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Neglect, Disrespect of Puerto Rico by Trump Administration Continues

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The Donald Trump administration’s response to the crisis reveals that Puerto Ricans are racialized as subordinate, despite their US citizenship, said Dr. Pedro Cabán, Professor of Latin American, Caribbean and US Latino Studies at University at the State University of New York in Albany. “Trump’s racially charged statements resurrected long dormant, degrading characterizations of Puerto Ricans as lacking the capacity and will to fend for themselves.”

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Critics, pundits and academics say it’s impossible to ignore the role race plays in Trump’s treatment of Puerto Ricans. Photo: SAN JUAN, PR - MARCH 4, 2018: Painted USA flag on uprooted tree from Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico. / iStockphoto / NNPA

By Barrington M. Salmon, NNPA Newswire Contributor
@bsalmondc

President Donald Trump reignited the antipathy he has towards Puerto Rico when, in a recent meeting with Congressional Republicans, he reiterated his desire to deny any but the most basic funds to Puerto Rico.

He told senators in a closed-door meeting on March 26 he thinks Puerto Rico got too much funding compared to mainland states like Florida, Georgia and Texas. In a CNN exclusive by Jim Acosta and Kevin Liptak, Trump said he is willing to supplement a shortfall in the island’s food stamp program to the tune of $600 million but refuses to do more.

This posture infuriated Gov. Ricardo Rosselló who reacted angrily to Trump’s comments, calling him a bully and accusing him of ignoring the island’s dire post-hurricane needs. Rosselló told CNN that he would not sit back and allow his officials to be bullied by the White House.

“If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth,” he said. “It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.”

In various media reports, Rosselló described the president’s remarks as “irresponsible, regrettable and, above all, unjustified,” and “below the dignity of a sitting president.”

“I invite the president to stop listening to ignorant and completely wrong advice,” Rosselló added in a statement last week. “Instead he should come to Puerto Rico to hear firsthand from the people on the ground. I invite him to put all of the resources at his disposal to help Americans in Puerto Rico, like he did for Texas and Alabama. No more, no less … What I am aiming to do is make sure that reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails and that we can have a discussion.”

Trump has complained repeatedly that Puerto Rican government officials are wasting the money it has already received, a statement that Rosselló strenuously pushed back against.

“He treats us as second-class citizens, that’s for sure,” he said. “And my consideration is I just want the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information he’s getting is wrong. I don’t think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the President does any good. I don’t think anyone can beat the President in a kicking and screaming match. What I am aiming to do is make sure reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails, and that we can have a discussion.”

Both Rosselló and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, have sought meetings with Trump for months but he has refused. Rosselló met with White House officials and was also on Capitol Hill last week discussing the prospects of Puerto Rican statehood with lawmakers.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Trump supports the federal government offering $600 million to Puerto Rico to bridge a food stamp shortfall caused by commonwealth officials slashing benefits, but the president is resistant to the US government sending disaster aid dollars and money to rebuild antiquated water systems and make them more resilient to future storms.

Overall, more than 580,000 people in Puerto Rico rely on the food stamp program and more than 40 percent of them live below the poverty line, Rossello said.

According to the Associated Press, the Government Accountability Office estimates that Puerto Rico will need about $132 billion to rebuild from Maria. And so far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated almost $4 billion in public assistance grant funding to the island and Congress has released $11 billion.

The Democratic House pulled together an almost $14 billion aid package that sat in the Senate for weeks, then Trump’s stubborn refusal to approve additional funding led them to block a $13.5 billion Republican disaster aid bill on April 2. The Dems argued that without more adequate aid for Puerto Rico they wouldn’t support the bill.

Trump criticized Democrats via Twitter for “fighting” the disaster relief bill and he continues to argue that Puerto Rican officials are using federal funds to pay off its debts, an assertion the officials strenuously deny.

