April 9th, 2015

The Nest gives us a chance to be fairy godmothers, if we hurry

It is not often women in Lexington can be fairy godmothers, but this is one of those occasions.
Remember in the story of Cinderella how the fairy godmother suddenly appeared at the last minute on the night of the grand ball and helped the forlorn girl get all dolled up to meet the handsome prince?
Well, you have just one day to do the same thing for a young girl who can’t afford the trappings necessary to attend her prom.
The Nest Center for Women, Children, & Families will be hosting the Fifth Annual Bippity Boppity Boutique on April 11 at which young girls who can’t otherwise afford to buy a dress and accessories for prom night, can come and have their pick of about 100 gently worn gowns for the special evening.
Sheri Estill, director of crisis care at the center, said the event was postponed a week because of the Final Four and Easter. Unfortunately, that delay pushed the opening of the boutique back to the day of prom for two high schools in Fayette County and one in Scott County.
So time is very, very short to not only make more young girls aware of the event, but also to plead to have more plus-size gowns donated.
Estill sent notices to local high schools about the boutique and had a lot of interest, she said. Nevertheless, she is unsure of the number of girls who will come to the boutique, but is prepared to help all who do.
“Prom can be very expensive,” she said, noting the cost of a dress, shoes, hair-dos, manicures and the like. Add to those expenses the cost of tickets, which are $40 to $50, and prom can become an unrealized dream.

Sheri Estill, standing on the chair, with Ellen Kaiser, Taylor West and Jessica Stickrod dressed in donated dresses.

Sheri Estill, standing on the chair, with Ellen Kaiser, Taylor West and Jessica Stickrod dressed in donated dresses.

The boutique event began five years ago when a parent asked Estill if there were any programs that helped with prom. When Estill called around, she was told no.
“Because someone told me no, I started calling my friends asking for gently used prom dresses,” she said.
This will be the fifth year for an event Estill has promised she would never do again. But each year college interns have stepped up to carry some of the load that she had borne alone and the event continues to grow.
This year the boutique, open 11 a.m.-3 p.m., will be held at Tower on Main Event Centre on the 15th floor of the Chase Tower overlooking downtown Lexington. A professional will help the girls coordinate their make-up with their chosen gown, and each girl will have her hair done free of charge on the day of her prom by stylists at Paul Mitchell The School Lexington.
The dresses will be on racks and each girl can try on whatever catches her eye. Donated shoes and other accessories will also be on hand, and there will be door prizes and a swag bag. Parking is free in the Chase garage.
“We need more sizes,” Estill said. “We have schools and parents asking for plus sizes.”
The dresses can be cocktail style, or still-modern prom dresses, as well as bridesmaid dresses.
Donations should be dropped off Thursday and Friday at The Nest, 530 North Limestone.
If you have a gown in the back of your closet, The Nest would love to have it.
This is a good time to let it magically create new memories for someone else.

Fifth Annual Bippity Boppity Boutique, offering gently worn prom gowns to girls on limited budgets.
When: 11 a.m.- 3 p.m., Saturday.
Where: Tower on Main Event Centre, 15th floor of the Chase Tower, 201 E Main.
To donate: Donations of gowns, shoes and accessories accepted through April 10, at The Nest, Women Children & Families, 530 North Limestone.
Information: Call (859) 259-1974.


April 7th, 2015

Sorority holds event to inform, encourage women to run for office

It is no secret that Kentucky ranks near the bottom among states for the number of women holding elective office. At the state level, only 23 of the 138 senators and representatives are women, or 16.7 percent. None are women of color.
Those numbers are pretty scary considering women comprise 51 percent of Kentucky’s population. And a local sorority chapter hopes to change that.
“We want to encourage women to run for public office,” said Chrysanthia Carr-Seals, co-chair with Shayla D. Johnson for the “Women! Let’s Run for Office” program hosted by Lexington’s alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., sorority.
“Our sorority is predominantly black, but we want all women to participate,” Carr-Seals said. “One of the initiatives that the national Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., promotes for each chapter is to get politically involved, to become much more informed about the political process.”
To that end, the sorority invited State Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, the longest-serving woman in the General Assembly, and 6th District Councilwoman Angela Evans, who is one of three women newly elected to the Lexington council. A record seven women are seated on the council currently.
The two keynote speakers will later join a panel featuring a woman who has experienced a failed campaign and a woman who is learning the ins and outs of a political candidacy.
Palumbo ran for office after years of volunteering with various organizations, schools and churches in Lexington and she recommends that avenue for other women, she said. It is a means of “getting to know what the needs are in the community and to know what is important for you to work on,” she said.
“Being a legislator has been a learning experience,” Palumbo said. “We don’t know everything. We depend on the community and our friends to know what the issues are.
After identifying issues that needed to be addressed, she realized the best place to tackle those issues was at the state level.
Palumbo grew up listening to her parents discussing politics at the dinner table, she said. Her father had a lot of political friends.
Still, it took the encouragement of her husband and family to run for public office.
“If you don’t have family support, you can’t do it,” she said. “You don’t just decide to run for office on a whim. Some things just happen when things are right.”
Just when she was considering a run for office, the state representative in the 76th District resigned and a special election was held.
For Evans, running for office was the next step.
“I’ve always been in government,” she said, “and with my social work background, I’ve seen how it works for people and how it doesn’t work for people. I’ve seen injustices and unfairness, and I wanted to help create a more level playing field in the creation of jobs and just how people are treated. It is by being a part of the system that I can have a voice and at least expose some issues.”
Evans, like Palumbo, indicated that familial support was important, but she also gleaned a lot of encouragement from Emerge America, a seven-month training program to prepare more Democratic women to seek office.
Carr-Seals is also a graduate of Emerge and recently was elected Fayette County Magistrate for District 3.
“I went through the Emerge program and thought I had the tools to (run for office),” Evans said. “That’s just my personality,” she said. “I’ve always been one to say if there is an opportunity, I’m going to take it.”
So far, she thinks it was worth it. Just by her being on the council, “people know that we all have something to contribute,” Evans said. “I think I bring a different perspective by being there.”
I would agree. It wasn’t until I saw a black face reporting the news that I began to think of journalism as a potential career.
Surely there are young girls of all cultures and races who can look at Palumbo and Evans and believe they, too, can help lead their state and city. And surely there are young boys who need to see women office holders, women as leaders.
The program will be held at the Northside Branch Public Library on April 11, starting at 10 a.m. Men are just as welcome as women.
“We want them to come out of curiosity and then decide to look more deeply into it,” Carr-Seals said. “We want them looking into what’s possible.”

