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Archive for April 27th, 2012

Scholars Address wide impact of unconscious bias; promote racial healing and racial equity

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on Scholars Address wide impact of unconscious bias; promote racial healing and racial equity

 

Healing for Democracy Conference was hosted by W.K. Kellogg Foundation New Orleans

   

 

NEW ORLEANS Leading social justice scholars said  that “unconscious bias” is a major obstacle for communities across the United States because negative racial stereotypes can      unknowingly prompt discriminatory actions and attitudes impacting the lives of people of color.

 

At the Healing for Democracy conference hosted by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), a panel – moderated by Maria Hinajosa, anchor and managing editor of NPR’s Latino USA – discussed the role that unconscious bias plays in access to employment opportunities, school discipline action, immigration, health care access, criminal justice and social opportunities for African Americans, Latinos, Asian American and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.

 

Hinojosa said it is “irrefutable” what is happening in America today. “We are clearly becoming a more multicultural, multiracial, mixed country. That is the future.” But she noted that the changing demographics are causing tension and fear among the majority. “There’s an element of unconsciousness there,” she said, “but there’s also an element of consciousness which is saying – at this moment I’m in the world of being a non-Hispanic Anglo…I don’t want to become a minority.”

 

One panelist, Dr. David Williams, professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, cited studies documenting that when Latinos and African Americans were treated by physicians for a broken bone in their leg, they received pain medication significantly less often than white patients with the same injury.

 

“How on earth do we make sense of this?” Dr. Williams asked. “How is it possible that for the best trained medical workforce in the world to produce… care that appears to be so discriminatory? The answer: unconscious discrimination. Research shows that when one holds a negative stereotype about a group and meets someone from that group, without their conscious awareness, it is an unconscious process and it is automatic. They will treat that person differently and honestly not know that they did it.”

 

Dr. Williams noted that most Americans would resist a label saying they are discriminating, but he added, “Welcome to the human race. It is a normal process about how all of us process information. The problem for our society is that the level of negative stereotypes is very high.”

 

Understanding the power of unconscious bias has emerged as a new mission for leaders and advocates working to bring racial healing and racial equity to communities across the U.S.

 

Dr. Gail Christopher, vice president for program strategy at the Kellogg Foundation, explained that centuries of a racial hierarchy in America has left its mark on our society, especially pertaining to how people of color are perceived by whites. “Our society assigns value to groups of people,” she said. “It is a process that is embedded in the consciousness of Americans and impacted by centuries of bias.”

 

During the discussion today, panelists shared insights demonstrating how people make unconscious decisions. Dr. Phillip Goff, assistant psychology professor at UCLA, showed examples ofhow law enforcement officials can be motivated by unconscious bias not only to race, but also to what they perceive as threats to their masculinity.

 

Moreover, Rachel Godsil, director of research for the American Values Institute, maintained that many Americans believe that racism no longer exists and want to be colorblind and not even discuss race. “That is an illusion,” Godsil said, “and not what people of color are looking for.”

 

The last panelist, john powell, director of the Haas Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion at the University of California Berkeley, closed the session sharing several examples of how our mind looks at pictures, images and the world around us, and the impact on our unconscious. He said, ” the fact that we have these deep, unconscious biases – and it’s conflicted around race … we can be primed to be racially fair, we can be primed to be racially anxious – and it doesn’t make us a racist. It makes us human. And if we’re going to address it, we have to acknowledge that.

 

This convening is part of the WKKF’s America Healing work that provides grants for organizations to promote racial healing and racial equity to improve the lives of vulnerable children in communities.

 

For more information about America Healing, visit www.AmericaHealing.org.

 

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

 

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create the conditions where vulnerable children can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

 

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

 

 

State Senator Raoul’s proposal allows small businesses to form purchasing groups, save money on benefits

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on State Senator Raoul’s proposal allows small businesses to form purchasing groups, save money on benefits
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th)’s proposal to allow more businesses to form health care purchasing groups has passed the Senate. Because groups of businesses can negotiate lower rates than individual businesses, the legislation will result in lower costs for employers and a greater incentive to insure employees.

“Purchasing groups have a history of providing superior care at competitive prices in Illinois and other states,” Sen. Raoul said. “I want to expand this option at a time when we desperately need to make our state more business-friendly while also making it a great place to work.”

