- Category: News
28 Dec 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
by Tony Jones
Special to the Tri-State Defender
With “crunch time” having arrived, Electrolux is taking heat for having not moved more forcefully to involve “local and minority participation” in the building of its multi-million dollar Memphis appliance plant.
A letter clearly designed to dial up the pressure on Electrolux began circulating on Wednesday. It was written to Jacob Burroughs of Electrolux Major Appliances and signed by Shelby County Delegation Chair, Beverly Marrero; Shelby County Commission Chairman, Sidney Chism; and Memphis City Council Chairman, Myron Lowery.
“We have been informed that construction is moving forward after the third bidding process. In addition to supporting the jobs that will employ our local citizens, we also expect that our Memphis & Shelby County businesses would benefit from the approximately $90 million dollar construction budget,” the trio states in the letter.
“Since nearly a year ago, we have been in full support of this project. However we cannot support a project that does not provide a return on investment to the communities that funded over $100 Million of taxpayer dollars.”
So what is the trio demanding? A written report “regarding participation levels prior to state and local approval and distribution of funds.”
Electrolux spokesperson Eloise Hale said the company is fully committed to assuring that minority and small businesses have a fair chance at gaining business from the plant’s contracting process. The company is nearing the awarding of an $80-million construction contract.
“I can assure you we fully appreciate the support of the state and city governments in this project. We are committed to spending $30 million during this process in the local business community,” said Hale.
“We are already using local companies during the early stages of the work. And by ‘local’ we do mean Memphis-area companies.”
The employment impact Electrolux brings to the table will definitely be of greatest benefit within the city’s limits, Hale added.
“The commitments in the contract that state we will be hiring from the Memphis area will be met.”
Commissioner Chism’s explanation of why the letter was written featured much more direct language than that conveyed in the letter.
“We gave them $40 million dollars (in incentives) to come here and they are not utilizing minority contractors,” Chism told the New Tri-State Defender on Wednesday. “And when I say minority contractors, I mean black contractors; and no small businesses from Shelby County. So far, they are spending their money with Mississippi contractors and we are not going to stand for it.
“They need to be doing business here in Memphis and Shelby County, not Mississippi. If we are going to be contributing to your bottom line, our only concern is jobs for our people.”
Known for his bluntness in the political arena after decades as a Teamster union leader, Chism continued.
“The point is they have the money and they feel they can do what they want. They are being hard nosed and we have to be hard nosed. We have to rise up and loudly protest these types of deals. We’ve played fair and we demand to be treated fair,” he said.
“Both mayors need to get in there and pressure them to get this done right. We understand that corporate incentives are needed in many situations, but not if you think you can come in here and ignore our black and local businesses.”
Mayor AC Wharton Jr. could not be reached for an in-depth response before press time, but his office issued a statement outlining his and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s position.
“Both Mayor Luttrell and I have been in constant communication with top Electrolux officials to ensure that they understand fully that it is imperative to us that local residents and businesses, whose taxes were the source of a $40 million local contribution, enjoy full participation in all aspects of this project,” Wharton said in the statement.
“Electrolux officials and contractors have assured us they understand exactly what is expected of them and will cooperate with us to that end.”
Wharton is backed up by the new CEO/President of EDGE Memphis, Reid Dulberger. Just given the job, Reed was physically moving from his old office in the Chamber of Commerce building into his new office when the letter hit his email. He stopped what he was doing to give an explanation of the Electrolux deal and the responsibility of EDGE, which stands for Economic Development Growth Engine.
“We have done everything possible to assure that our minority- and women- owned businesses are given a real chance at gaining business with Electrolux and they have cooperated fully so far,” said Dulberger.
“While in the formal bidding process they made it very clear that they would not enter into a formal diversity assurance plan and any of the bidders could pull out if they wanted to. Not only did we decide to go forward with our bid, we made it a priority part of the process to outline where opportunities will lie. In every round of doing the work to win this contract we have emphasized without question our concern about making opportunities for our MWBEs (Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises),” said Dulberger.
“And we even went a step beyond the expected,” Dulberger recounted. “This is a huge, important and positive deal for the working force in this city and for small businesses, but also a unique one in the level of its intricateness. That is why we hired the firm of Allen & Hoshall to represent the city in this particular instance. They have not only identified the potential lines of business, but also developed a process to educate MWBEs and sought out the qualified ones to make sure they have a fair chance at doing business with Electrolux.”
Dulberger said EDGE contracts through WIN (Workforce Investment Network) to make sure that all facets of the community have “a fair chance at the jobs we bring in through the large corporate process.’
“The thing is, it’s down to crunch time and the biggest part of the contract is about to begin and we greatly anticipate a real benefit to our MWBEs and the workforce,” he said.
Special to the Tri-State Defender
Diapers – 1800-plus of them – were given to the Women’s Hospital at the Regional Medical Center on Tuesday (Dec. 20) for distribution to new moms delivering babies at The Med during this holiday season.
|The welcoming party for much-needed diapers for newborns included (l-r) Bettye Givens, Project Coordinator, Sunrise Program for Teens; Paula Lingeman, Director of the Women’s Hospital at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis; Fannie Marlow Coleman, First Lady of Refreshing Springs Church of God in Christ; and Lt. Allen Hardrick with The Med security force. (Photo by Tyrone P. Easley)|
The diapers were collected through Memphis area churches and reflect a nationwide initiative by the National Coalition of Pastors’ Spouses (NCPS) to meet what is being called a crisis.
