Verlando Brown: Young scholar beats the odds

Every American city with a sizeable black population has at least one public school named after Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, George Washington Carver, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or other notable African Americans. Collectively these men were not only heroes to our race but among our country’s most illustrious citizens.

Each was an intelligent, brave man of high moral character who overcame tremendous opposition to their success and demonstrated their value to American society. Given their stature and accomplishments, it makes perfect sense to create and name schools in their honor. Unfortunately, over time many of the middle and high schools bearing their names have become stigmatized, victims of systemic neglect, chronic poverty and a disturbing communal disregard for learning.

Drugs; drug dealing; violence; ruthless gang activity; teen pregnancy; and academic failure; coupled with a pathological disdain for authority not only wreaks havoc on urban education, it has the potential to create a permanent underclass. A good education pursued with passion and a sincere commitment to learn is one of the few ways to break this stubborn cycle of self-destruction.

We look the other way and ignore public school failure at our own peril. This week Education Matters presents a success story that speaks directly to hearts and minds of those seeking a way to make a difference.

Verlando Brown born to and raised by a single mother in West Baltimore is a shining example of how parental-guidance, self-advocacy, tenacity and a personal commitment to excellence can produce a young man who overcame many obstacles to venerate the lives and accomplishments of Dunbar, King and Carver.

The first person in his family to graduate college, Verlando attended Booker T. Washington Middle School and Frederick Douglass High School, two of the city’s toughest, most dangerous public schools. After earning his undergraduate degree at Towson University he’s on track to complete his master’s degree at the University of Baltimore in the fall of 2015.

Though life at his school was chaotic Verlando says one afternoon his eighth grade science lesson was interrupted by two uniformed police officers. One officer walked over to a student sitting nearby. In stunned silence the class watched the policeman call out the boy’s name, and ordered him to stand. As the teenager rose from his seat, the officer grabbed and handcuffed his wrists, while the other blocked the doorway. With his head hung down the boy was escorted out the building.

“We all sat there in silence. I couldn’t believe what just happened. This wasn’t some random person you hear about on the news. It was someone I knew. I used to feel safe inside the classroom, but not anymore. The teacher tried to comfort the class. It was very traumatic for everyone. We later heard the boy was taken to Central Booking. We never learned why he was arrested or what became of him. It still haunts me.”

By high school arrests had become commonplace. “There were fights almost every day,” says Verlando. “Some of these fights were real dangerous incidents. Girls brought mace to school for protection, then got into fights with other girls over boys, money, clothes— anything could trigger the violence.

People would gang up against one another. On other days students would fight the teachers. It was sad, Douglass’ statewide test scores were low and the dropout rate was high. It was not an environment that encouraged learning. Survival was the goal of coming to school.”

Nevertheless, Verlando, who describes himself as studious, earned A’s and B’s. His greatest, most consistent source of moral support and guidance is his mother, Catherine Young. She kept him focused and on the path to success. My mom always said to me “I don’t want you to become like all the other guys on the corner selling drugs, dying young. I want you to get ahead in life, to be somebody. I intend to see you to get a good education.”

Catherine is clearly a wise woman. She embraced a simple fact that fails to ignite the imagination of far too many people of color: a proper education was her son’s best, perhaps only hope of escaping the limited choices available to a young black man growing up in West Baltimore, a community where children’s potential can easily be smothered by hopelessness and despair.

Lacking a college education, Catherine knew how difficult it was to get ahead and move up in the world. Over the years she invested her time and energy well, ensuring Verlando would have all the academic opportunities she missed. Catherine’s efforts have come full circle, she credits Verlando’s accomplishments with her recent decision to return to school and earn her college degree.

Next week: Part II

Jayne Matthews Hopson writes about education matters because “only the educated are free.”

African network offers films and TV series in U.S.

The South African company MultiChoice, the leading multi-channel and multi-platform digital television operator across the African continent has launched the “Hulu” of Africa to the United States market. “Africa Magic GO” offers the latest in African films and television series.

There is a growing interest in stories from Africa told from an African perspective.

Given the limited amount of African content available, Africa Magic GO (AMGO) provides audiences with great programming from across the continent. It also gives Americans the opportunity to see African culture and enjoy great shows.

With shows like “53 Extra” for instance, it’s easy to mistake it for any popular American entertainment show, as it’s all about the showbiz industry in Africa. It showcases the latest in music, movies and fashion, red carpet events across the continent and of course celebrity gossip.

