Catholic Church in America needs African priests for its future Quartz Africa

In more than a decade as a Catholic priest in the United States, Martins Emeh has served as a pastor, a cannon law instructor, a diocesan archivist and a judge on the church’s Ecclesiastical Court of Appeals.

Emeh, who came to the United States for graduate school in 1998 from Nigeria and was ordained thereafter, currently serves as a priest at the Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Community, a bustling church in suburban Houston.

Emeh is part of a growing trend in the Catholic Church in America: a rising number of African-born priests. The number of American-born priests has dropped dramatically in the course of the last 50 years, and foreign born priests are increasingly becoming an important part of the fabric of the Catholic church in America.

No one officially tracks how many African priests work in the States. But Emeh, who served as president of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States until 2013, says that as the organization had about 300 member priests at the time with about 80% of them were Nigerians. He estimates there were about 700 African priests in the country and believes the number is much higher today. While the overwhelming majority are Nigerians there are also a few priests of from countries including Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Cameroon.

Catholicism is growing faster in Africa than in any region in the world. In 1910, there were approximately 1 million Catholics in Africa. Today the continent is home to more than 170 million Catholics or 16% of the faith, according to the Pew Research Center. There are already more Christians in Africa than any other continent and by 2060 six of the countries with the top ten largest Christian populations will be in Africa, up from three in 2015.

Reverse missionaries

And now these priests are doing what their European and North American brethren did for several centuries: taking God’s word to people across the ocean. Again, this has been across Christian denominations but even more so with the pentecostal churches which has seen many African-origin churches expand across the US and the United Kingdom.

Back when he was president, Emeh says, the majority of his Catholic priest colleague had been ordained in Africa. That’s still the case but he’s noticed another trend. “Since then we have had even more come in and get ordained here,” says Emeh. “On June 1, I was in New Orleans for the ordination of a Nigerian. That same day another Nigerian was being ordained for Houston.”

Joanna Okereke, assistant director of cultural diversity in the Church at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, says this year alone Nigerians made up 3% of the priests ordained in the United States.

Okereke, a nun who also hails from Nigeria, says African priests serve in a wide variety of roles, including as vicars, chaplains, university professors and high school teachers.

Patrick Adejo, who was ordained in Nigeria more than two decades ago, is a chaplain at the Veterans Affairs Hospital, a health care facility for former servicemen and women,  in Columbia, Missouri.

Adejo, who holds two master’s degrees from universities in Los Angeles and Dayton, Ohio, worked as a chaplain in Nigeria before returning to the U.S. in 2002. He worked as a chaplain at a hospital in Waco, Texas and then helped run a struggling African-American parish at the request of the bishop before joining the Veterans Affairs hospital in 2008.

He says African priests fill a critically important need for the Catholic church in America.

“If we were not here there would be no Sunday mass in many of these parishes and no sacraments,” says Adejo who regularly fills in at parishes in nearby Jefferson City. He believes African priests have received “tremendous acceptance” from lay people.

“They see the impact, the style and the approach to ministry,” he says.

Emeh says African priests have a reputation for being more dedicated, personable, easy going and for regularly making themselves available – even on their days off.

“We don’t look at it simply as a job,” he says.

Bob Bonnott, executive director of the Association of US Catholic priests and a priest for 52 years, says: “The Africans often are younger, kind of dynamic and are joyful and that comes through in spite of language problem or cultural challenges.”

But this trend does not come without challenges.

“Some of them have to deal with the handicap of language in terms of the accent,” says Emeh. “People might complain of not being able to follow especially when they’re speaking rapidly. That becomes a little bit of a handicap in terms of impact.”

Adejo adds that some American priests have the impression that African priests are here for monetary gain.

Then there’s the challenge of racism or at least the perception of it.

“My experience is that people in the community are more accepting than brother priests,” says Emeh. As a seminarian, he had a professor, a nun, who told him she couldn’t understand why an African like him was planning to take up an appointment as a priest in the overwhelmingly white Rockford, Illinois diocese.

“She didn’t believe I was qualified to minister to Caucasians,” he says. “I have worked with many Caucasian priests who have accepted me as a brother. Then I had to deal with some with some who felt threatened when I was sent to study Cannon law. They wondered why I was rising so fast. We’ve had Africans who were priests for many years before they were assigned their own parishes.”

But the bottom line, says Bonnott, is that the presence of African priests is a good thing for the church.

“I think it is expanding Catholic people’s sense that they are a universal church and that we are part of one human race,” he says. “The Catholic faith in Africa is exploding and the seminaries are filled. I think it is a blessing for US Catholics to experience that and relate to this foreign born priests in a mutually enriching way.”

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Op-Ed: As a City, We Are Truly at a Crossroads

The future is now, Denver. The stakes are high for our city. Tomorrow, we install Mayor Michael B. Hancock as our mayor for a third and final term. The power of the incumbency, and some very deep pockets, swept him into City Hall for another four years. If the last six weeks are any indication of how the Hancock administration will attempt to wield its power to shape Denver, we have a fight on our hands.

This inauguration day clearly did not bring with it the outcome that I, and many other Denverites, had hoped. We can, however, seize this opportunity to ask for accountability, to push the Mayor to view his legacy as one of crafting a city for the people during this critical moment in its evolution, rather than continuing to focus on development and growth. At this fork in the road, which way will he take us? Only the close counsel of his broad and diverse constituency can lead to the right choice.