A groundbreaking 2010 study commissioned by Kimberly Clark’s Huggies Brand determined that one in three American moms are struggling to provide diapers for their babies.
Memphis-area supporters of the NCPS initiative point to what they term “too many African-American teen moms” who are known to be stressing each day because they lack the ability to provide their babies with clean, dry disposable diapers. There are reports of young moms who have had to cut back on food, utilities or other necessities in order to buy diapers. Some have to leave diapers on their babies for one to two days. Or worse yet, dry the diapers in the sun and reuse the unsanitary items.
“We are so appreciative of the various churches and pastors’ spouses who have heard the clarion cry and have responded to meet this critical diaper need in the Memphis community. In this struggling economy, so many young mothers often have to make decisions on whether to keep their utilities on...or buy baby diapers,” said Fannie Marlow Coleman, First Lady of Refreshing Springs COGIC, the organizer and spear-header of the 2011 Tennessee “Hug-a-baby” diaper drive,
“So we reached out to pastors’ wives, and former wives – such as Mrs. Louise Patterson, President of Bountiful Blessings, Inc., and widow of the late Bishop G.E. Patterson – who have come together to make generous donations to this effort.”
NCPS stepped up around the nation to meet the challenge. Soliciting support from parishioners and church members, pastors’ spouses have been busy collecting and distributing diapers to moms in need during this holiday season.
Over 3000 packages of diapers were collected in the past three weeks. In addition to Tuesday’s delivery to The Med, diapers have been distributed via Christmas baskets and to local day care centers.
The National Coalition of Pastors’ Spouses collected and distributed over 3500 diaper packages during last year’s inaugural diaper drive. The clergy wives this year have already topped last year’s goal, said Vivian Berryhill, NCPS president and founder.
“Our target states for this year included, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi. The church has always been, and continues to be the institution in the African American community where people can turn to in times of need,” said Berryhill.
“My hat’s off to Fannie Coleman and the fantastic team of women for rolling up their sleeves, bundling these thousands of diapers up, picking diapers up in their cars and SUVs, and getting them out into neighborhoods across this nation.”
“A wonderful mother, counselor, hospital worker, gardener, and a well-rounded woman for all seasons.”
Those words offered by Mayor A C Wharton Jr. are just a few of the strokes on the canvass that reflects the life of his mother – Mary Wharton – who died Tuesday. Services will be held Friday (Dec. 23) in Lebanon, Tenn.
“Although my mother didn’t have much in the way of formal schooling, she obtained a Ph.D. with distinction in common sense and caring,” Mayor Wharton said in an issued statement.
“She drilled into all of us the importance of education. One story that demonstrates her interest in our education is that my mother saved her money for over two years to buy us the only set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias for the neighborhood, one book at a time,” the mayor recalled.
“She will be sorely missed by me, my two sisters, my brother, and the entire family,” Wharton said.
Mrs. Wharton, the widow of A C Wharton Sr., also leaves two daughters, Mary Davis of Memphis and Ruth Wharton of Nashville, and another son, Dr. Kenneth Wharton of Chicago. Another daughter, Velma Lowe, died in 2005.
Hellum Funeral Home has charge.
- Category: News
22 Dec 2011
- Written by Milton Howery III
In the name of giving, people shoved out cash and donated brand new toys for the children at Cherokee Elementary School during a “Toy Drive & Concert” at the Thrive & Bloom Spa on Germantown Parkway last Saturday (Dec. 17) night.
|SoGiv Founder Edward Bogard and Thrive & Bloom Spa owner Janice Alford-Sanders and her grandchildren, Ahmarria & Takira Sanders. (Courtesy photo)|
Such efforts are in character with the holiday season, and in this case the director was Edward Bogard of BOGARD footwear & apparel. He reached out to touch some of Cherokee’s “forgotten: students via SoGiv, the non-profit organization he started in 2009 because of his desire to be a “philanthropic designer.”
“Philanthropic designer” is a phrase Bogard coined to mean “designing for a cause.”
“The mission of SoGiv is to raise global awareness through a shoe that would enable one-hundred percent of the proceeds to be donated towards a worthy cause,” said Bogard.
Volunteers bent on helping to better the world make the non-profit organization go. In addition to designing and selling shoes, they do charity work such as feeding the homeless, toy drives, mentoring to troubled youth, sponsoring children in need, and providing better medical care and nourishment through various well-known organizations.
The “Toy Drive & Concert” drew a crowd clearly in the giving spirit for Cherokee Elementary School.
“We picked Cherokee Elementary School because basically with each year they have an Angel Tree with various students’ names on it whose parents might not be able to buy them any toys for Christmas, so they depend on someone else answering their Christmas Wish for their children,” said Bogard.
“So what happened this year was either no one pulled their names or people pulled their names and they still didn’t get any gifts. It was as if they were forgotten. After hearing that story I felt inspired to put a toy drive together in only a week’s time, along with a benefits concert as well as adopting our first Memphis City School.”
Donators at the event where entertained by the talented band “Reach” and by singer Brennan Villines. Both gave crowd-pleasing performances.
