Annual Basketball Showcase Continues To Boost Baltimore’s Sports Reputation

DTLR, one of the nation’s most prominent and emerging urban lifestyle brand retailers, kicked the year off with an event that galvanized and unified the sports community in Baltimore City with its third annual Charm City vs. Windy City High School Basketball Showcase at Saint Frances Academy on January 19, 2019.

Beginning in 2017, DTLR executives decided to present a highly anticipated sporting event in the city that not only showcases elite high school basketball talent, but provides an interactive cultural sphere where fashion enthusiasts and sports fans take part in a uniquely special experience.

The yearly event also brings together two towns known for having gritty, unique, dynamic and rich basketball heritages: Baltimore and Chicago. The two major cities also boast burgeoning fashion scenes and have considerably large consumer markets for DTLR.

“With Baltimore and Chicago being good cities about basketball, the thing is that I looked at through the years is Chicago and Baltimore high schools never played each other,” event co-founder Jeff Bowden said about of what prompted him to start the showcase.

Fans in the stands at Saint Frances Academy cheer during Game 1 of the High School Basketball Showcase presented by DTLR.

Fans in the stands at Saint Frances Academy cheer during Game 1 of the High School Basketball Showcase presented by DTLR.

Bowden, executive vice president of People and Culture with DTLR, said he and his colleague, Tremayne Lipscomb, traveled up to the Chicago Elite Classic to invite two storied basketball programs— Simeon Career Academy and Morgan Park High School—down to Baltimore to compete in an intense basketball clash, a function that is quickly becoming one of the biggest sporting spectacles in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“I think it just boosted the reputation and kind of solidified it so to speak,” said Lipscomb of the impact the Charm City vs. Windy City showcase has made on Baltimore’s sports culture.

“We have stores in Chicago and we have stores in Baltimore—pretty strong markets for the DTLR brand. And just with our core demographic being youth, basketball is real big in both of those cities, so we thought it would be a great thing for Chicago to come to Baltimore to play,” added Lipscomb, DTLR’s community outreach director and co-organizer of the annual event.

Game 1 of the showcase was a showdown between Baltimore’s Patterson High School and Chicago’s Morgan Park, which garnered much crowd excitement all throughout.

The game was physical and intense, with dozens of fouls being called by the officials. Morgan Park out rebounded its opponent by a wide margin to hold the lead and controlled the game most of the way by getting multiple second-chance buckets and tough lay-ins at the rim.

However, Patterson rallied back behind a superb performance by senior guard Gerard Mungo, who led the Clippers to a comeback rally as the game was tied, 69-69, at the end of regulation.

In overtime, Morgan Park guard Adam Miller knifed through the defense to make some crucial mid-range jumpers and knocked down consecutive free throws to help the Mustangs seal the win, 88-77.

“Baltimore is like Chicago. It’s crazy, you know. A Baltimore versus Chicago game is going to be crazy so you gotta come out here and keep your head on tight,” said Miller after the win. The 6-foot-4 left-handed, junior finished with a game-high 30 points. He said he enjoyed playing in the vibrant and high-energy atmosphere.

DTLR Radio featured guest appearances by local artists CZ Baby and StayTruDNice in between games and during halftime breaks.

Game 2 was between Simeon (Chicago), one of the most distinguished basketball programs in the nation, and Saint Frances Academy, the host school.

For most of the game, the score remained relatively close. But in the third quarter, St. Frances nailed several 3-pointers and pushed the ball in transition to create a 13-point lead. Simeon rallied back from a double-digit deficit and tied the game, 63-63, with 2:26 left in the fourth quarter.

Patterson Park High School guard Gerard Mungo (No. 5) goes in for a layup over Adam Miller of Chicago's Morgan Park Academy.

Patterson Park High School guard Gerard Mungo (No. 5) goes in for a layup over Adam Miller of Chicago’s Morgan Park Academy.

In the final two minutes, St. Frances clamped down on defense and Adrian Baldwin made some vital free throws to seal the 70-65 win for the Panthers. Baldwin, a junior, had 25 points and two assists in the win. Simeon’s Antonio Reeves scored a game-high 32 points.

“It gives us a big-time national platform to play in front of our local crowd, so the kids love playing big games,” said St. Frances head coach Mick Myles. “We play a national schedule but to be able to play this kind of game at home in front of your family and friends, it’s a great environment.”

Bowden says he and his partners with DTLR plan to expand the basketball showcase into featuring more teams, and possibly including girls’ teams in addition.

Upcoming ‘AfroPop’ Docuseries Designed To Give Audience A Unique Experience

Out of a dire need for more programming focusing specifically on the global black experience, a group of aspiring producers and filmmakers created “AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange,” to give viewers a unique portrait of black life other than what is widely portrayed in mainstream media.

