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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.

    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


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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.


    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

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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

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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.

    Read more »
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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.


    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

    Read more »
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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

    Read more »
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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

    Read more »
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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

    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.

    Read more »
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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.

    Read more »
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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.



    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


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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.


    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.


    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

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    Baby Dolls Cafe relocates to larger site



    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.


    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


    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. 


    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.


    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


    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

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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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


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


    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 


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  • 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


    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.

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  • 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.


    City News Manager

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  • 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.


    Assistant Managing Editor

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  • 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.



    “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

    Read more »
  • 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.

    Read more »
  • 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.



    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

    Read more »
  • ‘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


    Read more »
  • 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.


    Read more »
  • 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.

    Read more »
  • 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.

    Read more »
  • 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

    Read more »
  • 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

    Read more »
  • ‘Women of Brewster Place’ lands at Manship, April 24 – 28

    WHEN A NEIGHBORHOOD IS a melting pot of strong willed Black women, it serves as the recipe for an exciting emotional roller coaster.

    New Venture Theater’s (NVT) seventh season is rolling full steam ahead with its second production, “The Women of Brewster Place” the musical, April 24-28 at the Manship Theatre in downtown Baton Rouge.

    The musical tells the story of several strong-willed women who live in a rundown housing project on Brewster Place. NVT founding artistic director Greg Williams Jr. said he hopes the play does more than entertain.

    “We read about a 100 plays when trying to put together the season, and part of our selection process is asking ourselves is this work relevant? Is this work speaking to the times?” Williams said.

    Williams said he decided on Tim Acito’s musical version, which is closer to the novel than the TV mini-series made popular by Oprah Winfrey.

    “I think this version tells more of a story of the women and the music adds shows more heart and closer to the novel than the TV series,” Williams said.

    New Venture Theatre cast rehearses “The Women of Brewster Place” the musical with director Greg Williams Jr.

    wood has held privacy as the feature that makes it the man’s “grown-up fort” as the only way to gain access is by renting the facility for private events. Gollywood is located at 6224 Plank Road, Suite F, Baton Rouge.

    Acito’s stage version relies on a cast of just eight women, between 20 and 60 years old, to tell the story of the trials and tribulations faced by the women who inhabit Brewster Place.

    “There are no men, no children; a lot of the people we talk to are invisible I think it challenges us as actors to bring more emo- tion to our characters,” said Telisha Diaz who plays the lead role of Mattie.

    This performance could not have come at a better time, with all of the changes that Baton Rouge is going through, Williams said.

    “There are so many changes and divides in the city even between, north and south Baton Rouge, but this play gives a sense of community,” he said. “It reminds us no matter how different we all are at the end of the day all we have is each other.”

    Although NVT will not be producing the popular mini-series version, Williams said his show would bring some of iconic scenes from the TV to the stage by using artistic tactics that will appeal to the emotions such as the tearing down of the wall.

    “The only scene I remember from the movie growing up is the wall scene, but Greg told us not watch the movie so we could develop our characters naturally on our own” said Kai Lewis who plays Cora Lee in her first NVT production.

    “This play will give everyone as sense of what community is and what it can be,” Williams said. “What I love about this play is it shows that people with different beliefs, from different backgrounds can put aside their differences to come together.”

    For times and tickets click here

    Read more »
  • Summit seeks to increase male success in college

    NEW ORLEANS–DILLARD University is exploring ways Louisiana colleges can increase enrollment and re- tention rates among Black men on their campuses.

    The New Orleans’ HBCU initiated this pro- cess by hosting an event called “Louisiana Summit on Black Male Student Suc- cess in Higher Education.” The goal of the summit was to introduce methods of de- veloping programs and ini- tiatives to ensure a healthy matriculation of Black men through college while in- creasing their presence.

    “More has been written about Black men since 1997 than any other race or sex group in higher education, but yet the outcomes re- main unchanged, ”said Dr. Shawn R. Harper, Execu- tive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at Uni- versity of Pennsylvania.

    Harper, who served as the Keynote speaker, said that individuals who share research using negative headlines and statistics are creating initiatives based on what he refers to as “bad math”.

    “I often argue in my work that those who really want to improve success for Black male undergrad- uate students have much to learn from Black male un- dergraduate students who are successful, but that is often not the first part of strategy,” Harper said.

    Harper acknowledged the success of the Urban Prep School, a Chicago all- Black-boys high school. Ur- ban Prep has made head- line news for the past four consecutive years due to its 100 percent graduation rate and four-year college acceptance.

    “Why not go to a place where 100 percent of the seniors, who are guys, got admitted to college and try

    to figure out what in the world [they are doing] phil- osophically, organization- ally, politically, financially and intrinsically – and what they have done there will be the instructive for the rest us who are concerned with improving rates of success among Black male students” Harper said.

    Harper noted that sometimes when institu- tions want to implement programs they over look the basic steps when it comes to planning. He said the downfall of well-inten- tioned initiatives could sim- ply be the fact that no plan has been written down.

    “There have also been missing standards. No standards by which to design, implement and as- sess and these initiatives”, Harper said.

    Former University of Toledo professor Tyrone Bledsoe, PhD agreed with Harper’s appeal. Bledsoe is the founder of the Student African American Brother- hood (SAAB), a mentoring organization that focuses on ways to increase college readiness and retention among Black men through- out the country by holding administrators responsible for their students’ success.

    “I want everyone to stand, look at the person next to you and see if you can find something wrong with them,” Bledsoe in- structed the summit audi- ence. “I want you to look at that person and see if they are at risk – isn’t that what we do with Black males?”

    Bledsoe continued by explaining that he used the exercise to describe the way that initiatives approach Black men with the “I can fix you” attitude, instead of assets to our communities.

    SAAB works by imple- menting its mentor style program in middle school through college levels by working with school dis- tricts and university ad- ministrators. Bledsoe said the organization operates this way so there is always a level of accountability at the administration level.

    According to Bledsoe, the issue of Black men be- ing successful in higher education has now become an international issue and he is working with orga- nizations in Germany and London to introduce his mentoring initiative.

    Read more »
  • NAACP critical of superientendent

    AMITE—BLACK LEADERS SAID they are highly critical of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and the large amount of wasted taxpayer money going into the par- ish schools.

    Community leader and elected official Iram Gordon of Kentwood expressed her feelings in a recent boardmeeting regarding the lack of support for the schools in Kentwood.

    Former Kentwood High principal Ann Smith, who represents the area as a board member, disagreed with Gordon. Smith garnered the support of school board member Brett Duncan, who stated that she led efforts to have a new $15 million O.W Dillion Elementary School Built and allotted for millions of dollars in renovations for kentwood high.

    Pat Morris, who is president of theGreater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP, fielded questions to the Tangipahoa Parish School Board on the state of its schools. She said that individuals who question what’s happening with the schools have listed many times when their calls to the administration have gone unanswered and unreturned.

    “We are going to bring heavy, heavy pressure on our superintendent, assistant superintendent and chief academic of- ficer,” Morris said. “We renew our cam- paigner for a trained educator as super- intendent. We emphasize it is not a race thing – it is about quality education.

    Our current superintendent cannot provide leadership as an educator – he is not one – this should now be obvious. His leadership is putting the parish deeper in the hole in the desegregation case and the failure of schools to meet state standards cannot be ignored.”

    Neighboring parish St. Tammany has “A” rated schools; while Tangipahoa Par- ish is saturated with “D” and “F” rated schools.

    The Recovery School District is close

    in proximity and is taking over schools and turning them over to private charter school corporations from outside the state, removing control from the local school board and from local parents. RSD is not only giving the schools to these out of state private corporations, it is also giving these private corporations control of the prop- erty paid for with local tax dollars.

    The Greater Tangipahoa NAACP chapter said it feels that the statements presented are legitimate concerns that de- serve response.

    “This is not about personal agendas, nor vendettas,” Morris continued. “It is about the future of every child in this school system. We can do better. We must do better.”