“I want to be very clear: Not a single federal dollar has been used to make debt payments,” Rosselló said. “Mr. President: Enough with the insults and demeaning mischaracterizations. We are not your political adversaries; we are your citizens,”

According media reports, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said Trump was blaming Puerto Rico for failing to spend money that his own administration was refusing to turn over to the island.

“This administration cannot simultaneously hold up recovery dollars for Puerto Rico, and then point to Puerto Rico’s failure to spend it as an excuse not to provide additional assistance,” Leahy said during debate on the Senate floor.

““I’ve given them more money than they’ve ever got,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being. I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it.

Since the storms, Trump has congratulated himself, claiming that the recovery efforts were ‘incredibly successful’ and he praised FEMA and law enforcement as well.

In a recent article in The Independent, a British publication, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is quoted as saying he believes Puerto Rico will need to find its own way out of the debt crisis. Those knowledgeable about what happens in the White House also say they believe he is encouraging Trump’s negative view of the island.

On April 1, Trump tweeted: “The people of Puerto Rico are GREAT, but the politicians are incompetent or corrupt. Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined, yet their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess – nothing works.”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been trading insults with Trump since shortly after the storms, issued a statement last week saying Trump’s comments are a reminder that he “cannot lead.”

“When faced with a devastating human crisis, Trump augmented it because he made it about himself, not about saving our lives,” she said. “When expected to show empathy, he showed disdain and lack of respect; it seems to be too hard for Trump to know the facts, so he continues to lie about the aid sent to Puerto Rico and about the federal inadequacy towards Puerto Rico.”

As the politicians squabble, the 3.2 million residents of the island commonwealth are still struggling to cope with the crippling and devastating effects of massive back-to-back Category 4 and 5 storms in September 2017. Hurricane Maria destroyed the island’s electrical grid and cellphone towers. In addition, about 80 percent of transmission lines are down and 100 percent of the wires connecting homes and businesses were demolished.

Damage to the island’s infrastructure, especially in the interior and remote villages and communities, left many roads impassable and residents left to fend for themselves. Most affected were the elderly, people needing dialysis or operations for other illnesses, those suffering from asthma and other respiratory diseases, the poor, residents living in poverty, people living in mountain regions, near rivers and in the heart of the commonwealth’s rugged interior and those who live in the southeastern part of the island.

It is now acknowledged that more than 4,000 people died during and after the storms.

The entire ordeal is exacerbated by the fact that Puerto Rico has been in an economic tailspin for the past 12 years. A federally appointed Financial Oversight and Management Board reported last year that the Commonwealth had $74 billion in bond debt and $49 billion in unfunded pension liabilities as of May 2017. The Control Board has implemented draconian austerity measures which has led to demonstrations and unrest since the hurricanes.

Although Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they do not have a voting member of Congress and cannot vote for president. Puerto Ricans have chafed under America’s colonial yolk and that issue is again in plain view with a president who is unapologetic in his support of white nationalists and their agenda, and quite comfortable expressing his disdain for Puerto Rico, as he has towards other majority Black and brown nations.

Critics, pundits and academics say it’s impossible to ignore the role race plays in Trump’s treatment of Puerto Ricans.

In an interview on Tuesday, Rosselló reminded people that Puerto Rico’s population is almost entirely Latino and said that historically, there have been “ethnic undertones” to the treatment of Puerto Ricans by Washington.

“We don’t want special treatment. We just want equal treatment,” he said.

Dr. Lauren Lluveras said Trump has racialized the federal response and wonders in an article titled, ‘Is Racial Bias Driving Trump’s Neglect of Puerto Rico?’ if racial bias fuels his behavior.

“The island is so crippled in part thanks to the federal government’s underwhelming early hurricane response,” said Dr. Lluveras, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis, University of Texas in Austin. “The historic storm played its role, of course, destroying homes, triggering mudslides and rendering roadways impassible.”

“But the Trump administration delayed dispatching military personnel and material relief until after the hurricane made landfall, and let the Jones Act waiver lapse, reducing the number of ships that can bring aid to the island. These actions have slowed recovery considerably.”

