Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Local News

Recently Norfolk Mayor Kenneth C. Alexander delivered his first “State of the City”  address outlining his administration’s achievements, frustrations and  future goals for continued growth of the city.

A week earlier, he had conducted an hour-long interview with the New Journal Guide where he talked intimately about his views on various issues, policies and his own frustrations since being sworn in last year as the city’s first Black mayor.

Asked about the most nagging shortcoming he has noticed since taking office, he talked about dealing with education and funding support for teachers.

“You have teachers who deserve raises and funding for professional development,” he said. “They spend a lot of time preparing and accessing examinations, and they are spending their own money on supplies.

On building consensus policies and programs, Alexander said that “we build initiatives together.”

“I keep them informed on initiatives, legislation and we get together and draft it,” he continued. “Then we allow  a council member or two to  take the lead to share the presentation and the  winning for the city.”

During his State of the City address, Alexander ticked off a list of development projects in the downtown sector. But the  Guide asked him about the lack of a Black business footprint in the booming downtown business corridor.

Alexander said he is seeking to recruit business to the district,  including a well-known seafood business to the new Waterside.

He mentioned that other businesses are in the works.

Alexander said he is aware of the commercial and retail business “deserts” in underserved  areas of historically Black sections of the city and the perceived high cost of operating in them due to crime and  other issues.

He mentioned there should be some incentives for pubic and private partnerships to recruit  commercial investment  in these areas.  This includes small “mom and pop stores” or others which want to launch an idea.

“I have been and will continue to work on this issue.  My job is to connect the  businesses and opportunities and just get out of the way,” said  Alexander. 

Alexander said he is also  concerned about the “food deserts” in the areas which lack  grocery stores providing healthy fruits and veggies.

“A food desert leads to health problems such as strokes,  cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure,” he said. “A lot of those diseases are preventable. Also what about hygiene products and dental care products? We have an obligation that all of our citizens have access to these products.”

On the issue of  the indictment and jailing of    former Norfolk Councilman and Treasurer Anthony Burfoot,  Alexander had a  mixed perspective.

He and Burfoot grew up in Berkley and were  high school classmates.

“I value our friendship,” he said. “I know his family … mom and sisters … on the personal side you grieve like somebody back home.

“But then there’s the side of you that was elected, took an oath of  office to insure that justice and the rule of law are upheld with respect for the law. You have to separate the personal feelings from  the rule of law.”

The biggest criticism hurled at his administration by some since taking office is that “nothing  has changed,” he said.

“There are people who believe that the government can solve all your problems  or refuse to do so.”

Alexander said  he  believes in limited government  and that it cannot resolve all of the social and economic issues facing people.

He  believes that public-private alliances which include the churches, civic and fraternal organizations should play a broader role.

“I hope they will level up and become more independent  and free of government,” he said.

The main handicap of his new job is “I spend too much time away from my  children,” he said. “I have a son who is 16…a critical age for  him as he learns how to drive.  There is also my 13-year-old.”

But what he likes most is that “on any given Tuesday during council meetings you can change a person’s  life.”   We make decisions on land use,  land zoning, connecting,  building schools, closing a street,  matching a business with a need and a person with a  skill set who needs a job.”

Alexander mentioned that some 6,000 plus jobs are being created in Norfolk, bolstered by  ADP, Optima and Movement Mortgage moving into the old J.C. Penny space  at Military Circle Mall, a new major IKEA furniture building, and a new outlet mall, as well as other corporate migration to the city.

Alexander said the  city also is in good financial shape with a $2 billion  operating budget and over $800,000 in “discretionary” funds.

“Once all of these new job creators are up and running at projected levels, the City of Norfolk will realize new gross annual tax revenue of over $12 million per year.”

With the growth  in jobs in Norfolk especially downtown, Norfolk, with a population of roughly 250,000, provides more jobs than any city in  the  region, Alexander said – 210,000.

Alexander said    the city is more competitive with adjacent locales. But he also pointed out the importance of   regional competition such as the corridor around Richmond, with its 1.2 million people, and   Gross Regional Product  (GRP) of $86 billion,  the same as Hampton Roads  which has 1.7 million people.

Alexander said the opening of a “Regional Career Technical Center” where residents could learn high tech skills is needed for the current job market and would be a boon for the area.
This could be complimented by high school courses and studies in vocational trades and the arts to prepare students for employment after graduation.


Thus far 11 people, including a small child,  are  victims of homicides in the city. Most are African-Americans, in many instances, the resolution of petty squabbles. There were 20 such incidents last year at this time,  Alexander pointed out.

“We’ve got work to do,” he said. “We  need a little of everything  to deal with the causes … a lack of self esteem,” he said, “What happened to ‘sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you’”?

“We’ve got to break this cycle.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Yes, it takes a village and The Daddyman Project aims to accomplish that feat on May 23 at 6:30 p.m. in Green Run High School in Virginia Beach.

The free event is sponsored by Gentleman Making A Change, a mentoring group that has served over 600 male students since it was launched in Virginia Beach 11 years ago. Seko Varner is the coordinator of Gentleman Making A Change.

When the event starts, on May 23, three male students will introduce the keynote speakers: two authors and a coach.

Author Bobby Huntley will discuss his 2014 book, “Mothers, Please,” an 85-page self-help book that argues a single mother cannot teach a boy how to be a man. Author Eddie Howard will discuss, “Still Convicted,” a 156-page book that describes Howard’s descent into addiction and ascent into 18 years of sobriety. Coach Cadillac Harris, the assistant football coach at Indian River High, will discuss the village. Harris says the village is comprised of educators, parents, and relatives who guide by setting positive examples.

