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    COMMENTARY: ‘Mardi Gras, big fat lies’

    Saturday, February 6, 2016, was a historic day in Baton Rouge.  It was also a day filled with contradictions that are characteristic of the State Capital.
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    In one section of the city residents gathered to remember the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott with the dedication of a memorial bench by The Toni Morrison Society.

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

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

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

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

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    awsuits from the very person who pulled the trigger. 

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

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

    By Lori Latrice Martin, PhD
    Guest Columnist

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

    Read more »
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    What did Che’dra Joseph say?

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

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

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

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

    Che'Dra and President Obama. Photo by Yusef Davis

    Che’Dra and President Obama. Photo by Yusef Davis

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

    The gym erupted with applause.

    Read more »
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    New Venture Theatre announces Jan. 30 auditions

    New Venture Theatre will host auditions for two performances, Jan. 30. They are:

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    Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds: a Children’s Musical Show Audition Notice
    Director: Dorrian Wilson
    Assistant Director: Roger Ferrier

    AUDITION
    Saturday, Jan. 30, 3:30pm (General Auditions)
    Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge 2nd Floor 427 Laurel Street Baton Rouge, LA 70801

    REHEARSAL DATES
    Feb 2 – March 3
    Monday – Thursdays, 6pm – 9pm

    PERFORMANCE DATES
    March 4 and 5
    Friday, March 4 2pm and 7:30pm
    Saturday, March 5, at 2pm and 7:30pm

    SYNOPSIS
    Three little birds sing their sweet songs to Ziggy, a very shy child who is happy to see the world from the T.V. in his room. But his tricky friend, Nansi wants him to get out and enjoy the island of Jamaica. But Ziggy is afraid of Hurricanes, Mongoose and evil spirits. Their worldly adventure is enlivened by the fantastic songs of renowned Reggae artist Bob Marley.

    AUDITION REQUIREMENTS
    Please prepare a one-minute of a song that shows your range and vocal ability (SELECTIONS FROM BOB MARLEY WILL BE ACCEPTED). ALL SONGS WILL BE PERFORMED WITHOUT MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT. No monologues required for this production, there will be a cold reading.

    CHARACTERS
    Ziggy- a timid boy with long dreadlocks- 11

    Nansi- a trickster girl- 11 (Also: Spanish Bird#2/ British Colonizer Bird, Sister Indian Bird)

    Duppy- an evil spirit bird with a head full of human hair taken from children, 30s ( Also: Villager #1/ Great Grandfather Spanish Bird)

    Doctor Bird- a lucky bird, Ziggy’s pet and best friend, 20s

    Cedella- Ziggy’s Mother, 40s ( Also Montego, a bird/ Spanish Bird #1/ Great Aunt African Bird)

    Tacoma- a bird ( Also plays- Villager #2/ Great Grandmother British Bird/ Cousin Chinese Bird)

    RASHEEDA SPEAKING AUDITION NOTICE
    Directed by: April Louise
    Written by: Joel Drake-Johnson

    AUDITIONS
    Saturday, January 30 at 1pm

    Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge 2nd Floor
    427 Laurel Street Baton Rouge, La 70801

    REHEARSAL DATES
    February 15 – March 18
    Rehearsals are at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge

    PERFORMANCE DATES
    March 19 and 20 7:30pm
    LSU Studio Theatre/ School of Theater
    Louisiana State University
    105 Music and Dramatic Building/ Baton Rouge, La 70803

    SYNOPSIS
    A White physician attempts to oust his black receptionist by enlisting a white female coworker as a spy. Tensions rise as relations between the two women quickly deteriorate, turning their once-cordial workplace into a battlefield of innuendos, paranoia, and passive aggression.
    With wit and close observation, “Rasheeda Speaking” mimes the subtleties of “post-racial” America to explore what we are really saying when we refuse to talk about race.

    AUDITION REQUIREMENTS
    Please prepare two contrasting monologues. Each piece should be no longer than one minute.

    CHARACTERS
    Jaclyn Spaulding (African American) early 40s Dr.’s newer assistant – seemingly unpredictable at face value

    Ilene Van Meter (Caucasian) late 40s Dr.’s long-term assistant – initially mild-mannered/
    optimistic; becomes untrusting

    Dr. David Williams (Caucasian) late 30s successful, young manipulative Surgeon

    Rose Saunders (Caucasian) 60s elderly patient

    Email questions to info@newventuretheatre.org or call (225) 588-7576

    Read more »
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    Hundreds gather inside McKinley High School gym for town talk with President Obama

    More than 700 people, including elected officials, participated in a Town Hall with President Barack Obama, Thursday, Jan. 14. Hundreds more lined the streets or waited at the airport for a glimpse of the outgoing president. But what did he tell the citizens?

    “I heard loudly and clearly today talk of taking ownership of development by committing to learning how to control and master the process of personal and community development,” said attorney Donovan Hudson.

    Here’s the transcript from the meeting:

         THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Louisiana!  (Applause.)  Hello, Baton Rouge!  Geaux Tigers!  (Applause.)  For those of you who are not aware, that’s “geaux” with an “x.”  I got it.

         Can everybody give Che a big round of applause?  (Applause.)  We could not be more proud of her.  I was backstage — I asked her, “Are you nervous?”  She said, no, I got this — (laughter) — I’m fine.  That is a serious leader of the future. And we are so proud of her.  And I want to thank everybody at McKinley for hosting us today.

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    President Obama hugs Che'dra Joseph, McKinley High Student of the Year


         There are a couple of people I want to make sure we acknowledge.  Your Mayor, Kip Holden, is in the house.  (Applause.)  There he is.  We got Congressman Cedric Richmond here — (applause) — who’s got a really cute little boy.  (Laughter.)  And New Orleans Mayor and great friend of mine, Mitch Landrieu is in the house — (applause) — whose son is not so little, but looks pretty cool.  I want to congratulate your new governor who’s going to do outstanding work — (applause) — John Bel Edwards is in the house, and his lovely family.  We are so grateful to have them here.

         Since LSU has pretty good sports teams, historically, I thought I might mention you got an okay basketball player named Ben Simmons in the house.  (Applause.)  His dad played in Australia with my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.  So they can hoop.  But I think they would both acknowledge that Ben is better.  (Laughter.)  And it’s wonderful to have him here.

         Now, it is my intention not to give a long speech, because this is sort of a town hall.  I want to spend a little time having a conversation with all of you.  (Applause.)  But I do want to make mention of what your incoming governor is already doing.  He’s already delivering for the people of Louisiana.  This week, he took the bold and wise step to expand Medicaid — (applause) — to cover hundreds of thousands of hardworking Louisianans, providing them with the financial security of health care.  It was the right thing to do.  And, by the way, it will actually help the state’s finances.  And it shows you why elections matter.

    And, right now, we’re hoping to encourage more states to do the right thing.  One of the ways we’re doing that is proposing additional funding to support new states that choose, as John did, to expand Medicaid.  So, I’m just proud of him, and I’m confident that he’s going to do great work. He’s going to do great work.  (Applause.)  And everybody here needs to get behind him because it’s not going to be easy.  He’s coming in a little like I came in, sort of got to clean up some stuff.  (Applause.) 

         Now, I love Louisiana.  (Applause.)  I love Baton Rouge, but this is the first time I’ve been here as President.  I’ve been trying to pack all my fun trips into my last year.  And although I missed the Tigers beating Ole Miss last night, maybe I’ll come back for football season.
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    Some of you know I gave my final State of the Union address this week.  (Applause.)  I focused on the fact that we’re going through a time of extraordinary change.  And that’s unsettling.  It can seem sometimes, especially during political season, where everybody is running around saying, oh, everything is terrible and let’s find somebody to blame, that our politics won’t meet the moment.  But what I want folks to know — that’s right, if you have a chair, go ahead and sit down.  If you don’t have a chair, don’t sit down.  (Laughter.)  I don’t want you falling down.  Whoever the first one was who did that, you’re a leader.  (Laughter.) 

    AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

    THE PRESIDENT:  Love you back.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

    But what I want people to know is, is that we’ve been through big changes before.  And America always comes out stronger and better, as long as we make decisions together that are designed to seize the future instead of run away from it.  And we’re uniquely positioned to do that.  We’ve got the strongest economy in the world.  We’ve gone through the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, and we have bounced back with 14 million new jobs, cut the unemployment rate in half.  We’re the most powerful country on Earth, capable of meeting any threat.  Our commitment to science, and education, and entrepreneurship, and our diversity make us a perfect match for what’s needed in this new century.

    But our progress is not inevitable.  So we’ve got to answer some big questions. 

    Number one:  How do we make sure that we create an economy where everybody is benefitting, everybody feels secure, everybody has a shot at success, not just some?  That’s question number one. 

    Question number two:  How do we make sure we’ve got an innovation economy and we embrace science and reason and facts, instead of running away from it?

    Number three:  How do we make sure that we keep America safe, not through trying to talk tough, but by being smart?

    Number four:  How do we make sure our politics works, not in a way where everybody agrees — because in a big country like ours, people aren’t going to agree on everything — but so that it is civil and so that it is constructive, and so that we can work together to find solutions to the problems that are not just going to face us, but our kids and our grandkids?

    Now, I tried to give you a sense of how I think we need to answer those questions going forward, but I promised I wasn’t going to talk long because I want to have a chance to hear from you.  I just want to make this point.  We’re pretty close to New Orleans, and I had a chance to go back and travel with Mitch as we were commemorating the anniversary of Katrina.  And if you have any doubt about America’s capacity to overcome anything, you just visit some of those neighborhoods, and you talk to some of those families, and you see the businesses that are thriving and the homes that have been built, and the parishes that have pulled together. 

    And it’s just a reminder of the fact that when we work together, we cannot be stopped.  We cannot be stopped.  We work best as a team.  And it is my ardent hope that, during the course of this year, as long as I have this extraordinary privilege to be your President, that I’m going to be able to encourage more and more of you to get involved and feel that optimism and confidence about where America is headed. 

    So with that, let’s start this conversation.  (Applause.)  And let me say this.  We’ve got mics in the audience.  And we’re going to go boy, girl, boy, girl, so it’s fair.  (Laughter.)  Or girl, boy, girl, boy.  That’s fine.  (Laughter.) 

    AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Girl, girl, girl!

    THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  She said girl, girl, girl.  Now, that’s not fair.  (Laughter.)  Come on. 

    So what I’m going to do is, people just raise their hands, I will call on you.  A couple things — wait until the mic gets there.  Number two, introduce yourself so we know who you are. Number three, if you keep your question or comment relatively short, then my response, I can’t guarantee I’ll keep it short, but I’ll keep it shorter.  And that way we have a chance to hear from more people.  All right?

    Okay, so let’s see who’s going to go first.  Where’s my mic?  Here we go.  All right, let’s see.  This is a good-looking crowd, too.  (Applause.)

    I don’t know who to call on. That young lady right there in the brown jacket.  Right there.  Yes, you. 

    Okay, hold on.  Wait for the mic.  You didn’t follow instructions.  You’re already — (laughter) — careful.  Careful.  She didn’t go to McKinley, is that what happened?

    Q    No, I didn’t.  (Laughter.) 

    THE PRESIDENT:  All right, go ahead, go ahead.