Even the donors got gifts. Each received a SoGiv T-shirt, a $25 Skirkle gift card, and $10 gift card to the Thrive & Bloom Spa.
“I was honored to help SoGiv with their Toy Drive & Concert. I am always willing to help out in any way that I can,” said Janice Alford-Sanders, owner of Thrive and Bloom Spa.
SoGiv is not through giving – not by a long shot. On Jan. 20 from 7 p.m. to midnight, there will be a coat drive to provide coats for children in need. And on Feb. 18, SoGiv is hosting a food drive designed to help restock local food pantries. Both events will take place at the Thrive & Bloom Spa.
“I always wanted to change the world through my designs,” said Bogard, “one design at a time.”
by Healthy Living News
Special to the Tri-State Defender
While obese women are less satisfied with the weight-related quality of their lives than other women, black women claim to have a higher quality of life than white women of the same weight, says a new study.
In addition, the study shows that black women are more concerned about the physical limitations than the psychological concerns of being overweight or obese.
The study, by researchers at the University of Alabama was just published in Applied Research in Quality of Life.
Studies show that being obese not only increases the risk of disease, disability and premature death, it also impacts quality of life. In the U.S., approximately 80 percent of black women over the age of 20 are overweight or obese. That is, they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) equal to or greater than 25. BMI is an average of weight and height. A person with a BMI greater than 25 is overweight. A BMI greater than 30 means they are obese.
The University of Alabama researchers examined the link between BMI and weight-related quality of life in black and white obese women using data collected between 2000 and 2010. The women answered a quality of life questionnaire covering five areas: physical function, self-esteem, sexual life, public distress and work.
The study revealed that as their body mass index’s rose, the women’s quality of life measurements fell. However, there were notable differences in weight-related quality of life between black and white women. With similar BMIs, black women reported higher quality of life measurements than the white women, with self-esteem being particularly high.
The study authors think that the relationship between weight and quality of life in black women may be related to body image and social norms. Because black women are more accepting of larger body sizes, they reported that their quality of life was not as adversely effected by being overweight.
Study researcher Dr. Tiffany Cox explained that there is a serious downside of not being concerned about being overweight.
“While the highest quality of life is desirable as an indicator of overall well-being, black women’s perception of experiencing a high quality of life despite having a high BMI may also dampen motivation for attempting weight loss,” she said.
Dr. Cox thinks additional research is needed to further understand the relationship between weight and quality of life in black women and how those attitudes might adversely affect physical health.
by Luctrica A. Lewis
Special to the Tri-State Defender
The braintrust at KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools learned last March that the Charter School Growth Fund was coming to Tennessee in March.
So, KIPP did a smart thing, applying right away and not waiting for an invitation. The Charter School Growth Fund (CSGF) had a rigorous application process, asking for each applicant’s academic and strategic business plan. The grantors wanted proof of each potential awardee’s ability to operate and support their existing charter school.
On Tuesday, KIPP received news that it had been granted $3 million to create eight additional KIPP schools. All eight schools will be in operation by 2016. There now are two KIPP schools in Memphis.
“We are thrilled and grateful for the Charter School Growth Fund’s investment in our schools,” said Jamal McCall, executive director of KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools. “This incredible investment will help us expand our reach in Memphis so we can help more students climb the mountain to college.”
There are 500 students enrolled at the two KIPP schools in Memphis. KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle School (KCMS) opened downtown in 2002, with 92 percent of its students from low-income families. During 2008-10, KCMS was ranked as the third highest-performing public middle school in the state of Tennessee for academic growth.
KIPP Memphis Collegiate High School opened this fall with its first ninth grade class.
A state-funded school, KIPP receives a wide-range of community support. Its chairperson is Barbara Hyde.
Student expectations at KIPP are not designed around grade level. Instead, success expectations are designed to ensure that students are equipped for enrolling and graduating from college. The normal school day is from 7:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday-Thursday) and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Friday). Students attend school every other Saturday and three weeks in the summer.
Data-driven decision-making is a big part of the KIPP mission.
“We are really the only charter school that is out there that’s crazy enough – people tell us – to track how our alumni are doing in college,” said Christina Brown, KIPP development director, who notes that every student that graduates a KIPP school in the eighth grade is considered alumni.
“We consider ourselves responsible for supporting you and tracking your progress, not just up into college, but all the way through,” said Brown. “KIPP measures success by how many alumni that are graduating from college…(and) is very transparent when it comes to ensuring the long term success of its students.”
KIPP uses electronic data such as SalesForce to track alumni. The tracking method is required by the KIPP Foundation.
“We have memberships with several organizations and have built relationships with the schools that our 8th grade alumni are attending so that we can keep track of them,” said KIPP Through College Director Sonya Fleck.
“We also regularly hold events for the students – incentivizing them if needed – so that they come to depend on us, if/when they run into trouble.”
Programming is offered in three major areas – economic literacy, life skills and academic monitoring and support.”
Pierre Landaiche, Vice President & General Manager of MMG-Memphis Cook Convention Center, is the first champion at the “First Annual Steppin with the Stars Showcase and Benefit” sponsored by The Black Rose Foundation for Children (BRF) and Ujima Family Wellness Center (UFWC).
