Facebook Joins Community Activists, Civic Leaders In Baltimore To Lower Violent Crime

Facebook, one of the biggest technology companies on the planet, has joined community activists and Baltimore’s civic leaders in an effort to decrease violence in Charm City.

In 2017, even though violent crime– murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault— decreased nationwide, violent crime increased in Baltimore, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting. City officials reported 11,010 violent crimes in 2016 and 12,439 violent crimes in 2017. In Washington, D.C., once known as the “murder capital of the country,” violent crimes decreased from 7,711 in 2016 to 6,584 in 2017.

•Baltimore, which is more than 60 percent black, is the first city in the U.S. to work with Facebook to address violent crime.

•More than 70 percent of black adults use Facebook and 43 percent use Instagram, according to the Pew Research Center.

•Facebook officials said that partnership with Baltimore is a long-term project.

Executives from the global social network recently hosted a “design jam,” a guided brainstorming session, to begin the development of new strategies aimed at addressing some of the underlying issues that contribute to violence in Baltimore. Although Facebook has taken on similar initiatives abroad, Baltimore was the first city in the United States to enter this unique partnership with the tech giant.

Gail Kent, Facebook’s global public policy lead on security, said that there are a lot of technology-based solutions that can help bring communities together and improve public safety.

“As an organization with 2.2 billion users, we have a responsibility for safer communities,” Kent said. “There is no technology solution to violence…there will not be an ‘app’ that we develop to solve Baltimore’s problems, but we can bring a different way of thinking to the table to bring communities together and help reduce violence.”

Speaking briefly during the design jam, Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh said that community engagement and mediation are critical to reducing violence in the city. She also acknowledged the role that technology can play in improving the lives of Baltimore’s residents.

Pugh said that the city hired a data scientist, “to measure what we were doing every single day” and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainable Solutions has used that information to improve access to city resources and to boost agency productivity.

Pugh applauded community activists and other civic leaders for working with Facebook on complex problems facing Baltimore.

“It is these kinds of conversations and collaborations that make a difference in the future of our city,” said Pugh.

Facebook has a vested interest in solving complex socioeconomic issues that plague majority-Black cities like Baltimore, due to the high use of the social media platform among African Americans.

According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of black adults use Facebook and 43 percent use Instagram, which is owned by the tech giant; blacks outpace whites, when it comes to the use of both social platforms. Nielsen reported that 55 percent of black millennials spend “at least one hour a day on social networking sites, which is 6 percent higher than all millennials, while 29 percent say they spend at least three hours a day, nine percent higher than all millennials.”

Shantay Guy, the executive director of the Baltimore Community Mediation Center, said that she was grateful for Mayor Pugh’s level of thoughtfulness with engaging Facebook to use its extensive resources for the benefit of Baltimore’s residents.

“That was really powerful for me,” Guy said.

Guy, who worked as a technology project manager at T. Rowe Price, said that she was “really stoked” to be a part of the design jam, because she understands how impactful technology can be for addressing everyday issues and long-standing social problems.

“Community engagement, technology engagement and civic sector engagement will be converging in a way that allows the community to be a part of the process instead of being left out, which happens far too often in black and [Hispanic] communities,” Guy said.

Ray Kelly, the chief executive of the No Boundaries Coalition, a resident-led, advocacy group, said that social media has changed the way that community activists reach their constituents. Now effective communication strategies must not only include traditional marketing techniques like direct marketing and public panels, but also digital and social media marketing.

“No one impacted by police misconduct is going to the [Baltimore Police Department’s] website to see what policies are under review,” Kelly said. “Community groups have to let them know and we have to get that information out there, as effectively as possible.”

Kent called the project “a long-term engagement not just in Baltimore but in other cities in the U.S. and across the world.”

Kelly said that the most important thing that the black community should know about Baltimore’s partnership with Facebook is that it’s important to get involved and stay engaged with city officials and corporations in order to have a positive change in their own neighborhoods.

“The fight is still going on,” Kelly said. “We’re in the midst of change.”

Supporting that change by reducing violence in black and poor communities is not only Facebook’s responsibility; every company in the world and every citizen in the world has a role to play in elevating the most vulnerable members of our society, said Guy.

Guy continued: “We all have a shared and individual responsibility for leveling the playing field and creating a world that is equitable.”

Freddie Allen is an independent journalist and photographer and is the former Editor-in-Chief of the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Follow Freddie on Twitter @freddieallenjr.

Video Of New Jersey Of High School Wrestler’s Dreadlocks Being Cut Goes Viral

In New Jersey, Andrew Johnson, an African American wrestler with dreadlocks was told he had to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match. Under pressure, the teenage wrestler stood resigned while a white female coach hurriedly cut his dreadlocks by ringside. The incident was captured on video by a journalist. Johnson went on to win his match.