    Read more »
  • Justin Garner: Rising to International fame

    TOURING WITH TREY SONGZ AND outselling Beyoncé are just two accomplishments that are pushing pop singer Justin Garner to the forefront of the music industry. His ability to wrap so many genres inside his R&B and pop melodies even have people around world taking notice.

    In 2011 Garner released his sophomore album I am, and in February a re-mastered version with new songs debuted on Japan’s iTunes R&B charts at #19. In just mere hours it had surpassed Beyonce’s self-tilted album for the #1 spot.

    “I got on iTunes and looked for myself in Japan and found a big banner saying Justin Garner that was right next to a Beyoncé ad. I was number one and she was number 12,” Garner said.

    While his music has been released in the United States, Garner said he believes that a big reason that it has received so much attention in Japan is that the Japanese approach new artists differently than Americans. Justin Japan itunes

    “Overseas in Japan they love great singers and vocals. There, it’s more about the searching for music from abroad, but in America it’s more about the politics and marketing side.”

    In an age where social media networks have become the standard way to communicate, Garner has

    used the popularity of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to ensure that his music gets to his fans, which he refers to as the “JG Army”.

    Garner said touring and social media have been great ways to gain exposure, but as an independent artist, without the support of a label, the biggest asset to his arsenal of marketing strategies has been his education. He has a marketing degree from Southern University that he uses as one of the biggest tools in the promotion of his music.

    “Music is great but you have to have some level of marketing behind you to help you get music out. You can be the best singer, but you have to have the knowledge and know- how, and I feel that that degree gave me that.”

    Garner refers to Michael Jackson and Usher as his inspirations, but said he developed his passion for music growing up in church. Yet while he acknowledges those things, he said he has been told that his talent comes from his father, Ernest “Oldie” Garner, who died when he was two. Earnest was a member of the Plaquemine-based band The Rockin’ Imperials who also saw international success.

    Garner said he is going to continue his career and the trail started by his father as he prepares to release his newest E.P., 7. Inspired by a recent trip to

    California, 7 is a project containing seven tracks recorded in seven days. It will be released at the beginning of April.

    justin garner two  copy“So many great things happened on that [California] trip and I came back on such an emotional high. I was inspired to write these seven songs”.

    He is planning a summer tour in the United States and Japan to promote 7 and celebrate the success of I Am. But before then, Garner said he is also setting aside time to give back to Louisiana and will be working with the Baton Rouge Chapter of the American Red Cross.

    “The people at the Red Cross are just like us, except instead of getting up to go to work, they’re getting up to volunteer to be

    there for their community.”
    Last year Garner helped the organization start the “Give Back Campaign” where portions of the proceeds from a concert hosted by Garner were donated the American Red Cross. He will be doing the

    concert again this year.
    With all of his recent success

    and the success expected to come Garner, he said he has a goal that goes deeper than just to entertain the masses.

    “I enjoy seeing someone else’s expression to music, more than the spotlight, giving someone peace of mind for a just a few minutes is what I enjoy.”

    In the future, Garner said he would like to be signed to major record label. 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’s hopeful. Until then, he plans to continue pursuing his independent career and making himself undeniable.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Remainsof 55 bodies found

    THE REMAINS OF 55 BODIES were found in makeshift graveyard at a former Florida reform school.

    University of South Florida announced that an excavation of a makeshift graveyard near a now- closed reform school in the Florida Panhandle yielded almost twice the number bodies official records said were there.

    “Locating 55 burials is a significant finding which opens up a whole new set of questions for our team,” said USF professor Erin Kimmerle, head of the research project.

    The Dozier School for Boys was closed by the state in 2011, but a university was commissioned to look into deaths after the Florida Department of LawnEnforcement announced the presence of 31 official grave sites in 2010.

    Located in the Panhandle city of Marianna; former inmates claim the school became infamous for accounts of brutality.

    The team of more than 50 searchers from nine agencies dug up the graves to check out local legends and family tales of boys, mostly black, who died or disappeared without explanation.

    “The only way to truly establish the facts about the deaths and burials at the school is to follow scientific processes,” Kimmerle said.

    Excavation began last September with several artifacts from gravesites sent to the University of North Texas Science Center for DNA testing.

    Members of 11 families who lost boys at Dozier have been located by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for DNA sampling. Researchers hope to find 42 more families for possible matching.

    Research will continue in areas adjacent to the graveyard, dubbed “boot hill” by school officials and inmates a century ago.

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  • Saving my sister-in-law: Baton Rouge women share more than just last name


    March 13 is World Kidney Day – ironically, it is also the day that Baton Rouge native Shawanga Hall is traveling home from Los Angeles after becoming a kidney donor to her sister-in-law, Keisha Hall.

    Shawanga and Keisha traveled to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in February, and on March 4, the transplant had been completed.

    Keisha had received three previous transplants in past years – one from her mother, her sister and one from her brother, Howard, Shawanga’s husband – all three failed.

    When it had become apparent that Keisha was in need of a life-saving transplant again, Shawanga said there was no hesitation on her part to volunteer. It’s because becoming a donor is something that she’s said she’s known she would do since she was eight-years-old.

    “The decision was never a struggle – I never thought about it twice,” Shawanga said. “It was always something I knew I would do – I just didn’t know who it would be or when it would take place. The fact that it was my husband’s best friend assured me that I landed in the perfect place at the perfect time.”

    Shawanga said that once she had decided to become Keisha’s donor, she was at peace.

    The Halls’ donor process began in 2013 when Shawanga tested to see if she was a match. At that time, blood work revealed that she was a very close match for Keisha. Unfortunately Keisha’s blood count became low and she received a transfusion that somewhat altered her chances of receiving a successful transplant from Shawanga.

    Plasmapheresis would have to happen to bring the two closer to their near perfect match again. Plasmapheresis is a similar treatment to dialysis, as it is a cleansing method, but instead of cleansing the blood, this procedure removes antibodies.

    When someone is found to be a donor match, blood work continues to happen up until the day before the transplant to constantly be sure the donor is still a match. The day before the transplant was to initially happen, Keisha’s blood count was a 354 – it needs to be a 301 for a successful transplant. The surgery was delayed, but only for a few weeks.

    Shawanga said that doctors expect she is the last donor Keisha will ever need because the organ is not genetically linked, like the three previous attempts.

    “My thoughts after the transplant were that I finally completed part of my purpose and I was filled with so much joy and completeness,” she said. “In knowing that not only did I give [Keisha] a piece of me, which is connected to her best friend – my husband, but I also extended her life.”

    World Kidney Day aims to raise the importance of kidneys to overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.

    In recognition of World Kidney Day, Shawanga had this message:

    “I would just like to thank God for me. I’m always thanking Him for everyone and everything else, but I think its ok to thank Him for me this time. I thank Him for allowing me to be able to help give life to someone else. What everyone doesn’t know is that I’ve always been a donor and it has been on my [driver’s] license ever since I was 18 years of age. I always knew I would give, I just didn’t know who it would be and when the time would be that God would have me to do it. When I say God has perfect timing – He does! He strategically placed me with my soul mate so I could be a blessing to his sister. This is truly why I believe in always praying for God’s will to be done, because when it is, there’s a peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst. I truly love my life. Happy World Kidney Day to my [recipient] Keisha Hall and all other donors and recipients!”

    By: Leslie D. Rose
    Assistant Managing Editor 

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  • Independence Elementary receives grant from Lowes

     Independence Elementary was named the recipient of Lowes Home Improvement of the “Grow and Learn” grant. The $3,200 grant will fund supplies for the schools flower and vegetable garden that will be started this spring. Pictured  are
    principal Lisa Raiford, admin. asst. Melanie Johnston, teacher Nicole Coxen, Niyah Starks, Destiny Lauricella, Setora Braxton, Braydon Shannon, Robert West, Mercedes Bailey, Anthony MacNeil, Ro’Keria Navarre, Alex Guevara, and Damaris Castillo

    Action 17 News

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  • Shirley Chisholm stamp released

    THE U.S.POSTAL SERVICE honored political pioneer Shirley Chisholm with a stamp as part of its Black Heritage Series headed by former Chisholm intern and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D) of California.

    Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and served on New York’s 12th congressional district from 1969 to 1983. Chisholm rose to popularity, among women and people of color, during the feminism and civil rights eras using the campaign slogan “Unbossed and Unbought”. In 1972 she became the first major party Black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. She died at in 2005 at the age of 80.

    Drum Staff Report

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  • Local poets to represent Louisiana at international slam


    IT’S THE ONLY TIME AND PLACE WHERE 72 WOMEN CHAMPIONS MEET, and compete face-to-face. While it sounds like a season of E! Network’s, “Total Divas,” the fists on this stage are metaphorical—it’s the Women of the World Poetry Slam.

    This year’s competition is in Austin, Texas, beginning March 19. Each slam venue is allowed to send one woman representative to WOWPS, but not just anyone. The representative for each venue is the slam champion, proving to be the best female poet in her venue and subsequently in this case, in her city.

    Louisiana is sending three representatives: Leslie D. “Leslie D!” Rose, from Baton Rouge’s Eclectic Truth; Dena “The Wordsmith” Slaughter, from Lafayette Poetry Community; and Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa, from Slam New Orleans.

    Rose started participating in spoken word, non- competitively in 2002, six years before Poetry Slam, Inc. launched WOWPS. She did her first reading at the Hard Rock Café in New Orleans, at a weekly open mic event called Up Close and Personal.

    “I didn’t have a problem standing in front of a crowd and telling a story, but to get up there and read my poems was different,” she said. “I was really corny. All of my poems were about love and silly things.”

    While Rose continued to participate in the readings, she did—what she considers to be—her first spoken word performance while competing in the Miss Omega Psi Phi pageant in 2004.

    “It was my first time not having a paper,” she said. “It was my first time actually engaging the crowd, I was moving around the stage, eye contact, vocal inflections, because I was in a pageant against girls who were dancing and singing.”

    While Rose didn’t place in the pageant, her poem struck a chord with many in the audience, who told her how much they loved it. She became a regular at Up Close

    and Personal, while pursuing her journalism degree at Xavier University of Louisiana.

    A year after moving to Baton Rouge, in 2006, she started attending Eclectic Truth at the suggestion of—her now husband—Donney Rose and, now International World Poetry Slam Champion, Chancelier “Xero” Skidmore.

    After two weeks at Eclectic Truth, Rose decided to compete in the slam. The first and second place poets from the slam each week would compete in the grand slam at the end of the month, for a cash prize.

    “My first open slam, I won,” she said. “I was serious about it. I wrote my poems that week, memorized them that week, and was ready to go. I was entirely too sassy, but that’s what won my slams back then.”

    Once WOWPS started in 2008, the women poets at Eclectic Truth were excited to compete and decide who would represent

    Dina Singleton

    Dina Singleton

    Baton Rouge in the competition.

    “We wanted to get all of the women to compete,” she said. “It was our all-female thing, it was almost like a sorority, we had slumber parties to prepare so we had a good time with it, but I never wanted to go, so I would always half-ass it.”

    While Rose had competed in team competitions, she knew an individual competition would be much different. And so, each year, Baton Rouge sent a representative to WOWPS, Rose going just once, as an audience member.

    “I, along with many other women that hadn’t been to the competition before felt like it was the Special Olympics,” she said. “Why do we need our own

    competition? But when I went, I realized how necessary it was for this community. It’s like going to this all women’s empowerment conference.”

    After such a positive experience, Leslie promised herself that if WOWPS ever came close to Louisiana, she was going to try and compete. But it was in Denver, Co. and then Minneapolis, Minn.

    Out of the 72 poets competing, only 12 make it to final stage, where there are cuts each round, until the best female poet in the world is named. In 2009, Baton Rouge’s representative, Taaj Freeman tied for 10th place. She is the only Baton Rouge poet to make the WOWPS final stage thus far.

    After having a bad experience with poetry competition in general, Rose decided she was done with slam.

    “I got really burned out and wasn’t interested in slam anymore,” she said. “So, I sat down. Then, I find out WOWPS is in Austin, and I thought, ‘Do I want to do this? Do I want to write some poems?’”

    Despite not having written any new poems in a year, she sat down to write all new poems to compete with and take to WOWPS. After winning the Baton Rouge slam by one-tenth of a point, Rose is taking her work to Austin.

    “I had made up in my mind, nobody is coming for me, I’m going, I want to go, and nobody’s taking it away from me,” she said. “And when I get there, I’m not going to come in 72nd place, forget that.”

    Right now, Rose is hoping her fundraiser picks up so she can actually pay for the trip to Austin. She is also working with Skidmore for performance tips.

    The poems she’s taking to WOWPS—ranging in



    subject matter from a family suicide attempt to body image issues—are part of a manuscript she is creating, as part of her desire to empower other women.

    “I want to see how other women feel about these poems,” she said. “I would love to have a trophy, but the title doesn’t mean as much as it sounds like. It says you have an audience, and that’s semi-validating.”

    Rose will be competing against 71 other women, including Slaughter, the Lafayette representative.

    Slaughter will be attending WOWPS for the first time, and she said she’s very excited about it.

    “I can’t wait,” she said. “I’m looking forward to hearing the other poets, but I’m most nervous about meeting the required time limits.”

    Competitors must perform a one-minute, two-minute, three-minute and a four-minute poem in preliminary bouts. If the poet advances to finals, three more three- minute poems are required.

    “I consider it a success any time someone can relate to something I’ve said and use it as inspiration and encouragement,” Slaughter said.

    Slaughter and Rose will join another WOWPS newbie, Katwiwa. Born in Kenya, Katwiwa calls New Orleans home. She attended her first spoken word show in middle school, called Project 2050.

    “I had never heard poetry that was so relevant to my life and experiences,” she said. “I was so used to poetry being an ‘art for art’s sake’ based on what I had been taught and the poetry I encountered in school.”

    Katwiwa joined the group the following year and has

    been writing poetry ever since. She did however, take a break from performing spoken word after high school, when she moved to New Orleans to work and go to school. She still wrote, but didn’t find herself back on the scene until last spring.

    “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a supportive collective of poets in the city known as the Who Dat Poets, who have encouraged me and been an integral part of my seeing immediate success in the local scene.”

    She was named the Who Dat Poet Rookie of the Year in 2013, and was also named the New Orleans Performing Artist of 2013 by RAW Artists.

    “Of course, one of the things I considered a real mark of success was making it onto the 2014 edition of Team Slam New Orleans and being the top female

    finisher which is what is allowing me to go to WOWPS,” she said.

    Katwiwa said she is looking forward to connecting with other poets, hearing their poetry and being fully immersed in the poetic environment.

    “Since I’m still in college and my school doesn’t have a college slam team, I don’t get a lot of time outside of my time with Team Slam New Orleans to just be in a poetic atmosphere, and even then, I know when I leave our meetings I still have to go and study for a midterm or something,” she said. “When I’m at WOWPS though, I will be 100 percent in the poetry moment and I’m really looking forward to that.”

    Katwiwa, or “FreeQuency,” as she is known on the mic, is recognized most for her ability to connect with the audience during each performance. She writes from a place of inspiration, often using poetry as a way to communicate her message—including a tribute to the late Trayvon Martin. But while her performance has earned her praise, it’s also something she’s concerned about, as WOWPS approaches.

    “My biggest fear at WOWPS is that I won’t perform at the level I want to, but I think that’s a problem I can solve by practicing and building my performance confidence in the weeks leading up to WOWPS,” she said. “I’m not going to worry about it; I’m just going to put in the proper time this competition requires.

