Quick Hits and Quotes from Ravens Organized Team Activity

— The Baltimore Ravens held their first day of Organized Team Activities that was open to the media on Thursday. There were a few players missing from the voluntary meetings including Terrell Suggs, Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil and Lardarius Webb. The practice was fast paced as the team worked through various periods. Here are some quick hits from the Ravens practice:

New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is very hands on coach. He was involved in drills, lining up as a cornerback against the wide receivers and running with the plays during team period to get a better viewpoint. He was really vocal about some of the small details that are required in his offense. The detail oriented mindset that Trestman exhibited is something that Joe Flacco commented on in his post-practice press conference.

Za’Darius Smith showed a pretty quick first step as he got a jump on the ball numerous times. He was able to set the edge pretty well on running plays where the running back was trying to string the run outside. Granted, they were not in pads but his hand placement was on point as it allowed him to turn the offensive linemen back towards the line and force the running back to cut back. Smith also made an athletic play when he jumped up and intercepted a screen pass that Matt Schaub was trying to throw over his head.

The Ravens entire starting offensive line was not at OTAs. Rookies Maxx Williams, Brett Perriman and Buck Allen were not at OTAs because they are in Los Angeles at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event.

Steve Smith Sr. was present at OTAs and made some pretty nice catches, going up and snatching the ball out of the air on a few deep in breaking routes.

Cornerback Kyle Arrington went back into the locker room after he landed awkwardly on his back during practice.

Tight End Dennis Pitta worked out separately with tight ends coach Rich Angulo. He ran some routes and caught the ball well. Pitta also took part in individual cone drills but didn’t participate in practice.

Inside Linebacker C.J. Mosely took part in some drills. He had his wrist wrapped and sat out of team and seven on seven periods during practice.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith is ahead of schedule as he is recovering from foot surgery according to head coach John Harbaugh. He was supposed to wear the red jersey that designates a player as injured but he only tucked it into his shorts like a towel. Smith had limited participation in practice.

Safety Terrence Brooks is also ahead of schedule as he recovers from his knee injury. He was on the field in uniform but didn’t practice.

Defensive End Brent Urban was not at practice due to a personal family issue.

Defensive Tackle Kapron Lewis-Moore seems to be recovered from injury and was very active on the field along with Timmy Jernigan, Casey Walker and Za’Darius Smith.

John Harbaugh on coaching changes: I’d rather be changing coaches because the coaches are becoming head coaches rather than the other reason that coaches get changed in this league. I am pretty happy with that.

John Harbaugh on Joe Flacco: Joe Flacco has been a great quarterback from the day he got here. Joe Flacco is a great player. He’s only going to get better. I think he’s hitting his stride, hitting the peak of his career, and I wouldn’t want any other quarterback in the National Football League – period. This guy is a superstar in the National Football League, and I’m thrilled to have him, and I can’t wait to see what he does this year with all that young talent around him.

Joe Flacco on Marc Trestman: It’s been great to work with him so far. He’s very detailed in what he wants and how he puts things in and making sure that he teaches it in a way that everybody understands it and gets it pretty quickly. It’s only been a couple of times out on the field with him, but I think he’s doing a great job of motivating and getting everybody going, so it’s been good.

Steve Smith Sr. on playing into his 40s like Jerry Rice: Jerry Rice is, obviously, the greatest wide receiver to ever play, and I really don’t have the family structure to chase 40, to be honest. I have a lot of things on my ‘to do’ list that don’t have to do anything with football. So, I’m going to take it day by day, but I will not be playing until I’m 40.

Brandon Williams on the impact of trading Haloti Ngata: “It tells me I just have to step up, [and] we have to do more. I accept the challenge, willingly, to get out there and do everything I have to do to be my best player, be my best self. And that goes for everybody else on the defensive line. We don’t need anybody to be Haloti. We just need everybody to be their best selves, and we’ll be fine.

VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility, Veterans Benefits Seminar

— The Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System is hosting a VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility and Veterans Benefits Seminar at the Baltimore VA Medical Center on Monday, June 1, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the Auditorium, 2nd Floor of Baltimore VA Medical Center in Baltimore City. The program is free of charge and is designed to provide an overview of VA programs and services for community health care providers, social workers and counselors.

During the seminar, VA representatives will provide presentations about VA health care eligibility and enrollment, in addition to an overview of VA primary, mental health and long-term care. There will also be representatives available during the seminar to talk about VA health care services in the community and VA compensation benefits. Following the seminar, participants will have the opportunity to visit resource tables to get additional information about VA programs and services available to Veterans.

Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of the Baltimore VA Medical Center, which is located at 10 N. Greene Street in Baltimore. Parking for the program will be available for a fee at nearby parking garages.

For more information about the VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility and Veterans Benefits Seminar, contact the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Community Outreach office at 1-800-949-1003, extension 6071, or register online at www.chepinc.org/upcoming_events and click on 06/01/2015 VA Health Care Enrollment, Eligibility & Veterans Benefits Seminar.

Hogan announces homeownership initiative for veterans, military families

— On Memorial Day, Governor Larry Hogan and Secretary Kenneth Holt announced a $20 million initiative that will give a significant boost to veterans and military families who are looking to buy a home in one of Maryland’s 86 Sustainable Communities.

The “You’ve Earned It!” initiative offers a 2.75 percent fixed-rate 30-year loan through the Maryland Mortgage Program and $10,000 in down payment assistance in the form of a zero interest deferred loan to active duty military, including members of the military reserves and National Guard, and honorably discharged veterans and veterans with a disability.

The first phase of “You’ve Earned It!” aimed at qualified homebuyers with more than $25,000 in student loan debt was announced recently. The initiative is for a limited time until the $20 million allocation is exhausted.

Maryland’s Sustainable Communities program seeks to strengthen reinvestment and revitalization in the state’s older communities through state, local and private sector partnerships.

There is at least one designated Sustainable Community in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

A list of Maryland’s Sustainable Communities can be found at www.mmp.maryland.gov.

If you’d like to see whether a specific property address is in a sustainable community, view this map.

For more information about the Maryland Mortgage Program, as well as other loan specials, participating lenders and homeownership counselors in your area, visit the Maryland Mortgage Program website: www.mmp.maryland.gov.

Indie Soul Movie Review: Sugar Babies

Virgil Films presents a compelling examination of diabetes in America. In “Sugar Babies: The Bittersweet Truth About Diabetes,” from Academy Award-winning executive producer Geralyn White Dreyfous (Born Into Brothels) and New York Times best-selling author James S. Hirsch (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter), filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie (Kick Like a Girl) reveals the frightening epidemic of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and what we can do to address this frightening public health issue.

This is a very serious issue in health and now is the time to look at this seriously. Mackenzie takes on a real life journey with families who are facing diabetes crisis. It’s not a race issue or insurance issue, although if people don’t look at how diabetes is affecting them, it can come down to coverage and cost.

Most documentaries dealing with health issues concentrate on just showing the examples of one or two people and how they cope, but Mackenzie uses a multiple group of individuals, families, and comments from various doctors and what you see, hear, and learn is astonishing.

The film with advocates exercise and eating fresh foods. It’s one of the most honest films on this topic. The documentary will be released as a digital download: www.virgilfilmsent.com.

You can find locations to buy fresh food in Baltimore here: www.baltimore.org/article/baltimore-farmers-markets.

Indie Soul welcomes your questions and comments. To contact Phinesse Demps, call 410-366-3900 ext. 3016 or 410-501-0193 or email: pdemps@btimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @pdemps_btimes.com (Photo: Sugar Babies movie poster courtesy of Virgil Films)

Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank announce 2015 Touchdown for Teachers winners

Being involved in the community is something that comes naturally for the Baltimore Ravens. The team as well as individual players have done countless things as a way of giving back to the city of Baltimore and the surrounding area.

Led by Emily Scerba, the Ravens community relations program has put together various programs that have allowed the Ravens to become a fixture in the community.

One of the more outstanding programs is the “Touchdown for Teachers,” which honors and recognizes local teachers for their leadership, dedication and commitment to education and for their outstanding service to their school, students and community. The teachers were nominated by way of an on line application.

The Ravens and M&T Bank recently announced their Touchdown for Teachers program finalists and grand prizewinner. The Touchdown for Teachers grand prizewinner was Julie Macro from Mars Estates Elementary.

Macro teaches all subjects to her group of fifth-grade students at Mars Estates Elementary School in Essex, Maryland. In addition to serving as a teacher, Macro has established numerous programs that benefit her fifth-graders. The programs have had a great impact and they include a Math 24 Challenge group, Bloggers Café and Fit Friday. The program consists of over 90 students from third through fifth grade. The students will run a 5K at the end of the term.

Macro will be presented with a check for $2,000 in grant funds. Additionally, her efforts have earned her a classroom visit by a Ravens’ coach or player, accompanied by Ravens mascot Poe and cheerleaders in the near future.

