Succeeding while black: Five ways to avoid altercations with police

During the past few months there has been numerous incidents— some tragic— where police officers were accused of brutality and abuse of power against African Americans, including Ferguson, South Carolina and New York being the most well known. Some of the incidents were caught on video.

There are nearly 780,000 sworn officers in the United States protecting and serving 319 million Americans. Police officers have a very difficult and stressful job, but that is no excuse to use excessive force. However, we must take into account what these officers go through and understand that all police officers aren’t bad.

I have been in situations where I could have easily gotten into confrontations with police officers. Years ago, I regularly worked with local and state police officers in major cities throughout the U.S. I can tell you first hand that there are some police officers that are prejudiced or egotistical, and some that have their own agendas. I remember arriving in Texas to meet and work with local police there. When I reached out to shake one of the officer’s hands, he refused! Later during that same trip, I was almost arrested because the same police officer who wouldn’t shake my hand, failed to tell a group of his fellow officers who I was as I approached them.

On another trip to California, a police officer stood two feet in front of me and stared me down while I waited to meet with the Deputy Police Chief. I had never met this officer before, nor did I do anything to him to warrant the stare he was giving me. In both Texas and California, I was the only African American in the group; my co-workers were not subjected to the same treatment. In both cases, I had no choice but to work through whatever issues those police officers had with me. I did not respond to their behavior towards me, and worked more closely with the officers who reached out to me than the ones who didn’t. In the end, we successfully finished our work in both cities, and

I made some new friends in law enforcement.

My experiences with the police were not all bad; in fact there were more positive experiences with them than negative ones. I realize some of my circumstances and encounters with the police were of a different nature than being pulled over for a routine traffic stop, but the two situations I mentioned above were intense and could have easily become confrontational. I have been stopped and pulled over by the police numerous times over the years, and I can honestly say, I have never been mistreated by a police officer. The following tips have worked for me when I have had encounters with police officers in the past. Hopefully they can help you too.

Obey the law: If you are breaking the law in any way; it’s only a matter of time before you have to deal with the police. Turn on your flashers, drive slowly and pull over to a well-lit busy area if you are pulled over. Cooperate if you are being questioned or arrested to avoid any physical confrontation.

Be polite and show respect: Greeting and treating a police officer with respect immediately de-escalates the situation. Regardless of how you feel about being pulled over or questioned, the police are authorized to do so. Mouthing off and becoming aggressive towards the police will make the situation worse.

Obey police officer orders: When a policeman asks you to do something reasonable, do it. Remember, these men and women are trying to do a job, and sometimes need to gather facts to do their job. Disobeying the police officer’s orders will again only make the situation worse.

Make lifestyle changes: Most of the things that happen to us are a result of our decisions. Alcohol, outdated license plates, and erratic driving are a few contributors to police stops. If you are hanging out late at night with known offenders, or in places where there is a high probability of a crime, there will likely be a heavy police presence there.

Educate your children: Teach your children at an early age about police brutality, and to be respectful when dealing with the police, and all adults for that matter. Explain current events to them in an unbiased way, and make them aware of the dangers they face if they break the law, and what can happen to them at the hands of some police officers.

It is not my intent to downplay police brutality incidents or to be insensitive to anyone who has suffered or died at the hands of the police. My purpose is to help African Americans understand that engaging an officer properly can de-escalate the situation, and possibly avoid a deadly altercation. I am a middle-aged, African American male who regrettably has had too many encounters with the police during my lifetime. I have never been arrested or beaten by a police officer, nor have I ever been disrespectful or mouthed off to one.

I do realize that if a police officer wants to use violence against you, he is going to do it, but I truly believe it’s harder to beat up a person who is polite and compliant. Try these tips the next time you have an encounter with the police. It cannot hurt and it may just save you. Remember, we cannot control a police officer’s behavior, but we can control our own.

Retired Army Sergeant Major Matthew R. Drayton is a corporate speaker, life coach, consultant, leadership expert and author of “Succeeding While Black.” He has also been mentoring youth for over a decade and is currently the Executive Director of Great Oak Youth Development Center, a North Carolina-based non-profit organization that mentors at risk youth. For more information, visit:

Taking responsibility for testicular cancer

Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, April, is almost over, but that doesn’t mean men should forget about testicular cancer prevention.

