BCRP holds groundbreaking ceremony for regional recreational facility

A transformative South Baltimore- based project more than a decade in the making is finally beginning to come to fruition.

The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks (BCRP) has officially marked the start of construction for the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center at Cherry Hill at the groundbreaking ceremony on the afternoon of September 21, 2020 at Reedbird Park.

The fitness and wellness center will be complemented by an adjacent multi- purpose playing field, providing additional outdoor recreational opportunities for community members. The state-of-the-art complex will be Baltimore City’s first-ever regional recreational facility, according to BCRP.

Local officials and community members came together with Baltimore City Recre- ation and Parks to celebrate to groundbreaking for the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center in Cherry Hill's Reedbird Park on Sept. 21.

Demetrius Dillard

Local officials and community members came together with Baltimore City Recre- ation and Parks to celebrate to groundbreaking for the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center in Cherry Hill’s Reedbird Park on Sept. 21.

Local and state officials, BCRP executives, community leaders and city residents were at the ceremony to celebrate the groundbreaking of what will be known as the ‘super rec center’ and may become the new standard of recreation for the city.

“Today is a great day for us here in Baltimore. This has been a journey that has been over a decade in the making to get us to this groundbreaking today,” said Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young when sharing remarks, thanking partners that made the project possible. “The city of Baltimore remains committed to the enhancement and reestablishment of recreational facilities and opportunities, of course for our young people, but for all residents of our great city. Partnerships between city and state agencies, local organizations and the community make projects like the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center possible.”

The South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Cherry Hill Development Corporation partnered with BCRP over the course of the planning and development phases of the project.

“The reality is for much of my lifetime, we’ve been investing in the failure of young people and not their promise. This is an investment into the

future and promise of young people of Baltimore City,” said Council President and Democratic mayoral candidate Brandon Scott. “It will be a shining example of how we can actually do great things in neighborhoods to create great people and help them grow up and be the best people they can be, to make Baltimore the best Baltimore it could be and Cherry Hill the best Cherry Hill it could be. That’s what this means to me.”

According to a BCRP press release, the 35,000-square-foot, $23.1 million fitness and wellness center will contain an indoor aquatic center; a community room; fitness studios; a gymnasium with a basketball court; a maker space; and an indoor track.

Funding for the project was made possible by corporate and individual sponsors in addition to the City of Baltimore and the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership.

The outdoor amenities will consist of three additional grass fields, a playground, walking trails, a fishing pier, a dog park, basketball courts, new lighting, and a field house.

Estimated to serve as one of the city’s premier regional indoor and outdoor recreational hubs, the complex will also have ties to existing trail networks, including the Gwynns Falls Trail and the Middle Branch Trail.

The facility which is scheduled to open in 2022, is a culmination of what has been in the works since 2008. The estimated time of completion for the adjacent field is spring 2021.

The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and its partners are responsible for constructing an 83,000-square-foot synthetic surface field next to the fitness center. The $2.25 million multi-purpose field will provide a space for baseball, soccer, lacrosse, football, and flag football competition and will be called “BGE Field presented by KELLY.”

BCRP will also operate a variety of after-school sports programs and the Ripken Foundation will run its Badges for Baseball program.

Following remarks by the designated individuals, local officials and community members assembled for the ceremonial dig for the groundbreaking.“It is an opportunity where you can focus on health and wellness, you can focus on community development, but also it’s an economic driver for your community,” said Reginald Moore, executive director of BCRP.

“What this means is that we’ll have a state-of-the-art facility that connects here in Cherry Hill, but also offers opportunities for Westport who has limited to no recreation, and also will offer connections to Brooklyn and the Curtis Bay area.

“We want everyone to come, we want everyone to be engaged, we want the community to be a part of this… To me it’s a win-win for the entire community.”

