• 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

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  • ‘Step Off’ Comes to Manship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Cameron James

    City News Manager


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  • North Baton Rouge soccer keeps kids active

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

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

    The organization has a,

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

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


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  • SU Ag institute grad recognized for healthy living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Spike Lee speaks to youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    By Anastasia Semien

    Contributing Reporter

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  • City unites to cope with violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    To be involved, email blvyhlms@cox.net

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  • ‘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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.”

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  • 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.

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  • ,

    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

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  • 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.


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  • 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.

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  • 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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  • ,,

    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_____________________________________________________






    ____ 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”

    Read more »
  • 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.


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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.

    Read more »
  • 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.


     55 %
     40 %
     3 %
     3 %
    Average income:
    Unemployment rate:
     9.2 per cent
    Receive food stamps:
     17 per cent


    Population: 100,000

    White: 70 %

    Black: 23 %

    Hispanic/Latino: 6 %

    Asian: 4 %

    Average income: $88k

    Unemployment rate: 4.8 %

    Receive food stamps: 7 %


     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.”





















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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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