Five things: Ravens owner disputes scathing ESPN report

It was obvious that Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti didn’t like his organization’s integrity being questioned.

On Monday, he sat down (didn’t use a lectern) to talk with sports reporters about last week’s ESPN report that implied the Ravens’ top brass knew early on how bad the Ray Rice domestic violence case was and the team tried to influence Roger Goodell to give the running back a light penalty.

While denying that was the case, Bisciotti did admit again that he and the team should have done more to get the video that led to Rice being axed by his Ravens and suspended by the NFL.

Bisciotti spoke for 47 minutes, at one point telling a media relations person who wanted to end the news conference that it was OK to keep going.

Here are five key points we learned from the owner’s candid discussion and the letter to fans that the Ravens issued tackling 15 points from the ESPN report that it disputed.

Who were the sources for the story?

Bisciotti told reporters that he believed Ray Rice’s people were most of the unnamed sources for the story as part of their attempt to get his indefinite suspension overturned.

“Almost everything in (the article) is anonymous but it’s clear from the subject matter it’s Ray’s attorney, Ray’s agent and Ray’s friends. They are building a case for reinstatement and the best way to build a case for reinstatement is to make everyone else look like they’re lying.”

The Ravens owner said he wished the reporters for ESPN — which issued a statement: “We stand by our reporting” — had acknowledged to readers how big a role Rice’s camp played in the story.

In its report it said: “‘Outside the Lines’ interviewed more than 20 sources … team officials, current and former league officials, NFL Players Association representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice.”

Bisciotti claimed some of those friends “started making things up.”

ESPN investigative reporter Don Van Natta appeared on “Outside the Lines” after Bisciotti made his claims and said they were false.

“It’s an assumption he’s making … but it’s unfortunately just not true,” he said.

When did the Ravens know what was on the in-elevator video?

It’s the damning piece of evidence that got Rice fired and suspended indefinitely. He is appealing through the players’ union. The video from inside the elevator at a New Jersey casino shows Ray Rice in the early morning hours of February 15 knocking out his future wife with a vicious punch to the head. TMZ Sports posted what it says was a cleaned up version of the recording. ESPN reported that Ravens Director of Security Darren Sanders knew within hours of the incident what was on the video, through a report given to him by a police officer in Atlantic City.

This conflicts with what the Ravens have said about when they knew what was on the video.

Through the team’s statement, Sanders said it was 10 days later when a police official described the video.

“The officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her,” Sanders said, without elaborating when Rice described the incident to him.

The Ravens stopped pursuing the video when the charge against Rice was elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony. Bisciotti said it was a mistake to defer to prosecutors investigating the case and that at some point the Ravens should have demanded the video from Rice’s attorney.

What did Ray say happened?

It’s a key point of contention. ESPN cited sources in this report and another that Rice told the Ravens and NFL officials that he punched Janay Palmer, his fiancee whom he married a month after the incident.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said his original two-game suspension of Rice was in part based on the player’s misleading testimony during a June meeting.

The Ravens also said Rice wasn’t forthcoming.

“It was our understanding based on Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground,” Bisciotti said in the team statement.

Sanders said Rice denied punching his fiancee. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome was quoted in the Baltimore Sun that the video showed that Rice didn’t lie to him. He said Monday that he had only asked Rice if he had hit Palmer and Rice said he had.

“I later said Ray didn’t lie to me because he told me he hit her, and that is what the video later showed — although the video was much more violent than what I had pictured,” he said in the Ravens’ release.

Did the Ravens ask prosecutors and the NFL to go easy?

Team President Dick Cass said that Sanders was the only person from the team to make contact with anyone in the New Jersey judicial or law enforcement investigations. The only thing anyone from the team did outside of requesting the video was to write a letter in support of Ray Rice that was included in his application for a pretrial intervention program.

Bisciotti was upset by the implication that he and Goodell are buddies who share a love for golf and that the owner used a connection to ask for a favor.

“I know and like Roger Goodell, but it is inaccurate to call us ‘good friends,'” he said in the statement.

The owner said his communication with the commissioner consisted of a brief conversation at an owners’ meeting.