AfroPoP is a public television show based in the U.S. featuring independent documentaries and short films about life, art and culture from throughout the African Diaspora which includes all of Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, South America, Europe, the U.S. and anywhere people of African descent have made a significant contribution to the culture. AfroPoP, according to its webpage, is the only series on American public television focusing solely on stories from the African Diaspora.

The independent documentary series is produced by Black Public Media (BPM), of which Leslie Fields-Cruz is executive director, distributed by American Public Television (APT), and partially sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Many complicated, opposing and controversial viewpoints are often presented about Africa. Perhaps because of this, Africa is one of the most fertile grounds in our modern age for new, fresh and exciting exploration,” says an AfroPop webpage.

Angela Tucker, AfroPop, Co-Executive Producer

Mariama Shepherd

Angela Tucker, AfroPop, Co-Executive Producer

Angela Tucker, an Emmy-nominated producer, writer and director, will also play a crucial in the production and dissemination of the content included in this season of AfroPop.

The documentary series co-executive producer is based in New Orleans and has an extensive background in filmmaking and producing.

Some of her most noteworthy directorial work includes: “Paper Chase,” a teen comedy in pre-production with Gunpowder and Sky; “All Styles,” a feature length dance film in post-production starring Fik-shun (“So You Think You Can Dance”); “Black Folk Don’t,” a documentary web series featured in Time Magazine’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life,” and (A)Sexual, a feature-length documentary that streamed on Netflix and Hulu for four years.

“Since I was young, I was always aware of there not being enough content that was about black life,” Tucker said of what sparked her to interest in black filmmaking.

“I really just always think about myself as a young person and how I really longed to see people that looked like me. From seeing people that looked like me in all different types of situations, you know you’re better able to understand yourself and the world that you live in.”

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native went to film school at Columbia University, and from there entered into the film industry working initially at a social issues documentary production company, which is when she met Fields-Cruz, the founder of AfroPop.

“We just sort of had a shared interest in finding more out… about black media,” Tucker said of the relationship that she and Fields-Cruz developed early on.

AfroPop is a documentary series in its 11th season. It will feature stories spotlighting the global black experience, and was created mainly to help bring stories of the African diaspora to American viewers.

Tucker saw the series as a means for providing further opportunities for black up-and-coming filmmakers.

“I think AfroPop allows or provides an opportunity for filmmakers to really grapple with complicated issues that are facing black people.”

Danielle Brooks, AfroPop Hostess

Terrence Jennings

Danielle Brooks, AfroPop Hostess

Each season has a different celebrity host. This season, Danielle Brooks will be the hostess and will be chiefly responsible for uniquely introducing the series’ five episodes. Brooks was approached by Fields-Cruz and series director Duana Butler, and agreed to host without hesitation.

Previous hosts of AfroPoP have included Idris Elba; Anika Noni Rose; Wyatt Cenac; Gabourey Sidibe; Anthony Mackie; Yaya DaCosta; Jussie Smollett; Nikki Beharie; and Nicholas L. Ashe.

This season will premiere on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 21, 2019 at 8 p.m. on the WORLD Channel, which is offered on most cable television providers. New episodes will air every Monday through February 18, 2019.

Tucker, moreover, accentuated the necessity for cross-cultural understanding in regards to the enlightenment AfroPop will provide for those unfamiliar with black culture.

“And also for people who are not black, I think it’s important for them to have a better understanding of different aspects of black life, just to understand us better.”

Throughout AfroPop’s offseason, episodes from this season will be rebroadcast on various channels. Tucker has been with AfroPop since 2011. She explained how the series has evolved, especially in its delivery to diverse audiences.

“One thing I would say is the internet has played a big role in letting more people have a better understanding [and] know how to find the series, and kind of raise the profile of the series,” she said.

“I think every year more and more people know about that, and that only benefits not only the films but the filmmakers. And I think we’ve always been really fortunate to get talent who also kind of helped raise the profile of that.”

The main topics covered in the upcoming season of AfroPop will include a look into the genocide in Rwanda, black politicians in the U.S., “a law enforcement unit in charge of fighting against abuse of Congolese women and children” activism against apartheid in South Africa and black cultural identity.

The single greatest aspect of AfroPop, said Tucker, is that it sends a message that the black community is not monolithic.

“There’s no one set of experiences that are singular to the black community,” she said. “So what this season rolls out— you’re able to really see that first hand by traveling all over the world.”

Tucker said she expects the docuseries gives the black audience an experience it will never forget.

“I hope that [black America] not only gets to see different parts of the world, but also what different characters felt.”

Viewers can find more information on the series, by visiting www.blackpublicmedia.org, http://afropop.tv/ or following them on Twitter (@BLKPublicMedia) or on Facebook. For viewing information, check local listings or www.APTonline.org.

