Jared Thompson on new album ‘The Road’ and Black Hoosier poets

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Jared Thomspon

Mark Sheldon

With over a decade of hardcore gigging under their belts, jazz combo Premium Blend has become an beloved institution within the Indianapolis jazz scene. Considering the group’s well-established presence on the live circuit, it might surprise some to learn that Premium Blend’s excellent new disc  The Road  is only their second recorded effort. But, as the saying goes: what they lack in quantity is made up for in quality.  The Road  is a thoughtfully assembled collection, featuring nine originals penned by saxophonist and bandleader Jared Thompson and guitarist Ryan Taylor.  

Throughout a few lineup switch-ups, Thompson’s soulful lead sax has remained a constant, as has the brilliant keyboard work of Steven Jones. Taylor and drummer Brian Yarde round out the group’s current incarnation. 

While the Premium Blend sound is built around a classic post-bop approach to jazz, the group’s playing is informed by more contemporary styles. That balance has been an essential element of the band’s broad appeal, and is very much present on  The Road,  as the album’s track-list volleys between Thompson’s reflective melodic excursions, and the earthy grit of Taylor’s soul jazz-influenced creations.

Taylor’s hard grooving “In the ‘Lac” is a highlight, culminating with an invigorating call and response between Taylor’s guitar and Thompson’s horn. The Thompson-composed title track provides another memorable moment, and represents an artistic high water mark for Premium Blend, the delicately constructed ballad recalls the haunting beauty of Coltrane’s classic “Naima.” The Road concludes with “Conveyor Belt Dreams”, a stunning piece of spoken word protest voiced by poet/MC Theon Lee.  

I recently caught up with Thompson to discuss The Road  and the blend of musical and socio-political concepts that influenced the creation of the disc. See the group live during their weekly  Wednesday  night residency at Marrow.

Many moments throughout the 10 days of IJF shimmered in space and time, until, hummingbird-like, a sudden dart to elsewhere broke the spell.

Jared Thompson: Kind of by piecemeal, I’ve been playing with Steven for about eleven or twelve years. So he was in the original Premium Blend. It’s definitely been a morphing and evolving group over the years. Ryan came along about five-years-ago, and his timing was absolutely impeccable. I had another band member that was moving to Austin, Texas and Ryan happened to come by and sit-in, and I’ve seen him every week since then. Brian Yarde was another guy that was sitting-in. I wouldn’t say Brain got a late start in music, but maybe in the jazz genre, but in a very small amount of time his playing surpassed so many other people in this city. It was really impressive the way he found his distinct voice and made it work with a group that was already existing.

Kyle: You mentioned Premium Blend has been an evolving unit. Around what year would you say the group officially started?

Jared: I will always say that it started when I said it did. [laughs] I’d say around 2005. There’s been members like Brandon Meeks, and Sleepy Floyd. We were all coming back to this city and trying to make a go out of it together. We still play together here and there, but we’ve all got our own projects going and we’ve figured out how to hone in on what we wanted to do. Around 2006 or 2007 it really started to take shape, and our sound was really starting to emerge. We’ve been tweeking it and perfecting it since then.

Kyle: Before we talk about your new record  The Road, I want to ask you about a composition you wrote on Premium Blend’s first album  S.O.A.P. (Sum of All Parts) from 2015. You composed a song in honor of one of my favorite writers, the great Indianapolis poet Etheridge Knight. What inspired you to write the track “Song For Etheridge”?

Jared: Etheridge Knight was a name that I grew up hearing at a really young age, I’m talking like six or seven years old. My grandmother was very good friends with Etheridge Knight’s sister Eunice. I believe Eunice passed two or three years ago. But Miss Eunice would come over when we spent the night at grandma’s house. She was just a regular person, I didn’t know anything about the context of her brother and the significant impact he made on not just literature, but the Black Arts Movement too. We got the full details about him even as little kids, things that would be looked at as a checkered past, a drug used and in prison. But I always took the perspective that if someone has gone through all that, and submits such an a very earnest and scathing view about his life and the lives of those that look like him, there’s got to be something to that.  

So I based the song off one of his poems called “Cell Song” that’s included in Poems From Prison. The words just struck me. It’s very short, but with short poems, especially the one he writes, there’s a lot of information. It’s a very loaded poem. I came up with the melody and the band just ran with it. It’s sensitive, it’s a little dark, but there’s a also some hope, or sounds of resilience in it as well.

