Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Local News

When Terrance Afer-Anderson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, he could have retreated from the world or crawled into a shell; instead he decided to build a bridge.

But Afer-Anderson is one of many in Hampton Roads who has helped to build bridges that connect underserved minority communities to quality healthcare. The point is this. As the nation observes National Minority Health Month in April by zeroing in on the theme: “Bridging Health Equities Across Communities,” try to envision the feat that Afer-Anderson actually performed after his doctor handed him a prostate cancer diagnosis seven years ago.

“My head more than my feet led me to the doctor’s office because the knowledge in my head told me to seek routine health screening,” said Afer-Anderson, who worked for the Norfolk Health Department for about two decades and retired in 2016. “This means I knew I needed to do my routine checkups and I did them,” said Afer-Anderson who developed the habit of going to the doctor for routine visits because he had asthma as a child.

While a 2016 Kaiser report showed that about 20 percent (17.2 percent) of all minorities are uninsured, Afer-Anderson has comprehensive health insurance. But at the time of his diagnosis, he also had a physician who always told him his health was fine. Changing physicians Afer-Anderson underwent several PSA tests and a rectal exam that showed he had prostate cancer.

In plain terms, the PSA test is a blood test that screens for prostate cancer. The test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. The PSA test detects a protein in cancerous and noncancerous tissues in the prostate, which is a small gland located below the bladder.

“During my biopsy for prostate cancer, everything was done pretty quickly within a couple of weeks,” Afer-Anderson said. “The diagnosis came back fairly quickly. No one knew what was going on with me until I received the diagnosis. Later, I told my support group what was going on in a regular meeting. When I told the group at a regular meeting about my prostate cancer diagnosis, Charlie Hill, a prostate cancer survivor embraced me physically and spiritually at the meeting. He became my big brother and mentor.”

In other words, Afer-Anderson did not resemble some minorities who are seeking health care. Afer-Anderson had health insurance that paid for routine health tests and ongoing care. He also had a habit of monitoring his health. More to the point, he did not suffer unduly like many minorities with critical health problems because the real problem, according to the groundbreaking 1985 Heckler report is that many minorities do not benefit “fully or equitably from the fruits of science or from those systems responsible for translating and using health science technology.”

In other words, the Heckler report said many minorities with serious health problems suffer unduly and disproportionately because many minority patients do not receive ongoing, high-end health care. But Afer-Anderson crossed the bridge that saved his life because he was able to pay for and receive ongoing, high-end treatment. During treatment, his highest PSA level dropped from a high of about 7.8 to a low of 0.01.

“That was not a high PSA level,” Afer-Anderson said of his earliest PSA level. “And this is the benefit of early detection. You get to choose your own treatment method. I chose my own method. And I haven’t had any of the side effects that men have with prostate cancer because I have been very blessed.” Specifically, the side effects of prostate cancer are frequent urination, lower back pain, and blood in urine.”

Afer-Anderson chose a treatment method called Brachytherapy. This means radioactive seeds or sources are placed in or near the tumor itself. This method delivers a high radiation dose to the tumor while reducing the amount of exposure from radiation to nearby healthy tissues. The term “brachy” is Greek for short distance.

“Because mine was not aggressive, I opted for something called Brachy therapy,” Afer-Anderson explained. “I did that because of my busy schedule and I only had to do it one time. I did this for six or seven months. It was done on an outpatient basis in the hospital and only took only about four hours. I went back to work two days later.”

Soon, he was cured. More important, he continues to reach back to help others. Specifically, he was the chair of the public relations and marketing committee for the 2008-2011 African-American Men’s Health Forums. They were sponsored by the American Cancer Society (while he was still working at the health department and also undergoing treatment). Later, he joined the Prostate Health Education Network and moderated discussions on prostate education or served as master of ceremonies at consortium conferences in Washington, D.C.

In 2012, he launched a public health initiative called Illuminating Good Health Coalition. Co-sponsored by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities which provided the keynote speaker, the event attracted about 70 people. More important, 360 health screenings were done. Most recently, in August 2016 he received a $20,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to increase prostate cancer awareness. He is completing projects that will help close the disparity gap in minority neighborhoods.

♦♦♦

“The day that Charlie Hill hugged me in front of our support group, he told me he was drafting me into the army of prostate survivors,” Afer-Anderson said. “And I believed him.”
Afer-Anderson added, “Let me tell you how this works. That event I staged in 2012 – some men found their PSA levels were high. They were referred to physicians. I know of at least one incident where one man was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said that if had not come to the event for free-screening he might have never known.

That event proved to be a bridge not just for that one man but for four to five other men who came and found they had elevated PSA levels.”