“One time I saw Roger at the NFL meetings, and I said, ‘Where are we with this?’ and he said, ‘Nowhere until the police investigation is concluded.’ That’s the extent of what I did at that time,” Bisciotti said.

Could Rice rejoin the Ravens?

Yes, but not on the field, Bisciotti told reporters.

He talked about text messages he sent to Rice on the day the Ravens let him go:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

The ESPN report indicated Rice thought the job offer was a bid to have Rice go along with the Ravens’ version of events. Bisciotti said it was an honest attempt to bring back a player he thought would have a retribution story to share with young players.

“People that redeem themselves are the best ones to lead others,” he said. “I believed that this was Ray’s one terrible moment.”

Bisciotti said he believed that Rice would be a “great asset” counseling with rookies and telling his story of personal redemption.

Indie Soul: Black fall TV programming

Over the last few weeks we have taken a look at the new fall TV programming concentrating on shows that feature African American shows or shows that feature blacks in prominent roles. If you missed any of our past articles, make sure you visit us online at and on Facebook: The Baltimore Times. This week we have a final look at significant shows:

The Real Talk Show: Last year a few markets received the honor of being the test market for the show featuring Tamar Braxton; Tamera Mowry; Loni Love; Jeannie Mai; and Adrienne Bailon. These women reflect the home audience and unapologetically say what women are actually thinking. Their unique perspectives are brought to life through their candid conversations about topics ranging from their own personal lives to the news of the day to beauty, fashion and relationships. The show airs locally on FOX45 at noon and 6 p.m. on Black Entertainment Television.

If Loving You Is Wrong: Tyler Perry’s latest show debuted on the OWN Network September 9th. If you missed it, never fear, checkout the website:, to get yourself caught up. The sexy, sleek drama features a diverse cast and storylines ranging from heartfelt to scandalous. It takes viewers into the lives of a group of husbands, wives and friends that live and love in the same middle class neighborhood. On the surface they are true-to-life, relatable people— raising children, working jobs, finding and maintaining romance—but just below the veneer of happiness, their lives are entangled by heartbreak, deceit and lies that threaten to destroy everything. The show stars April Walker, Dawan Owens, Denzel Wells, Edwina Findley Dickerson, Malik Whitefield, and Tiffany Haddish. Catch a new episode Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network.

Red Band Society: Many are saying this will be the new breakout hit for the 2014-2015 season. Starring Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer (“The Help,” “Fruitvale Station”), Dave Annable (“Brothers & Sisters,” “666 Park Avenue”) and a charismatic cast of fresh faces, “Red Band Society” is a provocative, unconventional and unique coming-of-age dramedy about a group of rule-bending friends and the adults who mentor them through the ups and downs of adolescence in Los Angeles’ Ocean Park Hospital. The show airs Wednesday’s at 9 p.m. on FOX.

Next week will mark the return of Indie Soul Student of the Week. Indie Soul welcomes your questions and comments. To contact Phinesse Demps, call 410-366-3900 ext. 3016 or 410-501-0193 or email: Follow him on Twitter@lfpmedia.

Compiled by Phinesse Demps

NFL threw Ray Rice under the bus

By now most people have heard how Ray Rice has been thrown under the bus by the National Football League (NFL) and his former team, the Baltimore Ravens.


Raynard Jackson, NNPA columnist

First, some background for the non-football fans. Rice was drafted by the Ravens in the second round (55th overall) of the 2008 NFL draft. He signed a four-year contract for $2.805 million plus a $ 1.1 million signing bonus. Last year, he signed a five-year, $35 million contract, paying him a $15 million signing bonus.

Second, here are some cold facts:

*On February 15, both Rice and his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, were arrested and charged with assault after a fight at an Atlantic City, N.J. casino.

*On March 27, a grand jury indicted Rice on third-degree aggravated assault (charges against Palmer were dropped).

*On March 28, Rice married Palmer (the date had been planned and announced before the assault charge).

*On May 20, Rice was allowed to enter into a pretrial diversion program. Upon successful completion of the program, which will be a minimum of one year, the third-degree charge of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury would be dismissed. The arrest would remain on his record, but with no conviction.

*On July 24, the NFL suspends Rice for two games.

