The foundation’s researchers measured success toward 12 benchmarks, including literacy proficiency, rates of employment, income and several other factors. The report concluded that Blacks, when compared to other racial groups us-

    ing these benchmarks, fare the worst due to disparities they face from birth.

    MYTH 6. Black male students are underachievers.

    Coded language and misused statistics have constructed this idea that Black male students are underachievers. But ignoring the fact that some of America’s brightest minds are Black, recent research shows that a lack of critical feedback and demonstrated high expectations is stiflingBlack confidence in the classroom.

    In three do ble-blind randomized field experiments, researchers at the University of Texas found that Black students improve their grades af- ter having the assignment expectation reinforced by their teachers. These results point out that a cycle of mistrust and lower ex- pectations is a likely culprit in cases of Black underperformance.

     

    BY ANTOINE SARGENT

    Special to The Drum

    twitter: @sirsargent 

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  • Plaquemine native lands spot on new MTV series

    Touring with Trey Songz and outselling Beyoncé on iTunes Japan are just two accomplishments pushing singer Justin Garner to the forefront of the music industry.

    And now, MTV has taken notice of his talent.

    Garner will appear on the network’s new music competition series Copycat this summer.

    Copycat places singers in head to head competition where they battle to see who can cover some of the most popular songs, from artists ranging from Usher to Katy Perry. The winner takes home bragging rights and a cash prize.

    “Right now the music industry has become more focused on gimmicks,” Garner said. “This is a show that is bringing vocal ability back to the forefront of the industry.”

    Copycat will begin airing in June.

    “I’ve been working very hard this year on my music and it is rewarding that so many are taking notice,” he said.

    He is planning a summer tour in the United States and Japan to promote his newest EP 7 and to celebrate the success of his album I Am.

    In the future, Garner said he would like to be signed to major record label and believes that dream will become a reality very soon. His ideal music contract would be with a label supportive enough to invest in a singer who writes, co-produces and has independently released material. So far he has yet to be offered that non-controlling type of contract, but he has been meeting with several interested labels. Until then, he plans to continue pursuing his independent career and making himself undeniable.

    Copycat will air on MTV June 2 at 6:30/5:30c. Watch the trailer here 

    by Cameron James

    City News Manager

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  • ‘Step Off’ Comes to Manship

    You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your sorority sisters! This May, New Venture Theatre (NVT) will present a comedic glimpse at sorority life with “Step Off”, a story of the rivalry between two fictional sororities.

    “The whole idea of these women in this group coming together to create a production is almost a production in itself, so I wanted to showcase it in a way that celebrated femininity and the fierceness that women possess,” said Greg Williams, Jr., NVT founding artistic director and “Step Off” playwright.

    Dreama, the captain of Alpha Mu and her sorority sisters, have been challenged to bring it by rival sorority Kappa Theta in the annual Pearl Step Competition, to prove which sorority is the best on the campus of fictional Bailey University.

    But when the group learns that Adorn, the world-renowned choreographer they emptied their savings account to hire, isn’t what they expected, they find more important lessons than just a choreography routine.

    “This is a play that will entertain and show that part of growing up is finding your voice – you can’t let relationships, organizations or anything else define you,” said Amber Smith who plays Dreama

    Williams said he wanted to write a play that had the feel of a musical. Songs by Beyoncé and Rihanna are used to illustrate the highs and lows for the sorority members. The play even resurrects Brooke Valentine’s “Girl Fight” for what is guaranteed to be one its most memorable scenes.

    “There are so many elements to being in a sorority, one is community service, but they also participate in huge grand events and I wanted to respect that and also showcase it in a theatrical [way],” Williams said.

    Instead of characters bursting into song, the production utilizes choreographer Dwight Bell for the dance scenes to tell the tale of the ongoing battle between the sororities.

    “The characters in the story are going through a lot emotionally and we are using music and dance to showcase those emotions to the stage in a unique way,” Bell said.

    Maxine played by Bianca Siplin, reacts to meeting Adorn played by Aron Ardoin, with Dreama played  by Amber Smith and Zaydra played by Denice King.

    Maxine played by Bianca Siplin, reacts to meeting Adorn played by Aron Ardoin, with Dreama played by Amber Smith and Zaydra played by Denice King.

    Who will take the win at the Pearl and have the title of the best sorority on campus? That is a question that will be answered. But what is sure to make the show entertaining is the journey that these women take to make the dream of victory a reality.

