College student’s campaign raises over $11,000 to keep others cool

DaJuan Gay, a 20-year-old college student who attends the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), can vouch for the power of using social media to make a positive community impact.

Volunteers meet at Home Depot in Annapolis to pick up air conditioning units, deliver them to local residents, and set them up. Over 30 air conditioning units have been given to help Annapolitans who needed help to beat the heat.

Courtesy Photos

Volunteers meet at Home Depot in Annapolis to pick up air conditioning units, deliver them to local residents, and set them up. Over 30 air conditioning units have been given to help Annapolitans who needed help to beat the heat.

During summer break, Gay felt concerned that battling high temperatures is problematic for his neighbors who reside in Eastport Terrace in Annapolis, because some do not have any air conditioning. Gay lives in the public housing complex community with his mother, Heaven White.

Gay posted a message about his neighbor’s plight in a Facebook forum where Annapolitans interact with each other online. His comments sparked a swift solution. Volunteers united to raise money to purchase free, standing air conditioning units for individuals in need through crowdfunding. The campaign is still gong strong.

“We started it (“A Cool Campaign”) just last Thursday (July 20, 2017). I simply made a post in the Eastport (Neighborhood) Forum group on Facebook, and asked people to reach out to their elected officials. All I wanted was attention to be brought to these underserved communities,” Gay said. “They (residents of Eastport Terrace) don’t have air conditioning, they don’t have decent playground equipment and things like that. I see that so much more could be done in this community.”

During a walk to determine how many Eastport Terrace residents had air conditioning, A Cool Campaign volunteers were welcomed by these neighbors. The mother said that her children were able to sleep in their bedrooms for the first time, thanks to the air conditioner that was delivered because of the community fundraiser.

Courtesy Photos

During a walk to determine how many Eastport Terrace residents had air conditioning, A Cool Campaign volunteers were welcomed by these neighbors. The mother said that her children were able to sleep in their bedrooms for the first time, thanks to the air conditioner that was delivered because of the community fundraiser.

Gay says some neighbors who are hard-working single mothers, elderly people who cannot work, and disabled individuals cannot afford to buy air conditioning units themselves.

Barbara Webber responded to his post on the Eastport Neighborhood Forum. Webber, an Annapolis native who has been involved in community projects for over 25 years, told Gay not to listen to the naysayers who initially voiced negative opinions about his concern.

Webber met with Gay in person to help him take action. She suggested that setting up a crowdfunding campaign could raise money to purchase air conditioners. Their initial goal was to help 25 people. After another forum member encouraged others to come together for the cause, Gay says that things took off. Hearts softened, too.

“That night we [collected] $1,600,” Gay said, “And then, when I woke up the next morning, we had $4,700 in the account for this fundraiser. I could not believe it. Overnight that happened and we’ve just been continuing to raise money.”

As of July 25, over 45 freestanding air conditioning units have been delivered to people who needed them. Gay added that an individual who has multiple sclerosis and is a stroke survivor, received a free air conditioner. “A Cool Campaign” continues to impact Annapolitans with help from volunteers and donors who are answering the call to help. Kiddie pools, water, ice, fans and portable air conditioning units have also been donated to help others beat the sweltering heat.

“We started with Eastport Terrace and that’s where we’re immediately going, but what happened through the project that took off so well on social media is that people from other neighborhoods are calling and asking [for help]. We’re just going to keep pushing that money to help as many people as we can,” Gay said. “There are a lot of people in the city who don’t have central air and it really, really, really shocked me.”

Volunteers for “A Cool Campaign” led by Gay, walked through Eastport Terrace on July 24. They counted 22 homes with central air and 56 without. They plan to continue to raise funds to deliver at least 10 more air conditioning units this week. Since residents from other Annapolis communities are reaching out for help to obtain air conditioning, the group plans to buy as many air conditioners as donations will allow.

Webber even hopes other communities will replicate “A Cool Campaign’s” model.

