Entrepreneurs of the Week: Kimberley McDaniel, Denise Leonard Howard and Valerie Walker

Who says friends can’t work together? Three lovely women are not only friends but business partners and from speaking with them you can tell that they genuinely love and respect each other.

Their business is called The Rejuvenation Spot, with the slogan, “The Place People Go to Feel Better.” Located at 22 West 25th Street in Charles Village it’s a one of a kind business that specializes in alkaline water, therapeutic grade essential oils, liquid vitamins, as well as life and health coaching.

Co-owner Denise Leonard Howard said, “Our purpose is to offer people a way to feel better from a holistic standpoint which we do not talk enough about in the community, especially in the black community

“So many people are looking for ways to either become healthy or stay healthy. We want to be here for those people who are looking for something more natural. This is not just for older people, but even younger people want and are concerned about their health. What better way than trying the holistic approach” states co-owner Kimberly McDaniel.

Want to become more in tune with your body? Then checkout Indie Soul’s Entrepreneurs of the Week website: www.therejuvenationspot.comcastbiz.net.

Call for artists: Our Town Grant

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, Baltimore City’s designated Arts Council, request proposals for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town grant.

This is an opportunity to bring significant funding for creative projects to Baltimore. The program offers support for projects in two areas. Arts engagement, cultural planning and design projects that represent the distinct character and quality of their communities may receive matching grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000. Projects that build knowledge about creative “placemaking” may receive matching grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

Each city may enter only one application, submitted by the Mayor, which represents collaboration between the city and an artist and/or arts organization. All artists with an interest in the grant are encouraged to apply or contact the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts for additional information. The application and guidelines are available at www.promotionandarts.org, click “Arts Council.” The deadline for submissions is Monday, November 10, 2014 by 9 a.m.

All qualified Our Town applications will be forwarded to the Mayor’s Office for selection. Depending on the number of submissions, applicants may be contacted to make a presentation. Applicants will be notified of the Mayor’s decision by Monday, November 17, 2014. It is expected that the selected applicant will prepare basic information to be submitted to the Our Town program no later than Monday, December 15, 2014. A full proposal must be submitted to the National Endowment for the Arts by Thursday, January 15, 2015.

For more information on the Our Town grant, call 410-752-8632 or visit www.promotionandarts.org. Additional information can also be found at www.arts.gov/grants-organizations/our-town.

Indie Soul Spotlight: Saxophonist Craig Alston

“I just want to make music. I want to leave a legacy for my children so that they know who I am and what I was about” –Craig Alston

Soft-spoken jazz saxophonist Craig Alston is a very deep thinker who cares about his surroundings and his music. Music is his therapy as well as a way to connect with an audience.

“People come to hear me perform, I want them to relax and just enjoy. People have problems and they need a release from whatever it is they are going through,” Alston said.

The multi-talented Alston does not want to be placed in a box as a musician, “I want to be able to make music that people will feel good about. One minute it could be jazz, classical, dance or even country. I enjoy music. It’s as simple as that.”

His love of music came from attending music events with his father in Baltimore, like Artscape and the African-American Festival. “I knew from that point I wanted to be a musician, Alston said.

He has traveled the world performing with some big names in the music business including: Fertile Ground, The Four Tops, and The Temptations, just to name a few.

Now the time has come for Alston to do something for himself and he hopes listeners will enjoy his musical journey.

“At the end of the day, you have to be honest with yourself and what it is you do and ask yourself why you are doing it” said Alston who is currently working on a soon to be released CD.

On Sunday, November 2, 2014, the Craig Alston Quartet will perform at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art (JELMA) inside Morgan State University’s Murphy Fine Arts Center located at 2201 Argonne Drive. The peformance is part of the series Jazz at JELMA—the first set begins at 4 p.m. During intermission enjoy a Gallery Stroll Tour of the JELMA Exhibition: Ed Towles-Black Enterprise & Art.Tickets are available through Murphy Fine Arts Ticket Office, 443-885-4440.

Safe ways to trick-or-treat

What would Halloween be without trick-or-treating? For youngsters, so much of the fun of Halloween involves scouring the neighborhood with friends in search of candy. While children may have their eyes on the sweet prize, parents may be concerned about their little ones’ safety.

The United States Census Bureau says that an average of 41 million trick-or-treaters venture out every year across the country, and roughly 106 million homes are solicited for candy and other treats on this holiday. Such a high number of people out on the streets increases the risk of injury, and it can be easy for kids to get lost as well.

According to Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, a network of organizations geared toward preventing unintentional childhood injury, “Halloween is an important night for parents to be extra vigilant.” But Halloween seems to lessen one’s inhibitions, and wearing a costume and being hidden from others can encourage some revelers to engage in atypical and unsafe behaviors. To ensure everyone has a safe and fun Halloween, here are some safety tips to follow.

