Local family’s jewelry business flourishes

A Baltimore-based jewelry shop is getting noticed. Vintage Stamp Jewels, a family-owned business, which sells a brand of Simply Beautiful jewelry that was featured over the Mother’s Day holiday in May at Macy’s iconic Herald Square location in New York, continues to make a name for itself.

Shane and Monica Sisk

Shane and Monica Sisk

The owners, husband and wife team of Shane and Monica Sisk run their business from their backyard through the Etsy retail website.

“As you can imagine, being a small business operating out of our home, it was quite an honor to have been contacted not only by Macy’s in Herald Square but also in partnership with Etsy wholesale,” Shane Sisk said. “I think our first reaction was one of complete shock and once we picked ourselves up off of the floor, we were of course beyond excited. That feeling then was quickly replaced with a sense of urgency to prepare our company for its biggest opportunity to date.”

Since their beginning in 2011, Vintage Stamp Jewels has emerged as a top-selling Etsy Jewelry shop in Maryland. It’s rated the ninth best-selling jewelry shop in Etsy jewelry sales worldwide.

More recently, their pet lovers’ line of jewelry was displayed at the Nashville Agape Pet Rescue event.

The Sisk’s also collaborated with Lane Bryant, the San Francisco 49ers, Stephen Bishop’s Celebrity Golf Tournament and other organizations.

“We never imagined the small business we run from our home would have the opportunity to sell our simply beautiful jewelry at such a high-profile store like Macy’s in New York,” Sisk said. “While we are honored to have found success on a national level, Maryland is our home and we’re proud of our roots and find joy in giving back to our community and supporting local events.”

The company began with handmade necklaces crafted with vintage postage stamps, thus the name Vintage Stamp Jewels.

“I was pregnant with my third child and I desired to find an outlet for my creativity,” Monica Sisk said in a posting on the couple’s website. “While digging around in our 80-year-old house, I found a huge Tupperware, full to the brim, of vintage postage stamps. The collection was gathered by my late great grandmother and left to gather dust. I saw the beauty in the colors and history of the stamps and decided to create my first piece of jewelry.”

Macy’s has been trying out new moves to bring in new customers and keep up to date with changing shopping habits, according to a recent Forbes Magazine report.

So, in the recently renovated basement of its 1 million-square-foot store in New York, Macy’s in January opened a shop for Etsy, the online marketplace that specializes in homemade items and crafts.

The Etsy shop offers 57 products, including Vintage Stamp Jewels.

“What separates our products from the rest is clearly in two areas,” Shane Sisk said.

“Number one, our price points are for the everyday buyer. We have specifically priced items in such a way that they can be afforded by the bride who is on a budget or a child buying [a gift for his mother] or a husband looking to surprise his wife,” he said.

“Second, is our attention to detail when it comes to hand stamping each personalized item. Hand stamping itself is an art form and we pride ourselves in the ability of our workers to create items that are unique and as close to perfect for handmade items as possible.

“We are trying to erase the stigma that you have to go into high end stores to get quality jewelry. We are also trying to erase the stigma that handmade jewelry cannot be quality and professional,” Sisk said.

The couple hopes to establish relationships both with Macy’s and Etsy wholesale so that they may be able to continue to produce Simply Beautiful jewelry for a long time.

“The competition in the jewelry business as you can imagine is quite strong. However, we believe that that competition is even more prevalent in the Etsy Marketplace and in the local retail stores,” Sisk said. “For that reason we are continuing to develop our brand that is defined by quality affordable handmade jewelry with a commitment to excelling at customer service through clear and timely communication with every single buyer.”

To view their products, visit www.etsy.com/shop/vintagestampjewels.

RAMBLING ROSE: Farewell to Poet’s Athletic Club

Hello my dear friends, I hope you are enjoying this hot, sticky, sweaty weather we have been getting this month. Believe me, this is not a complaint from me, I love it. It is hard for me to breathe sometimes, but I will take 90 plus degrees over any of the winter months. This is my time of the year. I love it.

Kenny Davis & the Melodyaires headline the “Big Gospel Concert” sponsored by the Security Ministry of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 5 p.m. Mt Moriah Baptist Church is located at 2201 Garrison Boulevard in Baltimore. For more information, call David Tisdale at 443-802-6216.

