Indiana backlash: What you need to know about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

— Gov. Mike Pence unleashed a firestorm on Indiana last week when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Critics of the law contend it could be used by individuals and businesses to discriminate — particularly against the LGBT community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals — on the basis of religion.

Those for and against Indiana's controversial

(Photo courtesy/WXIN)

Those for and against Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” bill gathered at the Statehouse on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, the day before Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law.

The ramifications for the Hoosier State are just starting to be felt in the form of boycotts, petitions and travel bans.

As the controversy mushrooms, here’s what got us to where we are. And where things are headed.

The act is signed

Last week, Pence put his signature on the RFRA — a law that allows Indiana businesses to cite their religious freedom as a legal defense.

The law states that the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” and that individuals who feel like their religious beliefs have been or could be “substantially burdened” can lean on this law to fend off lawsuits.

In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Pence says the RFRA “ensures that Indiana law will respect religious freedom and apply the highest level of scrutiny to any state or local governmental action that infringes on people’s religious liberty.”

Pence notes that there is no reference to sexual orientation in the law.

The backlash is immediate

Civil liberties and gay rights groups hold to their stance that the law could be used by businesses to deny service to people based on their sexual orientation and justify that discrimination based on their religious belief.

“Silence is consent!” tweets Laurel Davilia, a commentator on Brass Knuckles Progressives Radio.

Boycotts begin

From sports teams to musicians to other cities and states, they fell like dominoes.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis and set to host its men’s basketball Final Four in the city this week, said the law could lead it to move events elsewhere in future years. The NBA, WNBA and NFL issued critical statements too.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says fans of all stripes are welcome.

“The Colts have always embraced inclusiveness, tolerance, and a diverse fan base,” Irsay tweets. “We welcome ALL fans to Colts Nation. ONE FAMILY!”

A petition posted on change.org hopes to get the Big Ten Conference to move its football championship out of Indianapolis.

“I think that Indiana needs to be told that it must respect all persons regardless of sex, age, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” Sean Burke of Madison, Wisconsin, says in the petition. “As a football fan, I think we can send a message by calling on the NCAA and Big Ten Conference to take a stand.”

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is scheduled to host the league’s championship game through the 2021 season.

At last check, the petition had more than 11,000 supporters.

The mayors of San Francisco and Seattle have barred spending on travel to Indiana. The governors of Connecticut and Washington state did the same thing.

And you can add Wilco to the boycott bandwagon. The group is canceling its May 7 show in Indianapolis, it says on Facebook.

“The ‘Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination to us,” Wilco says. “Hope to get back to the Hoosier State someday soon, when this odious measure is repealed.”

Cher is among the artists speaking out. Her son Chaz Bono is a transgender man.

“#GOVPENCE IS ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF RIGHT WING RACISM, ASAULT ON WOMANS RIGHTS & HATRED OF LGBT AMERICANS,” she tweets.

State walks back … sort of

Indiana’s top two state lawmakers pledged Monday to amend the state’s controversial “religious freedom” law to clarify that it cannot be used to discriminate against gay people.

“This law does not discriminate, and it will not be allowed to do so,” David Long, the Indiana Senate president pro tem, said during a news conference with state House Speaker Brian Bosma.

Pence had said earlier that he was working with lawmakers to clarify the law.

Critics don’t buy it

Critics still weren’t on board with the anti-discrimination claims. Opponents of RFRA marched around the state capitol.

Someone even created a satire ad: “Indiana. It’s a great place to be a bigot.”.

They demand change

The rhetoric has reached such a fever pitch that a front page editorial in Tuesday’s edition of the Indianapolis Star blares the headline: “Fix. This. Now.”

The editorial suggests the RFRA and protections for gays and lesbians can co-exist.

The state is at a crossroads it says.

“(N)o matter its original intent (the law) already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future,” according to the editorial. “Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage.”

The editorial closes with:

“Governor, Indiana is in a state of crisis. It is worse than you seem to understand.

