July 22nd, 2014

Technical college wastes no time in hurdling barriers to employment

Dametrius Drake faced a lot of barriers before he enrolled in the Building Trades Technician program at the College for Technical Education in 2012.
He was an ex-offender returning to an unwelcoming society from prison, with child support payments due and a lot of idle time.
Historically, that is not a recipe for success.
But what Drake had going for him was a will and a desire to succeed. CTE became his blueprint.

Dametrius Drake

Dametrius Drake

“The school provided me with the opportunity to tap into my inner abilities,” Drake said. “They gave me a chance to provide for my family.”
Drake and Patrick Morton, both graduates of the Building Trades program, are co-owners of Lex General Contracting & Services, which was established in 2012 while both were still students there. In fact, CTE gave them their first contract, which was to lay the flooring for the Food and Hospitality Professional program, also at the school.
Since then they have landed a contract to install doors and hardware in the dorms under construction on the University of Kentucky campus. And they have been able to employ other workers.
“I went in with the goal and mind-set to start my own business,” Drake said. “They went outside (the curriculum) and taught me about bidding and budgeting. CTE led me to all these opportunities.”
CTE is a program within Employment Solutions Inc., formerly known as Metro Industries, which is an umbrella for five non-profit groups: Fresh Approach, which employs the intellectually disabled; Q-Box, a corrugated box company; Expressive Programs, a training and enrichment service for the intellectually disabled; Bluegrass Career Services, a job placement service; and CTE.
Like all the programs under Employment Solutions, CTE is focused on knocking down barriers to employment.
“Our mission is to help those with barriers to overcome them and become self-sufficient,” said Brenda Evans, campus director.
Those barriers could be economic, being a single parent with multiple children, time restraints on learning a skill, or a criminal background. “We teach these folks a career and get them hired,” Evans said.
The school offers certificates in cosmetology, nail technology, medical assistant, early childhood education, business office administration, food and hospitality professional, and building trades.
There are 115 students at the campus at 1165 Centre Parkway, and 40 more at the campus in Winchester which is solely cosmetology. The average age is 33.
Most are nine-month programs with tuitions and fees ranging between $6,000 and $16,000, which seems pretty steep.
But Evans said all the tools needed for each profession are provided as well as the fees for any exams necessary for certification. And, when warranted, externships are set up.

DeShaun Tucker prepared a strawberry bread in a culinary class at College for Technical Education.  Photo by Pablo Alcala

DeShaun Tucker prepared a strawberry bread in a culinary class at College for Technical Education. Photo by Pablo Alcala

“At no time will a student leave this program and still need something in order to work,” she said.
Instead of Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday college classes, CTE runs on a modular system four days a week for 61/2 hours a day. The students in each program take the same class for the first three or six weeks before moving on to the next topic.
New classes start every three to six weeks, depending on the program. Students don’t have to wait until September, she said.
While similar programs at the community college system may be less expensive, those programs run longer, Evans said, “which is something our students don’t have: the precious element of time.”
The first weeks are all about the program, followed by job readiness instruction that features mock interviews and even surprise phone interviews.
“There is no fluff,” she said. “It is career-focused. Food and hospitality math is directly related to recipe conversion. There is no history except the history of food. No electives. No social studies. It comes down to the desires of the students.”
Because it is accredited, federal financial-aid programs are available. All the instructors have worked in the fields they teach.
“We have a student to teacher ratio that is less than 8 to 1,” Evans said. “We are not afraid of teaching a class with three students in it. We are afraid of teaching a class with more than 25.”
Sixty percent of the students who start a program must complete it, according to their own standards, she said. And after graduation, 70 percent of the graduates must find work in their field.

Brenda Evans, right, is campus director for College of Technical Education. With her is Rick Christman, CEO of Employment Solutions, Inc.

Brenda Evans, right, is campus director for College of Technical Education. With her is Rick Christman, CEO of Employment Solutions, Inc.

“We haven’t missed a benchmark,” said Employment Solutions CEO Rick Christman. “We are not perfect. We still have our problems. We have lots of room for improvement.”
Each student is matched with a “survival job,” part-time work that helps put money in his or her pocket while in school. Those jobs are usually set up through Bluegrass Career Services.
When students enroll, there is a two-week period in which the school can cancel their enrollment or the student can pull out, no questions asked.
“If they are tardy twice in two weeks, we will cancel them,” Evans said.
“Like they were never here,” Christman added.
“One no-call, no-show, we cancel them in the first two weeks,” Evans said. “We don’t want to take their financial aid if we can’t place them.”
And if they don’t show up for class, they probably won’t show up for work. That is not acceptable.
“In our programs for nine months there is a lot of content,” Christman said. “This is not play school. They have to work hard.”
“We want them (students) to come in here whether or not they have a barrier and walk out with an education in a good career field, doing what they want to do and being able to support their families. That’s our goal.”
It has worked for Arlando Morris, 38, who graduated Building Trades in January. He and partner Ronald James, who graduated last year, own Jify Renovations. “Jify” stands for Jesus Is for You.