Johnson’s teammates from Buena Regional High School can be seen on the video shouting their support and addressing him supportively before the match started.

“A referee wouldn’t allow Andrew Johnson of Buena @brhschiefs to wrestle with a cover over his dreadlocks. It was either an impromptu haircut, or a forfeit. Johnson chose the haircut, then won by sudden victory in OT to help spark Buena to a win,” tweeted journalist Mike Frankel on December 20, 2018. Frankel is the Sports Director for SNJ Today News in South Jersey.

“Disgusting and heartbreaking. A referee known for his racism, Alan Maloney (google him), made high school wrestler Andrew Johnson cut off his dreads or lose the match. They were covered and gave him no advantage. So, he cut them off. He won the match. Never should’ve been allowed,” tweeted Shaun King regarding the incident.

Reporting by Sports Illustrated identified the referee in the video as Alan Maloney. Maloney reportedly has a dubious history. It was reported in 2016 that Maloney was accused of calling another referee the N-word during a March 2016 social gathering. The incident was reported in The Courier-Post Journal of South Jersey.

Johnson’s coaches argued with Maloney, the wrestling official before Johnson’s hair was cut. But Maloney forced Johnson and the team to choose between cutting off the dreadlocks or forfeiting the match. As Johnson’s coaches argued, Maloney started the injury clock and stopped listening to their appeals.

The level of heat seen on social media regarding the incident was palatable.

“Enough of these bastards. Ban him for life. Fire him from his job. Sue any goddamned racist idiots who defend him, into bankruptcy. Enough of this authorized return to 1938,” wrote noted sports commentator Keith Olbermann.

Comedian Drew Carey wrote, “I’m a fan of Greco-Roman wrestling, and this is total bulls. Girls compete w boys. Anthony Robles won the NCAA’s with one leg. And this kid has to cut his dreads to compete? F* bull*. Where was the coach? Or administrators? On either team?”

“No-loc bans are designed to oppress and shame black people not just for expressing blackness, but for their blackness. They have no place in our society and certainly not in our schools. Until we can abolish these discriminatory practices and norms, we are all complicit,” a message from the New Jersey ACLU read.

On December 21, 2018, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association released a statement recommending “the referee” not officiate any matches until a review of the incident was undertaken. They did not name Maloney by name.

“Regulations regarding hair length and legal hair covers for wrestlers are provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations. At this point, the NJSIAA is working to determine the exact nature of the incident and whether an infraction occurred,” their statement read.

Many in the legal community indicated a lawsuit is likely.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

New Year’s Day Silent Retreat

Start your year off right! Give yourself the treat of developing mental peace and relaxation to fortify yourself for the New Year. Refresh your body and your mind with guided meditations and a day of silence— participants will remain silent, while the retreat teacher will guide the meditations and give practical instructions on how to nourish our mind and body. Then enjoy a healthy vegetarian lunch in the World Peace Café, followed by two more nurturing meditations.

The cost is $40 for students, seniors 60 and over and the unemployed. Free forstudent-level and benefactor-level members. For more Information, call 410-243-3837 or visit http://www.meditationmd.org.

American Museum Of Natural History Will Host Its 35th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration

On December 29, the American Museum of Natural History will mark Kwanzaa with a celebration that will immerse visitors in rich cultural legacy and contemporary artistic expressions of the African-American community. Since 1984, the Museum has been proud to host one of the country’s largest Kwanzaa celebrations.

“In addition to being a place that tells stories about science and nature, the American Museum of Natural History is a place of cultural stories and festivals that bring contemporary culture into focus,” said Bella Desai, director of public programs and exhibition education at the museum. “We are interested in building on the traditions of the past and showcasing the cultural dynamism and diversity of today. Kwanzaa is exciting opportunity to celebrate African-American culture, from the roots of African traditions to the history of civil rights to the accomplishments of contemporary artists.”

Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration that starts on December 26, 2018 and focuses on family, community, creativity, and the cultural traditions of the African diaspora. Established in 1966 during the civil rights era in the United States, Kwanzaa recognizes the strength, beauty, and deep roots of the African-American community.

Each day of Kwanzaa highlights one of seven principles (Nguzo Saba) that represent the core values of the holiday. The traditional Kwanzaa greeting is “Habari gani?,” which means “What’s the news?” in Swahili. The appropriate response is the name of the principle that corresponds to the current day of Kwanzaa.

