Honoring Siblings in the Class of 2018

With many young people today confronted by insurmountable challenges and obstacles, it is uplifting to see students with the ability, drive and determination to achieve academic success and develop a sense of purpose for their future. As commencement ceremonies continue this spring, some families have multiple graduates. Such is the household of proud parents Tyrone and Martina Washington with two daughters who graduated, Taylor and Morgan.

Taylor Washington graduated from Bowie State University receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Child and Adolescent Studies. Taylor has a passion for working with youth and helping others. Over the summer, she plans to volunteer at a youth center. In the future, she plans to attend graduate school and eventually work with Baltimore City Public Schools to create policies and programs to benefit youth.

Morgan Washington graduated from Owings Mills High School and will attend Morgan State University in the fall. She plans to major in early childhood education and become a Pre-K/ Kindergarten teacher.

“I am blessed to have beautiful and educated black women in my family who have made an impact on the lives of others. It is important to have positive role models in your life and I striving to be exactly like them,” Morgan said.

Other sibling graduates include: Aliyah Gibson who graduated from Salisbury University with a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and Dispute Management. She was awarded a graduate assistantship and worked as the graduate assistant for first and second student programs. Aliyah was also vice president of the Graduate Student Council. After graduation, she will continue as the graduate assistant through July while looking for full time employment. Her long-term career goal is to obtain a position at an HBCU working in the Office of Student Affairs and Student Programming.

Maiya Gibson graduated from Saint Augustine’s University with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Biology. She received a full basketball scholarship during her freshman and sophomore years. She received both meritorious and STEM scholarships in her junior and senior years. While attending St. Augustine’s, she was also inducted into the Zeta Alpha Kappa Mu honor society and was treasurer of her senior class. Maiya is also a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She will pursue a Master’s degree in Athletic Training at Salisbury University in the fall. Her long-term career goal is to work at a college or with a professional athletic team as an athletic trainer.

Jailyn Gibson graduated from Pikesville High School where she made the honor roll every year. She was both a scholar and an athlete. She was a member of the volleyball team for four-years; she ran track in her freshman and sophomore year; and served as the basketball manager in her junior and senior years. Jai received over $40,000 in scholarship offers and she has chosen to attend Bowie State University in the fall, where she will major in Psychology. She plans to attend law school and has aspirations to become a lawyer.

The Gibson sisters are very close. They both say that their mother, Deborah Gibson Ingram inspired them to succeed.

“She raised us to be God-fearing, intelligent and confident young women,” Aliyah said.

“She set expectations for us; held us accountable— our mama did not play with us— but always encouraged and supported us,” Jailyn said.

“We watched her succeed at everything she did and we wanted to be just like her. The three of us want to make her proud,” Maiya added.

Congratulations to all graduates and continued success as you move forward!

Life in Baltimore: Honoring 2018 Graduates

— In the midst of spring showers and beautiful flowers with the scents of fragrant peonies, roses, sweet peas and hyacinth just in time for graduation ceremonies. Usually commencements are looked upon as the end of years of academic study but commencement is also the beginning of new experiences and the former students embark of new goals in life’s journey.

Many young people today are confronted by insurmountable challenges and obstacles; it is uplifting to see students with the ability, drive and determination to achieve academic success and develop a sense of purpose for their future.

A common thread among these highly motivated young people is the fact that each acknowledged the guidance and support they received from their parents who prepared them to tackle the next part of their life with a clear vision.

Ciana Robinson graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics.

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Ciana Robinson graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics.

Ciana Robinson graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and economics. She has always been interested in mathematics and was in several honor societies. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She has accepted a full-time offer with Deloitte Consulting as a Business Technology Analyst and plans to pursue a MBA in the future. She is the daughter of Cecil and Donna Robinson.

“Art is the way we reference the visual aspects of our past and present, making representation and visibility a vital aspect,” said Cierra Britton, a graduate of the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School in New York City. She majored in Visual Studies/Art History and plans to earn a master’s degree in arts administration/museum studies. Britton is currently employed at “The Wing,” a network of co-working and community spaces designed for women. She is the daughter of Gerald and Judith Britton.

