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Chairwoman Waters Introduces Bill to End Homelessness in America

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “In the richest country in the world, it is simply unacceptable that we have people living in the streets,” said Chairwoman Waters. “Today, there are over a half million people experiencing homelessness nationwide. Nearly 160,000 of them are children and nearly 38,000 are veterans who we have failed to support after their service to our nation.”

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The letter was signed by House Committee on Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal and Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel.

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced H.R. 1856, the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019, legislation that provides a comprehensive plan to ensure that every person experiencing homelessness in America has a place to call home.

“In the richest country in the world, it is simply unacceptable that we have people living in the streets,” said Chairwoman Waters. “Today, there are over a half million people experiencing homelessness nationwide. Nearly 160,000 of them are children and nearly 38,000 are veterans who we have failed to support after their service to our nation.

“In Los Angeles County, there are over 50,000 people experiencing homelessness, nearly 5,000 of whom are children, and over 3,800 of whom are veterans.

“As Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, I have made it a top priority to focus on this crisis. That is why I have introduced the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019, which would provide $13.27 billion in new funding over five years to federal programs and initiatives to prevent homelessness.

“It is time for Congress to step up and provide the resources and funding necessary to address this important issue and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that every American has a safe, affordable place to call home.”

The Ending Homelessness Act of 2019 would appropriate $13.27 billion in mandatory emergency relief funding over five years to several critical federal housing programs and initiatives, providing the resources that these programs need to effectively address the homelessness crisis in America.

This bill includes the following funding amounts over and above what is already annually provided for these existing U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs:

  • $5 billion over five years to McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, which is expected to provide 85,000 new permanent housing units;
  • $2.5 billion over five years to for new Special Purpose Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV), which is expected to provide an additional 300,000 housing vouchers and would give preference to those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless;
  • $1.05 billion annually in mandatory spending dedicated to the National Housing Trust Fund, which in the first five years of funding is expected to create 25,000 new units affordable to extremely low-income households, with a priority for housing the homeless;
  • $500 million over five years in outreach funding to ensure that homeless people are connected to the resources they need and;
  • $20 million for states and localities to integrate healthcare and housing initiatives, which provides technical assistance to help state and local governments coordinate their healthcare and housing initiatives that are funded by federal programs.

This bill is supported by the Center for Supportive Housing, Community Solutions, Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, Drug Policy Alliance, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leading Age, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Housing Conference, National Housing Law Project, National Housing Trust, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Rural Housing Coalition, PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), Public Housing Authority Directors Association, Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future, and TELACU Residential Management.

Click here to view the legislation, an executive summary, and a section-by-section. Congresswoman Waters first introduced the Ending Homelessness Act in 2016.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Eric Smith

    Eric Smith

    March 26, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Maxine waters is an truly GREAT BLACK WOMAN BLACK by GOD

    • Beatrice Jones

      April 24, 2019 at 12:09 pm

      Eric, I’m curious why you think she’s great. She’s against the President who has done more for the black community than any other in 50+ years. Just curious.

      • Maria

        May 26, 2019 at 9:07 pm

        Beatrice, what exactly has Trump done more for the Black community than any other in 50+ years. Just curious.

        • Rocco

          June 26, 2019 at 7:34 pm

          1. He signed a bill that forgave 300 million in leftover unpaid debts from Katrina.
          2. He has implemented the Opportunity Zone program that gives big tax incentives to develop business and infrastructure in low income at risk neighborhoods.
          3. Black unemployment has been reduced by 4% down to the lowest in history.
          4. Wages for everyone have increased by 3-8% depending on industry. This is the first time in three decades wage increase exceeded cost of living.
          5. He signed the first legislation to reform overly punitive sentencing and has pardoned many black people that suffered under Clinton’s 3 strikes rule.
          6. Finally, Mr. Trump has brought confidence and real hope to the community by showing them THEY CAN. Do life without endless soul crushing handouts. In a word, dignity and boy oh boy there is so much more coming!!!

          These are not all but just some highlights. There is so much the MSM is hoping you won’t find out.

          P.S. Trump fought Palm Springs to build MaraLago as a non discriminatory club. He insisted his club be the first to accept EVERYONE of all colors. Back then no club existed there that was not segregated if you can believe it. Trump insisted his would be open.

    • Rickie

      June 21, 2019 at 7:23 pm

      Is her District prospering yet? If she has not helped her own District over 40 years of Service, how will she help the nation? She in a 4.4 million dollar home.40 years?

