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    Dialogue necessary to move beyond fear

    The reactions to the Department of Justice’s decision to not charge police in the shooting death of Alton Sterling have divided largely along racial lines. Baton Rouge like many cities was racially segregated at its founding.Although the city has undergone “desegregation,” in the last several decades clear racial divisions exist most vividly with Florida Blvd as the racial dividing line.
    Crump

    Crump

    Many institutions and individuals have either ignored their roles in this continued division or looked for ways to explain it or justify an unacceptable situation.Often people wonder what difference talking about these racial divisions can do to make real lasting positive change. Given our name, we obviously believe that talk/dialogue does change things. It matters though what kind of talking it is. Dialogue done badly likely does more harm than good. We work hard at developing a dialogue that is functional and well-fitted to the difficult conversation of race. One thing we do know is that the dialogue must take place outside of a rush to act or in the mist of highly charged, anxiety filled times. In those times, myths and misunderstandings and old unaddressed issues are bursting through, and the dialogue will be ill-informed.
    Webster states, dialogue “seeks understanding and harmony.” In the educational process we use called the Dialogue On Race Series, we stress understanding; which may or may not lead to harmony.  However better understanding has a powerful impact that can lead to changes; changes that benefit everyone.The attempts to address racism in Baton Rouge have not kept pace with the growing problem.

    The fear of explosion and violence is a symptom that says we all know something is wrong. Instead of looking for ways to explain that “wrong,” we need to look for ways to understand the problem.  What has caused the problem and why have we let it go on so long? We also need to ask why so many have stayed quiet, avoided it, or believed that the problem of race has gone.

    Yes we need dialogue but we need dialogue done well. Dialogue on Race Louisiana’s core program, the Dialogue on race series is not just any conversation. The magic of the Dialogue on Race Series is that it is structured, facilitated, backed with factual information. It is formatted to set a safe environment for open, honest, brave conversation.
    The DOR Series is a highly specialized form of discussion that imposes rigorous discipline on the participants.  The series begins by defining the terms used. You have to have a common understanding of the terms being used.
    When dialogue is done well, the results can be extraordinary; long-standing stereotypes can be dissolved, mistrust can be overcome, mutual understanding achieved, vision shaped, grounded in shared purpose, new common ground discovered, new perspectives and insights gained, bonds of community strengthened.
    When Baton Rouge solves institutional racism, the sharp line of racial division will end. Also protest will not be seen as something to fear, instead it will be recognized as it is meant to be; a tool of a free society.

    By Maxine Crump 

    CEO Dialogue on Race Louisiana
    Baton Rouge

    ONLINE: http://dialogueonracelouisiana.org
    https://www.facebook.com/DialogueOnRaceLouisiana

     

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    Make the most of Medicare’s drug coverage

    Medicare offers prescription drug coverage to everyone with Medicare.

    It’s a good deal. Medicare subsidizes the outpatient drug benefit, generally paying about 75 percent of the program’s costs. Unless you already have comparable drug coverage through another source, you should consider getting it when you sign up for Medicare’s health care coverage at 65.

    There are two ways to get drug coverage. If you’re in Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service program, you can purchase a “stand-alone” drug plan from an insurance company. Or, if you decide to buy a private Medicare Advantage health plan, you can choose one that includes drug coverage.

    To find the “stand-alone” drug plans and the Medicare Advantage health plans with drug coverage available in your area, visit Medicare’s “plan finder” at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan. You can also call Louisiana’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program for help at 1-800-259-5300.

    You’ll see there are significant differences in premiums and deductibles, in the co-payments the plans charge, in the particular drugs they cover and in the pharmacies they use. That’s why it’s important to look at your prescriptions and individual circumstances when comparing plans.

    Ask yourself: Which plans cover the drugs I take? Which plan gives me the best overall price on all my drugs? Which plans allow me to use the pharmacy I want? Which plans let me get drugs through the mail? What are the plans’ quality ratings, such as for customer service?

    You’ll discover that many plans place drugs into different “tiers.” The higher the tier, the greater your share of the cost will usually be. If you find that a prescription of yours is in a higher tier, you may want to ask your doctor whether there’s a drug in a lower tier that would work as well.

