Rihanna and Lupita movie a dream come true

— Who needs a Hollywood pitch meeting when you’ve got the internet?

A film that fans literally willed to happen is coming to fruition.

A source close to the production confirmed to CNN there’s a forthcoming film starring Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o, helmed by “Selma” director Ava DuVernay and written by “Insecure” star Issa Rae.

Things are still in the early stages, but here’s why we can thank Twitter for this bit of #BlackGirlMagic.

It all began in April, when a photo of Rihanna and Nyong’o taken at a 2014 fashion show started making the rounds with the caption, “They look like they’re in a heist movie with Rihanna as the tough-as-nails leader/master thief and Lupita as the genius computer hacker.”

Soon Twitter users were running with the idea, suggesting DuVernay to direct and Rae to write.

Nyong’o, an Oscar-winning actress, caught wind of the chatter and counted herself in via tweet, reaching out to Rihanna to see if she was down.

Three days later, the Grammy-winning singer tweeted that she was indeed willing to join.

That left DuVernay and Rae, who quickly agreed.

“Lights set. Camera’s up,” DuVernay tweeted. “Ready to call action for these #queens.”

Rae simply let a gif of a cat frantically typing speak for her.

Rihanna retweeted Rae saying, “Issa possibility.”

On Monday, DuVernay tweeted a link to a story saying Netflix had picked up the heist film.

“We deserve nice things,” the director wrote in her tweet with an emoji of fingers making the peace sign.

No word yet on when production is set to start.

Baltimore City Students to Prepare for College and Career at Local Arts Organizations with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies

— The Bloomberg Arts Internship program is coming to Baltimore this summer, placing 25 Baltimore City rising seniors in paid internships at 14 local arts and cultural institutions. Students will participate in a rigorous six-week program, providing crucial college and career readiness preparation through hands-on, real world workplace experiences and professional development.

Managed by Young Audiences and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA), the program includes work at an arts organization, visits to arts and cultural organizations, and professional development training. The Baltimore Bloomberg Arts Internship Program runs June 20-August 4, with Baltimore being the third city to host the program along with New York City and Philadelphia.

Participating institutions include performing arts centers focusing on dance and music, art museums, libraries as well as film festivals and television studios.

The organizations welcoming Bloomberg Arts Interns include:

  • Baltimore Center Stage

  • Baltimore Museum of Art

  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

  • Center for Innovation, Research and Creativity in the Arts (CIRCA) – UMBC

  • Dance & BMore

  • Everyman Theatre

  • Hippodrome Foundation, Inc.

  • Maryland Film Festival

  • Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

  • Maryland Public Television

  • Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University

  • Port Discovery Children’s Museum

  • The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture

  • Sheridan Libraries and University Museums, Johns Hopkins University

“Through our arts internship program, we’re working to change how the next generation of employees and leaders perceive cultural institutions’ contributions to a city’s workforce, economy, and identity,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “As part of the program, interns will develop critical workforce skills at select non-profit cultural organizations, meet with professionals in the field, and attend career and college readiness workshops as part of their summer experience. We are delighted to expand this program to Baltimore.”

The 25 Bloomberg Arts Internships interns were selected through a multi-step application and interview process. They will work with arts organizations three days a week, go on field trips to cultural institutions once a week, and engage in professional development trainings once a week. Through the internships and trainings, students will develop organizational work plans, begin their college applications, write analyses of art performances, and complete final projects on their experiences. Internship focuses vary across organizations to include production, education, development, community engagement, artist engagement, video, music, administration and more.

“The arts have the power to transform lives and the futures of students in our community,” said Stacie Sanders, Young Audiences Executive Director. “Through their generous investment in Baltimore, it is clear that Bloomberg Philanthropies not only agrees, but also can see the vibrant, growing community of artists and organizations that make this city unique. We’re thrilled to coordinate this wonderful opportunity, providing Baltimore students with experiences showing the arts as a viable career pathway and passion. We can not wait to see how this program impacts the ideas and dreams of these interns.”

“GBCA is excited to be part of this new project,” said Jeannie Howe, GBCA Executive Director. “The Bloomberg Arts Internships will help young people develop workforce and college preparation skills, and support an equitable pipeline for talented young people interested in careers in arts and culture. The cohort in turn, many of whom are of color, will help strengthen the equity and inclusion of Baltimore’s wonderful and diverse arts organizations.”

