Group looks to rehab Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue

April 20 at 4:58 PM

In the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in 2015, as racial tensions flared across the country, dark clouds of smoke engulfed the CVS Pharmacy on the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues in West Baltimore.

Now rebuilt, the corner property shows no visible trace of the insurrection. But on a warm Friday afternoon in mid-March, Councilman Leon Pinkett eyed the building with some consternation.

“We missed an opportunity with the rebuilding of the CVS,” the Democratic councilman from Baltimore’s seventh district said. “There could have been senior housing added on top.”

The block is just one of several from Fulton Avenue to Dolphin Street that a coalition of lawmakers, neighborhood associations and nonprofit groups are seeking to rehabilitate and incorporate into a thriving arts and entertainment district — akin to Memphis’s Beale Street. Seeking a mix of private and public funding, the group envisions re-creating a strip that harks back to Pennsylvania Avenue’s rich history as a cultural hub for Baltimore’s black community during the segregation era.

The cohort describes its vision as a full-scale “Renaissance” that would transform the district from a heavily concentrated area of crime and blight into a prime tourist attraction and destination for black-owned businesses.

Similar proposals have come and gone before, backed by previous mayors, local officials and individual nonprofits and neighborhood leaders. But with a state designation as an arts and entertainment district and several invested groups collaborating under the direction of Baltimore’s Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Pinkett and the rest of the cohort said they think this effort will bear tangible results.


The exterior of Arch Social Club. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

“It wasn’t successful in the past, but it won’t fail this time,” the first-term councilman said. “We can’t just hang a banner up and make it an arts district — it’s about having a vision for the future.”

From the 1920s through the late 1950s, “The Avenue” housed theaters, hotels, live music venues, fine eateries and businesses that catered to the city’s black community. But racially mixed crowds packed in for Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and myriad other black entertainers as they performed at the famed Royal Theatre, which served as “one of the major stops on the black entertainment circuit,” according to the Baltimore Sun in 1975.

Barred from most other venues — not just in the state, but also in the country — many of the nation’s top black performers at the time either got their start or found adoring crowds at the Royal Theatre. Considered the crown jewel of the district, it was demolished in 1971.

The Penn Hotel, the first black-owned hotel in Baltimore, proved another popular destination along The Avenue. Inside, visitors flocked to the lobby to catch glimpses of celebrities like Pearl Bailey, Count Basie and Ellington, who frequented the in-house restaurant, according to the Sun.

Other establishments on Pennsylvania Avenue like Gamby’s, the Sphinx Club, Ike Dixon’s Comedy Club and Club Casino enjoyed steady business through the district’s heyday. Institutions like the still-standing Arch Social Club — regarded as one of the oldest African American social clubs in the country — and businesses like the Ideal Savings and Loan provided the corridor with additional depth. Residential homes, schools and churches testified to the neighborhood’s stability.

But crowds quieted as televisions evolved into mainstream household items and as statewide desegregation in the 1960s minimized the district’s unique appeal for black consumers. By 1975, the Sun reported that Pennsylvania Avenue had fallen “into a state of decay and disrepair” and soon “became a focal point for narcotics traffic in the city.”

James Hamlin, a longtime leader and advocate for Pennsylvania Avenue’s redevelopment, said he laments the fact that many young people refer to this section of West Baltimore only in the context of Freddie Gray and HBO’s “The Wire.”

“They don’t know it’s this historic community,” Hamlin said.

Abandoned, boarded-up homes largely dominate today’s Pennsylvania Avenue. Sidewalk graffiti on street corners demarcate “no shoot” zones. Colorful murals along the sides of many buildings remind passersby of its vibrant past, though the impact of those beautification efforts remains unclear.

Pinkett said while some short-term fixes like facade improvements and added street lighting do matter and will be implemented on the avenue, a long-term reshaping of the district’s commercial landscape will prove even more influential in its rebranding effort.

“Even with the negativity and illegal activity, it’s probably one of the most accessible-by-transit hubs in the state,” he said. “As you can see, there are plenty of people, but what are they coming here for?”

Pinkett said allocating the right mix of businesses — including restaurants, professional services and entertainment venues — and opening up ownership opportunities for minorities will help combat the threat of gentrifying the area.

“What we don’t want is displacement or the same types of businesses over and over,” he said. “If we keep ownership in the hands of blacks, that will dictate its trajectory.”

