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‘Don’t Be Late for Poetry’

THE AFRO — Baltimore has some of the most talented, raw, award winning poets in the nation. In acknowledgement of National Poetry Month. The AFRO kicked off our celebration at “Don’t Be Late for Poetry,” a collaborative event hosted by one of Baltimore’s most popular poetry event curators APoetNamedNate and Dew More Baltimore, an organization that uses art as tool to increase civic engagement.

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Nia June is known for posing lyrical brain teasers for her audiences: “Don’t you know being a black woman is being God with no believers? Now ain’t that some s#€t to be mad about?” (Photo by: Betty Harvin)

Interview by Betty Harvin

Baltimore has some of the most talented, raw, award winning poets in the nation. In acknowledgement of National Poetry Month. The AFRO kicked off our celebration at “Don’t Be Late for Poetry,” a collaborative event hosted by one of Baltimore’s most popular poetry event curators APoetNamedNate and Dew More Baltimore, an organization that uses art as tool to increase civic engagement.

The AFRO caught up with one of Charm City’s most prolific young artists, Nia June, at the historic Arenas Players Theatre to give them a platform to share some of the thoughts and experience behind their spoken words.

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In season with Nia June

AFRO: What made you name yourself Nia June?

Nia June: Nia means purpose in Swahili and that was a big process for me because my whole life I had grown up studying dance and I thought that that was my purpose because that’s what I spent most of my time doing, but then I found poetry and that completely changed my life, so I felt like with PURPOSE NIA was the best name, and then June. So, you know the process after April, what we’re in right now, where there’s a lot of rain and the struggle to get back? I feel like June is that first month where we finally see..

AFRO: THE HARVEST….

NJ: YEAH! Like we finally see all of this hard work and growth and change that we just went through, and that’s a big part of me and I feel like that’s another thing that happened with the poetry, I did all of this transformation just to find my voice. So yeah, that’s what Nia June means.

AFRO: So on stage I was captured by all of your words and most of it was the system and not only that but the school, politics, poverty, and plagues that reign in our city. What I want to know is what inspired you? Those things seem like they inspire you the most, but what made you want to come out of your shell and talk about those the most?

NJ: I would say the passing of my father. We all assumed he was clean so it was very rough, it was unexpected and I think finding out that he had been dealing with that and so many mental illnesses. He was living in a very poor community in Baltimore and he was deprived of a lot of things he deserved like basic necessities, you know, food, just nurturing, you know, energy and things like that. I realized that within that community there are a lot of people who have this exact same story, whose voices are not being heard so that was my biggest inspiration. That piece about my dad was the first piece that I wrote and then it all just came flowing from there and that’s my biggest inspiration and now I actually teach kids in Baltimore City, so hearing their stories as well as another layer of inspiration there and stories that need to be heard.

AFRO: The end of your segment, the poem that was about the Baltimore City Schools City system, the poem that was about the biggot, I love the way that you shared that that poem would be entered into the seventh grade curriculum, can you tell us a little bit about that?

NJ: Yeah so, that was an amazing experience, so it started off with a teacher,he heard the poem and really liked it, his name is Mr. O. He works at City Springs and he had his class do a socratic seminar through poem and the kids loved it They dissected it and from the poem, they came to the conclusion that the school system was kinda set up to lead the kids to prison; the School to Prison pipeline. They actually wrote policy changes in a paragraph quoting my poem and presented it to their principal.

AFRO: Wow, that is the power of one voice, with the intention to inspire the masses of the children and you got to see what that turned out to look like. For you to be inspired by those same children and for them to be inspired by you and to identify with your words and see that in their own stories is amazing.

NJ: Yeah, they pulled out the policies that were similar to prison like the bathrooms being locked, the uniforms, not being able to travel places on your own. They had to have their cell phones locked up, so all of these things they felt were restricting them and that manifested into him ultimately submitting the poem to the district to be included into the curriculum.

This article originally appeared in The Afro
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Bill Introduced to Improve Maternal Healthcare

THE AFRO — Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

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D.C. City Council member Charles Allen wrote a bill in support of expanding maternal health care opportunities to expectant mothers. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray

Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

The D.C. City Council is pondering a bill that pushes for better maternal health care services that would be covered under all forms of insurance in an attempt to provide better prenatal care for expectant mothers in the District.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen introduced legislation that proposes expanding the list of medical care provisions for expectant mothers. The Maternal Health Care Improvement and Expansion Act of 2019 would also create a Center for Maternal Wellness and includes a travel stipend to aid in transportation so patients can reach their preferred health care provider consistently during pregnancy.