    Q    My name is Rachel.  I’m from Texas.  And my question — I don’t have one — I just wanted to tell you thank you.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Oh.  Okay, well, that’s sweet.  (Laughter.)  All right, well, she just — she didn’t really have a question, so I’m going to go back to — I’m going to go to this young lady right here in the black and white jacket.  Right there.  Hold on a second.  The mic is coming to you.  It’s just that we’re so packed in, it may take — you can go ahead and pass her the mic.  She looks like she’ll give it back.

    Q    Hi, Mr. President.  My name is Jasmine Elliott (ph), and I am a 10th grade cheerleader here at McKinley High School.  (Applause.)

    THE PRESIDENT:  Yay, all right!  Go Panthers!

    Q    And I love you — me and my family love you so much.  And I want to thank you.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, that’s sweet.

    Q    And as a future broadcast journalist, I would like to ask you two questions.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

    Q    My first question is:  What are your plans to do when you leave office?  And can you please give my grandmother a hug? (Laughter.)

    THE PRESIDENT:  See, now first of all, I know your grandma put you up to that.  (Laughter.)  So I will give your grandma a hug because you did such a nice job asking the question.  (Applause.)

    In terms of my plans, look, I’ve got so much work to do this next year that — Michelle and I, we haven’t had a chance to really step back and think about it.  But as I said at the State of Union, when I get out, I’m still holding the most important job in a democracy, and that is the office of citizen.  So I will continue to work on the things that Michelle and I care so deeply about.  We want to encourage young people to get involved.  We want to improve education.  We want to make sure that our criminal justice system works the way it should.  We want to make sure that we are promoting science education and learning.  We want to work internationally to help other countries develop. 

    So we’re going to have a busy agenda, but I’m not overthinking that right now because I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to do between now and next year.  All right?  But thank you for the question.

    All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn.  This man, because he’s got such a sharp bowtie.  Right here.  Yes, all right.  Go ahead.

    Q    Good morning.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.

         Q    This is a pleasure, sir.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

    Q    My name is Tremayne Sterling (ph).  I’m from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Through your entire two terms as President, what would be your biggest regret and why? 

    THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s a great question.  Although had you been watching my State of Union on Tuesday — (laughter) — he might have known that I actually already answered that question.  (Laughter.)  But that’s okay.  I’m sure there was a good ballgame on that night.  (Laughter.) 

    No, what I told the country — except for you — (laughter) — was that my biggest regret was the fact that politics has become more rancorous during my presidency and more polarized than it was when I came in.  And keeping mind, when I ran, my belief was that there were no red states and blue states.  There wasn’t a black or white or Latino America.  There was a United States of America.  And that continues to be my belief. 

    Now, I have, as President, obviously done soul searching about what are things I could do differently to help bridge some of those divides.  I think part of it had to with when I came in we had a real emergency, and we had to act quickly.  And people in Washington sometimes weren’t always as focused on getting the job done as they were how is this going to position us for future elections. 

    But as I said at the State of Union, I have no doubt that there are things I could have done better.  But what I also say is that this is not something a President can do by him or herself.  When it comes to how we work together, the main impetus for better politics is going to be the American people.  They have to demand it.

    And so if we have voters who are not getting involved, then the people who tend to determine the agenda are the special interests, or money, or power, or the loudest voices, or the most polarizing voices, because a lot of folks — some of the best people, they’re just sitting at home.  And they’re getting cynical about politics, and they don’t get involved.  And then the people who do get involved end up being the folks who aren’t willing to work together.

    It’s important for voters to insist that their elected officials are strong on principle, but also are willing to compromise with people who don’t agree with them.  And if you punish an elected official for even talking to the other side, then it’s going to produce the kind of politics that we have seen in Washington too often.

    So this is an area where I regret.  I’m going to keep on working at it, try to see what more we can do to reach across the aisle to get things done.  I said on Tuesday that I think at the end of last year, maybe we surprised the cynics by getting a budget done.  And we extended tax cuts for working families that were due to expire.  And we were able to continue funding for transportation.  I know that your mayor was talking about how the interstate here narrows, and we may need to do something about it to relieve some traffic.  (Applause.) 

    And those things are not things that should be subject to a lot of Republican and Democratic argument.  Maybe that’s something that we can carry over into this year.

    One area, for example, that there’s been genuine bipartisan interest and support is the idea that we’ve got to reform our criminal justice system.  (Applause.)  That we have to be tough on violent crime, but also be smart when we think about how can we prevent young people from getting into the criminal justice system in the first place.  (Applause.)  How can we provide alternatives for low-level, non-violent drug offenders.  How can we make sure that the sentencing is proportional.  How do we make sure that we’re training folks while they’re incarcerated to get a skill that would allow them to be gainfully employed.  How do we make sure that when they’re released that there is a transition process for them.  How do we lift up all the outstanding employers who are willing to give people second chances.  So there’s a whole slew of work that we could be doing there. 

    And to their credit, we’ve seen some very conservative Republicans and some very liberal Democrats sitting down at the table and trying to work it out.  And that’s an example of where we see some promise.

         Another area is — and I mentioned this at the State of the Union.  Some of you have heard of the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Now, this is a program historically that is supported by Democrats and Republicans.  And it’s a pretty simple idea.  If you work, you shouldn’t be in poverty.  And so we should provide tax breaks to low-income working families so that they don’t say I might as well just be on welfare because I’ll get more benefits than if I’m working.

         Well, the Earned Income Tax Credit creates an incentive to say if you work hard, you’re working full time, but it’s, say, a minimum-wage job, we’re going to give you a chance, if you’ve got kids, to raise that income level, get a tax break.

        The problem is that it does not apply to individuals without children.  And that means a lot of men in that category don’t benefit and young people don’t benefit.  And one of the things we’ve been talking about is if we expand that to reach workers who don’t have children but are also working hard and are in poverty, that could be helpful.

         And these are areas where Cedric — he’s been a leader on criminal justice reform.  He’s working on this, as well.  I know that Mitch has been doing great work when it comes to the criminal justice system in New Orleans.  These are the kinds of areas where just common sense can prevail if we’ve all got a spirit of trying to solve problems instead of just winning elections.

        Okay?  All right.  (Applause.)

         Okay, it’s a young lady’s turn.  You know what, I’m going to call on that little young lady right there.  Yes.  She’s in her daddy’s lap.  And my daughter — my oldest daughter is about to go to college next year.  (Applause.)  And I can’t really talk about it a lot because I start to cry.  (Laughter.)

         Q    My name is Noelle Remeny (ph).  And I’m in the fourth grade, and I’m 10 years old.  And do you think there’s going to be a cure for cancer?  (Applause.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there you go.  Are you interested in math and science?

         Q    A little bit.

         THE PRESIDENT:  A little bit?  (Laughter.)  I tell you what, it’s going to be young people like you that are going to help cure cancer.  So you better study up on your math and study up on your science.

         But I do think that we are seeing medical breakthroughs right now that we have not seen in my lifetime.  Part of the reason is because — some of you heard of the Human Genome Project.  What happens is that we’re now able to look at not just how cells work, but we’re actually able to track how individual DNA and genetics operates.  And when you do that, it turns out that a cancer cell that I have may be different than a cancer cell that John or somebody else has, and may require different cures.  And certain treatments might work better than other treatments.  And because we’re able to get into the really nitty-gritty of how our bodies work in ways that we haven’t before, we’re starting to see more effective treatments.

         But we have to make a big investment.  And my Vice President, Joe Biden, who I love, suffered the kind of tragedy last year that is unbelievable.  And he managed it with grace.  His son Beau Biden was one of the finest men I knew.  And so I thought it was entirely appropriate for Joe Biden, who has seen this and gone through it, to lead this effort like a moon launch.  We’re going to double down on medical research.  We’re going to look at the best — we’re going to gather the best researchers, the best scientists, and we are going to go after this thing.

         It probably won’t be cured in my lifetime.  But I think ti will be cured in yours.  And that’s why we got to get started now.  (Applause.)

         All right?  Okay, it’s a gentleman’s turn.  This gentleman back here.  Right there.  Yes, sir.  You.  (Laughter.)  Hold on. The mic is coming.  The mic is coming.

         Q    Mr. President, first of all, I’m Greg Gavins (ph).  I’m the proud father of one of your special, great Secret Service.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Outstanding.

         Q    I have a question for you.  Since you can’t run again for another term, is there any way that we as a group can talk the First Lady into running?

         THE PRESIDENT:  No.  (Laughter and applause.)  No, no, no.  No, no.

         Q    I know that’s right.  (Laughter.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  Let me tell you, there are three things that are certain in life.  (Laughter.) Death, taxes, and Michelle is not running for President.  (Laughter.)  That I can tell you.

         But you know what, the First Lady, though, the work she’s done around reducing childhood obesity, the work that she and Jill Biden have done on military families and making sure they get support, I could not be prouder of her.  And I am certain that she’s going to be really active as a First Lady.

         Not only is she going to be a very young ex-First Lady, but unlike me, she looks young.  (Laughter.)  I was looking at a wedding picture — actually, we found the old video from our wedding.  We’ve been married 23 years now.  (Applause.)  And so my mother-in-law had been going through some storage stuff and found our wedding video.  And I popped it in — and I look like a teenager — and realized, boy, I sure have aged.  (Laughter.)

    AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

    THE PRESIDENT:  I know that, though.  (Laughter.)

         But Michelle looked — she looked identical.  Looked identical.

         Q    We’re proud of her.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m proud of her, too, because most importantly she’s been an unbelievable mom, which is why my daughters turned out so well.  (Applause.)

         All right, it is a young woman’s turn.  This young lady right here.  Go ahead.  Yes, you. Yes, you’ve been raising your hand.  (Laughter.)  Okay.  But hold on.  The mic is coming.  Go ahead.

         Q    Hi, my name is Imani Maxberry (ph).  I’m a coastal environmental science major at LSU.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Outstanding.

         Q    One, I want to say thank you for rejecting Keystone pipeline.  (Applause.)  And two, I want to ask:  While you’ve been in office, what environmental impact — what environmental issue do you think has impacted you the most and should be more brought to the public?

         THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  That’s a great question, and I’m proud that you’re doing that work.  That’s important.  (Applause.)

         First of all, it’s important for us to understand how much environmental progress we’ve made in my lifetime.  And the reason is, sometimes when we talk about the environment, it sounds like something far away.  But we don’t realize — we don’t remember what we’ve accomplished already.

         In the 1970s, in California, there would be regular days where people did not go outside.  When Ronald Reagan was governor in California, there were regularly days where the smog was so bad, it was like it is in Beijing now. People just wouldn’t go outside.  And if you had asthma or some respiratory disease, you might die.

         I remember as recently as 1979, when I first started college — I started college in Los Angeles — when I went running, the first week I was there, after about five minutes I’d start feeling a burning in my chest.  And it was just me sucking in soot and smog.  And now you go there and that smog isn’t there.  And the reason is because we instituted things like catalytic converters and unleaded gasoline.  And we changed the technologies to reduce smog.

         It used to be that places like the Cuyahoga River around Cleveland caught fire it was so polluted.  Caught fire.  No, this is no joke.  And now you go there and people are able to use it.  Same thing with the Chicago River.  Now people are kayaking and fishing.

         So the point is, is that we actually can make progress when we make an effort because of our technology and our innovation.  And every time we’ve taken a step to try to clean up our air or our water or our environment, there are all kinds of people who say this is going to kill jobs, we can’t afford it, can’t do it, it’s going to cost too much.  And then, after we do it, we look back and say, you know, that didn’t cost as much as we thought, it happened quicker than we did.  Our businesses figured out how to do it and to make money doing it at the same time.  That’s what I mean when I say an innovation economy.  We’ve got to be confident about our ability to solve any problem if we put our minds to it.