Baltimore Bloomberg Arts Interns come from schools across the city, including REACH! Partnership School, Baltimore City College, Western High School, Ben Franklin High School, Patterson High School, Baltimore School for the Arts, City Neighbors Charter School, Baltimore Design School, Digital Harbor High School, Bard High School Early College, and Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:

Bloomberg Philanthropies works in more than 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2016, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed over half a billion dollars. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.

About Young Audiences/Arts for Learning:

Started in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is the nation’s largest arts-in- education provider. As the

Maryland affiliate, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning (YA) is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally diverse arts programs. Through Young Audiences, professional artists from all disciplines partner with leaders and schools for over 7,000 hands on arts learning experiences that reach more than 190,000 Maryland students. Young Audiences envisions a Maryland where the arts are valued for their capacity to transform lives, and where every student is immersed in opportunities to imagine, to create, and to realize their full potential.

About Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance:

The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) is a membership and service organization that nurtures and promotes a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable arts and cultural community essential to the region’s economic success and quality of life. Created by cultural leaders and artists in 2001 to work toward common goals, GBCA convenes the sector around critical issues of strategic importance. Programming includes grants and awards for artists, as well as advocacy, professional development, tools for marketing, capacity building, while ensuring that the creative economy thrives and is recognized for its many contributions to the region’s economic success and vitality. Membership includes arts, culture, history, heritage, humanities organizations, attractions and artists in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard counties in Maryland.

Cloud Computing takes Preakness as Derby winner Always Dreaming fades

— Cloud Computing, ridden by Javier Castellano, finished first in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, denying Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming a chance to capture horse racing’s Triple Crown.

“Today is a special day,” Castellano told broadcaster NBC just after the race. “I’m so happy, really happy.”

Cloud Computing, a 13-1 betting choice, crossed the finish line just a head in front of Classic Empire, the second-place horse. The winning time was 1:55.98.

Always Dreaming, which led much of the race, finished well back after fading down the stretch at Pimlico Race Course near Baltimore. He was eighth, almost 14 lengths behind the winner.

Cloud Computing is the fourth horse in 34 years to win the Preakness after not running in the Kentucky Derby.

“I’m not going to dispute the fact that we brought in a fresh horse — that was part of our strategy,” trainer Chad Brown said.

It was the first victory in a Triple Crown race for Brown.

“It’s a dream come true. It’s a culmination of a lot of hard work,” he said.

Always Dreaming and Classic Empire broke well from the gate and galloped to the lead with Always Dreaming along the rail and Classic Empire on his shoulder. Many of the record crowd of 140,327 were sure it was a two-horse race as the field went down the backstretch.

The focus grew on Classic Empire, which finished fourth at the Kentucky Derby, as the colt raced past Always Dreaming in the final turn and took a significant lead.

Cloud Computing sat third at each quarter pole, waiting for the home stretch to make a move.

The Klaravich Stables entry, having not raced in six weeks, had enough to run down Classic Empire and edge him at the line.

The final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes on June 10 in Elmont, New York. Brown indicated that it has not been determined whether Cloud Computing will race.

“It’s possible,” he said.

Myron Rolle’s journey from NFL to neurosurgery

— When Myron Rolle, 30, begins his neurosurgery residency at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in June, he will be making history.

Before him, “there hasn’t really been anybody who I saw doing NFL and neurosurgery,” the 6-foot-2 former NFL player said in an interview with CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Now, Rolle will be treating patients and training amid concerns and contention within the medical field about the safety of American football. He wants to help his two worlds — medicine and football — find common ground, he said.

Not until “toward the end of my career, I started to think about concussions and what the effects of repetitive concussions can do,” he said.

“Football has done so much for me, given me friends, family, given me life lessons that now I can use in the operating room or just as a leader,” he said. “I would hate to see it go, and I would love to see it around.”

A blow to the head, such as what might be experienced during a tackle in a football game, can cause a concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury.

Rolle believes he has a duty to talk to younger players about safely playing the sport he loves.

“The fundamentals have to be emphasized: tackling the correct way. Having the right equipment. Making sure that you don’t have very violent practices or contact practices,” said Rolle, who sees brain injuries in sports and pediatrics as specialties of interest.

“I will tell you in person, ‘Yes, play, but be careful; be safe, and understand some of these things that need to go into it for you to enjoy it,’ ” he said.