The 2015 Touchdown for Teachers finalists are: Gil Baguio, Eager Street Academy; Sheila Beyer, Timber Grove Elementary; Edwin Perez, Baltimore City College; and Chad Shoales, Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School.

The five finalists each receive a personalized Ravens jersey and an award certificate. The runners-up each receive $500 in grant funds.

“It’s important to recognize the outstanding work our teachers are doing in the community,” said Augie Chiasera, President of M&T Bank’s Greater Baltimore and Chesapeake regions. “Teachers can literally turn lives around and inspire our young people to reach their potential. The Touchdown for Teachers program is a way to celebrate the positive impact teachers have on our students and the entire community.”

M&T Bank also teams with the Buffalo Bills to present a “Touchdown for Teachers” program to the educators in the city of Buffalo and the surrounding area. Last year’s grand priz winner was Jasmine Blanks of Magnolia Middle School. Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams visited Magnolia and spent the whole morning there. The school entertained the Ravens by holding a student talent show.

Indie Soul Student of the Week: Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

— On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, I had the privilege of being a judge at NFTE Business Plan Competition Semifinals. It was truly an honor to give back by giving time to budding entrepreneurs.

Students presented their business plans to various business, professional, and entrepreneurs. Our job was to pick the best presentations. This may seem easy but it’s not. Some students were already running businesses and other students’ ideas already had serious backing.

I truly enjoyed myself and will be back again if I am asked. Many thanks to the teachers, volunteers and businesses who have supported NFTE. For more information call: 443-721-6052 or visit: www.nfte.com.

Below is the list of five students will be competing on June 3rd, for a slot at the national competition in New York on October 6th. :

  1. Business Name: Kickies Cookies Student: Carlton Ross (Roland Park Elementary School) Caffeinated chocolate-chip and espresso cookies
  2. Business Name: Sotaia’s Accessories Student: Madison Woodward (Calverton Elementary School)— Handmade bow clips and headbands.
  3. Business Name: Ozone Hats Student: Onalee Anderson (Roland Park Elementary School) Bright and colorful winter hats.
  4. Business Name: Power to the PCB Students: Javon Gholston & Michael Heier (Patterson High School)— Printed ergonomic circuit board tool.

5.Business Name: Sweets for the Sweet Student: Noah Tunis (Roland Park Elementary School) Affordable delicious customized cupcakes that are delivered to the customer’s doorstep.

Founder of the Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa comes to Baltimore

— When the riots broke out in Baltimore City, there was a call to action for community leaders, political leaders and religious leaders to come together to formulate solutions and to help pull the community together. For many in the community, this call to action has been nothing more than smoke screen for personal gain and agendas with no real issues being addressed.

“My coming to Baltimore is not about press, it’s about coming to assist. We have a great chapter in Baltimore. Our goal, since I have been doing this since 1979, is to show communities how to self-police. We have a track record and we are international. Our record speaks for itself. If Baltimore and its leaders are serious about change, they have to [have] a serious conversation about self-policing which means working with the police, which can happen because I have seen it up close and personal,” said Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.

On Saturday, May 30, 2015, join The Guardian Angels Baltimore Chapter, Jack Baker of the Southern District Community Relations Council to learn about the origin and mission of the largest worldwide volunteer crime watch organization.

“The community has to be involved on all levels. It has to be a partnership with everyone together. If black lives matter, it can’t just be when crimes that involve whites or police officers [occur]. It should matter all the time. Again, everyone has to work together without personal agendas. It’s not about being in the news or money. The focus should be on the community. Baltimore needs to come together as one,” Sliwa added.

For more information about the event, call 410-916-2215 or visit: www.baltimoreguardianangels@gmail.com.

B.B. King: Why I sing the blues

“The blues has lost its king and America has lost a legend…B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever.” —President Barack Obama on the passing of B.B. King.

As a young boy in 1920s Mississippi, Riley B. King, who would one day come to be known as legendary blues icon B.B. King, was introduced to the electric guitar at Reverend Archie Fair’s church. The introduction soon turned into infatuation, with King deciding he would learn to play a guitar. As soon as King got old enough, he ordered a guitar playbook from a Sears, Roebuck and Co. mail catalog. The first tune he learned to play was “You Are My Sunshine.” Fortunately for us, it would not be the last tune he would coax from his yielding guitar strings.

