Divine 9 Aims to Save the Lives of Black Women Endangered by Roe v. Wade Repeal With ‘Tell Somebody’ PSA Campaign 

Tell Somebody

NNPA Newswire/BlackPressUSA
By Stacy M. Brown

The Divine 9, the historically Black fraternities and sororities of the National Pan-Hellenic Council led by Phi Beta Sigma, are joining forces to save the lives of Black women.

In a news release, the influential organization said it would launch “Tell Somebody,” a public service campaign emphasizing the profoundly disproportionate impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn nearly half a century of established law under Roe v. Wade, on Black women.

The campaign is a collective effort by the Divine 9 to empower the community to counteract the potentially disastrous effect of the repeal by urging Americans to contact the politicians who can make the most difference.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion, it will only end safe abortions and access to healthcare for millions of women – particularly poor women of color – and fuel a full-fledged public health crisis in this country,” Chris V. Rey, J.D., President of Phi Beta Sigma, a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, said in the news release.

“We’re calling on the 2.5 million members of the Divine 9 to contact lawmakers to mitigate the impact of this egregious blow to the well-being of 10 million Black women of child-bearing age.”

“Tell Somebody,” narrated by iconic actor Jenifer Lewis (Black-ish, Strong Medicine, Five, The Preacher’s Wife, Cars, What’s Love Got to Do with It) starkly illustrates the circumstances that drive nearly four times more Black women to seek abortions versus their white peers, particularly sexual violence.

According to the release, nearly half of Black women experience sexual coercion, and one in four will experience sexual abuse, by the age of 18. Thirty-five percent will experience some form of sexual violence within their lifetime.

Black women are also three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white peers.

This mortality rate among Black mothers is expected to increase by 33 percent in the wake of the repeal, officials stated in the release.

Lewis, known as the “Mother of Black Hollywood,” urges viewers to contact key lawmakers to tell them to relax filibuster rules so Congress can protect women’s healthcare rights.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, an advocate for reproductive rights, supports the Divine 9 campaign, proclaimed that “What we are living through is an unprecedented public health crisis.”

“The severity of losing the right to govern our own bodies cannot be overstated, especially for Black communities who have long felt the impact of politicians asserting power and control over our bodies at the expense of our health, lives, and futures,” McGill Johnson stated.

She continued:

“Creating medically unnecessary barriers to abortion only makes it harder for people to get the health care they need, and deeply affects communities that already face challenges within the health care system — communities like ours.

“Despite the darkness we are living through, we must remember that we have the power to make a difference. As a member of a Divine 9 sorority, I know there is power in our stories and strength in our voices as we continue to push for freedom.”

“Tell Somebody” is produced by veteran broadcaster Sybil Wilkes “The Voice of Reason” on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and Executive Producer Yolanda Starks-White, co-founders of YoSy Media, a multi-media news, information and Black culture platform.

“This is a call to action. Lives are on the line – the lives of those with the least access to medical, financial and social resources,” Wilkes stated.

“The measure of a nation is how it treats its most vulnerable. It’s time to stand up together for those who cannot stand up for themselves.”

Contact information for members of the U.S. Senate can be found at:

https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

For more information about the Tell Somebody campaign visit http://www.TellSomebodyNow.org.

Social Issues May Be Tipping Points in Determining Upcoming Elections

The mid-term elections

NNPA Newswire/BlackPressUSA
By James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D. | Houston Forward Times

The mid-term elections
The mid-term elections will be held in November. Some critics are already saying that these elections will be the most important in recent memory.

Elections are always determined by the issues and concerns of the day.

That is how it has always been and that is how it will always be.

Life brings us a myriad of challenges and opportunities.

How we navigate them is one of the keys to successful living.

Many of them become ballot box issues.

We look for candidates and organizations that share our views.

When we do, we will vote for them, or we will use their services.

I have voted for a number of candidates over the years.

Some have won, while others have lost.

Elections are happening all over our country.

Candidates are jockeying for positions, trying to obtain endorsements and win votes.

Just from where I sit, more people are voting now.

