HEALTHY MEN MAKE HEALTHY FAMILIES

Community Leaders, Health Advocates and Public Officials to Launch 2nd Annual African American Male Wellness Walk Initiative

– by Warren A. Bell                                                          

 

NEW ORLEANS- Even as the month of June concludes and New Orleanians get ready to celebrate the annual Essence Festival with its traditional emphasis on female empowerment, the local campaign to increase health and health awareness among black males intensifies this week as the community prepares for the second annual African American Male Wellness Walk Initiative in New Orleans (#AAMWWINOLA) taking place again this year at the Joe W. Brown Park in eastern New Orleans.   And on Wednesday, June 28th at the New Orleans East Hospital, members of the city’s business, civic, non-profit and political leadership will gather once again to pledge their support for the annual walk-run initiative featuring free health screenings for all men that morning, followed by a 5k Walk-Run along Read Boulevard and around the park property; plus exhibitors, musical entertainment and vendors.

The local steering committee has been meeting since last September’s inaugural walk-run to make this year bigger and better. And this year, according to event chairman Bishop Tom Watson of #WatsonMemorialMinistries, “we are grateful to have as our Honorary Chairman none other than 2nd district Congressman #Rep.CedricRichmond!”

Congressman Richmond, who also serves as chair for the Congressional Black Caucus, is among those invited to speak at the June 28th kickoff news conference.  During a recent gathering with AAMWWI-NOLA supporters in May he challenged the local community to join him on September 30th to support the cause of greater health and wellness among African American men who suffer disproportionately from multiple diseases often due to a lack of early detection.  For the congressman, it is very personal: “Having lost my own father to heart attack while I was still a young boy, then seeing my stepfather die years later over health complications that might have been addressed if detected sooner, I already know why we all must do a better job of getting black men into the doctors’ offices for regular checkups and medical care.” That is especially true with the latest efforts underway to dismantle the Affordable Care Act despite its benefits “for so many Americans who couldn’t afford health care before.”

Originating in Columbus, Ohio, the AAMWWI is scheduled to happen in twelve major cities across the U.S. this year including Atlanta, New York and Washington DC in addition to New Orleans.  The inaugural (2016) New Orleans African American Male Wellness Walk brought together an estimated 1,500 participants, volunteers, and health organizations. Advance online registration and further info is available at: https://www.aawalk.org/neworleans.

So make your plans to “Join the Movement” on Saturday, September 30, and be sure to bring along family members and friends to spread the A.A.M.W.W.I. message that—

HEALTHY MEN MAKE HEALTHY FAMILIES!

 

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“Healthy Men Make Healthy Families” News Conference

WHEN: Wednesday, June 28th at 10:30am

WHAT: AAMWWI-NOLa Campaign Kickoff News Conference

WHERE: N.O. East Hospital – 1st Floor – Conference Room

* MEDIA CONTACT: Warren Bell & Associates LLC, Tel#504-235-8706 or: wbellassoc@gmail.com

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Sex and The City of New Orleans

Dr. Lisa Moreno-Walton, MD, MS, MSCR

Emergency Medicine Physician at University Medical Center

Director of Research, Diversity, Latino Health Scholars Program

Valentine’s Day makes us think about love, and although there are many kinds of love, certainly sexual love is one of the most important.  We know from experience that great sex can hold a relationship together for just so long if sex is the only thing the couple has in common.  A great relationship needs love, respect and good sex if it is going to endure.

As a physician and a mother, I feel very strongly that discussions of sex with our children need to include the concepts of love and respect.  We should begin early to teach respect for our bodies and the bodies of others.  Children need to understand from a very early age that their body belongs to them and that NO ONE should touch their body unless they want that person to touch them and NO ONE should touch their body in a way that makes them uncomfortable.  They should also understand that they need to show the same respect for others. 

If we teach this concept very early to toddlers as they learn to play with others without hitting, pushing or biting, we can carry this lesson over when they begin to show curiosity about sex.  Children need to have an open dialog with their parents.  They need to know that they can talk to us about ANYTHING, and that we want them to tell us if someone makes them uncomfortable, and that we will believe them and protect them. 

This is especially true for people of color, whose history includes the indignities of slavery, of being fondled and raped without regard to our personal wishes because we were considered the property of others.  Women of color tend to be more comfortable in our bodies and more comfortable with our sexuality.  This sometimes leads others to think that they can get comfortable with us as well and touch us as they see fit, even when it is not what we desire or they are not who we desire.  We must insure that our children understand that their body is their own property, to give or not give, to share or not share, as they decide. 

Being touched when and by whom we want to be touched feels good, and these feelings start in infancy, when we convey to our babies that they are lovable, and that it is a pleasure to be close to them.  This builds self-esteem and the kind of self-respect that eventually leads to healthy relationships in adolescence and adulthood.  Little ones are curious about the world around them and begin to ask questions as soon as they can talk. 

The key to questions about sex is that CHILDREN ASK EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO KNOW AND WE SHOULD ANSWER ONLY WHAT THEY ASK.  So, a question about “Where do babies come from?” should not lead to a 10 minute explanation of sexual intercourse.  The answer is: “From a special place inside the mother’s body that is called the uterus.”  (I am a firm believer in using anatomically correct language, even with children.  Babies do not grow in the stomach.  That explanation has led to many girls thinking they can get pregnant from accidentally swallowing a fruit seed!) 

When the child wants more information, they will ask “How does the baby get in there?” or “How does the baby get out?”  Again, simple answers would be “The father puts a seed into the mother’s body” and “The baby gets out through a special opening between the mother’s legs called the vagina.”  When the child is ready to know more, her curiosity will lead her to ask you more.  She will eventually ask you how the father puts the seed inside, and a simple anatomical explanation, accompanied by love and respect are the way to go.  “When a man and a woman love each other, they want to be as close as they can be, and the man puts his penis into the woman’s vagina, and a seed called sperm comes out and causes a baby to grow in her uterus.”