“Because DaJuan lives in the (Eastport Terrace) neighborhood, his focus has been who needs them [there]. His mom has lived there a long time so they have teams up to identify the most vulnerable people first. Our priority was elderly, disabled, people with little children and then everybody else after that,” Webber said. “If you put passionate youth and experience together in the community, you make miracles happen. DaJuan is a born leader. He doesn’t give up, and he cares deeply about his community. That’s a winning combination— that’s our future.”

The price of each air conditioner is $260. If you would like to donate to “A Cool Campaign,” visit https://fundly.com/urgent-a-c-for-maryland-needy-a-cool-campaign.

MTA believes new Baltimore LINK is definite improvement

After nearly two years of planning, the new Baltimore LINK service kicked off with major changes and a complete overhaul of the city’s bus system.

While Governor Larry Hogan’s $135 million transportation makeover left many bewildered when the service began last month, the governor’s office says that even though it may take riders a little time to get used to, ultimately, they believe that the new system is a major improvement.

“The goal of Baltimore LINK is to meet the needs of today’s transit riders,” said Sandy Arnette, the director of media relations for the Maryland Transit Administration.

“To accomplish that goal, the Maryland Department of Transportation had to overhaul the entire transit system that was based on the old trolley lines to connect to today’s job centers,” Arnette said. “Anytime you change an entire system, it is going to take time for our riders to learn the new system. We know change is hard, but should get easier once riders are comfortable with their new routes.”

Among the key components of the new Baltimore LINK is CityLink— 12 high-frequency, color-coded bus routes that officials say will improve reliability, and better connect riders to Amtrak, Commuter Bus, Light RailLink, MARC Train, Metro SubwayLink and other services in Baltimore and the surrounding suburbs. The CityLink busses are scheduled to run every 15 minutes during peak service hours.

Signs at bus stops have also changed. All of the approximately 5,000 signs have been replaced by new ones that show the route, where the buses are going, when, and how often.

Additionally, dedicated bus lanes have been added to provide efficient bus transportation through downtown Baltimore, and officials say that MTA is improving the transfer experience for riders across the system with amenities like real-time information signs, new bus shelters, improved lighting, more informative bus stop signs, bike racks, improved safety and bike- and car-sharing options for last-mile connections.

“We’re seeing high demand on several of our bus [routes] and we’re adding service to meet that demand,” Arnette said.

As an example of MTA meeting the high demand, more service has been added in both directions on the CityLink Orange, CityLink Pink and CityLink Blue lines. The MTA has also added service to LocalLink 34 in Baltimore County, which they say should accommodate passengers traveling to Greenspring Station.

“Moving forward, we encourage our riders to continue this active dialogue,” Arnette said. “To date, we have engaged more than 100,000 people and know that together we can create the best transit system for the Baltimore region.”

The dedicated lanes are indeed helping to move buses faster through the normally congested downtown area on new, red dedicated bus lanes, according to MTA officials.

“Our riders are experiencing the benefits of getting to work faster and, as pointed out in a recent television news report, a trip from West Baltimore to the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Southeast Baltimore took 90 minutes,” Arnette said. “Under BaltimoreLink, that commute time was cut nearly in half to 50 minutes.”

MTA officials are continuing to encourage riders to learn the system to find out how Baltimore Link can best work for them by logging on to: baltimorelink.com or mta.maryland.gov.

Fashion enthusiast opens Maryland’s first Clothes Mentor

Suzanne Delica says she has always had a passion for fashion. As a young girl, she even crafted outfits for her Barbie dolls out of unique socks and ribbon.

Now, at 29, Delica will open what she says is Maryland’s first Clothes Mentor in Columbia, called Cachet Mode LLC, which does business as Clothes Mentor. She is helping local women re-purpose their gently used clothing in exchange for a whole new wardrobe or cash on the spot.

