Stella Adams Holds Book Signing

In 1950s Baltimore, the breadman, the milkman, salesmen, and creditors sold their wares and collected what was owed in person. Helena Sinclair was expecting Evan Monahan, North American Beneficial Life and Casualty Insurance Company’s top agent, to collect the May premium on the life insurance policy she had on her husband, Russell. The only problem was she did not have the money, and she was frantic. Helena was obsessed with life insurance and feared if anything happened to the love of her life – heaven forbid – she would be destitute like some of her neighbors and church members who had lost their breadwinners.

If you want to find out how “Helena Sinclair” handled her problem, you will have to pick up the newest book by Baltimore author and playwright Stella Adams. On Saturday, August 25, 2018, Adams held a book signing for her latest work, which is entitled “Beneficial Life”. Adams hosted the event at her Randallstown, Maryland home.

“The turnout was tremendous,” said Adams, whose first book “Heavy is the Rain,” was later adapted as a play. “Because they loved the first book, they also had high expectations for the second one. I try to come up with new twists people don’t think about. It has been very well-received. I thank everyone for their support.”

Event highlights included food, live entertainment featuring Charles Dockins, and Q&A. During the event, Adams read excerpts from the book.

“I am comfortable with the 1950s because that is my era,” said Adams. “I am a people-watcher. I look at the small things that affect people’s lives. I just wanted to pick those things people don’t think about that can impact their lives.”

Adams gave such examples.

“It could be a simple thing like taking a different direction to go to work and ending up in an accident. Or, it could be running into an old friend from school who has a terminal illness. In the book, Helena thinks about what might happen to her if her husband dies. Sometimes, we just aren’t expecting to run into an illness, but it’s something that could greatly impact our lives.”

The author notes that the book’s title “Beneficial Life” is derived from the North American Beneficial Life and Casualty Company, a fictitious life insurance company.

“The name of the book does play on what happens in the book,” said Adams. “The drop of blood on the cover of the book signifies there is an issue of blood.”

With Helena’s husband Russell gambling and spending a lot of time at the neighborhood bar, it was getting more difficult to pay the insurance premium. However, Beneficial Life’s Evan Monahan has come up with a solution to Helena’s problem. Reluctantly, she accepts his help. But as it turns out, he isn’t the person he presented himself to be.

“Another thing people can take away from the book is that things aren’t always as they seem.” Adams added with a smile, “You can’t judge a book by its cover. No pun intended.”

Adams is a native of Winnsboro, South Carolina and grew up in Baltimore, MD. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University, and a master’s degree from Towson State University. Professionally, she spent over 35 years in government service.

“The book illustrates that life is precarious,” she said. “You need to treasure it and your loved ones.”

Patricia Martin of the Liberty’s Lite Readers Book Club and author Odessa Rose during the event.

Ursula Battle

Patricia Martin of the Liberty’s Lite Readers Book Club and author Odessa Rose during the event.

Patricia Martin of the Liberty’s Lite Readers Book Club was among those who attended the event. The Liberty’s Lite Readers Book Club is comprised of a group of seniors age 60 and older. The group meets each month to discuss books they have read as a group. Martin said she is going to recommend Beneficial Life to the group.

“I read the book in two days,” said Martin. “I could relate to it. I am from that 1950s era. The book had a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Once I opened the book, I couldn’t close it.”

Beneficial Life” sells for $15 and is available on Amazon.com. For more information, you can email Adams at stellaadams_author@yahoo.com or visit www.stellaadams.net

Author Celebrates Success With Local Tour With Kid-Friendly Activities

When author Chaundra Scott was growing up in the 1980s, she rarely saw children’s books like the ones she penned called “Curls and Coils,” “Beautiful Shades,” “The All-Star,” and “Sweet Dreams.”

Decades later the Hanover, Maryland resident embarked on a journey to offer diverse literature to children and their parents. Scott took a leap of faith by founding a company called Curls and Coils.

Through her company, she retails her published books and ethnic merchandise, she hosts special events and initiates community outreach.

