Gospel singer Kathy Taylor ministers to the world through her music

— When you think of the best in the world of art, names such as John Biggers, Augusta Ossawa Tanner, Michelangelo, Rembrant, Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci come to mind.

Now when you think of the best artists in the world of gospel music, there are several names that should be on the list, but after creating that list, there’s at least one name that should not only be on that list, they should be mentioned as one of the world’s best – Houston’s own Kathy Taylor.

Taylor is one of the most inspirational and uniquely anointed vessels created by God to be a blessing to the world through her phenomenal musical gifts and talents. Not only did God give her the gift to sing with a one-of-a-kind signature voice, He was also careful to intertwine it with inspiration, talent and skill that has been strategically designed to minister to the hearts and souls of His people. Simply put, Taylor is one of God’s musically-gifted chosen vessels.

Taylor, 55, is an accomplished national recording artist, Minister of Music, songwriter, producer and community activist, whose God-given musical gifts have lifted her to higher heights and brought her before both national and world leaders. She has ministered before Queen Elizabeth II, former President Bill Clinton, current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cicely Tyson, Maya Angelou and many others.

Taylor began her recording career as a soloist with the legendary James Cleveland’s Gospel Music of America and The Mass Choir. She was the featured vocalist on songs such as “Anticipation,” “It’s Your Decision,” “He Did It,” and “I Got My Joy Back.” These projects, along with her captivating and live performances, have catapulted Kathy into the national spotlight.

In her never-ending quest to fulfill her calling and use her musical gifts for the Kingdom of God, the Houston native founded Kathy Taylor and Favor, a multi-talented singing ensemble known for its meticulous and breathtaking harmonies. Kathy Taylor and Favor graced the stage with many of most recognizable and world-renowned gospel artists around today. They released three projects to date, with the first two albums Taylor produced being “He’s Worthy” and “What Would It Profit Me to Gain the Whole World and Lose My Soul?” which were both well received. The third album, “Taylormade,” was released on Aleho International Records, under the leadership of gospel music executive Al “The Bishop” Hobbs and produced by Grammy-award winning, legendary gospel music producer Sanchez Harley. This powerful collaboration produced and incredible project that yielded her a Stellar Award nomination.

Taylor executive produced and released one of her best projects in 1999 entitled, “Kathy Taylor Live, The Worship Experience,” which was released on her very own label Katco Music Group. This much-anticipated and much-talked about project received rave reviews and overwhelming pre-sales. “Kathy Taylor Live, The Worship Experience” featured an amazing collection of songs designed to usher listeners into the presence of God, such as the hit single, “Oh How Precious,” which has become a hit on the Billboard charts and is heavily requested all over the country.

In addition to her successful music career, Taylor still serves as Minister of Music at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, a post that she has held for nearly three decades. Under the leadership of Pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, Windsor Village is the largest United Methodist Church in America having over 15,000 members. Taylor oversees a massive Music and Arts department that is comprised of over 1,200 staff members and volunteers. The innovative programs instituted by Taylor have set a new standard for music ministry across America. From her Black History series that featured the “Sacred Music of Duke Ellington,” which was presented with a thirty-six piece orchestra, actors and dancers, to her annual Worship and Arts Conference that has brought together some of the foremost experts in the nation, Taylor’s ever-increasing standard of excellence continues to positively impact lives.

Continuing a family legacy of community involvement, Taylor founded the Katco Arts Academy, a summer youth program which is committed to empowering socially and economically challenged youth. This unique program provides youth the opportunity to be inspired to develop their hidden gifts and talents by being exposed to the world of mentorship. This creative outlet has served as a springboard for several local youth to enjoy national opportunities with the Alvin Haley Dance Troop, Showtime at the Apollo and American Idol.