What: “Women! Let’s Run for Political Office,” a free event sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Lexington alumni chapter, to encourage women to run for public office.
When: 10 a.m. April 11.
Where: Northside Branch Public Library, 1733 Russell Cave Rd.
Information: Email sdlync00@yahoo.com or chrysseals@hotmail.com.

April 7th, 2015

Court-appointed child advocates make a difference; more needed

Wednesday I discovered yet another reason to buy more jewelry.

Jewelers for Children, the jewelry industry’s charitable organization, gave the National Court Appointed Special Advocates program $600,000 to support the jewelers’ initiative to help abused children.

CASA then asked its affiliates in 951 communities nationwide to explain how they could put the grant to the best use.

On Wednesday, CASA of Lexington was awarded $40,000, and was one of only 14 programs to receive a grant. Surely that warrants adding another ring to my collection as a way of thanking the jewelers.

Melynda Jamison, executive director of CASA of Lexington, said the money will be used to recruit and train more volunteers and reach more children this year.

“We are now serving 24 percent of the children in Fayette County” who are in the court system, she said. That is a sizeable improvement from the three percent served when she first was appointed to her position two years ago.

“As we are able to advocate more for the children, hopefully we are breaking the cycle,” she said.

Currently there are about 900 children in the system who need someone to advocate for their interest. CASA represents 284 of them.

Advocates are appointed to some of the worst cases, and are requested by the judge, a social worker, the foster parent or a CASA representative. All cases are confidential, she said.

“We’d like to be on every case, but we have to keep in mind we cannot serve all the kids,” Jamison said.

Unfortunately, new problems are being recognized in already difficult situations. But volunteers are kept abreast of these issues through in-service updates. Some of the in-service topics have focused on human trafficking, sexual trafficking and various cultural differences.

Newspaper headlines about parents selling their children or handing them over for favors indicate an unfortunate trend.

Each volunteer averages about three siblings, which means that 27 new volunteers could increase the number of children served by more than 80.

“We need men,” Jamison said. “We have more than we’ve ever had, but we still need more.” Those men, she said are extremely vital for the older youth.

And she needs volunteers who are multilingual, with Spanish as the highest need.

Children with a CASA advocate have a chance of getting out of foster care 71

2 months earlier than children who don’t, and they tend to perform better in school.

In fact, 90 percent of the children who have CASA volunteers never re-enter the court system.

If you have time to visit with the children at least once a month and write a report for the courts that includes information about family history and the backgrounds of the parents, then you might qualify to be an advocate. The report includes recommendations about what is best for the child, although the judge has the final say. Those recommendations, Jamison said, could be additional counseling, tutoring and any of a number of available resources.

You must be 21 and complete an application, undergo a background check, consent to 32 hours of training, and agree to stick with it for two years. You then will be sworn in by a judge and have a case assigned to you.

Most of the children CASA Lexington advocates for are in foster care or group homes. Some aren’t in Fayette County. And, volunteers can work a regular job during the week and find time over the weekend to visit the children. CASA will work with your schedule.

Most of the current volunteers are white women. Jamison would love to have more diversity to better match volunteers with children. About 53 percent of the children served recently were boys and 24 percent of the children were black. Most of the children were between 6 and 11 years old, with children 5 and younger coming in a close second.

Kentucky is one of eight states that does not fund its CASA program. So receiving $40,000 is a big deal for the local affiliate.

All they want to do with that money is help more children. They can’t do that without your help.

Call Jamison at (859) 246-4313 to get the process started.


What: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lexington is holding a training session for new volunteers who want to advocate for neglected and abused children in the court system.

When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, April 30 to June 4; and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on May 16 and May 30.

Where: 1155 Red Mile Place.

To register: Call (859) 246-4313.

April 7th, 2015

Film highlights Ky. women who shine with their own kind of light

Rose Will Monroe was a widowed mother of two daughters, working as a riveter in the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Michigan, when actor Walter Pidgeon asked her to appear in a World War II film promoting the sale of war bonds.
Monroe, who was born in Pulaski County, then became the face of the fictional “Rosie the Riveter,” the iconic image of women who worked at nontraditional jobs in the defense industry while most of the men were fighting in the war.