He’s definitely one of those people that I go back and read his work every now and then and get inspired. I put him up there with James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, and Toni Morrison. It was a first glimpse, before I even knew it, that there’s so much culture and art from the citizens of Indianapolis, and most importantly for me growing up, from Black citizens of Indianapolis.  

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Jared Thompson 2

Mark Sheldon

Kyle: Since we’re talking about great poets I want to ask about the closing track from your new album  The Road, “Conveyor Belt Dreams” which features the voice of a brilliant multi-talented artist, poet and rapper Theon Lee.

Jared:  Theon is an artist I met last year through the Indianapolis Arts Council’s Art & Soul event. I’ve always been impressed with that guy. The way he speaks in front of a crowd is absolutely amazing. He’s an amazing lyricist as an MC, and as a poet, he’s a very humble, yet thought provoking individual.  

I have to thank Ryan Taylor for a lot of this track to be honest. I came up with the concept, I do write – I don’t want to say lyrics, but every now and then I just kind of jot my thoughts down on paper. Over the last five years everyone is aware that there’s been a disproportionate amount of police brutality against the African-American community. It’s take a toll, and it affects everybody in some way. So I was flushing these ideas out on paper, and I said, “You know, I think I want to put this on the album.” 

I showed Ryan a first draft of it. He said, “This is good. But if you really want to knock it out of the park, you have to go deeper.” So Ryan really encouraged me to use my brain a little more, and rely on other resources that I had to flush out exactly what I was feeling as a person who sits at many different intersections of minority groups. Being a Black, gay person in Indianapolis can be a bit of an ordeal sometimes.

This is a very pro-Black record, but it’s not anti-white, and it doesn’t mean that if you’re not white you can’t get anything from it. It’s not an exclusive record. It can be an educational tool for people who are not Black.” 

“Conveyor Belt Dreams” hits on everything from the struggles of women, and Black women, of Black men, of gay men both black and white. It touches on a very culturally sensitive topic that unfortunately does not go out of style. This piece could’ve worked 60 years ago, and here’s hoping that this piece will not be as relevant 50 years from now. That’s always the dream, and that’s the conveyor belt that we’re on.

Kyle: The last song I want to ask you about is the ”Pursuit of Happiness”.

Jared: There’s a very distinct purpose for this tune. The phrase “pursuit of happiness”, as everyone knows, is part of the American credo that we’re free to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. That’s what we’re told, but if you fall into a certain category that’s just not for you. When Vice President Pence was the governor here, RFRA was a huge issue, it still is.  

This piece was something I was asked to write during the year that I was a presenter for the Indianapolis Arts Council’s Art & Soul series. The theme was the “journey to freedom” for African-Americans. The last part of the journey to freedom is marriage equality, and I fall into that category. I’m just know able to marry my fiancé.  

This was a direct response to Mike Pence. To be candid, for lack of a better term, this was kind of my middle finger to Mike Pence. I will say that to anybody, including him.


RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

African American Wellness Walk hosts ‘Barbershop Talk’

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — NBC4 is committed to men’s health. That’s why we partnered with the African American Wellness walk.

A man who went on the walk last year says the event is very important to him.

“The walk was definitely a life-changing for me,” said Anthony Madison. “Last year when we went to the walk I got check that it wasn’t good numbers for me. And that kind of put the alert out for me hey man something’s not right.”

Madison said he was very concerned because high blood pressure runs in his family.

“For me it was just important to catch up at early state. So I eat a little better now a lot better now. I manage my stress levels now and it all started with the walk,” said Madison. “Do you care about somebody and then what are you doing to show that care? A lot of times we express our emotions to words but not through actions and what better way than to do that by promoting good health?”

This Thursday, the Wellness Walk hosts a “Barbershop Talk” about men’s mental health. The event begins at 5:30 and is expected to last until 8:30 at Columbus State Community College’s Workforce Development Center.

Want to learn more about the walk? Hear more from Anthony on NBC4 at 6am.

Sleep disorders underdiagnosed in African American population: Study

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Sleep | Wednesday, May 24, 2017 – 07:30 AM


sleep disorders underdiagnosedSleep problems can be a huge burden on our overall mood and happiness. This includes disorders like snoring, sleep apnea, and insomnia. Getting adequate sleep is necessary for good health and can affect hormone levels, mood, and even our weight. It is concerning that doctors do not spot these sleep disorders quickly enough in the African-American population, according to new research.