Senate Bill 2885 allows businesses with up to 2,500 employees to join health care purchasing groups. Previously, Illinois law had restricted membership in such groups to businesses with 500 or fewer workers. Businesses in a health care purchasing group pool their collective size to negotiate better prices for health insurance by reducing risk for the insurer, so opening the door to larger businesses could drive prices even lower.

Federal health care reform legislation has also authorized $6 billion in federal loans to assist in the creation of health insurance cooperatives, which allow businesses to band together and contract directly with health care providers.  These two options – health care co-ops and purchasing groups – will help more businesses insure their workers, leading to better health outcomes and fewer working people forced to purchase costly individual insurance, apply for medical assistance, or go without coverage.

“Purchasing groups and co-ops are critical to reaching the goal of health care access for all Illinoisans,” said Sen. Raoul. “Working with all stake-holders to craft viable legislation has not been easy, but giving small businesses and workers these new options will be well worth the effort.”

Small businesses that offer group health insurance pay an average of 18 percent more in premiums and 25 percent more in administrative costs than larger companies.

“This legislation helps level the playing field so that small and medium-sized businesses can compete and grow,” Sen. Raoul said.

New African-American news portal looks to reshape “Black News”

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on New African-American news portal looks to reshape “Black News”

DALLAS, TX (BlackNews.com) — The Black American News Network has launched its new website at www.tbann.com. Based in Dallas, Texas, this new online news portal is looking to make its mark. “TBANN is looking to reshape black news just as BET reshaped black entertainment,” says owner Dameon Runnels.

“The ‘T’ in TBANN stands for our company’s core operating values – timely, trusted and true news coverage,” says Runnels. “Timely, because we believe our readers deserve the latest news, trusted because we will only use trusted sources for our information and true because the truth is the most important element in every story.”

“TBANN is not just for African-Americans, it’s for everyone interested in the current topics and issues that affect African-Americans,” says Runnels, “TBANN is a trusted news source for all who want to engage black America.”

A major goal of TBANN is to connect its readers to the stories. With nearly a decade at one of the nation’s top news organizations (The Dallas Morning News) Runnels strongly believes he knows what it takes to deliver that connection. “You have to be committed to your audience and finely tuned into their world. Otherwise the connection is never made,” Runnels says.

TBANN also wants to connect stories and readers through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. “These sites have a large number of African-American users that are heavily engaged with today’s top issues. Any business should be where their people are and the same goes for us at TBANN. We’re asking people to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter,” Runnels says.

In 2010, over 13.4 million African-Americans went online to get their news according to a Pew Research report on American journalism. TBANN plans to attract them by providing a news website that reflects their interests and concerns.

TBANN also has a mobile website that caters to smart phone users. TBANN mobile is a streamlined version of the main site designed to give the latest news to users on the go.

“Whether it’s at a desk or on the go, we want to make access to TBANN as easy as possible,” says Runnels.

Illinois State Board of Education announces meeting schedule changes

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on Illinois State Board of Education announces meeting schedule changes

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education has announced several changes to its upcoming meeting schedule. 

The May and June meetings are now scheduled as one-day meetings on May 17 and June 21 in Springfield. The meetings will be held in the 4th Floor Board Room at 100 N. First Street.  Please watch for the final posting notice on the Friday before the meeting for the meeting time.

Additional meeting dates and details, including the 2013 meeting schedule, are listed below: 

2012 Board of Education Meeting Schedule
Changes are noted in bold and underlined text.

Please check back to the ISBE website (www.isbe.net/calendar) for final meeting postings.

Date

Description

May 17 Springfield (Note: one-day meeting)
June 21 Springfield (Note: one-day meeting)
July No Meeting
August 16 one-day meeting via video-conference (10:00 a.m.)
(Springfield & Chicago ISBE v-tel rooms)
September 19-20 Board Strategic Agenda Planning Session – Bloomington
Eastland Suites Hotel & Conference Center, 1801 Eastland Drive
October 29-30 Richton Park – Southland College Prep Charter School4601 Sauk Trail, Richton Park, IL
November 16 Chicago – Hyatt Regency (as needed); (10:30 a.m.)
December 12-13 Springfield

 

2013 Board of Education Meeting Schedule

Please check back to the ISBE website (www.isbe.net/calendar) for final meeting postings.