The tight-knit Rolle brothers

Rolle’s interest in both neuroscience and football started at a young age, with help from his four older brothers: Marchant, Marvis, Mordecai and McKinley.

He was in the fifth grade when he read the book “Gifted Hands” by Dr. Ben Carson, which sparked his interest in medicine. Since then, Rolle said, neurosurgeon Carson has become something of a mentor.

Their father, Whitney Rolle, said Myron’s oldest brother, Marchant, gave Myron the book.

“That kind of propelled him into that area,” Whitney said.

While Marchant gave Myron books to read, his third oldest brother, Mordecai, taught him the game of football.

Myron quickly excelled on the field, and McKinley, the brother closest in age to Myron, often trained with him. Now, McKinley is a high school football coach and teacher in Florida, where he also serves as Myron’s business manager.

Growing up, Whitney said, Myron’s older brothers not only encouraged him to pursue his dreams, they also had his back.

When the boys were children, “they put dishwashing liquid in the aquarium, and let me tell you, the entire living room was in bubbles,” Whitney said, chuckling at the memory.

At the time, Whitney repeatedly asked his sons who was behind the bubble prank. No one answered.

“I threatened them. I told them I was going to punish them, and they would not tell on each other. Nobody would squeal,” Whitney said.

“As much as I was being tough on them, I was in the back of my mind smiling to see how they just stick together,” he said. “I’ve always enforced that they care for each other. They support each other.”

Whitney and his wife, Beverly, moved with the oldest three boys from the Bahamas to the United States in 1980, when Whitney was transferred to work at Citibank.

Then came two more sons. By the time Myron was born in 1986, the family had settled into a middle-class life in New Jersey.

He points to his parents, and the sacrifices they made to provide for him and his brothers, as a source of his motivation today.

“When I was younger, trying to afford football camps, my parents would sometimes have to miss bills,” he said. “They sacrificed these things for me because they saw I had a goal.

“My repayment for that sacrifice is to continue to move forward, be the best I possibly can be, whether that’s on the football field when I played or now as a future neurosurgeon.”

From suiting up to scrubbing up

Among all of Rolle’s efforts to be the best he can be, he points to November 22, 2008, as the day when he felt the most proud.

On that day, Rolle — then a student athlete at Florida State University — had to be in Birmingham, Alabama, to interview as a Rhodes Scholar finalist. At the same time, he was expected to play in a game against the University of Maryland in College Park.

Dating back to 1904, Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and among the most prestigious international fellowship awards in the world. Each year, only 32 American students are selected as Rhodes Scholars to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford in England.

To interview, Rolle took a quick flight to Birmingham. After he completed the two-hour interview, he said, he waited another hour or so to receive the results.

“The judges came out and said that I won the scholarship,” Rolle said, but he didn’t have much time to celebrate. He still had a game to play.

“I got on a plane from Alabama to Maryland, got to the game around the second quarter,” he said.

McKinley, the brother closest in age, was in the press box when Rolle arrived at the stadium in Maryland. Their other family members were in the stands.

“I just remember there was so much emotion going through our family at that time,” McKinley said.

When Rolle arrived at the stadium, he received a standing ovation. Then, on that chilly November night, his team won the game, 37-3.

Rolle postponed his NFL career for a year to complete his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, where he earned a master’s degree in medical anthropology.

He then went on to play safety for the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring in 2013 to attend the Florida State University College of Medicine. He graduates this weekend.

“I’m glad that I walked into my purpose,” Rolle said. “I’m glad that I walked into something that was a smooth transition from football.”

He has already become something of a family doctor, McKinley said. If a relative suffers an injury or illness, it’s likely Rolle will be summoned for help.

“I know he’s going to be one of the best neurosurgeons in the world,” McKinley said. “Myron has worked for everything and has earned everything that has happened to him.”

McKinley recalled moments when he would walk downstairs in the middle of the night and see Myron studying at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.

“He studied for this, and he has prepared for it,” McKinley said.

After interviewing Rolle, Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, said that such a strong work ethic will be needed in his future.

“There’s no question Myron will probably be working harder than he’s ever worked in his life for the next seven years, despite having been in the NFL and training as a professional athlete,” Gupta said. “I think, however, it is all about immersing yourself in your task, and Myron has shown that he’s nearly superhuman at doing that. I think he unquestionably has a bright future as a neurosurgeon.”