    “Step Off” opens May 15 and will run until May 18 at the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre inside the Shaw Center for the Arts.

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager

     

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  • North Baton Rouge soccer keeps kids active

    BAKER—PART OF LIVING HEALTHY LIFEstyle is staying is active and the North Baton Rouge Youth Soccer Association is helping young people do just that.

    Founded in 2008, the goal of the NBRYSA is stresses the fundamentals of soccer and concentrates on the players having fun playing soccer for 3-year-olds to 14-year-olds with any athletic skill levels.

    The organization has a,

    Life-North Baton Rouge Youth Souccer Associationspring and fall season with weekly practices at the J.S. Clark Park. Games are held on Saturdays during the season.

    Every Wednesday, the NBRYSA hosts “bring a friend to practice” to engage potential players and keep kids active.

     

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  • SU Ag institute grad recognized for healthy living

    NEW ORLEANS—JENGA Mwendo enrolled in the Small Farmer Leadership Institute Class III at the SU Ag Center in 2009, graduating in 2011.The same year  that she registered for the Leadership Institute, Mwendo founded Backyard Gardeners Network (BGN) in New Orleans.

    Earlier this year, Aetna Insurance selected to spotlight Mwendo for the March page of thee 2014 African- American History Calendar, “Community transformations: African Americans creating sustainable neighborhoods,” encourages healthy living. Aetna is an American managed health care company which takes healthy living seri- ously. Aetna is a member of the Fortune 100.

    The Lower Ninth Ward native returned to New Orleans in 2007 to help rebuild the community after the 2005 Katrina disaster. Mwendo is director of BGN and community organizer who focuses on strengthening the community through urban agriculture. The non-profit organization’s mission is community building, neighborhood revitalization and cultural preservation through urban gardening. They organize food demonstrations, educational workshops, potluck meals, and live musical entertainment. “We get to share home-cooked foods with each other,” she said, adding that her 9-year- old daughter has been a big part of her work. The kids in the neighborhood now appreciate what it takes to grow good food.”

    “If you have your own food source, you can bounce back a lot quicker after hurricanes,” Mwendo said. Jenga enjoys living in New Orleans “despite all the obstacles.”

    Following her gradu- ation from the Lead- ership Institute in 2011, Mwendo was among 14 fellows selected by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) Food and Community to receive an award. The 2011-2013 class of Fellows was a mix of grassroots ad- vocates, thought leaders, writers, and entrepreneurs.

    The award came with a two-year fellowship that provided an annual stipend of $35,000 in addition to communications support, trainings, and travel. The program supports leaders working to create a food system that strengthens the health of communities, particularly children.

    For this class of fellows, the selection committee focused on work that cre- ates a just, equitable and healthy food system from its roots up. More than 560 individuals applied for fellowships that year.

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  • A needed transformation: the weight loss journey of Jeffery Woods

    WHEN JEFFERY Woods’ wife gifted him an expensive t-shirt he said, “I put it on, it looked horrible and I felt so bad”. Instead
    of returning the shirt, he hung it in his closet as motivation to get back into shape.

    Over the course of one year, the 42-year- old father of two was able to transform from a flabby 245 pounds back to the lean 187-pound athletic build he had as a high school athlete.

    As a young boy in high school, Jef- fery Woods had a dream to make it to the 1992 Olympics. In pursuit of his dream, he earned a full scholarship to the University of Rhode Island (URI), where he earned All American Honors in the 400 Hurdles in 1991. While at URI, Woods held 16 school records in nine events and won 16 New England titles in eight events. Woods was also the 2x New England Track & Field Athlete of the Year and in 1992, he received URI’s highest athletic award.

    Although he did not make it to the 1992 Olympics, partly due to a foot injury, in 1995 he completed the Marine Corp Marathon, which was his first 26.2 miler. While training for his second marathon the following year, his life was changed physically, mentally and spiritually during a flag foot- ball championship game in Maryland. He collapsed on the field and spent a month in the hospital being probed and prodded in order to identify the cause. Woods was diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia and a Jeff Woods Before Piccardiac defibrillator was implanted.

    The diagnosis was odd considering Woods’ track and field background. After receiving multiple shocks while sleeping, Woods went to another hospital for a second opinion where he was diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis, a potentially life threatening illness. During that time 98% of the cases involved pulmonary organs. Unfortunately for some, 98% of the time, cardiac sarcoidosis was diagnosed post

    mortem. Ultimately doc- tors concurred, the only reason he survived was due to his level of fitness.