    • MissyT

      June 28, 2019 at 7:22 am

      Is her daughter going to be in charge of the money, making big money off taxpayers? And didn’t she and her minions cause this by their spending and resulting high taxes. She doesn’t even LIVE in her DISTRICT. She’s not a rational human and not even educated. She cited that we landed on Mars – never happened. She encouraged people to ‘get in people’s faces’ with whom you disagree – inciting harassment of someone with whom you don’t share the same point of view. She is evil and if you think God sent her, you either have the wrong God or have been brainwashed.

  2. Beth Stinger Beighley

    Beth Stinger Beighley

    March 26, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Great job Maxine…..may everyone join you n pass this much needed bill…it is a disgrace to have families n homeless people living in the streets where they have no bathing or bathroom facilities….or water to drink or a place to get out of the freezing cold n rain! Shelter is a basic human need!! Much Success in this….may it pass quickly!❤

    • Mike Hoppe

      April 21, 2019 at 7:28 pm

      I agree.

      • Carolyn

        June 19, 2019 at 10:50 pm

        Question what have Trump done or what he claimed he done how and when

  3. Lawrence William Page

    Lawrence William Page

    March 26, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    Thank You again Maxine. There is a way to solve the problems of poverty, homelessness, most crime, and other negative consequences of the current monetary system. The time has arrived for a universal basic income, universal healthcare, and related services. When people whine about socialism have them read the Preamble to the US Constitution again. Take the time to read both of my articles on the topic.
    https://forgingnewparadigms.blogspot.com/2018/12/universal-basic-income-foundation.html

    • Fran

      June 28, 2019 at 3:50 pm

      I sure hope you are a taxpayer, because you will be paying 70 to 80 percent taxes, hope you only have a little left to live on

  4. MANINTHEHILLS

    April 4, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    On the surface, it seems good, but can never work in reality.

    And she KNOWS it.

    • Mary

      April 7, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Yes. And stupid people will read the headline not look into how the budget works for it and applaud her not realizing she’s making things worse.

    • Cakeladee60

      April 19, 2019 at 8:55 am

      You’re so right.

    • JAMES BOURNE

      June 2, 2019 at 11:32 pm

      Pie in the sky. I totally agree with you. If more attention was given to promoting the traditional family and not this constant cry from society that women can do it on their own, leaving men to question their role, much of this homelessness would not exist. Men, in today’s world, do what they do and then leave, sometimes without even realizing that they’ve been responsible for beginning another life. It is shameful that mostly democrat policies have caused these deficiencies in people’s lives. Everyone with a heart wants to help the homeless. Of course we should have places where they all can rest, eat, bathe, have bathroom facilities, etc. That is not the solution to this problem. Many people, maybe most, provided with a sparse existence would just take it and give up trying. Our welfare system has proven that. Welfare has stolen the drive from people. They don’t dream. They’re angry most of the time. This is just another welfare program that will linger forever. A few will be helped, but most will just take what they’re given and stop dreaming. This massive amount of money could be better spent. Maxine Waters should be voted out of office and someone who wants to help with real solutions should be voted in.

  5. Leckey Harrison

    April 6, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    I I wonder how this works out with local efforts. Here in Seattle, a LOT of money is spent, and the problem gets worse. So where is all the money going? Now lets add more to it? I haven’t read the bill, but I would ponder the accountability and what they use as proof it’s working.

  6. Mary

    April 7, 2019 at 9:31 am

    This is a terrible idea. Less laws would actually help homelessness more than this. She’s giving grant money…ok those are really hard to get and are super political and you need a grant writer. Mandatory spending is never a good idea either- my dad worked in government and they would have to buy new furniture to spend their whole budget so they didn’t lose the money the next year- dumb and wasteful. This whole plan makes no financial sense and doesn’t fix the problem. Having less regulations like making it legal to donate food to people after restaurants are legally required (in some places) to throw it away would be way more effective. Give money to private charities if you want to help not add laws and mandatory spending. If your idea is mandatory…it isn’t a good idea.

  7. Nikki

    April 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    It will take more than money to fix the homeless problem. The mental problems are over whelming and there are few places to accomadate their care.

  8. Itara O'Connell

    April 12, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    The homeless experiment is over. We need hundreds if not thousands of mental health facilities country-wide that are state of the art, comfortable and well staffed. This is truly a national emergency and should have funding priority. The issue has been – do people have the right to live on the street, dump their trash and excrement where ever they want.I say no. Living on the street is not okay for the mentally ill, families or others and not okay for the community. If you are not able to house yourself, we will make other arrangements.

