(BPRW) Sharing the Belief that Mentorship Breeds Great Leaders

The U.S. Army Continues to Partner with 100 Black Men of America

(Black PR Wire) New Orleans – Recognizing the vital importance of mentorship in the development of our nation’s next generation of leaders, the U.S. Army continues its partnership with 100 Black Men of America. The partnership includes the Army’s participation at the 31st annual 100 Black Men of America National Conference being held recently in New Orleans.

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Brigadier General Ural Glanville congratulates Marvin Dickerson, the national President of the 100 Black Men of America, and Inc. on their 60th National Convention. General Glanville said “We are here (U.S. Army) because the Army shares the same mission as the 100 Black Men of America. Preparing our youth to be the next generation of leaders. Personally, I enjoy mentoring young people and what I see here is an organization that cares about the youth and values education.”

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Marlin N. Gusman, the Sheriff of Orleans Parish joined in the U.S. Army activities by performing several pushups at the 100 Black Men of America Community Empowerment Day. The activities took place at the Alice M. Harte Charter School at 5300 Berkley Dr., New Orleans, LA. The community engagement theme was “Growing Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.” The goal of the event was to build a project which will last beyond the conference and continue to benefit the community. Activities included building a community garden, having a local “bazaar” with STEM activity and health screenings.

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100 Black Men of America national President, Brian Pauling navigates the Army Extraction course. This was one of several activities that challenged participates attending the Community Empowerment Day at Alice M. Harte Charter School, 5300 Berkley Dr., New Orleans, LA. The Community event’s theme was “Growing Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.” The goal of the 100 Black men of America and the U.S. Army was to build a project which will last beyond the conference and benefit the community. Activities included building a community garden, having a local STEM activity and health screenings.

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The U.S. Army and St. Augustine High School met at the 100 Black Men of America National Convention at the Hyatt regency New Orleans. Both believe the future of America’s youth is in the access to quality education. The goal of the meeting was to explore ways the two can collaborate to meet this common goal for the youth of New Orleans

Photo Left to Right: Staff Sargent Jundi, Master Sgt. (Ret.) Wade, Ms. Melissa Duplantier Dir. Marketing & Communications, St. Augustine H.S, Mr. Don Hilton U.S. Army Ethnic Field Marketing Representative

COVER STORY: From the Inside Out: Adjusting to life without bars

Above, EPOCA member Jay McCcune gets ready to head to Boston to lobby for better policies aimed at helping ex-prisoners return to society/Elizabeth Brooks photo

After he was released from state prison, it took 36-year-old Tim Peak of Worcester two months to get a state I.D. He said he couldn’t even get a library card, his only access at the time to a computer.

A week and a half after Mariousz Bezak, 39, of Webster, was released from the Worcester County House of Corrections, he found out his license was revoked for life, and had no opportunity to develop an alternate plan for transportation before learning that.

When Wahya Wolfpaw, 51, a Cherokee Native American in Worcester, was released from prison two years ago, she spent the first few months homeless, unable to find a place to stay aside from stints in homeless shelters.

When Richard Albert III was arrested for violating probation, he lost his job at a temp agency and has struggled to find a new one. He has a home, but he is not on the lease. He has previously struggled with drugs and said he is trying hard not to fall back in.

Jessica Morales, 25, of Worcester, got in a fight several years ago. Because of it, she lost her job and her kids, spent 10 months behind bars and, just recently, escaped a probation period without falling back into it.

Christopher Williams of Lawrence was recently released from the Worcester County House of Corrections, and applied for emergency assistance through the state welfare program, but was told he needs to first see a doctor. The waiting list for his doctor is 90 days.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jason Ludwig of Lynn, who now works for the Worcester-based Straight Ahead Ministries, spent nine and a half years in and out of prison. When he was released, he would skip a court date, get drunk and into trouble, revert back to stealing for money, and wind up right back where he started. It took a religious experience and a found family to pull him out of the cycle.

CURBING RECIDIVISM

Their stories are all too common among returning citizens (a preferred term for men and women who have previously served prison terms), who struggle to find work, to find housing, to find a place in society that won’t drag them back into old habits, and to navigate a justice system eager to suck ex-convicts back in with default warrants, probation violations, random drug tests and endless fees.

The individual stories above are among thousands that contribute to a roughly 44-percent recidivism rate among Massachusetts inmates, a rate estimated to cost the state $450 million a year. The days, weeks and months following release from prison are fraught with pitfalls, both bureaucratic and of the returning citizen’s own making. Many local advocates and returning citizens feel state institutions provide woefully-inadequate re-entry service, leaving vulnerable people in near-impossible situations.

Two thirds of those sentenced to state and county prison had been incarcerated before, according to a 2016 policy brief on recidivism rates by the public policy research group MassINC. When prisoners are released, they are often still battling addiction, dealing with mental health issues and have a weak support system. At the point of re-entry, the statewide issues of recidivism, drug addiction and homelessness are one. When the former inmate hits the street, data shows they have just under a 50-percent chance of going back within three years.

