port of harlem snippets

May 16 - May 29, 2013


champion services travel - group travel

The Forgotten Shades of Gun Violence

t michael colbertThe tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School reignited the national debate over gun control. While the pundits exchange political jabs over tougher gun laws, I see gun violence continuing to reach deeper into the African-American community by adding more faces to the already long list of causalities.  Those causalities include the victim’s family, the community and even the perpetrator.

However, long after the media has exited the victim’s neighborhood, the wind has blown away the yellow police tape and the candlelight vigils have flickered away from memory, the victim’s family will carry the heartache of having to bury a loved one for the rest of their lives.  Then, an unmerciful fear of experiencing the loss of another family member to violence may grip the family.  But, while the victim and the victim’s family suffer the most obvious and a very personal loss, there are others who suffer along with them.

Another casualty is the victim’s community, which is left with a broken family, which leads to a broken village.  Long-term psychological problems take up residence, leaving people feeling terrorized and held hostage in their own neighborhoods. We have witnessed what happens when communities become too crumbled:  people with the means move away, businesses fail or move away, property values plummet and hopelessness sets in like the cold in a bitter winter.

The final and often forgotten casualty is the criminal, his/her family and community.  The criminal becomes separated from his or her family and community, which should be the epicenter of his or her support. 

Brother Curtis, a 48-year-old grandfather, laments over his daughter’s fights in high school.  “We have been in touch, but I am not able to be a part of her life.  She told me that she acts out in school because I am locked up.”
My old celly (cellmate) says his incarceration has affected his family, too.  “My cousin and I were tight. After my conviction, every one ridiculed her because of the crime I committed. Years have gone by and we have not communicated.”

Once in prison, what nurturing that was previously available disappears.  Instead of receiving the life, job and other skills in prison that are  needed to survive and thrive in the world outside the judicial system, many prisoners are only expected to obtain their GED.  

Sure, many prisons have voluntary self-help programs.  However, only the motivated respond.  For the less-motivated and those whose incarceration stole their motivation, the depression often brought on by prison conditions motivates them to feel discarded.  This very sadly too often leads to substance abuse and other destructive devices.

Yes, gun violence has captured the national and international headlines, sparked protests, provoked debates and forced us to examine the implications of our gun laws. Part of the debate on gun violence should be the “School to Prison Pipeline,” that is too prevalent in the African-American community and the lack of attention society gives to the root of violent criminal behavior.  However, it is my most ardent prayer that all the casualties of gun violence remain at the heart of the discussion so that all the shades of gun violence will be much lighter in the future.

Baba Kwame Ishangi Celebration in The Gambia

baba kwame ishangi

Family and friends of the late Baba Kwame Ishangi are planning to celebrate his life in The Gambia.  “He was a pioneer in the introduction and retention of pan-African culture in the United States,” says his friend Adeyemi Bandele.  Ishangi was born in Philadelphia and based in New York before making Atlanta his base.  He managed the Ishangi Family Dancers and Drummers.

He helped established the Ishangi Kunda Arts Center in The Gambia where he died October 22, 2003.  The memorial trip is October 17 - October 28, 2013. For more information contact Adeyemi Bandele, 240-432-6081.

Beyond Hugo Chavez:
What to Expect in Latin America

hugo chavezThe Hudson Institute’s panel discussion on the future of Venezuela featured  four males, all White, with a packed audience of more than 120 people in downtown Washington.  Only 5 people in the audience were Black, 6 were non-White. 

During the discussion, Luis Rubio, political analyst, said what distinguished Chavez from other influence peddlers was his “unlimited purse” the he filled with the country’s oil money.  Pedro Bureli, Managing Partner at B&V Consulting, went on to characterize Chavez as offering his supporters “faulty promises” and his country’s “patronage with no check and balances.”

When asked by POH why so many African-Venezuelans supported Chavez and what his group would do to meet their needs, Bureli would not even strongly acknowledge that such a voting block exists, calling it a “faux issue.”  He did add that the focus should be on a Chavez ally, the Cuban government.  “Black Cubans,” he said, “are underrepresented throughout the government apparatus.”