Disturbed sleep leads to health issues

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition that involves breathing that stops abruptly during sleep. This results in repeated awakenings throughout the night, leading to poor sleep and an increased risk for health problems. Insomnia is another sleep disorder that is caused by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and not being able to get back to sleep once woken. Insomnia can make people feel tired throughout the day, affecting overall health, work performance, and quality of life. These problems plague many people, with a new study finding that most African Americans in the United States do not have their sleep disorders diagnosed.

“African Americans experience a disproportionate burden of numerous health problems, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, all of which have been shown to be associated with sleep [problems],” said study author Dayna Johnson, a postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The researchers suggest that it is possible these sleep disorders may be contributing to the many health problems that African Americans exhibit.

The research

The study in question evaluated the sleep status of 825 black men and women who had been part of a larger heart health study. The researchers found that three-in-four of the participants had some degree of sleep apnea, and only two percent were diagnosed. One in five participants were found to have symptoms of insomnia, yet less than seven percent had ever been diagnosed.

The researchers admit that they are unsure why so few African Americans are diagnosed with these sleep disorders. By providing them the medical care they need, it will be possible to prevent long-term complications.

“There is a disturbingly high prevalence of undiagnosed sleep disorders in our study population of African Americans. It is important to investigate the reasons for this high prevalence as well as investigate interventions targeted at increasing awareness and screening for sleep disorders,” said Johnson.


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GRAPHIC: Who’s Who in the President’s Cabinet? (with Lesson Plan)

With all the drama surrounding the White House right now, it’s easy to lose track of what’s going in the rest of the vast executive branch.

Cabinet secretaries head up their own executive departments and serve as the president’s advisers on major policy issues. There are 16 official Cabinet positions (including vice president) and eight Cabinet-level positions, all of which require Senate confirmation.

New presidents must also nominate about 1,200 other lower-level executive branch positions, including deputy and assistant secretaries, heads of agencies and ambassadors. All of them require Senate confirmation as well. As of mid-May, the Trump administration had still not even chosen nominees for a strikingly large number of these still-vacant positions.

The president also appoints key advisers to the White House staff who don’t require Senate confirmation, including chief of staff, press secretary and major strategists (like Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner).

As part of the executive branch, members of the president’s Cabinet don’t make any laws. They do, however, oversee massive government departments with thousands of employees and multi-billion dollar budgets, thereby shaping how laws and regulations are implemented and enforced.

More than a third of those serving in President Trump’s Cabinet do not have any government experience. And several of those who do — including Energy Department nominee Rick Perry and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt — have openly expressed disdain for the departments they’re now preparing to lead.

Trump’s Cabinet is the whitest, most male-dominated group in decades. It’s also the wealthiest Cabinet in history, with close ties to Wall Street and corporate America, including two billionaires and at least a dozen millionaires, with a combined net worth of about $6.1 billion. Many faced tough questioning from Democrats about their complex financial and political connections. It wasn’t until late April, more than three months after Trump’s inauguration, that the Senate confirmed the last of nominees was confirmed, rounding out the Cabinet.

Cabinet and Cabinet-Level Positions

TillersonZinkeShulkinSessionsRoss_UpdatedPriceChaoPerryDeVosCarsonMattisKelly

Tillerson_Profile1

The secretary of state is the highest-ranking member in the Cabinet, and as the nation’s top diplomat, is responsible for advising the president on foreign matters, and carrying out the administration’s foreign policy through the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Service. This position oversees 30,000 employees in almost every country in the world, with a budget of roughly $35 billion.

As the face of U.S. foreign policy, the secretary of state often plays a key role negotiating international agreements on a wide range of issues, including the environment, security and nuclear weapons. As secretary of state under President Obama, John Kerry played a large role advancing international climate change policies — including the 2015 Paris climate agreement — as well as negotiating a major nuclear deal with Iran.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson was questioned about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and potential conflicts of interest he could face as the former CEO of the world’s largest oil and gas company.

Among the first Cabinet members to be confirmed, Tillerson must now perform a tricky balancing act in maintaining strong relations among America’s allies while also representing a president whose support of isolationist policies has ruffled feathers around the world.

Although Tillerson does side with Trump on many issues, he did express divergent views from his boss during his confirmation hearing, voicing support for NATO, action on climate change and continued economic sanctions against Russia.

Back to the Cabinet

Mnuchin_profile

As the principal economic adviser to the president, the Treasury secretary tracks money and financial matters of national interest. Among other duties, the secretary is a key adviser and spokesman on trade deals, the public debt and tax reform. He manages 10 special bureaus, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Mint (the secretary’s signature is on all new printed money), and oversees more than 100,000 employees and a budget of roughly $13 billion.

