Tips to prevent heartburn during Thanksgiving

— Thanksgiving week is also GERD Awareness Week. The heartburn caused by reflux disease (commonly referred to as GERD) can make those who indulge in a big holiday feast less than thankful.

With some help from the national non-profit advocacy organization, ECAN (Esophageal Cancer Action Network), you can avoid the discomfort of heartburn. ECAN Board Chairman Bruce Greenwald, M.D. of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center) advises the following:

  1. Schedule your Thanksgiving meal in the afternoon rather than in the evening.
  2. Don’t lie down right after eating – take a walk instead.
  3. Avoid overeating; start out with smaller servings and you might not want seconds.
  4. If you are hosting a feast, do your guests a favor by using smaller plates – it will make every portion seem larger and keep overeating to a minimum.
  5. Drink in moderation – Alcohol worsens GERD symptoms.
  6. Eat dessert an hour or two after the meal (but not too close to bedtime).

“Overeating or lying down after a meal make it more likely that acid and stomach contents will reflux into the esophagus, causing heartburn,” Greenwald added. “Following these simple suggestions can help make this a heartburn-free holiday!”

Greenwald and his colleagues at ECAN also advise that if you suffer with heartburn or other symptoms of GERD on a regular basis, making heartburn symptoms go away shouldn’t be the end of your efforts to address the situation. Reflux disease can lead to a pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus, which, if left untreated, can become esophageal cancer.

That’s why ECAN is distributing posters and public service announcements across the nation warning, “Don’t be a Turkey, Thanksgiving is GERD Awareness Week — Heartburn can cause Cancer.”

The video PSA, posted at features Stephen Bogart, son of film icon Humphrey Bogart, who lost his life to esophageal cancer. The posters list the symptoms and risk factors to look for if you are concerned that you or someone you know could be at risk for complications caused by GERD.

To find out more about the link between heartburn and cancer, visit

Movie Review: Creed

— “Why would you pick a fighter’s life if you didn’t have to,” asks the old, retired ex-boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). He would know. The life, it ain’t easy. Yet as he stares into the eyes of Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), somewhere inside he knows the answer. His reservations and the young man’s unbridled fighting spirit are the push-and-pull that drives this surprisingly compelling film that’s a descendant of Rocky, the highest grossing film of 1976 and winner of an Oscar for Best Picture. Forty years later, a pugilist’s story is still a draw.

Sylvester Stallone has written six Rocky films. The difference with this chapter is that the idea, story and script is the brainchild of the very bright and innovative writer/director Ryan Coogler, who won a bevy of awards for his directing debut Fruitvale Station. The creation of the character Adonis “Creed” Johnson came from a very organic place for Coogler. He’d watched the entire series with his dad. His co-screenwriter Aaron Covington had a similar experience. Together they tapped into the old school formula and gave it a fresh urban twist. They’ve hatched a tale of hope filled with vibrant people, an engaging storyline and dialogue that feels real and understated.

As an orphaned kid, Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson) gets busted for fistfights in a Los Angeles juvenile detention center almost daily. One day a mysterious woman, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), comes to visit. He has no idea who she is. He’s shocked when he finds out she was the wife of his father Apollo Creed, and that Adonis was the result of an affair the former boxing champ had with a younger woman. Adonis goes home with Mary Anne. He lives a privileged life in L.A., growing into a young man with opportunities and promotions aplenty at an office job. Yet, something doesn’t feel right.

Against his surrogate mom’s wishes, Adonis heads to Philadelphia. He looks up a friend of his father’s, the slightly washed up ex-world heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa. Rocky has retired; he owns a restaurant. Adonis implores the ex-champ to train him in the sport of boxing. Balboa declines. Adonis wears him down. Meanwhile Adonis has moved into an apartment. He clashes with his noisy downstairs neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson, Dear White People), a singer. After a testy introduction, discord turns into infatuation, friendship and a romance.

Though he’d done some unsanctioned boxing in Tijuana, Mexico, Adonis has more ambition than technique and experience. Regardless, it isn’t long before he has his first legit fight. He wins and is outed as Creed’s son. That notoriety brings him the chance to fight an unbeaten British boxer, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (former three-time ABA Heavyweight Champion Anthony Bellew), who is looking for an easy fight and a big payday. It will be a highly visible match in Liverpool, England. Is the novice ready for the big time?