In January, at the start of the current two-year legislative session, state lawmakers highlighted criminal justice reform as a key goal with an omnibus package of reforms with near unanimous backing and a myriad of other bills aimed at specific issues. But local advocates, who have been picking up where they feel the state has failed, feel the Legislature is not moving fast enough.

Two Worcester-based organizations, Ex-Prisoners And Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement and Straight Ahead Ministries, both based in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood, are working to improve re-entry one returning citizen at a time. And a new re-entry program, the Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry, is showing major improvements in recidivism rates, though it’s working with a relatively small amount of inmates.

JOBS NOT JAILS

Parked in front of City Hall Monday was a beat-up, old yellow school bus. People wearing shirts with “E.P.O.C.A.” emblazoned on the front and “Jobs Not Jails” on the back milled around it, waiting for more to come. Each person was handed a tee-shirt as the group filed on the bus, headed for the statehouse Tomiko Walker, Steve Denson and Kevin Lynch, three leaders of EPOCA, ushered folks on the bus. In all, there were about 25, many of whom had previously served time. They were heading to Boston to let members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary know Worcester wants criminal justice reform.

Alright people, we’re talking on mandatory minimum for drug offenses today,” said Walker, sitting on his leg in a seat halfway down the bus. He also gave a quick primer on the Justice Reinvestment Act, an omnibus bill backed by many legislators and Gov. Charlie Baker. The bill, he said, “ain’t got any teeth in it.”

From the front of the bus, Denson began passing out $3 Subway half-sandwiches: turkey, Italian or veggie. Sandwich orders were shouted in every direction as the sandwiches, chips and water made way down the rows of seats. Many of the people on the bus had previously served criminal sentences, were on parole or had just recently been release. Almost all of them knew someone in jail. Some were among the roughly 150 that signed up to speak at a Statehouse hearing on the various criminal justice bills introduced this legislative session.

Since it started 11 years ago, EPOCA has burgeoned, gaining hundreds of members and satellite operations in other cities. The organization is based out of a small, two-room office in a large green house on King Street that also houses Stone Soup Kitchen. Founders Walker, Denson and Lynch sat around a conference room with a single sheet of paper it: the form to seal a criminal record. The walls of the office were covered in graphs, charts, fact boxes and campaign literature.

At its onset, the group worked to help people navigate the barriers returning citizens saw in trying to get jobs, like employers that ran background checks. They also joined the many groups around the state petitioning the state Legislature for CORI reform. CORI, which stands for Criminal Offender Record Information, is the state’s background check system, revealing misdemeanor and felony charges on a person’s record. In 2012, the group scored a major legislative win with the Ban the Box Act, which prevented certain employers from including a section for prior criminal history on applications.

Now, EPOCA is expanding its scope. The group is forging partnerships with local businesses and the city’s unemployment office, Workforce Central, to help local returning citizens find work. They help people seal their criminal record, find places to stay and navigate options for state and private assistance. The organization is still a regular fixture at the Statehouse, petitioning the Legislature to do more. They support several pieces of legislation, including the Justice Reinvestment Act, the Act to Stop The Criminalization of Poverty and a bill that would make it easier to expunge juvenile criminal records. Though the state has signaled its intention to make criminal justice reform a priority in this two-year legislative session, EPOCA leadership believe the state isn’t doing all they could.

They’re not moving fast enough,” said Walker, who serves as EPOCA president. “They’re shuffling feet, knowing that elections are coming up next year, so they trying to prolong the process.”

Decades of tough-on-crime policy, he said, have left county and state prisons overstuffed with low-level offenders, at an exorbitant cost to taxpayers.

They could be doing a lot more than what they’re doing,” Walker said. “It’s so obvious, knowing these jails are filled up.”

After years of relatively little focus on the issue, the Legislature has appeared to signal the time is now to make changes to the criminal justice system, amid a widening discussion on mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the state’s relatively high level of recidivism.

As of 2011, the statewide recidivism rate was 44 percent. EPOCA, a small but growing group of advocates, have found themselves in the middle of that conversation, pushing the state and the city for more while helping local returning citizens to get a home, get a job and stay away from the kind of activity that landed them in prison to begin with.

DIFFERENT OPINIONS

At Monday’s meeting at the Statehouse, it was standing room only as advocacy groups such as EPOCA, politicians, analysts, journalists and attorneys filled the hearing to discuss the many bills on file in this two year session, which started in January. The debate around mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking proved a focal point in the criminal justice reform debate, as advocates, scholars, defense attorneys and lawmakers squared off against the district attorneys, who were reticent to relinquish a powerful tool for law enforcement.

A group of five – Worcester District Attorney Joe Early was not in attendance – were represented by Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley. He argued at length that minimum mandatory sentences are important for negotiating plea bargains and for targeting the drug traffickers that bring violence to communities. The sentencing guidelines, he said, are “used as a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.” But others rejected the argument entirely.

You cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach to address this health crisis,” said Rasshan Hall, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program.

The line between drug user and drug dealer is often a blurry one, he said, and the sentencing guidelines cast people away for years that may be better treated with substance abuse programming.

Many believe mandatory minimum sentences have a detrimental effect on both those who serve them and the community once they’re released. Those serving a set amount of time are less likely to correct behavior, as they cannot earn good time or early release in prison. Mandatory minimum sentences, critics maintain, also preclude certain people from signing up for programs within prison that help prisoners land on the outside more smoothly.

