Cenla Red Cross prepares for possible hurricane; trains volunteers

With a hurricane watch issued from La Cruz, Mexico to the south end of Baffin Bay, Texas, the Central Louisiana Red Cross employees and Disaster Service volunteers are preparing for a potential response.

According to the National Weather Center, Tropical Storm Alex is steadily strengthening and is expected to become a hurricane as early as Tuesday morning, making landfall by Thursday.  Although the storm is not expected to impact Louisiana, the Central Louisiana Red Cross is gearing up for the possibility of responding locally or deploying volunteers to the impacted area.

“We have a critical need for trained shelter volunteers and for volunteers to work in our office to provide staffing support, man the call center, and to work with Information Technology,” said Leann Murphy, CEO of the Central Louisiana Red Cross.  “Whatever your skills and expertise, there’s a place for you with the Red Cross and now is the time to get trained and identified.”

An Emergency Shelter Operations Class for registered volunteers, new teams or teams needing an update, and any individual interested in becoming a Red Cross shelter volunteer will be held at the Red Cross office at 425 Bolton Avenue on the following dates and times:

Wednesday, June 30 – 8am to 12pm

Wednesday, June 30 – 1pm to 5pm

Thursday, July 1 – 5pm to 9pm

Pre-registration is required; call the Red Cross at 318-442-6621 or email learn@cenlaredcross.org.  Hurricane preparedness information can be also be found on the Red Cross website at www.cenlaredcross.org or by calling the Red Cross office at 318-442-6621.

Surviving one year, ready for the next

By Sherri L. Jackson

In 2009, “I’ve had my share of life’s ups and downs. God’s been good to me,
and the downs have been few. I would guess you can say, God has blessed
me. But there’s never been a time in my life, He didn’t bring me through.”

OK. Let me stop shouting and get through this column. I had to get that
off of my chest as we enter 2010, a new decade, a new season. This has been one crazy year with talks of a down economy, stimulus packages and such. For many people,it’s been down right hell. With that said, we’re here to tell
the story. That’s a blessing in itself because many people are not here to
tell how they made it over.

Because we are still here, we are obligated to make life worth living
for ourselves and for others. We are obligated to make sure that no one
is left behind in any arena of life. We are obligated to be the keepers of our
brothers and sisters. We will not meet these obligations
by making New Year’s resolutions. We will do so by making sure our walk matches our talk, which means we will just do it.

We must also remember that to take care of others, we must take care of
ourselves first. That means we must make sure our hearts, minds and souls
are healthy.

It would be ludicrous to think that 2010 will be all good all of the time.
However, it’s not ludicrous to believe that we can tackle whatever comes
our way, especially if we remember that we are keepers of our brothers
and sisters.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes.
Remember, we are survivors and we are here to tell the story.

Lower Third community needs its residents

By Sandra Williams Bright
Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens Organization

Do you want to be informed about the plans for your community proposed by the City of Alexandria? Do you want to make your community a better place by reporting crime and illegal drug distribution? Do you want to make a difference in your community by participating in projects that enhance the living conditions for its citizens with emphasis on youth and senior citizens projects?  If so, you need to be a part of the Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens Organization.

I am amazed by the number of Lower Third community residents, who are not aware of this organization, which has been around a long time.
Many of the founders are elderly or  in ill health or have died. That’s why we need committed and dedicated members to join, work and make a difference in this community.

We now have a generation growing who has not been taught core values of respect for self and others, honesty, hard work and accountability. We have to “take back” our neighborhoods one neighborhood at a time. We have to “draw a line in the sand and take a stand.”

When people work together they CAN make a difference. Sociologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.”

Several proposed projects are in the making for the Lower 3rd community-S.P.A.R.C. initiatives, Third Street Streetscape project and Ruston Foundry reuse. Many other issues need to be addressed such as drainage  problems,  street repair, illegal drugs distribution, loud music, school dropouts-especially among male high school students and “slum lords/tenant” problems  to name a few.

The community needs its citizens to become active and participate in these issues. Whether offering a solution, to some of these problems to reporting street problems, drainage issues and illegal drug activities to the appropriate authorities-each citizen can do his or her part to make the community a better and safer place to live. Police can’t be everywhere. The citizens are the eyes and ears of the community and must work with the police if “we” want to see a change. We need to be the “neighborhood watch” for each other’s property.  Activities like illegal drug sales flourish because we look the other way and allow it to happen.

When a community takes a stand and works toward eliminating the drug problem, the violators move to other areas. Just because one area of town is having a problem with illegal drug activity, does not mean that your neighborhood won’t be affected.

Illegal drug “stores” and distribution houses are rampant throughout the parish. Drug dealers are like roaches-when you put the poison to them, you may “knock off a few, but the rest just move to another area that has not been treated with the roach poison and set up shop. Roaches multiply faster than rabbits. When you see one, others will soon be showing up. Getting rid of roaches takes a concerted approach by all communities-half treating the problem causes the roaches to become immune and multiply faster.