When the movie opens, there is nothing out of the ordinary, just very everyday stuff. That isn’t by accident. Coogler prefers stark realism to theatrics. That technique is what left audiences weeping during the final credits of Fruitvale Station. It takes time for Adonis to find his way, to sort out the anger he feels as an illegitimate son, to forge a relationship with Bianca and Rocky who become his extended family. He is vexed by the privileges of his birthright. When Mary Anne tells him “You are your father’s son,” he shudders. Later confessing, “I’m afraid of taking on the name and losing.” Bianca steers him to his destiny, “You are Apollo Creed’s son. Use the name it’s yours.”

Adonis struggles. The elder Rocky faces health issues. Bianca has her own challenges. They are misfits. Imperfect people. You stayed glued to their personal dramas. That’s the mark of intuitive screenwriting. As you get more and more involved with the characters, the charm of this movie sneaks up on you like a left hook.

Coogler knows how to get great performances out of Jordan. Jordan, an accomplished young actor, knows how to give the director every emotion he seeks. Fear. Anger. Sadness. Joy. You never question Adonis’ feelings. They are authentic. Plus Jordan has chiseled his body into a cut, muscular physique. He looks like an explosive boxer. Tessa Thompson as Bianca, the angel who pulls Adonis through to the other side, is vibrant, urban, hip and sweet. Conversely, Anthony Bellew as the flippant Conlan, is as beastly as Mike Tyson just before he bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear.

The big surprise is that Sylvester Stallone gives the most compelling and truthful performance of his career. Nothing over the top. Nothing unbelievable. Rocky has lost a couple of steps; his energy is low. He’s a senior citizen trying to get by, living vaguely off the past. No wife. Few friends. No glory. He’s wrinkled. His hair is gray. He has given in to old age. This is a marked departure from the eternally young-looking Stallone you see on the red carpet, a diehard who looks like he’s chasing his youth. Now, he’s stripped down and raw, like Mickey Rourke was as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler. Stallone deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Ditto Jordan for Best Actor.

Credit director of photography Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler), production designer Hannah Beachler, and costume designers Emma Potter and Antoinette Messam for making the visuals look simple and blue collar. Editors Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello cut the fat and leave the lean.

When you step into the theater to watch this boxing movie, don’t look for Rocky. Yes, you’ll see and feel remnants of that spirit. But Creed is its own story. Its own franchise. It’s the rebellious son that wandered out on its own. For that reason, Baby Boomers and Millennials will dig it.

Visit NNPA News Wire Syndicated Film Critic Dwight Brown at

Don’t believe the holiday hype

The build-up began right after Halloween, when the newspapers got thicker; the advertising inserts longer, and e-mails touting shopping bargains coming more frequently. Buy! Buy! Buy! The exhortations are almost hypnotic. Buy, buy more, and buy even more. Sellers have become far more aggressive in trying to separate consumers from their dollars because they depend on fourth quarter sales to make a profit.

The term “Black Friday” does not refer to Black people, but to the Friday after Thanksgiving when retailers can forecast whether they will end the year “in the black.” Consumer confidence is higher than it has been in the past several years, and unemployment is lower. Spending is up. Have consumers shed the cautionary approach they had to holiday spending last year?

Whether you plan to spend or not, don’t fall for the holiday hype. The big box stores will advertise unbelievable bargains, a 58” wide screen TV for $129, for example. What they won’t tell you is that they have five of them. Exactly five. They are hoping that you will get to the store early, stand in line, and when you learn there are no more cheap TV bargains, you’ll buy something else. Meanwhile, you and the other fools (yes, fools) who stood in line all day or night will perform for the cameras that record you stampeding through the store, trampling each other, in search of “deals.”

Why not, instead, consider the meaning of holidays, holy days? Why not use these last few weeks of the year to do some of the good we neglected to do earlier in the year? Why not show love, regard, respect through words and deeds, and not through stuff? Why feed the great consumer machine that exploits consumers. Wal-Mart, the largest of the mass retailers pays its workers little to nothing, adjusts their hours to avoid offering health care, and fires employees when they protest. They are the easiest to call out, but they aren’t the only retailer that touts great prices but offers workers low pay and benefits.

If there is shopping that should be done (and don’t get me wrong – I like to shop as much as the next person does) why not spend your dollars with Black-owned businesses, and also on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after thanksgiving). Why not gift your friends (especially children and young adults) with great books. As you contemplate holiday giving, consider Maggie Anderson’s Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy.

Anderson’s book is both sobering and empowering. Sobering – it was a chore to buy Black, because Black folks don’t own things like gas stations. Empowering – it was important to see how Black business could be strengthened with more patronage. Unfortunately, African Americans spend less than ten percent of our income with Black businesses. While there are “reasons,” there are also reasons we should go out of our way to support Black business. Supporting Black business generates jobs in our communities, which means providing opportunities for some of the young people who desperately need employment.