Raheem Brown, the founder and president of Cherry Hill Eagles Youth Development, is a lifelong Cherry Hill resident and was at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“For this to actually happen— this groundbreaking— it’s monumental,” Brown said. “We really, really needed this football field, we really needed lights. It’s been a long time coming, so I’m very excited.”

Defund the Police Department

I remember my late mother, a graduate of Shaw University, Mary Beasley Hathaway, saying to me, “you don’t see the forest for the trees.” The saying was meant to communicate that every now and then you have to step back and take a macro view of a situation. I’m sharing this saying as a way of presenting my perspective on the “defund the police” movement.

We have to examine rightly the priorities and allocations of a $577,000.00 plus budget of the Baltimore City Police Department, a budget that takes a significant percentage of Baltimore City’s overall budget.

While I agree the budget needs to be reallocated. I see simply looking at the budget of the Baltimore City Police Department as the proverbial looking at the “trees instead of the forest.”

It’s become a social justice issue to focus upon the Police Department. The treatment of people of color by the hands of the police force merits Federal Court monitoring its operations and mandating change in its practices and policies. I can understand the emotional and substantial rational for defunding a police department that possibly causes more harm than good within the Black Community.

Let me give some context, Dr. Karl Alexander of Johns Hopkins University, a researcher, conducted a longitudinal study of 790 youth for 25 years who lived within Penrose-Fayette, west side of Monroe, and Franklin Square on the east. He studied those youth from age three until age 28. His findings are published in the book, “Long Shadows.”

This is a summary of the findings: “Almost half stayed at the same economic level as their parents; only 33 children moved from low-income to high income bracket; only four percent from low income families had a college degree; while 45 percent of the children from higher income families earned a degree; White men from low-income backgrounds found high-paying jobs; at age 28, 45 percent of the Whites were working in construction trades and industrial crafts, compared with 15 percent of Black men and virtually no women; White women from low-income backgrounds benefit financially from marriage and stable live-in partnerships; and at age 28, 41 percent of the White men and 49 percent of the Black men from low-income backgrounds had a criminal conviction, but the White employment rate was much higher.”

The reason I point you to the Long Shadow’s study is to highlight the fact that by simply focusing upon “defunding the police department” you are only looking at the trees.

The forest is the total budgets of three key operations in Baltimore City— Baltimore City Government; Baltimore City Public School System; and Baltimore City Department of Social Services. These three entities have a consolidated budget of over $6 Billion per year. Using simplistic math and not accounting for adjustments and fluctuations over a 25 year period, the total consolidated expenditures of those three entities would be over $1 Trillion Five Hundred Million.

This is the forest we must see!

By doing business as usual the Long Study results are the outcomes we achieve. We need to do something radically different to change the outcomes of children and youth growing up in Baltimore’s low-income communities.

Simply demanding “defund the police department” without a comprehensive strategy for these three essential budget expenditures and projecting their investment over the life cycle of our city’s youth will doom future generations to the pot holes of rejection and low expectation.

It’s a tragedy that children of low- income families remain low income. Each generation should build upon the other and our public budgeting expenditures should provide our children and families a ladder to success.

If the results of the Democratic primary hold true we will have elected a generation of city-wide leaders: Mayor, President of the City Council and Comptroller who can guide our City for the next 20-24 years.

Our planning and budgeting process should reflect that possibility and be more strategic. Everyone understands that investment in human productivity, education, workforce development better health outcomes and quality housing will provide the masses of people with a better quality of life.

Business management and organizational development professional would share with you that our Japanese counterparts plan in hundred year cycles. This thinking creates within those organizations the mindset to project over a longer period of time and out performs those organizations with a shorter planning cycle.

Instead of each department or agency coming before the City Council and the Mayor and presenting their annual budgets for review, let us engage the residents of Baltimore City in the budgeting process and state clearly that we are at this particular juncture and we are getting these particular outcomes. Then ask what outcomes we wish to achieve over a 20-year period? And present budgets within a 20-24 year context where each year we are making the strategic investments in improving the quality of life of the persons living in Baltimore.

