(CNN) — Ariell Johnson is the owner of Amalgam comics in Philadelphia. She is the East Coast’s first black female comic book store owner.
Month: March 2016
Film Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
(NNPA) — Director Christopher Nolan, gone. Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale, gone.There will never be another “The Dark Knight Rises.” That iconic, once-in-a-lifetime action trilogy is over. If you can wrap your head around that, and get past the first sluggish minutes of this Batman derivative, you just may find some instances of wonder in between the baffling moments.
Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice | official trailer #4 (2016) Ben Affleck Henry Cavill
First, the elephant in the room. Ben Affleck, aka Gigli. He isn’t totally miscast. However, his stiff performance does nothing to elevate the Batman character or this movie. And his toupee, a distraction that should get second billing, steals his scenes. Henry Cavill as Superman looks more comfortable in his tights. Both actors’ characters are sourpusses most of the film. The incessant brooding is off-putting. It’s like watching teenagers pout because they can’t go to the mall. Blame the screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer for handcuffing them. And even those scribes deserve a pass because the task of writing a script about two normally centered heroes, who now want to destroy each other, is a tad preposterous.
An alien force, Zod, is in the midst of destroying downtown Metropolis where Bruce Wayne has an office building full of employees. Zod is facing the brutal force of Superman, who is, of course, out to save the world. In the process, their fight causes Wayne’s building to crumble. The eerie similarities to 9/11 border on bad taste.
That incident strikes a nerve with Bruce Wayne/Batman. He becomes enraged and obsessed with wiping out Superman. Meanwhile, Superman’s repeated collateral damage as he saves lives becomes a cause célèbre for Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) and her Congressional Superman Committee. A mouthy, jittery and obscenely wealthy tech entrepreneur named Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has a beef with Superman, too. He’s plotting to bring kryptonite into the country. It’s a weapon Bruce Wayne also wants. The Man of Steel had better watch his cape.
Batman hating Superman never really gels. The congressional committee subplot is equally suspect. The only person who logically hates the Superman is Lex Luthor, and that’s just comic book legend. But as played by the mousy Eisenberg, who acts with the verve of a pesky mosquito, even Luthor is lame.
Director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) has his hands full trying to make the silly plotline work. He does himself no favors by starting the film with a funeral that is poorly directed and filmed with too many overhead shots (cinematographer Larry Fong, “300”). The graveyard scene with the young Wayne running off into the woods is like watching an outtake from a B-movie. Not an auspicious beginning.
The obliteration of downtown Metropolis is a bit better, but not excellent. Perhaps the best action sequences are when Batman, in his natty Batmobile, chases a truck that is transporting the kryptonite. It’s fun to watch. The film almost should have stopped there. It doesn’t. Subsequent action scenes aren’t as imaginative. The finale, involving a huge monster that looks like an electrified Hulk on steroids, is no better than a scene from any generic sci-fi/action movie. That beast is a poor effect (visual effects supervisor John “DJ” DesJardin). The loud score (Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL) doesn’t help either.
Visually (set decoration Carolyn ‘Cal’ Loucks; art direction Patricio M. Farrell, “300: Rise of an Empire”; production design Patrick Tatopoulos, “300: Rise of an Empire”) the film has high and low points: Lex Luthor’s party, perfect. The Bat Cave, dull. At least the pacing (editor David Brenner, Man of Steel) is tight, which makes the two-hour and thirty-three minutes roll by at a decent clip.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane is great, but her character is not pivotal. Diane Lane is far better as Superman’s mom. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White overacts. Gal Gadot, the sultry mystery woman who is always two steps ahead of Bruce Wayne, is gorgeous and bold as she morphs into Wonder Woman. She deserves her own franchise.
As this uneven film grinds to an end, it sets itself up for more shenanigans in more episodes with more super heroes.
Comic book fans will flock to this movie regardless. Whether they come back to see it a second or third time, like they did for The Dark Knight Rises or Deadpool, is the question. If they do, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will make a dent at the box office. If they don’t, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale will look even better in hindsight.
Read more movie reviews by Dwight Brown here and at www.DwightBrownInk.com.