Landaiche competed before an audience of nearly 300 people at Central Station last Saturday (Dec. 10). He became the champion after three months of online voting, along with three judges’ votes and the audience casting their votes at the event. His partner and instructor was Pamela Thompson of Mid-South Steppers.
The second place couple was Patrick “Trey” Carter (Olympic Staffing) and Sheena Clark (Unique Steppers), with third place going to Kym Clark (Action News 5) and John Black (So Cold Entertainment).
The three other couples that competed were: Gale Jones Carson (MLGW) and Gregory Dixon (Unique Steppers); Rep. G.A. Hardaway and Carolyn Rawlins (Elite Steppers); and Tomeka Hart (Memphis Urban League) and Michael Armstrong (Elite Steppers). Isaac “Elle” Lias, president of South Style Steppin’, one of the six steppin’ organizations in the Memphis area, was the instruction and choreography coordinator.
The purpose of the event was to raise funds for organizations that serve disadvantaged children and their families. The event was the result of a partnership between the two sponsoring non-profit organizations and local steppin’ classes. The local classes represented were Elite Steppers of Memphis, Mid-South Steppers, So Cold Entertainment and Unique Steppers of Memphis.
Sponsors for the event were Security Signals, Inc. R, Wellington Financial Services, Shelby County Tennessee Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Cake Crate Company, Comcast, Cummins, Right at Home in Home Assistance, LeMoyne-Owen Community Development Corporation, United Way of the Mid-South, the Senior Retirement Coach and Sen. Reginald Tate.
Proceeds will benefit organizations that offer programs for foster children, children of incarcerated parents, mentoring, physical and mental health.
Burnetta Burns Williams – the highest ranked African American employed by FedEx Corporation – passed away on Tuesday (Dec. 13.) She was 57.
Burnetta Burns Williams
In her position as Corporate Vice President and Treasurer of FedEx Corporation, Mrs. Williams was responsible for the establishment and execution of all financings for the corporation, the design and development of non-speculative risk programs, the investment of the $11 billion pension fund and global cash management and treasury operations.
“Burnetta was greatly respected and admired throughout the FedEx enterprise,” said Bill Margaritis, corporate vice president of Global Communications and Investor Relations at FedEx Corporation.
“She was very smart, thoughtful, and a high-performing leader in the finance area. Her passion for community service never wavered. Burnetta has left a special mark on FedEx and with the many individuals she mentored throughout her career. We will miss her.”
Mrs. Williams was a graduate of Hamilton High School and earned a B.A. degree from Yale University and a Masters degree from the Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She served on the boards of The Dixon Gallery and Girls Inc. of Memphis and recently served on the board of The LeBonheur Foundation. She was a past financial secretary of the Memphis Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc. Mrs. Williams also was an active member of the Yale Alumni Schools Committee. She was one of the founders and a board member of Triumph Bank.
She was the recipient of the Dollars & Sense Magazine Outstanding Business and Professional Award. In 1994 and in 2010 she received the prestigious Five Star Award from her company and has been featured in articles in The Banker, Grace, Ebony and Black Enterprise magazines.
A graduate of Leadership Memphis – Class of 1993, Mrs. Williams received the “She Knows Where She’s Going Award” from Girls, Inc. in Memphis. In June 2008, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Finance by Treasury & Risk magazine.
She was married for 29 years to James F. Williams Jr. and has one adult son, Christopher J. Williams. She is also survived by her mother, Georgia Burns; a sister, Joyce McGhee; and three brothers, Carey Burns Jr., Michael Burns and Larry G. Powell.
A tribute to Mrs. Williams will be held on Sunday, Dec. 18, at Dixon Gallery and Gardens located at 4339 Park Avenue.
Funeral services are scheduled for Monday, Dec. 19th. Viewing starts at 9 a.m., with funeral services at 11 a.m. at Mississippi Blvd. Christian Church, 70 North Bellevue. Interment service immediately following at Memorial Park Cemetery, 5668 Poplar Avenue.
by Tarrin McGhee
Special to the Tri-State Defender
Unless you have just decided to poke your head up after hiding under a rock all of this year, you are aware that in March Memphis voters passed a referendum to merge city and county schools. And since that time, local, regional and national interest in the education of Memphis and Shelby County public school children has significantly increased.
Efforts to create and determine the best approach to sustain a unified public school district to provide education for approximately 150,000 students are underway.
Almost 12 months ago (Dec. 20, 2010), the Memphis City School Board Commissioners – in an unprecedented move – voted to relinquish the MCS charter. That action sparked a chain of events, including tense political battles and citizen-driven movements. In February, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed into a law a controversial bill (sponsored by Republican State Sen. Mark Norris), outling stringent requirements for the transition process and impending schools merger.
Memphis voters (71,424 of them) went to the polls in March and 47,812 of them (67 percent) answered yes to this question: “Shall the Administration of the Memphis City School System, a Special School District, be transferred to the Shelby County Board of Education?”
A dizzying number of lawsuits were filed to expedite, delay and/or halt the merger. In August, U.S. Federal Court Judge Hardy Mays declared the dissolution of Memphis City Schools “for all purposes except the winding down of its operations and the transfer of administration to the Shelby County Board of Education” by the start of the 2013-14 school year. The ruling has since spurred action by local government leaders to adhere to new laws and ensure a successful merger takes place.