EPOCA is firmly on that side of the fence. The organization largely wants to see change made to the state’s mandatory minimum sentences laws, which they see as draconian holdovers of the war on drugs, and further, as a modern holdover of slavery – one of the more brutal aspects of a system that turned slaves to criminals.

According to the ACLU, 75 percent of Massachusetts inmates serving mandatory minimums, which often stretch at least several years, are African Americans. The mandatory sentences mean drug offenders often serve longer sentences than those who commit violent crimes. For an armed robbery or kidnapping charge, prisoners have the option of early release or work release, an opportunity not extended to those serving mandatory minimums.

From EPOCA’s perspective, mandatory minimums keep people in prison for too long, and also pose significant challenges once its time for that prisoner to return to society.

Most people on minimum mandatory, they’re not going to do any programming because there’s no incentive for them to get out early,” said Walker. “Therefore, they stay stuck still in that same mindset that they was before entering the jail. You’re putting that same mindset back into the communities.”

Mandatory minimums, he continued, do not make the community safer. Instead, Walker argued, they hinder entry — sometimes banning it outright — into programs that help inmates rehabilitate themselves and prepare for success. Statistically, and perhaps by design, mandatory minimum policy has overwhelmingly affected black, Latino and poor white people.

It’s the underlying racism,” said Walker.

BY THE NUMBERS

While officials are quick to tout the state’s relatively low incarceration rate at least compared to other states (as of the end of 2013, there were 21,400 people incarcerated in Massachusetts – or 400 per 100,000 adults), the high rate of recidivism is an undeniable problem.

According to a 2016 MassINC report, approximately two thirds of people sent to state and county prisons had been previously incarcerated. About 67 percent of all state Department of Corrections inmates and county House of Corrections inmates had previously been inmates.

In fiscal 2013, a third of repeat offenders committed violent crimes and another third committed property offenses, according to the report. Those returning to society have been found to be concentrated in a small number of poor and urban communities, like the Main South neighborhood.

The large number of ex-offenders in these areas has a criminogenic effect, increasing the likelihood among residents of both first-time offending and re-offending,” the report’s authors write.

Another report on re-integrating ex offenders, published in January by the New England Public Policy Center, shows recidivism rates are higher among younger inmates, at 42 percent throughout New England. Black men, according to the NEPPC, have the highest recidivism rate of any gender and race combination, at 40 percent.

At the Worcester House of Corrections, there are about 1,100 inmates. Of them, 50 percent had been inside before, and nearly 90 percent struggle with some sort of substance abuse problem, according to Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

But WISR, a Worcester-county based program launched several years ago, is showing some results. An evaluation of the first three years of the program shows dynamic decreases in recidivism among the roughly 150 inmates that went through the program. Within a year, rates dropped from 19.8 to 9.2 percent re-incarceration, a 53-percent change. Within three years, rates dropped from 39.5 to 20.8 percent, a 47-percent change. Of the participants in need, 97 successfully enrolled in MassHealth, 75 percent of participants got the mental health services they were referred for, and 62 percent became employed. Of those, 71 percent were employed for a year or longer.

The WISR approach is a relatively simple one, involving more intensive case management both before and after release than the inmates would have gotten otherwise. Inter-agency teams of social service and health care professionals worked to refer the returning citizens and help navigate an often confusing bureaucratic web. The inmates had individual case management and incentives to participate by way of decreased participation time. The new program has excited the reentry team at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, which provides a less intensive version of the service on a shoestring budget.

There is no magic bullet on this, but we know the more that we can do regarding this continuum of care, the better,” said Don Siergie, director of inmate services. “It’s the right thing to do and it makes sense for public safety.”

Many of the returning citizens interviewed for this story listed a lack of guidance after release as one of the biggest challenges.

Resource, more options, a better way to get an I.D.,” said Tim Peak. “You come out of prison with nothing.”

In many ways, the intensive case work of WISR is an institutionalized version of the work that EPOCA and Straight Ahead Ministries do to help returning citizens find work, stay on the right path and navigate the system.

A SPIRITUAL APPROACH

Just down the street from EPOCA, Straight Ahead Ministries is headquartered in a second-floor office on Main Street. The organization has been around for about 30 years, and focuses on atrisk youth, from young teens to 24 year olds. The organization has satellite locations around Worcester, so as to not force kids into enemy gang turf, and has other offices in Lynn, Lawrence and the New Bedford area. Much of their work focuses on young returning citizens.

For Straight Ahead, it is the days following release that prove the most vital.

They’re thinking, their head is clear, they’re not high. They’re thinking, ‘Where am I going?’” Straight Ahead president Scott Larson said. “But when they hit the street, everything else is the same. Every system kind of works to get back to an equilibrium, whether it’s a family or a community. They know what to do with this guy or girl as a drug dealer or criminal or whatever their thing is. If they make that change, it sort of upsets the whole system.”