A conversation with Civil Rights legends
(CNN) — Civil Rights legends visit Georgia high school seniors to discuss history and politics. CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield reports.
A conversation with Civil Rights legends
FBI investigating outage at Maryland hospital chain
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The FBI is looking into how a computer virus infected systems at MedStar Health, a large Maryland chain with 10 hospitals and dozens of clinics.
“Early this morning, MedStar Health’s IT system was affected by a virus that prevents certain users from logging into our system,” the hospital chain announced on its Facebook page Monday.
“MedStar acted quickly… to take down all system interfaces to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the organization,” it explained.
The yet-unidentified computer virus is forcing the hospital chain to rely on paper documents and some backup computer systems, the company said.
David Fitz, a spokesman for the FBI’s office in Baltimore, told CNNMoney that “the FBI is aware of the incident and is looking into the nature and scope of the matter.”
Fitz said the FBI was made aware of the issue on Monday afternoon.
MedStar did not immediately return calls to CNNMoney.
MedStar has several locations in and around Baltimore. The hospital chain reported treating 4.5 million patients during its 2015 fiscal year.
There’s heightened attention to cyberattacks now. In recent months, several American hospitals have been tossed into chaos after having their computers infected by hackers.
The weapon of choice has been ransomware, a particularly nasty type of computer virus that encrypts digital files. Hackers don’t give you a key to unlock documents until they are paid a ransom.
In mid-March, hackers attacked Methodist Hospital, an averaged-sized medical facility located in western Kentucky. They forced it to operate “in an internal state of emergency” for five days. Methodist Hospital refused to pay the ransom, instead shutting down the infected part of the computer system and relying on backup copies of the information stored elsewhere.
In February, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoins to get its computer systems back up and running.
Several other American hospitals have also been hit by ransomware in recent weeks.
RAMBLING ROSE: Happy Easter to you!
Hello, everyone and Happy Easter to you and your family. If the Easter Bunny is here that means only one thing— spring is also here. You might want to put away your fur coats but I suggest that you keep out your heavy coats, hats and closed-toe shoes ladies.
Last week, one of my dear friends, O’Donel “Butch” Levy was laid to rest in a much loved and musical way. There were many musicians at the funeral services from all over the country. Almost a hundred local musicians filled the seats of the Mount Hope Baptist Church. Such musicians as Kendra Holt and her side kick, drummer, Nick Costa; Marshall booze, Eddie Harrison, David Smith, Gail Martin, Chester Thompson and Ramir Bey. The entire Jump Street Band was there including Lamont Terry Battle, Brad Collins, Jeff Wilson and Jimmy Taylor. My dear friend Gabriel Goodman with her brother, David Bun flew into town. Sir Thomas Hurley, Nevitta Ruddy, Ron Pender, Glen Grainger and his brothers were there. Tiny Tim Harris, Lady Rebecca and Ethel Ennis performed. Andy Ennis, Joe Hosea, Dennis Chambers, Larry Willis, Gary Ellerbe, Bill Harvey, Sandy Mallory and her husband Joe, radio personalities and so many more were there to say goodbye.
Moving along, it is Easter Weekend and it is springtime and a few organizations decided to take advantage of this in a good way. King Neptune’s Cabaret is back on the calendar this year with a Cabaret B.Y.O.B., with free beer, soda, ice, chips & pretzels and music by DJ Mike Jones. This event will be held on Saturday, March 26 from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. at the American Legion, Towson Post #22, 125 York Road in Towson, Maryland. For tickets and information, call 410-404-1773.
Marva D and DJ Kenny D are having a “Good Friday Fish Fry Party” on Friday, March 25 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the VFW Hall, 8123 Harford Road, Parkville, Maryland. You can B.Y.O.B, free beer and set-ups. For tickets, call 410-599-9159.
Arch Social Club is having an Easter Kids Disco on Sunday, March 27 from 4-8 p.m. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Children from age 11 and up only. Hot dogs and chips are included with admission. This is a fundraiser for the club and also to support the community.