    By Holly A. Phillips

    The  Drum Contributing Writer

    Read more »
  • Trail Blazers and Trail Keepers: Dance Noir and Winter Dance Company

    THROUGHOUT FEBRUARY, THE NATION PAYS HOMAGE to the great legends of Black history and reflects on the hardships these pioneers endured in order to blaze a trail through the thorny and violent jungle of American racism. There are lessons on Black pioneers in politics, science, medicine, entertainment, and sports. For the trails that they individually blazed, America has become a different society and many Blacks hold to a responsibility to extend the trail forward. In opera, there was Marian Anderson. In dance, there was Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham. And in comedy, there was Redd Foxx and Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Five exceptionally gifted Louisianans are keeping the trails blazed by these pioneers. In New Orleans, there’s OperaCréole founder Givonna Joseph and in Monroe, comedian Robert Powell III. In Baton Rouge, there’s businessman Cleve Dunn Jr.,  stand-up comedienne Tiffany Dickerson, and choreographer Winter McCray. They are our modern day keepers of the trail. Here are their stories.

    Dance Trailblazer Alvin Ailey and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre 

    Dance Trail:keeper Cleve Dunn Jr. and Danse Noir

    Alvin Ailey is known internationally for ushering Black performers into concert dance and forever changing America’s perception of dance. History books record that Ailey’s experiences in Southern Baptist churches and juke joints instilled in him a fi erce sense of Black pride that would later become the signature of his most prominent work. Ailey and his dance company performed worldwide with valor that he was dubbed the “Cultural Ambassador to the World”.  He took his passion for dance, sense of pride, and insight for management into establishing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and later establishing a nonprofi t foundation and performing arts school as gateways to continue Black performing arts.

    With much of the same insight and pride, Baton Rouge businessman Cleve Dunn Jr., 37, saw an opportunity to stabilize a fledgling dance program in the city by establishing Danse Noir Studios. “There were some dance companies and organizations in place but we wanted to provide a stable fi xture in the community to express the culture of dance. We wanted to provide an environment where children of color can show their creativity. I know that Alvin Ailey was passionate about that.”

    Dunn said the idea for the studio followed the paths of the exceptional talents of local dance program founders including Avery Wilson of MOKA Dance, Conya Pinkie Windsor with Excel Dance Company, and Richard Covington with Belfair Dance Team. Today, Danse Noir Studio is the largest Black dance studio in Baton Rouge with more than 150 student dancers annually and six, highly trained teachers who are professional performers. Danse Noir Studios offers ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop classes to young dancers age 3 – 18, and for the last three years the studio has maintained in-school dance programs in four West Baton Rouge parish schools. “We are exposing art to students all over the metropolitan area,” he said.

    Much like the vision of Ailey, Dunn has amassed a team of young dance instructors—from New York, Baker, Alabama, and Baton Rouge—who possess years of training and work with students on technique, presence, and delivery using original choreography, great appeal, and focus, he said. The students and instructors close out every year with a Spring recital at LSU displaying their work using varied dance styles and musical selections across different genres.

    This allows Danse Noir Studios to establish a professional culture for collegiate performers who want to perfect their craft and take their skills outside of Louisiana. “We have created an environment for artists like Alvin Ailey to thrive, grow, and expand. We have been able to help and place our instructors with career opportunities to earn dollars through the performing arts. This was something very unheard of seven to ten years ago,” he said.

    “Now, there are other Black-owned dance studios in Baton Rouge market place that our community can give exposure to and can support,” said Dunn. “Some (of the owners and instructors) have come through our doors as instructors to learn the craft, not of dance, but the craft of creating and sustaining a business.” Through Dunn’s vision, Danse Noir has been part of a creating a growing culture of Black artistic expression in the city.

    Dunn said he believes Ailey and other performers like Sammy Davis Jr and Debbie Allen would be proud that “now throughout the country  there are art institutes, theatre studios, and dance studios that are owned and operated by Blacks and are expanding exposure to the arts to our community.”

    For that, Danse Noir is a modern day Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

    Dance Trailblazer: Katherine Dunham Comapany 

    Dance Trail: Winter Dance Company 

    Katherine Dunham started dancing in her late teens but moved on to the University of Chicago to study social anthropology where her mentors stressed the survival of African culture. While in college, she taught youth dance classes and gave recitals. In 1931, she started Ballet Negre , a student dance company. At the age of 28, she started the Negro Dance Group where she became known for being the fi rst to give modern dance a “lexicon of African and Caribbean styles of movement–a fl exible torso and spine, articulated pelvis and isolation of the limbs, a polyrhythmic strategy of moving” which she integrated with techniques of ballet and modern dance, according to the Ruth Beckford, author 0f Katherine Dunham: A Biography.

    Dunham choreographed more than 90 individual dances and produced five reviews; four of which played on Broadway and tour worldwide. As an ac- tivist in the 1940s, Dunham fought segregation in theaters, hotels, and restaurants by aggressively filing lawsuits. She even refused a lucrative studio contract when the producer said she would have to replace darker-skinned com- pany members. Dunham’s studies of dance and worldwide performance paved the way for modern day choreographers like Baton Rouge’s Winter McCray.

    A certi- fied dance instructor with Dance & Gym USA, McCray has brought jazz, ballet, hip hop, lyrical, and liturgical dance to the students of Winter Dance Company. McCray, 29, said God has given her “a gift and a ministry of dance and I live to pass it on to others.  Many of my students have talents beyond their years and someday (this company) may be looked upon as a stepping stone that helped pave the way for their career choices and their dreams.”  In 2007, while an undergraduate student studying psychology at Southern University A&M College , McCray established Anointed 2 Dance while continuing to host free dance workshops and perform at local community-based events.

    “I want my students to understand that the sky really is the limit to what they can have and where they can go in life.  The color of their skin, where they live, and what they have been through- -and even been told–should never hinder them from being their very best self.  To my audience, I want them to appreciate just how far we have come, where we are today and if we expose our children to the arts, they will embrace it and run with it.”

    Acknowledging the challenges of owning a dance studio, McCray said, she and other owners in the area share a collective purpose. “We are few, but we are headed in the right direction. Today we are well on our way to balancing the performing arts scale.”

    McCray said she embraces every student with love, teaching them the art and technique of dance, and “ultimately, inspiring them to develop a deeper appreciation for the art.”  For that Winter Dance Company is a modern-day Katherine Dunham Company.


    Read more »
  • Trail blazers and trail keepers: Givonna Joseph

    THROUGHOUT FEBRUARY, THE NATION PAYS HOMAGE to the great legends of Black history and reflects on the hardships these pioneers endured in order to blaze a trail through the thorny and violent jungle of American racism. There are lessons on Black pioneers in politics, science, medicine, entertainment, and sports. For the trails that they individually blazed, America has become a different society and many Blacks hold to a responsibility to extend the trail forward. In opera, there was Marian Anderson. In dance, there was Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham. And in comedy, there was Redd Foxx and Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Five exceptionally gifted Louisianans are keeping the trails blazed by these pioneers. In New Orleans, there’s OperaCréole founder Givonna Joseph and in Monroe, comedian Robert Powell III. In Baton Rouge, there’s businessman Cleve Dunn Jr.,  stand-up comedienne Tiffany Dickerson, and choreographer Winter McCray. They are our modern day keepers of the trail. Here are their stories.