Huntley said he looks forward to participating in the event. Several mothers urged him to write his book, Mothers, Please.  I want to help mothers be “boys instead of inmates,” he said.
“In my book, I list eight mistakes that mothers make in raising their sons,” Huntley said.  “The No. 1 mistake that single mothers make is telling a son in a single-parent home that he is the only man in the house. But that does not make him a man. That puts too much pressure on that boy because he does not have the maturity to be a man.”

Another person who is looking forward to the event is Tiniki Riddick, who has two sons, ages 16 and 21.

“I attended the program last year and truly enjoyed it,” Riddick said. “I walked away understanding how I could improve my relationships. To me, last year’s program helped me see there is light at the end of the tunnel. It was a blessing to me as a single mother.”

Riddick added, “When I got home I tried to be cautious of putting too much responsibility on my son to be the absent man in the house. Now I try to be cautious of how I handle being a mother.”

Seko Varner, coordinator of Gentleman Making A Change, said, “These programs have helped our students make some positive changes in their life but the missing piece has been their parents,” Varner said. “This program focuses on young men and their parents. We give them information that will help them become better men.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

Often a member will come to the floor of the House of Representatives and deliver a speech that focuses on an event or figure of importance to them.

Recently in the case of  Congressman Robert Scott of Virginia, he stood before his colleagues to honor someone who has been a very loyal and supportive figure in his life and career.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a remarkable woman who has dedicated the last 40 years of her life to serving the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia–my friend, closest adviser, and Chief of Staff, Joni Ivey.”

Three days later, after packing  up her office and bidding farewell to staff members, old and young,  Ivey retired.

Ivey  and  Scott have been inseparable figures working from the halls of the state and federal legislatures of power seeking to support and help  people and institutions.
The two were active in the Newport News civic and political affairs before they met in  1976.

Scott, the son of Dr. Waldo Scott, a physician and a mover and shaker in  the elite circle of political and  civic power, was groomed in the same community service spirit.
He is a Harvard undergrad  and a graduate of Boston College Law School.

Ivey, the product of blue collar parents, grew up in  the Newsome Park community of Newport News, one of seven children of Willie and Carnetta Ivey. She graduated from Carver High School in 1971, the last graduating class of the high school which served Blacks during Jim Crow. She attended Christopher Newport University and graduated from Norfolk State University.

One of her first summer jobs was at King’s Department Store in 1968, during a heady political time, nationally and locally.

These two offspring  from varied economic and social classes  joined forces to support and serve their community.

Their paths crossed while working for her pastor, Rev. W. Henry Maxwell, who was running for city council.

Ivey was  in her 20s and had cut her teeth in Newport News’ Black grassroots politics  by  “dropping” campaign literature  for Jessie Rattley on the door step of neighbors when she ran for city council and mayor.

Ivey said Rattley, Thelma Crittenden and  Madam Annie B. Daniels, who recently passed, were  a trio of role models who inspired her civic activism and “invested so much  into young people,  including me.”

Carver High now wears the name of Crittenden Middle School.

Maxwell lost his bid for council, but later  won seats in the  state House of Delegates and Senate.

A year  later, the political bug bit Scott, who made his first run for Virginia’s House of Delegates. Impressed with Ivey’s work ethic and approach with people, she was hired  to run his campaign headquarters,

He won the June 1977 primary and then the November election, and she joined his staff doing various administrative and political jobs.

For Scott, there was a Senate race in 1983,  and a decade later, a successful run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Scott was the first African-American  elected to the Congress from Virginia after Reconstruction.

Ivey was the second African-American  Congressional Chief of Staff from the Commonwealth. Norman Sisisky hired the first.

“I did not like D.C.  When Bobby won, I moved to Capitol Hill,” she recalled. “I moved in, drove  back home to pick up something and returned to discover I had a break in.

“I told  the Congressman and Larry Dillard   this would not work for me. I wanted to go back to Newport News,” she said.  “They  looked at me like I was crazy.  They convinced me to stay. A year later I had another burglary. So I started coming home  every chance  I could.

“Finally I was allowed to just stay in Newport News and commute to D.C., if needed. I  loved my work.  But I felt better when I was coming down (Interstate) 395 to 95 to 64 to home.”
As Chief of Staff,  Ivey coordinated and managed the work of the Congressman, hired for the D.C office  and various other positions.

Much of the work by a staff member in the district    involves constituent services. This includes resolving issues related to Social Security, health benefits, veterans affairs,  and other programs of Uncle Sam.

Also, there is the task of coordinating with cities, educational, military and other institutions on policy or funding.

The Third Congressional District is still majority Black.

It has  643,478 people  and once stretched  from Portsmouth to Richmond, and pulled in cities such as Norfolk and Newport News Hampton and Petersburg  and had three district offices.

Now the district is concentrated in Hampton Roads,  including the Peninsula, Norfolk, Portsmouth and slices of Chesapeake  and Franklin and Yorktown.

There is only one district office in Newport News, but the staff logs endless miles and hours driving through it, serving the inhabitants.

Just as important, according to Ivey, is that the Congressman or staff representatives  attend events around the district, to show support, listen to ideas and concerns of  constituents.

“People love  seeing Bobby and see him all over the place,” she said. “When he could not attend,  I was a stand-in,  talking and listening to people at small or big events. People were glad  to see us; it meant a lot to them. They can look you right in the eye and ask for help.”

While she did not like  Washington,  D.C. that much, she did like rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful and  of course,  trips to the White House.

“Before Bobby was in Congress, he took me along to an event hosted by President  Carter,” Ivey recalled. “I was worried about what to wear and say.  When we arrived the President was dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans.  I was relaxed. I adopted the motto ‘never sweat the small stuff.’”

“The last event was the Obamas’ last (Christmas) holiday party,” she recalled.  “It was very real at that point for us and Obama.”