    You may also encounter plans that follow “step therapy.” That means you must first try a less-expensive drug that’s been proven effective for most people with your condition before you can move up to a costlier drug. However, your doctor can request an exception if the costlier drug is medically necessary.

    Medicare drug coverage is just like other kinds of insurance – you buy it to protect yourself if and when you need it. Even if you’re not on any prescriptions now, enrolling in a drug plan with a low premium guarantees you’ll have coverage should your health decline and you require medication.

    After you pick a plan that meets your needs, call the company offering it and ask how to join. You may be able to join online, by phone or by paper application. Don’t be alarmed when you’re asked to provide the number on your Medicare card during the enrollment process. In this case, it’s OK.

    The plan that’s best for you this year may not be the best next year. If so, you can switch to another plan between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7 each year. Indeed, it’s smart to check all your options every fall to make sure you have the plan that best fits your needs and pocketbook. Your new coverage then begins on Jan. 1.

    If you’re having difficulty affording medications, you may qualify for the government’s “extra help” program. Your annual income can’t be more than $18,090 if you’re single or $24,360 if you’re married. Also, your resources can’t exceed $13,820 if you’re single or $27,600 if you’re married.

    Generally, you’ll pay no more than $3.30 for each generic drug and $8.25 for each brand-name prescription in 2017. Forty-one percent of Louisiana residents with a Medicare drug plan get extra help. To apply, visit the Social Security website, at www.socialsecurity.gov/i1020, or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

    People with Medicare have saved hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year thanks to their drug coverage. Be sure to make the most of yours.

    By Bob Moos
    Southwest public affairs officer
    U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

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    COMMENTARY: #BlackWomenatWork will be respected, not intimidated

    “She can’t be the owner.”

    “Can you be a little less aggressive?”

    “We can only pay you this amount.”

    These are the phrases that echo in the ears of many working African-American women. The sly remarks of their superiors, colleagues, and sometimes, even friends, all cause African-American women to perform daily self-assessments. So, it wasn’t by chance that the moment White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attacked journalist April Ryan and Bill O’Reilly commented about U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, we all fell to our knees in disgust and understanding. It was by chance the first time the feminist voice met the racism cry accompanied by the “Black head nod”. Because, quite frankly, we knew that experience of inferiority and unsolicited comedy, with the focus on us all too well.

    I guess you would think it wouldn’t be such a big deal. How could a hashtag draw so much attention? Well, for the degreed sister, the one who had to climb the corporate ladder alone; the one who consistently holds the Angry Black Woman stereotype under a professional subtle demeanor; the one who over dresses daily and under asserts her authority; the one with the alphabets behind her name or the desire to open that business;  the one who contemplates braids versus a relaxer;  who tries desperately not order poultry at the fancy dinner and commits to ensuring that her colloquialisms are far from connected to the urban area she grew up in…. she finally found relief in seeing the #BlackWomenatWork hashtag. The hashtag meant that she wasn’t alone and neither were her inner most feelings.

    #BlackWomenatWork

    So, for clarity, Black women are not insecure. In fact, we are extremely educated and many times over qualified.  Yet, in the doors of the corporation, African-American women are immediately and unapologetically mistaken for “The Help” and, quite frankly, we’re tired. It is time that every Black woman garner the respect and credibility that we’ve worked hard to achieve. We can’t let a Trump administration infused with misogyny and racism, or the boss that is only succeeding because of your work ethic, or the looks received on your corporate trip from the concierge allow you to give in to the  ridiculous labeling of the Black woman.

    See we admit and concede to the fact that our femininity connects us to the same struggles as our sisters of other races. We don’t down play their struggle, but even Hillary Clinton had to step out in outrage over the attacks received by the Black woman in the public view. Let’s examine the attacks: not one experienced by Representative Waters or Ms. Ryan have been embedded with anything more than focus on physical appearance and gestures. Why is that? It’s because there is nothing else to attack her on. Not her education. Not her qualifications. Not her experience. So, the oppressor resorts to low blows and calls out the things that only an immature bully can get others to see.