    OPERA: Trailblazer Marian Anderson

    Trail keeper Givonna Joseph

    Within OperaCréole, Givonna Joseph has organized area professional artists, educators, and international soloists with roots in New Orleans, “America’s First City of Opera”. Members of the ensemble have recently been featured in solo roles in New Orleans Opera’s production of “Madama Butterfl y,” “Samson et Dalila,” “Il Trovatore,” “Salome,” and “Porgy and Bess”. They were recently artists in residence at Illinois State University. Many are also members of the New Orleans Opera Chorus. Joseph and daughter Aria Mason, a mezzo-soprano, and OperaCréole partner are featured in the documentary “Le Grand Tour” airing in France.  She has meticulously gathered “wonderful and talented people,” including pianist Wilfred Delphin who she said is “simply amazing as an international artist and person. And our singers have worked hard to learn music that no one has ever heard”

    OperaCréole’s production of the lost opera “Thelma” by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor earned a Classical Arts Awards nomination for best community opera production. But, Joseph said her greatest joy is seeing the pride on the faces of the audience as they hear the music of “19th century New Orleans free composers of color, and learn of the role they played in the culture of the First City Of Opera.” Preservation of the Créole language was a part of this that came about as we were programming repertoire, but the biggest piece is making sure that people were aware that these composers wrote their vocal music in French, and studied with great French musicians and composers here in New Orleans as well as in France, Joseph said. “The annals of history should record these people by their love for the arts, education, and business savvy during a time when they lived in a caste system that limited their freedom,” she said.

    Joseph’s wisdom of opera and Black culture is noticeable as she describes soprano Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield. “Before Marian Anderson, (Greenfi eld who was) born a slave, shocked the world when she stood in front of Queen Victoria to sing the popular arias and oratorio of the day. She was the first concert diva to change the world just by standing in excellence.” Marian Anderson was the first to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. Because of the concert on the Lincoln Memorial, Anderson was one of the 20th century’s greatest opera singers. She was the “personification of excellence that changes the world by changing perceptions,” she said. Joseph’s first voice teacher, Charles Paddock insisted that she go to the Loyola music library to listen to recordings of Anderson. “But when I saw her, the grace and beauty and artistry that she exuded communicated that she had a complete understanding of her purpose. That is what I hope my legacy will be: that I understood my purpose!”

    “It is important that all of the stories in Black history be told. Not only for African Americans to reference, but so that everyone will know the full scope of our contributions to the art form, especially in 19th century New Orleans.” For that, Givonna Joseph is the modern day Marian Anderson and keeper of the trail.


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  • Southern University Board of Supervisors vote “no” on Llorens’ contract extension

    After almost three hours in executive session the Southern University Board of Supervisors voted “no” on the extension of Chancellor James Llorens’ contract

    The board voted 8-9 to not accept the one-year extension for Llorens.

    Voting yes to extend Llorens contract were members: Tony Clayton, Ann Smith, Murphy Bell, Darren Mire, Myron Lawson, Calvin Braxton Sr., and student member Simone Bray.

    Board members Eamon Kelly, Raymond Fondel, Mike Small, Chairwoman Bridget Dinvaut, Rev. Joe Gant, Walter Dumas and Willie Hendricks voted no, which effectively ended Llorens’ tenure as chancellor at Southern.

    Motivations for board members’ decisions are still unclear.

    Jerry Jones

    Alumni Jerry Jones listens as supporters of Llorens address the board of supervisors. ” I took vacation time from work to make sure I could come and let the board know the mistake they would be making if they don’t extend Llorens’ contract,” said Jones

    The contract proposed called for an additional year for Llorens, stipulating the following obligations be met: Increase enrollment, balance the university’s budget, meet the performance terms in the 2010 LA GRAD ACT, and resolve any issues with the NCAA and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accrediting agency.

    System President Ronald Mason said he would contact the personnel committee to begin a national search for the most qualified person to replace Llorens.

    After the meeting, Chairwoman Dinvaut declined to comment, and said  her fellow board members were ordered to do the same.

    Llorens’ last day as chancellor will be June 30th when his contract expires.

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  • Win lunch at Le Bon Temp Restaurant

    Have lunch on us at Le Bon Temp Restaurant on Perkins Road. Baton Rouge Native  Chef Blake Abadie’s restaurant has received rave reviews  for its friendly staff, signature cocktails,  and  encompassing all Louisiana cooking styles, not just the Cajun and Creole influences.


    Complete the readers survey in this Monday’s issue of The Drum Newspaper for a chance to have lunch on us. Like and share the  post  on Facebook to increase your chances.

    Read more »
  • Mistrial declared on murder charge in Jordan Davis case

    Jurors found Michael Dunn guilty of attempted murder and one other charge , but declared a mistrial on the most-serious charge, first-degree murder, in the fatal shooting of 17 year-old Jordan Davis.

    Dunn was charged with fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis in 2012 after an argument over loud music coming from the SUV occupied by Davis and three friends outside a Jacksonville convenience store.

    12 jurors found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and a count of firing into an occupied car after 4 days of deliberations on Saturday February 15th.

    Jurors heard testimony that Dunn, a 47-year-old software developer, who has a concealed weapons permit, fired 10 shots, hitting the vehicle nine times. Davis was the only person hit.

    Michael Dunn was convicted of attempted murder for shooting a into a car full of teenagers, but jurors were unable to agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder. A mistrial was declared on first-degree murder charge.

    Each attempted second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while the fourth charge he was convicted on carries a maximum of 15. A sentencing date will be set in the future.

    Race relation overtones and its connection to gun and self-defense laws have made it comparable to George Zimmerman’s case, the neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida.

    Davis’ 19th birthday would have been Today. Prosecutors may attempt retry a Dunn the on first-degree murder charges.


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  • Southern Board will meet Feb. 24 to discuss Llorens’ contract

    Southern University Board of Supervisors has  confirmed a date for the special board meeting at Southern to discuss Chancellor James Llorens’ contract.

    The board will meet on Feb. 24 at 1:30 p.m. at the administration building.

    Student Government Association President , and board member,  Simone Bray  requested the meeting following a student  sit-in at President Ronald Mason’s office on Tuesday February, 12th

    The  board voted last Friday to not renew Lloren’s contract.

    When news spread on campus of the board’s decision  the students immediately began campaigning to keep their chancellor.

    During the past week students showed support for Llorens by setting up a Facebook page and holding a meeting that drew hundreds to voice their concerns.

    In anticipation of the meeting the SGA  has handed out more than 100 T-shirts in support of the chancellor on Thursday, Feb. 13.

    They plan to wear them to Southern’s basketball game Monday night and to the special meeting.


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  • Who to watch in 2014

    Louisiana is home for many talented, intellectual, cultured, and politically savvy people. The staff and publisher of The Drum Newspaper have identified  the people to watch in the new year. We introduce them to you here and encourage you to follow them along with us as we report on how they impact Ponchatoula, Baton Rouge, and the state. These are leaders in entertainment, business, education, and public policy—watch them.


    Joyce  C. Burges,55      


    Baker City Council President

    Hometown: Baker, Louisiana

    Life Motto: “Treat people the way you

    would like them to treat you.”

    Business Motto: “The customer is alwaysright”  and “Execute, Execute, Execute”

    2013 Accomplishments: Served with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. I had a chance to showcase my book, “Would Someone Please Teach me How to TeachMy Child.” My husband and I were recognized by the Exodus Mandate and Frontline Ministries and presented with the Robert DreyfusAward, an award given annually to people who exemplify high services to humanity in this country.

    Personal  Resolution for 2014:  To continue to pursue excellent health including a 4-day exercise plan, a regiment of eating 80% raw foods, and drinking 72-80 ounces of water every day. I feel amazing and have more energy.

    What to expect in 2014: Efforts to set up K-4 and K-5 learning centers for our children in Baker; fundraising projects to honor young adults for their hard work in school with the Academics List of Excellence in Education Book Scholarship Fund; create a Food Bank for families, form positive partnership with area cities; discussions that lead to the formation of a Youth Center.

    Business resolution for 2014: To continue to honor God by serving my family and the citizens of District 3, children, churches, etc.  in a way that makes all of them proud to know me.  Everything in my life that’s valuable I want to share with others.  I am so thrilled to know that God has chosen me to do His work….serving people and loving them unconditionally.

