Winter Gala supports Refugee Youth Project

The Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project (RYP) sponsored a night of international cuisine, live performances and commemoration of the rich life and culture of Baltimore’s refugee community, Friday, February 21, 2014 at Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church in Baltimore.

The event, “Culture Clash: A Celebration of International Fusion” featured live jazz, classical and world music put on by Musicians of Mercy, a collective of over 70 independent musicians and artists from the Baltimore metropolitan area committed to restoring hope and unity by partnering with local and international charities. The collective was formed in January 2010 after the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Founded in 2003, the Refugee Youth Project is an after-school program for refugee youth from pre-K through the twelfth grade, which offers an environment for children from other countries an opportunity to enhance their literacy skills and knowledge of American culture.

RYP is a joint program of Baltimore City Community College and the International Rescue Committee. To date the program has served over 300 children with five site locations throughout Baltimore, including Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church where the gala was held.

Kursten Pickup, coordinator at RYP for six years is committed to the mission of the program. “I’m most passionate about bridging the cultural divide as well as meeting and building a relationship with the families,” she said. “The relationships I have built are life changing because I feel I’ve learned more from them perhaps they have learned from me.”

Students who participate in this program have left their native countries with family members in hopes of seeking a better life in the United States. Often times, families in these circumstances left their countries due to dangerous political, religious or social issues. RYP serves students from more than 17 different countries, including: Bhutan, Burma, The Congo, Eritrea and Iraq.

Kibret Bahre, a senior at Lansdowne High School is very thankful for the program that helped her family adapt to American culture. “I like how they teach us about this country and people of other cultures. The volunteers are very helpful with teaching us how to communicate better with others.” Kibret came to the United States three years ago with her mother and two brothers from Eritrea, a country in East Africa.

The RYP is funded by a grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s School Impact Grant. In addition, RYP has received donations from the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as well as Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

To learn more about the Refugee Youth Project visit:

Walmart grants to help African Americans pursue higher education

On February 25, 2014, Walmart furthered its commitment to provide greater access to opportunities across 20 United States communities with $1.75 million in grants from the Walmart Foundation to three of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); National Urban League (NUL); and United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

The grant to UNCF will fund a program to help assure historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) continue as a source of quality degrees for African American students. In addition, the grants to NUL and NAACP will fund programs to help individuals receive the support they need to secure and build meaningful careers through training and placement assistance, and help businesses create more job opportunities.

There is an increase in demand today for diverse talent in the workforce, according to the inaugural Diversity Jobs Index and Report from the Professional Diversity Network, Inc. To meet this demand, Walmart continues to help African Americans access career opportunities through work with strategic partners and by fostering diversity and inclusion among its associates and suppliers.

“With today’s economic climate there is a growing need to empower individuals in communities nationwide with access to opportunities that will help them live better. Part of this work will come from helping businesses understand and unlock the powerful results that a more diverse workforce has to offer,” said Tony Waller, senior director, corporate affairs, Walmart. “By helping one individual at a time build a successful career, we are growing a more competitive work environment. A competitive environment ignites innovation, which helps build stronger communities and, ultimately, a stronger America.”

“Since 2006, we have been able to increasingly grow our workforce training program through ongoing support from the Walmart Foundation and subsequently have exceeded expectations of the number of individuals we’ve been able to serve,” said Marc H. Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League. “This new grant will help us further strengthen our workforce development programs, and continue helping African Americans and other communities of color across the United States secure economic independence and empowerment.”

The Walmart Foundation grant of $500,000 to UNCF will help 16 historically black colleges and universities achieve long-term financial stability so they can continue providing African American students with access to higher education. In addition, a $1 million grant to NUL and a $250,000 grant to NAACP will fund programs to provide career counseling and job placement support, and help businesses evaluate current hiring policies.