Date

Description

January 23-24 Springfield
February 20 via video-conference (10 a.m.)
(Springfield & Chicago ISBE v-tel
March 20-21 Metro-East area (location to be determined)
April 16 via video-conference (10 a.m.)
(Springfield & Chicago v-tel rooms)
May 16 Springfield (10 a.m.)
June 19-20 Suburban Chicago Area
July No Meeting
August 15 via video-conference (10 a.m.)
(Springfield & Chicago v-tel rooms)
September 18-19 Board Strategic Agenda Planning Session – Bloomington
October 23-24 Downstate (Tentatively in Marion; location to be determined.)
November 22 Chicago – Hyatt Regency (as needed) (10:30 a.m.)
December 18-19 Springfield

 

  • State Board of Education meetings in Springfield are held in the 4th Floor Board Room at 100 North First Street, Springfield, Illinois.
  • Video Conference Meetings are held

Springfield Location:                               Chicago Location:

Illinois State Board of Education             Illinois State Board of Education

100 North First Street                              James R. Thompson Center

V-Tel Room (3rd Floor)                             100 West Randolph – Suite 14-300

                                                              V-Tel Room (14th Floor)

  • One-day meetings typically begin at 10 a.m. to allow time for closed session as necessary.
  • Two-day meetings begin at 1 p.m. on first day and adjourn shortly after lunch on second day.

Father of twin boys writes tribute to Trayvon Martin

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on Father of twin boys writes tribute to Trayvon Martin

 

Hopes it will reduce gun violence

 

By Chinta Strausberg

 

While recently driving home, Darryl Duncan, a father of twin teenage boys, turned up the radio when he heard about the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and before he got home in less than a half-hour, he had written a song entitled “18” to a youth he never knew.

Duncan, founder, president and CEO of the Flow Corporate Audio Group and Gamebeat Studio located in south suburban Matteson, has been a writer/producer for more than 30-years.

With his sons being around the same age as Martin, Duncan said he was overwhelmed at hearing how Martin was followed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a volunteer watchman at a gated Sanford, Florida gated community. Zimmerman was armed, which was against the complex’s rules, and Martin only had a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea.

“I thought of my own two children who are 16-years-old. I thought of them and the fear Trayvon must have went through in the last moments of his life trying to figure out who this guy was and why was he following him,” said Duncan. “That was the perspective of the song—Trayvon’s speaking to the man who took his life.”

Duncan said he wrote 80 percent of the song while driving home. He put it all together when he got to his studio.

Asked his initial feelings when he first learned about Martin’s death, Duncan said, “When it all came out, it saddened me as it did most people. What bothered me the most about it was the fact that this gentleman (Zimmerman) was not an official neighborhood watchman. He was not operating in an official capacity.

“When he encountered Trayvon, he initially, immediately assumed that Trayvon was a criminal and up to no good; so every action he took was based on him assuming and being certain in his own mind that he was encountering a criminal, a bad guy someone who was there to break into someone’s house. He never really gave him a benefit of the doubt…. He just assumed he was a criminal and that’s the sad part,” said Duncan.

In talking about this case with his family and friends, Duncan said no one knows what actually happened when Martin was killed, but he wonders “what Trayvon was thinking and he’s walking to his home and is continually being pursued by this gentlemen who doesn’t have on a uniform and is not in any type of marked or official car.., what would any 17-year-old think? Was he thinking he was going to be hurt, robbed, mugged or killed?

“At some point, Trayvon turned around and said, ‘what is going on? What do you want? Why are you following me’? What ever transpired from that point on should not have happened because Zimmerman was told not to pursue him. As far as I am concerned, everything after that is on Zimmerman because he never should have continued to pursue him when he was clearly told by the police not to pursue him. The police were called. They were coming. There was no need for Zimmerman to pursue him and he did so because he knew he had protection on him, a gun.

“The tragedy for me is the fact that Trayvon need not have lost his life,” Duncan said. He said a conversation should have been initiated and “Trayvon would have been on his way…. Nothing good could have come out of this situation especially when he was carrying a gun. It’s a real tragedy. Zimmerman made some key decisions that he should not have made that night.”