Carpentry instructor CB Thompson, center, taught Marcus Howard, right, and Tristan Bennett how to use a router to make a cornhole board at the College for Technical Education. Photo by PABLO ALCALA

Carpentry instructor CB Thompson, center, taught Marcus Howard, right, and Tristan Bennett how to use a router to make a cornhole board at the College for Technical Education. Photo by PABLO ALCALA

Morris said the company has secured nearly $100,000 in contracts since it started in November.
“We had great instructors behind us 100 percent,” he said. “They give us job leads and believe in us and stay connected with us.
“I plan to do a great job so (good work) will continue to come back and everyone looks good.”

 

July 3rd, 2014

Intolerance facing child immigrants is disturbing and familiar

As angry protestors shouted, “Go back home,” and “We don’t want you here,” three Homeland Security buses were turned away from entry to the U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif., on Tuesday.
Onboard were about 140 undocumented children and some parents who had crossed our country’s southern borders illegally.
The scene played out over and over again on TV news cycles, and I probably should have switched channels. But I couldn’t.
When I closed my eyes and just listened to the anger, fears and frustrations of the protestors, I couldn’t help but be taken back to the first busloads of Freedom Riders who wanted to change the laws of the land that supported segregated travel facilities in the South. Those riders also were stopped and angrily ordered to go back where they came from.
Many of us can look back now at those images during the summer of 1961 and shake our heads at the racial intolerance and injustices too many American supported. We cringe at the terror inflicted on many of the bus riders by people who had no desire to embrace equitable laws.
But when our eyes are turned toward the approximately 52,000 children who have crossed our southern borders illegally since October – many of whom sent here alone by parents who believed an unknown America was better than the conditions in their home countries – our concern is more for our wallets than their well-being.
Were the people on those buses terrified Tuesday like the riders 53 years ago? Even those who don’t speak English could tell the protestors were not welcoming them.
In 1961, protestors argued the riders brought it upon themselves. If the riders had just stayed home, protestors wouldn’t have beaten them and burned their buses while insisting the violence kept southern cities safe.
In 2014, we can’t seem to understand that parents sending children to a foreign country alone is equivalent to parents dropping a child from a burning building to waiting arms below. The unknown has to be better than the near-certainty of violence in their homeland.
To what lengths would the protestors go to protect their children from druglords and violent gangs that threaten innocent people in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala?
We shouldn’t portray ourselves to the world as saviors and peacekeepers if we don’t want people to believe that.
“Send them back to their country,” one protestor said in California. “Send them back to where they come from.”
Those are the same words spewed by Americans between 1845 and 1855, the Constitutional Rights Foundation said, when about 1.5 million Irish immigrants came to our shores and promptly strained the resources of northern cities. Americans treated them badly, refused to hire them for meaningful work and isolated them in poor communities.
“As anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment grew, newspaper advertisements for jobs and housing routinely ended with the statement: “No Irish need apply,” according to the foundation. The Know-Nothing Party, established in 1850 to prevent Irish immigration, was popular until the Civil War when attention was turned to slavery and away from the Irish immigrants.
Jews, Italians and Poles also tasted American backlash. They all managed to eventually blend in with other Americans, helping this country to become the great country it is.
Change invites fear. Fear welcomes misinformation. Misinformation divides us as people. Divided people can be seen as inhumane to some and nonhuman to others.
We can’t continue as a nation to find new necks to stand on. We need immigration reform.
As a nation, we are better than what I’ve seen in my history and on TV Tuesday evening.

July 3rd, 2014

Berea College, author show diversity of Appalachia

Lexington author Crystal Wilkinson was recently named the Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College.
I know it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Authors serving as writers-in-residence are a common occurrence.
But Wilkinson, who is black, will serve as the Appalachian writer-in-residence. That designation is a hat-tip to all the black people who have made a home in Appalachia, but who have never been acknowledged.
And it is heads-up to people who assume all Appalachia residents are white.
“It validates me as an Appalachian,” said Wilkinson, who grew up in Casey County.