Michael Hancock told us on election night — June 4, 2019 — that while he relished the win, he recognized it came with requests from the voters. He recognized, he said, that he had much more work to do to truly engage community in determining Denver’s direction. He committed to utilizing the freedom that comes with a third and final term to do all the hard things for Denver’s people that he had not been able to do before.

And yet, in the last six weeks, we’ve seen evidence to the contrary. Park Hill Golf Course has been fast-tracked for development. The retail development at our airport is mired in conflict and scrutiny while the administration simultaneously asks for millions more to invest in it. A vote was held, just two weeks after the election, to widen Peña Boulevard; this is ostensibly for better airport access, but many recognize it as a conduit for the massive, so-called Aerotropolis development. And still, we have no clarity on solutions to the biggest issues that arose during the campaign: addressing growth in a strategic way, bringing affordability back to our housing stock, tackling our increasingly insufficient transportation networks, finally starting to address homelessness in a nuanced and compassionate way, easing the burden on small business, and — most important — inspiring a cohesive vision for what sort of Denver we actually care about becoming.

Going, going...gone.

Going, going…gone.

Park Hill Golf Club

Post-election, I’ve had much time to think. I’ve thought about the thousands of you who have written me, stopped me on the street, and told me you have felt at a loss as to what we do next. And on their behalf, it’s time to send a message — loud and clear — to Michael Hancock. Even though the power players and the big money brokers helped you win this election, if you give a damn about the people of this city, Mayor, we have a few requests.

Let’s start with committing to a government that is transparent, accountable, and that bends to the will of the people. We hope that you will commit to seeing the city through our eyes. That you will not retreat into City Hall. That you will engage more deeply with the communities of our great city to listen to their priorities. We ask that you change the culture of the mayor’s office to no longer be an echo chamber where the voices of the moneyed and powerful few are insulated from the voices of the many. We call on you to unlatch the front doors of city hall and return the will of the people to the centers of power.

After a brutal election, we ask that you recognize the divides that this election created and work — in partnership with myself and others — to join hands as a community and heal. You must decide that the voices and priorities of those that didn’t support you still matter under your administration. We call on you to create your own Team of Rivals, recognizing there is strength in leadership when consensus is not automatic — and that by looking at the tough issues from all angles, we can get to solutions that stick, and work.

We ask you to remember that the key to our vitality is lifting up the small businesses, the non-profits, the community organizations and the people of Denver. From Berkeley to Southmoor Park and Bear Valley to Montbello, I met with neighbors in all of Denver’s 78 neighborhoods throughout my campaign, and what I heard over and over is that our residents want quality of life, and balance. Enough of the NIMBYs versus the YIMBYs. Enough of pitting natives against newcomers. We all love Denver because it has the opportunity to offer something special in its quality of life. Isn’t that the most important component? Aren’t we all seeking a city government that seeks first the welfare of its diverse communities and isn’t focused on protecting the interest of corporate donors?

Mayor, legacy projects, and monuments, and big corporate deals must be measured by how they improve the lives or our neighbors, and not pursued as goals unto themselves. The mayor is the chief civil servant, not the chief servant of special interests. The mayor’s office cannot be for sale.

Development should be sensitive to historic homes, and density must be adjacent to ample green space, trees and parks where people can walk their dogs or rest on a bench and watch the world go by. This isn’t about the false choice between growth everywhere or no growth at all. It’s about plotting out a city that can grow incrementally, comfortably, and it’s about ensuring that growth and development contributes positively to our landscape and gives back to our communities. Developers make money off the backs of our city; shouldn’t they be required to be part of solving growth challenges?

You must ensure that this is a city for all — young or old, starting out or building a family. There MUST be housing that fills every need and every void. No, the market left to its own devices will not just take care of us all. It must be steered by and balanced against good policy. The city can demand, for example, that if developers are given opportunity beyond their existing zoning rights, they give back to the city via affordable units, community benefit agreements or dedicated open space. Further, we can partner creatively with for-profits and non-profits and other metro communities and work together to solve the complex challenges of housing affordability together. We have to start by wanting to solve it — not throwing our hands up and saying it’s beyond our control.

Mayoral candidate Penfield Tate joined Jamie Giellis in a Team of Rivals announcement on the steps of City Hall after the May 7 election.

Mayoral candidate Penfield Tate joined Jamie Giellis in a Team of Rivals announcement on the steps of City Hall after the May 7 election.

Michael Roberts

We must stop treating our homeless people with contempt and start treating them with compassion. Homelessness is now a regional crisis. Four cities in the metro region, including Denver, have camping bans, and more are considering them. There is no coordinated approach between any of these municipalities to address the regional homeless crisis beyond moving people around to ensure they aren’t camping on our public spaces. Non-profits invested in homeless work are so busy competing for their own resources that looking at a bigger picture is a challenge. As the largest city in the region, Denver must initiate compassionate, regional solutions and create meaningful partnerships with our neighbors to implement them. You, Mayor, are the one to lead the charge. Let’s stop working in silos and start working in coordination. Those experiencing homelessness must be provided shelter, services and housing. The mental health dollars we voted for last November should be used strategically and leveraged to build facilities that can serve missing needs. Financial resources should be coordinated and delivered strategically to intervene where impact is greatest.

