First African American to head NASA to speak at Historic St. James Church in Baltimore

— The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Jr., 12th Administrator and first African-American to lead the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), will be the keynote speaker at St. James’ 190th Homecoming Celebration on Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. St. James’ Episcopal Church is located at 829 N. Arlington Avenue in Baltimore City.

The St. James’ Homecoming service culminates the 190th Anniversary Year celebrations. The theme is “190 Years of Shining our Light through Faith, Love and Service.” Matthew 5:16.

St. James’ is the third oldest African-American Episcopal congregation in the United States and the oldest south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The congregation has been a mainstay in the City of Baltimore since 1824, having been founded during slavery. Nevertheless, through sheer perseverance and God’s deep and abiding grace, the Church survived and this year celebrates its 190th year of dedicated service to God in Baltimore City and abroad. From slavery to present, this historic congregation continues to change hearts and transform lives in Baltimore City through youth, outreach and social ministries.

“We chose Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. (USMC-Ret.) as our speaker because he has transformed the lives of so many, not only at NASA but also throughout the global community with his commendable service to our country. Administrator Bolden is inspiration to both the young and “young at heart,” said Rev. Dr. Allen F. Robinson, rector of St. James’ Church.

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

Local doctor promotes prostate health in black community

— Dr. Sanford Siegel knows the routine.

Siegel, who is president and CEO of Chesapeake Urology Associates, which is the largest urology practice in the Mid-Atlantic region, has witnessed what the mere mention of prostate cancer does, especially to those in the African American community.

See photo gallery: ZERO Prostate Cancer Challenge 5K

Often, an individual will look away, pretend not to hear and eventually they’ll change the subject.

“I just thought something had to be done in the black community,” Siegel said. “I remember going to the general manager at Radio One and I told him that I wanted them to support a run that I wanted to put on to help raise awareness and the gentleman told me, ‘My people don’t run.’”

Siegel says he was told he needed to do something more substantial, so the intrepid doctor of more than 25 years decided that in order to reach the black community that he needed to visit the local churches where they worship.

He decided to hold prostate cancer screenings there and he said pastors such as the Rev. Marshall Prentice of Zion Baptist Church and the Rev. Frank Madison Reid at Bethel A.M.E. Church, helped to support his efforts.

“We didn’t ask anything of the churches but the preachers allowed me to speak from the pulpit to help energize everyone,” Siegel said. “The cry has always been that black men don’t have to die from this disease. Every man has to understand that if they’re not taking care of themselves then they’re not taking care of their families,” he said.

The doctor’s message has been well received.

“About 300 community and church members came to one of the prostate screenings,” said the Rev. Hoffman Brown, pastor of Wayland Baptist Church in Baltimore. “Chesapeake Urology and Dr. Siegel are just extraordinary in terms of their reaching out to the African American community. They have a real concern and a gift for helping those who would probably not take this matter so seriously to be more conscious about it.”

Siegel, who spearheaded a benefit concert a few years ago, featuring soul singer Patti LaBelle, presented the Urology Care Foundation a check for $114,248 last year to support prostate cancer research.

His ZERO Prostate Cancer Challenge continues to raise funds and awareness for the disease which claims 30,000 lives annually.

Medical experts said by 2050, about 400,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer on a yearly basis and deaths will rise to 100,000. African Americans have a 60 percent greater chance of getting the disease.

“Each year too many men get diagnosed too late,” said Pastor A.C.D. Vaughn of the Sharon Baptist Church. “Dr. Siegel has constantly reiterated, however, that the sooner a man gets tested, the better his chances are of survival.”

Siegel said he remains committed in his quest to find a cure, or at least an answer.

“Because of the staggering statistics, Chesapeake Urology remains committed to ending prostate cancer by helping to find a cure through the support of groundbreaking research and free screening programs,” he said.

In support of that commitment, Chesapeake Urology created The Great Prostate Cancer Challenge in 2007, a fundraising initiative solely focused on prostate cancer research, awareness, and free screenings for men in need.

