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Morgan Hires Wheatley But Is It For the Long Term

THE AFRO — When announcing former NFL running back Tyrone Wheatley as their new head football coach, Morgan State pushed all the chips into the center of the table.

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Morgan State hired former NFL running back Tyrone Wheatley as the 22nd coach in school history effective February 21.

By Mark F. Gray

When announcing former NFL running back Tyrone Wheatley as their new head football coach, Morgan State pushed all the chips into the center of the table.  Great poker players are stoic when gambling that the hand they are holding is enough to win. If the pot is great enough and you win, it’s time to cash out then keep things moving.

Morgan’s athletic director Ed Scott did a masterful job bringing an NFL assistant to a program that has been an afterthought for generations.  The history and legacy of the “Golden Bears” under legendary figures such as Eddie Hurt and Earl Banks live in the archives of college football lore. However, there aren’t too many people around who remember the days when Morgan’s program was a destination for premiere athletes and coaches that were looking to make a name for themselves.

If this hire proves successful and the Bears win a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship it will open doors to new opportunities for Wheatley to begin his ascent back to the major college ranks or to the NFL.  Morgan, like most HBCU jobs, is a stepping stone opportunity for coaches such as Wheatley to make a name for themselves instead of creating a legacy.

In one of his last major acts as MSU’s athletic director, Floyd Kerr hired Lee Hull from Randy Edsall’s staff at Maryland.  It worked to perfection in Hull’s first season where he took Donald Hill-Eley’s team and coached them to their first MEAC title in 30 years.  It didn’t matter that they shared the title with four other teams.  The complicated five-way tie meant the Bears represented the MEAC in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs.

The pride in the program was palpable and seemed to restore faith in generations of Bear fans who never thought they would ever see winning football in northeast Baltimore again. Hull was expected to be the man who would ignite the memories of Banks with a program that would contend for conference championships consistently.

Unfortunately, it never happened.

Two years later Hull packed his furniture in a new version of the Mayflower moving trucks and went to work for the Indianapolis Colts as wide receiver’s coach.  He left the program on academic probation and they haven’t had a winning season since.  Hull cashed in on his immediate success and for the last three years Morgan has been led by two coaches with extended interim tags: Fred Farrier and Ernest Jones.

Hull personifies the dilemma that HBCUs now face when trying build a program these days.  There is an unspoken acceptance amongst coaches with the pedigree of Wheatley. You don’t coach at Black colleges too long or you’ll be stuck there.  If Scott is on his A-game he has already recognized that as soon as the ink dried on Wheatley’s signed contract there had better be a game plan ready for his departure.

After earning a stellar reputation as one of the nation’s top recruiters, Wheatley probably has a pipeline of talent that could change the fortunes of the program over the next 24 months.  He will be able to sell recruits having played for the New York Giants, coached at Michigan and most recently with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Morgan would be foolish to look at this as a long term relationship.  It will never be a marriage.   At best they can only hope it’s an extended fling that leads to another championship ring before Wheatley’s gone.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Afro

Black Congressional Leadership Grills JUUL Executives

THE AFRO — Federal and local regulations have attempted to curb youth usage, primarily focusing on policing retailers for sales to minors and proscribing flavors and formulas particularly appealing or solely appealing to children. When the FDA announced that new products entering the market would be subject to additional scrutiny, products already at market were given amnesty through a grandfather date.

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Carol McGruder and Dr. Valerie Yerger representing AATCLC at the 2 part-hearing
Carol McGruder and Dr. Valerie Yerger representing AATCLC at the 2 part-hearing
By Afro Staff

“We are as committed, as ever, to combating youth usage, but don’t take our word for it, look at our actions,” JUUL Labs said in a statement.

“We are looking at your actions, and they are deeply troubling,” Cummings told James Monsees, the billionaire co-founder and product officer of JUUL Labs. “Kids are especially attracted to flavored tobacco products,” Cummings continued.

Federal and local regulations have attempted to curb youth usage, primarily focusing on policing retailers for sales to minors and proscribing flavors and formulas particularly appealing or solely appealing to children. When the FDA announced that new products entering the market would be subject to additional scrutiny, products already at market were given amnesty through a grandfather date.

Questions remain unanswered by JUUL about what was the business’s mindset when a wide variety of JUUL products flooded the market just before the grandfather date elapsed.