  9. Michael G Hoppe

    April 21, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Ms. Waters is another TRUE AMERICAN HERO!

  10. Fed Up

    May 27, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Homeless here in L.A. since 2008. I’m not a drug addict or a drunk or somebody who is mentally ill. I’m a college educated person who reads about 200 books so I’m no moron either. All this homelessness you see around you is all on the Democrats. They have an agenda. And that agenda is to make life in this country so expensive that anybody who is making under 100K a year has to rely on some kind of government assistance to survive. Thousands of homeless people is all part of that plan. Allowing this country to be flooded with illegal immigrants is part of that plan. L.A. has around 1,000,000 illegal immigrants. That is why we have a shortage of apartments in L.A. And that shortage is why all of the landlords here are getting away with price gouging. The rents in L.A. aren’t just expensive anymore. They are way over-priced. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life where I was making 2 to 300 dollars a day. But these days you need to make around 400 a day just to afford a single apartment in this city. Anything less than that and you’re living with roomates, the government is subsidizing your rent with a Section 8 voucher, or you’re just working your butt off so you can hand over all of your money at the end of the month to your landlord. And if you’re somebody who sees no shame with the government subsidizing your rent you still have to get in line with a bunch of illegal immigrants because if they have a kid who was born here the kid is a U.S. citizen and they qualify for government handouts. The “Progressives” have set this country back over a hundred years. And not 19th Century America either. Welcome to 19th Century Russia where if you weren’t born into the gentry you’re just a serf living on somebody elses’ land. And they’re making sure you stay a serf because as far as they’re concerned whatever you earn during the course of the year is what they’re entitled to for rent.

  11. Stanley Grant

    June 3, 2019 at 5:08 am

    EXCELLENT bout time someone stepped up to attempt to end homelessness! Thank God for Congresswoman Waters! Who cares enough to make the first move! God bless her efforts!

  12. Zuma Dogg

    June 20, 2019 at 4:34 am

    LOL! Maxine Waters introducing a BILL to end homelessness. Makes everyone feel good. We’re gonna end homelessness!!!! LOL! Except Maxine Waters has been elected official in charge of L.A. district that has fallen into worse homelessness and trash filled streets than most other places in America. Has Maxine Waters not been doing anything about it, until now? She is completely inept and too dumb to have a single toilet fixed. Her people in her district should surround her and shout her down.

  13. Harold Hern

    June 21, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    I have been homeless for over 9 years .

  14. mary mitchell

    June 23, 2019 at 7:17 am

    SHE HAS BEEN IN OFFICE FOR ALONG TIME WHY DIDN’T SHE TRY TO HAVE THIS BILL PASSED BEFORE

  15. T. White

    June 25, 2019 at 8:42 am

    Our Country need to rewrite eviction laws, because that’s why we have a large population of homeless people. Most people get a check each month, but because of previous evictions and criminal records they are denied housing. Also, a majority of homeless people have mental illness, and dealing with being homeless makes their mental problems worse. The price of apartments is to high for people who only make minimum wage. That also keeps people from getting an apartment because of the income rule. Someone need to fix this for problem fast. Thanks Mrs.Water! It’s time out for all this hate we need to show love and compassion to make changes that truly help people.

  16. Lisa

    June 28, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    That must be the HUD definition count. The real count (McKinney Vento) is over 2 million and 35% are CHILDREN. I stronly support this bill and hope everyone here will contact their representatives and urge them to support it. No human should be without a safe, decent place of their own to lay their head.

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Organization uses art to teach developmentally disabled

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Located on Pacific Coast Highway, one of the busiest highways in the Los Angeles County sits an inconspicuous three-story building. Looking at the front of the building, the perception is it’s a typical office space for some paper-pushing company. But, step inside the first floor and the camouflage of the building disappears to reveal what Able ARTS Work is all about. 

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Able ARTS Work (Image by: ableartswork.org)
Able ARTS Work (Image by: ableartswork.org)

By Bria Overs

LONG BEACH — Located on Pacific Coast Highway, one of the busiest highways in the Los Angeles County sits an inconspicuous three-story building. Looking at the front of the building, the perception is it’s a typical office space for some paper-pushing company. But, step inside the first floor and the camouflage of the building disappears to reveal what Able ARTS Work is all about.

Every morning, clients, one by one, are dropped off by buses and vans coming from their homes. To start the day on a good foot, they’re greeted by the big, bright smiles of the staff and a welcoming “good morning.”