According to a Gallup consumer survey, Americans plan to spend $830 on gifts this year, 15 percent more than we spent in 2014, and more than any year since 2007. My snarly tone about holiday hype isn’t likely to change hearts, minds, or spending habits. Without snarling, then, my suggestion is to think before you spend, and to let your spending reflect your values. You appreciate small businesses? Shop with them. You care about Black entrepreneurship? Look for Black businesses. If you can’t find a bricks and mortar store, shop online.

And whatever you do, don’t go galloping down the aisles of a big box store and get featured on the news chasing that elusive bargain. Holidays, our holy days, ought to be our season to be grateful, not our season to spend mindlessly. Just a word from the Grinch!

Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist based in Washington, DC. Her latest book “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy” will be released in 2015 and is available for preorder at

Holiday hosting how-to: Party pointers from three of Napa’s premier winemakers

— The holiday season is about to hit full swing. This special time of year is synonymous with many things, including gatherings with family and friends.

Each year, holiday hosts face the challenge of setting their seasonal soire^aes apart from all the other parties guests attend between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Such a challenge is nothing three of Napa Valley’s top winemakers haven’t faced before. Each year, Chimney Rock Winery’s Elizabeth Vianna, Markham Vineyard’s Kimberlee Nicholls and Rutherford Hill’s Marisa Taylor play host to family and friends and each have their own unique take on holiday hosting.

Break free from first-time jitters

It’s common to feel pressure when hosting a holiday get-together for the first time. Many families have traditions that date back several decades, so being tasked with carrying on those traditions can sometimes be daunting. But Taylor, a wine country native and veteran host, notes that honoring family traditions while simultaneously creating a festive and fun atmosphere is nothing to be afraid of.

“People are sometimes intimidated by holiday entertaining,” says Taylor, whose Rutherford Hill Merlot has long been a benchmark for Napa Valley varietals. “But the truth is, just a few small touches can create an ambiance that elevates the whole experience. I think it even makes the food and wine taste better!”

Taylor incorporates family history with her own unique hosting touches by bringing out vintage family photos and heirlooms that guests can pass around her stylishly decorated dinner table.

Let new traditions take root

Another way for hosts to set their holiday parties apart from the masses is to try something new at the dinner table. Each year, Vianna, who presides over the production of the popular Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignons, hosts a special kind of dinner for friends who help her get through the often exhausting harvest season. Dubbed “Friendsgiving,” the celebration takes place at the end of autumn harvest season and includes friends, family and colleagues who contributed to another successful harvest. Vianna even encourages “Friendsgiving” guests to bring a postcard from somewhere around the world to use as a dinner table place card. This simple, yet creative idea inspires interesting conversation at Vianna’s holiday table, and hosts can incorporate their own creative touches to make their parties more memorable and enjoyable. For example, each year, Nicholls, whose award-winning varietals at Markham include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, assembles a graceful tablescape using marble and wood serving trays, vintage tablecloths and a tiered cake stand to create an elegant display guests won’t soon forget.

The more the merrier

Family always make the holiday dinner guest list, but Nicholls notes that holiday hosting is about opening our homes to people, whether those people share our last names or not. Inviting some fresh faces can stimulate engaging conversation and lift the spirits of someone who might not be able to make it home for the holidays.

“I’ve been known to invite people I meet at Markham winery who might not have anywhere else to go for the holidays,” says Nicholls. “Somehow there’s always enough food.”

To enjoy a Napa Valley holiday of your own, Chimney Rock, Markham and Rutherford Hill wineries are offering a chance for two lucky winners to visit Napa Valley complete with airfare, lodging, behind-the-scenes vineyard tours, VIP lunches with scenic views overlooking the Valley and even the chance to blend your own Merlot. Visit the Napa Valley.

Is racism on the rise? More in U.S. say it’s a ‘big problem,’ CNN/KFF poll finds

— Debra Aust sees it in videos of recent police shootings.

Alex Sproul reads about it in his Facebook feed.

Sheryl Sims senses it when she walks down the street.

They are three Americans from three different demographic groups living in three different states. And they believe the same thing: Racism is a big problem.

Their voices are just a few in a country of more than 322 million people. But they are far from alone.

In a new nationwide poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly half of Americans — 49% — say racism is “a big problem” in society today.

