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The Catholic Church Played Major Role in Slavery

In 2016, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. offered a public apology after acknowledging that 188 years prior, Jesuit priests sold 272 slaves to save the school from financial ruin.

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The universal church taught that slavery enjoyed the sanction of Scripture and natural law. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) has launched a global news feature series on the history, contemporary realities and implications of the transatlantic slave trade.
(Read the entire series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11)

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire Contributor

“When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” — Jomo Kenyatta, First President of Kenya, Africa

Washington, D.C.- September 4, 2018 – The Catholic Church played a vital role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, according to historians and several published thesiis on the topic.

The trans-Atlantic slave trade was introduced by the coming of the Europeans who came with the Bible in the same manner that Arab raiders and traders from the Middle East and North Africa introduced Islam through the Trans-Saharan slave trade, according to AfricaW.com, a premiere informational website available throughout the continent.

“In fact, the Church was the backbone of the slave trade,” the authors wrote. “In other words, most of the slave traders and slave ship captains were very ‘good’ Christians.”

For example, Sir John Hawkins, the first slave-ship captain to bring African slaves to the Americas, was a religious man who insisted that his crew “serve God daily” and “love one another.”  His ship, ironically called “The Good Ship Jesus,” left the shores of his native England for Africa in October 1562. Some historians argue that if churches had used their power, the Atlantic slave trade might have never occurred.

By the same logic, others argue that the Catholic church and Catholic missionaries could have also helped to prevent the colonization and brutality of colonialism in Africa.  However, according to a 2015 Global Black History report, the Catholic church did not oppose the institution of slavery until the practice had already become infamous in most parts of the world.

In most cases, the churches and church leaders did not condemn slavery until the 17th century.

The five major countries that dominated slavery and the slave trade in the New World were either Catholic, or still retained strong Catholic influences including: Spain, Portugal, France, and England, and the Netherlands.

“Persons who considered themselves to be Christian played a major role in upholding and justifying the enslavement of Africans,” said Dr. Jonathan Chism, an assistant professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown.

“Many European ‘Christian’ slavers perceived the Africans they encountered as irreligious and uncivilized persons. They justified slavery by rationalizing that they were Christianizing and civilizing their African captors. They were driven by missionary motives and impulses,” Chism said.

Further, many Anglo-Christians defended slavery using the Bible. For example, white Christian apologists for slavery argued that the curse of Ham in Genesis Chapter 9 and verses 20 to 25 provided a biblical rationale for the enslavement of Blacks, Chism said.

In this passage, Noah cursed Canaan and his descendants arguing that Ham would be “the lowest of slaves among his brothers” because he saw the nakedness of his father. A further understanding of the passage also revealed that while some have attempted to justify their prejudice by claiming that God cursed the black race, no such curse is recorded in the Bible.

That oft-cited verse says nothing whatsoever about skin color.

Also, it should be noted that Black race evidently descended from a brother of Canaan named Cush. Canaan’s descendants were evidently light-skinned – not black. “Truly nothing in the biblical account identifies Ham, the descendant of Canaan, with Africans. Yet, Christian apologists determined that Africans were the descents of Ham,” Chism said.

Nevertheless, at the beginning the sixteenth century, the racial interpretation of Noah’s curse became commonplace, he said.

In 2016, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. offered a public apology after acknowledging that 188 years prior, Jesuit priests sold 272 slaves to save the school from financial ruin.

This is how The New York Times first reported the story: The human cargo was loaded on ships at a bustling wharf in the nation’s capital, destined for the plantations of the Deep South. Some slaves pleaded for rosaries as they were rounded up, praying for deliverance.But on that day, in the fall of 1838, no one was spared: not the 2-month-old baby and her mother, not the field hands, not the shoemaker and not Cornelius Hawkins, who was about 13 years old when he was forced onboard.

Their panic and desperation would be mostly forgotten for more than a century. But this was no ordinary slave sale. The enslaved African-Americans had belonged to the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests.  And they were sold, along with scores of others, to help secure the future of the premier Catholic institution of higher learning at the time, known today as Georgetown University.

“The Society of Jesus, who helped to establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say that we have greatly sinned,” Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, said during a Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope.

“We pray with you today because we have greatly sinned and because we are profoundly sorry.”

During the early republic, Catholics celebrated the new Constitution for its guarantee of religious liberty while simply accepting its guarantee of slaveholding, according to Blackthen.com.

Internal church politics mattered too. When the Jesuit order was suppressed in 1773, the plantation system of the order in Maryland was seen as a protection for their identity and solidarity.

The universal church taught that slavery enjoyed the sanction of Scripture and natural law. Throughout the antebellum period, many churches in the South committed to sharing their version of the Christian faith with Blacks.  They believed that their version of Christianity would help them to be “good slaves” and not challenge the slave system, Chism said.

“Yet, it is important to note that African Americans made Christianity their own, and Black Christians such as Nat Turner employed Christian thought and biblical texts to resist the slave system. Furthermore, Black and white abolitionist Christians played a major role in overturning the system of slavery,” he said.

Stacy M. Brown

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.)

My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.) My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Stephanie Jones

    September 16, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    This is certainly ill informed. Someone need to do more homework. Many Popes condemned slavery: Eugenius IV (in 1435 the Papal bull Sicut Dudum), Paul III (1537 bull Sublimus Dei), Gregory XIV (1590 bull Cum Sicuti), Urban VIII (1639 bull Commissum Nobis), Innocent XI (in 1676), Benedict XIV (1741 bull Immensa Pastorum), Gregory XVI (1839 bull In Supremo), Leo XIII (in 1888 and 1890).