It could be that they see the power of their vote now. Races are being won by close margins now.

A while back, a candidate lost a GOP primary in the state of Washington by one vote.

Kevin Entze, a police officer who lost by a single vote, later found out that one of his fellow officers had a memory lapse and forgot to mail in his ballot.

Entze said, “He left his ballot on his kitchen counter, and it never got sent out.”

That was unfortunate. Entze was probably sick.

Communities and schools have become more vocal about their wants and needs.

Money for them often comes about because “we the citizens” are going to the polls to vote.

Safety is on everybody’s priority list.

That means voting for additional monies to hire more police officers.

Statistics show that many police officers are leaving their positions because of a lack of resources.

Small towns and big cities are suffering from not having enough funds for much needed projects.

In some instances, for example, streets need fixing and traffic signals need replacing.

Schools remain under-funded and under-staffed.

Unfortunately, this has become a disturbing trend.

Now, more of these school-related issues are appearing on ballots.

We want good schools and great teachers, so we are having to find the necessary money to pay for them.

Women’s rights are at a crossroads in the eyes of many citizens.

Equity and parity are being debated now more than ever, in my opinion.

Over the years, women have disagreed about the choices they make about their bodies.

Abortion is a sensitive topic, yet now it is in the public square for debate and dialogue.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority said, “Roe must be overruled because they were egregiously wrong, the arguments exceptionally weak and so damaging that they amounted to an abuse of judicial authority.”

If you are pro-life, you welcomed this decision.

However, there is another side.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan said that “The court decision means that young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers.”

Similar sentiments have been voiced by many women.

It is clear that this issue has already become a ballot box issue in some states, with more to come.

The mid-term elections will be held in November.

Some critics are already saying that these elections will be the most important in recent memory.

As reports indicate, all 435 House seats, and 35 of the 100 Senate seats, will be on the line.

As citizens, we are eagerly awaiting this election cycle, as we will vote for candidates who align with our perspectives.

What’s most important is that we exercise our right to vote.

The post Social Issues may be Tipping Points in Determining Upcoming Elections appeared first on Houston Forward Times.

Stars Align for College Lovers with Opening of TreStelle in North Dallas

Stars Align for College Lovers

Special to Texas Metro News

Stars Align for College Lovers

Entrepreneur and coffee enthusiast Jonathan Ghebreamlak has gone from running from the smell of coffee to running Dallas’ newest specialty coffee house. The Dallas native is celebrating the opening of his Tre Stelle Coffee Co. located at 17390 Preston Road, Suite 210, Dallas, TX 75252.

Tre Stelle, which means three stars in Italian, embodies the time-honored coffee traditions of Ghebreamlak’s parent’s home country of Eritrea in East Africa. The 25-year-old company founder discovered his love of the velvety liquid during his college days at Texas Tech.

Jonathan Ghebreamlak
Jonathan Ghebreamlak

“I must admit, I was not a coffee drinker growing up, but when I was in college, I needed a little boost occasionally. I was never into energy drinks; so, I decided to give coffee another try,” he said. “When my dad started home roasting our coffee, I really developed a love for it and started drinking it daily. I became interested in the business of coffee after doing a project as part of my supply chain management curriculum where I showed the process of taking raw coffee beans to the consumer’s cup. I could really see the tremendous growth potential in the industry.”

Tre Stelle is named after a small coffee shop in Eritrea frequented by Ghebreamlak’s father in his youth. It was important to him that his new venture pay homage to the home country of his parents and have the same warm, welcoming atmosphere of friends gathering together, communing over rich, robust cups of coffee.

“When I traveled to Eritrea in 2019, I was already thinking of getting into the coffee business. I started out on the roasting side of the business which is what my dad was doing. It was a natural progression from that point to open my own coffee shop,” explained Ghebreamlak. “East Africa is home to some of the most delicious coffee in the world, yet there aren’t many people of color on the storefront ownership side of the industry. I wanted to change the narrative in that regard. It was also important to me to continue the traditions of coffee drinking that surrounded me growing up.