For more information about the Walmart Foundation, visit:

Novel highlights role of African Americans during War of 1812

— Leesburg author Carey Robert’s newly released novel “Star-Spangled Sailors” paints a poignant picture of the War of 1812, emphasizing the pivotal role of young African American men during the War. The novel weaves together fiction and historical fact, paying special attention to the Chesapeake Flotilla and the men charged with defending the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1814. The story highlights what Roberts calls a critical, but often forgotten about detail of the War.

“African Americans looking for freedom during the War of 1812 had few choices: fight for the British, an attractive choice, with offers of freedom in British territories in exchange for their services, or fight for the U.S., the very country denying them basic rights. A surprising number chose to fight for the U.S.,” says Roberts. “It’s a very little known fact not often discussed.” She says she discovered the information while doing research for another novel.

The discovery fascinated Roberts, and led to years of research with the hopes that Star-Spangled Sailors would be as historically accurate as possible. “It was absolutely fascinating to learn that these men were willing to fight for a country that didn’t allow them basic rights. Once I began my research, I couldn’t stop,” she said. “While much of the dialogue and a few of the characters were created, the events, the people, the actions, are all historically accurate and keeping with the time,” she says.

Against insurmountable odds, the Chesapeake Flotilla, made up mostly of young crabbers, oystermen, free and enslaved African Americans, not only saved the nation’s White House from burning, but also saved Baltimore during the Battle of Fort McHenry while under attack from the British. With the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Fort McHenry approaching this summer, Roberts says it’s important that this often forgotten about story be told.

“The very course of U.S. history could have taken a drastically different turn if it weren’t for these men, and I’m honored to have the chance to tell their story,” says Roberts.

Star-Spangled Sailors is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. For more information about Star-Spangled Sailors or Carey Roberts, visit her website at:

Maui Wowi celebrates grand opening with free smoothies

Already a community hotspot for local Towson residents, Maui Wowi Hawaiian, located at 1220 E. Joppa Road, is hosting a grand opening celebration and serving complimentary smoothies for all who attend on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on this special day, guests who visit Maui Wowi in Towson can enter for a chance to surf away with free smoothies for a year. The winner will receive one free tiki size smoothie a week for a whole calendar year. Also available during the two-hour period, customers can enjoy complimentary Strawberry or Mango Orange Smoothies and Blended Frozen Cappuccinos. There will also be fun activities for the whole family to enjoy, including tropical-themed face painting, a ring toss game for a chance to win free Maui Wowi T-shirts, mugs and tumblers, and more.

“The community has already embraced us,” says Mike Pyne. “This grand opening event is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our fans, while also welcoming new guests into our store. We can’t wait to have some fun with all of the exciting activities and freebies we have planned!”

For more information, visit: Follow them on Facebook at

Indie Soul: Talkin’ all that jazz

In this week’s Indie Soul we are “talkin’ all that jazz.” Get ready to find out what’s happening in the community and yes we are talking about jazz music!

Marshall C. Bell’s book “Baltimore Blues: Harm City” deals with life on the streets and how to change life for the better.

“I took a different path when writing this book,” he said. “I wanted to reach back and hopefully reach those who are going through some rough spots in their lives to help them see that there is something else out there and it is positive,” said Bell.

Marshall C. Bell will be part of the book club “Books, Wine and Conversation” on Saturday, March 1, 2014 from noon to 2 p.m. at The Baltimore Times, located at 2513 N. Charles Street in North Baltimore. The event is FREE and open to the public. For more information on the book club call 410-501-0193.

Jazz@the Grand: Baltimore has been starving for LIVE Jazz shows and the Bonneau Caprece Jazz Series presented a show for all ages on Sunday, February 23, 2014 with an incredible performance from “The Four Saxophonists:” Craig Alston, Tim Green, Mark Gross, and Ron Pender. These soon-to-be legends in the game, took the audience on a incredible ride with standards, blues and classic jazz pieces. In honor of the old time jazz showcases in Baltimore, the show was held in the afternoon— great for a family outing or a Sunday afternoon. Don’t worry, you can catch another show on Sunday April 27, 2014. For more information call 443-695-9384.


