Day: July 17, 2022

New Orleans Must Improve the Lives of ALL African Americans

By Jeff Thomas

Many people often say I’m too focused on race. But look around our city. Most of the big social problems are in the African American community. Murder. Car jackings. Poverty. Covid hospitalizations. Drug abuse. Unemployment. The list goes on and on and on. Fixing these problems in that part of the African American community that struggles makes the city great for EVERYBODY. So if you are black or white or Asian or Hispanic and doing pretty good want to live in a safer cleaner city, let’s fix the problems in the ailing parts of our city. Helping poor black people benefits everybody.

Good news is we can do it. And it is not that hard. New Orleans should be a sanctuary city for the poor and struggling African Americans.  Every policy and regulation possible should support this notion.  And given the egregiously regressive and burdensome past, city government should fast track all current, available solutions.   Even a cursory glance at   the plight of  hard-working African Americans  in the city provides ample evidence of the urgent need for change.

Broken Paradigm

Our current paradigm has created and sustains the crime-plagued, underperforming city. Low-performing schools contribute to the highest dropout rates in the country.  Gentrification and low-paying jobs force many into the rental market in our city.  And people who own their homes are nearly 90% less likely to commit crimes compared to those who rent. Though the murder rate is once again the highest in the country per capita.  African Americans in NOLA die at alarmingly high rates. Especially when it comes to young people.  We must fix serious and deeply-entrenched problems here quickly.  It can be done with surprising ease if a coordinated attempt is employed.

THE SANCTUARY CITY MODEL

Characteristics of the sanctuary should include

Combined, these targets will dramatically reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for all our citizens.  With access to good-paying jobs and pathways to home ownership, crime will drop precipitously.  Working men, who earn living wages, will fatten city coffers via property and sales tax payments.  Needing fewer police officers, more money could then be shifted into job training programs. These programs prepare young people to enter the workforce and become taxpayers.

SWB JOBS PROGRAM

The Sewerage and Water Board can be the greatest jobs program in city history.  Billions of FEMA dollars are scheduled to be spent repairing crumbling infrastructure. The board must hire, train and demand excellence from its repair people.  Our ability to pump water is our lifeline. We must invest in training our people to protect our property. The SWB is more important than the NOPD.  SWB must pay enough to enable employees to purchase homes. 

HOME OWNERSHIP

Eighty five percent of people who commit crimes do not own their homes. Neighborhoods where people own their homes are cleaner, safer. And they provide ancillary activities (kids sports programs, block parties, etc.) that promote healthier living.  Living wages help people qualify for mortgages.  City-sanctioned home ownership classes would motivate and inspire people to save for down payments and improve their credit scores.  The soft second mortgage programs should also be expanded.

NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

Working families need close and convenient good schools for their children.  Our experiment with charter schools must shift to emphasize local school excellence.  Good neighborhood schools reduce stress, increase participation and reduce dropout rates, which in turn strengthen families.  Parent-school partnerships are easier when parents are able to access school personnel close to home.  Friendly rivalries centered around athletic and academic achievement will transform educational achievement[  in The Bowl.  Businesses could offer cash prizes to the students who perform best and the schools which achieve great successes.

COMMUNITY POLICING

Police Chief Shaun Ferguson rose through the ranks. And he is a man from our streets who now leads the men and women who patrol our streets.  He says, “The community and police must form a partnership.”  He is correct when he says the NOPD needs citizen support.  Right now, our NOPD is dangerously understaffed. Shifting to 12 hour shifts increases presence on the streets. Good move Chief. Also moving more desk and clerical jobs from police to citizen staffing will enable more officers to get out. And top brass should patrol our neighborhoods. They are our best and brightest. They have the experience and authority to effectively decipher complex situations. Is a shouting match serious?

We know arresting and jailing people for minor crimes, even for short periods of time, has dramatic and real effects. And ironically results in yet more crime.  Instead, community policing operates in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect.  Too often, police have operated with rigidity and oppressiveness. That stifles the community support it needs, desires, and deserves. 

For too long, New Orleans and other municipalities have focused on fines and fees to finance government.  Police decide who gets pulled over and issued a ticket.  Furthermore, rigid rules and immediate late fees from municipal utilities create undue stress in an already overburdened populace. 

In the 21st century, our cities must uplift the lives of all the citizens who make these places home.

It happens everyday in America!

By Jeff Thomas

Black men kill each other at alarming rates all across America every day. Nearly every city’s daily news casts reports, “Today in our city three (or thirty depending on the size of your city) men were shot and killed in three (or thirty) separate shootings.  Police have no suspects in any of the cases.”  And immediately and innately you know that the people killed were black and the killers were black.  This has been going on for the last 30-40 years and no end is in sight.  New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates nationally.  Why do black men kill each other?

First Let’s Dispel a Racist Myth

First thing you have to know is that 99.999% of black men do not commit murder ever in their lives.  That is a fact!  This is not a black man issue.  There is nothing genetically or intrinsically wrong with black men. But the fact remains that daily hundreds of black men across this country are murdered everyday by another black man.  Why does this happen with this subset?

Common factors to Black men murdering other black men

RACE

The first thing about murder is that people usually kill people who are similar to them in many ways, particularly race.  White men normally murder other white men and black men normally murder other black men. 

PROXIMITY

In the black community, these killings are normally city events.  Rarely do you hear of a drive by in the country.  Most of these daily killings occur on the city streets.  People kill others who they interact with.

AGE

Young men engage in risky and violent behavior.  Most of the men dying on our streets are between the ages of 17-35. 

EDUCATION

Nearly 95% have not graduated from college and 65% have not completed high school.   