Payton Wayne Beachum graduated from Stevenson University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. Originally he chose Stevenson for the football program but after a year, decided to focus on obtaining a degree. He was a member of the Tri Beta Honor Society, the International Student Association and the American Medical Student Association. Currently employed by the Kennedy Krieger Institute where he also worked during the school year. He plans to continue his studies in the health field—possibly in a graduate program to earn a physician assistant certification. His long-term goals are to obtain a master’s in health science or a medical program leading to a doctorate in family medicine.

Payton Wayne Beachum graduated from Stevenson University with a Bachelor of Science in biology.

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Payton Wayne Beachum graduated from Stevenson University with a Bachelor of Science in biology.

“Either way, I desire to work in primary care in my community,” Wayne said. “I believe what we do in life, defines who we are. This is what I do.” Payton is thankful for the love of his parents Payton Beachum, Yvonne Beachum and Shalonda Loua and a special thanks to Dr. Davis-Dash for her guidance.

Candace Willard received a Master's Degree in Professional Studies and Technology Management from Georgetown University

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Candace Willard received a Master’s Degree in Professional Studies and Technology Management from Georgetown University

Candace Willard received a master’s in Professional Studies from Georgetown University with a concentration in Technology Management. She has 10 years of audio-visual and technical experience of which seven of those years was in management.

“I saw an opportunity to expand my technical knowledge and develop skills as a project manager,” said Willard, who completed her undergraduate studies at Frostburg State University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication with a minor in Leadership Studies.

Willard works in the technology department at Georgetown University. Her ultimate goal is to work as a Technical Project Manager. She has a passion for tackling challenges, building client relationships and mitigating technical risks. She is thankful to her parents Russell and Patrice Willard for their support and strong leadership, being a moral compass and financial stability throughout her life.

Congratulations graduates and continued success as you move forward!

Baltimore County resident inducted into Texas Coaches Association Hall of Fame

Russell W. Jolivet was recently inducted into the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Houston Texas at the 38th Annual Banquet with more than 1500 people in attendance.

Jolivet, who retired from the Enoch Pratt Free Library as Chief of Human Resources, received the award for his outstanding scholastic and athletic performance while playing football at Kashmere Gardens Senior High School. When he and his brother, Arnold Jolivet played football at Kashmere Gardens, schools were segregated in Texas.

The African American athletes played with less but were very successful and held many “All city” and “All state” honors, and championship records with some records still unbroken today.

The history of the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association goes back to 1921 with the purpose of increasing the cultural awareness of the heritage of the association, identifying former coaches for induction into Texas High School Coaches Association, creating a traveling exhibit for schools, which allows students to acquire knowledge of the association.

This induction signifies membership into an elite group of former coaches and athletes and connects Jolivet to a storied history in which he played a signi-ficant role in its success. Prairie View Interscholastic League member schools produced some of the greatest talents anywhere from 1920 to 1970.

“I feel honored to be recognized by the most prestigious interscholastic organization in the State of Texas that honors athletes. This is the culmination of the most important of all the awards that I received recognizing me as ‘All American High School Texas’ football player. I can now remember the past with great pride,” Jolivet said.

Even though both brothers were heavily, recruited by colleges in the Southwest and Southeastern athletic conferences, they accepted football scholarships from Morgan State College now Morgan State University.

They were outstanding football players at Morgan graduating in 1966. Both were inducted into the Morgan State Athlete Hall of Fame— Russell in 1988 and Arnold in 1978.

Russell and his wife, Ernestine Jones Jolivet received honorary degrees— the Morgan State University Student Civil Rights Pioneer Doctorate of Laws for their participation in civil rights demonstrations against segregation.

Life in Baltimore: A look at the crisis in black education, Part II

This is Part II of a three part series about the current crisis in black education

The discussion continues about the crisis in black education set by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) as the theme for 2017. In part II, the issues are addressed by Dr. Karsonya Whitehead, associate professor of Communications and African, and African American Studies, Loyola University Maryland and the author of “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post Racial America.”

BBJ: Do you think there is a crisis in black education?

KW: Absolutely, and it is as much a part of our history [as] slavery, freedom, racism and struggle. Unfortunately, with the twisted and horrific legacy of chattel slavery and the intentional work that was done by the white community to justify the inferior and inhumane treatment of black people, education was legally denied to black people. It was in 1740 that South Carolina passed the first laws making it illegal to teach enslaved people how to write. It slowly began to spread throughout the south and later included reading after Nat Turner’s Revolt in 1831. These laws, which lasted well over three decades, made it illegal to read, write and reflect.