A young returning citizen may find a job, but they have to go from making several thousand dollars a night selling drugs to earning minimum wage. And they often have random drug screenings, probation appointments and other commitments with the justice system that make keeping steady hours near impossible. They’re homeless a good part of the year, and often times are dealing with the pressures of gangs, rival gang, and police. It takes some kind of experience, Larson said, some kind of spiritual moment, for many to make the commitment to a better life against difficult odds.

Jason Ludwig, a former inmate and youth outreach coordinator for Straight Ahead Ministries working in Lynn, said his own life changed in a peculiar way. He was involved with a church, he said, but still holding on to his old life. After a bad fight with his girlfriend, he bought a 30 pack of beer and an eighth ounce of cocaine. He stayed up all night drinking and doing drugs, falling back into it. In the morning, he was wracked with guilt. But a few friends from his church came over and showed support, despite the slip-up.

He said, ‘Jason, you’re probably going to do it again,’” Ludwig recalled. “But what I heard in that was like, ‘No matter what you do, even if you mess up again, we’re still going to be here for you. We love you. It doesn’t matter.’”

He started crying, he said, and they hugged him. He felt loved, like he had a place to fall back to, a found family that would be there for him.

That’s it,” Ludwig said. “I never went back again.”

Bill Shaner can be reached at 508-749- 3166 x324 or at wshaner@worcestermag. com. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Shaner.

Congressional Black Caucus Turns Down Second Trump Invitation

The Congressional Black Caucus turned down an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump, telling him June 21 they believe their concerns are falling on “deaf ears” at the White House and his policies are devastating to the millions of Americans in the nation’s Black communities.

A White House spokeswoman said the development was “pretty disappointing” and pledged to arrange for individual members to meet one-on-one with Trump.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond says that the Caucus will not meet with President Donald Trump because White House policies are hurting Blacks. (Courtesy photo)

Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond told Trump in a letter that his proposed budget, his efforts to dismantle Democrat Barack Obama’s health care law and actions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions are detrimental to many African-Americans. Richmond said the caucus had expressed its concern several times, including in eight letters and a document, but the administration has failed to respond.

“The CBC, and the millions of people we represent, have a lot to lose under your administration,” Richmond wrote. “I fail to see how a social gathering would benefit the policies we advocate for.”

Trump and top members of the caucus met in March, but Richmond said there has been no follow-through on promises like helping Black lawmakers meet with Trump’s Cabinet.

Specifically, the caucus criticized Trump’s budget proposal, which would cut money for Pell Grants for low-income college students and eliminate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps seniors and others on fixed incomes heat their homes.

The caucus singled out moves by Sessions on drug prosecutions and civil rights enforcement, and complained that the House GOP health care bill that Trump celebrated during a Rose Garden ceremony would “strip millions of Black people of their health care.”

Richmond’s letter responded to an invitation from Trump aide Omarosa Manigault, chief spokeswoman for the White House Office of Public Liaison.

“It’s pretty disappointing that Cedric Richmond has decided to go back on his commitment to meet with us,” Manigault said in a telephone interview.

She said caucus members who were excluded from the March meeting have been reaching out to her personally, as well as to the White House legislative affairs team, seeking one-on-one meetings with Trump to discuss issues their constituents are concerned about.

“We will do that because they have made those requests and we will honor those requests,” Manigault said. “That’s not going to be deterred because of Cedric Richmond’s political gamesmanship.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said caucus members want substance from the White House, not a social event.

“We want to talk and deal with issues that are of concern to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and we’ve not gotten any response,” Meeks said. “My opinion and the opinion of most of just about all of the members of the CBC is that the board met (with Trump). They gave him substantive issues which we wanted to deal with and they have not been dealt with.”

Meeks added, “Until we can deal with substance and issues what’s the benefit of a meeting.”

The Gantt Report: Ready for Persecution The White House Cat House

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By Lucius Gantt

     It’s hard to be a do-gooder. Yes, it’s hard to be a freedom fighter, a freedom writer or a freedom rider!

     More often than not, it can be difficult, dangerous and somewhat taxing to stand up, speak out and act in a righteous manner.

    From the very beginning of civilized times, someone somewhere has risked everything they had and everything they may have gotten by choosing to do what they should do.

     If you have read The Gantt Report columns for any length of time you are fully aware that I believe that all of my heroes have been imprisoned, locked up at some time and jailed for unjust reasons.

     I write about that fact at least two or three times a year.

     But guess what? Incarceration is not the only thing that happens to men and women that work hard to achieve, equal rights, justice and progress.

     The do-gooders in your city, state, nation or country are also persecuted!

     Do-gooders are talked about, scorned, shunned, stalked, whipped, hung, beaten, shot, stabbed, fired and even nailed to real and proverbial crosses!

     Sometimes people that try to do right, do what is best and do what they should be doing lose a lot when they are facing persecution.

     The Bible says a good man named Job faced persecution from Satan. Early in his life, his hard work and steadfast belief, resulted in him getting a good wife, a good family, a good business and a good life.

     But Satan changed all of that, Job lost everything, yes everything, he had but he kept his faith. In Job’s later years, God blessed Job with far more than he had in the beginning and Job died a very wealthy and happy man.