Taylor works as the Director of Music for the National Day of Prayer observance in Houston and also serves on the YMCA’s Board of Directors where she humbly works to make a difference by serving her community. She has appeared on national television networks, such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), The Bobby Jones Show, Daystar and Black Entertainment Television (BET). She has facilitated many national Gospel Music Workshops, in addition to being a much sought after Praise and Worship leader. Taylor has been the Special Guest Artist at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Prayer Breakfast, Indiana Black Expo and many other events which have showcased her unlimited musical talents. She is also working in conjunction with the Houston Grand Opera to increase cultural awareness in the community.

Taylor’s musical ministry is continuing to flourish and be embraced all over the world.

For more information on Kathy Taylor and her music ministry, visit www.kathytaylorlive.com.

The Houston Forward Times is a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Learn more about becoming a member at www.nnpa.org.

Parents, beware: These are the 100 deadliest days for teens

Here’s a sobering statistic for the unofficial start of summer, when we gear up for picnics, barbecues and our kids having more free time on their hands: Memorial Day kicks off what’s known as 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.

From 2010 to 2014, more than 5,000 people have died in crashes involving teen drivers in those 100 days, AAA said today. A new study (PDF) by the association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that nearly 60% of teen crashes involved distracted drivers.

The AAA says that over the past five years, the average number of crashes involving drivers ages 16-19 increased 16% per day during the “100 deadliest days,” compared with other days of the year.

Some of the reasons for the spike make sense. Teens are driving more during the summer, and it might be more recreational than purposeful, the National Safety Council reports. For instance, instead of driving back and forth to school, they might be driving to the beach, lake or river, and heading down roads they haven’t driven before.

But one of the biggest reasons for the summer risk increase is that teens might be driving more frequently with more of their friends.

“We have always known that passengers were a big risk for teens, but what we’re really finding out now is, passengers may be one of the most important risks for teens, even more so than things like texting,” said John Ulczycki, the National Safety Council’s vice president of strategic initiatives.

Think about it this way, Ulczycki said: Passengers are a distraction the entire time a teen is driving, whereas the distraction from texting is probably limited to the seconds or minutes they’re looking at screens instead of the road.

Passengers increase the risk of a teen driver having a fatal crash by at least 44%, according to the National Safety Council.

“It’s tragic that parents don’t really appreciate the risks of passengers,” Ulczycki said, adding that parents may understand the risks of texting or cell phone use but aren’t as aware of the dangers of a new driver hitting the road with friends in the car.

A majority of states have laws on the books regarding the number of passengers allowed for new drivers. Some states don’t allow any for the first six months or year after getting a license; some allow one passenger.

”If you have a kid who had their license for less than one year, you have to think very, very carefully about the conditions or the situations in which you allow them to carry any passengers. You really do,” Ulczycki said.

Ulczycki, a father of six in Wilmette, Illinois, didn’t allow his children to drive with passengers for the first year of their official driving lives. “It was a real bone of contention,” he said. “They weren’t happy about it, but they all survived.”

A 2014 study found that loud conversations and horseplay between passengers were more likely than technology to result in a dangerous incident involving teen drivers.

The study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center tracked 52 high-school age drivers in North Carolina who agreed to have cameras installed in their cars. The study appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

When there was loud conversation in the car, teen drivers were six times more likely to need to take actions like making an evasive maneuver to avoid a crash. When there was horseplay in the vehicle, they were three times more likely to get into a similarly serious episode, according to the study.

“Forty-three states currently restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one young passenger in their vehicle,” Robert Foss, senior research scientist at the Highway Safety Research Center, and director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers, said in a news release. “The results of this study illustrate the importance of such restrictions, which increase the safety of drivers, their passengers and others on the road by reducing the potential chaos that novice drivers experience.”

In 2014, we traveled to Roxbury, New Jersey, to talk with Barb Dunn, her husband and her 16-year-old son, Daniel, about how they were trying to teach Daniel about safety as he learns to drive.

When I got back in touch with Dunn about the dangers of the summer months, her anxiety went up.

“My first reaction is fear. Then sadness,” Dunn said via e-mail. “I just heard a similar statistic about prom night being a very dangerous time. … I think we have to take the time to to talk to our children and remind them of the risks and talk about how to minimize them.”