Within one room, there are people with a variety of different disabilities with varying levels of ability. Some may have an autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, intellectual or developmental disabilities, neurodegenerative disorders or other socio-emotional disorders. No matter their circumstance, they’re all ready for a day of activities.

“If you talk to our students here, they don’t view [being disabled] like a bad thing or a hindrance,” Art Instructor Ellen Bae said. “They think about it as something that’s just a part of them and they’re not ashamed to say it. They’re very aware they have a disability and they’re proud to be themselves, and I think that’s really important.”

Able ARTS Work started in 1982 in a Long Beach parks and recreation building with one music therapist, Helen Dolas, the founder, and was later joined by an art therapist and five students.

Dolas founded the program while completing her master’s degree in special education. From its humble beginnings, the organization’s services have grown and are now offered at four different locations in the Long Beach and South Bay areas.

To add to its uniqueness, each location provides different opportunities for their clients, but has overall become a safe space for the disabled with their philosophy of “love before learning.”

The Long Beach location, also known as the Achieving Results Together (ART) Center, operates on a six-month semester schedule and works a community center with each student signing up for a class or two, and then attending that class for a few weeks.

The icing on the cake is Able ARTS Works has its clients suggest classes. What they suggest, the teachers sometimes make.

“A lot of times we create them because we do something in a class and find that there’s a huge interest in it,” Katie Fohrman, program and community inclusion director, said.

“For example, we decided to do a marionette and [chose] to do a dog. So, I did the dog marionette with them and they named him Snoop, like Snoop Dogg,” Fohrman said with a laugh. “And it was so popular and they loved it so much and I found that it was so beneficial that I created an entire semester class on marionette and shadow puppet making.”

But their classes aren’t only about having fun and creating something to show people. Able ARTS Work is a program that has board-certified music and art therapists, like Fohrman, who is an associate professional clinical counselor for the program as well.

When clients are at Able ARTS Work they work on building skills and courage to do things out of their comfort zones.

Staff members like Bae and Fohrman love what they do. They’re passionate about the company’s mission and love helping their clients broaden their horizons every day.

It’s not just about art and music for them, it’s about how their clients can benefit from working with them in the long-run.

“I think they definitely gain a fellowship; they gain a partnership; and they also gain the confidence to chase their dreams and pursue what they really want to do,” Fohrman said. “A lot of our clients want to be professional artists and we provide that avenue for them. We provide that avenue for them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.”

INFORMATION BOX

Organization: Able ARTS Work

Founder: Helen Dolas

Social Media: www.facebook.com/ableartswork

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

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‘The Last Word’ Album from the O’Jays Has Multiple Meanings

WASHINGTON INFORMER —According to Eddie Levert Sr., co-founder of the legendary O’Jays, that’s the truth. In a recent interview, he talked about how “The Last Word,” the final studio album from the platinum-selling group, serves as a platform to speak out on several issues. The lyrics tackle the current administration, the political climate, police-community relations, the state of our neighborhoods and the future of young folks.

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From left: Walter Williams Sr., Eric Nolan Grant and Eddie Levert Sr. (Courtesy of 21 Century Artists)
From left: Walter Williams Sr., Eric Nolan Grant and Eddie Levert Sr. (Courtesy of 21 Century Artists)

Eddie Levert Talks Next Phase for Popular R&B Group

By Brenda C. Siler

Say it isn’t so! Is this really the last album and the last tour for the top-selling O’Jays?

According to Eddie Levert Sr., co-founder of the legendary O’Jays, that’s the truth. In a recent interview, he talked about how “The Last Word,” the final studio album from the platinum-selling group, serves as a platform to speak out on several issues. The lyrics tackle the current administration, the political climate, police-community relations, the state of our neighborhoods and the future of young folks.

“A lot of these things lead to division,” Levert said during the interview. “Division is gonna lead to war, death and fighting. That’s where we are heading.”

From the album’s track list, you get a sense of messages the legendary R&B group attempts to deliver. “Do You Really Know How I Feel,” “Above The Law,” “I Got You” and “Stand Up” give thought-provoking direction to listeners for deeply exploring what’s going on in our lives. The track “Pressure” looks at the types of pressure individuals deal with daily.

“Pressure comes in different forms and from different places,” Levert said. “There is always that pressure to be a better person. There’s pressure you put on yourself to better understand other people’s side. That’s what we are really talking about.”