Ivey could not point to any “lows” during her tenure as Chief of Staff of the Scott  operation.

“We just worked every day on the issues we knew were vital to  Hampton Roads, that is military, the shipyards and the schools and programs to help  the challenged,” Ivey said.  “We  also worked for issues for people in adjacent districts like (Republican) Rob Wittman.”

The Chiefs of Staff  of the Virginia 11-member congressional delegation are supportive of each other, Ivey said.  Whether conservative, liberal, Democratic or Republican, they leave their political differences at the office.

“We worked for  Bobby, a Virginia gentleman,” she said. “We believed in work and outcomes  based on facts and figures  not personalities and name calling.”

But as most people with her energy and love of  community, Ivey said she does not plan to ride into the sunset and find some charming place to watch the world past idly.

“I am going to stay busy. I am going to work  in my church  (Ivey Baptist Church), of course, and the community,” she said. “I will volunteer at the free clinic and, of course, I will be helping Ralph (Northam) in his campaign.

“I will still be working for the party.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Tracey Vaughan, who graduated on May 6 with a Master of Arts in lifespan and digital communication from Old Dominion University, is taking her research to new heights by making groundbreaking comparisons of a historic Black travel guide called “The Negro Motorist Green Book” to the current use of social media in an effort to solve racial inequality in public dining facilities.

“The Negro Motorist Green Book” was published in 1936 by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green. The annual guidebook served as an informational tool to help Black travelers find favorable destinations. During the Jim Crow era, African-American travelers faced greater likelihood of danger, inconvenience and embarrassment while on the road. The Green Book covered most of North America.

Vaughan’s contemporary research includes an examination of 400 restaurant complaints about discriminatory service in Virginia on Yelp, Facebook and Instagram that shows African-Americans today are using the social media platforms in much the same way. She recently presented her work at the Intercultural Communication Division at the Southern States Communication Association (SSCA) in Greenville, S.C.

“The Green Book was a ‘vintage Triple A guide.’ Social media is used the same way today like the Green Book. People still rate their experiences and comment if their service was good or not. The difference is now we are able to reach a bigger audience with just one Facebook share or one tweet,” she said.

Vaughan, a Virginia native, developed a keen interest in social change when she was a child. She also experienced racism personally, which led her to want to solve more widespread issues.

“I want to go deeper and focus not only on race but also the disabled, differently abled, religious people, the elderly and so on,” Vaughan said. “We have laws in place for discrimination, yet we are still seeing videos go viral of unfair treatment.”

Tom Socha, Vaughan’s professor and director of Old Dominion University’s graduate program in lifespan and digital communication, said she is an enthusiastic, forward-thinking, and highly insightful graduate.

“Her thesis on communication and everyday racism during public dining will make an important contribution to the future development of employee training programs seeking to improve cultural inclusiveness,” he said.

Vaughan currently works as a graduate instructor teaching public speaking for Old Dominion University’s Department of Communication and Theatre Arts. Vaughan plans to expand her research by developing workshops and surveys for consumers and businesses. She also wants to pursue a doctorate. Vaughan hopes her research will aid in solving racial problems globally.

“Social media will continue to change the way we communicate,” she said. “As communication and media scholars, we are always trying to figure out if we (people) are influencing social media or is it influencing us?”

By Noell Saunders

Just over a year ago on May 3, 2016, for the first time in its four centuries of existence, Norfolk elected its first African-American  Mayor, ushering in a new era in politics and leadership.

Weeks later Kenneth Cooper Alexander was sworn into office on the City Hall steps, an area that at one time in the city’s history, his ancestors were held to be sold as slaves.

Recently during an hour-long interview with the Mayor in his office with a stunning view of the city he leads every day, he talked about his first 12 months in office and some of his insights and experiences.

Alexander is a businessman, running a successful chain of funeral homes in the area.

But a year into his first term, the Mayor – unlike President Donald Trump who said he may not have been prepared for his new role – was well prepared, he said.

He said he was used to responding to the call “to serve”   Before he was a mayor, he was both a Virginia State Senator and Delegate.

Before holding public office, he was a civic leader in the Berkley Community where he was born and raised.

“Trump never served in an elected position. He was very successful in business…he had his trials and tribulations and his life story is well documented.

“But serving in a legislative body,” Alexander said, “takes patience. He did not understand the strong personalities  from different parts of the spectrum. The extremes … the far left, far right.”

Alexander continued, “As president how do you navigate the views  of the majority at the same time as protecting the rights of the minority? It tales some restraints … a governor … a filter … you can’t say what comes to mind.”

Alexander ran head on into an administrative challenge weeks after taking office.

Within four months Marcus Jones, the long time city manager and three of his assistants, left for other jobs.

Only the most junior one was left.

Alexander said he immediately  had to “stop the bleeding” and put in a management team to keep the city operational train running.

Interim City Manager Doug Smith, a former council member in Portsmouth who had run the city’s planning and budget the department, was hired.

Alexander said that he had talent “at his finger tips” from Norfolk’s Social Service and  Economic Development to fill in the gaps.

One of personnel moves  which caught people by surprise was moving Norfolk Police Chief Mike Goldsmith to one of those administrative spots.

“Some thought it was demotion or punishment.

Goldsmith’s portfolio covers public safety, technology, neighborhoods, implementing the city’s resilience plans to confront any unexpected shocks to the economic, civilian and military assets of the city,” Alexander explained.

On the day of the interview, Goldsmith was coordinating an international meeting of NATO and European Nations representatives who were discussing “resilience” and how countries and cities can withstand the shocks caused by climate change, economic and political uncertainty.

“Moving Mike Goldsmith to one of the deputy city manager jobs was a strategic move,” said Alexander. “Goldsmith has a Master’s Degree  from William and Mary He has a sense  of global and national security. We have largest naval base, and port and multinational companies use our port. We are a gateway to the world.