“You must act with courage and wisdom. You must lead us forward now. You must ensure that all Hoosiers have strong protections against discrimination.

“The laws can co-exist. And so can we.”

Some presidential hopefuls offer support

Some of the GOP’s top figures are backing Pence despite the controversy. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have voiced their support. Both are considered likely Republican candidates for the White House.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his candidacy last week, is also on board.

“I’m proud to stand with Gov. @mike_pence for religious liberty, and I urge Americans to do the same,” Cruz tweets.

Indy is not the only state

Indiana is the 20th state to adopt a “religious freedom restoration” law, most of which are modeled after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

But that law passed with the backing of a broad-based coalition and wasn’t set against the backdrop of gay rights or the wave of marriage equality laws that have swept the country in recent years.

Adam Talbot, a spokesman with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, stresses that those 20 laws are “dramatically different in their scope and effect.”

“Calling them similar in this way risks being misleading. Indiana is the broadest and most dangerous law of its kind in the country,” Talbot says.

Arkansas’ legislature passed an Indiana-style law on Friday, which now heads to the state’s governor for approval.

Governor hard pressed to explain

Despite the countroversy, the Indiana governor says concerns that his state’s new “religious freedom” law will allow businesses to turn away LGBT customers is the result of a “tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding.”

Still, he was hard pressed to explain why that wasn’t the case.

Given a chance on Sunday to add some clarity, Pence refused to answer at least six yes-or-no questions from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about whether the measure legalizes discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Jeremy Diamond and Eric Bradner contributed to this report.

Mother’s Day Kitchen Traditions

— There’s no better place than the kitchen to honor your special bond with a woman who has taught you all you know about cooking and baking. Whether she’s your mom, or a woman who has been like a mom in your life, Mother’s Day is the perfect time to create kitchen traditions you can cherish together year after year.

A decadent recipe you can prepare together and enjoy warm out of the oven is an ideal choice. As you wait for the dough to rise in these homemade cinnamon rolls, you’ll have plenty of time to catch up and reminisce over shared memories of your childhood and beyond.

Remember, the best results in baking come from top quality ingredients. The secret to the melt-in-your-mouth flavor of these rolls is the vanilla. Wilton Pure Vanilla Extract, made with the world’s finest vanilla from Madagascar, lends unmatched flavor and aroma to enhance cakes, puddings, pie fillings, custards, salad dressings and more.

For more tradition-worthy recipes to share with mom, visit www.wilton.com.

Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Glaze

Servings: 1 dozen rolls

Rolls:

1 1/3 cups warm milk (105°F)

2 packages (1/4-ounce each) active dry yeast

1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon Wilton Pure Vanilla Extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

Filling:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons bread flour

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Glaze:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/2 cup lightly-packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Seven Coppin State student-athletes named to MEAC All-Academic bowling team

— Seven Coppin State women’s bowling student-athletes were named to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) All-Academic team. Overall, 44 student-athletes were honored from the conference’s 13 institutions who achieved academic success during the 2014-2015 academic school year.

Representing Coppin State were Brionca Beard, Alethia Edwards, Maribel Lovos, Shelby Mendoza, Kristen Sharpe, Danielle Smith and Kache Woods. Coppin State had the most student-athletes of any MEAC institution named to the All-Academic Team. It was the second sport this season in which Coppin State had the most MEAC All-Academic Team selections of any school in the conference. Volleyball had 10.

Woods led Coppin State with a 166.1 pinfall average during the season. Woods had her best showing on Jan. 31 at the Red Flash Invitational where she topped 200 three times during the tournament, including a career-high 241 against Cheyney. She finished second overall at the event and earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

Sharpe had a 161.2 average and bowled over 200 six times this season, which upped her career total to nine. Lovos averaged 112.8 pins and rolled 136 against Morgan State. Beard, Mendoza and Smith made contributions this season. Beard’s best performance occurred at the FDU Jamboree on Oct.31 in which she finished with a 194 game against Valparaiso.