Ulczycki of the National Safety Council said the best advice for parents is to understand the risks about passengers and drive with them so they can get accustomed to having people in the car. He also suggests that parents consider the risks of driving at night.

“It’s not the time of night. It’s how dark it is. That’s really the risk here, and I think too many parents think of night driving as a social curfew. ‘Well, I’ll let my kid stay out until 11 p.m., so he’s fine,’ ” Ulczycki said. “It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the risk of driving after dark.”

Annette DiCola Lanteri, a mom of two in Bayport, Long Island, has two girls who are still a few years away from driving age.

The best thing parents can do, she said on Facebook, is to teach teen drivers the best we can.

“Give them the most knowledge we can so that they can adequately protect themselves, then pray,” DiCola Lanteri said. “There are so many variables and we only have so much control.”

What do you think is the best way to keep teen drivers safe this summer? Share your thoughts in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.

For more information on how to keep your teen drivers safe, go to the National Safety Council’s DriveitHOME.org.


™ & © 2016 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

‘Roots’ of a new conversation about race

The original “Roots,” which aired in 1977 to record audiences still flushed from America’s bicentennial, seared slavery into the American consciousness in an unprecedented way. Never before had the whole nation seen slavery enacted so vividly and with such tragic pull.

Staying up past my bedtime night after night to see the show with my parents remains one of the most arresting memories of my childhood. There was no home video yet, so I was never sure how I might ever see such a show again.

There is a case to be made that in the 1970s, “Roots” did indeed push the U.S. to “come to terms” with slavery. Certainly much recent cultural and public dialogue about slavery traces its way back to “Roots”: Consider the feature films “12 Years a Slave” and “Amistad,” the African Slave Burial Ground in New York City, the New-York Historical Society exhibit about slavery in New York, the discussion of reparations for slavery in the late 1990s, black Americans’ interest in tracing their genetic ancestry, and even criticisms that the smash Broadway musical “Hamilton” is remiss in downplaying the role of slavery in its characters’ lives.

However, at this point we must ask a question. How do we define the “terms,” and at what point can we say that they have been met?

Many will argue today — and with good reason — that we still haven’t “come to terms” with slavery. We haven’t “reckoned with” it. But in 2016, our discussion of such matters would be more constructive with a clearer sense of what those words — “terms” and “reckoning” — actually mean. If the original “Roots” series, the current History Channel remake and the ample discussion of slavery across so many forums don’t qualify as “coming to terms,” then the meaning of the phrase is less clear than we may think.

For example, will coming to terms with slavery require granting slavery’s descendants reparations of some kind? This outcome seems unlikely, but if this is indeed the “reckoning” intended (or needed), then we should be clear about that.

Or, does “coming to terms” instead mean more general awareness about the history and impact of slavery? If so, we still need to zero in a bit. America’s intelligentsia and educated class are grievously dismayed about slavery. They would appear, that is, to be very much “reckoning” with it in the conventional sense of that term, as grappling with and processing something difficult, contradictory, or irreconcilable.

But if there are people who still feel that America hasn’t “come to terms” with slavery, then they are claiming that in an America in which Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” is a megahit best seller.

If that America is one in which slavery is still not reckoned with, then I assume that the problem is that the rest of America — “out there,” as blue-state America likes to term such people — still hasn’t come to the terms in question. That is, the logger in Washington state, the Indian immigrant shopkeeper in Queens, the small-town white grandmother in Kansas who works the voting tables at election time, that guy working in the toll booth — collectively, they don’t care (or know) enough about America’s roots in slavery.

Is this why so many people think that America hasn’t “come to terms” with slavery? One might ask just what it would do for black people’s everyday lives if, say, the TSA guy and the hairdresser truly “reckoned” with slavery. One might also question how practical it is to expect that this reckoning could ever be so universally accomplished in as vast, heterogeneous, and troubled a society as ours.