According to Ghebreamlak, coffee brought families, friends and communities together.

“Many nights our home was filled with joy, laughter and coffee for hours. That is the legacy Tre Stelle honors and will carry into the future.”

With the roaster prominently on display in the café’s seating area, customers have a front row seat to where every bean is roasted before being served. The walls are tastefully decorated with woven baskets, another beautiful tribute to East African culture, murals and paintings by local artists, and the menu boasts offerings exclusively from North Texas vendors.

“There are a lot of great local vendors in this area,” said Ghebreamlak. “We started out selling our roasted beans at farmers markets around DFW and made lifelong friends. We are thrilled to be able to reach out to them now and include their products in our offerings to our customers. We want to tie everyone together, and work with other suppliers in the North Texas community. With an undeniable commitment to community and freshness guarantee, Tre Stelle is making a name for itself and building a loyal following.

Ghebreamlak said, “We want to cater to the coffee lover at every level and bridge the gap between traditional and modern coffee. From the casual coffee drinker to the connoisseur, Tre Stelle speaks to the coffee lover in us all.”

For more information or to order in-house roasted coffee, visit www.trestellecoffeeco.com or follow on IG @trestellecoffee.

FAITHFUL UTTERANCES: Church Girls, Boys, Men and Women

Church

Beyonce’s song, Church Girl, has obviously caused a ruckus within some Christian circles.

On one hand, it’s exciting that some of the Black church is waking up. On the other hand, as a body, we have been asleep. Sadly, the decision to speak out about the issues in the music industry are too little and too late.

Instead of harping on the lyrics of this song, it’s a missed opportunity to really address a culture of young adults whose reality is either NOT the church or going to church as a formality due to tradition.

According to a recent report by The Survey Center on American Life of the American Enterprise Institute, “Research has consistently shown that every generation of adults is somewhat less religious than the generation that preceded it.

This pattern continues with Generation Z demonstrating less attachment to religion than the millennial generation did. In terms of identity, Generation Z is the least religious generation yet. More than one-third (34 percent) of Generation Z are religiously unaffiliated, a significantly larger proportion than among millennials (29 percent) and Generation X (25 percent).”

The real issue isn’t the lyrics of Beyonce’s song—it’s the lack of connection, understanding and real relationship we have with those in our congregations and communities to see the church as a relevant place of transparency, safety, and healing especially for young people.

Although it probably wasn’t Beyonce’s intention to cause a religious dialogue, this song actually provides a glimpse into the multiple realities that many young people face—one of church that does not understand the many dynamics they face so differently than each generation before.

Young people witness the hypocrisy within the church that we are willing to call out sins in the world without taking a deep look at the cancer that has created a duality for a “church girl” to “drop it like a thotty” and still “wanna be centered in thy will” as stated in her lyrics.

Attacking Beyonce actually helped promote her song even more. If we are not careful, this can become a distraction from what’s really going on that’s much bigger than a song…. let’s pay attention to the culture that we have chosen to ignore instead of using these situations as a teachable moment to instruct, offer wisdom and not condemnation, but provide a true alternative rooted in love, hope and faith.

I learned as a parent that the more I said no to something, the more my child wanted it. I realized that when I explained the circumstances and taught her to think critically, she made the right decision.

My fear is that we have become fixated on soundbites and going viral than we are with really creating solutions to address the trauma and many wounds’ people have in the church and for some, because of the church.

We might find the lyrics questionable but until we deal with what’s inside of each of us and our congregations, we will not impact the culture. Many of those that are being preached to on Sundays are the very ones in the club dropping it like it’s hot the night before.

They don’t need condemnation. They need to be in the service seeing something different than what the world offers. Sadly, it’s often hard to tell the difference.
It’s time for us to look in the mirror. The world is going to do what it does and yet, we are called to be different.

Scripture reminds us “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” (Mark 7:20-23) We tend to look outside of ourselves to believe that it is a problem in the world, but those same issues are in the church.

Church girls, boys, men, and women all need a place of deliverance, healing, and restoration. Beyonce’s song is a reminder of how we are missing the mark.