“The idea is that we’re going to provide new economic opportunities and employment options for residents in the area,” added Eric Costello, a councilman representing much of the district. “It’s not a problem we can just throw money at.”

Annie Hall, president of the Penn North Community Association who first moved to West Baltimore in 1952, said residents want “a nice, sit-down restaurant” and fewer carryout counters. And Marion Blackwell, manager of the Historic Pennsylvania Avenue Main Street nonprofit, said past survey results indicate the need for more fresh produce, more seafood and a resurgence of the entertainment scene that once packed the theaters and dance halls.

“They miss the music and the vibrancy,” she said. “There’s a passion for Pennsylvania Avenue like none other. Folks are ready for a change.”

What could be

Last month, Pinkett and Costello sponsored a resolution in the Baltimore City Council to formally designate Pennsylvania Avenue as an arts and entertainment district. A required component of the application process for state recognition as such includes formal acknowledgment from the county in which it resides, usually in the form of a resolution. The council adopted the resolution March 18.

With the state’s designation, Pennsylvania Avenue could receive property tax credits for new construction or renovation of spaces where artisans could live, work or perform; an income tax subtraction for artistic work produced and sold within the district; and other tax exemptions for artists who reside there.

Since 2001, when Maryland launched its arts and entertainment program, 26 such districts have been designated within the state, three of which are in Baltimore. Pennsylvania Avenue would be Maryland’s first arts and entertainment district specifically designated for black arts and entertainment.

“This is somewhere where people can celebrate being black and not be ashamed,” Pinkett said. “Especially in this corridor, we want to it to stay black.”

In addition to the state’s help, the district can also receive financial assistance and benefits from a number of local funding sources. The district resides within a “Opportunity Zone,” areas in the state included in a federal tax-incentive program designed to direct investment into struggling communities.

Costello said cobbling together as many economic incentives as possible for the district would make investment in it more attractive.

“Folks who have the opportunity to invest, who wouldn’t normally, would invest there based on the credits they get with respect to capital gain,” he said. “We need to provide as many incentives as possible to drive that private investment.”

Pinkett said it’s important to judge the worth of Pennsylvania Avenue in the context of what it can become — and equally as important to lobby every eligible entity of the state to contribute.

“It’s not a fantasy,” he said. “We have the vision. We just need the resources.”

But even without the state’s backing, members of the group said they’ll continue moving forward with their mission: A task this expansive, this nuanced, can’t afford to wait.

— Baltimore Sun

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‘Homecoming’ Puts Beyoncé Back in the Grammy Race – Billboard

Bey has amassed 23 Grammys but has yet to win for best music film. That may change.

Beyoncé is already the woman with the most Grammy nominations in history — a whopping 66 — and she may well add to that total when the nominations for the 62nd annual Grammy Awards are announced later this year.

Her new Homecoming: The Live Album, surprise-released early Wednesday (April 17), will be eligible for both album of the year and in whatever genre album category a screening committee decides it fits best. (Beyoncé’s last three albums have competed for best urban contemporary album.) The album will not be eligible for best compilation soundtrack for visual media, since albums from live concert films are specifically excluded from that category.  

Beyoncé’s accompanying film, Homecoming: A Film, which began airing Wednesday on Netflix, will be eligible for best music film, provided that it remains available on Netflix until the end of the final voting period.

The album and film were recorded last year at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where Beyoncé became the first African-American woman to headline the high-profile music festival. Her performance was considered so captivating, the event was dubbed “Beychella.” The film features primarily concert footage but also includes behind-the-scenes footage and insight from Beyoncé on her creative process in putting together the career-defining appearance.

Beyoncé will also be eligible in various performance and other categories. The 62nd annual Grammy Awards are set for Jan. 26 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Beyoncé has won 23 Grammys, which puts her in eighth place on the all-time winners list. Among female artists, she’s second only to Alison Krauss, with 27. Among African-American artists, she’s in third place, behind Quincy Jones, with 28, and Stevie Wonder, with 25.

But her only win in a Big Four category (album, record or song of the year and best new artist) is for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” which took the 2009 award for song of the year. Many thought she was shortchanged at the 59th annual Grammy Awards — including Adele, to whom she lost in four categories. The British star, famously (and graciously), was among those who felt that Beyoncé’s Lemonade should have taken album of the year over Adele’s 25.