The United States is home to millions of Africans and AMGO, will be able to provide a service that resonates with Africans regardless of their geographical location. More and more, Africans living in the United States want entertainment that reflects a world relevant to them. Africa Magic is at the forefront of Africa’s booming and vibrant television entertainment industry and the focus of AMGO content is on genres and human stories. Whether drama, comedy, grief, happiness or respect, its content resonates with the human spirit. The service will carry content that is exclusively from Africa and will not include mainstream movies and TV shows from America. Examples of shows and programming offered by African Magic GO:

*Designing Africa: A reality show that showcases designers from seven countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia.

*Glam Report: A talk show about fashion, beauty and lifestyle.

*Star Gist: A talk show highlighting African and international entertainment news, fashion, sports, the arts, comedy, red carpet events, gig guide, as well as behind the scenes of magazine cover shoots, movies and music video shoots.

For more information about African Magic GO, visit

Baltimore urged to wear patriotic colors to celebrate Star Spangled Spectacular

— Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Red, White, and Blue Mondays. Baltimore City employees are urged to don patriotic colors each Monday throughout the summer— beginning Monday, July 7— in support of Star-Spangled Summer, a celebration of the 200th anniversary of America’s national anthem.

“For Baltimore City natives and residents, our place in the history of the United States—particularly, our role in the War of 1812— is a point of pride,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “The defense of our homeland and the birth of our national anthem are remarkable stories. As we celebrate these milestones, we will express our devotion—not only for our city, but for our nation and its long standing history— by proudly wearing the colors of our Star-Spangled Banner each Monday.”

Baltimore residents and businesses are also encouraged to participate, as Baltimore City prepares for the Star-Spangled Spectacular, scheduled for September 10 – 16. Baltimore City played a pivotal role during the War of 1812, particularly in 1814 after British forces captured and burned Washington, DC and proceeded north toward Baltimore. The British planned to gain a foothold in Baltimore— attacking by land at North Point and by sea at Fort McHenry, which stood in defense of the Baltimore Harbor. It was during their bombardment of Fort McHenry that Francis Scott Key, a Maryland-born attorney, was inspired to write the words that would become “The Star-Spangled Banner,” America’s national anthem.

Events marking the commemoration are scheduled to take place throughout the state. For more information, visit:

Bello Machre raises over $110,000 at Every Step Counts 2014

Bello Machre proudly announces it raised over $110,000 at Every Step Counts 2014. The event, held at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland, was attended by more than 400 people who walked and biked on a route around the college. The proceeds benefit children and adults with developmental disabilities served throughout Central Maryland by Bello Machre. Dr. Robert T. Ireland, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “What an amazing day for Bello Machre and the folks we serve. With the help from our friends, families, business associates, and employees— this year’s Every Step Counts 2014 was the most successful ever!”

Spirits were high and the enthusiasm was contagious for the over 400 people who came out to walk and bike in Every Step Counts 2014. The event brought together friends and family, children and adults. Everyone enjoyed the walk and bike, moon bounce, Clown, live music by Medora, children’s games and prizes, raffles, and great food.

The event’s Presenting Sponsor was Dimensional Health Care Associates of Owings Mills, Maryland, contributing $12,000. Dimensional Health Care Associates (DHCA) provides nurse case management and delegated nursing services to individuals with developmental/intellectual disabilities. Headed by Denise and Howard Schuffman, DHCA is a nurse owned/operated company providing services in Maryland for over 21 years. DHCA offers on-going and mandatory (CMT, OSHA, CPR, etc.) training for direct care staff as well as skills necessary to care for individuals. Nutrition services provided by registered dietitians are also available.

Other major sponsors include our Premier Sponsor Corporate Brokers of Annapolis, Maryland who donated $7,500 and assembled a 30-member walking team for the event. Shane Ireland, managing member, comments, “I am so proud to be associated with Bello Machre. This year was especially great because our staff was engaged and excited to fundraise and walk for a local family that is supported by Bello Machre. It was a terrific day for everyone.”

Corporate Brokers, headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, is focused on high-quality recruitment and retention and offers a full array of scalable, best-practice solutions for both Permanent and Contract Placement Services. With seven offices located throughout the country, Corporate Brokers is designed to meet clients varied staffing challenges, from total outsourcing of talent acquisition strategies to interim contract recruiting.

The event’s other major sponsors include: Merito and Northern Pharmacy & Medical Equipment as the Benefactor Sponsors each donating $5,000 and our Patron Sponsors contributing $2,500 each, include: Americle Healthcare, Cattail Construction, Commercial Insurance Managers, Comprehensive Developmental Services, and DataLink Interactive.