Kenny Davis & the Melodyaires headline the “Big Gospel Concert” sponsored by the Security Ministry of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 5 p.m. Mt Moriah Baptist Church is located at 2201 Garrison Boulevard in Baltimore. For more information, call David Tisdale at 443-802-6216.

I just love the outdoor activities that the community has during this time of the year as well as the crab feasts, the cabarets, the festivals and the concerts. It is so great that you do not have to scrape ice off your windshields and dig your car out of three feet of snow. Yes folks! This is my time of the year.

I want to start out my column this week by saying farewell to the Poet’s Athletic Club, located at 918 E. North Avenue in Baltimore City. This past weekend the club celebrated the beginning and the end of a beautiful, popular, well-respected nostalgic private club who opened their doors 54 years ago.

“It was too hard to continue,” said Carl Beasley, general manager for the last several years. Now having health issues himself, it’s been very difficult for him to run the club with only a few members who are also up in age and have health problems. So many of the dedicated, strong members have passed away. So it was time. Shutting down and leaving with such a great reputation was the key. They have been very successful with their “Friday Nite Karaoke” which became very popular with local want-to-be singers who had excellent voices headed up by Karaoke Girl, Kay who has been with the club for 21 years. Yes, Carl Beasley and Charles Slappey, president who held the fort down for so many years almost alone, I want to say well done. The club will be missed by all who love you. I want to know, what will East Baltimore do now for entertainment?

Moving along, I had a very busy week last week. I attended, covered and signed books at the Liberty Live Concert Festival as I have been doing every Friday since June at the 9900 block of Liberty Road in Randallstown hosted by Kelly and the Liberty Road Business Association. The audience has tripled and takes up most of the parking lot with folding chairs and tables enjoying the fantastic live bands each week. Many vendors are packed in from canopy to canopy around the edge of the parking lot selling everything you can imagine from clothing to wine to paintings. The food is great too, with vendors selling bar-b-que ribs, hot dogs, snowballs and more. Check it out every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It’s okay to bring your coolers and folding chairs. Just make sure you clean up your area and do not leave trash of any kind on the grounds. I will see you there.

Adopted Baltimore blues singer “Big Jesse” Yawn, passed away in Florida on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 from complicated health issue. Jesse was 79 years old. Condolences to his family and the Baltimore Blues Society.

Adopted Baltimore blues singer “Big Jesse” Yawn, passed away in Florida on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 from complicated health issue. Jesse was 79 years old. Condolences to his family and the Baltimore Blues Society.

I also attended “The Meritocrats” Cookout and Picnic last Saturday, which was awesome. I did a book signing there too and sold a lot of books as well as connected with a lot of old friends I haven’t seen in years, such as now the Bishop Jo Jo Ridgeley. It was well attended, the food was delicious, and DJ Sugar Chris played everybody’s favorite oldies all afternoon.

As you may or may not know that my “Boo-Boo” Shorty and I are now caretakers for my darling sister, Maxine. She now lives with us— taking her out of hospice and taking care of her ourselves has been great. She is doing much better, but we have to divide our time coming to your events and making sure she is taken care of. But it is okay— we got this! Remember, Nat King Cole didn’t name me “Rambling Rose” for nothing.

I don’t want to run out of space before I tell you what’s coming up this week. Bilal Ali Productions will host another “Smooth Jazz & R&B Summer Concert on Saturday, July 30, 2016, at the Quality Inn located at 1800 Belmont Avenue starting at 7 p.m. For more information, call 443-540-7797.

Rosalyn Gaines, founder of Kuumba Ensemble is hosting the “7th Annual Jazz/R&B Show under the Stars” on Saturday, August 6, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Lorraine Garden located at 1021 Hartmont Road in Catonsville featuring Kendall Leonard. For more information, call Roz Gaines at 443-413-1470.

Bassist/composer/vocalist, Jeff Denson returns to the East Coast for a special concert featuring Denson with bassoonist Paul Hanson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and drummer Eric Kennedy on Thursday, August 4, 2016, at An Die Musik located at 409 N. Charles Street on the second floor. For tickets information, call 410-385-2638.

Well, my dear friends, I believe this is it. I am out of space, out of time. I’ve got to go and take care of my sister. Remember, if you need me, call me at 410-833-9474 or email me at rosapryor@aol.com. UNTIL THEN, I’M MUSICALLY YOURS.

