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369th Experience Band Ties HBCU Musicians to WWI Black History

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Thanks to the United States World War I Centennial Commission, Coca Cola and the network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), a band of 42 accomplished musicians from HBCUs are traveling around the country playing the sounds of the 369th Infantry Regimental Band that made its mark in history during WWI and WWII.

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By Leonard E. Colvin, Chief Reporter, New Journal and Guide

In 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles ended WWI, two years after the U.S. entered the fight with France and Great Britain against Germany, 44 Black colleges existed.

Today, 100 years later, there are 101 public and private HBCUs, and they and their students are playing an important part in reclaiming the role African American soldiers and artists played in that conflict.

WWI 369 Infantry Regimental Band (Photo: Courtesy)

WWI 369 Infantry Regimental Band (Photo: Courtesy)

Thanks to the United States World War I Centennial Commission, Coca Cola and the network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), a band of 42 accomplished musicians from HBCUs are traveling around the country playing the sounds of the 369th Infantry Regimental Band that made its mark in history during WWI and WWII.

The old wartime regimental band was reincarnated four years ago in the form of the 369th Experience. Most of the new band’s 42 members are current students or pending graduates of the HBCUs.

Its namesake, the 369th Infantry Regimental Band of WWI and WWII, used musical instruments and its artists with a flair for Jazz, originated by African Americans, to establish its legacy, and introduce the art form to the Europeans.

The 369th Experience, a WWI tribute band sponsored by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission, performs in Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating WWI, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in New York. The band, which is made up of music students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the U.S., play the musical repertoire of New York's legendary 369th Regiment "Harlem Hellfighters" Regimental Jazz Band. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

The 369th Experience, a WWI tribute band sponsored by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission, performs in Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating WWI, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in New York. The band, which is made up of music students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the U.S., play the musical repertoire of New York’s legendary 369th Regiment “Harlem Hellfighters” Regimental Jazz Band. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

The WWI band was formed to accompany the 369th Infantry Regiment, a group of Black fighting troops. Its assignment was to boost the morale of the Black troops comprising the 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly known as the 15th New York National Guard Regiment and commonly referred to as the Harlem Hellfighters.

The Black soldiers in the field fought valiantly with their grit and guns to help the allies win WWI and show that Black men could fight for freedom.

The accompanying band was led by and composed of established musical professionals. In the process of performing their assignment, they also exported Jazz music, crafted by African Americans to the allied nations.

One of the band’s leaders, James Reese Europe was a respected artist in Harlem music circles before he was assigned to the military band. He went on to direct the regimental band to great acclaim.

The 369th Experience, a WWI tribute band sponsored by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission, performs in Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating WWI, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in New York. The band, which is made up of music students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the U.S., play the musical repertoire of New York's legendary 369th Regiment "Harlem Hellfighters" Regimental Jazz Band. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

The 369th Experience, a WWI tribute band sponsored by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission, performs in Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating WWI, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in New York. The band, which is made up of music students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the U.S., play the musical repertoire of New York’s legendary 369th Regiment “Harlem Hellfighters” Regimental Jazz Band. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)

In February and March 1918, James Reese Europe and his military band traveled over 2,000 miles in France, performing for British, French and American military audiences as well as French civilians. Europe’s “Hellfighters” also made their first recordings in France for the Pathé brothers.

According to the key organizers of the current project involving HBCU students, The 369th Experience is designed to introduce people of all cultures, especially the band members, to the band’s legacy and the role it and the fighting soldiers of the 369th played in WWI.

Also, a goal is to use the band to display the Jazz music art form to audiences domestically and abroad.

It is taking place at a time when HIP-HOP and Neo-soul are overshadowing Jazz as an art form among Black people, despite efforts since the 1970s, to repackage Jazz as a popular and “profitable” genre of music to the masses.

“We chose HBCU band students because we knew we would get the best students in terms of music and marching formation!” said Stephany B. O’Neal, publicity director for the outfit.  “We had to use HBCUs to even come close to representing the Harlem Hellfighters and James Reese Europe.

“This is a totally historic event,” she continued. “Bringing the Harlem Hellfighters full circle.  They won all kinds of awards from the French and totally changed the music industry in Europe.

“Like the Black soldiers who fought on the battlefield, after the war, the band suffered many slights, despite the respect the French soldiers and later the governments bestowed upon them,” O’Neal said.

She said after the war, in Paris, France, the band was not allowed to join in the victory parade with the Americans when they marched down the Champs Elysees.