As free black communities began to thrive in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Salem, literacy rates within these communities began to rise. Even with this effort to educate free black people, the impact of deliberately withholding education from millions of enslaved people coupled with the growing nature of racism has had a long-term deleterious impact on the black community. This is one of the reasons why Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founded Negro History Week, as a way to teach children about the rich and important history and contributions of black people to this country. We are now well into the 21st century and the problems continue— and in some places have gotten worse.

This is why our 2017 theme is “The Crisis in Black Education.” We want to draw attention to the ongoing problem and lend our voice and our resources to fight to end it. A crisis demands our attention, alerts us to the danger, and then forces us to confront and solve the problem.

BBJ: What are the main issues facing the education system especially in urban areas?

KW: The major problem, which is at the heart of what’s wrong with the current education system, is inequality.

Unfortunately, like everything else in America, the more money you have the better your quality of life and the more choices you have. The crisis in black education is situated within economically challenged black and brown, and in some cities, white communities. This exists in the public schools across the south and in the north. There are cities where black and brown children continue to fall behind in test scores and reading levels. This of course, has not gone unnoticed and there is— and has been for quite a while— civil rights litigation trying to confront and solve this problem. It’s larger than just unequal resources— it’s about unequal access to a quality education. It’s about the lack of preparation to help black and brown children get the skills they need to navigate and negotiate through this system.

It’s about the work that is not being done to prepare black and brown children for higher education or to provide them with skills training. I believe that education is the next battleground; it’s one of the major civil rights issues of the 21st century.

BBJ: What is needed to improve the education of black children? Is it the role of parents, teachers, or system?

KW: In order to solve the crisis in black [and brown] education, I believe that it will take a concerted and concentrated three-prong effort:

A. The system: more money needs to properly allocated (along with establishing an oversight budget committee) to the public school system that provides more money to be spent per child on resources and books. Additionally, more money needs to be allocated and spent to fix the building and heating and cooling systems so that our students can be both safe and comfortable in the environment. The school system should also reevaluate the lunch program to provide more “farm to table” food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, resulting in healthy, balanced meals.

B. Teachers: In addition to being certified in their content area, teachers should be encouraged to take regular classes to stay current in the field and should be properly compensated for both their in-class work and their extracurricular course work. Teachers should also be required to complete a race and equity workshop, designed to teach them how to be culturally responsive teachers.

C. Parents: If they have time (depending upon their work schedule), parents should be required to volunteer up to five hours a month in their child’s school. This would provide them with an opportunity to get to know the staff and teachers, to be a part of the school environment, and to partner effectively with the teachers to help to raise their child[ren].

Life in Baltimore: A look at the Crisis in Black Education, Part I

— This is Part 1 of three part series about the current crisis in black education.

The 2017 theme for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) is The Crisis In Black Education.” Guided by a vision to study and acknowledge the significance of the historical and cultural experiences of people of African descent, the founder, Dr. Carter G. Woodson crafted a plan of action that not only remains relevant in today’s challenging environment but essential to our successful continuation and growth.

With the current political environment and the tainted vision of the secretary of education, it is imperative that we address the education of our children.

Across the nation school districts are under siege, especially in urban districts with limited resources, high dropout rates and low graduation outcomes. We have the capabilities to ensure that all students succeed.

This discussion is to provide commentary, which should lead to an immediate call to action.

In the coming months, educators will be interviewed for their perspective on the state of black education. At the conclusion of the series, a community panel discussion will take place addressing these issues.

The first educator to address the questions is Mary Chavis Radcliffe, retired administrator, Baltimore City Public School System and president of the Julian Chapter of ASALH.

BBJ: Do you think that there is a crisis in black education? If so or if not, why?

MCR: Yes, there is a crisis in black education that has its roots in the rationale that was used by Europeans asserting that one’s skin color reduced him to a position of being less than a human being. This notion led to the abduction and inhumane treatment of Africans as they were transported across the Atlantic and forced into involuntary servitude.