Could a Michigan to Baltimore pipeline be brewing?

— The Baltimore Ravens have added four players from the University of Michigan over the last two years. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh are brothers who once faced each other in the Super Bowl.

The Harbaugh brothers have always competed with each other, starting from an early age. Now that Jim is in the college ranks, he is able to get players ready for the NFL, including his older brother’s team.

Defensive end Chris Wormley; defensive tackle Willie Henry; outside linebacker Brennen Beyer; and punter Kenny Allen have all made the move from Michigan to the Ravens in the last two years.

Wormley spoke about the similarities between the Harbaugh brothers after rookie minicamp a couple weeks ago.

“They both are hard-working coaches. There are a lot of similarities I see on the defensive side of the ball,” Wormley said during his press conference. “We work hard. The first day here was an hour-and-a-half, which was a little shorter than our four-hour practices with coach Harbaugh at Michigan, but it felt good to be back, and I could see a lot of similarities.”

Jim is a former NFL quarterback, having played for a variety of teams, most notably the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. While his background is on the offensive side of the ball, Wormley says he saw a lot of similarities on defense.

“There are a lot of similarities— a lot of the same calls, a lot of the same defenses,” Wormley explained. “When you see those words, and you see those defenses, it makes it a little bit easier to pick up on it and the adjustments in play calls are helpful.”

Henry made the jump from Michigan to Baltimore before Wormley, so he was able to give him a snapshot of what to expect. Wormley shared some of the things Henry told him.

“He said they go to work every day,” Wormley mentioned. “He said it is like Michigan 2.0, which is something that I am used to, which means we go to work every day. Every day, we work hard. We are going to stop the run on defense and then we are going to get after them on the pass. It is something I am looking forward to, whatever role my role may be.”

It is surprising that Baltimore didn’t add either of the Michigan wide receivers this season. The Ravens are in need of help at wideout, especially because of Steve Smith Sr.’s retirement.

Both Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson were highly productive under Harbaugh at Michigan. Although the Ravens defense has been bolstered by the addition of former Michigan players, there is a good chance the offense will benefit as well in the coming years.

Essex High School student raises awareness about lupus

— Like the estimated 1.5 million Americans who have lupus or some form of the illness, Essex High School student Kayura Gwynn admitted confusion and sadness when doctors first diagnosed her a little more than three years ago.

“I had never heard of lupus before so the diagnosis was scary and strange,” said Kayura, now 15. “I was sad because I had gone so long not even realizing my body was showing signs of sickness.”

There are four different forms of the invisible autoimmune disease that doctors find difficult to diagnose, according to medical experts.

Kayura Gwynn (middle) in Washington, D.C. with her father Marcel Gwynn (left) his wife Jen speaking with Walter Gonzales (across the table) Legislative Director in Representative Dutch Ruppersberger's (D-MD) office.

Courtesy Photo

Kayura Gwynn (middle) in Washington, D.C. with her father Marcel Gwynn (left) his wife Jen speaking with Walter Gonzales (across the table) Legislative Director in Representative Dutch Ruppersberger’s (D-MD) office.

Systemic lupus, wherein about half of the cases a major organ or tissue in the body, like the heart, lungs, kidneys or brain are affected, counts as a popular form, while cutaneous lupus, which affects just the skin, accounts for approximately 10 percent of all cases.

Drug-induced lupus also accounts for 10 percent of all cases and is caused by high doses of certain medications and finally, neonatal lupus is a rare condition in which the mother’s antibodies affect the fetus.

The disease is two to three times more prevalent among female minorities than white women and recent research indicated that lupus affects one in 537 young African-American women.

“At the time of the diagnosis, we were treating Kayura at a dermatologist for what we thought was acne,” said Marcel Gwynn, Kayura’s father.

“After about four months or so with no improvement, they did a biopsy and Kayura hit on four of the seven lupus makers,” he said. “My wife called me and told me, and I cried. I was scared because I knew nothing about lupus and I was angry because I felt like it was my fault and that my daughter didn’t deserve this.”

However, Kayura and her family have been fighting to defeat the disease, not just for her but for everyone.

While she still fights fatigue, a common symptom of lupus that makes it difficult to attend school or socialize with friends, Kayura has been on a mission to educate those with a lack of knowledge, including teachers and classmates.

