The Drum Because coMMunity neWs Matters
ELECTION ISSUE 2019
The Picture of Health
X Please see, PG 8
Decisions to memorialize a loved one, Page 4
DrumRoll, page 7
Pastor defends R&B release, Page 10
Superheroes host party, Page 15
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No one will ride to the rescue of Blacks except Blacks X By
Vernon A. Williams
The Chicago Crusader columnist
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The only way future generations will succeed is if African Americans at every level firmly embrace the philosophy of giving back. Black Americans confident that in the final frame of our story the cavalry will ride in to save us are sadly mistaken. Don’t wait without a plan, for government, the Supreme Court, the church, or corporate America. If African Americans are to survive, thrive and mobilize, it will be on their own volition. There has rarely been a time of fractionalization more pointed than we see today. The psychology of our struggle has always, in part, relied on those outside the race to empathize and yield to their better angels. We have counted on the prospect of building alliances with good people to overcome obstacles. Often, we give far too much credit for the roles played by others in our plight. Revered as he may have been, it is common knowledge that if Abraham Lincoln could have brought peace to a war-torn nation WITHOUT “freeing the slaves,” he would have done it. Honest Abe was a reluctant hero at best and a pragmatist guided by circumstance at worst. His goal was to provide an exit from the plantation and an end to the tyranny of an institution that split the United States down the middle. There were no grand provisions for uneducated, poor masses suddenly on their own. Lincoln did not intend to imply that a freed slave was the equal of a white American. This week I attended two programs that help make the larger point. One was a “pinning ceremony” for firstyear students at Indiana University Bloomington. Members of the Class of ’23 were welcomed to the campus and assured that as they matriculate through the often daunting course of higher education, that their support system would be strongly comprised of Black
faculty, staff, students and alumni. It was a ritual to assure our rising stars that their peers and elders would do all within their power to help them pursue their dream. The second of the two programs that I attended this week centered on the legacy of the great Madame C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire in the U.S. Through a collaboration with Eli Lilly, the Indiana University Foundation and IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), a $15 million renovation of the historical Madame C.J. Walker Center and Theater is nearing completion for a 2020 reopening. This ceremony reminded us of those Black Americans on whose shoulders we stand, and the incredible level of intellect, moral turpitude, spiritual strength, resourcefulness and courage these social pioneers embodied. Without modern conveniences, communication, transportation or capital, their genius was unprecedented. Madame Walker died more than 100 years ago but because of her landmark namesake on Indiana Avenue, the unfathomable empire she created lives in perpetuity. She didn’t just make the money and run. She built a neighborhood, enhanced other entrepreneurs and modeled the lifestyle and commitment required for Black people to excel in a society far more antagonistic than we can even imagine. So, examining the Walker legacy was a reiteration of the need for foundation and our recognition of her genius reveals a template for growth, perseverance, progress and success in a new millennium. At the same time engagement with youthful students reinforces the necessity of Black America never to yield to the temptation to rest on its laurels. There are professional achievers in Chicago, Gary, Indianapolis, D.C., the A-T-L and beyond, that rival the prowess of Madam Walker. But are we sufficiently investing that capital. A billionaire who paid off college loan debts of Morehouse College stu-
dents recently turned right around a few weeks later and retired college debts of their parents. Many affluent celebrities are donating to – some under the radar – the education and well-being of African American children. But the numbers need to increase. And the number and scope of people willing to give of their talent, time or treasure to enhance the next generation needs to be broadened and fortified. Young and middle-aged professionals, while you are undoubtedly busy on your career path, carve out time to mentor. Those at or near retirement can set up endowments or tutor or just maintain a presence in the company of fledgling generations of scholars. This is an appeal to examine yourself. If you cannot identify how you are pouring into the lives of young people, begin examining possibilities. If you already are, see how much more you can do. The Bible speaks of the need being great but the laborers few. That is too often our reality. And if you didn’t already know, there won’t be too many Supreme Court decisions that bolster our quest as a people any time soon. Our destiny lies in our own hands. CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared in The Chicago Crusader.
X Please see CITY , PG 14
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Why are suicides a growing problem in the Black community? X By
NNPA Newswire Reporter
It’s no secret that Black Americans – particularly teens – are committing suicide at record levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased by 30 percent since 1999 and nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone. A June 2019 study conducted by the Journal of Community Health revealed that suicide deaths among Black females aged 13 to 19 rose 182 percent between 2001 and 2017, while the rate among Black teen males rose 60 percent during that same period. From 2015 to 2017, 52 percent of Black teen males who died from suicide used firearms, a method with a fatality rate of nearly 90 percent. Another 34 percent used strangulation or suffocation, which has a fatality rate of about 60 percent. Among the 204 Black teen females who died by suicide from 2015 to 2017, 56 percent used strangulation or suffocation and 21 percent used firearms, according to the study. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said one person dies of suicide every 12 hours in Louisiana on average. Experts and others have tried to determine why African Americans increasingly are choosing to end their lives. Theories have run the gamut – from the lack of strong father-figures to racism and social media and even the increase in Black wealth. Whatever the reason, the CDC said it’s important to note that suicidal thoughts or behaviors are both damaging and dangerous and should be treated as a psychiatric emergency. CDC officials also caution that those who have suicidal thoughts should understand that it doesn’t make one weak or flawed. “Why are we killing ourselves? The lack of treatment of mental illness is the key factor to why suicide is on the rise in the Black community,” said Clarence McFerren, a mental health advocate and author who admits to previously having suicidal thoughts as a teenager.