Testicular cancer is a relatively rare cancer as it accounts for about one percent of all cancers; however, it is the most common cancer found in young men (ages 15-34 years old). Despite a higher rate of testicular cancer diagnoses in the past few decades, the death rate has significantly fallen due to improvements in treatment. As a result of our great success in treating testicular cancer, it is sometimes a forgotten or overlooked disease in terms of its importance.

Thus, it is of the utmost and critical importance that we spread the word about testicular cancer. In particular, the area where we can improve the most is that of detection. You cannot treat what you don’t know exists. Moreover, the earlier you diagnose and treat this disease, the less likely it will spread and the easier it is to treat. Therefore, we must not ignore the importance of screening for testicular cancer.

Currently, there is no standard or routine screening test used for the early detection of testicular cancer. Physicians are reliant upon patient reporting to help make a diagnosis, as the majority of these cancers, are first found by the men themselves, either by chance or by self-exam. The first symptom is usually a lump, nodule, or mass on the testicle. Alternatively, the patient might note enlarged or swollen testicles. Occasionally, pain is the presenting symptom, which may or may not be related to the disease; either way, these symptoms prompt additional investigation with either your primary care physician, or preferably a urologist.

Despite the fact that no standards exist, most physicians agree that a monthly self-testicular exam should be performed after the onset of puberty. The exam should be done during or after bathing when the scrotum is relaxed. The more familiar a person is with their body, the better they can assess what feels abnormal or different. Although cancer is a major concern, more often than not these symptoms are related to infection, injury or other causes. Nevertheless, it is important to see a physician to treat any other underlying or serious conditions causing these symptoms.

Unfortunately, many young men aren’t seen by a physician for one reason or another until they have advanced stage disease. Some men are in denial that there is a problem. Others are

embarrassed or fearful about their problems, whether it be concern over discussing or exposing their genitals to a physician, concern over loss of sexual prowess (impotence or libido), or even concern over sterility. Some even delay seeing physicians for fear of ridicule or dismissal from physicians. Additionally, in today’s environment, there is the ever-growing fear of being unable to afford care because of either not having insurance or not having the funds to pay for deductibles or co-insurances.

The onus is on us as a community to spread the word and educate young men about the dangers of testicular cancer. But we must also calm their fears and help them understand the truths. Moreover, just because this is a disease of young men, does not mean that it does not affect the women in their lives. One major issue, for example, is the potential for infertility after losing a testicle and potentially receiving treatment with either radiation and/or chemotherapy. Thus, the implications of this diagnosis involve not only the patient but also their loved ones.

The bottom line is that we need people to be more aware of testicular cancer. We need young men to be doing monthly self testicular exams to feel for any changes in their scrotum, including lumps and bumps, masses, pain or tenderness, or anything else unusual at all. If there are any concerns, we need families to be supportive and encouraging of men coming to see their physician for further evaluation. We don’t want these young men losing their opportunity to be cured. We need them to come in before it’s too late. They have too much at stake. When in doubt get it checked out, if even for only peace of mind. The ultimate responsibility for your health is yours and yours alone.

To learn more about testicular cancer, including how to do a self-exam, visit:

Rian J. Dickstein, M.D. is a urologist who completed a fellowship in urologic oncology at the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Currently, he is a practicing urologist at Chesapeake Urology Associates and is an Assistant Clinical Professor in Urology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Texas A&M RB Trey Williams: The Value of Versatility

— NFL general managers desire a prospect that can fill multiple spots on their roster. This is something that they mention every year as they build the back end of their draft board. Versatility holds a lot of weight for teams in the decision making process, especially in the later rounds of the draft.

College spread offenses have placed more emphasis on passing the ball but they also take advantage of spacing and utilize shifty running backs on inside runs. As a result, more all-purpose threats referred to simply as “offensive weapons” are coming into the league. One of the more explosive, yet lesser known “offensive weapons” this year is Texas A&M’s explosive running back Trey Williams.

To put things in perspective, Williams averaged 6.9 yards per carry last year. His seven rushing touchdowns led the team despite only have the third most carries on the team. Williams has the vison of a prophet and uses a devastating jump cut to change gaps in a blur. He uses his Houdini like elusiveness to makes defender miss in short spaces with ease. Defenders are often left grasping for air thanks to his ability to improvise and make moves on top of moves. Running inside zone runs is something that Williams has a thorough understanding of.