Still, it was a surprise to hear Levert say that their current tour is the last one for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. D.C., has always been a great market for the O’Jays and fans always count on the group to make a stop a year in the District. For them to stop touring is hard to imagine.

“I’m 77 years old,” Levert said, loud and clear with a chuckle. “How many times can I keep bending my back? How many times can I fall my knees? How many times can I run across a stage?”

Levert is grateful for more than 50 years of great recording and performance success with O’Jays. With fellow O’Jays members Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant, audiences still look forward to singing along on the group’s classic hits. But the guys have individual projects they want to pursue.

Levert confessed his love of many genres of music like opera and has incorporated many operatic styles in the way he sings. He wants to try some solo gigs.

“I’ve been loyal to the O’Jays. That’s been my mainstay around which I have based my whole career,” Levert said. “Now I have this desire I need to fulfill. I just have to see.”

When the group comes to the Warner Theatre on Aug. 16, audiences will hear the new music, but the classics will still be on the bill. In fact, on “The Last Word” album, the O’Jays perform a new version of their hit “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today).” Think of it as an “unplugged” rendition of that love song. Listeners will hear that the O’Jays have voices that are just as strong and pure as on their very first recordings in the early 1960s.

“We’ve always wanted to do a concert in a big theater in an ‘unplugged’ style with just a guitar or a piano and sing the big songs like ‘Backstabbers,’” Levert said. “That lets everybody see what we put into these songs and that it is really us singing.”

This final O’Jays album and tour will definitely take fans on a journey. The new music is advocating that, together, we can make a difference.

“I’m not just after the Trump administration, I’m after all of society,” Levert said. “I’m after all of the people that can be doing and should be doing something. Do it because you want to help mankind.”

The O’Jays will perform Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre.

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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Gunshot Medley Brings Black Theatre to the Electric Lodge

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — “Gunshot Medley: Part I” is the latest play to hit the stage at the Electric Lodge on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Venice Beach. Running until August 19, the play tells the story of American history through the eyes of three slaves.

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Donathan Walters (left) as George, Mildred Langford (middle) as Betty, and Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (right) as High Priestess in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Kreckler)
Donathan Walters (left) as George, Mildred Langford (middle) as Betty, and Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (right) as High Priestess in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Kreckler)

A play with a Black cast, director, and playwright tells a story of pain, racism, and hope at the Electric Lodge.

By Shaquille Woods

“Gunshot Medley: Part I” is the latest play to hit the stage at the Electric Lodge on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Venice Beach. Running until August 19, the play tells the story of American history through the eyes of three slaves.

The playwright, Dionna Michelle Daniel, was inspired to write this play in 2015, after the Charleston Church shooting. While in North Carolina, she visited a graveyard where she found the graves of Betty, Alvis, and George who would eventually become the characters for “Gunshot Medley: Part I.” All that was left on the graves were their names and the dates that they died, each before the Emancipation Proclamation. Daniel also found something unsettling in the graveyard — newly placed Confederate flags.

“At the time that I wrote ‘Gunshot Medley,’ there was so much going on with killings and discourse over the Confederate flag,” said Daniel. “For me the play is an awakening. It is so vital for Black people to tell our stories because we have lived through these experiences and the pain is real.”

Set in a haunted graveyard in North Carolina, audiences see the connections of racism through past and present. Betty, Alvis, and George are not able to rest their souls. They want to believe that things are better, and cover up the pain, but what they see in the present takes them back to their own past hurt. They see happy moments in Black culture as well, referencing famous songs and dances, but they are reminded of pain with each gunshot that they hear.

Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (left) as High Preistess looks on as Derek Jackson (middle) and Mildred Langford (right) dance as Alvis and Betty in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Krekcler)

Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (left) as High Preistess looks on as Derek Jackson (middle) and Mildred Langford (right) dance as Alvis and Betty in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Krekcler)

Betty represents a mother figure, constantly cleaning to cover up her pain. Alvis takes on a more playful role, looking for the beauty in everything, and George represents revolutionaries fighting and dying for change. The fourth character is High Priestess Oya. When Daniel originally wrote the play, she made a lot of reference to the wind and the rustle of leaves and treetops. One of her friends told her about Orisha Oya, an African goddess who is the ruler of storms and winds, and the protector of cemeteries.  From that comes the majestic character garbed in elegant reds and an expression of pain upon her face.

“The play was very powerful and moving,” said Tenille Jones, one of the audience members. “I think that it will open people’s eyes and make change for the better. I like how the main character, Betty, thought that she had to clean something up to solve the problems, but in the end, it showed that racism is more of a comprehensive problem. It’s not just a one-person problem, it’s a worldwide problem. I was very entertained. It’s a great way to spend an hour and support Black theatre.”

