Positive Black Male News: A 13-year-old mother, a murdered father and a scholarship to Yale

Positive Black Male News: A 13-year-old mother, a murdered father and a scholarship to Yale

Boys II Men

-14ead52d78e48c6eBy: By Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune

Leonard Galmon’s favorite artwork from his senior year, his first and only year at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, was on display this spring at the Contemporary Arts Center. The three-dimensional painting-collage shows a young man in a gray hoodie, his shoulders hunched, looking back at the viewer. On the ground behind him is a gun. The young man’s shadow stretches over it.

To the artist, it’s a simple exhortation: Walk away from trouble.

If Leonard, 17, had grown up in different circumstances, there are things that would have come to him as a matter of course. Enough food for the whole family, all month long. A good school. An art class with proper supplies. For most of his life, he had none of these things. What he had was a family that loved him, a library, a school, an art class. He made the most of them, until he at last saw a way to something more.

Leonard Galmon — artist, oldest of six children, son of a 13-year-old girl and a murdered drug dealer, veteran of one of the worst schools in New Orleans — is going to Yale.

When he wrote his college essay, “We were told to think about stability and instability.” Leonard said. “I got to thinking about my life. It hasn’t ever been stable.”

He doesn’t remember his father, Leonard Morgan. Though “he wasn’t exactly a model citizen,” as Leonard puts it — he sold drugs — he was liked by everyone except Leonard’s great-grandmother. She wanted to have him arrested when Morgan, 19, got her very young granddaughter, Wanda, pregnant. Like his son, Morgan was quiet but smiled a lot. He would watch the boy while Wanda was at high school. When Leonard was 4, his father was killed on the streets of the Magnolia public housing development, on a bright, sunny day with hundreds of people around.

When speaking of those days, Leonard unconsciously slips into the second person.

You always ran out of food stamps before the end of the month. Sometimes you came home to find the electricity turned off. Sometimes you bunked with friends and family. You never had any money of your own. If you found a $20 on the street, you brought it right home for the family.

As the oldest child, Leonard cooked and helped with homework, filling, in a child’s way, the role of the head of the household. “Life wasn’t easy, but I always knew at least one other kid, someone else, who had it worse,” he said. “I don’t want people feeling sorry for me.”

Occasionally he wondered whether stealing or dealing might make sense. The drug dealers were surrogate fathers in a way, maintainers of order and community. They’d tell your mom if you misbehaved and give you a dollar to get something at the store.

“Your parents always told you it was a bad thing — don’t do this, don’t do that — but sometimes your parents were the people doing these things,” Leonard said. “It felt very normal. Now, I know that’s not normal.”

His uncle, Alfred Galmon, remembers standing, one nephew in either arm — Leonard, 4, and Joseph, 2 — holding them up to see their father’s casket. Galmon knew he’d have to be their father figure now.

It didn’t work out that way. Galmon said he made mistakes for many years, chose the wrong route. Leonard said that for most of his life, his uncle wasn’t the best role model.

But he did teach Leonard how to draw.

For 9-year-old Leonard, Hurricane Katrina was an adventure: leaving their building when it started to shake, the sight of the building afterwards with its wall ripped off, the night they slept on the Claiborne Avenue bridge, the walk across to the West Bank pushing the youngest, a newborn, in a shopping basket.

Then it was a blessing. “I know Katrina was, like, a really bad thing. But it opened my eyes to a lot of stuff. I realized the world was much bigger than New Orleans,” he said.

In Houston, the young black ex-pat from New Orleans made his first non-black friend, a Hispanic boy. He began reading three or four books a week; the family called him Novelhead. He started to think about his future. “I became very optimistic. I believe people can do whatever they want. I always knew I was going to do something. I just never knew what.”

The promise of urban education is that a good school can change the trajectory of a child’s life. Professional educators, say reformers, can provide the crucial assistance for students who want to go far beyond what their parents accomplished, students whose parents desperately want them to go to college but sometimes haven’t been able to help with their homework for years. Reformers hope a good school can create a road map to reach dreams, like the ones Leonard was beginning to have.

Leonard came back to New Orleans and enrolled in one of the worst schools in the city.

To Leonard’s understanding, the family returned to town a few weeks after classes began for his freshman year. Many schools were full. Walter L. Cohen High still had room, however, and it was right down the street from their home. It also gave students only a 38 percent chance of graduating in four years. The only city school with a lower grade on the state’s report card had closed over the summer.

“It wasn’t a good school at all. My first day there was, like, a riot,” he said. Sometimes there was no permanent teacher, just a succession of substitutes. Sometimes he had to teach himself the material. There were no advanced classes. Cohen High got smaller each year as the state Recovery School District moved towards closing it, and remained an F school.

As if to add insult to injury, in 2012 a new charter school opened upstairs: Cohen College Prep. Its staff painted the dingy walls a clean, bright white and plastered them with college pennants.

Downstairs at Leonard’s school, Cohen High, some of the teachers were good. “Obviously I learned at the school because I didn’t just become smart this year,” Leonard said. But “I probably could have been way smarter if I had gone to a real high school. That school didn’t feel real. We played around a lot.”