Mendoza and Smith recorded their best showings at the Kutztown Classic Jan. 24. Mendoza rolled a career-high 153 against Medaille and Smith posted a career-best 177 against Cheyney.

The MEAC recognizes student-athletes with a 3.0 or better cumulative grade point average, including sophomores, juniors and seniors, as well as transfer student-athletes, who have been in residence at the institution for at least one year.

“I applaud our bowling student-athletes who have maintained a 3.0 or better grade point average during the current academic school year,” said Commissioner Dennis E. Thomas. “In addition to acknowledging the accomplishments of these student-athletes, I also would like to recognize the athletic academic support staff, personnel and coaching staffs who contributed to the academic success of these student-athletes.”

‘Home’ run: Did Rihanna save DreamWorks Animation?

— The nightmare for DreamWorks Animation may be over. The beleaguered studio can thank Rihanna and Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” for the turnaround.

Shares of DreamWorks Animation surged as much as 8% Monday thanks to the surprise box office success of “Home” — which features the voices of Jim Parsons as an alien and “Umbrella” singer Rihanna as the little girl who befriends him.

“Home” grossed $54 million in the United States during its opening weekend and another $47.5 million overseas according to movie industry site Box Office Mojo.

DreamWorks needed “Home” to be a hit. The studio, run by legendary Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, has had huge hits but also some notable duds in the past few years.

Its inconsistency is in stark contrast to Disney’s Pixar unit, which has churned out one success after another, most recently “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6.”

The goal for DreamWorks now is to turn “Home” into a true franchise, joining Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon.

Don’t bet against RiRi and J. Lo. Although the movie didn’t get fantastic reviews, it seems like critics underestimated the appeal of cute aliens. (I saw “Home” with my son. It’s not “Toy Story.” But it was amusing and well-done.)

It’s also worth noting that so many animated movies have white protagonists. So having a black heroine was refreshing.

That — plus music from Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez (who was the voice of Rihanna’s mom) — also probably helped bring in a lot more young girls and their parents. (Steve Martin and the guy who played Badger in “Breaking Bad” are also in the movie. I kid you not.)

“Home” is the only theatrical release for DreamWorks this year. The studio announced in January that it was cutting the number of movies from three a year to two starting in 2016. It also laid off 500 employees, or nearly 20% of its staff.

Those cost cutting moves were done in response to a series of critical and commercial flops — such as “Turbo,” “Rise of the Guardians” and” Mr. Peabody and Sherman.”

DreamWorks has lost money in three of its last four quarters and the stock fell more than 35% last year as a result.

Takeover talks dead for now. Things had gotten so tough that DreamWorks was even a rumored takeover target. There were reports that both Japanese tech giant SoftBank and toy maker Hasbro were thinking of buying the studio. But talks apparently fell apart on both deals.

There also has been speculation from time to time that Fox could be a natural acquirer of DreamWorks. Rupert Murdoch’s media firm has a 5-year deal to distribute DreamWorks Animation movies that runs out in 2018.

So what’s next? DreamWorks doesn’t have another movie in theaters until “Kung Fu Panda 3” a year from now. Even though the last movie came out in 2011, it seems like the third film is a safe bet. The first two grossed a combined $1.3 billion worldwide.

Small screen success is key. Po continues to fight bad guys and eat dumplings on a show called “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” that airs on Viacom’s Nickelodeon.

Television actually could wind up being the medium that helps keep DreamWorks relevant. The studio has a deal to create new shows for Netflix. “All Hail King Julien” and “The Adventures of Puss in Boots” are two that debuted in the past few months. They are based on characters from the Madagascar and Shrek movies, respectively.

DreamWorks Animation has also done a good job so far with the purchase of YouTube video network AwesomenessTV. DreamWorks bought it for $33 million in 2013 and just sold a 25% stake in it this year to Hearst … for $81.25 million.

But the formula is pretty simple for DreamWorks:. If it can create more hits, then it should be able to return to profitabilityand no longer be named in takeover rumors.

