Ravens rookie Terrence Brooks is making his mark

The Baltimore Ravens wanted to get more athletic on defense this year. They addressed the defensive side of the team with their first three picks in the 2014 NFL draft. Terrence Brooks was selected in the third round (79th overall) and he was expected to challenge for playtime at the free safety position right away. It took some time but Brooks is now making his mark on the Ravens defense.

Free safety is one of the more difficult positions to learn as a rookie. Brooks acknowledged this when he spoke to the media during training camp.

“There’s a steep learning curve. Once I learned all that stuff and got it down, it was much easier. I just have to go out and make plays. You’ve got to be the commander back there.” Brooks said. “We do so many formations and you’ve got to know each and every call and make sure the defense is set. It’s a lot for safeties. I feel like that’s one of the hardest positions to learn out there on the field.”

Brooks pointed to his coaches at Florida State as a reason for him being prepared for the NFL. Mark Stoops was his defensive coordinator the first three years. Brooks says that Stoops helped him develop more confidence in his game and to use his speed on defense.

Jeremy Pruitt was the defensive coordinator for Brooks’ National Championship senior season. Brooks says that Pruitt helped him become a student of the game. Learning the ins and outs of defense made Brooks a lot smarter on the field and a lot more comfortable, which has helped him to play faster on the field.

Brooks was not one of the first safeties to be selected in the draft despite an outstanding senior season and putting on one of the best performances for a safety at the combine.

“I feel like I gave it everything that I could at the combine, my pro day.” Brooks said.

He also talked about his experience at the Senior Bowl. “The Senior Bowl was really good. Going to the meetings and talking to the scouts, [repeating] stuff in practice helped. It was a great experience to go against so much great talent.”

The Senior Bowl was the first chance many NFL personnel got to have an up close look at Brooks. A lot of teams needed safeties this year and they just kept passing him up. The Ravens coaches looked at the film that he produced during his career at Florida State and were able to tell what kind of football player he was.

Head coach John Harbaugh likes what he has seen so far. “Terrence Brooks is coming on. He’s doing great, learning fast. Safeties have a long way to go as rookies, but he’s doing a good job. He’s going to play a lot this year, no doubt.”

The playing time is already starting to increase as the Ravens have lost a few of their cornerbacks due to injury. Brooks has gotten increased snaps at the nickel spot and has seen more action in various sub packages because of his ability to play both corner and safety.

That versatility started with him playing cornerback, running back and receiver for Dunnellon high school in Florida before playing corner his first couple of years at Florida State. Brooks spoke about how he developed into the kind of do-it-all defensive back that the Ravens wanted. “I am a rangy safety that played running back and receiver most of my life then played corner in college before switching to safety. Playing corner helped me a lot when I made the transition to safety. It’s important to be able to cover a lot of ground and play anywhere on the field. That’s something that I take pride in. I want to be all over the field. I never want to come off of the field in certain packages.”

Fellow Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith sees a lot of potential in Brooks. “He’s settling down and understanding what he has to do,” notes Smith. “It’s difficult to learn everything at safety especially. He’s making strides, making plays. He’s a physical guy and he’s starting to show it. I think the sky’s the limit for that guy.”

Raised in Florida, Brooks says adjusting to coming cold weather will be tough but he’s up to the challenge. “People are getting on me about how it’s about to get cold. I am not used to that. I have lived in Florida my whole life. That’ll take some getting used to. I love the city though. The fans are great, they are loyal and that’s what you want in fans. It’s great to have them come out and cheer us on the way that they do.”

Be sure to watch for #31 when the Ravens take the field on Sundays.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum celebrates hip-hop

— On Saturday, October 4, 2014, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum located at 830 Pratt Street in downtown Baltimore, will be dedicated to lovers of hip-hop!

The organization, Curators of Hip Hop is hosting this FREE event that is open to the public and I am truly honored to be a member of the discussion panel. There will be performances by local independent artists from the DMV area and a special screening of the documentary “The Curators of Hip Hop.” The documentary is a tale of five emcees whose stories demonstrate the power of dedication leading to endless possibilities. Starring Ahmad Lewis, Prie, Matt Reeves, Logic, and Dee-1. The documentary follows the lives of these five “dreamers” looking to make it in the hip hop world. Through extensive interviews with the artists, “The Curators of Hip Hop”verifies that the style isn’t dead, or even close to it. Post-screening live performance by Skarr Akbar.