“Throughout my life, I’ve been faced with difficult situations which festered into five mental illness diagnosis – ADHD, PTSD, severe depression, bipolar tendencies and anxieties – and I did not understand what was going on until I took the steps to get help,” McFerren said. Famed Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author, Dr. Fran Walfish said she’s treated hundreds of thousands of children and teens each year and recently she’s seen the number of troubled teenagers who are cutters and dealing with suicidal thoughts, feelings, ideas, plans, and even attempts of suicide. “There is nothing glamorous about suicide. The one common-denominator shared by all who cut, contemplate or attempt suicide is that they feel emotionally alone in their families,” said Walfish, the author of The Self-Aware Parent, and who appears regularly as an expert child psychologist on the CBS Television series, “The Doctors.” “They feel there is no one person they can talk to about their pain who will listen, validate, understand, and be a safe warmly attuned place for comfort,” she said. Sam Gertsmann, the founder of Opinion-Lounge, a website for discussing politics, said he’s had extensive experience working suicide hotlines. “While suicide is a complicated topic, it’s clear that the rise of social media is one of the main causes of the recent jump in suicide rates,” Gertsmann said. “Social media show users pictures and videos of everyone living better lives than they are; even though these pictures are
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Key decisions to help memorialize a loved one
often staged and paint an inaccurate picture, the brain isn’t able to differentiate and simply sees that everyone else is better off,” he said. “Social media also puts numbers on your popularity – your followers, your likes, your replies. And, no matter how many you have, you’ll always want more,” Gertsmann said. Kevin Darné, the author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), believes that the suicide rate among young African Americans is due to the growing list of Black millionaires and billionaires. “Today, we have Oprah owning a TV network, Tyler Perry owning his own studios, Shonda Rhimes owning her night of television on ABC, Jay-Z becoming a billionaire, Dr. Dre selling ‘Beats’ to Apple for $3 billion, and a few Fortune 500 Black CEOs, Black doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs,” Darné said. “Although racism is still alive, it’s impossible to deny the fact that the rise of a Black upper middle class and an increase in Black millionaires [contributes to others having lower self-esteem],” he said. “The irony is the more Black success that someone sees in various industries could make a person start to wonder about what’s wrong with themselves. Depression and lack of fulfillment can cause people in a rich country to consider suicide … when there’s a huge gap between one’s expectations and their reality, life can seem miserable,” Darné said.
Despite the certainty of death, many Americans delay dealing with the fact and avoid funeral planning. In fact, nearly 3 in 5 Americans aren’t confident they could plan a funeral for themselves, let alone a loved one, according to a survey conducted by RememberingALife. com, which was created by the National Funeral Directors Association to empower families in their funeral planning, help them understand memorialization options and support them as they navigate their grief after a death.. Read more online
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Here are the statewide ballot items that are planned for the October 12 election in East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa parishes. To determine you specific ballot and other voter information, visit geauxvote.com at the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website.