Political Economist Pedro Cabán, an expert in Puerto Rican political and economic change, agreed, saying in a 2017 Jacobin Magazine article titled, ‘Catastrophe and Colonialism’ that Hurricane Maria brutally exposed the crisis of Puerto Rico’s colonial status.

“The Donald Trump administration’s response to the crisis reveals that Puerto Ricans are racialized as subordinate, despite their US citizenship, said Dr. Cabán, Professor of Latin American, Caribbean and US Latino Studies at University at the State University of New York in Albany. “Trump’s racially charged statements resurrected long dormant, degrading characterizations of Puerto Ricans as lacking the capacity and will to fend for themselves.”

FIU’s Dr. Danielle Pilar Clealand said the worst hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years has racialized Puerto Ricans.

“Puerto Rico occupied an elite position in the Caribbean and was considered one of the whiter Caribbean islands, but they’re being racialized,” said Dr. Clealand, assistant professor in the Department of Politics & International Relations at Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute. “They’ve been racialized as non-whites in ways they haven’t before. This is causing them to change their perspective as it relates to who they are. That component is something to watch as people re-envision where they stand in the world.”

Barrington Salmon

Liberation Journalist Barrington Salmon lived and wrote in Florida (Miami and Tallahassee) for almost 20 years. He is a 2017 Annenberg National Fellow (University of Southern California) who currently freelances for several publications, including The Final Call, Atlanta Black Star, the National Newspaper Publishers Association and The Washington Informer. Salmon writes on a variety of topics in the nation’s capital and can often be heard on WPFW, DC’s Pacifica public radio station. The Washington metro area has been Barrington’s home for 20 of the past 22 years, broken up by a two-year stint in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A London-born Jamaican, Barrington has traveled widely to locales including Ghana, Israel, Italy, Greece, El Salvador, Amsterdam, China, Nepal and Zanzibar. Connect with Barrington on his video blog, Speak Freely with Barrington Salmon + follow him on Twitter @bsalmondc and on his Facebook page, BarringtonSalmonWrites.

Liberation Journalist Barrington Salmon lived and wrote in Florida (Miami and Tallahassee) for almost 20 years. He is a 2017 Annenberg National Fellow (University of Southern California) who currently freelances for several publications, including The Final Call, Atlanta Black Star, the National Newspaper Publishers Association and The Washington Informer. Salmon writes on a variety of topics in the nation’s capital and can often be heard on WPFW, DC’s Pacifica public radio station. The Washington metro area has been Barrington’s home for 20 of the past 22 years, broken up by a two-year stint in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A London-born Jamaican, Barrington has traveled widely to locales including Ghana, Israel, Italy, Greece, El Salvador, Amsterdam, China, Nepal and Zanzibar. Connect with Barrington on his video blog, Speak Freely with Barrington Salmon + follow him on Twitter @bsalmondc and on his Facebook page, BarringtonSalmonWrites.

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Memphis third grade reading scores dip as district builds case for retaining students

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Fewer Memphis third grade students than last year are accomplished readers, according to Shelby County Schools’ annual state test data released is discussing in meetings with parents. About 24% of third graders in Shelby County Schools scored proficient in reading on the state’s standardized assessment TNReady. That’s down from about 27% last year, and in contrast to 36% of elementary students statewide who tested proficient.

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Student read a book during a reading circle at Gardenview Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht/Chalkbeat TÑ)
Student read a book during a reading circle at Gardenview Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht/Chalkbeat TÑ)

By Lee Eric Smith

Fewer Memphis third grade students than last year are accomplished readers, according to Shelby County Schools’ annual state test data released is discussing in meetings with parents.

About 24% of third graders in Shelby County Schools scored proficient in reading on the state’s standardized assessment TNReady. That’s down from about 27% last year, and in contrast to 36% of elementary students statewide who tested proficient.

