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    Meet the Doc McStuffins of Hammond, Zachary, Baton Rouge and Monroe

    In 2001 Disney introduced the world to The Proud Family, a cartoon centered on an African American family; headed by Oscar, a snack manufacturer and Trudy, a veterinarian. During the show’s air, two African American women from Louisiana were working towards becoming veterinarians. Something they said they never dreamed of, mostly because of its lack of representation in the black community, especially in Louisiana.

    Fast forward to 2012, and Disney once again brings us an inspirational show for black girls with Doc McStuffins. The series, which is in its second season, shows a brown cartoon girl playing make-believe veterinarian, operating on her stuffed animals. The show is wildly popular and has lots of girls desiring to become veterinarians.

    Now reality, Louisiana, which is the 25th most populous state of the union, is home to only six black, female veterinarians. All of the women completed her undergraduate studies at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge and received her D.V.M. from the School of Veterinarian Medicine at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Three of the women are practicing veterinarians, one of them is in academia and two of them work for the government.

    An avid fan of Doc McStuffins and veterinarian hopeful, nine-year-old Samiya J. Phillips said she has been interested in treating animals since she was three. She said she learns from the cartoon, but wishes she could go on field trips and ask real life vets questions and see more women working as vets.future mcstuf

    “I think there should be more girls that take care of animals, because you really have to have caring heart , Phillips said. “Maybe there should be more schools to teach you more about being a veterinarian and field trips [so I can] ask a lot of questions on how they take care of animals and what kind of tools [are used] for animals.”

    Renita Woods Marshall, D.V.M. has been an associate professor of animal science at SUBR and the SU Ag Center resident veterinarian for six years. She said she always knew she wanted to become a doctor, but never dreamed she’d be a veterinarian, or a professor. Marshall, who grew up in rural Pelican, said she has always been around animals and agriculture. She decided to bring her degree home to work so she could help build the future of veterinarians in Louisiana, in particularly to inspire girls like Phillips.

    “I could have gone anywhere, but I decided to come back here and work in academia, and I look at as somebody made the sacrifice for me; somebody was teaching me, so I felt like I could come back and give to the next generation that’s coming in behind me,” Marshall said. “I’m so proud because two of my students are in veterinarian school right now and I have another one that’s getting ready to go next year. It makes me feel good to see that I’m training them up.”mcstuf1

    Marshall said she encourages her students to come back to Louisiana upon graduating from veterinarian school, in hopes of increasing the number of black, female veterinarians in this state. Two of her three vet school students are black females.

    “They’ve [former students] thought about coming back and they’re all from Louisiana,” Marshall said. “They’ve been in vet school for a couple of weeks and one of the courses is introduction to veterinarian medicine, and that’s exposing them to all the different fields that go along with it. And, a lot of them are like ‘you know, I may end up working at a university’ and I say ‘see, you just never know!’”

    Another one of Louisiana’s Doc McStuffins is Tyra Davis. Davis is from New Iberia and grew up around farms. While she said she never planned to become a veterinarian, she said she believes strongly in the phrase bloom where you are planted. She has now been a medical director and veterinarian at Hammond Animal Hospital and Pet Lodge for ten years.

    mcstuff 2

    “I grew up in a rural area and my family was sugarcane farmers so I spent a lot of time on the farm, but never did I have the desire to become a vet because I never saw a black veterinarian,” Davis said.

    Upon graduating from high school with a very high GPA, Davis was offered a scholarship to attend SUBR. When choosing a major, she was encouraged to pursue animal science and found that she enjoyed the classes. After a summer internship at the University of Missouri, she was sold on becoming a veterinarian. Now with the success of Doc McStuffins, she said she’s proud to see a show with the interest of inspiring young girls to start asking questions about the pursuit of careers in medicine.

    “When I grew up, I didn’t know any veterinarians who looked like me, let alone a woman veterinarian; I didn’t even have a woman pediatrician,” Davis said. “It just goes to show you how far we’ve come. It’s good for young girls in general, but especially African American girls to have a positive image and something to open the conversation about a profession, and especially about my profession.”

    Both Marshall and Davis agreed that it is important to encourage youth who are interested in becoming veterinarians and said they recommend Louisiana students look into undergraduate studies at LSU or SUBR because of the very hands-on approach offered. Both women also give lots back to their community through organizational memberships, speaking engagements and mentoring. They make it known how important they feel it to be for students to bring their degrees back home, as they, along with Tasha Thomas, Evoicia Collins, Leah LeBouf and Andrea Poole, the other Louisiana’s Doc McStuffins, look forward to the number of mcstuf 3black, female veterinarians in the state to increase.

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  • ,

    State Rep. Herbert Dixon resigns

    wpid-wp-1418331131236.jpegALEXANDRIA–State Representative Herbert Dixon, who chairs the Louisiana House Labor committee, has resigned. In an official statement, Dixon writes,

    “I am honored to have served the citizens of District 26 for the last seven years, however I have notified the Speaker of the House that as of December 10, 2014, I have resigned this seat to better manage my health situation, spend more time with family, and pursue other opportunities.

    I’ve served our state and our district in the House of Representatives for nearly a decade and do not resign this position of trust lightly or with little thought.