“What’s very disturbing about this, and problematic, is that it seems that you were looking to circumvent FDA regulation,” Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-D) told James Monsees, the billionaire co-founder and product officer of JUUL Labs. “And that’s what’s troublesome about this paper trail and what you’re corroborating here, today.”

Pressley’s questioning centered on whether or not JUUL juices and vaping paraphernalia were “rushed,” as Pressley put it, to market in order to avoid tightening regulations on a rapidly expanding nicotine delivery market.

“Because JUUL did not want to quote ‘imply that they are going away,’ the next line acknowledges that many may not be available by the end of this year,” Pressley continued, questioning whether JUUL Labs was pushing a wide variety of flavors and nicotine concentrations on retailers, knowing ahead of time some such products were doomed to fail.

Congressional Oversight is calling the rise in youth nicotine use an “epidemic,” and activists like The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) are applauding industry leaders coming under heightened scrutiny.

“JUUL has been making power plays all over the country to engage top Black leaders and lobbyists to clear JUUL’s path to Black nicotine addicted smokers,” AATCLC said in a press release finding Cummings “standing strong for public health policy that protects Black folks too.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Coppin State Baseball Receives 2019 ABCA Team Academic Excellence Award

THE AFRO — 

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By Coppin State University Department of Athletics

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Coppin State baseball team was one of 51 NCAA Division I baseball programs to receive the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Team Academic Excellence Award, it was announced by the organization over the weekend.  The ABCA awards teams at all college levels with a cumulative team GPA of at least 3.0 during the 2018-19 academic year.

This is the second-straight season that the Eagles have received the honor from the ABCA and Coppin State is the only MEAC school to earn the award.

Not only have the Eagles performed well in the classroom the last two years, it also coincides with arguably the two best seasons in program-history on the field.  This past year, Coppin won a school-record 24 games after winning the 2018 MEAC Northern Division Championship while matching what was then a school-record with 21 victories.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Afro

Family Awarded $1.1M By Baltimore County

THE AFRO — The controversial death of Baltimore County resident Tawon Boyd in police custody has led to a $1.1 million settlement for the family. The deal comes after a contentious battle in federal court during which county officials argued Boyd’s death was an accident. 

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Baltimore County Police were summoned to the home of 21-year-old Tawon Boyd in Sept. 2016, because he was in mental and emotional distress. After being severely beaten by police, four days later he was dead. (AFRO Photo)
Baltimore County Police were summoned to the home of 21-year-old Tawon Boyd in Sept. 2016, because he was in mental and emotional distress. After being severely beaten by police, four days later he was dead. (AFRO Photo)
By Stephen Janis

The controversial death of Baltimore County resident Tawon Boyd in police custody has led to a $1.1 million settlement for the family.

The deal comes after a contentious battle in federal court during which county officials argued Boyd’s death was an accident.

But, A Dwight Pettit, who represents Boyd’s family, countered with expert testimony that said Boyd’s death was the result of positional asphyxiation and a brutal beatdown by police.

“We were satisfied, the family is satisfied,” Pettit told the AFRO. “We knew there would be a very conservative jury in federal court.”

The incident raises more questions about the procedures for investigating police custody deaths; including a series of rulings that classified the death of African-American men who died during police encounters accidents, but outside experts has argued were due to excessive force.

Boyd’s ordeal began when he called police on Sept. 18th, 2016 to his Middle River home seeking assistance for a possible intruder.

When police arrived Boyd first tried to get into a parked car, and then ran to a neighbor’s house across the street, according to court documents. It was at that point Boyd’s fiancé said police began trying to restrain him, which devolved into an unnecessary beatdown.

“Defendants Garland, Seckens and Bowman punch and kick Mr. Boyd in his head, face and all over his body while he is on the ground. Mr. Boyd does not strike any officer back or attempt to strike any officer back, but moves his arms as best as he could in a protective position to cover his body from the attack he is receiving,” court filings alleged.

The lawsuit also contends a Baltimore County EMT unnecessarily administered Haloperidol (Haldol) a muscle relaxant and treatment for schizophrenia to Boyd during his encounter with police. The filings alleged the drug caused cardiac arrest.

Three days after Boyd was hospitalized he was taken off life support due multiple organ failure and swelling of the brain.

The Maryland State Medical Examiner ruled Boyd’s death an accident. “It is unlikely that restraint by law enforcement caused or significantly contributed to his death based on the reported circumstances and timeline of the restraint,” The Baltimore Sun reported. The Sun also reported that use of a drug called N-Ethylpentylone, or “bath salts,” also contributed to his death.