*On July 25, the Raven’s organization rallies around Rice.

*On August 28, the NFL established domestic violence policy for the league.

*On September 8, the celebrity Website TMZ releases video of Rice knocking out his wife in an elevator and dragging her out of the elevator when it stopped.

*On September 8, the Raven’s terminates Rice from the team.

*On September 8, 2014, the NFL suspends Rice from the league indefinitely.

The Associated Press reports that on September 10, a law enforcement official says he sent damaging video of Rice knocking out his then-fiancee to the NFL, despite League denials.

The above narrative is the only thing we know to be indisputable.

Prior to the video’s release, Rice had been caught on a security camera dragging his fiancée out of the elevator. That got him suspended for two games without pay. The penalty, which some criticized as too lenient, cost him about $530,000 in salary.

Now that everyone has seen the graphic video of the actual event, people have all of a sudden become filled with phony righteous indignation. Rice should have been punished not because of the video, but because of the act itself. But doing a bait-and-switch on his punishment amoung to pilling on.

Now many professional athletes, entertainers, politicians and the public want to make public statements about how terrible a person Ray Rice is.

Where was this outrage before the release of the video? Where is the outrage from these athletes and entertainers about the precious black children being killed in Chicago? Where is their outrage about anything other than collecting a bigger paycheck?

To ultra-feminist groups, especially the National Organization of Women (NOW), why are you so selective in your outrage about how women are treated? To this day, you have never criticized Beyoncé for objectifying herself and women in her music. Yet you criticize Hip Hop for the same thing. Where is their outrage about a woman who raped a child in Arizona when he was 14 and now, at 20, is being forced to pay child support for a six-year-old child he never knew existed?

It sickens me that people want to take, by all accounts, a good person and kick dirt in his face because he made a terribly horrible mistake; a mistake because there was nothing in his past that indicated this type of behavior. Even more troubling is the contention that Ray Rice does not deserve a second chance. That’s a mighty high standard, considering human frailty.

There was absolutely nothing in the video that Rice hadn’t already admitted to police and the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have admitted as much. The difference is that the NFL faced a growing backlash, based on the release of the video.

Rice is not guilty of breaking any laws. The criminal justice system— with everyone having access to the controversial video— treated Rice as the first-time offender that he was. He was dismissed by the NFL for violating the league’s, “conduct” policy. In other words, for “conduct detrimental to the league.” Once, that is invoked by the league or a team, based on their collective bargaining agreement, punishment can be anything from a fine to being banned from the sport.

The NFL, after meting out a two-game suspension, changed the rules in the middle of the ride. After serving half of his two-game suspension, Rice was retroactively given a death sentence.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his website:

UMD researchers aim to reduce side effects of prostate cancer treatment

Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men. For African American men, the numbers are even more staggering— they are more likely to develop the disease than Caucasian men and nearly 2.5 times as likely to die from it. Prostate cancer can be extremely aggressive, and it’s critical to catch and treat aggressive cases early. But for the majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, living with the side effects of treatment—including impotence and incontinence—are worse than living with the disease itself.

What is the Prostate?

The prostate is part of a man’s reproductive system. It’s located in front of the rectum and under the bladder. The prostate surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine flows.

A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. If the prostate grows too large, it squeezes the urethra. This may slow or stop the normal flow of urine. The prostate is a gland. It makes part of the seminal fluid. During orgasm, the seminal fluid helps carry sperm out of the man’s body as part of semen. Visit:… for information about prostate cancer treatment, prevention, genetics, causes, screening, clinical trials, research and statistics from the National Cancer Institute.

This is because most men diagnosed with prostate cancer have a non-aggressive form of the disease, with tumors that grow very slowly—so slowly, in fact, that these men could live the rest of their lives without cancer-related complications and die from other causes. But since current methods of differentiating between aggressive and non-aggressive cancer at diagnosis are limited, many men with low- or intermediate-risk prostate cancer either have their prostate removed surgically or undergo full-prostate irradiation. While these treatments are highly successful, the side effects can take a huge toll on a man’s quality of life.