This position is often in the spotlight in times of financial crisis, as was the case during the economic recession in 2008-2009 and the decision to bail out the banks. Alexander Hamilton served as America’s first (and arguably most famous) Treasury secretary, responsible for consolidating the debt of the 13 colonies after the Revolutionary War.

Like Tillerson, Mnuchin was also probed by the Senate on his business dealings and personal finances. Among other things, he was strongly criticized by Democrats for his failure to disclose nearly $100 million in assets, as well as profits he made on foreclosures during the 2008-2009 economic collapse. Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee twice boycotted a vote on his confirmation – but in a rare move, Republicans sent his nomination to the full Senate without their approval.

Although Mnuchin doesn’t have any prior experience in government, he will likely have a strong hand in the president’s plans to rewrite the tax code, roll back financial regulations and renegotiate international trade policies.

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Mattis_profile
Second only to the president in military authority, the Defense secretary exercises “command and control” over the U.S. Armed forces (Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force). The position oversees the Department of Defense, the largest U.S. government agency, with more than two million soldiers and civilians around the world and a budget of roughly $600 billion per year (the largest of any military force in the world) — which Trump wants to increase by $54 billion.

The top adviser on decisions regarding U.S. military strategy and actions, this position is particularly important during times of war. Under President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld led the planning and execution of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan (immediately following the Sept.11 terror attacks) and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Mattis, a retired 4-star general, is one of only a small handful of Trump’s Cabinet nominees to receive broad bipartisan support. During his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Forces Committee, he advocated stepping up military attacks on ISIS in the Middle East, in line with Trump’s proposed policies. However, he broke with the president in declaring Russia a major threat to U.S. security.

Mattis recently traveled to Brussels to advance Trump’s plan to reform NATO, an international military alliance. The administration is threatening to alter the U.S. relationship with the organization if other countries do not increase their spending budgets to 2 percent of total GDP, as promised. The U.S. currently spends more than twice as much as all other NATO countries combined.

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Sessions_Profile

As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and lawyer, the attorney general oversees the U.S. Department of Justice, which is comprised of 40 agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Drug Enforcement Agency and immigration courts.

The attorney general has oversight on a wide range of federal crimes, and as such can play a broad role in shaping national policy. During the Obama administration, the attorney general’s office (led by Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch) prioritized its focus on criminal justice reform by investigating multiple police departments, reducing the enforcement of certain drug laws and phasing out the federal use of private prisons.

During his Senate hearing, Sessions faced intense opposition from Democrats, mostly because of his staunch conservatism and mixed record on civil rights. Most notably, as a U.S. attorney in Alabama in 1985, he prosecuted three African-American civil rights activists, accusing them of voter fraud. The following year he was nominated to be a federal district judge, but rejected by the Senate.

As attorney general, Sessions will be in charge of advancing and defending key aspects of Trump’s “law and order” criminal justice platform and enforcing his tough immigration policies.

One of Sessions’ first actions was to reverse the Obama administration’s plan to end private prisons. He has also hinted at more support for law enforcement officials and tougher enforcement of drug laws, including heightened enforcement of marijuana (which is legal, to varying degrees, in 28 states), though no official plans have been released to date.

Less than a month into the job, though, Sessions found himself under fire following a Washington Post report that he met twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, a nugget he failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing. Amid mounting pressure, Sessions on March 2 announced that he was recusing himself from any current or future investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, top Democratic leaders, including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — the House and Senate minority leaders —  called for Sessions to resign.

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Zinke_Profile
The Department of Interior is the principal conservation agency of the United States. The secretary oversees management and conservation of millions of acres of federal land and natural resources (about 20 percent of all U.S. land) through agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service. The department has a budget of roughly $16 billion, although it also raises billions from activities such as “energy, mineral, grazing and timber leases as well as recreational permits and land sales.”

The secretary plays a key role in controlling development of the county’s natural resources – over 20 percent of natural gas and oil and 40 percent of the nation’s coal is mined from federal lands. The secretary is also a key communicator with the public in regard to the administration’s official policy positions on issues like climate change and natural resource management.

Zinke was confirmed by the Senate on March 1 with less rancor than some of Trump’s other nominees. At his confirmation hearing, the former Montana congressman, who has previously questioned climate science, said he now believes that humans do have an “influence” on climate.