Once in America, the founding father of this nation used every vehicle available to keep Africans in slavery. One such strategy was creating laws making it illegal for slaves to learn to read and write. The denial of literacy to slaves set the groundwork for centuries of inequality in this nation that still exist today.

Even after the end of slavery, the establishment of schools for African Americans, the repealing of Jim Crow Laws via Supreme Court Decisions, and the passage of the Civil Right Legislation of the 60s and 70s, there is [still] a disparity between the education available to the majority of African American children and their caucasian counterparts that must be classified as a “crisis.” In this nation, every child has the right to a free, equal education. There is an inequity in the funding of schools across the nation. The monies appropriated for the funding of urban schools are not adequate to meet the needs of the student populations, while rural and suburban schools have sufficient resources to meet the students needs. The quality of the education provided for children should not be based on the socio-economic background or the zip code in which a family lives.

BBJ: What are the main issues facing the education system especially in urban areas?

MCR: There is a plethora of issues facing the education system especially in urban areas, and the answers or solutions are complex. I believe that at the top of the list however are the following: inexperienced teaching staff who lack adequate knowledge of the students’ culture; lack of teacher-student relationships with high standards for achievement and behavior; low student achievement; poor data management to identify and monitor student needs and progress; low expectations of student performance; lack of parent/community involvement and partnerships; inadequate physical environments; and decaying communities plagued by a myriad of social and economic adversities.

BBJ: What is needed to improve the education of black children? Is it the role of parents, teachers or system?

MCR: In order to improve the education of black children, it will require all the stakeholders, parents, students, teachers, community groups and businesses, as well as the school system, work in partnership. Parents must support the teacher and administration by reinforcing the importance of learning at home and [must] be actively involved in the school. Teachers must stay abreast of the newest methodologies in education and build good relationships with their students and parents, undergirded by high expectations of achievement and good behavior. Community groups and businesses must partner with the schools and invest in the communities’ greatest asset— the children. Finally, the school systems must appoint competent administrators and provide adequate resources and support services to meet the students’ needs. Only with an all-inclusive comprehensive cooperative partnership can our children be afforded the quality of education that is their birthright.

Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business

Women have successfully challenged the role they play in both business and the paid labor force. Women have proven that they can be successful in every field.

Women have always worked but often their work has been undervalued, underpaid or unpaid. As labor, business leaders and innovators, women defied the social norms of our times by demonstrating their ability to create organizations and establish their own businesses that paved the way for better working conditions and wages for themselves and future generations of women.

This year’s theme for National Women’s History Month, “Honoring trailblazing Women in Labor and Business,”recognizes women’s contributions to the workforce. The five women highlighted in this article are examples of trailblazers who have accepted opportunities and overcome obstacles to become successful in their chosen career paths.

In addition, they are passionate about their role in mentoring and encouraging young people, especially girls to excel. The honorees are: Dr. Denise Beach Davis, podiatrist and surgeon; Elizabeth S. Glenn, retired Baltimore County administrator; Dr. Jocelyn Gainers, entrepreneur and addictions counselor; Karen Gibbs, founder of the Gibbs Perspective and business TV anchor; and Donna Stevenson Robinson, president and CEO of Early Morning Software.

With the encouragement of her mentor, Dr. Denise Beach Davis, chose to consider podiatry.

“I was happy to [enter] a profession that was Jewish male dominated for so many years. Today, we have many minorities in the profession. I am glad to have considered this career path,” said Beach Davis, explaining that as a woman in podiatry, she had to prove that she added value to most patient circumstances, especially in the operating room.

Beach Davis believes in the importance of mentoring young women to help them to develop the confidence, self worth and determination that will enable them to become whatever they choose. She encourages youth to excel beyond their comfort zone in order to maximize their potential.

Another trailblazer, is gifted artist and fashion designer Elizabeth S. Glenn who retired from the Baltimore County government as deputy director of planning. Glenn worked with the County administration to increase funding and programming for the homeless. She administered community planning and development programs such as sustainable development and affordable, accessible housing units, both rental and home-ownership. These efforts helped hundreds of people to obtain permanent housing upon exiting Baltimore County shelters.