In producing the song, Duncan reached out to Emmy award winning international vocalist Joan Collaso who recommended Isaiah Robinson. “I auditioned him over the phone, and his voice blew me away,” said Duncan. Collaso also recommended a 12-member gospel choir from New Faith Baptist Church. Duncan played all of the instruments, did the mixing and productions.

His message in producing the song is clear. “It was originally dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Martin,” said Duncan. “If you listen to it from a lyrical perspective, it’s very easy to lay this song across the tragedy of gun violence all over this country. The song is about Trayvon in general, but the fact that so many children do not reach their 18th birthday because of violence” is a tragedy. His song asked why can’t I reach my 18th birthday.  I want my 18.“

“That message,” said Duncan, “that communities all over battling gang violence, gun violence and violence in general can connect to.” He has received a bevy of positive messages and e-mails about his song and that half say the song brings tears to their eyes “because it is from Trayvon’s perspective…Trayvon’s singing from the grave asking ‘where is my 18’’”

Duncan wants the message to be “that all children deserve to reach their 18th birthday and beyond and that we need to figure out a way to end this senseless violence in the street, end the gang violence, end unnecessary deaths all together. While I know this song is not the one tool to do it, it can help. It can go a long way to help people look at it differently and maybe do more about it on a personal level.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

Better Business Bureau: Make yours a wedding to remember – choose the right photographer

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on Better Business Bureau: Make yours a wedding to remember – choose the right photographer

           

CHICAGO, IL – Wedding season is upon us, and the bride and groom rely on the wedding photographer to provide lasting memories of their special day. Sadly, some wedding photographers do not deliver what was promised to newlyweds. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) advises couples do their research before choosing a wedding photographer.

 

Most people have heard horror stories about weddings ruined by the photographer taking poor photos, video or even missing some of the special moments. That’s why the BBB suggests couples getting married to do their home work prior to hiring a photographer to insure that they are getting someone who is experienced and knowledgeable.

 

“As with any business transaction, be sure to do your research before signing any contracts,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Don’t be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure all promises are in the contract.”  

 

The BBB offers the following suggestions to prospective brides and grooms:

  • Check with the BBB for Business Reviews and listings of photographers and videographers you are considering at www.bbb.org. 
  • Schedule interviews with two or three to get a feel for the types of services they offer, the quality of their work and related fees. 
  • Ask for references and talk to previous clients. 
  • Ask the photographer if he/she is the one who will be photographing your wedding.  If so, that should be stated in the contract.  If not, request to meet personally with the photographer who will be shooting your wedding and review photos from several events before making a decision. 
  • Is the photo package fixed or customized?  How many photos are included and what about reprints, enlargements and albums?
  • What is the time frame for delivery of proofs and other products?  Is there a web site to view your images?  Can you keep the proofs or negatives?
  • What is the payment schedule?  Is a deposit required; if so, how much and by when? This information should be included in the contract.

Bernas added. “A written contract should also specify what happens if your photographer doesn’t show up, as well as the cancellation/refund policy.”

 

For more information on wedding photography and to find photographers you can trust, go to www.bbb.org

 

Viking North presents “The Blackyoumentary: Big Steve Discovers North Sweden”

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on Viking North presents “The Blackyoumentary: Big Steve Discovers North Sweden”

Skellefteå, North Sweden – The Blackyoumentary, which garnered views in excess of 1.2 million on YouTube Channel, will air a new installment every Thursday, showing a different aspect of Skellefteå, North Sweden from the perspective of a first time visitor.

Promo clips of The Blackyoumentary were first released on YouTube (Channel: www.youtube.com/BigSteveFromEngland) in August of 2011.The short teasers have since spread with viral appeal, garnering views in excess of 1.2 million. A new installment airs every Thursday, each exploring a different aspect of Skellefteå, North Sweden from the perspective of first time visitor, Big Steve, a British native of Afro-Caribbean descent.

Skellefteå is a small town located in the Swedish Lapland, hidden approximately 500 miles north of Stockholm near the Polar Circle. It offers the best of nature: lush forests, winding rivers, crystal blue lakes, and miles of white sand beaches. It boasts clean, unpolluted streets, low crime, and vast opportunity. This quaint, family-oriented community is home to a population of roughly 72,000 friendly locals.