    However, as a result of medications, non-activity, poor diet and depression, Woods went from a lean 175 pounds to a whopping

    245 pounds with a 38-inch waist! The weight gain was a nemesis for years and proved to be a formida- ble one at that. For many years, he struggled with the weight, and because of his appearance, he refrained from visiting public pools.

    Finally in 2010, Woods decided he needed to get back in shape. He first

    started with his diet, elimi- nating all sugars, processed foods and all products containing enriched flour. This coupled with Insanity, an exercise program consist- ing of cardio and weight training he found the winning formula to transform his 42-year-old body back into competition shape.

    In 2011 he returned to URI to compete in the Alumni Track Meet, competing in three events. Woods is now lean at 195 lbs with his high school, 32-inch waist. He is also competing in his fourth Marine Corp Marathon this October.

    Jeffery Woods pictured with his family. Left to right: His daughter Laci, Woods, his wife Racquel and son Clayton.

    Jeffery Woods pictured with his family. Left to right: His daughter Laci, Woods, his wife Racquel and son Clayton.

    Illness, depression and poor self-image can be combated with good diet and consistent exercise reg- iment. Woods encourages others to create a plan, and “Live Life with Purpose.” He has energized his life through fitness to ensure he has every opportunity to enjoy his family and re- main healthy.

    Jeffery Woods, PhD, is the Indianapolis Regional Director for The Expecta- tion Project, an adjunct professor at Indiana Wes- leyan and the Founding Executive Director of Fathers 4 Futures.

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  • Spike Lee speaks to youth

    NATCHITOCHES- When Barry LaCaze bid a whopping $1,000 for a Spike Lee book at the Boys & Girls Clubs of El Camino Reál’s 16th Annual Steak & Burger Dinner, he didn’t flinch or show hesitation.

    “I just really wanted the book and knew it was for a good cause,” said LaCaze, 28, a sound technician at a local church. “It’s worth it.”

    More than 900 people gathered at the Natchi- toches Event Center for the local club’s fundraiser. In a pleasant twist, club members were served steak and baked potatoes while adult supporters ate hamburgers and potato chips. Natchitoches singer DeShawn Washington, who also competed on the hit television show “The Voice,” provided entertainment.

    Spike Lee addressed the crowd after hearing sta- tistics such about how most of this club’s members read below grade level and qualify for free or reduced lunch. He called the statis- tics “very sobering.”

    “The gap between the haves and the have nots is wider than it’s ever been, and unfortunately Louisiana is at the top of that,” he said.

    He urged parents to step up to the plate and be more active in their children’s lives.

    “We have to go over their homework,” Lee said. “We have to take the time to be grown ups. Children are children. They don’t know what to do.”

    He also told parents to be more supportive of their children’s dreams, some- thing he said was a struggle for some.

    “Parents kill more dreams than anybody,” said Lee, who added that many young adults suc- cumb to vicious parental pressure and choose safe majors in school and ultimately careers instead of their dream ones.

    “I say my prayers  night because I’m blessed and love what I do,” he said.

    He talked about how he’s able to get up every morning without an alarm clock because he’s going to do work that he loves. Lee said that too many young black men want to be rappers or play sports.

    Lee Barry LaCaze, 28, of Natchitoches bid one-thousand dollars for this Spike Lee book

    Lee Barry LaCaze, 28, of Natchitoches bid one-thousand dollars for this Spike Lee book

    “We have enough of that. We need more scien- tists,” he added.

    Lee stressed the importance of education. A professor at NYU, his mother and grandmother were also college-educated teachers.  Lee attend Morehouse College and NYU.

    “Our ancestors knew that education would lead us out of bondage,” he said.

    Nationally the BCBA serve almost four million youth annually in almost 4,000 club facilities, ac- cording to their website. Their mission is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, respon- sible citizens.”

    All of the proceeds raised from the dinner go back into the local club.

     

    By Anastasia Semien

    Contributing Reporter

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  • City unites to cope with violence

    BAKER—IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, CITIZENS OF BAKER HAVE BEEN coming together to keep their young people from falling victim to tragic statistics.

    According to a study conducted by The Center for American Progress, Louisiana has the highest gun-homicide rate among young people age 19 and younger.

    The severity of that study’s results became a harsh reality on March 28, when teenagers gathered for a birthday party and music video shoot at the Baker Civic Club, that would leave three of their peers dead and one hospitalized.

