Eugene Monroe faces uncertain future with Ravens

When it comes to the offensive line, left tackle could be considered the glamour position. That position attracts the most attention and generally warrants the highest salary. The Baltimore Ravens traded a fourth and fifth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for left tackle Eugene Monroe.

The Jaguars had new coaching staff and decided to part ways with Monroe. He came to the Ravens and took over at left tackle during the season. The Ravens were pleased with Monroe and rewarded him with a five year $37.5 million deal.

However, Monroe has faced multiple injuries since signing the deal and his future is truly in question with the Ravens. He has missed a total of 15 games over the last two seasons, which he will use as motivation during his off-season training.

“No one likes to be hurt and not be on the field, but it is what it is, and I’ve had some things happen that just were unfortunate,” Monroe said. “I’ll make sure I continue to work my ass off and continue to get better.”

The Ravens had to move left guard Kelechi Osemele to left tackle in December. It was an idea they had contemplated before. Osemele had experience playing left tackle in college and has played well over the final four games of the season.

The team has flirted with the idea of keeping Osemele at left tackle, which could be a sign that they may move on from Monroe. Osemele is set to hit the free agent market and will garner plenty of attention from teams.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome addressed what went on behind the move at the Ravens season ending press conference.

“Left tackle is important to protect the blindside of the quarterback. When [Kelechi Osemele] agreed to move to left tackle, we thought it was a good thing for us to get a chance to watch him over the course of four games, and then also improve his value to the National Football League.” Newsome said.

Monroe has an $8.7 million cap number if he remains on the roster next season. The Ravens can save $2.1 million if he is released but the team will still be on the hook for $6.6 million in dead cap money. Newsome acknowledged that Monroe has played well when healthy, but the problem is keeping him healthy.

Monroe says that he is not concerned about whether or not he will be back with the Ravens next season and is focused on “getting healthy and back to playing ball.” He was placed on injured reserve and had shoulder surgery. This is the second time that he had surgery on his shoulder.

“This is unfortunately the second time I’ve gone through this shoulder deal, so I sort of know what to expect in terms of my rehab process,” Monroe said. “I’m fully confident that I’ll be healthy and back on the field.”

The Ravens will have the sixth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Some analysts predict Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley to be the Ravens’ selection. Investing such a high pick on left tackle would definitely be a sign that the team is preparing to move on from Monroe.

Monroe is set to work his way back from injury regardless of what happens with the Ravens. Putting in hard work is something that he is accustomed to during the off-season.

Last summer, he reported to camp with a noticeably leaner build. He will approach this off-season with a positive mindset as he works toward a more successful season in 2016.

“I’ve had some time to look at my game and how I’ve improved from the year before,” Monroe said. “I’ve made major strides. I’ve played some pretty good ball and I’m looking to build off of that.”

Couple relies on faith in adopting children

Adoption was something Derwin Penson and his wife Wendy considered only in passing a long time ago.

For about a quarter of a century, the couple enjoyed a marriage that included lots of fun together, travel and their work as stateside missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators USA in Florida.

“Then, one day, my husband turned on the television and saw this little girl crying out to her father; begging him to stop as he was beating a police officer nearly to death. She was crying stop and he said, ‘I’m sorry baby but I’m not going to jail.’ And, of course, he was going to jail and we thought, ‘who was her mother to leave her with this man and who was going to take care of her now?’” Penson said. “That just stayed with me.”

Later, Derwin Penson read an article about African-American children growing past the age of when most people are reluctant to adopt them.

So, they reached out to a friend who suggested they contact Community Based Care of Central Florida, an organization that provides an adoption training class.

“We thought that it was time for us to open up our home,” Wendy Penson said. “Everybody deserves a chance at life and when you take the class you do realize it’s not for everybody but everybody can help by giving, by mentoring and in other ways.”

The class the couple enrolled in was designed to weed out those who would not make good parents and to prepare those who would.