We have a real opportunity beyond the 2-hour services on Sundays to really transform people’s lives if we choose to engage instead of remaining enraged and doing nothing.

Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry Podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. To learn more, visit drfroswa.com.

Chris Howell Foundation helping Black and Brown communities with financial literacy

Dominique and Chris Howell
Dominique and Chris Howell
Dominique and Chris Howell

With April being Financial Literacy Month, now is the perfect time to start taking control of your finances and create a plan for achieving financial freedom. Unfortunately, this may be challenging for many Black and Brown households across North Texas, especially those who’ve been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So many households are still trying to put the pieces back together due to unemployment or crippling debt, which is why the Chris Howell Foundation is presenting a free financial empowerment event that will provide participants with practical skills to help shape critical financial decisions.

On Saturday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Chris Howell Foundation will host its inaugural “Health Dollars Financial Literacy Symposium” at Dunbar High School, 5700 Ramey Avenue, Fort Worth. This event, which is open to the general public, aims to help attendees tackle financial concerns such as family budgeting, credit management, banking relationships and affordable housing. While this event is free, registration is required. Please visit chrishowellfoundation.org to register.

The Howells – Chris and his wife Dominique – hope people walk away from the symposium with a healthier, wealthier money mindset that shifts from simply surviving to thriving. Why is this so important? The average Black family’s wealth is eight times lower than the wealth of an average White family. A lack of financial literacy has led to the racial wealth gap in the U.S., and the Chris Howell Foundation would like to change the narrative.

“We believe the best way to serve the Metroplex is to help Black and Brown families realize their financial goals,” said Chris Howell, author and co-founder of the Dallas based non-profit. “The Chris Howell Foundation is grateful for the support of NBC 5, State Representative, Nicole Collier, and Dunbar High School as we promote financial literacy and encourage families to create brighter futures for themselves and their communities.”

Many communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area struggle with food security, income, unemployment and other life issues that can have a long-lasting impact on families.

The Howells expect the April 23 event to help people develop strategies for pursuing financial independence.

Chris Howell Foundation

“Attendees will get the opportunity to learn more about our B.E.T. On Yourself, The Ultimate Money Management Course,” an outcomes-based program that features four modules: Building a House-hold Budget, Elevating Your Savings, Taking Action in Credit Management and Building Banking Relationships. One of the program’s key benefits is the live 1:1 mentoring, which helps to keep people engaged and motivated. Having a mentor who not only “talks the talk” but also “walks the walk” through the coursework with the attendees, is the Foundation’s secret weapon to teaching financial literacy.

More than 250 people have participated in the financial literacy program since its 2018 launch. Coursework has been delivered through the Dallas Veterans Treatment Court, UNT Dallas, a State Rep. Nicole Collier Town Hall, and throughout the Metroplex.

The goal, according to the Howells, is to make financial literacy a “core value” in Black and Brown communities throughout North Texas. That’s because Chris and Dominique are not that far removed from the poverty of their childhood.

Chris is the last of six children that grew up in a single-parent household in West Dallas. Dominique, the last of 11 children, grew up in what would become a single parent household after her mom passed away when she was nine-years old. Chris and Dominique were teenage parents with their first child at 16 and their third at 18, so they understand the importance of budgeting and saving.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what matters is how you manage the money that you make,” said Dominique Bryant-Howell, who is President/Executive Director of the Chris Howell Foundation and a financial advisor. “As Black and Brown people, it is vital that we truly understand the power of our dollar.

The Howells understand that financial literacy isn’t being taught to those most in need, and there is an audience for their programming. While serving families at food drives during the pandemic, the Chris Howell Foundation has been able to hear from families firsthand about a willingness to change their situation, but simply not knowing how to do so.

“We have served right at 100,000 families over the last 18 months, providing roughly 3 million pounds of food,” said Howell. “Our financial literacy symposium is just another way to help those families and countless more.” The Chris Howell Foundation’s programs and services empower individuals and families to achieve self-sufficiency through skills development, increased knowledge, and access to necessary resources.