From boycotts to buying from black-owned businesses

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21

In recent days we have heard much about efforts to demonstrate our frustration and anger about the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Boycotting malls and various stores, depositing funds into black-owned banks, are important and have had some positive effects. We must do more of the same, but in a more strategic and organized manner.

Are black folks, the recipients of $1.2 trillion annually, poor stewards of this tremendous amount of money and, thus, unable to obtain economic empowerment because of our slothfulness? Is that why we find ourselves in “outer darkness,” continuously attempting to “show” others how much money we spend instead of redirecting more of our money to ourselves?

The Parable of the Talents is quite fitting for black people, in general; of course we fit the description of the last steward who buried his talent in the ground and did not multiply it. Unfortunately, we have used our billions in income to buy everything someone else makes, no matter the cost.

If we cannot demonstrate our ability to manage the resources we have— the small things— how will we ever gain authority over the larger things? How will we ever change the behavior of corporations when it comes to supporting us the way they do other groups? If we refuse to shop at Target, for instance, but go to Walmart instead, what’s the gain? What’s the impact of staying away from the mall for a day or two, or even a week, and then return to spend all the money we withheld?

Martin Luther King, Jr., stated in his final speech, “I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a ‘bank-in’ movement in Memphis.” That was 1968. Here in 2016, in response to the murders of two black men some of us are finally getting it. In Atlanta, there was a call for black folks to open accounts at Citizens Trust Bank. My question was: Why would it take two dead brothers to get black people in a majority black city to put their money in a black bank that has been in their community since 1921?

Don’t get me wrong; I am glad to see the effort, and I trust the bank will not be used as an ATM machine where folks put money in on Friday and take it all out on Monday. I am, however, bewildered over someone having to die before we followed through on such a practical solution by Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly fifty years ago. Is this just another fad, another temporary gesture of outrage, or just another feel-good sign of our frustration?

Additionally, I know “for everything there is a season,” and the efforts taking place now in Atlanta at Citizens Bank, started by noted entrepreneur and rapper, Killer Mike, is the right message. Yes, there have been other messengers, but if he is the one that gets our people to respond, not only do I applaud our people, I also applaud Killer Mike. I had a chance to speak with him on the Carl Nelson radio show and he impressed me as a brother who is not egotistical and not concerned about being the HNIC in this issue. He was very respectful, and open to learning more about the history of his efforts and willing to listen to recommendations. I appreciated that and look forward to working with him.

Back to the stewardship issue and how it relates to our reactions not only to police shootings of black people, but also to our overall position in this country. Boycotts, if sustained, can work, but “work” to do what? Yes, they may turn the tide of recalcitrant corporations that only care about our dollars, which we give to them without reciprocity.

However, the “work” that any economic sanction effort should and must produce is economic empowerment for black people. Our efforts cannot be centered on hurting someone else; they must be done in an effort to help ourselves. Thus, we must have a strategic plan, and an organized movement to redirect the money we withhold back to our own businesses as much as possible.

As for depositing our money in black banks, we must do our due diligence, meet and develop relationships with bank managers, and I would recommend doing what the Collective Banking Group (Now called the “Collective

Empowerment Group”) did back in 1995 up to this present day. The group wrote covenant agreements with the banks and held them accountable for what they said they would do for their members in return for their deposits.

We must practice good stewardship if we want to be empowered.

James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. His latest book, “Black Dollars Matter! Teach your dollars how to make more sense,” is available at www.Blackonomics.com.

Families are tapping more scholarships and grants to pay for college

— Families spent less out-of-pocket for college in academic year 2015-16 compared to last year, as they took advantage of more scholarships and grants to foot the bill, according to “How America Pays for College 2016,” the national study from Sallie Mae, the country’s largest private student lender, and Ipsos, a global independent market research company.

Scholarships and grants covered 34 percent of college costs, according to the report, the largest percentage of any resource over the last five years. Approximately, half of families used a scholarship or grant to help pay for college.

“Families wrote smaller checks for college this year as they looked less to their wallets and more toward free money to make college happen,” says Raymond Quinlan, chairman and chief executive officer, Sallie Mae, a company focused on helping families save, plan and pay for college. “Scholarships and grants have become an increasingly important part of the pay-for-college mix, and it’s encouraging to see organizations, schools, and the government stepping up to provide them.”