Every Step Counts Sponsors also included: $1,000 T-Shirt Sponsors – Absolute Fire Protection, Affordable Heating & Cooling Co., Bank of Glen Burnie, Bugout Termite & Pest Control, Gavigan’s Home Furnishings, Maryland Sewer & Plumbing, M&T Bank, Mullen, Sondberg, Wimbish & Stone, Opportunity Builders, Progressive Title Corporation, Skyline Technology Solutions, Touch of Green, and Transforming Architecture; $500 Rest Stop Sponsors – All Painting & Power Washing, Baxter Tire & Auto, Flom Corporation, G. A. Eberly Plumbing & Heating, and Tate Dodge Chrysler Jeep; and $250 Distance Marker Sponsors – Corporate Sports, Glen Burnie Mutual Savings Bank, Phelps Water Company, Post Haste Mailing, and Sunset Restaurant & Lounge.

CBC leads effort in Voting Rights Amendment

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman and Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge led a contingent of caucus members and several minority groups in a public plea to Republicans on June 18, 2014, to take up legislation that would restore the voting rights protections shot down last year by the nation’s highest court.

“Voter discrimination is real in America,” Fudge said. “We have a voting rights bill that has been sitting in the House for months and months and it’s being held up by Chairman Bob Goodlatte.”

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and other Democrats have urged lawmakers to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013, the High Court voted to strike down key components of the law, including allowing nine states to change their voting requirements without advance approval from the federal government.

Fudge and other Democratic legislators said Goodlatte, (R-Va.), who serves as the House Judiciary Chairman, has blocked efforts to get a bill passed that would restore portions of the law that the Supreme Court struck down.

Democrats are seeking greater protections for minority voters and they want to ensure that individuals aren’t turned away from the polls because they don’t have proper identification or for other reasons.

Goodlatte, 61, contends he will protect voter rights. “I fully support protecting the voting rights of all Americans,” he said. “As Congress determines whether additional steps are needed to protect those rights, I will carefully consider legislative proposals addressing the issue.”

However, with June quickly coming to a close and legislators preparing to return to their home states for summer break, without a resolution Congress would be hard pressed to pass a bill prior to the November midterm elections.

Democrats say many minority voters could find it difficult to cast their ballots without new amendments agreed upon by Congress.

“Voting is the language of the American democracy, if you don’t vote, you don’t count,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“This principle has been echoed time and again by resounding bipartisan majorities in Congress and by presidents from both parties,” Henderson said. “The issue of voting rights has historically been and will forever be, bipartisan. The House Judiciary Committee cannot shrink from this historic obligation.”

CBC members and leaders of several other groups say they recognize this time as crucial in the battle to achieve a more balanced voting rights law.

Lorraine Miller, interim President and CEO of the NAACP, says it’s imperative that Congress act now.

“This is a critical time for action. As we approach the anniversary of [last year’s Supreme Court’s decision], we must act with renewed urgency in advancing the Voting Rights Amendment Act through the congressional process,” Miller said. “The looming risk of voter disenfranchisement threatens our democracy and failure to advance this legislation gives a free pass to voting discrimination.”

June marks the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down portions of the voting rights law, as well as the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act.

“More than ever, we must ensure that Latinos are able to exercise their constitutional right. Our community is rapidly growing and the Latino vote has never been more important,” said Democratic Texas Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“In the aftermath of [last year’s Supreme Court] decision, there are now seven million Latinos living in jurisdictions previously subjected to the pre-clearance requirement who are without vital voting rights protections,” Hinojosa said. “We must stand up and defend the right to vote for people of color.”

Democratic California Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, says America has become a melting pot and those of all races should no longer face discrimination, particularly when voting.

“The American electorate is increasingly composed of communities of color,” Chu said. “As our populations continue to grow, it is critical that these voters are able to fully participate in the political process.”

Others appealing for change include, Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters; Mee Moua, president and CEO of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice; and Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

“It doesn’t matter what race or ethnicity you are, what education you’ve attained, or money you have, voting is the great equalizer in our democracy and it must be protected,” Fudge said. “The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 is a solution that addresses the problems we still face with discrimination in voting. We call on Chairman Goodlatte to have a hearing and bring this bill to the floor for serious discussion and debate.”