The full results from spring testing are scheduled to be released next week, but Memphis district officials shared the statistic this week at a meeting with parents on a new retention policy that will hold back second grade students who aren’t reading on grade level. The policy will begin in the 2021-22 school year.

Antonio Burt, the district’s chief academic officer, declined to speculate on why the scores dipped. Rather, he said the district would be looking to hone existing strategies — such as daily 45-minute small-group instruction and teacher leaders dedicated to foundational reading skills — and equip new second grade teacher assistants.

“The work and the need around K through 2 is so important,” he told Chalkbeat after Wednesday’s community meeting at Gaisman Community Center to explain the district’s retention plan.

“And as a state, we’re still recovering from the standards shift,” he added later about the state’s 2016 change to a new test with tougher requirements.

The news is a blow to the district’s efforts to strengthen early literacy, which has been a priority for the Memphis district. Superintendent Joris Ray and his leadership team often point to the correlation between third grade reading levels and a similar percentage of students considered college-ready on the ACT test.

Antonio Burt, the chief academic officer for Shelby County Schools, speaks to parents and teachers about the district’s upcoming second grade retention policy and strategies to improve reading. (Photo by: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat)

Antonio Burt, the chief academic officer for Shelby County Schools, speaks to parents and teachers about the district’s upcoming second grade retention policy and strategies to improve reading. (Photo by: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat)

“We know that if our kids that don’t master reading prior to third grade, they’re four times more likely to drop out of school,” Burt told parents Wednesday evening. “That same student would then be four times more likely to be incarcerated.”


Related: Learn more about the English curriculum that was introduced in late 2017


Shelby County Schools is aiming to have 90% of its third grade students reading proficiently by the year 2025. That’s higher than the state’s goal of 75% for that same year.

This year’s kindergarten class would be the first group that could be held back a year because of Shelby County Schools new retention policy, Burt said. The district will require students to meet eight of 12 benchmarks, including minimum report card grades and reading scores, throughout the year in order to pass second grade.

Candace Marshall, a prekindergarten teacher and parent, said she mostly favors the retention policy and had faced resistance at a Memphis charter school when she wanted her niece to repeat first grade.

“I don’t want her to be a statistic. It made me question how many other kids get passed along,” she told Chalkbeat.

The post Memphis third grade reading scores dip as district builds case for retaining students appeared first on Chalkbeat.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Duo teams up for food and clothing drive for homeless veterans on Saturday

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Memphis is experiencing a serious problem with homelessness and poverty among veterans but a new nonprofit is hoping to ease the burden.

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(l-r) Jalissa Marshall and Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon are teaming up to raise funds for homeless veterans. (Photo by: /tri-statedefender.com)
(l-r) Jalissa Marshall and Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon are teaming up to raise funds for homeless veterans. (Photo by: /tri-statedefender.com)

By Destiny Royston

Memphis is experiencing a serious problem with homelessness and poverty among veterans but a new nonprofit is hoping to ease the burden.

On Aug. 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., Help the Homeless Veterans will hosted a food and clothing drive in downtown Memphis at the corner of Adams Avenue and Main Street.

Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon, who served in the Army for 10 years and went on four combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, is spearheading the event that will provide food, clothing and other needed items for the homeless and those who are struggling. Wilson-Chatmon and her husband are both disabled veterans..

Jalissa Marshall, who is the wife of another disabled vet, will be alongside Wilson-Chatmon helping with the event to bring awareness to homelessness.

“Jalissa and I discuss these issues all the time,” said Wilson-Chatmon. “We decided it was time to turn words into actions, and that was the birth of ‘Help the Homeless Veterans Food and Clothing Giveaway.’

Being a disabled vet, Wilson-Chatmon knows the harsh reality about men and women who have served the nation who now face homelessness and hunger.

Veteran or not, people who are in need of items, food and clothing are encouraged to come to the event, as many organizations around the city that assist those in need have strict qualifications that many don’t meet. Their goal is to look out for everyone because homelessness and hunger know no criteria.