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One-minute solutions to improving your health

— If you’re the type of person who is constantly wondering where the day went, you probably jump for joy whenever you read about short workouts, even 5 minutes long, that improve health.

While that doesn’t mean you should give up your lengthier workouts in favor of mere minutes of activity, it does add some strength to the comforting belief that every little bit counts.

And perhaps the best news of all is that it’s not the only way in which you can improve your well-being in a brief amount of time. Some take even less. Here are eleven ways to boost your health in just one minute.

Give someone you love a hug

There’s nothing quite like a good hug. And while a warm embrace certainly makes us feel happier and more relaxed, there are also physical health benefits of hugging, like lower blood pressure and heart rate.

Laugh

There’s a good reason laughter has a reputation for being the best medicine. Not only is it one of the body’s natural stress relievers, it also mimics (at least a little) some of the physiological responses in the body to physical activity.

Nibble some dark chocolate

The natural plant compounds in cocoa can protect the heart in a whole number of ways, from lowering blood pressure, raising levels of “good” cholesterol while lowering the “bad” and even helping with circulation. There’s some evidence to suggest chocolate can also help ward off diabetes and protect the skin. Now that’s sweet news.

Find the silver lining

A little optimism goes a long way. Looking on the bright side has been associated with a healthier heart and a stronger immune system, so next time you’re voicing a complaint, take a minute to reframe those thoughts.

Look away from your computer screen

If you work at a desk job — or even if you’re just a tech fan outside of the office — you probably spend a fair amount of time in front of screens. But all that computer time can do a number on your eyes. To combat strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for just 20 seconds.

Wash your hands

This one also only takes 20 seconds — and it’s well worth it. Simply educating communities about handwashing can lower the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31 percent and lower the number of people who get colds and other respiratory illnesses by 21 percent, according to the CDC.

To do it right, wet your hands with clean, running water, lather with soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds. That’s roughly about the length of time it would take to hum “Happy Birthday” twice (in your head, unless you’d like some strange looks from your coworkers). Rinse your hands under running water and dry completely.

Buckle your seat belt

Most American adults consistently buckle up in the car, but not everyone: According to the most recent data available, about 87 percent of adults wear their seat belts. For the 13 percent who haven’t quite gotten the message, it takes mere seconds to protect yourself, whether you’re driving or just along for the ride. More than 2 million adults are treated for car accident injuries each year, and more than half of teens age 13 to 20 who died in car crashes in 2012 were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, according to the CDC.

Rest in child’s pose

It’s one of the most relaxing, restorative yoga poses, but it’s also a gentle, reinvigorating stretch that may help relieve back and neck pain. Sit back and hold for that entire glorious minute.

Wear sunscreen

Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer each year, and sun exposure is one of the biggest causes of the disease. Yet it hardly takes any time at all to lather up against harmful UV rays. To cover yourself completely, aim to use about an ounce of the stuff if most of your skin is exposed.

Hold a plank

A daily one-minute plank is a classic fitness challenge you’ve probably seen hashtagged on your Facebook or Instagram feeds. Join the trend and you’ll benefit from a stronger midsection, which can help ward off back pain and improve posture. Here’s how to do it right.

Smile

It’s no surprise that people who smile a lot are usually happy people, but 2010 research suggests that people who smile widest also live the longest. Even if you’re feeling stressed, faking a smile can eventually make you feel more at ease — and it only takes a moment.

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How Green Is Your House?

— Living an eco-friendly lifestyle starts at home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, residential use accounts for more than one-fifth of the nation’s total energy consumption. Adopting an earth-first, energy saving mindset will let you make adjustments around your home so that you can feel good about your family’s contributions to protect the environment.

Green energy

Improving your home’s energy efficiency is not only good for the planet, it’s good for your wallet. After all, wasted energy is money lost in monthly utility bills. Numerous factors influence a home’s energy efficiency, or lack thereof. Air leaks, outdated appliances or inefficient heating and cooling systems can all negatively impact your home’s energy usage.