Last Saturday, she joined hundreds of Baltimore residents for the Lupus Research Alliance’s “Walk with Us to Cure Lupus” at Rash Field in the Inner Harbor to raise funds for research.

Kayura also started an advocacy club at her school after visiting Washington on behalf of the Lupus Research Alliance. After grabbing the attention of some lawmakers, Kayura wanted to help her peers better understand lupus.

“You don’t look sick. I hate when people tell me this because even if I don’t look sick, inside I am exhausted and sick to the point where I don’t want to do anything at all,” she said. “But I still try to do as much as I can, even if I don’t feel up to par.”

The perception of laziness has been an issue she’s been forced to deal with because of the extreme fatigue the disease causes, her father said.

“Often, she cannot participate in a lot of things or she sleeps later than most,” he said. “Sometimes, it is extremely difficult for her to get out of bed.”

Tired of being perceived as “lazy,” educating others about her disease is proving important to Kayura, not only for her to be better understood but to also help people recognize possible signs of lupus and to see their doctor.

Because May is designated as Lupus Awareness Month, Kayura has been busy trying to shine a spotlight on the disease.

“The Lupus Research Alliance walk is extremely important. It brings the lupus community together and we support each other because we all know what it is like to either be told we are lazy or faking our sickness or just to have this feeling of being alone in our sickness,” she said. “Hopefully getting more people aware and involved with lupus will stop this lonely feeling or the constant remarks on our work ethics because we don’t outwardly show symptoms of being sick.”

The walk was very important, her father said.

“The lack of knowledge by the public coupled with the uniqueness of lupus to each person it affects makes it harder for people to understand how truly serious this disease is,” he said.

LPN program at AACC earns high marks

— The Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program at Anne Arundel Community College has earned high marks as one of the top three LPN programs in Maryland for 2017, according to rankings recently released by PracticalNursing.org.

AACC’s LPN program was ranked third among 10 at community colleges across the state. Of the 10 state-approved practical nursing programs in Maryland, PracticalNursing.org ranked the top five, based on state test results and National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) pass rates for the last five years. The NCLEX-PN exam is used by state boards of nursing to test proficiency and grant licensure for each licensed practical nurse.

“Our students are extremely successful on PN-NCLEX, with 100 percent first-time pass rate for the last three years,” said Beth Batturs Martin, director of Nursing and Health Care Initiatives at AACC. She said the program, which started in 2007, graduates around 10 to 15 students a year. “Student success is contributed to student and faculty dedication.”

The website, which states it was built by nurses for future nurses, touts AACC’s nursing department as having an outstanding reputation and the express goal of preparing excellent nurses. Among the positives, students “practice simulated nursing skills in a college lab with state-of-the-art equipment” and “have continually exceeded national and state pass-rate averages.”

For more information about AACC’s LPN program, visit the website, http://www.practicalnursing.org/lpn-programs/maryland.

AACC’s registered nursing (RN) program was also recognized this year. The RN program took the top spot out of a field of 25 surveyed by RegisteredNursing.org in February! For more information, about AACC’s RN program, visit the website, http://www.aacc.edu/newscenter/news-releases/nursing-no-1/.

AACC also offers a Patient Care Technician/Geriatric Nursing Assistant Certificate, several advanced placement programs, such as LPN to RN, paramedic to RN, veteran to RN; an Associate of Science degree in nursing and a certificate in practical nursing.

Maryland New Directions hosts Employment Resource and Job Fair

— If you are looking for a job, thinking of changing careers or want a professional review of your resume, Maryland New Directions will host the Employment Resource and Job Fair on Thursday, May 25, 2017 from 9 a.m. to noon at the 2640 Space located at 2640 St. Paul Street in Charles Village. In partnership with 1 Baltimore 4 Jobs and the Central Baltimore Partnership, the event will feature a variety of local employers ready to hire, industry skills training providers, and free resume review services to those who bring a copy of their current resume.

Employers in attendance will include: Adecco Staffing Agency, Alamo, Enterprise, and National Car Rentals, Hopkins Local Hire, Johns Hopkins University, Lifebridge Health, Mercy Medical Center, M. Luis Construction, M & T Bank, and Transdev/Veolia transportation services. Industry skill training providers, including Maryland New Directions’ Maritime Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics training program and other partners of the 1 Baltimore 4 Jobs initiative, will also be on hand to provide information and opportunities for those looking to change careers or develop new, employable skills.