Afer-Anderson has built numerous bridges in minority communities because he believes in getting routine checkups. He also believes in linking and connecting others to health care. In a sense, his beliefs have helped more minorities face and also weather storms similar to those many workers encountered while building the legendary Golden Gate Bridge. Although the landmark bridge opened to the public in May 1937 and more than two billion vehicles have crossed it.

Bridge-building is not for the faint of heart because those who erected the expansive Golden Gate Bridge ran into frequent storms and encountered widespread opposition including skepticism from cost-wary city officials, skittish environmentalists and ferry operators who believed the new bridge would ruin their profits. Seasoned engineers, meanwhile, predicted that it was not only technically impossible to build the bridge, but the needed funding would be impossible to find during the beginning of the Great Depression. Ultimately, the bridge was financed by a $35 million bond issue, which was passed in California in 1930, according to news reports.

The point is this. Zero in on some of the obstacles that those real-life builders encountered on the Golden Gate Bridge. And it explains why Shannon Tooten, 29, smiles widely when she talks about the 250 low-income patients she has helped to receive free-or-reduced-medications in the past year at the Newport News Health Clinic, which retired Riverside Regional Medical Center administrator Golden Hill launched in 2010.

“Say, I have a patient who needs a prescription that will cost $25 or more,” said Tooten who has worked for about a year as a medication assistant caseworker at the Newport News Health Clinic.

“I can go on the data base and get it at a discount through a preferred network,” said Tooten, who was treated as a patient at the Newport News Health Clinic before she became an employee. She visited the clinic to obtain a birth control implant device. There, administrators linked and connected her to health care providers who provided their services at reduced prices.

Tooten said, “So I understand how it feels when I tell a patient how to buy a prescription at a free or reduced price. Some of them leave me saying, ‘I feel so much better now.’ In some cases, I have helped patients get a prescription that will cost them only $25, after I go on the data base and help them get a discount through a preferred network.”

In other words, like thousands of anonymous workers built the legendary Golden Gate Bridge, the same applies to numerous health-care workers in Hampton Roads including Wooten who works behind the scenes at the clinic to help build a bridge for underserved minorities.

Tooten’s tech-savvy skills and personal experiences are helping to ease the (disproportionate) level of suffering that many minorities with health problems routinely encounter, as the 1984 Heckler report noted. But the ground-breaking Heckler report was published over 30 years ago.

“I like being a bridge that helps others gain access to free or reduced medication,” Tooten said. “I have the ability to use the internet for patients who don’t have the internet or a smart phone. I am the middle man to better health,” she added, smiling widely.

Wooten said, “It makes me feel warm inside when I help others. For example, I have a Hepatitis C patient who needs medication (Harvoni), which costs $30,000 for 12 weeks.”
According to news reports, Harvoni had a more than 95 percent success rate in a recent study on 865 patients with various types of Hepatitis C. Those who received Harvoni once daily for 12 weeks were cured.

Describing the bridge that she helps to build at her office computer every single day in the clinic in Newport News, Tooten said, “I was able to help the patient get the medication (Harvoni) for free. He thanked me so much. They were going to deliver it but it is so expensive that they needed a signature before they would deliver the prescription. I called him and told him. He did what was necessary and received his medication. He is so happy. He said he is blessed. Oh yes, some of our patients visit our clinic and later make donations.”
Tooten is in her 20s. So she does not have any serious health problems. Still, she feels uplifted after she links and connects others to equitable health care. “I don’t have any special health issues like high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes,” Tooten said. “Still, I would say I’ve helped about 250 patients in a year to get free or discounted prices on medication.”

Next WeekPart Two – How a Newport News Clinic and a Retired Doctor are Building Bridges that are Helping Many.

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

Anthony Burfoot

A motion was filed this week to remove Anthony Burfoot as Norfolk Treasurer, following his sentencing to six years in prison. Burfoot was suspended from the position by a Norfolk judge in February.

On Monday, April 17, U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan Jr. sentenced  Burfoot, who is currently Norfolk’s City Treasurer,  to  six years in federal prison.

On Tuesday, April 18, his attorney said Burfoot is entitled to keep his job until he exhausts all of his appeals in court.

(At New Journal and Guide press time on Wednesday, April 19, this story was still developing and will be updated for next week’s paper.

From 2005 to 2011, while on the Norfolk City Councilman, Anthony Burfoot received thousands of  dollars in bribes in exchange for his vote to support projects of various developers, according to revelations that convicted him during his federal trial last winter.

Now Burfoot will spend jail time for those illicit activities which lasted six years.

Instead of  being  dispatched to  jail immediately,  the judge accepted Burfoot’s plea for more time to attend to matters related to his  ailing mother’s business affairs. So he was allowed to surrender to federal authorities no later than 2 p.m.  April 19, to begin  his sentence.