“Right now, we don’t have any way to prevent or treat the side effects. It’s the unfortunate price that patients pay for treatment,” says Zeljko Vujaskovic, MD, Ph.D. professor of radiation oncology and director of the Division of Translational Radiation Sciences at the University of Maryland’s Department of Radiation Oncology. “It’s a major concern for patients, because the disease itself is highly curable.”

Prostate cancer is, indeed, a highly curable disease— according to the American Cancer Society, the 15-year relative survival rate for all stages of prostate cancer is 94 percent. However, due to physicians’ inability to differentiate aggressive cancer from non-aggressive, they treat the majority of cases, putting those patients at risk for impotence and/or incontinence.

Researchers at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center are working to develop more sophisticated diagnosis techniques and treatment options to enable doctors to differentiate low- from high-risk disease and deliver more targeted treatments. The goal is to minimize or eliminate side effects in men who do not necessarily need the more aggressive treatments that come with greater side effects.

Mohummad Minhaj Siddiqui, MD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a urologic surgeon with the cancer center, is exploring different ways to identify aggressive cancer. In the lab, he’s looking at prostate cancer cell metabolism to determine disease type.

In the clinic, he is interested in testing more advanced methods for identifying and diagnosing aggressive disease. Right now, prostate cancer screening is done through a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. PSA is often elevated if a man has prostate cancer, but a number of other factors can impact PSA level. If the levels are elevated, a random biopsy of the prostate is done. If cancer is found in any of the samples, the entire prostate is treated. Dr. Siddiqui is looking at ways to improve prostate cancer screening through imaging.

“Prostate is the only cancer in the body that we historically weren’t able to reliably screen for through imaging. It’s been a real disadvantage in our ability to accurately diagnose and track treatment progress,” says Dr. Siddiqui. “With recent advances in MRI imaging, we are now better able to pinpoint the location and size of a tumor. This allows doctors to determine how and if to treat the cancer, and could open the door for more targeted treatments.” He expects to test this new technology in an upcoming clinical trial.

While Dr. Siddiqui’s research seeks to improve diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, Dr. Vujaskovic and his team are working to reduce the side effects of radiation treatment using drug therapies to counteract the long-term effects of radiation. These therapies include radioprotectors, which would be given to patients before radiation exposure; radiation mitigators given after treatment; and therapeutic interventions that could lessen or prevent symptoms from radiation treatment side effects, such as impotence.

“We are exploring all of these approaches with drugs, with the goal of moving some of them into the clinic, to use with patients, in the next year or so,” says Dr. Vujaskovic.

Collectively, Greenebaum Cancer Center researchers aim to not only improve prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, but also ease some of the stress that patients feel when deciding if and when to undergo treatment.

“We’ve developed extremely effective treatments for prostate cancer,” says Dr. Siddiqui. “Now we need to take advantage of new technology and refine our practices so that men can go into treatment with confidence that they can be cured without the life-altering side effects.”

Returning Peace Corps volunteers assist at Lakeland School

— If Greg Couturier were channeling John F. Kennedy in speaking about the value of the Peace Corps, he probably didn’t realize it because his love of the organization, what it represents and what it has been able to accomplish, naturally comes to the fore in any conversation with him.

Couturier, a returned Peace Corps volunteer and Peace Corps Fellow affiliated with UMBC’s Shriver Center who served in Peru from 2009 to 2011, says the benefits of serving for the preeminent international service organization of the United States, cannot easily be measured.

“I’ve met incredibly brave, exuberant kids from some of the roughest parts of the city, I’ve met caring, concerned police officers, inspiring youth advocates and so many more,” said Couturier, who now works at Lakeland Elementary Middle School and is also pursuing a master’s of social work at UMBC.

Officials of the Peace Corps said those like Couturier are examples of Kennedy’s 1961 message to Congress where, upon formally introducing the program to lawmakers, the president promised that those who sign up to serve in the organization would acquire new and valuable skills and experience which would aid them in their future and add to America’s supply of trained personnel and teachers.

The president’s vision has proven true because since 1961, more than 215,000 Americans have served in 139 countries around the world in the Peace Corps.

On Wednesday, August 27, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet visited the Lakeland school because she said she wanted to get a first hand look at how returned Peace Corps volunteers have been giving back to the Baltimore community.