Steve Babb, nicknamed “Big Steve” for his muscular 6-foot 4-inch frame, was a health club manager, residing in Milton Keynes, about 49 miles north-west of London. He had remained in England his entire life, before deciding to travel. When friend, Craig Dixon, suggested he visit the Swedish Lapland, Steve adamantly refused at first, stating, “I’m a black man. I don’t like snow.”

Craig Dixon saw this refusal as an opportunity to change Steve’s mind and the minds of so many other skeptics. He again invited Big Steve to SkellefteÃ¥, with an offer to have the whole experience documented on film. This swayed Babb’s decision. After visiting SkellefteÃ¥ and interacting with the locals with camera crew in tow, Big Steve now considers relocating.

The spoiler-free teasers only offer a hint of what’s to come. The Blackyoumentary will be an eight part series, containing all new footage of Big Steve and his adventures in the Swedish Lapland. Viewers have the unique opportunity to share in Big Steve’s introduction to cross country skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing and many of the town’s other attractions.

This travelogue is produced and directed by Filip Burman, Victor Gidlof, and Oscar Bystrom. The three film students and SkellefteÃ¥ residents, ranging in age from twenty (20) to twenty-three (23), feel the town is a great place to live and a great place to visit, despite the lack of public awareness. “All we hear are the negatives,” says Craig Dixon spokesman for The Blackyoumentary. “People ask, ‘Why do you live in North Sweden? Isn’t it dark as night six months of the year? Doesn’t it have the highest suicide rate?’ They don’t realize this is a great place.” With the help of Big Steve, the team hopes to shatter misconceptions by showcasing their homeland and the true beauty of the North Sweden experience.

Since airing on YouTube, the previews have proved popular, reaching 1400 cities, throughout 170 countries in just four months without paid promotion. The Blackyoumentary is currently being edited for cable television by Swedish company Viking North. Episodes are slated to premier in the summer of 2012. For a preview of Big Steve’s first day in Sweden, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXAEc0Suwmc.


Rare red-feathered chick wows crowds at Kohl Children’s Museum

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on Rare red-feathered chick wows crowds at Kohl Children’s Museum

 

Spring “Eggs to Chicks” exhibit breeds an extremely rare
Auburn Java Chicken

 

 

GLENVIEW, IL – To the astonishment of Museum workers and guests alike, Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago’s current exhibit Eggs to Chicks hatched a seldom-seen Auburn Java chick, one of the rarest breeds in existence. The strain, common in the 1800s, actually disappeared over time, but the recessive gene has remained dormant in the Black Java variety, and recently new chicks of this exceedingly uncommon breed have been hatched. Approximately 300 Auburn Javas are currently known to be in existence in the world.

 

The Auburn chick, “Aubrey,” was hatched on April 25 in the early morning. The Museum contacted the Museum of Science and Industry and Chicago’s Baby Chick Hatchery exhibit, which later verified it as an Auburn Java.

Aubrey will stay on display at Kohl Children’s Museum until May 7 at which point which she will move to her new home at the Museum of Science and Industry which is dedicated to the repopulation of the Auburn Java species. Lambs Farm in Libertyville will be taking other chickens hatched during the exhibit.

 

“After 12 years of hatching chicks at our Museum, it’s thrilling that we see the Auburn Java breed hatched again!” said Sheridan Turner, President and CEO of Kohl Children’s Museum.

 

Kohl Children’s Museum receives a shipment of approximately 15 eggs per week from Garfield Farms in LaFox, Ill. The Eggs to Chicks exhibit features a child-height egg incubator, a hatchery unit and a pen for newborn chicks. With more than 150 eggs being hatched at the Museum, the delivery and incubation times of the eggs ensure there will always be new chicks hatching any given week for the duration of the exhibit.

 

The exhibit is open now through May 14, 2012

 

About Kohl Children’s Museum
In recognition for its outstanding exhibits and impact on Chicagoland families, Kohl Children’s Museum was recently named one of the country’s Ten Best Children’s Museums by Parents Magazine. The Museum was ranked sixth out of more than 300 children’s museums nationwide and was the only Chicago area museum recognized.