According to recent media reports, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is poised to become an economic powerhouse by 2030; however, the story for people living in South Dallas and southeast Fort Worth is very different.

For example, research shows that 80% of African Americans are more likely to say that they live paycheck to paycheck and are 2.5 times more likely to overdraft on a bank account. Overdraft fees take a heavy toll on families living paycheck to paycheck. African Americans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area make up the second largest group of unbanked individuals and are twice as likely to utilize prepaid debit cards that include additional fees. Furthermore, Latinos and African Americans are 74% of pay-day loan customers, meaning these borrowers are trapped in a debt spiral.

To combat this obstacle to wealth creation, the Chris Howell Foundation strives to make impactful, quality financial literacy education available to as many people as possible, free of charge. Since launching in 2016, the Chris Howell Foundation’s work has been recognized by multiple entities for its work.

In addition to financial literacy education, the Chris Howell Foundation offers programming focused on health and wellness, HIV prevention, male empowerment and food insecurity.

The organization has partnered with area food banks and other community partners to host food drives at multiple sites throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“If there was ever a time to hit the reset button, and put some sound practices in place on how to manage your money, the time is now,” said Bryant-Howell. “Meet us at Dunbar High School on April 23rd, we want to take this journey with you.”

Visit chrishowellfoundation.org for details on how to donate, volunteer or to view upcoming events

Healthy Dollars Financial Literacy Symposium
Saturday, April 23 at 10 a.m.
Dunbar High School
5700 Ramey Avenue
Fort Worth, TX
Registration is free at chrishowellfoundation.org.

OPINION: Black and Asians Are United No Matter What the New York Times Says

Emil Guillermo

By BlackPressUSA
By Emil Guillermo

Emil Guillermo
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on Facebook on EmilGuillermo.Media. Or on www.amok.com.

On CNN, Lisa Ling showcased one group in Oakland where Black youth are working with other young Asian Americans to provide escort services for elderly Asians. It’s no big deal, unless you’re among the elderly, scared by what is happening in our neighborhoods.

It’s an example of the grassroots efforts that show a real unity among Blacks and Asians. And it defies what you may have read in the New York Times.

Recently, that paper published the article “In Fight Against Violence, Asian And Black Activists Struggle to Agree,” subtitled, “Calls for unity have ebbed over disagreement on one main issue: policing.”

Really?

Since there is no central Black/Asian forum nationally, enterprising reporters are left to do a kind of journalism that on the surface seems legit, but all it does is put a fine point on nothing.

It’s done this way. Come up with a hypothesis. Talk to a selected group of historians, activists, commentators, which of course, shows the bias of the reporter. Present the group’s individual opinions — note I said opinion, not facts — and let all that become the driver of the hypothesis.

Present what you have with the sharpest point possible. Voila, a news story.

Was the Times truthful? Partially, but it also magnified its view into something larger than it is.

Blacks and Asians may not have done anything at the level or speed as the Times expected to happen over the past year. But it doesn’t mean “nothing” is happening. Communities around the country, Black and Asian, are working together because we all want the same thing– a sense of peace and safety where we live and work.

And a sense of justice when we are done wrong. Ask Angelo Quinto’s family.

Last Christmas, Quinto, a 30-year-old Filipino American Navy veteran from Antioch was having a “mental episode” when his family called the police seeking assistance. Quinto was cuffed and held face to the ground.

Sound familiar? It was the “George Floyd” police move, and Quinto was under the knee of an Antioch cop. Quinto lost consciousness, then died later at a hospital. Was that good policing?

The police have denied doing anything wrong and have escaped any responsibility so far. But Quinto’s family is seeking a wrongful death suit against the City of Antioch.

The family called the police for help, not for them to kill their family member. The family has hired John Burris, the noted Oakland civil rights attorney.

Blacks and Asians are working together.

Recently, there has been a rash of crimes committed by Blacks on Asians, notably in San Jose, Calif. But when these crimes happen, they don’t generally reflect the sentiments of communities, just the criminals. You can’t use that to fan the narrative of “communities at war.”

