Wednesday, November 27, 2013


While many families gather around the Thanksgiving table this week to give thanks, some of us will be left out. The nearly 16 million children living in poverty will be struggling to have something to be thankful for. These families won’t be choosing between sweet potato or pumpkin pie this holiday season but will face choices about paying for groceries or rent, heat, medicine or clothing —choices no family should have to make in our nation with the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world.   And while these families will struggle to make such choices, Congress will be choosing how many of these desperate families and children  to cut from life-giving and life-sustaining programs such as SNAP.  Congress has put the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often called food stamps) on the chopping block.
 Congress is working to cut $4 billion from SNAP while the House bill slashes more than $40 billion—denying food to as many as six million people, including children, seniors, and veterans. The House proposal would also drop 210,000 children from school meals.  SNAP lifted 2.2 million children out of poverty in 2012 and provided benefits to over 46 million Americans including more than 22 million, or more than one in four children. SNAP was a life saver for millions of families in need during the recent recession and still sluggish recovery.  Any cuts will take desperately needed food away from many vulnerable children and adults.
At a time when child poverty remains at a record high, and three-quarters of our nation’s teachers report students who routinely show up to school hungry, what kind of political leaders could for one minute consider cutting food assistance to children that need it?  Hunger and malnutrition have devastating consequences for children and have been linked to low birth weight and birth defects, obesity, mental and physical health problems, and poorer educational outcomes. SNAP cushions these threats and  children who benefit from SNAP are less likely to be in poor health, experience fewer hospitalizations, and are less likely to have developmental delays. A recent study found that needy children who received food assistance before age five were in better health as adults. Specifically, the girls studied were more likely to complete more schooling and earn more money, and not rely on safety net programs such as SNAP.
Adults who care and have common sense would strengthen, not cut this critical lifeline for children. During this Thanksgiving week, those of us blessed with enough or too much food can show our gratitude by urging our political leaders to put hungry children first for a change.
And by saying a prayer for those less fortunate.

Monday, November 18, 2013


"I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be."

Lyrics to Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All," one of my all time favorites.  And I completely agree with Whitney, that our children are our future.  This week marks the introduction of the Strong Start for America's Children Act by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Reps George Miller (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY).  This is a major step in the right direction for poor and low income children as it prepares them for school in their early years, providing the groundwork for future success. 

Research shows that poor children can perform as well as other children if given the support to do so.  But the reality is that the majority of poor children and especially children of color, are left behind when it comes to quality education.  Their parents simply do not have the resources to invest into their children's education in the variety of ways that kids from privileged backgrounds have.  The access to quality private schools, private tutoring and camps are simply out of reach for poor children and their parents. What we have is a majority of American elementary and middle school students that cannot read or do math at their grade level and most of these kids are African-American and Latino.

Putting the resources into place to provide a quality early education for every child, allows us to disable a system that serves and saves just a few children while depriving many, many others of a good, quality education. The Strong Start for America's Children Act, will do just that.  And to act upon it now, is a commitment to leave no child left behind.  God said it best when He said, "For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to bring you to an expected end..."  He wasn't just talking about rich, affluent and kids of privilege, He was talking about poor kids too.

Monday, November 11, 2013


How to Teach Kids About Veterans Day

Here are a few ideas:
1.  Have your kids write short articles or essays of how veterans are honored around the world.
2.  Research how American veterans were treated after they returned from various military conflicts,  (Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War). Discuss with your kids their findings.  Talk with your kids about the way women and minorities have been treated that served in various wars.
3. Have children draw a picture of Veterans Day, and what this holiday means to them. Military children can draw a picture of a parent who is currently deployed, or a relative who has served.
4. Make a thank you card for veterans. Children can give this card to veterans that they know or to veterans who are listed through the local VA medical facility.
5. Have your kids make a colorful and fun poster with the names and pictures of relatives who are veterans.
There are a variety of ways to celebrate Veterans Day with your children. And teaching children about the significance of this holiday will help give them a deep appreciation of our nation's servicemembers and veterans.

And remember, teaching kids about Veterans Day doesn't have to be a "once a year" event.  Find the time to fit it in regularly. We are our children's teacher and should never miss the opportunity to empower, educate and inspire our kids to greatness.  Who knows?  You might have a five-star General in the making!

Monday, November 4, 2013


How can we help our kids be more responsible with their money?

It is fairly simple.  By using what is called the "10-10-10-70" plan, it is possible to teach good stewardship principles to our children, not matter what their age. Whether it be their allowance, money for doing a specific chore or money earned from a paycheck, show your kids how to divide up their earnings according to the following:

1.  They should set aside 10 % of their money for tithing.  You can explain that the Bible tells us that because everything belongs to God, we are to give Him the "firstfruits" of our earnings. 