Nonetheless, he stayed. Maybe he needed some stability after those unstable years and the Katrina disruption. He’d become shy. He stayed even though the family moved farther away to the 9th Ward, a one-hour, 45-minute commute.

He thought about applying to NOCCA at the end of freshman year, for writing, but found he’d missed the deadline. Instead of going to NOCCA for his sophomore year, he joined the Cohen High art class.

It took place in a cinderblock room cluttered with desks, with one window and one easel that the teacher brought from home. Only five or six kids wanted to take the class. There weren’t a lot of assignments. It wasn’t a very serious endeavor.

The teacher gave Leonard paint. He picked up a brush. The world unfolded before his eyes. His first painting was chosen for a Contemporary Arts Center youth exhibit.

During the summer after his sophomore year, he sat in his new room at home — the first he’d ever had to himself, after living seven people in a shotgun — and drew faces over and over.

All the upheaval in New Orleans public education since Katrina — the state takeover of 80 percent of the city’s schools, the extensive school closures that rend holes in a neighborhood and in people’s memories, the charters that come and go, the long bus rides — has a goal: a better future for the children. Leonard would certainly have graduated from Cohen and probably gone to some college or another. But the new system is supposed to provide more. It’s supposed to grasp the Leonards of the world like an arrow in a bow, to point them at their target, to pull back and let fly.

At the last possible moment, in junior year, Leonard identified his target. Cohen High “was comfortable. But college — I needed to go to college,” he said, and “I knew I would need a lot of help.” Of his three art-class friends, all seniors, one was going to Southern University in Baton Rouge, one possibly to Delgado Community College, the third to work.

Leonard decided to switch schools, twice over. He applied to NOCCA’s half-day art program for his senior year. And though some of his Cohen High classmates felt animosity toward Cohen College Prep, the charter they thought was squeezing them out, Leonard thought the newer school would split the difference: a strong college focus, but in the same building. He thought it would be a way to change without changing too much.

Everything changed.

The Cohen College Prep counselors had him apply to top schools, schools he’d never imagined: Wesleyan, Brown. Yale chose him, and he chose Yale. “That’s crazy. I was in denial — I couldn’t believe it at first,” he said. Above that, he was one of only 26 of 5,500 applicants to win a Ron Brown Scholarship, which provides extra money plus support to keep promising future black leaders on track.

Leonard isn’t really sure why all these good things came to him. Sure, he had the highest ACT score of any student in either Cohen High or Cohen College Prep: a 28 out of 36 maximum, putting him in the 90th percentile. “I worked hard. I never feel like I work as hard as other people, though,” he said. “I’ve never considered myself an over-achiever.”

Sitting on the floor of a storage closet at NOCCA, he paged through some of the pieces he made this year. His descriptions are peppered with the word “first”: his first screenprint, his first time painting in oils, his first sculpture, first photography class, first woodcut. The first day of class, he swallowed hard and pinned up his work to be critiqued, certain he wasn’t very good.

There’s a picture he made this spring of his neighborhood, a piece he singed around the edges, juxtaposing disaster and recovery. He regrets he didn’t make it as elaborate as he envisioned, but at the time he had to visit Yale and Tufts. There are still lifes from the levee where he went on a class field trip.

There are assignments he took literally, like the one to make a self-portrait of himself without a head. In that work, Leonard sits in his favorite armchair, wearing his favorite black Converse high-top sneakers, surrounded by stacks of his favorite books (lots of Stephen King) plus some books he hasn’t read yet but wants to — and no head. Several classmates had more creative interpretations of the assignment, he said.

Now he’s trying to convey messages with his work. Was it successful, the piece on layers of transparent plastic, with a United States flag and a politician smirking and extending his hand? Even with the hoodie-and-gun piece, one viewer thought the man had shot someone and dropped the gun.

If they don’t work, that’s OK. “I can always appreciate that I tried it. I can learn from my mistakes,” Leonard said. “I don’t know what I can or can’t do.”

His NOCCA classmates motivated him. Some of them have found their creative voice, he said, but he hasn’t. When he compares his work to theirs, “I’m good, but I’m not the best. I like that. I like still having a way to go.”

But there is a throughline Leonard doesn’t see in his work: the extraordinary faces, the skin mottled in red paint, greens, blues, unlikely elements carefully put together to seem not only natural but inevitable.

He said he already knew how to make art. He just needed to be shown how. All he needed were the ideas, the techniques, the tools, opportunity, guidance.

At the NOCCA year-end art show, almost everyone shows off their own pictures to their family. Leonard pointed out his new friends’ work. He moved easily in the halls, in the beautiful, professional environment — soaring ceilings, skylights, windows, printing equipment, tall sturdy easels — and the multiracial crowd, many members wearing uniforms from the region’s most elite public and private schools. It was easier to make friends at NOCCA, Leonard said, because he could always go up and start a conversation with anyone about art.

Leonard’s artwork is filled with his siblings. They sometimes fall asleep in his room. In one piece, a younger boy hunches over his Christmas scooter, scowling. His sister sleeps, sucking her thumb. His youngest sibling’s stuffed tiger sits on a chair. Timothy daydreams under a tree. Joseph walks away from a gun.