“Gunshot Medley: Part I” started as a project for a program at California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, where Daniel graduated. She presented it in their 2016 New Works Festival and won the chance to go to New York to have a reading of the play and get it published. One of the readers from New York put Daniel in contact with Desean Terry of Collaborative Artists Bloc, a production team that produces performances that explore of cultural identity and promote social change. Terry became the director of “Gunshot Medley: Part I,” giving the play a Black cast, Black director, and Black playwright.

In 2018, Rogue Machine Theatre joined in and brought the production to the stage at the MET Theatre in Santa Monica for a two-week run. “Gun Shot Medley: Part I” also did a two-week run at the Watts Village Theater Company, where tickets were based on a donation of any amount and audience members could register to vote. Rogue Machine Theatre has brought the play back this year to the Electric Lodge. “Gunshot Medley: Part I” runs through August 19. Student tickets are $25.99 and general admission is $39.99. For more information and reservations, call (855) 585-5185 or visit www.collaborativeartistsbloc.org.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Birmingham Promise Education program exceeded expectations, city officials say

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The Birmingham Promise Initiative, launched this summer to build pathways into quality jobs for Birmingham City School (BCS) students, came to a successful conclusion last week, said city officials. Last week, 23 BCS students finished their apprenticeships at companies across the metro area and the program had an impact, said Mayor Randall Woodfin and Councilors on Tuesday.

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Birmingham City Council (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)
Birmingham City Council (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)

By Erica Wight

The Birmingham Promise Initiative, launched this summer to build pathways into quality jobs for Birmingham City School (BCS) students, came to a successful conclusion last week, said city officials.

Last week, 23 BCS students finished their apprenticeships at companies across the metro area and the program had an impact, said Mayor Randall Woodfin and Councilors on Tuesday.

“There’s now more work to do to make sure that many more high school students can participate in this program, so I’m proud of the success of the pilot but . . . I’m looking forward to engaging parents directly, students directly and employers about these opportunities and so to employers,” Woodfin said.

“Our economy is changing and you all talk about your gaps in workforce, here’s an opportunity to close that workforce gap . . . our parents need to know these options exist before their children walk across the stage and to our children who have the passion, as a city we’re here to support your dreams and make them come true before you walk across the stage.”

Councilor John Hilliard said during Tuesday’s council meeting, “We must change our direction of how we deal with education . . . we have to meet the demand the corporate community is asking. A four-year education is important but it’s not the only way to go . . . I think it’s important we instill in our young people a different type of work ethic and give them the opportunity on the front end rather than the back end to make things happen.”

The seven-week summer pilot is part of the larger Birmingham Promise Initiative, which will offer multiple pathways for Birmingham students to “earn and learn” as they develop skills to prepare for jobs in industries that are growing in the regional economy.

The inaugural apprenticeships involved a vocational education component and work-based learning opportunities that were guided by a mentor. The pilot was complemented by the City of Birmingham’s partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, a national leader in delivering digital education to youth, the Jefferson County Commission on Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) and the city’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity.

Councilor Wardine Alexander said the Birmingham Promise prepares students to be college and career ready.

“When I served on the Board of Education, I had the pleasure to shake the hands of every student who graduated from the City of Birmingham… I think the mayor will remember we had one board member who would always ask the students as they were going through the line, ‘what’s your next goal’ and often students were not able to tell us what their goal was or what they were going to do,” said Alexander.

Birmingham Promise gave students the opportunity to work with Fortune 500 companies, earn a salary and have an idea of what they were going to do, Alexander said.

Council President Valerie Abbott, who attended graduation ceremony for the students along with Mayor Randall Woodfin, Alexander and Hilliard, said she was inspired by the students.

“Just to see those young people, they were full grown adults and doing those jobs, it was very impressive,” said Abbott. “We do need more people in the corporate community, but businesses of any kind can use an intern. It doesn’t have to be a corporation… we have so many students to benefit from that opportunity and only a handful got to participate in this pilot. We need hundreds of businesses to take on these young people so they can learn. I was just inspired by the quality of the young people and how inspired they were and their level of enthusiasm was just wonderful. I think we all need to encourage as many businesses as we can to participate.”