“I need someone from city hall to be resilient if and when there is a man-made or natural disaster or disruption who can respond in seconds. He has a very large portfolio.”

Larry Boone replaced Goldsmith as Police Chief and became the third African-Americans Police Chief.

“He (Boone) knows the city and the communities due to his unique background,” Alexander said. “He grew up in the inner city. I was able to have Larry Boone promoted to Chief.”

The management team Alexander is refitting is helping him bring in a new era of leadership and governance in the city and the Mayor gave several factors which indicated it.

The most obvious is that he is the  first mayor who did not hail from the city’s west side. Further, he noted there was a considerable voting bloc potential coming out of the predominately  African  American east side and the 7th ward.

“It’s a new era in that I am not a baby boomer,” he said. “I am part of Gen X … I am a cusper … born in ’66, and ’65 was the cut off for Baby Boomers. So I was able to blend.

“A lot of my friends are Boomers, born ’56 to ’65 and a lot of them fall into the generation. Lots of mentorship and training came from that group of thinkers who came of age in the 60s and experienced the Civil Rights Movement. I was taught by people who lived it.”

Alexander said he came of age in the 70s at the end of the movement, and Watergate and the Black power movement were en vogue.  He recalled activist men in the southside community where he grew up, such as William Tyree, Douglas Williams  and Perry Hargrove

They taught him about racial and political consciousness, civic action and not using hard work as an excuse for not succeeding.

Transparency. Alexander said it is a new era of transparency  “balance between focusing on what the citizens and residents want and knowing what your financial restraints are and obligations as a public policy maker.”

He continued to explain, “It is also a new era  of  not promising anymore than you can deliver.

“It’s a new  era where  people  are willing to pay but they want results. They are willing to support government, public education, arts and recreation. But they want tangible and meaningful results.”

He said it is  a new era where You Tube and Facebook allow politicians to expose themselves and share information with the media in real time and despite fake news.
Alexander said that he was not one for focusing on race and how it is related to success or failure.

“Those of us who work hard … the people of Norfolk believe that any person has been able to obtain anything,” he said.

Alexander said he does not know if his election as Norfolk’s first Black mayor will inspire others to seek public office.

He said today a lot of people are aspiring to run for political office because of Trump, but are inspired by opposing him and are “stick and tired of the current political system, and want to make a difference.”

“I hope that my election will inspire people to volunteer … be engaged and find a place where they can participate and help write the next chapter of Norfolk’s history,” he said. “I believe my election is showing that Norfolk is changing. That a kid from Berkley who went to public schools, whose mother passed away at 36 and father at 50 can become mayor.

“There are a lot of young men and women with similar backgrounds, but may not have made the right choices.  I made some good choices. I have not dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s; but, Norfolk is a city that will take a chance … a bet on its people who represent who we are as Norfolkians.


He said his biggest surprise was the enormous amount of work and responsibility the Mayor is confronted with  each day and that his predecessor undertook each day during his tenure
“We do not have a strong mayor form of government,”  Alexander said.  “We are a council-city manager form of  government and the  manager runs  the daily operations.

“But I am amazed at the number of hours Paul Fraim because of strong personality and work ethic devoted to this job a week,” Alexander said. “Nothing left city hall without his blessing. It is an enormous responsibility to be a captain of Team Norfolk.”

Alexander  admits he has a strong will himself  but said, “I do not  want that much control … I like delegating those responsibilities to administration,..where it should be. I also delegate a lot of responsibility to council members and   they enjoy it.”

Alexander is leading of one of the most demographically diverse councils in Virginia.  There are four African-Americans and four Whites; four men and four women.

The Mayor and Mamie Johnson are in their 50s. The longest serving member, Paul Riddick, and Vice Mayor Theresa Whimbley are in their late 60s.   Angelia Williams and Andria McCollum are  in their 40s; and Tommy Smigiel and Martin A. Thomas, Jr. are in their in their 30s.


Alexander said that he inherited and has worked to complete development projects his predecessor conceived and “teed up”  other development and economic projects which the former administration completed, including the welcoming of the ADP office complex, opening of the Main Hotel, the Outlet Mall and Ikea.

He said the city has completed building or has begun construction on five schools, including Richard Bowling,  Camp Allen and Ocean View, a feat no other city has done at once in the this region.

 “I am working on turning the old NRHA office building on Granby Street into a boutique hotel run by Marriott,” he said. “I will be looking at the St. Paul’s Quadrant project  which could be one of the greatest development projects if we do it right.”

That project involves tearing down the aging Tidewater Gardens public housing community and replacing it with a mixed income community. It has been on the books for years, but lack of funding has  stalled it.  The  residents  of the community  would  be allowed to come back if they choose or  access subsidized or market housing rates once  the project has been completed.

“We have a chance to lay out 88 acres to address flooding, public safety, education, housing, retail, improving traffic flow north to south along Tidewater Drive and other commuter arteries  and open spaces.

“But more importantly we must look at the   more important human capital and people,” he said. “How many people who live there would rather stay there or live in other  communities? What about older people who have   lived there for generations who may want to go to a high rise?


Alexander said a recent hurricane illustrated the threat that flooding poses to Norfolk, when 25 feet of water clogged a key underpass on Brambleton Avenue and Virginia Beach Boulevard and other parts of the city.

He said he wants to “tee up” a resilience plan to deal with flooding. He said ideas such as  raising building  barriers to control water or rain gardens on top of flat roofs,  lift building, open up some channels and channeling water where “water wants to go,“  are being perused.

Alexander said he would like to usher in a new era of shared governance and closer ties with the Norfolk Public Schools (NPS), instead of just reviewing and approving a budget for is operation.

He said the relationship with NPS and its governing board should not be relegated to approving the division’s budget.