     Today, it doesn’t take much at all from modern day devils to get your family members , coworkers, classmates, teammates, sorors, fraternity brothers, Masonic brothers, church members and others to snitch on you, turn on you or flip on you like Simone Biles at the drop of a hat!

     Men and women that want to do right have to take the right road in the right way. They have to take the correct actions and also have the right attitudes.

     Let me explain.

     If daddy tells a child to put down the video game get started on their homework assignments. The child may put down the game but if he shrugs his shoulders or says a mumbling word, he still might get popped in the head. If mama says to her daughter put that telephone down and go to bed, if she rolls her eyes, she might get slapped in the face. If you’ve been naughty and grandma tells you to go outside and get her a switch, if you come back with the wrong length or wrong sized switch, she will go get one herself a whip you much longer and harder than she originally planned to!

     Even in adulthood, when we do the right things, we still have to do those things with the right attitudes and the right purpose.

     The thing about persecution is we all will be persecuted in some way if we live long enough.

     You can just be watching the march or the protest but you still might be arrested. You might just be riding in the speeding car and still get shot by the bad cop pursuing the vehicle. You might suck up to, bow down to or do everything a wicked boss or supervisor tells you to do and still get demoted or fired just because of your skin color, religious preference or personal sexual preferences.

     African Americans aren’t always victimized because they are young, playing rap music, smoking a blunt or wearing clothing that the devil doesn’t like, many Black men and women are pulled over by police, profiled, refused employment, denied health care, denied justice, face discrimination and experience persecution merely because they are Black!

     Well, I’m a God fearing man like Job was. The modern day devil doesn’t scare me. The wicked beast is afraid of me!

      I ‘m ready for persecution and I’m ready for revolution if that is what it will take to make a better nation and world.

      You should be ready too!  (Buy Gantt’s latest book, “Beast Too: Dead Man Writing” onAmazon.com and from bookstores everywhere. Contact Lucius at www.allworldconsultants.net. And, if you want to,“Like” The Gantt Report page on Facebook.)

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New findings explain how Trump won over Obama’s voters

What changed was the importance of identity. Attitudes toward immigration, toward black Americans, and toward Muslims were more correlated with voting Republican in 2016 than in 2012. Put a little differently, Barack Obama won re-election with the support of voters who held negative views toward blacks, Muslims, and immigrants. Sides notes that “37% of white Obama voters had a less favorable attitude toward Muslims” while 33% said “illegal immigrants” were “mostly a drain.”

A separate analysis made late last year by political scientist Michael Tesler (and unrelated to the Voter Study Group) finds that 20 to 25% of white Obama voters opposed interracial dating, a decent enough proxy for racial prejudice. Not all of this occurred during the 2016 campaign—a number of white Obama voters shifted to the GOP in the years following his re-election. Nonetheless, writes Sides, “the political consequences in 2016 were the same: a segment of white Democrats with less favorable attitudes toward these ethnic and religious minorities were potential or actual Trump voters.”

What caused this shift in the salience of race and identity (beyond the election of a black man in 2008) and augured an increase in racial polarization? You might point to the explosion of protests against police violence between 2012 and 2016, and the emergence of Black Lives Matter, events that sharply polarized Americans along racial lines.

And in the middle of 2015 arrived the Trump campaign, a racially demagogic movement that blamed America’s perceived decline on immigrants, Muslims, and foreign leaders, and which had its roots in Donald Trump’s effort to delegitimize Barack Obama as a noncitizen, or at least not native-born.

But the fact that Trump primed and activated racial views doesn’t immediately mean those white Obama voters acted on them. Which brings us to Drutman’s analysis of the Voter Study Group.

obama supporters fans floridaGetty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Drutman plots the electorate across two axes—one measuring economic views, the other measuring views on identity—to build a political typology with four categories: liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and populists.

Liberals, the largest single group, hold left or left-leaning views on economics and identity.

Libertarians, the smallest group, hold right-leaning views on economics but leftward beliefs on identity. Conservatives are third largest, with right-leaning views on both indices, while populists—the second largest group—are the inverse of libertarians, holding liberal economic views and conservative beliefs on identity.

Most populists, according to Drutman, were already Republican voters in the 2012 election, prizing their conservative views on identity over liberal economic policies. A minority, about 28%, backed Obama. But four years later, Clinton could only hold on to 6 in 10 of those populist voters who had voted for Obama. Most Democratic defectors were populists, and their views reflect it: They hold strong positive feelings toward Social Security and Medicare, like Obama voters, but are negative toward black people and Muslims, and see themselves as “in decline.”

This is a portrait of the most common Obama-to-Trump voter: a white American who wants government intervention in the economy but holds negative, even prejudiced, views toward racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. In 2012, these voters seemed to value economic liberalism over a white, Christian identity and backed Obama over Romney.

By 2016, the reverse was true: Thanks to Trump’s campaign, and the events of the preceding years, they valued that identity over economic assistance. In which case, you can draw an easy conclusion about the Clinton campaign—even accounting for factors like misogyny and James Comey’s twin interventions, it failed to articulate an economic message strong enough to keep those populists in the fold and left them vulnerable to Trump’s identity appeal. You could then make a firm case for the future: To win them back, you need liberal economic populism.