The grand opening is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 8865 Stanford Boulevard in suite 125 in Columbia, Maryland.

“I had the classic [Barbie] dolls and I absolutely loved dressing them up for every scene in my Barbie adventure,” Delica said. “My mom would eventually teach me how to sew so that I could complete my looks with a touch of professionalism. Reflecting on this time makes my life choices come full circle, now … the entrepreneurial spirit was also undeniable, considering my family’s merchant roots and my parents being self-employed. It was only natural that my next life venture would be to start a fashion business— two of my favorite topics.”

Mostly, Delica says she acquired her entrepreneurial spirit from her father, a Haitian immigrant who opened his first business in America more than 40 years ago. She opened her first business in 2007, an online women’s clothing boutique she promoted with fashion shows at her university, when she was 19.

Upon graduating from college with an engineering degree, she took a job as an electrical engineer for a nuclear technology company where she hoped to eventually move into a marketing role. When that didn’t pan out, she started looking for business opportunities in franchising. When she learned about Clothes Mentor, she says she knew she found her next business.

“It was a Cinderella fit. Their business was exactly what I was good at, and what I enjoyed,” Delica said. “I get to help local women make money by cleaning out their closets and fill their wardrobes with high fashion items at a fraction of the retail price.”

Delica noted that she grew up in an environment where individuals are exhorted to choose a career path and stick to it. She said she struggled with competing interests.

“I recall my science fair projects in middle and high school teetering between the mysteries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and my fascination with electricity and electromagnetic energy,” she said. “Yet, most of my afternoons were spent dancing at home for hours in front of the television or radio.”

Delica said one reason for her interest in Clothes Mentor was that resale has become a $17 billion industry and, over the past decade, Clothes Mentor has paid local women more than $180 million for their gently used items. She said Clothes Mentor of Columbia makes it easy for customers to donate their unwanted clothing to local charities.

“During my initial call with NTY (the organization that franchises Clothes Mentor stores), a senior executive made the comment, ‘all the stars have aligned for an opportunity such as this.’ It just made sense,” Delica said. “Clothes Mentor’s concept, my personal aspirations, the timing, my professional background, my life vision and even the location we chose— all made it come together. Franchising with a leading brand like Clothes Mentor seemed like a smart and a lucrative decision.”

Black parents have to get into the ESSA game

Back in May, I traveled to Chicago and saw “Hamilton: An American Musical” about founding father Alexander Hamilton. During Act II, Hamilton’s adversary Aaron Burr was upset, because he was excluded from “the room where it happens.” He wanted to be involved in the important decisions, the policy decisions. Knowing my 18-month Teach Plus Policy Fellowship was coming to an end on June 23 and after reflecting upon my fellow education blogger David McGuire’s piece “The Silent Black Voice in Education,” I wanted to make sure I took advantage of any opportunity to be in the room where it happens, so I put my name on a list to be part of one of Indiana’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) working groups. I was excited to later learn that I was selected as a member of one of the technical working groups.

ESSA is the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Each state is tasked with submitting a plan to the U.S. Department of Education detailing how ESSA requirements will be implemented in its schools. Before Indiana’s plan was drafted, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) took measures to ensure voices from around the state were heard. Community meetings were held across the state in each of Indiana’s congressional districts. The IDOE created five technical working groups: accountability, assessment, educator effectiveness, school improvement, and student supports. I was part of the student supports group. In May and June, the groups made recommendations for the plan and in July the groups will have the opportunity to read through the section they worked on and provide comments.

On Friday, June 30, the IDOE released its first draft of the state’s ESSA plan. In addition to the working groups, the public also has the opportunity to provide feedback. After feedback is considered, the plan will be submitted to Governor Holcomb for review. The IDOE plans to submit the final version to the U.S. Department of Education on September 18, 2017.