         Now, the answer to your question right now is, what I am very much concerned about is climate change.  And there are folks who are still denying that this is a problem or that we can do anything about it.  Look, if 99 doctors told you that you have diabetes and you need to change your eating habits and get some exercise and lose some weight, you may decide not to do it because you’re stubborn.  But don’t say they’re wrong because the science in unsure.  This is happening.  And, by the way, if you live in Louisiana, you should especially be concerned about this because you are right next to some water that has a tendency to heat up, and that then creates hurricanes.  And as oceans rise, that means that the amount of land that is getting gobbled up continuously in this state is shrinking — the land mass — and it’s going to have an impact.

         Now, we can build things and we can fortify things, and we can do things smarter, and we can control how development happens, and we can restore wetlands.  All those things make a difference.  But ultimately, we got to do something about making sure that ocean levels don’t rise four, five, six, eight feet, because if they do, this state is going to have some big problems — bigger problems.

         So what we’ve done is, we’ve gotten together with 200 other nations, American leadership, to say all of us have to start bringing down the carbon pollution that we send in the atmosphere.  And here in the United States, there are two main ways we can do that.  Number one is our power plants; we’ve got to start using cleaner energy.  Number two, we’ve got to start promoting solar and wind, which create jobs.  And we’re a leader in this technology as long as we start investing in it.

         And that transition from old, dirty fuels to clean fuels, that’s going to be tough.  A lot of people make money in the coal industry, for example.  A lot of people have worked there, historically.  But now you have actually have more people working in solar than you do in coal.  Those communities that are reliant on coal, we should help them get a jump on making money in wind power and solar power.  Those are hardworking, good people.  Let’s not have them stuck in old jobs that are going to be slowly declining.  Let’s get them in the new jobs that are going to be going up.

         And then, in our transportation sector, we need to continue to build on the things we’ve done since I’ve been President — doubling fuel efficiency standards on cars, promoting electric cars.  All this stuff adds up.  And the goods new is businesses can succeed and we can make money doing it at the same time.  But don’t think that this is not a problem for all of us.  This is the main message I have.  That young lady was asking about curing cancer — well, we might cure cancer, but if temperatures have gone up two, three degrees around the planet, four degrees, and oceans are rising, we’re going to have more problems than medical science can cure.  We got to make that investment now.  And we can do it.

         All right.  Good question.  This gentleman right here.  Hold on, I got a mic right there.  How you doing?

         Q    I can hold it.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Go ahead.

         Q    I’m a big kid.  (Laughter.)  Well, maybe I’m not a big kid.  My name is Alan Turum (ph) from Youngstown, Ohio.  You’ve been here many times in helping with the steel mills get back on track.  That’s all good.  And in your defense, my business is doing good, making money, growing for the last 10 years.  And I got a lot of friends that have businesses, and they’re doing real well, too.  For a lot of people that are complaining, there’s a lot of people doing well.  So I think if you hustle, you can make good.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

         Q    But my question to you is, you’re on your last year — is there any one big thing that you’d like to see happen before you leave the office?

         THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Well, first of all, what’s your business?

         Q    I got a couple of businesses.  I manufacture Halloween props, and I own a haunted house and hay ride in Lordstown, Ohio, which you’ve been there many times, to the car plant.

         THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been, yeah.

         Q    It’s called Fear Forest.  Maybe if you make it back into Youngstown in October, you can come check it out.  But I make Halloween props and I like to scare people.

         THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  So that’s kind of interesting.  That’s fun.  You sell a lot of Obama masks?  (Laughter.)

         Q    Hey, Obama is not scary.  So –

         THE PRESIDENT:  There you go, all right.  (Applause.)  I don’t think so.

         The things that I talked about in the State of the Union are all things that I think are possible.  Some of them I can get done on my own.  So I’ll give you a couple of examples.

         We need to revamp how our information systems, our IT systems in government work.  This is one of the areas where we’re — the biggest gap between government and the private sector is — if you just want to order a pizza, you’ve got your smartphone and you just — and the pizza shows up.  You want to buy an airline ticket, you punch in a couple things and suddenly if you go to the airport it’s all printing out.  And the systems in government are really old.

         Now, that causes two problems.  Number one is, they’re less safe and secure than they should be because they’re old.  They’re outdated systems.  So it’s easier for folks to try to hack into them, break into them, and we’re constantly putting patches up.

         The second thing is, it just means that things are slower for customers.  And I want to make sure government is in the 21st century — and we’re systematically going agency through agency.  If you want to get a small business loan from the SBA, I want you to be able to go to one website, in English, be able to figure out what you need to do, apply online, get that money, start that business, put people to work.  (Applause.)  And right now, we’re continually trying to streamline that process.

         And we’ve made some good progress.  But that’s an example of something that we can do administratively.  The same is true, by the way, for the VA.  You’ll remember — we are so proud of our veterans and our young men and women who served.  (Applause.)  And we got some folks here looking sharp in uniform that we are grateful for their service.  (Applause.)  And we have put more resources and provided more support to — and increased budgets for the VA than any administration in history.  We have cut backlogs.  We included folks who had been affected by Agent Orange.  We have boosted the resources available for folks suffering from PTSD.  We are ending veterans’ homelessness.  We’ve made some huge investments, made really good progress.

         But you’ll remember that story that came out last year, or a year and a half ago, in Phoenix, where folks were waiting so long to try to get an appointment that — and many of these were elderly, aging folks, and they were dying before they got an appointment.  And it was unacceptable.

         When we did an investigation of what had happened — and what was worse was some of the administrators there were hiding what was going on, and manipulating sort of records in ways that meant they had to be fired.  But when you looked at what was going on, a lot of it had to do with the fact that they had a system where a veteran would call in trying to get an appointment, somebody was writing it down on paper, then they were tapping it into some 30-year-old computer system that would then print out something that then would get walked over to someplace, that then they’d have to — it was a mess.

         And so we’ve had to make big investments in trying to clean up that whole process.  So that’s what we can do without Congress.

         Some things I think we can do with Congress I’ve already mentioned.  I think we can get criminal justice reform passed.  I think that we can potentially do some work on what I just identified, the Earned Income Tax Credit, that would help millions of people around the country who are working hard get out of poverty.  And on the issue of medicine, I think that we’re seeing some bipartisan work to try to bring together all the resources we have around these new medical breakthroughs that could potentially — not just affect things like cancer, but also Alzheimer and Parkinson’s, and a lot of diseases that people suffer from.  It’s a good story, and it’s not as politically controversial as some other issues.

         Now, there are some things I’d love to do, like raising the minimum wage for everybody.  (Applause.)  I’d love to get immigration reform passed.  But I’m realistic that Congress probably will not act on some of those more controversial issues.  That’s where people are going to have to make a decision in this election.  That’s what elections are about.  You’ve got to decide which direction America needs to go in.

         Okay.  Let’s see.  These folks have been neglected, so I’ve got to pay them a little attention here.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  Well, you’ve got a beautiful dress on.  Let’s just call on you.  There you go.  (Applause.)

         Q    Mr. President, I’m Judge Trudy M. White, and I’m the district court judge here in the 19th judicial district court.  (Applause.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you, Judge.

         Q    I am also the reentry court judge for our parish.  And I did notice when you spoke at the State of the Union, you made your address, that the first issue that you did address was criminal justice reform.  I’d like to know, as reentry court judge, what incentives could you offer our governor — our new governor and governors across the United States that would provide opportunities for felons who are returning as they exit the criminal justice system?  (Applause.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Judge, you probably know more than I do. (Laughter.)

         Q    Can my people get with your people to get those incentives down here?  (Laughter and applause.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  I’ll have my people call your people.  (Laughter.)  But I will tell you what I know I’ve seen with my own eyes.

         I was in Camden with a fellow federal district court judge who had taken — who had worked with the U.S. attorney there to supplement some of the reentry programs that were already there with some grants.  And this judge, she’s a wonderful woman, just like you.  And she had this terrific lead probation officer.  And together, what they had done is just made sure that anybody who got released, the day they were out, they were getting a call from the probation officer.  And the probation officer was saying, all right, what do you need?  Do you need clothes?  What are you doing in terms of a place to stay?   How are you going to think about getting your résumé together?  Do you have an alarm clock?  Just basic stuff.  How are you going to get around?

         Because so often, what happens is these young people are getting released and they’re just dropped off in the neighborhood where they were.  Oftentimes, part of the reason they got down a wrong path in the first place is the — mom and dad might not have been there, or they might have moved by now and so they’re literally all alone.

         And so this young man who was there, who had gone through this process, he had been arrested when he was 17, and had a record that accumulated, then arrested at 27; spent 10 years in federal prison.  Was released at 37.  And he really decided, I want to change my life.  He had a spiritual awakening.  And he started just pounding the pavement, and got a job at a fast food place.  And he was describing what it was like — he had been doing this about three months and he still didn’t have enough money for rent, and the halfway house that he was staying at, it was about to kick him out because they only have a certain number of slots, and you don’t stay there long enough.

         And he was saying how his old friends, the drug dealers and the gang bangers who he had used to run with, they would come up every once in a while, and he’d be sitting there in his uniform flipping burgers and serving food, and they’d be talking to him — hey, man, any time you’re ready.  Those are the only clothes you got?  Those are the same shoes we saw you in 10 years ago; this is the new style.  And that temptation for him was powerful.

         Now, this is where a well-designed reentry program comes in, because what happened was, the judge, the probation officer, they worked with him, signed him up.  The judge, unfortunately, because the program didn’t have a lot of money, had to basically do a collection, dig into her own pocket.  But they got the fees to have him go study at a community college to be an emergency medical technician.  And he ended up graduating from this class, working for a private health firm, and then by the time he was sitting next to me three or four years later — or maybe five years later, he’s now working for the county as an EMT, fully trained, saving lives.  (Applause.)

         But the point is that it required intensive intervention and support and help.  But what a smart investment that was.  Because if we spent whatever it cost during those one, two, three years of transition to help that person get their life straight, we might have just saved ourselves another 10 years or 15 years or 20 years of incarcerating him on taxpayer expense.  (Applause.)

         So it made me realize that if we really want to be smart on crime — you’ve got, let’s say, a maximum minimum sentence — mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years for some drug-related drug — if we reduce the amount of time that they’re incarcerated, took all those savings and we took just some of that for one, two years of reentry programs that are highly supervised, then we’re going to get better results — safer streets, better citizens — because he’s now paying taxes as an EMT instead of taking taxes as a ward of the state.  Less violence.  More hope.  He’s got an opportunity now to be a father, as opposed to an absent presence in a child’s life.  That’s how we rebuild communities.  And that’s why this is such a promising area.

    And as I said I want to make sure to acknowledge, this is an area where there’s been some really powerful bipartisan, interesting coalitions.  I think the evangelical community, because they have a lot of strong prison ministries, they care about this, they believe in redemption and second chances.  And so they’ve gotten involved.  And you’ve got libertarians who just don’t like the idea of the state spending that much money on prisons.  They’ve gotten involved.  And so there’s a lot of good work.  And as I said, Cedric has been a leader in this process, so we’ve got to see if we can make this happen, all right?  But my people will get with your people.  (Applause.)