Socioeconomic Status

100% were not upper class in America. The links between poverty and crime are well documented.  And black men have lived in depression level economic conditions for the last 50 years.

But these are often cited, unsurprising factors.  More salient is what goes into the psyche of a guy who can look into the eyes of another man and pull the trigger at close range or jab a knife with the intent to murder another man?  What are the other factors that contribute to becoming a murderer? Why do Black men kill each other

Habitually Hostile Men

The guy who ain’t never scared and always looking to escalate a situation.  Down for whatever.  Nothing to live for and anticipating the day he will either kill or be killed.  This mindset is cultivated in a limited option, few chances, success deprived life.  This guy has had a number of arguments and fist fights throughout his life.  He hates authority and frequently feels angry or resentful towards people.  He often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.  This guy is a walking heap of rage.  He is always nothing but a gun and an argument away from murder.

The Disrespected Man

A man who feels like everybody but him gets respect.

For this guy, respect is everything and options to express anger or refutation are often limited.   He often seeks to overcome a feeling of impotence. If another who seems unworthy of disseminating criticism or scorn or generally crosses the line of imagined respect, then a high level of response will be meted out.

The Wannabe

When challenged by a non-believing skeptic, this man often acts in unnecessarily violent ways in unnecessarily violent situations.  Often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.

Self-Hate

The daily feeling of isolation, powerlessness and impotence is like being a prisoner of war.  One reason black men grab their genitals is to stress their vitality.  Men who have been literally stripped of the ability to display their manhood – great jobs, big houses, educational attainment and all the other accoutrements of modern society- are literally killing to express their power in life.  Twisted but true.

MARIA CHENG – 

© (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)Vials of monkeypox vaccine (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Since May, nearly 90 countries have reported monkeypox, totaling more than 31,000 cases.

The World Health Organization classified the escalating outbreak of the once-rare disease as a global emergency in July; the U.S. declared it a national public health emergency last week.

Outside of Africa, 98% of cases are in men who have sex with men. With only a limited supply of vaccines, authorities are racing to stop monkeypox before it becomes entrenched as a new disease.

Can monkeypox be contained?

Theoretically, yes. The virus does not spread easily and there is a vaccine. But there are only about 16 million doses available now, and only one company makes the shot.

Except for Africa, there is no sign of sustained monkeypox transmission beyond men who have sex with men, meaning that stopping spread among that group could effectively end the outbreak. Last week, British scientists said there were “early signs” the monkeypox cases in the U.K. — which once had the world’s biggest outbreak outside Africa — had peaked.

Is this another pandemic?

No. A pandemic means that a disease outbreak has spread to the entire world. Monkeypox does not transmit as quickly as the coronavirus, and stopping it will not require dramatic interventions like the COVID-19 lockdowns.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he declared monkeypox an emergency in part to prompt countries to take the epidemic seriously, saying there is still an opportunity to contain the disease before it becomes a global problem.

How does it spread?

Monkeypox spread typically requires skin-to-skin or skin-to-mouth contact with an infected patient’s lesions. People can also be infected through contact with the clothing or bedsheets of someone who has monkeypox lesions.

It also can be spread through contact with respiratory droplets, but scientists are still trying to figure out how often that happens. British health officials say they haven’t confirmed any instances of airborne transmission.

Who is getting infected?

A large percentage of cases have been in gay and bisexual men. The initial outbreaks in Europe and North America were likely triggered by sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99% of monkeypox cases in the U.S. involved men. Of those, 94% reported sexual contact with other men in the three weeks before they developed symptoms.

Still, anyone can catch the virus if they are in close contact with an infected person or fabrics that touched an infected person.

Who is getting vaccinated?

With supplies limited, health officials are not recommending mass vaccination. They are suggesting the shots for health workers, people who have been in close contact with an infected person, and men at high risk of catching monkeypox.

Officials are also trying to stretch supplies of the vaccine, Jynneos. It requires two doses, but many places are giving only one dose.

U.S. health officials on Tuesday authorized a new strategy that would allow health professionals to vaccinate up to five people — instead of one — with each vial. The approach uses just a fraction of the typical amount of vaccine and administers it with an injection just under the skin rather than into deeper tissue. Recipients would still get two shots a month apart.

What else can I do to lower my risk?

Tedros recommended that men at risk of catching monkeypox consider making “safe choices” and reducing their sexual partners “for the moment.”

Britain’s Health Security Agency has advised people to check themselves for monkeypox lesions before they have sex or go to a social event, noting that most of the country’s cases are believed to have originated at festivals, saunas and other venues where sex has taken place. Anyone with monkeypox lesions should isolate until completely healed, which can take up to three weeks.

What’s the connection to Africa?

Monkeypox has been endemic for decades in parts of central and west Africa, where people have mostly been sickened after contact with infected wild animals like rodents and squirrels. The acting director of Africa’s top public health agency said last week that sex among gay and bisexual men was “not relevant” to the continent’s outbreak, with about 40% of cases among women.

Scientists think the monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America originated in Africa long before the disease started spreading. Viral samples from cases in Europe show dozens of mutations, suggesting the initial virus was silently spreading for months or years before the current epidemics were detected.

The version of monkeypox spreading in Europe and North America has a lower fatality rate than the one circulating in Africa. Countries that didn’t see many monkeypox cases before this outbreak have reported a handful of deaths, while Africa has had at least 100 suspected deaths this year.

Who is at higher risk for serious illness?

Most people infected with monkeypox recover without treatment, but it can cause more severe symptoms like brain inflammation and in rare cases, death.

Monkeypox can be serious in children, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions, like cancer, tuberculosis or HIV. In the U.S., the CDC says about 40% of people with monkeypox also have HIV.