He also said he opposes selling federal land to states or private owners, even though he voted in Congress to ease those same rules.

But Zinke also made his support quite clear for expanding leases to oil and gas development on public land as a way of boosting domestic energy production, a clear departure from the Obama administration’s efforts to scale back drilling on federal land.

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Ross_profile

The Commerce secretary is in charge of promoting U.S. business interests domestically and abroad and “promoting economic development and technological innovation.” With 38,000 employees and a budget of roughly $6.5 billion, the department includes 12 special bureaus with wide-ranging duties, from economic and demographic data collection (U.S. Census Bureau) to weather monitoring (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Penny Pritzker, former Commerce secretary under Obama, advanced a number of public-private partnerships in an effort to boost U.S. manufacturing.

At his Senate subcommittee hearing, Ross largely backed President Trump’s stance on trade, despite having made much of his fortune by opening factories overseas. He says that as Commerce secretary, he’ll support Trump’s agenda to toughen international trade policies and craft agreements that protect and create more jobs for American workers.

Ross also wants to crack down on what he calls China’s unfair trade practices and, like the president, pledges to make bold changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At his confirmation hearing, Ross said: “We cannot afford trade that is inherently bad for American workers and for American businesses.”

Traditionally, the Commerce secretary has less influence on economic policy than the Treasury secretary and other White House economic staff. Many political observers, though, predict that Ross will take on an expanded role in the Trump administration, given the president’s focus on redrawing trade agreements.

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The Labor secretary heads a department that oversees workplace standards, worker protections,  job training programs and employment statistics (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The secretary can be involved in mediation between large employers and their employees – for example, Labor Secretary Tom Perez (under Obama) settled a dispute between workers, unions and management at Verizon during his tenure. Perez also proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay and other important employment standards.

Acosta is Trump’s second pick for the post – Andrew Pudzer, the first, withdrew his nomination amid controversy. Considered a more moderate candidate with broader bipartisan support, Acosta is in charge of advancing Trump’s agenda to boost job development and reduce workplace regulations and union influence.

Formerly the dean of Florida International University’s law school, Acosta was also briefly a member of the National Labor Relations Board under President George W. Bush and then went on to serve as U.S. attorney in the Bush’s Justice Department.

Acosta is the only Latino member of Trump’s Cabinet.

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Price_profile

The Health and Human Services secretary is responsible for carrying out the administration’s plans on health, welfare and other income security programs. The post oversees a huge budget of over $1 trillion and 11 operating divisions including the Food & Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (which administers health care for over 130 million Americans).

The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” greatly expanded the powers of this position, allowing the secretary to influence the implementation of important details of the law, including how Medicaid funds are distributed to the states.

Among other duties, Price will be tasked with implementing Trump’s plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Although he has been a strong critic of the law in the past, and advocates for “free-market” solutions, he has not revealed a comprehensive plan for reform to date.

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Carson_Profile

The secretary leads the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees public housing, fair-housing laws, home loan programs for lower- and middle-income families, and administers community development grants. The department operates on an annual budget of nearly $50 billion.

The bulk of the department’s budget goes toward providing housing assistance, including public housing, to over 4.5 million low-income families across the country.

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, who made his own bid for president last year, grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Detroit (though, not public housing) and is Trump’s only African-American Cabinet pick. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 2, despite being criticized by Democrats for having no prior experience in government or housing policy.

Although known for his comments urging an end to reliance on public assistance, Carson acknowledged the importance of “safety net” programs during his Senate hearing. His vision for the agency includes expanding private sector involvement in public housing and community development programs.

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Chao_profile

The Transportation secretary heads — you guessed it — the Department of Transportation. With a budget of nearly $100 billion, the department includes the Federal Aviation Agency, Federal Highway Association, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and eight other transportation agencies.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Obama signed into law in 2009 to help jump-start the free-falling economy, the department received a major boost for road and bridge repair projects, transit expansion and new transportation facilities. A major aspect of the secretary’s job involves allocating funds, setting timelines and proposing financing options for transportation projects across the country.

The wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Chao is one of the few Cabinet members who received broad support in the Senate, largely due to her experience as Labor secretary under President George W. Bush. As Transportation secretary, Chao will be one of the key members of Trump’s cabinet tasked with advancing his campaign pledge to invest $1 trillion into roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

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Devos_profile

As the head of the Department of Education (the smallest cabinet-level department), the Education secretary advises the president on federal education policies and administers federal aid to local schools. The DOE also administers Pell Grants, which account for the largest share of the department’s budget, a nearly $23 billion program that provides financial aids to lower-income college students.