Developing Trail Network Aims To Foster Immense Change In Baltimore

A group of local organizations recently coalesced to devise a plan to revitalize the cultural fabric of Baltimore with a “trail network” that will make life more convenient for some of the city’s underprivileged residents while addressing inequities in access to transportation.

A $250,000 grant was awarded to the City of Baltimore Department of Transportation to support the development of a key segment of the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network – seeks to create a 35-mile world-class network of urban trails that link together the diverse neighborhoods, cultural amenities and outdoor resources that make up the landscape of Baltimore City – located along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River between the Gwynns Falls Trail and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Jim Brown, manager of trail development for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), is one of the leaders of the project.

RTC, according to its website, serves as the national voice for more than 160,000 members and supporters, 31,000 miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails, and more than 8,000 miles of potential trails waiting to be built, with a goal of creating more walkable, bikeable communities in America.

The conservancy’s national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Brown says the grant was awarded to the City of Baltimore in September this year and funding was used to finish the design and make the trail project construction-ready in South Baltimore. The Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition and RTC worked closely with several local partners to secure the grant and develop preliminary design concepts for the South Baltimore portion of the trail project, and will continue to work with the city government and local communities to complete the design.

Brown, a Baltimore native and resident says the completion of the 35-mile trail network is expected to be complete in the next five to seven years. Only about 10 miles of the trail needs to be completed in four different corridor gaps. The grant, Brown added, will help complete the South Baltimore gap between the Inner Harbor and Middle River sections.

“The idea being that it will open up a number of communities in South Baltimore to be connected to the downtown area and to the city’s waterfront. It won’t just be a biking and walking tool, but will be a real community development tool— a transportation tool that opens up opportunities for residents to get downtown and residents to get to parks nearby,” Brown said.

The Sharp-Leadenhall, Westport and Cherry Hill neighborhoods are three predominately black neighborhoods in South Baltimore that are located close to downtown and are part of the overall project. The transportation options are inadequate for the mostly low-income and disadvantaged members of these communities and the trail network is working to address the issues that persist in that regard, prioritizing those areas as part of the project to give people better access to the amenities and establishments close by that otherwise may not be easily accessible through local transit.

“It’s an opportunity to start connecting businesses to customers, workers to their job sites, just to fill in some of the last vital issues in the public transportation system. And it’s a way for Baltimore to celebrate some of its outdoor spaces at the parks that make up the city,” Brown continued. “[These linear paths will allow] residents to really experience the city in a way that selects the diversity of the landscape and the people of Baltimore.”

When complete, the trail will also connect what is now a disjointed collection of sidewalks and on-road bicycle facilities into a seamless off-road trail linking Gwynns Falls Trail and Middle Branch Park to the Westport Waterfront, according to Patricia Brooks of MatchMap Media.

The new trail segment will provide scenic views of Baltimore’s skyline and direct access to one of the last undeveloped shorelines in Baltimore, as well as a safe multimodal route to navigate from downtown to Middle Branch Park in South Baltimore.

“An RTC TrailNation™ Project, the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network is a key feature of the city’s Green Network Plan to redevelop vacant land, and connect natural areas and community corridors, in an effort to revitalize underserved neighborhoods throughout Baltimore,” Brooks said in a statement.

The project, which is largely community-driven, is also designed to highlight Baltimore’s history, and will provide easier, safer routes to light rail and metro train stations in addition to creating and enriching the cultural, recreational and economic opportunities for Baltimore residents and visitors.

Theoretically, the RTC will be spearheading a plan that may transform Baltimore into a more productive place with the implementation of much-needed community assets.

“As a community, we need to come up with better solutions to transportation problems, because transportation leads to access of opportunity for everybody,” Brown said.

“And the trail network can be a piece of that puzzle when we are thinking about holistic ways to adjust some of these very serious problems.”

Local NFL Player Gives Back To Baltimore Youth Through 2nd Annual “Shop With A Jock”

Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson joined teammates to take children from the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore holiday shopping as part of his annual “Shop With A Jock” that gave local youth an experience they will cherish for a lifetime.

The 50 children who participated in the Shop With A Jock outing were given a $100 shopping spree on Monday, December 3, 2018 at the Walmart on Frankel Way in Cockeysville.

Jefferson, 26, was an undrafted free agent in 2013 after excelling at the University of Oklahoma for three seasons. He signed with the Ravens in March 2017, and is regarded as one of the premier safeties in the NFL. He underlined his attachment to the Baltimore community, despite only being here going on two years.

“I’ve really grown attached to this community— this city,” said Jefferson, a San Diego, Calif., native. “I really enjoy the family-like feeling I get around here, so I feel like it’s easy for me to give back and do these types of things in the community. It’s a great time being around all these people; everybody’s got a good spirit so it makes it easy for me.”