  • Go in groups. Children can be accompanied by their parents while older children should be encouraged to trick-or-treat in groups. Should an emergency occur, having a group of friends around enables someone to call for help or alert an adult.
  • Use a flashlight. When trick-or-treating at night, take steps to improve visibility. This includes using reflective tape on costumes and carrying a flashlight or glow sticks so that other pedestrians as well as drivers will be able to see children.
  • Walk on sidewalks. Wherever possible, trick-or-treaters should use sidewalks and crosswalks. Avoid walking in the street, where the risk of being hit by a car is considerable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says twice as many kids are hit by a car while walking on Halloween than any other day of the year.
  • Avoid distractions. Trick-or-treaters should not be wearing earbuds or talking on a phone while trick-or-treating. They should be paying attention to their surroundings and using caution.
  • Do not enter homes. If an adult or even a youngster whom a child does not know offers entry to the home, the trick-or-treater should not enter. Let kids know they should only enter the homes of known friends, and even then they should only do so after getting permission from a parent.
  • Consume only factory-wrapped treats. Well-meaning people may hand out cupcakes or marshmallow cereal treats. The ingredients such people used and the safety of these treats cannot be confirmed, so it is best to stick with store-bought items instead.
  • Wear well-fitting shoes. Shoes that are uncomfortable or loose can cause children to fall and risk injury.
  • Adults should drive carefully. All drivers should slow down and anticipate children darting out into the roadways on Halloween. Drive slowly and pay attention to the roads.

This Halloween costume costs $1.6 million

— What does a million-dollar Halloween costume look like? Hint: It gives new meaning to the phrase “dripping with diamonds.”

The Million Dollar Morphsuit is encrusted head to toe with 70,000 diamonds. While the costume is currently locked away in a vault in London, it can be purchased by anyone willing to shell out £1 million ($1.6 million).

The price tag might be scary, but the costume is pretty glamorous.

The company used its signature “morphsuit” as the base — a skin-tight spandex suit that covers the entire body, including the head — and bedazzled the silver suit in diamonds of various carats.

The costume is “a bit heavy” and can be hard to see out of given all the bling, said Gregor Lawson, co-founder of MorphCostumes. “It’s probably not the most comfortable of our offerings, but if you roll the head part down, you can still be covered 90% in diamonds.”

For those not willing to shell out six figures on a costume, the company has other options in its high-end “WTF” line.

Overkill, The Giant Zombie-Killing Robot costume promises to turn the wearer into “a living legend” and sells for $25,000. The robot-looking costume has laser effects, legs with stilts, a one-piece torso with LED lighting, controllable finger sheaths and a giant headpiece. It’s also equipped with a fan.

The custom-fit Invisible Cowboy Premium Costume costs $2,500 and has a head that can move in all directions.

While these costumes take Halloween spending to the next level, Americans will be celebrating the holiday in record numbers this year. The National Retail Federation reported more than two-thirds of Americans will buy a costume and spend a total of $2.8 billion on their outfits this year.

Of course, MorphCostumes has more affordable options. The company has more than 300 costumes with an average price of $30-$45.

Lawson said the typical customer is generally male, between 16-24 years old and loves the anonymity that a morphsuit can offer.

“It’s like having X-ray vision, you can see out, but they can’t see in. They are completely encased and people say, ‘oh my god that’s the coolest thing I’ve seen.'”


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Maryland Hall opens three exhibitions on November 3

— Maryland Hall will open three exhibitions on November 3, 2014— Clay Artists from the Shore, in the Chaney Gallery; Drawing and Painting the Life at Maryland Hall, in the Martino Gallery; and Student Work by students of MHCA Instructor Andree Tullier in the 2nd Floor Hallway Gallery.

A free opening reception will by Thursday, November 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Clay Artists from the Shore features unique clay works by artists from the Easton Academy of Art: Paul Aspell, Eileen Herbert, Emily Crandal, Hilary Bruns, Paula Bell, John Scott and Joan Strand. The exhibit was curated by local artist Cassandra Kabler.

Drawing and Painting the Life at Maryland Hall features paintings and drawings by MHCA Visual Arts Instructor Andree Tullier who has spent the past two years documenting the people who work, meet, perform and study in and around Maryland Hall. The exhibit includes charcoal drawings, pastels and paintings in oil. Depictions range from pottery and woodturning classes to performances by the Resident Companies. Complementing this exhibit is Student Work, by adult and teen students in Tullier’s Maryland Hall classes in oil, pastel and charcoal still life.

All three exhibits are on display through December 17, 2014. Maryland Hall is located at 801 Chase Street, Annapolis. Galleries are free and open to the public, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 pm.