Crystal Wilkinson

Crystal Wilkinson

“It’s the first time I wasn’t called Affrilachian. I am full Appalachian.”
Affrilachian was a word coined by Frank X Walker, Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, in the early 1990s when he, Wilkinson and others founded the Affrilachian Poets group to challenge the stereotype that Appalachians were white. They wanted to highlight the diverse population and culture of the mountain range spanning a 13-state region from Mississippi to New York.
In a press release, Chris Green, director of Berea’s Loyal Jones Appalachian center, said Wilkinson “will connect with Berea students across the board — rural or urban, Appalachian or not, black or white, beginning or advanced, younger or older. Whenever I read her words I learn not only how to be where I am but how to belong there and in the world. I think she’s going to do the same thing for Berea.”
Chad Berry, academic vice president and dean of the faculty at Berea, said Appalachia was settled by American Indians, whites and blacks, but over the years the rural areas of the region came to be seen as white. “We are trying to challenge those preconceptions,” Berry said. “We want to show students, black and white, that they can be proud of their Appalachian heritage. We’re working hard in that regard.”
Having Wilkinson, authors Silas House and Jason Howard, and scholar bell hooks all working at the Appalachian Center lends credence to that for students, he said.
Wilkinson said her hiring for the grant-funded, three-year position also helps black people outside the area better understand the diversity of the region. “I think it will surprise some people,” she said, “and not because I am writer-in-residence.”
Wilkinson grew up on her grandparents’ farm in Indian Creek near Middleburg, about 45 miles south of Berea in Casey County.
Her grandmother read to her until she could read on her own. And, when she had finished all the available books, Wilkinson began writing her own.
She has won awards for fiction and poetry and has taught writing courses at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, at the Governor’s School for the Arts, and at several colleges and universities, including Eastern Kentucky University, Indiana University Bloomington, Morehead State University, Spalding University, the University of Kentucky, Cumberland College, Lindsey Wilson College and Berea.
Wilkinson said she learned of the position in April and was urged to apply.
Officials were seeking an author who self-identified as an Appalachian writer and had received critical acclaim. The author of Water Street, and Blackberries, Blackberries fit the bill.
Wilkinson said she is working on three new projects: a novel, a collection of poems about her grandfather being a “water witch,”  or dowser, and a memoir about her mother.
She will teach three courses per year for students and offer workshops for the general community. Wilkinson said she is looking forward to that part of the job.
“There are talented musicians and artists and writers who never got to go to school for it because of life circumstances,” she said. With the workshops, “they will be able to come out the other side with something published or with a chapter completed.”
And they will be able to see for themselves that Appalachia has produced talented people of color as well.

July 3rd, 2014

New boss of alumni shows UK evolution

When Elaine Adams Wilson graduated from Dunbar High School as valedictorian, she received a “Scholastic Achievement” pin from the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.
She would rather not tell us what year that was.
Nevertheless, on July 1, several decades after receiving that award, Wilson will become the first black person to serve as the president of that 37,000-member organization.
“I have had ties to the UK Alumni Association for that long,” she said. “This is such an honor. I get the opportunity to show people what the university can mean for all of us.”

Elaine Wilson

Elaine Wilson

Wilson, who has been a lifetime association member since 1987, is fully aware of what her position means to the thousands of people of color who have attended or graduated from the university since Lyman T. Johnson successfully sued to desegregate UK in 1949.
“I know we’ve had some issues going back a long time,” she said. “Lord knows we have. Many people have had issues. You had people back then who didn’t think people of color should be at UK.”
But she thinks traveling the state as an ambassador for the university will allow more people to see things have changed.
“This is a historic moment,” said Lee A. Jackson, president of the Lyman T. Johnson African-American Alumni group. “It is setting the framework to get more African-Americans involved in the alumni association. She is the first African-American officer within the ranks.”
Brenda B. Gosney, the current president whose term ends June 30, said the association has made a concerted effort in recent years to improve the diversity of the board. “The president not only represents members of the association, but also the voice of all the alumni,” she said. “As the face of the alumni association, (Wilson) sends a message that we are moving in a positive direction.”
Born in Lexington and reared on Eddie Street surrounded by extended family, Wilson said her grandfather, William “Pete” Brown, worked as a cook on Mount Brilliant Farm and her grandmother, Louise Brown, stayed home to care for their 13 children.
“They had servant quarters and he had to live out there,” she said. “He got a half day off on Thursday afternoon and part of Sunday.”
Wilson’s mother, Jean A. Johnson, who was also a valedictorian at Dunbar, worked as a domestic in private homes and as a maid and beautician’s helper in a beauty parlor before becoming a claims approver for an insurance company.
“She didn’t learn to drive until I was almost in college,” Wilson said, adding her mother suffered with back problems caused by the jarring of the buses she rode as they traveled over uneven roads.
Her grandmother watched her while her mother worked and she helped Wilson with her homework. “She told me I was second to none,” Wilson said. “I really liked that phrase. Whenever I would get down over the years, I would pull myself up on that. I would think, ‘She believed in me.’ ”
Wilson enrolled at UK to be a medical technologist, but changed her major three times and still graduated in four years with a degree in social work. She earned her master’s from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in New York, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee.
When she returned to Lexington, she met and married Grant Paul Wilson Jr. in 1973. They moved to Somerset and had three sons during their 34-year marriage. He was the first black member of the Somerset City Council and served for 18 years. He died in 2007.
For many years, she worked at the Oakwood Training Facility in Somerset as associate facility director.  She is now the Director of Cultural Diversity for Somerset Community College.
In her spare time, she is a longtime member of the Lexington Singers, the Somerset Independent Schools Board of Education, the Hospice of Lake Cumberland board, the Kentucky Humanities Council Board and the president of the Pulaski County Library board. And she has her real estate license although she hasn’t worked in that field in a while.
“Elaine is a very energetic and ambitious person,” Gosney said. “She has more stamina than I do.”
So, what does Wilson plan to do with all her new powers?pin
She hopes to increase the number of minorities in the alumni association which could lead to an increase in the number of minorities on the UK Board of Trustees, on which she served from 2000-2005.
Trustees are appointed either through political means or through nominations voted upon by the association’s members. Three association members serve on the trustees.
The more people who are members of the association that began in 1889, the more people who could be eligible to serve on the trustee board.
“Lyman T. Johnson started this and got the university to where it accepts everyone now,” Wilson said.
The next step, then, should be active participation in the decision-making process. “That doesn’t happen by accident,” she said.
The university, she said, serves American Indian, Asian, black, white, Hispanic, and Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders. “We need to make sure they want to join us because we make them feel comfortable,” she said. “We need to make sure they know UK is a welcoming place no matter where you come from.
“This is not black history,” she said. “This is university history. This is Kentucky history. It is not just for us, but for everybody.”