You may say that’s wishful thinking.

I would respond it’s “forest view thinking.” We can no longer afford “tree view thinking.” We need leaders who are willing to climb the mountaintop and think at the level of the timberline. That, as Dr. Howard Thurman would say is “the line where the tips of the trees in the forest touch the mind and hand of God.”

Dr. Al Hathaway serves as the Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church located at 1219 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore City.

Prospering during the pandemic but is Zoom here to stay?

Remember when Bill Gates started Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg opened Facebook?

While it’s widely known that Microsoft and Facebook started respectively in the 1980s and 2000s, not a lot of signifi- cance was given to the start of these now multi-billion-dollar companies. It appears Zoom will follow in their footsteps.

The nine-year-old virtual platform became popular when the coronavirus pandemic began as the platform for not only the home for business meetings but social and religious gatherings, education, and events like weddings and funerals.

MSN reported that Zoom has a market cap of $129 billion and is now worth more than IBM and twice as valuable as VMware. In 2019, CEO Eric Yuan had a net worth of about $3 billion. Today, Forbes places Yuan’s “San Francisco, Cleveland, the United Kingdom. We’ve had visitors from everywhere,” one member said.

Dennis Bell, the founder and CEO of Byblos noted that, “even after the pandemic, Zoom will be a part of everyone’s daily life. It’s a convenient way to reach out to people, especially those who are far from you.”

“Regardless of the time zone differences, you can easily communicate effectively. It provides a lot of opportunities to interact virtually with your team. Zoom can also record videos that allow you to store and have access to it whenever needed. It is also a convenient way to replay a part of your meetings for recording purposes. Zoom was here even before the pandemic, and it is likely here to stay and be a part of the business and people’s lives,” Bell said.

Erik Rivera, the CEO of the online telehealth platform, ThriveTalk says he currently attends as many as 20 Zoom meetings per week. Rivera said the video chat platform is facilitating his business. “As we have moved our operations model entirely online, moving forward, I can only predict that this number will stay high,” Rivera said. Mark Hayes, the head of marketing atvalue at approximately $20 billion.

In its most recent earnings report, the company said revenue over the last quarter increased a whopping 355 percent from a year earlier, as many companies struggle to stay afloat with the deadly pandemic still raging. And, if there were any doubt that Zoom is here to stay, business owners and many users in and around Baltimore say they are committed for the long haul.

Alcoholics Anonymous leaders in the city say they’ve taken measures to ensure the security of their zoom meetings because they believe they’ll be using the platform for some time.

The group hosts 800 meetings each week, and many say Zoom has opened Baltimore’s gatherings to a much larger audience. the advice and tutoring company, Kintell, said he’s also attending countless Zoom meetings and believes they’re here to stay. “At this point, it went from a novelty to standard procedure,” Hayes declared. “In my view, the coronavirus taught the world that a lot of roles could be carried out remotely, for better or for worse.”

There are skeptics, however. Although Martin Seeley called Zoom the best alternative to roundtable meetings during COVID-19 and has helped companies adjust to the new normal of communications, he doesn’t believe it’ll remain popular.

“After the pandemic, it will have a great decline in sales because people still prefer traditional face-to-face meetings instead of virtual meetings,” said Seeley, the CEO of MattressNextDay.

“It just happens that companies needed alternative ways to conduct business meetings, and they have discovered Zoom as the best tool for virtual communication.”

David Walter, a local electrician, agreed. “While I do see Zoom as a major part of business and life in the short-term, I don’t see that as lasting,” Walter opined. “It will still be popular because I think a lot of folks didn’t understand all of the benefits, but hopefully, as this virus continues to fade, and if we get an effective vaccine, I think you’ll see somewhat of a return to in-person meetings.”