    What are you reading: Who was Rosa Parks by Yona Zeldis Mc-Donough and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff McKinny

    What are you listening to: Marian Anderson’s Deep River; TheCommodores’ “Zoom”; and The Measure of a Man (audiobook) by Sidney Poitier.



    ltr-tony-brownJohn G. Daniel , 56

    Executive director Boys Hope Girls Hope Baton Rouge and President/founder JGDProductions and Daniel Karate Group

    Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

    2013 Accomplishments: Executive Director, Boys Hope Girls Hope, JohnG.Daniel Productions–Opening A Black History Time Capsule with Tony Brown, Unity Day/Daniel Karate Group Events e.g.Unity Day Exxon Mobil YMCA 2013, The Advocate Video, “John Daniel, A Sensei,Teaching with A Purpose”

    What to expect in 2014: Residential girls service, Boys Hope GirlsHope, one-hour documentary on the elements of life success; UnityDay; and Daniel Karate Group expansion to Los Angeles and Philadelphia Personal Resolution for 2014: Keep moving forward!

    Business resolution for 2014: Reach out to more youth and families

    Life/business motto: Struggle, Perseverance, Character and Hope What are you listening to? Marvin Gaye’s ”What’s Going On”, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”, and McFadden & Whitehead

    What are you reading?  The Book of Five Rings/ Go Rin No Sho, by Miyamoto Musashi


    Cierra Fogan , 16    

    Ms. Banks, 10th grade student at Madison

    Prep Academy

    Hometown : Baton Rouge

    Personal Motto: “Dream big. Go far”

    2013 Accomplishment: Passed EOC test

    and Deans List 3.0 honor roll and selected

    represent my community as Ms. Banks

    Resolution: Finish this year with 3.5GPA

    What are you reading: Something like 

    Hope, by Shawn goodman

    What are you listening to: K. Michelle’s

    “Can’t Raise a Man”


    8 McClanahanMichael McClanahan, 49

    President,  NAACP Baton Rouge Branch

    Hometown: Zwolle

    2013 Accomplishments: Became president of the Baton Rouge Branch of the NAACP, took the fight for equality and inclusion for all and especially Blacks to the streets. We marched and file a suit against Turner Industries; supported a suit against City Court; and openly spoke out against discrimination at the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.

    What to expect in 2014: NAACP taking an active role in the educational system and the direction it is headed; taking an active role in the breaking up of the City and annexation of other parts; ensuring the consent decree of the BR police department are fully implemented and shine a spot light on evil and wickedness in and around the Greater Baton Rouge area and hold those accountable who choose to practice and uphold it.

    Personal resolution for 2014: live healthier; do more evangelizing

    Life motto: “If I can help someone as I pass this way through word, thought or deed then my living won’t be in vain.”–Dorothy Clay

    What are you listening to? Richard Smallwood


    David Gray, 25

    State policy fellow and policy analyst at the Louisiana Budget Project

    Hometown: New Orleans

    2013Accomplishments: Coordinated the Louisiana Coalition for Responsible Lending, which is a group of citizens, faith-based organizations, non-profi ts and banks that are dedicated to protecting families from predatory payday loans;. produced fact-based research that helped defeat a bill from Gov. Bobby Jindal that would have raised taxes on low and middle-class families; and appointed to the East Baton Rouge Parish Food Access Policy Commission by Mayor-President Kip Holden.

    What to expect in 2014: Launch of a statewide network of community advocates dedicated to protecting the economic interest of the millennial generation and creation of loan products that offer families’ short-term credit at responsible interest rates and fees. Personal Resolution for 2014: Carve out time each day to grow mentally, physically and spiritually.

    Business resolution for 2014: Continue to provide sound research and analysis of state fiscal issues to promote economic prosperity, a rising standard of living, and the opportunity for all citizens to reach their highest potential.

    Life motto: “Give to the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.” — my late grandmother, Isabella Gasper.

    What are you listening to? A mix of Israel & New Breed, Gregory Porter, Maxwell, J. Cole, Trombone Shorty, Maze & Frankie Beverley, Luther Vandross, Drake, The Fugees, Nina Simone, and Wale.

     What are you reading? The Bible, Life Entrepreneurs by Gergen and Vanourek, and 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup;  Something Like the Truth blog by Bob Mann, Louisiana Voice blog by Tim Aswell

    wheelerERIN R. WHEELER, PH.D., 28

    Owner and chief higher education consultant for E_Source Learning Solutions, LLC

    Hometown: Amite, LA

    2013 Accomplishments: Delivering higher education presentations at national conferences across the country.

    What to expect in 2014: Broader impact of E_Source Learning Solutions on the educational success of students in the tri-parish area.

    Personal Resolution for 2014: To dream big and ignore the limits.

    Business resolution for 2014: Collaborate with other emerging businesses to help them reach their goals. Do for others what you want to happen for yourself.

    Life: “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others strength; mastering yourself is true power.” –Lao Tzu

    What are you listening to? Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

    What are you reading? Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

    8 Richard

    Keith Richard, 42

    Lead Pastor at Elevate Church

    Hometown: Baton Rouge

    2013 Accomplishments: Received MLK Leadership Award

    What to expect in 2014: Strategizing for the opening of a homeless shelter and resource center

    Personal resolution for 2014: To be a better vessel to be used for the glory of God

    Business resolution for 2014: No clichés or catch phrases…Just Action.

    Life motto: Loving God deeply, makes loving people easy What are you listening to? Jazz

    What are you reading? Apostolic Fathers by Apostle Burnell Williams

    Tonya G. Robertson, 42

    Executive director , Young Leaders Academy of Baton Rouge, Inc.

    Hometown: Baton Rouge

    2013 Accomplishments:  Dr Martin Luther King, Jr Leadership Awards Inaugural Coretta Scott King Heroine Award; Started new foundation, Fifty Shades of Pink, in honor of my late sister and other breast cancer victims and survivors;  led YLA’s  new fundraising event “Men are Cooking” and assembled more than 40 men cooks who prepared their signature dishes with wine, revelry, and relevance.

    What to expect in 2014: My greater is coming!

    Personal Resolution for 2014: I’m on a journey to my best self..I lost 31 pounds in the last three months of 2013 and as I get healthier physically, I’m seeking the same standard of excellence in all other areas of my life! I have come to truly appreciate the sacred value of life well lived and the secret for me is balance and fortitude..finding time for all the people and things that matter and staying with a goal or commitment until I see it through! There is a standard and for me it is EXCELLENCE!

    Business resolution for 2014: To refocus, re-energize, reposition, and rededicate myself and The Academy for next level success as we strive to serve more effi ciently and profoundly the young people whose lives we touch and whose hands we hold. Our mission work to prepare young African American males for lives of success and substance is being expanded to include others, but not at their expense..the challenge and resolve as we move forward is to find a more excellent way to do all that we’re being called to do.

    Life motto:“Faith without works is dead” …so I work and I do it  with passion, purpose and a spirit of integrity and excellence

    What are you listening to: Prince, Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce’, Robin Thicke, Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, upbeat and uptempo gospel ..Donald Lawrence, Yolanda Adams, and Kirk Franklin.

    What are you readingHoly Bible, “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton, The Advocate newspaper, Baton Rouge Business Report, and online publications for foundations and grants

    8 Whitfield


    Dr. Rani Whitfield,44

    Board Certified Family Practice Physician, FAAFP, CAQ in Sports Medicine

    Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA

    2013 Accomplishments: Received YMCA Legions Award; discussed the Affordable Care Act on several MSNBC TV, including The Ed Show, Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation; Disrupt with Karen Finney, and Melissa Harris Perry show; featured in the documentary “Soul Food Junkies” by Byron Hurt; served as medical director for the National Association of Free Clinics-Communities Are Responding Everywhere (C.A.R.E.) Clinic in New Orleans where more than 900 individuals without access to affordable, quality healthcare treated by volunteers; released “Get On Tha Bus”, a music project and collaboration with artist Love-N-Pain; featured guest on LPB’s The State We’re In with a  monthly segment “Prescription for Health” that addresses health issues and health disparities.