July 3rd, 2014

Indian racial slurs are never a ‘badge of honor’

My son, a die-hard Washington Redskins fan, said it is time for that National Football League team to let go of its name. And he said so on Facebook.
That would be a major step, but it’s one that seems to be gathering momentum now that the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has canceled six trademarks registered by the team. It is only the second time the office has used its power to take down an offensive trademark and both times involved that football team.
But why?
Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, said the name has been in place for more than 80 years and he vowed never to change it. He said the name is “a badge of honor.”
“Well, I’m not feeling it,” said Mary Annette Pember of Cincinnati, a Red Cliff Ojibwe. “I’m not honored.”
Neither is Tressa Brown.
“What’s wrong with the name is that it is very disparaging and it is a racial slur,” said Brown, coordinator of the Native American Heritage and African American Heritage commissions for the Kentucky Heritage Council. “It’s like saying ‘that savage.’ It is like lumping everyone together.”
It is no different, she said, than using wop in reference to Italians, chink for Chinese, nigger for blacks, or mick for the Irish.
Mercy. I definitely wouldn’t want to see any of those names on a jersey in my son’s room.
“We don’t even say the n-word,” said Pember, a former photographer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Not only is it not acceptable, we don’t even utter it. That is a sea change.”
And that radical transformation is what she and many others of American Indian heritage want to see happen to the name of the Washington football team. The word redskin may have originated because of the coppery hue some tribes used on their skin for sunscreen, mosquito repellent or for ceremony or when at war, said Helen Danser, chair of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission.
Sometimes the material used was a type of clay material called red ochre or a coloring from walnuts. Sometimes it was mixed with bear grease, she said, and put on their bodies. If the coloring was used for a ceremony, the formula was different and kept secret.
“Both of those would give the red hue to the skin,” Danser said. “Warrior color would be red and black. That is probably where they got their name.”
But not all Indian nations held the same traditions or rituals. And, without the paint, American Indians come in all shades, she said.
The name is not the only problem, however.
Danser said using the headdress or war bonnet on the team’s logo and mascot is also hurtful. Not all nations used the war bonnets and for those that did, wearing it was an earned privilege.
“You had to prove yourself as a warrior to get that war bonnet,” she said. The football team is “pretending to be who you are not.”
The word may have been harmless at first, but it later was used as a negative. Bounties were placed for Indian scalps and skulls. Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, tribes were forced to relocate to reservations and assimilate.
“They are really referring to us as bounty,” Pember said. “They are referring to our pelts. We are fauna. Redskin refers to us as animals.”
For some reason, though, Indian racial slurs have not been challenged as vociferously as have the epithets of other ethnic minorities.
“It is rare to see another racial group of people used in the images that American Indians have been used,” Brown said.
That is changing. For decades, Indians have battled against the use of mascots and names for sports teams without much success. This time, however, the heat is building. Indians want the same respect given to other minorities when those groups demanded it. Fortunately, federal and state lawmakers, civil rights organizations, the president, and a lot of fans agree.
“Some people think all Indian people should have beads and feathers and fringe because that is how Indians dress,” Brown said. “When they talk about American Indians, they are using the present tense, but they are talking about a culture that was 200 years ago.”
Fortunately, Brown and Danser are here to educate. They will be holding a program at Centenary United Methodist Church on Aug. 22 and 23 to help us better understand the stereotypes we associate with American Indians. Details to come later.
“We keep hoping to work ourselves out of a job so we don’t have to do the stereotype program anymore,” Brown said.
Let’s hope that happens soon.