    It is my hope that I step down from this position having fulfilled the needs of my constituents and my colleagues in the House. It has been a pleasure to work alongside Speaker (Chuck) Kleckley and my fellow members to help Louisiana thrive.”

    “I and the members of the House of Representatives wish Representative Dixon the best of luck in his future endeavors. He worked hard to fight for the needs of our state, but was especially dedicated to his constituents in District 26,” said Kleckley.

    To fill this seat, the Speaker has called a special primary election to be held Saturday, February 21, 2015, with a qualifying period commencing on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 and ending at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, January 9, 2015.

    Dixon is a native of Alexandria, Louisiana. He is married to Janet Hartwell Dixon and they have 5 children.

    He graduated from Peabody High School in 1967. Representative Dixon received his B.S. Degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA in 1971. As an honorable sailor in the U.S. Navy, he earned a Yeoman Class “A” Certificate in San Diego, CA in 1972. He went on to further studies at George Washington University in 1973. He earned a master’s degree in education from Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA in 1975. He has accumulated thirty hours above a the master’s from Northwestern University in Natchitoches, LA .

    In 1992, Representative Dixon was elected to Rapides Parish School Board where he represented District “D” for fifteen Years. In 2007, He was elected to the Louisiana Legislature Representative District 26. During this time, Representative served on the House Education Committee, House and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee. In 2012, Representative Dixon went in unopposed for a second term and is currently serving as Chairman of Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and is also a member of the Commerce Committee. Representative Dixon is currently a member of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, Louisiana Democratic Caucus and Louisiana Rural Caucus.

    Representative Dixon’s Community Affiliations include being a member of the Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Cenla’s Best, a member of the Rapides Democratic Executive Committee, Warhorse Tailgate Association, Inc., Southern University Alumni Association and the D.A. Anderson Scholarship Committee.

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  • Celebrate the Babies of 2013

     

    For only $30 your new son, daughter, or grandchild will be included in a special directory of 2013 Babies. This is a once- in-a-lifetime keepsake opportunity you’lltreasure for years to come.  The publication date is January 27, 2014. All photos and information must be received in our office no later than January 20, 2014. Complete this form and upload a photo

     

    Baby‘s Name______________________________________________________

     

    Born _____________________________________________________________

     

    Weight, Length_____________________________________________________

     

    Parent’s Names_____________________________________________________

     

    Grandparents_______________________________________________________

     

    __________________________________________________________________

     

    ____ I will mail a check to POBox 40864 Baton Rouge, LA 70835

     

    ____ I will pay here




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  • In Case You Missed It

    A new issue of the Drum Newspaper is out and available to the community now. In the issue you will find community news such as:

    How  your elected leaders feel about the possible incorporation  St. George:

    The Southern University Jaguars win their first SWAC championship in 10 years and because of that extended coach Odums’ contract.

    Senator Karen Carter Peterson invites students to testify on issues they face in education.

    and so much more community news.

     

    The Drum Newspaper: “Because Community News Matters”

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  • Southern Filmmakers Expose Audiences to Zombies, Bounce and Natural Hair

    Dance Step of Death writer/director Ed Fletcher

    Dance Step of Death writer/director Ed Fletcher

    Zombies, Dubstep meet Jaguar Nation

    Ed Fletcher, a 1998 Southern University alumnus, has taken his appreciation for the Jaguar Nation into the world zombies, Dubstep, and film. The former editor of the Southern Digest is currently a reporter at the Sacramento Bee newspaper in California and has recently released his first short film “Dance Steps of Death”. Fletcher’s comedic, horror film follows six citizens who form a group of powerless super heroes to save the city of Sacramento from man-eating zombies. What influenced the film, how does Southern add value to it, and where will this lead Fletcher? We caught up with him at the Bee to find out.

    Usually when people create super heroes they give superpowers or they’re extremely wealthy, but your Adventure Patrol characters are “average Joes”. Why did create heroes that lack powers?
    It’s actually based on trend that’s going in the country right now where regular people are becoming heroes. These are people have got tired of the every day monotony and want to do some good. There are chapters of all around the country and I actually met with a couple before we began filming.

    Why did you choose to give prominence to Dubstep, a genre of music too many people know?
    I went to the Burning Man festival this year for the first time, and while there, I was exposed to different types of music and Dubstep was really popular the year I went so I decided to incorporate it into the film.

    Why does the film include Southern University paraphernalia? How does Southern University “fit” in the film?
    My original intention was go to Southern for two years and then transfer to film school but along the way I fell in love with Southern and journalism. Southern was an important time in my life and it launched me on the path I’m on today. I hope some the images of Southern in the film stays in people’s minds and maybe help someone with their college decision. I think that type of imagery is better in some cases than (recruitment) brochures or commercials.

    As a minority filmmaker do you feel there are stereotypes and typecasting you have to face?
    There is a place for films that tell especially Black stories and there is a place for films that tell stories about people who happen to be Black. Not all Black people live like Martin. We don’t need to do “Boyz in the Hood” six different ways. We can tell different stories about people who happen to be Black. You would hope White filmmakers do the same and don’t write characters based on stereotypes.