Rose Will Monroe of Pulaski County became a representative of the fictional "Rosie the Riveter" during World War II. © ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rose Will Monroe of Pulaski County became a representative of the fictional “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II. © ASSOCIATED PRESS

Monroe left Kentucky after her husband died in a car accident in 1942, according to History channel, and took the job on the assembly line making B-24 and B-29 bombers. By 1944, the plant was making one bomber every hour, the report said. More than 300,000 women worked in the industry until the end of the war, when the men returned to take the jobs.
She is just one of more than 40 women of ­Kentucky who refused to allow society’s definitions and limitations tailor what they did with their lives, and her story is featured in a documentary, Dreamers & Doers: Voices of Kentucky Women, that will be shown at The Kentucky Theatre at 7 p.m. April 9. It will be the last of four free showings of the film before it is sent to middle and high schools and public libraries for ­educational use.
Produced by Michael Breeding Media, the film is based on the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit of 69 portraits in the state Capitol.
Linda Roach, a member of the Kentucky Commission on Women and Kentucky Commission on Women Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises money for select projects, said the foundation began fundraising for the documentary about two years ago. Donations have come from businesses and individuals.
“It’s been a big process,” she said. “Women will be proud of the film and men will be surprised.”
Although every significant contribution by a Kentucky woman cannot be acknowledged in the one-hour film, the film tries to highlight women from diverse backgrounds and those who have made the biggest impact.

Nettie Depp who became the first female public official in Barren County when she was elected superintendent of Barren County schools in 1913. That was seven years before women received the right to vote in Kentucky.

Nettie Depp who became the first female public official in Barren County when she was elected superintendent of Barren County schools in 1913. That was seven years before women received the right to vote in Kentucky.

“It is breathtaking in its depth,” Roach said. “We are geographically diverse and racially diverse. It is so sad it has taken this long for women who have done great things to be acknowledged.”
Some of the more familiar women featured include: Mary Breckinridge, who started Frontier Nursing Service; former Gov. Martha Layne Collins; singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn; and former Sen. Georgia Davis Powers, the first black and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate.
Less familiar names include Nettie Depp, who became the first female public official in Barren County, serving as superintendent of the county schools from 1914 to 1917. She was elected in 1913, seven years before women could vote in the state.
During that short period, Depp, a relative of actor Johnny Depp, oversaw the acceptance of a uniform curriculum and fought for compulsory education laws that, when enacted, tripled the number of students in attendance in Barren County. She also started the first four-year high school in that county.
From Bourbon County, the film introduces us to Margaret Ingels, the first woman to graduate from the University of Kentucky in mechanical engineering. She became a pioneer in the development of air-conditioning.

Margaret Ingels behind a forge preparing to work on metal, University of Kentucky Engineering Department, 1916.

Margaret Ingels behind a forge preparing to work on metal, University of Kentucky Engineering Department, 1916.

And from Jefferson County, the film features Grace Marilynn James, a ­pediatrician who devoted her medical career to helping the black community access health care.
“She was my oldest son’s first pediatrician,” said Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women and executive producer of the film. “She was an advocate for preventative care and universal health care. What we are debating today, she was saying 45 years ago.”
James was the first black on staff at Louisville Children’s Hospital and on faculty at the University of  Louisville School of Medicine.
“I don’t think by any means this film talks about every women it should,” Jordan said, “but I think it is a starting point, a catalyst for people to fill in the gap.
“I guarantee you will leave by saying, ‘I didn’t know that.’ It will inspire people to value women’s accomplishments and recognize future opportunities to document others. These are things Kentucky children should know about.”

Grace James, a pediatrician who was the first African-American on staff at Louisville Children’s Hospital and on faculty at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

Grace James, a pediatrician who was the first African-American on staff at Louisville Children’s Hospital and on faculty at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

Although the film is free, you must have a ticket, Roach said. There are 800 seats available.
Visit Women.ky.gov to reserve your seat.

Dreamers & Doers: Voices
of Kentucky Women
What: Documentary highlighting the accomplishments of more than 40 Kentucky women.
When: 7 p.m. April 9.
Where: Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St.
Admission: Free, but tickets are required. Go to Women.ky.gov to reserve a seat.

April 7th, 2015

Pianist coordinates concert he hopes will help heal Liberia’s war wounds

In the beginning, Samson Tarpeh had a pretty good life in Monrovia, Liberia. He was the youngest child of seven born to his father who was a Pentecostal minister and his mother, a police officer.
But by the time he was 8 or 9 years old, he and his family had been uprooted from their home and were seeking refuge wherever possible in the rural regions of Liberia. Also, by that time he had lost his mother and three siblings in the crossfire of warring factions, leaving only Samson and his father running from place to place to avoid death in one of Africa’s bloodiest wars.
The war in the Republic of Liberia lasted 14 years with only a brief ceasefire when Charles Taylor was elected president in 1997. Two years later, however, violence erupted again, ending only with the exile of Taylor and the intervention of the West African countries.
“My father and I returned to Monrovia when I was 11 or 12,” said Tarpeh, 33. “The civil war was still going on. About 250,000 people died in the civil war.”