    That redhead right there.  It’s good having hair like that.  You stand out in a crowd.

    Q    My name is Martin Brown (ph).  I’m from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  And my question is about education.  Education is one of the most important things in achieving equal opportunity.  And in the past decades, we’ve seen desegregation orders lifted and we’ve seen a re-segregation in the South.  Furthermore, there’s huge disparities in resources for different students in different school districts and parishes.  And I was wondering what can the federal government do, what have you done, and what do you think should happen in the future to resolve these issues that we have been fighting for decades.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Are you a teacher, by the way?

    Q    I’m not — I’m a student.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Where are you going to school?

    Q    LSU.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Fantastic.  What are you studying?

    Q    Math and economics.

    THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Well, maybe you’ll solve this problem.  (Laughter.)  Well, thanks for the question.  It’s a great question.

    I talked about this at the town hall — or in the State of the Union.  This economy will become more and more knowledge-based during the course of our lifetimes, our children’s lifetimes, our grandchildren’s lifetimes.  There’s no denying it.  That is not going to change. And so when people talk about how the economy is changing and how come we can’t have it the way it was back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it used to be that if you were willing to work hard, you could drop out of high school, walk into the factory, say “I’m ready to work,” and if you showed yourself to be a hard worker, you could actually build a middle-class life on the factory floor.  And that’s great.

    But if you go into a factory today, it’s full of computers and robots.  And if you don’t know math and you don’t know science, you can’t get that job on the factory floor.  And, by the way, because of automation and technology, when I go to a car plant — and we sold more cars — U.S. automakers sold more cars last year than any time in history.  (Applause.)  It has come all the way back.  It has rehired hundreds of thousands of folks.  We created 900,000 manufacturing jobs.  But you go into a plant, and it’s just quiet and clean, and probably — if you used to have a thousand people in that plant, now you’ve got a hundred, just because it’s so automated.

    And the point is, you are not going to be able to build a middle-class life in this society unless you have some education and skills that you can continually enhance and retool throughout your career.  So, young people, I’m going to be honest — I’m not going to call him out — but if you’re Ben Simmons, maybe you’ll do fine not hitting the books — although he’s a very fine student, I’m sure.  But my point is, unless you are one in a million, you better be working hard.  You better be studying.  (Applause.)  And it’s not going to stop.

    Now, the point you made is exactly right.  How do we make sure everybody gets that opportunity?  Because we know what the ingredients are.  We know that early childhood education makes a huge difference, the kind of start that young people get.  (Applause.)  We know that poor kids oftentimes are not starting off in school with the same vocabulary because they haven’t heard as many words, which means we’ve got to train parents, not just teachers, to help get kids rolling.  We know that schools that have great teachers and high standards, and are creative and have the best technologies that are used the right way make a difference.  That high expectations make a difference.  So, we know all these things.
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    But the way that education is America has been organized is local school districts, local control, and local property funding as the primary way of supporting schools.  And that has led to big disparities in every state in the country.  So the federal government can’t get at that.  What the federal government has done and can do is, through programs like Title I funding, we provide additional money to school districts that have a high proportion of low-income kids to try to give them more resources.  The federal government — what I’ve done during my administration is worked with states and local school districts to give them incentives to adopt best practices to help develop and train teachers to more effectively teach kids to make sure that we’ve got high expectations and high standards.

    I just signed, last year, a reform of No Child Left Behind that had led to a lot of over-testing and stress among teachers, but had not necessarily improved learning.  But ultimately, it’s going to be up to states and local school districts to make a decision about how much do we care about equities in funding within states.  That’s not something the federal government can force states to do.

         There was a case way back in the ‘70s that was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court making the argument that it was unconstitutional to have this property tax-based system of funding education.  And the Supreme Court said it’s not unconstitutional; it’s up to states to make a decision on what they want to do.  Some state supreme courts have said it’s unconstitutional to fund education that way.

    But if you don’t have states making those decisions, the federal government can’t force them to.  We can help.  We can give incentives.  But federal funding for education accounts only about for 7 percent of total education funding.  The main thing we can do is hold up best practices, show people this is what works, this is what doesn’t, and then the people of those communities have to determine this is what we want to do to make a real serious change.

         Now, one last point I’m going to make on education — making sure folks like Che can afford college is critical.  (Applause.)  And if I had my wish about what I could get Congress to do — I mentioned a whole bunch of issues — one of them also would be the proposal I put forward:  two years of community college at no cost for responsible students.  (Applause.)

    Tennessee has already adopted this.  Tennessee has already adopted this proposal.  The city of Chicago is working to adopt it.  So you’ve got Democrats and Republicans who have seen the wisdom of this.  If young people can go to a community college for two years at no cost, that means they can get a lot of credits out of the way.  They can then transfer to a four-year institution.  But they’ve cut their costs in half.  And this is an affordable proposal.  We propose paying for it essentially by closing some corporate tax loopholes and some tax breaks for hedge funds.  And it’s enough money to actually make sure that every young person has at least that baseline.  And that’s part of the reason why America became an economic superpower — because earlier than anybody else, we said we’re going to give everybody universal high school education.  Now, the next step is everybody in addition to high school education should be able to get that two years of post-secondary education, as well.  (Applause.)

    All right?  How much time do I have?  I got to check with my people.  One or two more questions.  Okay, this young lady right there.  You can stop jumping.  (Laughter.)  Yes, I just called — but do you actually have a question, or were you just jumping?  (Laughter.)  All right, where is the mic?  Right here.  Right here.  Yes, you.  I don’t know why you’re surprised.  (Laughter.)  You raised your hand.

    Q    Thank you so much for taking my question.  First off, my name is Angenay Turner (ph).  I’m a law student at Tulane, in New Orleans, in the Big Easy.

    THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.

    Q    I’m here with my little sister and one of my other friends from Tulane who also went to Columbia for undergrad.

    THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

    Q    First off, I just want to say that we’re very inspired by you and the First Lady.

         THE PRESIDENT:  That’s nice.

         Q    And you are our biggest inspirations.  And we want to be just like you guys, so can you help us?  Give us some tips.  (Laughter.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, what was the question?  (Laughter.)

         Q    The question is, can you help us be more like you and the First Lady and give us some tips to be –

         THE PRESIDENT:  Some tips?

         Q    Yes.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, I will say this — Michelle and I, we’ve been through an extraordinary journey.  When we think about where we’ve come from, Michelle grew up on the South Side of Chicago.  Her mom was a secretary.  Her dad worked at the water filtration plant.  Neither of them ever went to college.  They lived on the second floor of her mom’s sister’s house, a little bungalow.  She was — we were talking the other day, she was watching HGTV.  She likes watching HGTV.  And for those of you who don’t know, Home and Garden TV.  (Laughter.)

         And I guess there was this show about this so-called movement or trend towards tiny houses.  So people get these little, tiny — some of them they put on — hitch on the back of their car, some of them they’re already there.  She said, I didn’t know this was a movement because we lived in a tiny house. (Laughter.)  We just thought that’s how you live.  We didn’t know this was a — we were cutting edge.  (Laughter.)

         And so Michelle, her brother, her dad, her mom — her dad, by the way, had Multiple Sclerosis, so he’s going to work every day — he had to wake up an hour early to get to work because it took a long time for him to just button his shirt and get in the car, and then get out of the car, and then get to his job.

         And in that second floor, with — and I know, because Michelle and I, right after we got married, we stayed in that same place before we were able to save up enough to buy our place.  These two folks were able to raise these incredible young people, Michelle and her brother, who both ended up going to college and both had these extraordinary careers.
       
         Now, I say all that because Michelle would be the first to say — and I certainly would be the first to say — the only reason this happened was because there were people who invested in us.  (Applause.)  So there were park programs in Chicago, public park programs where she could be part of dance classes, and her brother could be in Little League.  And there were accelerated programs at her public elementary school where she had teachers who really took extra time.  And then there was a magnet school that she was able to attend, and that was able to get her prepared for college.  And then she got student loans and support in order to be able to go to college and go to law school.  Although she tells the story about how her dad, he couldn’t really contribute much, but he insisted on writing something, a check, to help support that college education for her and her brother because he knew what it was worth.

         And so when you ask sort of the main tip I have — look, we benefitted because somebody invested in us.  (Applause.)  The most important tip I would have is make sure not only are you working hard to deserve that investment, but that you’re also investing in the next generation coming up behind you.  (Applause.)  If you do that, then you’re going to do great things.  Your sister will do great things.


         And the one other thing I tell young people all the time — don’t worry so much about what you want to be, worry about what you want to do.  (Applause.)  Worry about the kind of person you want to be and what you want to accomplish.  And the reason I say that is because a lot of times people ask me, oh, I’m interested in politics, how can I get — I say, well, let me tell you, the people who are most successful in politics and business and whatever, they don’t start off saying, I want to be President or governor; they start off by saying, I want to give people an education, or I want to make sure that folks have jobs, or I believe in justice under the law.  And they pursue a goal.  They’re trying to get something done.

         A byproduct of that is that they may find themselves in positions of authority or power or influence.  But even if you never get elected to something, if you’re interested in the environment, you don’t have to be the head of the EPA to make a difference.  You might organize in a local community to clean up a site and plant gardens and make sure that the water is clean.  (Applause.)  And you can look back and then say, wow, what an amazing life I’ve had and look at all the difference that I’ve made.
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         And I’ll tell you, the same is true in business.  The most successful business people — if you talk to somebody like a Bill Gates, they don’t start off saying “I want to be the second-richest man in the world.”  They start off saying, “I really want to figure out this computer thing.”  “I want to make this thing work better.”  “I’m excited or interested in how we can solve this problem.”  And then, because they’re so passionate about it and they’ve worked so hard at it, it turns out they make something really good, and everybody else says, I want to be part of that.  That, I think, is a good tip as well.

         All right.  I’ve only got time for one more question.  It’s a young man’s turn and he’s right in front, and he looks very sharp.  He’s got his tie on and everything.

         Q    How you doing, Mr. President?

         THE PRESIDENT:  How you doing?  What’s your name?

         Q    My name is Anthony King (ph).  I am an 18-year-old mass communications major and I go to the Southern University and A&M College.  (Applause.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

         Q    Mr. President, first I wanted to say thanks for being an inspiration, because I aspire to be what you are in the next 30 years, and I know I will be there.

         THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

         Q    But one of my main questions for you, sir, Mr. President — I’m going to an HBCU institute — Southern University. Most times, when I go recruit off of high schools, most of the time a lot of them say, oh, I don’t want to go to an HBCU college; I feel like if I go to an HBCU, I won’t get as many opportunities as a student at university as LSU or Tulane.  So what is your take of — or advice to students like me, thousands of students like me who go to HBCUs, and us finishing the course in order to be great leaders in this society?  (Applause.)

         THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  See, you got some folks voting for you already.

         Well, first of all, the role of the historically black colleges and universities in producing our leadership and expanding opportunity — training doctors and teachers and lawyers and ministers who change the landscape of America — I hope most people know that story, and if not, you better learn it.  Because it has been powerful and continues to be a powerful tradition.

         And I will tell you that if you have done well at an HBCU and graduated, and you go to an employer and are making the kind of presentation you make or a Morehouse man makes or a Spelman young lady makes, you will do just fine.  I don’t think it’s true that actually people don’t take — or discount that tradition.  And you will be credentialed.  You’ll succeed.