The following employers participated in the Birmingham Promise pilot program this summer:

  • Alabama Futures Fund
  • Alabama Power Company
  • Altec
  • Baptist Princeton
  • BIG Communications
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Brasfield & Gorrie
  • Encompass Health
  • HOAR Construction
  • Mayer
  • Pack Health
  • Protective
  • Renasant Bank
  • Regions
  • Shipt
  • Spire
  • Vincent’s
  • Theranest
  • UAB
  • Vulcan Materials

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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Meet Birmingham’s Felicia Johnson, President of American Business Women’s Association

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — As national president of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), Birmingham’s Felicia Johnson helps women grow through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition. Johnson was elected last fall, and said her journey to the presidency has a lot to do with her service in the Magic City.

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Felicia Johnson (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)
Felicia Johnson (Photo by: birminghamtimes.com)

By Ameera Steward

As national president of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), Birmingham’s Felicia Johnson helps women grow through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition. Johnson was elected last fall, and said her journey to the presidency has a lot to do with her service in the Magic City.

“For me to be able to win, it’s phenomenal,” said Johnson, who joined the ABWA in 2003. “It’s awesome to know that people have that much confidence in me to [elect me] to lead this association.

“I’ve served in every leadership role on the local level. … When you do that, you get to interact with people, and people watch you over the years. When you look at where I came from and [see that] our chapter is not a large chapter, it’s special to get the [national vote].”

Johnson has served as president of the ABWA’s Birmingham chapter three times, beginning in 2006, and she was recently voted president for a fourth time this year.

“I’ve been in the association for more than 16 years, so over the course of that time people have watched me grow … [and] watched me at different events,” she said. “I think a lot of it has to do with personality, leadership skills, how well you get along with others.”

In addition to working on the local level, Johnson was instrumental in forming the ABWA’s Alabama Council in 2014, which is made up of chapters from Montgomery, Huntsville, Birmingham, and Anniston. She served as committee chair of the statewide council for 2014 and 2016, attending regional and national meetings to become more involved. Eventually, women on the national board asked if Johnson would consider a leadership position.

“After interacting with different people, I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can do something,’” she said. “So, I decided I would try.”

Johnson was elected ABWA president during the group’s 69th National Women’s Leadership Conference in Augusta, Ga., in October 2018. She also serves as the trustee for a foundation through which the association provides scholarships for women.

As national president of the Kansas City-based ABWA, Johnson oversees a nine-member executive board and six districts, each of which is represented by a vice president: “All of us together govern … all of the women across the U.S.,” she said.

Musically Inclined

Johnson, 58, was born and raised on the east side of Birmingham, where W.C. Patton Park is now located. She graduated from Carol W. Hayes High School in 1979. She attended Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville, where she was a biology major with a minor in chemistry; she graduated in 1983. During her time in college, she played baritone saxophone in the jazz and concert bands, in addition to playing tenor sax in the marching band—where she made history as TSU’s first female drum major in 1981.

“I love music: I sing, and I play. Music is a very important part of my life,” said Johnson, who is a lead singer and an alto with the W.J. Nickols Gospel Ensemble, a community choir in Birmingham that she’s been with for about 15 years, as well as with the Bernard Bowden Voices of Faith, a group she’s been part of for the past four years.

She also plays piano at her church, Mt. Sinai Baptist Church on 14th Avenue North in Birmingham, where her husband of eight years, James Johnson, is the pastor.

“If you’re ever around me for long, I’ll be singing,” she said. “I’ve always got a song in my head. … Music is ingrained in me.”

In fact, Johnson grew up in a musical family. Her father, John Carter, who passed away two years ago, was a musician and singer who played trombone and sang at Ullman High School and at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in East Lake on Kentucky Avenue. And her mother, Hattie Carter, sings at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

Johnson’s siblings, two sisters and one brother, are musically inclined, as well. Her brother, John G. Carter, is the leader of and a singer with the Bernard Bowden Voices of Faith and also plays trombone, which he’s played since high school. Her older sister plays “any woodwind or reed instrument, such as the bassoon, oboe, and clarinet,” but she doesn’t sing. Her youngest sister, who sings and plays the piano and clarinet, sometimes serves as a backup musician at her church in Chicago.

“Music has been in our household throughout my life,” Johnson said. “All my life, when I sing, especially when I do gospel, it’s freeing and allows me to let the spirit of God that’s in me hopefully minister to other people.”

Her love of music goes beyond family and church, too. Johnson, who has been a business manager for AT&T Corp. since 1985, is also part of the Connie Carson AT&T Pioneer Singers, which is part of the AT&T Pioneers volunteer network. The group performs at company events, Christmas celebrations, and veteran’s parades, in addition to visiting and performing at nursing homes.