The Forum Caters is having an Easter Sunday Dinner Feast on Sunday, March 27 from 3-6 p.m. at the Forum Caterers 4210 Primrose Avenue. For more information, call 410-358-1101 or go to: email@example.com .
Well, my dear friends, enjoy your Easter Holiday. I’m going to get some rest. I recently had major stomach surgery, but I had to take time out to talk to you. I am out of space and out of time. Remember if you need me, call me at 410-833-9474 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. UNTIL THE NEXT TIME, I’M MUSICALLY YOURS.
Safe Streets opens new location in Sandtown-Winchester
Ten safety counselors joined representatives from the mayor’s office on March 17, 2016 to open a new Safe Streets facility in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.
Located inside a former Catholic convent, it might be seen as a fitting backdrop in contrast to the gun violence that has plagued the area, which became the center of national attention last year because of a resident named Freddie Gray.
“The Safe Streets program has realized significant success across Baltimore City, with two sites having at least one twelve-month period with no homicides,” said Sean Naron, a spokesman for the city’s health department. “In 2014, Safe Streets workers had 15,000 client interactions and mediated 880 conflicts. More than 80 percent of those interactions were deemed to be likely or very likely to result in gun violence.”
Safe Street uses previously incarcerated individuals and other men to counsel young people against violence. The counselors walk the streets in Safe Street neighborhoods at night with the goal of seeking out potential problems and counseling individuals against violence.
“Most of us come from this environment and we understand the body language,” said Imhotep Fatiu, a former convict who spent 14 years in prison and is now the director for the new Sandtown-Winchester office.
In 2015, five people lost their lives to gun violence in the blocks where the new Safe Streets office is located. Also, 12 others survived shootings but the 344 murders in the city last year were the deadliest in Baltimore history, according to health officials.
“Violence is a public-health issue. Violence spreads from person to person just like other diseases,” said Dr. Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner.
Naron says Safe Streets has made a significant difference with violent crime dropping 50 percent in those neighborhoods that include Cherry Hill, McElderry Park, Mondawmin and Park Heights.
“Safe Streets is a program that has been proven to reduce gun violence, and I think all of us know it is important to expand this program into the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a March 17 press conference to announce the program’s launch.
Rawlings-Blake announced Catholic Charities will operate Safe Streets from St. Peter Claver, a convent on the parish property, employing credible messengers to interrupt violence before it occurs.
“These are individuals who come from the communities they serve,” said Dedra Layne, director of Safe Streets Baltimore, adding that many Safe Streets outreach workers were once “a part of the problems these communities have been impacted by.”
“They have recommitted themselves to strengthening the communities they were once part of tearing apart,” she said.
Safe Streets maintains that violence is a learned behavior that can be prevented using disease control methods.
“This intervention targets at risk youth, aged 14 to 25, through regular individual interactions, conflict mediation, media campaigns and community mobilization,” Naron said.
Safe Streets Baltimore was launched by the Baltimore City Health Department in 2007 as a replication of the national Cure Violence program. The public health initiative employs and trains outreach professionals to de-escalate and mediate disputes that might otherwise result in acts of violence.
“The program has realized significant success across Baltimore City,” Naron said.
Celebrating a PG County trailblazer during Women’s History Month
At age 86, Julia Clark is still working hard as an advocate with a stern resolve to see any task through.
Only these days, Clark, a former Department of Housing and Urban Development employee who has arguably done more for African Americans in Prince George’s County than anyone, advocates from the Arbor Terrace Greenbelt Senior Living Community in Lanham. Clark is the head of the senior living’s resident council as well as the Ambassador’s Committee there.
“Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, I’m available, I keep my button on,” Clark said. “When people come in, whether it’s with Alzheimer’s or whatever it is, I work with them to help them adjust to the new community.”
While Clark is beloved at Arbor Terrace, she has long cemented a legacy of helping to shape Prince George’s County.
She arrived in Prince George’s County in 1939 and she went on to play a key role in the economic development of the county, now the wealthiest African-American majority county in America.
Clark helped to start the first child care center at HUD and served as president of the South County Economic Development Corporation, a civic association that endorsed a “shop at home” campaign in the late 1990s.