• Bachelor’s: the new norm: Families are firmly in agreement on the value of college: 98 percent believe it’s an investment in their student’s future and 90 percent expect their student to earn a bachelor’s degree. What’s more, 54 percent of families expect their student to earn a graduate degree.

Families are putting their money where their mouth is — the vast majority are willing to stretch financially to make college happen.

• Making college more affordable: Nearly all families took at least one cost-saving measure, while most took five or more. These measures include cutting personal spending, working while in school, living at home, and taking accelerated coursework to graduate faster.

Additionally, four in five students attended college in their home state, and one in three started at community college. Eighty-five percent of families completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

• Borrowing not a forgone conclusion: Fewer than half of families borrowed last year. In fact, the proportions of funding from family savings and income and scholarships and grants were twice as high as the proportion of funds borrowed. Student borrowing paid 13 percent of all college costs, down from 16 percent last year.

• Cost important, but not top factor: Sixty-seven percent of families narrow college choices based on cost, but when it comes to making the final decision, this takes a back seat. Primary reasons in choosing a college are split evenly between academic program and personal choice, which includes campus culture, extracurricular activities and student population. Cost ranked third at 27 percent.

• Planning still pays off: Only 40 percent of families have a plan to pay for college — but in families with plans, students are more likely to pursue bachelor’s degrees, there is more willingness and ability to spend on college, and students borrow 40 percent less than those from families without plans.

For the complete report, visit SallieMae.com/HowAmericaPaysForCollege. Join the conversation using #HowAmericaPays. To learn more about planning for college, visit Salliemae.com/PlanforCollege.

“The results of this important annual study shed light on critical financial decisions families are making for and with their college-bound students,” said Julia Clark, senior vice president at Ipsos Public Affairs. “The changing roles that college cost, borrowing, and savings play in this process are essential to understand as key factors in the broader higher education landscape.”

ShopRite to host Barbecue Cook Off in Parkville, Howard Park

For the grill master of the neighborhood who boasts that their barbecue is always the summer’s main event, Klein’s ShopRite of Baltimore is hosting its first Barbecue Ribs Cook Off.

The cook off will be held at two locations, the first is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, 2016, in the Howard Park ShopRite parking lot located at 4601 Liberty Heights Avenue in Baltimore City.

The second is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Parkville ShopRite parking lot and grounds located at 2401 Cleanleigh Drive.

“It’s designed to be a feel good community day,” said organizer the Rev. Elisha B. Morris, a community engagement manager with UpLift Solutions, a national nonprofit organization that supports food businesses, government, and nonprofits to create sustainable environments for underserved communities. “ShopRite is doing an amazing thing and everyone is welcome,” Morris said, adding that they are seeking those who can barbecue ribs on the grill and those who think their barbecue is simply the best.

The fee to register for the contest is $25 with cash prizes of $500 for first place; $300 for second place; and $200 for the cook who finishes third in the contest.

Winners will also receive a trophy and a panel of judges for the contest include those from Baltimore and surrounding counties.

Morris said small business and local entrepreneurs may secure a limited number of spaces at the event for $20 and proceeds from the event are earmarked for youth programs in communities of the ShopRite supermarkets.

The event will also include various games, entertainment and a DJ and churches may enter a contestant in the cook off as well as block and civic clubs and police and fire companies.

“This is about community building,” Morris said. “The winners get prizes and bragging rights about their barbecue for at least one year.”

Morris noted the impact ShopRite has already had in the communities the store serves.

In 2014, ShopRite opened in Howard Park offering a wide array of groceries and fresh produce, meat, seafood, a fresh bakeshop, natural, organic and gluten-free products and a full-service pharmacy.

It also features ethnic foods and the convenience of freshly prepared foods for quick and easy meals, including hot entrees and side dishes, hearty soups, rotisserie and fire grilled chicken and many ready-to-heat items.

The location also brought hundreds of new jobs to the community and ShopRite has be an integral part of the improvements made to the landscape of Liberty Heights Avenue.

The neighborhood had been without a grocery store for more than a dozen years and until ShopRite moved in, the area had great difficulty attracting grocers and developers.

The supermarket has provided residents with a convenient place to shop and already has helped to breathe new life into a once run-down commercial strip along the avenue. The 56,000-square-foot ShopRite of Perring Crossing, in the 2400 block of Cleanleigh Drive in Parkville, opened in 2012 and fills the space previously occupied by a SuperFresh grocery store.