The ladies hope to serve at least 50 personnel. Wilson-Chatmon wants to continue sponsoring events like this so that she and her team can become a well-established nonprofit organization that does more than hand out items in Memphis.

She wants to provide shelter and help rebuild communities and cater to everyone, especially those who don’t meet the qualifications of the larger organizations.

“No one deserves to sleep on the streets. As a community, it starts with us,” said Wilson-Chatmon. “We hope to inspire others to act no matter how small.”

Supporters of veterans can donate items such as water and clothing at Watson’s Barber & Beauty Shop on 2236 Pendleton St., until Aug. 9.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Push to ban plastic bag sat groceries falls short

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Plastic bags will still be used in grocery stores, despite some Memphis City Council members’ efforts to ban them. Tuesday, the council rejected an ordinance that would have required grocery stores to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.

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By Erica R. Williams

Plastic bags will still be used in grocery stores, despite some Memphis City Council members’ efforts to ban them. Tuesday, the council rejected an ordinance that would have required grocery stores to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.

“This is an effort for us to do something different in the State of Tennessee,” Councilman Berlin Boyd, who sponsored the ordinance, said before the vote.

Boyd has continued to push for the ban despite a recent state law barring cities from regulating single-use plastic such as grocery bags. He argues that using them is costing the city too much money.

“If we pass this here, it will give us the leverage to negotiate on a state level,” he told fellow council members.

Some have complained that lawmakers are considering the bans to cater to plastic-industry lobbyists. Boyd said that’s not it, pointing out that the city’s Division of Public Works spends $3 million each year to dispose of the bags.

Last year before proposing the ban, Boyd suggested a seven-cent fee on plastic bags that shoppers take from retail stores. He then reduced the proposed fee to five cents earlier this year.

In other action

* Memphis 3.0 was dropped from this council meeting’s agenda. Last month council members voted on hiring an outside consultant to review the comprehensive development plan. They will delay voting until after the consultant’s review of the plan.

The consultant has until September 17 to present findings.

The Memphis 3.0 plan had been challenged by New Chicago community members who believe the plan excludes some neighborhoods based on race. A $10 billion lawsuit filed against the city was later dismissed.

Mayor Jim Strickland has signed an executive order that allows parts of the 3.0 plan to move forward.

* Council members approved an honorary street name change for Bishop David Allen Hall Sr., longtime pastor of Temple Church of God In Christ at 672 S. Lauderdale. The resolution calls for a street name of East Georgia Ave. between South Lauderdale and South Orleans. Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson sponsored the resolution.

* The council delayed voting on the third and final reading of an ordinance that would present new rules for public art placement.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) TV Honors Winners Announced

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” earned four wins from the African American Film Critics Association, who today, announced the winners of its upcoming AAFCA TV Honors. The highly popular Netflix limited series about the infamous Central Park rape case that resulted in the arrest and false imprisonment of five Black youths, received the following group awards: Best Limited Series, Best Ensemble, Best Writing and Breakthrough Performance for Jharrel Jerome who plays Korey Wise in the series.

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Angela Bassett (Photo by: David Shankbone | Wiki Commons)
Angela Bassett (Photo by: David Shankbone | Wiki Commons)

By Sentinel News Service

Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” earned four wins from the African American Film Critics Association, who today, announced the winners of its upcoming AAFCA TV Honors. The highly popular Netflix limited series about the infamous Central Park rape case that resulted in the arrest and false imprisonment of five Black youths, received the following group awards: Best Limited Series, Best Ensemble, Best Writing and Breakthrough Performance for Jharrel Jerome who plays Korey Wise in the series.

Other big wins went to the popular Starz drama “Power,” which begins its sixth and final season August 25th, and the CBS comedy, “The Neighborhood” starring Cedric the Entertainer and Tichina Arnold now entering its second season. Angela Bassett and Sterling K. Brown earned Best Performance Female and Male awards for their respective portrayals in the series “9-1-1” on Fox and “This Is Us” on NBC.