Described as a high-energy trainer and consultant for human service programs, Dr. Jocelyn Gainers is the CEO of the Family Recovery Program, Inc. located in Baltimore City. The program aims to reach substance abusing parents who have children ages 0-10 years entering foster care for the first time, with the intention of engaging parents in substance use treatment,reunifying families, and avoiding subsequent mal- treatment.

As a certified addictions counselor with expertise in working with adolescents, adults and couples in both group and individual settings, Dr. Gainers said, “The work of the Family Recovery Program exists for parents in times of challenge and controversy and as an organization, it chooses to be motivated by the desire to create good outcomes for the families that they serve.

Karen Gibbs is president and founder of The Gibbs Perspective, a company concerned with financial literacy/capability and investor education. She is a veteran business television anchor and correspondent. A noted speaker and moderator, Gibbs is now the financial expert for the Maryland Public Television’s

Smart Thinking for Your Money campaign. Most recently she was a contributor to PBS’ Nightly Business Report and a host for the Moneyshow.com Video Network.

“Once money took over as the world’s largest commodity, I rode the wave of financial futures from treasuries and mortgages, foreign currencies, stock index futures and options,” said Gibbs, who

believes it’s imperative to nurture and encourage anyone who wants to further their education, work in corporate America or start their own business.

Donna Stevenson Robinson is President and co-founder of Early Morning Software, Inc., a software manufacturer of the flagship Contract Compliance and Supplier Diversity Management solution, PRISMCompliance.com.

Stevenson’s introduction to the possibility of a career in Information Technology (IT) was spawned at a college career fair and later job fair where she met personel from her first employer, IBM. Stevenson

learned and developed as an IT/Project Management professional, which prepared her for entrepreneurship. The biggest challenge has been accessing funding and earning the respect as a national software manufacturer.

“Today, I seek champions, rather than mentors for our business vision and creating economic development outcomes that are derived by having procurement and compliance practices managed by the PRISMCompliance.com system,” Stevenson said.

Life in Baltimore: The Sutton Scholars High School Enrichment Program

Clover Hill, on the grounds of The Episcopal Diocesan Center was the setting for a reception to learn about The Sutton Scholars High School Enrichment


The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has partnered with Morgan State University to teach high school students the importance of life skills. It is a unique collaboration where the values and goals

of a religious organization and an institution of higher learning intersect. The purpose of the reception was to share the vision for the Sutton Scholars program in Baltimore City with a select

group of guests who have the capacity and affinity to make impactful philanthropic investments into the program which aims to give students a head start with navigating their way through high school and beyond by teaching life skills.

The idea for Sutton Scholars was seeded in 2008, with a committee who researched, submitted studies, suggested supplemental programs and finally established a partnership, according to

the Rev. Angela Shepherd. The program began in the summer of 2016 on the Morgan State campus.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton greeted guests and shared his excitement about the program, which bears his name. He hopes that introductions made at the event will encourage people to become more involved with the program; to cultivate potential donors; and to encourage adults to become mentors `and volunteers.

Sutton’s longtime passion has been to provide Baltimore students with the necessary tools to succeed. For the past several years, a group of Episcopalians who share a passion for urban education met regularly to define what it takes for a high school student to achieve his or her highest potential, accomplish their goals, and succeed in life. They concluded the key

factor is learning life skills–which are mostly developed outside school walls.

Having significant contact with adults who mentor youth, both formally and informally, teaching them how to function in the wider world beyond their family and school are some of the ways that youth may acquire these skills. These skills include conflict resolution, critical thinking, effective study habits, appropriate dress and communication for the workplace, and being comfortable in various cultural settings.

“When I was a youngster growing up in Washington, D.C., there were some adults who took the time and interest to help me learn things they don’t teach in school. It made a profound effect on me and prepared me for where I am today. That’s what this program is about,” said Bishop Sutton.

Dr. Patricia Welch, dean of Education and Urban Studies at Morgan State University discussed the importance of the program, which teaches children to be confident, competent individuals by providing them with the skills to succeed in school and become contributing citizens.

Kea Smith, program coordinator, explained that 30 additional students will participate during the summer 2017, and additional components of the program, includes: debate, public speaking and digital media research. Each year, 30 scholars will be added to the program.

Program Director Neva Brown, explained that the program runs for four weeks, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and nutritious meals are provided daily. A pre-and post assessment of skills and attitudes are provided, and trained teachers and mentors follows the scholars from 9th through 12th grade. Parent/ caregiver involvement is required.