“There were so many of us there but on the first day they told us that many of us wouldn’t stick it out, we’d be gone,” Penson said. “I remember after the first break when everyone came back there were so many missing. They didn’t stick it out and we kept noticing each day, attendance dwindled.”

The Pensons would fist-bump each other each day for added encouragement as the intense twelve-week program involved homework and constant internal and external assessment, that included telling their life story, background checks, and examining relationships with family members and co-workers.

“The classes are designed to assess how you’re living, what your lifestyle is, what your influences are, to determine your readiness,” Derwin Penson said.

The goals of foster care are to foster until a permanent home is found; to stabilize until an adopted or biological family is found, and again, to weed out those individuals who are not ready, according to Penson.

In February of 2015, the Pensons were approved by a family court judge to officially adopt and provide a permanent home for three children.

“People have been praying for us along this journey and for that, we are truly grateful,” Wendy Penson said, noting that the need to adopt children, particularly African-Americans is great.

Studies examined by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators reveal that African-American children who come into contact with the child welfare system are disproportionately represented in foster care, and are less likely than children of other racial and ethnic groups to move to permanent placement.

Further, African-American children account for 15 percent of the U.S. child population but as of September 2011, were 27 percent of the 400,540 children in foster care and have lower rates of adoption than those of other races and ethnicities.

“There are kids out there who will never get adopted who just want love and care. You don’t have to be superhuman. These kids just want a consistent place to live,” Penson said. “When you hear them speak, you realize they know what they’re missing and it breaks your heart. If everyone who ever thought about adoption would just explore it and pursue it we could probably get all of our children out of foster homes.”

For more information about adoption, visit: www.cbccfl.org, www.AdoptUSKids.com, or www.africanamericanadoptionsonline.

Five tips to safely shovel snow

With the the Mid-Atlantic recovering from a major snowstorm, Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA), the North American trade association representing snow management professionals, has these five tips for safely shoveling snow.

“Shoveling snow has a number of health risks associated with it, including the most serious one— a heart attack,” said Martin B. Tirado, CAE, Executive Director, SIMA. “Other more common health risks include dehydration, back injuries, pulled muscles, broken bones and frostbite. But the good news is there are ways to safely shovel snow,”

Here are SIMA’s tips for safe snow shoveling:

TIP #1: Stay on top of the snow. We aren’t suggesting that you make snow angels but when there’s heavy snow, the best advice is to stay ahead of the storm. SIMA recommends that you clear the snow every few inches instead of waiting for the snow to stop falling.

TIP #2: Layer it up. Wear loose layers of clothing so you can peal a layer off if you get hot. Avoid wearing wool or manmade material because they don’t allow perspiration to evaporate— better choices are cotton and silk. And when it comes to footwear, waterproof boots with good traction will help ensure that you don’t slip and fall. They aren’t pretty but they are critical to preventing a fall.

TIP #3: Push, don’t lift. Sounds like something a high school wrestling coach might say, but if you push the snow to the side rather than trying to lift the snow, you exert less energy, thereby placing less stress on your body.

TIP #4: Do an exercise warm-up. Although you aren’t running a marathon, shoveling snow is exercise. So warm up before you start with some simple stretches that engage your entire body—especially your arms, legs and back. Drink plenty of water and take breaks when you need them.

TIP #5: Call and text. We’re not suggesting that you make calls and text while shoveling snow, but it is important to have your cell phone on you so you can make a call in event of an emergency.

Following these tips will help ensure that you survive and thrive through winter. For more snow and ice removal tips or to interview a snow management professional, visit SIMA.

Founded in 1996, the Snow & Ice Management Association is the North American trade association for professionals involved with the snow and ice industry. For more information, visit: www.sima.org.

Documentary tackles challenges former inmates face

After 30 years of ‘three strikes,’ mandatory-minimum sentences and harsh federal, state and local government responses to crime, elected officials and communities now realize that being tough on crime didn’t produce the desired results.