Along with the six years, Burfoot must forfeit  $250,000,  which the courts said he generated during  the time he was orchestrating his stretch of corrupt behavior. And once released from jail, he must perform 360 hours of public service.

The much anticipated sentencing of Burfoot comes after more than 14 months  of legal  and personal drama for a man who has devolved from one of the most influential African American  political and civic figures in recent times.

In February of 2016,  he was indicted on various federal corruption charges stemming from  a federal investigation revealing that he  received bribes from  owners of the Tivest Construction Company, Dwight and Curtis Etheridge. They testified that Burfoot  hooked them up with various city-funded development contracts while he was on city council.
Developer Ronnie Boone also said he bribed Burfoot in exchange for support  for his projects.
So did Tommy Arney.

In total, prosecutors said Burfoot collected some $464,000 in cash along with cars and other gifts for  his vote or other efforts to aid the businessmen’s projects.
Burfoot has maintained his innocence despite the  lists of damning revelations which crippled his integrity in the city, the pressure  to resign and a recall effort to oust him from the  job as City Treasurer.

In fact,  days leading up to his sentencing, Burfoot’s attorney Andrew Sacks continued unsuccessfully to challenge the testimony of various key  prosecution witnesses.
For instance, he challenged Ronnie Boone, who  has skirted receiving any time in prison because of health reasons, including dementia.
Sacks cited that as a reason to toss out the conviction imposed on Burfoot  last December and perhaps launch another trial.
All to no avail.

Also there were several high ranking public officials such as City Attorney Bernard Pishko and State Delegate  Daun Hester, who wrote letters in support of Burfoot, citing  his good works  on council and overseeing the development of the  Broadcreek Housing Community.
But Judge Morgan noted although these deeds, specifically at Broadcreek, were admirable,  Burfoot raked  in thousands of dollars for himself which should have been used to construct dwellings  and other amenities at the site .

The Burfoot saga has divided the view of the him and his legacy in the Black community.
Some persons say Burfoot should not have been sanctioned so severely because of his good works in the community and the fact that Ronnie Boone, a White developer who also was found guilty, avoided jail.

Federal prosecutors had proposed that Burfoot be jailed for  up to 17 years.
But  there are others who believe that Burfoot was a greedy and at times aloof public official who received  punishment that was justified, considering his corrupt  activities.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Virginia U.S. Congressman Donald R. McEachin and President  Donald J. Trump have at least two things in common: having won elections last November is one of them.

Also, since being sworn into their respective offices 17 days apart in January, each has been marking his first 100 days in their new  roles.

McEachin, sworn in January 3, will observe his  100th day April 17; Trump’s will be marked on May 4.

But this is where the similarities end.

The newly minted Democratic Congressman, an attorney by trade, lives in Henrico County near Richmond. He served as a Virginia State Delegate from 1996-2002 and 2006-2008, before becoming a State Senator from 2008 to 2017.

McEachin is diametrically opposed to most  of the plans and policies of Trump and the House Republicans.

He has spoken out against the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare; Trump’s threats to  workplace equality; Trump’s massive budget cuts which would hurt the poor; and Trump’s choice of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General.

McEachin represents the Fourth District as the newest member of  Virginia’s 11-member Congressional Delegation. A  federal court converted his district from GOP control last year when it was shown to be gerrymandered.

McEachin  and  Rep. Robert Scott of the Third District, who has served in Congress for two decades, are Virginia’s two African-American Representatives now.

The first 100 days of any new  presidency is marked by passage of laws and policies to address critical issues. Recall that President Barack Obama in 2009 had secured legislation to arrest the Great Recession.

He built support in the then Democratically-controlled Congress   for his economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The bill passed in the House in January.

During his first week, he signed the  Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, relaxing the statute of limitations for equal-pay lawsuits; and he expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), providing benefits to four million additional working families.

Trump’s short tenure has been a series of executive orders seeking to reverse much of of the Obama legacy.  Today, Trump   and  the Republican-controlled Congress have no notable accomplishments. They even failed to repeal and/or replace Obamacare.

But despite the lack of Trump accomplishments,  McEachin has been busy during the first 100 days of  the 115th Congress.

He has  set up  his new office on Capitol Hill, hired staff for that operation  and  for the offices back home throughout his district.

He also has managed to come back to the district to meet with constituents and issue policy statements and challenges to the GOP’s efforts.

“Serving Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District has been an incredible honor,” said McEachin. “From day one, my staff and I have worked diligently to help our constituents and to make a positive difference in the community,”

McEachin said in a recent dispatch to the media, “I constantly strive to represent the values, principles and priorities of my constituents and counter the senseless attacks on our hardworking families coming from the Trump Administration and House Republicans.