    What does this all do to us? Well, we start a fight among ourselves, better known as “double consciousness,” as coined by the great W.E.B. DeBois. We feel so marginalized that our inner fight grows to conducting ourselves to be accepted; and we sometimes silence our voice and accept being underpaid, however, the one thing we do and we do well is keep pushing. We outwork our counterparts. We quit jobs that never valued our work ethic. We start our own businesses. We stay in positions to help the next Black girl get in.  You’ll probably never hear us complain because we’ve learned a long time ago that doesn’t solve anything. But this year, we’ve screamed enough. We’ve banned together with a measly hashtag and demanded everyone realize that #BlackWomenatWork WILL be respected and NOT intimidated.
     Erika Green

    Erika L Green, ESQ

    I’m reminded of a statement written a century ago that summarizes the conflict that the Black woman experiences. Soujourner Truth said, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?” We will continue to work and eat just as much as our counterparts but the lash ends today!

    By Erika L. Green
    Guest columnist

    Erika Green is managing attorney at Law Office of Erika Green  and Baton Rouge City Councilmember District 5. Follow her @erikalgreenesq

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    Many of Medicare’s screenings come at no cost

    How often have you tried to ignore an ache or pain by telling yourself, “Maybe if I do nothing, it’ll go away.” Sometimes, that works. But wishful thinking isn’t the best way to take care of yourself.

    Medicare has put a new emphasis on preventive health care.

    A few years ago, Medicare mostly concerned itself with paying for your treatment after you got sick. Now, it’s also focused on helping you stay healthy and avoid diseases and illnesses in the first place.

    People with Medicare are entitled to a broad range of exams, lab tests and screenings to detect health problems early, when they’re most treatable or curable. Many now come at no out-of-pocket cost.

    Many immunizations are also free.

    To make sure you get started on the right foot, Medicare covers a “welcome to Medicare” visit with your physician during the first 12 months you’re enrolled in the Part B medical insurance program.

    Your doctor will evaluate your health, discuss any preventive services you may need, like shots or screenings, and make referrals for more care if required. There’s no out-of-pocket cost.

    You can make the most of your visit by coming prepared. That means bringing a complete list of your prescriptions, your family health history and your medical records, including immunizations.

    Medicare also pays for an annual wellness visit with your primary care doctor. This isn’t the same as an annual physical, since it isn’t a head-to-toe examination. But it does provide the same opportunity to discuss your health.

    Your doctor will develop a personalized prevention plan to keep you healthy. The visit also includes a review of your medications and routine measurements, like your height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index.

    More than 40 million older Americans with Medicare – including 573,000 Louisiana residents — received at least one preventive service at no cost to them last year.

    Here’s a rundown of some of these services:

    • Cardiovascular screenings check cholesterol and other blood fat levels. Medicare pays for the test once every five years.
    • Blood sugar screenings can determine whether you have diabetes. Based on your health, you may be eligible for up to two screenings each year.
    • Mammograms check for breast cancer. Medicare covers a screening every 12 months for women 40 and older and one baseline mammogram for women 35 to 39.
    • Medicare typically pays for a flu shot once every flu season, a pneumonia vaccination and, if you’re at medium to high risk, a hepatitis B shot.
    • Colonoscopies can find precancerous growths early. Medicare covers the screenings once every 10 years or, if you’re at high risk, once every two years. You pay nothing for the test itself. If your physician removes a polyp, you may need to pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor’s services and a copayment for the outpatient setting.
    • Prostate cancer screenings include a yearly PSA test and digital rectal exam for men 50 and older. The PSA test is free. You pay 20 percent of the cost for the rectal exam, after meeting your deductible.
    • Medicare pays for one depression screening per year. The screening must be done in a primary-care setting, like a doctor’s office, that can provide follow-up treatment and referrals.
    • If you’re a smoker, you qualify for eight free counseling sessions each year to help you quit.
    • Likewise, if you’re obese with a body mass index of 30 or higher, you may be eligible for free counseling sessions to help you lose weight.
    • Medicare pays for HIV screening for people at increased risk for the virus, people who ask for the test, or pregnant women. Medicare covers the test once every year or up to three times during a pregnancy.

    Keeping up-to-date with screenings and immunizations is important, so Medicare encourages you to visit mymedicare.gov and register. There, you can see a description of your covered preventive services, the last date you had a particular test and the next date you qualify for it again.