The longer the current outbreaks continue, the greater the chances the virus could spread in other communities, similar to how HIV was first spotted in gay men before becoming established more widely.

“There is some crossover between the sexual networks of gay and bisexual men and networks of heterosexual people with high sexual activity, so it is possible we could see monkeypox more widely,” said Dr. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia. “If that happens, we may have a much bigger problem.”

AP writers Mike Stobbe in New York and Matthew Perrone in Washington contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

by Wendy L. Patrick, J.D., Ph.D.

KEY POINTS

Quality friendships offer a safe space to develop deeper ties. And frequently, attraction sparks interaction. But what is the next step? Research reveals the factors that determine how friendships escalate into “something more.”

From Pals to Partners: The Evolution of Friendship

Valerie Akbulut and Harry Weger, Jr., examined the ways in which friendships escalate to the next level.[i] They introduced and tested relationship adaptation theory within cross-sex friendships, investigating the circumstances prompting escalation to a relationship of either exclusive dating or friends with benefits. Factors predicting escalation to exclusive dating included dating status, anticipated rewards, expected social disapproval, quality of friendship, and attractiveness. Factors predicting escalation to friends with benefits included biological sex, anticipated rewards, expected social disapproval, sexual permissiveness, and attractiveness.

Akbulut and Weger note that in explaining escalation from friendship to a higher degree of intimacy, attraction played the largest role. They note, however, attraction is not itself sufficient for romantic escalation, a minimum degree of attraction is necessary. They also observe that preference for physical attraction is apparently lower to prompt escalation to an uncommitted sexual relationship, a finding they speculate is especially true for men. And they also found that friends who anticipate more rewards with fewer costs are more favorably predisposed toward escalating their friendship.

Akbulut and Weger report one result they describe as counterintuitive: The negative association between friendship quality and feelings about becoming friends with benefits. They note that high-quality friendships are positively linked with the willingness to become romantic partners, suggesting that friends would rather begin dating than merely add sexual benefits, perhaps recognizing the risk that uncommitted sex can ruin a satisfying friendship.

Regarding the impact of social networks, Akbulut and Weger note that expected disapproval plays a role in the decision to escalate a friendship. When friends belong to the same social group, both parties likely rely on network members for social and emotional support. The risk of losing these resources might create hesitancy to escalate the friendship.

And regarding the link between dating status and relationship escalation, Akbulut and Weger found it did not predict desire for transitioning from friends to friends with benefits but did for romantic relationships. They explain that people likely believe that romantic escalation requires ending a current romantic relationship, but escalation to friends with benefits doesn’t; it merely presents an opportunity to add a sexual partner.

Healthy Relationships Involve Romance and Respect

Quality friendships that evolve into quality relationships do not involve casual sex or concern over losing the respect of one’s social network. That is because healthy unions are characterized by mutual respect, trust, and relational investment. Good friends that become exclusive partners win both approval and admiration from friends and family, so there is no hesitancy to go public. Having been friends first, the comfort of familiarity only adds fuel to the fire, sparking a quality romance that involves both compatibility and chemistry.

If the consent decree is lifted will the NOPD go back to the villainous brutalizing ways?  Here’s the problem with lifting a consent decree.  We don’t really know what happens next.  The Justice Department does not track what happens next.  And the current manpower freefall at the department leaves the agency precariously perched on the brink of collapse. With too few officers, will those officers have to be more aggressive to maintain control?  Since criminals know there aren’t many police will they become more violent?  Are people even safe just walking the streets?

 More questions abound.  Has the consent decree increased crime?  Are officers leaving the department because of the consent decree?  If we end the decree will bad officers come back and terrorize citizens again? The current dilemma is a tough one.

Consent decrees are on again.  Under the Trump administration, the justice department ended their implementation.  Trump’s law and order approach encouraged aggressive policing.  The Biden administration’s approach reverts to training departments that disregard the constitutional rights of certain neighborhoods.  Cause let’s be clear.  Consent decrees are designed to protect poorer communities of color.  But are they effective?  Do they work?  Mayor Latoya Cantrell has had enough.  She wants it gone.

Mayor Cantrell held a press conference where she tied the great police resignation to the consent decree.  She claimed officers said they were leaving and joining nearby departments because they had no burdensome consent decree issues.  Specifically, we are hearing about rigid discipline required by the consent decree.  Do officers prefer a slap on the wrist when they violate a person’s constitutional rights?  Are does the consent decree punish too harshly and prevent good tough policing?

There is very little information about what happens after the decree is lifted.  In 1997, the Pittsburgh consent decree ended.  The department’s violation occurrences remained low initially. The department seemed to provide constitutional policing for about 2 years.  But then the follow up stopped.  And the corruption returned.  The Pittsburgh police department was rife with corruption and lawlessness less than four years after the consent decree.

If lawlessness returns to the NOPD, the results are more deaths.  The NOPD was one of the most brutal departments in the country. Yes, prior to the consent decree, the NOPD was regarded as a tough on crime department.  Yet still New Orleans had the highest murder rate in the world. Our city is evidence that you can’t arrest your way out of crime. Because not only did we lead the country in murder, New Orleans was the mass incarceration capital of the world. And during the consent decree tenure arrests have dropped significantly.  But crime and specifically murders seem to happen despite the consent decree. 

Currently we have a spike in murders, and crime is up generally in the city. And the consent decree is in full effect. Furthermore, cities contend that their consent decrees have little effect on crime on the street.  The consent decrees seemingly mainly impact how the police departments interface with the public.  New Orleans has basically spent tens of millions of dollars to teach officers constitutional policing.  Seems like we should have a few lawyers patrolling our streets at these rates. 