Samson Tarpeh, founder of the Agape National Academy of Music in his native Liberia, at the piano in his apartment in Lexington. Photo by Matt Goins

Samson Tarpeh, founder of the Agape National Academy of Music in his native Liberia, at the piano in his apartment in Lexington. Photo by Matt Goins

And about 1 million others were displaced, some in nearby countries.
His father, the Rev. Solomon Tarpeh, took his son to the First Baptist Church in Caldwell, New Georgia, Liberia, where the young teen first sang in the choir.
“The minister of music saw my involvement and how eager I was,” Samson Tarpeh said, “and he started a music class for interested choir members. That was how I learned to read music.”
He was a quick study and soon was playing hymns on the piano.
“That gave me healing, self-esteem and a focus,” he said.
And because music had that effect on him, Tarpeh believes the same will be true for other children who have been traumatized by so many years of war in his homeland.
“Music is just different,” he said, trying to explain how it transforms him. “There is just something that when you listen to it, it brings you relief. You just feel awesome.”
Tarpeh envisioned starting a school in which young students could learn to read and appreciate music, learn to play an instrument and then use that knowledge to touch others and heal his hurting country.
When Deborah Carlton Loftis visited Liberia on sabbatical in 2006, teaching at the Baptist seminary and working with churches and choirs, Tarpeh served as the pianist for the choir.
“Over that period of time, we got to know one another a bit and he shared his passion to help his country emerge from the strife of war through music,” said Loftis, the executive director of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.9514447464_60b5338472_c
“He was almost self-taught,” she said. “He had mostly taught himself about classical music.”
When she visited his church, she said Tarpeh was teaching the choir a composition by Franz Joseph Haydn, despite their inability to read music.
“He taught them the parts by rote,” she said. “The first amazing thing was that he would attempt to do that and the second was that the choir was willing to sit through long rehearsals to do that. They were so patient.
“I was simply floored,” Loftis continued. “And I was quite taken with their enthusiasm for singing and how they were soaking up this music that was so different from what they would hear on the streets of Monrovia.”
When he returned to Monrovia in 2008 from Ghana where he had earned a certificate in music to go along with his bachelor’s degree in public administration, his desire to start a music school could no longer be quenched.
He asked Loftis about possible names and she said “agape,” or unselfish love for one another, he said.
“He credits me with the name, but I don’t remember it that way,” she said with a soft laugh. “Anyway, he certainly has done all the work.”
Agape National Academy of Music was founded in June 2008, opening its doors to 40 students. It is a non-profit, nine-month after-school program that rents space from a high school in Monrovia.
Each student pays $150 and chooses an instrument. Most are sponsored by their local church. At the end of the program, if they pass the test, they receive a certificate of achievement, Tarpeh said. If they don’t pass, they can continue in the program to earn the certificate.
Classes are led by seven certified instructors three days a week for about three hours each day. Students can choose to play guitar, percussion instruments, saxophone, flute, piano, violin or trumpet, all of which were obtained through a grant or donations. Nearly 50 students have graduated since the school opened.
In 2011, Tarpeh came to the United States for his second visit and spoke at The Hymn Society’s annual convention in Colorado Springs about ANAM. There he met Wesley Roberts, professor of music at Campbellsville University. Roberts urged him to get a degree in music at Campbellsville.
Tarpeh was accepted on a partial scholarship and enrolled in January 2012, with sponsorship from ANAM. His plan was to return to Monrovia when he completed his degree, but that was in 2014, just when the Ebola crisis brought more devastation to Liberia.9514384750_2abc665290_b
“The school had to close down,” Tarpeh said. “The country was in an economic crisis.”
Before it closed, the school had about 100 students. Two students died from Ebola.
Still in the U.S., Tarpeh began playing piano at worship services in Louisville and for Wesley United Methodist Church in Lexington to supplement his classroom training in hymns, under the guidance of well-known pianist Cliff Jackson.
Now that the Ebola crisis has abated, Tarpeh is raising funds to reopen ANAM. By his estimate and that of his board of directors in the U.S. as well as his board in Monrovia, it will take $6,000 to open and fund the school for one quarter. After that, the school should be self-sufficient. That amount will pay rent, the $75 a month salary for the teachers, and cancel other debt.
Ebola may have deferred his dream, but it did not defeat it.
“He latched on to this passion,” Loftis said. “I thought what chance does this man have, and, doggone it, he has done it. He is the most persistent, unflappable, optimistic young man I have ever met.”
Tarpeh is hosting a concert at Wesley on April 19 featuring various artists including bass baritone Keith Dean, mezzo soprano Margareth Miguel; baritone Michael Preacely; soprano Iris Fordjour-Hankins; bass Ian McGuffin; soprano Jackie Cunningham; saxophonist Daniel Myers; the Wesley United Methodist Church Choir; and the Lima Drive Kingdom Soldiers Drum Corps.
If the concert generates enough money, the school could reopen in June or July, Tarpeh said.
“Listening to music affects your mind and soul positively, emotionally,” he said. “There are so many children in Liberia who are traumatized by the civil war. By listening to music, it will take away the stress from one’s mind and bring them relief and comfort. It can bring them into a new world of creativity and nation-building, social interaction and community.”
In graduate school, Tarpeh is studying international development of non-profit organizations to better manage the school. When he completes that, he will return to Liberia.
“He is determined to go back,” Loftis said.