    After this debut in the industry as a producer, are you planning to do any acting?
    I’m going to stay focused on writing and producing. I think that’s what I do well in this industry. Although if someone approached me to do some acting, I would be open to it.

    More movies are being filmed in Louisiana, and it’s opening doors for more aspiring filmmakers in Louisiana. What advice would you offer them?
    You’ve got to be willing to deal with “no”. You can be easily deterred. My first two projects were rejected by a film festival and my second couldn’t come together, but you’ve got to keep trying. You really grow through getting told “no”.

    Kenna Moore exposes New Orleans Bounce

    Kenna More producer/director of Omitted

    Kenna More producer/director of Omitted

    New Orleans filmmaker Kenna J. Moore recently won the New Orleans Film Society’s Emerging Vision Award for “Omitted, her debut documentary that chronicles the fast-paced, high-energy genre of dance and music known as Bounce.
    “I chose to title the film ‘Omitted’ because this style of music and dance showcased in the film is one that gets over shadowed,” said Moore who received the award last month at the 24th Annual New Orleans Film Festival.
    “Omitted” chronicles how Bounce music and dance are deeply woven into Louisiana’s Culture and has become a way of life for local entertainers.
    “Bounce has opened so many doors for me and taken me so many places,” said nationally known Bounce dancer Shelby “Skip” Skipper. “This isn’t just a hobby. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to dance. I want to teach lessons.”
    For the documentary, Moore follows Skipper for four months and exposes the amount of energy, dedication, and creativity Skipper has put into his craft. Moore includes scenes from Skipper’s performances “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “So You Think You Can Dance”.
    Moore includes New Orleans hypeman and producer Donald “Big Choo” Morris Jr. who mentors Skipper. In 2011, Big Choo produced a Bounce remix of “Reading Rainbow” for the New Orleans public library where elementary students celebrated reading and danced with Skipper.
    It’s New Orleans stories and people like these that Moore said are the focus of her company Ghost of Elysian Films.
    She said the company produces experimental films that explore and expose “ghost” stories of New Orleans that are contrary to traditional facets of the city—like Mardi Gras, Hurricane Katrina, and Southern food—that are often found in mainstream films.
    ONLINE: www.ghostofelysianfilms.com

    Filmmaker takes natural hair internationally

    Director-producer Cindy Hurst is a native of Baton Rouge and the owner of The Sankofa Project, a film production and publishing agency developed to address cultural,

    Cindy Hurst

    Cindy Hurst

    community, and gender issues. Hurst is a summa cum laude graduate of Southern University who tours the country screening her films. “Natural Woman,” her first film produced in 2009, will be screened in Germany and the Netherlands later this year. Hurst talked with THE DRUM about her craft and how Southern still influences her work today.

    After graduating from Southern University with a degree in psychology, how did you end up the film industry?
    My first film, “Natural Woman,” was originally supposed to be a book documenting the physiological effects on women when they decide to go natural. I started taping my interviews and I liked the responses I was getting. I went out, got a camera, and began shooting. Once I had gathered the footage, I began consulting with the people I knew in the industry.

    How does a Baton Rouge native end up studying at Prague Film School in the Chez Republic in Europe?
    I enjoyed the production process of my first film so much I knew filmmaking was going to become more than just a hobby. I really wanted to immerse myself into the whole filmmaking process. Someone who was helping me with marketing suggested I screen my movies in Europe, and I began looking at schools there, too. Most of the film schools in America are three- or four-year programs. I found the Prague Film School and there I could study the same thing and take the same courses, but instead only be in school a year and walk away with same degree and credentials as I would in America. I also think studying abroad helps me stand out from other filmmakers.

    In what way did your experiences at Southern University influence your future? I took a class called African Experience. It really broke down the psychology of African people and the effects slavery had on African Americans, and it motivated me find the deeper reasoning behind some of the choices our people make. The reason Southern is so important to me and why I am so glad I went to an (historically black college) is because no matter what course I took every professor I had made sure we had an understanding of the contributions our people made to this country that weren’t always found in textbooks.

    Your work includes “Natural Woman,” “Familiar Spirit,” and “Remembering the Forgotten First: the Story of Charlie Grainger.” You’ve also published a coloring book for daughters and mothers with natural hair. How do you select projects to work on?
    The films I make have an African-American psychological thrust. I want to create films that would affect people of color. I want to touch on issues that go untouched, or history makers who have been forgotten, in the Black community, and get people talking. Sankofa, the name of my production company, is an African term that means in order to move forward you have to move back.
    I realized that through film I found a vehicle to share a lot of issues that affect the Black community. I’m currently working on “Before Baseball,” a documentary that chronicles horse racing as the first integrated professional sport. I wanted people to know that African Americans did not integrate sports with baseball, it was long before Jackie Robinson and for several decades. I’m also working on producing a film with a group of people who are visually impaired. I’m not only working production but looking for ways that someone who is blind or visually impaired can enjoy the film once it is complete.