 Talking to kids about sex makes some parents uncomfortable but giving a simple answer to just what the child asks makes it easier for parent and child.  Children really don’t want to know more than they are asking, and they ask what they are ready to know.  Your children’s pediatrician or a mother’s gynecologist can help parents with these discussions.  If the doctor is uncomfortable with these topics, well, you need to find a doctor who is not!  And I will be talking more to you about discussing sex with your child in upcoming columns. 

Why You Won’t Talk About Sexual Issues With Your Partner

by David Ludden Ph.D.

Finding the courage to push your relationship forward.

Arek_malang/Shutterstock
Source: Arek_malang/Shutterstock

Conflict is inevitable in relationships. You’d like to save more money for the future, but your partner would like the two of you to get more enjoyment out of life now. You think your partner is too strict with the kids, but your partner thinks you’re too lenient. You think you already do more than your fair share of the work around the house, but your partner thinks you don’t do enough. Or else, they’d rather you did different chores from the ones you’re used to doing.

Couples frequently have fights about issues like these, and often they can find solutions to these disagreements. At the very least, when they talk their problems out, they have a better understanding of their partner’s preferences. But there’s one area of conflict that too many couples avoid discussing at all costs, namely differences in sexual desire.

Plenty of research shows that couples who have open conversations about sexual issues are also more satisfied with their relationships. However, too many people would rather put up with an unhappy sex life than have that dreaded conversation. Why are so many people afraid to communicate their sexual needs to their partner? This is the question that Canadian psychologist Uzma Rehman and her colleagues explored in a recent study of conflict communication in couples.

Conflict communication is always difficult, largely because we’re motivated to avoid negative emotions. Tempers get raised, and feelings get hurt. Just as we avoid going to the dentist despite a toothache, we avoid talking with our partner about sensitive issues. So we let problems fester.

With non-sexual problems in the relationship, we tend to reach a tipping point after which we let it all come out. Arguments can be healthy for a relationship, especially when the discussion remains focused on the issue at hand and doesn’t devolve into slinging insults and pushing each other’s buttons.

But even couples who are reasonably good at resolving other types of conflict get stuck when it comes to discussing sexual problems in the relationship. Instead of communicating our preferences and inquiring about our partner’s, we rely on cultural scripts that tell us how the sex act is supposed to play out. Despite our urge for a break from the routine, we keep our fantasies to ourselves. No wonder our sex lives get stale after years of marriage.

Past research has shown that couples avoid conflict communication, because they perceive it as threatening in three different ways:

In their study, Rehman and colleagues asked people in committed relationships to imagine themselves in a conflict situation with their partner. The scenario involved either a non-sexual issue about sharing housework or a sexual issue about the frequency of intimacy. Afterward, the partners responded to a questionnaire that measured sense of threat to relationship, partner, and self. On the one hand, the results showed that sexual conflicts are similar to non-sexual conflicts, in that all three types of perceived threat were high. On the other hand, sexual arguments resulted in even higher levels of perceived threat to self than did non-sexual confrontations. article continues after advertisement

In short, this study showed that the main reason why people avoid talking with their partners about sexual issues is because they view such a discussion as threatening to themselves. Based on responses in this study and others, we can point to some reasons why couples stay away from discussions about intimacy issues.

First, in North American culture, sex is viewed as an embarrassing topic of conversation, so we avoid talking about it altogether. Or else we relieve the uneasiness by turning sexual discussions into jokes. Even within committed relationships, we tend to view sex as naughty and not to be talked about.

Second, sexual education is woefully inadequate in the United States. Many Americans are simply ignorant about sexual anatomy — both their own and their partner’s. Although we have cultural scripts about how the sexual act is supposed to work, few of us understand the full breadth of sexual activities that humans engage in. So we have neither the concepts to understand our sexual urges nor the vocabulary to communicate them to our partner.

Because of our embarrassment and ignorance when it comes to sexual matters, we feel especially vulnerable revealing our secret fantasies to our partners. Since we think our desires are weird, we assume our partner will feel the same about them. Furthermore, our urges seem to arise from our innermost core, and we feel we have no control over them. When we dare to reveal secret fantasies only to have them rebuked, we feel that our partner has rejected us as we truly are. So we’d rather keep up the pretense instead. article continues after advertisement

People who have the courage to discuss intimacy issues with their partners are generally happier in their relationships. But learning to overcome a lifetime of embarrassment about sex and developing a proper sexual vocabulary takes effort. There’s plenty of self-help here on the pages ofPsychology Today and elsewhere on the internet or in your local bookstore. Couples therapy can also be effective at resolving intimacy issues.

Conflict is inevitable in relationships, and issues of intimacy are among the hardest of all to confront. And yet, conflict itself isn’t a sign that the relationship is in trouble. On the contrary, if both partners approach the discussion with a desire to resolve the issue, the relationship will be strengthened as a result.

Democrats search while Trump Triumphs

By Kenneth Cooper

On Biden without Barack:

So, you’re in Gotham, and word on the street is that The Joker is on the loose, tearing up the town. You run to the roof and throw up the bat signal. But Alfred calls. “I’m sorry,” he says, “Batman is out of town, but I can send over Robin instead.” You look up at the signal, shining bright in the sky, calling for what was once illustrious. “Nah, that’s okay,” you say, and hang up the phone. “I’ll just lock my doors instead.”

In a presidential election, to beat a star, you have to be a star or become one of equal or greater magnitude. Trump is a star, and the Democrats have done a great job of fielding a group of would-be VPs and cabinet members, but they have yet to field or develop a star.

On the one-dimensionality of Warren and Sanders:

In particular, it’s the corners of the mouths and cheekbones. They seem incapable of an upward turn, slouching always towards the chin and ground- subjected to a gravitational tug of perpetual proportions. Here Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak, and the effect is a guttural monotone. In other words, put them in front of a camera or a microphone, and they can project an endless number of frowns, but not one smile. “Hey, Bernie, why you screaming at me?” – Michael J. Fox last week at a campaign rally.