I might be accused of caricaturing people by calling for “reckoning” here. “No one has said the guy who installs your cable has to ‘reckon’ with slavery,” one might object. Many viewers who respond to this new version of “Roots” may say we still haven’t “come to terms” with it, despite how widely discussed the topic has been in this country in the past few decades.

But if “coming to terms” refers neither to reparations nor to all Americans understanding how slavery has shaped their nation, then the phrase must have lost what we would call meaning long ago.

When we say “coming to terms” in reference to slavery and race, or talk about America “reckoning with” it, it seems more like a refrain than information, like singing “tra la la” or “Hey nonny nonny” in antiquated song lyrics.

But maybe it only seems that way. I sincerely hope that people talking about slavery do so with intention and a belief that change can happen in the world we live in. I hope that they aren’t actually using a kind of liturgical language, in which the incantation that “we haven’t come to terms” is the end in itself, a generalized expression of anger about the past and dissatisfaction with the present, disconnected from any plan for the future.

A real discussion about race needs clarity about, well, the terms of the conversation. The “Roots” remake is, of course, but one occasion that gets people talking about how America has yet to “come to terms with” race, with an implication that a certain shoe has yet to drop, that some kind of judgment day is to come. But as with all long and hotly discussed issues, it has gotten to the point where people often use words more as rhetorical strategies than as vehicles of precise meaning.

Back in the 1970s, I could sense that “Roots” had changed the conversation on race in America by burning slavery into the national mind in a newly urgent way. Here in 2016, I see the fact there is even a remake as evidence that a lesson was well learned and is being passed on.

And I sincerely wonder: what more terms are there to come to? Opinions will differ, but the question is worth asking.

John McWhorter teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy and music history at Columbia University and is the author of “The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

Baby with Zika-related microcephaly born at New Jersey hospital

A baby with Zika virus-related microcephaly was born in New Jersey on Tuesday, hospital officials said.

The baby and mother are stable and doing well following the cesarean delivery, said Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan, director of maternal and fetal medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“The mother is stable, obviously sad, which is the normal emotional reaction given the situation,” he said.

The mother is visiting the United States from Honduras and does not want to be identified.

Doctors first examined her when she came to the medical center Friday. Ultrasound screening revealed the baby had “significant microcephaly,” including calcification and dilated ventricles of the brain, according to Al-Khan.

Tests were done to rule out other causes of these abnormalities.

“When I saw her today, I was pretty much convinced this was a Zika-affected baby,” he said.

CDC confirmation

The mother traveled to the United States from Honduras in hopes of receiving better medical care because she knew her baby may have Zika-related problems, according to Al-Khan.

Doctors believe she was infected during the second trimester of her pregnancy. She experienced a fever and rash, both symptoms of the mosquito-borne disease, which is known to cause the devastating birth defect microcephaly and other neurological disorders.

“When she developed the symptoms, she was seen by an OBGYN who suspected the baby was growth restricted,” he said.

Doctors there coordinated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the woman for the Zika virus.

The samples were sent to the CDC and results confirming the diagnosis of the virus came back Tuesday, according to Al-Khan. However, he said, that was not a factor in her having the C-section.

Close to due date

The mother was close to full-term in her pregnancy.

“There were a few reasons the baby needed to be delivered today, including low amniotic fluid,” he said.

Al-Khan said such babies have “tremendous neurological problems,” and most don’t do well.

In January, health officials confirmed that a baby with severe microcephaly was born in Hawaii to a woman who had become infected with the Zika virus while living in Brazil.

Earlier this month, Puerto Rico health officials confirmed their first case of a fetus with severe microcephaly linked to local transmission of the virus.

Al-Khan said this is believed to be the third case of a baby born with Zika-related microcephaly in the United States, but the first in the northeast. He said there was also a baby born in the south but he did not know details about the case.

There are more than 300 pregnant women with the virus in the United States and its territories who are being followed as part of a national registry.

Information on the outcomes or stages of these pregnancies has not been released. In February, the CDC released a report detailing the first nine pregnancies among Zika-infected women in the United States.

