Beauty queen eyes law school, the world

It’s hard to believe that Dejanee Fennell was once considered a tomboy.

The Morgan State University senior, who has already been accepted to some of the more prestigious law schools in the country, is a stunning model who can sashay down a catwalk and wear the prettiest of dresses with some of the most beautiful women in the country.

And, despite capturing the crown last year of Miss Black Maryland USA, Fennell, 23, insists that she once preferred climbing trees to playing dress up.

The Prince George’s County native said she also shunned “girly” things like makeup.

“It wasn’t until the 8th grade that I experimented with makeup,” said Fennell, an aspiring lawyer and Capitol Hill lobbyist who will compete in Atlanta in August for the title of Miss Black USA 2014. “When I first came to Morgan State, I wanted to take up journalism, but politics took a hold of me and I know that I want to work as a lobbyist someday as well.

Fennell’s minor is pre-law and, after winning the Miss Black Maryland USA crown in November, she says she wanted to use that platform as a means to help other young women.

“I want to be able to help them with self-esteem issues and to show them that they can accomplish anything,” she said.

That hard-working young women can boost their self-esteem and accomplish their goals is something Fennell said she had to learn over time.

She says she previously lacked the confidence to wear the makeup, evening gowns and swimsuits that are beauty pageant staples. She says that when she was finally able to overcome those issues and gather enough heart to try out for Morgan State’s annual beauty pageant, she was too late.

“I was always afraid to try out and when I finally conquered that fear, I was told it was too late, tryouts had already ended,” Fennell said.

Undaunted, Fennell decided to take a shot at the Miss Black Maryland USA pageant, and she prevailed.

Fennell said she wants to spread her message of love, positivity and public service, across the country.

“Love is pure and real. Only true healing can happen through love,” she said.

Since winning the pageant, she has remained busy, participating in charitable drives with the Washington Redskins and other organizations.

She also plans to be a part of “Project Prom, a local event to be held later in spring which helps young women to find affordable prom dresses.

Originally from Colmar Manor, Maryland, where her mother, Diana Fennell, once served as mayor , the beauty queen says her parents and her older brother, Jeffrey, count as her biggest supporters.

“Jeffrey and I are really close, he’s helped me so much,” she said of her 26-year-old brother, a biology-major at the University of Maryland.

Fennell says that she has been accepted to Columbia Law School, Georgetown University and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

She expects other letters of acceptance to soon follow. “I’m not sure if I want to go to New York, go somewhere else or stay close to home,” she said.

Fennell said she’s still relishing her current title as Miss Black Maryland USA. She called the contest not just a pageant, but a movement.

“This organization isn’t about beautiful girls. It’s for African American women to be able to showcase themselves, and to show that they are intelligent, successful and powerful and we shouldn’t be ignored,” Fennell said. “My intention is to win Miss Maryland USA 2014, which will give me the ability to spread my message. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to reach the world and continue my duties as an individual, which is to always give service.”

For more information about Fennell, visit her website at

Annapolis Film Festival seeks volunteers

— A large number of volunteers are needed in a variety of positions to help with The Annapolis Film Festival which is returning to Annapolis Thursday evening, March 27 to Sunday, March 30, 2014.

All of the excitement of Hollywood on the Chesapeake comes back for a second year with more than 65 narrative and documentary films, Q&A sessions with the filmmakers and other visiting industry guests, special panels and showcases, and great parties! Films will be shown at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, St. John’s College, St. Anne’s Parish Hall, and Compass Rose Theater with Loews Annapolis Hotel as Festival Central and some educational and industry panels happening at O’Callaghan’s Hotel and others.

Volunteer information is provided and registration is accomplished on the website at Volunteers are required to complete two six-hour shifts (12 hour minimum) over the 4 day festival, with one six-hour shift to be completed during a Saturday OR Sunday of Festival weekend. Volunteers are also required to attend a mandatory training sessions. Also, contact for further information.

Paul’s Place program shapes lives of Southwest Baltimore youth

— Reflecting on her earlier years, Chanel Dance, a 17-year-old year-old student at Coppin Academy, shared her thoughts about how the after-school Mentor Program at Paul’s Place had changed the course of her life.

“They helped me to get my life back on track,” she said. “They helped me to study for the SATs and prepare for college. Overall, the program helped me to become more mature, and not just another statistic.”

Chanel is a high school mentor with the Paul’s Place “Mentor Program.”