Jefferson’s Shop With A Jock, which is in its second year, is coordinated by EAG (Entertainers & Athletes Group) Sports Management, a public relations and management firm handling the public affairs of a number of professional athletes.

EAG Sports vice president Samantha Baggett says the company has worked with numerous NFL players for nearly 20 years to hold Shop With A Jock events at various locations through the U.S.

Jefferson is a client of EAG Sports, which handles much of his charity work and community events in addition to his holiday shopping event.

The participants of the gathering were between the ages of six and 17 from the inner city of Baltimore.

“Around this time, not a lot of kids, younger kids, has the opportunity to go in Walmart and spend a hundred bucks on whatever they want so I felt like this was a good opportunity for kids who were less fortunate… to come out here and enjoy themselves,” Jefferson said, adding how happy he felt to see the joy on the children’s faces.

“It means the world to me. It’s bigger than football to me to see that type of stuff. It’s coming from the heart. It’s not for anything else, it’s coming from the heart. I just want these kids to be excited [and] maybe when they get older, they pass it on and do the same thing.”

Baggett suspects that Jefferson will host another event of like manner next year, confirming Shock With A Jock as an annual holiday function. She says her team and Jefferson have received regenerative feedback from participants and the community.

“It’s a fun experience for [the kids] to not only get fun gifts for the holidays, but they get to hang out with NFL athletes. That’s an experience most people don’t get,” Baggett said. “I think it’s a really cool event for them to have a night where they don’t have to worry about anything and they just get to be kids, and kind of shop, and be silly, and have fun.”

Additionally, Jefferson voiced the central message he wanted to get across to the youth.

“Just continue to work hard. Be good in school. Make everything not about presents but about giving, just so they can see the example of an NFL player who could be doing plenty of other stuff with his time,” he said.

After shopping with their favorite Ravens players, the children were served dinner courtesy of Jimmy’s Seafood.

Baggett commended Jefferson’s involvement in the Baltimore community, highlighting the significance that philanthropic efforts of professional athletes have on the less fortunate.

“I think when he takes time out to do something like this for kids in the community, I think it not only sets an example for young males, but for the league (NFL) in general. I think it’s nice for athletes [to] do something good with their time,” Baggett said. “There’s so many negative storylines out there so I think it’s really nice to see these young guys doing something to make a good impact on youth in the community.”

Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson took 50 children from the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore holiday shopping, as part of the annual “Shop With A Jock” event at Walmart in Cockeysville on Monday, December 3, 2018. Throughout the event, Jefferson interacted with children for a holiday experience they will likely cherish for a lifetime. The children were served dinner after shopping, courtesy of Jimmy’s Seafood.

Julia Bardzil, EAG Sports

Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson took 50 children from the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore holiday shopping, as part of the annual “Shop With A Jock” event at Walmart in Cockeysville on Monday, December 3, 2018. Throughout the event, Jefferson interacted with children for a holiday experience they will likely cherish for a lifetime. The children were served dinner after shopping, courtesy of Jimmy’s Seafood.

National Geographic Partners With Afterschool Programs To Give Students Unique Scientific Experience

To kick off a partnership between the National Geographic Society and the Mott Foundation’s after-school network to provide youth with the tools and knowledge needed to become the next generation of critical thinkers, problem-solvers and responsible stewards, Baltimore students had the opportunity to engage in a captivating pure ocean exploration in an adventure led by Joe Grabowski.

Grabowski, a National Geographic Explorer and Education Fellow, live-streamed with afterschoolers in Baltimore’s LINK (Let’s Invest in Neighborhood Kids) from the Exploration Vessel Nautilus, a 64-meter ship that is one of two of its kind dedicated to pure exploration and used for scientific assessment.

The after-school students with the Village Learning Place program gathered in the PNC Bank Community Room on East 25th Street in Baltimore on October 23, 2018 for an interactive learning venture on pure ocean exploration, streamed from Davidson Seamount in Monterey Bay, 80 miles southwest of Monterey, California.

The Village Learning Place (VLP) is an independent library that houses educational programs, enrichment opportunities and informational resources for students in Baltimore. LINK, an initiative of VLP, aims to enrich the academic experience of afterschoolers through programs with an emphasis on engineering, art, computer lessons, character education and physical activities.

Grabowski was joined by Summer Farrell, an argus pilot who works as an electronics and survey technician aboard the Nautilus. Their livestream presentation consisted of showing viewers various deep-ocean species, the full composition of the Nautilus ship, a visual display of their six-month exploration journey and a detailed explanation of how Nautilus functions.

The children primarily involved in the National Geographic seminar were students from Margaret Brent Elementary-Middle School in Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore. Most of them were third-through-sixth-graders participating in an intensive STEM program.