Mass incarceration has devastated the lives of those behind bars, ripped families apart and ravaged black and brown communities.

Despite the United States representing five percent of the world’s population, this country has the dubious distinction of having 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The 2.3 million people— one million of whom are black— currently in the nation’s prisons or jails is a 500 percent increase over the past 30 years. Meanwhile, every year, about 700,000 citizens return home to their communities from state and federal prisons.

Award-winning Filmmakers Duane de la Vega and Katie Calloway produced and directed a documentary called “The Return,” which vividly illustrates how deep imprisonment cuts were.

The filmmakers followed a number of returning citizens over the course of four years to document California’s efforts to re-integrate thousands of “lifers” into their families and communities after the state amended the three-strikes law in 2012.

Ensuring successful reentry is an issue around which recent efforts at criminal justice reform by elected officials, advocates and organizations revolves, said Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, who hosted the screening. National progressive and conservative advocacy and other organizations from across the political spectrum have been meeting for well over a year seeking consensus on reforms to the American criminal justice system to make it fairer, more just, and more effective.

“We had a panel discussion at Howard University and there were representatives from the Koch Brothers and [Congressman] Rand Paul,” Cummings said in an interview after the screening. “They said it was about economics, that we’re spending too much money. They didn’t talk about it from a moral or compassionate position. They have come for different reasons but have the same goals.”

“There was a time when legislators were afraid of being soft on crime. With tough laws, they could go out and brag about doing something. People were going in for minor offenses. There were a lot of factors involved.”

Cummings, who represents Maryland’s 7th District, said Congress is considering his Fair Chance Act, which has bipartisan, bicameral support and which would solidify fair chance hiring policies in the federal government. Rep. John Sensenbrenner has sponsored the Second Chance Reauthorization Act and the SAFE Justice Act in the 114th Congress, which will help inmates reintegrate more successfully into their communities.

The documentary chronicles prisoners being freed, families adjusting to the changes, attorneys and judges struggling with thorny legal issues, and reentry providers overseeing difficult transitions.

One of the returning citizens featured in the film, Kevin Bilal Chapman, a reentry advocate, was in the packed audience of Congressmen and women, Congressional staffers and other invited guests. Chapman served 11 years of six life sentences plus 150 years for selling $200 worth of drugs to an undercover agent.

In the documentary, he noted at one point, that many of the people who ended up behind bars never had a chance because they were born and grew up poor, may have had little or no education, were mentally ill or homeless— all of which contributed to their incarceration.

“The homeless, those exposed to drug use never had a chance,” he said. “Poverty, addiction, mental illness: the solution was to put them in prison for the rest of their lives. They never had a chance. The system is rigged and there are always the temptations of drugs and alcohol.”

Chapman, now married, working as the Logistics Supervisor for Exel Logistics in California— and whose hobbies include growing tomatoes— said he refused to return to the community where he lived before being sent to jail because he knew he would fall into the same old destructive habits that might cause him to end up back in jail.

“We need real jobs for people coming out to give them their ego and strength back, and build capacity for families,” said Chapman during a panel discussion following the screening held at the Visitor’s Center in downtown Washington.

“The biggest problem and enablers are our family. It’s too easy for people to be enablers, too easy to go back. I’m not that prisoner today. I’m a taxpayer. I work, I’m a citizen, I’m a voter. That’s who I want to be. Those are the things that define me today.”

“I had a 24-hour plan, a 72-hour plan. It was no reverse … my job was looking for a job. I was very intent on succeeding. I had slacks, a white shirt and six or seven different ties.”

Calloway, an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and investigative reporter, and de la Vega, founder of Loteria Films, said their parents’ legal work made them aware of the conditions and vagaries of justice.

“We grew up exposed to the problems of the criminal justice system and we saw the collateral damage of harsh sentences,” said de la Vega. “The New York Times profiled non-violent offenders sentenced to life. Seventy percent of California voters passed the amendment. Every single county voted for Proposition 36. The prison crisis was becoming front page news now.”