For more information, go to www.marylandhall.org.

The traditions of Halloween

October 31st is nearly here, and soon the streets will be filled with costumed revelers eager to get their share of the free-flowing candy and other prizes. Year after year, trick-or-treaters don their costumes and parade from home to home. But have you ever wondered where this and other traditions began?

Trick-or-treating and wearing costumes seem like odd traditions to those unaccustomed to Halloween. Halloween customs are actually a blend of Celtic, Catholic, Pagan, and ancient Roman traditions. It is thought that Halloween celebrations date back to roughly 800 to 600 BC, when they originally were observances of the harvest season and nature before the arrival of winter, which marked the barren state of the landscape.

The Celtic festival of Samhain was a major influence on modern day Halloween.

On October 31, Celts also believed the door to the underworld was opened and could let in deceased spirits. Feasts were held and place-settings were left for deceased relatives, as they were believed to return home for a visit. In addition to friendly spirits, mean spirts also could cross over. Bonfires were lit to ward off spirits, and extra candles would be used in homes and churches to keep evil away.

Even the custom of wearing costumes has its roots in keeping evil spirits at bay. Costumes and masks were worn to confuse bad spirits and frighten them so that they could not bestow misfortune on the more fortunate. People also wore masks and ventured out after dark so that envious ghosts who were cold and outside could not recognize residents of warm and inviting homes.

The trick-or-treating custom may have blended origins. Druids believed the dead would play tricks on mankind during Samhain, causing destruction and panic. To appease the spirits, people would give the dead food and other treats.

Another custom, called “souling,” can be linked to Halloween as well. Early Christians would walk from village to village asking for “soul cakes,” which were square pieces of bread with currants. The more cakes received, the more prayers the faithful would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the cake donors to expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.

Irish trick-or-treating customs may be traced back to collecting supplies door-to-door for the festival of St. Columbkille.

Halloween revelry is full of traditions passed on through the ages.

A Fight for Survival: Chicago rapper survives breast cancer

— If you’re not familiar with the Chicago Rap music scene you may not have heard of Twone Gabz. Known to family and friends as Antwone Muhammad, he has been in the music business for almost 15 years, featured on projects produced by Grammy award producer, No I.D., Kanye West, Terry Hunter, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Erick Sermon and collaborations with Chicago artists; Mikkey Halsted, GLC, Keith Murray and Rhymefest among others.

A trip to the emergency room changed the entire scope of his world when tests revealed he had breast cancer. While taking a break from the music business to work in healthcare management Antwone noticed fluid leaking from his left nipple. The leakage occurred off and on for a couple of years until his visit to the emergency room.

Male breast cancer is a rare condition, accounting for only about one percent of all breast cancers according to medicinenet.com, but Antwone challenges this statistic. “They say it affects one percent of men, but those numbers are skewed because they are being updated based on census surveys. So, who’s really inviting a stranger into their house? Does the stranger ask you, “Does anybody in this household have cancer? My oncologist believes it to be like seven to 10 percent of men now,” he says.

To help fight depression and isolation, Antwone decided to share his ordeal on social media. “Some people really confide and open up,” he says. “It’s been great just to see people and how they’ve taken to it.”

Through the power of social media and online engagement, his open discussion has encouraged people to get mammograms and go to the doctor check-ups. In addition to talking with people on Facebook and Twitter, he has been documenting the process by filming his doctor visits. He’s also ending his five-year hiatus from the music business was by penning new lyrics for the music CD “The Tumor.”

Antwone says being in the music studio again helping him through his ordeal. “It’s been better than the actual treatment. As an artist, we can say certain things and put it in the words of a song, but when it comes to communicating with people it’s like the hardest thing for us.”

He continues, “When we make songs we become this person that we’re really not because we’re trying to seek acceptance from a lot of people. At some point, my music has to be therapeutic for me.”

One of his missions is to bring awareness to the African American community, particularly the Roseland community located on the far Southside of Chicago. “There’s more cancer in Roseland than anywhere in Chicago and if you look at Roseland Community Hospital, no one goes there. All of the factories, the dump sites, the dirty roads compelled me to discuss why the area has the highest cancer rate.” Inspired by what is going on in the community, Antwone is working with Roseland Community Hospital and releasing the first music video for the song, “Getting Through It.”

Federal grant takes aim at reducing youth violence

— Maryland has received a five-year, $9.73 million federal grant that seeks a reduction in violence in children through a comprehensive program promoting healthy behavioral development.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded Maryland one of 20 “Now is the Time Project AWARE” grants. The major new initiative supports the development and implementation of activities, services and strategies to decrease youth violence. States are required to develop an integrated and coordinated program for advancing wellness and resilience in educational settings for youth from kindergarten through graduation.