Brooks Binau, who like Couturier, is a returned Peace Corps volunteers and current Peace Corps Fellow at UMBC’s Shriver Peaceworker Program, joined others for Hessler-Radelet’s visit.

Binau served in Zambia from 2011 until last year and is completing an internship working to enhance Lakeland’s community outreach and parent engagement.

Peace Corps officials said the student body at Lakeland is mostly made up of minorities, with approximately 90 percent being students of color and 94 percent coming from low-income families.

During her visit, Hessler-Radelet toured the Fellows’ projects at the school and she held a roundtable discussion that included Lakeland’s principal and the head of the local community association.

“For most volunteers, Peace Corps service abroad may only last two years, but the experience inspires a lifetime of service and commitment to community that is exemplified by our Fellows’ work at Lakeland Elementary and Middle School,” Hessler-Radelet said. “When our volunteers return home, they continue to give back and use their skills and experiences to help advance our economy and move our country forward.”

Couturier said he’s thoroughly enjoyed his affiliation with the Peace Corps.

He said his work in the community and at Lakeland has proven to be the most satisfying. “The students at Lakeland have responded so well and since the school’s area has a big Spanish speaking population it was good for me to have been to Peru and learn the language,” Couturier said. “I’ve been able to use my ability to speak Spanish to connect with a lot of students and their families.”

Peace Corps volunteers are sent to assist those around the globe with the most pressing of needs, officials said.

They work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development.

Upon returning home, volunteers are able to bring their knowledge and experiences as well as a global outlook back home where they can help enrich the lives of those around them.

“I think the real challenge is finding something meaningful to do with all that experience once you get back home,” Couturier said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of and to help your community.”

Library of Congress announces Interactive Student Discovery Series for tablets

As the new school year begins, the Library of Congress invites students everywhere to touch, draw on and explore some of its most valuable treasures— all via a new set of free interactive ebooks for tablets.

The new Library of Congress Student Discovery Sets brings together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details and make notes about what they discover.

The first six Student Discovery Sets are available now for the iPad, and can be downloaded for free on iBooks. These sets cover the U.S. Constitution, Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance, and Understanding the Cosmos.

With a swipe of a finger, learners can peer into the workshop where the Statue of Liberty was built, scrutinize George Washington’s notes on the Constitution, and zoom in on the faces of new arrivals at Ellis Island. Using the portability that tablets bring, students can hand their work to a classmate to collaborate.

The objects in the Student Discovery Sets are primary sources— items created by eyewitnesses to history. From Galileo’s drawings of the moon to Zora Neale Hurston’s plays to Thomas Edison’s films, these maps, songs, posters, sheet music and iconic images immerse students in history, culture and science and give them the power to explore.

Primary sources have unique instructional power, says the Library’s director of Educational Outreach, Lee Ann Potter. “By analyzing primary sources, students can engage with complex content, build their critical thinking skills and create new knowledge. The Library’s new Student Discovery Sets provide rich tools for launching that process of analysis and discovery.”

The sets are designed for students, providing easy access to open-ended exploration. A Teacher’s Guide for each set, with background information, teaching ideas` and additional resources, is one click away on the Library’s website for teachers,

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The

Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at

Shonda Rhimes strikes back against ‘angry black woman’ label

— Call Shonda Rhimes an “angry black woman” if you want, but be prepared for the response.

A Twitter firestorm erupted Friday morning when New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley described Rhimes, the producer of ABC’s “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and the new “How to Get Away with Murder,” by using the term “angry black woman” in a feature about her.

“When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman,’ ” Stanley wrote. The story later observed, “Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable.”

Immediately, the Internet reacted, led by a bemused Rhimes, who observed that she didn’t create “How to Get Away with Murder.”

“Confused why @nytimes critic doesn’t know identity of CREATOR of show she’s reviewing,” she tweeted in response to a tweet from Pete Nowalk, who did create the series. (Incidentally, Nowalk — a former “Grey’s” staffer — is a white male.)

Rhimes was just getting started.

“Apparently we can be ‘angry black women’ together, because I didn’t know I was one either! @petenowa #LearnSomethingNewEveryday,” she continued.