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2013 Sweetgrass
Cultural Arts Festival
West African Traditions Survive
in North America

sweetgrass festivalThe 2013 Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival starts Friday, May 31 with the “Real Taste of Gullah Banquet" from 6p to 10p at the Town of Mt. Pleasant Waterfront Memorial Park Visitors Center Cooper River Room in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

Renowned local artist, Jonathan Green will present an illustrated talk with a look into the history of the Gullah Geechee people's rice culture, followed by the African Rice dance performed by students from Sanders Clyde Elementary School.

Guests will be treated to a unique fashion show featuring sweetgrass hats and evening purses designed and made by local sweetgrass basket makers and modeled by the Charleston Hat Ladies. Visitors will witness the ceremonial "Passing on the Tradition" of sweetgrass basket making to the next generation. Entertainment will be provided by songstress Zandrina Dunning, saxophonist Devon Gary and the Secret Jazz Band. Tickets are $50 and may be purchased online or 843-856-9732.

New this year, the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival on Saturday, June 1 from 12p to 8p, will feature the Imani Milele Children’s Choir from Uganda, East Africa.


The Roberto Clemente Story

roberto clementeIn the audience the night I saw DC7-The Roberto Clemente Story, Pedro Sierra was there.  Sierra is Afro-Cuban and played with the Indianapolis Clowns (1954) and the Detroit Stars (1955-1958) of the Negro League.  Sierra’s presence reinforced how much Afro-Americans overlook how connected we are with our Spanish-speaking cousins, which makes seeing the play about the Afro-Puerto Rican baseball player a great event that can bridge the knowledge and appreciation gap.

Though Clemente’s life was admirable - -  his accomplishments doesn’t seem on par with that of the likes of Jackie Robinson.  However, the use of both Spanish and English to tell his story was a creative victory.

Clemente, however, had his firsts including the first Hispanic to:  Win a World Series as a starter (1960), receive an MVP award (1966) and receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).  Clemente is probably most remembered for his love of his/our people, he died in a plane crash on his way to personally deliver relief to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

roberto clementeHowever, Clemente also helped finance the Black Panther’s Party’s Breakfast program.  And, the segment of the play showing Clemente’s love for Dr. King seemed out of place until I read after the play that Clemente had hosted Martin Luther King, Jr. on his farm in Puerto Rico - - somehow that story never seems to make it in the countless stories on King.

The play’s actors were also a festival of pan-African cooperation with Modesto Lacen, who convincingly played Clemente, hailing from Puerto Rico, Keren Lugo (wife) and Joseean Ortiz (brother) are also from Puerto Rico. Xiomara Rodriquez (mother) hails from the Dominican Republic and Miguel A. Vasquez Cartegena (father) is from Peru.

It was encouraging to the see the bits of African culture that English and Spanish speaking Blacks share, but I am sure there were some Hispanic culture nuances I missed.  One I did gather is the tradition of using both parents’ last names; therefore, sometimes in the play they will refer to him as Roberto Clemente Walker, with Walker being his mother’s last name.

The play motived me to learn more about Clemente and experience the sting of having an Anglo-African-American bias. As one rogue cop said in the performance, “A N is a N, no matter what language he speaks.” The experience of Black life from a Spanish-speaker's perspective made the play worthwhile, the singing, dancing and music made the play even more memorable.

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Things to Do

The 18th Belgian Pride
Till Sat, May 18

roberto clemente

DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story
GALA Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC
Through Sun, May 26
Thu-Sat 8p & Sun 3p, $20-$42

Beneatha's Place
Center Stage
200 North Calvert St.
Through  Sun, Jun 16, $

Cooking Your Way to a Healthy "African" Diet
Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School 
1100 Harvard Street, NW
Washington, DC
Fri, May 17, 9:15a -10:15a, free

Miya Gallery Collection Yard/Garage Sale
4309 Miami Pl
Baltimore, MD
Sat, May 18 – Sun, May 19 and
Sat, May 24 – Sun May 25, 11a-5p

Festival of Nations
Tucker Road Athletic Complex
1770 Tucker Road
Fort Washington, MD
Sun, May 19, noon- 5p, free