Structural improvements

Correcting any structural issues can go a long way toward making your home more efficient. Give your home a thorough inspection to identify and repair leaks and cracks around windows, doors and duct work. Remember that poorly sealed attics and basements are also common culprits of energy loss.

Appliances and major systems

Upgrading your appliances and temperature control systems also helps drive more efficient energy use throughout the house. Look for ENERGY STAR-certified products, which are designed to save energy without sacrificing on performance. Where possible, make purchases that will perform double duty, such as high-efficiency washing machines that can save on both energy and water usage.

Fuel sources

Choosing the right energy source can also help lessen your impact on the environment. For example, using propane-powered appliances in your home can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent study sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council, propane-powered furnaces emit 73 percent fewer greenhouse gases than electricity. Similarly, propane-powered storage water heaters emit approximately 39 percent less greenhouse gas than electric storage models.

For more information about using propane and propane-powered appliances in your home, visit www.propane.com.

Green upgrades

Shopping smart to incorporate high-efficiency appliances and electronics into your home is just a first step. There are many other ways you can make such products even more sustainable:

  • Rely on LED light bulbs, which use a fraction of the energy and last significantly longer than traditional bulbs.
  • Use light timers to turn off lights when they aren’t needed.
  • Make a habit of powering off lights and other electronics when you leave the room.
  • Set a programmable thermostat to adjust temperatures when you’re away from home.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry, and use cold water when possible.
  • Air-dry dishes, rather than using the heated drying cycle of the dishwasher.

Buying Green

Understanding just what makes a product green can be confusing. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, greener products are those that are shown to have less health or environmental impacts than similar products that have the same function.

The EPA has made it easy to identify earth-friendly cleaning supplies by introducing a Design for the Environment label that designates products deemed safer for personal health and the environment.

Other categories of green products may be harder to identify. You can rely on EPA labeling programs such as ENERGY STAR for household items such as windows, doors and many major appliances, and WaterSense for water-specific products such as toilets, faucets and showerheads.

When evaluating whether a product is “green,” be wary of eco-labels, which are not regulated and may contain misleading information designed to downplay a product’s true impact. The Federal Trade Commission created the Green Guides to set standards for truth in advertising; however, there is broad scope and consumers may still need to do some research to understand why a package has a green message on its label.

Ultimately, it’s important to consider all aspects of the product’s development, from research and manufacturing to packaging and distribution. For example, an earth-friendly cleanser packaged in a bottle using recycled plastic is more green than one that is not.

Recycle Like a Pro

Living green isn’t just about saving energy. Sustainable living also means putting earth-friendly practices in place throughout your home, such as recycling. With these tips you can make recycling easier for the whole family.

  • Establish collection bins to make it easy to gather all your recycling in one place. The number of bins you need depends on your city’s guidelines for sorting. If no sorting is required, a single bin will do. Otherwise, use different colored bins to make it simple to sort paper, aluminum, glass, etc.
  • Most families find the kitchen is a primary source of recyclable goods. If space is at a premium, keep a smaller collection bin in the kitchen that can be easily transported to a sorting station in a larger area, such as the garage.
  • Don’t forget to recycle in other rooms, too. Many common bathroom items, such as shampoo and soap bottles, and even cardboard toilet paper tubes, can be recycled.
  • Remember that recycling can also come in other forms, like donating unwanted clothing to charity or using leftover water to quench thirsty plants or freshen the dog’s bowl.
  • Be sure to rinse away any food or liquid residue from containers to manage odors and keep your recycling area tidy and odor free.
  • Maximize your bin space by compressing cans and bottles.

Happy eating: Ingredient to a long life, in your cereal bowl

— There’s good news for those of you who wake up to a bowl of cereal every morning, especially if your go-to choice is high in fiber. Hidden in that favorite box may be a prize better than a plastic toy. It just might hold the key to a longer life, according to a new study.

No, this study wasn’t done by Snap, Crackle or Pop. Tony the Tiger was not involved in the making of this research.