If you’re an emcee, fashion designer, break dancer, tagger, or just serious about hip-hop, you need to be at this event. It will be an informative, truthful discussion about the culture of music that’s been around for over 30 years. Founding member of Curators of Hip Hop, Jimmie Thomas said, “This is a movement that we want to take to the DMV area to educate the masses about hip-hop the history, culture, and being independent of the machine and take back the sound that is ours.”

Be sure to us check us out on Facebook/TheBaltimoreTimes to see photos of this incredible event. For more information about this event, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/curators-of-hip-hop-registration-13202981473

St. Agnes Breast Cancer Center offers multi-pronged approach

This is Part I of a three-part series about St. Agnes Hospital’s efforts to fight breast cancer. The series will also look at the hospital’s new “One Journey, Many Paths” campaign; one woman’s breast cancer battle; and early detection tips.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is most common in women age 40 and over, but in the African American community, women are more likely to die from breast cancer at all ages. At St. Agnes Hospital, African American women accounted for 32 percent of their breast cancer patients in 2013.

Dr. Diana Griffiths is the Medical Director of the Comprehensive Breast Center at Saint Agnes Hospital.

“The incidence of breast cancer among African American women are lower than the white population, “said Dr. Griffiths. “However, while the incidents of breast cancer in African American women are lower, the death rate is a lot higher. The risks for African American women are higher, which means they have to take responsibility of their breast health. This includes having a mammogram done.”

She added, “I haven’t met a women yet who wasn’t glad she got a mammogram, and the breast cancer was caught early. It breaks my heart when a woman comes in who waited to be treated. In such cases, the prognosis may be poor because a woman felt a lump, but didn’t do anything about it.”

Located at 900 Caton Avenue, Saint Agnes is one of the first 135 hospitals in the U.S. to be fully accredited by the National Accreditation Program of Breast Centers (NAPBC).

“It is hugely important to educate women about their diagnosis,” said Dr. Griffiths. “That is why early detection and treatment are so important. Some women think they are going to die shortly, when in fact when they have a favorable diagnosis. However, others may have more a serious condition, and need treatment sooner rather than later.”

Dr. Griffiths brought a multi-disciplinary team approach to Saint Agnes Hospital. Physicians from multiple specialties come together to develop the most effective and comprehensive treatment plan for each patient.

“Years ago, the treatment of breast cancer was purely surgical,” said Dr. Griffiths. “It became clear that it wasn’t a one specialty disease. About 20 of us came together and came up with a multi-pronged approach to treating women with breast cancer.”

She added, “The patient is seen by a team of physicians who will play a role in their treatment. The team includes a plastic surgeon, and a medical oncologist who all review everything from each patient and from our perspective, how we can best treat the woman.”

Dr. Griffiths has special expertise in medical oncology, unique treatment plans and various treatment options including chemotherapy (a cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells; neo-adjuvant therapy (given after primary therapy to increase the chance of long-term survival), mastectomies (a surgery to remove a breast or part of a breast) and lumpectomies (surgery to remove cancer or other abnormal tissue from the breast).

“Prior to the 1970s, mastectomies were done and we hoped for the best,” she said. “But there were women whose cancer came back in other parts of the body. In the 1960s, chemotherapy was introduced, and since that time, an explosion of things has gone on. We have developed better ways of screening breast cancer.”

She added, “We are finding it earlier, and treating it at earlier stages. As a result, it has approved our ability to treat women. We have also developed radiation techniques, and doing fewer surgeries.”

Dr. Griffiths says the best way to fight breast cancer is early detection.

“Breast cancer is treatable,” she said. “Women need to check their breast. They should be experts in what their own breast feels like. There are also occasions when a woman feels a lump and a mammogram does not show anything. Some cancers can do that. These women need to see a surgeon to evaluate it further.”

She added, “I hate to see women who neglected to examine their breast or failed to get a mammogram who would have had a much better prognosis if they had gotten treatment earlier. I want women to be empowered so they can live longer, healthier lives.”

St. Vincent de Paul expands housing program

— Toni Boulware won’t stop until the approximately 1,000 homeless families in Baltimore have a comfortable place to live.

The director of the St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore’s Front Door Program, Boulware has been working with the homeless population for 15 years and she envisions a time when no one will go without adequate shelter and all Charm City residents will enjoy the confines of their own four walls.

“I’ve been at St. Vincent for nearly two years now, but I’ve always been a person that’s been inspired by helping others,” Boulware said. “I’m definitely a human services worker and I’m dedicated and passionate about helping people to make a change.”