The figure marks a significant shift from four years ago, when over a quarter described racism that way. The percentage is also higher now than it was two decades ago. In 1995, on the heels of the O.J. Simpson trial and just a few years after the Rodney King case surged into the spotlight, 41% of Americans described racism as “a big problem.”

Is racism on the rise in the United States? Has our awareness changed? Or is it a problem that’s been blown out of proportion?

There’s not a one-size-fits-all explanation for the shift. The survey of 1,951 Americans across the country, which CNN will release and discuss in detail Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, paints a complicated portrait, highlighting some similarities across racial lines and also exposing gaps that seem to be growing.

But this much is clear: Across the board, in every demographic group surveyed, there are increasing percentages of people who say racism is a big problem — and majorities say that racial tensions are on the rise.

‘A different story’

It caught Debra Aust by surprise.

The 48-year-old white woman from Sterling Heights, Michigan, says she didn’t expect racism to get worse.

“It always seemed like it was getting better, like our generation was going to be better than previous generations,” says Aust, who participated in the CNN/KFF poll. “But the TV started telling us a different story, with all of these shootings by cops.”

For Aust, whose father and uncle both work in law enforcement, the news stories she’s seen about unarmed African-American men being shot by police have hit home. The officers should be held accountable, she says.

“What’s not helping is the police are getting off with a slap on the wrist. … If it was me, and I was black, and this was happening in my community, I would be furious,” she says.

The case of Walter Scott, who was shot in April by an officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, sticks out in her mind. The trial hasn’t started yet. The officer’s attorney says he plans to plead not guilty, and that race has nothing to do with the case. But Aust has already made up her mind.

“I mean, give me a break, he wouldn’t have done that if the man was white, and that’s the problem,” she says.

It’s gotten worse, not better, since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, says Ellis Onic. The 56-year-old engineer in Balch Springs, Texas, who’s African-American, points to the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin and this year’s Charleston church massacre as examples. Time and time again, Onic says, the justice system has failed.

“The white man has had his way for so long, they don’t think of it as racism. They think that’s just the way it is. … We have a long way to go, because the justice system is not right. Justice is corrupt,” he says. “That’s why she has the blindfold over her eyes and the scale slightly tilted, so you know that it can go either way.”

Jim Bruemmer sees things differently.

The white, 83-year-old retired advertising executive in St. Louis, who participated in the CNN/KFF poll, says media coverage alleging racism — particularly when it comes to law enforcement officers — has been overblown.

“I am troubled by the bias I see in the media, that seems to spend all its time talking about the bad policemen and the bad white people and ignoring the crime and the disastrous conditions that are occurring in large segments of the black youth,” he says.

Bruemmer says he’s had to look no further than a suburb of St. Louis to see that firsthand.

“The belief is so universally held among the people I know, that the whole Ferguson thing was a farce,” he says, “that ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ was baloney, that the police officer behaved in a very proper manner and saved his own life, possibly.”

Growing racism?

Gauging changes in racial attitudes is complicated, says Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a professor of sociology at Duke University. Bonilla-Silva has a phrase he uses to describe the situation he sees today: “new racism.”

“After the 1960s and early 1970s, somehow we developed the mythology that systemic racism disappeared,” he says.

Racism remained, according to Bonilla-Silva, but became more covert.

“The main problem nowadays is not the folks with the hoods, but the folks dressed in suits,” he says.

“New racism,” he says, has been decades in the making. But something has changed in recent years — access to cell phones and social media.

Accusations that police use excessive force, particularly against African-Americans, for example, now can get far more attention — far more quickly — than ever.

Communities of color across the country can more easily connect, according to Bonilla-Silva, and people are picking up on patterns that scholars have long discussed.

“People are doing Sociology 101. They can connect Walter Scott, the assassinations of black folks in a church, the slamming of a girl in a school,” he says. “And then it’s across the nation. People are then connecting the dots and saying, ‘No more.'”

Growing awareness?

While the trend of a growing percentage of people viewing racism as a big problem in recent years was true across racial lines in the CNN/KFF poll, the share who see it as a problem is notably higher among blacks and Hispanics.

About two-thirds of blacks (66%) and Hispanics (64%) said racism is a big problem, while just over four in 10 (43%) whites said the same. Hispanics are much more likely now to say racism is a big problem than they were in 1995, when less than half responded that way. Among blacks, the share who said racism was a big problem dropped from 68% in 1995 to 50% in 2011, and now has climbed back to 66%.

Majorities across races said tensions between racial and ethnic groups in the United States have increased in the past 10 years. Roughly a quarter said tensions have stayed the same.