“Everybody would go and shop elsewhere and I said why not shop at home. So we got a campaign started and we were telling everyone to shop at home,” Clark said.
The county was already considered one of the wealthiest suburbs in the country, with a median household income exceeding the national median by about 25 percent but was underserved by upscale retailers.
“They [county residents] were traveling to places like Virginia and Annapolis to shop at stores like Nordstrom or Neiman-Marcus, which had no locations in Prince George’s County. I said that had to change and we were able to get malls and shopping plazas here,” she said. “Now, we got National Harbor, Shoppes at Brandywine and other places. We’re doing good.”
Among her biggest accomplishments, Clark said, was helping to fundraise and campaign for Wayne Curry, who became the first black county executive in 1994.
“We believed in Wayne Curry and we were able to bring big business back and he was instrumental in getting National Harbor in here because there were too many people who didn’t want big business, they were afraid,” Clark said.
Clark was also a driving force behind the stadium in Landover and she served as a member of the committee tasked with building the Wayne Curry Learning Center. The contributions that she has made in shaping African American life in the county are rarely lost on those who know her. However, while many often clamor for low-income housing, she once led a group that sought high-
“That was important. I said we need million dollar homes and we got them and now look, Prince George’s County happens to be the richest majority African American county in the country,” Clark said.
Clark was influenced by Gladys Noon Spellman, the late former Congresswoman, who successfully spearheaded many efforts to effect social and political reform in all facets of life for her Prince George’s County.
Clark led successful efforts to get the Baltimore-Washington Parkway dedicated in Spellman’s honor.
“She got me interested in working in the country and she got me interested in working beyond the county and inside our communities,” Clark said.
Born in Wilson, North Carolina, Clark grew up with seven brothers and sisters, two of whom are still alive. She attended college in El Paso, Texas and married a career military man. She began volunteering in West Germany working for the Red Cross. She has five children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Clark still wants to help young African Americans.
“I think our black young males have been forgotten about. The parents paid all the attention to the daughters, but our males need us and I’ve always pushed for help for our men,” Clark said.
“Another problem we face is many have parents with limited education where the mom and dad have to work two or three jobs and the television is raising our kids. We have to do something,” she said, noting she’s still active and still reaching out to the community at-large. “I want people to remember me for making important deposits— contributions everywhere I go. I want them to know about the positive deposits that others can build on.”
‘My City Bikes’ readies cyclists for spring commute
BALTIMORE — Between 2000 and 2009, U.S. Census data revealed the number of commuter cyclists in Baltimore increased by a whopping 233 percent. Nationwide, biking has also grown as the number of individuals who cycled within the past 12 months increased from 47 million in the spring of 2008 to 66 million in the spring of 2015.
“For the average commuter, when you look at operating costs, a bike costs about 10 cents per mile, public transit breaks down to roughly 14 cents per mile and a typical sedan costs about 58 cents per mile,” said Tina Schmidt, of My City Bikes, a public health alliance that helps individuals enjoy better health and quality of life through biking.
Add all of that to the fact that bike commuting allows an individual to combine their daily exercise and commute into one and more people are now motivated to get out and enjoy a daily bike commute instead of being stuck in traffic, Schmidt said.
With the arrival of spring, bikers are hitting the road and My City Bikes offers a mobile app, which is said to be the official guide to beginner biking in hundreds of communities.
“My City Bikes is a mobile and web-based public health alliance of communities, organizations and local businesses dedicated to helping people discover better health and quality of life through biking,” Schmidt said. “We work with local partners like the City of Baltimore and Race Pace Bicycles who are dedicated to community health to establish utility style, community-based mobile apps and publicly accessible information that make it easy and approachable for people to bike regularly.”
The My City Bikes app is a guide to biking in Baltimore for beginners. It has need-to-know safety information, DIY bike maintenance information, and local bike riding that is suited to beginners.
“A lot of people can be overwhelmed when they think about biking, and try to find local information. Every ride detailed in the My City Bikes Baltimore app is beginner level, so a new rider can choose any road, mountain or recreational option with confidence,” Schmidt said.