Towards the end of the song, “The Room Where It Happens” Alexander Hamilton tells Burr:

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game

But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game

Oh, you get love for it, you get hate for it

You get nothing if you

Wait for it, wait for it, wait

I definitely have skin in the game; I’m a parent and an educator. If you are part of our community, you have skin in the game, because the plan implemented under ESSA will shape our community’s children, our future leaders. A few have asked, “Why do you even want to get involved? It won’t matter.” One key point I learned during my policy fellowship is when policy is shaped and decisions are made, it takes collaboration and compromise and you won’t get everything you want. If you don’t participate or “play in the game,” you won’t be able to move the needle. You won’t be able to make any change.

Don’t just wait around and see what happens. If you would like to get involved, go to http://www.doe.in.gov/essa to read Indiana’s ESSA plan draft. Learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act at nnpa.org/essa.

Shawnta S. Barnes is a literacy coach for Indianapolis Public Schools, an adjunct instructor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis School of Education, and a 2016-2017 Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. Previously, Barnes taught English grades six to nine, and has been an elementary English language learner teacher.

Baltimore man reflects on life as Orioles fan ‘before’ Camden Yards

When James Batty sits on the deck of his senior citizens home in Northwest Baltimore, he sometimes reflects on the times when an empty baseball field across the street, once housed a massive edifice, known as Memorial Stadium.

“I actually worked there two different times— first from 1957 to ’59. Then, I came back in the mid-1960s,” said Batty.

Now 76, he worked as a vendor first while in high school, selling popcorn, peanuts and hot dogs.

“Minors couldn’t sell beer,” he recalled. “So I was too young the first time.”

His walk somewhat slowed now, and while assisted by a cane, Batty’s mind remains razor-sharp. He easily recalls the times when the stadium consistently attracted sold-out crowds and fielded world-championship caliber teams.

“I really recall the 1958 (MLB) All-Star Game, he said. “That one had Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Micky Mantle.”

Having grownup on the west side of Baltimore on Vine Street, Batty says he never imagined he would someday live on the same property where Memorial Stadium was once located. The structure was built in 1950 and razed in 2001.

In addition to the senior housing facility, the mixed-use property houses a new YMCA and an athletic field used by youth soccer, lacrosse and baseball players. The property boasts an athletic field that’s sponsored by the Cal Ripken Sr. foundation, and uses the original diamond set up as did Memorial Stadium. The original home plate was relocated to Camden Yards when the new stadium opened in 1992, according to Bill Stetka, Orioles Alumni Director.

“They did a really good job in developing the area that once housed the old stadium,” said Stetka, who formerly served as the team’s Public Relations director before assuming his current role nearly ten years ago.

Batty studied to be a cabinet-maker at Baltimore’s George Washington Carver High School, where he graduated in 1959. He retired from the City of Baltimore, having worked in the city’s wastewater treatment department.

“Somebody’s got to do that job, and I did it,” he smiled.

One of Batty’s many neighbors at Ednor Apartments at Stadium Place is Thomas “Tom” Gilk. At 66, Gilk said he resided in NYC, before relocating to Baltimore as a teenager. The retired chemical operator said he too is a longtime baseball fan, and recalls World Series trips for the Orioles.

“They won in ’66, ’70 and ’83, but lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in ’71 and ’79. They were singing ‘We Are Fam-a-lee,’ yea those teams were good but those were all good games— very competitive,” he said.

Batty’s highlight was having worked the 1958 MLB All-Star Game. On that July 8 night he witnessed the likes of Mickey Mantle, Bill Skowron and Nellie Fox for the American League, while Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Stan Musial and Warren Spahn graced the National League roster. Batty faithfully wears his Orioles hat each spring and says he’ll always remain a “Birds” fan.

“They’ve had some tough times lately, but overall, they’ve got a great organization, he said. “But,” he added, “I’ll still always remember Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, John “Boog” Powell, Eddie Murrray, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken— they were the all-time greats.”