Republican connected tech firm targeted black voters on facebook for ‘deterrence’

A database built by Cambridge Analytica, the Republican-aligned firm that shut down over allegations of improper use of Facebook data, targeted Black voters for “Deterrence” in profiles prepared for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign according to reporting by Great Britain’s Channel 4 News. It had already been known that Black voters were focused on disenfranchisement by the Trump campaign and Russian interference. But the new report outlined that 3.5 million Black Americans were profiled specifically in a new digital form of social media-driven voter suppression for ‘deterrence’ by the Trump campaign. What this also reveals is that in 2016 Facebook allowed this to take place. In 2016 many Black voters said that they wanted to stay home on Election Day.

“The ‘Deterrence’ project can be revealed after Channel 4 News obtained the database used by Trump’s digital campaign team— credited with helping deliver his shock victory to become president four years ago. Vast in scale, it contains details on almost 200 million Americans, among more than 5,000 files, which together amass almost five‐ terabytes of data— making it one of the biggest leaks in history. It reveals not only the huge amounts of data held on every individual voter, but how that data was used and manipulated by models and algorithms,” the new investigative report from Channel4 revealed.

Over 3.5 million Black Americans were marked for ‘deterrence.’The digital arm of Trump’s 2016 digital team, called ‘Project Alamo’ included a team from the now defunct British company Cambridge Analytica. Two senior directors of the former Cambridge Analytica team are now working on the Trump 2020 campaign for The White House.

Voter suppression has become mainstream policy for the Republican Party in America. Efforts to suppress the vote became mainstream after the election of the first Black President of the United States, Barack Obama, in 2008.

Voter suppression efforts that disproportionately target Black voters include requiring certain IDs at the polls, shutting down polling locations in predominantly Black areas and polling hours that make it difficult for working class Americans to participate.

Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million votes. In certain states, such as Wisconsin, the margin was thin. Hillary Clinton won the most votes but lost the Electoral College and Trump won four years in the White House.

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

84-Year-Old Body Builder, Beyonce’ Video Star Endorses ‘A Better You’

Ernestine Shepherd is a world champion bodybuilder. Before one could dismiss that with a “so what?” note, the Baltimore resident is 84.

The now legendary “6-pack granny” recently appeared in a video for Beyoncé’s “Black is King” album. The grandmother and retired school secretary proudly stands as a Guinness World Record holder for the world’s oldest female competitive bodybuilder.

On Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, Shepherd will join UnitedHealthCare to host “A Better You,” a health and wellness event aimed at helping African Americans approaching retirement and other Medicare beneficiaries learn more about Medicare and their health coverage options.

The online event promises to provide safe access to seniors’ resources and information to make informed health care coverage decisions before the annual Medicare Enrollment Period, which begins Oct. 15.

Virtual attendees will hear from Yohnnie Shambourger, former Mr. Universe and Shepherd’s trainer, who will share nutrition tips and walk through a series of exercises.

UnitedHealthcare’s Rita Tolbert plans to guide participants through a Medicare discussion, including eligibility requirements and enrollment windows.

“I always say and truly believe that age is nothing but a number. I won my first bodybuilding competition at the age of 71, after having lived a sedentary life,” Shepherd told the Baltimore Times.

“I feel better now in my 80’s than I did in my 40’s. Exercise and wellness are important to improve our quality of life at any age. People must listen to their bodies and do what works for them – going for a walk, doing some stretches from your seat, and even dancing while you cook. It’s about making movement part of your lifestyle.”

Shepherd said she began her fitness journey as a school secretary in 2007 when she participated in her first bodybuilding contest and won first place honors.

Three years later, Guinness formally presented her the title of World’s Oldest Performing Female Bodybuilder. She called working with Beyoncé an incredible experience.”She recruited me to appear in the music video for the song ‘Power,’ which celebrates the beauty and power of Blackness. When I arrived on-set, she approached me and gave me a big hug,” Shepherd recalled. “She was truly wonderful, and the interaction highlighted that anything is possible, regardless of your age.”