Uncle Joe and Da Billionaire

Apparently, Joe Biden’s campaign strategy is to bomb interviews, tank the early caucus and primary, then wait for black people to bail him out, starting in South Carolina. Possibly, former Mayor Bloomberg will eventually stop frisking around and unveil the reparational ramifications of his would-be presidency: On day one of my presidency, I’ll free all those black people I once helped throw in jail.

In politics, you can’t win on policy alone.

How low Trump will go to defeat Pete Buttigieg?

Fall 2020, campaign rally, Trump at the podium railing, crowd in full swoon: Believe me, he looks them over and says, “Nobody’s a bigger fan of Mayor Pete’s marriage than me. But many people are saying that’s not milk on his chin and mustache.”

A word from Rush Limbaugh

“They’re sitting there and they’re looking at Mayor Pete — a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, okay, how’s this going to look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s going to happen there?”Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a possible sign of things to come – Washington Post 2/13/2020

Meanwhile Trump takes a vindication lap.

In one month he was acquitted, gave the Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, drove Nancy Pelosi to rip up the State of The Union speech, got to point his finger at two of his accusers and say, “You’re fired,” got Roger Stone’s sentence recommendation reduced, and declared the Coronavirus dead come April. The Darkside hasn’t rolled that hard since Darth Vader chopped Luke Skywalker’s arm off in The Empire Strikes Back.  Yes, we’re “stuck in Trumpland watching subtlety decayin’” – “Veins” by Earl Sweatshirt

So, to be clear, Michael Bloomberg is a Republican turned Democrat, Bernie Sanders is an Independent turned Democratic Socialist, Elizabeth Warren is a Cherokee turned white woman, and Joe Biden can’t eloquently turn a phrase? No wonder the DNC is still holding debates on Friday nights. Last election, you could say it was to hide Hillary’s less than charming personality. This election though, it’s to hide the whole field apparently, and prove that it’s not a losing strategy unless it fails twice.

After the Iowa caucus counting debacle, it’s the party responsible for the broken app versus the party responsible for the broken presidency.  One can’t guarantee a fair counting of democracy and the other can’t guarantee a president that will be accountable to it. And on that note, that’s all folks, as the great Bugs Bunny would say.

 You have a happy time of celebrating this day we honor the presidency.

You Can Eat Healthy Delicious Meals

by Kara Johnson

It’s one month into 2020. How are you doing with your goal to eat healthier? It’s ok. I’d like to share a few tips to help you stay on track. Can you say meal prepping? Well today, I have full proof advice from two, top personal chefs. A large part of your success is about developing new habits. Habit is the key word when it comes to maintaining the consistency that leads to success. Instead of falling into habits, now it’s time to create good habits on purpose. We have fun and easy ways to make these guidelines part of your new, healthier lifestyle!

Chef Gina Cobette
CEO and Co-Founder of Ginche’ Specialty Catering

There are 3 KEY components to meal prepping:

-PLAN

-PREP

-COOK

Devise a menu conducive to your dietary needs and preferences. This component requires a written menu, menu ingredients and places to purchase food items. Food containers that separate menu items into proportions for your diet are also important. Make sure you have everything you need in advance. If you are anything like most people these days, life is crazy busy. Planning ahead to order online for curb-side grocery pick up at local stores or delivery to your doorstep will make the planning part of the process easier

.Now that all ingredients, seasonings and containers are on deck, the prep can begin. This component includes chopping all vegetables, poultry, marinating meat/seafood and cleaning all cooking tools and pots to prepare for cooking. Prepping one day prior helps to keep the process organized and consistent.

With adequate planning and prepping complete, the final component is to cook and separate portions for daily meals for the week in meal prep containers. To maintain the quality of your meals, store in a refrigerator and consume cooked food within 7 days. After a week, discard food that is left, wash containers and repeat all components for the following week.

Parents teaching their adorable daughter how to cook healthy food in kitchen.

When I’m planning meals for health-conscious clients, I keep it fun by making sure the meals are seasonal, farm to table, and locally purchased. Keep the sodium content to a minimum, and use the ingredients that have the least cholesterol. I often overlap light ingredients like seafood which can be used in more than one dish that week. For example, crabs and shrimp are used in salads and seafood boils in the summer and in gumbo and stuffing in the winter. A sexy plate presentation is also important and can make a dish more appealing to a client.

Chef Gason Nelson
Owner and CEO of Full of Flavor, LLC

There you have it. This is everything you need to know to organize your meals for the week. Get into the habit of planning ahead. Not only will your meals be good for you, but with a few extra steps, you can turn any meal into a memorable dining experience.

A romantic dinner

Missed Part One? Read It Here

By Jordan Rock

I know you hear it all the time from the old folks; New Orleans ain’t what it was. The soul is there, but the body is broken. The city doesn’t take care of itself, and a sure ain’t taking care of its people. Sure, the city government maintains of all the main streets. Every thoroughfare that tourists might ride down, the French Quarter, the Garden District, all of that has been spit shined to a mirror sheen. But the second you step off the beaten path, and go to the places where People Actually Live, you can still see the same devastation from some fourteen years ago. A gilded city, with all the water damage beneath the surface appeal, just out of sight of the rest of the world. Pisses me off every time I come back.

If you take a little wiki walk, you’ll find that New Orleans, as of the moment I’m writing this, has a population of something like 391,006. That’s a dramatic drop from the estimated population when Katrina hit, which was in the neighborhood of 484,674 people. And that’s after 14 years of survivors deciding whether or not they wanted to come back at all. But it’s not about the numbers, not really. I can look at the city with my eyes and see what’s happening. The lifeblood of New Orleans lies in the hearts and minds of its natives, and when people decide to leave, it’s tempting to say that they take part of the city’s soul with them.

The older folks call it the Brain Drain of New Orleans. Folks that were blown away not coming back. Folks born in the city leaving for good. And as time goes on, more and more great minds and great hands are trickling out of the city, like rain in a storm drain. And, you know, for a long time, I thought the same way.