    What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter film industry?
    That is simple; Just do it. That is exactly what I did. If you really want to do it just research and find out what you need. Don’t let anything stop you whether it is a lack of funding or someone saying you can’t; just do it.

    www.cindy-hurst.com

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  • Pastor, Professor is Grateful to Teach, Study Life Nelson Mandela

    I was privileged to introduce a course at Louisiana State University called, “Malcolm, Martin, and Mandela in The Media”. This course was taught in the Manship School of Mass Communication; it was the first of it’s kind in the university community. The students were excited and I had to drum up students my first semester, but after that I always had a waiting list.

    As I write these reflections, I am reminded of the many students, who took the course and engage themselves in the legacy and thought of Nelson Mandela. This class reflected on the media and the influence it plays in the lives of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela. In the African and African American Studies program, I developed a course called, “The Philosophy and Thought of Nelson Mandela”. This course centered around his early childhood until his rise to international leader. His African name means, “Shaker of Trees”, and throughout his life, he shook the foundation of an unjust society in South Africa.

    We talked about his childhood when he would play war games with his friends in the countryside. This playtime would soon develop into a philosophy and thought provoking his leadership style for later moments in his life. The students would always be puzzled by his words, “Leadership can be from behind, one always gets the faster and most nimble sheep to lead and the shepard follows.” I was fortunate to teach both courses to students at Louisiana State University, and in my teaching, I also learned that we must find something that we are willing to die for. I am passionate about teaching and I am called to teach a new generation the legacy and thought of just a leader.

    Nelson Mandela taught us how to forgive and to reconcile with even our worst enemy. He was not bitter and he changed a culture, a society, and even a nation with his dignity and passion for justice for all persons. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to teach and study the life of Nelson Mandela. I traveled to South Africa and we stopped in Cape Town, and as I looked across the ocean I thought about Nelson Mandela but I had no idea I would one day teach students about his philosophy and thought. What a wonderful blessing. Thank you, Mr. Mandela, you also shook my spirit.

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  • Elected Officials Speak on Possible St. George Incorporation

    We believe that we can set a model, not only for the state of Louisiana [but also] a model of governance for the United States of America that many other cities can follow.

    Lionel Rainey, a spokesman for the St. George effort – The Times-Picayune

    By: Leslie D. Rose – The Drum Reporter

    BATON ROUGE-This month Baton Rouge made national and world news as a headliner in various media outlets regarding the possible incorporation of St. George. And while a story about the potential creation of a new city within the capital city may spark national hyperbole, local reports and representatives say the buzz is not totally inaccurate.

    The boundaries for the proposed city of St. George would cover about 85 square miles, including all of the unincorporated part of the parish south of Baton Rouge. But with such a pushback from surrounding communities, one has to question how what Rainey has spoken on would create a solid model for the country or state, no less the city. Based on responses from local politicians, the facts are only in the favor of the proposed St. George City.

    Here we will explore the various headlines regarding the potential incorporation infused with facts and thoughts from respected state, city and school board leaders.

    Headline: St. George incorporation petitions hit East Baton Rouge Parish – WBRZ.com

    Fact: Supporters of the proposal say they have half the 18,000 signatures needed to get their scheme on the next ballot

    The campaign to create the city of St. George began in September. Organizers, frustrated by the struggling schools in East Baton Rouge Parish, had tried twice to get approval from the legislature to create their own school district and break away from EBRPSS. When they were blocked both timesand after opponents said they shouldn’t get their own school district because they weren’t their own citythey decided to incorporate. They see it as an opportunity to create both a city and a school district that will be smaller, more efficient, and more responsive to residents’ needs.

     

    Representative Patricia Haynes-Smith

    Representative Patricia Haynes-Smith, District 67

    “I am not in favor of the proposed city. I honestly believe that because of the revenue issue, it will definitely impact the city of Baton Rouge and the services provided. There are so many questions to be answered such as: the sewer project, the green light projects, law enforcement services that if the ‘City of St. George’ contracts with the sheriff ‘s dept. there is a strong possibility of taxes going up in that area. But proponents believe that isn’t the case. And this is not just predicated on law enforcement, it’s all services a city needs.  

    This has all come about over the school system not passing and the fact that the group refused to factually deal with the legacy costs they would burden EBR with. There is no guarantee that if a city is formed that the school system is approved. It still will require 70 votes to pass.

    It is quite interesting in how the lines were drawn as well. Questions should be on many citizens’ minds on the reasons certain areas were not pulled in. One has but to go back to the videos of the bill being vetted in education committee and hear the comments of some of the citizens who testified that they did not want certain children in their schools.” said State Rep.Patricia Haynes Smith, District 67.

    Headline: Fiscal issues grim if BR loses St. George – The Advocate

    Fact: St. George would take with it two malls that provide Baton Rouge with 40 % of its sales tax revenue which would create a $53 million budget shortfall for Baton Rouge.

    The proposed city of St. George would cost the city-parish government $85 million, or 30 %, of its annual general fund revenue according to a Dec. 1 report conducted by LSU economist – commissioned by BRAC and BRAF. Even if the city-parish government reduced its per-capita spending to account for the drop in population, it would still face a budget shortfall of $53 million each year. Since 29 % of the general fund goes to the Baton Rouge Police Department, the report findings conclude that the city-parish government would be forced to reduce police services within the Baton Rouge city limits and remaining unincorporated areas.