Part of that change is the newly expanded Front Door Program, a rapid re-housing program for local homeless families, which continues to receive financial and other assistance from the city of Baltimore, the United Way of Central Maryland and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation which last month issued a $1.5 million grant to St. Vincent de Paul for the re-housing program.

The program works with a number of shelters in Baltimore and it also serves families who aren’t currently in city shelters. It also assists mothers with older teenage boys and single fathers with children.

“We’ve received additional partners to help expand the program. In previous years, we were able to assist just 24 to 26 families whereas now we are able to service 200 families in the next three years,” Boulware said.

The Weinberg grant will also help St. Vincent de Paul to conduct research that Boulware says will contribute to establishing national best practices for reducing family homelessness. She also says the program aligns with the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, a plan that recognizes a critical need to support alternative housing models.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who attended a gathering to announce the program’s expansion, said she’s pleased with what St. Vincent de Paul is accomplishing.

John Schiavone, the president and CEO of St. Vincent de Paul, also attended the September 22 event said he’s thrilled about the expansion of the re-housing program.

“The rapid re-housing model of service recognizes that the best way to address the needs of homeless families and reduce the negative consequences of homelessness is to reduce the amount of time families are homeless,” Schiavone said.

He added that since the St. Vincent de Paul’s Front Door program began in 2009, it has helped to reduce families’ length of stay in shelters by 70 percent.

To help quickly re-house families, St. Vincent de Paul secures market-rate rental units in communities near schools and wherever the homeless family’s existing support system might be. The program provides the initial rent, a security deposit and moving costs and places families with case managers to assist them in achieving self-sufficiency.

Boulware says families in the program have a 92 percent housing retention rate, in part, because the program assists the family head in addressing their barriers to housing. The program also helps to strengthen the health and wellbeing of the family, and build their educational, employment, and financial assets so that they may become quickly

re-housed and achieve long-term economic self-sufficiency.

Homeless families represent about one-third of the homeless population— estimated at 3,000 in Baltimore— and families have been the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in recent years, according to statistics compiled by St. Vincent de Paul. Homeless families are also among the most difficult populations to serve because of the many barriers to housing they face, including mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, unemployment and underemployment.

However, the re-housing and other programs are helping to turn the tide in a positive direction.

“The community is excited about our program and everyone is ecstatic about resolving homelessness,” Boulware said. “We certainly feel that we are meeting expectations and I see this program growing even bigger, expanding, and getting to the point where we can get additional [sponsors] and possibly gain additional partnerships.”

UMB’s Promise Heights holds immunization clinics

— For many families, getting their children back to school came with added challenges for the 2014-15 year. The State of Maryland issued new immunization requirements for kindergarten and 7th grade students, leading parents to seek information and help to make sure kids received their shots. In West Baltimore, the Promise Heights initiative led by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) has responded by conducting multiple clinics in two public schools.

The effort was launched during Back-to-School nights at Booker T. Washington Middle School (BTW) on September 9, 2014 at The Historic Samuel-Coleridge Taylor (HSCT) Elementary School on Sept. 18.

The Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) released information on immunization requirements for all children, to be found at http://www.baltimorecityschools.org/Page/24371. But in many households and school offices, the focus was on the added shots necessary for protection from illness. Students entering kindergarten need two doses of Varicella vaccine; those entering 7th grade need one dose of Tdap vaccine and one dose of Meningococcal vaccine.

Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, executive director of Promise Heights, learned that many children in the initiative’s target neighborhoods of Upton/Druid Heights lacked shots when school opened for the fall term. Mayden, an assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW), took action of the sort that has prompted UMB to honor her as a Champion of Excellence for her service to the community.

She collaborated with the Baltimore City Health Department to obtain the vaccines, with the BCPS to coordinate the clinics, and with three other disciplines at UMB to staff them. Faculty and staff at the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and SSW pitched in to administer injections or work in other ways such as documentation.

As a result of the Promise Heights effort, 31 middle-school students and 42 elementary students were immunized, and the collaborating principals — Debbie D. Thomas at BTW and Kelvin Bridgers at HSCT –were able to report the children in compliance.

Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year

One of our country’s most important thinkers, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley, brings us a revealing and dramatic chronicle of the twelve months leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in “Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.”

“Death of a King” paints a powerful portrait of a leader and visionary in a narrative different from all that have come before, told in the present tense and with pace and power. Here is an exceptional glimpse into King’s life— one that adds a nuanced new view of Dr. King’s legacy as an American hero. King’s somber reaction to the Newark riots that began in July of 1967, the strain that his work put on his marriage to Coretta, the chilling last twenty-four hours of his life— all are brought to life in exquisite, haunting detail.