But there’s another way to read the data. Usually, voters in the political crosscurrents, like Drutman’s populists, have to prioritize one of their chief concerns. That’s what happened in 2008 and 2012. Yes, they held negative views toward nonwhites and other groups, but neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney ran on explicit prejudice. Instead, it was a standard left vs. right ideological contest, and a substantial minority of populists sided with Obama because of the economy.

That wasn’t true of the race with Trump.

fayetteville nc trump rallySara D. Davis/Getty Images

He tied his racial demagoguery to a liberal-sounding economic message, activating racial resentment while promising jobs, entitlements, and assistance.

When Hillary Clinton proposed a $600 billion infrastructure plan, he floated a $1 trillion one. When Clinton pledged help on health care, Trump did the same, promising a cheaper, better system.

Untethered from the conservative movement, Trump had space to move left on the economy, and he did just that. For the first time in recent memory, populist voters didn’t have to prioritize their values. They could choose liberal economic views and white identity, and they did.

This fact makes it difficult to post hypotheticals about the election. It’s possible a more populist campaign would have prevented those Obama defections. But a Trump who blurs differences on economic policy is a Trump who might still win a decisive majority of those voters who want a welfare state for whites. In the context of 2016, that blend of racial antagonism and economic populism may have been decisive. (The other option, it should be said, is that with a more populist presidential campaign, Democrats might have activated lower-turnout liberal voters, thus making Obama-to-Trump voters irrelevant.)

The good news for Democrats—and the even better news for the populist left—is that unless Trump makes a swift break with the Republican Party, his combined economic and identity-based appeal was a one-time affair. In 2020, if he runs for re-election, Trump will just be a Republican, and while he’s certain to prime racial resentment, he’ll also have a conservative economic record to defend. In other words, it will be harder to muddy the waters. And if it’s harder to muddy the waters, then it’s easier for Democrats—and especially a Democratic populist—to draw the distinctions that win votes.

The art of the cover: 5 songs that improve on the originals

Recess | Playground

The cover song, now such a staple of rock music, has had a complicated history, one entangled with the questions surrounding copyright law and the spread of musical ideas. In the mid-twentieth century—back when the common understanding of a “song” was wholly distinct from a definitive recording—the cover song was inseparable from its undertones of racism and cultural appropriation: major labels would release covers of songs by black artists, now performed by white artists, in order to compete with them on the charts, sometimes just weeks after the original single’s release. Recently, covers have a markedly less cynical reputation, serving as homages to an artist’s biggest influences. The choice of a song to cover is a telling one for a band, ranging from ironic, winking appreciation to a more experimental reinterpretation of past hits. And it’s a good rule of thumb that a successful cover song must do something new with its source material—it must stand as an artifact all to its own. Many critics cite Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” as a consummate example of a cover that transcends the original song. But beyond Hendrix, here are five covers that go above and beyond in their reinterpretation of the rock canon.

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The Slits, “Heard It Through the Grapevine”

English post-punk band The Slits took on Marvin Gaye’s classic Motown hit in 1979 while recording their debut album “Cut,” and since then it’s become one of their most-played songs (recently buoyed by an appearance on Season 1 of “Master of None.”) Though the original song stands as an all-time classic, The Slits version stands out for its freakish danceability and its clever subversion of gender—though it’s sung by a female, the male perspective of Gaye’s original lyrics about infidelity is brilliantly left intact (just listen to Ari Up spit the words, “I know a man ain’t supposed to cry / But these tears I can’t hold inside”). Up’s vocal performance, a mix of guttural growls, yodels and shouts, makes the cover, making this song about cheating a truly frightening affair.

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The Feelies, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)”

The Beatles’ self-titled “White Album” was a scattered patchwork of ideas that ran the gamut from ridiculous to wildly experimental, and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide” was typical of the album, a John Lennon-penned ode to Yoko Ono buried in the second disc of the double album. That New Jersey’s The Feelies picked up this track for their debut “Crazy Rhythms” was fitting, as it distills their tight, nervy brand of post-punk. Between Glenn Mercer’s yelps, Anton Fier’s rolling percussion and the band’s trademark guitar jangle, this rendition of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide” serves both as a characteristic introduction to The Feelies’ style and a standout homage to that most deified of rock bands.

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Dum Dum Girls, “Baby Don’t Go”

First released in 1964, Sonny & Cher’s original “Baby Don’t Go” is a surprisingly upbeat song about separation, its boogying rhythm and harmonica flourishes seeming incompatible with its subject matter. But in 2010, Dum Dum Girls, led by singer Dee Dee, transformed the country pop hit into a slow-burning cut that closed the album “I Will Be.” Over a spare arrangement of reverb-drenched guitar, synthesizers and a lo-fi hum, Dee Dee lends real aching to lines like “I never knew had a mother / I hardly knew my dad / I’ve been in town for 18 years / You’re the only boy I’ve had.” Much of “I Will Be” was a pastiche of the bubblegum girl pop of the 1960s, and “Baby Don’t Go” offers a distinctly different mood from the tracks that precede it even as it refracts the music of the same era. Both sonically and emotionally, Dum Dum Girls’ rendition of “Baby Don’t Go” surpasses its source material.