“In the first 100 days, I have spoken on the House floor on numerous occasions, including defending the Affordable Care Act so that millions of Americans can access life-saving health insurance; expressing my concerns  about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ reprehensible civil rights record; opposing the baseless Muslim ban; and condemning Russia’s attack on our democracy. I have co-sponsored 39 bills and resolutions that would help level the playing field for the majority of Americans – not the select few.”

Most recently, McEachin wrote two letters to the Postmaster General about the closure of the East End Post Office in Richmond.

In just the first 100 days, in addition to being in Washington, D.C. for 55 days of voting and Congressional hearings, Rep. McEachin has hosted and attended 47 events, 34 constituent meetings, six business tours, two town halls (“Coffee With Your Congressman” events), and two Facebook Live town halls.

Below are positions the Congressman has expressed on various issues.

Defense

Given the importance of strengthening armed services, he has worked hard to address defense-related needs, ranging from shipyard modernization to advance planning efforts in anticipation of sea-level rise.

Environmental Justice

He has introduced an amendment to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to use the best available science to respond to threats on public health. McEachin also recognizednMustafa Ali’s 24 years of public service fighting for environmental justice in the EPA. And, he serves as
the Ranking Member at an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the Endangered Species Act.

Equal Rights for Women and LGBTQ Community

He is an original co-sponsor of important legislation, including the Equal Pay Day Resolution, Paycheck Fairness Act, and the HER Act. He swiftly joined the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus to continue fighting for rights and access just as he did in the Virginia General Assembly. Recently, Rep. McEachin was honored as a 2017 Outstanding Virginian awardee for his commitment to fighting for equal rights and justice for all.

Education

He has been critical of the president’s proposed education budget, has co-sponsored a bill to help fund more cost-effective renovations to rundown school buildings, and written a demand to Secretary of Education Betty DeVos to investigate disproportionate discriminatory punishment in public schools.

NIH Funding

He has proposed the budget cuts of more than $5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) calling the reductions “a punch in the gut for millions of Americans and their families.”

Justice Department

McEachin has been vocal on his concerns for the safety and security of Virginians under Sessions’ watch.
“I have serious questions about whether Sessions will be able to impartially guide the Justice Department in sensitive areas like violent crime and poor policing,” he said.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

It’s around  8 p.m. on a warm spring Tuesday night at the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Norfolk. Oneiceia Howard is hard at work  fielding and answering questions before members of  Barraud Park, Cottage Heights and Lindenwood Civic League. That  night she is prodding participants in the meeting,  seeking their input for ideas on improving and using nearby Barraud Park.

During each of this league’s gathering, at some point, during her monthly presentations,  Howard  will answer  questions about the city’s maintenance of the park,  fees for using it, ideas for community gatherings, programs and safety, among other issues.

One league member mentioned  ideas for beautifying  its waterfront so  he and his daughter could enjoy the river which flows near by and Howard  frantically writes it on a huge poster note stuck on the wall.

What about sporting events  or other recreational activities or a ramp for boating and kayaking? Once the park was home to a boxing club which was moved to Harbor Park. What can that space it once occupied be used for now?

Howard is a Senior Neighborhood Development Specialist and her job, she says, is a “connector” for  the thousands of Norfolk residents who  live in the city’s network of  120 neighborhoods.  She shares information to 40 neighborhoods about city resources, programs, and opportunities for residents to develop stronger social bonds and more resilient communities.

She also updates residents about economic or infrastructure development projects in their community such as new sidewalks, street lights, paving, upgrading or installing new power, sewer and water lines.  She encourages the residents to give their input.

“My aim is to build trust and relationships between the neighborhoods and the city and each other,” said Howard. “All of our neighborhoods  are unique. They are not cookie cutters … they are different in incomes, architecture, history … you name it.  Some are more developed than others, and all have unique needs. Even the participation of the people  in these neighborhoods will vary.”

One of the biggest challenges  facing Howard and  her colleagues is encouraging people to attend  monthly civic league meetings.

Some of the gatherings have huge levels of  participation, while  others are low.

Howard said she coordinates with the presidents of the leagues in devising ways to find out if work, transportation  or lack of knowledge of  the meetings contributes to the inability of  more residents to attend, especially  in many of the traditionally Black communities.

Howard’s initial public sector job was with Opportunity Inc. where she worked with individuals from all sectors who were in need of employment and skills training.  She then transitioned to the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA)  as a case manager for residents in public housing communities.   She was involved in connecting residents with programs and resources to help them  move from public to private sector housing, acquire employment and  become self sufficient.

Howard hails from  Fort Lauderdale, Florida  and the military imported her family to Hampton Roads.