Lemonade was also nominated for best music film but lost to The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, directed by Ron Howard. It was Beyoncé’s third loss in that category. She was previously nominated for I Am…World Tour (2011) and Beyonce & Jay-Z: On the Run Tour (2014), a joint project with her husband.

Beyoncé directed Homecoming: A Film. If it wins best music film, it would be only the second winner in that category that was directed or co-directed by the artist. Alanis Morissette won the 1997 award for Jagged Little Pill, Live, which she co-directed with Steve Purcell.

Moreover, if Homecoming: A Film wins best music film, Beyoncé would be the first individual African-American female artist to win in that category since Janet Jackson took the 1989 award for Rhythm Nation20 Feet From Stardom, the 2014 winner, was credited to the four African-American women — Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill — who starred in the film.

Homecoming: The Live Album is vying to become the first live album to be nominated for album of the year since 1994, when two of the five nominees were live albums: Tony Bennett’s MTV Unplugged and The Three Tenors in Concert 1994 by José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti with Zubin Mehta. Bennett’s album emerged victorious.

Live music albums used to be frequent Grammy contenders for album of the year, just as they used to be more frequent visitors to the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart. In addition to Bennett’s MTV Unplugged, three live albums have won in that marquee category: Judy Garland’s Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961), George Harrison & Friends’ The Concert for Bangladesh (1972) and Eric Clapton’s Unplugged (1992).

Other live albums to have been nominated for album of the year include Harry Belafonte’s Live at Carnegie Hall (1959) and Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall (1960), Johnny Cash’s At San Quentin (1969) and Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! (1976).

In the past 25 years, numerous live albums have won genre album awards. These include Kraftwerk’s 3-D The Catalogue (best dance/electronic album, 2017), Lalah Hathaway’s Lalah Hathaway Live (best R&B album, 2016). Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day (best rock album, 2013), Michael Bublé’s Michael Bublé Meets Madison Square Garden (best traditional pop vocal album, 2009), Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 (best dance/electronic album, 2008), Patti Page’s Live at Carnegie Hall: The 50th Anniversary Concert (best traditional pop vocal album, 1998) and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York (best alternative music album, 1995).

Beyoncé has won best urban contemporary album twice in the past three years, for Lemonade (2016) and Everything Is Love (2018), which she and Jay-Z recorded as The Carters. Previously, Beyoncé won three Grammys in the discontinued best contemporary R&B album category, for her first three solo albums: Dangerously in Love (2003), B’Day (2006) and I Am…Sasha Fierce (2009).

Beyoncé is in 10th place on the all-time nominations list. The top three are Quincy Jones (80), Paul McCartney (78) and Jay-Z (77).

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Beyonce inks 60 million dollars deal with Netflix

Beyonce in Homecoming
Beyonce in Homecoming Beyonce seen here in Netflix’s documentary, Homecoming, which she directed, wrote and executive produced. (Source: AP)

Pop diva Beyonce has reportedly struck a USD 60 million deal with Netflix for three projects.

According to Variety, the Grammy-winning singer’s collaboration with the streaming service also includes her newly released documentary Homecoming.

The documentary, which Beyonce wrote, directed and executive produced, centres on her 2018 Coachella performance. It features behind-the-scenes footage of her act and is a massive spectacle of dance, visuals and music. It premiered on Netflix Wednesday.

Beyonce, who became the first female black artiste to headline the festival, gave her performance just 10 months after giving birth to twins Sir and Rumi Carter.

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It was previously reported that HBO, which aired the popstar’s 2016 ‘Lemonade’ visual album among other projects, tried to secure the film, but was trounced by Netflix at the last minute.

Representatives for Netflix and Beyonce did not respond to the outlet’s request for comment. The details of two other projects have yet not been ascertained.

Coinciding with the release of Homecoming, the singer surprised fans with a 40-track album, that also includes two bonus studio songs — Before I Let Go and I Been On.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘Homecoming’ shows how Beyoncé changed Coachella, forever—a review

Homecoming Beyonce film review

This image released by Netflix shows Beyonce in a scene from her documentary “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé.” Image: Parkwood Entertainment/Netflix via AP

Beyoncé is extremely private, and only lets you know what she wants you to know, when she wants you to know it — typically, in a surprise post be it on her website or Instagram.

But throughout the years, she’s slightly cracked open her door to reveal parts of her life and personality — apart from what she gives through strong singing and extraordinary dance moves — to help remind us that though she is epic and flawless, she is still mortal.