Sometimes the way people view racism can play out like a referee’s call in a baseball game, says Glenn Adams, a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who has studied perceptions of racism.

“Is the guy out or safe? Well, it depends who you’re rooting for,” he says. “Sometimes it’s clear in either direction, but we tend to see it how we want to see it.”

It’s likely the level of racism in the United States is more or less the same, Adams says.

“What’s changed,” he says, “is that more people are aware of it.”

Knowledge of history, having friends who’ve experienced racism and personal background are all factors that can contribute to a greater awareness of racism, he says. And now, he says, there’s likely another factor at play.

“People are more aware of it because of the videos of police violence and the media attention. Now, the media report on it,” Adams says. “Black folks tended to know about this before. Now white folks are starting to know about it more. … Now, with this kind of evidence, people have to re-evaluate their sense of what is true and what is not true, so it becomes a little bit harder for people to deny.”

The same goes for repeated incidents of racism on college campuses, Bonilla-Silva says, like the chant that shuttered a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma and the noose found hanging at Duke this year.

It’s impossible to dismiss cases as isolated events, he says, when similar situations at schools and other institutions keep happening again and again.

“The fact that it keeps happening tells you that the problem is not a problem of bad apples,” he says, “but perhaps the problem is the apple tree.”

‘We’re all kind of in the same boat’

Because of his complexion, sometimes people think Rick Gonzales is Italian. Sometimes they think he’s Mexican or Middle Eastern. The experience, he says, has made him question the meaning of race.

“It’s obviously a label. Something tells me that we’re all kind of in the same boat, yet we’re separated somehow. We’re given different names,” says Gonzales, a 49-year-old truck driver from San Antonio, who participated in the CNN/KFF poll.

Gonzales’ mother is from Mexico and his father is from the United States. He says he feels that for people in power — most of whom are white — it’s advantageous to pit groups against each other. And to him, it seems like no matter what, darker-skinned people are at a disadvantage. That, he says, is why race — and racism — remain big problems.

“The ones that are usually getting the short end of the stick are the so-called minority … but we’re the majority, because we’re always the ones who are struggling,” he says.

Sheryl Sims, an African-American, 59-year-old retired teacher in Atlanta who participated in the CNN/KFF poll, says that for her, racism is something she senses when she walks down the street in her neighborhood.

“It’s just the way people will shun you,” she says, “or turn their head when you walk by.”

Things were worse 50 or 60 years ago, Alex Sproul says. But now, the 24-year-old, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and participated in the CNN/KFF poll, says he sees racism lurking under the surface.

From wage inequality to accessibility to jobs, Sproul says he feels minorities are still at a disadvantage.

Sproul describes himself as mixed race — Mexican-American and white. He says several events in recent years have made him feel racial tensions are on the rise.

One of them, he says, was the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American man who was fatally shot by a police officer on a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform. Sproul says he first learned about the case when he was scanning his Facebook feed and saw posts from friends.

“You kind of see more of these situations, or extremes,” he says. “I don’t know if maybe it was going on before and there was no coverage, or if it’s happening with greater frequency.”

Too much hype?

Bruemmer, the retired advertising executive in St. Louis, says he sees racism as a big problem — but not for the reason you might think.

Too often, he says, leaders play the race card rather than addressing what he sees as the real issue behind many of the problems popping up in society today: broken families, particularly in the black community.

“The massive problem that I see is that our leaders at the highest level … do not even want to recognize or even acknowledge that this problem exists, and therefore they spend huge amounts of time demonizing the police force, throwing gasoline and making the problems much worse,” he says.

Racism is inevitable in any society, he says. But now, he fears that because of bad leadership, tensions are on the rise among some groups in the United States.

“I think the racism and the hatred of the white race has grown to the point where it’s worse than in the other direction. … I think the anger and the racism is much worse from black to white than white to black,” he says.

Searching for common ground

It’s hard to draw a clear conclusion when the reasons behind respondents’ answers to a survey question can vary so widely, says Mark Naison, a professor of history and African-American studies at Fordham University.

“People may agree that racism is worse,” he says, “and disagree profoundly on who the targets and victims are.”

“Simmering rage,” he says, has been fueled by backlash after Obama’s election, the economic struggles of lower- and middle-income whites and demographic shifts across the country.

“Latent racism is becoming more open, because a lot of people are feeling threatened,” he says.

But Naison says he’s also noticed a significant change in his classes.

“People are able to empathize, communicate and talk honestly across racial lines much better than they did five years ago, and certainly 10 years ago and 20 years ago,” he says.