Perhaps most notably is the formation of two new bodies – the Shelby County Unified School Board (SCUSB) and the Transition Planning Commission (TPC), with a combined 44 members.
Regardless of individual – and sometimes directly opposing viewpoints on the merits of the schools merger, the reality is that it is going to happen, making it is vitally important for residents to know about those entrusted with the task of guiding us through it.
With approximately one year down and one year to go, The New Tri-State Defender introduces a new feature series on public education. It will include stories on key developments in planning the schools’ merger, in addition to in-depth interviews with members of the SCUSB and TPC respectively.
This week, the TSD features a conversation with Chair of the Transition Planning Commission, Barbara Prescott.
Tri-State Defender: Mrs. Prescott, please provide key highlights of your educational and professional background and examples of community involvement.
Barbara Prescott: I have a Ph.D in Counseling and Human Relations from Florida State College, a BA in Education and a Masters Degree in Guidance. I was a teacher in Memphis City Schools, and many years ago I also worked as a guidance counselor at Carver High School. I served on the Memphis City Schools Board for three terms, totaling 11 years – serving as president twice and vice president twice. My last term ended in December of 2002.That same year, I served as president of the Tennessee School Board Association.
Professionally, I operate a small private counseling practice and my husband and I have a consulting firm that does strategic planning and fundraising primarily with non-profits organizations. Our firm assisted in raising the $20 million in private funds that was a required match for the Gates Foundation Grant to Memphis City Schools.
TSD: Unlike many of your colleagues, this is not your first experience as a public servant. Why were you interested in serving in this role? Describe your thought process behind deciding to accept the appointment to the TPC and what you hope to accomplish.
B. Prescott: Our children attended Memphis City Schools so our public education system has always been a great interest of mine. To me, the importance of public education is unquestionable and I think it is the greatest success factor for our community and our country to have an educated workforce and population. Although I value alternatives, I think public education will always be the primary way.
In terms of the schools’ merger, initially I did not take a position, but I had ideas on what I thought would help it be successful…one of them is the value of single source funding. When you have everyone in the county acknowledging the importance of ensuring that all children are adequately educated, that seemed to be philosophically a way that we could best serve our community. From an economic standpoint, the city and suburbs are joined together. But still, I can identify with fears of change and the concerns that Memphis and Shelby County parents have for their children when they don’t know what will happen to the schools they have grown to love.
I want to be very careful and aware of ensuring that for schools that are doing well, we treat them with a great deal of deference. I’m very sensitive to what parents want whether they live in Collierville or north Memphis and I just want to be a part of building solutions. I want there to be good schools in all neighborhoods, and if that is not the case for some, let’s make it that way and keep it that way.
TSD: In October, you were voted in as chair of the Transition Planning Commission. Not only do you have a huge responsibility to facilitate discussion and build consensus, but you have to do it with 21 members who are also serving the community in this capacity for the first time. How has your experience been thus far? Are things coming together?
B. Prescott: Without hesitation, this is an extraordinary group of people and this really has been an amazing process. All members have served the community in a variety of ways, but not in a way that is open to public and media scrutiny. Several members have stepped up and are really using their individual talent and skills to move different areas along.
TSD: Can you describe the organizational structure of the TPC and the primary responsibilities of its members?
B. Prescott: As set out by state law, in the Norris-Todd bill, there are nine items that lay out exactly what we’re responsible for. Basically, we are charged with producing a plan for the schools merger that will be submitted to the SCUSB and Tennessee State Department of Education for approval. That plan will include an outline of the unified school district – how it will be organized, recommendations to address financial issues, personnel concerns, etc. Seven committees have been established around items that we have to put in the plan – Administrative, Educational/Academic Services/Plan, Communications, Finance, HR/Personnel, Logistics and Assessment.
TSD: What is the timeline for developing the transition plan?
B. Prescott: We are required to submit the plan for approval to the Shelby County Unified School Board and Tennessee Department of Education by late August, or early September of 2012. From October of this year until now we have used this time to get organized, form committees and engage in learning opportunities, which will continue throughout the timeline.
In January 2012, we will begin working with a consulting firm to help coordinate the planning process. There will be a lot of fact-finding and committee work to prepare recommendations to include in the plan through the end of June. From there, we’ll put final touches on before submitting the plan for review. From that point forward, we don’t really know what will happen – the SCUSB and Tennessee Department of Education may approve it or send some of it back to us. We have been appointed to serve throughout the whole merger process and or until our work is thoroughly completed.
TSD: In your own words, what are the ideal outcomes for a successful school merger?
B. Prescott: To create an outstanding, top notch school district that will drive attention to our metro area, to create a better equality of life in community and better economic standing for more of our population, and to become one of the best places to live, not only in Tennessee, but in the Country. A lot of that has to do with schools.
TSD: Can you provide a brief update on progress and describe any immediate next steps?
B. Prescott: Up until this point, we have focused primarily on putting together the committee structure, deciding which ones we needed and what members would be best suited to serve.
On Dec. 15, we will hold a full commission vision session to look at our committee process – how they work and establish guiding principles and objectives.
We have created a relationship with the Shelby County Schools Foundation to hire a consulting firm that will help to assist our committees in fact-finding, data-gathering and developing recommendations to include in the plan.