His family knows he’s going somewhere they can’t really imagine. “I’m 38, and I’ve never been around nobody who went to no Yale,” said Galmon, the uncle, shaking his head. “Never thought I’d see that … Yale. That four-letter word means a lot.”

He’s walking away. But they don’t see it as Leonard leaving them behind. He’s their surrogate dad, their role model, their pride.

“As long as I’m standing, I’m going to push him, because his success is my success, too,” Galmon said. He wishes Leonard’s father “were still here to see this. This would have been the ultimate happiness for him.”

Leonard thinks about his father a lot. As he takes his next steps to Connecticut, to art and to whatever comes beyond the target, his father’s story is never far, always there to consider at a quiet moment.

He said, “I’m just wondering about what kind of man I will be.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the brother depicted in the artwork of a boy daydreaming under a tree.


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His Story | Cradle-To-Power: From the Talented Tenth to My Brothers’ Keeper

His Story | Cradle-To-Power: From the Talented Tenth to My Brothers’ Keeper

His Story

By: John Silvanus Wilson Jr. President Morehouse College

Follow John Silvanus Wilson Jr. on Twitter:

This past weekend, I was proud to graduate hundreds of African-American men. But earlier last week, I had to do what no college president should ever have to do. I helped to memorialize one of our students, Clay Cross, who simply traveled home to south Georgia for Mother’s Day, and was killed as an innocent bystander when one group shot at another. Then, while we tried to absorb and understand that loss, news broke in Atlanta about a police search for two assailants who apparently shot and killed nine-month-old Kendarius Edwards, as part of a retaliatory plan. In both instances, the victims and key suspects are African-American and male.

By far, this nation’s most pressing human resource crisis is the worsening condition of African- American boys and men. For too many of them, the statistics tell a mind-numbing, often tragic story that ends in powerlessness and often includes prison time.
To be sure, many contributory factors have delivered us to this sad state of affairs. They range from dysfunctional families where educational achievement is neither valued nor encouraged; misguided social policies that include few preventive or corrective measures; and a criminal justice system wherein the mass incarceration of men of color is embraced as if it is an inevitable “final solution.”

I considered the data and circumstances driving this deficit narrative and I have concluded that Morehouse College and other purpose-driven institutions can play a new, more significant role, if we let history be our guide.
I recall the words of Henry Lyman Morehouse, the white Christian educator for whom our College is named. In 1896, he wrote, “an ordinary education may answer for nine men of mediocrity, but if this is all we offer the talented tenth man, we make a prodigious mistake.” W.E.B. DuBois would later popularize this theory of the “talented tenth” as an imperative for

black college graduates. Both men placed implicit faith in a rigorously trained and well- motivated corps of committed graduates, poised to uplift others and challenge the discriminatory barriers to American progress.

A century after Dr. Morehouse sought the best pathways for young black men, President Obama was compelled to formally address that very same dilemma. Earlier this year, he

launched My Brother’s Keeper, a broad-based collaboration designed to help young men of color to develop the competence and character to succeed in life.

At that announcement, President Obama was channeling Drs. Morehouse and DuBois when he called it an “effort to improve measurably the expected educational and life outcomes for and address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.” Obama then echoed strategies that have driven the work at Morehouse College for decades when he later emphasized mentoring, support networks, promoting deeper skills and knowledge, and launching new partnerships with the philanthropic community.

I believe that institutions like Morehouse College can play a decisive role in advancing a new cradle-to-power pipeline, thereby dismantling the so-called “cradle-to-prison” pipeline that currently plagues our society, and relegates so many African-American males to lives of

hopeless marginality.
We must develop committed servant leaders who want to uplift others as authentic forces for good in the world. We must converge a larger army of informed change agents who are driven less by their narrow self-interests than by the prospect of empowering others.

Morehouse College must be the epicenter for teaching, training, research and policy reforms designed to systemically benefit the broader society. We can all help redirect the life trajectories of those who are too often helpless in the face of ignorance, violence and restricted opportunities.

The lost lives of Clay Cross and Kendarius Edwards underscore how our nation’s safety, security and competitiveness are compromised with every instance of wasted potential and every senseless death.
And as Dr. Morehouse warned over a century ago, our failure to advance a meaningful educational response would be “a prodigious mistake.”

By: John Silvanus Wilson Jr. President Morehouse College

Follow John Silvanus Wilson Jr. on Twitter:

Source: Morehouse College

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Positive Black Male News: Black Man Works to Raise $5M For an All Boys Academy For Black Boys

Positive Black Male News: Black Man Works to Raise $5M For an All Boys Academy For Black Boys

Positive Black Male News

Dr-Umar-Johnson-raises-5-million-dollars-to-purchase-St-Pauls-College-to-build-the-Frederick-Douglas-and-Marcus-Garvey-RBG-International-Leadership-Academy.-www.naturallymoi.com_-300x236Reported by April V. Taylor

Dr. Umar Johnson has long been considered an expert on how the American educational system uses learning disabilities to label black children, particularly black boys.  He holds a Doctor of Clinical Psychology degree and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.  He has also worked as a trainer, teaching educators and mental health care staff on a variety of psycho-educational topics, and as a child therapist.  He is the author ofPsycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education & ADHD War Against Black Boys.