And, noting that Stanley had highlighted a rant from “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) as illustrative of Rhimes’ own perceived anger, she wondered why other rants by white characters don’t get the same attention.

“Final thing: (then I am gonna do some yoga): how come I am not ‘an angry black woman’ the many times Meredith (or Addison!) rants? @nytimes,” she tweeted.

“Grey’s” star Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith Grey on “Grey’s Anatomy,” agreed.

“Didn’t Meredith Grey (Medusa) and Christina Yang also terrify and intimidate medical students?” she tweeted.

Others also lit into the Times piece.

“Wow,” tweeted “Scandal’s” Joshua Malina. “Did I just read a @nytimes piece that reduced my brilliant, creative, compassionate, thoughtful, bada boss to an ‘angry black woman?'”

“So Shonda Rhimes is ‘angry black woman’ but Aaron Sorkin ‘delivers an opinionated speech’ and ‘forceful denunciation’,” posted Sarah Kendzior of “The Newsroom’s” writer and creator, who’s also fond of rants.

“Too many thoughts on the Shonda-Rhimes-Is-An-Angry-Black-Woman debacle. Mostly: REALLY, @nytimes?!” added Rachel Simon.

Stanley wondered what all the fuss was about.

“The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype,” she said in a statement.

CNN’s Doug Ganley contributed to this report.

Maryland launches campaign to improve school attendance

— The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has launched a multi-faceted campaign to combat chronic absenteeism in public schools.

MDSE is partnering with Attendance Works, a national nonprofit, to declare September as “Attendance Awareness Month.” MSDE will work with local school systems and leaders to get students in school, keep them there, and move them along the track to college and career.

“Students can’t succeed if they aren’t in class. With the support of our local systems and the tools available through Attendance Works, we can strengthen student success and boost student graduation rates,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery. “Maryland attendance rates have improved, and we have more work to do.”

Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, praised Maryland’s action.

“Attendance Works applauds the Maryland State Department of Education for its leadership and deep commitment to ensuring schools and communities work together to reduce chronic absence,” Chang said. “MSDE exemplifies how a state department of education can use its data and its influence to ensure all students are in school so they have the opportunity to learn and succeed.”

Chronic absenteeism in Maryland means missing more than 20 days during the school year for any reason. Research shows that being chronically absent in the early grades affects whether a low-income child learns to read. By middle school, attendance is a key indicator of a student’s potential to drop out. A study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium shows that the majority of dropouts enter the 9th grade with a pattern of chronic absence that dates back several years. In Maryland last year, more than 80,000 students had 20 or more absences both excused and unexcused. Research also indicates that kindergartners have similar rates of absenteeism as 9th graders. Attendance Works today released a report detailing the correlation between attendance and achievement. It can be found at

The good news is that educators and community leaders, working together can, make a difference. In partnership with Attendance Works, MSDE is making available a wealth of tools and strategies that can be used to fight chronic absenteeism. For district leaders, it is important to provide data and offer support, including the development of a plan to prioritize district needs. School leaders must make attendance a priority and provide resources to implement effective attendance plans. Community leaders and partners can support district and school efforts by linking community resources— including after- school, health, mentoring, family support, and food and nutrition programs— to meet student needs.

September has been selected as Attendance Awareness Month because attendance patterns in September offer a strong indicator of expected trends for the rest of the school year. Using the month of September for the campaign will raise awareness about chronic absenteeism and the State will launch the Maryland Attendance Matters Campaign, with tools, resources and ongoing support to districts, schools, and communities.

“We know that when students are in school and engaged in the learning process, they are much more likely to graduate college and career-ready,” Dr. Lowery said. “To reach that goal, we need the commitment of the entire community.”

Attendance Works includes on its website a variety of tools that can be used to help strengthen attendance. Information can be found at

Indie Soul Spotlight: ‘Rise Up Black Man’ and ‘Man Up! Nobody is Coming to Save Us’

Over the last few weeks Black America has been called to the mat on multiple social issues including child discipline, domestic abuse and let’s not forget about Ferguson. It’s time to circle the wagons and take a look at who we are as a people and be honest about important issues we tend to ignore. This week’s Indie Soul features thought provoking works meant to inspire positive thinking and actions.