First- and last-mile transportation needs to come with a commitment to efficiency and affordability. The dedicated transportation department you are asking the voters to approve in November is a good step. But what is the plan to deliver transit? Our city is approaching gridlock, and we are out of time. The voters need to see urgency on your part. They need to hear how, and when, you will deliver real, affordable, intra-city transit.

Our air cannot be further polluted by congestion, fracking and refineries. It must be clean and safe to breathe for us and our kids. We have to identify the particulates in our air and create a step-by-step plan to clean them up. We must push for stronger building requirements that alleviate development impacts to the environment as we grow. We must value the limitations of our water supply and the importance of a clean South Platte River, one of our city’s greatest natural assets. And you must engage us all to lead on fighting climate change, as city leaders around the world are doing.

We need to improve our schools by implementing robust after-school programs, offering inter-generational mentorships to connect seniors and students, encouraging a restorative justice system of discipline, and paying our teachers more. Our kids and our families are critical to our city’s future, and yet little has been done to fight for their welfare from within City Hall.

Perhaps the most common sentiment I heard on the campaign trail is that we need a leader who will help rebuild and reconnect our community. Our residents need it even more so after a campaign that went extraordinarily negative. Strengthen the Registered Neighborhood Organization program, better engage the Inter Neighborhood Cooperation, and show up in our communities on a regular basis.

As Jane Jacobs, the legendary urban studies scholar wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” So please, Mayor Hancock, let’s reignite the city’s conversation around building up and amplifying the voices of Denver’s communities of color. To our Latino, African American, refugee and immigrant communities who have been stifled in their own pursuit of a high quality of life by historical oppression and institutional barriers like low wages, overuse of jails and incarceration, struggling schools and lack of housing and health care: The city must stand ready to reinvest in your communities, stem the tide of displacement, and magnify the reach of your grassroots organizations. I hope the Mayor will commit to listening closely to learn more about your lived experiences, and will represent your needs not only in policy, but also in personnel. Because our leaders only succeed when they can see the city through the eyes of the people who work and play and struggle and thrive here every day.

Finally, Mayor, I hope you will commit to creating a culture where all city employees feel safe in the workplace — where ethical behavior, transparent decision-making and accountability are paramount in every corner of city government.

A new era is upon us, and it must be for the people. Mayor Michael B. Hancock, welcome to your third term as our mayor. As a city, we are truly at a crossroads. Please don’t sell our soul.

Mayoral challenger Jamie Giellis faced Michael Hancock in the June 4 runoff.

Westword occasionally runs op-eds on matters of interest in metro Denver. Have one you’d like to submit? Email editorial@westword.com. You can send comments about this op-ed to that same address, or simply post any responses.

Founder of Louisiana African American museum discovered dead in trunk of car

By BILL HUTCHINSON

Homicide investigators are probing a “heinous act” after the body of a 75-year-old woman who co-founded an African American museum in Louisiana was discovered dead in the trunk of a car.

Sadie Roberts-Joseph, a Baton Rouge community activist who teamed up with police on an anti-drug and violence program, was found slain Friday afternoon when police were directed to a car parked in a residential neighborhood northeast of downtown Baton Rouge and discovered her body in the trunk, officials said.

“Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice,” the Baton Rouge Police Department said in a statement.

Louisiana state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle called Roberts-Joseph an “amazing woman” who loved history.

“My heart is empty … as I learned last night that Ms. Sadie Roberts Joseph was found murdered!” Marcelle said in a statement posted on Facebook. “She never bothered anyone, just wanted to expand her African American Museum downtown, where she continually hosted the Juneteenth Celebration yearly. I loved working with her and am saddened by her death…. whoever knows what happened to her, please contact the authorities and say something.”

Police did not say how Roberts-Joseph, known as “Ms. Sadie” in her community, died, nor did they explain what led them to look in the trunk of the car parked about 3 miles from her home.

An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death, police said.

Baton Rouge police officials called Roberts-Joseph a “tireless advocate of peace in the community.”

“Ms. Sadie is a treasure to our community. She will be missed by BRPD and her loss will be felt in the community she served,” police officials said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The victim’s sister, Beatrice Johnson, told The Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge that Roberts-Johnson stopped by her house earlier on Friday. She said her sister lived near her in the Scotlandville neighborhood of Baton Rouge and would check in with her daily.

PHOTO: Police tape is pictured in this undated stock photo.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images Police tape is pictured in this undated stock photo.

“Friday, she came by [because] she had mixed some cornbread, but her oven went out, and she brought it here to put in the oven,” Johnson told the newspaper. “The bread is still there. She never came back to get it.”

Roberts-Joseph helped found the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African-American History Museum in 2001. The museum, now known as the Baton Rouge African-American History Museum, is housed on the campus of New St. Luke Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

She also organized the city’s annual Juneteenth festival at the museum, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the U.S., and partnered with Baton Rouge police to launch a Community Against Drugs and Violence program.

In a recent interview with ABC affiliate station WBRZ in Baton Rouge, Roberts-Joseph said her work at the museum and the annual Juneteenth event was meant “to celebrate, to embace” African American history and to “learn of our past and to be able to move forward in unity.”

Baton Rouge police are asking anyone with information on the case to contact homicide detectives immediately.

African American History Museum Founder Discovered Dead in Car Trunk in Louisiana

Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, is seen in an undated photo posted to State Representative C. Denise Marcelle's Facebook page on July 13, 2019.Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, is seen in an undated photo posted to State Representative C. Denise Marcelle's Facebook page on July 13, 2019.

Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, is seen in an undated photo posted to State Representative C. Denise Marcelle’s Facebook page on July 13, 2019.

A 75-year-old Louisiana woman who founded an African American history museum was discovered dead in the trunk of a car, and police said Saturday that investigators were working diligently to find those responsible.

Baton Rouge police Sgt. L’Jean McKneely said investigators were still waiting for a coroner to determine a cause of death for Sadie Roberts-Joseph after her body was found Friday afternoon.

The Advocate reported Roberts-Joseph was the founder and curator of the Baton Rouge African American Museum, which she started in 2001. The museum sits on the campus of New St. Luke Baptist Church, where Roberts-Joseph’s brother is pastor.

“Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace,” the Baton Rouge Police Department posted on its Facebook page, adding: “Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice.”

Roberts-Joseph also organized an annual Juneteenth festival at the museum, marking the date June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers delivered belated news to Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all Southern slaves free. The document had been finalized more than two years earlier.

The museum features African art, exhibits on growing cotton and black inventors as well as a 1953 bus from the period of civil rights boycotts in Baton Rouge. It also has prominent exhibits on President Barack Obama, whose presidency Roberts-Joseph cited as an inspiration to children.

“We have to be educated about our history and other people’s history,” Roberts-Joseph told the newspaper in 2016. “Across racial lines, the community can help to build a better Baton Rouge, a better state and a better nation.”

Beatrice Johnson, one of Roberts-Joseph’s 11 siblings, lives two doors down from her sister’s home on a quiet street in Baton Rouge. She said Roberts-Joseph would come by every day. Johnson said her sister came over Friday because “she had mixed some cornbread, but her oven went out, and she brought it here to put in the oven.”

Gesturing toward her kitchen, Johnson said: “The bread is still there. She never came back to get it.”

30.451468 -91.187147

Pete Buttigieg’s whiz-kid campaign confronts flaws in his record

Pete Buttigieg

“I think it also makes sense to put forward somebody who’s confronted the challenges facing diverse, low-income, and struggling communities in the heartland,” Pete Buttigieg said. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

2020 elections

Racial tensions and the recent police shooting of a black man in South Bend are challenging the narrative of Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 run.

STORM LAKE, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg clambered into the top tier of the presidential race by presenting an optimistic, youthful vision for the country. To stay there, he’s grappling with his failures.

Buttigieg is suddenly facing deeper scrutiny of his record — the first major bump in the 2020 campaign for the young mayor, as detailed in his recent public appearances and media interviews as well as interviews with supporters. He’s facing questions from voters about race relations in South Bend, Ind., especially the recent police shooting of an African American man, and is dashing home regularly to manage relations with a fuming black community and a grieving family that sued the city, as well as a police union hitting him from the other side.

Story Continued Below

Addressing the letdowns in his short public life is a major change for the 37-year-old Democrat, whose early-year polling momentum has stalled. But for the first time, that’s what Buttigieg has had to do, taking responsibility for not hiring more black police officers, including in the first presidential debate, and lacing campaign speeches with new additions on racial justice, immigration and the difficulties of city government. This week, Buttigieg sought to turn attention back to the future with a call for billions of dollars in federal spending to combat systemic racism.

The honeymoon, it’s safe to say, is over. And Buttigieg knows that how he handles the next phase of the campaign will determine whether his meteoric rise is followed by just as fast of a fall.

“I think it’s one thing when you’re introducing yourself. You’re sticking up your hand, you’re saying ‘Hi, you’re saying ‘I exist,’” Buttigieg said recently on the sidelines of an event in Iowa, reflecting on the state of the campaign. “Now, it’s very different.”

“When we’re at the level we’re at, wrestling with the issues we’re wrestling with, it takes a lot more intensity. But that’s healthy,” Buttigieg continued. “… It’s one of the reasons I think it’s important for a mayor to run in the first place. And we’re going to continue to see that. Issues that bring us together, issues that people are divided about — all of them are issues of enormous importance.”

Since the fatal shooting of Eric Logan in mid-June, Buttigieg has recalibrated his campaign schedule to mix town halls in early primary states with town halls in South Bend, highlighting the unique complexity of running for president as a mayor. He has only started rolling out detailed policy plans, but one of the first was a massive set of proposals to help African American entrepreneurship, health care, voting rights and more — dubbed the “Douglass Plan” after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Buttigieg has built his campaign and his political biography more around the idea of being a mayor than the complicated dynamics it can dredge up. “What could be more different from this president than a laid back, middle-class, millennial mayor from the industrial Midwest?” Buttigieg told a crowd during a recent campaign stop in Sioux City. “I think mayors offer something unique at a time when we need to get Washington to start looking more like our best-run cities instead of the other way around.”

Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler, an early Buttigieg supporter who introduced him at his campaign kickoff rally earlier this year, said that running as a mayor has come with advantages in a country fed up with Washington. But now, Buttigieg is grappling more with the clear disadvantages that come with the territory.

Mayors can brandish “real achievements” to voters, Adler said, citing Buttigieg’s work to establish community oversight panels for police. “But they also see real city issues. You see somebody who gets shot and killed in the community — that’s not good.”

In recent weeks, Buttigieg has added more to the stump speech about his mayoralty, weaving in his perspective about racial justice.