What: A concert of classical music to benefit the reopening of Agape National Academy of Music in Monrovia, Liberia.
When: 5 p.m., April 19.
Where: Wesley United Methodist Church, Russell Cave Road.
Cost: $10 general admission; $25 patron; $5 children. Donations can also be made at Gofundme.com/kpnee0.
Information: Email tarpehsamson@gmail.com.

March 20th, 2015

Small group of volunteers doing big things

Rebecca Webb couldn’t push aside a deep need to help young people before and after they are snared in a web of violence.
“That stayed on my heart,” Webb said. “I couldn’t let it go or it wouldn’t let me go.”
A retired registered nurse, Webb said she was studying how to start her own business when the rash of violence began last summer. People used social media to blame one side or another, she said, but no one was coming up with any solutions.
“I got angry,” she said. “I said get off Facebook and go out and do something about it. I have a plan. Anyone want to help?”
Mike Thomas, an equine radiologist, stepped forward. He had been asking the same question. He brought along a friend and the three met at the Northside Library for two hours. They agreed they could get more done working together than individually.
From that meeting in June 2014, the seeds for Community Inspired Solutions, Enough is Enough were planted.
A month later, the non-profit organization of concerned citizens, was incorporated to “provide individuals with education and training for employment, assist with job placement; life skills education and training, GED classes, mentoring and tutoring for youth.”

Rebecca Webb, left, is one of the founders of Community Inspired Solutions, and Jane Friedman is a member. The organization of volunteers helps ex-offenders find jobs and mentors children. HERALD-LEADER Buy Photo by Charles Bertram.

Rebecca Webb, left, is one of the founders of Community Inspired Solutions, and Jane Friedman is a member. The organization of volunteers helps ex-offenders find jobs and mentors children.
HERALD-LEADER Buy Photo by Charles Bertram.

“We thought about how we grew up and how our kids grew up, and how we could instill that in this younger generation,” Webb said.
She was referring to old school values, in other words, and old school work ethics and pride in workmanship.
She said horse culture was a big part of the black and white culture in Lexington. Many of the black families who later became middle class, worked in that industry. “There was no shame in that,” she said. “There was good money there.”
With Thomas taking the lead, the first program CIS developed was an equine training and employment program for young adults.
Since the program began in October, 19 people have been trained and employed through the program, he said. Most are ex-offenders, and many are on probation or parole.
Thomas conducts interviews every Thursday in group sessions, pointing out he is an ex-offender and that now is the time for them to change their lives. “It is my man-to-man orientation,” he said.
“I am so proud of those 19 guys,” he said. “I have four more in training. “That is 23 guys off the streets.”
What is even more remarkable, he said, is that CIS cannot afford to pay them while they are in training for four to six weeks. “We would have more people if we could pay them,” Thomas said. “I am so impressed with those numbers.
“It is hard to work for nothing. I use that to motivate myself to work harder, to set aside my activities, to help them.”
The workers start out as grooms but they don’t have to stay at that entry level. Thomas shows them a variety of avenues they could explore after that. They can make what they want of the opportunity.
Still, as grooms, they can travel the world, Webb said.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas

“They may be people who can’t get a job at Toyota,” she said. “They may be re-entering (society) from prison.”
CIS, which now has 15 members, also has programs targeting children. The volunteers take them on field trips to plays and college campuses in the life skills class.
While at an open house at Kentucky State University, the volunteers met a few male student members of Hometown Environmental Restoration Organization (H.E.R.O.) who wanted to get involved.
CIS collaborated with H.E.R.O. and the students have been visiting Winburn Middle School as mentors in CIS’s Project Impact.
Plus, CIS and H.E.R.O. are collaborating on a pilot program called Operation Lex-Up, which will give youth hands-on experience with gardening, lawn care, urban clean-up and basic farm work.
CIS also sponsors a GED class, with certified teachers, that has four students and meets at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. They plan to add an adult life skills class soon.
All of that has happened in less than a year, and all because people became the impetus for change.
Jane Friedman said after she retired a couple years ago, she wanted to give back to the community she has lived in all her life.
She got involved in self-enrichment activities, as well as the Camp Nelson Honor Guard. And when the Peace Walks began last summer as a result of the outbreak of violence, she joined those as well.
“I attended all of them,” she said, laughing. “I just couldn’t walk very far.”
At one of the walks, she met Thomas who urged her to come to a CIS, Inc., meeting that then was held at the Central Library Downtown.
“I met these people during the walks last year and I’m surprised at how much we have got done,” Friedman said. “I’ve got my finger in every pie in town. I love being involved.”
Friedman said all the credit for the success of CIS has to go to Webb, who others described as “a working machine,” “a strong woman,” and who “has a real passion for youth.”
Those comments ring truer when you know Webb has been battling breast cancer since November. Now on her second round of chemotherapy, with three treatments left, Webb visits the office every other week, along with networking with other groups working with youth.
“On the weeks I have my treatments, I’m on home incarceration,” she said last week. “This is my week I get out of the home.”
Meanwhile, CIS needs to raise money for the programs they have now and the ones they have planned.
“We need community support,” Thomas said. “We are not trying to take over. We just want to get in and fit in, do what we can to change things.”
Webb agreed.
“I used to sit back and say, ‘Somebody needs to do something,’” she said, “and then I realized I was somebody.”
I had planned to write that we need to clone Webb and Thomas so we’d have enough people to address the problems in our community. Then I realized we all are their clones. We just have to understand that and act like we are.

If you go
Community Inspired Solutions, Enough is Enough, Inc., has a couple of events planned to raise money for their educational and employment programs and introduce themselves to others who want to give back to this community.
Community Yard Sale: Featuring furniture, clothing and household items.
When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. March. 21.
Where: 323 Old Virginia Avenue.
Spring Meet & Greet: Featuring free appetizers and cash bar.
When: 4-9 p.m. April 10.
Where: Hyatt Place, 2001 Bryant Rd.
Call: (859) 258-9807
Online: Cisenoughisenough.org.

March 20th, 2015

First 13th Amendment matter of politics, not humanity

In an effort to pacify Southern states that were showing serious signs of seceding from the Union, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed the first 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1861 that would have made slavery binding and permanent in many states.
Now referred to as the Corwin Amendment because its ratification was stalled by the start of the Civil War, that first 13th Amendment states:
“No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress power to abolish or interfere, within any state, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said state.”
Fortunately for most of the black people who are living in the U.S. today, that amendment was replaced by the more familiar 13th Amendment, ratified in December 1865, which abolished slavery.
But, what many people fail to realize, what I didn’t realize, is that the Corwin Amendment can still become law if three-fourths of the states decide to ratify it even today. There is no statute of limitations on that amendment, and there has been little movement directed at taking it off the books.
I was living quite happily in my sense of freedom before local history buff Yvonne Giles shared that bit of information with me. It was not something I wanted to hear.
Giles began to take a deeper look into the 13th Amendment because we will mark the 150th Anniversary of its ratification in December, she said. And when she did, she was surprised by what she found.
Some historians believe President-elect Abraham Lincoln was involved in the creation of and passage of the Corwin Amendment. Reportedly, he endorsed it and sent letters to states asking that they ratify it as well.
His desire, he said, was to keep the union intact.
The sponsors of the Corwin Amendment were from Northern states, including the bill’s namesake, Rep. Thomas Corwin of Ohio, and then Sen. William H. Seward of New York, who would later become Lincoln’s Secretary of State.
“The whole Northern faction, of whom I would have thought was against slavery, where most of the states had abolished slavery, threw us under the bus to keep the Southern states in the union,” Giles said.
Apparently it didn’t work.
Only Ohio, Maryland and maybe Illinois ratified that first 13th Amendment. Around that time, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas bid the union farewell and had no desire to get involved with the resolution.
Strangely, in 1965, more than a century after the resolution passed, a faction in Texas, led by Republican Henry Stollenwerck, created a resolution to ratify the Corwin Amendment. It was sent to a committee where it met a quiet death.
Because the amendment is dangling out there somewhere, it can be brought up and ratified at any time. The 27th Amendment was submitted to the states for ratification in September 1789 and became law in May, 1992, more than 200 years later.
No one believes that will happen with the “ghost” 13th Amendment, as some call it. If it does, be assured I will not go peacefully.
Giles, president of the First African Foundation Inc., will talk about the “forgotten” amendment as she introduces Robert Bell of the Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chautauqua program on March 27 at a free presentation. Bell is a charter member of the 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment Reactivated and a life member of Camp Nelson Heritage Foundation.
Bell’s presentation of the “Rev. Newton Bush: Freedom at a Terrible Price,” is sponsored by the First African Foundation Inc., and highlights the story of Bush, who survived an ambush of black soldiers near Simpsonville on Jan. 25, 1865.
An 80-man unit of the 5th U.S. Colored Calvary was herding 900 head of cattle to Louisville when they were attacked from the rear by Confederate guerillas. Twenty-two men died in the ambush, some 20 more were wounded and six later died of their wounds. A historic marker has been placed in the area.
After the war, Bush farmed for a while but later became a minister. He died on May 1, 1925, and is buried in Frankfort’s Green Hill Cemetery.
“It is OK to remember Selma,” Giles said. “It’s OK to remember the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. But we should also remember the people who lived 100 years before the modern civil rights era.
“This event will give a picture of what our ancestors dealt with,” she said.
And maybe we all can join in an effort to get the Corwin Amendment off the books completely so there won’t be any need to worry about it being brought up again. That would go a long way in honoring those people who fought for freedom but never fully experienced it.

What: The Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chautauqua presentation of the “Rev. Newton Bush: Freedom at a Terrible Price” by Robert Bell, sponsored by First African Foundation, Inc.
When: 10 a.m. – noon, March 27.
Where: Northside Library, 1733 Russell Cave Road
Cost: Free.
Information: Call (859) 367-0525.

March 10th, 2015

Conn. school founder wants to make things happen in Kentucky

Steve Perry, principal and founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., has been in demand as a speaker for several years, mainly because the public school he founded in 2005 boasts of sending all of its graduates to a four-year college or university.
But he also has his share of critics, mainly teachers and educators who find his criticism of them too harsh and unfounded.
He says things like, “if teaching is too hard for you, find something else to do.” And, “it’s not OK for someone to be in the same building as you and they ain’t teaching. The kids can’t get that year back.” And, “if you are not an amazing teacher, you should not expect amazing results.”
Traditional public schools have “failed to meet the needs of all of America,” Perry said last week by phone as he was boarding a flight. School systems are more interested in pleasing “those employed by them, not the children.”
The U.S. ranked 19th of 30 countries in results achieved for investments made, according to “The Efficiency Index: Which Education Systems Deliver the Best Value of the Money?,” a report released in September by GEMS Education Solutions.
That predicament “is not because kids are dumber, not because of money, but because we have a school system that ensures you (educators) can stay there until you are good and ready to leave,” Perry said.