Ellie Mitchell is director of the Maryland Out of School Time Network, was one of the coordinators who made the event possible. The Maryland Out of School Time Network, is funded by the Mott Foundation and partners directly with VLP to provide after-school students with programs sharing National Geographic’s extensive library of learning activities and experiences.

“I thought it was great. It’s a unique experience for the kids to see real scientists in action and live,” Mitchell said about the seminar. “It’s going to be something that we’re going to work on to make it more interactive and something that we’re going to give them feedback on about how it can fit better in an after-school setting.”

Similarly, VLP executive director Liesje Gantert says the livestream adventure was an enriching experience for children.

“I think that they ultimately enjoyed it,” Gantert said. “I think that getting out of the classroom setting, coming to a new place, seeing the scientists on the screen was challenging… but I think that ultimately, they’re going to say that they had a blast.”

Gantert said that the information delivered in the seminar was particularly useful and consistent with the students’ STEM curriculum.

“I think the most important thing is interacting with scientists,” she said.

“It really doesn’t matter what they [Grabowski and Farrell] were out there studying in all honesty. It’s a matter of meeting real-life scientists that are in the field doing research.”

After the livestream presentation, the students were invited to ask questions. They were very inquisitive and asked a variety of questions about the ship and staff size; shipwreck dives; the academic path Grabowski and Farrell took to become marine biologist; discoveries of new species; challenges to deep-sea exploration, technology used on the ship; and weather on the ocean.

Grabowski concluded the National Geographic event by giving instructions on how to track the exploration of Nautilus and how they can learn more about what makes being a marine biologist such a remarkable and worthwhile experience.

Other students that were part of the live stream exploration were after school students from Michigan, Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Actor Omar Epps Discusses Black Fatherhood At Summit In West Baltimore

This year’s “Building Capacity Creating Impact Summit,” a conference hosted by the Center for Urban Families(CFUF), which focuses on workforce development, family strengthening and fatherhood, featured an exceptionally noteworthy guest whose recent work exhibits an insightful message with glaring relevance particularly in Baltimore’s black community.

Award-winning actor Omar Epps was the speaker at the annual Practitioners Leadership Institute (PLI) summit on October 20, 2018 in West Baltimore.

PLI, an initiative of CFUF, is a social service and community-based organization focused on developing practitioners working in the fields of family strengthening, workforce development and fatherhood.

Epps, known for his roles in timeless cultural films including “Love and Basketball” and “Juice,” was invited to discuss his new book, “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” and provide some valuable insight to local community members.

Epps’ new written work is an in-depth memoir of his upbringing as a young black male without a father, and the obstacles he overcame to become a successful and an involved father of three children.

“I think a lot of us— men and women— can relate to growing up without a parent and the effects that [has] on you,” Epps told the Baltimore Times. “Hopefully the book can be used as a tool of inspiration. And one of the main messages that I speak about is power of choice is always at our disposal. So it doesn’t matter what choices a person makes, a man makes— even if he had gone astray from fatherhood, he can always make the choice to get back on track.”

During the hour-long discussion, which was led by Joe Jones, the CEO and founder of CFUF, Epps covered a wide array of topics, from his navigation through the film industry, to life with his wife and three children, to various themes in his book, along with the journey of writing his book.

“I think my ultimate goal for writing this book ‘Fatherless to Fatherhood’ is trying to spark a change of narrative in our community,” Epps said to the audience of about 30 in a conference room at the CFUF.

With eloquence, grace and poise, Epps also stressed the necessity for black fatherhood and the challenges associated with being a father.

The Brooklyn, New York, native spoke openly about the deep-seated resentment he once had toward his father, a man whom he says never made a concerted effort to establish any type of relationship with him. But instead of letting the bitterness cultivate and intensify, Epps says he used that negative energy as fuel to change the narrative, to become successful, and to start and raise a beautiful family— ultimately showing his father he “made a grave mistake.”

A panel discussion addressing the current and changing funding landscape in Baltimore with some of the city’s most noteworthy corporate and community-based philanthropists, including Maryland Senator-Elect Antonio Hayes, John Brothers with the T. Rowe Foundation and Tomi Hiers of the Annie Casey Foundation was also on the agenda.

The PLI Fellows (Boys and Men of Color Academy) were recognized and given awards during a networking brunch. The award recipients were comprised of grassroots leaders representing Baltimore’s change agents who are working to support boys and men through programs offering mentoring, media, health and wellness, entrepreneurship, self-development and education.

Jones says he brought Epps in because he felt the message conveyed in his book “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” was congruent to what he and his organization want to communicate to the Baltimore community.