     

    Representative Chauna Banks-Daniel District 2

    Representative Chauna Banks-Daniel, District 2

    “Due to the disproportion of concentration placed on increased economic development in the southern part of the city-parish and not in the northern part, there are unfair constraints with respect to business, housing, education and recreational activities. The proposed City of St. George places an unfavorable or disadvantageous impact of law enforcement and other public services. This action would actively be harmful for my constituent’s quality of life. My concerns about this proposal [are] that it will result in higher taxes and fewer services for low-and moderate-income people,” said Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel (District 2).

     

    Representative Regina Ashford Barrow, District 29

     

     

     

     

    I am against the St. George breakaway measure because of the numerous negative consequences it would have on Baton Rouge. Leaders of the “Incorporate St. George” movement indicate that one of the main purposes of the St. George breakaway is to “keep some of the tax dollars that are in this area, in this area.” However, this notion is based on the flawed presumption that those within the immediate vicinity only support all of the businesses in the proposed St. George area and that’s not true. To this point, the Mall of Louisiana and Perkins Rowe are supported by the entirety of Baton Rouge not just local individuals. Ironically, the infrastructure for this retail center was built with tax dollars from the entirety of Baton Rouge. I’m against for the following reasons: Because of the fiscal impact it will have on the city of Baton Rouge as currently constituted. The sales tax dollars that currently support the local parish government would be greatly diminished because of a reduced tax base; Because of the negative impact it will have on the remaining city because of the drawing of the boundary lines, if its going to be inclusive of South Baton Rouge than it should include all of South Baton Rouge. The proposed city is gerrymandered. It excludes Gardere but stretches up to encompass Towne Center. Because this is regressive, with all the steps made to make BR the next great city, this move will take the city back 20-30 years. I believe it certainly will make it more difficult to draw more companies and businesses to our city/ If this were to happen, immediately it would cause a huge budget deficit in the city’s current budget forcing cuts in parish-wide services and programs, like police protection and road construction. A study by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber found that the effects of the partition would be economically devastating for the remainder of Baton Rouge, immediately creating a $53 million budget shortfall. Obviously, this would have a negative impact on future economic development projects. Additionally, this would reduce diversity in the East Baton Rouge Parish School system as well as remove much needed funding from a school system already in need. What many people fail to realize is when companies’ look to invest in and move into an area they consider many factors and one factor is the climate of the communities – if the community is closed minded and regressive than they view that as impacted future growth. The concept of One Baton Rouge was formed to foster community and unite growth. Certainly when you look at how the lines are drawn the issue of race and class must come up. The lines are drawn to exclude a segment of the community that is comprised of mostly minorities and families that are economically distressed. Then it gerrymanders up to incorporate a part of the city that is central of the city to harness that income and tax base. At the end of the day this become a lose-lose for us all! Certainly there must be a better way to address some of their concerns without slicing and dicing the community,” said State Rep. Regina Ashford Barrow (District 29)

    Headline: Baton Rouge’s Magnet Schools Threatened by St. George Incorporation – Nola.com

    Fact: East Baton Rouge is able to offer its magnet schools because it is a large district with about 43,000 students, and has the resources and student population to support specialized programs.

    There are about 6,200 East Baton Rouge Parish public school students who live in the St. George area but attend school outside those city limits, according to the group One Community, One School District, which opposes the St. George effort. That includes magnet students and others who would be displaced if a new district is established in St. George.

    Craig Freeman

    Representative Craig Freeman , EBR School Board District 2

    [As] a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, I am against the city of St. George. I know that the System’s retirement liability exceeds $300 Million. I think taking newly built schools while leaving retirement liability creates the potential for disaster for education in the Parish. We are a system that saw 42% of schools improve a letter grade; we cut expenses and increased revenue; we produce the overwhelming portion of national merit and national achievement scholars in the parish; and we have only one failing comprehensive school in the system (less than A-rated systems nearby). Anyone that thinks they should leave the System to create a better system within the parish should spend time in our fantastic schools,” said Craig M. Freeman, East Baton Rouge Parish School Board representative for District 6.

    Representative Edward “Ted” James II ,District 101

    Representative Edward “Ted” James II ,District 101

     

     

    I am totally against the division of our city. The racial division will not bring our parish forward and the erosion of tax revenue would affect services for the city. The people behind this movement are blinded by their need to devastate our schools,” said State Representative Edward “Ted” James II (District 101)

     Representative Vereta Lee ,East Baton Rouge Parish School Board District 7

    Representative Vereta Lee ,East Baton Rouge Parish School Board District 7

     

     

    I am against the current proposal to create the City of St. George, because it will affect the quality of education that all of our children are receiving.

    My opposition primarily stems from the fact that this proposal, just like the proposal to create a new school system in the Southeast portion of the parish, unnecessarily divides the residents of the city/parish along the all too familiar lines of race, and class. This is morally wrong!!

    The impact on the City of Baton Rouge will be decidedly negative. Not only will this impact the city’s functions and operations, it will impact our local school system, children, and quality of life,” said District 7 East Baton Rouge Parish School Board Representative Vereta Lee.