Howard said Norfolk believes that all neighborhoods are “neighborhoods  of choice,” based on the economic, social  and personal needs  of individuals and  families.
But she said the city advocates that residents not restrict themselves to just their neighborhood.  “Each community has assets. What’s not in your neighborhood can be found in another,” she said.

“Further not all resources have to come from the  city. We encourage people to develop relationships with other community partners, like businesses and faith-based organizations.”
During civil league meetings,  before Howard makes her presentation, residents receive reports on crime and safety tips from a duo of  police officers called  Community Resource Officers (CRO).

Working in coordination with her colleagues, CROs are assigned to patrol all or part of a respective community  and, according to Howard,  apply community  policing tactics to connect with and build relationships with the individuals and families they are sworn to protect and service.

Besides providing resources and information to residents and civic league meetings, Howard said Norfolk’s Department of Neighborhood Development sponsors and organizes the Neighbors Building Neighborhood (NBN) Academy.   It offers a series of workshops scheduled periodically throughout the year to educate residents on leadership development, fair housing, code enforcement, neighborhood standards for housing issues, building conservation, homeowner and renting rights and landlord-tenant responsibilities and other topics. You can go to  http://NBNAcademy.eventbrite.com to find a list of upcoming courses. Additionally, Howard and her colleagues in the Department of Neighborhood Development work strategically with residents to develop neighborhood goals.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Mrs. Mary Ferguson, the last known person to have helped construct the Norfolk Botanical Garden (NBG) during the recovery period of the nation’s Great Depression, passed on Sunday, April 16 at age 97.

Just two weeks ago, the NBG hosted its 9th Heritage Day on April 8 to commemorate the garden’s beginning and had prepared a bouquet of flowers to present to her. Mrs. Ferguson had attended all of the previous ceremonies, but was absent that day. Her daughter, Helen Ferguson Williams, accepted the flowers on her mother’s behalf.

Mrs. Ferguson was one of 200 African-American women and 20 African-American men who were employed as WPA (Work Progress Administration) workers in 1938 to clear dense vegetation and plant the first azaleas around what is now called Mirror Lake. In just one year, thousands of azaleas, rhododendrons, shrubs and trees were planted. That beginning developed into today’s oasis of 53 themed gardens encompassing 175 beautiful acres.

The WPA Garden Heritage Day event began in 2009 with the unveiling of the commemorative sculpture Breaking Ground and the dedication of the WPA Memorial Garden to honor and celebrate the contributions of the African-American workers whose labor created the Garden.

According to Dr. Martha Williams, who sits on the NBG’s Diversity Committee which was created in 2003, the NBG  personnel began a project to collect  the names and identification of these workers.  They used incomplete NBG records and the media, including the New Journal and Guide which wrote stories in the 1930s about the effort.

Mrs. Mary Ferguson was identified, along with 57 other women, however, to this day, not all of the workers have been identified.

Last year, Dr. Williams penned a book on the history of the Black men and women workers entitled “Norfolk Botanical Gardens: WPA Untold Story.”

In a 2016 Guide article announcing her book, Williams said, while she was doing her initial research, she discovered the  story behind the lives and contributions of the 200 Black women was colored by the legacy policy  of Jim Crow segregation.

She referenced a January 22, 1938 edition of the Journal and Guide, which described how angry the Norfolk Black Community was  about the working conditions the women endured  during those initial stages of the garden’s development.

“There was a picture of the Black women in big coats (in the cold) pushing wheel barrels and shoveling dirt,” said  Williams. “Black leaders were outraged because they said such work was not for women, but men or better still – mules.”

“A group of Black leaders went to Richmond to complain to WPA regional officials about the conditions,” she said. “But they did not get any response from them.”

Williams said subsequent Guide articles reported  the Black leaders also complained to Norfolk  Social Service and WPA leaders  in Norfolk about the working conditions of the women.

“I read in a publication sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce called ‘Civic Affairs’ which explained why these women were selected for the job,”  said Williams. “The article said the ‘colored’ women were on relief (WPA) to help them make money. Also they said that the Black women were best suited to do the job  because they were used to ‘stooped’ work…bending over working the vegetable field at the  many farms in North Carolina and Virginia.”

“But these ladies did not want  a hand out,” said Williams.  “They were working to support the families. The wages were 25 cents an hour and in two weeks, they would earn about $17.”

Indeed many of the women who  were  among those who worked at the Garden also toiled collecting spinach, strawberries and other vegetable crops at nearby farms.

Further, many of the women had received formal training at Virginia State or at Norfolk’s Mission College, both of which served the Black community during Jim Crow.

Williams said the Norfolk Botanical Garden’s  Diversity Committee wants to continue the annual tribute to the 200 Black women and 20 Black men who worked to make the Botanical Garden a reality.