Alexander said that the council should have some input into NPS’s upcoming plans related to budget demands,  closure of  some schools and repurposing others, and  restructuring attendance  zones. He also wants to improve teacher pay and working conditions.

“We have five high schools  because at one time   we had more students,  34,000,” the Mayor said.  “Now we have less than 29,000.  Part of the conversation we have is starting a new conversation we have not had before with NPS to have a better handle on education and better outcomes.”

Alexander said he is concerned about where NPS is adequately  preparing and tracking students to go to college, the military or some school for licensure.

“We must look at the impact of home life on public schools,” he continued. “It takes a village. We must look at  deconcentrating  poverty and address  in some of the housing community’s low academic achievement and  social ills. We must develop a shared responsibility, and it always starts in the home.”

On Friday, May 12, Mayor Alexander will delivers first State of Norfolk Address during a luncheon at the Main Hotel.

… Next Week: Part 2

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

The Trump Administration’s first budget blueprint  has proposed slashing about $54 billion from  domestic spending programs and shifting that money to the Department of Defense (DOD).
Consequently, the DOD Authorization  Bill of 2018 is getting a lot of attention from various military lobbyists and other interests groups, who want to benefit from the new defense budget.

Representatives from a number of   Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), have also gone to Washington, lobbying to include their schools in DOD’s budget.

Trump met with HBCU Presidents in February and promised leaders greater support,  but there is no new money for the institutions in his budget proposal.

In fact, the HBCU funding apparatus has been moved from the Department of Education to the White House Executive Office.

And, just recently the White House issued a statement in reference to Trump’s signing H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 that suggested the government’s program for HBCUs may be unconstitutional.

Trump wrote, “My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender … in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.” The statement specifically cited the “Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account.”

Bill Thomas, the Director of Governmental Relations at Hampton University, was one of the several  HBCU representatives who have gone to Capitol Hill to address members of various  money committees and to request funds for various projects for their schools.

Thomas said along with Hampton, Bowie State and Howard among HBCUs, they believe they can access some of the millions of additional funds the DOD will receive, in the form of grants and contracts which will bolster not only their schools but the communities they serve.

Although Hampton is a private institution and does not receive any direct federal or state aid,  it has applied for and received millions of dollars in federal funds in the form of investment and performance contracts.

Thomas said the Department of Education (DOE)  is not the only federal department agency which directs funds to HBCUs. DOD  and other agencies have provided HBCUs with millions in funding for  research and development in such areas as cybersecurity,  diversity training, health services, economic development and space explorations.

Several years ago, Hampton  was the first and only HBCU to have 100 percent mission responsibility for a NASA satellite mission.  The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere mission was launched on April 25, 2007 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. via a Pegasus XL launch vehicle. The initial contract of $140M now totals over $160M with contract extension
“This time we  are asking for $50 million from DOD and the Veterans Administration to invest in our Proton Therapy Center to develop a new way to fight cancer,” said Thomas. “They are going to give Stanford University $400 million  for their program.  Why not give us a $50 million, and we  can do the same thing.”

Thomas said  he and other HBCU representatives were speaking before the various funding committees ahead of Congress’ effort to approve  the  short term funding bill to keep the federal government for a week and avoid a shutdown.

He said budget talks will continue and lead up to the  long term spending bill in September for the federal government’s 2018 funding cycle.

This is when the lawmakers will take up the long term spending bill.

Thomas said that several years ago, in an effort to reform Congressional spending habits, “earmarks” or   money inserted in a spending bill for a specific Congressional district or project, was killed.

HBCUs had received millions in earmarks over the years.

“The money for HBCUs was cut off but a lot of  White schools still got their money because they had more political support at the state and federal levels,” said Thomas.   “HBCUs are figuring out how to access federal money in other ways. If you don’t speak up…you don’t get heard or any of the money that is out there.    We are trying to get ahead of the new game.”

Thomas said 35 years ago during the initial budget cycle of the Reagan administration, there were steep cuts in funding and billions were shifted to the  DOD intelligence community.

According to Thomas and other government sources, Virginia’s  HBCUs and majority White colleges were among the biggest recipients of DOD, NASA  and other non-Education Department funding grants and contracts in the nation.

For instance, between 2000 and 2007, Hampton, a private HBCU,  was at the top of the list in receiving funding from these agencies at a tune of $111 million.  Virginia Tech was second at $102 million at that time.

In 2007  alone,  HU got some $11.6 million; ODU, $8.4 million NSU $549,290 and Christopher Newport University $326,940.

Now  HU is receiving about $75  million  in federal funding. But Virginia Tech is getting about three times that much, Thomas said, because of the political support the school received compared to HU.

Thomas said that Congressman Robert Scott has been instrumental in supporting their effort to access federal funding from various departments.

He said he hoped that other members of the Congressional Black Caucus would devote more time  to the same effort.

In 2014, Norfolk State University received a $25-million  grant  to educate, train and develop the nation’s next generation of cyber security from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The same year, NSU received the Army Research Office Grant Award: “Building a Cloud Computing and Big Data Infrastructure for Cybersecurity Research and Education” in the amount of $497,725.

The same year, NSU received the U.S. Department of Defense Grant Award: “Information Assurance Scholarship Program 2014” in the amount of $46,925.

In September 2013, NSU received U.S. the Department of Defense Grant Award: “Information Assurance Scholarship Program 2013” in the amount of $101,636.

It is not clear if the U.S. Congress will accept the administration’s budget plan later this year. It calls for cuts in programs both Democratic and Republican lawmakers support.   

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter 

African-Americans age 65 and older are dying at a slower rate than whites of the same age, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Blacks, age 65 and older, began living longer than whites starting in 1999. Specifically, the African-American death rate (for those 65 and older) dropped to 25 percent within the past 17 years, according to the new CDC report. Black life expectancy rose from age 71 in 1999 to 75.5 by 2013.

