DREAMers Seek The American Dream

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program was created by the Obama administration in June 2012 as a way to give young people, brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents, temporary protection from deportation. This protected status also allows them to work, study and obtain a driver’s licenses and those eligible for DACA are often referred to as DREAMers.

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced it would phase out the DACA program. The action was twice challenged in the federal courts twice, each time resulting in orders that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) must resume processing requests to renew grants of deferred action under DACA, although brand new applications are not being accepted.

For the latest issue of The Advocate, I spoke with President and CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Michel Zajur and Sookyung Oh, who leads the Virginia chapter of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) about the DACA program, the current uncertainty surrounding it and the work each is doing to promote immigrant rights and issues in Virginia. Read the piece here

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Michel Zajur President/CEO Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

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Sookyung Oh Washington D.C. Area Director for NAKASEC

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Guiding Puppies Toward Lives of Service

For the latest issue of The Granby Drummer I spoke with Tony Cappelli, his wife Anne and their daughters Angela, 19, and Lizzy, 16, about their volunteer efforts as puppy raisers with Guiding Eyes for the Blind. You can read the article online here

Just one fact I learned was that there is an application process to request a guide dog placement. Simply proving a need because of blindness or visual impairment is not enough. Applicants must show that they are willing and able to take care of their dog should they be approved, they must commit to completing a residential training program and to ongoing follow ups for the lifetime of their pairing and must also show that they already possess good orientation and mobility skills.

When you hear the term “guide dog” the impression is that the dog is leading the way, but this is really not the case. Guide dogs don’t know where you want to go or how to get there – they take their cues from their handlers. What guide dogs learn, among many other skills, is intelligent disobedience – or the act of disobeying when following a command or direction would put their handler in danger.

The Cappellis have just finished raising their third puppy and are considering taking in another because they have found the experience to be enjoyable and rewarding, despite the time commitment and the effort required. The article has contact information for Northern Connecticut representatives, but for those who read this from outside the Granby area, you can reach out to Guiding Eyes for the Blind through their website or search other organizations in your area that you can volunteer with or donate to.

Recent Writings

The Granby Drummer is a local, all-volunteer newspaper in the town where I live. Having the opportunity to write for The Drummer has allowed me to learn a lot about the town where I live and the people who live there with me. In this post, I thought I’d share some of the stories I’ve written over the past several months …

AddysonMost recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with a local. middle-school student athlete named Addyson Earl. Addy has competed successfully in acrobatics, aspires to play soccer in college and participates in cross-country and basketball as well, all while being an honor roll student.   You can read more about this talented, young lady here.

 

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At the beginning of March, I met Marti Long, owner of a local business, HOME Fine Arts and Antiques. The resulting article was in the April issue of The Drummer. Marti not only promoted her business during our conversation, but also that of the business next door which was having their Grand Opening when I was at HOME. The Whisk

When our interview was finished, Marti took me next door to introduce me to Sarah Cowles-Gentile.Sarah and her team at The Whisk, a Connecticut catering business for over 40 years, were excited to be open for business at their newly relocated site in Granby. This article also appeared in the April 2018 issue.

 

It hasn’t only been personal profiles.

For a few months at the end of 2017 and into the start of 2018, I wrote the Board of Education reports for The Drummer. I also wrote this piece when the Registrars of Voters and teachers and students from Granby Memorial High School work together to have a Board of Education candidates’ forum prior to the town’s 2017 municipal elections.

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I’m currently working on another story that will appear in The Granby Drummer’s July issue, and I’ll have some articles in upcoming issues of The Advocate as well. I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn from those with you soon.

 

Education Builds Pathways

Everyday, the realities of life for many at-risk children work against the achievement of their dreams. While there are those who transcend their circumstances, “it should not require heroism to be a child.”

These words were written by retired Gen. Colin L. Powell and Alma J. Powell in “Our Cause: A Letter to America” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise Alliance. The organization, of which Mrs. Powell is the current chair, has as its mission to “create the conditions for success for all young people.” A central idea to doing that appears on its website:

History is not destiny and education builds pathways.

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Emily Griffey

I recently spoke with Emily Griffey about early care and education in Virginia. As Policy Director with the organization Voices for Virginia’s Children, she works to try to ensure that the resources, programming and opportunities needed for every child in the state to achieve their best outcome are available and accessible.

The Q&A of our discussion appears in Issue 5 of The Advocate and you can read it here

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Antoinette White

I also spoke with Antoinette White, author of the self-published memoir “Who’s Protecting Me?” She sees herself as an example of how hard work, character and idealism can allow you to transcend your past.

“My main message is resiliency. Don’t let past pain define who you can become,” White told me. “If that can make a difference in just one person’s life, then that’s why I wrote this book.”

More about my conversation with Antoinette also appears in Issue 5 of The Advocate and you can read it here

 

Giving Girls A Voice To Change The World

When I spoke with Angela Patton a few months ago, I was struck by how direct and open she was. We discussed the CAMP DIVA program she founded in Richmond, Virginia in 2004, its merger with non-profit Girls for a Change and her current role as CEO of that organization. Her passion for her work was clear, from her constant reference to program participants as “my girls” to the story she told of networking and making contacts while on a family vacation because you have leap at the opportunities that present themselves.