Free zumba,yoga classes at West Shore Park

— Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore’s Waterfront Wellness Series returns to West Shore Park this summer with FREE classes in Boot Camp from Knockout Fitness, Zumba from Canton Club, Yoga from Charm City Yoga and Parkour from Urban Evolution. Local professionals in the wellness industry will gather at the waterfront to provide instruction for participants of all skill levels. Don’t miss this chance to break a sweat on Baltimore’s waterfront! Registration is required. Participants should bring their own mats and water. For more information or to register for classes, visit

Class Schedule:

Saturdays — July 5; 12; 19; and 26, 2014

Boot Camp at 8 a.m. and Zumba at 9 a.m.

Sundays — July 6; 13, 20; and 27, 2014

Yoga at 8 a.m. and Parkour at 9 a.m.

Garden-tainment creates lasting memories for guests

Summer is filled with parties, gatherings, picnics and more. We all want to make these occasions special and memorable for our guests.

Many gardeners tend to schedule events around peak bloom or harvest in order to share the beauty and flavor from their garden.

Unfortunately nature does not always cooperate. It seems we often have to say, “you should have been here last week” or “come back next week when the flowers will be at their peak.”

No need to worry. It may be considered cheating by the purist, but isn’t it all about creating a great space and event for our guests? Consider adding some fun flower accents. Metal flower sculptures like daisy bouquet stakes, hollyhock stem stakes or aluminum fiddleheads insure color throughout the season.

Or make it fun with faucet handle flowers (, which are sure to spark some conversation amongst your guests.

You can also add some extra color with a bit of floral paint. Use garden colors to paint seedheads of flowers past their prime. Just cover the stem and leaves to insure only the seedheads get painted for a more realistic look. It might fool your guests or give them a good idea for their own garden.

Or stop by your local garden center. Many have flowering planters and large size annuals that you can use to fill in voids and add color to the garden.

Pot a few of these up and use them as centerpieces on the tables. A search of the garage or visit to a thrift store may find reasonably priced fun items you can convert into containers.

Keep your guests comfortable and the mosquitoes at bay with the gentle breeze of a fan. Mosquitoes are weak fliers and the gentle breeze of a fan can keep them away. Or step it up with the help of geranium oil. It’s natural, fragrant and can help repel mosquitoes.

And be sure to include fresh-from-the-garden flavor in your beverages and dishes. A pot of basil or mint near the party means guests can flavor their own lemonade tea or mojito. The hollow stem of lovage, cut down to size makes a great straw for your tomato juice or bloody Mary. Your guests won’t forget the fun of sipping their drink through this celery-flavored straw.

Then add some color and a gourmet touch to your salads with a few edible flowers. Nasturiums, roses and calendulas are just a few to consider. Just be sure they are edible and pesticide-free before serving them to your guests.

Use fresh-from-the-garden or container herbs for grilling, salads and your main course. And consider drying a few herbs or starting cuttings from your plants to use as party favors.

Don’t let the sunset put an end to your celebration. Light up the evening with solar illuminated planters, solar pathway lighting and decorative fiber optic lights. Or go old school and set votive candles in a mason jar or tucked safely in the garden.

So set aside some time to take a walk through the garden and plan a party or two for you, your family and friends to enjoy its beauty.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. Her website:

Indie Soul Entrepreneur of the Week: Ebony Kenney

This week’s Indie Soul Entrepreneur of the Week Ebony Kenney is holding it down with her graphics and design business Ripe Fruit Creative. She recently opened GreenLeaf Teahouse cafe located at 1905 St. Paul Street in Station North.

“I love tea and everything about teas,” Kenney said. GreenLeaf Teahouse is for tea lovers but there are other drinks available as well. The main purpose of the teahouse is for the art world— be it authors, musicians, poets or anyone who cares about the arts to have a place where they can come and vibe together and be creative. I want positive energy and to be with a collective group of people who care about art. It’s not about race or anything like that. This [place] will be a vibrant place for all to enjoy.”

Ebony Kenney was born to be an entrepreneur. She worked for an advertising agency to learning about advertising, promotions and marketing, which she thinks are the three elements needed to be a successful business owner. She also worked for Arbitron, which is now Nielsen Audio, a consumer research company in the United States that collects listener data on radio broadcasting audiences.

After she was laid off from the advertising agency, she decided it was time to do her own thing. “I definitely learned about how to operate a business as well as understand marketing. I encourage others to do the same and not let anyone hold you back.”

Currently, the GreenLeaf Teahouse is a private club, but in the fall Kenney hopes to be open to the public. GreenLeaf Teahouse is available for events and for meetings.