Batty also worked as a vendor for the Baltimore Colts before the team left for Indianapolis in 1984. He proudly recalls seeing the likes of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore and John Mackey, in their iconic blue and white jerseys and horseshoe-logo hats. He said he enjoyed the warm-weather baseball seasons’ verses the cold-weather NFL schedule.

For the record, Stetka said Memorial Stadium was never in disrepair, but the ball-club needed a venue that could compete with the modern stadiums of the 1970s such as Riverfront (Cincinnati); Three Rivers (Pittsburgh) and Busch Stadium (St. Louis). The large red-brick structure behind right field (at Camden Yards) was formerly a warehouse owned by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad company, which now houses the Orioles’ administrative offices.

Camden Yards was once a large railroad loading area where trains off-loaded materials and goods. A sister warehouse is located in Cincinnati, where the Ohio railway route ends, according to Stetka.

Nita Key Enrichment focused on saving music in N.C. schools

“College should not make you or break you,” said Shanita Ollison, a 27 year-old “artrepreneur” and the founder and owner of Nita Key Enrichment. “Just

because you didn’t go to college doesn’t mean you can’t be a manager of a multi-million dollar company.”

Ollison continued: “You can do anything you put your mind to, whether you go to college or not. Nothing is promised; you’ve got to have that drive. You’ve got to have that ambition.”

Nita Key Enrichment is the first, black music enrichment company in North Carolina.

When she was 21-years-old, Ollison decided that she needed to jump into the fight to save music and arts education in her community. After taking on church gigs, a handful of positions teaching music and other odd jobs, she founded Nita Key Enrichment, to serve the children of her community.

Ollison, also known as “Nita,” continues to break down barriers as one of the youngest black women in her field.

Ollison’s investment in the arts for youth comes at the perfect time as music and arts education is losing ground and funding in public schools.

According to a 2012 report by the Department of Education, many students that attend schools in high-poverty, urban school districts still lack access to music and arts programs.

Following national trends, music and arts programs in North Carolina face similar threats.

According to The Times-News, due to budget shortfalls in 2011, Transylvania County schools in N.C. faced the elimination of 100 percent of all off-campus band, music, and clubs competitions.

Recently, The Citizen-Times reported that N.C. state legislators and the governor are working to reduce class sizes, a move that could have a negative impact on arts and music education in the state’s public schools.

“Education groups are increasing pressure on state lawmakers to pass legislation they say is needed to avoid poten- tially laying off as many as 4,500 art, music, physical education and foreign language teachers,” The News & Observer reported. “North Carolina school leaders say they may have to cut art, music, physical education and foreign language classes in elementary schools to help pay for new smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade that are supposed to start in July.”

Ollison said that music education is not being taken seriously and the benefits of exposing children to the arts are also being ignored.

“[Music] provides a healthy outlet for children,” said Ollison. “Music helps with hand-eye coordination, memorization, raising test scores, and adds a sense of achievement.”

Research has shown that music helps children improve reasoning, language, intellectual development, and can also serve as an outlet to handle anxiety.

Ollison has partnered with with local schools to create after school music enrichment programs and started a non-profit, Music Is Life, that serves children who can’t afford voice and music lessons. Ollison’s work revolves around instilling the value of learning about all aspects of music including theory, note value, composition, and notation.

The Pamlico County native has reached out to a number of public figures to join her cause including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Thad Lewis, Miss Black North Carolina Chanda Branch, and Debra Antney, the former manager of rapper Gucci Mane and mother to rapper Waka Flocka.

Ollison has also partnered with North Carolina Central University (NCCU) to begin a five-week “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) program. Working with NCCU and Sisters In Power, a women’s empowerment organization, will provide music education classes later this summer.

Despite push back from some N.C. school officials and the tragic deaths of her father and sister, the young artrepreneur continues to press on, inspired by her fiancé, her three year-old daughter and families touched by her work in the community.

“When the schools take something out, we’ve got to put it back in,” said Ollison. “We need legislators to [get] behind music education.”