As recently reported by the Atlanta BlackStar, Dr. Johnson is now trying to take his work and message to the next level by purchasing St. Paul’s College, a HBCU located in Lawrenceville, Virginia.  If he is able to raise the necessary $5 million by August 21st, he is hoping to convert the college into a boarding school for African American men.  Dr. Johnson believes the residential educational facility will be a valuable tool in helping Black men overcome the educational racism that is prevalent in schools across America.

He hopes to rename the school the Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy for Black boys.  The curriculum would include training students based on a global business model that will enable them to pursue careers of “self-employment and entrepreneurship.”  Dr. Johnson is aiming to provide young men with real world experiences, so that they will be more prepared when entering the labor market.  In a statement on, Dr. Johnson states that the he believes “Our children have to be taught how to make a living anywhere in this world regardless of the circumstances of the political economy in which they live.  The FDMG Academy will teach our children to be masters of agricultural/agronomical science, economic/financial science, political/military science, nutritional/dietary science, family/community science and African centered spiritual/cosmological science.”

To make a donation towards Dr. Johnson’s purchase of St. Paul Paul’s College and the opening of the Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy, click here.

Source: Naturally Moi

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Positive Black Male News: Trouble with math? New school course uses piano music to help students

Positive Black Male News: Trouble with math? New school course uses piano music to help students

Positive Black Male News

25196887_BG1By By Will Frampton


An Atlanta musician believes he’s found a way to help teenagers overcome trouble with math and algebra.

Marcus Blackwell, a classically-trained jazz and gospel pianist, teaches middle school and high school students math by way of teaching them new songs on the piano, even if they’ve never played a note in their lives.

“I take everything musical, and give it a math definition,” said Blackwell. “You can do things like add and subtract, use fractions, all the way up to algebra.”

Blackwell uses simple tunes that teens know from the radio, basing lesson plans around the songs, assigning numbers to each note and chord change. Though most students in his classes aren’t musicians and don’t know piano, the class is typically able to complete one song by the end of each period.

“It tells the kid, I need to count these movements (in the notes) to get to the next musical note to find my answer. And when you have all your answers and play them together, it plays the featured song,” said Blackwell.

Blackwell started with five schools last fall and now works with 15.

Check out Make Music Count Now

Source: CBS Atlanta

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League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: Raymond Roy-Pace

League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: Raymond Roy-Pace

League Of Extraordinary Black Men

The pressures of life will attempt to challenge the existence of your being, define yourself to withstand the pressure. ~ Raymond Roy-Pace

The pressures of life will attempt to challenge the existence of your being, define yourself to withstand the pressure. ~ Raymond Roy-Pace

TheBlackManCan has made its way to Philadelphia, PA to bring you another Black Man making positive and remarkable contributions in the city of brotherly love. We proudly present educator and servant leader Raymond Roy-Pace Founder and Executive Director of BeU365. Raymond sits down with TheBlackManCan to discuss being a scholar-athlete, lifting as you climb, pursuing advanced degrees and advice for young men of today.

TheBlackManCan: Raymond, can you share a little about your childhood and how it shaped you into the man you are today?

RP: I grew up in an impoverished urban community in Philadelphia, PA. I spent time living with my mother and grandmother as a child.  My neighborhood was plagued with the same issues of drugs, violence and lack of resources that most urban communities are faced with. Firsthand experience with some of these issues in my own home weaved a tough skin and an unrelenting will to become better than the world I was so familiar with. I would not be the man I am today without the unwavering support I received from my grandmother and my other family members.  My uncles each stepped in at pivotal times in my development not only to help usher me in to manhood but to broaden my horizons and expose me to a world unlike my own.

TheBlackManCan: You are the perfect example of what it means to be a scholar-athlete. How do we get more young men to realize what it means and the importance of being a scholar–athlete?

RP: To get students to understand what it means to be a scholar athlete we need to give them some of those who exemplify those qualities.  Myron Rolle was a Rhodes Scholar and aspiring neurosurgeon. He spent time in the NFL but eventually choose to practice medicine.  Maurice Bennett was a 4 year Academic and Football All American that passed over the NFL because he would become more profitable working on Wall Street.  I provided these examples because these men created options for themselves.  I am an academic and scholar athlete sidelined after a subdural hematoma (bleeding in the head).  I was successful in the completion of two degrees, successful in developing my own youth development program and while also educating others in the classroom.  1 million children playing football, approximately 250 of them will make a NFL team each year. In other sports these numbers may vary but not too far off.  The world of athletics has its own fan club.  The same way we glorify the kid who made the buzzer beater shot in a game, we have to do the same with every positive note a teacher’s sends home and every A or B on a report card so our kids can began to see value in hard work and excelling in the classroom.

TheBlackManCan: You spent time as a case manager focusing on truancy. Can you tell is the three major issues behind truancy and what steps need to be taken to overcome them?