For more information about becoming a member or joining the “Tea Club,” call 410-385-3093 or visit: and for information about her graphics and design through Ripe Fruit Creative, call 410-294-8956 or visit:

Indie Soul Student of the Week: Keon “Lil Key” Myers

— This week’s Indie Soul Student of the Week is challenging stereotypes of his generation. Keon “Lil Key” Myers is trying to change the game for the good.

I met Keon at the African-American Music Festival last weekend in Baltimore. He is a hip hop artist and was part of the celebration.

The 15-year-old is also an honor student and a basketball player. Most teenage boys only care about girls and trying to impress their friends. This is not to say that Myers doesn’t, but he also cares about his community and being a positive role model through his music. His lyrics about education and spirituality are very uplifting.

Between his studies, sports and performing, he is constantly in the public eye and he knows he represents that section of young America— especially black males, who are constantly shown in a negative light.

“Lil Key” always has a smile on his face and dresses in the latest fashion, which means he knows to wear his pants pulled up. He is engaging no matter who he is speaking to and more importantly, he is professional. His thirst for knowledge is very evident.

Keon’s CD is available now. For more information about how you can get a copy or to find out where he will be performing next follow him on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, under @bmorelilkey or Bmore Lil Key.

Each week during the school year, Indie Soul will spotlight a student who excels in academics and in the community. To nominate someone for “Student of the Week,” call 410-366-3900 ext. 3016 or email with “Student of the Week” in the subject line.

Kunta Kinteh Foundation opens in Annapolis

— Lamin Jatta was never allowed to watch the 1977 mini-series, “Roots.”

His grandmother, Binta Kinteh, forbid it. What happened to the Gambian slave made famous in the television series was simply too much for the direct descendants to have to live through those horrors again.

 Lamin Jatta, president of the Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation and his cousin Chris Haley.

Lamin Jatta, president of the Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation and his cousin Chris Haley.

“I learned the story of Kunta Kinteh through my grandmother who is the seventh generation sister of Kunta Kinteh,” said Jatta, who visited Annapolis in June to announce that the capital city would serve as one of the new locations for the Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation, which strives to empower the legacy of the former slave who was infamously given the name, “Toby,” by slave masters.

Jatta says the foundation has been established to provide awareness about who Kunta Kinteh really was and to help bring together cultures from various lands. He says Annapolis was an obvious choice as it was there on the docks where slaves, including Kunta Kinteh, first arrived in America.

Also, a memorial had previously been established in downtown Annapolis that features a statue of Kunta Kinteh.

“It was my grandmother who told the story to Alex Haley in 1967 and, as the elder of the family, she was responsible for telling [the] story,” Jatta said. Even before she told Haley the story, Jatta’s grandmother had often told him and others in the family about how their ancestors disappeared from the small village and how ship captains bound and chained them as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean and endured the brutal treatment of slave traders and owners.

“Eventually, my grandmother and Alex Haley realized they were talking about the same person and then the book, ‘Roots,’ came out in 1977 and put our town of Juffureh on the world map.”

Jatta says many tourists, mostly from Europe, regularly visit the village of Juffureh in Gambia.

With all of them having watched the ABC Television mini-series, “Roots,” each visitor proved as curious as the next. Then, there are those who come to learn about the history and culture of the natives.

Up until her death in 2004, Binta Kinteh served as host to all tourists, not taking any money for the regular pilgrimage there. Many would sleep outside of the family’s home in Juffureh and today, nearly 40 years after the book and mini-series, many still do.

“Our goal is to bring together African Americans from the Diaspora, Caribbean and Africans to keep our stories beyond Black History Month. We should pass on these stories to the next generation,” Jatta said.

He says Kunta Kinteh Island in Gambia will be a permanent place of healing and reconciliation. A vision he also has for Annapolis.

The Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation includes all of the descendants of the late slave and the foundation is active in Gambia and the United States. The foundation seeks to improve the lives of those in the West African village by building a strong infrastructure and providing better opportunities for tourism. Plans also include building a research center to help provide clean drinking water for those in Juffureh and to support school children and, hopefully, to build a health care center.

“We want to help beneficiaries with schools, safe drinking water and medical help,” Jatta said. “Connecting African Americans would be accomplished by taking a trip to the Gambia. We will have a symposium to address questions. Some Africans have them about African Americans. Some African Americans ask me things such as, ‘Did Africans sell their own people?’ I’m not saying we can forget what happened in the past, but we can also move on and look forward to the future. It will help the next generation and give them something to tell their kids.”

For more information about the Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation, visit: