Archive for September, 2011

Open Letter by Gerald Curry

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

In this issue we focus on the importance of family, and for good reasons.  The family is the centerpiece for support, hope, and guidance throughout one’s life.  A wise man has said, “You can’t select your family!” This is a very true statement, so whether you were born into a very wealthy and prosperous family, or one that is rich only in love and support, it is your family.  Most will agree that regardless of the social status of our family, we love both the good and the bad.

The family is the very nucleus and foundation for success; it teaches all of us the difference between right and wrong.  Naturally, some families do a better job than others.  Regardless of the type of family you came from, I am certain you would consider your family a blessing on many levels.  From our very beginning, parents and other relatives do their very best to ensure our safety, support, and nurturing.  Not only do we gain our personal looks from our family, we gain our mannerisms and, many times, aspirations from family members.

When asked who your biggest personal hero is, many times it is a member of one’s family.  I know for me it is.  I watched my Father work really hard two, and many times up to three, jobs just in an attempt to take care of my brothers and me.  My family taught me the meaning of love; I mean real love.  I was able to learn how to be both a father and a husband from watching my Father, and boy, did he provide a great example! 

Enjoy each of the articles in this edition. I am certain you will be inspired and encouraged by paying closer attention to your family over the coming weeks and months.  Regardless of how dysfunctional your family may seem at times, it is your family, and you ought to take time out to love everything about it.  Our families are truly a beautiful blessing from God, and we need to thank our family members daily for being the unique individuals they are.  Take time out today and tell every member in your family how much you love them and share the articles in this edition of The Urban Voice with all of them. 

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Washington, DC Big Barbeque! by Gerald Curry

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

On June 25th and 26th, downtown Washington, DC came to life with the smells of BBQ filling the streets at the National Capital BBQ Battle, sponsored annually by Safeway. Thousands of families crowded into the streets to sample the many different flavors of BBQ, chicken, turkey, duck, pork, fish, and other delicious dishes.  Pennsylvania Avenue between 9th and 14th streets was jam packed with BBQ enthusiasts, and people just looking for a great time.

This year was extra special because an all-star lineup of bands of leading notables:  Chuck Brown, Secret Society, EU, Y2K, gospel sensation Alex Williams, DJ Quicksilva, Anthony Brown, the Niki Bar Band, Nadine Rae, and many more kept the attendees entertained throughout the day.  NBA legends participated and signed autographs at the NBA tent. Children had the opportunity of getting their faces painted, palms read, and jumping around in the bounce castles. 

Truly, this was a family affair that will not be soon forgotten.  This year BBQ chefs came from far and wide to sport their wares and exhibit their finest recipes.  A variety of meats were cooked right in front of your very eyes, and there were BBQ-eating contests that several bold individuals participated in. People were dancing in the streets, just having a grand old time!

Vendors set up early and kept the attendees busy sampling food, trying on jewelry, learning about the latest in environmental technology, and whatever you can imagine.  Everyone had had a great time and stood in long lines to sample new and exotic BBQ dishes. Every table was filled with people of all ages licking their fingers and looking for the next dish to try.  Children were kept busy with clowns and kiddy rides, while parents were able to partake of new and different foods from around the region.

Make sure next year that you bring your family out to the Safeway National Capital BBQ Battle.  I am certain you will be glad you did.  Whatever you do, don’t miss this opportunity!

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Our Global Family by Dr. Cathy Royal, PhD

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

“Black and Brown children will be working around the globe. They will join in the new community of cultures that expects American Blacks to know their connection to the Black Diaspora, to Cuban Blacks, Haiti, or Surinam, and beyond.  We will need to create a clear understanding in our communities and in ourselves that we are responsible for the future.  The global community needs each of us to be at the top of our citizenship game.  We must be prepared to make educated and informed decisions about politics, social responsibility, ecological dilemmas, all matters involving the security and safety of our communities.”

The quotes that open this month’s education column are taken from past issues.  How interesting it was to review the previous issues and bring forward comments for this column.  The quote is quite relevant for the subject of this month’s column.  Why? Because The Urban Voice is taking a road trip to discover what the world is asking of concerned citizens about education, citizenship and people of African descent in the western hemisphere.