July 3rd, 2014

Rand Paul making inroads with blacks, young voters for now

Just when I’m about to push Republican Sen. Rand Paul into a round hole, he mutates into a triangle.
Over the weekend, the Tea Party’s favorite son and Libertarian announced he would introduce a bill in Congress to restore the voting rights of nonviolent ex-felons. We all figured he would. He had voiced his support of that measure earlier this year.
That was when he was round.
Then, during that same weekend, Paul challenged former Vice President Dick Cheney’s assertion that the mess in Iraq is President Barack Obama’s fault. Paul has criticized Cheney’s involvement in that war before, but not in defense of a Democratic president.
That was when Paul became a triangle.
Who is that man beneath the curly hair whose face is ever-present on TV? Is he a Tea Party champion, an advocate of individualism, or a man courting the voters who carried Obama into the White House?
Paul has gone from being a Senate candidate who spewed individualism that favored business owners over the public good, to being a potential presidential candidate who wants to win over new voters.
And that transformation means he will support issues that Republicans and Tea Partiers normally don’t. And, while doing that, he is making no apologies to other members of the GOP.
“I believe in these issues,” Paul said during an interview for Politico.com. “But I’m a politician, and we want more votes. Even if Republicans don’t get more votes, we feel like we’ve done the right thing.”
Paul also favors reforming sentences for drug offenses which disproportionately affect minorities, and he said he is thinking about ways to get non-violent ex-offenders in the job market.
The restoration of voting rights for ex-offenders and easing their re-entry into the job market are banners waved by Democrats, not Republicans.
But the move seems to be working, at least with some black people in Kentucky.
A recent poll found that 29 percent of black people surveyed would vote for Paul. That’s up 16 percent since his 2010 victory over Jack Conway for the senate seat.
Young voters and black voters pushed Obama over the top in the 2008 and 2012 elections. So what is Paul doing for young voters?
He challenged the constitutionality of some of the intelligence gathering methods of the National Security Agency, going so far as to file a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration and the NSA to halt the program.
Young voters tend to see that program as an invasion of their privacy, especially when their cell phone conversations are involved. And young voters aren’t really crazy about war.
Cheney, who harshly criticized Obama for the new terrorist threats in Iraq, called Paul an “isolationist.”
“Rand Paul, with all due respect, is basically an isolationist,” Cheney said on ABC’s This Week. “He doesn’t believe we ought to be involved in that part of the world. I think it’s absolutely essential.”
But Paul said Cheney and the Bush administration were wrong in their assessment of weapons of mass destruction and how easily the war would be won.
“I don’t blame President Obama,” Paul said. “Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution.”
Paul’s position on those issues is resonating with young voters, too.
In another recent poll, Paul is running even with expected Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton among young voters.
Who is Rand Paul? How can he keep Republican voters happy while embracing Democratic issues?
Trey Grayson, the director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics whom Paul defeated in the 2010 Senate Republican primary, said Paul could be the GOP nominee.
“Some of the things that I saw that he did quite well in running against me, he’s continuing to do that,” Grayson told ABC News’ Rick Klein. “For the Republican Party to win more elections, we’ve got to do a better job of bringing younger voters into the fold, and Sen. Paul certainly does that,” he said.
I’m just not comfortable with the man yet. He has said things I like to hear, but I’ve been fooled before.
Plus, a couple of months ago, a panel at the Institute for Politics voted Paul “the most intriguing man in the Republican Party.”
“Intriguing” may help Paul curry favor with blacks, young people, and GOP faithfuls hoping to win the White House again.
But recent evidence shows the Tea Party is more attracted to a cookie-cutter Stepford wife. That mutation will end his hopes of being president.

July 3rd, 2014

PFLAG offers nurturing sounding board

Audrey Linville slipped a note under her parents’ bedroom door when she thought they would be asleep. The note was to inform them that she was bisexual.
But Audrey’s mother wasn’t asleep. She saw the note and went to talk with her 13-year-old daughter.
“She came into my room that night,” Audrey recalled. “She didn’t cry. I cried. She wasn’t mad. She expressed concern. She said, ‘people are not going to accept you and you will have a hard time.’”
“I thought of all of the problems she would have with the gay jokes,” said Sandy Linville, Audrey’s mother. “Gay people were excluded. She might possibly lose friends.”

Audrey Linville and her parents, Sandy and Mike Linville, are members of PFLAG Central Kentucky, a support group for family and friends of gays.

Audrey Linville and her parents, Sandy and Mike Linville, are members of PFLAG Central Kentucky, a support group for family and friends of gays.