Because staying fit and creating healthy habits are essential, Shepherd has maintained a daily routine. “Typically, I start my day at 4 a.m. and go for a 10-mile run/walk, followed by strength training around 7:30 a.m. I then lead exercise classes at the local gym until 11:30 a.m. and return home for lunch,” she said.

“I have five to six meals a day, which often includes oatmeal, baked white potatoes, chicken, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and tuna. I also supplement my protein intake with 8-ounce glasses of liquid egg whites throughout the day.”

Shepherd and UnitedHealthCare suggest that now more than ever, African Americans approaching retirement need the information to make informed coverage decisions, which is the goal of “A Better You!”

“The last thing you want to do is worry about your coverage options once you need medical attention. Just like forming healthy lifestyle habits, ensuring that your health care coverage options meet your needs is an important way to take care of yourself,” Shepherd stated.

“If Medicare coverage has never crossed your mind, the best thing you can do right now is to learn about it. Understand your needs, learn the terminology, coverage options, and enrollment dates so that once you’re ready to make a decision, you have all the information you need to make an informed choice.

“It’s also important to understand health care if you have parents or loved ones approaching the age of eligibility or needing assistance with their coverage. Learn about the Medicare program so you can help them choose the right plan when the time comes. “

The event is free and open to the public, for more information or to register, visit http://ABetteryou.info/.

High-end clothing store becomes go-to spot for PPE during the pandemic

When Dominick Davis and Steven White united to start the high-end clothing store “Different Regard” in 2011, their vision was to provide domestic and international manufacturing with various products for consumers, corporations, and governments. They accomplished that and quickly became the go-to shop for the perfect tuxedo, stylish dresses, and fashionable accessories.

The testimonials posted on the company’s website, along with a myriad of photos, show much love for Different Regard.

Different Regard Models.


Different Regard Models.

“Best experience I have had with getting a custom suit made,” wrote Stephen T.

Meagan L., another satisfied customer, wrote: “My husband’s wedding tux made by Different Regard was absolutely flawless.” And this from Victor B.: “Steven and Dominick are forces of sartorial nature. Their customer service is without parallel in the Baltimore men’s fine clothing market. These two young men have brought a certain stylistic panache to Baltimore that was previously sorely missing.” Then the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Like most businesses, Different Regard wasn’t prepared for COVID-19, which among many other things, pivoted the shop’s fashion brand.

“Our sales decreased by 90 percent, and we had to creatively meet and figure out who was going to be available to work during the pandemic,” Davis recalled. “We had to consider the safety of our team, and we took some time to do research and some development.”

Davis and White hit the ground running. They began to manufacture Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and obtained private and government contracts for the life-saving gear. They donated more than 20,000 facemasks to hospitals in Baltimore and locations around the country.

Different Regard also began selling stylish facemasks to the public, including the popular deep red, red sand, and smoke pleated masks.

“We were able to hire seven additional employees, and we increased our manufacturing and equipment by over 60 percent,” Davis noted.

The overall aim of Different Regard remains the same: to provide affordable luxury clothing for everyone.

According to Davis, the business’s clients are men, women, kids, and nongender who prefer a classic style with a modern edge.

The Baltimore-based clothing brand continues to design luxurious well- tailored garments that are created in-house “for those who have an uncompromising vision of style and quality,” he stated.

“We design for the professional, personal, and social lifestyle. We believe your clothing helps to promote your lifestyle growth. We create not just fashion-forward clothing, but a lifestyle and attitude.”

With the pandemic still raging, Davis said there remains a need to manufacture personal protection equipment while creating job growth, strengthening the community and families.

“Our company was not prepared for COVID-19 to come and pivot our fashion brand,” Davis said.“The pandemic had us shift our business from how we normally would operate and create another operation overnight. Our whole system and process had to be rebuilt. However, our company is honored to help during our global crisis.