Calloway agreed.

“The sentences are five to 12 times the length of industrialized countries,” she said. “In the U.S. we usually don’t look at other countries or look at systems. There’s so much that needs to be undone.”

De la Vega and Calloway say the recidivism rate of the 2,300 inmates released by California stands at five percent and the state has so far saved $1 billion.

Ford launches Men of Courage for African-Americans

— Ford Launches Men of Courage for African-Americans

By Stacy M. Brown

Ford Motor Company is helping to kick off Black History Month by honoring African-American men and amplifying their accomplishments.

The Detroit-based auto company kicked off its “Men of Courage” contest on Martin Luther King Day at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore and Ford officials have begun recognizing black men whose primary goal is strengthening their communities and creating positive change.

“The goal is to help change perception of African-American men, so the theory of change is that by helping to share real stories of good fathers, loving husbands and entrepreneurs where you create a sense of empathy in peoples’ minds which leads to change,” said Shawn Wilson, the manager of Multicultural Community Engagement for the Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Company.

“This is a solutions oriented program with three different components,” Wilson said. The first part is to share stories, then create a vision for what they want the future of black men in America to be and finally there is action, where they support initiatives that positively impact the community.”

Already, the program has the backing of such prominent individuals as rapper Big Sean, basketball Hall of Fame member Dave Bing and pop superstar Usher.

The “Men of Courage” initiative consists of a national contest of inspirational stories from which Ford will select a winner to honor at the Ford Freedom Awards in Detroit on May 17, 2016. Officials at the Ford Fund are also developing a free online curriculum and teaching guide that profiles 20 prominent African-American men, a program that seeks to enable junior and secondary high school students to create visions for success.

The January 18, 2016 event held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum served as the kick-off for the national contest and included officials from Ford, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, and 100 Black Men of America, all of whom convened a diverse group of 60 black men ranging in age from 17 to 70 for a daylong forum of storytelling, visioning and developing plans for action.

“Ford has a long history of supporting the African American community, and is a trusted source when it comes to building communities,” said forum participant Burt Jordan, vice president of Ford’s Global Vehicle and Powertrain Purchasing & Supplier Diversity. “Men of Courage have the power to bring together African-American men in a way that will positively impact people throughout the country.”

The primary reason Baltimore was chosen as the launch city was because of its rich African-American culture, Wilson said.

“We [first announced] the program at the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit. So, it made sense to launch at the place of another African-American of prominence like Reginald F. Lewis,” Wilson said. “We do authentic community engagement. We relish our role of being a trusted community partner.”

Wilson says the response has been nothing short of amazing. Participants at the Baltimore event have made more than 300 commitments to provide social and financial capital to projects honoring black men, including support for a yearlong program at Reginald F. Lewis Museum around the theme, “Year of the Black Male,” which explores past, present and future issues facing black men.

Ford and other members have also pledged to help scale Shop Talk, a monthly panel discussion; the series was developed by Sebastian Jackson, a Detroit-based entrepreneur and owner of Social Grooming, an innovative barbershop and community meeting place.

“I believe we have the talent and skills to solve today’s social challenges right in our own communities,” said Calvin G. Butler Jr., CEO, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. “Men of Courage is an important program because it provides support to those who are developing solutions, and gives our young people a guide to how they can create a brighter future for themselves.”

For contest and program information, visit www.MenOfCourage.com.

Disney on Ice ‘Treasure Trove’ set to arrive in Baltimore

— The ultimate Disney animation celebration will be held at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, February 3-7, 2016. Produced by Feld Entertainment, Disney On Ice presents “Treasure Trove”is Disney’s 50th animated feature and Disney lovers will see Peter Pan; Tinker Bell; Captain Hook; Simba; Alice and the Mad Hatter; and a host of other characters and princesses come to life in the production.

In “Treasure Trove,” Hope Alexander portrays Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog.” The 26-year-old who was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware will perform in Baltimore for the second time.