But I’ve had years to think about this and through frequent revisits to the city, while wandering the streets I have changed my perspective. Nowadays, I see New Orleans as a tree that got blown down in a storm. When it fell, it scattered its seeds all over the place. I’m one of those seeds. Many seeds like me have had to make this choice since we got scattered across the country by hurricane winds. Do we set down roots where we land, or do we pick ourselves up and head home to salvage what’s left? It’s a hard choice to make; many of us are still trying to decide, even after all this time.
Me?
It’s going to be hard to hear this, but I keep on coming back. And then I have to leave. Because every day I spend at home, I feel myself getting angry. There’s a fight in me, a fight for the city itself, a fire that lights up whenever I step off a plane and step into that familiar southern heat. I never have anywhere to put that fire, so it just burns me out, exhausts me. For the longest time, I didn’t understand it. It went beyond just the desire to bring the New Orleans of my childhood back, or the need to go down to City Hall and scream at the people that get rich by mismanaging the city that is here in the present. That fire in me, it’s hope; the need to push forward. New Orleans: The City seems broken, yes, but the soul of the city is simply fractured. And fractures can be repaired. Every single of one of us New Orleans Natives is a representative of New Orleans itself. An avatar; a little piece of the soul of the city. We can’t remove this part of ourselves; we’re all those seeds from that same tree. We carry the slang, the culture, the sensibilities of the city, wherever we go. None of us struggle the same, but we all struggle. We’ve all got our stories, right? Mine is just another one of those, and I’d like to tell it to you. So, if you’ve drifted far like me, or you’ve put down your roots right in the same spot that you came from, we’re far from different.

Me and you, we ARE New Orleans.

As long as we live, and continue to grow, New Orleans will do the same.
That idea, that’s where I’d like to start this whole thing, whatever it is. My name is Jordan Rock, and at the age of 12, Hurricane Katrina came and blew my life apart. I am a seed on the wind, searching for a place to put down roots. In my heart and in my mind, I carry the soul of New Orleans, no matter where I go.
And, with any luck, you’ll hear from me again.

See you soon.

Empathy’s most ardent promoters have most keenly felt its absence.

THE BASICS

Chicago Urban League Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library

Kenneth Bancroft Clark, 1914-2005 Source: Chicago Urban League Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library

Senator Amy Klobuchar’s pitch for empathy in her closing remarks in the New Hampshire debate may have helped catapult her into third place in that state’s primary. She said that she can supply the empathy absent in the White House: “If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you, and I will fight for you.”

Klobuchar’s promise of empathy is not surprising coming from the first female senator from Minnesota. In recent years, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and President Barack Obama repeatedly invoked the importance of empathy. Advocating for empathy is indeed not limited to any one demographic, but there is a rich history of black intellectuals and civil rights leaders doing so. Some of empathy’s fiercest promoters are those who have keenly felt its absence.

In 1964, James Baldwin bemoaned the fact that most whites failed to achieve the most basic form of empathy for blacks: to grasp their humanity. Basic empathy entailed the recognition that “in talking to a black man, he is talking to another man like himself.”[1] Martin Luther King Jr., grieved the lack of empathy of white moderates while sitting in a Birmingham jail: “I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race.”[2]

Social psychologist and civil rights activist Kenneth B. Clark championed empathy over the span of decades. Clark was the first African-American psychologist to graduate from Columbia University in 1940, and two years later he began teaching at The City College of New York.[3] He helped write the social science statement documenting the psychological damage of segregation appended to the 1954 Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools. He and his wife, psychologist Mamie Clark, conducted a series of studies that found that black children in segregated schools preferred playing with white rather than black dolls. The Clarks founded the Northside Treatment Center and Harlem Youth Opportunities to provide psychological and educational services for Harlem youth, in addition to the Metropolitan Applied Research Center to study school desegregation and civil rights.[4]

Clark first called for empathy in a 1965 New York Times opinion piece, “Delusions of the White Liberal.” He explained that liberals were often harder to deal with than bigots, due to their guilt, conflicting loyalties, and acquiescence in the flagrant system of racial injustice.[5] What they lacked, Clark declared, was empathy. Empathy was neither sentimentality nor pity, both of which emanated from a superior position. Empathy instead constituted the basis for mutual understanding that crossed racial lines, rooted in the underlying similarity of the human condition.

But how could this type of empathy be achieved? As a psychologist, Clark was attuned to the mechanisms of defense, repression, and inner resistance that made it difficult for a white person to move beyond their racial bias. Whites, he declared, had to dispense with “the fantasy of aristocracy or superiority,” and the white liberal in particular with “the fantasy of purity,” or the idea of being free of prejudice. In short, the white liberal had to “reconcile his affirmation of racial justice with his visceral racism.”[6]   article continues after advertisement

Whites therefore had to work to “transcend the barriers of their own minds” and to listen with their hearts. Only then would it be possible, Clark imagined, to “respond insofar as he is able with a pure kind of empathy that is raceless, that accepts and understands the frailties and anxieties and weaknesses that all men share, the common predicament of mankind.”[7]

Clark’s calls for empathy became more insistent as American politics shifted toward conservatism. In 1979 he scribbled in a lecture draft, “The only thing that will save us is a universal increase in empathy.” [8] He thought that those with political power lacked empathy, evidenced by their support of the brutal inequalities in American society. Clark even suggested that world leaders might be given a psychoactive pill to enhance their empathic qualities and inspire them to just political action. He believed that competitive, anxiety-prone American culture rewarded the rampant pursuit of one’s own interest. It was therefore imperative for educators to strengthen “man’s empathic capacity.”[9]

Clark placed his hope in the unique human capacity to respond to suffering with intelligence, social sensitivity, and the recognition that despite cultural and racial differences, something was shared. He called this psycho-political foundation for equal rights ”empathic reason.” Empathic reason is the anti-racist (and, I would add, anti-sexist) capacity to feel and to recognize the principle of the equality of all.