We have also done some speaking engagements and as our committees start to work, we will be rolling out a community engagement plan that will involve internal and external communications. This will be a key piece in developing the transition plan. We recognize our plan is a plan of recommendations, and community engagement is a major part of what we are doing.
TSD: How can the community stay updated, engaged and/or get involved?
B. Prescott: Shelby county government has graciously offered the support of staff and the use of their website to help the community track progress. Recordings of our meetings will be available there and all of our meetings are open to the public. If there are organizations or individuals that wish to have us speak to them directly, we’re happy to do that as well.
Soon we will begin coordinating listening tours and town hall type meetings that will help to provide the community with more information and opportunities to ask questions and learn more about the process.
Transition Planning Commission charge
The charge of the Transition Planning Commission is to develop a comprehensive transition plan to guide the consolidation of Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools. System. In developing the transition plan, the following items must be considered: administrative organization; ensure that there will be no diminution of educational services; plans to transfer assets, liabilities, and disposition of bonded indebtedness; preserving pension rights of teaching and nonteaching employees; preserving the existing tenure rights and benefits to teaching and nonteaching employees; appropriate plans for contributions by municipalities to the county for operations of unified school system; and any other matters deemed pertinent by the planning commission.
Special to the Tri-State Defender
While the U.S. Justice Department announced this week that it is investigating a number of states to determine if new voting provisions comply with federal voting rights laws, it isn’t saying just yet whether Tennessee is a target.
This summer, U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen wrote federal officials in the Justice Department to ask for a review of Tennessee’s newly-strengthened photo ID to vote law, which was strongly opposed by numerous veteran civil rights and voting rights groups.
The Justice Department has not yet replied to Cohen’s letter. Staff members in his office say officials are not likely to either, as Justice typically declines to confirm ongoing investigations.
On Tuesday (Dec. 13), U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. left the matter open for interpretation as he publicly responded to the swelling chorus of voter complaints – including a few in Tennessee – by pledging to aggressively protect the rights of American voters.
“Ensuring that every veteran, every senior, every college student, and every eligible citizen has the right to vote must become our common cause,” said Holder, speaking at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library & Museum in Austin, Texas.
“And, for all Americans, protecting this right, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed, not only as a legal issue – but as a moral imperative.”
Holder outlined a few specific concerns with recent legislation and voter disinformation campaigns, but declined to identify or list all the states that may be targets for Justice investigators. He did publicly cite Texas and Florida.
“Although I cannot go into detail about the ongoing review of these (Section 5 states) and other state-law changes, I can assure you that it will be thorough – and fair. We will examine the facts, and we will apply the law,” said Holder.
“If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change. And where a state can’t meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said he welcomed the help from Justice Department officials.
“ Proponents of voter suppression have launched the most sophisticated, well-coordinated attack on voting rights in the modern era,” said Henderson.
“Their goal is simple – to suppress the vote of African Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, low-income people, American Indians, Asian Americans, young people, seniors, and other constituencies that support progressive policies. The poll taxes and literacy tests of an earlier era are today embodied in state laws that require photo IDs to vote and that limit early voting, provisional voting and voter registration.”
Last summer, The New Tri-State Defender highlighted the fact that the new photo ID to vote law would pose a particular problem in Memphis, where some local residents were standing in line for two hours just to enter the motor vehicle department local offices, where state voter ID’s now are available. The wait to get an approved photo ID can be four to five hours in Shelby County, while state motor vehicle centers in other regions report wait times of 20 minutes of less.
The average wait time in the state is 55 minutes. Following the TSD reports, some changes were made – tents were erected to shelter those standing in line from the elements, bottled water was handed out, and the state pledged to start express lines for patrons seeking IDs to vote.
The Justice Department, in its review, said it will examine – among other things – whether the new voter ID laws and restrictions pose a greater burden for minorities, who are far less likely to have a driver’s license or valid state ID. In a recent speech, Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, said that states under review bear the burden of showing that the new laws are not intentionally discriminatory and will not have a retrogressive effect.
Tennessee’s new photo ID law states the Department of Safety and Homeland security will provide a photo ID at no charge for registered voters who do not have a government-issued photo ID. However, residents still have to produce documentation such as a birth certificate and two proofs of residency (utility bills, car registration or bank statements.)
The NAACP, however, notes residents typically incur a cost in ordering copies of birth certificates. In some cases, the records simply may not be available.
“In the rural South, many people of a certain age have no birth certificate because they were born to a midwife,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.
“For them, the barriers to getting a state issued ID without birth certificates are tremendous. Others are dependent on the rides to the polls provided by church-organized Sunday voting drives, which have been shut down in some states.”
While civil rights group applauded Holder’s remarks, their efforts to protect voter rights will continue. On Dec. 5, the NAACP released a report summarizing the effect of recent voting laws, which supporters say are needed to combat voting fraud. In the report, “Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America,” officials argue that the new laws are designed to suppress minority turnout, which in 2008 was a factor in the election of Barack Obama, the first African American to serve as president.
“Last week was a game changer,” declared Jealous, whose organization helped to organize a voting rights rally in New York City last Saturday (Dec. 10) that attracted more than 25,000.
“We issued our call for voting rights in the streets of New York, at the United Nations and across the nation through the media. The far right is now on the defensive about their attack on voting rights.”