    What to expect in 2014: Shhhh, it’s a secret, but let’s just say it could be a very good year.

    Personal resolution for 2014: 2014 will be bigger and better both personally and professionally. However, I don’t place a lot of stock in New Year’s resolutions. I set goals and work towards them. I choose to live by making decisions every single day. I do not wait for the year to end in order to make them.

    Business resolution for 2014: Better communication and delegating of task .With all the changes in medicine lately, it’s fast and furious—organized chaos. In 2014, I  need to make sure everyone is on the same page. We’ll do this by ensuring everyone in the practice feels motivated towards the same business goals, participates in setting goals, and takes accountability for their department.

    Life motto: “All things are possible to him who believes!”

    What are you listening to: Ian Von’s “Love, Beats, and Guitars”; Dee-1’s “Psalms of David II”; Odissee’s “Tangible Dream”; Taurus RiBoard Certified Family Practice Physician, FAAFP, CAQ in Sports Medicine



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  • Southern students Rally and Sit-in to keep Chancellor

    Southern University’s Royal Cotillion Ballroom was packed with students, public officials, faculty and staff who stood united to express their support for their chancellor, James Llorens, Monday, February 10th

    February 7th, Southern University’s System President Ronald Mason recommended that Chancellor James Llorens’ contract would be extended for one year under the circumstances that the system would work closely with the chancellor in revamping campus leadership. Llorens, who disapproved the terms was voted out by Southern’s board of Supervisors 9-6, not to renew his contract that expires June 30.

    The Southern University student body, outraged with the news, flooded social media sites demanding answers. Student Government Association President and board member Simone Bray organized a rally to clarify any concerns the public may have in regards of the Board’s decision.

    The rally granted the public to hear from board members, faculty, staff, Chancellor Llorens and System President Ronald Mason and to ask questions.

    Chancellor James Llorens address the crowd at the rally concering his tenure ending June 30th.- photo by Briana Brownlee

    Chancellor Llorens was welcomed by a standing ovation from the crowd. “I am overwhelmed with the support I see here tonight.” Said Chancellor Llorens. “This University is going to survive, this University will be here, no institution relies solely on one individual’s shoulders”. In an attempt to ease the tension from the crowd, geared towards President Mason, Chancellor Llorens expressed how he gets along with the president and respects his right to present his recommendation.

    Public officials, Board members, and faculty took turns expressing their support for Chancellor Llorens. Each speaker noted how impressive the student body’s attendance was and urged them to continue the fight by voicing their opinions of the board members.

    “I like the President Mason, but I love Chancellor Llorens” said Representative and Southern Alumnus Ted James, whose comment aroused a roar of cheers from the crowd. James ended his speech by outing Governor Bobby Jindal’s telephone number and challenging students to flood his phone lines and voice their dissatisfaction of the board me members he appointed.

    President Mason was questioned if he was adopting the Louisiana State University’s model, where the president is more active in decisions on campus. Mason denied the allegations, stating that he prefers to run The Southern University System opposite of The Louisiana State University System.

    Southern’s seems as if it is on an upward path with enrollment increasing and majority of the athletics dominating the SWAC.

    “Why now?” Quesstioned former Student Government Association President Willoe McCorkle. “In 1814 we moved here on the bluff of the Mississippi River, now 100 years later we have to deal with this?” McCorkle went on to ask why the members who voted against Llorens were not present.

    The crowd continued to grill Mason with questions such as changing the language and length of the contract to keep Chancellpr Llorens at Southern. Mason simply stated he has no authority to change the contract and his job is not to make popular decisions but to do what he believes is best for the institution.

    Following the rally held Monday nearly 40 students staged a sit-in outside of System President Ron Mason’s office in an effort to keep Llorens their campus chancellor on Tuesday , Febuary 12th. 

    In spite of Mason telling students , at the rally, that his job to make a recommendation and that his role is done; the students still staged the sit-in outside his office until with the goal of Mason inviting them into his office to discuss on Llorens future with the university.

    Bray , also a board member, requested a special meeting of the board of supervisors to re-open the discussion of Llorens’ contract.

    Four other members joined Bray, which met the minimum requirements to hold a special board meeting. Chairwoman Bridget Dinvautannounced , at the sit-in, that a special meeting will take place once she determines a suitable time and date for board members to meet.

    Board member Calvin Braxton said , at the student rally , he would recommend that the board approve a new three-year contract for Llorens. 

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  • Stuffing teen’s body deemed ok

    VALDOSTA, GA.—STATE regulators concluded that a Valdosta,  Georgia funeral home broke no laws when it used newspapers to stuff the dead body of 17 year-old Kendrick Johnson.

    Johnson  was found dead last year inside a rolled up gym mat at his school. His family filed a complaint with the Georgia Board of Funeral Service last year after newspaper was found in the place of his missing organs when the body was exhumed for a second autopsy.

    Johnson’s parents, who are fighting to have their son’s death declared a homicide after authorities concluded it was a freak accident, said they were outraged and found the funeral home’s use of newspapers to be disrespectful.

    Attorneys for the Johnson family released a letter from the board saying it found Harrington Funeral Home broke no state law. However, the board also noted that using newspaper to fill a body cavity is not considered a “best practice”.and that other materials are “more acceptable than newspaper,”

    The Valdosta Daily Times reported. It’s still unclear what happened to Johnson’s internal organs after the GBI autopsy. The GBI has said it returned the organs to the body before sending it to the funeral home. But the funeral home has said the organs were missing when the body arrived.

    An attorney for Harrington Funeral Home, said its owners were “certainly happy” with regulators’ finding that it did nothing illegal.

    A $10,000 check offered to anyone with credible information in the death of Kendrick Johnson was returned last tuesday after a  a 90 expiration date. Students at Lowndes High School discovered Johnson’s body Jan. 11, 2013, inside a rolled up gym mat propped against the wall beside the bleachers. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner concluded he died from positional asphyxia, meaning his body was stuck upside down and he was unable to breathe.

    Sheriff’s investigators concluded Johnson got trapped in the mat while reaching for a gym shoe that had fallen inside.

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  • ,

    Lt. Gov. Dardenne brings party to the Grammys

    The Life & Times Of…The Hot 8 Brass Band is up for a Grammy in the best regional root music album category, competing with Richard’s Le Fou and Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience’s Dockside Sessions. Simien also was scheduled to perform but his Los Angeles arrival was delayed by weather. Other Louisiana artists nominated this year are Allen Toussaint, Hunter Hayes, Terence Blanchard, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Bobby Rush and PJ Morton. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne gave an audio-visual presentation tracing Louisiana’s history of musical luminaries and in uences. Louisiana has sent a nominee to the Grammy Awards every year since 1960 and at least nine annually since 2000, he said afterward.

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  • Saturday Night Live Bows to Pressures, Hires First Black Female

    Comedienne  Sasheer Zamata has joined the cast of Saturday Night Live as the first Black female cast member on the show. 

    The decision to hire Zamata was preceded by a national outcry for diversity on the late night show. Activism group ColorofChange.org was one of the leading organizations demanding the presence of Black females in a non derogatory role on the show.

    Zamata is a performer at Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in New York City and L.A., She goes by “Sheer” and has a web series called “Pursuit of Sexiness” and does stand-up

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  • BR leaders honored with Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award

    Nine community leaders were honored with The Baton Rouge MLK Leadership Awards, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, at the Baton Rouge Marriott.