Day 1 Umoja (oo-MOH-jah): Unity

Day 2 Kujichagulia (koo-jee-chah-goo-LEE-ah): Self-Determination

Day 3 Ujima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective Work and Responsibility

Day 4 Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH): Cooperative Economics

Day 5 Nia (NEE-ah): Purpose

Day 6 Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah): Creativity

Day 7 Imani (ee-MAH-nee): Faith


Celebrating Kwanzaa at the Museum

On Saturday, December 29, the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life will be transformed into a family-friendly festival celebrating Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa programming includes:

• Discovering the core values of Kwanzaa with Linda H. Humes, founder of Yaffa Cultural Arts Inc., and master drummers Sanga of the Valley and Andouchie Loubaki

• The tradition and spectacle that is the Afro-Cuban experimental dance ensemble Oyu Oro, with over a dozen musicians, singers, and dancers celebrating the rich heritage of the African diaspora in Cuba

• Live drawing of illustrations and strips representing the seven principles of Kwanzaa from seven graphic-novel artists from Black Comics Collective

• Honoring the seven principles of Kwanzaa with a local marketplace and fun giveaways throughout the day

For additional details, visit amnh.org/calendar/kwanzaa-2018

First Lady Yumi Hogan Joined Anne Arundel County Food Bank To Help Distribute Holiday Gifts

— First Lady Yumi Hogan joined the Anne Arundel County Food Bank in distributing holiday gifts to children and families at Sarah’s House and Meade Village Head Start on Friday, December 14, 2018.

Over 100 gifts donated by the Anne Arundel County Food Bank were distributed during the event.

“The holiday season is a time to join together with loved ones and reflect on our many blessings, as well as share joy with fellow Marylanders,” said First Lady Yumi Hogan. “We are grateful for the commitment of the Anne Arundel County Food Bank to help meet the needs of our children this season through this gift distribution, and recognize the important work of organizations like Sarah’s House and the Meade Village Head Start to provide essential services to Maryland families throughout the year.”

Founded in 1986, the Anne Arundel County Food Bank was established to collect, purchase, and distribute food to not-for-profit organizations in Anne Arundel County.

The Food Bank works alongside local, county, community and civic organizations to provide essential basic necessities to those in need and to help families and individuals get out of crisis and become self-sufficient.

Sarah’s House is a supportive housing program established in 1987 through a partnership between Catholic Charities, the United States Army, and Anne Arundel County. The program offers emergency shelter and project-based supportive housing and other services to families experiencing homelessness in Anne Arundel County.

Head Start is a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families delivered through 1,700 agencies in local communities. The Meade Village Head Start has been in operation since 2010.

Christmas Comes Early To Children In Baltimore

Of the nearly 80,000 students enrolled in Baltimore City Public Schools, a staggering 52.7 percent are from “low-income” families, according to baltimorecityschools.org. Because the number of low-income families in Baltimore is underreported, this number easily approaches 50,000 school-aged children.

Over half of the students in our city, in all grades from K-12, rely upon social programs such as “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” and “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance” at school each day. Imagine the extent of the struggles faced by a family that can barely afford clothing and transportation to school for their kids each day, but cannot afford to feed them. The children of Baltimore who hold the keys to our future society severely lack the care and attention they need to grow and become productive citizens. They are underfed, underprivileged and underappreciated.

For many children across Baltimore, a holiday like Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, is but a dream. The thought of Santa Claus or the like, crawling down the chimney to deliver presents is incredibly far-fetched. For parents across the area, the holiday season can be terribly depressing. Working hours and hours just to keep the lights on, as much as they would like to be able to provide toys and entertainment for their kids— it’s a luxury they’ll never be able to afford. Many of these families simply must rely on charity and donations to make or break the hearts of poor, unfortunate little ones who deserve the chance to be happy despite their circumstances.

Thankfully, Baltimore City has a patron saint looking out for the city’s underprivileged but deserving youth and his name is not Santa Claus. Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and his Business Participation Initiative brought together over 200 businesses around the city as collection sites for donations during the holiday season. The effort was in cooperation with “Toys For Tots,” a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young held his 7th Annual Toys For Tots Holiday Reception at the City Hall Rotunda on Thursday, December 13, 2018 where the only requirement for admission was a new unwrapped children’s toy to be donated.

Jourdan Taylor

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young held his 7th Annual Toys For Tots Holiday Reception at the City Hall Rotunda on Thursday, December 13, 2018 where the only requirement for admission was a new unwrapped children’s toy to be donated.

However, City Council President Young didn’t stop there. He held his 7th Annual Toys For Tots Holiday Reception at the City Hall Rotunda on Thursday, December 13, 2018 where the only requirement for admission was a new unwrapped children’s toy to be donated. Additionally, hundreds of toys were purchased thanks to a group of generous corporate sponsors— all on display in the Rotunda of City Hall underneath a tall, beautiful Christmas tree.