Baltimore police improve video technology in transport vans

— Baltimore police unveiled a newly outfitted transport van fleet on Tuesday that features video recording technology and divided seating compartments.

“It’s an opportunity to get better,” Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said. “With the support of the mayor and the council allowing this to happen, it’s something among may other things we’re doing to make policing better.”

Freddie Gray suffered a fatal neck injury in April 2015 after being shackled without a seat belt in a police van. His death spurred vigorous protests as well as riots that rattled Baltimore.

The city bought 10 new vans and retrofitted 13 others, all of which feature new video recording technology and divided seating compartments, Smith said.

Previously, cameras only provided a live feed of the custody compartments at the rear of the van. Police officers in the van were able to see that live feed, Smith added.

Now, material from those cameras will be archived on the police department’s cloud technology, Smith said.

The new transport vans will have three compartments for detainees and include seat belt straps inmates can hold while handcuffed.

The configuration allows police to separate up to 10 detainees based on situations like adults and juveniles being transported at once.

The Fleet Management Division of Baltimore’s Department of General Service purchased the 10 new vans through a 20-year fleet renewal plan. The funding was in the city pipeline for the 2016 fiscal year.


™ & © 2016 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved

Congressional Art Contest winner depicts police brutality and protests

Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School Senior David Pulphus won this year’s congressional art competition with a painting called “Untitled #1.” The first place winner is from Congressman Lacy Clay’s district (D-Mo.)

Congressional art competition entitled, “An Artistic Discovery,” features a nationwide art contest coordinated by members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The contest recognizes the talents of high school students across America. Over 200 Members of Congress and over 50,000 high schools students have taken part in the popular and competitive program.

Each year, members of Congress put out a call for students to compete in the contest and the resulting work is displayed on the white walls of a long tunnel that connects House Office Buildings to the U.S. Capitol. The work is seen by members of Congress, staffers, lobbyists and the thousands of visitors to the U.S. Capitol complex each year.

Inadvertently, the annual art contest has become a reflection of what’s on the minds of young people in America.

Pulphus’ work is an acrylic painting featuring a downtown street scene with the St. Louis’ iconic arch displayed in the background and three police officers with animal heads, two with guns in hand, and a large group of marchers approaching moving toward the police. The lead marcher carries a sign that says the word “history.” Pulphus’ painting includes several signs, one of which says “Racism Kills,” and another reading “Stop Killing.” On the right you can see man being crucified wearing a graduation cap holding the scales of justice in his hands.

Pulphus,’ “visually stunning acrylic painting on canvas entitled, “Untitled #1” will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol Complex. Pulphus will travel to Washington, DC, courtesy of Southwest Airlines, to unveil his winning entry. The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society,” read a May 6, release from Rep. Clay’s office.

Rep. Clay represents greater St. Louis and Ferguson, Mo., where in August 2014, Black teenager Michael Brown, Jr., was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

During an interview with the NNPA News Wire, Rep. Clay was asked about Pulphus’ work. The Congressman will greet the artist in Washington, D.C. and be present with Pulphus,’ when the painting is presented for display in the U.S. Capitol complex.

“I think that the art work selected for this year — winner of the Congressional art competition has to be the most creative expression that I’ve witnessed over the last 16 years,” Rep. Clay said between votes on the House floor.” I’m very proud of the young man who is the artist responsible for this work he depicts the St. Louis community in the way he envisions it. I respect that and I’m so glad that the judges picked his work number one as the winner.”

Pulphus’ work will travel to Washington, D.C. in a few weeks where he will attend a reception for all of the winners around the country. This year’s first place winner will receive a scholarship, according to Rep. Clay’s office.

The contest is in its 32nd year and this is the 16th year that Congressman Clay has conducted the competition in Missouri’s first Congressional District.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke.

“Roots” remake targets younger audience

— Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose admitted that she questioned why Mark Wolper, the son of the producer of the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots,” would ever consider returning to that story.