The United Nations has designated 2011 the year of African people. The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 64/169 by consensus on December 18, 2009, proclaiming the year 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent (lYPAD). This year in Cali, Colombia, South America nations and citizens from around the globe are coming together for the first African Family Reunion conference. [Your World Travel Consultant Group is the official travel sponsor for the reunion; please contact them (1-888-535-3536) or AfroAmerica XXI for additional information on the reunion.]

The conference will be held from August 22-27. This will be the first such event in the western hemisphere.  The primary organizing agency is AfroAmerica XXI (or AAXXI), a nonprofit organization based in the United States and working globally to create awareness and unity about people of the African Diaspora. The government of Colombia is providing support for the event and its Vice President is scheduled to be the opening speaker on August 22.

In previous columns I have written about the need for global awareness and the need for an understanding about culture, heritage, and pride.  This conference has a great opportunity to open dialogue throughout the hemisphere between educators and communities about the connections across the boundaries of nations.  These connections will address the education of children, or lack thereof, in urban areas in every country where poverty and under preparation is present.  In many of our schools we have simulations and case examples about issues that expect children to make “leadership decisions” based on the facts present in their texts or scripts. 

These simulations are great curriculum ideas that prepare students for critical thinking and decision making.  What we also need is exposure and “voices from the globe” to enhance our scripts and text.  The information super highway via SKYPE and Google Earth has enhanced classroom vision and created avenues to see into classrooms in Salvador da Bahia, or Cali, Colombia.  What about the opportunity to be in Salvador or Cali? What about the life changing experiences of living and learning side by side with students and citizens of another country? We have an opportunity through the reunion agenda to create learning and living opportunities for students and teachers. 

I know it is impossible for every student or teacher to have a “study abroad” experience and clearly there are limited resources for such experiences in most urban school districts.  I also know that seeing the world, experiencing learning outside the day to day classroom, outside the United States and the barrio or the ‘hood, is invaluable.  Studying and seeing another culture as part of your education experience has been a cornerstone of quality education for decades.  Many of the educational profiles of our leaders include living and studying outside the United States or their native countries; the admission offices in colleges and universities look for such “unique experiences” in their applicants’ portfolios. 

It is time for urban students to have this opportunity more often.  It is time for this area of education to address study opportunities that focus on people of color and their contributions to cultures and nations.  These programs are different from programs that send students or citizens on “help missions” to other countries. The curriculum of such new study opportunities must include the accomplishments of people of African descent and contact with successful families in the Diaspora.

The African Family Reunion conference agenda has several tracks:  One is dedicated to education, another to commerce or business, and a third is focused on culture and history.  The tag line on the conference website is “…let’s gather the things that unite us”.  This is a powerful statement and can be an exciting beginning for educators to develop stimulating curriculum programs based on connections and learning gained at the reunion.  I intend to participate in the education and culture tracks.  I intend to listen intently to the voices of the people of the Diaspora who are attending the conference.  I am interested in making the connections that will facilitate new opportunities for collaboration across the hemisphere.  This reunion is an opportunity to participate in history and the future. 

The word is spreading about the United Nations declaration, the energy is building, and in countries around the world people are sharing information about the significance of the declaration.  It is historic and signals to the world the UN’s recognition of the importance of African people across the world.  The United States will be represented I am sure; what is needed from The Urban Voice community is to spread the word in our neighborhoods.

Tell our sons and daughters that the recognition has begun, that our heritage is taking the world stage.  Ask teachers and leaders to create an opportunity to discuss this wonderful event and recognition.  Create a celebration at the opening of school in September including acknowledgment of the many countries in the Diaspora; keep the recognition going beyond the conference.  Ask your spiritual leader to offer words and support during the conference week.  Uniting a diverse population of descendants is so important and critical to the 21st century global community; unity will take prayer, determination and commitment.  Mention the event; go to the website; listen for updates. I am in for the long haul so please read this column when I return.  And, of course, see for yourself; come to Cali and be a part of history and step into the future.