    By eliminating the out-of-pocket costs for many screenings and tests, Medicare’s new emphasis on prevention not only can save you money, it can help you take control of your health.

    It may even help save your life.

    By Bob Moos
    Guest Columnist

     

    Bob Moos is the southwest public affairs officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. ONLINE:cms.hhs.gov. Medicare Buttons by http://www.hirejon.com/medicare/ 

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    Racial Incidents Highlight Need for Black History Education

    Fourteen cadets at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college, were disciplined after photographs circulated of them wearing Ku Klux Klan-style hoods.

    At a Phoenix, Arizona, high school, six students have sparked outrage with a photograph of the girls wearing gold letters on their shirts spelling out a racial slur.

    In both cases, the young people protested no offense was intended. It’s hard to imagine that well-educated near-adults could be ignorant of how their actions would be perceived. But even taking them at their word, these 20 students represent the desperate need for comprehensive Black history education – and not just during Black History Month.

    The president of the Phoenix school’s Black Student Union said, “Something that used to stop my grandparents in their tracks is now being used in regular conversation. Someone needs to put their foot down and say it’s not OK to say that.”

    Would a white student who was fully cognizant of the nation’s history of oppression against African Americans, of Jim Crow and institutionalized humiliation, casually toss around a racial slur for her own amusement, or wear a costume resembling the uniform of the nation’s most vicious and deadly terrorist organization? Possibly, but it’s far less likely.

    Students who grow up with a clear understanding of American history – all of American history – are less likely to perpetuate the sins of the past and more likely to participate in building a better future.

    By Marc Morial
    President, National Urban League

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    Car Review: Lexus GS 350 F Sport

    HOUSTON – After more than a week, it felt like we drove the Lexus GS 350 F Sport sedan through every one of the 600 square miles that comprise this city. And we only found a few irks to complain about.

    Actually, we drove the Lexus GS 350 F Sport to New Orleans and back here. After 10 days and almost 1,000 miles, we came away with a healthy respect for the road worthiness of the midsize luxury sedan.

    Except for going over some rather spacious expansion joints on the causeways that slice through southern Louisiana, not once did any road noise make its way into the cabin.

    Although the Lexus GS F Sport has an available rear-wheel-biased all-wheel-drive system, how often are you going to get inclement weather beyond heavy rain in this region? Anyway, that is a long-winded way of saying that we had a rear-wheel-drive model of the F Sport and it was just fine.

    Still, the car had what Lexus called an adaptable variable suspension that came with its sport package. Settings were normal, sport, sport +, eco and snow. Even though regional gas prices ranged from $2.47 to $2.62, they were cheaper with cash, we set the car in Eco mode because of the distances involved on the trip.

    That mode set throttle mapping and seat heating and climate control systems for optimal fuel economy. In ECO mode, the instrument meter lighting changed to blue. But the sport package is more than an extra setting, sport +, in the drive mode selector. We had a full tank of fuel when we left, we filled the tank again once we arrived and we filled it once more for the return trip.

    The visit to New Orleans included a side trip to Hammond, just North of Lake Pontchartrain, and the place we gassed up the second time.

    Our test car had an EPA rating of 19 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. Considering the 1,000 miles we drove, it was relatively easy on fuel.

    The sport package was comprised of chassis enhancements, a sport tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, larger front brakes that were appreciated with all the sudden slowdowns from Interstate speeds because of traffic congestion and high friction brake pads. Our test car also had lane keep assist and a rearview camera.

    Of course there were firmer springs, thicker stabilizer bars and special bushings.
    Although our test car was not equipped with it, the Lexus GS 350 F Sport has available dynamic rear steer that can add up to two degrees of rear wheel turn that enhances cornering and lane changes.

    No matter whether we were traveling at 80 mph or 8 mph, our 3.5-liter engine performed flawlessly. It generated 308 horsepower, 277 pound-feet of torque and it was mated to an eight-speed transmission. There was no herking or jerking, no searching for the correct gear and the car accelerated swiftly when needed.

    We thought the side view mirrors could have been shaped differently; they didn’t provide a wide enough view of what was on the side of the car. But the blind spot alert system made up for that lack. And in an age of portable electronic gadgets, we thought the car could have used more than one USB jack.