Ralph Abraham Oscar "Omar" Dantzler John Bel Edwards Gary Landrieu Patrick "Live Wire" Landry "Eddie" Rispone
Willie Jones William "Billy" Nungesser
SECRETARY OF STATE
Kyle Ardoin "Gwen" Collins-Greenup Thomas J. Kennedy III Amanda "Jennings" Smith
"Ike" Jackson, Jr. "Jeff" Landry
Derrick Edwards Teresa Kenny No Party John M. Schroder
COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY Marguerite Green "Charlie" Greer Michael G. "Mike" Strain Peter Williams Bradley Zaunbrecher COMMISSIONER OF INSURANCE James J. "Jim" Donelon "Tim" Temple EAST BATON ROUGE SHERIFF "Sid" J. Gautreaux, III Charles "Carlos" Jean, Jr. Mark Milligan
TANGIPAHOA SHERIFF Cameron P. Crockett Daniel H. Edwards Arden Wells EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH CLERK OF COURT Donna Collins Lewis "Doug" Welborn EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH ASSESSOR Jonathan Holloway Sr. Brian Wilson EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH CORONER "Beau" Clark Rani Whitfield East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa
BESE DISTRICT 8
Preston Castille Vereta Tanner Lee Jonathan Loveall Chakesha Webb Scott
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS CA NO. 1 (ACT 444 - HB 234) TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR OUTER CONTINENTAL SHELF Do you support an amendment to exempt raw materials, goods, commodities, personal property, and other articles stored in public and private warehouses and destined for the Outer Continental Shelf from ad valorem taxes? (Decem-
ber 1, 2019) CA NO. 2 (ACT 445 - HB 62) Amend Education Excellence Fund Do you support an amendment to provide for appropriations from the Education Excellence Fund for the Louisiana Educational Television Authority, Thrive Academy, and laboratory schools operated by public postsecondary education institutions? (Amends Article VII, Section 10.8(C)(3)(b), (c), and (g); Repeals Article VII, Section 10.8(C)(3)(d)) CA NO. 3 (ACT 446 - HB 428) REMEDY FOR UNCONSTITUTIONAL TAX PAID Do you support an amendment to protect taxpayers by requiring a complete remedy in law for the prompt recovery of any unconstitutional tax paid and to allow the jurisdiction of the Board of Tax Appeals to extend to matters related to the constitutionality of taxes? (Adds Article V, Section 35) CA NO. 4 (ACT 448 - SB 79) ALLOW NEW ORLEANS PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS Do you support an amendment to allow the City of New Orleans to exempt property within Orleans Parish from all or part of ad valorem taxes that would otherwise be due for the purpose of promoting affordable housing? INCORPORATION OF ST. GEORGE - INCORPORATION . Goodwood Homesites Cr. Prev. and Nbrhd. Imp. Dist. - $150/$450/$70 Parcel Fee Continuation - BOC - 10 Yrs.
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Census finds La. among states with greatest income inequality although poverty decreased X By
The gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States grew last year to its highest level in more than 50 years of tracking income inequality, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Sept. 26. Louisiana is among the states with the most income inequality, according to the report. Income inequality is the extent to which income is distributed unevenly among a population. From 2017 to 2018 income inequality has expanded with several heartland states among the leaders of the increase, even though several wealthy coastal states still had the most inequality overall, according to the figures. The areas with the most income inequality last year were coastal regions with large amounts of wealth—the District of Columbia, New York and Connecticut—as well as areas with great poverty: Puerto Rico and Louisiana. However, after reviewing the Census figures, the Louisiana Budget Project reported the percentage of Louisianans living in poverty decreased slightly in 2018 from the previous year. “Despite these welcome
improvements, Louisiana continues to experience poverty at rates far above the nation as a whole, and most of the South,” said Ian Moller, LBP executive director. According to LBP analysis Stacey Rousell, these findings serve as an annual reminder of how far the state has to go before catching up with the rest of the country. “Poverty, inequality, and racial disparities are partly the result of policy decisions made by the people we elect to office. If Louisiana wanted to lift more families out of poverty and into the middle class, it could do so by establishing a statewide minimum wage, and by allowing local communities decide on their own what wage and benefit levels are appropriate,” Rousell writes. “Increased investments in education - from highquality early care and education for the youngest children, to more needbased financial aid for students who need help paying for college - also would help level the playing field and create more opportunities for low-income families and people of color. A comprehensive paid
leave program could ensure that moms can spend time with their newborns, and adults can take time away from work to care for themselves or an ailing family member without facing financial catastrophe. Continued investments in the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and ensuring access to safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid, helps keep millions of working families from slipping below the poverty line and into deep poverty. But these programs, too, can be strengthened at the state and federal level.” ONLINE: LaBudget.org and APNews.com
Early Voting: September 28-October 5th Election Day: October 12 Early Voting: September 28-October 5th Election Day: October 12
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Attorneys Taryn Branson and Joyce Marie Plummer reviver the Joyn M Clemons Award for Outstanding Legal Work during the 2019 Louisiana NAACP State Convention in Marksville. Plummer was also recognized as a life member of the NAACP by president Michael McClanahan. Ernest E. Garrett III has been selected as the new Superintendent of the Louisiana Special School District. The SSD provides education to students housed in state or privatized facilities and hospitals. It also manages educational programs for eligible students enrolled in the Office of Youth Development, Office of Behavioral Health, Office of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Public Safety, and Corrections, and privatized facilities across the state. A native of Missouri, Garrett served as the first deaf and first African-American superintendent of the Missouri School for the Deaf. He was also executive director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and worked as a licensed social worker. Kathie Stromile Golden, Ph.D., has been appointed provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Mississippi Valley State University. She had served as director of international programs at MVSU. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in political science from Southern University and A&M College and a doctorate in political science from the University of Kentucky.