Not only has Patton leapt at the opportunities that have come her way, but she has tried to facilitate opportunities for her girls to advance themselves, improve their communities and feel empowered to make their voices heard.

The article that I wrote about Patton, CAMP DIVA and Girls for a Change appeared in the May 2017 issue of The Advocate, the newsletter for Virginia Union University’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child. You can read it here.

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Girls for a Change CEO and CAMP DIVA founder Angela Patton

 

 

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Last week I spoke with mother and son authors Betty K. Bynum and Joshua B. Drummond about their recently released title, I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! Bynum is also the author of two titles for girls, I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl! and I’m a Lovely Little Latina! 

The story that I wrote appears in the latest issue of the Urban Views Weekly. (more…)

Interesting People – Important Work

I have had a lot to be thankful for over the past few months. Personally, I took a great trip to visit family and friends in Australia, and I will have all my children under one roof for the first time in almost a decade over the Christmas holidays. Professionally,  I was offered an opportunity to do some freelance work by a former NC A&T professor of mine, Bonnie Newman Davis.

In addition to having been a professor at NC A&T and other universities, Bonnie is also a journalist, writer and editor associated with, among many other organizations, the National Association of Black Journalists. She is also the founder and director of the BND Institute of Media and Culture. It was her work as an editor, in this case for The Advocate – the newsletter for the Virginia Union University Center for the Study of the Urban Child. It was an awesome opportunity to get paid to write, but also to talk to some folks who are passionate about issues related to community policing and the Black Lives Matter movement, and you can read the December issue here.

Jeree Thomas, policy director at Campaign for Youth Justice, is one of those passionate and committed people I spoke to. She was enthused about the innovation being shown at local levels in addressing issues related to youth justice and community policing. Jeree used to work with the JustChildren Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, Virginia, so one of the examples she gave of this innovation at work was of an arts program that brings together police and incarcerated youth.

I also spoke with Sgt. Carol Adams of the Richmond City Police. Her love of what she does every day came through as she spoke about her work as an officer in the community. “My priority is caring for the people who have lost a loved one, and the people who are hurting,” she told me. “I automatically step into that role back on the other side of the table, not on the investigative side, but to hug them to hold them, to empathize with them and to educate them on the process that will take place from the policing side to give them more of an understanding.”

A survivor of domestic violence herself, she also began The Carol Adams Foundation to provide support and assistance to victims and families experiencing domestic violence.

Richmond mother-of-four, Amanda Lynch spoke with me about her organizing work in Richmond. She formed Black Lives Matter 804, which she is currently trying to formalize as the official Richmond chapter of the Black Lives Matter organization. Her perception of the work officers like Sgt. Adams are doing in Richmond was a positive one.

“I think the police in Richmond have done a really good job within the community so they are not seen as just ‘someone who’s there to arrest my dad’ but as a part of the community, not independent of it,” Amanda said. One of the initiatives she was pleased to see officers working with was Coaches Against Violence Everywhere. This group’s vision is to use their influence as coaches to mentor youth and develop character through education in healthy relationships, social skills, conflict resolution and community leadership.

Here in Connecticut,  I spoke with Bishop John Selders. I had spoken with him for an article I wrote when I was still in classes, but it was good to catch up on some of the more recent work being done by Moral Monday CT. On the day I spoke to him in October, Bishop Selders had been recently arrested during a protest in Hartford; however, we also spoke about some of the broader actions the group had been involved with including a trip as part of a Black Lives Matter delegation to Brazil in the lead-up to the Rio Olympic Games.

“It was a trip of a lifetime and an amazing opportunity,” he told me, “but it was an awful experience at the same time. Brazil has a terrible track record around state-sanctioned violence to black people.”

Bishop Selders talked about the folks they met, including some with Mothers of May, an organization of largely mothers who have lost sons and daughters to state-sanctioned violence. It has birthed a movement of parents who are out on the front lines being arrested, marching, doing policy work – channeling their suffering and pain into community action and to bettering their society.

He also spoke about a program he was presenting – Revolutionary Conversations – designed to engage the audience in an exploration of the theological sources behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We have stepped into a global and a national context with our work even while we continue to struggle with the day-to-day happenings here in Connecticut,” Bishop Selders said.

Last, but certainly not least, I spoke with former Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel. Kevin discussed the Police School Diversion Program he instituted after he was inspired by a challenge from Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County, Georgia. He wanted to know what Kevin could do in Philadelphia to help the roughly 1,600 students that were being arrested each year for mostly summary and misdemeanor offenses. His actions to create a pre-arrest diversion program help keep kids out of the criminal justice system and move them into service programs that can help them and their families.

I’m looking forward to more opportunities to speak to interesting people and share what I have learned. You can read what I wrote about this time by clicking here.