“We know women need more access to health care during and after a pregnancy,” Allen said in his statement. “We know community-centered health care can improve outcomes.”

However, Black mothers are facing more dangerous outcomes during their pregnancies.  Figures reported by Allen’s office state Black women are dying at a rate that is three to four times higher than White expectant mothers.  Low income mothers are struggling to gain consistent regular preventive, prenatal and postpartum care which is contributing to the D.C.’s high maternal mortality rate also.

“Last year, this Council created a Maternal Mortality Review Committee, but we don’t have to wait for results to make improvements,” said Allen.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Councilmember Vincent Gray, would require private insurers, Medicaid, and the D.C. Healthcare Alliance to add pre and post natal services to it’s benefits.  It would cover at least two postpartum health care visits and home visits for maternal care and fertility preservation services. Currently, Medicaid only includes one postpartum visit after six weeks and ends postpartum medical coverage at 60 days.

Allen’s proposal addresses the barriers facing patients who find it difficult when traveling to their health care provider by offering financial assistance for travel to and from prenatal and postpartum visits.  Transportation availability is seen as a vital cog in the hope of improving infant survival rates in D.C.

“We know for some women transportation is a barrier,” Allen stated. “That’s why this bill also includes a travel stipend to get to their preferred health care provider. If we can’t get people there, none of these other changes will make a difference.”

This bill would extend coverage to one full year for extremely low income residents who are living well below the federal poverty line.

The bill also calls for establishing a Center on Maternal Health and Wellness. Allen wants to build community among women who are pregnant and would consolidate a portion of services to be conveniently available in one location.  The Center would offer childcare onsite while making its services available through telehealth and online.

At the Center, a group of maternal care coordinators would advise pregnant mothers on how to navigate through the services available in the District during pregnancy and postpartum.  It will promote maternal support groups and provide health and nutrition counseling, and distribute prenatal vitamins. Group counseling services would also be available for individuals or family members who have been impacted by an infant’s or mother’s death. This is similar to the District’s comprehensive breastfeeding center. 

“We know a sense of community can help pregnant women and new mothers talk through challenges,” said Allen.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Larry Young Does It Again

THE AFRO — Larry Young, former State Senator and venerable Baltimore talk show host has again been named one of the top talk radio personalities in America. The Talkers Magazine, one of the most important publications in the world of talk radio, named Young one of its “Heavy Hundred,” the 100 “Most Important Talk Show Hosts in America.”

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Larry Young, host of the Larry Young Morning Show on WOLB 1010AM, was once again named one of the best radio talk show hosts in America, by Talkers Magazine. (Courtesy Photo)

By AFRO Staff

Larry Young, former State Senator and venerable Baltimore talk show host has again been named one of the top talk radio personalities in America.

The Talkers Magazine, one of the most important publications in the world of talk radio, named Young one of its “Heavy Hundred,” the 100 “Most Important Talk Show Hosts in America.”

Young, host of the “Larry Young Morning Show” on WOLB 1010 AM, was ranked number 41 in the 2019 edition of Talkers Magazine It is the silver anniversary, 25th edition of the magazine. This year Young moved up in the national rankings, going from number 50 in 2018 to his current ranking at 41.

According to the magazine, the rankings are compiled based on several criteria: effort, courage, impact, longevity, potential, recognition, service, talent and uniqueness.

Congratulations LY!

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Afro

Baltimore Black Engineers Celebrate 30 Years

THE AFRO — The chapter had a black tie gala fundraiser to support for their work to support collegiate and pre-collegiate students, as well as professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The event included an awards ceremony, which honored individuals and organizations recognizing outstanding achievement in various areas in support of the NSBE-BMAC mission.

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(L to R: Mrs. Steffanie B. Easter, Director, Navy Staff, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; Mrs. Earnestine Baker, Executive Director – Emerita Meyerhoff Scholars Program, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Legacy Achievement Award Honoree; Dr. Eugene M. DeLoatch, Dean Emeritus Morgan State University School of Engineering, Legacy Achievement Award Honoree; Dr. James E. West, Inventor, Professor, Johns Hopkins University, Legacy Achievement Award Honoree; Mr. William S. Redmond, III, President, NSBEBMAC) (Courtesy Photo)
By AFRO Staff

On June 22, nearly 200 people gathered at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture, in downtown Baltimore to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the National Society of Black Engineers Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter (NSBE-BMAC).

The chapter had a black tie gala fundraiser to support for their work to support collegiate and pre-collegiate students, as well as professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The event included an awards ceremony, which honored individuals and organizations recognizing outstanding achievement in various areas in support of the NSBE-BMAC mission.