Tina M. Harris has joined LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication as the Manship-Maynard Chair in Race, Media and Cultural Literacy—the first position of its type in the nation. Harris will do research and teaching on advancing issues of diversity, access and social justice in media and society, and will build upon her extensive research base. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree from the University of Georgia. She is the coauthor of the textbook, Interracial Communication: Theory Into Practice. Her other research interests include communication and pedagogy; diversity and media representations; race and ethnic disparities; and religious frameworks in health communication. Calvin Mackie, Ph.D., of New Orleans, recently receiveed the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Phoenix Award from U.S Rep. Cedric L. Richmond during the 2019 Annual Legislative Conference. Mackie is the founder of STEM NOLA. The Phoenix Award is the highest honor presented by CBCF and recognizes individuals whose extraordinary achievements strengthen communities and improve the lives of individuals and families, nationally and globally. STEM NOLA has engaged more than 40,000 K-12 students, 10,000 families, 700 college students and 500 professionals in STEM events. Mackie was honored along with Wanda Austin, PhD, aeronautics and systems
engineer; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; The Exonerated Five: Yusef Salaam, PhD, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Antron McCray, survivors of false convictions and social justice advocates; and the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist.
is the first Black man named La’s poet laureate and will serve for two years.
Southern University at Baton Rouge’s enrollment climbed above 7,000 according to its fall 2019 preliminary enrollment report. This year, Southern will host 7,031 students, representing a 5.1 percent increase in enrollment since the fall 2018 semester. In two years, Southern has grown its enrollment by 10.6 percent. Officials said the increase can be attributed to aggressive recruitment strategies, retention, and intrusive advisement initiatives, and additional wrap-around services for students who may need increased assistance.
Zhorie’l Tapo, a fifth-grader at L.J. Alleman Fine Arts Magnet Academy, has been selected as the only Louisiana Kid Reporter for the 2019-2020 Scholastic Kids Press. The Lafayette 10-year-old will report “news for kids, by kids” as a Scholastic Kid Reporter. She will be covering events throughout Louisiana, the region and nation on topics including entertainment, sports and breaking news. (Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic)
Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities has selected John Warner Smith as Louisiana’s newest Poet Laureate. A native of Morgan City, Smith began writing poetry while simultaneously building a successful career as a public administrator and a banker. He now teaches English at Southern University and A&M College, in addition to regularly publishing new works of poetry. Since 2007, he has directed Education’s Next Horizon, a non-profit policy advocacy organization dedicated to improving public education in Louisiana. He
U.S. 5th Circuit Court Chief Judge Carl Stewart is the 2019 recipient of the Louisiana NAACP A.P. Tureaud Award. This is the highest award given by the state organization.
The Capital Area Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association welcomed a class of new volunteers at the conclusion of the Sept. 19 training session. Juvenile Court Judge Adam Haney swore in Patti Crump, Debbie Emery, Karen Godwin, Eboni Kaigler, Chiquita Kelly, Lindsey Litchfield, Helen Meyer, Brian Morin, Nicole Morin, Tommy Ray, Wendy Ray, Reba Roy, Mike Rush, Dona Sharkey, Wayne Sharkey, Michelle Sparks, Edward Stephen, Holly Tupper, Charles Vaughan, Dishili Young, and Nathan Zeller as volunteers. They will be appointed to advocate and help abused and neglected children reach safe homes with forever families.
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‘But you don’t look sick’: The Picture o
X By Candace J. Semien Jozef Syndicate reporter
or someone who began capturing photos at seven years old, seeing life through a lens is second nature. And, using photography for the purpose of storytelling is a skill Baton Rouge photographer and journalist Leslie D. Rose has mastered with The Picture of Health photo project that displays the full scope of people living with invisible illnesses. From capturing bottles of medicines and supplements, medical equipment, vials of blood of another, bundles of hair loss, and hidden scars, Rose takes great care to present photographic stories of people living with invisible, chronic and often debilitating diseases. For many people living with invisible illnesses, very rarely do they “look sick.” And quite often, there is no celebration in looking like they are disease-free when beneath the surface their bodies are fighting debilitating conditions or chronic pain. In fact, a moment of conversation with someone living with diseases like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, or lupus, will reveal little known truths about the appearance of illness and the journey to get to an accurate diagnosis. These truths are some of the reasons Rose unveiled The Picture of Health photo exhibit this summer at the Healthcare Gallery and followed with a three-month show at Southern Grind Cofe in Scotlandville. Inspired by her own fibromyalgia journey and her husband’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis, Rose created this exhibit to help nonill people better understand what “sick” really looks like while giving the power of transparency to people who are chronically ill.