RP: The most consistent issues I saw facing students involved in truancy where the low expectations for students either imposed in them by the family or school.  For some of the families it was hard to see value in education if they did not have it. Poor coping skills within the families in dealing with life’s issues and the lack of positive role models were also a contributing factor.  So many students are experiencing “life” but they do not have the support system within the homes or schools to keep them encouraged.  It is hard to open up to people when they do not feel they understand them.

Your education does not stop when the school bell rings, keep a book handy and unlock the mysteries of life.  ~Raymond Roy-Pace

Your education does not stop when the school bell rings, keep a book handy and unlock the mysteries of life. ~Raymond Roy-Pace

TheBlackManCan: How important is it to lift as you climb? How has this ideology helped you in life?

RP: I have been fortunate in my life to have incredible mentors take chances on me when I had nothing to offer but a will to work.  It would be robbery if I did not do the same for others.  We are more successful when we employ others to exercise their gifts because they then become resources.

TheBlackManCan: As a 5th grade teacher can you share with us what parents should be doing in the home to make sure their child arrives on grade level?

RP: Research indicates one of the number one indicators of student academic success is their reading ability.  It is important for families to establish a reading schedule within their homes.  Just spending 15-30 minutes a day reading or being read to would expand students’ imaginations, open their eyes to the world around them and ultimately prepare them for school. Parents should also talk to children their children because encourages them to communicate what they feel and helps them to understand why which could ultimately have a great impact on classroom and peer behavior.

TheBlackManCan: Tell us more about BeU365. What is the meaning behind the name and the mission and vision?

RP: BeU365 is a self-developed program that aspires to inspire youth through creative education, mentorship and real world experiences.  The vision came from the idea of wanting to encourage young people to be who they truly are and not conform to the expectations of society. The three pillars of the program consist of creative education, mentorship and real world experiences, all of which are geared towards various aspects of helping to create positive and independent thinking. Creative education incorporates a project learning based curriculum designed to strengthen basic math skills but from a real life perspective and the facilitation workshops. Mentorship encompasses one-on-one mentorship, the speaker series, and mentoring curriculum.  The real world experiences that are still in development focus on getting middle school students out of the classroom and into internships to apply what they are learning.

Wherever you find yourself in life it is not by mistake.  There is a lesson to be learned in preparation for your greater.  ~ Raymond Roy-Pace

Wherever you find yourself in life it is not by mistake. There is a lesson to be learned in preparation for your greater. ~ Raymond Roy-Pace

TheBlackManCan: You recently obtained a Master’s degree. What did you pursue it and why is it important to show young people that they should pursue more than just a bachelor’s degree?

RP: Yes! Ma’ma I made it! (laughs)  I completed my Master of Arts and Teaching from Cheyney University in December 2012 after several conversations with my mentor Howard Jean about my career endeavors. He encouraged me to consider it if I planned to make a long lasting impact in the world of education.   The journey of completing my masters was invaluable because I was able to share it with my students.  Particularly in our urban communities, higher education is a mystery because they have so few examples of people that have obtained degrees.  Our world is changing and the status quo is unacceptable, that is to say if ever it was acceptable.  The jobs of old are no longer available and to be a part of the decision making process may also mean having those credentials.

TheBlackManCanWhere do you see yourself and your endeavors in the next five years?

RP: In the next five years I see myself back in education administration as a school leader.  When I resigned from running the operations of Birney Prep Academy, it was to gain the practical experience that will ultimately help me become an informed school founder.  There is a lot of politics that go into running schools and having my own school I believe I can limit some of that.

Young people are looking for someone to aspire to be and we must be the ones willing to be the example. ~Raymond Roy-Pace

Young people are looking for someone to aspire to be and we must be the ones willing to be the example. ~Raymond Roy-Pace

TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for Black Boys and Men to see positive images of themselves?

RP: We aspire to be what we see.  There cannot be an expectation of young black boys to gravitate towards becoming something they cannot identify with. There are very prominent youth and men of color making a positive impact in the world however it is not exactly breaking news at ten. Young people are looking for someone to aspire to be and we must be the ones willing to be the example.

TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for young black males of today?

RP: To my young black brothers understand that your life is purposed. You have gifts and talents that the world awaits to unwrap. Wherever you find yourself in life it is not by mistake.  There is a lesson to be learned in preparation for your greater.  Spend time talking to those that have experienced more of life than you, there you will find wisdom.  Your education does not stop when the school bell rings, keep a book handy and unlock the mysteries of life.  Know who you are and whose you are.  The pressures of life will attempt to challenge the existence of your being, define yourself to withstand the pressure.

Check out Raymond website here–>

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Positive Black Male News: Louisiana principal inspires students with remarkable journey

Positive Black Male News: Louisiana principal inspires students with remarkable journey

Positive Black Male News

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It’s an inspiring story about a man who worked his way up from school janitor to principal. He’s come so far that he’s surpassed even his own imagination.

Joseph Gabriel “Gabe” Sonnier is the principal of Port Barre Elementary. But Mr. Sonnier is more than just a principal; his story is unlike many others.

In August of 1981 he started his job at Port Barre Elementary as a custodian, a job he was thrilled to have.