    Vocalist-Worikeena-Righteous opened the event with the singing of the National Anthem

    Vocalist-Worikeena-Righteous opened the event with the singing of the National Anthem


    These community leaders mirror the image, character, life, and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 2014 award recipients are: JOHN G. DANIELexecutive director, Girls Hope and Boys Hope; GREG WILLIAMS JR., founding artistic director, New Venture Theatre; WENDELL JAMES, HIV/AIDS counselor,  Bernard Taylor Jr., East Baton Rouge Parish School Board Superintendent; JASON GARDNERowner, Vivid Images Graphics and Printing; MICHAEL W. MCCLANAHAN, NAACP President; KEITH RICHARD,pastor,  Elevate Church; JARVIS BROWN, CEO Executive; TONYA G. ROBERTSONexecutive director,The Young Leaders Academy.

    radio-personality-Havilah-Malone-and-Motivational-Speaker-Marvin O. Smith hosted the Second annual BR MLK Leadership awards.

    radio-personality-Havilah-Malone-and-Motivational-Speaker-Marvin O. Smith hosted the Second annual BR MLK Leadership awards.

    The awards were hosted by Havilah Malone and Marvin O. Smith   and featured performances from local talent such as The cast of New Venture Theater’s SHOUT! and the Winter McCray Dance Company.

    Winter McCray and dancers from the WInter McCray Dance Company performed.

    Winter McCray and dancers from the WInter McCray Dance Company performed.


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  • Louisianans seek end to cycle of financial failure

    Stretching to northeast Louisiana through  central  parts of the state then southwest and into the capitol region, the steady grip of poverty is the primary concern of Louisiana’s working residents and youth.

    During a series of listening sessions conducted statewide residents told partners with the  Louisiana Building Economic Security Together, or LABEST, coalition that policies on housing, education, small business lending, child support arrears, predatory lending, and electoral processes are prohibiting citizens from accessing or maintaining personal income and wealth.

    “We are literary in a cycle of failure,” one New Orleans resident said during a November session held with the Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association. Nearly everyone in the room nodded, clapped quietly or said “yeah” in agreement.

    Poverty Discussion

    Facilitators of small group discussions challenged them to investigate solutions. They identified a dozen, but the most critical, they agreed, was to have a unified community organization representing various neighborhood associations that could be vocal in addressing elected officials.

    They said they needed advocacy training and realistic strategies to help the community rebuild schools, attract working people, and open business that will bring good paying jobs.Financial literacy and small business sustainability were concerns of residents in southwest andthe capital region who met with the  SWLA Economic Development Alliance in Lake Charles and Center in Opelousas,respectively.

    Entrepreneurs spoke up against lenders’ policies that they said seem to allow for discrimination and resistance to their growth. Home owners said the lack of fi nancial literacy makes it difficult to keep their homes out of foreclosures, while workers said it’s difficult to manage bills without falling into the clutch of predatory lenders.

    Working fathers  were most the most vocal about the impact of arrears and mounting child support fees on their ability to parent and stay above debt.

    Youth and adults in Northeast Louisiana met met with The Wellspring in Monroe.  They spoke up questioning the finanical state of there schools and it’s impact on preparing them to be successful students.

    “How can we better if no one is teaching us better?” a high school student asked. “Before today we didn’t know about credit and savings (accounts). Our parents don’t know this.”

    They agreed the region’s extreme poverty and high teen pregnancy rates were the results of education policies that allowed poor performance and social service policies that once helped young mothers stay in school.

    “We have the voice,” said a Pointe Coupee resident. “And we believe the advocacy work with a change to the policies  and practices that pre- vent us from increasing wealth.” said a Point Coupee Resident. ” And we believe  the advocacy work with LABEST will help us get our leader attention and change some things”

    For LABEST organizers and regional partners that is the goal.

    Poverty Discusion 2

    “We will use what we’ve heard to galvanize advocates, policy makers, non-profits and community leaders; to engage; educate and empower them. Everyone needs to be civically engaged.”, said LABEST Director Joyce James. ” The sessions were about answering questions and hearing concerns, as to how citizens can make a change to the policies and practices that prevent us from increasing wealth”

    About LABEST.

    LABEST is a collaboration of grass roots, non-profit, advocacy organizations, policy makers, and community leaders who have the common goal of helping Louisiana residents achieve financial independence. To do so, members of LABEST identify policies , promote advocacy awareness, and empower constituents to build economic security over a lifetime. Similar sessions are hosted throughout the nation.


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  • ,

    Globetrotter says ‘expect magic’ in Baton Rouge, Jan. 18


    Red, white, and blue basketballs spinning behind backs, between legs, and bouncing off the opposing players’ backs.

    Players showing off high-flying dunk shots.

    The world’s fastest dribbler trying to break another record.

    Ballers chasing each other with water bottles, taunting referees, and pulling down the opposition’s shorts.

    Even, players dancing on the rim of the goal.

    Take these tricks in any combination and Baton Rouge is in for basketball wizardry, Saturday, January 18, when the Harlem Globetrotters  bring “magic” to the court, said the team’s 12th female baller, Joyce “Sweet J” Ekworomadu, 27. She shares the female star title with fellow Globetrotters TNT Maddox and T-Time Brawner.

    The world renown Globetrotters are known for their combination of basketball skills, tricks, dancing—and a lot of personality. “You can’t miss out on this,” she said. “We are wizards of basketball.”

    But don’t get lost in the entertainment of it all. Basketball is serious business for these players who were All-Stars college standouts. 

    Sweet J, who is currently a rookie, hailed from Texas State University of San Marcus as the Southland Conference Player of the Year and third place winner of the 2008 College 3-Point Championship. She now plays professionally for the Globetrotters and the Nigerian National Team. She was given the name Sweet J by the Globetrotters because of her sweet jump shot—and her first name is Joyce.

    She said the Globetrotters plan to bring their best, high energy, thrilling game with a message of empowerment for Baton Rouge families.  “They will be inspired and feel nothing but positive energy,” she said. “They will take home a lifetime of memories.”

    The Globetrotters have played for more than 88 years around the world. This year, in the United States alone, the players will compete in as many as 300 games in 250 cities during the 4-month Fans Rule Tour. Then, they will take the game around the world to places like Germany, the United Kingdom, and France for the remaining of the year.

    At 2pm and 7pm, the Globetrotters will face off against Select at the Baton Rouge River Center.

    “There really is no off season. We play 12 months and do a lot of community outreach,” said Sweet J. But that type of commitment isn’t hard for 5’10” point guard. She has played basketball daily since age 10 and has a passion and “calling to be around kids through the (basketball) court.”

    “Every time I did something different, God brought me right back to the court,” she said. “Now, I’m impacting children on a bigger scale,” she said.

    “This is the dream job. I get to play ball, display my personality, and work with children, all together in one package.”

    After graduating with a marketing degree, Sweet J taught at Granbury High School briefly. She also played basketball overseas professionally before trying out for the Globetrotters last year. (She was encouraged to do so by current teammate Freddie Bush.)

    “I am privileged to be in position to inspire others. The Harlem Globetrotters is such a positive brand,” said Sweet J. “You have to be energetic to play and have personality, and keep a positive image.”

    Sweet J frequently plays for Nigeria’s basketball team when schedule permits.  Although she’s a Dallas, Tx, native, she qualifies to play in her parents’ native country. This gives her the opportunity to see family and parts of the country she said she would not have seen otherwise.

    “From a young age, I’ve always wanted to have a prolonged basketball career,” she said. Now 27 years old, Sweet J said, “My court time will be until I can’t walk.”

    The Globetrotters have a 2pm game Sunday (Jan. 19) in the Lafayette Cajun Dome.

    ONLINE: www.harlemglobetrotters.com

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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  • ,

    Afrikan-Centered School Opens in New Orleans

    Parents and organizers gathered in front of George Washington Carver Preparatory Academy in New Orleans at the official announcement of Liberation Academy, “an Afrikan-centered public high school”.  Students recently walked off the Carver campus in protest of the school’s disciplinary policies.  Liberation Academy founder Samori Camara, Ph.D., said the academy is a homeschooling cooperative for high school students that gives parents a free, public school alternative. Classes began January 6, 2014, at the St. James AME Church on North Derbigny

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