In a Twitter thread, here’s the reaction of the group #StopAAPIHate, which has monitored crimes against Asians during the pandemic.

“By focusing on the divide between AAPIs and Black communities over policing, this [New York Times] article adds to an all-too common and often exaggerated narrative of tensions between AAPIs and other communities of color,” the group tweeted.

“According to our recent survey, AAPIs believe the top three solutions to anti-AAPI hate are actually education, community-based initiatives and civil rights enforcement,” the thread added.

Policing is an issue, sure. But not as significant a divide among us as the Times makes it sound.

It’s different from the hot rhetoric of the mainstream that stumbles over the word “defunding” as if it means abolition of police, vs. “retraining,” or the “reallocating of resources,” which actually helps people get what they need when they call police.

Here’s the question that must be asked: Why do police so often become the “bad guys”?

It’s an issue we must pursue in 2022. Together.

But don’t be mistaken: Black and Asian communities are working together. We want the same thing — a sense of peace and safety where we live and work. And a sense of justice when we are done wrong.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his show on Facebook on EmilGuillermo.Media. Or on www.amok.com

Howard University: “This is a difficult time” Protesters call for president’s resignation

President Wayne A. I. Frederick

By Valerie Fields Hill
News Editor
Texas Metro News

Protesters at Howard University want the president of the 150-year- old historically black college to step down as the bitter battle between students and their campus’s administration a fight that has gained international attention–forges into a fourth week.

President Wayne A. I. Frederick
President Wayne A. I. Frederick

Members of the Live Movement, #BlackburnTakeover Student Advocates, Howard NAACP and the Young Democratic Socialists of America at Howard University said President Wayne A.I. Frederick has failed students by refusing to personally come to the table to resolve their issues and by using “tactics” and “gas lighting” to minimize their concerns over unlivable conditions in the university’s dormitories.

“For 24 days, Howard University students have slept on the concrete of the university campus and the floors of the Armour J. Black-burn student center and been met with blatant violence and callousness,” the four student organizations said in a news release issued Friday on one of the group’s official Instagram accounts.

“Congressmen and Congresswomen, national civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and celebrities such as Gucci Mane have rallied behind student protesters, yet still Howard University administration continues to step on their cries for help,” the organizations said in the news release.

“Therefore, we are calling for the formal resignation of President Wayne. A.I. Frederick in a united student, alumni and faculty front.”

The release was emailed to Texas Metro News just hours ahead of Dr. Frederick’s State of the University address at 5 p.m. Eastern time Friday.

It was unclear over the week- end whether protest leaders had asked Dr. Frederick directly to resign – or whether he even knew of the call for his resignation prior to delivering his address.

He could not immediately be reached Monday for comment.

During his State of the University address on Friday, Dr. Frederick said the tone of the protest’s rhetoric bothers him.

“I do want to encourage all of us, as a community, to be thoughtful about that, because that self-hate does bother me in terms of how we go at each other.”

He said the university has addressed complaints of mold and other safety concerns in its residential housing communities and has a long-range master plan to add more dormitory rooms to address a growing demand for on-campus student housing.

The projected upgrades and the planned new campus construction are costly, however, and cannot be achieved immediately, he said.

“This is an aging campus, no doubt about it,” said Dr. Frederick, a surgical oncologist and medical researcher who is a double graduate of both Howard and its medical school.

“That’s not lost on me at all.”

He said Howard has a $804 million endowment. By comparison, Harvard University has a $42 billion endowment to address infrastructure, faculty development and for recruiting top research scholars.

“That’s the difference in re- sources,” he said during the address. “That’s the difference between the haves and the have nots.”

Regarding university housing, he said Howard had secured 5,714 beds for students this fall; 94 percent of them are occupied. Management of the university’s dormitories is contracted to Corvias, a private property management company that also manages housing on U.S military bases.

For many of its upper-level undergraduate students, Howard administrators secured agreements with apartment complexes located in the District of Columbia and in Mary-land.

Still, Dr. Frederick acknowledged, on-campus dorm rooms could be better managed.