He was forced to drop out of school at Southern Univeristy to help take care of his family and help his mother.

“For so many years I knew about custodial work because my father did it for all of his life,” said Sonnier.

After being a custodian at Port Barre for only four years, Sonnier was told by the principal at the time that instead of picking up papers off the ground, he should be grading them.

“At that time I did take it to heart.”

Source: The Grio

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Positive Black Male News: Minneapolis man enrolls over 200 Dropouts back in school

Positive Black Male News: Minneapolis man enrolls over 200 Dropouts back in school

Positive Black Male News

wesleyby Donald W.R. Allen, II – Editor in Chief, The Independent Business News Network

Minneapolis, MN (IBNN/Education Engagement/October 15, 2012)…With things being as they are you can hear and read all kinds of stories about all kinds of things on any given day. U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan has made many direct comments about the severity of the dropout epidemic. He said, “States and district officials have largely tinkered in these schools, instead of treating them as educational emergencies. But children only get one chance at an education. We cannot be content with the status quo; and we cannot be content to continue tinkering.”

What is different about this story is it is the first time I have ever heard of anything like this. Wesley Smith known to students and parents as “Mr. Smith” started recruiting students for private and charter schools as a way to generate revenue to support his family and assist the community in building a pipeline back to education called, Drop Outs to Drop Ins.

Smith talked to IBNN about his work in the very beginning: “It was mostly temporary contracts to increase enrollment for schools with K-8 students, in the process of performing this body of work I would often run into high school drop outs who had no direction and felt as though because they had dropped out of school that they were like lepers – so I would give them my number and ask them to call me. After getting several calls from these kids I started to go to different high schools and ask them about re-enrollment of students, some were receptive and some were not. So where the former student could not re-enter the standard school system I would refer them to an alternative or charter school – some of these schools even contracted me to recruit students for them.”

In 2012, Smith is more interested in what method of contact he employed and who would step up to assist him, in most cases for no pay. His concern was effective outreach can only be accomplished when the communication is just as effective.

The disparity in dropouts, especially those student of color have created the following statistics:

1) Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day. 2) More than a quarter of high school freshmen fail to graduate from high school on time. 3) On average, only 58% of students in America’s 50 largest cities make it to graduation. 4) More than one in four Hispanic youth drop out, and nearly half leave by the eighth grade. 5) Hispanics are twice as likely as African Americans to drop out. 6) White and Asian American students are least likely to drop out. 7) In the last 20 years, the earnings level of dropouts doubled, while it nearly tripled for college graduates. 8) Recent dropouts will earn $200,000 less than high school graduates, and over $800,000 less than college graduates, in their lives. 9) Dropouts make up nearly half the heads of households on welfare. 10) In the U.S., high school dropouts commit about 75 percent of crimes. 11) The dropout problem is likely to increase substantially through 2020 unless significant improvements are made.

America’s high school graduation rate ranks 19th in the world – forty years ago, we were number one. It’s a sad commentary to where we are in 2012.

(Sources: Strong American Schools, Underlying Causes of High School Dropouts, Kid Source Online: New Information on Youth Who Drop Out, and The Silent Epidemic).

For instance, it is hard for them to hear you if they are hungry, and you have to be willing to ask them as well as feed them sometimes.

Mr. Smith and his work attracted the attention of film director Robert Townsend, who came to Minneapolis to meet Mr. Smith and to screen his new film “In The Hive”(A true story) which is about teen-age boys who could not make it in the traditional school system and was afforded another opportunity in a charter school started by a woman who cared. “I wanted to meet her because there are not enough schools to house these kids who are willing to take a chance on non-traditional schools, ” said Smith.

The Drop Outs to Drop Ins Project that was endorsed by Mr. Robert Townsend on his visit to the Twin Cities. Smith spent four-days with Mr. Townsend who was such an inspiration to him. He told me that this body of work was meant for me to do and being that I conceived this concept it is up to me to save and build lives, and after Smith viewing Robert Townsend’s film, In the Hive, he knew that he must continue to move forward, because this film in itself will save thousands of lives.

When asked how does he (Smith) meet the need of the dropouts he encounters, without funding, Smith’s says, “Drop Out to Drop Ins Project will become a national model to address the problem that plagues young our people – not being in school. If I keep doing the work, success will follow, I’m confident about that.

IBNN asked him if it pays well to do what he does? “If I have a contract with a school I can make a little money, but most of the time when I get calls form young people is when I don’t have a contract, and I have to provide them with the same service for free,” said Smith who went on to say, “Yes you have to not only take their phone call because 9 out of 10 times they got my number from someone else. I have to pick them up or meet them somewhere to talk about their life and future. The issues around their dropping out of school range from simple to bazaar, however I have developed relationships with many different social service workers and agencies as well as went to many workshops, classes, and training meetings which enables me to better work with all parties that are or could be involved.” Smith has delivered over 200 students back to school.