Ollison said that if people imagined a world without art and design, they might have a different perspective on arts education.

“I challenge you to never listen to the radio again, never look at architectural designs again,” said Ollison. “I challenge you to sit there a whole day and not benefit from the arts. I challenge you to do without the arts and let’s see, if you would change your mind.”

Taylor Burris is a 2017 NNPA/DTU Journalism Fellow and Spelman College student, who is creating content for The Carolinian this summer. Follow Taylor on Twitter @tburris24.

Marylanders urged to protect themselves after the storm, too

— After a big storm, your home, yard, auto or business may be in need of major repairs as a result of the wind or water damage. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh urges Marylanders to be wary of home repair scams and other consumer fraud that often follow in the wake of a storm’s destructive path.

“It’s unfortunate, but after big storms, we see a sudden gust of scammers swooping in, hoping to take advantage of desperate families and business owners trying to rebuild,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Marylanders should be wary of door-to-door salesmen using high pressure tactics to get your hard-earned money. You may never see that money again while the job goes undone.”

The vast majority of home repair contractors, tree removal companies and car repair shops in Maryland are reputable businesses doing good work for their customers. Many are eager to help their neighbors and their community recover from a disaster. These are people you are likely to know and trust. Attorney General Frosh urges consumers to be wary of people you do not know who solicit you at your home or business.

Warning signs that consumers should look for following severe weather include:

•Traveling salesmen who come knocking on your door immediately after a disaster

•High-pressure sales tactics

•Demands for up-front payments

•Demands for an immediate decision

•Advance-fee loans that “guarantee” a loan to rebuild your home or business

Before Marylanders give anyone their money, Attorney General Frosh advises Maryland homeowners and small businesses to be cautious and:

•Check to see if a home improvement contractor is licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and inquire about the contractor’s complaint history, by calling 410-230-6309 or visit http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic/.

•Check to see if a tree expert is licensed with the Department of Natural Resources byvisiting: http://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/programapps/newtreeexpert.aspx.

•Deal only with contractors who have an established Maryland business, and are licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission.

•Obtain at least three bids for major repair work and check references. Be cautious if one of the bids is much lower than the others.

•Make certain that all important details concerning the work are written into the bid and contract, including: all of the work that the contractor has agreed to perform, the dates the work will begin and is expected to be completed, the total cost of the work, the type and quality of materials to be used, how and when payments will be made, and the provisions of warranties on the materials and labor.

Consumers are also advised to be wary of phony relief efforts, fraudulent charities and scam artists who use the name of an organization similar to a well-known charity. Marylanders should contribute only to organizations that they know well and that willingly provide written information about their charitable efforts. Consumers should avoid making cash donations and always make checks payable to the organization, not the individual soliciting. Consumers can protect themselves from charity scams by checking that a charity is registered with the state as required by law, by going to the Secretary of State’s website: http://sos.maryland.gov/Charity/Pages/SearchCharity.aspx.

Consumers may file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by going to: http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/ or by calling 410-528-8662 or toll-free at 1-888-743-0023.

Local Woman Establishes Diaper Drive

— In 2014, while looking for a place to donate diapers that her children had out-grown, Jackie Weisman discovered the diaper gap, which stems from a federal program designed to help low income families.

Weisman realized that WIC does not cover diapers and while diaper banks exist to help fill the gap, none were available in rural Caroline County, Maryland.

WIC— the Women’s Infant and Children’s U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition program— provides federal grants to the states for supplement foods like milk, cereal and bread and health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and post-partum women, and to infants and children up to age five, categorized as at-risk nutritionally.

“This discovery led to setting a goal of collecting 3,100 diapers in honor of [Weisman’s] 31st birthday. Not only was this goal met, it was surpassed with a final count of 8,101 diapers along with a massive number of wipes and diaper cream,” Weisman said.