Recognizing the scope of unemployment within Baltimore, Maryland New Directions, 1 Baltimore 4 Jobs, and the Central Baltimore Partnership are committed to connecting Baltimore residents with the opportunities and support they need to find viable employment and remain employed over the long term. While overall unemployment rates have certainly improved over the last several years, Baltimore City still experiences a rate well above national and regional averages. Additionally, unemployment rates among the city’s disadvantaged communities, young adults, and the low-income population are often double that of the general population.

Given the lasting impact of unemployment, underemployment, and a lack of opportunity on our community, connecting people with good jobs, that pay family sustaining wages, is perhaps the most important and impactful thing we can do to improve the social and economic health of our city. Maryland New Directions has been leading this effort in Baltimore since 1973, helping more than 138,000 individuals find work they love, establish careers, and contribute to their families and communities.

Through ongoing, no-cost job training opportunities, award winning programs, and a host of employer partnerships, Maryland New Directions is helping Baltimore job seekers acquire the skills, tools, and connections they need to find quality employment, as well as the support and encouragement necessary to stay employed over the long term. We serve all low-income residents of Baltimore aged 18-60 and have connections with over 150 employers from a variety of fields and industries. Whether through our signature Career Focus program, our innovative Maritime Transportation,

Distribution, and Logistics Training Program, or our Youth Employment Training Program, MND is helping Baltimore job seekers quickly transition to employment, develop their earning potential, and establish careers that last over the long term.

As a partner of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development’s 1 Baltimore 4 Jobs initiative, Maryland New Directions, along with 18 other occupational training providers, have built a network of service providers and employer partners to help train Baltimore residents for a variety of jobs and career fields.

While Maryland New Directions and the 1 Baltimore 4 Jobs initiative has already helped thousands of Baltimore residents find viable employment, we are always looking for ways to connect with our community and provide our services where they are most needed. Through partnerships with community organizations such as the Central Baltimore partnership and special outreach events such as the Employment Resource and Job Fair, Maryland New Directions continues to increase community awareness and help even more Baltimore residents find the jobs they need to become self-sufficient and contributing members of our community. For more information, call Maryland New Directions at: 410-230-0630

Maryland’s elders embrace spirit of 25th anniversary centenarians’ celebrations

— The skies outside the building were overcast, but the ballroom at Martin’s West in Baltimore was filled with sunshine and blue skies for the 25th Annual Maryland Centenarians Recognition Luncheon on May 11, 2017.

Ninety-six centenarians were honored with an afternoon of festivities with friends and family by the Maryland Centenarians Committee, Inc. More than 500 guests enjoyed an afternoon of presentations, music and a crab cake lunch to honor 96 persons across the state of Maryland celebrating their 100th birthday this year.

Odessa D. Dorkins, founder and chairperson of the event’s host organization, Maryland Centenarians Committee, Inc., reflected on how far the celebration has come since the first luncheon.

“This is an exciting time. In 1993, I did not think we would still be in existenc,e but every year, the centenarians called me and wanted to know when the next event would be,” said Dorkins. “When I started, I only knew one centenarian and the Social Security Administration identified 860 that year (1993). Today, we have way over 1,800 centenarians living in the state of Maryland.

“For me, it’s a small way of saying I am grateful just to be among these great giants. Instead of getting the family together for a funeral, we wanted to see family come together for a celebration There is plenty of joy here, fellowship, friendship and celebration. We couldn’t ask for more.”

Family and friends traveled from across the nation to celebrate Maryland’s centenarians from as far away as California, Texas, and Florida; and in Maryland, from as far west as Hagerstown and down on the Eastern shore from Salisbury.

Several state and local organizations, including AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) served as co-sponsors of the Maryland Centenarians Celebration.

“AARP Maryland is so proud to be part of the Centenarian event. We’ve been here for many years, and we truly value the wisdom, grace and knowledge that the centenarians and their families can transfer to younger generations,” said Mike Kulick, program specialist for AARP of Maryland.

“AARP seeks to disrupt aging and make it known that just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean the possibilities stop. The spirit of celebration here is wonderful,” Kulick added.

Deacon Timothy Greene of the Transformation Church of Jesus Christ invited the entire fellowship to celebrate his special day. More than 100 people from the church wore their Sunday best to the luncheon. All were eager to say a good word about the active, spirited Greene, an organist who still plays the opening hymns on Sunday mornings at the church.