Joy of Reading

Johnson is also an avid reader. No matter what it the subject matter, “I love to read,” she said, adding that she is currently reading the ABWA’s two publications: Women in Business magazine and the Achieve newsletter.

She and her younger sister share their book lists, which they did recently, so Johnson is in the process of choosing something from her sister’s list. The last book Johnson read was Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.”

“I love that book. … It was a good read,” she said, adding that she recently finished “An American Marriage,” as a light read.

Johnson loves reading so much that she also works with Better Basics, a program that provides literacy intervention and enrichment activities for students in area schools. She reads to second graders through the “Ready to Read” initiative “… just [to] give students a love for reading,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You can go anywhere in your mind when you read.’”

Providing Service

In all areas of her life—whether through her work with the AWBA or her love of music and reading—Johnson has a passion for service. She is a board member with the James Lewis Tennis Scholarship Foundation, which gives “children from the inner city a love for tennis” and has an educational component. She has been with the foundation for nine years and currently serves as its vice president.

Johnson has been a mentor with the Dannon Project, a mentorship program and nonprofit organization that helps unemployed or underemployed at-risk youth and nonviolent offenders reentering society, for six years. She has served as scholarship brunch chair for the TSU Alumni Association for the last two years. She is president of the South Cahaba Council of the AT&T Pioneers volunteer network that works in the community. She’s a professional clown, too.

Johnson is known as FeFe Felicity the clown, and she appears at the children’s parade during Mardi Gras in Mobile, visits nursing homes, and participates in Veteran’s Day parades. She has been a clown for 10 years and is part of a clown alley, a term used to describe a group of clowns. She is a member of the Magic City Town Clowns, as well as an AT&T Pioneer clown.

“A lot of my volunteer work is done in association with AT&T Pioneers, but … I am owner of the name and business [of] FeFe Felicity, so I can do paid events [and] volunteer,” Johnson said, adding that FeFe is for anyone that wants to have a good time, not just children.

“FeFe gives you fun, honey. … Just a bundle of fun.”

Speaking of children, they are a big part of Johnson’s life. She and her husband have a total of 11 children from previous marriages, 17 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

“We’re a blended family,” she said. “We take [the grandchildren] as they come. … We still have five children that haven’t had any children, so there’s potential to grow.”

Johnson said service “gives her a fulfillment that she is able to give back.”

“I feel like I’m helping people, especially around education,” she said. “I think education is the only thing that will allow you to move forward. Once you get it in [your mind], nobody can take it from you.

“Being able to give back and help other people see the importance of education helps [them] grow. I think we ought to be able to bring somebody up … and send them on to go farther than [we’ve gone].”

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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D.C. Health Warns Against Disease

THE AFRO — The District of Columbia Health Department is warning residents against an increase in an intestinal illness, called Cyclosporiasis, after 14 people have been diagnosed in 2019 compared to 8 total in 2018. The Food and Drug Administration is urging residents against buying, eating, or serving fresh basil products exported by Siga Logistics de RL de CV located in Morelos, Mexico where they believe the contamination is originating. 

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The District of Columbia Health Department is warning residents to watch where one buys basil due to cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness. (Courtesy Photo)
The District of Columbia Health Department is warning residents to watch where one buys basil due to cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness. (Courtesy Photo)
By Tyra Wilkes

The District of Columbia Health Department is warning residents against an increase in an intestinal illness, called Cyclosporiasis, after 14 people have been diagnosed in 2019 compared to 8 total in 2018. The Food and Drug Administration is urging residents against buying, eating, or serving fresh basil products exported by Siga Logistics de RL de CV located in Morelos, Mexico where they believe the contamination is originating.

While doing your best to avoid purchase or consumption of basil, D.C. Health Department is also advising local businesses to refrain from selling, serving, or distributing fresh basil exported from this or other unknown providers.

For prevention inside your own home, be sure to wash hands thoroughly before handling any fruits and vegetables, wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. In addition store fruits and vegetables away from raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible or within 2 hours; amongst all other food preparation procedures.

If infected, Cyclosporiasis  symptoms start about one week after consumption and can last a few days to a month. The infection causes watery diarrhea with frequent, sometimes explosive bowel movements.

Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, or fatigue; you may also experience flu-like symptoms like headaches, body aches and fever.

If you experience any of these symptoms see your healthcare provider immediately.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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