    Marcell Franklin, 15, Kendal Dorsey, 15, and Diontrey Claiborne, 18, were killed when shots were fired at the party. Javaughn Simmons, 19, was hospitalized and is expected to live.

    Tresa Jones, who is a Baker resident and founding member of Parents Against Violent Exposure (PAVE), said her teenage daughter asked her to take her and friends to what she said was a birthday party at the Civic Club.

    “I trust my daughter and I couldn’t tell what it was, but something just didn’t sit well with me and I almost didn’t let her go,” Jones said.

    Jones continued by saying that she felt more at ease once at the Civic Club, seeing other parents dropping their children off, although that assuredness went along with her assumption that the party would have security provided by law-enforcement. A few hours later, she got call from her daughter that proved her feeling of intuition wasn’t one she should’ve ignored.

    kid holding shirt She arrived back at the Civic Club to a scene of crying teenagers, flashing lights and parents searching for their children.

    said that even though he had his own bad intuition about the now-deadly event, intuition is legally not enough to shut down a party.

    “I saw the flyer for the party just by looking at it I had feeling it was a recipe for a not-so-good situation,” Knaps said.page1image25736

    The event was posted on the popular social media website, Facebook. Knaps said this was one of the things that made him feel uncomfortable about the party.

    “When you put an event up on social media about a social gathering, it is hard to control the type of people that come to the event,” Knaps said.

    Based on those concerns, he said chief investigator Darryl Rainwater told former Baker Civic Club board member Janet Mosley that the chief was worried about the party. Mosely brought the concern to Civic Club President Hazel Mitchell, who responded she was legally bound to the contract signed with the people holding the party.

    Baker police have arrested a 16-year-old boy accused of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of illegal use of a weapon.

    Starlett Speed, a teacher at Glasgow Middle Schoolsaid that this generation of studentsis so connected to social media, that they are more concerned with updating their Facebook status than their interpersonal skills.

    Unfortunately for Speed, seeing the harsh effects of gun violence on her students is nothing new.

    “I lost one student who was murdered and I also taught the student who was accused of murdering him, that was really hard to take,” Speed said. “We live in such a microwave society where everything is so quick now, sometimes young people don’t take time think about the consequences of their actions.”

    Speed said she always wanted a career that was more rewarding, thatwould allow her to give back and impact young people. So she left her job in banking for a career in education because she knew that career path would allow her to make a difference.

    As a teacher, she has come across a variety of students, some who showed signs of strong academic promise and those who didn’t see a value in education.

    Baker City Councilwoman Joyce Burges particpates in discussion with teenagers about ways to prevent violence in Baker.

    Baker City Councilwoman Joyce Burges particpates in discussion with teenagers about ways to prevent violence in Baker.

    “Students need to see someone they can relate to, you have to reach to teach,” she said. “If you do it the other way around you’ll never reach your students. I tried that way when I began teaching, it was one of the worst mistakes I made.”

    Since she began her career six years ago she has lost a total of three students to gun violence.

    “Students needs some someone they can talk to, I try to be there for my students and told them if they have information and are scared to tell, tell me and I will tell [the police] for them.”

    Speed said she believes in implementing more school-sponsored social activities as a means to alleviate the need for students attend functions at venues that do not provide accurate safety.

    And now, in Baker that trying to have fun has lead to tragedy after tragedy, the city is looking for answers.

    “We want to know why everything happened and not that it just happened and who did it-we want to heal the community,” Knaps said. “We are still interviewing witnesses. Anytime two set eyes of look at something, they each see it differently, we want to know what every eye saw.”

    As police continue to put together the puzzle, citizens continue to come together to find ways to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. One organization that is trying to keep teens safe and prevent gun violence among them is Jones’ group, PAVE.

    “Children have forgotten about love. There is a lot of hate causing this violence, so we want to bring back love,” said Beverly Turner a founding member of PAVE. “We want to create unity is this community through activities that unite parents, children, and community leaders.”

    On April 11, PAVE paid tribute the shooting victims with a peace march that started at the Baker Civic Club. According to Jones, this is only one of the activities the group will host to help the community to heal.

    “We started Parents Against Violent Exposure to get parents to teach their children to think about their decisions,” Jones said. “If parents begin planting the seed in the home, when children are away from their parents, they will be more likely to stop and think about the consequences of their actions.”

    To be involved, email blvyhlms@cox.net

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