 

Offering 17 interactive, hands-on exhibits for children ages birth to 8, the Museum’s mission is to encourage young children to become effective learners through self-directed complex play. Kohl Children’s Museum is located at 2100 Patriot Blvd., in Glenview, Ill. at the corner of Patriot Blvd. and W. Lake Ave. in the newly redeveloped area known as The Glen. The Museum can be easily reached by public transportation, including Pace bus and Metra trains.

 

For more information, visit the Museum’s website at www.kohlchildrensmuseum.org or call (847) 832-6600. The Museum is open on Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Special members-only hours are from Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Admission prices are $9.50 for children and adults and $8.50 for senior citizens. Children under 1 year old and members are free.

 

Saint Sabina intern heads for Princeton University with social justice on his mind

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 27 - 2012 Comments Off on Saint Sabina intern heads for Princeton University with social justice on his mind

 

By Chinta Strausberg

 

Melech E.M. Thomas, 24, was an intern at the Saint Sabina Church from March of 2009 until April 22, 2012, when he said his good-byes to the congregation he has grown to love and respect telling them how he was kicked out of two schools, erroneously labeled a social misfit but with the grace of God is now headed for Princeton University.

 “I am so appreciative of these past three-years. It taught me a lot about ministry that you would never see watching preachers on TV,” Thomas said Thursday.

“It taught me not just the logistics of ministry but the heart of ministry. There is a sense of service in what you do when the cameras are not there and there are no parishioners present to applaud to you.

“I am so appreciative of Father Mike to be exposed to things I would never be exposed to. I will always be a Saint Sabinian.”

Thomas will be going to Princeton this fall to work on his Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in psychology, religion and the black experience. It is a three-year course. “It’s worth the time,” said Thomas who is a Howard University graduate. 

At 24, Thomas has been through the crucibles of life having been told as a child by a number of teachers that he was dumb, that he was a waste of classroom space, should drop out of school, kicked out of two schools and told he would certainly fail in life.

And if those very personal attacks against Thomas was not enough to brainwash him into thinking he was a born loser, doctors had told his mother because she had ovarian cancer that she would never have a child and if she did her womb would be too weak to hold the baby.

Yet, in spite of those professional warnings, his mother gave birth to Melech even though her umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Ultimately, his mother had four healthy children. Melech is the youngest of four. His mother is not only alive but is preaching the word every day.

But, his critics didn’t know the power of The Word. They didn’t know the forces and power of prayer, and they certainly didn’t understand the covering of The Blood this man was under by his praying parents both of whom are ordained ministers, but God knew and He had Melech’s back all the time. Jesus said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27 (NIV)

Melech is the proud son of Rev. Drs. Michael O. and Debyii Thomas. Both parents have Ph.D.’s in ministry and they come out of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church.

Asked about the violence that is taking place in the black community, Thomas said it won’t end until there is a changing of the hearts of the perpetrators.

“As somebody who has been kicked out of two schools, who graduated from high school with a 1.75 GPA and have been given all the labels a black man can be given by society, one of the ways I found myself on a different path was not just because I was given something to do or given a job, but people worked with me to change the type of person I was, about how I thought about myself and my community and my spirituality.

“They changed my heart about being a child of God. Those are the things that brought me around, Thomas said also crediting the after school programs,” he said. “All those things helped, but it wasn’t until I was able to change myself did my situation change. I believe that our communities need to be more welcoming of these black men.”

Thomas said those black youth who are violating the community should not be tolerated but that “we should open our arms a little bit wider to accept the young black men that even we are skeptical about being a part of our family.”

He believes this because he was brought through the fire of rejection and the glory of redemption thanks only to his praying parents and friends and mentors like Father Michael L. Pfleger.

Kicked out in seventh grade, Thomas said he was one of the smartest students in his school having been tested in the 98 percentile in America on a gifted intelligence test. “Because I felt disrespected by teachers, in my foolish sophomoric wisdom, I decided that if you don’t respect me, I won’t respect you.” He vowed not to do his homework in an act of defiance. His grades were very bad.

And to hurt himself even further, Thomas admitted that he talked all day in class once again in defiance of teacher authority. “I was always cracking jokes, talking about the teacher. I was the class clown,” he said.

During his seventh grade year at St. Margaret of Scotland Early Learning Center in Maryland, he had seen four teachers in four-months. “The principle said to the students I need you to pick out the three most disruptive students and those three will get kicked out of school. My name was the first one” He was kicked out.