In celebration of three years in business, a Curls and Coils tour kicked-off at Ladybugs Kids Glam Spa in Crofton on August 11, 2018 and concludes on August 29 in Launch Trampoline Park in Columbia. The fun-filled tour with various play date type of activities, a touch of glamour, a dash of sports and story time will make stops in Odenton, Annapolis and Baltimore City.

In Baltimore City, the Curls and Coils Tour will stop at the African Griot Book Fair for Children on Sunday, August 19, 2018 in Druid Hill Park at the Lakeside Pavilion from noon to 6 p.m.

Scott’s venture to publish “Curls and Coils,” began in 2015. Her love of books started when her late mother instilled an interest in reading at home. She often purchased Scott’s favorite books to add to her home library.

As a child, Scott wrote short stories, poems and song lyrics for fun. Today he topics of her books are inspired by her seven-year-old daughter, Aubrey Scott; and her 11-year old nephew, Ciandre Smith. Her books are vividly illustrated for both girls and boys who are young readers.

“Once I became a mother, my daughter, Aubrey inspired me to write “Curls and Coils” based on our real-life home experience,” Scott said. “One day Aubrey was preparing for school picture day. She was fascinated with the hair from the usual Disney princesses. We had to discuss that everyone is unique in their own way, and that her natural hair can also be styled in beautiful ways.”

Additionally, the author feels that self-empowerment and family engagement are important topics that are not always publicized in the African-American community.

“To date, we often hear of and see images of brutality and injustice; while hearted literature such as mine are also necessary positive images for youth to embrace,” Scott said. “My book’s themes are self-empowerment and positive family engagement. All four stories have a home setting around a family discussion, between a mother and child.”

Scott earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore (UMB), served as a case manager for over 10 years. She has recently worked as a conditional special education teacher. The author makes time to mentor girls at Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn through her program, Little Curls and Coils.

Aubrey has also learned important life lessons from her mother’s books. She has even given her mother ideas about products to sell and new books.

“Curls and Coils is my favorite book because I’m one of the characters. I like the illustrations too,” Aubrey said. “I learned that it’s important to love yourself. It’s also good to love your own hair and not what is on TV.”

Scott says her books have inspired Ciandre and Aubrey to value family more and build their confidence.

Scott with participants of a mentoring program for girls that she established at Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn.

Courtesy Photo/Chaundra Scott

Scott with participants of a mentoring program for girls that she established at Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn.

“The All-Star has really helped to build Ciandre’s confidence. He is overjoyed to know that he is a main character in a published book. The story itself also helped him to be more of a team player when he played football, and currently as he plays basketball,” Scott said.

Scott also sells kid-friendly accessories such as hair bows, teddy bear reading pals, water bottles and drawstring bags. Theresa Morgan-Elam is a customer who agrees that Scott’s natural hair inspired merchandise, including t-shirts, bags, and custom earrings for fashionistas of all ages, compliment the Curls and Coils brand.

“I truly believe it’s important for children of color to see themselves represented positively across the spectrum of advertising. Coils and Curls products support this mission beautifully. The books not only grow self-esteem, but also self-identify and support the socio-emotional development of youth,” Morgan-Elam said. “The clothes are funky and fun but add the right touch to represent the African American culture and complete your outfit.”

Complete tour details may be found via www.facebook.com/CurlsCoilsMD.

Aretha Franklin, The Queen Of Soul, Has Died

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Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has died

16 AUG 18 11:36 ET

By Lisa Respers France, Dan Gilgoff and Todd Leopold, CNN

    (CNN) — Aretha Franklin, whose gospel-rooted singing and bluesy yet expansive delivery earned her the title “the Queen of Soul,” has died, a family statement said Thursday. She was 76.

Franklin died at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, surrounded by family and friends, according to a statement on behalf of Franklin’s family from her longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn.

The “official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit,” the family statement said.

Her death comes three days after a source close to Franklin told CNN’s Don Lemon that the singer was in hospice care.

Aretha Franklin in photos

“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds,” Franklin’s family said.

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days, the statement said.

How Aretha energized social movements

The singer had been reported to be in failing health for years and appeared frail in recent photos, but she kept her struggles private.