“Our goal is to pack City Hall full of wonderful toys that will put smiles on the faces of very deserving young people,” Council President Young said. “During this holiday season this is one small way to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Catered by many of Baltimore’s finest restaurants, including but not limited to Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, Zeke’s Coffee, and Connie’s Chicken & Waffles, the Holiday Party was lively and festive. There was live entertainment, including a jazz band and Santa’s elves roamed around on stilts!

City Hall was packed with toys to give away while elves roamed freely

Jourdan Taylor

City Hall was packed with toys to give away while elves roamed freely

Hundreds, quite possibly over a thousand people, filled the various halls and floors of City Hall with holiday cheer. There were boxes overflowing the halls with presents and gifts, from televisions to bicycles to basketballs and hoops. The people of our city spared no expense for these children, and the spirit of giving was clearly felt in the air by all who attended. Our City Council and specifically Mr. Jack Young himself went above and beyond to bring Christmas to children in Baltimore.

How Holiday Food Poisoning Could Lead To Long-Term GI Issue

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 48 million episodes of food poisoning per year, with cases spiking around the holidays during November and December. This spike is often due to improper cooking times or temperatures, or leaving food out for extended periods of time, which can happen at this time when numerous holiday meals are being made. As the risk for food poisoning rises, people need to stay mindful about acute intestinal infection as well as the potential longer-term implications such as irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D), which is responsible for several outbreaks in Maryland over the years.

Your gut microbiome is composed of trillions of bacteria in the digestive tract. Clostridium perfringens, a very common bacterial cause of food poisoning, causes one million illnesses each year and is responsible for several outbreaks in the United States over the years. Linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef, these illnesses are often due to improper cooking and handling or bacterial growth that occurs when foods are left at room temperature for too long.

While most people know that food poisoning can cause a very unpleasant acute infection (and in the near term would certainly ruin a holiday celebration), the misery of a bout of food poisoning may not end when the vomiting or diarrhea does. For some people, that bacterial contamination in their system may be the culprit behind long-term gut health issues, like IBS-D.

IBS-D affects an estimated 16 million Americans, causing distinct symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. While the exact cause of IBS-D is unknown, and patients may have IBS for more than one reason, there has been growing data linking the development of IBS to previous gastrointestinal infection or food poisoning. Other potential causes of IBS-D include communication problems between the brain and digestive system and a family history of IBS.

Gastrointestinal infections can cause an imbalance in the usual numbers and proportions of normally healthy bacteria in the digestive system, scientifically known as the gut microbiota. More research is needed but there is now general acceptance of the potential link that gut microbiota play in the development of IBS-D symptoms, as an imbalance in the gut microbiota has been found in many people with IBS-D.

Although there is currently no cure for IBS-D, there are different treatments, from lifestyle changes to prescription medicines that address the symptoms of IBS-D. If one treatment isn’t working, it’s important to ask your healthcare professional about trying a different medication to find the treatment that is right for you.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of IBS-D, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about your complete medical history, including any prior episodes of food poisoning.

In the meantime, when hosting company or customers this holiday season, ensure proper preparation and handling of foods that are commonly prepared ahead of time or allowed to sit at room temperature before serving, as this can help in the short and long term.

Additional information on food safety can be found on the CDC’s website. For more information about IBS-D, visit IBSDUpClose.com.

Donnica L. Moore, MD is highly regarded as a women’s health expert and advocate, and as a physician educator and as a media commentator. Dr. Donnica is also founding co-chair of the annual national Congress on Women’s Health.

Local History Book Signing Party At Aris T. Allen’s House In Annnapolis

— The book “The Amazing Story of Arundel-on-the-Bay:1600s to Today” is just off the presses and is available for the holidays at a discounted price ($35) at an author’s book signing party at the home of Aris T. Allen Jr. at 1323 Magnolia Avenue in Annapolis on Sunday, December 23, 2018 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Allen’s home is located on the site of a dispute between two white homeowners, which resulted in the community flipping to almost all African-American in the late 1950s. Allen will discuss the “white flight” in the community.

“The Amazing Story of Arundel-on-the-Bay:1600s to Today” is a brand new, fully illustrated and very detailed chronicle of generations of families who have both loved and endured a special and precarious piece of Chesapeake real estate. It chronicles a community evolving from the Gay Nineties, through the segregated Jim Crow era, World War II, woman’s liberation, and other 20th and 21st century realities. What emerges in the telling is a portrait of America’s social and cultural history that shaped a community.