To right that wrong, plans are in the works for the 369th Experience Band to travel to Versailles, France at the upcoming International observance of the Centennial of the signing of the Treaty which ended WWI.

During the 2019 Memorial Day Weekend, in conjunction with New York’s annual Fleet Week Observance, the band performed at Rockefeller Center, Marcus Garvey Park, the Liberty Park, and in New Jersey at Harlem One Stop, a historical site.

The effort to recreate the 369th Infantry Regimental Band was launched in 2013.

After the plea was made before the House Appropriation Committee, it took several years before funding for the project was first submitted.

The U.S. Army School of Music, and their PR Personnel, Noble Sissle, Jr., son of one of the original band members, and O’Neal, even before the funding was secured, hammered together the framework and foundation of the band’s operation.

They developed the audition criteria, auditioned the students online, hired a band leader who worked at Ohio State and once all the students were selected, began rehearsing.

“We could not get all the students in one place to rehearse and engage them,” said O’Neal, “so we did it online and in sections and we had some problems. But Coke funded a better online conferencing system, so we managed to do a lot of work even before the band members and directors met each other in person.”

Although there were 65 members of the original 365th Infantry Regimental Band, currently there are 42 members from HBCUs and 1 historically white school.

Prairie View, Florida A&M and Southern University, all southern HBCUs, have the most representatives on the band.

Eventually, the band’s membership will be expanded to 65, O’Neal said. She said that recruiting for future membership is ongoing. She said HBCU veteran band members alert and recruit band members from their respective schools to apply to be a member.

People who are interested should go to the 369th website to apply for an audition, O’Neal said.

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PRESS ROOM: First Book, an Innovative Leader in Education Equity, Releases Groundbreaking Research Illustrating the Impact of COVID-19 on Emotional Wellness of Students in Underserved Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

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Nearly One Thousand Educators Participated; Report that over half (53%) of the students they serve struggle with their mental health

WASHINGTON, First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring education equity for children living in poverty, today announced the results of a national survey designed to identify emotional wellness challenges faced by school-age children. In addition to reinforcing earlier findings regarding the devastating mental health effects of COVID-19, this survey shed new light on the severity of this impact — especially in communities of need. It also established that emotional wellness issues have become a significant barrier to education for many students who attend schools in these communities – a majority of whom are children of color. Pediatric psychologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s On Our Sleeves movement for children’s mental health partnered with First Book to offer a clinical perspective on survey questions and process.

In the new survey findings, educators report that 53 percent of the students they serve struggle with their mental health and only 20 percent of educators feel prepared to support the mental well-being of their students. Of significant concern, 98 percent of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education. And notably, educators are facing their own mental health challenges. Student mental wellness issues have a ripple effect on educators who feel helpless and unsupported.

“Educators across the country are speaking out about the urgency of the mental wellness issues that their students are facing, how they don’t feel prepared to address the issues, and how those issues act as a barrier to learning. Based on what we’re hearing from our Network of educators, this is truly a crisis,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO, First Book. “First Book is committed to supporting low-income communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and the data revealed in this survey is guiding us in providing educators with high-quality, research-driven tools to nurture emotional wellness and develop healthy habits that prepare students to not only learn but thrive.”

On an ongoing basis First Book solicits input from its Network of more than 525,000 educators – all of whom serve children in need – to enable the organization to directly address the needs of practitioners and the children they serve. Mental wellness was spotlighted as a critical problem exacerbated by COVID-19, leading the organization to design focus groups and a survey to better understand the magnitude and scope of the issue, as well as what is needed to address this barrier to education. Nearly 1,000 educators responded to the survey providing startling data. The results provided a framework for the resource, which is now available, entitled: Taking Care: An Educator Guide to Healthy Habits for Student Emotional Wellness, a free resource created in collaboration with On Our Sleeves. The resource and study are now available through First Book.

“Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

According to the First Book study, the top three life circumstances or experiences that contribute to children’s mental health challenges are 1) unstable or difficult home life; 2) hunger/food insecurity and 3) isolation due to Covid-19. Because these three factors often intersect as children grapple with returning to normalcy post-pandemic, the resources First Book provides to educators are essential tools for helping them become better equipped to aid students who are still dealing with the effects of Covid-related depression, trauma, loneliness, and loss.

First Book’s findings are particularly relevant given recent warnings issued by professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association. These groups have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health and have noted that psychological strains, made worse over the past few years by pandemic-associated isolation, anxiety, fear, and grief, have caused a crisis in several societal sectors including education. They also emphasize that children in communities of color have been disproportionately impacted due to previously unresolved inequities linked to structural racism.