“This program has taught me that I can be successful, and can achieve throughout my life,” said 10th grader, Kendall Knox.

Rho Xi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. MLK Day of Service

— Lovely Lane United Methodist Church was a bustling scene of service this week as members of Rho Xi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and young members of the Baltimore County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., filled 400 backpacks with nutritious food and snacks to be distributed to homeless children in Baltimore City schools.

Keeping with the national theme of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority “Launching New Dimensions of Service,” the local chapter focused its service efforts on family strengthening, educational enrichment and fiscal responsibility.

“Currently there are 3700 homeless children in Baltimore,” said Christian Wilson. “There is a tremendous need for services. If organizations, churches, and others get together to provide this service, we could possibly eliminate the problem.”

Corene Myers, Chairman Childhood Hunger Initiative; members Jeanette Churchill, Brenda Johnson and Monica King; Judith Britton, Chairman, Million Backpack Committee, Au'Sha Washington, Vice President Program; and member Martina Washington

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Corene Myers, Chairman Childhood Hunger Initiative; members Jeanette Churchill, Brenda Johnson and Monica King; Judith Britton, Chairman, Million Backpack Committee, Au’Sha Washington, Vice President Program; and member Martina Washington

The Rho Xi Omega Chapter joined Christian and his wife Pamela who have operated Hearts Place Services, a ministry at Lovely Lane, for six years. Each weekend during the school year, they oversee the distribution of food bags to homeless children for the weekend. The children pick up food each Friday before leaving school. The bags were stuffed with cartons of milk, cereal, bread, peanut butter, jelly, granola bars and snacks.

Also during the day, members of Rho Xi Omega continued to serve the community by focusing on “Fiscal Responsibility” at the Guardenzia long-term treatment facility, Women with Children Unit. This service event included three separate components: Building a library for the children who reside in the center. The organization set up the library with donated books and magazines for children of all ages; members provided the mothers with financial literacy information; and providing the mothers with materials and helping them to build their own dream boards.

Although this day of service was a way of honoring Dr. King, the services of Rho Xi Omega will continue with the collection of seasonal wraps, hats, gloves and scarves for children and adults.

The activity chairmen for this event were Au’Sha Washington, vice-president program; Corene Myers, Childhood Hunger Initiative; Judith Britton, Million Backpacks Committee; Karen Heywood-West, president, Baltimore County Chapter, Jack and Jill. The President of Rho Xi Omega is Dr. Scheherazade Forman.

Holiday Celebrations with West African Cuisine

— As people emigrate from various countries to the United States, they bring many of their traditions and cuisine with them. Such is true of those coming from West Africa.

West Africa is made up of sixteen nations, including: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and the Islands of Cape Verde.

With the large numbers of residents from these African nations now living in the Baltimore Metropolitan area, many stores and markets now carry spices and specialty foods and restaurants offer many authentic dishes.

Celebrations always include lots of food and Christmas celebrations are fun and happy times with many parties and family gatherings. People begin visiting loved ones a few days before Christmas to wish each other blessings and joy. The celebrations typically include feasts, dancing, singing and church services. Christmas Eve is often brought in with fireworks or candle lighting and parties.

Esme Bentil

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Esme Bentil

Ghanaian Esme’ Bentil and local caterer Judith Britton recently prepared some West African dishes for a gathering. The following dishes are usually a part of most holiday dinners: Chicken Peanut Soup from Ghana, Jollof Rice, Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage, and Baked Fish.

Esme’ Bentil ‘s Chicken Peanut Soup from Ghana

1 cup smooth peanut butter

2 15 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 cloves of garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 small onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. paprika

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Seasonal or creole seasoning to taste

Chicken parts at least six drum sticks and six thighs

2 stalks celery, finely chopped, use leaves for topping

Use fresh cilantro and chopped peanuts for topping

Add eight cups of water and six cups of chicken broth to a six-quart pot. Once the water is warm, add the peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter dissolves. Next, add all of the other ingredients and stir. Add chicken now and bring to a boil then turn the heat down to simmer until the chicken is cooked. Cooked rice can be added to your bowl of soup if desired.

Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is one of the most common West African dishes. It is served throughout the region, including: Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana.