    However, these gripes were mere inconveniences that were more than offset by the driver experience of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport. Our test car was swathed with a black perforated leather interior. The front seats were heated as well as cooled and the driver’s seat was 18-way power. Aluminum pedals and brushed aluminum trim completed the interior’s sport motif.
    The car featured Lexus’ 12.3 inch dual information screen. We spent a lot of time in navigation mode and that gets us to our third quibble. The navigation system will not mute the audio system when giving directions to the driver. A moderate decibel level when playing the radio will drown out the directions being giving by the voice of the navigation system. Yes, there is a map with a designated route but you can miss those directions as well, if your eyes are on the road where they are supposed to be.

    Still, the system had predictive traffic information that included detour preview, ETA calculation and low-fuel coordination with available fuel stations. We didn’t avail ourselves of the traffic information in the navigation system and ended up getting it off the traffic app in the Enform App Suite.
    Either or, this trips marks the last time will travel back to Houston from the Big Easy on the Sunday after Turkey Day. The traffic was as thick as molasses in some places.
    The information system had the usual compliment of stuff: Bluetooth, satellite radio, media capability, meaning it would and did play stations off the Pandora app on our smartphone and there were voice controls.

    Other equipment on the Lexus GS 350 F Sport included adaptive cruise control, land departure warning, pre-collision warning, a 17-speaker 835-watt premium audio system, a rearview camera and folding side mirrors.
    Our Lexus GS 350 F Sport was a quality midsize sedan in one of the most competitive segments of the luxury market. The car had a base price of $47,700. Add options that included the sport package and a $910 freight charge and the final tab was $60,784.


    By Frank S. Washington
    AboutThatCar.com.

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    Month With Mada: Black Lives Matter Symposium brings youth, adults together

    “The Quality of Life in the Baton Rouge Community regarding all age groups, genders, culture needs to be addressed,” said The Rev. Dale W. Flowers during A Black Lives Matter Symposium, July 6 – July 10, at New Sunlight Baptist Church, 1777 America Street.

    Many Black males have been victims or have lost their lives to police brutality and other others, and this has had a major impact in many communities all over this nation. The symposium presenters discussed a wealth of valuable information ranging from crime, poverty, violence, racism, drugs, education, and healthcare. East Baton Rouge Parish Constable Major Reginald Brown provided the bike giveaways. Gift cards came from local businesses.

    On Monday, July 6, panelists discussed adjudicated property, increase in crime, blighted areas, and first-time home ownership. Attorney Winston Riddick and Nun Judith Brun of Sacred Heart Catholic Church shared tips and techniques for better decision making for teenagers. The smaller age group children had information shared from the Southern University and Louisiana State University agriculture centers.

    On Tuesday, July 7, Chief Administrator George Bell discussed the closure of the Mid-City Baton Rouge General Hospital’s emergency room while Sherry Asberry from Our Lady of the Hospital talked about healthcare. State Representative Alfred Williams discussed funding sources that could have been considered in saving the emergency facility. Other presentations involved HIV/AIDS, Clerk of Court-Identification Cards and Fingerprinting.
    Representation from the Baton Rouge Police Department was given by Riley Harbor focusing on crime prevention, proactive/reactive measures, and the importance of Neighborhood Watch Programs and Civic Organizations. The highlight that added to the session on Wednesday July, 8th along with other topics was Tanesha Craig, a fitness instructor talked about healthy diets and led the group in an exercise fitness class. Terrell Johnson, African American World History Professor from Southern University, also gave a dynamic and profound presentation.

    On Thursday, July 9, the topic was education. EBR School Board member Evelyn Ware Jackson and Liz Frischert discussed assessment and accountability, the importance of having an education, and the Common Core Education Program. Marcus Coleman, Dean of Students at Southern University A & M College, shared college preparatory information, academic readiness for the upcoming school term. Norma Veal gave tips on fire safety, and a representative from the Baton Rouge Constable Office talked about the D.A.R.E. Program

    Finally on Friday, July 10, the culminating sessions wrapping up the Black Lives Matter Symposium included a period of questions and answers.

    Flowers said the primary focus and concentration is to devise a plan to improve the quality of life in the community where we reside, work, and live.