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“HOMECOMING: A film by Beyoncé,” which premiered Wednesday on Netflix, captures the human side of the superstar singer with behind-the-scenes, intimate moments of a mother, wife and artist tirelessly working on what’s already become one of most iconic musical performances of all-time: Beyoncé’s headlining show at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The performance marked the first time a black woman headlined the famed festival and made Beyoncé just the third woman to score the gig, behind Bjork and Lady Gaga. Beyoncé took on the role seriously — as she does all live performances — giving the audience a rousing, terrific and new show highlighted by a full marching band, majorette dancers, steppers and more that is the norm at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

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The film takes it a step further to showcase what was happening to get to the historic moment: you see a mother bouncing back from giving birth to twins via an emergency C-section; an African American woman embracing her family’s history and paying tribute to black college culture and honoring black art; and the world’s No. 1 pop star defying the odds yet again and pushing herself to new heights, creating an even wider space between herself and whoever is No. 2.

Simply put, Beyoncé changed Coachella — forever — and performing after her is like trying to out-ace Serena Williams or dunk better than Michael Jordan: You won’t win.

Woven into the film are audio soundbites from popular figures to help narrate the story: Nina Simone speaks about blackness, Maya Angelou talks about truth, and Tessa Thompson and Danai Gurira explain the importance of seeing people who look like you on large screens.

Beyoncé speaks, too, saying that she dreamed of attending an HBCU, though she explains: “My college was Destiny’s Child.”

She also says the importance of her Coachella performance was to bring “our culture to Coachella” and highlight “everyone that had never seen themselves represented.”

So many people were represented during those performances last April — her stage was packed with about 200 performers, from dancers to singers to band and orchestra players. Beyoncé kicked of the performance dressed like an African queen, walking up the stage as the jazzy, soulful big band sound of New Orleans is played. After letting her dancers and backing band shine, she emerges again, this time dressed down — like a studious, eager, hopeful college student.

The musical direction and song selection flows effortlessly and was purposely crafted to tell a story: the first song is 2003’s “Crazy In Love,” a massively successful No. 1 hit and her first apart from Destiny’s Child. It also was Beyoncé’s first of many collaborations with Jay-Z. But then comes “Freedom,” representing the Beyoncé of today, unconcerned with having a radio or streaming hit, but more focused on the art, and the message.

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And her message was loud and clear on “HOMECOMING”: Her performance is a homage to the culturally rich homecoming events held annually at HBCUs, but also showcases Beyoncé’s own homecoming — her return to her roots, and how she’s found a new voice by reinterpreting her music through the lens of black history.

Young, gifted and black, indeed.

“HOMECOMING: A film by Beyoncé,” a Netflix release, is rated TV-MA. Running time: 137 minutes. Four stars out of four. MKH

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Beyoncé drops another surprise album: ‘Homecoming’

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Indian-American PAC endorses Harris for President

Washington, April 18 (IANS) An Indian-American political action committee (PAC) has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris of Indian and Jamaican descent for the US presidential race.

“In such a critically important election, one that will shape policy and politics for generations to come, Indian Americans can’t afford to stay on the sidelines,” the Indian American Impact Fund’s co-founder Raj Goyle said in a statement on Wednesday.

Goyle, also a former Kansas state lawmaker, said it was for that reason that the organisation chose to be “the first Indian-American or Asian-American political organisation to endorse” Harris, whose mother was from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, reports the American Bazaar.

“In the coming months, we look forward to mobilising our network of resources to ensure Senator Harris secures the Democratic nomination and is elected the next President of the US,” Goyle said.

Harris thanked the Impact Fund for the endorsement. “This endorsement and the support of the Indian American Impact Fund and its members means so much to me,” she said in a statement on Wednesday. “Together, we will fight for an America that restores the values of truth and justice and works for working people, from raising incomes to expanding health care.”

The Impact Fund Executive Director and former Maryland state delegate Aruna Miller said her group was “proud to endorse” Harris. “She is a tested leader who has demonstrated, throughout her career, a strong commitment to our community’s progressive and pluralistic values,” Miller said.

Harris, one of the first Democrats to launch the presidential campaign in this election cycle, is also one of the front-runners at the moment. If elected, she will become the first woman, the first Indian American, the first Asian American, and the first African American woman to serve as President.