By comparison, white life expectancy increased from age 77 to 79. Blacks, in plain terms, now have a life expectancy of 75.6 years, compared to 79 years for whites. This means the gap is still there; but it shrunk from a six-year difference in 1999 to a less than four-year difference in 2013, according to the new study.

While the new CDC report did not aim to explain why African-Americans age 65 and older are living longer than whites of the same age, the New Journal and Guide aimed to understand the slight increase, so it posed several questions to Nat Warren, age 71.

Several lifestyle choices come sharply into focus as Warren, age 71, describes his lifestyle. He is well-connected to his family and friends. And he stays busy. Warren, who retired as the head tennis coach at Norfolk State University continues to work as a volunteer with the team and he has earned many honors including a 2014 award at Cape Henry Racquet Club. 2015.

Here is how Warren spends a typical week.  Monday. Warren, age 71, walks out to his home office in his garage and works at home raising funds as a volunteer for the tennis program at his alma mater, Norfolk State University.

Next, he cleans his pool, cuts grass, and putters around his yard for about three hours.

On Tuesday, he and his wife, Lizzie, babysit their two, four-year-old grandchildren who are twins.  From 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Warren plays tennis at the Cavalier Yacht Club. Then he and his wife go out to dinner.

“On Wednesday, I play golf with three friends from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.,” Warren said. “On Thursday, my pastor and I mentor kids at Bible Study for four hours. On Friday, I have breakfast at a restaurant with about 12 men I’ve known for 20-30 years.”

Well, you get the picture. Warren not only brings the new CDC report sharply into focus.  He also shines a light on his own longevity. Blacks who were susceptible to chronic disease, according to the new CDC report, had already died before age 65 from chronic diseases like diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Blacks who live to be 65 are older are comparatively healthier than their white peers.

Timothy J. Cunningham, lead author of the CDC report, attributed the lower death rate among elderly African-Americans, to weathering, a term that first emerged in 2011. It means weathering life’s storms produces a specific type of endurance that increases longevity.

“I attribute my longevity to taking care of my health, enjoying my family and working with others,” said Warren, who grew up in Southampton, Va., has been married for 48 years to his high school sweetheart, Lizzie. They have two adult daughters, Charrise and Chessie. For about three decades, Warren would load his family in the car and make the nearly three-hour, round trip commute each Sunday to St. Luke Christian Church in Southampton, where he grew up.

“Working with my family is the most important thing to me,” Warren said. “And I attribute the success I have had in my life to staying connected to those who helped me when I was young. That is why I work with youth and try to help them become what they want to become.”

Warren continued, “I also try to set an example for young folks and inspire them. I help the tennis coach at Norfolk State throughout the tennis season. I help with the tennis program from February until the end of April. Just last week, both of Norfolk State’s tennis teams finished second in the MEAC Championship-North, at Old Dominion University.”

He has his own theories about why some African-Americans are living longer. “Because they are beginning to take care of their health,” Warren said. “Once, we tended not to get health checkups. We would not go to the doctor. We would find a way to avoid going to the doctor’s office. Often, we didn’t have insurance. But I think a lot of things are different now.”

Advancing another theory, Warren pointed to how he has tried to practice values he learned as a child. “I was brought up in the church with my parents,“ he said. „They taught me to live my life so that I would treat others the way I wanted to be treated.“

Advancing a third theory, he said, “The church taught me the difference between right and wrong. The church taught me how to be a productive person. I have always tried to live by the principles I learned in church. I grew up believing God was always there for me and I still believe God is good all the time. That is my favorite saying.”

Some of Warren’s theories surface in The 2011 Longevity Project, an 80-year study conducted at the University of California, Riverside.  The study began in 1921 and examined more than 1,500 bright children who were about 10 years old when they were first studied in 1921. Researchers used death certificates, evaluated interviews, and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of information to draw conclusions.

The point is the landmark Longevity Project used hard data. Researchers followed the children through their lives, collecting information that included family histories and relationships, teacher and parent ratings of personality, hobbies, pet ownership, job success, education levels, military service and numerous other details

“We came to a new understanding about happiness and health,” said Leslie R. Martin, a psychology professor at La Sierra University in Riverside, who published the Longevity Project with Howard S. Friedman in 2011.

“One of the findings that really astounds people, including us, is that the Longevity Project participants who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives, on average, than those who were less cheerful and joking,” Martin said in a 2011 interview in the Medical Press.

“It was the most prudent and persistent individuals who stayed healthiest and lived the longest.”

Yes. You could flip through the dictionary and notice that the word prudent means you have common sense, good judgment, shrewdness, and wisdom.  Or you can look at Warren’s lifestyle.

News reports show that access to health care has improved for African-Americans in the past decade including advanced treatment for heart disease, various cancers and HIV. And, a 2016 study in the New England Journal of Medical Care found that racial disparities in hospitals narrowed or disappeared between 2005 and 2010.

The new CDC report may have pinpointed why African-Americans are living longer because it noted that there has not only been a decline in heart disease deaths. But there has also been a decline in Alzheimer’s disease, aortic aneurysm, high blood pressure and complications related to pregnancy.

Blacks who live past age 65 may now expect to live longer than whites of the same age, the report noted. And Warren’s well-connected, generous, outgoing and active lifestyle may explain why.  

Moreover, steadily married men – those who remained in long-term marriages – were likely to live to age 70 and beyond, the Longevity Project noted. “Fewer than one-third of divorced men were likely to live to 70; and men who never married outlived those who remarried and significantly outlived those who divorced – but they did not live as long as married men,” according to the Longevity Project.