“I think it also makes sense to put forward somebody who’s confronted the challenges facing diverse, low-income, and struggling communities in the heartland,” Buttigieg added at the Sioux City stop. “I also think it’s not the worst idea to send someone who represents a new generation of leadership in our time.”

And in a question and answer sessions during his stops in Iowa, Buttigieg is now fielding questions on gun violence and race relations in South Bend.

“The worst part of my job is dealing with the aftermath of gun violence,” Buttigieg began in response to a question on gun control during a Democratic Party barbecue in Carroll County.

At the same stop, a right-wing blogger suggested that Buttigieg simply tell “the black people of South Bend to stop committing crimes.”

“The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated as a white person for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism,” Buttigieg said in response. “It is evidence of systemic racism, and with all due respect sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job too. It is a smear on law enforcement.”

Buttigieg’s supporters have praised him for his handling of the shooting both on the campaign trail and back in South Bend.

“It brings to the forefront the fact that you have someone who’s actually governing and you’re actually in a situation where people can see what you’re doing,” Adler said.

But no one gets credit for governing without risking blame.

“The executive [job] is a double-edged sword running for president. You have a real track record of an administration and having a fairly large city staff,” said Marco Lowe, who spent years as a Seattle-based Democratic operative and government official for former Washington Gov. Gary Locke and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “But it comes back when something happens in your municipality where you’re directly responsible.”

Vanderbilt pledges $2M for National Museum of African American Music

BB King is one of the many artists that will be featured in the National Museum of African American Music when it opens in Nashville, Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt University is pledging $2 million for the National Museum of African American Music, which is scheduled to open a 56,000-square-foot facility in downtown Nashville early next year.

The university says the gift includes in-kind contributions and direct financial support, and will help expand the museum’s archives, contribute to innovative programming, support the completion of the facility and more.

Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said the partnership will help build global awareness of the impact of African American composers, performers and supporters.

The partnership will include collaboration with the university’s Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries to offer thier collection of books, scores, recordings and other materials for loan, display and study at the museum.

Vanderbilt and the museum will also team up for a speaker series after the facility opens.

AACS dedicates resource room to longtime members

AACS

One of the African American Cultural Society’s (AACS) membership meetings touted the opening of the Robert A. and Erma Brooks Resource Room, compiling the couple’s contributions to the organization. 

It was recognized that Robert A. “Bob” Brooks passed away on April 9, 2017.

The defining moment occurred months earlier. Prior to a meeting, the membership was alerted that the couple – among the earliest AACS members – served as exemplars of the love of learning. 

The Brooks collected the African and African Diaspora books, films, music, works of art, and artifacts, and dedicated themselves to sharing the history and culture of African Americans. 

On point, the room honors the Brooks, and welcomes all who thirst for knowledge. 

Sybil Dodson Lucas, Resource Room Task Force Chair, said at the meeting, “At some point, we all agreed that the work, that has been assembled and donated, certainly was worthy of its own space. 

“And, we wanted to make that happen. We wanted to honor Bob and Erma’s contributions to the center,” said Lucas. 

Others representing the group were Bettie and Richard Eubanks, Dr. Reinhold Schlieper, Leuwhana Sylvain, Blanche Valentine, and curator Meshella Woods. 

Shoring up the plans included Claude Jones, Berkeley Chandler, Daniel Isaac, President Joseph Matthews, John Reid, and Merritt Robertson. 

Monetary donations were contributed by Drs. Steven and Gina Sevigny. 

AACS
Erma and Robert Brooks, shown on the right, were in attendance at an AACS event.

Rare books, artifacts 

Prior to taking a tour, Woods said, “This is the room where African and African-Diaspora history and culture have networked. We take great pride in the unveiling. (Moreover,) as you walk through our new gallery/lobby, we have learned to embrace “red” as a color and as a spirit of positive change.

“We have a vision that includes partnering with libraries, schools, youth organizations, museums. and other cultural organizations, and the use of new technology to disseminate information,’’ said the curator.

Many items displayed have been collected from the members of the African American Cultural Society. 

Woods further articulated the unique resource of rare books, ancient and historic media, DVDs, tapes, and authentic art, and artifacts.

The society’s magnificent lobby, conference room and office have been redecorated and hung with luxurious paintings of fine Black art. 

AACS
Robert and Erma Brooks.

Donations still welcome 

Woods escorted Mrs. Brooks and her guests to the resource room. 

Mrs. Brooks’ guests were her niece, Vickie Jackson, and Nickie Grays, along with Grays’ children, Montanna and Roman.

The Grays provide a lovely home in Palm Coast for Mrs. Brooks at Grays Adult Family Care Home. 

The members followed suit touring the room, and noted a perpetual donors’ plate with the opportunity of providing significant donations for the upkeep of the resource room. 

If you know anyone or entities having an interest in contributing, call the curator at 386-4477030. 

About Robert Brooks

In an afterword, Robert A. Brooks was born on Aug. 2, 1927, in Mt. Vernon, New York. 

He served our nation honorably in the U.S. Army and retired as captain of the New York City Fire Department. 

The Brooks, parents of one daughter, Mandy, relocated to Palm Coast in 1987 from Queens. 

They became members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the African American Cultural Society, the Afro-American Caribbean Heritage Organization, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and the NAACP. 