–IANS

ksk/pcj

Financial Literacy Rocks Pontiac All Week Long – Come Rock with Us to Empower Pontiac’s Youth Through Music

Financial Literacy Rocks Pontiac All Week Long – Come Rock with Us to Empower Pontiac’s Youth Through Music – African American News Today – EIN News

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‘Minding the Gap,’ and Chicago’s Kartemquin Films among 2019 Peabody documentary honorees

“A Dangerous Son,” “The Facebook Dilemma,” “Independent Lens: Dolores,” “Independent Lens: The Judge,” “The Jazz Ambassadors,” “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart,” “Minding the Gap” and “POV: The Apology” have been selected as the documentary winners at the 2019 Peabody Awards, Variety has learned.

The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors also named Kartemquin Films the winner of an Institutional Award for the company’s commitment to “unflinching documentary filmmaking,” as well as telling an “American history rooted in social justice and the stories of the marginalized.”

Kartemquin was founded as a non-profit collective in 1966 and has served as a home for filmmakers to develop their craft and produce films that promote dialogue and democracy ever since. The company is behind projects such as “Hoop Dreams,” in addition to this year’s Peabody winner “Minding the Gap.”

The eight documentary honorees, part of the Peabody 30, highlights stories centered on women, mental illness, social media and the legacy of African-American artists.

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Are You a Fiduciary? Probate Attorney Offers Helpful Tips in Video Interview

Are You a Fiduciary? Probate Attorney Offers Helpful Tips in Video Interview – African American News Today – EIN News

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In Erie County, stark racial disparities in life expectancy, child mortality

African Americans in Erie County live an average of five fewer years than whites, and seven years below the state longevity rate.

They’re less likely to get mammograms and flu shots, and much more likely to land in the hospital for sicknesses that are preventable.

African-American children in the county are nearly five times as likely as white children to live in poverty. Almost half of them do.

Black children in the county are twice as likely to die before they turn 18 and more than twice as likely to die within a year after birth, while black girls are 2½ times more likely than whites to give birth in their late teens.

A growing number of public health leaders see such statistics nationally — including the ones above from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s National County Health Rankings — and conclude that a ZIP code is often more important than a genetic code when it comes to well-being.

“The data is reaffirming of things we’ve known for years … so the question is what are we as a community doing about these things?” said George F. Nicholas, pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and convener of the Buffalo African American Health Disparities Task Force.

[embedded content]

Nicholas looks to help others in the region better understand these concerns, and task force goals, when he gives the keynote address during the annual Central Library Active & Healthy Fair. The free, family-friendly event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday on the fourth floor near the Collections Gallery of the library, 1 Lafayette Square. It will include a focus on minority health.

Representatives from more than 40 health and community organizations — including the Erie County Department of Health, the Erie County Medical Center Stroke Center and the American Diabetes Association — will provide information, demonstrations and health screenings. Children can enjoy games and crafts.

Nicholas will speak at 11 a.m. He will focus on what he and the task force see as the root causes of health disparities in the region: unequal access to education, economic opportunity and safe, affordable housing. He also will talk about the region creating what Martin Luther King Jr. called a “beloved community.”

George Nicholas, center, convener of the African American Health Disparities Task Force, will speak Wednesday morning during a health fair at the Central Library. (John Hickey/News file photo)

“When you put a child in an environment where he or she is living at substandard housing, that child will fail in school,” the pastor said. “When that child lives in a neighborhood where fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable, family mealtimes consist of meals that are not healthy. Then you put them in an environment with the continued trauma of being surrounded by acts of violence. And then you wonder why that child doesn’t score better on a state exam when you measure that child’s academic progress versus another child who lives in Lancaster, Williamsville or Amherst.

“Life experiences are dramatically different. We have to change that scenario.”

Real change, Nicholas said, will come with a more realistic perspective, one that understands how decades of institutional racism and segregation have limited equal access to a healthy life. It also will come when “people with privilege, power and influence become more willing to sacrifice some of that in order to let their neighbors live better.”

“This notion that somehow by building more skyscrapers and training centers that people are going to somehow get better, that’s not going to happen,” he said. “There has to be intentional action taken to change the living conditions of African Americans in this region. That would include educational situations. It would include economic and employment opportunities. It would include the housing stock. It would include close interaction with the criminal justice system.

“The more work we do on justice, the less charity that will have to do.”

The task force — which includes leaders in the African-American, public health and University at Buffalo communities — seeks to eliminate race- and ethnicity-based health disparities by addressing the social determinants of health: the conditions where people live, learn, work and play. Its areas of focus include tobacco use, literacy, healthy eating, better health screening and more coordinated health care in poor neighborhoods.