“Preventive maintenance has been lax,” he said, acknowledging that students had reported incidences of mold. He did not say how far back those complaints go.

“If it happens in one room, that’s a concern,” he said.

To address dorm maintenance issues, Dr. Frederick’s administration has set up an email address to receive student complaints. His office also has assigned administrators to each dormitory to streamline and expedite resolutions of any student complaints, he said.

Friday marked the first time that Dr. Frederick, who serves in a dual role as president and as a professor at Howard’s medical school, has spoken in public about issues surrounding the protest.

His address was delivered during an open forum attended by students and alumni.

Hollywood director Debbie Allen, a Howard alumna, at- tended the forum. Her sister, the Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad, also a Howard alumna, is head of the university’s College of Fine Arts.

In the past, Dr. Frederick has delivered his fall State of the University address during Howard’s weeklong homecoming activities, which were held this year on Oct. 18-23. He postponed this year’s speech be- cause of the protests.

Students camped out at Howard University
Students camped out at Howard University. Photo credit: Howard University News Service

The #BlackburnTakeover protest began on Oct. 12 when about 50 students staged a sit-in at the Armour J. Blackburn Student Center on the Washington, D.C. campus. They complained, among other things, about the upkeep and conditions of Howard’s residence halls.

As examples, Howard students posted pictures on social media of mold growing out of vents, from walls and ceilings, and on students’ personal clothing and shoes. They also posted graphic images of yellowish brown water coming from a wash faucet in one of the campus’s science laboratories.

Images of mold at Howard went viral under the hashtag “BlackburnTakeover.”

Since Oct. 12, the sit-in has gained supporters, including an estimated 150 students who are camping outside of the Blackburn building in tents where they are sleeping on air mattresses in a communal “tent city.”

Among the students’ other demands are that:

  • the Howard Board of Trustees restore student, faculty and alumni “affiliate” seats, with voting rights, to the board so that student concerns are addressed at the university governance level
  • academic and legal amnesty be granted to protesting students
  • implementation of a long- range plan to address insufficient on-campus housing at Howard. Currently, many juniors and seniors are forced to move off campus because they are prioritized lower than incoming freshmen for on-campus rooms
  • an in-person Town Hall with Dr. Frederick – not his Cabi- net members-to address student and faculty concerns

The sit-in has sparked international news interest: Al Jazeera Media Network, based in the Middle East, is working on a documentary, protesters have said.

Meanwhile, U.S. television and newspaper outlets, including CBS, NBC, CNN and ABC, all had covered the conflict as have The New York Times, the Washington Post, regional newspapers, digital shows, blogs and the NNPA, Black Press of America.

Politicians and other public figures have entered the conversation as well, citing among other things, an underfunding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, in President Biden’s newest budget bill, and a trend among elite universities to privatize or outsource many of their services.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, former Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other revered Civil Rights-era heavy-weights have announced solidarity with the student protesters.

Last week, Warren tweeted:

“For 22 days now, Howard University students have been protesting sub-par, private-equity managed campus housing. Corvias is responsible for these conditions & and its another example of why we need private equity reform. I stand in solidarity with the students,” Warren wrote on her official Facebook page on Nov. 2.

Monday, Howard’s Communications office released an advisory to news outlets blaring the headline “Students Have Our Undivided Attention and Care.”

The release highlighted, among other things, an announcement made last week by Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Evers that Howard University Student Association President Kylie Burke and Graduate Student Council President Ashley Grey both would be added as members of an unnamed committee on the university’s Board of Trustees.

The latest announcements, however, may be too little, too late. Some students worried that daily media attention surrounding the protest, the longest in the university’s recent history, had stained Howard’s pristine reputation, its highly-marketable brand, and by association, all the nation’s 100 or so historically black colleges and universities.

During Friday’s address, a student commented to Dr. Frederick that online criticism of the administration’s response to the protest did not live up to the elite private school’s reputation. Dr. Frederick appeared shaken by the comment.

“Howard is the Mecca. This is the HBCU of HBCUs,” the male student told the president, explaining that the school’s presence is why he chose to attend.