Smith talks about the tracking of dropouts. “Well for the first year or so I was not counting and someone asked me how many students have I re-enrolled and I could not give a number because there had been many. So I started counting in 2009 and my 200th student has graduated and was a scholarship recipient – her boyfriend had only a couple of credits to make up and should be graduating this winter (2012). I want to take Drop Outs to Drop Ins to the next level and inspire students to return to school and go to college to fulfill dreams of theirs as well as their parents. Nobody wants to be a failure; however having another chance creates a better opportunity for success. I want to work with anyone who wants to see these students make it in life; there just are not enough schools to accommodate these returning students.”

Wesley Smith has the national model with proven track record that it works. He tells IBNN, “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary

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The Village: Make Music Count

The Village: Make Music Count

The Village


Make Music Count is the new creative Mathematics curriculum that teaches each lesson through learning how to play a song on the piano. Each musical note that is played is derived by solving an algebraic equation. Here is a new method teachers can use to excite students about learning mathematics. Mathematics will be seen as fun while also strengthening students understanding of solving algebra equations once they Make Music Count!

Visit Make Music Count Now Click Here!

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His Story: Dr. Cornel West’s Courage Should Make You Proud

His Story: Dr. Cornel West’s Courage Should Make You Proud

His Story


Too many milquetoast Americans, especially Blacks, lack the courage to offer a substantive critique of President Obama.  With the national unemployment rate for Black people being 13.5%, one would think that more Blacks would be propounding their criticisms of President Obama’s poor record of creating jobs.  In many predominantly Black cities across the country, Black unemployment is twice as high as it is nationally.  Although one may not always agree with Dr. Cornel West, former distinguished professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and now Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary, one has to be proud of the courage he shows in his passionate criticisms of President Obama and his policies.

Dr. West’s accomplishments, brilliance, and academic work will forever make him one of the most important persons in American history.  He’s one of the greatest minds in world history.  Dr. West is one of the leading public intellectuals of our time.  As a responsible and effective public intellectual, Dr. Cornel West understands that he has a duty to speak truth to power.  He’s never been afraid to say and do things that might unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse people.

While many question the motivations of his vehement criticisms of Obama, the focus should be more on engaging in a discourse about the criticisms he proffers.  People who don’t want to enter into a conversation about his potent critiques of Obama simply desire to dismiss him as being bitter because Obama didn’t invite him to his first inauguration or first inaugural ball.  Well, after sponsoring and attending over 75 campaign events—many were located in brutally cold places—for President Obama, one would like to think that Dr. West would’ve received an invitation.  Dr. West has repeatedly stated that he’s not bothered by such an inane matter as not receiving an invitation.

One has to be proud of him for mustering the courage to take on some of the prominent liberals that have been given platforms by MSNBC to advocate for President Obama.  Dr. West asserts that MSNBC is a “rent-a-negro” network; that is, a liberal network that gives Black faces (e.g. Al Sharpton and Dr. Melissa Harris Perry) their own shows and/or allows them to make frequent appearances on other people’s shows in exchange for their puppy-dog loyalty to President Obama.  One person who is a stanch liberal and who has been friends with Dr. Cornel West is Dr.Michael Eric Dyson.  Dr. Dyson appears regularly on MSNBC and is a strong supporter and defender of Obama.  Dr. West contends that Dr. Dyson has “sold his soul for a mess of Obama pottage.”  Before Dr. Dyson became a frequent contributor on MSNBC, he was willing to critique Obama.  Now, he cannot find enough ways to praise Obama.

Dr. Cornel West’s record reflects a serious commitment to racial minorities, working people, and the poor.  He will not allow himself to be placed on the market for sale, as others have done for Obama.  West hasn’t let his black skin prevent him from criticizing President Obama appropriately.  Dr. West gives President Obama credit when he deserves it, but he’s never afraid to hold him accountable for horrible policy choices and his inattentiveness to the needs of poor and working people.

Dr. West has been on a “Poverty Tour” across the nation raising attention and support for the needs of the poor.  The poor is the only group in America without lobbyists in Washington, D.C.  West hopes to make the poor visible to President Obama and America.  His work to ameliorate the lives of poor people in America should be applauded and supported.

It’s not popular to be Black and say things in opposition to President Obama, but Dr. Cornel West isn’t willing to submit to the pressure of staying popular.  He’s working to hold President Obama, a man who has tremendous power, accountable to all Americans, especially the most vulnerable people in America: the poor.  For this, he should make us all proud.

About the Author: Antonio Maurice Daniels is a Ph.D. student and Research Associate in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His dominant research interests are the academic achievement of Black male students throughout the educational pipeline, especially Black male college student-athletes, and ecological sustainability in higher and postsecondary education. This is a cultural commentary blog offering frequently published pieces on many diverse topics, including education, sports, literature, film, music, black culture, popular culture, self-help, and etc. He has published widely in academic publications and popular online publications, including Soul Train,Mused MagazineHealthy Black Men MagazineThe Black Man CanThe ExaminerFor The Masses and Up 4 Discussion.