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Family Reunions – Washington, DC Style by Carol White Campbell

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

September 10, 2011 will be the second Black Family Reunion on the National Mall without its founder, Dr. Dorothy Height.  The main purpose behind the Reunion is to highlight the positive side of black families through organized activities that address themes such as education, health, economic empowerment, teen issues, and family values.  The Reunion also invites families to enjoy family bonding while relaxing to music and entertainment in the summer heat and the natural surroundings of the grassy Mall.  McDonald’s® Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour featuring Grammy Award-winning gospel recording artist Hezekiah Walkeris is scheduled to be one of the performances at the Black Family Reunion celebration this year.  For more information on this year’s events go to

Dr. Height passed away on April 20, 2010, but her spirit and legacy remain ever present.  Dr.  Height’s “family” ties were broad, including the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the National Action Network, National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, national African American civil rights leaders, dignitaries, and everyone with whom she came into contact.  Having the strong support system she had, Dr. Height most likely enjoyed the good and bad that we so often experience in family relationships.   What we know for sure is that studying the life of this great woman will give insight and knowledge on how to be a productive citizen and make the world a better place. 

One of Dr. Height’s last challenges to us was to look at economic opportunities to be employed, opportunities for all kinds of education, and opportunities for all kinds of training.  Pursuing these goals will eat away at the deep roots of poverty and position us for a better life in the 21st century. 

If you have the opportunity to gather with your family, be it at the Washington D.C. event or your own family reunion, take time to learn about your family history.  You will be surprised how much you will discover about yourself and others.  While you are at it, cook up a sweet potato pie in Dr. Height’s memory.  She loved the following pie adaptation created by Mary Bethune McCleod found at:

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The Story of America’s Black Patriots -Part Two by Frank Martin and Jeff Stetson

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

The role of African-Americans in the Civil War is a part of this nation’s history that is yet to be fully explored. While some attention has been paid to the men who inspired the movie “Glory”, the depth of involvement is far deeper than the exploits of one courageous troop.

What follows is an attempt to tell some of that story. 

Previously – When war breaks out black men offer to serve but the North won’t have them as soldiers. In Charleston South Carolina, a slave steals the confederate gunboat Planter. With Emancipation, African-American men are finally permitted to fight.

In New Orleans, Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler began mustering free men of color into the Union Army. Once assembled, the Louisiana Native Guard was pressed into service. Their captain, Andre Cailloux, called himself “the blackest man in town.” When General Butler sent for the soldiers, a regimental spokesman whose name has been lost to time told the officer, “General, we come of a fighting race.  The only cowardly blood we have in our veins is the white blood.”

The men were put to the test at Port Hudson, a highly-fortified Confederate camp overlooking the Mississippi River in Louisiana. The fight was one of the bloodiest battles in the entire Civil War. Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood would later describe the events. “Six times with desperate valor they charged over ground where success was hopeless. Six times they went to useless death, swept back by the blazing breath of shot and shell before which nothing living could stand. Here fell the gallant Captain Cailloux, black as the ace of spades; refusing to leave the field though his arm had been shattered by a bullet, he returned to the charge until killed by a shell.”

After 48 days, Confederate troops finally surrendered. Black soldiers had proven their worth on the field of honor. In a letter home, Sgt. Thomas B. Wester wrote, “The bones of black men are at the present time whitening in the battlefields, while their blood, simultaneously with the white man’s, oozes into the soil of his former homes. I hope that the day is not far distant when we shall see the colored man enjoying the same rights and privileges as those of the white man of this country.”

Six days earlier, Rebel forces had also been defeated at Gettysburg and the “high tide of the Confederacy” began to recede. In South Carolina, the Rebel fortification, Battery Wagner, was Charleston Harbor’s first line of defense. The Union Army considered its capture to be essential and the all-black Massachusetts 54th led the attack to bring it down. Writing to his wife, 1st. Sgt. Robert Simmons spoke of the coming battle. “My Dear wife, we are on the march to Ft. Wagner, to storm it. We have just completed our successful retreat from James Island; we fought a desperate battle there Thursday morning. God has protected me through this, my first fiery, leaded trial and I do give him the glory.”