In a related matter:
The NAACP is urging members to sign the petition for voting rights at Stand4Freedom.org http://www.stand4freedom.org/page/s/stand-for-freedom.
In Tennessee, a citizen-led effort is underway to repeal the photo ID for voting law. Tennessee Citizen Action, in conjunction with the No Barriers to the Ballot Box Coalition, has launched ProtectTheVoteTN.org, a new website for Tennesseans who want to help repeal the photo ID to vote law, serve voters who need assistance, and monitor the 2012 elections.
On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, the NAACP will launch an unprecedented voter registration drive and it’s first-ever voter identification drive.”
Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration founded by Maulana Karenga and observed Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Each day is guided by one of the Seven Principles of the Nguzo Saba.
‘Black on Black Love’ theme for Mid-South Kwanzaa Inc.
Mid-South Kwanzaa Incorporated – directed by President and CEO Ayanna Ruby Payne – embraces Kwanzaa as a celebration of culture, community and family.
This year’s theme is “Black on Black Love.” Those designated for special honor are:
Kenya Bradshaw, children’s advocate (Umoja); Mable L. Williams, spiritual activist (Kujichagulia); Bro. Jamalo, community activist (Ujima); Bennie Nelson West, entrepreneur (Ujamaa); Min. Anthony Muhammad, community activist (Nia); Winford Bryant, inventor (Kuumba); the Rev. Alton Williams, spiritual activist (Imani); and Roberto and Rochelle Person and family, family of the year.
Day 1: UMOJA (Unity) – Monday, Dec. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Board of Education Auditorium (Sponsored by MCS, Orange Mound Progressive Women; and 7 p.m. at Unity Christian Church at 3345 McCorkle Rd. (Sponsored by the Rev. Eric Donaldson).
Day 2: KUJICHAGULIA (Self-Determination) – Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 5 pm at Southwest Tennessee Community College-Auditorium, 737 Union Ave. (Sponsored by Levi and Debra Frazier); 7 p.m. at the Alpha Church, 1084 E. McLemore. (Sponsored by LeQuita Sims)
Day 3: UJIMA (Collective Work & Responsibility) –Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Slavehaven, 826 N. Second St. at 2 p.m. (Sponsored by Heritage Tours); 7 p.m. at Exum Towers, 3155 Sharpe Ave. (Sponsored by Reuben and Lula Barnes)
Day 4: UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics) – Thursday, Dec. 29 at Lewis Center for Senior Citizens, 1188 N. Parkway at 10:30 a.m. (Sponsored by Adimu and Pearl Ali); am Economic Summit at The LeMoyne-Owen College, Student Lounge, 807 Walker Avenue at 4 p.m. (Sponsored by Ayodele Kofie)
Day 5: NIA (Purpose) – Friday, Dec. 30 at the Orange Mound Senior Service Center, 2590 Park Ave. at 10:30 a.m. (Sponsored by Trennie and Kiwayna Williams and Dr. Niambi Webster); Lester Community Center, 317 Tillman St at 7 p.m. (Sponsored by Osupa Williams, Frances Barnes & Tillman-Binghampton CDC).
Day 6: KUUMBA (Creativity) - Saturday, Dec. 31 at White’s Chapel Elementary School, 3966 Sewanee Road at 2 p.m. (Sponsored by Carolyn Crawford and Khepra); Java, Juice, & Jazz Restaurant, 1423 Elvis Presley Blvd at 7 p.m. (Sponsored by Johari Brittenum)
Day 7: IMANI (Faith) – Sunday, Jan. 1 at the University of Memphis-Pan-Hellenic Building at 4 p.m. (Sponsored by the African & African American Studies Department).
‘Year of the Father’ celebration for Memphis Kwanzaa International
Memphis Kwanzaa International Inc., is ready for the 2011-12 Kwanzaa Cultural Celebrations!
Dr. Kaia Naantaanbuu-Jones, president of Memphis Kwanzaa International, notes that this year’s theme is “Year of the Father.”
Day 1: UMOJA (Unity) – Monday, Dec. 26 at The LeMoyne Owen College, 807 Walker Avenue, from Refreshments from 4 p.m.-5 p.m., with program to follow.
Day 2: KUJICHAGULIA (Self-Determination) – Tuesday, Dec. 27 at the Benjamin F. Hooks Public Library, 3030 Poplar Ave., Refreshments from 4 p.m.-5 p.m., with program to follow.
Day 3: UJIMA (Collective Work & Responsibility) – Wednesday, Dec. 28 at the Glenview Community Center, 1411Barksdale, Refreshments from 4 p.m.-5 p.m., with program to follow.
Day 4: UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics) – Thursday, Dec. 29 at Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Road, Refreshments from 4 p.m.-5 p.m., with program to follow.
Day 5: NIA (Purpose) – Friday, Dec. 30 at McFarland Community Center, 4955 Cottonwood, Refreshments from 4 p.m.-5 p.m., with program to follow.
Day 6: KUUMBA (Creativity) – Saturday, Dec. 31 at The Links of Whitehaven, 750 East Holmes Rd. This day’s event is a Soiree and Fundraiser to help establish The Memphis Kwanzaa Health and Social Center that will offer free health services and job training classes. Food, fun and live entertainment from 7 p.m.-midnight. Tickets are $50 (single), couples $75.