My City Bikes started in 2010 and today provides local bike guides for beginner cyclists in more than 300 communities in three countries.
While commuting on bikes can provide many benefits, it can also help keep children active as well, according to Schmidt.
“When you look at recreational biking you can take that a step further. These days people are concerned with not just their physical activity levels, but that of their kids as well,” she said. “While the many groups and gyms and activities that are available are great, biking is unique in that you can do it together as
a family. The kids don’t have to be in childcare, and the parents don’t have to be on the sidelines.
“Not to mention you can’t really text or talk on the phone while biking so you get good old fashioned family time and exercise rolled into one. The reasons to bike are as diverse as the people who ride bikes, but every person has a great reason. Hopefully another reason that we see this is because biking is becoming more accessible for beginners,” she said.
Also, it’s important that bikers realize all of the options they have available to find a bicycle and place to ride that suits them, Schmidt said.
“Bike shops like Race Pace Bicycles are revolutionizing the idea of the bike shop from a place for elite enthusiasts to a place for everyone. That has opened the door for people to feel welcome and open to the idea that they, too, can bike,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re just spiffing up the old bike in the garage, getting something shiny and new, or just want to go ask a bunch of bike questions.
“When you have a shop like Race Pace combined with the My City Bikes Baltimore mobile resource that the City of Baltimore has helped provide, every local rider is set up for success and has an unprecedented support system. It is a great time to be a beginner cyclist.”
Film activist empowers black girls through conversation, storytelling
Women’s History Month highlights the contributions of women in American history during the month of March. However, the achievements and accomplishments of young black women in contemporary society are also worthy of acknowledgement.
Tiffany L. Gill, a filmmaker, writer and founder of Black Opal Media, was raised in Baltimore and attended Towson State University. Today, Gill is working to give girls and young women of color a voice through film, programming, conversation and a growing social movement.
The purpose of her forthcoming documentary called Black Girls Unscripted (BGU) featuring, predominately African-American and Afro-Latin girls from the ages of 11-22, is to provide an opportunity to see themselves in ways that they may not in mainstream media and tell their own stories. Girls who are excelling in various areas will also be highlighted as stereotypes are challenged.
The creation of the forthcoming film project is rooted in a conversation Gill had with a former 13-year-old mentee. The girl’s mother died from breast cancer. She returned to the area to visit her grandmother, after moving out of state with her father. When Gill saw her again in 2013, a conversation led to the teenager revealing news of her attempted suicide.
“I asked her why and pretty much outside of mental health issues that I discovered later that ran in her family, she said, ‘I hate being dark-skinned. I hate my wide nose. I hate my hair. All the boys in Texas like the light-skinned or Spanish girls,’” Gill said. “She went a step further to say: ‘I never see anyone in media who looks like me that’s considered kind or pretty or smart.’”
Gill added that probably the most profound thing her mentee said to her was that there is nothing good about growing up to be a black woman. The next day, the teenager proposed the idea showing different media imagery where women of color are represented through something better than degrading or stereotypical images in popular culture and media.
“That conversation was really the springboard for this project,” Gill said, referring to her documentary and movement.
Filming has taken place in Baltimore, the District of Columbia, New York and Chicago. Gill explained that the project will follow girls of color through their challenges and triumphs. A fundraising initiative to complete production and editing of the project will be launched in late spring.
“And the hope is that we’ll be ready to roll the piece out winter of 2016, early 2017 at the very latest,” Gill said.
Gill is also a former nonprofit executive who integrated an opportunity for girls ages 13-19 to talk about hot-button topics during listening sessions that will be held every two months at the South Bowie Branch Library, located at 15301 Hall Rd. in Bowie, Md. BGU Listening Sessions are facilitated by team members, Charmayne Walker—BGU’s social media director—and Belinda Brewington—BGU’s community relations director. Gill said the discussions are also a great opportunity for girls to make new friends.
Marian D. Daniel, a BGU advisory board member and supporter from Baltimore said that the project provides a place and atmosphere where girls can safely express themselves without being judged. She added that their voices have been silenced because no one is typically interested in truly hearing them.