Removing the consent decree will certainly save the city a ton of money.  In fact, the NOPD is model of reform.  Our officers do not shoot and kill our citizens and are polite in interactions.  Crime is still high.  And if we come out from under the consent decree and things go south, the monitors already know the best hotels and restaurants in town.

First things first, let’s make one thing clear, the mayor flexed on the press. No, let’s be even clearer, the mayor went H.A.M.on the press. Not ham as in the gun/ham sandwich a NOPD detective planted on the innocent citizens his fellow officers killed and left for dead on the Danziger Bridge. But H.A.M. as in Hard As a M-fer in the Jay-Z/Kanye West sense. Click here to hear Explicit Lyrics 

In a striking display of an attitudinal abundance of melanin, Mayor Cantrell came out in full force and punked the press last week. For every question they put up about the state of the NOPD, Mayor Cantrell shot them down with two emphatic answers: negative media coverage and the consent decree.

Wait, hold up a minute. An attitudinal abundance of melanin? What the heck is that?

It’s a thing. The mayor possesses…hold up there’s a politically correct way to say this. Um let’s see. The mayor possesses – in attitude -an excessive degree of melanotic expression. Or as one citizen aptly said, “She be up there talking like she straight out that Melph.”  The citizen chose to remain nameless for fear of retribution.  

Retribution in this case would be having their trash going from being picked up once a week to no days a week. 

Mayor Cantrell flexed on the press. 

In politically correct circles, some would say the mayor has a direct communication style that distracts and disturbs certain people. In not so politically correct circles, some would say she’s a sassy black woman. But we’re getting off track.

Why are officers walking around with low morale? Because of the negative, and unappreciative media coverage, according to the mayor.

Why are officers leaving the force? And why are they being micro-managed and over-burdened with procedural paperwork? Because of that god damn consent decree, she said.

The NOPD was placed under a consent decree after the DOJ deemed it one of those police departments that brutalized black people just a bit too excessively.  A bit too excessively meant they shot, killed, and framed people. Oh and also burned another in a car after cutting off his head. All the while plotting and executing department-wide cover-ups. You know, things like that.

NOPD Cruiser

But the mayor says times and policies have changed. Nowadays, it’s the officers who can’t breathe. Under the knee of the federal consent decree and negative media coverage, the NOPD gasps for morale and hemorrhages manpower. “Give us free,” the mayor recently said on WBOK. Who knew we were on the Amistad?

Related The Mayor Needs to Get Her Swag Back

You would’ve thought that at some point reporters would’ve clapped back, challenged the mayor, and not let her set the tone with the blame game. Maybe forcefully asked was there anything she or her administration was willing to take responsibility for? But nope. Instead, they were the ones placed on The Hot Seat.

“Why aren’t you showing up to cover our officers’ graduations and ceremonies?”

“Why aren’t you reporting on the good jobs that they do?”

“And why aren’t you doing your part to show these officers that their lives matter?”

When the press conference ended, reporters filed out of the room as their seats went from a simmer to all out flames. One thing was clear: From now on, their coverage would be subjected to the 5th Ward Weebie “Let me Find Out” standard.

Let me find out you reporting mess about the police / Let me find out you not equating Blue Lives with justice and peace. Let me find out….

In the wake of all this stress and negativity, the mayor said she was immediately treating officers to make-overs and new vehicles.  Allowing them to wear shorts, baseball caps, nail polish, tattoos, and beards would be among the first policy changes.

Say what you want about mayor Cantrell. Yes she refused to take responsibility for anything. Yes she was overly combative. And yes she made some exaggerated statements (the NOPD is the best force in the country?). But finally she flexed. She flexed for her administration. And she flexed for the police. 

Hell, Like I said. I’ve even considered showing my appreciation by hugging one. But that would be weird. And something tells me the mayor and the police will need more than just superficial gestures and flexing on the press to make a difference in out there in the streets.


Debby Herbenick Ph.D., M.P.H.

How to increase sexual satisfaction through touch and affection.

Recent research about sex and love has found that touching and cuddling, though important to both women and men, may be particularly important for men’s sexual satisfaction, relationship happiness and marital commitment.

In some ways, this is not terribly surprising to people who study love and sex. Although women are sometimes stereotypically described as the gender that most loves to touch and cuddle, the fact is that women often have more opportunities for human touch than men do in many cultures. It is common in many Western cultures for women to greet each other with hugs and/or kisses on the cheeks. They may stroll arm in arm or sit close on the touch, or even brush or braid each other’s hair.

Then there’s raising children. Although more men have greater involvement in raising children now than they did in years past, women often have more physical contact with their children than men do. Women may more often be the parent to change diapers, bathe their children, cuddle with them on the sofa or tuck them into bed with a story and a kiss. This isn’t true in all households, of course, but it is true in a striking number of homes. And what it amounts to is this: men, more so than women, may have an unmet need for touch.

As such, it may be particularly important and satisfying for men to receive touch through holding hands, cuddling, sharing massages, bathing together or having sex. Not only can touch promote the release of oxytocin (the sometimes-called “bonding hormone” or “feel good hormone”) but psychologically touch can be a way to help someone feel love, cared for, reassured or desired.

Regardless of your sexual orientation, gender or relationship status, consider how touch works in your romantic or sexual life. Or even your friendships or romantic relationships. We all need to touch and be touched.

For some, pets provide a nice form of touch and closeness. If your parents or grandparents are not partnered or don’t have a lot of access to touch, try to take an extra step toward hugging them, touching them on the arm or kissing them as you come and go. If your friends are not partnered (or are partnered in unhappy ways in which touch is absent), try to do the same. It only takes a moment to give someone a hug that lingers just long enough to feel heartfelt (and not so long that it feels awkward).