In February 2017, Franklin announced she would stop touring, but she continued to book concerts. Earlier this year, she canceled a pair of performances, including at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, on doctor’s orders, according to Rolling Stone.

The singer’s final public performance was last November, when she sang at an Elton John AIDS Foundation gala in New York.

Sing it: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Over the course of a professional career that spanned more than half a century, Franklin’s songs not only topped the charts but became part of the vernacular.

She made “Respect,” written by Otis Redding, a call to arms. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a Carole King song, was an earthy expression of sexuality. “Think,” which she wrote with her then-husband, Ted White, became a rallying cry for women fed up with loutish men.

The first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she had 88 Billboard chart hits during the rock era, tops among female vocalists. At the peak of her career — from 1967 to 1975 — she had more than two dozen Top 40 hits.

“Aretha Franklin is not only the definitive female soul singer of the Sixties,” according to her Rolling Stone biography, “she’s also one of the most influential and important voices in pop history.”

She won 18 Grammy awards, including the honor for best female R&B performance for eight straight years.

There was nothing run-of-the-mill about a Franklin performance. “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” is slinky and gritty, Franklin’s voice sometimes a whisper over Spooner Oldham’s electric piano.

“The House That Jack Built” fairly crackles: “I got the house / I got the car / I got the rug / And I got the rack / But I ain’t got Jack,” Franklin belts.

In Franklin’s delivery, “Eleanor Rigby” was a figure of defiance; with Franklin’s voice, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” went places not even Art Garfunkel, whose angelic tenor dominated Simon & Garfunkel’s original version, could take it.

Her soul was as deep as her voice was strong.

“I think of Aretha as ‘Our Lady of Mysterious Sorrows,'” wrote the late Jerry Wexler, Franklin’s producer at Atlantic Records. “Her eyes are incredible, luminous eyes covering inexplicable pain. Her depressions could be as deep as the dark sea. I don’t pretend to know the sources of her anguish, but anguish surrounds Aretha as surely as the glory of her musical aura.”

A recording career at 14

Perhaps more than any other soul star, Franklin’s voice embodied the music’s debt to gospel.

She was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1942, but was raised mostly in Detroit, where her father, C.L. Franklin, was a prominent minister and a nationally known gospel singer. Franklin sang in the choir of her father’s church and, though she declined her dad’s offer of piano lessons and taught herself instead, began recording gospel music at age 14.

She toured the gospel circuit with her father, befriending stars such as Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke. She later performed at Jackson’s funeral.

She was signed to Columbia Records in 1960 by John Hammond, the eagle-eyed talent scout who also discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, but she had only limited success at the label. It wasn’t until her arrival at Atlantic Records in the decade’s second half that she gave up trying to become a polished all-purpose entertainer for a career as a soul and R&B singer, backed by an earthy rhythm section from Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

“The backup musicians provided a much grittier, soulful and R&B-based accompaniment for Aretha’s voice,” according to the All Music Guide, “which soared with a passion and intensity suggesting a spirit that had been allowed to fly loose for the first time.”

Over a year-and-a-half stretch from 1967 to 1968, Franklin racked up 10 Top Ten hits.

“It had looked for the longest time like I would never have a gold record,” she told Time magazine in 1968. “I wanted one so bad.”

Songs like “Respect” were not only huge sellers, they were also adopted by African-Americans and feminists as anthems for social change. After Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Franklin sang at his funeral.

The hits kept coming throughout the early 1970s, including “Spanish Harlem” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

By the late ’70s, Franklin’s star power began to wane, as the golden age of soul ended and as critics and fans became less enthusiastic about her continuing output. However, she re-emerged in the 1980s, releasing the 1985 album “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”, which spawned the hit “Freeway of Love.”

She also collaborated with the Eurythmics on “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” and British pop star George Michael on the smash duet, “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me).” The latter hit No. 1, her last chart-topper.

“Don’t say Aretha is making a comeback,” she said at the time. “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” was released, she said, “because I’ve never been away.”