         I do think that there’s a range of challenges that HBCUs face.  Some are doing great; some are having more difficulty.  And some of that’s good.  Look — or some of it is the result of good things.  We don’t live in a society where African Americans are restricted in what colleges they can go to.  And I want them to be able to go to an LSU or a Tulane as well as a Southern, as well as a Morehouse, as well as a Howard or a Spelman.  So more opportunities open up — that’s good.

    We have been very supportive of HBCUs over the last several years.  And to their credit, the previous administration had supported them, as well.  There are some HBCUs that are having trouble with graduation rates.  And that is a source of concern.  And what we’ve said to those HBCUs is we want to work with you, but we don’t want a situation in which young people are taking out loans, getting in debt, thinking that they’re going to get a great education and then halfway through they’re dropping out.

         Now, some of it is those HBCUs may be taking chances on some kids that other schools might not.  And that’s a positive thing, and that has to be taken into account.  But we also have to make sure that colleges — any college, HBCU or non-HBCU — take seriously the need to graduate that student and not load them up with debt.

         Everybody needs a college education or a secondary — an education beyond high school.  If it’s a community college, if it’s a technical school, if it’s a training program, you’re going to need more training as your career goes on.

         But I don’t want you taking out a Pell grant or a bunch of — not a Pell grant — like a federal loan or a private loan, and you walk out with $50,000, $60,000, $100,000 worth of debt, and you didn’t get your degree.  So we are working very hard with every school, all colleges and universities, not just to reduce costs, but also to increase graduation rates, give students a better sense as they come in — here’s what it’s going to take for you to finish; here’s why you got to not lollygag and not take enough credits and think going to college is about partying, because it’s actually about getting your degree.  (Applause.) And we want students and parents to be better informed about that process ahead of time.

         All right, listen, you guys have been wonderful.  (Applause.) Michelle, Sasha, Malia, Bo, Sunny, they all send their love.  But I want — before we go, I want to remind you of what I said.  Our system of government only works when you are involved not just by voting, but by being informed and staying involved throughout the process.  Your governor, your mayor, your congressman — they all want to do right by you.  But there are going to be challenges.  There are going to be folks who want to stop progress.  There are going to be people who like the status quo.  There’s always going to be in this democracy countervailing pressures.  And if you want to see change, you’ve got to help make it happen.

         When I ran for office in 2007, 2008, I did not say, “Yes, I can.”  I said –

         AUDIENCE:  Yes, we can!

         THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we can, people.  God bless you.  Love you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, New Orleans.  God bless America.  (Applause)

    Video of the town hall is available at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLA5OX3MQc4

    ONLINE: See photos at the Jozef Syndicate.

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    Between the Lines book store names ‘Best Books of 2015′

    Baton Rouge bookstore owner Kim Knight said Between the Lines bookstore is the headquarters for book and literary lovers. Located at 4242 Government Street, the store provides connections between authors, readers, book clubs, the community and the world through its online presence.

    Knight released a short list of the best six books of 2015.

    Children’s
    16 trombone shortyTrombone Shorty by Troy Andrews and illustrator Bryan Collier. Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music.

    16 Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton PoetPoet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by author-illustrator Don Tate. In the nineteenth century, North Carolina slave George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time away from his master though not his freedom. Horton became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.

    Young Adult Fiction
    16 Gone Crazy in AlabamaGone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams Garcia. Bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of the Gaither sisters, who are about to learn what it’s like to be fish out of water as they travel from the streets of Brooklyn to the rural South for the summer of a lifetime. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.

    16 all american boysAll American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one Black, one White—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

     

    Adult Fiction
    16 Forty AcresForty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith. A young Black attorney, Martin Grey, confronts issues of race and power as he uncovers a shocking conspiracy. He finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the Black men are called “Master.” A novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the thought-provoking story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.

    16 The Ultimate BetrayalThe Ultimate Betrayal by Kimberla Lawson Roby. It’s been four years since 28-year old Alicia Black, daughter of Reverend Curtis Black, divorced her second husband, the most womanizing and corrupt man she has ever known. Since then, Alicia has been dating her first husband, Phillip Sullivan, a wonderfully kind and true man of God whom she’d hurt terribly by cheating on him. Alicia has worked hard to prove herself worthy of his trust once more, and when he asks her to marry him again, she couldn’t be happier. But Levi Cunningham, the drug dealer Alicia had an extramarital affair with, has just been released from prison, and he has completely turned his life around for the better. Still head-over-heels in love with Alicia, he will do whatever is necessary to win her back. Remarrying Phillip is the one thing Alicia has wanted for years, but she can’t get Levi out of her mind.

    These books are available at Between the Lines Bookstore or online at https://betweenthelinesbookstore.mybooksandmore.com

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  • We are looking for Babies

    Babies of 2015 The deadline to have your 2015 baby featured in the January 2916 issue of The Drum is December 15. Submit this form on the submit news page and upload your photo or email Zenobia Reed at news@thedrumnewspaper.info.

     

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  • ,

    Former SU history professor Arthur Tolson passes away, services planned Nov. 30

    BATON ROUGE–Arthur L. Tolson, Ph.D, a longtime faculty member in the Southern University Baton Rouge Department of History, died Wednesday, November 18, 2015, in Baton Rouge. He was 91.

    SU System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton issues the following statement and condolences:  “The Southern University System is tremendously saddened by the passing of former history professor Dr. Arthur Tolson who served as a faculty member in the Department of History at Southern University for 45 years. A true scholar and intellectual, Dr. Tolson touched the lives of countless students and was a trusted mentor to many of his colleagues and fellow SU faculty members. His legacy of teaching and commitment remains an exemplary model for others. We extend our deepest sympathy to Dr. Tolson’s family, colleagues, and friends.”

    The retired SU professor was the son of Melvin B. Tolson an American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician who is the protagonist of the 2007 biopic “The Great Debaters.” The film is based on his [Melvin Tolson Sr.] work with students at predominantly Black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and their debate with University of Southern California in the 1930s.

    image

    Arthur Tolson, Ph.D., along with Denzel Washington who portrayed his father Melvin Tolson in The Great Debaters

    “Dr. Arthur Tolson was truly a mentor and an inspiration to numerous students,” said Shawn Comminey, SUBR history chair. “His philosophy, wisdom, humor; the encouragement and support he displayed through the years, go without saying.”

    According to a 2008 SU Digest article, Arthur Tolson made history as the first Black to attain a master’s degree in history from Oklahoma State University and a doctorate in history from the University of Oklahoma.

    Share your memories of Dr. Tolson below along with photos (email to news@thedrumnewspaper.info) for his commemorative page.

    Funeral Arrangements for Dr. Arthur L. Tolson

    Southern University Baton Rouge
    Monday, November 30, 2015

    Lying in Repose
    4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
    Royal Cotillion Ballroom
    Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union
    Southern University and A&M College
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70813

    Funeral Service
    7 p.m.
    Royal Cotillion Ballroom
    Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union
    Interment
    Green Acres Memorial Gardens
    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Arrangements
    Treasures of Life, Center for Life Funeral Services
    315 East Airline Highway
    Gramercy, Louisiana  70052
    225.258.4039

    Family requests in lieu of flowers, forward all donations to: Treasures of Life, Center for Life Funeral Services

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  • ,,,,

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

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

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

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

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

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  • ,,

    Community asked to complete online survey on EKL site land use designs

    NORTH BATON ROUGE ELECTED OFFICIALS AND other community leaders and more than 100 stakeholders gathered at the S. E. Mackey Center to discuss their ideas and preferences of the former Earl K. Long Medical Center site at 5825 Airline Highway. The public input received during the March meeting served as a critical first step in understanding the community’s vision.

    Landscape architect Diane Jones Allen, D. Eng., of DesignJones, LLC , presented two LSU student designs completed over the summer which included the ideas and wishes expressed during the fi rst public meeting.

    These drawings and images will generate additional ideas and discussion of alternatives for the project site. Now, the volunteer committee is asking the community to complete an online survey that identifies specific land use. The survey is available at www.5825Airline.com, and all residents are asked to provide input.

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  • ,,,

    Community asked to complete online survey on EKL site, land use designs

    North Baton Rouge elected officials other community leaders and more than 100 stakeholders gathered at the S. E. Mackey Center to discuss their ideas and preferences of the former Earl K. Long Medical Center site at 5825 Airline Highway.
    The public input received during the March meeting served as a critical first step in understanding the community’s vision. Landscape architect Diane Jones Allen, D. Eng., of DesignJones, LLC , presented two LSU student designs completed over the summer which included the ideas and wishes expressed during the fi rst public meeting.
    These drawings and images will generate additional ideas and discussion of alternatives for the project site. Now, the volunteer committee is asking the community to complete an online survey to determine specific ways to use the vacant property. The survey is available at www.5825Airline.com, and all residents are asked to provide input.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Black Lives Matter Summit scheduled for Aug. 22

    The Baton Rouge Delta Alumnae Chapter, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern University Law Center will host a Black Lives Matter summit, Saturday, Aug. 22, at 8am at the Southern University Law Center’s AA Lenior Building.

    Organizers said the summit will address and discuss issues such as high incarceration rate, Black-on-Black crime, problematic relationships with law enforcement, disparity in educational opportunities for poverty-stricken areas, funding restraints of Historically Black Colleges and the breakdown of nuclear family.

    The summit is free and open to the public and CLE credits will be offered to all attorneys.. A lite breakfast and lunch will be served. Registration at www.eventbrite.com is requested.

    “There is strength in numbers and we believe in order to make a true impact and address these issues that have plagued our community for years, we must make this a total community  effort to provide positive solutions for these concerns,” said Karmen R. Davis, Baton Rouge Delta Alumnae Chapter president.

    Panel discussions will cover family matters, the judicial system and Black America, community involvement, and education.

    Speakers include Juvenile Court Judge Pam Taylor Johnson; Tasha Clark Amar, executive director of East Baton Rouge Council on Aging; Lamont Cole, CEO of ColeGroup; Ron Gathe, assistant district attorney for the 19th Judicial District; Louisiana State Trooper James Jefferson; Jacqueline Mims,Ph.D., clinical director, Eclectic Cognitive Behavioral Center; Kim Hunter Reed,Ph.D., senior associate, HCM Strategists; Walter Tillman Jr., Ph.D., Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals; attorney Charles Toney; Family Court Chief Judge Lisa Woodruff White; and assistant Southern Universaity New Orleans professor Carey YazeedPh.D.

     

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  • ,,

    Ancona’s delivers quality meat, service for 57 years

    There is a banner hanging on the wall of Ancona’s Stop & Save Inc. that reads, “50th Anniversary Reunion and Block Party. Music by D. J. Sammy the Entertainer. Celebrating 50 years of service to the community. Same Location – 2nd Generation Owners”.

    The banner is dated 2008 and even today, the Italian, family-owned and operated business is celebrating its success.

    Herald as one of the best meat markets in the city, Ancona’s opened its doors in 1958.

    The corner store has been at 2705 North Street where the Ancona family–Roy Sr., Frank, Luke, and Johnny–has developed a successful food business by accommodating thousands of customers who pour into the store monthly for staple groceries, meats, and hot lunches.

    The Italian descendents were raised on 29th Street and Easy Street in Easy Town and embedded with a very rich culture and legacy. The family siblings–a total of 11–played sports on the sole gravel road: North Street where the business now stands. The store grew under the vision of Roy Ancona Sr and is now under the management of the Ancona children, Mark and Roy Jr.