If you are in a romantic or sexual partnership, I wonder how focusing on touch or cuddling this week might change things for you. Why not use hugs and/or kisses to bid goodbye or hello? Or caress each other on the back or hip as you fall asleep? Why not tousle your partner’s messy morning hair from a place of love or affection? What might you gain if you reached for your partner’s hand while you watch television or a movie, even if (perhaps especially if) you don’t normally hold hands?

There is something special, I think, about the feel of flesh on flesh or hands in one’s hair. It is so intimate, I think, that there is no substitute and I understand why people want to take their clothes off and lay naked together, even when they are not having sex. Or why people want to run their hands along their partner’s curves or enjoy a foot massage (as a giver or receiver, there is so much pleasure to be had in either role).

To be with someone who doesn’t just allow themselves to be vulnerable to you in this way, but who desperately wants it, is a gift. If you have this quality in your relationship already, perhaps you can foster it so you can hold onto it. And if you want it with someone, I wonder how you might go about it and what courage and optimism will help you to move in that direction.

A meditation on continuity and the long view     

by Orissa Arend

            I recently stumbled on to the last day of an Undoing Racism workshop presented by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. It reminded me that organizers must take the long view. I needed that reminder because this particular snapshot of human history is pretty bleak: elected officials bent on destroying the electoral process, in the service of what? An ego? Mother Nature having an “I told you so” moment because we thought we could ignore her care and impose our made-up laws on hers. Women and doctors getting arrested for what just weeks ago was considered common-sense or life-saving health care. And on and on.

            Continuity, thank God, is a real thing in New Orleans. The degrees of separation are never the proverbial six. More like one or two and they often radiate in several directions. I found out about the People’s Institute workshop taking place last week because my husband, Richard, is a mediator for the Independent Police Monitor. Full disclosure: I’ve been involved with the Institute for about 25 years. In fact, I used to work for them, setting up local trainings. They fired me 3 times! Or maybe they would say I worked myself out of a job. I guess a bossy, impatient white girl like me can get on the nerves of some in a people-of-color organization.

Undoing Racism Work Continues

            But I loved the workshop so much that I just kept organizing them or stumbling into them. These days, I am always welcomed with open arms. I go because I can count on learning something new. We are organizers. We never (or hardly ever) throw anyone away.

            Here we were at the TEP Center (Tate Etienne Provost Center) in the Lower Ninth Ward, brave enough to come together in person in the lingering days of a pandemic. Imagine this room full of people – 12 or so New Orleans Police Officers, a few people who independently monitor their work, and a handful of mediators – all strategizing together about how to undo racism in the NOPD, in ourselves, and in various institutions, in the midst of a crime wave. Laughing, crying, and learning together.

            The day began with Leona Tate talking to us after a riveting film about how she and Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost as 6-year-olds desegregated McDonogh #19 escorted by U. S. Marshals through a crowd of haters. Traumas piled up as the girls entered white schools all the way through their high school years. But these three brave little girls, so innocent that they couldn’t tell a mob from a Mardi Gras parade (as Leona Tate tells it), grew up to be steadfast educators, organizers, and activists.

            Last fall they were able to show their grandchildren how the Leona Tate Foundation and Alembic Community Development had bought, saved, and renovated the very building where they had been spit on, beaten, and terrorized – 5909 St. Claude Ave. — and made it into a comprehensive educational program, a Civil Rights museum, a training center, and affordable subsidized housing for seniors. There’s the long view. There’s consistency. And there’s God’s grace at work.

            This is where the People’s Institute is housed and where the training was held because the Institute has been an integral part of the formation of the TEP Center. This People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond is a perfect example of organizers living out continuity and taking the long view. That has allowed hope to abound.

            Take a look at the trainers at this most recent workshop. Ron Chisom, now in his 80s, co-founder of the Institute with the late Dr. Jim Dunn, started the workshop off. If ever an organization could be tempted to rely on one leader, this would be Ron. As a charismatic genius and also a good organizer, he never let that happen. The Institute constantly raises up new leaders and trainers. Today there are hundreds all over the world.

            Another trainer was Barbara Major. She was at my first workshop all those many years ago. An effective trainer in all settings, I noted that Barbara’s righteous anger has not dissipated. But it has given energy to her talent for humor and empathy so that now she resonates more fully with white people like me.

            Then there was Rev. Tyrone Edwards. In 1970 he and his brother Alton were Black Panthers in the Desire Housing Project feeding hungry children, protecting elders and marshaling a hard line shoot-out with the police. His mother, Ms. Lubertha, one of the few Panther parents who supported their revolutionary children, told me in 2003, “Somebody has to not have fear.” But that’s another story. In fact it’s a book, Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans. And here’s Rev. T today. New NOPD recruits and supervisors pay rapt attention as they learn from him about racism. And, by the way, he’s still revolutionary. Hope, for me, springs from the long view.

            The white trainer, Leslie Runnels, it seems, has learned from her People’s Institute elders like Diana Dunn. But she has her own stories and experiences as she lays out history and the manifestations of internalized white superiority, how it has dehumanized us people called white.

            There was a young trainer, Shak, whom I had not met. He is brilliant and funny in his delivery. He channels the original People’s Institute concepts – gate keeping, the feet of oppression, why people are poor, the importance of history and culture – into fresh new explanations that resonate with people just coming into awareness of how race functions in systems.

             I came away thinking that when I feel discouraged about the way systemic racism manifests in our fair city, I need to study the past, connect with my community, and act as I am able to catapult a shared vision into the beyond and beyond and beyond. I believe that each of us has our given role to play. 

Before the mayor leaves the city, she has to clean her room first. And make her bed. And fold her clothes. She better brush her teeth. And complete all of her other remaining chores. 