Steve Perry

Steve Perry

“You can’t keep giving children dirty water and complain about them being sick.”
But those who challenge the system or try to change it are attacked professionally, he said.
Perry has had longstanding disagreements with the teacher’s union and more recently with the school board and superintendent in Hartford.
Effective the end of this school year, Perry is stepping down from his position at the magnet school to run Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., his charter management group, as well as a charter school in Hartford and one planned for Harlem in New York.
Perry said he has 4,000 children on a waiting list at the magnet school and no way for them to access the education he offered. He said his school board didn’t want to do anything to change that and he couldn’t watch the children languish.
“I had a comfortable gig,” Perry said. “But our kids need a sense of urgency that they don’t have access to right now.”
The author and former CNN education reporter will speak at the University of Kentucky on March 10. His presentation, “Saving Our Youth: Revolutionizing Education in America,” is free and open to the public.
Lisa A. Brown, director of Student and Multicultural Affairs in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications, which is co-sponsoring Perry’s appearance, said connecting with Perry was timely for Lexington.
With the Fayette County public school system searching for a new leader, with the achievement gap widening, and with growing calls in Kentucky for charter schools and more parental choices, the connection was divine intervention, she said.
“Anyone can give an inspirational speech,” Brown said, “but I want to move beyond that. What are we going to do after that? I want people to walk away (from the talk) thinking ‘what role will I play?’”
Perry said it is time for parents to have more choice in the types of educational opportunities that are made available for their children, especially black, brown and poor children.
“The system is inherently racist and at its core is not ensuring that kids of color or who are poor have access to a quality education,” Perry said. “The system is designed so if your little brown behind acts up, we will lock you up.”
It takes three times as much money to imprison someone than to educate them, he said.
Vouchers or scholarships to attend private or religious schools should be available, along with charter schools.
“When someone you love is in need of emergency care, you don’t ask if it is a Presbyterian hospital or a public hospital,” he said. “You don’t care. You don’t care if the doctor is white or black. You want to make sure whatever your family member needs is what you can get.”
Right, but I have spoken with educators who say that taking children out of public schools would harm public schools.
“That is a lie,” Perry said. “The equivalent would be that if a hospital has an 80 percent mortality rate, you would be doing a disservice to that hospital if you stopped going there.”
Correctly educating our children starts with love, he said, and surrounding them with teachers and administrators who have high expectations.
While we have to make sure parents play a key role, we can’t expect parents who came from the same failed Kentucky schools to be able to help with homework in courses they never mastered, he said. “We keep blaming the parents for the failure of the children,” he said.
When he comes on March 10, Perry said he is going to “light things up.”
“I’m not coming there to do anything but make things happen,” he said.
I hope so. Some of our children need more than what is happening now.

What: “Saving Our Youth: Revolutionizing Education in America,” a presentation by Steve Perry, principal and founder of the acclaimed Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn.
When: 7 p.m., March 10.
Where: Memorial Hall, University of Kentucky, 610 S. Limestone.
Parking: South Limestone Garage, 409 S. Lime,  $2-hourly rates apply; Rose Street Garage, 538 Rose St., entrance on Hilltop Avenue, free.
Information: Call (859) 257-3904, or email labrow2@uky.edu.