The former store was gutted entirely and renovations vastly improved what had been an eyesore in the community, not to mention an empty location that had taken away the area’s lone supermarket.

“ShopRite has been really good for the community. Nothing was here and now we have a great place to shop,” Morris said.

And, now places to have a barbecue cook off.

“This only makes the stores friendlier to the community. We will make an entire entrepreneur village for the events,” he said. “There are many entrepreneurs who work out of their homes or don’t have an office and these events also mean they can come out and set up and have a place for their businesses for the day which will allow everyone to know they exists or know more about their business.”

For more information about ShopRite’s Barbecue Cook Off, contact AzusaMarketingLLC@aol.com or 215-268-3808.

Heroes at Home, Rebuilding Together team up to renovate veteran’s home

This spring marks the ninth year that Rebuilding Together and Sears have joined forces for the “Heroes at Home” program. Volunteers from Rebuilding Together Baltimore and the Sears “Heroes at Home” program completed renovations of Baltimore U.S. Army veteran Charles Faison’s home on July 14, 2016.

Charles Faison is a 74-year-old United States Army veteran who has lived in his home for 50 years. At the age of 19, he decided to enlist in the army. He worked in ordinance repairing military equipment and as a cook, and in 1963, he was transferred from active duty to reserve. He served in the reserves for 30 years and was ranked as sergeant first class at the time of his discharge. After leaving active duty, Faison found a job at General Motors where he worked for 40 years until he became sick. Faison has three children and nine grandchildren. His son recently retired from the Air Force and his grandson will also be joining the Air Force.

The Turner Station neighborhood, where Faison lives, was selected as a target neighborhood for Rebuilding Together Baltimore for 2016 and 2017. With the organization’s support, they will assist 30 to 40 homeowners in the neighborhood over the next two years and also complete at least ten community beautification projects. This work will both help individual homeowners and revitalize the community.

Sears Heroes at Home has raised nearly $20 million in nine years. Charles Faison’s renovation is one of the hundreds of projects that are made possible through generous customer donations both in-store and online at Sears. Now through July 30, Sears is encouraging customers to give back to the men and women who served our country by donating to Heroes at Home at their local Sears store or online at sears.com/heroesathome.

Tips to make a dorm room a home

— College bound? Dorm room comfort is crucial for health, happiness and academic success. Luckily, there are ways to create personalized, functional spaces within any budget.

The college shopping experts at Bed Bath & Beyond are offering tips to help.

Create Your Space

Students can showcase their style and make it home by adding an area rug, decorative pillows and throw blanket for extra warmth. Window panels, tapestries, artwork and mirrors pull the room together.

Add string-lights for atmosphere, or try an Étagère Floor Lamp with Charging Station to provide extra light for studying. Ample seating is always good for when friends pop in: consider chairs that fold when not in use to save space.

Standard-issue dorm mattresses are often uncomfortable. Build a better bed with a mattress pad, memory foam topper or fiberbed. Then, guard against allergens and spills with a mattress protector. Most dorms require twin extra-long (TXL) sheets, which are 5” longer than normal twin sheets. Remember, students will need an extra set for laundry day.

College dorm rooms are notorious for being small. Use storage and organizational systems under the bed, over the door and in the closet. For instance, an over-the-door shoe organizer can store rolled up T-shirts, cosmetics, toiletries and school supplies. Take advantage of vertical closet space to make more room with a Double Hang Closet Rod and Slim Grips Hangers.

Use Free Resources

Some retailers provide a wealth of resources to prepare college-bound shoppers for campus life.

For example, Bed Bath & Beyond provides college-specific information, including tailored lists of what students can and can’t bring. This information is available on the School Information Pages, which can be accessed at bedbathandbeyond.com/shopforcollege under “Find Your School’s Info,” or in-store with an associate.

Whether living on- or off-campus, the store-provided checklist is handy, breaking down essentials. High school graduates can create a registry online or in-store to share with family and friends, as well as with roommates in order to avoid duplicates.

A free service, “Pack & Hold,” allows students to shop for items at a store near home for convenient pick-up at a location closer to campus. This is especially beneficial for students traveling far to school. Students can also prepare early by shopping online and selecting a ship date at checkout. Consider attending student shopping events and visiting bedbathandbeyond.com/shopforcollege to schedule an appointment with a college expert.