Hip hop artist OurReality

OurReality-TGDOM: Underground Hip-Hop artist OurReality, takes you on a mental journey with a sound that brings back the elements of hip-hop— beatboxing, deejay scratches, and most importantly lyricism.

“I wanted to let people know that there is real rap music out there especially for 35-year-olds and up, that deals with real life issues, struggles, and at the same time, has feel good music,” said M. Childs, artist and executive producer.

If you are a fan of George Clinton and Funkadelic who made music for the mind, this is what OurReality has done with their brand of mental music. They want you to get your mind right!

For more information about OurReality, or to listen to a sample of his music or to purchase a CD/Download, visit:

Heart expert offers top five heart healthy super foods

— When it comes to your heart, what you eat makes the world of a difference. One million Americans die of heart disease every year in the United States— that means two out of every five deaths, or one life every 33 seconds. Renowned cardiologist and founder of the Heart Health Foundation, Dr. John Martin, offers his top five heart healthy foods to make sure you don’t become another number.

  1. Fish— Dr. Martin says salmon is the most heart healthy food. People who eat five or more servings of fish per week had a 30 percent lower risk of heart failure. Fish is a good source of protein & omega-3 fatty acids. Dark oily fish are the best, including mackerel or bluefish. But if you don’t eat fish at all, any fish is better than no fish. Just don’t fry it or add heavy cream.
  2. Lean Meats— Protein is an essential building block for all skeletal tissues. It’s important to consume three servings per day from various sources, however, know and limit your fats (saturated and trans fats). Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than six ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, fish or seafood a day. The leanest beef cuts usually include sirloin, chuck, loin and round. Choose “choice” or “select” grades rather than “prime.” Select lean or extra lean ground meats.
  3. Whole Grains— Cholesterol, fiber and oat bran Fiber is classified as either soluble or insoluble. When regularly eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, soluble fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and may also help reduce the risk of diabetes and colon and rectal cancer. The American Heart Association recommends that you eat at least 25–30 grams of dietary fiber— in both soluble and insoluble forms— every day. The more calories you require to meet your daily needs, the more dietary fiber you need. Try to eat at least 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories you consume.
  4. Leafy Greens— These include spinach, kale, lettuce, and broccoli just to name a few. Dr. Martin says you cannot get enough of these valuable veggies. Leafy greens are full of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They are rich in fiber, an important nutrient that can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. As a general rule, you should aim to eat at least five servings of daily (roughly 2 1/2 cups of cooked greens).
  5. Blueberries— Blueberries are one

of the most powerful disease-fighting foods. They have an abundance of plant chemicals called anthocyanin’s that can help maintain a healthy heart. Blueberries are a good source of fiber, are packed with vitamin C, and rank as one of the best sources of antioxidants. Dr. Martin suggests you eat a ½ cup of blueberries, three times a week. The best part is they can be found in most produce sections year around.

Dr. John D. Martin is the medical director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland. Under Dr. Martin’s leadership, the center has become a nationally recognized facility for the treatment of vascular disease. In 2000, Dr. Martin along with Louise Hanson, CRNP, founded the Heart Health Foundation ( and its Dare to CARE ( program.

The Baltimore Times presents: The Eighth Annual Women’s History Month Literary Festival

The Sleeping Dictionary

In The Sleeping Dictionary (Gallery Books; On-sale: August 20, 2013; Paperback Original; $16.00), award-winning author Sujata Massey paints a stunning portrait of late Raj India. Set against a background of huge political and cultural upheaval, the book is both a sweeping epic and a passionate love story.

When a tidal wave wipes out a tiny village on Bengal’s southwest coast, a young girl known as Pom is set adrift in the world.

Set between 1925 and the end of World War II, the book follows Pom (later known successively as Sarah, Pamela, and – ultimately- Kamala) on her varied and intriguing post-storm journey.