However, outside pathologists hired by the plaintiff said during depositions that Boyd died as result of the beating and positional asphyxiation, a condition that arises when excessive weight is placed upon on a person lying on the ground.

The settlement came after federal judge Ellen Hollendar allowed the lawsuit to proceed to trial against the officers on counts of excessive force and unlawful death. The county had argued that the officer’s response was reasonable and that the officers were not responsible for Boyd’s death.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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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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Afro

Organization Sparks ‘Year of Return’

THE AFRO — With 2019 marking the 400 year anniversary of the first recorded slave ships docking on Western Shores, The United States Congress recently put into motion, {H.R. 1242}, a bill also known as “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.” This initiative is an umbrella for a number of different projects, but more specifically, as it states in Section 3 of it’s doctrine, “This bill establishes the 400 Years of African-American History Commission to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.” 

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The Adinkra Cultural Arts Studio, under the leadership of Diallo Sumbry, helped spark the “Year of Return,” which encourages African Americans to visit Ghana as 2019 marks the 400 year anniversary of the first recorded slave ships docking in the United States. (Courtesy Photo)
The Adinkra Cultural Arts Studio, under the leadership of Diallo Sumbry, helped spark the “Year of Return,” which encourages African Americans to visit Ghana as 2019 marks the 400 year anniversary of the first recorded slave ships docking in the United States. (Courtesy Photo)

By Nyame-kye Kondo

With 2019 marking the 400 year anniversary of the first recorded slave ships docking on Western Shores, The United States Congress recently put into motion, {H.R. 1242}, a bill also known as “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.” This initiative is an umbrella for a number of different projects, but more specifically, as it states in Section 3 of it’s doctrine, “This bill establishes the 400 Years of African-American History Commission to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”

Funded through donations and steered by a committee of volunteers, the Bill sets precedence on honoring the Black Experience in America, while also being open to international collaboration.

The bill is ” to look at the ways we can confront our history and ensure that the contributions of African Americans to society are never forgotten,” according to  Wade Robinson of Civilrights.org.

The passing of {H.R. 1242} was the incentive that D.M.V based entrepreneur Diallo Sumbry, needed to further expand his business, fulfill his purpose, and to help diasporans build a new relationship with Africa, specifically, Ghana.

The founder of Adinkra Cultural Arts Studio (ACAS) in Mount Rainier, Sumbry is at the helm of the “Year of Return” movement that has many African Americans heading to Ghana for pilgrimage, immersion and enjoyment. Leading a handful of tours to Ghana over the last five years, Sumbry recognizes that immersion is apart of the reacclimation process.

“I came to Ghana for the first time in 2013, and in a short span of time I have been able to build an exchange between Ghana and America that is steeped not only in arts and culture, but the African Americans reclamation of the continent as a whole,” Sumbry said.  “It is my hope that this movement will help to reconnect not only those displaced as a result of slavery, but the African Diaspora in general.”

Having more than a decade of experience in arts managing, directing, and facilitating, Sumbry has been a, “key figure in the planning and development of the year-long calendar of activities in celebration of the resilience of the African spirit,” reports {Business Ghana}.

Recently named the first African-American ambassador of Tourism by former Minister of Tourism and Culture, the Honorable Catherine Afeku, this year marks the third year that Sumbry will be facilitating his own tours. With the first tour featuring GoGo legends, Backyard Band, and the 2019 edition featuring singers Raheem Devaughn and Wes Ellington Felton, the tours are amplified by the fact that they are open to the community as well. Much like the classes and cultural activities that ACAS provides for the D.M.V area, it should come as no surprise that the “Year of Return” grew out of a grassroots organization like ACAS.

Nestled in the heart of the Mount Rainier Arts district, ACAS offers a number of African Dance and drumming classes, fitness classes, intensives, workshops, various pop ups and a slew of resources for the community.  At the epicenter of a creative exchange with Ghana, ACAS also offers yearly tours to Ghana in the form of the “Back2Africa” movement. Partnering with a number of different entities to make tour happen, it was the Ghana Tourism Authority itself that officially proclaimed this as the “Year Of Return” on a global scale.

With ACAS establishing important relationships prior to the “Year of Return,” movement being fully established, the possibilities evolved when  the idea was brought to the Ghana Commission of Tourism and Culture, and after the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo gave his seal of approval, it took off.