Personal pain lent depth to her music

Franklin’s reportedly tumultuous personal life, meanwhile — she was twice divorced and had brushes with the law — was shrouded in secrecy.

She was the mother of four sons — she gave birth to the first at 15 and the second at 17, according to a 1995 Ebony magazine profile. The article depicted her as a warm, down-to-earth woman with a crackling sense of humor, who answered the door in bare feet and confided her diet secret was a combination of Slim-Fast and younger men. She also was reportedly an accomplished cook, telling Ebony, “I can wear some chitlins out.”

The Ebony profile suggested the source of some of that pain might have been Franklin’s growing up largely without a mother — Barbara Franklin left the family in 1948, when Franklin was 6, and died four years later — or the anguish of losing her father.

C.L. Franklin was shot in his home by burglars in 1979 and lived for five years in a semi-coma before dying, the magazine said. Asked the toughest decision she ever had to make, Franklin told Ebony, “It was when my dad was in the hospital,” and began to cry.

She was also the godmother of Whitney Houston, who died in 2012.

But Franklin’s lows and the emotion involved fueled her music. She saw a number of resurgences in the past three decades and her image as a pop icon endured, with President Barack Obama featuring her singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at his inauguration in 2009. She also performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1992.

Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005. In 1986, her voice was declared a national resource by the Michigan Legislature. She even had an asteroid named for her.

“She looks rested and relaxed, like a housewife headed out to do some shopping at the local K-Mart,” Ebony reporter Laura Randolph wrote in the 1995 profile. “There, or at the Woolworth’s Five and Dime where, she recalls, she’s spent many an afternoon ‘browsing and buying knick-knacks’ then ‘sitting down at the counter to a scrumptious turkey and dressing plate with mashed potatoes oozing with gravy and loving it.’ “

Health issues derailed her late career

Franklin battled health issues in recent years, struggling with weight gain and associated ailments.

In August 2010, she canceled two free concerts in New York because of “fractured ribs and pain in the abdomen,” spokeswoman Gwendolyn Quinn said, adding that Franklin’s doctors had told her to come in for tests immediately.

That November, her doctors ordered her to cancel all personal appearances for the next six months, the Detroit Free Press reported. In early December, Franklin underwent surgery deemed “highly successful.”

She also canceled some appearances in 2013.

However, she recovered enough to return to touring in 2014, including a performance at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. She’d also lost almost 100 pounds.

“It’s fun buying new clothes!” she told USA Today. “I couldn’t stay out of the mirror, just turning every way. This is my natural weight.”

As for her old wardrobe? The shopper knew exactly what to do with those outfits.

“I’m thinking of giving them to a resale shop,” Franklin said.

Her final album, “A Brand New Me,” paired Franklin’s original recordings of some of her greatest hits with modern musical arrangements from London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

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Baltimore’s Allison Brown Is More Than just An Entrepreneur

Baltimore native Allison Elizabeth Brown has amassed more than twenty years experience in youth based, non-profit work. She has also worked professionally in the entertainment industry.

The Baltimore-born entrepreneur possesses a passion for the development of minority owned businesses and programs designed to strengthen minority youth.

At the recent Baltimore Times Access to Capital 2.0 free financial education workshop, Brown showcased her two entrepreneurial endeavors— AEBBusiness.com and AllisonElizabethBrown.com.

“I have two companies. The first company [AEBBusiness.com] is about nine years old and I personally have over 12 years of experience, specifically in branding and entertainment development,” Brown said.

At the Access to Capital 2.0 event Brown not only helped to inspire others but she says she also drew inspiration from the other participants.

“I thought the ‘Lendistry’ presentation was concise and informative. The panel consisting of lenders was exceptional as well, and I would love to see them both provide a more in-depth conversation to more experienced business owners,” Brown said.

Invited to attend the workshop by Baltimore Times Publisher Joy Bramble, Brown participated in a question and answer session featuring entrepreneurs and business people who talked about their road to success and their experiences managing personal and business credit.

Brown says she wasn’t sure what to expect when she was invited to attend and to be a participant.