“I just think the show has something everyone can enjoy,” Alexander said, noting that besides her part in Treasure Trove, another eye-catching number is the performance of Under the Sea with Ariel and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.

Getting accustomed to moving from city to city and country to country every week or so was once Alexander’s toughest challenge during her performance career. However, she has grown accustomed to her ever-changing life of packing and unpacking while performing in exciting places.

She says she has made lifelong friendships while working for Feld Entertainment and seeing the smiles of Disney lovers and observing the excitement when they see their favorite character coming to life, has made the journey to destinations like Japan, China, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand all worth it.

While performing in Baltimore, Alexander’s additional bonus is getting to see family and friends. She explained that because she is usually on the road six to eight months at a time, she really enjoys performing close to home. Her family and friends are able to come to the shows to see her perform. They are always very supportive and very loud in the stands.

Alexander started to skate at the age of two, when her mother, Cherise Alexander would take her around the ice rink. Early morning lessons became a part of her routine as she grew older.

Between age seven and 16, Alexander skated competed on ice. A knee injury interrupted her competitive skating but a track scholarship led her to Miami University. After graduating with a B.A. in International Studies, and a B.A. in French in 2011, she revisited her passion ice-skating, which had always been a major part of her life. She joined a few smaller skating shows before joining Feld Entertainment in 2012.

“I still wanted to be involved in skating, and that’s when I auditioned for shows and picked it back up again, and here I am today,” Hope said. “It’s my fourth year with Treasure Trove.”

Her father, Romain Alexander, was also supportive of Hope’s desire to skate. Both of her parents were athletes growing up and in college. She shares her role models’ athletic genes.

“My mom ran track, and my dad played football in college and professionally,” Hope said. “Just watching how hard they’ve worked and how they’ve persevered, and just to see where they came from and where they are today is really inspiring.”

Hope wants to serve as inspiration for a little boy or girl who spots her happily skating on the ice. Perhaps he or she may also want to pursue a rewarding career in skating or even something considered less common.

“I just say keep at it because you never know where it will take you,” Hope said. “I stuck with skating for all of these years, and now I’ve been throughout the U.S. and all over the world, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So just keep at it and don’t give up!”

For more information, performance times, or to purchase tickets, call: 1-800-745-3000 or visit: www.ticketmaster.com.

Writing contest for Maryland middle school students

— The contest, which is sponsored by Anne Arundel Peace Action, the Maryland Peace Action Education Fund, the Benjamin Peace Foundation and the Peace and Justice Center of Annapolis Friends Meeting, is open to all seventh and eighth grade students enrolled in public or private schools in Maryland and to home-schooled students corresponding to the same grade levels. This is the 20th consecutive year the contest has been conducted.

Four cash prizes will be awarded: $350 for first place, $250 for second place, $150 for third place, and $100 for fourth place. The winners will be honored at a special ceremony, although attendance is not required to receive an award.

To enter, students must submit an entry of up to 1,200 words on this topic:

“The United States is considering resettling as many as 10,000 refugees this year from the Syrian civil war. Approximately half of these refugees are children. Suppose that some of these children become students at your school. And suppose that your principal asks you to serve on a committee to develop a plan to welcome the new students and help them become part of your school and your community. Describe a plan of action that you would suggest to the committee to attain these goals.”

Entries must be accompanied by a separate cover sheet including the student’s name, address and phone number or e-mail address; school’s name, address and phone number; and the name of the teacher sponsor if applicable.

Entries and accompanying materials must be postmarked no later than April 30, 2016 and mailed to Fred B. Benjamin Peace Writing Contest, 310 Riverview Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21403-3328.

For more information, call 410-263-7409 or e-mail mjkeller@att.net.

Iowa Caucus reminds me of Groundhog Day

I have watched the movie titled “Groundhog Day” with actor Bill Murray. Looking back, I’m wondering if that movie was about the Iowa Caucus. The caucus just keeps coming back and back and it seems we just can’t escape the Iowa Caucus.