It’s the only physician-based awareness and fundraising program in the country and has been adopted by 40 urology practices in 36 cities nationwide since its inception, according to a news release.

In 2013, the Great Prostate Cancer Challenge became the ZERO Prostate Cancer Challenge to raise greater awareness of prostate cancer and the nonprofit, ZERO-The End of Prostate Cancer.

The ZERO Prostate Cancer Challenge fundraising efforts are focused around an annual 5K and 1 Mile Fun Walk each September during National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Since its inception, Chesapeake Urology physicians, staff, patients, families, and friends of the ZPCC have helped raise more than $2 million in Baltimore to assist in finding a cure and spreading awareness of prostate cancer.

“Building trust is important in the community and we’ve learned that if you promise something, you better deliver,” Siegel said. “The company has stood behind me and our doctors in this endeavor as we spread the gospel of health.”

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

President, Congress should work together on military intervention

In his speech last week outlining his plans to use military force against the jihadists of the Islamic State, President Obama gave Congress only passing mention. “I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL,” he said. “But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together.” He is right, of course but that’s not the half of it.


Courtesy photo

Lee H. Hamilton

We live in troubled times, and over the last decade or two our military has been deeply involved somewhere in the world: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria… It’s a long list that will only grow longer as we’re called upon to use force in the future. Our process for deciding to use force, however, hasn’t caught up with these dangerous times. It has been decades since Congress asserted any meaningful role— pretty much everyone in the country, including most members of Congress, consider military intervention to be the president’s prerogative. Congress has been far too deferential: its members prefer to avoid a potentially difficult political vote, let the President take the lead, and then criticize him if he was wrong.

At the moment, much of the debate in the press and in Washington about the president’s intentions revolves around the legal justifications, which I find slightly amusing. The fact is that presidents always find the legal authority to take whatever action they believe is in the country’s best interest, and they have plenty of cards in their deck: self-defense, national security, protecting Americans, and their constitutional role as commander in chief.

Indeed, there are occasions when the President must act alone. If we’ve been attacked or hostilities are imminent or some emergency presents itself for which force is the only response, we’d expect the president to respond effectively. However, there are powerful political reasons for making the decision to use force abroad a joint one with Congress in all but emergencies.

When our nation must deal with controversial, complicated questions, there is great value to making the president articulate his analysis of the situation and the reasons for his decisions, and to test that thinking beyond close advisors who naturally tend to support him. The best place to do so is in Congress, where fresh eyes and an independent point of view will produce tough questions. Invariably, the result is a refined White House policy and a better understanding of it by the American people. This is unequivocally what Americans want. Even now, as a large majority of Americans support military action against ISIS, they also want Congress to weigh in, with more than 70 percent in a recent CNN poll believing President Obama should seek Congress’s backing for military strikes.

This may be because Americans understand innately that military action supported by both the President and Congress carries more legitimacy at home and more conviction abroad. Internal debate on foreign policy unsettles our allies, who begin to doubt the sustainability of our chosen course. The U.S. is in a far stronger position before the world if it is clear that the branches of government are unified and are speaking with one voice as a nation.

Though my chief concern is with the politics of authorizing force, there is one legal argument I find paramount. It is common wisdom that our Constitution is ambiguous on this subject, since it makes the president the commander in chief, yet gives Congress the ability to declare war. In a sense, though, the Constitution’s message is anything but ambiguous: by giving a role to each branch, it clearly considers the use of force to be a shared decision.

This imposes a responsibility on Congress. Our system is built on the notion that Congress cannot be a bystander when it comes to the grave decision to use our military abroad. It, too, needs to take ownership of decisions to use force, for the good of the American people’s understanding and acceptance of the issues at stake, and for the benefit of the nation’s profile abroad. Congress needs to assert this role, not hide behind the expediency of letting someone else make the decision and the president should embrace it.