Warren nodded in agreement, as he listened to the details in The Longevity Project. “The impact that being married has on my health is it helps me do those things that sometimes I forget like going to get a physical checkup, eating properly and getting the right amount of rest. My wife prepares the proper foods for me. She urges me rest. She has been instrumental in helping me to maintain my health and stabilize my life.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

It will be a type of encore presentation when Chef Danielle Saunders returns to Norfolk State University to whip up several sampler dishes at “A Taste of NSU,” a community engagement event that will be held on campus on May 18 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Saunders has whipped up exotic cuisine for well-known celebrities like Sean “Puffy” Combs, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, and Tom Hanks. But during her student years at Norfolk State from 1995-97, she and her friends often whipped up basic fare like spaghetti and meat sauce or cookies and sold them in the dorm.

“I am participating in “A Taste of NSU” because it means a lot to me that the administration would even ask me to come,” Saunders said, in a recent personal interview from her office in Englewood, N.J.

“It is a humbling experience for me to even come back,” said Saunders who majored in chemistry at Norfolk State, returned to her parent’s home in New Jersey, and enrolled in culinary school. “Being able to come back to Norfolk State means that all of the hard work, the grunge work, and moving around that I’ve done over the years helps me to see my life in color. Coming back is near and dear to me. I hope I make everybody proud.”

Taste of NSU is making its debut appearance on May 18, and is being presented by the Norfolk State University Foundation to engage the university family community with the larger Hampton Roads community. Its subtitle is “An Evening of Culture and Cuisine” and will offer food sampling from area restaurants, culinary arts students, along with entertainment provided by NSU performing arts students.

Chef Danielle Saunders is the featured celebrity chef for the event.

Proceeds will go to provide scholarships for deserving NSU students.

Clearly, Saunders has earned the title “celebrity.” She has racked up a number of honors. In 2011, she became the first African-American female winner of Food Network’s hit TV show “Chopped.” Later in the fall of 2011, she won “Chopped Champions” and made history again by becoming the first female chef to ever win Food Network’s championship chef competition. She has also cooked on the Today Show.

The unbeaten path that attracted Saunders’ attention during her student years at Norfolk State attracted her attention after she returned to her parent’s home in New Jersey. In 1997, she enrolled in the New York Restaurant School, where she studied culinary arts under award-winning chef Neil Becker.

“I went to culinary school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and worked at Nordstrom in the evenings five days a week, for two years,” Saunders said. “Once I graduated, I knew this was what I was supposed to be doing with my life.”

Sticking to the unbeaten path, she worked in several famous kitchens with several renowned chefs including Anne Rosenzweig and Michael Lomonaco. Later, she became the executive chef at the Panevino Ristorante in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

“I have worked in many amazing places,” she said. In addition to preparing cuisine at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in Queens, she also traveled to Miami in 2005 to work in a start-up restaurant. There one of Sean “Puffy” Comb’s assistants approached her about working as his boss’ personal chef.

“It wasn’t one leap but quite a few that advanced my career as a chef,” she said describing how she went from being an entrepreneurial student at Norfolk State, whipping up cuisine for celebrities, and cooking for a panel of judges on the Food Network TV show,  “Chopped.”  Now, she plans to launch a line of health-friendly soul food cuisine.

And since 2010 she has also hosted how-to cooking demonstrations on The Huffington Post. “On the cooking demonstrations, I prepare 30-40 minute meals that career-driven women can come home and create,” she said. “It was another stream of revenue and another way to express myself. I was trying to broaden my horizons.”

As the North Star or a compass point guides, many have provided guidance to her. “I believe my time at Norfolk State molded me well,” she said. “I learned a lot at Norfolk State. It was my first time away from home. My parents would send me money to buy food off campus and I would use it to buy food that I cooked for others.”

She added, “But my parents have been my biggest supporters and sounding board. I’ve learned crucial lessons from both of my parents. My dad, Lamont Saunders, taught me how to negotiate and stand my ground. That has helped me a lot. My mother, Martha Saunders, always urged me to dry my tears and try again after something didn’t work out. My parents did not teach me to be fearful. I believe family is everything.”

But at the end of the day, Saunders said her faith in God has illuminated the path ahead.  “In life, I think you pull from your faith. In other words, you pull from what you know. I think when faith is your foundation, you don’t veer. I read the other day that God will put you in places that you feel like you’re not qualified to be in. When I read that it hit my heart. That is how I have tackled everything in my life.”

While she said she feels “nervous but excited” about returning to Norfolk State, several loved ones will accompany her back to the place where her culinary career sprouted wings and took flight, including her fiancé Tod Wilson, her parents, and younger brother Idris.

Wilson is a professional baker and owner of several bakeries in the Northeast. Currently, he is considering opening a bakery for his famous sweet potato pies in Portsmouth where he was born and raised.

So what does the future hold? Saunders and Wilson will marry this fall. “I’ve found the love of my life,” she said. They plan to mass produce and distribute an exclusive line of soul food cuisine. “My take on soul food is we do not have a national brand, a restaurant, or products on the shelves,” she said. “Soul food, in other words, has not gone viral like so many other cuisines.”

And this is why she and future husband are already fine-tuning a new cuisine called “soul fusion.”  This means they are developing a line of soul-food that does not contain sugar, grease, and starch. Instead it contains healthy ingredients like avocado oil, Himalayan pink sauce, gluten-free, and plant-based products. “It means we are giving soul-food a modern spin,” she said.

Does this mean her focus is still on beaten path? “That’s a very good question,” she said. “I think when you have faith God gives you a different type of discernment when it comes to everything in your life. For me faith is the belief that even though things are unseen; still you know (the outcome) in the pit of your stomach.