In addition to the AACS’ original library, Mr. Brooks organized the Black Studies Program and the Thursday film presentations.

He was presented the organization’s Distinguished LongTerm Service Award, implementing African-American Studies at both high schools, particularly significant in that a federal mandate had forced the desegregation of the Flagler schools. 

Mr. Brooks was the society’s first chairman of the board, along with other achievements.

About Erma Brooks 

Erma Brooks was born on Aug. 26, 1930, in Harlem. 

She served on the AACS Board of Directors, as second vice president, in addition to Cultural Committee chair. 

Mrs. Brooks has chaired various other AACS committees and sponsored the Ebony Society for teens at both high schools.

She received an AACS Meritorious Award for the Third-Eye Youth Program and directed a one-act play for the facility’s dinner theater.

Mrs. Brooks was a member of the Underground Railroad Quilters and co-director of the East Central Florida Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. She later presided over the East Central Florida Club.

The Brooks – as an important source of learning – earned the right to be touted with a resource room.


As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted, the prodigal son, or daughter, and the bereaved.

Celebrations 

Birthday wishes to Sidney Honeyghan, July 17.

Happy anniversary to Henry “Smitty” Smith and Thea Smith, July 15.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘Heinous act’: Founder of Baton Rouge African-American History Museum found dead in — in a trunk of a car

Police in Baton Rogue, Louisiana made a grim discover on Friday evening when the founder of the African American history museum was found dead — in the trunk of a car, The Advocate reported Saturday.

“Baton Rouge police said Saturday morning that the body of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, had been found in the 2300 block of North 20th Street, about three miles away from her home. The cause of death has not been determined,” the newspaper reported. “Roberts-Joseph founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African-American History Museum in 2001. The museum, now known as the Baton Rouge African-American History Museum, is part of the New St. Luke Baptist Church campus on South Boulevard, where Roberts-Joseph’s brother serves as pastor.”

“The Baton Rouge Police Department joins the community in mourning the loss of Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community,” the Police Department said in a statement.

“Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice,” the Department promised.


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Sounds Like Her review – singing sculptures and a choir of silence

Sounds Like Her is full of ghosts. Spectres howl from speakers, they slip in between the shadowy shapes of people dancing, they push apart thick black lines of charcoal on white paper. The thing that is invisible yet still breathing down your neck in this exhibition is sound. It’s what ties together the six female artists at York Art Gallery and it is the centre of every work, whether it is a painting, video or installation.

Like the many female-centric shows currently correcting gender imbalance in the art world, Sounds Like Her creates a space where we can encounter sound-art practitioners working beyond the rigid patriarchal superstructures. For Ain Bailey, this means recording women forcing their voices into the “preferred” female pitch (A-flat below middle C, apparently); for Magda Stawarska-Beavan, it involves embracing the roles of mother and artist and recording her son’s first cry; for Sonia Boyce, it is plastering the wall in the names of black British women in the music industry.

The Devotional Series, 2008-ongoing, by Sonia Boyce.



Tribute to black British female musicians … the Devotional Series, 2008-ongoing, by Sonia Boyce. Photograph: Courtesy the artist

Patriarchy isn’t the only hierarchy on the guillotine; Eurocentricity and disability discrimination are also up for the chop. Art flies over from America and Cameroon, touches on China and draws out artists of diverse heritage, making plenty of room for black artists for whom curator Christine Eyene has been championing for years (see All of Us Have a Sense of Rhythm at David Roberts Art Foundation). Madeleine Mbida’s colourful multi-layered silhouettes bounce around her canvases, capturing the boundless energy of Cameroonian bikutsi music. The dancers are framed by heavy black symbols similar to the notes you’d find in a musical score, but this notation references a 6/8 rhythm that doesn’t exist in music theory.

Elsewhere, Eyene places a deaf artist at the centre of her exhibition about noise. Deaf from birth, Christine Sun Kim’s drawings and performances are the star of this show, taking us to a place where sound exists as a physical form that can create paintings and movement. Videos of previous performances document Sun Kim’s various experiments using sound. In one scene, she uses the vibrations of a subwoofer to create Speaker Drawings, and in another, she conducts a choir of deaf participants to use facial expressions to “sing”. On the opposite wall, musical scores drawn by her encapsulate everyday, unnoticed noises such as footsteps on a stair, the clank of toothbrushes in a bathroom or the restlessness of patients in a doctor’s waiting room. Sun Kim can only “hear” the sounds through observing human interaction.

Work by Madeleine Mbida in the exhibition Sounds Like Her at York Art Gallery.



Capturing the energy of Cameroonian music … painting by Madeleine Mbida. Photograph: Lee Clark

Such a sweeping array of ideas has its limitations. At times it feels stretched out too far. There is little to link Boyce’s powerful celebration of black British musicians with Linda O’Keeffe’s recordings of landscapes, apart from having something to do with noise. And the only reason Stawarska-Beavan’s video installation Who/Wer is included must be because it features a poetic narrative and exaggerated sounds of a city scene, which by the same measure could have put any arthouse film from the past 90 years in the running.

But it does provide moments in which to reflect. Because Eyene has adopted a multi-faceted approach to sound art, Sounds Like Her is quieter than you’d expect. The incessant, headache-inducing squeals and beeps in such work as Haroon Mirza’s are kept to a minimum here. There’s time to stand still with Sun Kim and reflect on how sound envelopes our existence even when we are not listening. And Bailey’s immersive soundscape of women attempting to sing that A-flat note is soothing. Across a dark room, their voices wash over me, inviting me to add my voice to the chorus. I harmonise until the sound engineer comes back into the room.