Tackle a winning taste with Korean pork skewers

— It’s not just a Spanish, tapas-style thing anymore. At all different types of bars and restaurants across the United States, you’ll find menus that continue to explore ways to feature favorite foods – like pork – in more bite-sized, snack-able ways. Beyond the walls of those eateries, street vendors, food booths and food trucks also are featuring portable, easy-to-eat dishes like kabobs and sliders.

One of the great things about street food is that it’s typically an easy way to sample a variety of dishes and global flavors without having to travel far or sit down to a formal meal–which is what makes these on-the-go options the perfect choice for your next tailgate, especially if juicy, tender pork is on your menu.

Spicy Korean Pork Skewers deliver snack-sized game-winning flavor without a lot of preparation time, and without messy plates and silverware, the clean up is something to cheer about, too. Marinated in an Asian sauce that gets a bold kick from chili garlic, soy and fresh ginger, bite-sized cubes of pork ribs are skewered and then grilled for an unbeatable addition to your game-day spread.

If you want to keep your menu authentic, serve these Korean pork skewers with white rice. Combine them with other small-plate pork dishes to offer your guests a variety of great-tasting choices.

Spicy Korean Pork Skewers

2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup chili garlic sauce*

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 inches fresh ginger root, skins removed and chopped

(or substitute 2 teaspoons ground ginger)

4 tablespoons filtered sake or dry sherry (optional)

2 tablespoons sesame oil*

3 tablespoons brown sugar

Serves 4

In large bowl combine chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, ginger, sake, sesame oil and brown sugar and whisk to form a marinade. Add pork to marinade and let sit for 20 minutes.

Heat indoor grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high heat.

Thread marinated pork on skewers, about four to five pieces per skewer. Transfer skewers to grill and cook uncovered, turning to brown evenly every two to three minutes until tender, about 10 minutes total. Serve immediately.

*You can find chili garlic sauce and sesame oil in the ethnic or Asian section of most major supermarkets.

Quick Tip: Make sure to leave plenty of room on the grill between each skewer to avoid overcrowding the meat and to ensure even cooking.

Source: National Pork Board

Keith Wenning: Practice makes perfect

The Baltimore Ravens selected Ball State quarterback, Keith Wenning in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Wenning had a decent training camp with the Ravens but was released when the team made the necessary cuts to finalize the 53-man roster. This wasn’t the end for Wenning however.

Wenning was released on August 30, 2014 and signed to the practice squad on August 31, 2014. He understands that he still has an opportunity to play in the NFL and has kept a positive mindset. “I’m a rookie. I’m going to keep working and just be around, and I’m grateful for that. I just want to be around and learn as much as I can.”

The future could be brighter than some may think for Wenning. He has a legitimate opportunity to be Joe Flacco’s understudy. Tyrod Taylor is the current backup quarterback but his contract is up after this year. Wenning could slide right into the backup role if Taylor isn’t retained.

The Ravens travel to Cleveland to play the Browns this week. This trip will be a homecoming for Wenning as he is from Coldwater, Ohio. Wenning was a fan of both the Browns and Bengals during his early years. He even got the chance to go to some Browns and Bengals games. The quarterback he liked to watch the most was Peyton Manning.

Wenning played baseball, basketball and football at Coldwater High School. His team, the Coldwater Cavaliers lost in the Ohio State championship game during his senior year. The accuracy that has become a trademark for Wenning showed back in high school. Wenning completed 40 passes in that championship game, a school record.

The aforementioned accuracy carried over to Ball State as Wenning set numerous school passing records. A large focus at Ball State was working to develop more accuracy on the deep throws. “We do a lot of drills to focus on the deep ball. Footwork is something that I always worked on at Ball State,” Wenning said.

The extra work that Wenning put in definitely showed. He was one of the most accurate passers in all of college football. The problem was that he didn’t take many snaps from under center in Ball State’s spread offense. Many thought the transition would be a bit more difficult for him.