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This Mortal Coil, “Kangaroo”

Formed and curated by the 4AD label head Ivo Watts-Russell, the collective This Mortal Coil made a habit of reinterpreting songs from the roots of alternative rock, using the talents of label members like Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser and Modern English’s Robbie Grey to lend these covers the dreamy gloom that defined much of 4AD’s output. Watts-Russell, evidently, was especially fond of the songwriting of Alex Chilton and Big Star, whose 1970s power pop was instrumental in the development of indie music. “Kangaroo” is one of two cuts from Big Star’s unfinished masterwork “Third” that appear on This Mortal Coil’s 1984 album “It’ll End in Tears,” along with “Holocaust.” Though the latter is known as one of Big Star’s most emotionally wrenching tracks (a trait that has lent itself well to covers), it’s “Kangaroo” that stands out in its uniquely 4AD sound. Singer Gordon Sharp turns Chilton’s already disjointed track into a demented ’80s-prom-night jam, sacrificing the original’s subtlety for yearning pathos that’s no less haunting. David Lynch reportedly wanted to use another This Mortal Coil cover, “Song of the Siren,” for his 1985 film “Blue Velvet,” and it’s no surprise—both that track and “Kangaroo” evoke the same twisted vision of romanticism that define Lynch’s films. It’s worth wondering whether the iconic theme to “Twin Peaks” would have existed without the hypnotic bass picking that opens “Kangaroo.”

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Downtown Boys, “Dancing in the Dark”

Much coverage of Providence, R.I.’s Downtown Boys revolves around their label as a “political” band, but this designation detracts from the pure passion that drives their particular brand of punk rock. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” which closes their 2015 album “Full Communism.” Cranking up the tempo of the original, Victoria Ruiz’s vocals drip with vitriol, disgust, exhaustion, but, most of all, resolve, turning the line “I get up in the evening / And I ain’t got nothing to say” into a stark observation of the state of the world today. After spending the length of an album taking to task police officers, the one percent, tall boys and white privilege, “Dancing in the Dark” could not be called a victory lap—since victory, obviously, is so far from being achieved—but it’s a reminder of the cathartic power of music in the face of injustice. The power of The Boss’s music is in the way it captures the anger and desire of people who feel put-upon and oppressed, and here Downtown Boys tap into that potential like no other band has.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Ask Dr. Kevin: Understanding Sickle Cell Disease

Dr. Kevin Williams will contribute exclusive content about sickle cell disease to the NNPA and its member newspapers.

Dr. Kevin Williams will contribute exclusive content about sickle cell disease to the NNPA and its member newspapers.

Ask Dr. Kevin is a new feature brought to you by Pfizer Rare Disease in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) to increase understanding of sickle cell disease.

Dr. Kevin is currently the Chief Medical Officer for Rare Disease at Pfizer. He pursued medicine after being inspired by his father’s work as a general practitioner in his hometown of Baton Rouge. Dr. Kevin is passionate about raising awareness and increasing understanding of sickle cell disease in the African-American community.

In this article, Dr. Kevin answers common questions about sickle cell disease and its impact on the African-American community and provides tips for living with and supporting someone with the disease.

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited genetic disease that affects hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein within red blood cells (RBC). While normal RBCs are flexible and oval-shaped, individuals with SCD have sharp, crescent-shaped RBCs that have trouble passing through the body’s blood vessels, irritating the vessels’ lining. This irritation leads to the production of “sticky” proteins that cause RBCs to clump together, along with other cells in the blood, and creates blockages in blood flow. The reduced blood flow leads to severe pain and organ damage, like the heart, brain, eyes, liver, lungs, and spleen (causing the inability to fight certain infections).

How does someone get sickle cell disease?

SCD is passed from parent to child. Everyone has two hemoglobin genes, one from each parent, and both parents must carry and pass the sickle cell gene to their child. With each pregnancy, the child has a 25% chance of having SCD if both parents have the trait.

Is sickle cell disease contagious?

No. You can only inherit it if your parents carry the sickle cell gene and pass it to you. SCD is a serious, lifelong condition that a person has from birth. You do not “lose” or “outgrow” it over time.

Are African-Americans more likely to have sickle cell disease?

SCD is more common in certain ethnic groups, especially those of African descent. It is estimated that nearly one in 14 African-American individuals carries the sickle trait and SCD occurs in one out of every 500.

What is the most common symptom for people with sickle cell disease?

Pain is the most common and difficult symptom of SCD, as it can be sudden and so severe that people need to go to the emergency room (ER) or be admitted to the hospital. This type of pain is referred to as a “sickle pain crisis” or “vaso-occlusive crisis” (as it is due to blood vessel blockage). Pain can occur anywhere blood flows, but common sites are lower back, arms, chest, stomach, and legs. Certain triggers are known to cause a pain crisis, such as dehydration, extremely hot or cold temperatures, and stress.

How can patients with sickle cell disease prevent pain?

Although you may not prevent every pain episode, avoiding triggers may reduce the occurrence and/or severity of pain crises. It’s important to:

• Stay hydrated to prevent dehydration. Drinking water is best.