Today we are witnessing the unbearable cost of empathy’s absence in national politics. Klobuchar’s statement on empathy promises that her knowledge and recognition of the daily struggles of Americans will shape her policies. To restore empathy to our political discourse is our first challenge, but then we must translate empathy’s moral vision into a workable political agenda.

By CC Campbell-Rock

As the machinations of a rogue, out of control Donald J. Trump, Sr. drags on, media pundits are rushing to report on the distracting abominations that Trump throws at them for coverage, like the paper towels he tossed to grieving, devastating Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Marie. Flying under the radar and getting less coverage, is the fact that Trump is destroying the U.S. Constitution and tearing up the safety net that undergirds the lives of everyday Americans. 

While Trump continued to abuse the office of President last week by retributively punishing purple heart recipient Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, his twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, two of whom he fired last week for telling the truth and one for no good reason, major corporate news outlet are failing to adequately report on Trump’s ongoing attempts to rob the American people of hard-earned benefits and constitutional rights.

Rachel Maddow, Joy Ann Reid and Ari Melber on MSNBC and The New York Times and Washington Post investigative journalists deserve much credit for breaking such stories, but too many media outlets are ignoring Trump’s destruction of the rule of law, his attempts to destroy the lives of ordinary Americans, and his grifting of  taxpayers’ dollars.

As eyebrow-raising as the terminations were, firing people is what catapulted Trump to prominence. As host of a reality TV show, The Apprentice, Trump set himself up as the judge, jury, and terminator of contestants who competed to work at Trump Enterprises. Seemingly, the show is the template for Trump’s White House operations.

The only surprise about Trump’s running the White House like he runs Trump Enterprises—which has all the hallmarks of a conspiratorial mafia cabal– where secrecy reigns and clandestine deals nets him pockets of cash—is that he is using the American treasury as his personal piggy bank and cutting back on ordinary Americans’ benefits to pay for his self-enrichment.

No one is naïve enough to believe that politicians don’t get rich off lobbyists and others who buy access and favorable legislation. That’s as American as apple pie.

But Americans do expect elected officials to, at the very least, do the people’s work. Under Trump, none of that is happening. When Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (who successfully led the obstruction of almost all of President Obama’s policies, save Obamacare, thanks to three brave Republicans) said the Republican-led Senate was coordinating the Impeachment trial with the White House, he confirmed the concession of his party’s senatorial powers to Trump.  McConnell showed no shame in orchestrating the Republicans’ wholesale conspiracy to acquit Trump of impeachment charges, weeks before the Senate Impeachment trial started.

Trump not only refused to answer lawful Congressional subpoenas, but he also refused to turn over documents or allow anyone from the Administration to testify during the impeachment trial.

McConnell and the Republicans had no problem in acquitting Trump for abuses of power that involved asking for foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process;  hollowing out government departments by either leaving innumerable vacancies or firing those who would not join him in criminal behaviors like ignoring lawful subpoenas; arguing in court that Trump can’t be investigated or indicted, even if he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue; caging and jailing migrant families on the southern border; expanding Trump’s Muslim ban to include African countries; trying to kill Obamacare and overturn Roe v Wade; opposing voting rights legislation; fighting in the courts to take away healthcare from people with preexisting conditions; cutting Medicaid benefits and Medicare coverage and food stamps; making Secret Service agents pay $650 a night to stay at his resorts when they are protecting him; charging the military exorbitant rates to stay at Trump properties abroad; hosting foreign governments at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (which the federal government owns and leases to Trump, who now wants to sell the lease to a foreign government, which is illegal).

The Republicans have also turned a blind eye to Trump’s nepotism in hiring his own children and dispatching them across the globe on money-wrangling missions. Jared Kushner, a senior advisor and Trump’s son-in-law, got a billion-dollar bailout for his debt-ridden office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue, from a company whose second largest investor is Qatar. Daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior advisor and Jared’s wife, got $100 million from the Saudis to fund a women’s entrepreneur investment project, and no telling what kind of money dealings Donald Jr. and Eric are swinging globally.  All of them are protected by Secret Service members, on the taxpayer’s dime.

But there’s more:  Trump is fighting in the courts to keep his tax returns secret and  to keep the government from discovering and charging him for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Trump is also cheating American people out due process and impartial justice by stacking the federal courts with hyper conservative, partisan Republican judges. Thus far, he has appointed over 200 federal judges, some with no judicial experience.

In New Orleans, which houses the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, known for its racist rulings, Trump has appointed five federal judges to the bench in just three short years. Of the 16 sitting judges, 11 are Republicans.

America, we’re in trouble.

During an appearance on CNBC, Trump was asked if restructuring entitlement programs would ever be on his plate. “At some point, they will be,” Trump said last month, while attending the World Economic Forum in  Davos, Switzerland.

Obviously, the task of informing Americans (particularly black Americans and other Americans of color) that their Constitutional rights and hard-earned benefits are in jeopardy, is falling in the laps of  grassroots organizations and the small contingency of woke media analysts, who are crying out in the wilderness.

Marcela Howell, the founder and president of In Our Own Voice: The National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda said the Trump Administration’s Medicaid overhaul will have “severe and long-lasting consequences” on those who need access to healthcare services, “especially Black women and their families.”

 “Trump has opened the door for states to further limit access to health care and to purge people from the Medicaid program. The states likely to do this are the red states where health care disparities already endanger Black women’s lives. We know from experience that Black maternal health improves with expanded access to care, including Medicaid expansion.”

Howell urged voters to hold Trump and state elected officials accountable for “any and all efforts to cut Medicaid.”

 “The White House’s 2020 budget proposal called for a $1.5 trillion cut in Medicaid spending over a decade, and a $25 billion cut in spending on Social Security, with $10 billion of that sum coming directly out of benefits for the disabled,” according to an article in the Intelligence section of New York Magazine. “The Trump administration is finalizing a plan to let states convert a chunk of Medicaid funding to block grants, even as officials remain divided over how to sell the controversial change to the safety net health program.”