After all, at that time, Audrey was in middle school, not the best breeding ground for compassion. Plus, there were the ever-popular teen-age sleepovers Audrey might miss out on if she were to publicly announce her sexual leanings.
So Sandy asked her daughter to forgo coming out until she reached high school. But never once did Sandy stop loving her daughter. Never once did she feel shame.
But accepting her daughter’s bisexuality was something Sandy didn’t know much about, and, like many parents, she wanted to make sure her actions were more beneficial to her young daughter than damaging.
PFLAG Central Kentucky wants to be that supporting guide, if not GPS system, for family and friends who want to learn more about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues while nurturing their loved ones.
Debbie Rickerd of Lexington said she attended her first PFLAG meeting because she had heard there would be a panel discussion with religious leaders.
“There were some parents there I could tell were in a lot of pain about their children being gay,” said Rickerd, who is a PFLAG board member and a lesbian.
One of the women at the meeting asked the clergy why God had done this to people, why God had allowed her children to be gay. Rickerd wanted to tell those parents that there is hope.
“I almost felt guilty about it,” she said. “I’ve never had anyone not accept me.”
Rickerd knows there are Central Kentucky parents who are struggling to come to terms with their child’s sexuality. She wants them to come to a PFLAG meeting and see that they are not alone.
Pronounced “pea-flag,” the national organization began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford joined her gay son in New York’s Pride Day parade.
When other gay youth asked her to speak to their parents, the support group was started. She was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for her advocacy in 2012.
The PFLAG Central Kentucky group meets monthly for two hours. The first hour usually features a speaker and the last hour allows time for sharing and support.
The group welcomes parents with LGBT children, and siblings and LGBT youth who have not come out to their own parents.
The meetings are confidential and non-judgmental.
Members of the local chapter will also provide information and presentations to any group seeking to learn more.
“If someone wants to speak, they can,” she said. “If they want to sit and listen they can. Everything is completely confidential like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous). We don’t talk about it.”
Discussions can include how parents have come to accept that their child is gay or how parents have dealt with particular issues that have occurred.
“Some parents are fine that their child has come out,” Rickerd said, “but are worried about how to talk about it to others and at church.”
Sandy Linville said a lot of parents have established a relationship with a particular neighborhood or with a particular church and changing those dynamics can be disconcerting.
“I didn’t mind if I lost something or someone,” she said. “I had become confident in that role and in the role of a parent of a gay child.”
Still, she did leave her church and has yet to find another that hasn’t tried to change her daughter.
“My relationship with God has become stronger,” Sandy said. “I don’t go to church, but I actually believe I am closer to God because of the challenges and the negative things I have heard people say.”
Because of PFLAG, however, Sandy said, “I’ve gained normality, acceptance and a place where I can speak about Audrey and not worry about people shaming me, asking what did you do wrong?”
Audrey is 20 now. She and her mother have evolved and grown closer. Audrey now recognizes that she is lesbian, not bisexual, and Sandy is “much more out there,” serving as an advocate and guide for parents of LGBT children who are just embarking on that journey.
“We went to hell and back,” Sandy said. “We went through a lot of hoops of fire. It has a traumatic effect. You build a bond with that person.”
Audrey said her parents have shown unconditional love for her throughout this journey.
“If they ever struggled, they never did it in front of me,” she said.

July 3rd, 2014

Children’s books reflect author’s life, aid charities

The featherless little bird was alone and welcomed the nurturing offered by a group of ostriches. They attached some of their feathers to him to help him blend in with the group, to be more like them.
It worked out just fine. He was warm, he fit in, and he was loved.

Two books written by Shannon Barnes

Two books written by Shannon Barnes

It took a horrifying event, however, for the little bird to realize that all those borrowed feathers had hidden who he really was.
That is a synopsis of Little Bird Gets His Wings, a children’s book by Shannon Barnes. It is also a synopsis of Barnes’ life.
“It was a huge metaphor for my life,” he said. “I remember seeing myself as a tree with no leaves on it and the environment around me gluing its leaves on me.”
Barnes, 34 and an advertising account executive for the Lexington Herald-Leader, sought affirmation or definition from those around him, including his wife at that time and his employer.
Then he heard an audio of former World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali saying, “I’m going to show you how great I am.”
Barnes listened to that audio over and over again for weeks, he said, until he gathered the strength to set himself free from his reliance on the opinions others had of him.
“I was going to show me how great I am,” he said. “The feeling I felt when I let go, I can’t describe it.”
Once he did that, once he shed the feathers that had been placed on him to reflect those around him, Barnes and the little bird discovered they had the wings to fly.
Barnes has designated some of the proceeds from Little Bird Gets His Wings, self-published in 2013, to victims of domestic violence.
Evie Finds a Way, his newest self-published children’s book which will be released next month, is the story of Evie White of Lexington who was diagnosed with hemiplegia in 2008, the result of a stroke she suffered before she was born.
Barnes, who is always looking for new stories to tell and little-known causes to support, wrote the book after talking with Evie’s mother, Jana Smoot White, the board president of the national Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association.
In the book, Evie struggles with every step because of paralysis and the brace she wears.
“Hemiplegia is the land
“That Evie has to cross.
“And getting to her dreams is twice as hard,
“While fighting Neon Foot Drop Moss.
“Because it grabs onto her legs,
“And tries its best to pull her down.
“It nags her with negative thoughts,
“Trying to turn her hope into a frown.”
For the book’s illustrations, Barnes connected with Herb Moore, a native of Cynthiana who is an illustrator and post-production director for Disney and a comic book artist.
Portions of the profits from the sale of Evie Finds a Way will benefit the hemiplegia association.