“These are glimpses of life stories, snapshots of ongoing struggle with situations that most folks tend to wrongfully ignore or dismiss. Be a part of this. Get open, get honest, promote better awareness and understanding.” Chris Lee
Shining light on invisible illnesses of all kinds has become a passion project for her after a simple Facebook post that asked people to comment with a selfie if they had invisible illnesses. More than a hundred posts and responses followed and she realized something should be done. “And this (exhibit) is that something,” Rose said. “The biggest thing is to elicit compassion.” For those viewing the exhibit at the gallery and coffee shop, The Picture of Health accomplishes more. “This exhibit is moving. I see myself in every picture,” said Vanessa Pitts who has lived with systemic lupus erythematosus for more than 20 years. Tinicia Turner said this is “such Rose an awesomely fresh and thoughtprovoking exhibit.” “Thanks, Leslie D Rose for bringing light to those suffering in the shadows,” said Tamiko Francis Garrison whose photo presents polycys-
tic kidney disease and m exhibit. The exhibit features dozen Louisianians livin ney disease, diabetes, s atic arthritis, Sjogren’s and more. They volunte months since the revea with ten different condit The photos show peo present themselves dail full body shots, and sho ing a sign listing their d the perceived normalcy Photographs are also sh cial media pages along wi awareness and garner more highlight invisible illness, elicit c tion on a variety of health issues. For those who are photographe was one of the most rewarding and be able to see so many people wh
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of Health project reveals truth behind invisible illness
migraines in the
more than one ng with invisible illnesses like kidsickle cell anemia, autism, psoriSyndrome, high blood pressure, eer to share their stories. In five al, Rose has photographed people tions. ople in the manner in which they ly. Using a mixture of headshots, ots of the individual’s hands holddiagnosis, the exhibit focuses on y of people housed in ill bodies. hared on @PicofHealthBR soith hashtags of illnesses to expand participation. The mission is to compassion, and promote educa-
ed, the project is liberating. “This d freeing experience of my life! To ho, suffer with invisible illnesses,
Sylvia C . Chapman and Erik a Mitche ll ( be low) s tand be fore the ir photo colle ction at T he P icture of H e alth Exhibit.
share their journeys was truly inspiring. It was also quite amazing to see what they battle everyday. These warriors inspired me and filled the room with love and hope!” said Sylvia Chapman. One of the exhibit’s collections features Chapman who shared how psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis sent her life spiraling through debilitating health crisis and depression. “I often asked God why this was happening to me and then I started to see purpose in it,” Chapman said. For her, the yearlong Picture of Health exhibit helps her release her purpose of showing others that they can survive and live their lives completely with illness. “To have our silent suffering validated and brought to light is healing, and Leslie’s work is beautiful,” said Meghan Matt. In September, Rose gathered participants and the public for a Coffee Chat at Southern Grind Cofe to dialogue on invisible illnesses. They answered candid questions on diagnosis, fears, frustrations, and relationships. “My heart is full because so many people are interested in promoting invisible illness awareness,” said Rose who plans to host more events. “I have been somewhat shocked by the demographics of people who have signed up to be featured in The Picture of Health. I think
I’ve inadvertently given encouragement to women who look like me and inspired them to share their stories. I have worked to create a safe space for those with illnesses to share their stories, but it appears that my own identity has given way for other women of color to feel even more comfortable sharing,” she said. “It is truly amazing the response and amount of support this project has received. Leslie has definitely created something educational, relatable, eye-opening, and beautiful,” said exhibit curator April Baham. Pieces are still being added to the exhibit and a full showing is being scheduled for May 2020. Rose’s activism-based arts organization, CreActiv, LLC seeks a temporary home for the preview pieces on display and a location to host the full exhibit next year. On Sunday, Oct.13, the group will host a panel discussion on, Invisible Illness Awareness through the Arts, to explore art as a tool for building awareness around the taboo subject of health issues. Panelists will discuss the creation of the project, stigmas surrounding disclosing illnesses, what it is like to have an invisible illness, ways to elicit compassion for those who suffer every day, and more. The program will also feature a musical performance by Chris “The Madd Katt” Lee that will depict the pain of sciatica through drum beats. Lee is an “invisible illness warrior” featured in the exhibit. The event will begin at 4pm in the Baton Rouge Gallery Center for Contemporary Arts, 1515 Dalrymple Dr. “The mission of pushing invisible illness to the forefront of the conversation is very hard...People who wake up in pain but generally look well fight everyday to act how they look instead of allowing their bodies to feel. This is a super trying process. I appreciate everyone’s support, but I fear that our voices are not yet loud enough. ...Feel how you feel, support yourself, talk about it, support other invisible illness warriors, and champion this mission,” said Rose. ONLINE: www.CreActiv.com SOCIAL MEDIA: @PicofHealthBR
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Pastor defends new ‘Emoji’ R&B single
Candace J. Semien
Jozef Syndicate Reporter
Switching genres is any creative space isn’t and easy task. Artists, writers, and musicians who do so seamlessly can often be met with resistance. There is always the expectations of fans to create better books, music, or art but often within the scope of the performers’ known area. Recently, Kanye West was met with criticism following his Sunday Service performance at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Critics said West’s project is blasphemous--among other things. “We really have to unlearn what we have been trained to believe is ministry,” said New Orleans minister Ro Wright III who recently released an R&B single, “Emoji.” The song is mainstream, pop, and high-energy—not quite what people have come to expect for ministry music. “Emoji is a fun song with a nice Afro-beat groove but if you listen to the words carefully, you’ll see it’s really just a song about communication. I believe the root of a great relationship is the ability of two people to let nothing hinder them from being able to talk to each other. More importantly, tell each other how they feel. Check up on each other and lift each other’s spirit,” Wright said. The song was released mid-August on more than a dozen platforms including iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon, and Deezer. It is the first single for Wright’s upcoming full project release, “How To Love”.