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Prescriptions for an America Sick With Racism

Pete Buttigieg got one thing wrong when he responded to the bigot on the Fourth of July. Later, the fact checkers would note that when he said that “a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism,” he fumbled the data from a 2013 ACLU study. But the mayor got the big picture right when responding to Dave Begley, a white, conservative blogger, at that July 4 Iowa event. Volunteering his solution for the friction between police and black residents of South Bend, Indiana, Begley told Buttigieg, “Just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crime and doing drugs.” The mayor, to his credit, responded as he should have.


“Sir, I think racism is not going to help us get out of this drama,” Buttigieg said. He later added that “racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job, too. It is a smear on law enforcement.” It was a verbal preview of the anti-racist spirit animating his Douglass Plan, released at last in full detail on Thursday. Though not necessarily the first or even necessarily the most effective set of these measures yet to be released, by submitting to the public the most concentrated set of detailed proposals aimed at improving black American lives, Buttigieg has made it ridiculous for any candidate look afraid to draw up race-based policy. And he has made it unacceptable for the rest of the Democratic field to put forth anything less than what he has done.

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Billed as “a comprehensive and intentional dismantling of racist structures and systems combined with an equally intentional and affirmative investment of unprecedented scale in the freedom and self-determination of Black Americans,” the set of Buttigieg proposals reads like a nearly complete set of reparative policies without the actual reparations checks.

Over the course of 18 pages, the policy document covers issues including voting rights, health policy, education, criminal justice reform, housing, and employment. It addresses racial disparities as specific and divergent as lead poisoning, black maternal death in childbirth, and lack of instruction about African American history in schools. While a bit of the list glances by certain issues with airy, promissory language, the Douglass Plan also offers many of the specifics that skeptics and critics (including myself) had been demanding.

What may matter more in the short term, both for Buttigieg’s prospects and for black electorates hoping to be served well by these candidates, is that these proposals further encourage this primary and its contenders to continue being unafraid of putting forth anti-racist policy. Everything else, as American University scholar Ibram Kendi wrote in December, is racist policy. This is something we need to come to grips with. Since this nation is rooted in bigotries of various types and if left undeterred, will sustain them, a policy that isn’t in service of tearing down that system is helping to maintain it. It may sound absolutist, but it also is common sense.

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - JUNE 29: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg greets residents before the start of a Peace Walk hosted by Christ Temple Apostolic Church on June 29, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. The event was held as the funeral for Eric Logan was being held in nearby Mishawaka. Logan was shot and killed by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill who was investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. The shooting caused outrage in the community and turmoil for Buttigieg as a mayor and as a candidate. “It’s a mess” said Buttigieg referring to the shooting during the presidential debate in Miami on Thursday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg greets residents before the start of a Peace Walk hosted by Christ Temple Apostolic Church on June 29, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. The event was held as the funeral for Eric Logan was being held in nearby Mishawaka. Logan was shot and killed by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill who was investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. The shooting caused outrage in the community and turmoil for Buttigieg as a mayor and as a candidate. “It’s a mess” said Buttigieg referring to the shooting during the presidential debate in Miami on Thursday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“All policies, ideas and people are either being racist or anti-racist. Racist policies yield racial inequity; antiracist policies yield racial equity,” Kendi wrote in the Guardian last December. “Racist ideas suggest racial hierarchy, antiracist ideas suggest racial equality. A racist is supporting racist policy or expressing a racist idea. An antiracist is supporting antiracist policy or expressing an antiracist idea. A racist or antiracist is not who we are, but what we are doing in the moment.”

We have a desperate need for strong proposals that don’t merely placate black voters but challenge white ones. Same goes for rhetoric. In that respect, many white candidates have made significant strides. Sanders, who notoriously had trouble connecting with black voters in 2016 with his rhetoric, has done more this time around both in terms of his policy proposals, and though he can certainly do more with his outreach, the change is noticeable. (His interview with Hill is something you should watch in full.)

New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand may be polling at near zero nationwide, but she continues to bring value to the primary field with moments like her campaign stop Thursday in Youngstown, Ohio, where she offered about a concise and effective definition of “white privilege” when a woman holding a baby asked her how Democrats can talk about such things when people like her are struggling. She responded that while she understood that “families in this community are suffering deeply,” that isn’t what white privilege is about.

Gillibrand then outlined, in stark terms, racial disparities that are common knowledge to anyone who lives as a black person in America: health care, housing, employment. “So institutional racism is real,” the senator added. “It doesn’t take away your pain or suffering. It’s just a different issue. Your suffering is just as important as a black or brown person’s suffering. But to fix the problems that are happening in the black community, you need far more transformational efforts that are targeted for real racism that exists every day.”

We are not going to end systemic racism by talking down conservative bloggers and schooling anxious white women from northern Ohio, but these moments are good — not just for the rest of the people in the crowd and all those who saw the videos, but the candidates themselves. As meaningful as it is to have a series of anti-racist proposals geared towards black voters, aiming for our attention and our votes, this is not a problem that we can solve because we did not create it. White people need to fix what is inherently a white problem, and that includes white politicians.