    The Black Lives Matter Symposium reached out to children as young as pre-K toddlers to senior citizens. It was a very informative and a much needed dialogue for alerting and keeping the Baton Rouge Community aware of issues affecting many citizens. This symposium showed the importance of knowing what is happening and going on in today’s society.

    By Mada McDonald
    Drum Columnist

    The Month with Mada column shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge. Leave your comments below.

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    To the Class of 2015: ‘Don’t You Turn Back’

    Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. / It’s had tacks in it, /And splinters, / And boards torn up, / And places with no carpet on the floor-Bare. / But all the time / I’se been a-climbin’ on, / And reachin’ landin’s, / And turnin’ corners, / And sometimes goin’ in the dark / Where there ain’t been no light. / So, boy, don’t you turn back.” – Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son,” 1922

     

    If you are disposed to using the Internet as your guide, a diploma will generally be described as the proof of your successful completion of a course of study, or the bestowal of an academic degree. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that diploma in your grasp, occupying a prominent space on a wall or waiting to be pressed into your eager hand is so much more than the sum of your years-long efforts to be where you are today. Your degree is a key that opens a new door, a new phase of life and a new set of challenges.

    Your life’s journey-and its achievements-does not end here. Celebrate, because you’ve earned it; bask in your well-earned feeling of accomplishment today, because tomorrow you will find that there is much work to be done.

    On the other side of that new door is a staircase, and that staircase may not be the kind fashioned from crystal with smooth, reliable, clear-cut steps. Obstacles may slow or impede your climb. There may be tacks, broken floorboards and torn up carpet that would trip, or at worst, defeat someone without the training you have been so fortunate to attain. There is no shortcut here, no elevator, or bypassing of these difficult steps and turns. There is, however, the choice to apply the perseverance and commitment to excellence you have already shown in your higher education journey.

    On the one hand, there is much to celebrate in our country when it comes to academic achievement in African-American communities. Today, we enjoy the highest high school graduation rates in history. More students of color are in college and dropout rates are at historic lows. But the wealth and unemployment gap between Blacks and whites remains wide. While the Black unemployment rate has finally dipped into the single digits, it stubbornly remains more than twice as high as the jobless rate for whites. As our country’s economy continues to make steady gains after the debilitating 2008 recession, millions in Black and Brown communities are being left behind. In this country-founded largely on the principle of economic progress through hard work-the American dream of upward mobility remains only a dream for too many of its citizens.

    Your education, drive and diploma, may likely shield you from the harsh economic realities experienced throughout communities of color across our nation, but it does not strip you of an obligation to be an actor, rather than a spectator, in our country’s struggle to create one nation with liberty, justice and economic opportunity for all.

    No one gets to where they are on his or her own. You have parents, grandparents, friends and family members who invested in your future success, put you on this path and made sure you stayed the course. How will you repay their commitment to you? Whether your ancestors came here by plane, by train, by ship or shackled underneath the hull of a ship; whether the continent they called home was Asia, Europe or Africa, what they did when they reached the shores of our nation, what they sacrificed-all of it is debt incurred. How will you choose to compensate them for their struggles?

    Among you are the teachers who will lift the standard of education in poor communities and begin to close the achievement gap; among you are the preachers who will heal the wounds of communities torn apart by violence; among you are the elected officials who will institute laws and policies that promote social and economic fairness for all of America’s citizens. Herein lies the answer. The answer our nation has been searching for is you and your talent, put to a higher purpose.

    I cannot promise you that your climb to success in this life will be a crystal stair. You may very well encounter dark corners and obstacles. What I can promise you is that you have been prepared to meet these challenges head on. And more than meet these challenges, you have also been prepared to be an actor in solving so many of the longstanding issues and inequities facing our nation, so “don’t you turn back.”

    By Marc Morial
    Guest Columnist

    National Urban League President

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    DRUM CALL: To Be Equal Eric Garner

    Statement from Marc H. Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League, on the Grand Jury’s Decision to Not Indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Chokehold Killing of Eric Garner:

    “There are absolutely no words that can describe the miscarriage of justice that has just occurred in America – yet again. There is no rational or feasib

    le explanation that can ever justify the Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict the person responsible for Eric Garner’s death – a decision which itself defies common sense. Today’s unfortunate outcome – yet another in a tragic series of killings of unarmed Blacks by police officers in just the past six months – further demonstrates that we need a new approach in this nation to police-community relations, the use of excessive force by law enforcement and police accountability for acts of misconduct.