Why? Naison says the changing world students are living in, full of far more multiracial families and friendships, has played a big role. A video of a police beating, he says, resonates for people now because they’re not looking at those involved as strangers.

“It’s not just that guy over there,” he says. “You could be beating my cousin or my boyfriend.”

The mix of “simmering rage” and growing empathy is a complicated equation, he says, that adds up to more people talking about race — and racism.

And it’s a conversation, according to Naison, that isn’t going away any time soon. If people from different backgrounds can open up about their concerns and find common ground, it could be a good thing, Naison says, like a therapy session on a national scale.

“That conversation is difficult,” he says. “But our history is difficult. Our present is difficult. We need to talk about it.”

Paris, terror and the forgotten

— I received a call a few days after the Paris terrorist attack from a relative. She was, quite understandably, deeply unsettled by the attack. She asked me why it was that the Muslim community was so silent about jihadist attacks. I told her that they were—and are—not silent at all. In fact, there were—immediately—statements of condemnation of these attacks from a wide range of organizations and religious leaders in the Arab and Muslim Worlds, ranging from the Free Syrian Army to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation denounced the heinous attacks. My relative then asked me, why had she and so many other people not heard word-one about this?

This is a core question and it has nothing to do with the actions of the Muslim community. The mainstream US media, by and large, has done little to make it known that there has been outrage across the Arab and Muslim Worlds in the face of these horrors. The Muslim reaction has not been limited to the Paris massacre, by the way, but also the bombing in Turkey (at the peace rally held by the Kurds and their allies), the bombings in Baghdad and Beirut. What these bombings all appear to have in common is that they are the actions of Daesh, a.k.a. “the so-called Islamic State.”

Even when the Muslim outrage is reported, it does not get the same attention as the xenophobic and Islamophobic rants that are coming from right-wing pundits in the U.S.A. and elsewhere. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks governors in the U.S.A. are announcing that they do not want Syrian refugees in their states, as if to say that the refugee population is the source of terrorist attacks. Are these governors for real? Do they not realize that Daesh is quite capable of carrying out terrorist attacks without infiltrating the refugee population?

The mainstream media must be tasked with two very important actions. The first is the full accounting for the scope of the outrage in the face of these terrorist attacks. We cannot have a situation where the people of the USA are led to believe that the Muslim World is silent in the face of these jihadist/fascist actions. When the response from the Muslim World has been so overwhelming it is simply inexcusable that there is any ambiguity on this matter.

The second action is to broaden the scope of our understanding of the terrorist actions themselves. While I share a very deep sorrow with the French people and an absolute hatred of Daesh for their barbaric actions in Paris, I also cry for those killed in Turkey, Baghdad and Beirut who have received far less attention, and even less sympathy. It is time for us in the USA and other parts of the global North to appreciate that terror does not become terror only when it strikes us.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at

Morgan State University hosts health and hip hop conference

— In an effort to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS among young Black men, a group disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, health-care providers and community stakeholders hosted the “Health and Hip Hop Conference” in October at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Students from Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities—the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Bowie State University, Coppin State University and Morgan State University—participated in the event, which included a spoken-word competition; breakout sessions on hip-hop, sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention; and performances by local hip-hop artists. Roughly 150 students attended, according to conference organizers, and more than 50 people were tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The daylong program was sponsored by the Black AIDS Institute, the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, and the Morgan State University School of Community Health and Policy’s Get SMART (Students/Society Mobilized and Retooled to Transform) Project.

Grim Jackson, an 18-year-old freshman communications major at Morgan State, said that he can relate to people who suffer from stigma associated with AIDS; when he was younger, students made fun of his mental disability.

Although reluctant to discuss the challenge it presented, Jackson said that the taunts and ridicule changed to cheers when he started performing. “I was in high school and I just started writing, and people were like, ‘Oh, my God, you’re good,’” said Jackson, who won second place in the spoken-word competition.

Get SMART Project Director Lorece Edwards, DrPH, the director of community practice and outreach in the department of behavioral health sciences at Morgan State’s School of Community Health and Policy, said that health-care providers and HIV/AIDS advocates and researchers wanted to educate young minority men about sexual-health choices and their possible outcomes. “This is a platform, a safe and brave space for men, that allows them to talk about health and hip-hop and their life experiences,” she said.

Justin Wooley, a consultant with the Black AIDS Institute, agreed. “We need HIV prevention messages with an ‘attitude,’ in the same way we had Niggaz Wit Attitudes, N.W.A,” said Wooley, referring to the hip-hop group. “The same way we talk about Magic Johnson, we have to talk about Eazy-E,” the N.W.A member who died of AIDS in 1995, nearly four years after Johnson announced his retirement from the NBA after testing positive for HIV.