Additional key findings in First Book’s survey include:

  • 72% of educators say the pandemic has introduced new mental health challenges among students/children;
  • 65% of educators report the pandemic has exacerbated the existing mental health challenges students already faced;
  • 80% of educators believe gaining access to mental health support is a high or emergency priority in relation to students’ overall needs at this time;
  • 98% of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education;
  • 93% of educators became aware that a student was struggling with mental health issues due to a noticeable change in behavior;
  • 92% of educators indicated they are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources focused on promoting the general mental health and well-being of all students;
  • 51% of educators report that a student’s race/racial identity is relevant to their mental health;
  • 68% of respondents indicate that they take a child’s race and/or culture into consideration when supporting their mental well-being (e.g. observe family/cultural norms, design a culturally inclusive curriculum, and foster open and trusting relationships with their students);
  • 74% of educators are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources to help them approach mental health challenges related to race, identity, and intersectionality;
  • Older children reportedly struggle more than younger children. Educators serving middle and high school students estimate that 59% and 60% (respectively) of the students they serve struggle with mental health, while early childhood and elementary educators estimate 50% and 52% (respectively) of their students struggle.  This compares to the general population at 53%;
  • Educators in urban and suburban communities consider addressing mental health as a stronger priority (83% high/emergency priority) vs. their rural counterparts (75% high/emergency priority).

About First Book

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 29-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 525,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research-based strategies to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books. For more information about First Book, please visit http://www.firstbook.org.

About On Our Sleeves®

Children don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves. With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, we need to give them a voice. On Our Sleeves®, powered by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, aims to provide every community in America with free resources necessary for breaking child mental health stigmas and educating families and advocates, because no child or family should struggle alone.

Since the inception of On Our Sleeves® in 2018, more than 3 million people in every state across America have interacted with the movement’s free pediatric mental health educational resources at OnOurSleeves.org and educator curricula have reached more than four of five classrooms across the United States.

To schedule an interview with a spokesperson for First Book, please contact Ian Kenison at ikenison@firstbook.org.

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Moore Brown: Maryland Set to Have Two Black Statewide Officials

NNPA NEWSWIRE — If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On July 19, Wes Moore and Congressman Anthony Brown won their primary contests to be Governor of Maryland and Attorney General.

Maryland is a deep blue state that currently has a moderate Republican Governor. It is expected that Moore and Brown will have a major advantage over their Republican competitors.

If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

Moore’s main opponent was former DOJ Civil Rights chief and DNC Chair Tom Perez. Perez came in second to Moore. The results were 36 percent for Moore, 27 percent for Perez and 19 percent for Peter Franchot.

Wes Moore’s victory is verification that Black statewide candidates in states with over 20 percent of the Black vote can run and win strong campaigns.

Current Governor Larry Hogan has said publicly that he will not vote for the Republican nominee for Governor. That nominee, Dan Cox, is a supporter of Donald Trump.

“Dan Cox …is a QAnon whack job who was in favor of calling Mike Pence, my friend, a traitor, when they were talking about hanging him,” Hogan said at a news conference on July 19.

Attorney and former prosecutor Glenn Ivey defeated former Congresswoman Donna Edwards in a primary to replace Anthony Brown in Maryland’s 4th district. Ivey is all but certain to be elected to Congress in such a blue district.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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DOJ Indicts Four Police Officers Who Allegedly Lied to Secure Search Warrants for Breonna Taylor’s Home

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4. 

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, has long been insisting that Louisville police have never been at her daughter Breonna Taylor’s apartment on the night they shot her dead.

On August 4, the Department of Justice, led by the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke, announced the indictments of four police officers who fatally shot Ms. Taylor during a nighttime raid on her apartment.

They asserted that the officers lied in order to get a search warrant for Taylor’s apartment.

The Justice Department announced that the indictments against the four current and former police officers would include federal charges of using “unconstitutionally excessive force.”

“Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that people are subject to searches only when there is probable cause supporting a search warrant. Falsified warrants create unnecessary hazards for the public and for the police, who rely on facts that fellow officers report in carrying out their public duties,” Clarke added.

“These charges focus on the conduct of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Place-Based Investigations Unit. In the first indictment filed today, we allege that in early 2020, that unit was investigating suspected drug trafficking in the West End [area] of Louisville. On March 12, 2020, officers from that unit sought 5 search warrants they claimed were related to the suspected drug trafficking.  Four of those warrants targeted properties in the West End where that activity was allegedly occurring,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland before Clarke spoke.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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