“What we do here, programmatically, particularly around our fatherhood work, we’re always looking for someone who has the experience and capacity to bring that message and to talk about it in a very authentic way,” said Jones, a fatherhood program coordinator. “And, with Omar, he has a new book— so it’s apropos for what we wanted to do. What we didn’t anticipate is how authentic he would be, and how much he would resonate with the audience.”

Epps brought his mother, Bonnie Maria Epps, whom he acknowledged as one of the most influential figures in his life.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my mom. I have an incredibly strong, loving mom who instilled a sense of self-worth in me at a very, very young age. And that’s the one thing that’s guided me through my life,” Epps said.

At the end of the discussion, Epps answered questions from the audience and expressed sentiments of optimism. He also signed books and took pictures with conference attendees.

Sunday Night Football Bus Makes Special Stop In Baltimore

Comcast and NBC Sports collaborated to bring the Sunday Night Football (SNF) Tour bus to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore to afford youth the opportunity to express their creativity through lively engagement in sports-related activity and ventures.

Part of the central mission of the Boys & Girls Club is to inspire and empower youth in various forms through robust engagement in sports and recreation, education and the arts, and the Club’s mission worked concurrently with the purpose of the SNF Bus Tour.

On the afternoon of October 12, 2018, the SNF Bus made a stop at Webster M. Kendricks Recreation Center in West Baltimore to give students an experience they would perhaps never forget.

Jessica Gappa, director of external affairs for Comcast’s Beltway region, acted as the liaison for Comcast with its Boys & Girls Club partnership. She thought the event had purpose and meaning.

“A lot of our work really focuses on the fact that, to us, success starts with opportunity so we want to give opportunity to the kids, particularly through the Boys & Girls clubs,” Gappa said.

Gappa, who is also Boys & Girls Club board member said another focus of the partnership between Comcast and the Boys & Girls Club centers on digital literacy and digital inclusion. She added that the network provider recently awarded the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore a $25,000 grant for the MyFuture program, a technology initiative designed to teach Club members about the digital world and ignite their passion for technology.

The students involved in the event were mainly kindergarten through fifth grade students most of whom attend Callaway Elementary and are members of the Boys & Girls Club of the Webster Kendricks Branch.

For the duration of the event, the children remained upbeat and jubilant, decorating footballs and participating in various arts and crafts, among other hands-on activities. The day culminated with a tour of the SNF bus, something the students and counselors anticipated with glaring excitement.

The partnership between the Boys & Girls Clubs and Comcast NBCUniversal dates back nearly two decades. In 2014, the two organizations entered a five-year partnership to support the development of MyFuture, which is also designed to prepare students to compete in a digital economy and enhance digital skills and interests.

Jeff Breslin, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore said he commends the platform NBC and the NFL has bestowed to Baltimore youth for participation in sports and recreational activities.

“It’s really cool. I’m a big believer that nothing unifies like sport,” Breslin said of the SNF Bus Tour event. “To give our kids a chance to see the Sunday Night Football bus and see the power of sports— whether they’re playing or watching— it’s such an incredible opportunity. To give them that opportunity means a lot to us as an organization.”

The SNF Bus generally makes tour stops on the weekends of NFL games, but Baltimore was the first stop that SNF has ever made mid-week, according to Gappa. With the NFL season well underway, the tour bus has also made stops at Philadelphia, Green Bay, Wisconsin; Houston, Detroit; Foxborough, Massachusetts; and Pittsburgh, said Sean Martin, tour manager of the SNF Tour Bus.

The SNF Bus endeavors to provide interactive, first-hand experience for fans and visitors, with features including: a display monitor presenting premium NFL video and footage; an “On Her Turf” selfie mirror; an Interactive Players Wall showing fans how they fare against their favorite players; a map highlighting the SNF’s route and 17 tour stops, a Player of the Game wall display; a few redesigned NFL lockers enhanced with player name plates and team gloves; a “football wall”; and several other aspects to give children, parents, fans, tourists and others an indelible SNF Tour Bus encounter.

Sounds of glee and joy permeated throughout the recreation center as the children enjoyed a day off from school to participate in numerous activities some of them may not have been exposed to before.

Kaitlin Keefer, the education and STEM director of the Boys & Girls Club at the Kendricks Recreation Center location, believed the event had a profound impact based on feedback from the youth.

“I thought it was amazing,” said Keefer of the event. “There were several kids today that said that today was the funnest day they’ve ever had, that it was the greatest day they’ve had in a long time. They loved it.”

Local HBCU Star Gets A Chance To Fulfill Career Ambition

A former Morgan State basketball standout is the most recent athlete from an HBCU to get an opportunity to achieve a lifelong dream in the world’s premier professional basketball league.

The New York Knicks signed former Morgan State forward Phil Carr and waived former Morehouse star Tyrius Walker on Oct. 2, according to reports from The Athletic and HBCU Gameday.