Power Up

Staying powered is crucial these days. Multi-functional bed risers featuring an AC outlet and USB charger maximize under-bed space while providing a grounded charging station.

Charge and protect electrical devices from voltage spikes with a surge protector. For example, the Desk Clamp Surge Protector features four regular outlets, two transformer-plug outlets and two USB ports, and clips to the edge of a desk for easy access.

At college, coffee is liquid gold. Whether pounding grounds late-night or sipping in the AM, students should consider a French Press, Pour Over, Automatic Coffee Maker or Single Serve Coffee Maker for their dorm. Don’t forget the travel mug!

With a few simple steps, you can prepare for a great year ahead by creating a dorm room that feels like home.

Freddie Gray case: All charges dropped against remaining officers

[Breaking news update, published at 11:12 a.m. ET]

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby slammed the way police handled their investigation into Freddie Gray’s death. “There were individual police officers that were witnesses to the case, yet were part of the investigative team, interrogations that were conducted without asking the most poignant questions, lead detectives that were completely uncooperative and started a counter-investigation to disprove the state’s case,” Mosby said.

[Breaking news update, published at 11:08 a.m. ET]

“For those that believe that I’m anti-police, it’s simply not the case. I’m anti-police brutality. And I need not remind you that the only loss — and the greatest loss — in all of this was that of Freddie Gray’s life,” Mosby told reporters Wednesday after prosecutors announced they were dropping charges. “My office has never wavered in our commitment to seeking justice on his behalf,” she added.

[Original story, published at 9:48 a.m. ET]

Prosecutors are dropping charges against the three remaining Baltimore police officers facing trial in connection with Freddie Gray’s death.

Gray, then 25, died after sustaining a neck injury while in police custody in April 2015. Three of the six officers charged in the case had already been acquitted.

A pretrial hearing for Officer Garrett Miller had been set for Wednesday. Trials for Officers Alicia White and William Porter had been scheduled for the fall.

Baltimore Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow made the request to drop charges against them in court Wednesday.

Three officers were acquitted in the case: Edward Nero, a bike officer involved in the initial police encounter with Gray; Caesar Goodson, who drove the van that transported Gray; and Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer charged in connection with Gray’s death.

A retrial against Porter had been scheduled after a jury deadlocked in the case against him in December.

Gray’s death became a symbol of the black community’s mistrust of police and triggered days of protests and riots in Baltimore. The city became a focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement and the nationwide debate on excessive police force.

Wednesday’s announcement comes more than a year after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the officers would be charged. Her statements drew praise from some who admired how swiftly she took on the case, and criticism from others who said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the officers.

CNN’s Carolyn Sung reported from Baltimore, and CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Amanda Wills contributed to this report.

5 Tips to make caring for babies and toddlers easier

Caring for a baby or toddler is not easy, but today’s millennial parents have more options to help make the job easier.

Parents of young children can take a cue from special events like Babypalooza, which brings together top baby brands, parenting influencers and media to showcase the latest products and trends for new parents. Karyn Ravin, the presenter of Babypalooza, shares an inside look at the biggest highlights from this year’s event.

1. Embrace mealtime messes

Parents are encouraged to embrace the mess at mealtime when little ones are trying new foods. It can inspire a child’s creativity and develop their sensory skills, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Inspired by parents who stress the mess, Fisher-Price created the new 4-in-1 Total Clean High Chair, complete with a seat and tray that actually fit in the dishwasher, as well as other easy-to-clean features.

2. Get high-tech with car seat safety

When installed correctly, car seats save lives, yet four out of five times seats are not installed properly and there is not an easy way to check and monitor the seat over time — until now. The brand new 4moms self-installing car seat will be available this fall. It installs itself by automatically leveling and tensioning. It then continuously monitors its status during use to ensure it is always installed correctly and sends alerts to your phone if anything needs to be adjusted.

3. Kick some rash

Eighty-two percent of millennial parents wish they had more tricks up their sleeve to prevent diaper rash, according to a recent survey by Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, the maker of rash relief formulas that are fast acting without harsh ingredients. Free from parabens, preservatives, phthalates and talc, and formulated by pharmacist George Boudreaux, this product is a trusted way to treat and prevent diaper rash.