    Eric Garner did not deserve to die. NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo had no reasonable cause to kill him. After repeated review of the facts of this case and what the video clearly shows, what is most ironic is that Eric Garner was being arrested for the misdemeanor of illegally selling cigarettes; yet, the officer who used an illegal chokehold prohibited by the New York Police Department was neither arrested nor indicted. Officer Pantaleo’s actions directly led to the death of an unarmed man who displayed no threatening acts or acts of violence towards him. This cannot continue.

    To Be Equal

    “Every American lives in safe, decent, affordable and energy efficient housing on fair terms.” – National Urban League 2025 housing empowerment goal

    Mel Watt Lowers Mortgage Down Payment Requirement

    NEW YORK, NY – Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt is taking action to turn the American dream of homeownership into reality for many more people. Director Watt recently announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which he regulates and which are linchpins of the nation’s residential mortgage market, will reduce down payment requirements from 5 percent to 3 percent. This will enable many more low-income, but credit-worthy, consumers to become homeowners while helping the nation’s faltering housing market regain its traction.

    We enthusiastically applaud this move and believe that as a result, more African American, Latino and working class borrowers of all races, who face an especially tough time securing mortgages, will have greater access to conventional loans, which are more affordable than other financing options. We are also encouraged that Director Watt’s plan will allow housing counseling in lieu of costly mortgage insurance to be a compensating factor to help make up for low down payments or low credit scores.

    Saving the necessary down payment to purchase a home is one of the biggest obstacles to attaining the American Dream, especially for communities of color. African Americans and Latinos typically have lower incomes and are less likely to receive an inheritance or first-time buying help from their parents than white Americans. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, while it takes the typical white family 14 years to save for a 5 percent down payment, plus closing costs, it takes the typical Latino family 17 years and the typical African American family 21 years to save those amounts.

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    Month with Mada: Let’s keep it real

    LET’S KEEP IT REAL

    As the election results were announced, it became more and more a concern that President Barack Obama name was exposed.  Our President is the President of this Nation.  He has nothing to do with the present situations in the Senate and House of Representatives.    They have fought against him since day one.  President Barack Obama inherited problems from the Nixon, Reagan, Bush Administrations and all of a sudden the Republicans want to turn deaf ear and act as if these matters had not existed?

    The Republicans have fought against President Barack Obama from day one.  The Republicans show no respect, they work and  try to overpower the first man in office and think because they rule the house/senate it is okay to overrule, but this nation, most importantly, is governed and supported by  our President, President Barack Obama.  Let it be known, he has the final say-so.

    In all honestly, we are not asleep, many of us are  tired of the fight between the House and Senate on Capitol Hill. “Let’s Keep It Real” and come together over the next several years to bring our local, state and national union together for betterment of our communities, state, local and on a national/international component.

    By Mada McDonald
    The Drum Columnist

    Month with Mada shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge.  Leave your comments below.

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    Month with Mada: Free Albert Woodfox

    FREE ALBERT WOODFOX

    On October 4, 2014, in New Orleans, Louisiana, a press conference and Angola 3 Second Line commemorating the one year anniversary of death of Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3.  The 1pm event began at the Treme’ Center and ended with a Second Line to unveil the Solitary Garden Project, 1651 North Robertson Street.

    For at least 41 years ago, the Angola 3–three young Black men, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King–were put in solitary confinement and have spent a total of more than 100 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. They claimed their innocence and refused to be unheard or silenced;  the fight for justice continues. (Read Amnesty’s report on the Angola 3)

    Robert King, Angola 3 inmate was released in 2001, after 29 years of solitary confinement .  As per Robert,  “I may be free of Angola. But, Angola will never be free of me”.

    Herman was given his freedom last year, but four days after being released, he passed away due to a terminal illness.

    Albert Woodfox remains in Angola. Today, Albert is awaiting word from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as his third overturned conviction will stand.