The book’s authors— all residents of Arundel-on-the-Bay— banded together seven years ago to research and write the book. They include: Aris T. Allen, Jr.; Phillip Allen; Marc L. Apter; Wilma Coble; Edie Dolberg; Pamela Duncan; Robert Meissner; John Moses; Karen Neale; Bill Semenuk; and Arend J. Thomas, III.

It started in 1890, with the purchase of 350 acres south of Annapolis, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, America’s largest estuary. Lots on this waterfront land acquired by the Chesapeake & Colombia Investment Company were advertised for sale based on the beauty of the site and its solitude as a woodland paradise.

The community distinguished itself in unique ways:

•It began as almost all white to became almost all black in the 1950’s, and then evolved into the proudly integrated neighborhood of today.

•Hourly passenger train service from Annapolis connected travelers from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to the Bay Ridge Resort, where the Company’s “Blackberry Train,” open summer cars, ran along the beach to Arundel-on-the-Bay from 1893 to the early 20th century.

•This smallest incorporated town in the U.S. for many years was all but wiped out by a major fire in 1916.

•The only community in Maryland where woman had the right to vote before 1920.

•Thomas Point Island, just offshore, had a home on it until it was destroyed by two hurricanes in the 1930s.

•Famous folks had ties there, including: Frederick Douglass; Alex Haley; Martha Washington; Patrick Henry; Rep. Adam Clayton Powell; Todd Duncan, opera star of Porgy and Bess fame and Rep. Clarence Mitchell, Jr.

•During the War of 1812 a British Sloop of War ran aground off Thomas Point, an incident which almost caused Annapolis to be burned to the ground.

“The Amazing Story of Arundel-on-the-Bay:1600s to Today” demonstrates that all of our family histories are worth the telling. It’s available at local bookstores and on-line at Amazon for $39.95

The Most Wonderful ‘Stressful’ Time Of The Year

Like gift giving, feasts and Christmas trees, stress also counts as a holiday tradition.

High expectations, loneliness and stress can lead to the “Holiday Blues.”

Experts say that in most cases symptoms can be temporary, but they can also be serious if they last for more than two weeks— leading to clinical anxiety and/or depression.

A 2014 survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in Arlington, Virginia, reported that approximately 24 percent of individuals with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40 percent say their condition became “somewhat” worse.

“For many people, the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of the year,” NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth said in responding to the organization’s survey. “What the survey shows is a tremendous need for people to reach out and watch out for each other in keeping with the spirit of the season.”

Despite the fun and enjoyment, the holidays can bring for many, for others it can be a time of stress, anxiety and depression, according to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center chaplains and other behavioral health experts.

In a posting on the Military Health System and the Defense Health Agency’s website, the experts explained that the holidays can present a number of challenges, including family demands, spending, shopping, parties, cooking, entertain- ing, cleaning and more.

“First, society places a lot of pressure around the holidays,” said Army Chaplain (Capt.) Heather Borshof, a student in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at WRNMMC.

“It is embedded in us culturally that there is the expectation that everything needs to be perfect during the holidays. For most that is not the situation.

“Second, holidays can be expensive and not everyone has the means to buy what our culture says we cannot live without. People either place themselves in debt, or feel badly about not being able to afford those items that society says we must have.

“Third, holidays can be a lot of work. Other life responsibilities do not stop and the added pressure of getting everything done for the holidays can bring about more stress than joy.

“Finally, the expectations are that the holidays are a time to be with family and friends. Those who are without often feel sad and depressed because it reminds them that they are alone.”

Borshof recommends keeping things in perspective to decrease stress and depression during the holidays.

“Nothing is perfect and that is alright. Things will go wrong and the key is to remember that something is not ruined just because it is not perfect,” she said.

A brand new survey by VitalSmarts found that 26 percent of people say that trying to stay healthy, active and sober over the holidays is one of their top five stressors, 44 percent of people live by the motto, “my diet starts in January;” 20 percent say they are much more tired and irritable than happy during the holidays, while 10 percent say they have no rules when it comes to health and diet this time of year.

The problem, it seems according to an NBC News report, is that as the holidays set in people begin to veer into the extreme behavior of over-indulgence, and look to January as a time of extreme rebooting, where they don’t overspend or eat too much.

According to Jillian Michaels, the famed personal trainer and wellness expert, and the author of the new book “The 6 Keys: Unlock Your Genetic Potential for Ageless Strength, Health, and Beauty” these extreme behaviors are where we start to lose our way and risk our health (and sanity).

“The number one most important thing is striking a balance,” Michaels told NBC News. “When you put the word ‘too’ in front of anything you have physiological anarchy, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”