Although the story of Eazy-E’s death was covered in magazines like Newsweek, Vibe and Jet, reports of heterosexual transmission were rare, and therefore, the possibility that Eazy-E had acquired HIV heterosexually was easily dismissed in favor of rumors of closeted homosexual activity, illicit-drug use, murder by HIV injection, tainted acupuncture needles and other urban legends.

During the panel titled “Hip-Hop, Health and Healing,” students and featured guests discussed masculinity, the perception that hip-hop perpetuates misogyny and homophobia and more.

Messiah Ramkissoon, an MC, youth advocate and three-time winner of Showtime at the Apollo for his spoken-word performances, said that homophobia is a sensitive subject in hip-hop and that people with perspectives on both sides need to be more tolerant. “People live their lives the way they choose, and they should not be disrespected or counted out from the culture because of it, but those that are homosexual also have to understand that certain people don’t agree with homosexuality,” Ramkissoon said. “The conversation is so sensitive that when you say you have a different perspective, well, now you’re homophobic.”

He continued: “We have to understand how to nation-build, acting civilized whether you’re gay or you’re straight. We have to be able to have differences and still love each other as family. These conversations have to happen without hate getting involved.”

Kenton Dunson, a hip-hop artist on a panel about ways the music has affected health outcomes among Black men, suggested that artists be more creative and less afraid to use their art to raise awareness about health disparities affecting Black communities. “J. Cole is probably a step away from doing that,” Dunson said. “He can say it and do it and be fine because he’s an established artist, but for someone like me who is still trying to get their numbers up and create awareness around my music, it might set a trend or it might not.”

Dr. Edwards explained that health disparities persist because health-care providers fail to include marginalized communities in the discourse about prevention strategies and the development of best practices that are necessary to address those disparities. “We need to give a voice to the people that we want to reach,” she said. “They can tell researchers and academics and community-based organizations what best works for them. They’re the experts. We’re not the experts.”

Dr. Edwards continued: “If we can create spaces where men can be themselves and feel safe in sharing what’s in their hearts and minds and their experiences, then we can all heal.”

MillerCoors renews commitment to Thurgood Marshall College Fund milestone donation

MillerCoors, founding corporate sponsor of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, recently presented the organization with a $1.2 million donation to support its programming and scholarships during TMCF’s 27th Anniversary Awards Gala on Monday, November 16, 2015, at the Hilton Washington, D.C.

“We have deep tradition in supporting education and are extremely proud of our longstanding partnership with TMCF. This amazing organization continues to help thousands of students professionally develop and attain a higher education,”said Steve Canal, national community affairs for MillerCoors. “MillerCoors is committed to empowering the next generation of leaders by providing educational resources and guidance.”

“As a founding partner, MillerCoors has been there for TMCF and our 300,000 students from day one,” said TMCF President & CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. “Last night, MillerCoors gave our community $1.2 million to open the door yet again for more black college teachers to bring their best to America’s public K-12 classrooms and more HBCU college graduates to become future business leaders— beginning and building their careers at an iconic company like MillerCoors. Their commitment to TMCF for over 28 years has continued to demonstrate to other companies why supporting HBCUs is smart for our country— and we are most grateful!”

The funding will support their Teacher Quality and Retention program; as well as a number of students will receive a scholarship. MillerCoors also provides real-world experience for program scholars through its summer internship program, career readiness counseling and on-site student interviews during its annual career fairs. Furthermore, MillerCoors actively recruits students for employment opportunities.

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Maryland Legislative Black Caucus Weekend

Fall is the time of year when Baltimoreans learn what’s happening on the state level in Maryland at the annual Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland Weekend. This year the Caucus Weekend was held November 5 – 7 and the programs focused on Maryland’s political landscape were interesting and informational.

This year’s weekend kicked-off with a Prayer Breakfast on November 5 in Baltimore at the Forum Caterers with the theme, “Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Present and Creating the Future.” The featured guest, Reverend Cecelia Williams Bryant (mother of Pastor Jamal Harrison Bryant of Empowerment Temple) gave a passionate speech on both the role of the black church in pursuing justice in the 21st century and the need to make children a priority in the black community. Notable attendees included mayoral candidate Sheila Dixon, Senator Catherine Pugh and Senator Nathanial McFadden.