     

    Headline: Richer white people in Greater Baton Rouge seek to secede from poor Black neighbors – Huffington Post

    Fact: After Hurricane Katrina more than 200,000 New Orleans residents – mainly Black – moved to the northern, urban parts of the city. The new city would be 70 % white, compared to Baton Rouge which is 55 % Black.

    The Dec. 1 report also points out the significant income gap between the two populations, concluding that a new city of St. George would be one of the wealthiest in Louisiana:

    Perhaps the most notable difference between the two cities is found in the household income characteristics. The proposed city has a mean household income $30,000 higher than the City of Baton Rouge. More than 60 % of the households in Baton Rouge have incomes below $50,000, while more than 60 % of the households in the new city have incomes above $50,000 … [M]ore than 14,000 households in the City of Baton Rouge receiv[e] SNAP benefits compared to fewer than 3,000 in the proposed new city. One quarter of the households in Baton Rouge receive some kind of Social Security income, while in the proposed city that ratio is one in five.

    Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins Lewis , District 6

    Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins Lewis , District 6

    “If their only reason for incorporation is for the independent school district, this seems to be a drastic step in getting there by any means necessary.  In my opinion, the incorporation would only serve to further racially divide the city/parish.  Our city already has a great divide north of Florida Blvd. which will only be further exasperated by the incorporation of St. George. The impact will be negative for District 6 and the entire city/parish of Baton Rouge with a huge loss of our current tax base.  There is still much to be learned on the negative impact this effort will have on public safety, the overall structure of city parish government and the overall continued economic growth of our city. This is one to be watched closely,” said Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins Lewis (District 6).

    Headline: A Tale of Two Cities from the dailymail.co.uk (The United Kingdom)

    Fact: Leaders of the St. George secession claim they are creating an ‘open city’ and deny it will have any negative impact.

    Leaders of the St. George secession effort deny that racial segregation is the reason behind their plans. They claim the new city will be ‘wide open’ and downplay warnings of fiscal disaster for the rest of the city. But opponents note that city funds were used to develop the retail areas that would end up sucking in sales taxes from residents of the poorer part of the city.

    Sharon Weston-Broome State Senator and President Pro Tempore, District 15.

    Sharon Weston-Broome State 

    Senator and President Pro Tempore, District 15.

     

    “I am not in favor of any effort by any group that divides Baton Rouge or East Baton Rouge Parish. The effort to create a new city within the parish divides us on many levels. Rarely do we solve our problems through isolation. Divided we fall…we fail. I’ve worked and continue to work to bring people together to find common ground and solutions to improve the quality of life for everyone in the parish,” said Sharon Weston-Broome State Senator and President Pro Tempore, District 15.

    Fact: Breakaway town would have higher income, lower unemployment, less people on benefits… and a white majority population.

    Here is an estimated comparison of racial makeup between Baton Rouge and St. George, according to figures compiled by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, if the incorporation is successful.

    BATON ROUGE

    Population:230,000
    Black:
     55 %
    White:
     40 %
    Asian:
     3 %
    Hispanic/Latino:
     3 %
    Average income:
     $58k
    Unemployment rate:
     9.2 per cent
    Receive food stamps:
     17 per cent

    ST. GEORGE

    Population: 100,000

    White: 70 %

    Black: 23 %

    Hispanic/Latino: 6 %

    Asian: 4 %

    Average income: $88k

    Unemployment rate: 4.8 %

    Receive food stamps: 7 %

    d

     Metro Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards ,District 5

     “At the end of the day, this issue reminds me of “The Hunger Games” movie as it relates to a few people demanding power, money and control at the expense of the majority who happen to be less fortunate. This started being an education issue and has quickly evolved into a much more complicated set of issues that historically has not produced a good or a godly result.  It is showing all of the ugly sides of humanity and what people are willing to destroy to get their way at the expense of everyone else,” said Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards (District 5)

    Editors’s Note: All elected officials who represent The Drum newspaper’s readers in this area were invited to provide comment for this story. Those officials not included did not respond to email request for comment.

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  • South Louisiana’s Invisible Epidemic

     

    HIV/AIDS cases in S.E. Louisiana remain among highest in the nation

    Louisiana has long sat at the bottom of statistics for things like overall well-being and education. But, in 2012, Baton Rougeans found themselves, unfortunately, at the top of one of the least ideal statistics in the country. The city was named number one for AIDS cases per capita, with New Orleans following in second.

    In Baton Rouge, there are nearly 5000 diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS.

    Overall, HIV continues to disproportionately affect Blacks in Louisiana. As shown in a 2007 survey, 72% of newly diagnosed HIV cases and 75% of newly diagnosed AIDS cases were among African Americans.

    This year, The Baton Rouge AIDS Society revealed that the capital city now ranks 4th for AIDS case rates among the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, and leads Louisiana in the highest rate of AIDS cases overall. Of these numbers, 31% of new HIV cases and 31% of new AIDS cases in Louisiana are among women – with the number one mode of transmission being heterosexual activities.

    Dr. Joyce Turner Keller is one of those women.

    Keller was diagnosed in 2001 following a car accident, in which she developed a staph infection, requiring medical treatment. She said she believes she contracted the virus in 1995 when she was raped at age 45.