People, we have a lot of work to do in our community. It starts with one project at a time and one person at a time. We tend to sit back and let other people do “our” work and say, “I’m glad that you are doing this or that. Keep it up.”  Why can’t you be the one participating in this “work?”

One person can’t do everything.  We profess to be a Christian nation and community. What will you tell St. Peter when you make it to the “Pearly Gates?”  I hope it is not, “I was too busy taking care of the missions overseas to do any missionary work in my community.” Charity begins at home.
Everyone has a talent or skill. Our organization needs your talent or skill in order to form committees, become incorporated as a non-profit in order to garner grants and resources to make a difference in the neighborhood and overall community.

The next meeting of the Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens Organization is at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, Wilborn-Dempsey Multipurpose Resource Center.  Guest presenters will be Meyer, Meyer, LaCroix & Hixson, Inc., professional engineers, along with Jeffrey Carbo, professional landscape architect.

Discussion will be centered on the proposed Third Street Streetscape project. All community residents, landowners and businesses located along the Main Street and Third Street corridors from Casson to Broadway Streets are urged to attend this important presentation and participate by asking questions and offering solutions as to “WHAT THE COMMUNITY WOULD LIKE TO SEE ACTUALIZED ALONG THIS CORRIDOR.”

Lend a hand to this organization to make our neighborhood and community a better place to live. Let’s reverse the downward spiral of urban blight. I’m greatly sadden to see how the neighborhood in which I was born and raised in has become so “trashy with an aura of decay about it.”

It dismays me to see the disrespect shown for senior citizens in their “golden years” who have given their lives in service and hardship during the civil rights movement to ensure we have the rights that were given to us as citizens of America under the Constitution.

Let’s join forces to bring back the neighbor in neighborhood, especially in the Lower Third community.

See you on at the meeting.

Landrieu secures $487K for Alexandria

Press Release

WASHINGTON –United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced that $487,000 to the City of Alexandriafor the Rail Spur Project was included in the omnibus appropriations bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 57-35.

This project entails the relocation and extension of existing rail lines to provide increased capacity and service to the Port of Alexandria. In total, the omnibus appropriations bill includes $45.9 million for Louisiana projects secured by Sen. Landrieu. Millions more were leveraged through key legislative provisions and competitive grant programs included in the bill. The bill now heads to President Obama to be signed into law.

“This project is a critical step to generating jobs for the City and the region,” said Sen. Landrieu. “A fully integrated port facility with intermodal transportation capabilities will attract business and industry to Alexandria. I support Mayor Roy’s vision for Alexandria and know that getting this port project underway could be the shot in the arm we need to put Central Louisiana on the move again.”

“I am very pleased with the work of the senior Senator from Louisiana on this critical infrastructure project,” said Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy. “Infrastructure is king. America is woefully underfunding her infrastructure presently. I know our Louisiana delegation supports ‘smart’ infrastructure investment, which is about spending on ‘future proofing,’ or ensuring we are using best practices to invest for 10, 20 and 30years out, not merely tomorrow’s fixes ‘on the cheap.’ This particular project is about inter-modality, which capitalizes on our existing competitive advantages in Central Louisiana.”

This shovel-ready project will rehabilitate and extend the City of Alexandria rail spur track to the Port of Alexandria on the Red River. These improvements will enable future enhancements necessary to create a fully functional inter-modal freight facility at the Port of Alexandria. This port provides access to Union and Pacific and Kansas City Southern Railroads, Interstate-49, U.S. Highways 71, 165, and 167 and LA Highways 1 and 28.

2010 Debutantes perform community service

Members of the 2010 Debutantes of the Alexandria Chapter of Jack & Jill of America Inc. perform a community service project by distributing oranges at the Food Bank of Central Louisiana

Tony Brown, Judge Mablean push NAACP to keep fighting

Judge Mablean Ephriam

By Candace Siemen, Jozef Media

Tony Brown,  a journalist and host of “Eyes Open With Tony Brown” came clean in his opening keynote address delivered Thursday, Sept.  24 at annual state conference of the  Louisiana NAACP.

“The State of Louisiana is simple,” Brown told the group during the opening luncheon, “We are at the bottom of the list when it comes to the good stuff and the top of the list when it comes to the bad.

He offered a laundry list of problematic situations and injustices that the citizens in the state have faced. He began with education.

“In the nearly 10 years our children have had (the exit exam) mandate forced on them, more than half a million of our children have failed to pass the grade…what adds to this problem is a large number of them both Black and White simply get discouraged and drop out. This is part of the reason why we should hold our head in shame…Louisiana, we have a problem.”

He explained how the penal system pulls statistics on male students’ school performance to determine where to build prisons: “From the school house to the jail house…the cradle to prison pipeline is alive and well in Louisiana” he said. “That’s just wrong and enough is enough.”

Brown also shared the stories of Black murder victims who had been killed at the hands of young, white police officers in Central and North Louisiana. They are Baron “Scooter” Pikes, 21, Richard Goss, 36, Bernard Monroe Sr., 73, and Harold Phillips, 54.