The music was produced by Skirmisher Beat Squad. Wright wrote and arranged it while producer Brandon Barre mastered and engineered it. Wright clarifies the message of his latest--and 11th--project. ‘Emoji’ doesn’t fit the praise and worship, Gospel music genre but sits smack in the R&B, love song mix. As a minister, why would you create an R&B love song and album without the mentioning of God or salvation? WRIGHT: We’ve been taught that ministry is Worship music only. Worship music is a resource for ministry, and a very vital ingredient, but it is not the only tool God can use. If ministry is truly about healing and building all of God’s people, then that includes those who may not be members of a particular church and may not gravitate to the Worship arena. My God is not in a box and if God is really going to reach this generation then Chance the Rapper is just as important as Tye Tribbett. Kanye West is just as anointed as Kirk Franklin. If my marriage is going through a rough spot and I need to relight the fire in my relationship, why exclude God from that? R&B has the power to make people love and care about each other. Isn’t that what God asked us to do? R&B music can be just as anointed as Gospel when it is created with purpose. X Please see EMOJI , PG 12
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When GrandPa leaves land, he leaves legacy for 3rd generation farmers X By
Candace J. Semien
Jozef Syndicate Reporter
A young pioneer in Internet radio, Nicolette “Missy” Gordon started MissyRadio.com in 2011, trending through an online business model that had only surfaced on the national scene. The path made sense for the then-20-something broadcast journalist who’d been “on the air” with Citadel Broadcasting’s WEMX-FM Max 94.1 for years. From there, she went on the graduate studies only to return to her alma mater as an area youth agent at the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center. But it was through remembering a conversation she had with her grandfather, Robert Pope, that gives her a “mission” today. “When I told him I was going back to school, he asked me ‘Why are you doing that? I’ve given you everything you need,” she said. And he had. Grandpa Pope and his wife, Ora, left 128-acre farm in Greensburg, La., to a family of seven granddaughters with Missy being the one to pick up their legacy and return to farming. “I became a FarmHer by default,” she often jokes, “but in all actuality, it was destined to happen.” The third-generation farmer has pulled her talents and skills in youth development, small business management, community organizing, and nontraditional teaching to develop one of her largest personal projects: managing the family farm which includes livestock pasture and woodlands. “My family has been farming for centuries, I have a sharecropping document from my great-great grandpa,” she said. Her ultimate goal is to make sure that “nobody in my community is hungry, and that our youth never forget what self-sustainability really looks like,” she said. “As an assistant area agent, working with youth is 90 percent of my appointment. It’s been quite amazing to see the many youth who are still interested in agriculture. “I have noticed that urban farming has taken on a life of its own, and it’s a wonderful thing. It’s one of the easiest ways that we can eradicate food deserts in inner city neighborhoods of Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” she said. However, she said she believes we’ve become too far removed from self-sustainability. “I can remember, as a child, we shelled our beans for dinner at Big Momma house…At eight years old, I knew how to plant, harvest, and shell speckled butter beans and Crowder peas.” “My grandfather would always talk to me about
Nicolette Gordon managing her Internet radio station, MissyRadio.com ~ F a rm Her Mi ssy su rveyi ng p l ot s i n Greensb u rg, La .
preserving his legacy,” said Gordon. She began learning the business management side of farming and in 2018 she was selected to participate in the Southern University Ag Center’s Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute. She is a certified master gardener with a certificate in farm risk management. Now, she is known in Louisiana’s Agriculture circles as “FarmHer Missy.” Why are you bringing Ag to your family and to the community? GORDON: I would not say that I am bringing Ag to our community. I think I serve as a voice to remind my family & community that, “Hey this is where we come from, and this is a skill-set that we can’t afford to lose.” What’s your mission/goal with your land? GORDON: Basically, my mission is to pick-up where my grandfather left off but developing an Ag Enterprise. How much time are you currently spending in agriculture? GORDON: I like to think every day is a teachable moment in agriculture. Agriculture is literally tied back to everything that we do, be it the workplace or at home. In the near future, we will open our farm for farm demo, and professional development opportunities. Who’s farming with you now? GORDON: It’s definitely a family affair! My uncle, Robyn Pope, is a very important component of our farming operation because he knows every detail about our farm. My mother, sister, and brother -in-law and I are members of the Cattleman’s Association. We are excited to start building up our herd this fall. Why are you farming when so many people are leaving agriculture and farming because of the labor and low wage? GORDON: Farming is fulfilling, therapeutic, and it
keeps me humbly connected to my roots. It is so important to never forget that farming was the only way of life for many of our families in rural America. So in essence, it can never be primarily about earning a wage for me. This is the preservation of my families legacy for me, and there’s no amount of money that can ever top that… I love it! Many of the Baby Boomers will say, “Farming is hard work!” My reply is always, “Somebody gotta do it!”