Williams said that only 58 of the 200 women who worked  from 1938 to 1941 have been identified.  Mrs. Ferguson was the last living one of them. In her book she has written bios of varying length of  only 24 of them. She wants to expand that number.

Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Ferguson was the wife of the late Rev. Ernest Nathaniel Ferguson for 64 years. She is survived by Ernest H. Ferguson (Felisha), Martha E. Brown, Albert F. Ferguson (Alex), Helen Ferguson Williams (Bruce) Larry T. Ferguson (Margaret), grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren and great great great grandchildren.

By New Journal and Guide Staff

The New Journal and Guide hosted an Appreciation Night at the Wells Theatre on April 15 for staff and community volunteers. Following a pre-show reception in the front lobby, the group enjoyed the dynamic performance of The Wiz, featuring the NSU Theater Company and the Virginia Stage Company. The show continues through April 30.

 

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

Andrew Shannon, who heads the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of the Peninsula, has encountered widespread criticism after he drove to the nation’s capital with a delegation, and presented a proclamation to U. S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Shannon said  he drove to D.C., aiming to recycle  the teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr., but his critics have questioned the meeting.  An article in the Richmond Free Press, for example, said the meeting has “sent shockwaves through the civil rights community.”

The Richmond African-American newspaper said the meeting “created alarm among the NAACP and other civil rights groups because it appears to signal a major pullback from the Obama administration’s past efforts to ride herd on an array of police departments notorious for mistreating African-Americans, ranging from Baltimore to Cleveland, Chicago and Los Angeles.”

But Shannon said he aimed to highlight the 49th celebration of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr., during the 45-minute meeting. Shannon visited the attorney general’s office with his wife, Newport News City Councilwoman Lisha Bryant-Shannon, who is also the deputy director of OHA. They were accompanied by the president of the Virginia SCLC Rev. William Keen of Danville.

Also in the delegation were SCLC York County Supervisor Chad Green; York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. Diggs; and Dean Nelson, national chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation.
“I am recycling Dr. King’s strategies because they were effective,” Shannon  said in a recent phone interview with the New Journal and Guide.  Shannon also serves as state SCLC vice president.

“Our rationale is that we are a civil rights organization – so we have civil rights cases in many different areas,” Shannon said pointing to how Dr. King had a habit of working with diverse types to resolve issues.

“If you are involved in civil rights today and the person who is the leader of law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and others, oversees the portfolio, it’s important that we have not only have a seat – but a voice at the table,” Shannon said.

“The SCLC is the voice for the voiceless,” Shannon added. “We get a lot of calls on various issues. There are many discussions about criminal justice, police misconduct and public corruption which we don’t believe just start or stop in Norfolk. So, if we want an investigation to proceed in our area, who do we need talk to? I think we want our cases to be heard by the highest office in the country.”

In short, this is why Shannon said he drove to D.C., and makes no apologies for his recent trip to Sessions’ office nor the proclamation presented by his delegation to the Attorney General for his work on behalf of civil rights and his “dedication and service to humanity.”

“I am recycling Dr. King’s strategies because they were effective,” he said. “Dr. King led the charge on the 1965 Voting Rights Act and on the 1965 Civil Rights Act that Congress passed. Dr. King helped us to pass these things. He used communication. He talked to people. He got involved with others. He did not isolate himself from the rest of the world. Instead, Dr. King rolled up his sleeves and made contact with others. Dr. King knew that in order to get some resolution he had to first of all have some sort of communication with the parties involved.”

Rev. Rodney Hunter, president of the Richmond SCLC, disagreed with his colleagues. “I am in total disagreement,” Hunter said when interviewed by the Richmond Free Press. “The attorney general’s record speaks for itself, and I haven’t seen any changes in his attitude since he took office. There has been no repentance or attempt at reconciliation. I haven’t seen anything that shows me that he is seeking change on justice issues or race relations.”

On its editorial page, the Richmond newspaper said, “We have no quarrel with Rev. Keen and Mr. Shannon meeting with Mr. Sessions. But what promises or payments were made for them to present Mr. Sessions with such a proclamation?

“We don’t need our leaders to make Stepin Fetchit moves. We need men and women of substance and backbone who can meet our detractors on our own terms.”

During Session’s confirmation hearings, it was noted that he opposed restoring the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court gutted portions of it in 2013. Those who sought to halt his nomination also noted that he refused to support equal pay for women and opposed reauthorizing the Violence Against Women’s Act.

This year  the nation and city of Norfolk will celebrate the 100th Anniversary  of the opening of the Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads at Sewells Point,  known  today as Naval Station Norfolk.

The facility is the largest Naval base in the world and  is part of the network of Navy, Marine, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and other military units in the Hampton Roads area.