In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year— a year in which the country was consumed by war and racial rancor. Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King’s life, revealing the minister’s trials and tribulations, his struggle with severe depression, and his fear that his movement had lost its vision. Assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics were relentless, and King had to steel himself to stay focused on his work against the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy. Most surprising in the decades since his passing, King endured vicious denunciations by the press, rejection by the president after speaking out against the war in Vietnam, and even dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, a fact often lost in accounts of his legacy.

“Death of a King” eloquently shows why Dr. Martin Luther King, the man and not just the martyr, is truly an American hero.

New Town honor student encourages grace and poise among peers

Delanee-Alexis Coley, a student at New Town High School, is already an accomplished young woman. She’s hosting a three-part series for young women in February focusing on having poise and grace, serves as president of a college and career readiness organization, has had an internship at the Washington Post, and is writing her second book. All that and she’s only 16 years old.

Delanee-Alexis Coley is a member of New Town’s National Honor Society, Student Government Association, and Future Business Leaders of America.

(Courtesy Photo)

Delanee-Alexis Coley is a member of New Town’s National Honor Society, Student Government Association, and Future Business Leaders of America.

“I want to inspire young women to carry themselves with confidence,” said Coley. “We have to do our best today, in order to pave success for tomorrow. My family has instilled in me a drive to be better than I was the day before. I really strive to push myself to my greatest potential. I attribute that to my faith in God and my upbringing.”

Delanee-Alexis is an active member of New Town’s National Honor Society, Student Government Association, Future Business Leaders of America, and is a member of the Parents Teachers Students Association. She is also the president of Le’ Pearlz, a college and career readiness organization, in which she presents workshops for middle and high students on how to be successful in their academic career.

In June, she was among a group of students honored by the Maryland Commission for Women (MCW) during their 2014 Women of Tomorrow Awards Ceremony. The Women of Tomorrow Awards was established in 1997 to honor and acknowledge extraordinary young women that have demonstrated a commitment to leadership, community service and academic excellence.

Delanee-Alexis and the other honorees, were selected through a process that began with an annual statewide call for nominations. According to Delanee-Alexis, she was nominated by Margie McLean, CEO and President of the NU Genesis Youth and Professional Development Services.

“I spoke at a young women’s event, and Ms. McLean really liked my message and the influence I had on the young women,” recalled Delanee-Alexis. “When I found out I had won first place for my division, I was honored and very excited.”

She is currently penning her second book entitled, “Simply A Young Lady with No Apologies”, a guide to help teenagers take a bold and confident stance on being a young lady in the challenging 21st century.

Her many awards include being named “Outstanding Junior Debutante,” but Delanee-Alexis said her proudest achievement is her global project entitled “Pure Thirst 4 Life”, a water effort aimed at raising $20,000 to buy a water well in Africa. She is also a dancer and model with Studio A Modeling Etiquette & Dance Academy.

The talented student said she plans to major in broadcast journalism with a minor in Spanish with the professional goal of becoming a media mogul and philanthropist.

Delanee-Alexis credits her parents Kirby and Phyllis Coley for her drive to encourage youngsters. Mrs. Coley is founder of Pure Potential Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that assists students in the college admissions process.

“It is an honor for us to be her parents,” said Mrs. Coley. “She has helped many students and is a very unique young lady. She really pushes them to do their work, and also does workshops for young people on how to be successful in high school. She is a young lady of substance and quality, and demonstrates Christian principals in all that she does.”

Delanee-Alexis’ “Simply a Young Lady’s Three Part Series Young Lady’s Conference” will kick-off February 8, 2015, with a tea entitled “The Greatest Love of All (Loving Yourself First)”. The conference, which seeks to cultivate class, style, and grace, is geared towards girls and young women ages 10-18.

For more information about Delanee-Alexis’ upcoming conference, email: simplyayounglady@gmail.com

Rosa Parks’ papers to reside at Library of Congress

The Library of Congress will be the new home of the Rosa Parks Collection, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced on Tuesday, September 9, 2014. The collection will be at the Library on a 10-year loan from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

The collection comprises approximately 1,500 items including personal correspondence and photographs, autobiographical notes, letters from presidents, her Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, additional honors and awards, clothing and furniture, and 200 drawings by schoolchildren and hundreds of greeting cards from individuals thanking her for her inspirational role in the civil rights movement.

Items from the collection will be incorporated in spring of 2015 into the new exhibition “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,” which opened on September 10, 2014. In addition, the Library will digitize the documents and visual materials and make them widely available through its website.