Weisman donated them to St. Martin’s Ministries in Ridgely, Maryland, and in the following years, she has facilitated the collection of more than 30,000 diapers.

This year’s goal is to collect 12,000 diapers, Weisman said.

On August 1, 2017, she plans to kick off her fourth annual 12for1 Diaper Drive where diapers, wipes or rash cream can be delivered to locations in Preston, Crofton, Easton, and Chester, Maryland; and in Millsboro, Delaware.

Interested participants can also ship diapers, wipes or creams or make an online donation during the drive, Weisman said.

“Since I am not a diaper bank, or an established 501c3, I wanted to find a name that reminded people why this is so important,” Weisman said in explaining the name of the drive. “Studies show that the average, healthy newborn uses at least 12 diapers [in] one day. Thus, the name 12for1 Diaper Drive.

This year the goal of collecting 12,000 diapers during the month of August might sound a little ambitious, but worth it, Weisman said.

“But honestly, if I collect 100, I will be thrilled because even that makes a difference,” she said. “Also, I have had a few businesses reach out to get involved, so I have made them drop off points. This will save people from running around to either drop off diapers or for my family and friends from running around picking them up.”

Weisman credits former President Barack Obama for bringing the diaper gap to the forefront, but noted the immediate response wasn’t what she had hope for. She said many frowned upon the president’s mention of a diaper gap, which frustrated her because she knew they were uninformed.

“This isn’t about people having kids who can’t afford them,” Weisman said. “This isn’t about cloth diapering. This is about babies who need clean diapers to be healthy.”

The designated drop-off points are: Choptank Transport, 3601 Choptank Rd, Preston; Creative Gardens Nursery School, 1560 Crofton Pkwy, Crofton; Sears Hometown Store, Easton, 219 Marlboro Ave, Easton; Sears Hometown Store, Kent Island, 1521 Postal Rd, Chester; and Friendly Flowers, Millsboro: 26582 John J Williams Hwy, Millsboro, Delaware.

Packages can be shipped or monetary donations can be made via check or an Amazon e-gift card. For information regarding shipping or donations, email jackie@muddlingmomma.com. Also, a Go Fund Me page has been established at gofundme.com/12for1diaperdrive17.

For more information, visit www.12for1.org.

We have and “us” problem

“Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced!” —James Baldwin

Baltimore, we have a problem!

The problem has been described with several different adjectives. The most dominant one is “crime.” Baltimore has a “crime” problem.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports, Baltimore has recorded over 300 homicides in the last two years, and the murder rate this year will exceed the murder rates for the previous two years.

In 2015, there were 344 homicides in the City of Baltimore. This marked the highest number of homicides since the 1990’s. According to the statistics offered by the Baltimore City Police Department, 320 of the victims were African-American. And in 2016, of the 318 murders, 293 of the victims were African-Americans.

If you are a native Baltimorean, I think that it is fair to say that we have an “US” problem. If you love this city (like I do), you will realize that we have an “US” problem.

If you are an African-American, you must admit that we have an “us” problem. We are killing “us” at a rate that we would never tolerate if such violence were perpetrated on us by anyone outside of our race— we would be in the streets shouting “Black Life Matters!”

In many of these murders and assaults, both the victims and the perpetrators were black. The reality is that the crime problem is a “black” problem. In 2017, homicides are up, shootings are up, street robberies are up, aggravated assaults are up, and car jackings are up.

These crimes impact my community (the African-American community) more than any other in this city. I know that no one wants to say it, but somebody has got to say it to our beloved community— we have an “us” problem!

It is my conviction that the people most immediately affected by a problem should be the first to acknowledge, admit, address and attack the problem. After all, not every problem faced can be solved, but none of our problems can be solved until we face them. Let’s face our “us” problem!