    “I tell people all the time that it doesn’t matter how I got it,” Keller said. “The fact is that I deal with the same side effects, the same discrimination, the same ills and the same rejection that everybody else deals with when they’re dealing with HIV.”

     

    Keller is a Baton Rouge area bishop. She is also the founder of Aspirations, a non-profit organization serving the needs of hurting people, regardless of race, creed, gender preference, age or social class, infected with or affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. Part of her influence to head up the organization came from an encounter with a pastor, who she said told her matter-of-factly “there’s no AIDS in my church.” Upon disagreeing with the pastor’s statement, Keller reflected on her own past ignorance of the virus.

     

    “I didn’t think that HIV had anything to do with me before being diagnosed,” Keller said. “I’m a praying woman; I’m a woman of the church; I’m a woman in the ministry; I didn’t smoke; I didn’t drink; I didn’t party and I’ve never been high. I wasn’t into commercial sex; I wasn’t a stripper; I wasn’t gay; I wasn’t white; I didn’t have a lot of boyfriends. So, to me, before I was diagnosed, HIV was a foreign word – it was somebody else.”

     

    This fall Keller produced a play based upon her encounter with the aforementioned pastor, titled “No AIDS in my Church”.  She said the mission was to make audiences think about the reality of ministers believing that AIDS doesn’t exist in the church and to emphasis that the virus is has many faces.

     

    “I think it’s imperative that people see HIV looks like them – that every face is the face of HIV,” Keller said. “No matter how many times you look at me, you can’t see HIV, unless I tell it.”

     

    Now, living a mildly healthy life since her diagnosis, Keller said she takes one pill specifically for HIV and a host of other medications for accompanying ailments. But, most importantly, Keller said she lives right.

     

    “I eat right, I get plenty of rest and I refuse to get stressed out,” Keller said. “I don’t let other people’s problems become mine. I limit my involvement with outside interference. I don’t allow junk into my spiritual or mental needs – that’s how I stay healthy – that keeps you well.”

     

    Staying healthy is something that Patrice Melnick knows well. A resident of Grand Coteau, La., she has been living with HIV for nearly 30 years. She was diagnosed at age 26 in 1987, during an emergency medical trip home from Bangassou in the C.A.R, where she served in the Peace Corps for two years. She said she believes she contracted the virus from one of her boyfriends who was native to Africa.

     

    In 2012, her memoir, Po-Boy Contraband – From Diagnosis Back to Life was published.

     

    “Writers are looking for a kind of breakthrough,” Melnick said. “I was often writing about other cultures, African, Native American. When one does this, you get into tricky territory, and can be accused of exploitation, though no one ever accused me. Then it occurred to me, I could exploit myself, and my own story with this taboo topic. Writers can be a little warped. In life, sometimes I remove myself from a situation and stop thinking about how the struggle or distress makes me feel and start considering what a provocative story I have to work with.”

     

    Melnick explained that for many years she felt invisible by not revealing her status to those around her. At the time that she was diagnosed, the disease was almost exclusively associated with gay men and most people who were not gay men assumed they could not get it. She said the stigma was much like that of an individual living outside of a crime ridden area and believing that he/she is immune to criminal activity.

     

    Melnick said she didn’t believe herself to be at high-risk for HIV.

     

    Practicing sex only safe enough to prevent birth, Melnick actively took her birth control pills. This was due to the lack of HIV/AIDS awareness and education in the 1980’s. It was the type of ignorance that made Melnick believe that she was a bad person for contracting the virus.

     

    “Americans, especially religious Americans, like to believe there is a reason for everything,” Melnick said. “Because of taboos about sex, they associate STDs with blame. I think I accepted this at first. But then I thought of things in a broader perspective—most healthy humans are sexually active with great inconsistency regarding use of prophylactics, and it’s not useful to dwell on illusions of blame, guilt and innocence.”

     

    More than just general response to the virus, other things have changed as well with education and research. Melnick’s once 7 pills daily is now just two pills daily. She said she stays healthy through exercise, balanced diet, quiet time, regular doctor visits and annual check-ups.

     

    “Initially, I believed I had no hope and I was quick to accept those who believed I did not have long to live,” Melnick said. “In truth, I did not expect to live long.  At first I made short term plans.  Then, nothing happened, so I made longer term plans.  Now here I am concerned about keeping health and life insurance, and retirement.”

     

    Knowing that HIV is no longer a death sentence is something that International HIV/AIDS activist and humanitarian Hydeia Broadbent, of Nevada wants people to understand. She contracted HIV in the womb through her birth mother’s needle-injected drug addiction.

     

    She developed full blown AIDS by age three.

     

    Now 29-years-old, she travels the country in hopes of educating people about the virus. It’s something she has been known for since she was five-years-old.

     

    “When I go around, I basically try to use my life, as a person living with full blown AIDS, as a cautionary tale, because HIV is 100% preventable,” Broadbent said. “I think a lot of people feel like if they contract HIV, they can take a pill and they’ll be okay. So, I try to go into what the reality of living with AIDS is truly like to encourage people to make wise choices like testing in relationships, practicing safe sex and taking care of their bodies.”