Through the program, older students such as Chanel mentor and help younger students with various tasks such as homework, reading and general activities. The program is held every Tuesday and Thursday, and teaches the older students the importance of being a positive role model for young children.

Mykol Thomas and LaTajah Birdsong are middle school mentors with the program.

“The program has helped me a lot with my grades,” said Mykol. “I was having a hard time with math. I was getting B’s and C’s in math. Now I am starting to get A’s and B’s, and I am helping to tutor the other kids.”

LaTajah added, “I used to be shy. Thanks to this program, I now feel more comfortable talking to people. I also enjoy dancing and sharing my poems with the other students.”

Tissa Thomas is the Youth Program Coordinator for Paul’s Place.

“We have had a lot of positive relationships built from the Mentor Program,” said Thomas. “A lot of our kids and families do know each other, so it works out to be a great match for our kids. They help each other with their homework, and issues such as bullying and family issues. They form a good communication bond.”

Paul’s Place is a catalyst and leader for change, improving the quality of life in the Washington Village/Pigtown neighborhood and the surrounding Southwest Baltimore communities.

Paul’s Place serves more than 80,000 guests annually, providing programs, services and support that strengthen individuals and families, foster hope, personal dignity and growth. The Mentor Program is one of several initiatives offered by Paul’s Place to support the community.

“Many of the kids come from challenging situations such as drug-infested neighborhoods and low-income families, said Sadie Smith, deputy director of Paul’s Place. “Others are the first in their families to consider going to college. Some of them do not have role models. The high school students are able to say ‘I am a role model’ and have made enough good choices to be a role model to other students.”

She added, “It builds self-confidence and worth. It also shows the other students that they can do it too. It provides encouragement, and creates a ripple effect of hope.”

According to Smith, 35 elementary, 24 middle and 15 high school students participate in the Mentor Program.

“We want to ensure they are learning across all grade levels,” she said. “In the elementary program, we focus on ensuring they are on grade level, at the middle school level we look at things such as peer pressure and bullying, and at the high school level, we focus on career development and college.”

She added, “We have had the program for 30 years now. Some of the outcomes are that some of our students in the middle school program have gone on to prestigious high schools such as Loyola Blakefield on full scholarships, while all of our high-school students have gone on to college, into the service, or into a career. That is pretty astonishing.”

According to Smith, in addition to the students, tutors also come from the University of Maryland School of Law, and commit one hour a week to work with the students.

“They are able to build relationships with our students and be a good role model for them as adults,” said Smith.

Christan Morley is the Elementary Program Coordinator.

“The kids hold each other accountable for each other’s attendance, behavior, and academics. With the elementary program, the kids look at the mentors as their role models. This encourages them to be mentors. We have high expectations. They are meeting them which is great.”

Paul’s Place also operates the “Summer Outreach Camp for Kids” (SOCKS), which helps to expand the horizon of at-risk students. The summer camp works with children in the community for eight weeks, providing them with wholesome, fun activities and memorable experiences.

For more information about these and other Paul’s Place programs, visit:

AACC Launches Cyber Analyst Program

— How your business or organization handles a cyber threat may depend on how well your decision makers understand your cybersecurity team. Key to that connection is a cyber analyst, and Anne Arundel Community College and OPS Consulting have partnered to develop the “Growing the Analyst” training that will bridge that communications/knowledge gap.

This new curriculum, which begins this spring at AACC’s CyberCenter in Hanover, Md., helps participants build the knowledge, skills and abilities that are required to perform the duties of a cyber analyst. The Carnegie Mellon University and the Software Engineering Institute studied business and industry cybersecurity practices as part of a Cyber Intelligence Tradecraft Project and found that “the addition of strategic analysis to the analytic framework is the most effective means of bridging the communications gap between cybersecurity and non-technical decision makers.”

The curriculum developed by OPS Consulting and the CyberCenter focuses on both technical skills and non-technical core competencies to develop practitioners, not theorists. Designed to meet the needs of government and industry, the Growing the Analyst training is broken down into three levels of increasing difficulty to bring real-world experiences of a cyber analyst to help participants develop technical skills in the context of the job role. The hands-on lab work reinforces the instruction and allows participants to apply their technical skills while also building critical thinking, data collection/analysis and communication core competencies. Industry certification exam preparation for the CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker also is included in the training.

The Growing the Analyst program is the newest of many business-oriented training programs offered at AACC’s CyberCenter, 7556 Teague Road, Suite 300, in Hanover. For information on this and other programs, visit, email or call 410-777-1333.