A key centennial date is June 28, when a presidential proclamation in 1917 set aside $2.8 million dollars for the development of Sewells Point into a naval operating base.

Construction began on a naval training center on July 4 of that year; and on October 12, 1,400 sailors marched from the training center at St. Helena across from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard all the way up to the new Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads at Sewells Point, where an official opening ceremony was held.

Since then, the facility has been the training, staging, planning and homeport  for military operations involving millions of naval and other military personnel  from the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and  Desert Storm and  many other conflicts involving the U.S. military.

But apart from its overall role as a fixture and symbol of the nation’s military light, there are many  untold stories related to African-American military, civil rights and personal history.

African-Americans have worked in military or civilian  capacities throughout the naval base’s existence.

While the Department of  Defense and the U.S. Navy have many stories detailing Black history and the base, the Norfolk Journal and Guide Archives possesses thousands of stories – small and lengthy – doing the same, uniquely.

Guide stories date back as far as 1921, four years after the  facility first opened.  There are stories about Black workers doing various tasks, being honored for their long service  on the base and its  supply center as clerks and techs,  Blacksmiths, to cab drivers,  cooks and uniformed personnel at various levels performing a variety of  roles.
The dark side of that history cannot be ignored, and the GUIDE recorded it, too.

There are stories about the challenges that Black  civilian and military personnel,  helped by the NAACP  and other civil rights groups, encountered   seeking access to equitable treatment,  pay and employment.

The Guide recorded the strains which arose during the early days of  desegregation between Black  and White sailors  on and off the  base.

Among the most interesting facets of  the base’s and Naval History was the fact that until the end of WWII, African-Americans  and Filipinos were relegated only  to the work of messmen  and other laborious tasks.

The USS Mason was the Navy’s first naval  vessel with a skilled Black crew whose maiden voyage was recorded for American history by Thomas Young, Journal and Guide photojournalist and son of P.B. Young, Sr., founding Guide publisher.

There were few examples of Blacks  in high ranking military or civilian roles at the Norfolk facility which remained racially segregated due to policy until   President Harry Truman issued an Executive Order killing that policy  after 1948.

But it took a number of years before the policy was adopted and some form of diversity and adherence to civil rights for Blacks occurred on the base in the mid-1950s.

During the 1970s and 1980s, stories about the “first” Black high ranking officers and civilian  officials began appearing in the Black and mainstream press.

♦♦♦
       
One of the initial bright spots of President Truman’s   and the Navy’s efforts to move forward on race was illustrated  in the April 1, 1950 edition of the Norfolk Journal and Guide.

“It’s Been Smooth Sailing Says Norfolk Base Wave” by Martha Hursey, who wrote about the first Black female sailor stationed at the base.

“For nearly six weeks, an attractive ex-Howard University student Clara Camille Carroll has been studying along with several other Waves.” The term (WAVE) was an  acronym for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service” and was the World War II women’s branch of the United States Naval Reserve.

According to the article, Carroll’s presence and  studying at the radio school at the Norfolk Naval Base went “practically unnoticed  except by fellow service women.  So complete was her interrogation that even ranking naval officers were unaware that the Naval Base was host to the first colored Wave who hails from Cleveland, Ohio.”

Immediately after she finished  boot camp  in Great Lakes, Carroll was enrolled in the radio school here. Upon completion of the course, she was slated to be stationed on one of the several naval bases in the country.

The article noted Carroll said she enjoyed the various activities on the base when she was not involved in training.  “The seaman apprentice said she is singing on the chapel choir at Frazier Hall making frequent visits to the Hobby Shop, the 12 cents movies and learning the game of billiards.”

“She has a roommate, Peggy Good from Broadway, Virginia, and they are constant companions. She said that she joined the Waves because  they appeared to have a fine reputation and she liked the uniforms.”

The article continued, “In the city of Norfolk, she has not met with any difficulties either. She has gone everywhere and done everything that her fellow service women have.”

Carroll was quoted as saying, “I thought they were improving down here” (referring to the racial  climate of the South).

The naval base’s first “colored Wave,” Clara Carroll, joined the military the previous August, according to the article. Before enrolling at Howard in Sociology, she lived in New York City for two years where she worked for the city’s Housing Authority. She had plans to join the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority “in the coming years after a  long career in the military.”

♦♦♦

In the  April 19, 1952 edition of the Norfolk Journal and Guide, a headline appeared “Navy Declines Norfolk’s NAACP’s Pleas on Race Signs.”

“Efforts will be made to obtain from President  (Harry) Truman  a ruling regarding the refusal of Naval authorities to act favorably upon a request of the Norfolk Branch of the NAACP that signs designating racist use of certain facilities at the two major local Naval Installations be removed.”