“I’ll be 100 on September14. That’s the big day!” said a spry and playful Greene, who attributes his longevity to good music and hard work.

“I have always been playing the organ in church, and going to work. I was expecting to have a Hammond organ out here for me today,” he jested. “I appreciate all my church members and all my relatives and all my friends..

Lena Mae Floyd rounded up 14 of her 17 children to celebrate with her at the luncheon. Her daughter, caretaker and third oldest child, Ella Parker, remembered the sacrifices her mother made to raise 17 children.

“We’re so proud to be here with her today. It’s been a joy to take care of my mother. I watched her when we were little taking of us. I’ve watched her and my Dad in the cotton field take care of us and do everything they could for us. She and my father always taught us to do the right thing. It’s really good when your parents instill good values in you,” Parker said.

Willie Margo Purdy, honorary chairperson of the Centenarians Celebration, summed up the spirit of the day for herself and fellow centenarians.

“Just being here, that’s the best part of this occasion,” said Purdy, who takes no medication and only uses herbal supplements to remain in good health and maintain radiant skin.

“She takes no medication at all,” said family friend Tanwa M. Suma, about Mrs. Purdy. “When she goes to the doctors, all the doctors surround her with note pads [to] learn from her.”

Baltimore City CARE Services, Beacon Magazine, CCBC Catonsville, and the Maryland Office of the Social Security Administration also served as event co-sponsors.

Mission of Democratic Faith Working Group

— Growing up in a church parsonage, the eldest son of a fundamentalist Christian minister, grounded me securely in faith and family. My dad’s sermons, which were based in Old Testament scriptures as often as they were in the New Testament, offered up pretty big doses of Judeo-Christian doctrines that still guide me today as Chair of the Democratic Faith Working Group (DFWG) in the United States House of Representatives.

The Old Testament lesson found in Micah 6:8 calls upon the reader to do justice, be merciful and walk humbly. In Matthew 25:45 the reader is instructed that we are judged by the way we treat, “the least (among us).” These are the principles that guide the members of the DFWG. We are composed of significant strains of the great diversity of faiths across our nation and in our Caucus. Our values reflect these faiths, and our faith perspectives are the lenses through which we see the great challenges of our times.

Whether the issues are combatting poverty, providing accessible, affordable health care; creating jobs that pay livable wages, rebuilding our infrastructure, tax fairness, environmental stewardship, comprehensive immigration reform, or any other matters important to the common good of our people, the members of the DFWG are utilizing our faith-based perspectives in our pursuit of “a more perfect Union.”

The members of the DFWG are actively opposing Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would have devastating effects on “the least of these.” It would violate the golden rule of “do(ing) unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Republican bill—that was passed by the House on Thursday, May 4—would exacerbate the widening income gap in our society by lavishing massive tax breaks on the wealthiest few at the expense of working people. There is not justice, mercy or humbleness in such action.

In my home district alone, more than 270,000 South Carolinians under Medicare age have pre-existing conditions. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would subject this population to higher costs and loss of care. According to a recent Joint Economic Committee Report, the Republican Plan will cause 104,954 South Carolinians to lose private coverage in 2018, with their premiums increasing by $727 to $970. Additionally, we would see increased costs of over $94 million in uncompensated care to hospitals in South Carolina.

The plan also includes a big transfer of wealth from low to middle income Americans to the wealthiest of Americans. It provides $274.9 billion in tax cuts for the highest income Americans, with over half of the tax cuts going to millionaires. In 2020, 61 percent of the cuts go to those earning more than $1 million a year. To pay for this, Republicans cut Medicaid by more than $880 billion. To add insult to injury, health care CEOs are big winners in this legislation; it cuts taxes by $400 million for insurance company executives.

I have long maintained that the Affordable Care Act is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century, basically because it outlaws discrimination against sick people, most especially those with pre-existing conditions. Repealing the ACA and putting discrimination back into the health care system is a step history will not forgive. Public policies that do not square with the admonition of Micah 6:8 or the lesson of Matthew 25:45 are offensive to our moral responsibility to do the most good for the most people.

The members of the DFWG will continue to use our shared values found in the fundamentals of our faiths to inform and guide us in our efforts to keep the public informed as we address the most pressing issues confronting our nation.

U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn represents South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District. In Congress, he serves as the Chair of the Democratic Faith Working Group. Follow him on Twitter at @Clyburn.