“I came out of an offense that ran that style. It’s not new to me at all. If I see a hole, I am going to hit it as fast as I can. There’s no fear in me hitting a hole.” Williams continued; “When I hit a hole, I am not looking at the first person. I trust the line to do their job. I am already looking ahead at the linebacker and the free safety. I am able to pay attention to both of them at the same time. I make my moves off of that.”

The Ravens at times used a single back set last year but the majority of their runs came with fullback Kyle Juszczyk on the field. When asked about running behind a fullback, Williams made a good point. “A fullback is pretty much a faster running lineman. I am better reading off of a fullback. I don’t have to worry about the first man and I can make the second man miss.” Williams said.

Another way that Williams can help out the Ravens is as a receiver in the slot. As an “offensive weapon,” Williams is the kind of player that can be shuffled around the field to create mismatches against opposing defenses. Williams pointed out that catching the ball in the secondary as a receiver actually works to his advantage.

“When I catch the ball and I am in the secondary, I am at the third level of the defense right away. I like that! A lot of people underestimate my catching ability. I was a wide receiver my freshman year in high school. It’s an extra asset that I bring to the table.”

The Ravens can get creative and line Williams up in the backfield in two back sets then motion him to the slot. That will get him matched up against a linebacker. That situation would favor the Williams more times than not.

Trey Williams would also have an immediate impact on the Ravens in the return game. He is a dynamite returner. He was able to display his electrifying playmaking ability for three seasons at Texas A&M. Williams was considered one of the most dangerous return men in the SEC. His vision and explosiveness makes him a natural playmaker in the return game. “Returning is just reading blocks and seeing the field. One of my strengths is reading the field and getting up field.” Williams said.

Williams is a well-built 5-7, 195 pounds. He was able to post 18 reps on the bench at the combine. Some say that he will struggle as a pass blocker but he has own way of doing the job. “You have to be smart. I am not going to hit a 240 pound linebacker head up. There’s other ways to do it. I have gotten better at it. I don’t look at it as being hard and tough.” Williams said.

Another thing that teams like about Williams is his personality. Teams come away from meeting with him with a genuine fondness for his personality. Williams actually sang in a talent show at the Liberty Bowl this year and won!

One of the Ravens scouts was a coach for Williams when he played in the US Army game, a high school football showcase. Williams said that he caught up with him and had a really good conversation. “They liked how I am good person. The off the field part is something that they really cherished about me. I really appreciated it. I would love to play for the Ravens!”

Twenty-third Tree City USA Award granted to Annapolis

— Following Earth Day, an Arbor Day celebration was held on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at Wiley H. Bates Middle School in Annapolis.

Horace Henry, Maryland Forest Service’s urban and community forester for the southern region presented a 2014 Tree City USA Award to Annapolis for exhibiting excellence in urban forestry management. According to information provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Tree City USA program is “conducted by the National Arbor Day Foundation in conjunction with the National Association of State Foresters.” For consideration of Tree City recognition, applicants must submit documentation illustrating the presence of a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation. This year reportedly marks Annapolis’ 23rd year receiving a Tree City USA Award. A pin oak tree donated by BGE to Wiley H. Bates Middle School was planted at the event.

“I can’t win awards like this without the help of each and every one of you,” Mayor Mike Pantelides said to students. “Winning an award for the environment is so important because all of us share the environment together. Each and everyone one of us will get the same benefits of this tree.”

In addition to accepting the Tree City USA Award, Pantelides reminded students about the importance of environmental stewardship. Reading a proclamation for Arbor Day on behalf of the city of Annapolis and explaining the origin of the special day strengthened his message. Additionally, Henry cited benefits of planting trees like the Pin Oak. The forester reminded students that advantages of its presence will range from providing shade in the summer, to absorbing the carbon dioxide from the air, thereby reducing production of greenhouse gases.

“You are doing a wonderful job by planting this. You are helping to take care of your environment, your planet, and this planet is the only one that we have,” Henry said to students.

Sixth graders, participating teachers, community partners, Pantelides and Chris Truffer, the Regional Assistant Superintendent for Annapolis Cluster Schools, attended the event. The program’s structure supported the remembrance that Wiley H. Bates Middle School is a green school and performing and visual arts magnet school. Artistic presentations began with a performance of “Ordinary Miracle” provided by the eighth grade chorus, led by Penny Renoll. Eighth-grade dancers presented a creative dance to an earth-themed song.

While Pantelides and other program participants raised awareness about taking good care of the Earth, students enthusiastically welcomed his visit. The Mayor of Annapolis pointed out long-term benefits of youth taking care of the environment.