After being found near death by a charitable British headmistress and her chauffeur, Pom is renamed Sarah and becomes a servant at the Lockwood School for British and upper-caste Indian girls. It is while working at the school that she discovers her gift for languages. When circumstances require her to leave the school, she moves to the larger town of Kharagpur where she inadvertently falls into a secret, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends.

Although success and passionate romance are within reach, she remains trapped by what she is…and is not. As India struggles the throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills— for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her— to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness.

In “The Sleeping Dictionary,” Massey – who USA Today has called a “gifted storyteller – presents a magnificent saga of the last days of Raj India… and a woman who dares to assault the barriers of race and caste. Misty Copeland in her beautifully written memoir

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

Misty Copeland is the first African-American soloist in the last two decades at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Her new memoir, LIFE IN MOTION: An Unlikely Ballerina (Touchstone Hardcover / Simon & Schuster; March 4, 2014; $24.99; ISBN: 9781476737980), written with award-winning journalist Charisse Jones, shares Copeland’s inspiring journey to become a world-class ballerina, illuminating the fascinating world of professional ballet.

Copeland paints a vivid picture of her nomadic, at times painful, past. As one of six siblings in San Pedro, California, her love of movement began with listening to Mariah Carey and New Edition, and mimicking gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s floor routines in her mother’s bedroom. Her drill team coach introduced her to Cyhthia Bradley, a dance teacher at the Boys and Girls Club where Misty and her brothers and sisters routinely spent their afternoons. Bradley nurtured 13-year old Misty’s love of dance and taught her the basics of ballet – pirouettes, plies, and jetes. Shockingly, Misty performed them with the ease of a girl who’d been training for years. She was dancing en pointe in just months, and soon moved in with the Bradley family to focus on ballet. Misty Copeland was a prodigy.

“Life in Motion” is a multilayered memoir that transcends the boundaries of the traditional ballet biography – it’s not just a ballerina’s story, but instead a unique American story of perseverance and achievements in the face of adversity by an author who is truly one of a kind.

‘Til the Well Runs Dry

In ‘”Til the Well Runs Dry” we meet Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed sixteen-year-old seamstress who lives alone with two small boys in a seaside village in 1943 Trinidad – and she’s guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karman, an ambitious young policeman (so taken with Marcia that he elicits help from a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her affections), the rewards and risks in Marcia’s life being to multiply.

Starting on an island rich with laughter, calypso, Carnival, cricket, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews, “‘Til the Well Runs Dry” sees Marcia and Farouk from their sassy and passionate courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia’s secret, entangle the couple and their children in scandal, and put the future in doubt for all of them.

With this deeply human, page-turning debut, Lauren Francis-Sharma shows a spirited woman’s adore for one man and her bottomless devotion to her children. For readers who cherish the previously untold stories of women’s lives, here is the story of grit and imperfection and love that has not been told before.

Baltimore County students win Maryland Masters Awards

Comptroller Peter Franchot presented his Maryland Masters Awards Monday, February 24, 2014 to three Baltimore County students: Haley White, a fifth grader at Glenmar Elementary School in Middle River, who did a self-portrait; Maria Karvounis, a seventh grader at Hereford Middle School in Monkton, who drew a still life using water color paints, oil pastels and charcoal; and Jasmine Gilliam, a senior at Randallstown High School, who did a colored pencil portrait drawing using India ink.

(Left to right) Dr. Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools; Maryland Master Award winners, Jasmine Gilliam, a senior at Randallstown High School; Haley White, a fifth grader at Glenmar Elementary School; Maria Karvounis, a seventh grader at Hereford Middle School; and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot at the award presentation ceremony on Monday, February 24, 2014 at Greenwood Mansion.

Courtesy Photo/Office of the Comptroller

(Left to right) Dr. Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools; Maryland Master Award winners, Jasmine Gilliam, a senior at Randallstown High School; Haley White, a fifth grader at Glenmar Elementary School; Maria Karvounis, a seventh grader at Hereford Middle School; and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot at the award presentation ceremony on Monday, February 24, 2014 at Greenwood Mansion.