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Positive Black Male News: Inner-City Junior High School Defies the Odds to Become National Chess

Positive Black Male News: Inner-City Junior High School Defies the Odds to Become National Chess

Positive Black Male News


“If you want to see what may well be the most optimistic, inspiring and downright thrilling movie released all year—then absolutely do not miss . . . Brooklyn Castle.”—Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

This public-school powerhouse in junior high chess competitions has won more than 30 national championships, the most of any school in the country. Its 85-member squad boasts so many strong players that the late Albert Einstein, a dedicated chess maven, would rank fourth if he were on the team. Most astoundingly, I.S. 318 is a Brooklyn school that serves mostly minority students from families living below the poverty line. Brooklyn Castle is the exhilarating story of five of the school’s aspiring young players and how chess became the school’s unlikely inspiration for academic success.

Katie Dellamaggiore’s Brooklyn Castle has its national broadcast premiere on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 at 10 p.m. (check local listings) on the award-winning PBS documentary series POV (Point of View). The film will stream on POV’s website,, from Oct. 8- Nov. 6, 2013. The film is part of the new PBS INDIES SHOWCASE, a four-week series of independent documentaries airing on Monday nights from Sept. 30-Oct. 21.

The late I.S. principal Fred Rubino pointed out that extracurricular activities are not really “extra,” because they teach “the whole child.” Beginning in 2000, under the tutelage of chess teacher and coach Elizabeth Spiegel and assistant principal John Galvin, the school expanded its small chess program and began competing in national tournaments. The results have been stunning: more than 30 national chess titles, including the 2012 U.S. High School National Championship, a first for a junior high.

Meet the students:

  • Justus Williams, 11 years old, is a prodigy, already one of America’s highest-ranked young chess players. Yet he is plagued by a tendency to freeze, stymied by the expectations created by his success.
  • Thirteen-year-old Rochelle Ballantyne, who broke the gender line of what had been an all-boys chess club, has the potential to become the first African-American female master in the history of chess. She is the first-ranked player in the school.
  • Pobo Efekoro, 12, is the big, boisterous, warm-hearted leader of the team. When the school’s budget for afterschool programs is cut, he runs for school president with the goal of mobilizing a student protest to get the cuts restored.
  • Twelve-year-old Alexis Paredes’ approach to chess is like his play—meditative and thoughtful. The second-ranked player at I.S. 318, he sees chess as a way to an education and a lucrative career that will allow him to support his Paraguayan immigrant family.
  • Patrick Johnston, 11, is a sensitive beginner who wants to raise his ranking to middle level. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has taken to chess to develop concentration and patience.

For these kids, chess is more than a game, and winning is more than a matter of trophies. Brooklyn Castle is a clear-eyed look at a school program that has made a huge difference to students. It is equally a celebration of youth’s determination to dream, if given the chance.

“I had always been interested in making a film about Brooklyn, but I wanted to tell a story that people didn’t expect,” says Dellamaggiore. “We’re hoping, too, that the story in this film will make some lawmakers think twice before cutting funds for extracurricular activities.”

About Katie Dellamaggiore, Director/Producer:
Katie Dellamaggiore is a documentary producer and director whose work has appeared on MTV, A&E, HBO/Cinemax and VH1. She has held various production and outreach roles on award-winning documentaries, including 39 Pounds of Love,To Die in Jerusalem51 Birch Street and American Teen. Dellamaggiore co-produced After the Storm, a nonprofit theater and film project aimed at inspiring young people in post-Katrina New Orleans, and for A&E Classroom directed, produced and shot UR Life Online, which explored sexual solicitation and cyber bullying and received an Emmy nomination for single-camera editing. In 2010, she and her husband, Nelson Dellamaggiore, co-founded television and film production company Rescued Media. Brooklyn Castle is Katie Dellamaggiore’s feature directorial debut.

Brooklyn Castle is a production of Rescued Media in association with Indelible Marks and Chicken and Egg Pictures. The film is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a national public media initiative made possible by CPB to identify and implement solutions to the dropout crisis and help parents and teachers keep students on the path to a successful future.

As part of its commitment to provide viewers with year-round access to the creative work of independent filmmakers, the PBS INDIES SHOWCASE is scheduled during the weeks between the seasons of the award-winning series POV and INDEPENDENT LENS and will feature films from both. While PBS features the work of independent filmmakers throughout the year, the SHOWCASE is designed to spotlight their work and increase audience visibility for this important genre.

About POV
Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and now in its 26th season on PBS, the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today’s best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 365 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide. POV films have won every major film and broadcasting award, including 32 Emmys, 15 George Foster Peabody Awards, 10 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards® and the Prix Italia. In 2012, POV achieved a new milestone, winning five News & Documentary Emmy® Awards. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues. Visit

POV has the honor of receiving a 2013 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the desJardins/Blachman Fund and public television viewers. Funding for POV’s Diverse Voices Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Special support provided by The Fledgling Fund and the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.

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His Story: When Schools Ain’t Enough for Black Boys

His Story: When Schools Ain’t Enough for Black Boys

His Story

In this lyrically infused talk, Crystal Belle challenges listeners to reconsider issues related to freedom and education. Drawing upon personal experience, Belle compares the success of an African-American female to the experiences of African-American males undergoing a series of trials and tribulations, both attending an inner-city public school system and coexisting within the same home environment. Belle is an educator, freelance writer, and poet and is currently a Doctoral student of English Education at Teachers College.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.*

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