    FAMILY HISTORY
    Frank Ancona attended Louisiana State University majoring in chemical engineering and worked at Exxon for several years and as a math instructor at the St.Paul Adult Learning Cente.

    Roy Ancona Jr. attended Southeastern University and has owned the store since 1996. He started working in the store at the age of six years old bagging in the meat market and has been involved in the family store since that time. Roy Jr. said he is very proud of the family achievements and takes great pride in being one of the business managers.

    Mark Ancona was a part of the Submarine Corps Group and lived in Hawaii for many years. While in the military service, “many recognized and identified the Ancona name as relationship and being located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” Mark said. In 1966, he bagged groceries and worked with his father and was paid fifty cents an hour. He attended St. Thomas Moore, Catholic High School, and Broadmoor High School. He was employed with Louis Mechanical Plumbing, Lanehart Paint Company, and stated a lawn company before joining the military.

    In 1995, Robbie Ancona provided support to Mark and Roy to buid the business before relocating to Lexington, Kentucky.

    Another legacy of the family is also Vince Ancona, oldest brother who owned and operated a grocery store in the Baton Rouge Community during the time of World War II.

    ANCONA’S OFFERING
    Ancona’s community store includes groceries, hot deli, a meat market, breakfast and lunch plates, ,oney orders, and check cashing services. It is an establishment that welcomes the Baton Rouge community residents and other outline areas. The doors are opened and it is in an excellent location. Major businesses including Benny’s Cafe, Cafe Express, and the Match Box, continuously purchase meat specials from Ancona’s.
    “Business is good,” the owners said,  “Thanks the Baton Rouge Community for continued support and efforts in allowing the doors to stay open and for many others to follow.”

    By Mada McDonald
    Community Reporter

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  • ,

    Barrow announces candidacy for Senate seat

    After serving the constituents of House District 29 for three consecutive terms, State Representative Regina Ashford Barrow will officially announce her intention to run for the Louisiana Senate District 15 seat on tomorrow, Tuesday, August 4, at her campaign headquarters, 3558 Monterrey Drive, in Baton Rouge.

    For the next several months, Barrow said she plans to travel throughout District 15 and expand her campaign as she reaches out across the district to “share her platform with citizens searching for effective, result driven and inspirational servant leadership for Louisiana Senate District 15 in Baton Rouge.”

    She said the ability to successfully lead others and influence change is the most important components to effective leadership.

    Since 2005, she has represented District 29, serving on the Ways and Means Committee; Health and Welfare Committee; Municipal, Parochial, Cultural Affairs Committee; and the Joint Capital Outlay Committee. She is the Immediate Past Chairwoman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.

    She serves as the state director for Women in Government, Women in Legislature Lobby, and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

    Barrow is the wife of 31 years to James Barrow, Sr. and together they have two adult children: Shanrika Barrow-Fobb and James Barrow, Jr.

    @jozefsyndicate

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  • ,

    Brookstown residents invited to play in the street Aug. 1

    Broadway street in North Baton Rouge will be blocked off Saturday, Aug. 1, 10am – 2pm for neighborhood residents to come out and play as part of a new program hosted by Pennington Biomedical Center and ExxonMobil.

    Here’s how it works: neighborhoods come together to close off a street or a section of a street on a regular basis to allow children to get outside and play in spaces where they may not normally be able to play, said Pennington officials.

    This program affords children and families in a local neighborhood increased space to play outside and engage in physical activity.

    Caught You Playing web

    “That’s why researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center are working to re-imagine the neighborhood street as a playground of sorts to benefit area children and increase their options for physical activity.”

    Pennington Biomedical’s Dr. Stephanie Broyles and Dr. Robert L. Newton Jr. study community health and helped bring the Play Streets concept to Baton Rouge. “Efforts like this one are really critical in ensuring the health of our city’s children, considering that one in two of Louisiana’s children is currently overweight or obese,” said Dr. Broyles.

    “Playing outside is a fantastic opportunity to get away from the television, phones and other screens that can consume our time. Play Streets incorporates physical activity into life so that children are having fun while they exercise,” added Dr. Newton.

    Modeled after successful programs in cities such as New York and Chicago, Pennington Biomedical is leading the local effort in partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation and the BREC Foundation. Enthusiastic support from area leaders such as Baton Rouge District 5 City Council Member Ronnie Edwards also helps to make these events possible.

    “Coming together with other impactful community partners and neighbors to bring this innovative program to North Baton Rouge is just one example of how collectively we can make a difference. Our neighbors have embraced the Play Streets model, and ExxonMobil is glad to sponsor this pilot program, which we hope will find great success,” said Stephanie Cargile, spokesperson for ExxonMobil.

    PlayStreets_HalfPage

    “The opportunity to study new ways to encourage individuals to become more active is a way to create change in this segment of the quality of life in our community. The BREC Foundation, through its “Charting A New Course” campaign, is happy to support this initiative,” said BREC executive director Carl Stages.

    “The pilot program event in Brookstown is collaborative and it has been designed by their community members to fit their unique needs and resources,” Broyles said. “Programs like this have the potential to transform communities into healthier places for children to grow up, which is what Play Streets is all about.”

    (Photos provided by Pennington Biomedical Center)

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  • ,,,,

    Family walks and 3,100 petition for justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • ,,

    SUBR set to win four HBCU Digest Awards

    Southern University is a finalist in four categories in the 2015 HBCU Digest national awards competition.

    SU’s College of Nursing and Allied Health is a finalist in the Best Nursing School category and the Human Jukebox Marching Band is among the top Marching Bands.

    Southern scored in the Top Alumnus category with National Alumni Federation President Preston Castille. The SU Alumni Federation also finished among the top National Alumni Association of the Year Category.

    The winners will be announced and receive their awards at a ceremony July 10 at Hampton University in Virginia. The ceremony is part of the HBCU National Media Summit being held at Hampton from July 9-11.

    According to HBCU Digest, finalists are annually selected based on the impact of nominees’ achievement on institutional development, and for media coverage earned for the institution by way of the nominee.

    The Marching Band category includes: Southern, Alabama State University Mighty Marching Hornets, Florida A&M University Marching 100 and Albany State University Marching Rams Show Band.

    Schools in Best Nursing School category, include: Southern, Prairie View A&M University and Tougaloo College.

    The Alumnus of the Year category, includes: Castille; Adriel Hilton of Morehouse, FAMU, and Morgan State University; Michael Jones, of Dillard University; and John Thompson, FAMU.

    The National Alumni Association category includes: Southern, FAMU, South Carolina State University, Tuskegee University, Xavier University of Louisiana and Clafin University.

    Winners are selected by an academy of former HBCU Awards winners, former and current HBCU presidents, alumni, faculty, students and journalists covering HBCU issues for local or national outlets.

    Created in 2011 by HBCU Digest Founding Editor Jarrett L. Carter Sr., the HBCU Awards is the first national awards event to recognize the influence and impact of HBCUs on American culture.

    The SU Alumni Federation previously won the HBCU Digest’s inaugural National Alumni Association of the Year award in 2012.

    @jozefsyndicate

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  • ,,

    Message to the Community from BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight

    I cannot in good conscience justify spending scarce taxpayer resources for a swimming pool that only five people walked to and used on a daily basis. I am writing to set the record straight about the imminent removal of the Gus Young swimming pool.

    BREC’s 2004 Imagine Your Parks plan evaluated the entire park system and the BREC Commission approved a separate aquatics plan which recommended modernizing some pools and creating an aquatic system that offered more options in strategic locations, including learn to swim pools, splash pads and centrally located Liberty Lagoon Water Park. The plan, prepared by a national aquatic firm familiar with best practices, also included partnering with other agencies to enable us to use resources more efficiently.

    The closing of pools at Baringer, Webb, Jefferson Highway and Gus Young Neighborhood Parks and the renovation of pools at Howell, City-Brooks and Anna T. Jordan Community Parks are part of that plan. The plan recommended having aquatic features only in community parks which serve a much larger population than neighborhood parks like Gus Young. In 2012, BREC was forced to close the 50-year old pool because it did not meet safety and health requirements and could not be repaired.

    BREC places a high priority on teaching children to swim and continues to expand its partnership with the YMCA. Together we offer swimming lessons at BREC and YMCA pools and have created a free water safety program taught to students and parents during the school year. We are proud to say that in addition to teaching more than 475 kids to swim last year hundreds more have signed up for swimming lessons again this summer.

    BREC transports hundreds of children from our summer camps to our pools and to Liberty Lagoon on a daily basis. Outside camps also use those locations. Using cost savings from the closure of neighborhood pools, and working with the YMCA, we created a “Splash Pass” which offers children the ability to swim at YMCA pools at BREC prices during our public swim times. Liberty Lagoon, in its fifth season, continues to thrive, frequently reaching maximum attendance levels and serving people throughout the parish.

    More than that, BREC places a high priority on serving youth and teens across the parish in order to offer healthy, safe, structured activity and protect them from exposure to violence or juvenile delinquency. Here is a snapshot of programs currently offered:

    • BREC on the Geaux serves 35 locations with 29 in the inner city area servicing approximately 8,000 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC offers 61 Recreation classes and programs for youth in the inner city areas and 28 programs for teens.
    • BREC offers 41 summer camps with 17 in the inner city area. 2015 summer camp enrollment has increased by nearly 1,400 children for recreation camps alone.
    • BREC hosted 16 Community Events in the inner city area since January servicing approximately 4,675 people.
    • BREC’s sports leagues such as baseball, football and basketball have served approximately 10,497 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC’s Outdoor Adventure serves 236 youth and teens with programs.
    • BREC’s Golf Department offered 72 programs targeted to youth and teens through the First Tee and other programs.
    • BREC Belfair Teen Center has served approximately 75 teens through a job training program.

    Later this summer, BREC will present several options to replace the 50-year old pool at Gus Young at a public meeting. Community leaders have asked us to consider building a splash pad which would require a significant amount of private funding and Commission approval since it is counter to our Aquatics plan. BREC simply cannot afford to build splash pads or pools in neighborhood parks. If a sufficient amount of private funding is not located, we have ideas on how to enhance this active park and the many events held there now.

    BREC remains committed to serving the entire parish while making the best use possible of limited taxpayer dollars that fund more than 180 parks. We also remain committed to partnering with the YMCA and schools to teach children to swim, offer quality recreation programs for youth and teens during after school and out of school breaks and creating a healthier and safer community.

    Carolyn McKnight
    BREC Superintendent
    cmcknight@brec.org

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  • ,,

    1,500 petition to keep Gus Young pool

    Plans are underway to permanently close the community pool at the BREC Gus Young Avenue Park in East Baton Rouge on August 1. Public opposition is increasing, but is it enough to convince the BREC board or  superintendent Carol McKnight  to reconsider closure and re-allocate $400,000  from BREC’s $69 million annual budget to preserve the historic pool and clubhouse?

    Community leaders and residents said they want a pool and are not interested in other option–not even a splashpad that would require $500,000 in donations. Longtime activist Elwin “Bobby” Burns said he has collected more than 1,500 signatures petitioning to restore and open the pool. He will submit the petition to the Mayor’s office and Metro Councilmembers. Burns is concerned that the children have swimming opportunities within walking distance of their homes. “BREC has four dog parks!” Burns wrote in an email to The Drum asking if funds that were once identified for Gus Young park renovations had been transferred to fund the parish’s new dog parks.