RAMBLING ROSE: Spring has sprung!

Hello everyone, I believe spring is peeping through the crack hole. Somebody please open the door and let it in!


Ambassador Shabazz, diplomat, writer, lecturer and innovator will be moderated for the Annapolis Film Festival which will showcase African-American and African Films, takes place Thursday, March 27 thru March 30 at locations in Annapolis including Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts; St John’s College, St. Anne’s Parish Hall and Compass Rose Theater. For more information, visit:

I had a very busy and fantastic weekend last week. My Boo-Boo and I got around to as many events that we could. We started at the 100 Black Men Brunch at Martin’s West where I was honored, thank you. We left there and went to the Lambda Kappa Awards event at the Forum where I enjoyed the program and the gospel dancers. Leaving there we had to get over to Ms’ Maybelle’s Health Event to show her our support in west Baltimore on Bentalou Street. Then we stopped at Roots Lounge on Smallwood to say hello to Ronnie, the owner and to congratulate her on their 37th anniversary. Our plans were to stop by and see Ursula Battle’s play, but we ran out of time and after sipping cocktails at the open bar at the 100 Black Men event, and having cocktails at Roots, there were no way in he—I could go anywhere but home and chill out!


LA & the Unusual Suspects, a Motown, soul & 70’s rock n roll band will perform live at Lexington Market on Friday & Saturday, March 28 and 29 from 12 noon until 2 p.m.

This weekend, My Boo-Boo and I will be in New York with my girls “SIGNATURE LIVE!” where they will perform. But I will meet you all at the “Unsung” event at the Patapsco Arena, 3301 for Brian Hall’s show where he will honor many unsung groups such as: First Class; Frankie and the Spindles; Skip Mahoney and the Casuals; the Dynamic Superiors; Larry Lancaster; Little Beavers; the Whatnauts; and James Pugh. Also honored were outstanding community leaders in the entertainment world such as: Charles Alexander from South Baltimore Reunion; Milton Hawkins of the Cherry Hill Reunion; Carlos Hutchins & Charles Faison from the DipNic; Leon Brown for Sandtown Reunion; Hassan Rasheed of New Africa and Damon Harris of the Temptation. A “Lifetime Achievement Award” will go to “The Softtones.” You go Brian! Give these guys their flowers while they still can smell them. Well deserved! You can get tickets to this fantastic event, which will happen on Sunday, March 30th, 5-9 p.m. by calling 410-929-1360.

The Avenue Productions will host a jazz show at Caton Castle, 20 S. Caton Avenue on Saturday, March 29 from 6-10 p.m. featuring The Lee Pearson Quartet with Hinton Battle and Chole Arnold. Lee Pearson on drums, Theljon Allen on trumpet Terry Brewer on piano and Scott Ambush on bass. Hinton Battle is the vocalist and will tap dance along with Chole Arnold. Very interesting don’t you think? Check it out. For more information and tickets, call 410-265-6060 or 410-566-7086.

I have one more thing I want to tell you about before I leave you. Please mark your calendar for Thursday, April 11 to see my group “Signature Live” perform at Maceo’s Lounge 1926 N. Monroe Street from 7-11 p.m. This a Motown, R&B group that will take you back in time. I promise you, you will enjoy them. There is no cover charge, but the contributions you throw on stage will be appreciated. For more information, call 410-523-3117. I will see you there.

In closing, I want to say that Roberta’s House needs your help! There is a Radio-Thon on Friday, March 28, 2014 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. with an open house at Roberta’s House with Heaven 600 radio personalities; Lee Michaels, Harold Pompey, Doresa Harvey and Brad Rogers.

Roberta’s House is run by Annette March-Grier of March Funeral Homes. Its goal is to help increase awareness and education about the impact of grief in our communities and to provide greater resources and more free programs for grieving children and families. For pledges, call 410-889-0001.

Well, my dear friends, this is it, I am out of time and out of space. Remember, if you need me, call me at 410-833-9474 or email me at UNIL THE NEXT TIME, I’M MUSICALLY YOURS,

Towson University’s debate team claims historic win

— Towson University Debate Team members Ameena Ruffin ‘15 and Korey Johnson ’16 won the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) national championship on Monday, March 24, 2014 at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

“Ruffin and Johnson are the first African American women’s team to win a national tournament,” according to Mike Davis, president of the Cross Examination Debate Association. “No African American woman has ever won our tournament before.”