4. Carry to connect.

According to experts, there are many benefits in carrying your baby, from emotional development, to advances in learning, social abilities and IQ. Look for smart carrier designs that make multi-tasking while holding your baby easier, such as the Baby K’tan, a versatile baby carrier that slips on like a shirt and fits like a wrap.

5. Find your formula

It is important to remember that nutrition is a not a one-size-fits-all solution but there are healthy options for all different types of needs. For parents concerned about the digestive comfort and nutritional needs of their baby when it comes time to wean, Kabrita offers a new and unique solution based on naturally easy to digest goat milk. Kabrita formula, yogurt and fruit pouches are non-GMO, gentle, and taste great.

For more information about this year’s top baby trends, visit Facebook.com/BabypaloozaNYC. Stay on top of new innovations that help to ease the stress of parenting.

Cleveland’s RNC was the whitest convention I’ve ever attended

— As I boarded my return flight to D.C. from last week’s Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio, I began to reflect on what I saw and I began to ponder how I could put to paper my experiences in this column.

Out of nowhere, the words of Charles Dickens from his novel “A Tale of Two Cities,” popped into my head:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Once again the Republican Party should be thoroughly ashamed at having only about 18 and 50 Black and Hispanic delegates, respectively (less than five percent), at the convention; though the party has not released any official numbers.

This was by far the “Whitest” convention I have ever attended; but the party seems to care very little about this fact.

I attended several Latino sponsored breakfasts and luncheons with members of Congress or top aides from the Trump campaign as speakers. There were zero Black Republican hosted breakfasts or luncheons, but there was an evening party hosted by Black Republicans.

This again shows the weakness of Black Republicans within the party. This can’t be blamed on White folks in the party. This is an indictment of how little juice and foresight Blacks have within the party.

Under the current party leadership, I would prefer to have no Blacks on staff because the few they have are totally incapable of producing any results. So why waste the money to hire people who are totally incompetent?

But, then again, this is exactly the result the party wants. So they hire Blacks who have no connection to the Black community, or any interest in the Black community, or any understanding of strategic communications. Thus, they get the results they wanted all along—nothing. But since they hired a few Blacks, in the party’s mind, they can’t be called racist. I call this buying “race insurance.”

I had several well-known Blacks from sports, entertainment, Hollywood, and business interested in attending the convention,; but I decided not to bring them because the party had no interest in receiving them properly.

The last time I checked, I was not an employee of the RNC, but yet I had tons of media outlets calling me because they couldn’t get Black staffers to return their calls or help them resolve logistical issues they encountered at the convention, but yet they had time to hang out at several parties until the wee hours of the morning.

I arranged for many of the Black delegates to be interviewed by major media outlets, because the RNC staff proved yet again to be non-responsive to media inquiries. Black surrogates during the convention were almost non-existent and Republican party leaders continue to wonder why they get no traction in the Black community.

I challenge the RNC to produce clippings of all interviews of Black surrogates from last week. There was absolutely no media strategy leading into the convention, during the convention or post-convention. This is media relations 101 and the party failed the course miserably.

The Black staffers at the RNC are so incompetent that last month they sent out an e-mail to reporters bragging about the diversity of the delegates at this year’s convention, highlighting the whopping 18 total Black delegates out of a total of 2,472. I am not joking. This actually happened.

Do Black Republicans have no pride at all? I would be ashamed to be paid for a job and deliver nothing of any substance.

If there is to be a shift in Black loyalties within the body politic, it won’t be because of the RNC. The RNC has no interest and to be honest, no capacity to substantively engage with the Black community.

Any meaningful change in the participation rate of Blacks within the party will be forced upon the RNC from the outside.

If the RNC were run like a business, the whole staff would be summarily fired for total incompetence. The astonishing thing is that none of our party leadership even publically acknowledged the “Whiteness” of our convention.

Out of an arena capacity of approximately 20,000 people, you probably had fewer than 200 Blacks and Latinos, that includes delegates and spectators.

Trump has a window of about 30 days to address the issue of the Black voter. If he doesn’t, he will definitely have a more difficult path to victory come November.

It is truly the best of times and the worst of times for Black Republicans.

Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 Super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party. BAFBF focuses on the Black entrepreneur. For more information about BAFBF, visit www.bafbf.org. You can follow Raynard on Twitter @Raynard1223.