“This grant supports local school systems by teaching children strategies for better behavior to reduce youth violence,” said State Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery. “It will focus students on graduating prepared to pursue their dreams in the college or career of their choice.”

The effort will involve the development of a strategic implementation plan in three Maryland school systems: Baltimore, Dorchester and Somerset counties. In addition, MSDE will be working with State agency partners, universities, and nonprofit organizations in the training, implementation and evaluation of the initiative.

The grant project expands MSDE’s capacity to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth, provide training for school personnel and other adults who interact with the school population, and connect students and families with behavioral issues with appropriate services. The grant increases mental health promotion, identification, and intervention in Maryland schools.

Youth Mental Health First Aid teaches a five-step action plan to offer initial help to young people showing signs of mental illness or in a crisis, and connects them with appropriate professional, peer, social, or self-help care.

Democrats bash Obama yet want black vote

— Here are a few election-time questions to think over: Why in the world do Democrats think they can bash President Obama and his policies and still win black votes? Why should black voters be motivated to turn out after months of watching Democrats bash the president? What exactly is the strategy for Democrats to get black voters out?

Many Democrats running this cycle, even in states and districts with large black voting populations— including North Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana— have made the deduction that annoying and ignoring black voters is less important than winning white ones. The white swing voter is supposedly a more vital target than the black voter who is a 95 percent sure bet to vote for a Democrat. It’s a fascinating strategy featuring Democrats running in fear of their own record while ignoring what’s happened over the last six years.

Thanks to the president, Osama Bin Laden is dead. The unemployment rate is now 5.9 percent. Even the black unemployment rate dropped from 16.5 percent in 2011 to its current 11.4 percent and more than eight million Americans have signed up for health care.

The Republican contribution— Gridlock, more than 50 votes on Obamacare repeals and shutting down the government. The approval numbers for Republicans in Congress is lower than the president’s yet Democrats shun his policies?

Yes, Obama has a 40 percent approval rating but Congress’ approval sits at 14 percent — the lowest since 1974. You wonder what the numbers would be if Democrats actually stopped apologizing for their record and instead put the GOP on the defensive. Who among the GOP leadership in Washington can claim legislative achievement in a party whose number one ideology is gridlock? This is the least productive Congress in history.

If Democrats lose the Senate, it will be because of self-inflicted wounds.

When asked what the Democrats’ strategy was for getting out the black vote, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel referenced a voter turnout strategy focused on getting voters out based on “what’s at stake for the African American community.”

Apparently Democrats have forgotten— or don’t care— that black voters are the party’s most loyal voting block. In 2012, black voters turned out at a higher percentage than whites. Black women are the highest turnout group among all women. But this enthusiasm will likely lessen, not just because the first black president will no longer be on the ballot, but because Democrats fail to support the policies enacted while he was there.

In a midterm election it will take more than a pre-election day Sunday swing-by to get black voters and others out. Yet many Democrats make no specific references or pledges on specific policy that might motivate that turnout. Few

Democrats dare discuss racial profiling, mandatory minimums or justice reform or— God forbid— health care reform.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat running for Senate in Kentucky against gridlock king, Senator Mitch McConnell, won’t even admit she voted for President Obama. Instead of running a campaign that puts McConnell on the defensive by bringing up how little he has done for Kentucky, Grimes is frantically telling voters how much she disagrees with President Obama.

Likewise, in Arkansas, Senator Mark Pryor’s race has become about Pryor dodging questions on whether he agrees with President Obama exactly what the GOP wants. In Colorado, Democrat Mark Udall was asked, “Which of the president’s proposed policies are you prepared to vote against?” by a moderator. Even some journalists have bought in to the GOP’s narrative.

If a voter’s big concern is whether a candidate agreed with the president in their party, you can pretty much bet that’s a Republican voter. For some reason, Democrats are trying to win the voter who hates the president and get out the base simultaneously. Good luck with that one.

Even after eight million Americans have signed up, Democrats run from the idea of bringing up the Affordable Care Act as a success. The number of Americans without health care has dropped to the lowest rate since the 1990s— from 18 percent to 13 percent. The uninsured rate for African-Americans is now 15.1 percent, from 18.9 percent. However, Democrats fail to mention how dead wrong Republicans were in 2010 and beyond, after health care reform was signed into law. Instead they continue to run from their own shadow.

It seems Democrats are on the brink of getting the result they deserve. Does running away from your own record work? The Democratic Party is likely to find out the answer to that question the hard way on November 4, 2014.

Lauren Victoria Burke is freelance writer and creator of the blog: “Crewof42.com,” which covers African American members of Congress. She can be reached through her website: laurenvictoriaburke.com.