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EMOJI CONT. FROM PAGE 12
How can you say this single, “Emoji,” and the “How to Love” project is Godled? What’s the message or messages you’re delivering? WRIGHT: Well it’s definitely God-led... These songs are definitely from the soul and written with a purpose.. People fall in love in one minute and in less than a month they are already done with each other. It says to me there is a deeper issue in our community that we seem to avoid and ignore. We don’t know how to love. We have workshops and retreats and forums but many times they are so “churchy” that the people who really need the advice don’t even participate. If the church is serious about saving marriages and building young adults, then we have to seriously look at measures which go beyond the parameters of the traditional version of ministry. I want every child to grow up in a great family structure. I want every woman to leave her house confident that her man is being faithful. I want every man to be excited about being a husband, a father, or just a good dude who cares about his lady. Most people have good intentions. We simply lose focus. Can you be more specific? WRIGHT: I want this project to make couples give it another shot. I want this project to give hope to people who feel they are successful yet still single. We all have a lot to learn about love. Even us. But we hope our journey can help our peers understand how to make it work in a way that has truly helped us. How have you addressed those people who challenge your message in this project? WRIGHT: I learned a long time
ago… I will never fit into religious boxes. I don’t think what I am doing will surprise any of the clergy because I have always been an outsider anyway. I am strategic and purposeful in everything I do and most times they don’t understand it until they see the results that I have ALWAYS produced. I love the culture...I’m cut from a different cloth and I do not play with my purpose. I think churches should invite my wife and I to speak. The way we are structured makes sense. We are cultivated in the Word yet we are not so religious that we can’t connect with our peers. We love being who we are… young, free, eclectic, and saved. How welcoming do you expect churches or congregations to receive these messages around love? Is a church tour a possibility? WRIGHT: I’m an optimistic person. I think people who are truly Kingdom-minded will understand that this is an emergency. Our churches and families are failing because we neglect to talk about the things that are urgent in their lives. Sexual frustration is tearing up Christian relationships. Lack of communication is destroying families. Misunderstanding of our roles in a relationship kills it before it really gets started. Most importantly, being over religious ain’t never kept a fire burning. Many of us are imprisoned and so indoctrinated by improper religious teachings that we think we’ll go to hell if we make love with our own spouses. We don’t have those problems in my house! We truly believe you can love God as a priority and love each other with exclusivity and it is supposed to be exciting. We can’t say God created everything but exclude Him from intimacy.
That is important to God too and the more we avoid it the more issues we will have with broken families and heart broken adults who really want to share their life with someone. Your style has been highly charged for 20 years, how is this an extension of what you’ve done creatively and as pastor in New Orleans? WRIGHT: I don’t look at any project as an individual entity. Everything is just another chapter in a collective body of work...I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time. Much of my success is centered my work with building relationships. I’ve produced a movie about it (“Get The Ring Keep The Ring”) and I’ve also written books about it. Through social media I connect with thousands of people daily and we are all growing together. This is just an extension of all of that… a continued effort to keep spreading positive vibes and light. How important has it been for you to do so many facets of creating and not just focus on one thing? WRIGHT: I’ve always been told I had to be a certain way to thrive within a genre and I have let that strip me of who I am. If you are a minister you’re supposed to dress like this. You can’t say this. You can’t listen to this. You can’t be seen over there with them. It’s a bunch of rules that God never orchestrated. I’m free in my mind and in my spirit and I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do. Everybody won’t be used the same way. We are all built and cultivated for the assignment on our lives. If you know me or have ever met me then you know I am built for this. I don’t have to be a preacher to preach. ONLINE: www.rotivation.com
Support groups are held across the state every month. Visit www.louisianalupusfoundation.org or @lalupusfndn on Facebook for dates and locations
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14 farmers graduate from SU Ag Center institute with skills to expand ag businesses X By
The Drum Contributing writer
Fourteen small farmers from seven states earned certificates of completion during a graduation ceremony for Cohort VII of the SU Ag Center’s Regional Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute. The participants, who were from Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, Texas and Ohio graduated from the year-long course. The graduates of the are: Anthony Barwick, Ohio; Kay Bell, Texas; Keisha Cameron, Ga.; Mark Chandler, Va.; Debora Coleman, Miss.; Felton DeRouen II, La.; Hilery “Tony” Gobert, Ga.; Royce Martin, Ala.; Lennora Pierrot, Ala.; Gregory Smith, La.; Brad Spencer, Miss.; Joy Womack, La.; Virgil Womack, La.; and Oliver Whitehead, Va. Dawn Mellion Patin, Ph.D., vice chancellor for extension and outreach at the SU Ag Center, served as the keynote speaker for the Aug 16 ceremony. During her presentation, Patin discussed how the leadership institute was developed and encouraged the graduates to help other small farmers. “We expect you to share what you have learned in conversations with aspiring small farmers,” she said. “We expect you to host field days, workshops, and pasture walks so others can see
what you are doing.” The Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute is designed to guide small, limited-resource and minority farmers through the process of becoming more competitive agricultural entrepreneurs. The overriding goal of the Institute is to promote small and family farm sustainability through enhanced business management skills, leadership development and the utilization of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) pro-
grams and services.