Although most public and charter k-12 schools receive the brunt of their funding from local and state taxes, a small but notable amount comes from the federal government (and is largely directed at low-income families). The DOE is also tasked with handling discrimination cases though its Office of Civil Rights. Notably, the ACLU sued the department in 2014 on behalf of a transgender student who was blocked by his school from using the bathroom that corresponded with his gender identity.

DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist, was sharply criticized during her Senate hearing for her lack of experience and knowledge of public education standards. Her confirmation has been regarded as the most controversial of Trump’s picks to date, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a Senate tie to cast the deciding vote in her favor.

Trump has repeatedly suggested reducing or eliminating the Department of Education, favoring state and local administration of schools (rather than federal). While it appears the department will remain for now, DeVos is not supportive of traditional public education; she strongly advocates for school voucher programs, which would expand alternatives to public education (like charter schools), and allow K-12 students to attend private and religious schools funded with public dollars.

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Perry_profileThe secretary leads the Department of Energy, with a focus on promoting new technologies, providing related education and overseeing nuclear energy programs. The secretary also works with heads of federal intelligence agencies to closely monitor compliance with domestic and international nuclear agreements. The majority of the department’s budget is allocated to national security (i.e. nuclear weapon programs).

The department was created in the early 1970s (under President Jimmy Carter) in response to an oil embargo that nearly quadrupled the price of oil, sending the global and national energy sectors into shock. President’s generally set the agenda for Energy secretaries – under Obama, the department focused on clean energy research and development.

During his 2012 presidential run, Perry actually vowed to eliminate the Energy Department (and notoriously forgot the name of it during a primary debate). More recently, he’s demonstrated apparent confusion about the responsibilities he would have as secretary.  Nevertheless, Perry cleared the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and was confirmed by the full Senate on March 2.

As Governor of Texas, Perry was an advocate for the fossil fuel industry and maintains strong personal and business ties to major Texas oil companies. He was, however, also supportive of some renewable energy development.

In keeping with Trump’s priorities to expand domestic energy production by increasing fossil fuel production, Perry will likely steer the department away from the larger Obama-era focus on renewable energy development.

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Shulkin_profile

As the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the secretary oversees health care and other benefits for people who have served in the military. The VA employs roughly 300,000 employees and controls a budget of about $150 billion.

The department was created in 1930 (12 years after World War I) and grew exponentially following a sharp rise in the number of U.S. veterans after World War II. The VA health care system (one of three subdivisions of the department) is the largest integrated health care system in the U.S., providing care for roughly 9 million veterans each year.

A holdover from the Obama administration, Shulkin is Trump’s only nominee to date approved unanimously by the Senate. As secretary, he will be tasked with improving care for veterans, which Trump says was sorely neglected under the Obama administration. Shulkin has promised “major reform and transformation of the VA” including increased options for veterans to receive private sector medical care.

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Kelly_profile
As head of the Department of Homeland Security, the secretary is responsible for protecting domestic safety. The department’s broad responsibilities include fighting terrorism, securing the border, immigration and customs enforcement, cybersecurity, and disaster prevention and management.

The department was created under President George W. Bush to consolidate homeland security efforts after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s comprised of seven agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration (airport security).

Kelly will oversee the third largest federal department, and be responsible for advancing some of Trump’s controversial actions on immigration and border security. During his confirmation hearing however, Kelly appeared to break with his boss, downplaying the importance of a U.S.- Mexico border wall and pushing back on proposed policies to restrict immigration of Muslims and to revive torture techniques in the fight against terrorism.

He also recently promised more moderate laws on deportations and travel following public outcry in response to a series of executive orders signed last month by Trump.

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The Department of Agriculture oversees the country’s massive farming industry. Among other things, the department provides subsidies and support to farmers and agribusiness, nutritional aid to low-income families and it administers agricultural trade policies.

Roughly 80 percent of the department’s budget goes to food assistance programs (formerly known as food stamps) which provide for more than 40 million low-income people across the nation.

The department also oversees the U.S. Forest Service, which manages nearly 200 million acres of public land.

As head of the department, Perdue, a former agricultural businessman, will likely look to reduce farming industry regulations and renegotiate agricultural trade agreements.

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The EPA administrator is responsible for guiding federal environmental policy and enforcing the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and other environmental regulations. Under the Obama administration, the agency took steps to combat climate change by trying to regulate carbon emissions and promote renewable energy.