The Maryland Master Award recognizes young, talented artists who have displayed extraordinary artistic skills, reflecting the vision of Maryland’s future. Comptroller Franchot initiated the awards program to celebrate the achievements and talents of students from throughout the state enrolled in public schools from kindergarten to the twelfth grade. The students’ art will be on exhibit for two months at the Comptroller’s Office in Annapolis. Selected by local superintendents, the students, their families and school officials were invited to join Comptroller Franchot and state and local officials for the official art exhibit unveiling ceremony and award presentation.

Randallstown High School senior Jasmine Gilliam said she is thrilled to be chosen for the award, “It means a lot. It is a tremendous honor, ” she said. “I was really surprised because there are a lot of really great artists in my school.”

During his nearly 30 years in public service, Comptroller Franchot consistently has advocated for better funding for arts programs and keeping art alive in Maryland schools.

“I emphasize that arts are important to business,” he noted. “The future of Maryland’s Economy will be impacted by individuals and companies that are able to balance creativity and technology; Employers are looking for individuals with the ability to create.”

The students’ art will join a collection of original paintings by one of the Comptroller’s favorite artists, Herman Maril. An American modernist, Maril was born in Baltimore and served as a professor at the University of Maryland for more than 30 years.

COMMENTARY: What the Dunn verdict says about us

“Jordan had no guns. He had no drugs. There was no alcohol. They were coming from the mall. They were being kids.” —Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis

Another mother’s anguish! Another unarmed black teenager in Florida shot dead for no good reason— another indefensible instance of “Stand Your Ground” rearing its ugly head. Eight months after the stunning acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, justice again has been compromised in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.


Marc Morial

On November 23, 2012, Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old white man, fired 10 rounds into a SUV after arguing over loud rap music coming from the vehicle with Jordan and three other unarmed African American teenagers.

Three of the bullets struck and killed Jordan Davis. Like George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn claimed self-defense and used Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to bolster his justification of the killing, as his lawyer stated in his closing argument, “His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”

Dunn claims Jordan Davis brandished a gun so Dunn shot first. But there is one big problem with his story. Jordan Davis had no gun and neither did anyone else in the SUV.

Two weeks ago, a jury found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted murder, one for each of Jordan’s three friends, and shooting into a vehicle. But they deadlocked on the fifth count— first-degree murder in the killing of Jordan. Dunn could get at least 60 years and may spend the rest of his life in prison for the four lesser counts.

However the failure to convict him of murdering Jordan Davis raises critical questions about the devaluing of the lives of young black males in America and confirms the need for a repeal of Florida’s repugnant Stand Your Ground law that sanctions the use of deadly force by anyone who merely thinks— or claims— they are in danger from a perceived assailant.

Regardless of whether Dunn or Zimmerman chose to fully exercise Stand Your Ground provisions in their defense, this law was very clearly at the center of both cases. It is even clearer that the “shoot first” laws across the country are contributing to needless bloodshed and are ripe for unequal application based on race.

A recent Urban Institute analysis found that in Stand Your Ground states, “When the shooter is white and the victim is black, the justifiable homicide rate is 34 percent. When the situation is reversed and the shooter is black and the victim is white, shootings are ruled to be justifiable in only slightly more than three percent of cases.”

Last September, the National Urban League, in collaboration with the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition and VoteVets, issued a report showing that in the 22 states with “Stand Your Ground” laws, the justifiable homicide rate has risen by an average of 53 percent in the five years following their passage. In Florida, justifiable homicides have increased by 200 percent since the law took effect in 2005.

These statistics and their underlying racial disparities, tell us that expansive self-defense laws such as Stand Your Ground are doing more harm than good, and when coupled with implicit racial bias and unfounded preconceptions, young black males are especially at risk. Dunn’s own bigoted words in letters from jail clearly show his disregard for their lives, as he wrote:

“The jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs. This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these (expletive) idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior;” and “The fear is that we may get a predominantly black jury and therefore, unlikely to get a favorable verdict. Sad, but that’s where this country is still at. The good news is that the surrounding counties are predominantly white and Republican and supporters of gun rights!”