Groundhog Day is coming and the best news about the annual holiday is that the Iowa Caucus will be over! There is a bad rumor though that if the groundhog sees his shadow we will have six more weeks of Iowa!

I know Iowa is a great state with great people but why must our country be pounded with the ongoing onslaught of Iowa, Iowa and more Iowa Caucus? Personally, I’m sick of hearing about the Iowa Caucus. CNN and Fox news started talking about the Iowa Caucus over a year ago and for the last six months it seems Iowa has been mentioned every day.

I get it. Iowa is the first rung on the ladder to the presidency. Candidates who miss this rung have further to step up to New Hampshire and with a little less momentum.

Although it appears Donald Trump could lose both caucuses and still be the Republican nominee, he isn’t taking any chances. Iowa is being treated to about as much Trump as they can probably stand.

Past presidents have gladly taken Iowa and then moved on with the wind behind their march to victory. You remember George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008. However, winning Iowa has not always been the answer. John Kerry won the Caucus in 2004. Robert Dole won it in 1988. Rick Santorum won Iowa in 2012 and it led to nothing except a life of more campaigning, raising money and speaking to hamburger joint crowds who are killing time before their next doctors’ appointments.

Mike Huckabee won Iowa and had a lot of momentum in 2008. Unfortunately, Iowans hardly knew who is as he moves along in his RV speaking to crowds that he could almost fit in an old fashioned telephone booth, if anybody remembers what those were. I actually thought Huckabee would do a little better than he is doing. He had a national television program on Fox that aired on prime Saturday and Sunday evenings. Iowans and apparently few others were paying attention to his program, or maybe they were.

I started to say I feel sorry for Huckabee, Santorum, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Martin O’ Malley and others but I don’t. I feel sorry for the people in Iowa. The good people in Iowa can’t go to the local Dairy Queen without having a political candidate staring at them or trying to shake hands. I would say the people of Iowa might be more tired of the Iowa Caucus than most Americans. At least we can turn off the television. They can’t step for politicians and media people.

Groundhog Day is coming Iowa and when the day finally comes they will all be gone. Rest awhile and reclaim your lives because unfortunately in two years we will have to go through the caucus again and then again and then again. Now, I’m starting to understand a little more what Bill Murray’s character was going through in the movie Groundhog Day.

Glenn Mollette is an American Syndicated Columnist and the author of 11 books. His column appears in all 50 states. For more information, visit: www.keepourfreedom.com.

Celebration of African heritage and health begins February 1

February 1, 2016, not only marks the start of Black History Month, but for a Boston-based nonprofit food and nutrition organization, it’s the beginning of the fifth annual African Heritage & Health Week.

Accara: Black-eyed Pea Fritters from West Africa

(Courtesy Photo)

Accara: Black-eyed Pea Fritters from West Africa

The week-long observance was founded by Oldways, an organization formed to promote healthy eating and drinking by developing programs for consumers. African Heritage & Health Week serves to guide individuals to good health through heritage by using what Oldways officials say are practical and positive programs grounded in science, tradition and real foods.

Spicy Chickpeas

Spicy Chickpeas

“Baltimore residents can celebrate African Heritage & Health Week by cooking up an African heritage recipe in their home kitchens, hosting an African Heritage & Health Week event with the help of Oldways’ nutrition outreach materials, or trying out a new local, African heritage restaurant that features foods from the African Diaspora,” said Sarah McMackin, Oldways program manager for its African Heritage & Health Program.

In an effort to help observers find restaurants in their area, Oldways has a Dine-Around-Town list online at: www.oldwayspt.org/, as well as heritage recipes that can be made at home, according to McMackin.

Suggested African heritage recipes include those for Accara, which are crispy black-eyed pea fritters popular in West Africa; and chickpeas, which have played an important role in African cooking ever since they were first cultivated by ancient Egyptians.