Some scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health have been researching the impact of cereal fiber on diet for years. They found that people who reported in surveys a diet rich in cereal fiber lived longer than those who chose less well in the morning. They had a 19% reduced risk of death, compared to those who ate the least amount of cereal fiber.

Crunching the numbers even further, the authors found that high fiber cereal eaters had a 34% lower risk of death from diabetes and a 15% reduced risk of death from cancer. People who ate a lot of whole grains and dietary fiber had a 17% lower risk of all-cause mortality.

Cereal fiber, they conclude, is one “potentially protective component” of a really healthy, premature death-preventing diet.

The study was published in the latest issue of BMC Medicine.

It drew from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study and included more than 566,000 AARP members ageds 50 to 71 from six states and two large cities. It excluded individuals who reported extreme-energy intake, which is common, since scientists believe these survey takers are not totally accurate in what they report. That left them with over 367,000 people.

This new study builds on others that have shown that cereal fiber and whole grains have a positive impact on your life if you want to avoid cancers, inflammation and obesity as well.

Does that mean that eating a daily bowl of your favorite purple horseshoe marshmallow-sprinkled cereal is doing your body right?

Well, don’t court the leprechaun quite yet, dietitians say. Those cereals have sugar among their top ingredients, so dietitians suggest you avoid those.

If you want to get the daily serving that these researchers say showed a difference in risk reduction, you need to eat at least 10.22 grams of cereal fiber per day based on a 1,000 kcal daily diet.

If you want to get your fill with just one serving of cereal, aim for those that have “fiber” in the title or list at least 10 grams of fiber per serving on the label. Fiber One lists 14g per serving. Kashi GoLean lists 10g. Mini-Wheats lists 8g.

If you can’t stand the taste of high-fiber cereals, don’t worry. Other popular cereals such as Cheerios have about 3g of fiber per serving, as do Honey Bunches of Oats. Oatmeal is a good source of fiber too.

Whole grains and regular dietary fiber also may help reduce your mortality risks, the study found, and those can be found in a large number of products.

Consider oatmeal or a non-high fiber cereal (3 to 5 grams), eat a piece of wheat bread (about 5 grams) or a whole wheat tortilla (about 5 grams). Black beans are a rich source for dietary fiber (19.5 grams). And add even some fruit like apples (a large one has 4.5 grams) or a half a cup of blackberries (4.4 grams) all of that would add up to this ‘higher’ total that may improve your odds of living a longer life.

And if you don’t want to spend hours reading labels at the grocery store, dietitian Lori Zanini said she tells her clients this fiber rule of thumb: “No animal product will naturally have this,” Zanini said. “Plants are where you should go to find fiber. It only comes from the cell walls of plants.”

Most Americans, she said probably don’t get the amount of cereal fiber or whole grains recommended as advantageous in this study. “But once you consciously seek it out, it does become easier,” Zanini said “And with the wide variety of ways you can get fiber into your diet it isn’t hard, especially if you know it may help your health.”

The operative word is “may,” study author Dr. Lu Qi said. Keep in mind the study looks at connections; it doesn’t show causality. To definitively show cereal is the key to long life, the professor at the Harvard medical school and Harvard’s school of public health said, you’d need a clinical trial that would look at this specific issue.

That said, Qi personally is a believer in the breakfast food. He said he eats cereal regularly to start his day. Harvard even provides breakfast for free to the faculty. And if it’s good enough for doctors at Harvard, they may just be on to something.

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Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival fundraiser receives strong community support

— Approximately 75 guests attended the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival fundraiser called African Threads on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at ADEK Productions— located at 1801 West Street in Annapolis. Proceeds will support forthcoming efforts to hold a 2015 Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival in Annapolis.

Hopes were high that the festival featuring musical performances, food, arts and crafts, African dance and storytelling will return to the City Dock and attract excited festival-goers who have missed the annual celebration. Around the site of the expected location, the statue of the late Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” still reminds passersby of Kunta Kinte’s arrival on the Lord Ligonier slave ship. In his groundbreaking book, Haley introduced the world to his ancestor who was sold into slavery.