This view and those like it are why we must commit today to action against the devaluing of our young black lives.

Even as the Michael Dunn trial was getting underway, we learned that Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, had planned to capitalize on the death of a young black male by participating in a “celebrity” boxing match— when his only claim to fame is killing an unarmed black teenager and getting off (The bout was later cancelled). Such a blatant disregard for the value of a black male’s life should be a wake-up call to all Americans. We must intensify our fight against Stand Your Ground laws— and the underlying mentality— that justify the killing of young black men whose only “offense” is being black.

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

COMMENTARY: Dr. King’s legacy and the 21st century

While attending a church service dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was struck by the conflation of what the Civil Rights Movement fought against and what should be our modern-day priorities.


Hughey Newsome

In particular, the speaker at this church attempted to say the atrocities of the past remain alive today, only through a different name. Conservatives— those who fight for things such as less government intervention— are getting an unnecessary and undeserved bad rap.

There is no question the legacy and reputation of Dr. King is second-to-none. The Civil Rights Movement that secured the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and vanquished lingering vestiges of segregation and racism was wrapped in a message of equal opportunity and ensuring that all Americans are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Ironically, the historic legislation was completed with the signature of liberal President Lyndon Johnson, who, while in Congress, killed civil rights legislation in 1956, watered down the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and voted against bills to ban lynching and eliminate the poll tax (he also later callously dropped the n-word while touting the perceived political payoff of Great Society handouts— and in many other instances).

Unfortunately, like at the church service I attended, there are too many attempts made to diminish and oversimplify the African-American community’s problems by seeking to find the same overt racism now that my grandparents and great-grandparents faced back in the day.

While this may generate hype, it detracts from what I consider to be the civil rights issues of the 21st century.

To be clear, explicit racism still exists today, just as traditional bigotry has not completely died. But it does society no good to dismissively blame African-Americans’ problems on forces, which are largely ostracized today.

Attempts to categorize all arguments against Big Government approaches as extensions of this bigotry, for example, takes away from constructive debate about how society can address challenges facing African-Americans.

What are the civil rights issues of the 21st century? Better yet, what current barriers do African-Americans face regarding equal opportunity and disparities in health, wealth and, most important, education (the principal driver of the other disparities)?

Having to pay overtime to police officers in Chicago to escort schoolchildren across gang territories is a 21st century civil rights issue. Paying those cops extra requires resources that could be used to buy computers and textbooks (in lieu of raising taxes or more borrowing) and is, sadly, a self-imposed disparity.

Approximately 70 percent of children being born into single-parent households is another 21st century civil rights issue. Note that when children are born into such households, their chances of imprisonment, government dependence and poverty also appear to increase.

Finding a way for African-American children to enjoy the benefits of improved education quality and not having to disproportionately attend so-called “dropout factories” is also a 21st century civil rights issue. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s school choice program saving thousands of minorities, mostly African-American kids, from failing schools should be a

diversity success story. Yet the tragedy of how the federal government wants to block it is mostly untold.

The disproportionate rate of African-American pregnancies ending in abortion— at a ratio of almost three-to-one compared to white pregnancies, according to the CDC— is a 21st century civil rights issue. Regardless of whether someone is pro-choice or pro-life, the stark discrepancies in abortion rates in poor African-American communities should cause anyone concerned with civil rights to take pause. But far too little attention is paid to this dramatic statistic.

Next year, and in years to come, when I attend church services dedicated to Dr. King and his legacy I want to hear more about self-empowerment and addressing 21st century civil rights issues. I don’t want rants about straw man racists.

Unfortunately, such a message is not politically expedient. So my expectations are tinged with skepticism.

Hughey Newsome, a business consultant in the D.C. area, is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to