Steffanie B. Easter, director of Navy Staff for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, was the keynote speaker.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Howard Leads HBCU Awards

THE AFRO — Howard University is leading with 12 finalist nominations in the 2019 HBCU Awards.  Presented by HBCU Digest, the HBCU Awards are the first and only national awards ceremony honoring individual and institutional achievements at history Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

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Howard University led with 12 finalist nominations for the 2019 HBCU Awards presented by the {HBCU Digest}, including President Wayne A.I. Frederick, pictured in the suit, who was nominated for Best Male President. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

Howard University is leading with 12 finalist nominations in the 2019 HBCU Awards.  Presented by HBCU Digest, the HBCU Awards are the first and only national awards ceremony honoring individual and institutional achievements at history Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Known as “The Mecca,” or “Black Ivy” some of Howar’s nominations include College of the Year, Male President of the Year, Best Student Government Association (SGA) and Best Board of Trustees.

“It is fitting for Howard University to lead this year’s sterling panel of nominees,” said HBCU Digest Founding Editor Jarrett Carter according to a press release.  “They had an extraordinary academic year highlighted with several individual and collective accomplishments that represented the best of America’s flagship historically black institution, and the spirit of the HBCU mission at large. The Howard community and the District of Columbia should take great pride in HU’s work this year.”

All winners are selected by a panel of previous winners, journalists, HBCU executives, students and alumni.

President Wayne A.I. Frederick, who is nominated for Best Male President of the Year, weighed in on the accomplishments.

“It is an honor to receive 12 nominations in the 2019 HBCU Awards,” he said.  “HBCUs produce many of the best and brightest scholars and these nominations reflect the hard work of our students, faculty, staff and alumni to embody Howard University’s mission of Truth and Service.”

Howard’s full nominations include:

Best Research Center– Howard University Data Science and Cybersecurity Center

Best Business Program – Howard University School of Business

Best Social Work Program – Howard University School of Social Work

Best Student Newspaper – The Hilltop

Best SGA– Howard University Student Association

Female Student of the Year – Jaylin Paschal, immediate past editor of The Hilltop

Female Faculty of the Year – Keneshia Grant, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science

Alumna of the Year – Ezinne Kwubiri, H&M head of Inclusion and Diversity, North America

Alumnus of the Year – Charles D. King, MACRO founder and CEO

Male President of the Year – Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA

Board of Trustees of the Year – Howard University Board of Trustees

HBCU of the Year – Howard University

The actual awards ceremony will be held on Friday, August 2 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in downtown Baltimore.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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2018 NNPA DTU Journalism Fellowship

Church Ministers Through Little Library

THE AFRO — St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Hyattsville, MD. is using books as a means of bringing education, entertainment and hope to the community.

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St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Hyattsville, MD. officially dedicated the first Little Library solely for children on June 30. (Photo by: Micha Green)

By Micha Green

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Hyattsville, MD. is using books as a means of bringing education, entertainment and hope to the community.

Two days after St. Matthew’s church member Bernard Jarvis, 25, was gunned down in nearby Brentwood in Northeast, D.C., the parish unveiled a Little Library for children in the neighborhood between services on June 30.  While the planning of the Little Library had been in the works for months, Rector Rev. Vidal Rivas and Associate Priest Sister Elena Thompson remembered Jarvis during the Little Library dedication.

As the community mourned the loss of Jarvis, the birth of the Little Library brought a clear sense of joy to those who attended its unveiling.

“I think this is a little hope, to say as we remember the member that passed away, we can still continue to support those little kids that are growing up and contributing to this Little Library in his memory as well,” Hyattsville City Council member Edoard Haba (Ward 4) told the AFRO.

Haba shared that he felt the creation of the Little Library was important to children’s education and thus kids’ overall growth.

“Education is important in youth and kids’ development,” he said.

The City Council member is so inspired by the Little Library concept that he is working to have more built throughout Hyattsville.

“As part of my vision for the community, I also plan to install a couple more of these Little Libraries throughout the community.  We have three that are slated to be installed by the end of this month,” he said.

While Hyattsville already has a Little Library, according to Sister Thompson explained that the St. Matthew’s location is the only one solely dedicated to young people.

“The Little Library is a movement that is all across the country now, and they’re about a dozen Little Libraries already in Hyattsville, but this is the first one specifically dedicated to books for children,” she told the AFRO.

Thompson shared the logical and historic reasons why having a Little Library made sense for the neighborhood surrounding St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo.