    A recent article in the Journal of Law and Social Deviance titled “Activism Unshackled & Justice Unchained: A Call to Make a Human Right Out of One of the Most Calamitous Human Wrongs to Have Taken Place on Human Soil,” Southern University law professor and a dear friend of A3 Coalition, Angela A. Allen-Bell argues that the United States government’s repression of the Black Panther Party, (where it all began for the Angola 3), has had a major and significant impact on court proceedings for the Angola 3.  “Terrorism, COINTELPRO, and the Black Panther Party – An interview with Professor Angela A. Allen Bell tells the truth about this overall situation.  “The social movements of the 1960s/1970s remains an open wound for the nation itself”.  “This is more than a national tragedy; this is a human wrong.”

    Since 2009, the Angola 3 news projects has conducted numerous interviews focusing on different entities and aspects of the Black Panther Party. The sole concentrations at this time is to Free Albert Woodfox and abolish prolonged solitary confinement. These efforts are supported by the Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Amnesty International and Amnesty U.S.A. and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

    We come together as a people. We plea and cry out in remembrance of Herman’s life and legacy and continue with prayers and positive hope to fight each and every day for the release of Albert Woodfox.

    Please correspond with Governor Bobby Jindal, the Attorney General’s Office, President Barack Obama and other local, state, and national constituents and visit amnesty.org for further information. To review the film “Land of the Free”  go to www.inthelandofthe freefilm.co.uk or the main A3 website at www.angola3.org/; or www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kot68mrqCI to see The Amnesty International video about Angola 3.

    Most importantly, FREE ALBERT WOODFOX, he has served time for a crime not committed.  It is time for JUSTICE to prevail.

     

    By Mada McDonald
    The Drum Columnist

    Month with Mada shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge.  Leave your comments below.

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  • Month with Mada

    LAW WEEK AND THE ANGOLA 3
    The Southern Univer- sity Law School hosted Law Week March 17 -March 21, including solitary confinement exhibition dis-play. The celebration included a memorial program for Herman Wallace, a true vision- ary and member of the Angola 3. The keynote speaker was Robert King. As a member of the Black Panther Party while in prison, the system silenced is- sues and concerns and forced many prisoners into solitary confinement so problems that occurred did not seep out of the prison walls. King spent 29 years in solitary confinement, living in a 6’ x 9’ cell with very little or no contact with the prison general population and special privileges are very limited. “Solitary confinement is slavery,” said King. He was released from Angola Prison in 2001. Many plays, books and studies have been written, making the Angola 3 story known all over the world. King said, “Herman Wallace would be delighted by the support”.

    Malik Rahim was the special guest speaker and also was a member of the Black Panther Party. He shared many encounters with law enforcement and the penal institutions and urged the law students in attendance at this special program. “You can make a difference to change the justice system”.

    Rahim said 2 million individuals are on parole/ probation and omore than a million Black males are in prison.

    King and Rahim made it clear in their presenta- tions that many prisoners have been framed due to their political beliefs.

    In memory of Herman Wallace, who spent more than 30 years in solitary confinement was finally re- leased from prison in Octo- ber 2013. Herman died two days later after battling and suffering with a terminal illness. He never received the proper medical care while incarcerated.He died before justice was able to prevail on his behalf. Wal- lace is loved by many family members, friends and will be greatly missed.

    The other Angola 3 inmate is Albert Woodfox, remains in solitary confine- ment after more than 30 years.

    The Angola 3 Coalition and Amnesty International strongly continue to fight and are vocal and visible. The Angola 3 story is known locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. It has been a catalyst for discussions on the treatment prisoners in solitary confinement receives in the legislature and other judicial processes.

    King and Rahim gave soul-stirring messages and captivated the audience discussing the challenges they encountered while be- ing in prison.

    There is a bill in the Louisiana Legislature HR- 1, addressing solitary confinement restrictions and how long a prisoner should remain in solitary confine- ment.

    Proclamations have been declared regarding the Angola 3, stating that these three individuals are not guilty for crime that they served time in such deplor- able conditions. The fight is moving strong to free and release Woodfox.

    He is older, has health concerns, and needs to walk as a free man as soon as possible.

    This month’s program at Southern was very inspirational.Hats off to Professor Angela Bell, all of the Pre enters and the Students of the Southern University Law Center.

    This new column shares community events and activities compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist 

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