“Within the first 15 minutes, it was very clear that the Baltimore Times was offering a comprehensive event for both novice and seasoned business owners that both enforces sound business practices as well as effectively disseminates what resources are available for financing business startup or growth,” she said.

At AEB Business, Brown seeks to assist startups and established enterprises to successfully communicate their distinct brand identity and mission, along with relevant campaigns to their appropriate demographic.

Specifically, she says she offers an array of services from conceptualizing to full execution, acting either as the consultant or service provider in several areas.

Her AllisonElizabethBrown.com business invites shoppers to a uniquely curated world of urban fashion, glamour and style. Brown boasts more than a decade of fashion experience and industry knowledge, and in her webpage, she has created more than just a site— it’s a destination.

“I’ve brought four distinct brands together on this one site for one easy shopping experience,” she said in describing her site. “There’s something for every woman and for almost any occasion.”

Branding and fashion isn’t all that occupies Brown’s time.

For more than five years she has managed businesses for fashion virtuoso Marjorie Harvey, the wife of talk show host and comedian Steve Harvey. She has also performed work branding the southern gospel artist tour “Embrace the Change” for President Barack Obama’s initial presidential campaign

Brown, who earned a Master of Arts degree in Urban Education and is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts, has also excelled in screenwriting, directing and choreography, among many other ventures.

She is the recipient of a George Soros Community Fellow grant for her extensive work in both West Baltimore and East Baltimore and has modeled under the famed Wilhelmina’s creative talent division in New York.

Through all of her accomplishments, Brown remains focused and recognizes the various challenges that entrepreneurs face, particularly those with online businesses.

“We must create live experiences that counter balance our digital marketing initiatives. It’s important in business to have both forms of marketing and not heavily rely on one,” Brown said.

“Especially because of the algorithms and other digital manipulations online business owners have to have [plus] multiple business marketing strategies to ensure that they are effectively reaching their consumer.”

When asked what advice she would give to young aspiring entrepreneurs, Brown said that it’s important they do their homework.

“Establish a network of mentors and advisors, build partnerships, practice the habit of visualizing your success on a regular basis and jot down constant strategies to get there— determine very early on to keep going no matter what,” she said.

Access to Capital Event Draws Business Leaders, Entrepreneurs

The Baltimore Times, Times Community Services, Inc. and Lendistry were hosts to “Access to Capital 2.0 Small Business Workshop,” an event that drew various community business leaders and entrepreneurs to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum on Saturday, June 16, 2018.

The free financial education workshop included bankers, credit specialists, alternative financing lenders and small business nonprofit resources, all of which were highlighted during the nearly four-hour gathering.

The Baltimore Times and Times Community Services, Inc. also awarded Nichole Mooney, the founder of Black Girls Cook, Inc. and Godfrey Molen Jr., the founder and president of Friendly Loving Opportunities; with $1,000 grants.. The attendees received invaluable business advice and business advancement resources at no cost. Some said that the workshop experience was worth its weight in gold and that perhaps would cost thousands of dollars in consultant fees if they had to pay for it.

“I think the main thing about the Access to Capital 2.0 event is the education of the process of becoming a small business owner and the understanding that it’s done in stages,” said Everett Sands, the president and CEO of Lendistry, a small business lender who’s been in the lending business for nearly 20 years. “If you are educated on the steps, you have a much better chance to succeed. Unfortunately, there is a lot of trial and error… but it’s not impossible.”

Access to Capital Panel (left to right): Stephen Monroe, Managing Partner, Liquid Alternative Financing; Paul Taylor, Director, Mayor's Office of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses; Timothy Smoot, Senior Vice President/CFO, Meridian Management Group; Stanley Arnold, Senior VP, Harbor Bank; George Koste, Executive Director, Maryland Capital Enterprise, Inc.; and Ramsey Harris, Vice President of East Territory, PNC Bank. Everett Sands, President and CEO of Lendistry (podium) was facilitator of the Access to Capital 2.0 Small Business Workshop.