“What is just as shocking is that all of these homicides took place in less than a year and a half,” he said. “So when you ask me ‘what is the state of Louisiana?’ I say, ‘(Louisiana) in a sad state.’ Four unarmed Black men, all of them died violently at the hands of those we pay to protect and serve. So far, there has been not one convention and no one has even been to court.”

Brown also shared incidents of “Black Exceptionalism” where situations surround blacks not the rule, but the exception. He used the recent experiences of Harvard Professor Louis Gates following his at-home arrest, Pineville Junior High students wearing President Obama jackets, the and the firing of two black truckers in Tallulah to drive home the point that racism is active in the state. He ended each tale with “that is just wrong. I say enough is enough.”

Brown’s Alexandria-based radio show “Eyes open with Tony Brown” on 88.1FM often serves as an open forum for such community issues and concerns that are particularly not included in mainstream media.

During the three-day conference, other speakers including Judge Mablean Ephriam, former Sen. Donald Cravins Jr., and SBA Region VI Administrator Yolanda Olivarez echoed Brown’s sentiment that Louisiana citizens can continue to press the judicial system, business, industry and education leaders to do the right thing.

“We have to stand up for what’s right and not fear anyone,” said Ephraim during the Freedom Fund Dinner that was held Friday, Sept. 25. “Our generation, the Baby Boomers, are keepers of the dream. The torch has been passed to us…It’s up to us to make sure the legacy continues.”

Ephriam is best known for her television show, “Divorce Court” with Judge Mablean, but she is a retired judge in California who could still take a case to the Supreme Court, “if I need to.”

“We can’t be afraid. We need people of courage to eradicate drugs in our neighborhood. The lawful outnumber the lawless!” she said.

In agreement with Brown’s message about the local murders, the judge offered, “We have to make sure justice is fair. The disparity in sentencing has to discontinue. These are battles we continue to fight.”

Because of the disparities in health care, she urged the audience of 500 to lend their “voices, time, talent and energy to President Obama’s health care reform.”

The state NAACP conference celebrated the 100th year anniversary of the NAACP and its centennial theme: “Bold Dreams – Big Victories.” To that Ephriam said, “we had a hope and faith that said ‘I can do that.’ We did not give up; we pushed for a better world.”

She closed her speech quoting poet Robert Frost: “We’ve got miles to go before we sleep.”

Forget the myth, good black fathers exist

June 15  cover

As we get ready to celebrate Father’s Day, the thought of so many of our young black children not having a father in their lives has me asking this question: “Are there any good black fathers out there?

It’s a legitimate question to ask as many in mainstream America still has this stereotypical view of black men as being shiftless, untrustworthy, uneducated, unemployed, womanizers, dope heads/dope dealers, thugs, criminals, hustlers, and absentee fathers. This is true of a significant number of black men, as the problems of black men in this country have been statistically well documented. However, it is not true of every black man as some believe.

What those statistics don’t tell you and what never seems to get acknowledged is the countless number of black men who embody the essence of fatherhood. In other words, good black fathers do exist in America despite what the media or society would have us believe.

Unfortunately, not enough focus is put on, and not enough credit is given to black men who are good fathers. Along with being good fathers, black men are also nurturing fathers, responsible fathers, caring fathers, loving fathers, and supportive fathers. There are more good black fathers out there than are ever talked about. They very seldom come up in our conversations.

Far too many of us always seem to lump all black men under the category of negativism that is so associated with being a black man in this country.  And that’s because all of us, on a regular basis, have been exposed to the stereotypes of black men. But, in truth, there are many black men who live up to their roles as fathers and providers to their children.

The notion that good black fathers are not supposed to be is wrong, dead wrong. And that takes me back to the question – “are there any good black fathers out there? I know, and can attest to, that good black fathers do exist and are out there in my neighborhood, your neighborhood, and in everyone’s neighborhood across this country. Good black fathers are far more plentiful than one would think. When a black man takes an active role in raising his children, being with them, providing for them financially, supporting them in their activities, helping them with their homework, taking them to the park, library, or doctor, you know that he is a good father. Hey, wait a minute. He’s a GREAT FATHER.

Black men are some of the most dedicated fathers around, and we have many of them right here in Central Louisiana. They are protectors, healers, mentors, role models, disciplinarians, and teachers.  Many of them have endeavored to be the same type of father to their children as their own father was to them.  They are walking the walk of committed fatherhood.

Speaking of a great father, my brother, John Kelvin Ford, is one of the best fathers that I know. He is always there for his daughter, Kelvina. He takes her to the doctor, to her dance classes, and doing just about anything she asks him to do for her. He loves her very much, and there is nothing that he will not do for her. He seriously takes his role as her father to heart. My hat goes off to him for being such a wonderful and caring father.

To those black men who know what the true meaning of fatherhood is, I say “Happy Father’s Day to you, and keep on “fathering” on.

And to my father, Leonard (“Tootsie”) Ford, Sr., who passed away in 1987, I say thanks, Daddy, for everything that you did for us.  You may be gone, but you will forever be in our hearts.

June 15, Pages 1-4June 15, Pages 5-8June 15, Pages 9-12