Wenning knew that it would be an adjustment, so he worked on it during his senior year. “Throughout the season I did some work on my drops. I worked a lot from under center, as soon as the season was over,” said Wenning.

He went into the NFL Scouting Combine with the goal to show everyone his skills. Wenning said; “I have the touch, the arm and the accuracy that is needed to play at the next level.”

Wenning worked with Drew Brees in San Diego during the off-season and took note of his intense attention to detail. It was a good opportunity to see how a topnotch player at his position prepares for the season.

The ability to hit receivers perfectly in stride and deep throwing accuracy is something that Wenning and Brees have in common. There were times where Wenning put on a passing clinic against the Ravens defense during training camp. He even completed 11 straight passes in one of the practices.

The preseason ended on a great note for Wenning. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 117 yards in the Ravens’ preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints. He showed signs of being worthy of a roster spot. However, his contribution will be on the scout team this year. Don’t be surprised if Wenning is the top backup in 2015!

Dancer Misty Copeland inspires new generation of ballerinas

“This is for the little brown girls,” writes Misty Copeland in the prologue of her New York Times bestselling memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, which chronicles Copeland’s turbulent life growing up as the fourth of sixth children to a single mom in a chaotic household in Southern California.

Despite the struggles and upheavals in her and her siblings’ lives, Misty was able to find her voice and herself through her discovery of ballet. She came late to the profession — she was 13 when she took her first ballet class at the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club in California. Within three months she was able to stand en pointe (dancing on the tips of her toes).

Copeland, in fact, was more than a natural at ballet, she was considered a prodigy and within a year she began performing professionally. At age 15, Misty won the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards in California and caught the attention of several major ballet companies — including the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the American Ballet Theatre and the San Francisco Ballet.

After graduating from high school at 17, Misty accepted an offer from the American Ballet Theatre (considered America’s top ballet company), to be a dancer in their Studio Company. Just two years later, she was promoted to ABT’s Corps de Ballet. And in 2007 at the age of 24, she became only the second African American soloist in the American Ballet Theatre’s history, and the first in more than two decades.

Inspired as a teen by famed ballerinas Gelsey Kirkland, Paloma Herrera, and Raven Wilkinson, whom she refers to in her memoir as “a guiding light in her life”, Copeland is very grateful for the many individuals who have inspired and helped her along the way. “Ballet has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t ever have had,” says Copeland.

A mentor to young female dancers, she’s also written her first children’s book called Firebird in collaboration with Christopher Myers, an award-winning author and illustrator. The book, which is beautifully illustrated, tells the story of a young girl whose confidence is fragile and who questions her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her that through hard work and dedication, she too can dance the part of the Firebird, and that she too will soar and fly.

“The idea for Firebird happened gradually. It came about before the memoir but they [Penguin] moved a bit slower,” says Copeland.

Christopher Myers told Penguin that he wanted to co-author the book with Misty, “but they didn’t know who I was” she recalls. “We hung out for the summer and the concept came from hanging out with me and Raven Wilkinson. He liked the relationship I had with Raven.”

The role of Firebird is special to Misty because she was the first black woman in history to play the title role at the Metropolitan Opera House in 2012. In her memoir, Copeland describes the Firebird “as a work that melds the most virtuosic parts of ballet with bravura solos that tell a story of spells, mystical creatures, and love triumphing over evil.”

In addition to her love of ballet, Misty is an ardent supporter, alum and an ambassador for the Boys and Girls Club. Misty is proud of the diversity initiative that is in the works with the Boys and Girls Clubs and with the American Ballet Theatre called Project Plié. The goal of Project Plié is to increase the ethnic and racial makeup in ballet. She says that it’s “still in the very beginning stages” but the idea “is to bring affordable top notch training to the clubs across the country.”

The world of ballet has afforded Misty many opportunities. She’s the latest female athlete to represent Under Armour in their campaign, I Will What I Want, and the sports apparel company is banking on Misty to inspire and empower a whole new generation of women athletes.