King was born in 1925 on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta. The future King of the Blues, the son of sharecroppers and the great-grandson of a slave, worked the fields, first as a picker at the age of seven and then a mule driver. He aspired to be a gospel singer like his mentor, Rev. Archie, but fate had other plans. In a 1993 interview, King admitted to leaving Mississippi in the early 1940s because of the racial violence, lynchings and hangings that were becoming all too commonplace.

King moved to Memphis, playing small gigs and working as a disc jockey at WDIA, the local blues station. The station manager dubbed King the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was shortened to “Blues Boy,” and then to B.B.—and it stuck. It was at this time that King made another momentous introduction, this time to T-Bone Walker singing “Stormy Monday.” King said it was the first time he had ever heard blues on an electric guitar and he was determined to get one. He got that electric guitar in 1946.

What followed was an enduring, influential career that defined and redefined the blues—a quintessentially American art form with roots in African-American slave songs, field hollers and spirituals— King carried its moans and mourning to the four corners of the earth. The blues, set loose on the guitar strings and growl of one of America’s greatest musicians, spoke of our universal experience of pain and perseverance, tribulations and triumphs. King once remarked that, “Blues music actually did start because of pain.” A pain he experienced at an early age, and like so many influential and groundbreaking figures who came before him, King used his talent to rise out of the dirt of his humble beginnings to live a life as industrious as it was incredible.

A 15-time Grammy Award winner— the most Grammys ever received by a blues singer— King was also awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. In 1998, his most acclaimed song “The Thrill Is Gone” was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. King also received a National Medal of the Arts award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been inducted in both the Rock and Roll and Blues Hall of Fame. King seemed to always be performing somewhere, playing an average of more than 200 concert dates a year well into his 70s. In 1956, King and his band played an astonishing 342 concerts. He never stopped doing what he loved most: playing the music, which he said, “was bleeding the same blood as me.”

King passed away peacefully in his sleep at his Las Vegas home, and yet, the thrill is far from gone. His notes and innovative sound gave birth to countless blues and rock players, including Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Keith Richards, to name a few. His contribution to the blues can be heard, and will continue to be heard, in jazz and rock. King’s outsized influence on blues— on American music— cannot be overstated. B.B. King is to blues what Louis Armstrong is to jazz, Elvis is to rock, James Brown is to funk and Michael Jackson is to pop. Like King, you cannot mention these musical genres without prominently mentioning their names and substantial contributions.

Today, I join the chorus of those celebrating King and his iconic career. He sang his way out of Mississippi’s cotton fields to touch each of us— black or white, American or not—with his talent and insight into our shared human experience. And it is, perhaps, from his brand of soul music that we can learn what found him in that recording studio or night-club almost every day of his life: “Everybody wants to know why I sing the blues. Yes, I say everybody wanna know why I sing the blues. Well, I’ve been around a long time. I really have paid my dues.”

I couldn’t agree more. Rest in peace, B.B.

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

‘Green Ambassador’ helping sustain Baltimore community

— Cathy Allen is recognized as the Green Ambassador. She has helped to spearhead efforts to plant trees at city schools, playgrounds, and parks and in Baltimore’s urban communities.

The Green Ambassador hosted a 20 Member Youth Japanese Delegation from Fukushima, Japan in 2012. They planted Cherry Blossom Trees in the historic city of Fredrick, Maryland to celebrate the centennial of the cherry tree in the United States.

(Courtesy photo)

The Green Ambassador hosted a 20 Member Youth Japanese Delegation from Fukushima, Japan in 2012. They planted Cherry Blossom Trees in the historic city of Fredrick, Maryland to celebrate the centennial of the cherry tree in the United States.

Now, the local resident has helped to create Growing Resources After Sowing Seeds or GRASS, a youth and young adult entrepreneurship development program, which is based on the fundamentals of gardening, agriculture and ecology.

The program tackles hunger and even unemployment in some of the city’s forgotten communities, where young individuals learn the value of going green, according to Allen.

“I’m humble and grateful that I’m in this position to bring this type of a program to Baltimore’s largest food desert and not only to feed the population a product, but to feed them knowledge that they can create their own enterprises by feeding Mother Earth,” said Allen, an award-winning environmentalist. “I have been an ambassador for about five years now. I got into doing this because my children suffer from environmental asthma and I said somebody’s got to do something,” Allen said.

Allen says it’s common knowledge that trees serve to help the environment. She also says that teaching inner-city youth about planting trees and caring for the environment could go a long way in helping them carve out ways in which they can become self-sufficient and, in some cases, self-employed.

“I focused on where the children spend most of their time which is school and this is all about changing the landscape and adding beautification. The children actually plant the trees with volunteers so they can have ownership,” she said.