    The pool was closed three summers ago for repairs about the same time the Liberty Water Park was built in Independence Park. When the pool was closed the 39 kids who signed up for swimming lessons were referred to other pools which were 2 miles away. Then, the cost of swimming in the Gus Young pool was $1.25 per person. The cost of Liberty Waterpark was $8 for people shorter than 4 feet and $10 for taller people. Today, the Gus Young residents have are given the option to learn to swim at the nearby A.C Lewis YMCA pool on South Foster Drive, which is located about 2 miles away. BREC said 103 people have signed up for the swimming lessons.

    Residents also have the option of swimming at BREC’s Howell Community Park Pool on Winnborne Ave., which is also 2 miles away, or at BREC’s Anna T. Jordan pool which is located farther in North Baton Rouge.

    For many Gus Young residents, this is not a viable option said Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle who represents the area. According to the Rev. Richard Andrus, pastor of St. Paul Apostle Catholic Church on Gus Young, his congregation overwhelmingly supports keeping the pool instead of permanently closing it or replacing it with a splashpad. He will join Marcelle in meeting with BREC leaders.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Juneteenth event, book uncover history of Scotlandville

    Local authors join forces with citizens to create tribute to small town’s history, June 19.

    Telling a story in pictures is Images of America: Scotlandville, the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series. The book by local authors Rachel L. Emanuel, Ruby Jean Simms, and Charles Vincent released the book June 1, 2015. The book contains wonderful vintage images capturing this African American community’s history.

    A rural village that was once the entry point for the slave trade and home to a cotton plantation, Scotlandville became the largest Black town in Louisiana.

    Located in the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, Scotlandville’s history is intricately tied to Southern University and A&M College System, the naton’s only historically Black university system

    image

    . Southern University relocated from New Orleans to the bluff of the Mississippi River on the western edge of Scotlandville in 1914.

    The story of the university and town is a tale of triumph and struggle in the midst of racism, inequality, and oppression. Presented through the theme of firsts in businesses, churches, schools, residential developments, environmental issues, politics, social organizations, and community service, Images of America: Scotlandville focuses on the people who shaped the community economically, politically, socially, and culturally.

    Using photographs from institutional and personal collections, Emanuel, Simms, and Vincent describe the origins, development, and heyday of the vibrant neighborhoods of Scotlandville before the community’s incorporation into Baton Rouge.

    Emanuel is the director of communications and development support for the Southern University Law Center; Simms and Vincent are both professors of history at Southern University.

    EVENT INFO:
    Juneteenth Celebration Book Launch
    Friday, June 19,  4-5:30 p.m
    Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church Family Life Center
    6700 Scenic Hwy
    Baton Rouge, LA

    Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers.
     

    @jozefsyndicate

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Conference to focus on advancing leadership in economic development

    The Southern University College of Business is hosting its Second Annual Advancing Leadership in Economic Development conference on June 11 -13 at the Southern University College of Business’ T.T. Allain Hall.

    The two-day conference will feature local and nationally recognized business leaders who will share effective leadership strategies and successful economic development programs.

    Featured speakers include: James Joseph, former ambassador to South Africa and former public policy professor at Duke University;  Richard McCline, Ph.D., with the Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia; and Will Campbell with Capital One.

    Topics include regional economic growth and development opportunities, revitalizing rural and inner-city neighborhoods, leadership models that get results,  and the role of political leaders in economic development.
    It is targeted to small business owners, community development professionals, nonprofit organizations, city and state leaders, and anyone else who is interested in learning more about leadership and business opportunities in our area.

    “This conference encourages attendees to play a greater role in growing their businesses and organizations and to take advantage of the many economic opportunities available in our city and state,” said Donald Andrew, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business and coordinator of the conference. ‘It also gives attendees the tools they need to succeed and it’s a great networking opportunity.”

    Registration is $50.  For more information on speakers and to register, go to subruniversitycenter.org or call (225) 771-5640 or (225) 771- 6248.

     

    Read more »
  • ,

    Black Journalists honoring four journalism pioneers, April 23

    The Baton Rouge Area Association of Black Journalists (BRAABJ) will honor four pioneering journalists at its third annual Scholarship Luncheon on April 23.

    The former journalists are John Williams, the first Black photographer at The Advocate (posthumously); Jean West, former WAFB Channel 9 anchor and the first Black anchor in Baton Rouge;  Ivory Payne, publisher of The Weekly Press newspaper which has served the African American community in North Baton Rouge for more than 40 years,  and Genevieve Stewart, former host of “Question of the Day” on KQXL-FM.

    “This is our way of saying thank you to those who paved the way for other Black journalists in our area to pursue a career in the media,” says BRAABJ President Michelle McCalope. “We realize that without them there would be no us.”

    The luncheon will be held at 11:30 a.m. at Boudreaux’s , 2647 Government Street in Baton Rouge. Tickets are $25 and sponsorships are also available. You can purchase tickets online at brareabj.org.

    Proceeds from the event will provide scholarships to Southern and LSU journalism students. Since 2012, the luncheon has raised nearly $30,000 and provided scholarships to six students.

    Last year, the organization sponsored three students at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Boston.

    For tickets or more information, call (225) 678-1472 or (225) 229-1906.  Visit BRAABJwebsite at brareabj.org.  The association is a non-profit organization made up of local media professionals. Our goal is to highlight and support journalists of color and give back through mentoring and scholarships. It is an affiliate of the National Association of Black Journalists.

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Sen. Broome to hold three district meetings

    State Senator Sharon Weston Broome will hold a series of community meetings in the Senate District 15 area prior to the 2015 Regular Legislative Session. Senator Broome will highlight legislative issues and her priorities for the upcoming session.

    Broome urges citizens in the area to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about important state issues.

    Save the date and join the conversation!

    Monday, March 23
    6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
    Baker Branch Library
    3501 Groom Road
    Baker, La 70714

    Monday, April 6
    6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
    BREC Headquarters
    6201 Florida Boulevard
    Baton Rouge, La 70806

    Tuesday, April 7
    6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
    Zachary Branch Library
    1900 Church Street
    Zachary, La 70791

    The session will convene at noon on Monday, April 13.

    For more information, contact
    lasen15@legis.la.gov or (225) 359-9352

    Read more »
  • ,

    March 12th meeting to discuss potential uses for EKL site

    PUBLIC PARTICIPATION  NEEDED

    East Baton Rouge parish residents, business owners, and other interested stakeholders are invited to a public charrette, Thursday, March 12, to help establish a framework and share ideas to develop the former Earl K Long Hospital site on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.

    The charrette is a hands-on planning session and design exercise where community members, designers, business and property owners and other stakeholders collaborate on a vision for development uses of the former hospital site, which will be demolished during late 2015. The charrette will begin at 6pm, Thursday, March 12, at the S.E. Mackey Community Center, 6543 Ford Street.

    The charrette will include various breakout sessions. Some of those breakout sessions will focus on economic development efforts while others will be geared toward discussing the needs of children and families.

    Local project management firm Franklin Associates will facilitate the charrette. Diane Jones Allen, D. Eng., ASLA, DesignJones LLC; Jason Lockhart, Sinektiks, LLC; and Sit Wong, Domain Design, will join Franklin Associates. Representatives from Southern University College of Business, including dean Donald Andrews, and the East Baton Rouge City-Parish Planning and Commission Office will also be contributing to the discussion.

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

    Sharon Weston-Broome State Senator, District 15.

    The charette is hosted by District 15 State Senator Sharon Weston Broome, District 29 State Representative Regina Ashford Barrow, District 5 Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards and other community leaders.

    For more information, visit www.5825airline.org 

    Read more »
  • ,

    Youth invited to The Kickback roundtable, Feb. 21

    Our Schools…Our Excellence will host a youth-led round table, The Kickback, Saturday, Feb. 21, at Star Hill Church, 1400 North Foster Drive, starting at noon.

    Organizers said the dialogue will be led by students, with minimal adult interaction. This gives middle and high school students in North Baton Rouge an opportunity to share, discuss and thoroughly understand their educational experience.

    Two students from each North Baton Rouge School have been asked to attend and participate in the discussion in order to have a better understanding the major problems plaguing the schools. “The children should not be penalized by receiving poor education because of lack of structure within our communities. We are all directly responsible for the success or failure of our children,” said Kali Johnson, lead consultant with Our Schools.Our Excellence.

    “The days of placing the blame on the school, teacher, student or parent are over. The concern now, is what strategies and tactics can we create together to see our goals come to fruition. One goal in particular is to increase student participation in the improvement and success of their education through the organization’s Youth Involvement cluster.” Johnson said the organization is committed to facilitating change within the North Baton Rouge School System.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Energy Assistance Funds Available for Low-Income EBR Residents

    Applications to be accepted starting Monday, Feb. 2

    East Baton Rouge’s Office of Social Services has funds available to assist qualifying low-income households with their energy bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

    To qualify for assistance through the program, a household’s total monthly income cannot exceed the limits in the table below. Qualifying households cannot have received a previous benefit within the past six months.

    Household Size                       Maximum Income
    Per household                            per month
    1                                                       $1,807
    2                                                       $2,363
    3                                                       $2,920
    4                                                       $3,476
    5                                                       $4,032
    6                                                      $4,588
    7                                                      $4,692
    8                                                      $4,796
    9                                                      $4,901
    10                                                    $5,005
    11                                                     $5,109
    12                                                    $5,214
    13                                                    $5,318
    14                                                    $5,422
    15                                                    $5,526

    All applications will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis according to the program’s waiting list. To get on the waiting list, please call the nearest Office of Social Services location (see table of zip codes below) on Fridays, 8am – noon. Applications will then be taken by appointment only, beginning Monday, Feb. 2nd.

    Applicants must provide, at a minimum, the following documentation at the time the application is taken:
    (1) Copies of each household member’s social security card
    (2) Proof of income of all household members age 18 or older
    (3) A copy of an energy bill (must be within the last 6 months)
    (4) A photo I.D. of the applicant
    (5) At least one other document that was mailed to the applicant at the service address indicated on the energy bill.

    If additional documentation is required, the applicant will be notified at the time of application. Households reporting zero income will also be required to provide additional documentation. All information provided with the application will be subject to verification. Intentional misrepresentation of information may result in criminal prosecution of the applicant and anyone assisting in the misrepresentation.

    Income eligible applicants who have received a Disconnect Notice and who have not received assistance for a Disconnect Notice in the prior 12 months may also apply.

    LIHEAP Application Sites

    • Central Office, 4523 Plank Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70805 358-4561 70805
    • Chaneyville Community Center, 13211 Jackson Road, Zachary, LA 70791 658-9790
    • Charles R. Kelly Community Center (Delmont Service Center, 3535 Riley Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70805 357-5013
    • Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center, 950 East Washington St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802 389-4814
    • Dr. Martin L. King Community Center, 4000 Gus Young Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70802 389-7679
    • Jewel J. Newman Community Center (North Baton Rouge Community Center), 2013 Central Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70807 778-1007
    • Rural Program, 5736 Rollins Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70791 658-7494 70791
    Read more »
  • Capitol City Golf Association celebrates 49 years

    Before Tiger Woods swung his first golf club, the Capitol City Golf Association had been recruiting Black golf enthusiast for more than two decades.

    “There was time where blacks could work on any golf course, but were only welcomed to play at a few, especially in the south”, said Don Watson CCGA Tournament Coordinator. This year the Capitol City Golf Association celebrated its 49th anniversary.