     

    A typical day for Broadbent used to start with medications, but her insurance policy recently expired citing non renewal due to the Affordable Care Act. Her daily regimen for the past two months, since being dropped off her plan, includes lots of vitamins, exercise and a healthy diet. This is a routine she said she has always abided by, but more cautionary now because of being without medication.

     

    The total price of her three medications is $3,400 monthly.

     

    “I try not to stress about [the health insurance],” Broadbent said. “I wonder if I can afford the plans, I wonder if I can get back on a plan, just a lot of uncertainty right now.”

     

    Broadbent said she was always public about her status, having spent much of childhood in the hospital with other HIV/AIDS infected children; she didn’t know she was different until middle school. Upon the realization that everybody didn’t have AIDS, she began her activism in the 1990’s when the still semi-taboo HIV/AIDS prevention had become popular through people like Ryan White and Magic Johnson.

     

    It was then that Broadbent realized that while life may be more difficult with AIDS, it is no longer a death sentence.

     

    “The most important thing is to know your status,” Broadbent said. “If you are HIV negative, do everything in your power to stay negative. If you’re positive, the first thing is to obtain and maintain healthcare. Then it’s just in general, being open with your sexual partner and talk to them about getting tested together and about your expectations in your relationship.”

     

    ONLINE:www.hyediabroadbent.net

    www.aspiringdreams.co/

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • The Network Coalition celebrates 20 years in N.O.

    A twenty year old think tank of Louisiana and Mississippi Black elected officials that works to improve public policy outcomes, recently saluted the leadership of Southern University chancellor James Llorens, Legislative Black Caucus chair State Representative Katrina Jackson, Acadian Companies executives Ray Bias and Terry Landry Jr., and former New Orleans city councilman Oliver Thomas.

    Known as The Network Coalition, the group gathers annually during the Southern University versus Jackson State football weekend and again in New Orleans during the Bayou Classic.

    This year, The Network celebrated supporters and leaders who helped start the coalition, including community leader Eva Shanklin, corporate supporter William “Bill” Oliver, the Network chairman Joe Fuller, members of the Louisiana Municipal Association Black Caucus (represented by current president the Rev. Glenn Green), CAWAN Resource Group, and members of the Black Caucus Police Jury Association of Louisiana (represented by the current president Maggie Daniel).

    More than two hundred guests celebrate the growth of the Network and the work of policy leaders throughout the state of Louisiana.

    The event is organized annually by VCI International Inc president Allen Semien Sr.

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  • ,

    Street renaming immortalizes Shiloh’s Rev. Charles Smith

     

    The four-block stretch of America Street from South 10th Street to Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive officially was renamed the Charles T. Smith Boulevard. The street was renamed in honor of the community leader and minister who had been praised for fighting for equality and fairness for those less fortunate prior to his death last year. His widow Eula Smith was joined by 200 people  for the sign unveiling, July 6, in front of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 185 Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive, the church that he had led for 50 years.

     

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  • Group Brings Leadership Policy Summit

    HAMMOND— More than 50 Black elected officials, community and civic leaders, church leaders, and aspiring political candidates gathered in Hammond, Saturday, Nov. 9, for the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy Leadership and Policy Summit.

    The event was co-sponsored by the Northshore Black Elected Officials Coalition and Associates. The leaders sat through presentations and workshops focused on voting rights, climate justice, and racial equity.  They were also updated participants on current legislative issues impacting Louisiana, the Gulf Coast and the US South.

    “Gulf Coast communities exist at the intersection of historic disparity, institutionalized injustice and impending opportunities for community change. How communities of color in the Gulf Coast are impacted and, whether they are equipped to withstand these changes depends on the civic engagement of its residents and the successful strategy of its justice leaders,” said NBEOCA president Thomas Smith Jr.

    The training offered tools, data and information on best practices to promote political engagement and civil rights as well as strengthen the civic engagement networks in Louisiana’s Black communities. Participants engaged in conversations and workshops to help build a justice-based analysis around key community issues. Presenters included: Trupania Bonner, director of the Black Men and Boys Initiative; Jacques Mona, political analyst; Jordan Diamond and Teresa Chan of the Environmental Law Institute; Colette Pichon Battle, executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy; Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus chairwoman State Rep. Katrina Jackson; and Dr. Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

    “This event was intended to connect local leadership to crucial information on issues that impact communities of Color in rural and sub-urban Louisiana,” said Battle. “Too often our communities must face real issues without the tools to solve problems or participate in political processes. This was our part in finding a solution.

    The Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy is a regional public interest law firm and justice center committed to advancing structural shifts toward equity in law, society and community.

    To strengthen the resilience of Louisiana’s communities of color,

    The summit served leaders of the Florida Parishes: St. Tammany, Washington, Tangipahoa, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena parishes.  

    Cut line – Northshore Black elective officials and community leaders gather in Hammond to attend the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy Leadership and Policy Summit. For left Tangipahoa Parish School Board member Eric Dangerfield, Pat Morris president of The Greater Tangipahoa Parish NAACP and Thomas J. Smith Jr. president of the Northsore Black Elected Officials Coalition and Associates.

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