Dennis Roberts

Access to Capital Panel (left to right): Stephen Monroe, Managing Partner, Liquid Alternative Financing; Paul Taylor, Director, Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses; Timothy Smoot, Senior Vice President/CFO, Meridian Management Group; Stanley Arnold, Senior VP, Harbor Bank; George Koste, Executive Director, Maryland Capital Enterprise, Inc.; and Ramsey Harris, Vice President of East Territory, PNC Bank. Everett Sands, President and CEO of Lendistry (podium) was facilitator of the Access to Capital 2.0 Small Business Workshop.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Access to Capital 2.0 event was the collaboration and exposure to the lending ecosystem in Baltimore, said Paul Taylor, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women Owned Businesses for the city of Baltimore.

“The diversity of the panelists and the different perspectives in the lending community and what the responsibilities of the potential borrowers are, was critically important,” Taylor said.

Those in attendance were able to learn about the pragmatic steps needed to start and operate a business and what they should do in the startup phase to insure sustainability, he said.

“They got an opportunity to hear from someone who has started a business and what it took to get there, and it was important for me to attend because as a representative of the mayor, I want people to understand that this mayor who herself is a business owner understands the importance of operating a business in Baltimore and is streamlining city services to enhance business growth,” Taylor said.

All the information presented at the workshop contained specific levels of relevance, according to Ramsey L. Harris, vice president of East Territory and LMI Business Advisor in retail lending distribution management for PNC Bank.

As a business credit executive and advocate for minority enterprises, Harris says he is biased to the importance of educating entrepreneurs around the nuances of small business lending.

“It’s vital to the longevity of small and minority business owners to become educated and familiar with the fundamentals of bank financing,” he said.

As for what people could learn from attending the workshop, Harris said they were presented with an opportunity to obtain knowledge of all the entrepreneurial essentials, like marketing, business planning, lending and financing, and networking.

He added that it’s always a delight to represent PNC Bank at such forums.

“My team and I are committed to doing our part in ensuring the minority business community here in Baltimore has the support, information, and resources necessary for long term success,” Harris said.

The event was also important for entrepreneurs “to understand the importance of a relationship with a community bank and community banker because this gives them a financial consultant,” said Stan Arnold, the senior vice president and chief lending officer at The Harbor Bank of Maryland, who also attended the event.

LaShanna Brown, whose 17-year-old daughter, Madison, owns and operates Madison Brown Princess M Cosmetics, said they delighted in being among the entrepreneurs at the event. For her, it was also a chance to reflect on Madison’s growth.

“I was amazed at how much she knew at such a young age,” Brown said about her daughter. “I said, ‘this is not my journey, it’s not my path.’ I could only guide her and who am I to stop her purpose.”

Local Inspirational Music Artist Releases New EP ‘Created to Worship’

— Inspirational gospel music artist Naomi B. has made a name for herself in many circles over the years for her versatile vocals and growing ministry. Her fans have tried to remain patient in anticipation of her first project, and now their wait is finally over.

On July 3, 2018 she officially releases her EP entitled, “Created to Worship.”

Fans and supporters will be able to preview the album and purchase an advance copy during a listening party at GLA Performing Arts Studio in Roseville, Maryland on Friday, June 29, 2018, staring at 8 p.m.

Attendees at the event will experience a number of songs from Naomi B. and see to the showing of her music video for her single “Break Free,” which addresses the issue of sex trafficking, an issue of major concern in Baltimore.

Naomi B. has lent her time to supporting groups advocating against human and sex trafficking and that spirit of service has been central to her ministry and is a key part of the message she hopes to send with the EP.

“Created to Worship,” the title track of the EP talks about how, “as God’s creatures all of us were created to worship.

“My definition of worship is giving back to God what he gave to me— what He has entrusted me with,” NaomiB said. “What do you have that you can offer back? Worship isn’t just a song that you sing during worship service, but it is a lifelong attitude of gratitude and reverence to God for who He is and who He created us to be. And, we can express this through our gifts and talents.”

Getting to the release of “Created to Worship” has been a long journey for Naomi B. She had hoped to release projects on a few other occasions but always felt that something was missing, until now.