“All I ever needed was a chance and I’m thankful for this one. Thank you to the @nyknicks and @wcknicks Organization for believing in me. It’s up to me how far I go from here,” said Carr in a Twitter post after signing his pact at the team’s training facility.

Carr, a lanky 6-foot-9 forward, is expected to sign what is called an Exhibit 10 deal, which the is NBA’s most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement that indicates that one-year contracts are worth the minimum NBA salary.

According to Steven Gaither of HBCU Gameday, Carr said he’ll likely end-up on the Westchester Knicks, the New York Knicks’ G-League affiliate. Also, he made it known to the New York Post he expects to play with the G-League team this year.

The Exhibit 10 deal for Carr does not include any compensation protection. However, it can include an optional bonus ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, assuming he decides to play in the G League for Westchester and remains with the club for at least 60 days.

The famed New York Knicks have a storied history of highlighting HBCU talent, including Indiana Pacers forward Kyle O’Quinn (Norfolk State), Morgan State alum Marvin Webster, Winston-Salem State legend Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Virginia State’s Charles Oakley.

Carr, a Brooklyn, New York, native, was a standout at Transit Tech High School, Mohawk Valley Community College and Williston State before transferring to Morgan State at the start of the 2015-16 season.

He was an integral piece in each of the three seasons he played at Morgan, all of which were under the tutelage of 13th-year head coach Todd Bozeman. In addition to being named the 2017-18 MEAC Preseason Player of The Year, Carr averaged 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds for the Bears last season.

Carr went from being an unknown at a junior college to being a top two-way player at the Division I level, and is the latest of a string of HBCU athletes striving to get a well-established career in professional sports.

Although Carr went undrafted, and didn’t have the opportunity to play in the NBA Summer League, he trained hard and posted impressive workouts, prompting the Knicks to make an offer.

Besides Carr and Webster, there is only one other basketball player to emerge from Morgan to play in the NBA— Tiwian Kendley, Carr’s former teammate who had a breakout senior season with the Bears (averaged 26 points per game) and showed relentless scoring ability on the Washington Wizards summer league squad.

Kendley, who went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft, also agreed to an Exhibition 10 deal with the Wizards on September 10, and he is currently listed on the team’s roster.

A 6-foot-5 guard from Harlem, N.Y., Kendley became the fastest to reach 1,000 career points in the MSU’s Division I history, including a career-high 41 points against Bethune-Cookman on February 19.

Despite missing seven games due to injury his junior season and being suspended 10 games his senior season, Kendley earned numerous honors throughout his brief stint at MSU, clearly distinguishing himself as an elite Division I talent. Kendley also recorded more than 1,000 points in two seasons at Lamar Community College before coming to Baltimore to team up with Carr in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.

The 23-year-old averaged nine points, 2.5 rebounds and two assists in four summer league games with Washington.

It appears that HBCU basketball talent is slowly on the rise in the professional ranks, and it is worthy to note that the NBA’s most recent black college talent has emerged from Baltimore.

Council President Young’s Senior Symposium Expands In Popularity And Impact

The highly anticipated Senior Symposium hosted by Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young appears to be gaining more leverage every time it convenes.

The symposium was comprised of about 800 seniors from throughout the community and representatives from businesses, government agencies and nonprofits focusing on the needs of the aging.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. Young hosted the 12th Senior Symposium on September 20, 2018 at Martin’s West in Baltimore.

The symposium dates back to 2012 and has grown exponentially over the past six years.

“We thought that our seniors needed to have other avenues where they can get information that’s really helpful,” said Young of why he started the symposium.

“Seniors are vulnerable. They’ve got to decide whether they want to pay their rent or whether they’re going to buy medicine, or if they’re going to pay for food. And so we thought this would be a great idea and opportunity to bring them in so they can get information they otherwise wouldn’t get. Plus they can mingle with each other and get to bond and make new friends— that’s what this is all about.”

More than 80 vendors participated in the senior expo designed to provide seniors with important information regarding health, finance and other services that aid aging adults in Baltimore and the surrounding communities.

The event was about four hours long and highlighted local doctors, public figures and community-based representatives who spoke on various topics pertinent to health and wellness of elders.

A native of East Baltimore, Young has been a part of the city’s political scene for more than 20 years, during which he has established himself as a prominent figure in the community. He is approaching his 12th year as city council president.

Young has played a crucial role in passing legislation increasing funding for education and crime prevention. He has also worked diligently with other governmental agencies to create employment opportunities for Baltimore youth, as well as helping to spur economic development.

“It’s important that our seniors know that we care about them. They’re the ones who paved the way for people like me to do what I do. This is my way of giving back,” he said.

Vendors at the expo offered seniors’ access to health screenings, such as Hepatitis C testing and access to free immunizations, preventive medical screenings, and an abundance of information about federal, state and local programs benefiting the elderly.

Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI), an organization with a mission of helping older residents remain safe, well and independent in their homes was a participant at this year’s symposium.

CHAI’s Aging In Community Division program works to combat isolation and loneliness, promote engaged living through social interactions and high-quality programs, and help seniors maintain their homes through home repair and access to resources.

“It’s been amazing,” said Jessica Price, CHAI’s outreach and operations manager, and representative at the symposium. “We’ve been able to meet a lot of great community members. We have the opportunity to share about all of our different programs and be able to help our members connect to some of our resources.”

Mary Burnett who was attending the symposium for the first time said she thought the event was insightful and purposeful for older adults.

“Wonderful! I can’t believe it. [I was impressed by] all of the vendors,” said Burnett said.

Burnett spent her career as a social services worker in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Baltimore after she retired. She says she took advantage of the health screenings and was intrigued by some of the informative presentations and speeches.

This year’s event was co-sponsored by CareFirst and WGL Energy. The symposium, was coordinated largely by Zoe Michal, the city council’s director of special events. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Attorney General Brian E. Frosh attended.

STEM Day Extravaganza At MSU An Immense Success

The seventh annual Baltimore STEM Day Extravaganza at Morgan State University (MSU) on Saturday, September 8, 2018, turned out favorably— attracting hundreds from Baltimore City and the surrounding areas to participate in a fun-filled day of interactive and educational STEM-related activities.

The event, started to encourage school-aged children— particularly black inner-city youth— to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related fields has emerged as one of the most anticipated educational gatherings in Baltimore City.

Jonathan Wilson, an associate professor of biology at Morgan State, one of main originators is the coordinator of the STEM event, which has been held on the campus of Morgan State since 2012.

“We started it because we wanted to open the experience up to more people who were not available or privileged to come to the Saturday Academy,” said Wilson, also the director of the Baltimore MUREP (Minority University Research Education Program) Aerospace Academy. “We were asked to do more for the community people, other than those who come to the Saturday Academy or the summer program. So we decided to do what is called a STEM Day.”

The parents, students and other attendees got a taste for an activity-filled day of hands-on sessions while learning the quality and essence of STEM.

There is an apparent shortage of black professionals in STEM-related careers, and one of the primary objectives of the extravaganza is to encourage black students to think bigger of themselves than what they perhaps might have in the past.

The yearly extravaganzas, according to Wilson, also aims to enable black students and other minorities to aspire to become scientists, engineers and mathematicians, and to leverage their knowledge to empower and impact their communities. He added that the STEM extravaganza has made substantial progress over the years and has yielded a great deal of positive feedback from the community.

Dozens of exhibitors and presenters from various national, regional and local STEM organizations and agencies were present, some of which included: American Nuclear Society; Army Research Lab; Baltimore MAA; Carnegie Institute-Bio Eyes; Exelon; It’s a Noisy Planet; Maryland Science Center; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The aforementioned exhibitors had representatives that provided hands-on interactive activities and various mind-intriguing science experiments, all with the common goal of providing parents and families with educational materials and techniques to keep their children interested in academics— specifically in the STEM field.

Miquel Moe, an electrical engineer from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, an exhibitor at the STEM event presented the hands-on exhibit “Ready, Set, Go to Space.”

Scores of interested children came to the NASA table to make satellites with wooden sticks, styrofoam and aluminum foil as they learned the importance of their involvement in science and engineering.

“It’s wonderful,” said Moe, a Baltimore native and Morgan State alum in characterizing the STEM extravaganza. “To see all of these different organizations out here doing hands-on activities with the kids, inspiring kids to do STEM, it’s like invaluable. It’s just so important, especially for this community, to do things like this.”

Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh expressed her gratutude for the concerted efforts of Wilson, NASA, Morgan State and the other partner institutions and sponsors that made the STEM extravaganza a success.

Pugh, who is a Morgan State graduate, also presented a proclamation to Wilson and his colleagues and partners recognizing September 8, 2018, as “SEEMA Day STEM Extravaganza” in the City of the Baltimore, urging “all citizens to join in this celebration of educational choices in the STEM field.”

Morgan State President David Wilson also spoke to the crowd gathered in Hill Field House before the festivities began. He said 70 percent of Baltimore City students involved in STEM go on to college.

Michael Canady, one of the many parents who attended the event said that STEM had a profound influence on him during his academic career. He played basketball while attending Morgan and now teaches fifth grade science at Moravia Park Elementary.

“I feel it’s important for our children, at a young age, to [be] introduced to this kind of stuff,” said Canady, who brought his four-year-old daughter, Lauren experience some of the activities.

In years to come, the STEM Day Extravaganza is expected to grow in influence and impact on the Baltimore community.