The Towson team beat Oklahoma in the final round to claim the national title. In the course of the tournament the Towson team bested teams from elite schools including Harvard, Trinity, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Wayne State, Cal State Fullerton, Florida, Bard College, Pepperdine, Sacramento State, Vanderbilt, NYU and more.

Ruffin and Johnson also earned a first round bid to the 2014 National Debate Tournament designating them as one of the top 16 teams in the country. The National Debate Tournament takes place in Bloomington, Indiana March 28 through April 1, 2014.

Additionally, Ruffin placed 12th and Johnson placed 15th in the individual rankings.

According to Towson University College of Fine Arts and Communication Dean Susan Picinich, “We are thrilled and very proud of Ameena and Korey on this amazing accomplishment. Ameena and Korey are the first team of black women to win a national debate championship. Their historic success is exemplified by their passion, dedication and commitment to the art of debate and the leadership of Towson University’s debate coaching staff Amber Kelsie and Ignacio Evans.”

“It requires a tremendous amount of work,” says Johnson. “I’m sure I do about four or five hours of preparation and practicing on a normal day.” All of this top-level competition has only honed the students’ skills, according to Johnson. “I think we’ve improved by learning what type of debaters we are, and playing to our strengths,” she says. “I have learned to do tremendous amounts of work while still taking care of myself and not stressing out too much.”

Founded in 1971 as the Southwest Cross Examination Debate Association, CEDA is the primary national association promoting policy topic intercollegiate academic debate. In cooperation with the National Debate Tournament Committee and the American Debate Association, CEDA formulates the annual intercollegiate policy debate topic used in tournament competition throughout the nation. CEDA acts as a tournament-sanctioning agent. Throughout the tournament season, CEDA calculates the National Sweepstakes Standings, the national and regional rankings of member institutions based on compiled tournament results. The association hosts an annual National Championship Tournament that brings together over 170 individual debate teams from across the nation to compete for a national team championship.

The National Debate Tournament is an invitation only national championship for collegiate policy debate in the United States. The national committee selects 16 teams and awards them a First Round At-Large Bid. These 16 teams are generally considered to be the best

debate teams in the nation. The 2014 First Round Teams include Cal-Berkeley, Georgetown (2), Harvard (2), Kansas, Mary Washington, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Wake Forest (2), West Georgia and Towson University.

Students in the Towson University Forensics program participate in both speech and debate activities. Students who compete for the team travel to local, regional and national tournaments to engage in individual events, parliamentary debate and/or policy debate. Students have the opportunity to perform speeches and exhibition debates for the campus and local community in the form of performance showcases and public debates.

Priceless Gown Project creates priceless moments

— On Saturday, March 22, 2014, The Priceless Gown Project celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor, by creating more priceless moments for hundreds of local junior and senior high school girls.

“The Priceless Gown Project was created in an effort to help young women attend their prom who otherwise would not be able to finance the experience on their own,” said founder Becky Davis. Davis started the annual event after she experienced firsthand the challenge she faced with helping a teen she was mentoring prepare for prom. Davis turned this regional-wide problem into a successful effort that is now led by President Leslie Collier and Vice President Catonya Lester.

This year over 200 young ladies benefited from The Priceless Gown Project and received many exciting gifts in addition to prom dresses. The attendees had the opportunity to select from hundreds of formal dresses many of which had never been worn. The event offered the ladies complimentary makeup demonstrations by the Glam Gurus, an etiquette chat and training with Retta Timmons of Style & Grace Coaching, personal shopping assistance, and a host of entertainment provided by 92Q Jams and other invited guests.

“It has been very exciting, the day is really fun and means a lot that so many girls are being helped to find a great prom dress,” said Imani Robinson, 17, of Baltimore County.

Many individuals and organizations volunteered their time to make the day a wonderful experience. Amanda Ross, Miss Maryland United States 2014 and DeJanee Fennell, Miss Black Maryland USA were among the pageant queens from surrounding counties who participated in the festivities and served as personal shopping assistants to the young ladies.

It is not too late to be a part of this amazing effort. If you are in need of a prom dress or you have a formal dress that you would like to donate, email: The drop off location for donations is Crystal’s Bridal & Tuxedo 2 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231.