The article’s writer criticized mainstream’s media’s coverage of Trump’s plan. “Trump’s support for entitlement cuts is a matter of fact, not “perception.” To the extent that the “corporate media” failed to accurately convey Trump’s position on entitlements this week, it did not do so by unfairly interpreting his remarks on the subject, but by obscuring his administration’s past and present actions on the issue.”

The American Prospect, a progressive non-profit, reported last week that the “Democratic House leadership quietly announced the introduction of a resolution of disapproval over the Trump administration’s proposed Medicaid block grant scheme, which would reduce or deny access to health care for millions of Americans. “

“The announcement came only a day after the rollout of the Medicaid block grant plan, which states could employ to cap total spending on a program that serves over 70 million Americans. Currently, Medicaid is open to all who are eligible—37 states and D.C. have expanded eligibility for Medicaid up to 138 percent of the poverty level, while the other 13 states have much lower thresholds.”

In December 2019, the Trump Administration wasted no time in opposing an amendment to the Voting Rights Act that would protect voters of color from the onslaught of voter suppression tactics employed by 23 states after the Supreme Court struck down portions of the VRA in 2013.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019, (HR4) was sponsored by U.S. Representative Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) and 229 co-sponsors and passed by the democratic-led House by a 228-197 vote on December 6, 2019.

“The VRAA of 2019 responds to current conditions in voting today by restoring the full protections of the original, bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2006, but gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.

“Following the Shelby County decision four years ago, several states passed sweeping voter suppression laws that disproportionately prevent minorities, the elderly, and the youth from voting. The bill (VRAA) provides the tools to address these discriminatory practices and seeks to protect all Americans’ right to vote.

“The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 creates a new coverage formula that applies to all states and hinges on a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years,” according to a fact sheet on the legislation.

HR4 arrived in the Senate on December 9 and was immediately referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s fair to assume that HR4 will die in the Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee given that Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump sycophant chairs that committee.

On December 19, the Trump Administration issued a statement opposing the legislation:

“The Administration opposes passage of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019.  H.R. 4 would amend the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 by imposing a new coverage formula and transparency obligations on States and local jurisdictions regarding their elections.  These amendments raise serious policy concerns because the Federal Government would be granted excessive control over State and local election practices.”

In opposing HR4, Trump sent a message, primarily to the southern states that rushed to pass voter suppression laws, that state’s rights trump the Supremacy Clause of the United States and that states are free to continue to enact voter suppression laws. 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller warned Americans that the Russians, “as we speak,” are interfering in the upcoming election. Remember when Trump said, “Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 missing emails,” and openly invited Russia to interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election?

The day after Mueller’s testimony, Trump called Ukrainian President Zelensky and said, “I want you to do us a favor, though,” setting his inevitable impeachment in motion. Before he was acquitted by his sycophants in the Senate, Trump was seen on national news confirming that the wanted Ukraine to interfere in the election and said China should investigate the Bidens too.  At the time of this writing, reports are that Trump’s personal lawyer Guiliani is still crisscrossing the globe seeking dirt on the Bidens.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, as Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation, “A lady asked Dr. Franklin, ‘Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?  A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it,” according to  Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.

And that is the major threat we are now facing. Will America remain a democratic Republic or will Trump become a monarch. Trump showed his hand and his deepest desire when he mused publicly, “Wouldn’t it be great if I were president for life?”

Trump’s ongoing efforts to set himself up as a monarchial dictator, like the dictators he most admires: Russia President Vladimir Putin (serving his second six-year term), North Korea President Kim Jong-un, (North Korea is an isolated state, ruled by the Kim family dynasty), China President Xi Jinping (president for life), among others, is the gravest danger facing the United States’ and its people.

Trump is up for reelection. Americans will have to decide whether we will have a monarchy or a democratic Republic. We’ll know the answer on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Most serious urban violence is concentrated among less than 1 percent of a city’s population. So why are we still criminalizing whole areas?

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An abandoned building in Providence, Rhode Island. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters .

In 1982, George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson told a story about a window, a story that changed the fates of entire neighborhoods for decades. Writing in the March issue of The Atlantic, Kelling and Wilson proposed that American policing needed to get back to the project of maintaining order if America wanted communities be safe from harm. “Disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence,” they argued. One broken window leads to scores of broken windows; broken windows signal the breakdown of neighborhood social control; neighborhoods become “vulnerable to criminal invasion,” communities ridden with destruction, drug dealing, prostitution, robbery, and ultimately, serious violence.

In essence, Kelling and Wilson argued that latent danger loomed everywhere, and everywhere people’s disorderly impulses needed to be repressed, or else. Their “broken windows theory” didn’t stay theoretical: Also known as order maintenance policing, this tactic propelled an entire generation of policing practice that sought to crack down on minor “quality-of-life” infractions as a way to stem violence.

As taken up by police in New York City, Los Angeles, and across the country, broken windows policing led to the aggressive use of stops, summons, and misdemeanor arrests in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods. More than 30 years later, theevidence demonstrates that the broken windows paradigm does little to nothing to reduce serious crime but does tend to make people feelmore unsafe, reduce trust in and cooperation with police, and could contribute to, in fact, producing and facilitating more violence.

While police departments often recognize that “ we can’t arrest our way out of the problem,” the broken windows paradigm remains active throughout policing. Perhaps most significantly, it still colors how the public views violence and demands responses to it: both as a danger that characterizes entire poor communities of color, and as a menace that poses a constant threat.

This long-held view is, simply, wrong.

The knowledge that we’ve gained since 1982 unequivocally tells us something else: Serious violence is extremely concentrated in very particular places and, most importantly, among very particular people. Dispelling the notion of “dangerous neighborhoods,” extensive research on geographic concentration has consistently found that around half of all crime complaints or incidents of gun violence concentrated at about 5 percent of street segments or blocks in a given city. Moving past “violent communities,” sophisticated analysis of social networks have demonstrated that homicides and shootings are strongly concentrated within small social networks within cities—and that there is even further concentration of violence within these social networks.