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B.J.T Ledet’s anticipated trilogy begins with ‘The Christians,’ set in La. X By
The Drum Contributing Writer
With much anticipation,B.J.T Ledet,a Baton Rouge educator, has released the first a new adult, religious romance trilogy: The Christians. The Christians, book one, follows the life and love of Mary Jean Woods, a young, Christian woman in 1960 South Louisiana as she maneuvers through selfdiscovery, unrighteousness, and betrayal in hopes to find a true spiritual identity. Through this first release, B.J.T Ledet weaves a story that answers “What exemplifies a Christian?” and introduce readers to characters who boldly feel right–even all-knowing– in their beliefs when they are flawed and some are fallen. The Christians deals with
the distinctive differences and interactions between the characters who consider themselves Christians and those who don’t. Meet ministers who are in the business of religion instead of uplifting the people and teaching them to love. Meet the ‘show and tell’ flock alongside the church Mothers who have tunnel vision and live in the past. Using romance, family scandals, and murder, the novel questions who is and is not a Christian and how the interactions between family and friends impact the spiritual growth of young adults. Ledet is a retired Hurricane Katrina survivor who worked at Tulane University in New Orleans. She attended Southern University and A&M College and Tulane University. Currently, she gives back to the
community by tutoring kids inside her home while working on completing the trilogy. She enjoys writing from her Baton Rouge home where she Ledet lives with her spouse, a dog, and a cat. Published by Jozef Syndicate, The Christians (ISBN 978-1944155209) is available on Amazon and at www.jozefsyndicate. com/creators/b-j-t-ledet/. Follow Ledet on Facebook or Instagram.
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Twins’ superhero party at Knock Knock museum gives lessons, toys to others X By
The Drum Contributing Writer
Diamond Sherrod and husband, Dr. Rome Sherrod hosted a birthday party with a cause for their 5-year-old twin sons, Rome and Paten. Diamond Sherrod rented the Knock Knock Children’s Museum Saturday, Sept. 28, and invited 50 of their friends, but the boys did not receive gifts. All of the gifts that their party guests brought were given to homeless children at St. Vincent de Paul. “I want to foster a spirit of empathy, gratitude and giving back in my kids and others, while bringing awareness to the difference between the socio-economic experience of their lives and the lives of kids who are homeless. (We) want to raise good human beings,”
Pāten Preston Sherrod as Batman and Rome Alexander Sherrod IV as Black Panther.
said the mother. “I also want to encourage other parents to do the same,” she said. “Some of our kids are growing up with a sense of en-
titlement and even though they are young, it’s important to instill in them the value of practicing gratitude.” Sherrod said she and other
parents are guilty of what she calls “perfectionist parenting.” “We’re worried about getting them into the best schools and getting the best grades or what they will be instead of being concerned with how they will be. This party experience (was) about changing the narrative of their lives to center around empathy, gratitude and giving back. We’re helping to create their story now.” During the Superheroes-themed party, she explained her goal and told the young guests that they are Superheroes of Louisiana for helping those in need. “True superheroes are giving, caring, courageous, kind, vulnerable, and empathetic,” Sherrod said.
In addition to enjoying activities at the museum, the children made capes, had their faces painted, and took pictures with superheroes. Each child received a Superhero cape and a certificate. The twins also received Superhero of Louisiana certificates signed by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. Sherrod asked parents to join her in donating to an organization that hosts birthday parties for kids at homeless shelters. She’s raised more than $1,400--surpassing her goal of $1,000. Event planner Qunitina Ricks, of Flare Event Design, said more than 250 gifts were collected for homeless kids in Baton Rouge, and more than 150 guests attended Rome & Paten’s Royal Avengers Birthday Party.
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Cover story: Picture of Health Exhibit of people living with Invisible Illness Features: 3rd generation farming, Emoji R&B single, 5-year o...
Published on Oct 4, 2019
Cover story: Picture of Health Exhibit of people living with Invisible Illness Features: 3rd generation farming, Emoji R&B single, 5-year o...