If the mayor doesn’t do any of this, then certain members of the City Council will be unhappy. A quorum will form. Heads will heat then cool. Afterwards, there will be much talk about cutting off the mayor’s allowance and not signing any of her future permission slips. The members will then conclude by running from their offices to tattle to the media.

The media, the media, the media. The media knows the people. They know, on average, that when it comes to politics, the people are mostly all heart and irrationality. They know that if you throw a fish in the air, the people can’t help but watch it flap then fall to the ground. 

Example of a fish being thrown in the air: 

Mayor Cantrell Spends $10,000 On A Flight To Switzerland.

Splat!

The City Council Treats the Mayor Like a Child

It lands with no context involved. 

Questions that should be asked: How much does a typical flight to Switzerland cost? Was this the cost of mayor’s ticket alone? Was it round trip? Did she fly first class? Were her feet up? Were endless glasses of champagne involved? Did she spend the flight hunched over her laptop analyzing the latest crime stats?

Wait. Speaking of context, this needs to be put into some. Here we go:

The city is a hot ass mess. Murders everyday. And carjackings galore. Morale at the NOPD is falling faster than the mayor’s approval ratings. There are now less than 1000 police officers. If you call 911, there’s a chance it may take a few hours for an officer to show up. The Entergy bills are too damn high. It’s hot. Citizens are hella frustrated. All the while, the mayor was set to take her 3rd trip overseas in 5 weeks. 

So there it is. The room is a mess. And the Council has decided that the mayor can’t go out to play until it’s clean. They did this through an ordinance. The City Council treats the mayor like a child.

Two questions: Should a grown ass mayor be treated like a child? How do you treat a mayor who’s not doing what you want? 

We are told that when members of the Council ask questions, the mayor responds with silence or attitude. But we are not told if those questions are asked in a way that invokes silence or attitude. We do know that eventually the tattling begins. 

After much media pressure and fish flopping, the mayor responded by canceling her latest overseas trip. The trip would’ve been to Singapore for a conference on climate change.

In a move to save face, the mayor was like, I didn’t want to go anyway. She said she was now staying here to embed herself in the NOPD. Presumably, to make morale rise from the ashes amongst the rank and file.

Questions abound: Will the mayor also embed herself in a pothole? A flooded street? A broken windshield? A 911 call? Into the mind of Tyrann Mathieu and uncover why he went M.I.A. and deleted all references of the Saints from his Instagram?  (Sorry I digress.)

This is embarrassing. The people deserve better. Surely grown adults can find a better way to fix a city and show disdain for each other. Yep the City Council treats the mayor like a child?

Oh look. What’s that in the air? 

Mayor Cantrell Faces Unprecedented Disrespect Because She’s A Black Woman.

Splat!

Home ownership is the key to New Orleans’s problems.  Homeowners have better lives.  Homeowners create generational wealth. Also, homeowners commit fewer crimes. Plus, homeowners create stable neighborhoods.  And stable neighborhoods make great cities.  Fixing New Orleans woes starts with creating more homeowners in the city.

Ownership denied

For decades government financial policies and correlating bank discrimination prevented most African Americans from owning their homes.  Redlining was the way the government identified African American neighborhoods.  Redlined neighborhoods were denied government backed loans and insurance.  Thus, African Americans were denied access to generational wealth.  Simultaneously, white neighborhoods accessed loans at fast and furious rates. The wealth gap was codified in legal American financial policy.  Besides the financial gains over time from home equity growth, there are many other benefits from owning a home.

Benefits of Home Ownership

Families benefit from homeownership.  Partners who combine their incomes to purchase a home tend to stay together longer.  Intact families earn and save much more money over time. But intact families don’t just have more money.  They keep and improve their homes over time. Bathroom and kitchen renovations.  Adding on another room.  Better windows.  All these investments increase the property value over time.  And for most Americans, the biggest asset they own is their home.  Families build generational wealth over time. 

Children who grow up in a home owned by their parents do much better than children who do not. According to a FHA study. Compared to rental households, ownership children do better –

Ownership families are also healthier.  The parents report fewer health problems.  And the children report very good or excellent health.  School absences are significantly lower.  Participation in extracurricular activities is increased.  Remarkably parent and child bonding increases as support their children’s extracurricular activities.  Picking up or dropping off for practices and attending events give parents more time to engage their children.  Families with close ties report happier lives and healthier lifestyles.

New Orleans must create more home ownership opportunities for her citizens.  The issues – poor educational outcomes, high dropout rate, high teenage pregnancy, carjackings, burglaries, and other crimes – are directly related to the lack of home ownership.  This is hard for people to understand.  But housing is  just a structure.  Home ownership is  a mental, financial, physical, mature committed approach to life.  Your identity is connected to your house.  Home ownership is transcendent.  Especially for African Americans.  Owning a piece of the American pie transforms your approach to life. You own a piece of the city.  You are committed.

How to Transform Renter New Orleanians into Homeowners

New Orleans is a poor city.  The economy is based on tourism.  Tourism jobs tend to be low wage jobs. How can we make this remake this city?  Currently the city is a city of renters.  Low wages.  No family history of home ownership. There are not that many mortgage wage jobs in our city. 

There is a federal mechanism that can help.  Individual Development Accounts are a mechanism for low income asset building and homeownership.  Developed in the 1990’s by famed sociologist Michael Sherraden, the IDA typically matches or even increases the savings of people.  Sherraden says, “Unlike traditional welfare programs, IDA accounts would introduce real assets into the lives of many poor people who would otherwise be without them. IDAs would be a different approach to welfare policy, an approach that emphasizes individual development and combines social provision with individual responsibility and individual control. IDAs would enable the poor to bring their own cards to the table and make their own deal.”