“It all started with Birthright” said Sumbry, referring to an annual celebration of African dance and drumming that his organization produces each year. “It became more than an event, but a portal of discovery, and over time it evolved into the tours and a partnership with African Ancestry so that when everything lined up, we had a full package ready for the people.”

The passing of the {H.R. 1242} was a catalyst for a number of important exchanges and activities that have taken place or will take place throughout the year.  Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, went to Ghana last week. In addition, there is the “Jamestown-Jamestown Tour” which is focused on  the NAACP, and will travel from Jamestown, Virginia, to Jamestown,Ghana this August. Taking place on the actual date that the first ships carrying human cargo arrived, this tour like all of the tours that will happen this year, Is meant to honor those whose lives were irrevocably changed, and to welcome their descendants back to their continent of origin, forever changed but always connected.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Youth Candle Business Expands to Macy’s

THE AFRO — When three of Celena Gill’s sons asked her to buy them a Nerf gun and more than $500 in video games, she told them to get a job or start a business.  She was only kidding. 

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Young entrepreneurs Ryan Gill, Collin Gill and Austin Gill with their candles. (Courtesy Photo)

By Lenore T. Adkins

When three of Celena Gill’s sons asked her to buy them a Nerf gun and more than $500 in video games, she told them to get a job or start a business.

She was only kidding.

But her sons, Collin, 14, Ryan, 11, and Austin, 8, they took her words to heart and launched Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. in October 2017 to make soy and vegetable wax candles, room sprays, diffusers, soaps and bath bombs out of the home they share with their parents in Prince George’s County.

Frères Branchiaux means “Gill Brothers” in French — Collin is already fluent in the language while his younger brothers are studying it.

“We wanted to do Gill Brothers Candle Company, but there’s Gill Brothers’ Trucking, Gill Brothers Air Support,” Ryan Gill explains.

In the 22 months since they started their company, the boys have sold more than 10,000 units — candles are their top-selling product and range between $18 and $36.

“It’s really all word of mouth,” Celena Gill told the AFRO. “Like, I rarely reach out to people.”

They’re already selling their products in more than 30 stores and they’re looking to expand.

Starting in November, their products will be sold on The Workshop at Macy’s alumni e-commerce site, confirms Katelyn Yannie, Macy’s manager of Northeast Relations.

And the brothers are raising $20,000 on gofundme.com to buy a truck that’ll serve as a mobile store for their business. This will make it easier for them to sell their wares at various events.

“It’s easier than a van and we … don’t have to pack the candle stuff in it,” Ryan Gill explained.

The truck would also double as a mobile training center where the boys could help coordinate job training for homeless trying to get back on their feet or as a hub for the brothers to pass on their entrepreneurial skills to various youth groups and schools.

As it is, they donate 10 percent of their profits to the homeless.

The boys settled on making candles not only because their mother loves burning in the house, but also because her research found candles are the most successful kiddie business, Celena Gill said.

They started out experimenting with candle making using formulas their mother brought back from a candle class that her friend and soror Danita Nikki Brooks, founder of Zen in a Jar, a home and body care line, ran. Then Celena Gill went to a pro candle maker workshop to learn more techniques that helped her boys learn little tweaks.

“Making candles is purely science,” Celena Gill said. “Everything matters, whether your candle cannot burn or (if) it’ll blow up. It’s a very deliberate product because you can burn someone’s house down.”

The boys made candles as a lesson in school — Celena Gill homeschools her younger sons and Collin Gill will soon begin his freshman year at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.

After about two weeks, they were ready to start selling, Celena Gill said. The boys have made more than enough to buy all the things they wanted and then some.

They earned six figures for their work last year and are on pace to double that in 2019, their mother says.

At the time the boys launched their business, their mother was already selling inspirational T-shirts, mugs, lapel pins and pillows through her website, Celena Gill Design and she did pop-ups as well. Meanwhile, her husband, Patrick Gill sells personal care and beard products for men through his company, Black Oak Grooming.

“All of us do something,” she told the AFRO.

In those early days, the boys relied on their family members, as well as their parents’ friends, school and business contacts, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters.

Looking to the future, the boys plan to focus more on the retail end of their business and training other kids to become entrepreneurs.

“If they don’t want to do it, you can’t make them if the effort isn’t there,” Celena Gill said of kids thinking about opening their own business. “Some people love working nine to five and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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