Ft. Wagner was located on a barrier island. The earthen installation was defended by 1700 Confederate troops. When the attack came, some 600 men of the Massachusetts 54th marched across an open beach. The Union soldiers were cut down by a devastating torrent of gunfire.  Sergeant Major Lewis Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass, wrote of the slaughter in a letter to his fiancée. “It was terrible. A shell would explode and clear a space of twenty feet, our men would close up again, but it was no use.  How I got out of that fight alive I cannot tell, but I am here. Remember, if I die, I die in a good cause.”

272 members of the Massachusetts 54th were either killed or wounded in the attack. The unit’s commanding officer, 25-year old Colonel Robert Shaw, was one of those who lost his life. Corporal James Gooding saw him fall. “We were exposed to a murderous fire from the battery of the fort. Mortal men could not stand such a fire. When the men saw their gallant leader fall, they made a desperate effort to get him out, but they were shot down, or reeled in the ditch below”.

When the color bearer was wounded, Pvt. William Carney raced forward to rescue the American flag.  As the former slave fought his way back to the Union lines he was shot in the head, chest, right arm and both legs. Despite his wounds, the 23-year-old soldier staggered into camp clutching the bloody flag. His surviving comrades broke into cheers as William Carney proudly exclaimed, “Boys, I did my duty. The dear old flag never touched the ground.”

For his actions that day, William Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor. He later said, “I decided I could best serve my God by serving my country and my oppressed brothers.”

The 54th served with distinction throughout the war. Following a desperate battle at Olustee, Florida, their heroism was documented by an aide to Union General Truman Seymour, who wrote, “Had it not been for the glorious Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, the whole brigade would have been captured or annihilated.  They would not retreat when ordered, but charged on with the most fearful desperation. If this regiment has not won glory enough to have shoulder straps, where is there one that ever did?”

In the next installment of For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots, wives and children wait anxiously as husbands and fathers fight for their liberation. Harriet Tubman does her part as well. Yet, black soldiers are paid less than their white counterparts.

See this story and much more at

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It’s Time to Go Back to the Basics by Kelvin Lassiter

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

In the United States 18.4 percent of children were born to unmarried women by the year 1980.  By the year 2008, that figured had jumped to 40.6 percent according to statistics by the US Census Bureau. There had to be a reason for the alarming increase of births to unmarried women.  One philosophy that may have contributed to the shift is the challenges that men face in keeping their family together.

Since our arrival in America on the slave ships, black men have shared a rich tradition of being leaders. Countless challenges have been conquered such as slavery, Jim Crow, and wars.  Today’s training of the black man may not come from home by a responsible man, but from the streets or the criminal justice system.  These are not excuses for the brother’s behavior, just facts.  Those methods do not place emphasis on the family structure. 

Black men have a natural instinct to survive by any means necessary, legal or illegal.  Black men who choose the legal method of survival sometimes are frowned upon and considered soft or sellouts.  Black men who choose the illegal path may be glorified in society in rap videos, and award shows which are just mere entertainment, not reality.  The black man, who was once viewed as a leader, is now looked upon as a follower.  This affects the woman, which keeps the institution of family interrupted. 

Some black women feel they don’t need a black man to complete them and some black men feel some black women are too confrontational.  This is the great divide that produces fatherless children and single family homes.  It is no secret that a home with a responsible male presence increases the success of our children.  This does not undermine the households without a male presence, but sheds light on the fact that a male can lead by example and create positive outcomes if given the opportunity.  Men now more than ever have to continuously prove themselves because of men who walk away from their obligations.  It increases the pressure on the man who is stepping up to the plate and taking care of business.  Women also have an obligation to stop using children as pawns to repay a beef that has happened and charging men guilty before proven innocent. 

In order to change the climate in our community, we must first change how we value each other.  History continues to show us the importance of black women by the success obtained by black men.  There would not have been a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. without Coretta.  There would not have been a Malcolm X without Dr. Betty Shabazz.  President Barack Obama would not have been inaugurated to become our nation’s first black President without Michelle.  It is safe to say that on some level, those women would not have become who they are without their men as well. 