“I believed the music wasn’t quite there yet,” she said. “Now, I feel like I am with the right group of producers; I have grown as an artist; I have grown as a minister and I’m more sure of who I am. I wanted to make sure that everything was right, because you only have one time to make a first impression.”

Joining NaomiB at the June 29th celebration will be recording artist Therron Fowler; recording artist and producer Micah Smith (producer of Naomi B.’s song “Break Free”); and spoken word artist Chris Jones. WEAA 88.9 FM’s Jamal McCollum will serve as the event’s host.

Moving forward, there is a great deal of promise for Naomi B.’s career. She is booked for numerous upcoming performances and her ministry continues to grow in popularity, without the support of an industry record label.

“This is not just about music, this is ministry! And my purpose is to bring healing to people through my music,” said Naomi B. “My purpose is bigger than a record deal. It’s bigger than whether the music industry knows my name. I had to really understand that, because for a while I felt like if I couldn’t break into the music industry scene [the traditional way], I was somehow failing. But I learned that if you just let God open the doors for you, there is no limit to the success He can bring.”

For more information about Naomi B. and her new EP “Created to Worship,” visit: www.naomibmusic.com or follow her on social media at @naomibmusic.

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!

Black Mamas Are Dying. We Can Stop It.

Black mothers are dying and it’s time to do something about it.

Every year, more than 700 American mothers lose their lives to pregnancy or birth-related complications. Some medical professionals estimate that at least half, if not more, of these deaths are entirely preventable.

While the deaths of 700-plus American mothers should shock us all, the statistics are much worse for African American mothers. We are three-to-four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than our White counterparts. A 2010-2011 survey of maternal deaths in Philadelphia found that three-quarters of those deaths were Black mothers.

These shocking statistics cut across class, education level, and socio-economic status. Earlier this year, Serena Williams shared her own story about nearly losing her life.

She, like too many other women, was ignored when she raised concerns about her own health and body. If this tragedy can befall a wealthy, world-class athlete who’s deeply in tuned with her own body, it could, and does, happen to anyone.

Sadly, the situation is getting worse, not better. American mothers are dying at higher rates every year.

Globally, we’ve had real success in pushing down the rates of mothers needlessly dying, especially in Africa and the Caribbean. Yet at the same time, the U.S. is one of a handful of nations where the number of mothers dying is increasing.

We can and must do better. All mamas deserve the chance to be mamas.

That’s why I’ve introduced the “Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act” or the MOMMA Act, for short. This comprehensive legislation takes a multi-pronged approach to ending maternal mortality through increased access to care, expanded culturally-competent training and standardized data collection.

Currently, one of our greatest challenges in addressing the rising rate of maternal mortality is a lack of good data. We need to standardize data to find trends and protocols that work to save lives.

The MOMMA Act also establishes and enforces national emergency obstetric protocols and ensures the sharing of best practices between practitioners and hospital systems because, if it’s working, we want every doctor to know about it.

Additionally, the MOMMA Act would expand access to care by ensuring that mothers retain their Medicaid coverage for one year after giving birth, the entire postpartum period. Right now, mothers lose their coverage just two months after giving birth.

However, many women face significant health challenges, often weeks and months, after giving birth. One mom who spoke at my press conference unveiling the bill suffered a childbirth-related stroke 20 days after giving birth. Furthermore, we know that postpartum depression and other health challenges face new mothers; expanding access to care will ensure that moms remain healthy as they raise their families.

Finally, the MOMMA Act would improve access to culturally-competent care throughout the care continuum. For decades, we’ve known that culturally-

incompetent care has had massive and negative impacts on our community and our health. In 2018, it’s time to train health professionals to give appropriate care to all patients, regardless of their race.

I could not be prouder to have introduced the MOMMA Act or to have worked with the amazing women and men who helped us craft this important legislation to save mothers’ lives.

It’s the product of months of work with families, mothers, doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas and policy advocates. I’m deeply humbled to have the support of Black Women’s Health Imperative, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, the National Urban League, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and many others.

As a mother, I was lucky enough to experience two happy, healthy pregnancies. I want the same thing for every mother and family: a healthy, happy pregnancy and child.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly represents Illinois’ Second Congressional District. She is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. She also serves on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Follow Congresswoman Kelly on Twitter @RepRobinKelly.