“We got the idea to put the Little Library here in two ways. One of which is that we have many children, when school gets out, walking right past our building. And the second is that this parish has a history of providing library services to the community, that goes back to the years in which the Hyattsville library was racially segregated,” she said.

According to Thompson, parish families worked to create an inclusive library.

“There was a family here named Hotchkiss who wanted to be sure that reading and books were available to all children. And so they and others established a parish library.  The family of Owen Thomas gave a large grant, when this building was built in 1953, to make sure that there’d be a dedicated library space to which everyone could come,” she told the AFRO.

However, overtime, the demand for an inclusive library affiliated with the church became less as the public library eventually integrated.

“So we still have some of those old books, and we got into a discussion about what we should do with our old books from our old library and the children who are here in our church, in our day school and in the public school who come walking past us,” Thompson said. “And we brought up the idea of a Little Library and the Junior Warden immediately said, ‘I would like to build that.’  His name is Jose Ramirez. Jose went to his workshop, and over the next three months, built this library from scratch, and last Monday installed it.”

The need for a Little Library was further emphasized once installed, as community members began using it  before the formal dedication.

“The community already responded- brought books, taken books and we are looking forward to a big outreach as well as an internal ministry for the Parish,” Thompson explained.

Using the ministry of education, the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) group at  St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo will be sharing the Little Library idea.

“Our ECW is going on a visit to another parish that has another school, and we hope to be able to tell them our story, and help them to begin a Little Library ministry of their own.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Bodden Foundation to Address Mental Health

THE AFRO — Former NFL defensive back and Prince George’s County native Leigh Bodden knows all too well about dealing with pain and putting on a brave face.  Most of Bodden’s contemporaries hid behind the mask on the field and in the locker room, as it was recognized as a sign of weakness if there were moments of vulnerability that exposed mental health issues.

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The Leigh Bodden Foundation in partnership with Lauryn’s Law, is collaborating to raise awareness about the causes of suicide and mental illness in Maryland. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray

Former NFL defensive back and Prince George’s County native Leigh Bodden knows all too well about dealing with pain and putting on a brave face.  Most of Bodden’s contemporaries hid behind the mask on the field and in the locker room, as it was recognized as a sign of weakness if there were moments of vulnerability that exposed mental health issues.

Bodden has also seen how the effects of not dealing with mental health issues can have fatal consequences.  So as he did during his eight-year pro football career, he’s attacking the unspoken killer of so many people in his community head on.

The Leigh Bodden Foundation in partnership with Lauryn’s Law, is collaborating to raise awareness about the causes of suicide and mental illness in Maryland.  It will kickoff during a charity kickball game August 4 at Bowie Baysox Stadium. A group of local celebrities and former professional athletes will compete following the Baltimore Orioles Minor League affiliate’s game.  Their goal is to address these very personal issues that plague so many Americans and raise money to help those who have been affected.

“There are stresses in life that affect people in different ways,” Bodden told the AFRO.  “People need to understand when they need to talk to someone about their problems they shouldn’t be ashamed.  Suicide is not like cancer or HIV, its a silent killer.”

Bodden personally understands the devastation of mental health issues leading to suicide.  When he played for the New England Patriots, two of his former teammates would ultimately take their lives prematurely.  He recalls how Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau was one of the most gregarious and fun loving players in the locker room.  However, after he retired his life spiraled downward to the point where he committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest in 2012.

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez also led a destructive life, which ended his career as he appeared to be on the cusp of greatness.  After signing a massive free agent contract he was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison in a well publicized case. He also ended his life by committing suicide while in jail.

Those deaths were attributed to chronic traumatic encephalopathy

known as CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to repeated hits to the head and is common in former NFL players who have taken their lives.  The onset of CTE developed because of brain damage that began while Seau and Hernandez were playing football.

However, the game changer for Bodden was the death of his best friend Barry who committed suicide after struggling with personal issues that he never talked about.  Barry never opened up about the feelings that were beneath the surface after he had been bullied. Bodden still recounts how he could have been an ear to listen for his fallen friend.

To honor that relationship, “Barry’s Game” is what the charity kickball game will be known as, and it also served as the impetus for his foundation to partner with Lauryn’s Law.  Lauryn’s Law requires that school counselors receive proper training to spot warning signs of mental illness, trauma, violence or substance abuse.

The law was passed in 2013 after Lauryn Santiago took her own life at 15 years-old. In the months leading up to Lauryn’s death, her mother Linda Diaz, was aware that her child was facing difficulty at school. Lauryn’s mother reached out to the school and asked for the counselor to set up a meeting with Lauryn about being bullied but it was too late.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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