P. M. Smith is the pastor of Huber Memorial Church in Baltimore.

Odessa Rose’s ‘Water In A Broken Glass’

Sculptor “Tonya Mimms” finds herself attracted to her high school female friend “Meyoki Outlaw.” Tonya struggles with her sexuality and subsequently immerses herself in her artwork. She ultimately buries her emotions deep within her sculptures. She searches for ways to move past Meyoki and finds the answer in “Malcolm Holland,” a tall, handsome man who owns an accounting business. She and Malcolm begin dating, and Tonya believes she can finally leave her past behind in high school.

However, she soon meets the statuesque and beautiful “Satin Pierce,” while shopping in her Pennsylvania Avenue bookstore. Once again, Tonya finds herself torn between her emotions for a woman, while still very much wanting to be with a man. However, this time she can no longer bury her feelings within her sculptures, as her past has once again resurfaced.

With Baltimore City as its backdrop, this is the storyline for “Water In A Broken Glass,” a book written by Baltimore native Odessa Rose, which is being adapted into a film called Water.

Currently in production, the film features Billie Krishawn (Tonya Mimms); Toni Belafonte (Satin Pierce); and Wes Hall (Malcolm Holland). Belafonte is the cousin of actor and activist Harry Belafonte. The film also features Victoria Rowell (Aunt Josephine), who portrayed “Drucilla Winters” on The Young and the Restless.

Water In a Broken Glass was released September 15, 2000, and is published by La Callie Nous in New York. According to Rose, she decided to write the book after a conversation with a friend and former co-worker.

“She told me she was gay,” recalled Rose. “She was afraid to tell me because she thought I would no longer be her friend. I wasn’t sure why she thought that, but all of a sudden, the character Tonya Mimms popped in my mind, and I started writing from there.”

Water In a Broken Glass illustrates both the complexity and simplicity of art, love and sexuality. According to Rose, the book has received great reviews, reached #6 on the Print-On-Demand Best Sellers list, and was used for a graduate level literature course at Wake Forest University.

“Ultimately, the book is just saying ‘to be yourself’,” said Rose. “The character Tonya Mimms illustrates that when people are not being themselves, they put themselves, and their family and friends through a lot of unnecessary turmoil. This book stresses for people to just be themselves, so that they don’t hurt themselves and other people.”

The film is being produced by Lodge Street Films, which is owned by filmmaker Jamelle Williams Thomas. The D.C. filmmaker is also the film’s director. The film’s cinematographer is Baltimore native Kirby Griffin.

“Jamelle was in a California film school when the book came out,” recalled Rose. “A friend of Jamelle’s read the book and really liked it. Jamelle also read the book and liked it. She emailed me, and asked for the rights to turn it into film.”

Rose said the film stays true to the book.

“I didn’t want anything stereotypical going on,” said Rose. “Malcolm is handsome and Satin is beautiful. Both are tall, and both have their own businesses. Malcom and Satin are equal. Water was filmed in Baltimore, which is the setting for the book. The film stuck to all of those things, and I was happy about that.”

Filming started September 15, 2016 and wrapped up in October 2016. Rose says the film, which is being financed by its creators, investors and crowdfunding efforts will be completed by September 9, 2017.

“That is our projected completion date in order to enter the film into Sundance and other major Festivals,” said Rose. “The planned release of the film is summer 2018. I thank Jamelle and all the people who helped bring this book to life. They worked so hard. I hope to see the film played in major theaters one day.”

Rose just completed another novel, Kizmic’s Journey, and is currently working on her fourth novel, which is tentatively titled, The Subway. She also plans to re-release her self-published book, In the Mirror.

Rose is a member of the Black Writers Guild of Maryland, and is co-creator of the television magazine, This Is Baltimore, Too.

“The book’s readers say the story seems so real, they can’t believe I made it up,” Rose said with a smile. “I feel honored and take that as a compliment. I also get letters from people who are going through their own struggles with their sexuality. My hope is that this book and film helps people in some way.”

For more information or to purchase a copy of the book, visit: www.odessarose.com.