Baltimore chef builds business on culinary treats and love

Amanda Mack wouldn’t let the coronavirus pandemic stop her from realizing her dreams.In June and at the pandemic’s height, Mack opened Crust by Mack inside the renovated and historic Whitehall Market in Baltimore. “Opening during a global pandemic was scary.

Not only did I have to take into consideration the health of my customers, but I have three children at home who I had to keep safe,” Mack declared. “I also had to readjust my menu, business plan, and hours of operation and prayed that I would make enough to support my family during a time when everything in the world is at a standstill.”

The accomplished chef said her culinary business represents a safe place where all are welcome, and her tasty treats are made with love.She said her mission is to serve customers with respect and kindness, and in a way that uplifts and strengthens the community.

Food Photography

by Kate Grewal

Food Photography

“Each time guests visit Crust, I want them to feel welcome, safe, and valued. I want them to leave feeling warm inside and excited to return soon,” Mack exclaimed.

She eagerly revealed where she developed a love for all things culinary. “My love for baking developed as a child watching my grandmother bake in her tiny apartment,” Mack reminisced. “Sometimes, she’d wake me up at 5 a.m. to bake biscuits for breakfast before we’d head off to school. As I got older, I realized that baking was very therapeutic. It became the peace I needed during some of the most challenging times of my life.”

Her friends and those who patronize the Black-owned Crust by Mack said the chef’s creations are known for bringing people together and keeping them connected through a series of curated events and brand collaborations with others in the culinary community.

Mack grew up in West Baltimore and ultimately graduated from Coppin State University. She added that her love for her community transcends beyond the table. Mack has spent the past decade as a vehicle for change in food justice and family nutrition in Baltimore food desserts.


by Kate Grewal


Her work with The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health supports the “B’More Healthy Kids Initiative“ by providing families with healthy alternatives to fast food, teaching families to cook healthy and affordably.

In 2014, Mack authored the children’s book, “Greens Don’t Grow in Cans,” which teaches the origin and nutritional value of fresh fruits and vegetables, while also encouraging family participation in meal preparation.

Twice awarded by the mayor for her continuous contributions to Baltimore, Mack also remains actively involved in community organizations that support youth enrichment and has helped raise over $20,000 for Baltimore programs.

All of what she said is inspired by her love of baking and her family. “The women in my family are my constant inspirations. They are strong, fearless Black women, and every day they remind me of my values and my worth,” Mack stated.

“My mom especially, is my greatest inspiration. I watched her overcome so many obstacles as a child and not once give up! She never made excuses or passed blame; she just did what she had to do.

“Most recently, I stood by her side as she battled breast cancer. There were times I thought she wasn’t going to make it, and I could not even imagine how my life would have been if she wasn’t here.

“It is such an honor standing alongside her in my own bakery week after week. Watching her cook for our guests and allowing them to share the best parts of herself has been my greatest joy since opening Crust.” Because access bridges the equity gap, Mack said she and her family understand that every business may not be created equally.

“From conception, we built our bakery as a resource to our community,” she exclaimed. “We will open our doors to entrepreneurs and small businesses, those of color, to participate in programming that creates access to tools and information needed to create an equitable and sustainable business from the inside out.”


by Kate Grewal


Free Money Meister Aims to Eliminate Student Loan Debt, Close Wealth Gap

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, which forced tens of millions to seek unemployment compensation benefits, financial experts said the nation’s student loan balance was projected to swell to $2 trillion by 2022, with approximately 25 percent of borrowers already behind on payments.

One local company is seeking to combat the student loan debt crisis by teaching high school students about financial literacy and showing them tactics to win scholarships.

After winning a $30,000 student loan pay down in 2017, Kiara Jones says she understands what it means to alleviate such a financial burden.

She founded Free Money Meister, where she says she uses her talents and strategies for student loan minimization. With Free Money Meister, the Notre Dame of Maryland University and University of Maryland Baltimore County alum has set her sights on being a pivotal player in diminishing the student loan debt crisis in an effort to combat the country’s wealth gap.The company plans to host several workshops to help aspiring college students become more knowledgeable about loans and debt.