In all, the sixteen-year-old association will give out ten awards during its inaugural event, including honoring mega-producer Ryan Murphy with the AAFCA TV Icon Award and big three network, CBS, with the AAFCA Inclusion Award for its diverse programming and talent.

“It is impossible to ignore TV’s popularity and remarkable influence on America’s pop culture landscape today,” says AAFCA president Gil Robertson IV. “As the stature of the small screen continues to expand, it has become increasingly more diverse and inclusive, a movement that we at AAFCA wholeheartedly embrace and champion. The honorees for our first AAFCA TV Honors represent the very best of television programming. They all successfully put a mirror up to our world to tell stories that are refreshingly diverse and authentic. We feel that this new wave of innovative, thought-provoking storytelling is inspiring and deserving of celebration.”

The honorees will be feted at AAFCA TV Honors during a private brunch on Sunday, August 11, 2019 at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, CA.

AAFCA TV HONORS 2019 Winners:

Best Drama – “Power” (Starz)

Best Comedy – “The Neighborhood” (CBS)

Best Limited Series – “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Best Performance Female – Angela Bassett (9-1-1) FOX

Best Performance Male – Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) NBC

Best Ensemble –– “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Best Writing – “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Breakthrough Performance – Jharrel Jerome, “When They See Us” (Netflix)

AAFCA TV Honors Inclusion Award – CBS

AAFCA TV Honors ICON Award – Ryan Murphy

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’ ABC News Correspondent, author, and mother Linsey Davis returns to the bookshelf with her second children’s book titled, “One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different.”

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Linsey Davis (Courtesy photo
Linsey Davis (Courtesy Photo)

By Saybin Roberson,

Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’

 

ABC News Correspondent, author, and mother Linsey Davis returns to the bookshelf with her second children’s book titled, “One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different.”

Inspired by her son’s life and growth, Davis began writing books as love letters and life lessons to her son, with an emphasis on creating characters that looked like him. “One Big Heart” focuses on highlighting how our differences bring us all together.

“I felt like for him growing up during this time it was essential to affirm what kids already know, which is basically that they have this ability to find common ground,” she says of her new book. Understanding that children know what makes them different, but not the mindset of placing labels on individuals.

“I think kids are better than adults in that way of setting aside differences and just looking for what we have in common.”

Based on a foundation of love, Davis’s intentions to bring peace and inclusion are prominent within her books. “God gave us all this one special gift, he gave us each a heart and that’s the most important part because that’s where love starts.

As a mother of a five-year-old, fulltime news reporter, and author, Davis wears many hats working around the clock feeding each aspect of her life. Writing both “One Big Heart”and her first, “The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Lessons,” Davis says brought her closer to her son as he grew, both teaching each other ways to do life.

“I think so much about the theme of this book is that the students can become the teachers, adults can really learn from children,” she states. Noting the differences between children having no preconceived notions of what is bad or good based on appearance. Believing children are taught and observe how to respond to dissimilarities, this book is a reminder to continue growing with a nonjudgmental attitude.

“I think that as life hits, you have to respond and respond right away,” Davis says, believing children should know the truth of the world they live in, adding, “I also think it’s important to let children direct the narrative.”

“It is important for all of them [children] to see each other,” believing that lack of information is what creates fear, it is important to show diversity to promote unity, rather than exclusion, she goes on to say, “it’s about seeing every race.”

“This is just a conversation that really needs to be had about exposure and embracing diversity.”

Growing up, Davis dealt with being one of the few Black girls in her school and she understands the importance of inclusion and the isolation she felt during her years. Expressing her biggest hope is that children who read “One Big Heart” continue to search for common ground as they grow and experience the world.

“One Big Heart” will be available August 6, 2019 at bookstores and online for purchase. Follow Linsey Davis on Instagram @linseytdavis and Twitter @LinseyDavis for updates on her life and career.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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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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