    It is a fact that individual Christians have sinned. When will you look at the huge and excessively cruel Muslim slave trade going on in Africa for centuries? In Saudi Arabia, it was legal to own slaves as late as 1960.

    • Deborah

      September 16, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      Thank you Stephanie, you know, this makes feel like it wasn’t a coincidence that this author and this “news” media purposely chose this time to bash the Church once again. Just to kick us while we are down.

    • Black star

      September 17, 2018 at 5:20 am

      Yeah after you all got ricc

    • Edward Griffin

      September 18, 2018 at 8:35 am

      The article was not about the Muslim part in the slave trade, which they took part but the Catholics part in the evil practice.

  2. Anthony

    September 16, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    After reading all of this information,one would think that our black brothers and sisters would be able to put aside the entertainment of TV, SPORTS, MUSIC to begin to get back to being leaders. We have got to stop being jealous of each other and pull together. That’s goes to the most affluent Black people to the less fortunate. I’m a black father and I take what Jesus gives me and make sure my family is protected and safe. I never stop dreaming on what I can accomplish or if givin the opportunity to do better. All dreams aren’t full filled, but I never stop trying.
    The Catholic church knew it was wrong to enslave African people. What a lot of preachers are not saying is Cannains offspring the Cannites were destroyed. If the Cannites were destroyed how are Black People the Majority on this Planet?

  3. Lisa CATRANIDES

    September 16, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    Compliments on this article. Well done. Thank you.
    Along with the practice of extraction of Africans from their homelands for enslavement on other continents, slavery of Africans IN Africa was brutally manifested under Christian Missionaries who imprisoned and enslaved thousands of Africans during the development of the rubber extraction industry. Christian missionary forces built numerous Stockades to hold and torment Africans forced to harvest rubber trees under direction of Dutch King Leopold with assistance of Christian Missionaries from Great Britian.
    An Irish missionary accompanying the British, named Rodger Casement, was knighted by the king of England for revealing the brutality of imposed slavery of rubber trade within Africa,leading to the cessation of Britain’s involvement in the rubber trade partnership with the Dutch at that time.
    The enslavement of people of color by the rubber trade also continued into South America, with Rodger Casement again exposing the crimes. An excellent historic account of these atrocities is written by prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa in a novel entitled “The Dream of the Celt”. It provides astonishing insights into this era, as lived by spirited Irishman Roger Casement, including exerpts from his personal journals.
    No spoilers here.
    The story is quite an exposé.
    A must-read.

    • Deborah

      September 16, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      Thank you Stephanie, you know, this makes feel like it wasn’t a coincidence that this author and this “news” media purposely chose this time to bash the Church once again. Just to kick us while we are down. I also fail to see why the author left out the fact that it was Africans who sold these slaves to the white men. Looks to me that Black on Black crime runs deep! Once again, no one wants to acknowledge that piece of history. Europeans didn’t just take these people, they were sold to them by their brother Africans who wanted to prosper by the sale of their “people. So you can’t blame EVERYTHING for ever on whites or Christians. Start accepting your own part in slavery and the contribution that blacks have had on their own demise. It’s a proven historical fact that even in this country there were Black slave owners…why? Did the author include this in his history?? And why didn’t the title to this article say “Muslim religion also contributed to the enslavement of Africans” ???

      • Ukumbwa Sauti

        September 18, 2018 at 6:39 am

        Always a dodge and never accountability. Where is the insight of moral rectitude of that? Your rhetoric here is that of victim-blaming and gaslighting, totally dismissive and ignorant of the dynamics of African involvement in the European christian colonial slavery trade and the implications of that in creating the context and fuel for so-called Black on Black crime as if the genocidal system set up by European Christians is some sort of equal element. Please stick to what you know and obviously it’s nothing about what’s in this article. Thank you. No. Strike that.

  4. Luis Manuel Castineiras

    Luis Manuel Castineiras

    September 16, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    ☆Democrats, Catholic have been all ways slave keeper’s. That’s we or the most of us are Protestant, and our President Lincoln besides being killed by a Democrat ,is the one’s that gave them there Freedom. ☆VOTE NOVEMBER 6, 2018 FOR THE RED WAVE AND SAVE OUR NATION FROM BEING DEMOCRATIC /SOCIALIST. ☆ BUILD THAT WALL TO BE SECURE FROM ILLEGALS CRIMINALS ☆

    • Chanel Johnson

      September 17, 2018 at 4:47 am

      Republicans had slaves, too. Lincoln had and raped slaves. Let’s be clear he didn’t end slavery;slavery went on well after the emancipation proclamation. So, Fuck racist democrats, racist republicans, the catholic church, the muslims, christianity, and the fake jewish Zionists…. They all had a hand in the enslavement of black people.

  5. Gary Daniel

    September 16, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Since when has the Catholic Church been known for altruism? The Spanish Empire was started with the Inquisition in place.

  6. THE. MOORS HAVE THE TRUTH

    September 17, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Research The Moor!! This is a very sided depiction and doesn’t present the true history.

  7. Ramon V

    October 12, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Powerful article highlighting the churches true face and identity.
    In 1493 (the year after Columbus discovered the America) Pope Alexander VI made explicit the rights of Catholics in the Americas. He authorized the King of Spain to enslave non-Christians of the Americas at war with Catholic powers – in other words anyone who resisted the invasion and seizure of their land.

    Like other bishops, the popes themselves owned slaves — Pope Innocent VIII accepted the gift of numerous slaves from Malaga, given by the exceptionally devout Queen Isabella of Castile in 1487.

    To clear up any doubt about who was entitled to own slaves, Pope Paul III confirmed in 1548 that all Christian men and all members of the clergy had the right to own slaves.

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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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