Allen also has focused her GRASS program in Cherry Hill and its surrounding communities, largely because it’s an area that is one of the city’s largest food deserts. Statistics revealed that Cherry Hill has a combined unemployment rate of 37 percent.

Allen has also teamed with Karla Owens-Moody, a STEM educator, to create environmental, ecological and agricultural socioeconomic change for Cherry Hill.

“In order for social change to happen, it has to happen in a urban community and it has to be a trend,” Allen said. “It’s starting to catch on so that its second nature. Marketing has always been on the outskirts of the urban community, yet here’s all of this grant money and nothing is ever in place for sustainability.”

She says there has been no one leading the charge and setting the standards.

“That’s where I come in and bring everyone together,” Allen said. “As an environmental educator and environmentalist, it is my duty and honor to seed the knowledge of how you can grow, eat and prosper just by simply honoring Mother Earth.”

On August 22, 2015, Allen will host a “GRASS Garden Party” fundraiser at the Cherry Hill Community Garden located at 900 Cherry Hill Road at Veronica Avenue beginning at 11 a.m.

In 2018, environmental engineer technicians are expected to earn $40,000 per year and those who go on to higher education in the environmental sciences will make $74,000 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor-Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“My primary goal is to foster growth amongst youth and young adults by providing them with the right opportunities to become self-sufficient,” Allen said, noting that participation has been nothing short of phenomenal. “I’m not surprised by the participation,” she said. “But, I’m excited, grateful and humbled because I knew it would happen.”

For more information about the Green Ambassador or to find out how you can help, visit www.facebook.com/pages/The-Green-Ambassador/129381800453763.

Marrow donor has compassion in her bones

— Can you remember what you thought, felt and hoped for 16 years ago? Neither can Altonet Fillmore, a charismatic person with kind eyes and a ready smile. However, then as now, a reservoir of compassion resided in her bones—and compelled her to register as a bone marrow donor with the “Be The Match Registry.”

Today, the 36-year-old woman is a human resources professional with a passion for singing. Her impressive vocals led her to compete in national talent shows, including “Star Search,” “American Idol” and “Showtime at the Apollo.”

In 1996, when Altonet joined the registry, she was still an idealistic college freshman. It wasn’t until 2012—16 years later— that she learned she was a match for a middle-aged woman with leukemia. That’s when she discovered something about herself— time hadn’t altered her call to compassion.

“I felt it was a privilege and an honor to be able to give something that my body makes every day and be able to save a life,” she said.

Around the world, 25 million caring people like Altonet have joined international volunteer marrow donor registries in hopes of being the cure for a patient in need.

A marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant is a potentially life-saving treatment for leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease. It can also help to cure more than 70 other diseases, including inherited immunodeficiency disorders and metabolic disorders. “Be The Match” connects patients with their donor match for life-saving marrow or cord blood transplants.

Donors have helped to save a quarter of a million lives but thousands of other patients who face life-threatening diseases are still waiting for their match.

More potential donors are especially needed by African American patients whose chances of finding a matching donor are only 66 to 76 percent. People are more likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity.

There are many misperceptions about bone marrow donation, and Altonet heard them all before her donation— including stories that it’s a painful or dangerous process. However, with anesthesia, Altonet didn’t feel any pain during the procedure. She returned to work just two days after her donation— a common scenario.

“Don’t listen to what you may have heard— speak with people who are

able to give you correct information about the process,” said Altonet. “It’s a rewarding experience, and if you are ever selected to donate bone marrow, then you should definitely consider it.”

A few months after her donation, Altonet learned that her bone marrow recipient was doing well and out of the hospital. Although she didn’t know her, Altonet was deeply moved by the woman’s struggle.

“The one thing she taught me was how to love a stranger,” she said. “I prayed for her more than I prayed for myself or anyone else in a long time.”

Today, Altonet is using her inspired voice and spirit to encourage more people— especially those of African American descent—to join the “Be The Match Registry” as potential bone marrow donors.

By joining the “Be The Match Registry” as a committed potential bone marrow donor, you could be the cure for someone suffering from a life-threatening disease, too. In fact, you could be a patient’s only chance to survive and it only takes a few minutes to join.

For Altonet, it’s in her bones to care. Knowing that her bone marrow saved a life enriches her own life every day.

You can also contribute to the cure as a financial contributor or volunteer. Be The Match provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education and guidance throughout the transplant process.

For more information, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 800-MARROW-2.