Pruitt is a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA activist agenda.” As Oklahoma attorney general, he sued the agency multiple times, and has made it clear that he wants to reform the agency by significantly reducing its reach. Pruitt also has strong ties to the fossil fuel industry, and says he wants to roll back federal environmental regulations, particularly when they hinder domestic energy production. He is a strong advocate for state and local control over environmental laws.

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The Small Business Administration is responsible for providing loans, securing government contract work and generally advocating for small business interests.

The former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, McMahon is a billionaire businesswoman with no government experience. A key player on Trump’s economic team, she is tasked with cutting back federal regulations on small businesses, promoting job growth and supporting entrepreneurship.

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The head of the CIA oversees a huge network of intelligence agents positioned around the world, with the intent of protecting national security. The director is responsible for providing regular intelligence briefings to the president and his staff.

Pompeo took over the CIA in the midst of a strained relationship between the agency and the White House. Trump had initially dismissed agency intelligence reports that Russian agents likely hacked the U.S. presidential election. While supportive of the president in general, Pompeo says he backs the CIA’s Russia findings. During his confirmation hearings, Pompeo also said that he would not resume the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (like waterboarding) that Trump has advocated for.

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Although the secretary of state takes the lead on establishing foreign policy, the UN ambassador is responsible for interpreting U.S. policy positions and building international support in the UN’s General Assembly and Security Council.

Unlike many of Trump’s nominees, Haley received broad support in the Senate and was confirmed quickly, despite her lack of foreign policy experience. Although she agrees with Trump on a number of key foreign policy issues, including opposition to the Iran Nuclear deal, she has also shown a willingness to disagree with him on certain issues, including her denunciation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “acts of aggression” in Eastern Ukraine.

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The trade representative is member of the president’s economic team, advises on domestic and international trade policies.

Lighthizer shares Trump’s protectionist approach to the U.S. economy. With the goal of protecting American jobs, he is tasked with negotiating and enforcing existing trade agreements, forging new ones, and potentially raising import taxes. Lighthizer will likely play a key role in Trump’s promise to renegotiate the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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The intelligence director is responsible for coordinating the intelligence gathering and analysis of the country’s 16 civilian and military spy agencies, including the CIA, NSA and FBI. Created in 2004, partly in in reaction to criticism that the nation’s spy agencies had failed to detect and prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the post is intended to be the president’s primary interpreter on national intelligence.

Confirmed with broad bipartisan support, Coats served as a two-time Republican Senator from Indiana, where he was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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GRAPHIC: Who’s Who in the President’s Cabinet? (with Lesson Plan) 19 May,2017Charu Kukreja

San Francisco Black Film Festival Will Continue Memorial Day Tribute on Father’s Day

San Francisco Black Film Festival XIX, June 15-18

San Francisco Black Film Festival XIX, June 15-18

SAN FRANCISCOMay 23, 2017PRLog — San Francisco Black Film Festival Will Continue Memorial Day Tribute with Its Publicist Jackie Wright’s Documentary on The Vietnam War Slated for The Veterans and Father’s Day Salute

Among the more than 50 films from around the world to be screened at the nineteenth San Francisco Black Film Festival at venues to include SPUR, the DeYoung Museum, the African American Arts and Culture Complex, the War Memorial Building and Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel, is its publicist Jackie Wright’s documentary “Love Separated in Life…Love Reunited in Honor” that shows the impact of the war on citizens as a result of governmental decisions.

Love Separated in Life…Love Reunited in Honor,” (   ) a documentary short of less than fifteen minutes spans fifty years and two continents as the Wright family in the United States touch the Quang Family of Vietnam as a result of two anniversary gifts commissioned by Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr. to honor “Ouida, the Love of My Life.”  The film was written and directed by Jackie Wright and directed and edited by Jack LiVolsi, founder and CEO of Jackson Street Productions.

The story begins fifty years after Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara witnessed Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr.’s death on March 9, 1964.  His four children have him exhumed from a deteriorating segregated cemetery in north Jacksonville, Florida.  Sp5 Wright was reburied fifty years almost to the day of the anniversary of his death with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on March 10, 2014.   The Wright siblings, Jackie (63), Joe (61), Stanley (58) and Phyllis Cameron (53) also had their mother, Ouida F. McClendon Wright, exhumed from the historic “Green Acres Cemetery” in Columbus, Georgia, near Fort Benning, GA to be reburied with her husband during a ceremony with full military honors

The Wright story includes a young PFC John Francis Shea of Willimantic, Connecticut who died on that fateful day with Sp5 Wright; a former soldier who uses the handle “Cobra Gun,” George Moll of Houston, Texas who came to Arlington to grieve with the family of his fellow comrade and mentor; and Ms. Virginia Shannon Young, the widow of Kenneth A. Shannon, a helicopter pilot, who died five days after Sp5 Wright leaving his wife with a babe in arms and a toddler.