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 orange bell pepper

2 medium to large onions

3 bulbs of garlic

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper

1/4 pound plum tomatoes

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste

Generous 2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon red palm oil

1 1/4 cups white basmati can rice


Add peppers, onions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water to a blender and blend together. In a large pot add oil and spices, saute’ for 1 minute. Add contents of blender and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, salt, palm oil and bouillon cubes, cook for another minute or so, then add rice and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a boil until most of the liquid has evaporated. The pot should have a tight-fitting lid. Stir gently so that all the rice is coated with the red sauce then reduce the heat to low.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Open the lid and stir gently again. It is important to get under the center of the pan so all the rice cooks at the same rate. Cover and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Open and stir a final time, then simmer a final 10 minutes.

Then fluff with a folk to separate the rice, slowly working inward from the edge of the pan in a swirling motion. If the rice is not completely cooked, add the ½ cup of stock, stir gently, then place back over low heat for 10 minutes. Spoon the rice out onto a dish and serve.

Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage

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Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage

Liberian Collard Greens and Cabbage


6 slices bacon

1 bunch collard greens (about 2lbs)

1 small head cabbage chopped

1 smoked turkey neck for flavoring

1 pinch soul food seasoning or to taste

1 pinch crushed red pepper to taste

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 cups water, more if needed

3 cubes chicken bouillon

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place the bacon in a large deep skillet and cook over medium to high heat— turning occasionally until brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a plate lined with paper towel and crumble. Cook smoked turkey necks in water for 30 minutes. Add collards greens and cabbage, vegetable oil, water and chicken bouillon in a large pot over medium heat. Simmer until greens are wilted, about 10 minutes. Stir in bacon, soul food seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer until greens are very tender about 90 minutes. Add water if the mixture becomes too dry.

Whole Baked Fish

1-2 large white fish (approx.2 lbs or more ,stripped sea bass or red snapper)

1-2 lemons

1/2 bunch parsley

1/2 bunch basil

4-5 garlic cloves

2 onions sliced

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 bouillon cube

1/2 – 1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste


The whole fish must be gutted and scaled. Make three – four diagonal cuts in each side of the fish. Rub the fish inside and out with olive oil, salt and pepper, squeeze lemon over it. Place fish in a foil lined pan or roasting pan. Add parsley, basil, and garlic cloves inside cavity.

Add bouillon cube and water to the pan. Cover fish with sliced onions, and red and yellow peppers. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes or more depending on the thickness of the fish.

Enjoy your celebration!

Young writer travels to California for book signing

— Nia Jolivet, a sixth grade student at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School in Baltimore County was recently honored at the Jack and Jill of America Convention in Palm Desert, California. She received a medal and certificate for her entry into the 2016 Literary Masterminds Contest.

Jolivet was excited to submit a short story when she heard about the opportunity to be an author by submitting a piece on the theme “The Power to Make A Difference.”

The title of her work “The Best Gift,” highlights an unforgettable story about her grandmother.

The Literary Minds Masterminds Contest is an initiative powered by a partnership with Brown Girls Books Publishing Company and Jack and Jill of America (JJOA), Inc. in an effort to promote the literary talents of children by choosing the best short stories and poem entries for inclusion in a JJOA children’s book, according to the organization’s website.

“The Best Gift” is a story about three sisters who could not decide what to get their grandmother for her birthday. Their grandmother was in an automobile accident and the other driver was badly injured. The sisters gave their grandmother’s gift to the other driver causing their grandmother to exclaim that was the best gift they could have given her.

“She has always enjoyed writing journal entries, stories and poetry,” said Jolivet’s mother, Kendra.

When asked about being selected to be part of the children’s book project, Nia said, “I was surprised and [I] felt good about having my story published. Signing the books gave me a good feeling because people wanted the book.”

Nia’s dad, Arnold Jolivet ll is proud of his baby girl. “She is a dreamer who loves life and will try new things. She is fearless and very competitive.”

Although Nia is uncertain about a career as a writer, she is certain about continuing to enjoy middle school, participating in the French magnate program and learning more in the field of science in pursuit of her dreams of becoming a doctor.

An anthology will be published and released at the 2016 42nd Biennial National Convention in Palm Desert, California.