When asked what her advice would be to those brown girls who are struggling to find their voice, Misty says, “it’s important to know who you are. You’re going to be viewed by society by the way you look. Stand proud in those things but don’t let them become you. Don’t let others’ ideals box you in.”

Courtesy of The Bay State Banner

Firebird, published by Putnam Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group) is on sale beginning September 4, 2014.

Indie Soul HBCU Sports: AT&T Nation’s Football Classic®

Morehouse College and Howard University football programs continue their longstanding rivalry in the fourth annual AT&T Nation’s Football Classic® at RFK Stadium on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 3:30 p.m. After three competitive match ups in the Classic, the Morehouse Maroon Tigers and Howard Bison return to the field this year ready to battle for the 2014 trophy and bragging rights.

“It is one of those unwritten rules— this game is very important,” Head Coach Gary

Harrell said. “The alumni want to win and we want to win this game as well. This rivalry goes a long way. We have been successful in it, and we want to make sure we continue to uphold the standards and level of play that are going to give us a chance to win this year’s ballgame as well.”

Howard won the first three Classic meetings, including a pair of nail-biters, 30-27 in 2011 and 30-29 in 2012. Last year, the Bison opened up a big lead and held on for a 27-16 victory.

This is an event where people of color and football lovers should come and support HBCU sports, tailgate and enjoy some wonderful entertainment prior to kickoff:

Presidential Symposium: Endowing the Mission of HBCUs: Just Cause or Just ‘Cuz?

(Thursday September 11; 7:30 p.m.- 9 p.m.) Panel discussion featuring Howard students – past and present – alumni and scholars about the historical and contemporary role of Howard and other HBCUs, the missions of HBCUs and the developing strategies for the development and improvement of the Black community.

Presidential Symposium: Endowing the Mission, Resources and Intellectual Heritage of HBCUs (Friday September 12, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.) Panel discussion featuring current and prior HBCU Presidents and leaders of organizations that support HBCUs, reflecting on their concept of the HBCU experience and the opportunities and challenges before HBCUs today.

Singer-songwriters Adrian Marcel, Eric Bellinger and Jeremih will perform on the AT&T Soundstage during the FREE Pepsi® Fan Festival prior to the fourth annual AT&T Nation’s Football Classic® on Saturday, September 13, which begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. on the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds. The kick off between Morehouse College and Howard University is set for 3:30 p.m. in RFK Stadium.For more information about all of the weekend’s events, visit:

Compiled by Phinesse Demps for Indie Soul

Report: Adult obesity rates increased in six states

— Adult obesity rates increased in six states in the past year, and did not decrease in any, according to a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report — The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America — found that significant geographic, income, racial, and ethnic disparities persist, with obesity rates highest in the South and among Blacks, Latinos and lower-income, less-educated Americans.

The report also found that more than one in 10 children become obese as early as 2 years old.

For this year’s report, the two organizations partnered with the NAACP and others to identify more effective strategies for implementing obesity-prevention policies in Black and Latino communities.

“The issue of childhood obesity in America goes far beyond the arena of health. The growing weight of our nation’s children has both moral and ethical implications that can no longer be denied or ignored,” said Niiobli Armah, director of health programs for the NAACP. “Those of us who are engaged in grassroots efforts and understand the social, economic, and political implications of childhood obesity, know that we must take action. With the release of this year’s report we are one step closer to understanding what it will take to achieve our collective goal of curbing this growing epidemic.”

The report reviews existing policies and issues high-priority recommendations for making affordable healthy foods and safe places for physical activity available to all Americans, such as focusing on healthy food financing, improving nutrition and activity in schools and child care settings, limiting the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids, and improving the built environment to support increased physical activity.

“This year’s report provides us with an opportunity to hear voices from local communities that gives additional depth to the data,” said Jennifer White, NAACP manager of health programs and partnerships. “Reducing childhood obesity rates among African-Americans requires a health equity perspective and effective engagement with community advocates.”

To read the full report, visit