Shannon Barnes, with his children Abigail and Cameron at Jacobson Park, is a Lexington Herald-Leader advertising account executive by day and a children's book author by night

Shannon Barnes, with his children Abigail and Cameron at Jacobson Park, is a Lexington Herald-Leader advertising account executive by day and a children’s book author by night

Barnes, who writes poetry for adults as well, has written four other children’s books that may be published.
Born in Cynthiana but reared in Lexington, Barnes is divorced with two children, Abigail, 10, and Cameron, 7. He says he thinks a bit differently, seeing the vibe around him in patterns of movement and geometric forms, or cymatics.
“I see in cymatics, kind of, and translate it,” he said. “When I feel love or anger coming from someone, I see it as a pattern. What I had to learn was that I would no longer let them change my pattern. I determine my frequency.”
When he was a sophomore at Henry Clay High School, he was sent to the SAFE program for being tardy to class. He used that time to write a two-page letter to Diane Woods, the principal at that time, complaining. He signed his name and put it in her mailbox.
In his next class, Woods called him to her office.
“She said, ‘You are going to change things one day because of the way you see things and your opinions and the bravery you had to do this,’” Barnes recalled.
He is free now to do that again and, through his books and his poetry, he is willing to take us along for the ride.

IF YOU GO
A book signing for Shannon Barnes’
children’s books, Little Bird Gets His Wings and Evie Finds a Way.
When: 1-3 p.m. July 26.
Where: The Wild Fig Bookstore, 1439 Leestown Rd.
To purchase a book: Visit Amazon.com or Littlelightrelay.com.

June 19th, 2014

‘World Refugee Day’ a chance to welcome international diversity

In December 2004, Carine Malekera and her mother arrived in Lexington, their new permanent home.
They had escaped the violence of war and resulting disease, hunger and unsanitary conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that have killed hundreds of thousands since the late 1990s.
They could not speak English and knew little of the new culture they were coming to.

Dawa Sherpa, left, a refugee from Bhutan, spoke with caseworker Anne Marie Vaughn during an orientation for refugees with children going into public school at Kentucky Refugee Ministries on Friday. Photo by Pablo Alcala.

Dawa Sherpa, left, a refugee from Bhutan, spoke with caseworker Anne Marie Vaughn during an orientation for refugees with children going into public school at Kentucky Refugee Ministries on Friday. Photo by Pablo Alcala.

“For me, learning English was a struggle,” Carine said. “And I had to adjust to growing up where I didn’t feel comfortable.”
But with the help of English as a Second Language and other school teachers, by finding a friend who taught her about the culture, and by watching a lot of cartoons on TV, Carine has exceeded expectations.
She just graduated from Tates Creek High School and will attend the University of Kentucky with several scholarships including the Presidential Scholarship and the William C. Parker Scholarship.
She will be majoring in biosystem and agriculture engineering with an eye on going to medical school.
There was a lot of pain and distress in her early life, she said, but “being welcomed somewhere and truly feeling welcomed goes a long way.”
Carine will talk about that transition at the “World Refugee Day Summit: Lexington’s Bridge to the World” at the Central Library June 20. It is Lexington’s celebration of the rich, overlooked pockets of diversity throughout this community.
World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations in 2001 to pay tribute to the courage and strength exhibited by those forced to flee their homelands and familiar routines to escape conflict.
Lexington’s celebration has a twist, however.
“Unlike New York … and many larger cities with a rich history of immigration, Lexington is not yet used to helping new neighbors resettle,” said Lindsay Mattingly, multicultural liaison at the Lexington Public Library. “We do not yet have a well-developed infrastructure that can support nonnative English speakers.”
While the Kentucky Refugee Ministries does a great job, she said, that organization has to adhere to time limits set by the federal government of up to six months. “Some of the refugees have lived in refugee camps for possibly half their lives,” she said. “It is not possible to be self-sufficient in six months.”
Folks in the faith community have traditionally been the people bridging the gap, Mattingly said, but more needs to be done by those of us who will be enriched by the cultures the immigrants bring with them.
But, as is the case when confronted by the unfamiliar, the general public may not be sure what that help looks like.

Carine Malekera

Carine Malekera

So Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Lexington’s department of social services, the Lexington Human Rights Commission, Lexington Fair Housing Council, the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, staff from the Fayette County Public Schools, and the public library have joined forces and created a conference that will give us a clue. Mattingly hopes it will become an annual event.
“World Refugee Day Summit: Lexington’s Bridge to the World” begins with a conference at the Central Library, 140 East Main Street, from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
It then moves to the Fifth Third Pavilion for food and cultural entertainment.
“We know that helping our neighbors achieve self-sufficiency will make our whole community stronger,” Mattingly said.
After the opening ceremonies that will include Carine and Mayor Jim Gray, there will be two sessions each with three breakout groups featuring areas of concern for refugees. Participants get to choose one breakout in each session.
The topics in the first session include health care, featuring the struggles of language and cultural barriers to treatment; employment and workforce development with a panel of employers discussing available services and the dependability and enthusiasm of refugee employees; and K-12 education, with teachers discussing strategies and programming that have produced success stories.
The second session includes adult education classes, some for people who don’t read or write in their native languages, but who are expected to do that with English; housing barriers and personal testimonies from landlords who have rented to refugees; and, finally, government and community services that build the infrastructure needed in Lexington to respond to our growing number of immigrants.
Then it’s on to the Fifth Third Pavilion. Artwork and crafts made by refugees will be on display, and there will be information tables about the various refugee groups that have resettled in Lexington. And there will be a performance by the Refugee Children’s Choir.
The registration fee is $25 and covers the conference, parking in the library parking structure and lunch at the pavilion provided by food trucks.
“Lexington has the third-largest population of resettled Congolese immigrants in the country,” Mattingly said. Phoenix and Houston are ahead of us. And there are more than 90 languages spoken in the homes of students in Fayette County schools.
“We are only as strong as our most vulnerable population,” Mattingly said.
Carine agreed, saying some people think refugees only need “a place to live and food and they will be happy.
“But I was truly happy when we didn’t have all those things,” she said. “Happiness comes from love and appreciation. Having someone there who first supports you with food and shelter and then becomes a friend, that goes a long way.”