“Rosa Parks is an iconic figure in the American civil rights movement, the very definition of the quiet power of an individual to inspire action in others,” Billington said. “This collection joins our unparalleled holdings of African-American materials in a public institution.”

Howard G. Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, said, “My goal was always to ensure this historic collection would be made available for the public’s benefit so that as many people as possible can learn about Rosa Parks and the sacrifices she made to support the civil rights movement. I believe that partnering with the Library of Congress to display these items in our nation’s capital is the best way to achieve that goal.”

The Rosa Parks Collection joins such important civil rights materials at the

Library of Congress as the papers of Thurgood Marshall; A. Philip Randolph; Bayard Rustin; Roy Wilkins; and the records of both the NAACP and the National Urban League. The collection becomes part of the larger story of our nation, available alongside the presidential papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, and the papers of many others who fought for equality, including Susan B. Anthony and Patsy Mink.

Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white passenger on December 1, 1955 led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a seminal event in the U.S. civil rights movement.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom” opens September 10 and closes on September 12, 2015. Located in the Southwest Gallery on the second level of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., the year- long exhibition will be free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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 www.loc.gov.

New expanded move over law takes effect October 1

— Maryland State Police Superintendent, Colonel Marcus L. Brown joined elected officials and representatives from AAA Mid-Atlantic to announce Maryland’s expanded move over law at Maryland State Police Headquarters in Pikesville. The law, which takes effect Wednesday, October 1, 2014, requires motorists to move into an open lane away from tow trucks attending to roadside emergencies, or to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe, just as they must now do when approaching police and other emergency vehicles stopped on the road side.

The initial legislation that passed in 2010 only applied to fire and police vehicles, however the expanded law will now include tow trucks.

“This legislation honors the memories of those who have lost their lives. It provides a safety net of protection for towers who serve us each and every day on Maryland’s highways,” said Senator Jacobs. Delegate Malone, who has faithfully served the citizens of Baltimore County for nearly 40 years as a firefighter added, “If people slow down and move over, this law will save lives,” he said.

“The intent of the move over law is to provide an extra barrier of safety for police officers, fire fighters, emergency rescue personnel, and tow service operators working along Maryland roads. It is imperative that drivers stay alert for these types of situations and move away from them or slow down as they pass by the traffic stop or incident scene,” said Colonel Marcus L. Brown. Brown also remarked about the numerous calls he has received as the head of both the Maryland Transportation Authority

Police and the State Police, where he has had to hear the unfortunate news that one of his officers or troopers had been killed or injured while doing their jobs on the side of the road.

AAA has been a vocal advocate of move over legislation across the country. “AAA Mid-Atlantic applauds the sponsors of this legislation, as well as the Maryland General Assembly for recognizing the importance of having tow truck drivers included in Maryland’s move over law,” said Ragina Cooper-Averella, Public and Government

Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “We supported the law to protect law enforcement officers and first responders in 2010 and believe that those same protections are also necessary to protect tow truck drivers. Unfortunately, we have seen numerous tragedies occur that are sobering reminders of the dangers that law enforcement officers and tow truck drivers encounter every day while doing their jobs,” Cooper-Averella added.

With this law, Maryland becomes the 47th state to provide move over protections to tow truck drivers, as well as police and other emergency vehicles. Currently, only the District of Columbia has no move over law in place at all and Louisiana, New Mexico and Wyoming are the only states that have no law to protect tow truck operators.

According to Maryland State Police, violating the move over law can result in a fine of $110 and one point. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash resulting in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points, in addition to the devastating personal tragedies a crash like that will cause. “Public education continues to be essential, despite Maryland’s law being on the books for four years and numerous public awareness efforts by police and traffic safety advocates, many motorists continue to ignore or be unaware of the law,” concluded Cooper-Averella.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

— With breast cancer currently the second most common cancer in women, according to government health statistics, awareness and early detection are crucial for treatment outcomes. With this in mind, every October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness of the disease and funds for research and treatment.

While most women are aware of the disease, many fail to take steps to  detect breast cancer in its early stages, say the experts at the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

As such, each year in October, women are encouraged to create an “Early Detection Plan.” The benefits are proven; when breast cancer is detected early in what is known as a “localized stage,” the five year survival rate is 98 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. Having a plan is all about creating reminders to conduct breast self-exams, and to schedule clinical breast exams and mammograms based on your age and health history.

More free information about creating an Early Detection Plan is available at www.earlydetectionplan.org and by consulting your personal health care provider.

This October, make sure the women in your family are  active in helping to safeguard their own health and that of their loved ones.