Our children today need to see togetherness out of adults.  It starts with forgiving one another for bad choices and bad behavior.  Our children suffer more when forgiveness is not a part of our lives.  A child will also develop unhealthy relationships from the examples set growing up.  Healthy relationships build self-worth and confidence, two key ingredients in becoming successful while being black in America.  Antwone Fisher learned this lesson early on while being raised in an abusive foster home.  His strength and courage propelled him to become a sailor in the United States Navy.  His story became a movie starring Denzel Washington.

What will become of your story?  Will the outcome inspire others to understand the importance of family such as Antwone Fisher?   Will your decisions result in adding statistics that destroy your future and community?  Here are a few suggestions that are part of basic family etiquette:

1. If you find yourself outside of the normal family dynamic, then explore extended family members to help you.  Blood may be thicker than water; however, it’s always good to go to the well when that option presents itself.  Extended family members include members of your circle who you can depend on who are not a part of your family tree but share the bond as if they were.

2. Choose a family you admire to model your family after.  It can be close relatives, or positive role models.  Also read books on parenting, children, self-esteem, and family magazines.

3. Do not ever give up on your family, the strength begins and ends with the people responsible for creating life.  This responsibility should be reviewed before the opportunity presents itself to start a family.

We are living in a time that this generation has never experienced and it will take a family structure filled with togetherness to make it through.  It will take young and old to realize that this is a “family affair” as Sly and the Family Stone so eloquently put it.  It is time to go back to basics. What will you do?

Kelvin Lassiter is an author, speaker, and addiction prevention consultant based in Washington, DC.  For more information, please visit

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Muscle Tone and Strength by Bruce Croom

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Often in the fitness industry, we hear people say, “I want to get in shape and tone up.” Every one of us absolutely has the ability to be fit and be strong. After all, it’s what our bodies are designed to do.

Achieving muscle tone is actually not that hard. Muscle tone is simply having an appearance of muscle from a reduction in fat in a given area or from gaining muscle size in a given area. All of us have muscle definition underneath our layers of skin and fat. The less fat that surrounds the muscle, the more the muscle definition will stand out. The larger the muscle in a given area, the less fat can occupy that same space. Ultimately, both scenarios can create the ever popular “toned” or “ripped” look.

The first thing one should consider in having the toned look is nutrition. Proper diet can shape your body to desirable results without even picking up a weight or setting foot in a gym. Strength and weight training however will keep your body’s natural metabolism high, which in turn will cause you to burn more fat in general. Being relatively strong and having muscle mass is also good for us as we get older. So we advocate that the perfect combination of proper nutrition and weight training will give you ultimate results.

Remember fat and muscles are two completely different things. To dispel the common myth, one does not turn into the other. Muscles grow with weight training, then fat simply is burned away through the muscle growth and calorie expenditure (cardio). Women often stay away from weights for fear of appearing “bulky”. This is another myth. Women are not designed to be bulky. This look occurs, for example, when you lift improperly (too heavy) or do not eat properly to reduce the layer of fat surrounding the muscle.

Short range of motion (ROM) also is a culprit of bulky appearances. A short ROM will build your muscles just that way, short and stumpy. Long, lean muscle is created when exercises are performed with full ROM giving you the look that you want, not to mention more strength and overall flexibility. Men sometimes want to appear bulky so they will lift heavy weights and practice short ROM. Although men can scientifically get away with this more so than women, they too should practice a full ROM to get that leaned out effect.

The human body is truly amazing and it will adapt to whatever you put it through. Your muscles will grow and you will become stronger as you work out. The body gains strength and loses strength all in about the same relative time phase, about every three days for either. Maintain a regimented schedule so you will never have to worry about losing your strength. Eat 1.1 grams of protein per lean pound of muscle mass and drink plenty of water. These two things are what muscles are made of. It’s that simple!

So stop reading this article and go lift some weights!

For more information visit or blog at

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