“There has to be a broad-based coalition that includes the black church, but also includes the white business community, and government, and other entities like that to create the beloved community,” Nicholas said. “To say that somehow the black church can wipe away the impact of generations of structural institutional racism which are causing death rates and sickness rates, and leap to the outcomes, that’s unrealistic and it’s unfair. It’s changing the conditions. It’s more than picking up people, like the Good Samaritan did; it’s to go down that road, that Jericho Road, and change the condition as to why that person was on the road in the first place. That’s hard work — and that’s the work we’re called to do.”

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh@ScottBScanlon

Action urged to remedy troubling racial disparities in life expectancy, child mortality

African Americans in Erie County live an average of five fewer years than whites, and seven years below the state longevity rate.

They’re less likely to get mammograms and flu shots, and much more likely to land in the hospital for sicknesses that are preventable.

African-American children in the county are nearly five times as likely as white children to live in poverty. Almost half of them do.

Black children in the county are twice as likely to die before they turn 18 and more than twice as likely to die within a year after birth, while black girls are 2½ times more likely than whites to give birth in their late teens.

A growing number of public health leaders see such statistics nationally — including the ones above from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s National County Health Rankings — and conclude that a ZIP code is often more important than a genetic code when it comes to well-being.

“The data is reaffirming of things we’ve known for years … so the question is what are we as a community doing about these things?” said George F. Nicholas, pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and convener of the Buffalo African American Health Disparities Task Force.

[embedded content]

Nicholas looks to help others in the region better understand these concerns, and task force goals, when he gives the keynote address during the annual Central Library Active & Healthy Fair. The free, family-friendly event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday on the fourth floor near the Collections Gallery of the library, 1 Lafayette Square. It will include a focus on minority health.

Representatives from more than 40 health and community organizations — including the Erie County Department of Health, the Erie County Medical Center Stroke Center and the American Diabetes Association — will provide information, demonstrations and health screenings. Children can enjoy games and crafts.

Nicholas will speak at 11 a.m. He will focus on what he and the task force see as the root causes of health disparities in the region: unequal access to education, economic opportunity and safe, affordable housing. He also will talk about the region creating what Martin Luther King Jr. called a “beloved community.”

George Nicholas, center, convener of the African American Health Disparities Task Force, will speak Wednesday morning during a health fair at the Central Library. (John Hickey/News file photo)

“When you put a child in an environment where he or she is living at substandard housing, that child will fail in school,” the pastor said. “When that child lives in a neighborhood where fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable, family mealtimes consist of meals that are not healthy. Then you put them in an environment with the continued trauma of being surrounded by acts of violence. And then you wonder why that child doesn’t score better on a state exam when you measure that child’s academic progress versus another child who lives in Lancaster, Williamsville or Amherst.

“Life experiences are dramatically different. We have to change that scenario.”

Real change, Nicholas said, will come with a more realistic perspective, one that understands how decades of institutional racism and segregation have limited equal access to a healthy life. It also will come when “people with privilege, power and influence become more willing to sacrifice some of that in order to let their neighbors live better.”

“This notion that somehow by building more skyscrapers and training centers that people are going to somehow get better, that’s not going to happen,” he said. “There has to be intentional action taken to change the living conditions of African Americans in this region. That would include educational situations. It would include economic and employment opportunities. It would include the housing stock. It would include close interaction with the criminal justice system.

“The more work we do on justice, the less charity that will have to do.”

The task force — which includes leaders in the African-American, public health and University at Buffalo communities — seeks to eliminate race- and ethnicity-based health disparities by addressing the social determinants of health: the conditions where people live, learn, work and play. Its areas of focus include tobacco use, literacy, healthy eating, better health screening and more coordinated health care in poor neighborhoods.

“There has to be a broad-based coalition that includes the black church, but also includes the white business community, and government, and other entities like that to create the beloved community,” Nicholas said. “To say that somehow the black church can wipe away the impact of generations of structural institutional racism which are causing death rates and sickness rates, and leap to the outcomes, that’s unrealistic and it’s unfair. It’s changing the conditions. It’s more than picking up people, like the Good Samaritan did; it’s to go down that road, that Jericho Road, and change the condition as to why that person was on the road in the first place. That’s hard work — and that’s the work we’re called to do.”

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh@ScottBScanlon