Buttigieg, upon his introduction to the American public, did not look like he would be part of the solution. Even as his star rose meteorically, his rhetoric on race and racism in the context of the Trump moment sank him with black voters. In a January profile, Buttigieg insisted “Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy,” and a couple months later, he mocked coastal voters and insisted upon empathy for Trump supporters, people who continue to excuse his racism. Visuals of Buttigieg rallies were noted for their monochromatic audiences, even in diverse cities.

The South Bend mayor did have a plan to address this. He would be one of four Democratic presidential contenders to address BET’s Black Economic Alliance Forum on Saturday, June 15. In advance of that event, he would have written an op-ed teasing his forthcoming Douglass Plan for Black America — named in honor of the celebrated abolitionist and reformer Frederick — and pundits and voters alike will declare that he “has a plan,” even if absolutely no one will know any of its specifics. But then, around 3 am local time on Sunday, June 16, one of the white cops in Buttigieg’s town shot a black man to death.

The boyish-looking war veteran and Rhodes Scholar was being projected as the next prodigious Democratic political talent, but he was now facing a very real crisis — and it happened to be one that exposed his most conspicuous political weakness. The furor and debate over Buttigieg’s reaction to the shooting death of Eric Logan will rage on, as local and national coverage could lead us to varying conclusions of how competent a leader the mayor proved to be in the wake of the tragedy. The point, however, is that he could and should have done more to prevent it in the first place.

Even Buttigieg seemed to recognize that when moderator Rachel Maddow asked him during the June 27 debate in Miami about why, over the course of two terms in office, his police force was still 94% white when his town’s population was more than a quarter black. “Because I couldn’t get it done,” he said, adding that he was “determined to bring about a day when a white person driving a vehicle and a black person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching, feels the same thing. Not of fear, but of safety. I am going to bring about that very thing.”

The Douglass Plan reads like he is trying to will that reality into being. After near radio silence from his campaign as far as policy dealing specifically with African Americans, this reads as though a President Pete would be trying to make up for the generational harms of slavery all by himself. I don’t say that to discourage him from trying. As the summary states, “America cannot simply replace centuries of racism with non-racist policy; it must intentionally mitigate the gaps that those centuries of policy created.”

Buttigieg appears to have learned quite a bit in the short time between the period when he was ascribing Trump’s victory to the red herring of economic anxiety and now. Perhaps he had an Ibram Kendi book land in his hands. Or perhaps he realized, as any Democratic candidate should, that there is no discernible path to the presidency without a strong African American following. Combine the Logan shooting with the appeal of competitors such as former vice president Joe Biden and senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, and it wasn’t surprising that Buttigieg was polling at zero with black voters nationwide, per an early July CNN survey. What better time to release the full details of his Douglass Plan, and let them know precisely what a Buttigieg presidency would do for black Americans?

It turns out it’s precisely a lot. Even still, his proposals are worth comparing to what some of his opponents have already put forward.

The Plan’s Walker-Lewis Entrepreneurship Fund — yes, named for legendary black millionaires Madam C.J. Walker and Reginald Lewis — “aims to triple the number of entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds within 10 years.” It spends $3 billion more than the Warren plan announced in June and sets a higher goal for jobs (3 million vs. 1.1 million). However, the Douglass Plan only sets aside half of the $50 billion for historically black colleges and universities that Warren proposed in April and a fraction of the $3 billion Julián Castro pledged. Buttigieg’s tuition-free proposals for public college pale when measured next to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ promise that “within six months, student loan debt will be canceled for 45 million Americans.”

The mayor wants a “21st Century Voting Rights Act,” but doesn’t outline how he would possibly get something like that passed. Harris’s Reproductive Justice Act has put forth a model for getting such legislation realized — using preclearance in states known to have histories of discrimination pertaining to that law — and making it effective.

Those moments when Buttigieg takes down a conservative blogger and Gillibrand helps an anxious white woman from northeast Ohio understand a phrase that Fox News often twists are the cultural supplements to the policy — not just helpful for the rest of the people in the crowd and all those who saw the videos, but sometimes the candidates themselves. As meaningful as it is to have a series of anti-racist proposals geared towards black voters, aiming for our attention and our votes, this is not a problem that we can solve because we did not create it. White people need to fix what is inherently a white problem, and that includes white politicians.

The only thing that concerns me with Buttigieg, in particular, is that for all these solid ideas, this is the mayor who through two terms didn’t make it a priority to diversify his own police force. He managed to raise nearly $25 million last quarter, leading all candidates. Polls aside, it is hardly out of the realm of possibility that we’re looking at President Pete. But he has to know that for all these shiny ideas, “because I couldn’t get it done is not going to cut it in Flint or any other city where lead is poisoning our water or our house paint. It won’t cut it if black babies and their mothers keep dying at an exponentially higher rate, or if he can’t keep folks safe in cities like New Orleans, where the government’s protections appear to be ready to fail them again, then “because I couldn’t get it done” won’t get it done.

Buttigieg needs us — and we need him and his fellow candidates to not just make investments in black empowerment, but to get white people involved in the fight against systemic racism. Figuring out how to make that happen on a mass scale is not an enviable task. I wish them luck in solving the problem. Buttigieg quotes Douglass, fittingly, near the end of his proposal: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” We black folks have been echoing that clarion call for freedom, justice, and equality before Douglass’ time. It would do us good to have more help.

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