March 6 – March 19, 2014


Even for a Visit, Prison Was No Fun

wayne youngThe clean-cut guard manning the visitors’ entrance asked me to sit on the wooden bench situated just before the cold steel entry gates.  I sat. His dog sniffed me; he was trying to see if I had illegal drugs on or in my body. I fought myself from feeling dehumanized.  My head started to swim as I wondered how much of my tax dollars are paying for this exercise that guards repeat on every visitor, at every prison around the country.

I learned many things during a recent visit on the other side of the bricked walls of the Jessup Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland.  The last thing on my mind was that this was a place to encourage someone to have compassion or to correct any one’s behavior.

I continued to absorb the rough environment as I sat across the chin-high steel metal molding that separated me from Tyrone, our incarcerated contributor.  I looked into his face and saw myself, a Black man getting older. There were plenty of Black men there, more than enough to make the many singles on this side to sing “Sweet Jubilee.”

Tyrone and I talked for more than an hour on a range of subjects, from computers and Obama to changes in the prison system and the Syrian conflict. We had an interesting side conversation about the number of Nigerian-American guards at the prison including a friend of mine. 

tyrone colbet and ivy  vspace=5 hspace=5 align=leftAs you may know, Tyrone met his girlfriend, Ivy, (left) through the magazine. And we talked about how they depend upon the telephone to communicate, I shared with him how in the day of texting and Skype, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is finally looking into ending the phone company’s practice of charging mainly low-income families exorbitant amounts to maintain contact with loved-ones in prison.

I have not always been keen on prison reform issues. I once thought that all prisoners were just bad, stupid people until I met Jennifer Smith, who recently died.  She wasn’t an ex-con. She was just a community-oriented person who volunteered teaching prisoners how to write. I now join her as seeing the prison system as a collection of missed opportunities.

Prison reform is not about letting criminals go free, it’s about keeping people out of prison and working to make sure they are productive, contributing citizens. Prison reform is also about making sure that we continue to invest in prisoners so that when we release them, we release men and women who are more likely to become productive, contributing citizens.  Here are some encouraging words from those who are making changes happen.

Communication Reform –   FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn
“After ten long years, I'm proud to share with my colleagues a proposal to reform the exorbitant
Interstate inmate calling regime . . . I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the costs of
Interstate inmate calling service phone calls are reasonable.”

Sentencing Reform – Attorney General Eric Holder
 “The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old. There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.”

Holder then directed his 94 U.S. attorneys across the country to stop charging low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences. He also introduced a policy to reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and find alternatives to prison for nonviolent criminals.

The U.S. Prison Population Declined for Third Consecutive Year - The Sentencing Project
At current rate of decline, it will require 88 years to return to the 1980 level of incarceration.  However, racial disparities in incarceration rates persist: Black men were 6 times as likely to be incarcerated as their White counterparts; Hispanics were 2.5 times as likely.


Free Mammogram Breast Screening – Prince George’s

 free mammogram in prnce george's
If you live in Prince George’s County, Maryland, uninsured, low-income and between the ages 40-65 years-old, you are eligible for a free digital mammogram.  For more information call 301-552-8524. 

Independence Day – Ghana

ghana independence 2014 
"The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the whole Africa continent."

  • Kwame Nkrumah - March 6, 1957, Ghana's Day of Independence.
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Jason Collins Joins Black Male Sports Trail Blazers

jason collins and jackie robinson 
In 1936, Jesse Owens competed for the United States in the Berlin Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler used the games to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany.  Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of "Aryan racial superiority" and depicted ethnic Africans as inferior.  Owens countered by winning four gold medals. 

jackie robinson11 years later, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947. Brooklyn became the first major league team to play a Black man since the 1880s.

More than 67 years later, on April 29, 2013, Jason Collins became the first active male professional athlete in a major North American team sport to come out publicly as gay.  He remained a free agent until February 23, 2014, when he signed a 10 day contract with the Brooklyn Nets - - and Brooklyn again became the center of inclusion.  He entered a game against the Los Angeles Lakers that night, becoming the NBA's first openly gay player.

Brooklyn has schools named for Owens and Robinson.  Collins may be next.

World Celebrates Lupita Nyong'o Oscar Win

lupita nyong'o brooklyn 
"We all had hoped of course that she would win. Everybody feels a sudden attachment to her, she's a Kenyan woman," said Wanjira Maathai — the daughter of the late Kenyan Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai about Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong'o.  Nyong’o, 31, was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents but was mostly raised in Kenya. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Nyong'o had starred in several productions in Kenya before landing her breakout role alongside Brad Pitt.

Everybody likes a winner and besides Kenyans, Brooklynites are claiming the Oscar award winner. “Last night, Brooklyn celebrates the Oscars won by three of its very own, including actress Lupita Nyong'o," said Brooklyn Borough President Adams.

In her acceptance speech, Nyong’o said, “I want to thank my family, for your training, and the Yale School of Drama as well, for your training.”  And James Bundy, dean of the Yale School of Drama, reciprocated,  “I am thrilled for Lupita, and filled with admiration, both because her performance was so remarkable, and because she has so graciously and eloquently expressed the importance of ‘12 Years a Slave’ by representing the film throughout this awards season.”

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ivan brown realty


Washington, DC
Play: Your Majesty – The Kingdom of Beulah
2130 24th Place, NE
Sat, Mar 8, 7p, donations

Your Inner Fish:
Environmental Film Festival
National Academy of Sciences
2101 Constitution Ave NW
Tue, Mar 18, 7p- 9p, free

Harriet Tubman
MLK,Jr. Library
9th & G Sts NW
CR Gibbs & Others
Tue, Mar 11, 7p, free

New African Films Festival
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
8633 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD
Mar 13-Mar 20, $

Washington –Coming
National Black Memorabilia & Collectible Show
Montgomery County Fairgrounds
16 Chestnut Street
Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Sat, Apr 26, 10a-7p, 
Sun, Apr 27. 10a-5p, $7, students free

Play: Your Majesty – The Kingdom of Beulah
Christ Throne Ministries
1730 Whitehead Road
Gywnn Oak, MD
Fri, Mar 7, 7p, donations

2014 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship
Baltimore Arena
Fri, Mar 7- Mon, Mar 10, $

Hampton, VA
Hampton Restaurant Week
Through Mar 9, $

POHGEP Facebook Friends

“I want to interact with them socially and culturally,” said Awa Bojang,  student at Kotu Secondary High School in Kotu, The Gambia, West Africa.  “I want to learn from them and they can learn from us,” added her classmate Isatou Dibbasey.  Bojang and Dibbasey are both members of the Port of Harlem Gambian Education Partnership Facebook Friends (POHGEP Facebook Friends) group.

POHGEP Facebook Friends is a project of the Port Of Harlem Gambian Education Partnership (POHGEP). POHGEP has been connecting people since 2002 and proud that this project connects students at Kotu with students at Cultural Leadership in Saint Louis, Missouri USA. The project provides both groups the opportunity to experience a different culture using contemporary technology.

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NAACP to Return to United Nations for U.S. ICCPR Review


Then NAACP will return to the United Nations for the U.S. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) review to highlight voting rights and criminal justice concerns including felony disenfranchisement laws.  

The delegation for the NAACP will be at the United Nations in Geneva for the review from March 9-15. Included in the delegation is Kemba Smith-Pradia of the Kemba Smith Foundation, who once graced our cover.

The (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and in force from March 23, 1976. It commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial


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