Additionally, VeTalle Fusilier—BGU’s development consultant, advisory board member and longtime supporter said the team identified a key area that she would like to see change occur through BGU’s impact.
“Most importantly, as the title suggests, we want Black girls to see themselves as they truly are—unscripted. Not a fictional, idyllic portrayal, but unscripted, beautiful, smart and savvy,” Fusilier said. “It is the story of Black girls achieving in different environments, triumphing despite limiting circumstances, (and) maximizing their opportunities for growth and self-realization.”
Gill wants the collection of empowering messages to reach communities where girls need them most.
Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, founder of Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women, was interviewed for Gill’s project and described its value as tremendous.
“It provides a much needed focus on the often unspoken needs and challenges faced by Black girls, and creates the impetus for the rest of us to do a better job at meeting those needs,” Jones-DeWeever said. “Our girls deserve it.”
A BGU listening session will be held on March 26, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. at the South Bowie Branch Library. The event is free but registration is required via https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-girl-unscripted-listening-sessions-tickets-22183615792. To learn more about BGU, please visit www.blackgirlsunscripted.org.
Flint water crisis can still bring out best in Americans
(NNPA) — Our nation continues to marshal support for the people of Flint, Michigan, after it was discovered that the water supply was contaminated with extremely dangerous amounts of lead.
The long-term exposure of Flint residents to lead, which even in small amounts can cause grave health problems, has raised the public’s awareness of this health crisis and prompted the call for immediate and enduring action— now and for years to come.
Perhaps the most devastating consequence of the Flint water crisis is the uncertain impact that prolonged lead exposure will have on the city’s children. We know that infants and children under the age of six are exceptionally vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely hinder mental and physical development and produce a host of health complications, including learning and behavioral disabilities, slowed growth, poor muscle coordination, hyperactivity and lower IQ.
More than 200 of the city’s children have already shown signs of elevated blood-lead levels and the symptoms of poisoning can set in long after the child is no longer exposed— meaning that a child who appears well now can still face daunting health complications later in life.
We do not yet know the gravity of what has transpired in Flint but we do know this: Flint’s children deserve every opportunity to be healthy, and we must come together to develop a comprehensive strategy that guarantees the compassionate care they need to overcome short- and long-term challenges to health.
Flint has already seen an outpouring of support from community members, nonprofits, social service agencies and healthcare providers, including: the Greater Flint Health Coalition; the United Way of Genesee County; and Genesys Health System, an Ascension hospital serving Flint and its mid-Michigan neighbors; working
together to maximize the benefits of their support services and develop a long-term healthcare strategy for the generation of Flint kids who might be adversely affected.
Underlying the crisis in Flint are the many socioeconomic barriers that low-income children and families faced long before the tragedy, including a lack of access to quality healthcare and affordable housing. In a city of more than 100,000 Americans— where 57 percent of residents are black and more than 40 percent live at or below the federal poverty level— there are virtually no grocery stores to be found. Together, we’re working to change that and ensure that Flint’s children are not left wanting for nutritious food, early education and access to integrated social services ever again.
Even the smallest act of service can help address the short and long-term costs of this crisis. The Flint Child Health and Development Fund, created by a united committee of residents, healthcare providers and community organizations, will be used to provide social services, early childhood education, behavioral health services and more to children in Flint. The Flint Child Health and Development Fund is so important to the local community that Ascension Michigan (Borgess Health – Kalamazoo, Crittenton Hospital Medical Center – Rochester, Genesys Health System – Grand Blanc, St. John Providence – Detroit, St. Mary’s of Michigan – Saginaw, and St. Joseph Hospital – Tawas City) has supported the initiative by donating to this effort.
Giving what you can is the single most effective action you can take to contribute to the ongoing care and interventions in Flint. To contribute, visit: www.flintkids.org.
Even after the water runs clean in Flint once again, its children and our community, may bear the scars for years to come. So we must confront the health ramifications of the crisis and support positive health outcomes for Flint’s children. It will require our foresight and collaboration to guarantee their long-term care.
Patricia A. Maryland, Dr.PH, is the President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer for Ascension Health.