 

IF YOU GO
What: “World Refugee Day Summit: Lexington’s Bridge to the World.”
When: 9 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. for the conference, and 12:30- 2 p.m. for lunch and cultural entertainment. June 20.
Where: Central Library, 140 E. Main St., and Fifth Third Bank Pavilion, 251 W. Main St.
Cost: $25, includes conference, parking and lunch.
Information: Email lmattingly@lexpublib.org or call (859) 231-5514.

June 19th, 2014

A fresh idea for making sure kids get fed in the summer

Vernessa Carter ­corralled children so she could give them hand sanitizer, and Joan Bolton was busy sweeping the concrete under picnic tables to ensure a cleaner place to eat.
Both women were volunteering in Douglass Park with the Summer Food Service Program in Lexington, which is sponsored by Employment Solutions Inc./ Fresh Approach. They are a part of a group of nearly 30 members of First African Baptist Church who are taking turns serving free lunches to any child in the park who is 18 or younger.

Lillian Bunton and Mary Ely of First Baptist Church, severed children in Douglass Park.

Lillian Bunton and Mary Ely of First Baptist Church, served children in Douglass Park.

“We really want to impact the community,” said Rev. Nathl Moore of First African. “Our church motto and theme is: ‘The church in the community for the hearts of the community.’ With that, we have to be in the community, and this was a wonderful opportunity extended to us to do some hands-on things during the summertime and impact the kids in the community.”
Volunteers like those from First African and the three local agencies that distribute free summer lunches to children were lauded by federal, state and local leaders Wednesday as true investors in the future of the commonwealth.
“We believe so strongly that our children are the most important asset that Kentucky has,” first lady Jane Beshear said. “If we invest in these children, in their future, then it is a ­better tomorrow for all of us.”
Beshear was joined by Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services; Lexington Mayor Jim Gray; and Cathy Gallagher of the Kentucky Department of Education’s School and Community Nutrition division to kick off the summer feeding program in Castlewood Park Wednesday.
Thornton said 33 million children a day eat school lunches, and of those, 21 million are free or reduced in price. But that number drops dramatically during the summer to 3.5 million a day.
Fortunately, Employment Solutions Inc., Fayette County Public Schools and God’s Pantry are making a coordinated effort to provide nutritious meals to any child this summer.
Michelle Coker, director of child nutrition for the schools, said hot meals will be provided at 15 schools June 16 through Aug. 4, with no service on July 4.

Rev. Nathl Moore and Vernessa Carter of First African Baptist Church.

Rev. Nathl Moore and Vernessa Carter of First African Baptist Church.

More than 150 children were fed last year on the Tates Creek campus, she said, and 100 or so at Booker T. Washington Elementary.
God’s Pantry focuses on six centers in Fayette County and several sites outside the county, said Mya Price, a Child Hunger Corps member working with the food agency. One of their sites, Village Branch Library, served more than 80 hot meals daily last year.
Walt Barbour, director of Fresh Approach, a division of Employment Solutions, said the federal government, which finances the summer feeding program through the Department of Agriculture, has made a concerted effort this year to serve more lunches.
Fresh Approach is a program that provides jobs while teaching skills to intellectually challenged adults. Those workers assemble the free lunches that are distributed at 35 sites throughout Lexington.
That free lunch distribution started June 9. Last year, Employment Solutions served 125,000 meals.
There is no income limit for any child being fed. The only requirement, other than age, is that the food be eaten on-site.
Barbour said he is always looking for new distribution sites, and that’s why he was glad to have volunteers from First African take Douglass Park.
He said he called Moore because of the proximity of the church to Douglass, and Moore asked for volunteers.
“They had a meeting,” Barbour said, “and he asked anyone interested in helping with the summer feeding program to stay after, and 30 people stayed. Everyone was interested and asked questions. It was very, very overwhelming.
“The key to having the kids enjoy the program is to have people who are really vested in the neighborhood,” Barbour said. “We were looking for somebody that wants to make a difference with these kids.”

Walt Barbour and Joan Bolton

Walt Barbour and Joan Bolton

The volunteers from First Baptist fit that bill.
“During the summer, some of the kids may not have that nutritious meal,” said Lillian Bunton of First Baptist. “I want to make sure I do my part.”

Learn more
For a list of free lunch sites,
call 1-866-348-6479, or go to
FCPS.net/media/934727/
summermeals.pdf.

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