Terrell Freeman opens the event with a drum call.

(Photo: Andrea Blackstone)

Terrell Freeman opens the event with a drum call.

Renee Spears, the current Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival chair, said that she has been working with the festival for 18 years. During the evening, she determined that the community’s favorable response to the fundraiser indicates that it definitely needs to be held. A call for additional volunteers was also announced.

“The Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival is a very important event for Annapolis history-wise, because we all need to have a history, and to live it, and to breathe it, and for children to know it, and not just for us as African Americans, but for everyone,” Spears said.

Area businesses and individuals donated raffle items, goodie bag stuffers, door prizes and silent auction merchandise for attendees. Organizers reported that 14 volunteers helped to plan and assist with the fundraiser.

“We’ve been successfully doing this festival for the last 25 years. Due to budgetary constraints, we weren’t able to have it the last two years. With the help of Jan (Lee) and some of the other festival members, we decided to have a fundraiser to try and spearhead getting some funds together for the 2015 festival,” David Arthur, president of the board of directors for Kunta Kinte Celebrations, Inc. said. “We definitely want to have a festival. This is the whole point of this. We want to make people aware that we are still trying to hold a festival, and that we are still here, and that we need everybody’s help to continue on.”

Community members like Terrell Freeman helped to facilitate the fundraiser. Freeman, an Annapolitan, welcomed attendees and opened the program with a drum call. Before introducing the first performers, he also conducted a libation ceremony to pay tribute to ancestors.

Jan Lee, 29, serves as co-chair of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival and handles media relations. Lee remarked that the organization is focusing on rebuilding after a two-year hiatus.

“We plan to return to the Annapolis City Dock for the festival on September 26, 2015. I’ve been volunteering with Kunta Kinte Celebrations since I was a kid. I feel that the festival is so important in bringing the community together. It’s always a joyous celebration,” Lee said.

The Annapolis chapter of the Delicados, Inc. was instrumental in helping to present African Threads. Darlene Washington, president of the local social group, said that her group loved the fundraiser and display of superb talent.

“We were a sponsor group— an organization that sponsored this affair tonight. We want to see it (the festival) come back again. That was one of our interests in being a sponsor, to help so that this event would happen again this summer.”

To learn more about the status of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival as developments continue, visit: www.kuntakinte.org.

Obama makes first trip to Kenya as President

President Barack Obama will visit Kenya this summer, the White House announced Monday, his first visit to the country since being elected President.

Obama, whose father was from Kenya, will participate in the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in July.

This will be Obama’s fourth trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Obama attended Nelson Mandela’s funeral service in December 2013.

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Coppin State: Big Dawg Invitational hosted by Maryland Baltimore County Saturday

— BALTIMORE – Eric Thomas and Devin James were individual event winners for the Coppin State men’s track and field team at the Big Dawg Invitational hosted by Maryland Baltimore County Saturday.

With the Eagles getting some added work before a busy week next week on the road, Thomas won the 400-meter dash (51.00 seconds) and James captured the long jump (6.74 meters). Overall, seven Coppin State men’s track athletes finished among the top six of their respective events.

Fabian Hayles was second in the 400-meter dash (51.07). In the 100-meter dash, the Eagles had Keshaun Hodges place third (11.19) and Shane Green finish sixth (11.21). Alaric Coker (1500-meter run, 4:10.27) and Javron Keene (hammer throw, 38.73 meters) were fifth in their events.

The Coppin State women’s team had a few athletes participating highlighted by Tanaya Yarde’s victory in the 400-meter hurdles (1:05.60). Also competing for the Eagles were Alethia Edwards, who was sixth in the hammer throw (36.64 meters) and javelin (29.17 meters) and Kristen Deacon, who was sixth in the javelin (29.17 meters).

Both Coppin State track teams will compete in the Savannah State Twilight Meet on Wednesday afternoon and the prestigious Florida Relays on Friday and Saturday.