While attending the Cardinal Gibbons School in Baltimore, Thomas got into a fight with a white student in class. “He got in-school suspension. I got kicked out,” said Thomas. “They called me a failure, said I was waste of classroom space and said I should just drop out of school. I ended up staying back that year because I got kicked out of school.”

Asked how did he get through all of this negativity and anti-intellectual brainwashing, Thomas said, “I had parents who prayed for me. They just didn’t leave it at prayer, but they encouraged me to get my life together.

“I remember my second tenth grade year waking up every morning getting ready for school I would hear my mother in her prayer closet crying and praying for me, praying that my mind and heart got through the mess I got myself into. It was when I started to hear my mother pray so hard and fervently for me to get my act together that I began to think differently.

“But the key moment for me to get my life together was in 2004,” he said reflecting on the heavy political climate in America. “There was a lot of political rap that came out including Kanye West and a movie by Chris Rock who wanted to be the first black president. After seeing that movie, Thomas said, “I started to connect with that movie. I started to connect a need for me to speak out not just what was going on in my life but also what was going on in the life for my brothers and sisters in the struggle.”

Thomas decided he wanted to be president and comically quipped, but another good talking Negro beat me to that,” he said referring to President Barack Obama.

While he had a change of heart, Thomas couldn’t erase his bad academic record of a high school GPA of 1.75. He credited his success to Howard University’s director of Admissions who gave him a second chance.

 “She said if I took summer classes at a community college and you get straight A’s, then she would allow him to enter as a probationary student. I did exactly what I had to do and Howard let me in their doors, and I’ve never look back since. I am grateful to Howard University, my parents and to God for those second chances.”

After meeting Father Pfleger, Thomas is dedicating his life to helping change the hearts of some troubled young black men. He blames the violence on a lack of education.

“If you condition a society or an environment to treat a certain group of people like animals, sooner or later they are going to start acting like animals. I believe that is what is happening to our young black men.

“The women have been held and protected by our community but with the young black men the need to service, the need to approve or asserts one’s manhood has been placed as the pinnacle of what it means to exist instead of being a righteous person, a person of integrity.

“Now, it’s just we need to survive by any means necessary. We need to do by any means necessary. We need to hustle. If we need to, we need to kill people. We need to sell drugs…. While I deplore the immorality and the” lack of righteousness he says is rampant in the black community, we have to speak out against the system that has caused black people, specifically young black men, to think they are inferior, to continue act like animals, to convince them they are less than.

“When you convince them they are less than, long enough, they will start acting like they are less than,” said Thomas. “They are walking around here as if they are not human beings but rather like they are animals because we’ve conditioned them to like animals.

“When one connects with the relationship with God, we now have a direct line to our Creator who says we are beautifully and wonderfully made in his image, that means there is something great and powerful about us inside of ourselves,” he stated.

“There has no other people who have been deliberately set apart for degradation like black folks, not just slavery or poverty, but when a person’s history has been stripped from them” he says that is the seed of de-humanization that continues today.

Quoting historian John Henrik Clarke, Thomas said, “If you start the history of black people with slavery, everything since then will look like progress but it’s really not. I believe not only do we have to bring people to the knowledge of God the Creator, but we need to bring young black men to a knowledge of themselves.”

He said they should be told about their origins and how it  “didn’t just start on the boat, the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria but rather their “ancestry is a straight line to the beginning of human civilization.”

Research, he said, “connects everything back to Africa and if we start to get that longer view of connection back to Africa, that black folks didn’t start as second class, then I believe our young black men will start to see greater” than the picture painted by this society. “I think we need to not only re-establish our connection with God but also with our knowledge of self,” said Thomas.

When asked who will teach them their history, Thomas said it won’t be the current leadership generation. “And, they may not be the generation of my generation. It’s going to be up to our generation, people in their 20’s and 30’s who need to start seeking after African history and re-connect the dots of a heritage so great and legacy so wonderful now so that when we make our transition into our ancestries, the young black women and men we leave behind will have more to work with in re-connecting the dots.”

Thomas said it won’t happen over night but that it has to start one of these days. His goal is to “add something to that pool.” Thomas plans on getting a Ph.D. in Africana studies. He quoted 2nd Corinthians: “We live by faith, not by sight.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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