March 6th, 2015

Ex-felons shouldn’t be made to pay their whole lives long

Floyd Carr, a carpentry contractor in Richmond, has been turned down for work 75 times in the 18 years he’s been out of prison.
“It happens every day,” he said. “I went to Winchester Friday and put in an application. But the company said it was drug and felony free.”
Carr, the owner of Carr’s and Associates with his two sons, does a lot of house framing for other building contractors, and he has customers who call on him all the time. That’s how he manages to keep his frustration level down.
But life would be a lot easier if employers were not still holding his past against him.
“I made a mistake and I’m still paying for it,” Carr said.
I talked with Carr a long time ago and promised I would call him again if I were to write about ex-offenders and their fight to be made whole. The time has come.
Fortunately, Carr requested and received special dispensation from Gov. Steve Beshear to have his voting rights restored when he got off parole. Voting means that much to him.
But so does finding work.
It is time for Kentucky to not only allow former felons to vote, but also to allow them to make a viable living. I cringe every time I see a TV commercial proclaiming a business is “drug free” and “felony free.”
Drug free I can understand. Mind-altering chemicals can produce shoddy work, the last thing I’d want from a repairman. But to inject the fear of having an ex-felon involved in home repairs is inexcusable.
My plumber is an ex-felon and I have recommended him to all my friends because he is good at what he does. He hasn’t proved to be scary, bloodthirsty or worthy of unfounded fears at all.
Why have we in Kentucky felt it necessary to condemn those who have committed felonies to a life sentence of unemployment or stereotyping?
My older son decided street life and drugs was a better avenue to success than the path his parents pointed him toward. He’s paying for that decision behind bars. When he is released and off parole, he still won’t be able to vote without the governor’s OK, according to state law, and he will always have to tell potential employers about his past.
My son will be just fine, though. His father and I will see to that. But what about all the other ex-offenders who are returning to a society that wants to punish them for life?
How are those men and women supposed to care for their families if they can’t find gainful employment? I thought prison was for rehabilitation, hence the teaching of trades. What good is that if those ex-offenders aren’t allowed to work in those trades?
And if those men and women have fulfilled their debt to society, why shouldn’t they regain full citizenship and be allowed to vote?
Ex-felons are all around us. They are laborers, clerks, business owners, skilled tradespeople, neighbors, church members, ministers; they even sing in our choirs. Some might have recently helped push you out of the snow.
They are people who messed up, some more than once, like me and even you. But they got caught and paid their dues.
So now they are asking to be accepted back into society as Americans who have learned their lessons.
A huge part of being American is being able to vote. Another is being able to support a family legally.
It is being allowed a voice in how government is run and being allowed to save enough money to purchase a home. It is rising above living paycheck-to-paycheck, and rising above our past.
Restoring the right to vote for former felons requires a change in Section 145 of the Kentucky Constitution. As it has for several years, HB 70, which would allow Kentucky voters to decide whether to grant automatic restoration of voting rights to most former felons, has passed the state House. Now, as it has for several years, it moves to the state Senate, where it needs a three-fifths majority vote to place it on the ballot in the fall.
Restoring an ex-offender’s right to work without condemnation requires a change of heart.
“I’ve been let go three times after they find out I have a record,” Carr said. “I just turned 70 and work every day.”
That’s thanks to contractors who are willing to overlook or forgive, and to fellow church members who know him as a good man. Come on, Kentucky. We should do better than this.

March 6th, 2015

Festival’s final two films are of historic events; one has been re-scheduled

Since Feb. 1, One World Film Festival has been presenting films which are chosen to challenge how we think about cultural, social, ethnic, political and gender issues. The non-profit organization has been doing that since it was formed in 1998.
This year, only two showings remain, both at the Kentucky Theatre, both this week, and, as usual, both are free.
The first, Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, reminds many of us and teaches the rest the story of Anita Hill, a law professor whose accusations delayed the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991, and nearly derailed her career.
The telecast of that confirmation hearing drew people to their TVs. Hill testified about the sexual harassment she endured from Thomas, who had been her boss, in great detail. She was grilled by U.S. senators who called her character into question and suggested she had been rebuffed by Thomas.
She passed a lie detector test. Thomas refused to take one. And, according to reports after the hearings, there were a few other women who had worked with Thomas willing to support Hill’s claims. They were never called, however.
The film is about Hill’s sudden thrust into public infamy and vilification, and how she survived.
Hers was one of the first examples of sexual harassment to reach public scrutiny.
“We (One World Films) ‘discovered’ the documentary this past summer while we were in the process of selecting films for the 2015 series,” said Annette Mayer, founder and director of the festival. “(We) said to ourselves ‘what a great film to show during Women’s History Month.’”
Anita, directed by Academy Award-winning director Freida Lee Mock, will be shown at 7 p.m. March 12. It was re-scheduled due to the winter storm on March 5.
The final film of the annual festival marks the 50th anniversary of the first of three marches from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala. March 7, 1965, became known as “Bloody Sunday,” as a wall of state troopers and local residents severely beat the marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge who wanted to talk with Alabama Gov. George Wallace about an earlier killing by state troopers, and about their right to vote.
Among the nearly 600 marchers, who were primarily students, teachers and activists, was John Lewis, then Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and currently a U.S. representative from Georgia.
Armed with clubs, bullwhips, and tear gas, the troopers advanced toward the marchers, injuring 58 of them. Lewis suffered a skull fracture.
The hate-filled attack was shown on TV complete with bloodied marchers. It was the start of a national outcry. Lewis said at the time, ‘‘I don’t see how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam; I don’t see how he can send troops to the Congo; I don’t see how he can send troops to Africa and can’t send troops to Selma.’’
Two days later, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., led the second march which ended with marchers kneeling to pray at the blockade and then turning back. On March 25, 25,000 marchers finished the march with National Guard troops and U.S. Army soldiers protecting them.
Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot was produced by the Teaching Tolerance program a the Southern Poverty Law Center. The 40-minute documentary especially targets middle and high school students, and is narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer.
“It is the first time it will be shown in Kentucky,” Mayer said.
In a nod to living history, the film will be introduced by retired Presbyterian minister the Rev. William G. McAtee of Lexington. He worked with black and white ministers and the mayor of Columbia, Miss., in the late 1950s and 1960s to desegregate public institutions and buildings for everyone.
His book, Transformed: A White Mississippi Pastor’s Journey into Civil Rights and Beyond, published in 2011, is his personal account of how those turbulent days transformed him.
Also, the League of Women Voters of Lexington will be hosting a reception following the film and voting registration cards will be available for those who need to register. The showing is at 10 a.m.
One World Film Festival has shown more than 120 films since it was founded. These two seem like worthy additions.

What: One World Film Festival’s final showings of its 2015 season
When: 10 a.m., March 7, Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot; 7 p.m., March 12, Anita: Speaking Truth to Power.
Where: Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St.
Cost: Free.
Information: Visit Oneworldfilmfestival.org, or call (859) 266-6073.

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