Some IDA’s in Louisiana have a 4 to 1 match ratio.  For every dollar saved by an individual 4 dollars are added.  We will examine how these programs can be a key factor in transforming our city in next weeks article.

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. And some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time come from the city. Trumpet is the signature jazz horn. Below is our list of the best trumpet players in New Orleans history.

1: Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Sitting at the top of this list of the best jazz trumpeters of all time is one of New Orleans’ most famous sons. Before the arrival of the gravel-voiced Satchmo – who rose to fame in King Oliver’s Chicago-based band in the early 20s – jazz was defined by collective rather than individual improvisation. But Armstrong’s unparalleled gift for embroidering melodies led him to reinvent the nascent genre as a vehicle for solo extemporization. A gigantic, hugely influential figure in the history of jazz, popular music would not be the same without him.

2. Buddy Bolden (1877-1931)

Active in the first decade of the 20th Century, New Orleans-born Bolden – about whose life myths abound – was one of jazz’s early horn stars. Though no recordings of him survive, some of his compositions do – and these, along with his oversized legend, are enough to place him high in this list of the 50 best jazz trumpeters of all time. Preferring to play the trumpet’s close cousin, the compact-shaped, smaller cornet, Bolden was instrumental in shaping the sound of early Big Easy-style jazz, introducing a syncopated drum beat (dubbed the “Big Four”) that was more conducive for group improvisation than a straight marching-band rhythm.

3. King Oliver (1881-1938)

Author of the early classic jazz tunes “Dippermouth Blues” and “Doctor Jazz,” Joseph “King” Oliver was a principal architect of the New Orleans sound and mentored a young Louis Armstrong, who appeared with him on sides such as “Canal Street Blues” – reason alone for Oliver’s status as one of the best jazz trumpeters in history. The use of muted trumpets in jazz is largely down to Oliver, whose early inspiration was Buddy Bolden. Oliver played cornet up until the late 20s, when he switched to trumpet.

4. Wynton Marsalis (born 1961)

When acoustic jazz was in the doldrums in the 70s and early 80s, New Orleans-born Marsalis (an outspoken critic of anything fusion-esque or avant-garde) became its saviour, reviving the traditional straight-ahead style to great success. In recent years, Marsalis’ music has become more exploratory, and he remains one of the best jazz trumpeters of his generation.

5. Terence Blanchard (born 1962)

From New Orleans, Blanchard’s five Grammy Awards secure him his place among the world’s best jazz trumpeters, though he first came to prominence when he replaced Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1982, eventually becoming its musical director. In the 90s, Blanchard appeared on the radar of the wider public via the soundtracks he composed to several Spike Lee movies, including Mo’ Better Blues. A versatile musician, Blanchard has embraced funk- and electronica-inflected music in recent years but without sacrificing the deep jazz core that’s the foundation of his being.

6. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (born 1983)

Just 19 when he released his debut album, New Orleans-born Adjuah – the nephew of Crescent City saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr – has risen to become one of today’s young trumpet gods. His sound, which he describes as “stretch music” (after his 2015 album of the same name), is an eclectic coalescence of elements from jazz, hip-hop, rock, electronica, and ambient music.

7. Nicholas Payton (born 1973)

From the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans-born Payton was a child trumpet prodigy (he started playing professionally at the age of 10) who, in his early 20s, was playing with drumming legend Elvin Jones and Hammond hero Jimmy Smith. Payton’s recording career as a solo artist began in 1994. He is a versatile, eclectic trumpeter who in recent years has married jazz with electronics, looped beats, and neo-soul.

8. Kermit Ruffins (born 1964)

The consummate entertainer, seems to embody the spirit of the city – laid back, swinging and joyous all at once. The trumpeter and bandleader’s sets feature classics from his idol, Louis Armstrong, and his own free-spirited, be-bopping original material. On stage, Ruffins could be decked out in a suit or a T-shirt but always has a fedora on his head and a smile on his face. He was a founder of the Rebirth Brass Band, an ever-changing amalgamation of young musicians who since the 1980s have helped revive the city’s vital street music and introduce it to a worldwide audience. Ruffins plays with his band, the Barbecue Swingers, all over town, often playing several gigs in a day. His Thursday night set at Vaughn’s Lounge (4229 Dauphine St., 504-947-5562), a corner barroom deep in the Bywater neighborhood, has been a stop on the city’s music circuit for years.

9. Irvin Mayfield (born 1977)

A prolific and innovative trumpeter , helped usher in a new direction for New Orleans jazz well before his 30th birthday through his close collaboration with drummer Bill Summers, the veteran percussionist from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. During late-night jam sessions at Summers’ home in the late 1990s, they launched Los Hombres Calientes, a band that takes the sounds of Cuba, Brazil and other Latin American traditions and reinterprets it through the prism of New Orleans jazz. Mayfield, who was in 2003 appointed to the post of cultural ambassador for the City of New Orleans, tours extensively with Los Hombres Calientes as well as performing other original material with his own sextet.

Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D.

A Personal Perspective: The battle over remote work.

KEY POINTS

Source: Gorodenkoff/Istockphoto

The monumental battle over fully remote work is heating up this summer as more traditionalist business leaders are demanding that their employees come to the office much or all of the time.

Google maps workers, recently asked to return to the office full-time, fought back with a petition and threats of a strike, and won a reprieve of 90 days. Elon Musk demanded that all Tesla staff come to the office full-time despite insufficient space at Tesla offices, resulting in staff getting recruited by other companies. Apple employees are publicly pushing back against the leadership’s demand for three days in the office, with a recent letter saying “stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.”

The same struggles are happening at smaller US companies, as well as across the globe. Yet what these traditionalist executives are failing to realize is that the drama, stress, and tensions caused by their demands won’t matter. Fully remote work will win this fall.