“In our workshops, we have exercises where the students determine how much college will cost, review scholarship amounts and scholarship databases, and then assess the impacts to their proposed financial aid packages,” Jones said. “By completing these exercises and providing the students with this knowledge before they even apply to college, they are more likely to pursue scholarships, complete the FASFA more strategically and earlier to receive more federal aid, minimize financial aid package fees that do not apply to them, and more,” she declared. “All of which will result in these students lowering their proposed student loan debt and combatting the national average.”

Jones promises that the company would remain in contact with the students to keep metrics on their progress. She says combatting the national average is one way to fight the overall student loan debt crisis.

“We currently provide personal consultations for individuals that already have student loan debt and individuals that want us to find the scholarships and create a strategic plan for them,” Jones said. “We prefer to highlight our workshops instead of the consultations because at the moment we are in the process of revamping the consultations to be more technology-based, but these appointments directly combat the crisis by minimizing the amount of student loan debt in America one person at a time. “We hope to start automating these processes even further to reach larger audiences and have a larger impact.”

The first workshop on Saturday, October 10, 2020 will benefit students applying for early admissions.The workshops are open to all high school grade levels, and students are encouraged to attend as early as 9th grade, according to Jones, who noted that the workshops are both fun and interactive.

“At our workshops, we use demographics related to student loans to call out that Black Americans traditionally take out more student loans,” Jones exclaimed. “We also discuss an article that states that the ‘median wealth of Black Americans will fall to zero by 2053. We reflect on this item during the workshops when talking about that scholarship money can be used to not only minimize debt but to get refund checks to then save and invest.

“Even the act of minimizing student loan debt will put the average Black person in a better position to minimize the wealth diversity gap. We collaborate with local non-profits and banks to do community outreach to spread this information in underprivileged communities and communities with a high minority population.”

For more information about Free Money Meister or register for the workshops, visit: www.freemoneymeister.com.

New Vegan-Forward Concept Friends and Family Opens for Carry-Out

Baltimore— After the pandemic caused a six-month opening delay, longtime Baltimore restauranteur and cocktail mastermind Ginny Lawhorn and husband Ronnie Pasztor are ready to launch their new, sustainably minded plant-forward restaurant concept Friends and Family on September 14, 2020 in their former Fells Point Sticky Rice restaurant location (1634 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore). For now, food and craft cocktails will be available for carry out service.

Avocado, Hold The Toast (vegan and gluten free). Half of an avocado coated in everything bagel seasoning served with radish, edamame, and red onion over a bed of greens with a side of green goddess dressing

Courtesy Photo/David Stuck/Family and Friends

Avocado, Hold The Toast (vegan and gluten free). Half of an avocado coated in everything bagel seasoning served with radish, edamame, and red onion over a bed of greens with a side of green goddess dressing

“We deliberated for months and were very intentional about how and when we would open, ultimately deciding to provide carry-out service only and not allowing guests into the building right now. We are following Johns Hopkins and CDC restaurant guidelines and require staff and those picking up food to wear a mask at all times. Distance markers are outlined on the patio to ensure proper distancing when picking up orders,” noted Lawhorn. “Our front and back of house teams have separate restrooms, and we have created a seven-foot barrier/passthrough between these areas. Additional fans have been installed around the restaurant, as well.”

A brand new, collaboratively-designed and sustainably-minded menu boosts lighter options including protein-rich vegan and vegetarian salads such as Avocado Hold the Toast, and It’s Not Easy Being Green, as well as artfully prepared sandwiches with playful names like What the Cluck?!, AGT (avocado, greens, and tomato), and Eat Your Heart Out. Diners can also opt for heartier dishes like egg or tofu scrambles, vegan biscuits and gravy, and breakfast burritos, and finish off with a house-made vegan biscuit topped with strawberries and vegan vanilla sweet cream.