Following Reverend Bryant’s speech, a criminal justice panel discussion was held led by Delegate Jill P. Carter. Panel participants included, Delegate Charles Sydnor, Judge David Young, Esq., Delegate Erek Barran, Esq. Tessa Hill-Aston and Pastor Todd Yeary. The panel discussed the criminalization of Blacks in Baltimore and the challenges of the increasing crime rate in the city. Delegate Sydnor and Delegate Carter emphasized that voting is important as well as continued advocacy in Annapolis.

On Friday, November 6, a breakfast and networking session kicked off a full day of workshops including a discussion moderated by Paul Taylor, executive director of the Small Business Resource Center featuring panelists Michael Cryor, Don C. Fry, Kirby Fowler and Kenneth Grant.

The day ended with a dynamic workshop “Black Voices Through Written Expressions,” organized by Delegate Barbara A. Robinson, Democrat, District 40, Baltimore City, that discussed the importance of African Americans writing their own stories and understanding the business aspect of the writing world. The panel included author and mental health advocate Maxine Cunningham; Dewayne Wickham, dean of Journalism and Global Communication at Morgan State University; Dr. Maurice Dorsey, author of “Businessman First – a biography of Henry Parks of Parks Sausage; Cherrie Woods, a PR consultant with Eclectic PR who specializes in working with self-published authors; and James Wright, president of the Black Writers Guild of Maryland.

Saturday, November 7, began with an empowering breakfast at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, featuring keynote speaker, George Curry, former editor of Emerge Magazine. The day ended with a gala featuring the West Mob Band.

The 2015 Legislative Black Caucus weekend effectively balanced the topics of advocacy, education, affirmation and dedication with the overall message that if blacks in Maryland want change, they must show up. They need to be active, be conscious voters and consumers, know their elected officials, create businesses and become educated leaders.

Haki S. Ammi is a Baltimore City Fire Fighter/EMT, freelance writer, speaker and community organizer. For more information, visit:

Where Thanksgiving calories hide — and how to burn them off

— When you sit down to a traditional Thanksgiving meal, the cards will be stacked against your diet. Those favorite dishes are just so high in calories — hello, stuffing and sweet potato casserole! — and there are just so many of them, it can seem impossible not to splurge.

But with the right planning and a serving of willpower, you can have a healthy (or healthier) Thanksgiving.

How to dish up a healthier meal

“My advice is to do everything in moderation. Normally, people scoop up mounds of stuff on their plate, and that’s where it gets to be a problem. But if you can handle small portion sizes, then that’s fine,” said Sara Haas, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And just because you are going to indulge during that one meal of the day doesn’t mean that you have to blow the others. “Balance it with good meals at breakfast and lunch and do some exercise … think about how much better you’ll feel by the time you get to Thanksgiving dinner,” Haas said.

When it comes time to feast, there are steps you can take to keep from overeating, or at least to limit it. Haas recommends putting your fork down and taking a sip of water between bites to keep from shoveling food in your mouth. And wait at least 20 minutes before going back for seconds (or thirds) — it takes your body about that much time to know that it is full, she said.

Of course, if you are the one doing the cooking, there are lots of steps you can take to make your Thanksgiving dinner healthier. Using low-fat meats and dairy products is one easy way to lower the calorie load — and in foods such as stuffing and pies, you probably won’t even notice the difference.

Haas recommends sources such as Cooking Light and Eat Right, the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for beloved recipes made healthier, and for turning those mountains Thanksgiving leftovers into creative, and possibly healthier dishes.

How to burn Thanksgiving calories

Even if you choose the healthiest sides on the table, eat only one slice of pie and keep your leftover plans in check, you might still need some activity to break even on Thanksgiving.

Consider looking for a race to run around the holiday, or just go jogging in your neighborhood — 60 minutes of jogging burns about 477 calories — about one slice of pecan pie.

Sixty minutes of Zumba burns about 540 calories — that almost takes care of your sweet potato casserole and your cranberry sauce.

An hour of tossing around a football with your family burns about 160 calories. There goes the turkey!

But there are plenty of ways to cut back without tying on your athletic shoes.

An hour spent clearing and washing dishes will burn about 100 calories. Another hour of mopping up after the big meal can burn more than 100. Cleanup could be the cure for green bean casserole.

There’s good news, too, if you’re hanging out at the kids’ table. An hour of carrying around small children can burn about 136 calories. Running around with them for 60 minutes can burn more than 200. See you later, stuffing.

Planning to line up for Black Friday sales? Thirty minutes of shopping can burn 76 calories — if you’re moving fast enough to score a few big deals and long enough to cover everyone on your list, you can easily take care of your mashed potatoes and dinner rolls.


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