New Covid Variants Fuel Fully Remote Work

That’s because of the new COVID variants, which the Biden administration predicts may lead to 100 million infections in the fall.

The most dangerous is BA.5, which is much more resistant than prior variants to protection from COVID caused either by vaccinations or prior infections. Its capacity to escape immunity combines with what appears to be increased transmissibility and the ability to induce a worse disease.

Thus, it led to a rise in hospitalizations in Portugal, Israel, and other countries where it became dominant. We can expect the same in the US as BA.5 becomes increasingly dominant later this summer.

Perhaps you think COVID vaccines might protect us from this problem? Think again.

A Kaiser Permanente study on the original Omicron strain, BA.1, found that after two doses of Pfizer, vaccine effectiveness against hospital admission was at 41 percent after 9 months. A booster shot increased effectiveness against hospitalization to 85 percent for a couple of months, but it wore off quickly to 55 percent after three or more months.

Note that this is vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization, not infection: the vaccine is much weaker against infection. And it’s for the original Omicron strain BA.1, not BA.5, which is much more capable of immune escape, more transmissible, and causes more severe disease.

Do not forget that less than three-quarters of eligible Americans are vaccinated. Less than half of all vaccinated Americans received a booster shot, and less than a quarter of those over 50 received a second booster.

Moreover, a new study shows that after initial COVID infection, each subsequent infection with COVID results in higher risks of hospitalization and death.

In other words, after initial infection, you end up with long-term or permanent damage that is exacerbated by subsequent infections. Thus, it’s important to minimize the number of times we get infected with COVID.

Unfortunately, the government is not taking the steps needed to address this situation.

Despite multiple requests by the White House, Congress is refusing to fund COVID vaccines and boosters, treatments such as Paxlovid, and research and production of next-generation vaccines.

The implication is clear: This fall will see a COVID surge.

Moreover, we’ll be more vulnerable than before, given the lack of government funding for vaccines and treatments, and the vaccine escape of BA.5.

Opposition to Fully Remote Work by Traditionalist Leaders Will Backfire

During both the Delta surge and the Omicron surge, traditionalist companies that tried to force their employees back to the office, and experienced extensive drama and stress over this approach, had to roll back their plans.

Besides, going back and forth from home to the office and back home seriously undermined productivity, harmed engagement and morale, and impaired retention and recruitment.

We’ll see the exact same yo-yo effect at Tesla, Apple, Google, and other companies led by traditionalist executives in a few months.

Egocentric Bias Leads Executives to Make Bad Decisions on Fully Remote Work

Why do they pursue this effort to push their staff into the office? After all, the implication is clear.

The key lies in what makes these executives feel successful and feeds their identity as leaders.

In fact, one leader wrote an op-ed piece about this topic, saying “There’s a deeply personal reason why I want to go back to the office. It’s selfish, but I don’t care. I feel like I lost a piece of my identity in the pandemic… I’m worried that I won’t truly find myself again if I have to work from home for the rest of my life.” By honestly saying the quiet part out loud, this op-ed reveals how other leaders use false claims about remote work undermining productivity, innovation, and social capital to try to cover up their true concerns.

This orientation speaks to a mental blindspot called the egocentric bias, an orientation toward prioritizing one’s own perspective and worldview over others.

It is important to empathize with and understand where such leaders are coming from, but following their predispositions will hurt the bottom lines of their companies.

The Future of Work: A Hybrid-First, Team-Led First Model

What works much better is a hybrid-first, team-led model: a flexible approach where individual team leads consult with their team members to decide what works best for them.

That goes for large companies, such as the company Applied Materials, a Fortune 200 high-tech manufacturer. It adopted an “Excellence from Anywhere” modality that focuses on deliverables rather than where someone works. That also goes for middle-size organizations, including the Information Sciences Institute, a 400-staff data science, and machine learning research center at the University of Southern California. ISI used this approach to gain leadership in hybrid and remote work.

Team members at Applied and ISI come to the office once or twice a week, whether to socialize or to collaborate more intensely, since, for most people, intense collaboration works best in person. Otherwise, team members stay at home, since workers are substantially more productive working remotely. And as COVID cases increase in their area, the teams flexibly adapt their approach to collaborate and socialize fully remotely.

A third organization, the Jaeb Center for Health Research, chose to adopt a home-centric model. That’s because surveys showed the large majority of its staff wanted full-time remote work. Moreover, their research-focused activities are more individualized and less team-oriented than those at ISI or Applied. They only come to the office on rare occasions for meetings or training. Such remote-first, home-centric models will work well for organizations where individual employee productivity, rather than team productivity, is more important.

In short, flexible models—while going against the intuitions of many leaders—best fit the desires of most employees, whose biggest non-salary demand is flexibility. They address the risks associated with COVID variants, as well as other emergencies. And finally, they maximize profits for companies, by boosting retention, recruitment, collaboration, innovation, and productivity. The only obstacle is the orientation of traditionalist leaders, who need to recognize the danger they are posing to the success of their companies.

Conclusion

Traditionalist business leaders are eager to get employees back into the office. They want staff back in the office for more time than employees had anticipated. However, the return to office demands by executives will backfire as the United States could see 100 million coronavirus infections this fall. This implication of the COVID surge is driven by new omicron subvariants that have shown a remarkable ability to escape immunity. Once again, workers will push back on office return plans. A wide-scale return to the office will prove to be a myth. With Covid case counts may soar this fall, fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variants, leaders should choose science over self-interests. They should prepare their companies for the impending COVID wave this fall through a hybrid-first, team-led model which addresses the risks associated with COVID variants, as well as other emergencies.