Small plates include vegan biscuits with jam and mock chicken nuggets, and more ambitious shared offerings include their beloved Bucket of Tots, available with their popular tot sauce options. With sides starting at $4, and entrees such as the Don’t Have a Cow Beyond Burger topping out at $14, approachable and group-minded pricing was designed to be as accessible to as many people as possible.

In addition to offering drinks from local partners VENT and Wild Kombucha, Lawhorn has also concocted an extensive cocktail menu. The to-go cocktail menu features quarts of crushes, margaritas, hard lemonades, Bloody Marys, and even a mimosa kit using craft spirits from regional partners like Don Ciccio & Figli and New Columbia Distillers.

“Our intention with an all-day menu is a desire to provide guests with the meal they want when they want it,” said Lawhorn. “Baltimore is made special and unique by its diversity of residents. From nurses to craftspeople to teachers to small business operators, we all live incredibly hectic lives with drastically varying schedules. Friends and Family will have a well-rounded menu for our guests to decide where they are in their day rather than us telling them when to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner.”

The 17th century building has received a major facelift since Sticky Rice closed its doors on Jan. 21. The new interior exudes an intimate, hip family room vibe, which forgoes the typical restaurant contrivances. The dining room is now equipped with additional seating, offering room for 94 guests with a mix of tables, banquettes, and booths. To complement the interior, Lawhorn decorated the space with artwork created by friends and family of the business—especially highlighting work from craftspeople and artists who had a hand in constructing the new concept, as well as works from her own art collection.

Soon Lawhorn and Pasztor will have the formstone of the three-story, double wide building removed. They will add a new awning, restore the glass blocks, and install large double-hung, push up windows. The restaurant will be open for four-six weeks and close for one week to complete this restoration.

Until the restoration is complete, Friends and Family’s Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Connect with Friends and Family on Instagram and Facebook at @FriendsandFamilyBaltimore, or visit websitewww.friendsandfamilybaltimore.com.

Black Riders Matter

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) is the nation’s oldest and largest trade association of Black-owned newspapers and media companies. Our NNPA member publishers hire employees, but we also hire a large number of independent contractors across America to accomplish the work and success of the Black Press.

In the tradition of African American business development, many independent contractors in our communities subsequently become the proprietors of their own businesses.

The point here is that today, across the state of California— and for seemingly counterproductive reasons— public policies, laws and regulations are being passed to prevent companies such as Lyft and Uber from having independent contractors drive and conduct related business across the state.

This is another glaring example of good intentions causing bad consequences, specifically for Black Americans, Latinx Americans and other people of color who are trying to work as independent contractors on a legitimate path to becoming sustainable and profitable entrepreneurs.

Systemic racism in America today has many varied and debilitating manifestations that keep a knee on the necks of people of color striving to achieve success, empowerment and lift themselves out of poverty. In my view, the proposed California law, Assembly Bill 5, is unconstitutional and racist. Other states should become aware and alarmed by these non-progressive and regressive regulations.

We have a fundamental right to participate in the emerging gig-economy. Black independent contractors who drive as a means of entrepreneurship do matter.

In fact, all Black Riders Matter. There are hundreds of thousands of people of color riders who depend daily on Lyft, Uber and other ride share companies to provide transportation and other vital services in particular during the devastating COVID- 19 pandemic.

A court in California just issued a temporary “stay” on restricting rideshare operations in the state over the independent contractor issue. The court ruling should be made permanent while civil rights and business leaders work together to undo the unjust and unfair rideshare regulations that may negatively impact millions of people throughout America.

The quality of life needs and aspirations of Black Americans and others should not be relegated to the political or exclusive whims of those who do not really care about the empowerment of our families and communities in California and across the nation. This is a growing national issue and I cannot and will not remain silent. #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackVotersMatter, and #BlackRidersMatter.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at dr.bchavis@nnpa.org