Baltimore City Native Serving On “City At Sea” Aboard Navy’s Largest Amphibious Warfare Ship

Baltimore City, native and 2012 Baltimore Talent Development High School graduate, Amber McMillian is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.

Petty Officer 3rd Class McMillian is a culinary specialist aboard the amphibious assault ship operating out of San Diego. A culinary specialist is responsible for cooking meals for the crew.

“Growing up, I was taught to be nice to everyone,” said McMillian. “By being nice to others in the Navy, you get the same treatment in return.”

Makin Island, one of the Navy’s most advanced and largest amphibious ships, is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts.

The ship, which resembles a small aircraft carrier, is longer than two football fields at 847 feet, is 106 feet wide and weighs more than 41,000 tons fully loaded. It has gas turbine engines and two variable speed electric motors that can push the ship through the water in excess of 20 knots. It can carry more than 12 helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Makin Island. More than 1,000 men and women make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 1,700 Marines can be embarked. It is capable of transporting Marines and landing them where they are needed via helicopters, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and landing craft.

“Makin Island is one of the most advanced warships on the waterfront, but she’s nothing without her crew,” said Capt. David Oden, commanding officer of Makin Island. “They’ve proved themselves time and time again, and their level of professionalism and dedication is second to none.”

These amphibious assault ships project power from the sea serving as the cornerstone of the amphibious ready group. Makin Island was delivered to the Navy in April 2009 and is the first U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship to be equipped with both gas turbines and auxiliary propulsion system instead of steam boilers.

These ships support special operations and expeditionary warfare missions, transporting U.S. Marines from sea to shore through a combination of aircraft and water landing craft. Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

“I like the group of people I get to work with on the ship,” said McMillian. “We are tight-knit group and it makes for a better working environment.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, McMillian and other Makin Island sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“Serving in the Navy is an opportunity to further my education,” added McMillian. “I would like to go to school for criminal justice and the Navy will allow me to do that.”

Maryland Author’s Debut Book “At Least Once” a Finalist in Best Books Award Competition

— Two prominent black women have headlined recent articles about the lack of available black men and the desire for women over 40 to get married and have babies.

The first was tennis superstar, Serena Williams because of her marriage to a non-black man. The second, actor Tracie Ellis Ross who in her recent speech at the Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year summit, shared that her career successes continually took backstage to questions about when she would get married and have children.

Maryland-based author, D.M. Cuffie tackles both of these topics in her engaging and humorous, debut novel, “At Least Once” where she shares the experiences of eight single black Christian women.

“I was reading one of Jennifer Weiner’s novels, and a particular chapter in her book about a support group for women had me laughing hysterically because I could relate so well to the situations,” said Cuffie. “I decided to write about some of mine and my single Christian girlfriends adventures, since we encounter many of the regular challenges of being single along with the need for a support group.”

In “At Least Once,” the main character Breeze Monsoon is a nine-time bridesmaid and a poster child for contentment. She is completely content with her loving family and is perfectly content with being a cheerleader for her circle of friends; content with seeing her students retain algebra and geometry; spiritually content with her relationship with Him (God) and most of His children; and absolutely content that her last date, which ended in a complete disaster was three years ago.

Unconvinced that Breeze is “content” with her non-existent love life, her aunt and best friend take matters into their own hands to get her love life on the right track— at least once— by enrolling her in a class, specializing in “relationship repair” for Christian single women.

Through prayer, laughter, field trips and the ability to be completely transparent without judgment, Breeze and seven other women take an eight-month journey encouraging each other, keeping each other accountable to His word, through plenty of necessary girl talk; with the goal of rediscovering themselves, reclaiming their joy, and redefining the petitions of their heart.

“At Least Once,” was a finalist in the 2016 ‘Best Book Award’ in the African-American fiction category. It’s the first book in author D.M. Cuffie’s “While We Wait series.” To learn more about D.M. Cuffie and her book, “At Least Once,” visit: www.dmcuffieauthor.com