    To commemorate almost half of century of promoting the golf among the community the CCGA hosted its annual golf tournament.

    Ronald Williams, Corey Grant, Al Ridley, Henry Pointer, Mophi Mmopi,Don Watson, CCGA Tournament Committee chair Huston Williams, CCGA president Sidney Brown III, Mark Young, and CCGA treasurer Paul Levy

    During Father’s day weekend golfers representing Southern Association of Amateur Golfers registered golf clubs from Louisiana, and throughout the southern region of country, united at the Coppermill Golf Club, in Zachary La., for two days of competition.

    “Our mission is to promote the sport of golf and share the benefits that can be gained from taking up the sport at an early age” said Sid- ney Brown III CCGA President

    swing

    Tyler Armstrong takes a swing as part of the Frist Tee Program.

    In order build on the legacy set by the CCGA ,and engage youth golf enthusiast, the organization partnered for the first time with the Baton Rouge chapter of the First Tee program.

    “Golf is a sport that doesn’t discriminate, you don’t have be to certain height or have certain build, and almost anyone can play,” Watson said, “All you need is a desire to learn the game.”

    The First Tee is a national program that introduces the game of golf to young people and uses it to teach character education and life skills that help young people pre- pare for success in high school, college and beyond.

    Brown said this year the organization would work with First Tee to provide mentors, coaches, and scholarships for the program.This year’s the competition saw the greatest variety in age among participants, with youngest being 13 and the oldest 72 years old.

    According to a study by Harvard Medical School senior citizens who play golf regularly are likely to benefit from a stronger heart and sharper memory.

    To celebrate the vast variety of age groups and states represented by the more than 80 SAAG members who participated, and its 49- year history, the CCGA hosted a banquet.

    “Our organization has grown from the support our chapter members and other organizations, the annual banquet is our way of thanking those who supported promoting unity off the golf course,” said Huston Williams

    The CCGA was organized in 1961 to provide amateur golfers with opportunities to develop their individual skills and encourage others in the community to participate in the game.

    The CCGA is the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Southern Association of Amateur Golfers. The SAAG is to a regional organization of 18 golf clubs spanning throughout the southern region of the United States.

    Cameron James

    City News Manager

    Read more »
  • LA Democrats revel in past, plan for future

     

    EBR Parish Democratic Executive Committee hosts Banquet

    BATON ROUGE-A desire for change, growth and honor brought Democrats from all over Louisiana to East Baton Rouge Parish to celebrate the party’s history and make plans for the future.

    The event, “Remembering Our Roots: Every Man a King”, the first of what will be an annual banquet for the group, was held May 31 at the MJ Womack Center in Baton Rouge. It honored three EBR Democrats for their service to the party.

    “If we don’t remember the past we will not understand much of the present and have no conception of the future,” said former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards who served as the keynote speaker. “The past is important because we build on it to make things better.”

    L to r:Ben Jeffers, Dawn P Collins, Represenative Patricia Haynes-Smith, Louis Reine

    State Rep. Patricia Haynes-Smith was given the J.K. Haynes Sr. Award of Advocacy in Action; Louis Reine, president of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Louisiana was given the Victor Bussie Award of Excellence and the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Ben Jeffers.

    “Receiving an honor from the party that I have worked hard for is a humbling and gratifying experience,” said Jeffers, who was honored for being the first Black person to serve as the Chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

    Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and John Bel Edwards discussed some of the issues the state is facing.

    “We have a charity hospital system in this state that has been in place since the 1700s, it has survived the civil war, the world wars, hurricanes, but it could not survive Bobby Jindal and the Republican majority,” Edwards said.

    Campbell pointed to some of the issues facing Louisiana, such as budget cuts and coastal erosion.

    “The state constitution says only domestic oil can be taxed,” Campbell said. “Since 1922 we refine 95% foreign oil in the state of Louisiana and only refine 5% Louisiana oil, but we only tax the oil refined in the state.

    Campbell continued that Louisiana’s biggest problem is coastal erosion and that every hour – land equal to the size of one football field – is being washed away from the state’s coast.

    Along with discussing issues facing the state, speakers highlighted the unity within the party.

    State representative Edward “Ted” James said that the beauty of the Democratic Party is that it is made up of a variety of ages, socio-economic backgrounds and races with similar ideas.

    “We will not be successful if we don’t give our resources, change will not happen if we continue to let this state be red,” James said. “If you can’t afford to write a thousand dollar check, you can give your time and call a thousand people, if you can’t call a thousand people you can knock on a thousand doors, we have to come together.”

    Representative Edward "Ted" James and Volunteer Maria Harmon

    Representative Edward “Ted” James and Volunteer Maria Harmon

    James said that the melting pot of citizens who come together with ideas and work hard to put them into action to create a better Louisiana is the party’s greatest asset.

    Maria Harmon, a volunteer for the East Baton Rouge Democratic Party, is one of those helping the party attain the assets James referenced.

    “Since I graduated this summer with my Masters I have been looking for a job,” Harmon said. “The hard work the Party has been doing inspired me to work voluntarily [with them] as I search”

    Harmon said as volunteer she learned no matter who a person is or where they come from. everyone is affected by the decisions made by elected officials.

    “There are so many issues affecting young people right now, such as budget cuts to higher education, health care, pay day lending and equal pay for women – all of these things affect us as young people,” she said. “A lot of younger people today are more progressive, more liberal and we need to have our voices heard.”

    Former governor Edwards is one of the pioneers for diversity among politics in Louisiana. During his time as governor, he appointed more Blacks and women to high positions in his administration than his predecessors anywhere in the nation.

    Edwards reflected on the first time he took the step to create racial equality by appointing the state’s first Black post master Huey Fontenot. He said its something he still considers one of his proudest moments.

    Councilwoman C.Denise Marcel

    Even though Edwards held acclaim for such doings, he is now more widely known for being convicted of 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud in 2001. He was sentenced to 10 years and was released in 2011.

    “At night I would reflect on how people supported me and how we worked together to better this state, how we were the voice for people who couldn’t speak,” Edwards said. “I’d sit and wonder what it would be like when I got out.  The last conscious thought I’d have would be for the people of Louisiana. All those concerns were washed away when I got out and realized you had not forgotten me.”

    Earlier this year Edwards announced he would run for the vacant seat on Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District.

    The Democratic Executive Committee had only six weeks to prepare for the event, making it clear that the banquet’s theme, inspired by Huey P. Long, still resonates with people in the capitol city and beyond.

    By Cameron James

    Read more »
  • Erotic author, Zane, talks entrepreneurship

    INSTEAD OF TELLING EROTIC tales Author Zane discussed how to become a successful entrepreneur at Southern University, April 1.

    “To me the erotic ele- ments of my books are re- ally minor compared to the underlying issues I’m try- ing to deal with in the book, I do think everything is an element in life and sexual- ity is part of it,” Zane said.

    She said that her much deeper purpose to help peo- ple navigate through toxic relationships, because no matter what their goals are the relationships they have will affect them.

    The author of more than 30 romance novels shared with fans some how she was able to transform herself from woman who wrote just to pass the time into a New York Times best seller.

    To be successful some- one must be focused, compassionate, and passionate, she said.

    “The way you can tell someone is really passionate about what they are doing is because it never looks like they are work- ing,” she said.

    Zane has executive produced and written the scripts for the movies to her books, but her passion is what get keeps her going. In history, some of the most successful people “failed” before they found their success.

    “It shouldn’t be about failing or succeeding, you shouldn’t be afraid to do either one and you can’t spend time worrying about either,” she said.

    The author said she no- ticed that most successful people have what she refers to as “I.E.” personality.

    “These people are in- ternally motivated, but ex- ternally focused. They see world as a big picture and bigger than themselves,” she said.

    One of the biggest reason people don’t achieve their goals is because they spend too much time worried about other people. Zane said she believes that judging other people is based on our own insecurities and that it is the only reason for someone to ex- cited or happy when some- one is seemingly failing at something.

    “If you’re compassionate and care about what happens to other people and care about leaving the world a better place than how you found it. It will al- ways be a constant motivation bigger than anything else,” she said.

    Read more »
  • CATS to Make passenger friendly changes

    LAST YEAR THE CAPITAL AREA Transit System (CATS) serviced nearly 2.5 million people in the Greater Baton Rouge area.  During  2014 the transportation agency said they are working to provide and have already made some of the following changes:

    Added three new mechanics in the maintenance workforce to ensure all vehicles in top condition.

    • Launch an app called RouteMatch that will provide customers with voice announcements and automatic updates on all routes and CATS fleet in April.
    • Replace 12 existing buses.
    • Purchase ten eight-passenger; two- wheelchair vans to support its Para transit business.
    • Work with LSU, Cortana Mall and Mall of Louisiana to develop transfer location plans.
    • Hire an additional 31 employees by the end of February.

     

    Read more »
  • ExxonMobil to pay $2 million

    ExxonMobil Ordered to must pay $2.329 million in a settlement.

    ExxonMobil must pay $2.329 million in a settlement, announced by the state’s Dept. of Environ-mental Quality last August and finalized early this month, to address violations from 2008 into 2013 at its greater Baton Rouge facilities.

    The settlement was DEQ’s biggest with any company last year. But critics question whether the agreement was large enough or even appropriate. Exxon was cited with many infractions at its refinery and resinfinishing and chemical plants in East Baton Rouge Parish and its tank-farm facility in West Baton Rouge.

    Early this month, DEQ said the settlement was approved following a public review period late last year and was signed by state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell in December.In addition to paying a civil penalty of $300,000 to DEQ, Exxon under the agreement must spend no less than $1 million on Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures or SPCC projects at its Baton Rouge complex and will fund beneficial environmental projects or BEPs totaling $1.029 million.

    In terms of funding, the top four BEPs approved under the settlement are $400,000 for a Groundwater Reduction Project to trim the company’s groundwater usage; a $250,000 donation to DEQ to improve its Early Warning Organic Chemical Detection system; a $100,000 donation to the East Baton Rouge Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness/ Local Emergency Planning Committee to implement the ExxonMobil North Baton Rouge Emergency Preparedness Initiative; and a $100,000 donation to Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge for weather proofing and air tightening of homes, especially those next to ExxonMobil facilities.

    In the settlement, Exxon also agreed to a $50,000 donation to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for groundwater-conservation awareness in East Baton Rouge Parish; a $50,000 donation to DEQ to fund the agency’s Expanded Age Distribution and Vehicle Population Data Project on emissions in Louisiana; a $29,000 donation to the Louisiana Foundation for Excellence in Science, Technology and Education, or LaFESTE, for the Baton Rouge Clean Air Coalition; a $25,000 donation to Baton Rouge Green Association Inc.’s Neighbor Woods project near the refi nery; and $25,000 payment to install a meteorological station at the company’s Baton Rouge refinery complex.

    Read more »
  • Red Stick Ready.com available for severe weather updates

    In times of severe weather Mayor President  Melvin “Kip” Holden is encouraging  East Baton Rouge Parish citizens to visit Red Stick Ready for information on the effects it could have on the parish.

    Created by Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden and the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency the website provides information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from all emergency situations.

    The site presents parish-wide road conditions, crime reports, and disaster assistance information. Red Stick Ready’s Facebook page provides hourly updates.

    Baton Rouge is one of only two cities in Louisiana to be certified as a “Storm Ready Community” by the National Weather Service.

    Read more »
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