Jerry O. Gilliam, the Norfolk NAACP Branch President, was working with the National office of the civil rights group  to  seek a ruling “from the President  as to whether the mores and customs of a community can extend to the federal government and its holdings.”

According to the article “The request filed by the local NAACP noted complaints by  colored civilian Naval employees protesting signs reading ‘White’ and ‘Colored’ posted at rest rooms, drinking fountains and recreational  facilities at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the Norfolk Naval Base.”

The complaint said the  signs were humiliating to the “Negro employees.”

Navy officials refused to remove the signs  because “Naval industrial relations take their cue from local customs,” and Norfolk like most of the South was still adhering to Jim Crow segregation of public facilities.

“The Negro sailor,”  said the NAACP letter to  the Secretary of the Navy, “is humiliated when  after a trip probable  to Korea, he is faced with such signs when they return home.”

“These signs are a definite impediment  to the productive effort of the command because they give everyone who has a white skin  a superiority complex, that makes him unfitted to meet the man with the a Black Skin.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

HAMPTON ROADS
The Chesapeake – Va. Beach Links, Inc. will host “Making A Praise Connection” on Saturday, April 29, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Chesapeake Conference Center.

This non-denominational Inspirational event will feature as guest speaker TV Judge Mablean Ephraim who is best known for her roles in Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, and as the former presiding Judge on FOX TV’s “Divorce Court”  for seven seasons.

Today, she can be seen as the presiding judge of Justice with Judge Mablean which airs in broadcast syndication Monday-Friday in major U.S. media markets, Canada, South Africa, and Australia, covering a range of court cases related to life and the law.

Judge Mablean, who is a member of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ and member of the Executive Board of the Women’s Department – COGIC, attributes her success in life to God, her parents, her family, and close friends.

The proceeds will support scholarships for deserving students and community service projects.

For tickets and more information, contact Chapter members.

History was made in Norfolk on May 3, 2016; that day, citizens elected for the first time a mayor who graduated from Old Dominion University – Kenny Alexander ’90. Alexander, a former state senator who took office as mayor on July 1, recalled a challenging curriculum at Old Dominion and a strong network of support from professors and students.

In his new job, he hopes to build another layer of support, vowing to increase collaboration between the city and the university.

“You have a major employer with faculty, staff and students who are eager to get involved,” Alexander said. “We shouldn’t miss that opportunity. “This is a moment for Norfolk, for ODU and for all of us to really come together and bring our best ideas to this space and harvest those ideas. If we get it right, we’ll all be better for it.”

Old Dominion’s president, John R. Broderick, said: “I am excited for our city that Sen. Alexander is now Mayor Alexander. I have worked with him the entire time he served in the General Assembly. He has always wanted to do the right thing for Norfolk, Hampton Roads and higher education. His passionate advocacy for ODU was a great reason why we have been successful in Richmond.”

Alexander grew up in the Berkley section of Norfolk. As a teenager, he weighed multiple career paths – religion, politics, music, mortuary science – reflecting his family’s diverse influences.

His grandmother was the secretary at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. His family owned Metropolitan Funeral Services.

How did politics get onto the list? Alexander met plenty of politicians who spoke at the church and also got their petitions notarized at the funeral home.

Alexander received an associate degree in mortuary science from John Tyler Community College, outside Richmond, in 1987. He returned to work at the funeral home, but a year later his grandmother told him, “You need to be a kid again.” He enrolled at Old Dominion in the summer of 1988.

“It was hard,” he said, “but there was a lot of support, not only from the faculty and staff, but also from the students. I just found Old Dominion to be a great university community. Everything was geared around your academic achievement.”

Alexander graduated in 1990 with a degree in political science. A few years later, he took over the funeral home after the premature death of his father.

He juggled his job duties with civic activities, leading the Beacon Light Civic League in Berkley and serving as a member of Norfolk’s Economic Development Authority and Planning Commission. That rekindled his interest in politics.

Alexander, a Democrat, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2002, serving there for 10 years before winning election to the Senate in 2012.

He received 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race for Norfolk mayor, becoming the first African-American elected to that position. Alexander said he sought the job because of the social challenges facing the city: “That’s my area of expertise.” And that’s where he sees his alma mater coming in.

The city and Old Dominion, he said, have already worked together to address flooding and sea level rise. “I would like to see more collaboration and more partnership with the university” on issues such as public safety and education.

“I want to take this asset here on the west side and bring some of that innovation and energy throughout downtown and the rest of the city to help us address some of our social and economic ills,” Alexander said.

“It’s almost a ‘must’ in the place where we find ourselves.”

By Philip Walzer

Stay in the Know with Us!

Weekly Newsletter
SUBSCRIBE!
Your stories. Your Community.