The original miniseries, based on Alex Haley’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” won nine Emmy awards and was watched by more than 50 percent of United States population. The miniseries inspired scores of families to trace their own genealogy, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

With the legacy and emotional burden of the original “Roots,” Rose said that she needed to understand the mindsets of the producers, their plan and what they were trying to accomplish with the remake.

When Mark Wolper sat down to watch the 1977 miniseries with his own son, then 16 years-old, he discovered that the pace and style of the original didn’t resonate with younger audiences. Wolper shared what his son told him with actors and producers. His son understood why the story was important, but similar to his father’s music, it didn’t speak to him.

After meeting with the producers, Rose came around.

“I think that this is a story that deserves to be told over and over again. As much as we hear about the Jewish Holocaust, we need to hear about our Holocaust. This particular American Holocaust. The second American Holocaust,” said Rose. “I hope that this is the beginning of the telling of the story of, you know, another America. Of the America that built America. I hope that we continue to tell this story from different angles.”

Rose continued: “We need to tell the story for new eyes, and a [younger generation] used to watching movies and television that move in a faster way and [speak with] a different language.”

Malachi Kirby, the English-born actor who stars as Kunta Kinte, said that the reboot was necessary to make the film more accessible. Producers for the 2016 miniseries relied on a host of historians and research that simply wasn’t available in the 1970s.

“[Roots”] was the best that it could be at it’s time,” said Kirby. “We’ve updated this now, hoping that it will the best that it can be at this time.”

“If there is something that’s keeping the younger generation from accessing that, then I believe we need to find a new way and I’m hoping that’s what we did with this [miniseries],” said Kirby.

Like Rose, Kirby expressed anxiety about appearing in the reboot at first.

“I felt extremely unprepared for this,” said Kirby. “I literally spent most of my time worrying about what I would do if I got the job instead of preparing for it. Then when I finally got it, I didn’t have a clue how to tackle this.”

Kirby turned to prayer to assist him in bringing his interpretation of Kunta Kinte to the screen.

“I came to an understanding that [Kunta Kinte’s] strength and his power would have come from the knowledge of himself and his spirit and so I decided I wanted to take time to get a bit deeper into myself, so I could play him and also strengthen myself in spirit,” said Kirby.

Kirby acknowledged that many people were left feeling very angry and very hurt after watching the “Roots” miniseries in the 1977.

Kirby hopes that the updated “Roots” sparks public dialogue about America’s history of racism and the legacy of slavery and that people gain some form of empowerment, healing and understanding in the process.

“There’s ‘Birth of a Nation’ coming out, there’s ‘Underground’ and [‘Roots’]. There are so many projects coming out about this same narrative, I don’t think that it’s a coincidence,” said Kirby. “There’s a discussion that needs to be happen. I don’t think that people really understand this period of time. I hope that this project brings about more understanding and clarity.”

Rose said that she hopes more Black filmmakers like Nate Parker with “Birth of a Nation,” will get the opportunity to tell stories about this part of America’s history.

The cast also includes Laurence Fishburne as the narrator Alex Haley, Forest Whitaker, Mekhi Phifer, Erica Tazel and the rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris. Mario Van Peebles directed the second episode. Will Packer, the executive producer of “Straight Outta Compton,” also earned production credits on the “Roots” remake.

Rose said that she’s excited that young people of color and others will be inspired to learn more about their own roots after watching the miniseries.

Kirby said that through the experience of filming “Roots” and conversations with actors and staffers on set, he learned the importance of self-knowledge and knowing where you come from.

Kirby, knew that his parents were from Jamaica, but he didn’t know any of his family’s history past his grandparents.

Kirby recently took a DNA test and learned that his roots go back to West Africa.

“Now, I can say it with confidence: ‘That is where I’m from.’ I can go to that land and know that is where my people are from. I can pass that down to my children and that’s just the beginning,” said Kirby.

Kirby continued: “It has already empowered me so much, just rooted and grounded me so much, that little information, and I’m just going to continue on that journey.”