2.  Next, encourage your kids to set aside a second 10% of their money for savings and investment.  If they don't already have one, take them to open a savings account.  Then pick-up a kid friendly book on saving and investing, one that explains in simple language how interest compounds over time.  For older kids, help them to open a brokerage account with an online brokerage like Fidelity or E-Trade.

3.  The third "10" in the plan you teach them to dedicate to giving.  This is going beyond tithing  by distributing a portion of our money to help those who are in need.  God clearly tells us to help the poor and this is something we should instill in our kids at an early age.  Whether it be charities, ministries, a homeless shelter or a needy family in the community,  possibilities are endless for those experiencing financial difficulties that need a little help.

4.  The remaining 70% of their money can be used at their own discretion.  Naturally, you'll want to teach them to spend wisely by purchasing items that have value and by saving money to make purchases for those things they really want. 

(These principles also apply to us grown-ups who haven't mastered the skill of budgeting and wise spending as well.)

Your Kids Can Master Their Money, by Ron and Judy Blue and Jeremy White.


Thursday, September 12, 2013


LSD in the 60s, weed in the 70s, cocaine/crack cocaine in the 80s, heroin in the 90s.  Every decade, it seems, has an "in" drug.  The new and popular drug for the "in" crowd, the young, the old,  the middle class, the poor, the rich.  Well, this decade continues with the same pattern with the emergence of "Molly." 

Molly is made up of many substances to include cocaine, crack, ecstasy, crystal meth and bath salts.  It comes in powder, crystalline or pill form and is very popular among teenagers. It is odorless and easy to conceal.   It has the makings of what can be called absolute disaster and is akin to playing Russian roulette.  As easy and as cheap to get as a six-pack of beer, it offers a euphoric high, a burst of energy and hallucinations.  The symptoms include:  high blood pressure, seizures, teeth grinding, insomnia, fever and hyperthermia.  Emergency room visits have more than doubled for overdoses contributed to Molly in the past few years, some resulting in death.

It is embraced by rappers such as Gucci Mane, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Rihanna and Rick Ross.  Miley Cyrus even has a new single in which she sings what sounds like, "We like to party, dancing with Molly."  At a music festival last year, Madonna was criticized for asking the audience, "How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?"

Molly is the big thing now with our children and youth.  We must stay abreast of what is out there, what it is our children are being exposed to.  The age old advice still works:  be involved in your children's lives, know their friends, keep communication open and honest and don't be afraid to talk about the effects of drugs and alcohol with them.   And if you suspect your child of drug or alcohol abuse, don't be afraid to seek help.  We are still in the middle of the "War on Drugs," don't put down your weapons yet.


Saturday, September 7, 2013


Research conducted by the Center for the Study of Social Policy has shown that certain protective factors can help improve a child's health and wellbeing.

Parents who can handle stress appropriately and thereby rebound from challenges more quickly, can parent more effectively and promote their children's healthy development. When emotional support and social connections are provided by family, friends, neighbors and community members, parents cope better with stressors. 

When food, clothing, housing and other basic needs are met, families are better able to thrive. Also, when parents have access to services and supports to ensure these needs are met, they are better able to handle a crisis when it arises.  Parents that understand basic child development based on age, to include appropriate behavior expectations, are more likely to discipline and nurture children appropriately.  When children can communicate effectively their feelings and regulate their behavior, they are better able to form positive relationships with their family, other adults and peers.

Awareness, education, prevention, these are just some of the things that we can all do to ensure that a child is safe from the evils of abuse and that a parent is receiving the support they need to be good parents.  Both contribute to productivity in society and emotional well being.

Monday, August 26, 2013


There is a lot of work to do to increase the graduation rates for African American males in Duval County. Black males leave high school before graduation in a much higher proportion than white males. Seeing that a diploma is tantamount for going to college & getting a good paying job, I'd venture to say that we have a lot of work to do. 

Researchers have found that one in four black male high school dropouts are either incarcerated or in detention. Along with the expense of incarceration & the dependence upon public assistance, this adds up to roughly $300,000 in taxpayer money spent over the lifetime of a dropout. The life of our communities depend upon our black children being educated & our males graduating on time. Some states are performing exceedingly well in graduating black males on time. 

More must be done in Duval County to unite parents, educators, mentors & the males themselves in order to turn it around & to see that black males are graduating, going to college, going to vocational school, going to the military or just going anywhere except going to jail & prison.