“The Wright story came across my desk May 2016 when we were preparing to unveil at Wilberforce University in Ohio, a miniature bronze statue of Colonel Charles Young, an African American military hero, who distinguished himself by being the third African American to graduate from West Point and leading the Buffalo Soldiers,” said Charles Blatcher, III, Chairman, National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations.  “I salute the San

Francisco Black Film Festival for selecting “Love Separated in Life…Love United in Honor” and other military themed films for its lineup because enough has not been said about the role of African Americans in the Vietnam War and the military in general.”

“It’s rare that we take a look at how war affects a soldier’s family,” said Eddie Ramirez, founder of OneVet OneVoice and the San Francisco Veterans Film Festival.  “We are pleased to be collaborating with the San Francisco Black Film Festival and look forward to screening some of the military films in the Veterans Film Festival to give the films as much exposure as possible.”

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Here’s How to Tell That Donald Trump’s Budget Doesn’t Care at All About Poor People

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Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Having already promised enormous tax cuts that would accrue disproportionately to the rich, Donald Trump’s budget completes the largest upward redistribution of resources in American history by proposing to slash support for the poor. Of course, Trump and his supporters have a defense for these positions. The tax cuts for the rich will promote growth, they say, while the vast array of spending on the poor is all ineffective anyway. So a Trump supporter might insist that his budget does not demonstrate a conscious desire to transfer resources from the poor to the rich, but merely different beliefs about which programs work and which don’t.

But there turns out to be a simple and clear way to test the morality of Trump’s budget from Trump’s own perspective. That test is to consider how Trump funds programs that Donald Trump deems vital to the poor.

Obviously, Medicaid is one example of Trump’s budget cutting a program Trump promised not to cut. (Budget Director Mick Mulvaney absurdly explained away this reversal by insisting that Trump’s endorsement of the Republican health-care plan rendered his promise to spare Medicaid moot: “I think once the president said, I support the American Health Care Act, part of that was Medicaid reform.” Then, having cut the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare, Mulvaney went ahead and cut another $600 billion from Medicaid on top of that.) But there is another example of a program for poor people close to the heart of Trump and his party: funding for education vouchers.

Last September, Trump gave a speech in Cleveland committing his administration to a revolutionary program of school choice. In that speech, Trump declared the promotion of school choice to be his highest domestic policy. “There is no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” he said. “The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success.”

This was not merely a technical matter for Trump. It was the centerpiece of his claim to have the best interests of the entire country at heart:

Too many Americans living in our inner cities have not been included in the American Dream. We are one nation, and when any part of our country hurts – our whole country hurts. My goal as president will be to ensure that every child in this nation – African-American, Hispanic-American, all Americans – will be placed on the ladder of success: a great education, and a great job. In order to help our children succeed, our first duty is to ensure that every kid in America can grow up in a safe community. You can’t have prosperity without security. This is the new civil rights agenda of our time.

News coverage presented this commitment as the bedrock of Trump’s appeal, such as it was, to the minorities who had otherwise served as targets and foils in his speeches. Trump promised to deliver $20 billion a year in federal funding to turn his vision into reality. It was, he said, a matter of priorities: “Our government spends more than enough money to easily pay for this initiative with billions and billions of dollars to be left over. It is simply a matter of putting students first, not the education bureaucracy.”

Earlier this week, reports leaked describing Trump’s education budget. Rather than the promised $20 billion a year, his plan reportedly provides $750 million a year, which is 96.25 percent less than promised. The school-choice funding is such an insignificant rounding error, it does not even appear in Trump’s budget.

To be perfectly clear, Trump’s ideas about school choice are not what I think matters to low-income families. Indeed, the evidence shows that, while public-school charters on the whole produce better outcomes for urban students, private-school vouchers produce worse outcomes. But Trump believes, despite this evidence, that private-school vouchers hold the key to giving poor minority children a better future. And Trump also believes that there is easily enough money to change this if Washington cares enough to make room for those resources. What Trump’s budget proves is that Trump does not actually care about those families or their future.

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