“I see a lot of stuff online that’s like ‘I’m glad I didn’t go to an HBCU. Look at what’s hap- pening (at) Howard’,” he said.

Dr. Frederick appeared to choke back tears in responding to the student.

“This is a special place, but it’s made up of people, not bricks and mortar,” he said, seeming to struggle for words. “The most damaging thing that gets to me is I know what the staff puts in when they come to work.”

The skirmish between protesting students and Howard administration has yielded unintended collateral: Contracted cafeteria workers employed by Sodexo have been laid off because the student sit-in at the Blackburn building has prevented them from cooking and serving meals on the campus, adminstrators said last week.

Dr. Frederick said he had refrained from commenting in media about the protest out of concern over the tone of the disagreement.

“Obviously, this is a difficult time for the university,” he said. “We are not always going to agree, but we must…have the dialogue.”

Meanwhile, protesters and some alumni supporters say that Dr. Frederick has failed to make a good faith effort to end the protest by meeting personally with the students sitting in at the Blackburn Center.

Instead, they said, he has deployed members of his Cabinet, including Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Evers, to address student leaders of other campus organizations, such as Greek-letter groups, while alluding publicly that he had met with Blackburn protesters.

“This could have ended a long time ago,” said Aniyah Vines, a Blackburn protester, during an update last week to supporters and news media via Zoom. “We are asking to meet with the people that govern this university.” She and other protesters said Dr. Frederick had refused to meet with them.

Further, #BlackburnTakeover students claim that Dr. Frederick also has refused to sign a written agreement he himself had requested to grant academic and disciplinary protections to protesting students.

Channing Hill, president of the Howard University NAACP, and a supporter of the #BlackburnTakeover movement, said attorney Donald Temple, who is representing the protesters, had submitted the written agreement to Dr. Frederick’s team outlining terms of the amnesty.

She said the university president had verbally agreed in a meeting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, he would not expel the protesting students.

However, a day later, the University’s Office of Communications, released a statement saying administrators would not meet with protesters to discuss any terms until they had vacated the Blackburn building.

Hill said protesters interpreted the statement as an indication that no verbal agreement had been reached between the Rev. Jackson and Dr. Frederick regarding the issue of amnesty.

As a result, Hill said, “a signed agreement will get us out of the building.” Hill, is a junior from Bedford, Tex., majoring in Strategic, Legal and Management Communication.

Protesters also worry that the appointment of fellow students to a committee does not go far enough in ensuring permanence or shared governance on Howard’s Board of Trustees, whose membership, they said, is comprised largely of corporate executives with few ties to the university.

She said committee members serve at the leisure of the board and, as such, may be dismissed at will.

Some Howard alumni shared the similar concerns.

“Appointments controlled by the Board dilutes stakeholders’ voices and diminishes significantly the role of students, alumni and

faculty in important decisions and the development of policies and procedures for Howard University,” members of Howard Alumni United wrote in a statement sent to media in response to Howard’s announcement.

“Committees merely make recommendations to the board that it may or may not follow,” the organization wrote.

Meanwhile, Dr. Frederick indicated in his address that the spar- ring between the two sides had become personal.

“I don’t like to have a back and forth publicly about what we need to do,” he said during his address. Some of the issues…are complicated,” he said.

“To blanketly say the ‘the administration’ or ‘the staff’ does bother me. It does hurt me.”

E Smith Communities

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson

PHOTOS BY TERRY ALLEN

A new advanced technical training center designed to create economic opportunities and expand education in an often-neglected area of Dallas County will open TODAY, Wed., Oct. 20 with a celebration that will include local business officials, elected officials and E Smith Communities, chaired by Hall of Fame former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith, whose partnership with Dallas College has made the center possible.

Dallas College Executive Vice Chancellor Justin Lonon will join the former Cowboy’s running back and others to formally open the 30,000 square foot center. Smith, president of E Smith Communities, purchased the building in 2019 and began redeveloping it as hub of mixed-use space. The event takes place between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at 4315 South Lancaster Road.Guided tours are available.

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