Juice Veggies Health.Com
Awareness Workshop
Beverly Coleman McFarland
board certified holistic nutritionist
Van Buren United Methodist Church
35 Van Buren Street, NW
Washington, DC
Mon, May 20, 6:30p- 8:30p, $10

Modern Freemasonry & How It Affects Your Money
Woodridge Library
Washington, DC
Sam El-Amin
Wed, May 22, 7p, free

Marietta Wine Festival
Marietta House Museum,
5626 Bell Station Rd
Glenn Dale, MD
Sat May 25, 11a-6p, $15

Us Helping Us 25th Anniversary
Backyard BBQ
3636 Georgia Ave, NW
Sat, May 25, 2p-9p, $25 suggested

A Drag Salute to The DIVAS
Howard Theatre
620 T Street N.E.
Sun, May 26, 7p
$20 in advance, $25 day of show

cr gibbs

The Secret History of Juneteenth
Woodridge Library
Washington, DC
CR Gibbs
Wed, May 29, 7p, free

New York (Greater)
The "Appalachian Spring" Concert
The Harlem Chamber Player
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
521 West 126th St
New York, NY
Sun, May 19, 3p, $15, $10 students/seniors

Wilmington Grand Prix - Cycling
Fri, May 17- Sun, May 19

Fair Housing Celebration Highlights the Value of Thriving Communities II of III

The Poverty & Race Research Action Council has issued a press release about the HUD Fair Housing month event that celebrated the settlement of a major housing discrimination case in Baltimore, MD.

The release details how the lives of three African American women and their families changed dramatically after they moved from inner city housing projects to housing in “opportunity neighborhoods.” (This is the third (last) in a series of three articles to run consecutively in Snippets.)

hud beneficiaries

Photo:  Beneficiaries of the Thompson settlement speaking at a HUD ceremony.  Left to right, Nicole Smith, Michelle Green, Sabrina Oliver and Tameka Johnson.  Barbara Samuels, Fair Housing Managing Attorney at ACLU of Maryland, is on the far right.

Michelle Green’s Story

Michelle Green lives in Baltimore County. She said the Thompson settlement “may have saved my sons’ lives.” She has four boys.  She lived with her oldest son in public housing in Lexington Terrace and many of her family members lived in the same neighborhood.

“My sister and I often worried about our sons,” she said. “We understood how difficult it is for decent boys who are trying to do the right thing to avoid violence in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, our fears were realized in the worst way when my nephew was killed while walking home from our local convenience store. The robbers thought that he had money.  He never got to finish high school; he never had a chance. I wanted to give my son a chance to live and a chance to graduate from high school, which was very rare in my (old) neighborhood.”

Green said the voucher she received from the case gave her family a chance. She said it gave her the opportunity to move to a neighborhood that was safe.

 “As soon as I got my voucher, I moved to a wonderful neighborhood in Columbia,” she said. “My boys received a warm welcome and felt really safe there. Thankfully, my two oldest sons attended middle school and high school in Columbia [MD]. They were both very active in school sports, and the coaches, the teachers and the students loved them. The day that my oldest son graduated from high school was the proudest moment of my life. He is doing well and is getting licensed to be a forklift operator.”

Green said her second son also graduated from high school and is planning to apply to colleges.

“They have made it past the most difficult age and are productive members of society,” she said. “And they are safe. Recently, I moved from Columbia to Baltimore County to be closer to the city to care for my grandmother. But I would never move back to Lexington Terrace. My two youngest sons are doing well in our new neighborhood in Catonsville. They get good grades, participate in sports and are both determined to go to college. The neighbors love them, and they even earn extra money by mowing the neighbors’ lawns. I don’t worry about my kids’ safety anymore. I am less stressed and am able to go to work and even went back to school. I support the Thompson settlement because I believe that it can save lives.”

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New Orleans and Back

new orleans and back

Some people have not forgotten Katrina and its victims.  One of those groups, New Orleans and Back, is based at the Capitol Hill Campus of the César Chávez Public Charter School System in Washington, D.C. 

The group is based in art, but each year the students spend two weeks engaged in policy projects.  They spend their sophomore year engaged in a community action project which involves the rebuilding a post-Katrina New Orleans.


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