There are also African heritage desserts including the popular “after-chop,” a fresh fruit salad with coconut, peanuts, and honey mixed together and loaded with flavor and nutrition which Oldways officials said makes an individual feel good about treating the sweet tooth after a meal.

Local residents can follow Oldways on social media and share, repost or display any African Heritage & Health Week posts, McMackin said.

“We’d love to see photos of African heritage cuisine from all of our followers,” she said, noting that individuals can use the hash tag #EatAfricanHeritage365 to share posts.

“The past four years has seen a steady increase in awareness and participation, with unique community-engaging events popping up all over the country,” McMackin said. “Last year, we saw potlucks, group restaurant outings, and educational seminars take place.”

A new “Ambassador Network” has been established this year and it’s comprised of teachers from the Oldways cooking class “A Taste of African Heritage.”The ambassadors have organized events in a number of cities including African Heritage Diet seminars at libraries and museums in St. Louis and Clemson, South Carolina; a class potluck in Houston and an information party in Lithonia, Georgia.

“The ultimate goal of African Heritage & Health Week is to help educate people about the flavors and nutrition of traditional African heritage foods and eating patterns. Many people are unaware that traditionally, African ancestors ate a plant-based, whole food diet that was extremely high in nutrition,” McMackin said.

“We are trying to change that. Many of today’s healthiest foods have their roots in African heritage like leafy greens, millet, watermelon, and flaxseeds, to name just a few. By reaching back to traditional ways, African-Americans and others can reconnect to a long lineage of healthy eating that has the power to heal, helping to claim health by reclaiming history,” she said.

For more information about African Heritage & Health Week or for African recipes, visit: www.oldwayspt.org/.

Innovation Village Initiative to help revitalize West Baltimore

— A new initiative is helping to change the conversation in an area of Baltimore where hopelessness has often led to the anger, which recently spilled over into chaos after the death of Freddie Gray.

Innovation Village, a community partnership aimed at leveraging technology to help fuel a wave of job creation and business startups to support retail and new housing developments was launched in Central West Baltimore.

The official kick-off was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day outside of the Penn North Metro Station, the site of massive protests and where a CVS Pharmacy burned in the aftermath of Gray’s death.

Richard May, the chairman of Innovation Village, said the goal is to create an economic base that works together with colleges like Coppin State and the Maryland Institute College of Art and also other cultural institutions and neighborhood associations.

“It’s going to include others and we are going to drive economic growth,” he said.

“Over the next three months we will develop an action plan for financial incentives to market the area to employers and residents.

“There are already a couple of startup technology firms who have committed to opening here and the response has been great, we’ve received tremendous interest from existing residents, entrepreneurs and firms that are looking to move into innovation village,” May said.

Innovation Village began because of the desperate need for jobs and stability in West Baltimore. May and others then studied economic growth in other cities to help determine solutions.

Cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit have zones similar to Innovation Village, according to May, who also co-founded the Mount Royal Community Development Corp., which serves as a partner in the new initiative.

While the focus will be on growing start-ups, May says potential tech jobs would also lead to solid employment for real estate agents, coffeehouse workers and retail workers.

“For me, this is very personal, being an African-American and my family living in the area,” May said. “A lot of the challenges and problems we see have been the result of decades of disinvestment, so knowing what jobs mean in our community, this has been very personal for me to help deliver a solution.”

May was joined by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; City Comptroller Joan Pratt; City Council President Bernard Young; and others at the official launch. Even Governor Hogan reportedly has endorsed the initiative.

“Frankly, our timing couldn’t be better as Governor Larry Hogan and the mayor have pledged to target funding for demolition and development in areas like Central West Baltimore,” said Steva A. Komeh Nkrumah, a long-time West Baltimore resident and president of the Historic Marble Hill Community Association. “For years we’ve been planning, but there were no resources to implement. Now, with nearly a billion dollars coming to Baltimore in the next four years, surely this area can’t be overlooked. In fact, I guess we represent a sort of Ground Zero, so rebuild should start here.”