“There’s lots of things in government and society that only affects certain people. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, so it’s important. I think starting them at a young age, it’s good to be conscious about recycling and everything else, so they get in good habits for life,” Pantelides said at the close of the program.

Nina Larkins, a sixth grader who attends Wiley H. Bates Middle School, was selected to pick up a ceremonial shovel to toss dirt around the Pin Oak along with other participants. The 11–year-old student stood with her principal, Paul DeRoo, Pantelides and Henry as various attendees cheered. After her exciting experience, Nina said she wants to help the environment in her own backyard.

“We have a big back yard. I was thinking maybe I can go to a home store, get some seeds and plant them on my own, and it will help the environment, she said. ”

When do Black lives matter?

— The numbers are staggering, as of Monday, April 27, 2015— the day family members held a funeral for Freddie Gray— statistics revealed that there were 68 homicides in Baltimore, including three individuals under the age of 18. Fifty-nine of those murders were of African-Americans, reportedly committed by other blacks.

Three-year-old McKenzie Elliott, an African-American, was shot to death standing on her porch in Waverly in August 2014, and despite many eyewitnesses, no one has come forward.

“There has been no hash tag that says ‘Black lives matter,’ no public outrage, no protests or demonstrations about her death,” said Earl Al-Amin, the Imam of the Muslim Community Cultural Center in Baltimore, himself a longtime leader in the city’s African-American community.

“It’s apparent that we don’t want to confront reality. If all black lives matter then why do we hold candlelight vigils when we kill one another but when someone outside of the race kills us, then we protest with fervor and intensity that’s unmatched,” Al-Amin said.

Al-Amin, who has served the community working with young individuals for nearly 40 years, said those leading protests over Gray’s death have reached out to him to participate, but he’s not interested. “We are evading the issues and we’ve allowed elements to come in so that we can’t fulfill our potential.”

“We constantly look outside of ourselves instead of inside. Marcus Garvey once said that ‘no one will do as much for you as you will do for yourselves.’. I have stayed out of this because I’m very wary of what has taken place,” he said. “We have mishandled this ‘No justice, no peace’ thing and we won’t look at ourselves and except internal responsibility.”

Gray died days after being arrested by Baltimore police on April 12, 2015. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has called for transparency, wanting to know exactly what happened. However, as protestors continue to cry out that, “Black Lives Matter,” Al-Amin and others said there’s too much black on black crime.

“All black lives matter,” said Attorney Reginald Greene, whose group “Black Lawyers for Justice” has been instrumental in helping to organize some of the local demonstrations. “Black on black killing by civilians is a major issue and it is a serious problem that must be addressed.

Marvin Wright, who said he simply came to Baltimore from New Jersey to pray for Gray’s family and not to participate in demonstrations, was stunned by the violence. “Not just the burning of buildings,” Wright said. “But, look at how nasty these people who are supposed to be seeking justice are to each other. They respect no one and they claim they want the police to respect them.”

Sylvia Jordan, a Washington, D.C. nurse who came to Baltimore to check on the welfare of her sister who lives in the area, said she is disgusted by the devastation of the community. She said she doesn’t understand why African-Americans only seem to get upset when others outside of the race commit crimes against them.

“We should be equally upset, not rioting, but equally annoyed when we kill each other,” Jordan said. “I can never participate in any of these protests unless and until black lives matter to black people.”

While police must be held accountable for their actions, Al-Amin says protest leaders should also be held responsible for the escalating riots and damage to the city. He singled out Reverend Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Temple, an organizer for demonstrations who gave the eulogy at Gray’s funeral.

“Bryant has some issues. He’s knowledgeable but not wise because wisdom is knowledg e with discretion and Bryant has stoked the flames for this,” Al-Amin said.

Bryant declined comment, choosing only to answer questions from CNN reporters.

“He won’t answer questions about black on black crime and why there is no outrage over that,” Al-Amin said.

Officials from the NAACP, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition also declined to respond to those same questions.

“The people are being manipulated by provocateurs,” Al-Amin said. “You see young African-American males acting out not because of a sense of outrage or a sense of justice. You see them acting out because they are getting their 15 seconds of fame. These misguided young men are playing to an agenda and their basic needs were not [being] met in their formative years. ”

“It’s disconcerting for me to watch the so-called faith leaders and political leaders in this because they are not saying anything and they refuse to focus on black on black crime.”