For example: In Chicago, a city often used in the media and elsewhere as an example of the worst of American urban violence, researchers found that a social network with only 6 percent of the city’s population accounted for 70 percent of nonfatal gunshot victimizations. Violent crime isn’t waiting to happen on any given block of a poorer neighborhood, nor is it likely to arise from just anyone who happens to live in one.

And, despite claims to the contrary about upticks in violence associated with the “ Ferguson Effect” or “ ACLU Effect”—reductions in street stops when police have opted to, or have been forced to, change enforcement practices—massive levels of low-level enforcement does not produce public safety. In fact, such policing can make communities less safe by pushing people away from formal means of resolving disputes and towards private forms of violence. So how can we explain the nature of serious urban violence?

At the American Society of Criminology’s annual conference, my colleagues and I at the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College presented evidence of what many in the violence prevention field have known for a long time, but has yet to become the public common sense. In our study of serious violence in over 20 cities, we found that less than 1 percent of a city’s population—the share involved in what we call “street groups” (gangs, sets, and crews)—is generally connected to over 50 percent of the city’s shootings and homicides. We use “group” as a term inclusive of any social network involved in violence, whether they are hierarchical, formal gangs, or loose neighborhood crews. In city after city, the very small number of people involved in these groups consistently perpetrated and were victimized by the most serious violence.

To be clear: The number of group-involved people actually committing homicides or shootings is still far smaller than the less-than-1-percent of a city’s population in these groups.

National Network for Safe Communities/John Jay College

This held true even in areas considered chronically “dangerous,” like parts of East Baltimore. There, the group member population totaled only three quarters of a percentage point, even as they were connected to 58.43 percent of homicides. Shootings tend to be even more concentrated than homicides. In Minneapolis, we found that 0.15 percent of the population was determined to be involved in groups, but this population was connected to 53.96 percent of shootings—a proportion over 350 times higher than their population representation.

More than geography or social networks, this evidence offers the most focused lens yet in to what violence really looks like in American cities. Crucially, focusing on groups offers an explanation for homicides and shootings in ways that other theories have not. Broken windows theory posits that public disorder encourages lawlessness of all sorts. But it’s not clear why exactly someone who has started breaking the windows of abandoned cars—or someone simply observing petty acts of vandalism—would conclude from this that it’s also acceptable to shoot other human beings. While violence is concentrated in very particular places, it’s not the places themselves that are committing homicides.

Rather, to understand violence, our research points again to the context, norms, and dynamics of street groups. Street groups involved in violence are generally composed of young men of color living in communities with long histories of structural discrimination and alienation from state institutions, particularly law enforcement. These areas have generally suffered from both over-enforcement and under-protection. Intrusive, broken-windows-style policing means mass stop-and-frisk interactions, along with tickets and arrests for minor offenses—but it doesn’t come with an equivalent investment in preventing or solving offenses like homicide. Indeed, it often makes it harder to do so, thanks to the cycle of mistrust between police and community members. The near-total impunity for homicides and shootings in distressed communities signals that the state can’t or won’t actually protect people from the most significant harm.

Where that’s true, people feel the need to protect themselves and settle disputes through other means, including private violence. Street groups offer the perception of safety, but tend to embed norms and behaviors that produce violence and put group members at even more risk. Those norms include the use of violence to defend status and solve disputes, the presence of gun carrying, and cycles of retaliation. Being involved with a street group makes people more likely to be both a perpetrator and a victim of serious violence. It’s not a surprise that groups are disproportionately connected to the total violence in a city—violence is acted out by people within a context of alienation from formal public safety systems and who face a very real fear of victimization.

If we recognize how violence actually transpires in our cities, we can reorient how we try to stop it. Less than 1 percent of the population is involved in groups connected to half of homicides and shootings—but there is, in fact, a far smaller number of people within those groups directly involved in committing that violence. We should direct public safety approaches at this tiny subset of the population, and recognize the concentration of trauma and violence around them. For example, hospital intervention, street outreach, and focused deterrence strategies all focus resources on the people at highest risk of being involved in violence. The strategies that focus specifically on groups offer a more effective, and less damaging, approach to preventing violence than surveilling a vast number of unknown perpetrators across entire areas of a city.

Changing public consciousness about the nature of violent crime is crucial to undermining the appeal of the broken windows paradigm. The notion that public disorder drives criminality can seem an intuitive approach to public safety. But if people understand that most serious violence circles specific interpersonal group dynamics in structurally disadvantaged communities, order maintenance policing seems more like what study after study shows it is: an unnecessary evil.

That doesn’t mean there’s no connection between the condition of the built environment and crime: Some kinds of place-based interventions, such as cleaning and converting vacant land, for example, do appear to increase public safety. But those projects don’t use arrests or stops to fix broken windows. Stopping violent crime means addressing the risks and needs of those most likely to be involved in it. Now that we have clear evidence of the extraordinary concentration of that risk in American cities, we can and should follow those facts, not a theory that’s only ever been just that.

Stephen Lurie is a writer and former research and policy advisor at the National Network for Safe Communities. He is based in Brooklyn. 

To do important work, start by making invisible commitments.

By Ayse Birsel

If you’re finding it hard to make time for work that is important, you’re not alone. Recently I talked with Dorie Clark, the author of Stand Out, and Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership at Harvard Business School and author of The Fearless Organization, both of whom talked about the challenge of saying no in the short term for important work to emerge in the long term. 

It can be hard to say no to opportunities that are currently in front of you in order to make time for what Edmondson calls the “invisible commitments,” which are things in the future that are not real yet. 

“What’s hard is to recognize the invisible commitments one should make to thinking, reflecting, creating, investing in learning and growth toward something more important, rather than lots of little things,” she said.

Amy Edmondson on invisible commitments.Ayse Birsel

You know how easy and often wonderful it is to find yourself in demand. It’s nice when people you’ve always wanted to work with ask for your time, you’re invited to give keynotes, social media beckons for your attention constantly, and email is a constant.