“The secret is learning to trust that feeling in the pit of your stomach.  I believe you need to have the strength to trust that feeling in the pit of your stomach whether it is on the beaten path or not. That feeling in the pit of your stomach is God’s confirmation that you’re on the right path.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

In less than six weeks, on June 13, 2017, Virginia voters will go to the polls to select candidates for state and local offices from governor on down from both major parties for the November  general election ballot.

Virginia is only one of two states which is staging a race for Governor; New Jersey is the other.  Current Lt. Governor Ralph Northam is  running against former Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello, in what has seemed to be a competitive race.

The party’s bylaws bar the State Democratic Party from endorsing any candidate directly in a primary race. But it  has not stopped individual party members and officials from showing their support for any given candidate in a particular race.

A good example is the Democratic Primary race for governor, pitting Northam and Perriello.  Party operatives at all levels have publicly endorsed one or the other candidate.

But there is concern that the same level of  public and “individual”  operative support and endorsement  is not being extended specifically to the Lt. Governor’s race.

Justin Fairfax

Former Assistant United States Attorney and 2013 candidate for Attorney General, Justin Fairfax, who is African-American, is seeking  the Democratic Party’s nomination for the second highest spot on the state Democratic ticket.

He is competing against Susan Platt, political consultant and former chief of staff to Joe Biden  and Gene Rossi, former Assistant United States Attorney and former gubernatorial aide.

Fairfax appears to be running a relatively strong campaign leading up to the June 13 state Democratic Primary race.

He has been chalking up a long list of straw polls being conducted  around the state at party functions.

But there are some Black Democrats who feel that  he is not benefitting from the same level of  support from individual  party leaders,  that Northam and Perriello are receiving from top and low level Democratic operatives.

“We know  the party bylaws say that the (Democratic) party cannot endorse an individual candidate for a specific office  in a primary race,” said Gary McCollum, who ran an unsuccessful bid to unseat State Senator Republican Frank Wagner in 2015.

“There is a great deal of individual support publicly  for Ralph Northam, from  party leaders from top to bottom, and this is good,” McCollum said. “But why are  they eerily silent in their support of  Justin?

“He has run a state-wise race before; he is good on all the issues; and he is what the party needs  at the top of the ticket, so far as diversity.”

McCollum  said that Northam announced last year that he was running for Governor. So did Fairfax before his closest opponent, Susan Platt.

Like Northam, McCollum said, Fairfax has been spending his funds and crossing the state connecting with the party network and activists, building support, including Hampton Roads.
Gaylene Kanoyton, Democratic Party State Vice Chair, says that McCollum’s  assertions may be shorted-sighted. She and other Black and White Democratic party officials are “very supportive of Justin and we are working to ensure his victory come July 13 and in November,” she said.

“Fairfax has strong support for his run in the primary for his campaign,” said Kanoyton. “And whoever wins come June 13, the party as a whole will then endorse and support the winner. Party operatives at this point have a right to support who they want. Some are more public than others. This is the way we have always done it,”

State Senator Lionell Spruill, the recently elected representative in the Fifth District, said that “everybody down here is strongly supporting Justin in this area.

“But I am curious to know if he has asked the Governor for his endorsement,” said Spruill. “I and other candidates have done it as part of protocol. Also, I will be curious to note the Governor’s answer. I’m sure he will. We need a good and diverse ticket at the top.

“You just cannot assume that somebody is going to endorse you because you are Democratic or Black,” said Spruill. “People look at your record, your stance on issues, and level of support from others.

“I am sure  the Governor is concentrating on the next governor’s race because  the next governor will be able to fight off the Republicans’ efforts,” said Spruill. “We are in a  battle on so many fronts for healthcare, education and civil rights, and we need someone in the state house to stand up.”

One Democratic operative who spoke on the conditions of anonymity said that party leaders  can ill afford not to show party unity at this time behind Fairfax.

Democrat L. Douglas Wilder was the last African-American  to win a statewide election, doing so twice in 1986 as Lt. Governor and then four years later as the nation’s and state’s first elected Black Governor.

He added to the weight of the state races by pulling a large number of Whites and African-Americans to the polls.

Current party analysts say that Fairfax may do the same for Democrats come November 2017.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Special to the Guide

Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams of the  U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps  and a Hampton University graduate,  has been appointed acting Surgeon General of the United States by President Donald J. Trump.

She is first nurse to be appointed to  the post and replaced  Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, who was Surgeon General under former President Barack H. Obama.

The U.S. Surgeon General directs the  operations of the USPHS Commissioned Corps and communicates scientific information to advance the health of the nation. Previously, she was the deputy surgeon general. She has served as the chief nurse officer of the USPHS since November 2013.

Trent-Adams received a bachelor of science in nursing from Hampton University, a master of science in nursing and health policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and a doctorate from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After attending college on an ROTC scholarship, she served as an officer in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps for five years, on the oncology unit of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

She has held  various positions in HHS, working to improve access to care for poor and under-served communities.

Prior to joining the Office of the Surgeon General, Trent-Adams was the deputy associate administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB), Health Resources and Services Administration(HRSA). She assisted in managing the $2.3 billion Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 (Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program) for uninsured people living with HIV disease as well as training for health care professionals.

Trent-Adams began her career in the Commissioned Corps of the USPHS in 1992  She has published numerous articles and presented to organizations and professional groups. Prior to joining the USPHS, Trent-Adams was a nurse officer in the U.S. Army. She also served as a research nurse at the University of Maryland.

Trent-Adams completed two internships in the U.S. Senate where she focused on the prospective payment system for skilled nursing facilities and scope of practice for nurses and psychologists.

She has served as guest lecturer at the University of Maryland and Hampton University. Her clinical practice was in trauma, oncology, community health, and infectious disease.
She serves as chair of the Federal Public Health Nurse Leadership Council, and the Federal Nursing Service Council.