MAHC presents Gov. Martin O’Malley with Housing Lifetime Leadership Award

— The Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC) presented the Lifetime Leadership Award to Governor Martin O’Malley for his historic contributions to affordable rental housing during his eight years as Maryland Governor on March 25, 2014 at the Coalition’s annual Housing Day event in Annapolis. In making the award, MAHC President Trudy McFall stated, “No Governor in the history of Maryland has contributed more to insuring that the limited income citizens of Maryland have good quality affordable rental housing options. No Governor has understood like Governor O’Malley that an investment in housing creates jobs and stimulates economic growth. The Governor’s leadership has led Maryland to become a national leader and a model for other states in the creation and effective implementation of housing programs.”

During his tenure Governor O’Malley has provided the leadership for a remarkable set of achievements:

• He responded to the MAHC proposal for a new housing initiative and secured funding for two years and requested in his current budget a total of $61.5 million for Rental Housing Works. This program, used in conjunction with tax exempt bonds, has made Maryland the number one issuer of tax exempt bonds in the country in 2013 and secured millions of extra tax credit resources for Maryland.

• His administration has secured over $350 million in state capital appropriations for affordable rental housing and issued $500 million in tax exempt bonds for rental housing.

• During his tenure nearly $2.4 billion in public and private investment has been made in Maryland for affordable rental housing and is generating $375 million in state and local revenues over the next 15 years.

• All of this hard work has resulted in 15,000 units of affordable rental housing and added 28,000 jobs to Maryland’s economy.

Governor O’Malley was given a standing ovation by the crowd of 200 people deeply appreciative of his record and for his contributions to Maryland and its citizens. MAHC closed the presentation by noting that members of the affordable housing community will be “forever grateful that you were our Governor for eight remarkable years.”

Americans are spenders, not savers

Retirement is an “elusive dream” for too many Americans, according to senior citizens advocate Dan Weber. “The younger they are the more likely they will be to put off planning for retirement until it’s too late. They are what some call the ‘invincible’ generation.”

But Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), noted that saving for retirement is not a priority even for older folks. “The average 50 year old has less than $50,000 in savings, hardly enough for a retirement that can last as much as 18 years or more.”

A new survey out this week revealed that more than a third of Americans have less than $1,000 put away for a rainy day. “It’s a startling revelation, but Americans, even in good times, have been historically lax in saving for the future, at least for three decades. Thirty-odd years ago we were saving at rates of 10, 11 and 12 percent of our incomes. Today we’re setting aside a little more than four percent, on average, for emergencies and retirement,” Weber added. “It’s not enough but it’s also not surprising with job creation at unacceptably low levels and unemployment and underemployment rates that have remained consistently high ever since President Obama took office.”

Weber said he believes that there are other reasons people aren’t saving enough money in the U.S. They range from personal spending choices to a lack of government incentives for low and middle class workers.

For example, he said, a recent report by the Consumer Federation of America notes that only one-third of the U.S. population lives within its means and feels comfortable about the future, one-third are just able to live within their means and another third are struggling. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed “low income Americans receive less than one percent of so-called federal tax benefits compared with high income earners who receive as much as 70 percent of tax code benefits.”

“The French and the Irish save as much as 16 percent and 19 percent of their incomes, on average, compared to Americans who save less than 4.5 percent of their earnings. It’s one area where the U.S. falls dangerously short of the mark as a trend-setter.”

For more information about AMAC, visit their website:

Award-winning Bowie State professor named Visiting Fellow at Harvard

— A Bowie State University professor will develop a massive open online course (MOOC) to teach people how to effectively report the news using mobile devices, as one of five 2014 Visiting Fellows from Harvard University’s prestigious Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Starting this week, Allissa Richardson, lecturer of journalism, will spend two weeks as a scholar-in-residence, building the online class as a free tool to teach veteran journalists, citizens, and journalism students how to effectively report news using only tablets, mp3 players or smart phones.

She started working on the course in fall 2013 and will continue her work at Harvard, as well as giving talks on moAward-winning Bowie State professor named Visiting Fellow at Harvardbile journalism and exchanges ideas with other Visiting Fellows.

“Mobile journalism is an increasingly vital skill for the public to have. In times of crisis, the ordinary citizen journalist who is armed with a smart phone is often the only eyewitness we have,” said Richardson said. “When more people know about how to gather and interpret news that happens around them, the media ecosystem becomes a richer, more diverse place.”

Professor Richardson has been widely recognized for her innovations in mobile journalism. She was named a 2013 Apple Distinguished Educator for her creative teaching style, enabling Bowie State to receive Apple equipment and software for the mobile journalism lab she established in the Department of Communications. She was also named the 2012 National Association of Black Journalism Educator of the Year.