• Exercise regularly, but don’t overdo it.

• Avoid very hot or cold temperatures.

• Manage stress to your body and mind.

• Get plenty of rest.

It’s also important to go for regular health checkups and talk to your doctor about managing pain episodes.

Is it possible to die from sickle cell disease?

SCD can cause a lifetime of health issues and complications that may lead to early death. In developed countries, like the United States, people with SCD often live between 40 and 60 years of age. However, in developing countries, like some countries in Africa, 90% of babies born with SCD will die before age 5.

What is the impact of sickle cell disease on the African-American community?

Severe pain crises lead to frequent ER visits and hospitalizations, which stress the patient and family, as well as the health care system. Also, those living with SCD often face disease misperceptions. For example, people with SCD are frequently believed to be drug abusers, because they have a high tolerance for pain killers. Missed days at school and work interfere with productivity and may lead to the perception that people with SCD are lazy. Studies have also shown that school-age children have a lower IQ due to effects of SCD on their developing brains.

Are there support groups for sickle cell disease?

Yes. National support groups and advocacy organizations are a great way to connect with others living with the disease. There may also be local groups in your area.

What can someone with a friend or family member who has sickle cell disease do to help?

It is important to understand and support those individuals living with SCD. As a friend, be considerate and help direct their focus away from the pain. As a family member, encourage regular checkups and help them communicate their feelings and avoid triggers that lead to a pain crisis. A knowledgeable, compassionate community can help reduce the stigma related to SCD. Stand up for those living with SCD and, now that you know more about the disease, educate others!

Stay tuned for the next Ask Dr. Kevin article, which will appear in September. Meanwhile, here are resources to find more information about sickle cell disease or the collaboration between the NNPA and Pfizer Rare Disease.

About Dr. Kevin Williams

Dr. Kevin Williams is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Pfizer Rare Disease. In this role, he leads a Medical Affairs organization of approximately 150 medical colleagues around the globe supporting Pfizer’s efforts and portfolio in Rare Disease. Dr. Kevin joined Pfizer in January 2004 as a Director, Regional Medical & Research Specialists working in the HIV disease area. After moving into a Team Leader position in July 2005, he has served in various leadership roles during his career at Pfizer, most recently as the Global Medical Affairs Vice President for Rare Disease in Pfizer’s Global Innovative Pharma business unit where he supervised a group of global colleagues providing medical leadership and strategic support for inline and pipeline assets in Endocrinology, Hematology, TTR-Amyloidosis, Gaucher’s Disease, and other rare diseases. Dr. Kevin moved into his current Rare Disease CMO position in May 2016.

Dr. Kevin received his medical degree from the UCLA School of Medicine and is board certified in Internal Medicine. Following a 2-year fellowship in Health Services Research at UCLA and a brief academic career as an Instructor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine, he spent 8 years in private practice caring for HIV-positive patients while maintaining an academic appointment at the UCLA School of Medicine as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine. In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Kevin has a Masters in Public Health from the UCLA School of Public Health and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.

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Austin African American Book Festival Comes to Carver Museum

The Austin African American Book Festival celebrates its 11th year and, like years past, addresses the current state of Black culture and race in America.

“The festival celebrates the humanity, intellect, diversity, and depth and breadth of the black experience,” said Dr. Peniel Joseph, UT professor and author at the festival. An event that is more important now than ever as it gives a voice to combat systematic racism.

According to Joseph, race lies at the center of American democracy: influencing public schools, national politics, the criminal justice system, and much more. His outlook on America has grown more complex as the Obama presidency and the Ferguson shootings altered the rhetoric of the 2016 election and racial, religious, and LGBTQ discrimination.

Historical Black activists and writers that influenced contemporary literature play a role in Joseph’s keynote address (Saturday, 1:30pm) titled Black History, Literature, and Power in the Age of Black Lives Matter. His 2014 book, Stokely: A Life, Dark Days, Bright Nights gives a portrait on Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture), a leader in the civil rights and Black Power movements. Stokely argued that blacks needed to identify and eliminate oppressive structure for themselves.

Dr. Peniel E. Joseph

Joseph argues that institutionalizing Black humanity is one of the most powerful ways society can overcome the racism inherent in a nation founded on slavery. Joseph continues, “That stands at the heart of black literary traditions.”

Austin African American Book Festival
Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.
Thursday and Saturday, June 22 & 24
www.aabookfest.com

More Writers to Check Out at the Fest:

Angie Thomas
Thursday, June 22, 6:30pm

Young adult writer, Thomas wrote The New York Times bestselling novel The Hate U Give; a teen girl challenges racial injustice in American society and participates in activism after witnessing a police officer fatally shooting her friend.

D. Watkins
Saturday, June 24, noon

Watkins’ The Cookup: A Crack Rock Memoir, tells the story of a teen who gets accepted to Georgetown University, but whose life changes after his brother dies and he decides to take over the family drug business.

April Sinclair
Saturday, June 24, 11am

Sinclair’s coming-of-age novel, Coffee Will Make You Black, follows a young African-American woman growing up in 1960s Chicago. While emerging into adulthood, she discovers her sexuality and identity as a Black woman.