Day 7: IMANI (Faith) – Sunday, January 1, at The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Labor Center, 485 Beale St., refreshments from 2 p.m.-3 p.m., with program to follow.
(For more information, call 901-210-1218 or 901-239-1555.)
by Amy Rosenberg
Special to the Tri-State Defender
The Neely name is arguably more famous than any other in the legendary Memphis barbecue scene. Yet, more valuable to brothers Tony, Gaelin, Mark and Patrick than any secret sauce or spice rub is a family bond that extends far beyond the kitchen.
|For the Neelys, family is serious business. Pictured: Tony, Mamma, Jackie, Gaelin and Mark. (Courtesy photo)|
Family is the thread that ties the Neelys’ restaurants together, and family, not fame, is what they are most thankful for this holiday season.
Even with barbecue businesses thriving in Memphis, Nashville and New York City and the family’s treasured recipes finding their way into homes all across America by way of The Food Network, the Neelys still see the holidays as a time for reflection, focusing on the long journey that has brought them so much to be thankful for.
It was 1988 when the Neely men decided to take all they had learned from their uncle, Jim Neely of Neely’s Interstate Barbecue, and go into the restaurant business for themselves. However, that first Neely’s Barbecue restaurant was less of a dream come true, they say, and more of a necessity.
“I’ll never forget my mother telling me she was living in a tiny apartment, and she said, ‘I don’t even have a decent place to host Thanksgiving,’” Tony recalled. “That bothered us, bothered all of us.”
Mamma Neely was a widow at the time with young children at home, and barbecue was the best way Tony and his brothers knew how to help her. From the very start, family has always been at the heart of every recipe that has come from the Neelys’ kitchen.
“It was just ingrained in us – being family oriented and working hard. It’s in the Neelys’ blood,” Tony said.
Step foot into any Neely’s BBQ restaurant, and the writing is on the walls.
Photos that adorn dining room walls and greet hungry customers in takeout lines depict a family history full of entrepreneurs dating back to the 1930s with Grandfather Neely’s trucking company. They’re joined, of course, by classic images of all six of Mamma Neely’s children – five boys; Gaelin, Mark, Patrick, Tony and Christopher and a girl, Jackie – as well as numerous newspaper articles documenting the rise of Neely’s from a simple local eatery to a major national brand.
Local fame didn’t take long to achieve. The first Neely’s restaurant opened to hungry Memphians in the medical district in 1988. It was the only spot to grab a bite in the entire area at the time, so business boomed immediately.
“It was crazy,” Gaelin recalled. “There were no eateries, but there was a customer base. It was like a goldmine. We opened our doors and it would be standing room only.”
The goldmine continued to grow, and the next stop for Neely’s was a larger location in the Midtown area that still packs in lunch and dinner crowds at 670 Jefferson. A second store opened later at 5700 Mt. Moriah, followed by two Nashville locations, a freestanding store and one at the airport. Add to that two Food Network programs featuring Pat and Gina, as well as the recently opened Neely’s BBQ Parlor in New York City and a steady stream of Internet sales, and it’s easy to understand why Mamma Neely says her family’s journey has been nothing short of amazing.
“In a million years, I never thought it would be like this,” she said. “I always felt they’d be great one day, but I didn’t know at what. And I never would have expected it to be like this.”
Admittedly overwhelmed by what has become of the Neely name, Mamma Neely is quick to point out that her family’s success is not a surprise.
“All we did was work hard and stay together,” she added, “and that’s the key to the success of it all – loving one another, working hard and being caring and concerned about one another.”
Mamma Neely’s only advice to her sons has been to treat people right, something her late husband instilled in the children at a young age. He also preached the importance of being close, which they are to this day, and the value of working hard as a family.
“I remember on Saturdays, mom would be inside doing the housework, and we’d be in the yard doing yard work,” Gaelin said. “I remember not having a problem with it. We liked being together, working together.”
As children and adults, working together has always been the Neely way. Together, they made it possible for Mamma Neely to retire early and ensure she always has a proper place to host holiday meals.
“We just wanted to do right by the name and make our father proud and our Uncle Jim, make our mother proud,” Tony said.
And though they may be spread far and wide as Pat and Gina are on their book tour, the Neely’s will celebrate the holiday season, their thriving business and a bright future just as they always have – as a family.
“I’m grateful that God has given me another year of health to see the greatness of this family,” Mamma Neely said.
“I believe the best is yet to come.”
(PRNewswire) – Hundreds of young American minority college students in their final year of college are in immediate danger of not graduating.
“They have hit the economic wall and have nowhere else to turn,” said Pearl Algere-Lonian, Director of Financial Aid at Xavier University of Louisiana, one of the 38 historically black colleges and universities that are members of UNCF (United Negro College Fund).
To address the issue, UNCF initiated the CESA (Campaign for Emergency Student Aid) program in 2009, and hopes to raise at least $5 million in scholarship aid to help this year’s students. The average CESA grant is $1,600 per student, the difference between a dropout and a graduate.
“If we lose a student close to graduation, America loses because more often than not that student will not return to finish his or her studies,” said Dr. Beverly Hogan, president of Tougaloo College in Mississippi,
To learn more about CESA or to make a donation, visit http://give.uncf.org/cesa.