Clark says it’s easy to say yes to these things because they are right in front of you and you know what they are. The conundrum is to push away a tangible opportunity in the short term to make time for something that is not yet real but has the potential to become important in the long term. The trick is “saying no to more things and pruning obligations to open space for things that are less defined and not quite real yet.”

Dorie Clark on pruning obligations.Ayse Birsel

This reminds me of what Steve Jobs advised Nike CEO Mark Parker: “Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Even though Jobs meant it in the context of designing products, it’s a great analogy for thinking about our work.

So, how do you know what to say no to? Here are five simple considerations to prune your work to make space for the invisible commitments: 

1. Say no to things, not people.

Think about what versus whom you’re saying no to. There are some people who will inspire you, lift you up, help expand your thinking to another level. Prune the obligations, not your people. Say yes to them and to the opportunities, big or small, to hang out or collaborate with them.

2. Say no to things someone else can do. 

Delegate things that somebody else can do. Accepting that you cannot and don’t need to be the master of everything is liberating. This is an opportunity to collaborate with capable, talented people and to let them shine.

3. Say no to all work, no fun.

Stop working nonstop. Boredom can lead to higher creativity. Take time to be bored and to let your mind wander free of constant distractions. Along those same lines, say yes to sleeping. You can and should literally sleep on things and let your unconscious do its work while you’re sleeping. 

4. Say no to days crammed with meetings.

If you spend your days going from one meeting to another, block an hour every day for a different kind of meeting I call the magic hour. It’s an hour a day where you reflect, think creatively, and problem-solve. Protect this time by making it a repeatable habit, preferably the same time each day, when your brain is not tired, with no email or social media. Even one hour spent on your growth project will add up and pay off.

5. Say no to the negative voice in your head.

Don’t judge your work. The best way to get out of your mind, and be less self-critical, is to get into work and produce something. Anything. To do this, set a manageable and nonjudgmental goal, such as I will write this many words or create this many sketches. The work adds up, and some days are better than others.

by Jordan Rock

Let me start by saying I’m not entirely sure how I ended up here. My life has been needlessly complicated and full of drama, half of which I caused myself. No, I’m not going to step up to this mike and try and get over by saying this was destiny or all according to some master plan or any of that garbage. Instead, I’ll tell it to you like this; life is not a highway; it’s a catapult. You wake up inside the basket, and before you know it, you’re getting launched over the horizon with no parachute. That’s the only way I can explain how I went from being a shy 12-year-old kid watching the warm rain fall over New Orleans to a jaded 20-something watching the Portland Skyline as it gets drenched. That’s Portland, Oregon, for the record.
How in the hell did I end up here? Well, we’ll get to that later.


My name is Jordan Rock, and in my short time on planet Earth, I’ve been a lot of things. Stage performer, fiction writer, public speaker, sketch artist, food service worker, film scholar, and most recently; animation student. More than any of those things, what I’ve always been, and commit to being is a Storyteller. Mostly, I prefer to write pieces of fiction, none of which is currently published. Don’t bother looking for my work, because, frankly, you won’t find it. To you, I’m a nobody, and for the moment, I’m fine with that assessment. It means that when I speak to you about matters that are important to me, you just have to take my word that I’m being serious and honest with you. Telling stories is my passion, and that’s what I intend to do over the course of this article and others. I want to tell you, in neat little pieces all about New Orleans, how I was taken away from it, and why I’m not there presently.


Actually, let me ask; who are You? If you’re reading this, I assume you’re a New Orleans native like me. And you like to read, probably half out of spite because folks don’t like to read any more. Probably you live in the city, or someone who does told you to take a look at this. That’s my best guess, anyway. I could be wrong; you could be someone that has no idea what I’m talking about. Either way, thanks for coming.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick rundown. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came barreling up the Gulf Coast and hit New Orleans head on. People were expecting a big blowout. Every once in a while, a major tropical storm hits New Orleans, it’s just a matter of course. The wind and the rain will come, and some trees will get blown down, maybe a window will get cracked, so tape ‘em up. You know the drill, storms come, and they go, and you just pick up the pieces and get back to your life. Nothing special.

That’s the sentiment I remember hearing from the grown-ups around me. I was 12 years old at the time, and I was full of anxiety about the storm. It was one of the few times that I paid attention to the news as a kid, trying to guess at how bad things would get. It wasn’t until two days before the hurricane hit landfall that my family made a decision about what to do. All of the news reports prophesized a calamity, and to me, at the time, seeing that massive swirling cloud on the weather report was like looking straight down the barrel of a gun. I don’t think anyone could have imagined how heavy the blow would be.

Let me take a second to talk to you about my city. Your city. Do you remember New Orleans? That’s a trick question; everybody knows the city a little bit differently. To me, New Orleans is good music and good food and art, some kind of art everywhere you look. I remember walking under the ancient oaks that lined the path to the New Orleans Museum of Art. I remember going to the sandwich shop on Magazine Street. Hummingbirds and owls and rats and roaches. The smell of hot sausage cooking and the sound of buck jumpers shuffling their way down cracked pavement. All sorts of music and stories, stories, stories.

I remember the warm rains in the summertime, the kind you could set your watch by. Bad streets and good people. The kindest, most jocular people on the planet Earth. That’s New Orleans. And now? Last time I came home, here’s what I saw; New Orleans is like a stained-glass window that got broken in a storm. It’s beautiful; you can see the light change color as it passes through the glass that’s still there, but you know the pieces are everywhere and nowhere, and what it was is beyond repair. I wouldn’t return to New Orleans properly until I was 15 years old. Exploring the devastated remains of my city then, as an angsty, cynical teenager hurt me in ways I have a hard time describing even now.
Now, I know how cynical and tired that sounds, but I promise; I’m going somewhere with this. This piece is Part One of Two, after all, so tune in next time to hear the rest of my immediate thoughts on the matter.