Rise Up Black Man: This independent 2012 film never made it to the big screen but producers didn’t stop trying to bring it to the masses. Thanks to determination and hard work, the film will be released nationwide on DVD on September 27, 2014. Starring newcomers Victor Muse, Prince Duren and Dustin Morby, the film is about friendship and racism, not from whites but from our people. The film also addresses religious leaders who take advantage of church members and the black community. It is also about the choices we make, the people we choose to associate with, and who we want to love. It’s a decent film with many powerful messages. It’s worth the investment. For more information about the film, visit:

Man Up! Nobody is Coming to Save Us: Back in 2006, Indie Soul interviewed Steve Perry, the author of the book “Man Up! Nobody is Coming to Save Us,” who is now a CNN correspondent. “Man Up!” is a hard hitting, truthful look at what the black community must do to save itself. Steve Perry effectively calls to task organizations such as the NAACP and the black church, as well as Michael Eric Dyson and Cornell West for their role in the degeneration of the black community. Back in 2006, people may not have been ready to hear Perry’s message but now is the perfect time to go back and revisit what he has been saying and figure out collectively how to address issues in the black community. For more about Dr. Steve Perry, visit

Baltimore man seven years cancer-free after high-risk prostate cancer

— When Baltimore resident Kelvin Washington went to his primary care physician for a checkup in 2007, he didn’t expect anything to be wrong. However, it was at this doctor’s appointment that everything changed. His prostate-specific antigen (PSA) was high, and Washington was diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer.

After hearing his prognosis, Washington, 53, decided to think about his options. He got second opinions and talked with his family. When Washington came back to see his doctor 30 days later, it seemed as though his body had made the decision for him.

“My PSA was climbing fast, and the doctors said it would be dangerous if I didn’t do something,” Washington said. “They said certain things will start shutting down on [me].”

Washington and his doctors agreed the best plan of action was to try to treat the cancer aggressively with radiation and other therapies, instead of surgery.

Washington took part in a clinical trial at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. As part of the trial, specifically designed for high-risk prostate cancer patients, Washington received hormone therapy, external radiation, brachytherapy and chemotherapy. In brachytherapy, radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate.

While the hormone therapy lasted throughout the years-long process, the other treatments were broken up into different stages: First was external radiation, then brachytherapy followed by chemotherapy, with breaks in between each stage.

As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center offers patients a variety of treatment options across multiple disciplines, including access to clinical trials. Specialists in radiation oncology, surgery and medical oncology work to devise individualized treatment plans for patients.

Despite the intense treatment, Washington tolerated it very well, according to Dr. Young Kwok, an associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was working with Washington throughout the process and leading the clinical trial.

The disease can impact all males, but African American men are about 60 percent more likely than Caucasian men to develop prostate cancer, and according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, are nearly 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease. While most patients are able to survive if the cancer is caught early enough, high-risk prostate cancer has lower rates of survival.

“Only about half the people diagnosed beat this kind of cancer,” Dr. Kwok said.

Seven years later, though, Washington is cancer-free. Because he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer, he has a higher risk of it returning, but he said, he doesn’t focus on that anymore. He said throughout the process, he found his spirituality again.

“I believe that a higher power is controlling my destiny. I don’t fear recurrence,” he said.

Luckily, Dr. Kwok said, that although Washington will always be at risk of having his cancer recur, at this point the chances of his cancer coming back are quite low.

Washington showed no symptoms or visible signs of cancer when he walked into his doctor’s office in 2007. The last thing he expected was to find out he had the disease.

Doctors recommend that men age 50 and older talk to their physician about being screened for prostate cancer. African American men or those who have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before the age of 65 are encouraged to talk to their doctor about screening, starting at age 45. Those who have two or more close relatives who had prostate cancer should consider being tested at age 40.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and health care professionals urge men who have a concern to speak to their doctor about whether testing would be the right choice for them.

As for Washington, there is little doubt that a checkup is why he is still able to be around for his three daughters.

“That PSA saved his life,” Dr. Kwok said.