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A tale of love and redemption: ‘Spiritual parents’ throw surprise party for man who broke into their church

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I appreciate DeAndre because he broke a cycle in his life,” said Pastor Henry Lavender. “Now, he has his own son to raise. The cycle is broken. Jesus makes it possible for DeAndre to live free. His son can be free. The logo of our church has the Jewish symbol in it. That is on purpose. It means Israel shall live. We do have victory when we forgive and love one another.”

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By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, Special to the New Tri-State Defender

Two weeks ago, 24-year-old DeAndre Bramlett felt hopeless and alone. He had no job, no prospects, and no money to take care of his son, Kamyron, only a year old.

Tuesday, he turned 25. And in all his 25 years, DeAndre had never had a birthday cake. That all changed when his new, spiritual parents, Pastors Henry and Lorre Lavender, threw his a surprise party. And his new “God family” was there—clapping and cheering. Considering that DeAndre had recently broken into the congregation’s new church home, the scene was pretty remarkable.

It all started two weeks ago. DeAndre didn’t wake up that day with the intent of burglarizing a church. But by nightfall, there he was. Breaking into the building only days before the Living Life in Victory congregation was scheduled to move.

He was with some other guys. They were there to steal the copper wiring. It sells well in the scrap metal market—no questions asked. A window was already open, and all he had to do was walk in. The other guys had busted up the walls—large holes in the drywall so they could just walk right through. The tools were right there. DeAndre saw them. His role would be simple. All he had to do was carry the copper outside.

Only, once inside, things took a different turn. The police showed up while the robbery was still in progress. The downstairs alarm had been disabled, but the thieves had no idea about the one upstairs. A television news crew was already on the scene. DeAndre’s face was everywhere, plastered all over the late news broadcast. So many flashing blue lights and video cameras.

He and the other culprits were taken to a holding area down at 201 Poplar.

“There was so much overcrowding because of the government shutdown, there was no place to put us,” said Bramlett. “So we sat all night in the holding area. They let me make some calls. I called my girlfriend and my mother. That’s how I found out I was all over the news. They already knew where I was.”

Pre-trial processing noted that his record was pretty clean, and he was released the next day with a court appearance set for Monday, February 18th—Presidents Day.

“I’m going to do my best to be down there with him in court,” said Pastor Henry Lavender. He understands the power he wields in standing up for Bramlett in court. The victim begging mercy for the offender.

How did they connect? I’m glad you asked.

DeAndre got out. And when he got online, he saw that the news report about the burglary was still up. This was his home—his neighborhood. He knew Pastor Lavender had seen the report by now. And so, the remorseful, unlikely thief calls the church. He leaves message after message on the answering machine.

It was Sunday, and like most pastors, Rev. Lavender waits for Monday to check any messages that had been left. He’s there and the phone rings again.

“Hello, this is Pastor Henry. How may I help you?”

“My name is DeAndre Bramlett.”

“Okay. Make me know who you are.”

“I’m the guy that was caught in your church. I just want to apologize and ask your forgiveness. And I want to do everything in my power to help repair the damage that was done.”

Pastor Lavender was stunned into silence. DeAndre promised to come to church. Pastor Lavender tells him, “If I don’t hear from you in a few weeks, I am going to reach out to you.

Jesus taught forgiveness, and “we have the ministry of reconciliation,” Rev. Lavender says. A loving response to a confused, young man is required.

“This is not an ordinary church. We are a family church. We are the village. Mr. Bramlett promised to come, and he did just that. He brought his family, too, and here we are.”

Pastor Lavender worked in Shelby County Corrections for 10 years, and has held other law enforcement posts over the course of his career. He understands that young men need guidance.

“I appreciate DeAndre because he broke a cycle in his life,” said Pastor Lavender. “Now, he has his own son to raise. The cycle is broken. Jesus makes it possible for DeAndre to live free. His son can be free. The logo of our church has the Jewish symbol in it. That is on purpose. It means Israel shall live. We do have victory when we forgive and love one another.”

Neither Bramlett nor his church family know what is going to happen in court on the 18th. But they are hoping for a miracle, that DeAndre is given a second chance, just as they have given.

(Living Life in Victory is located at 4300 Raleigh-LaGrange Road. For additional information, call the church office at: 901-207-1054.)

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Activism

Moms 4 Housing Hold Sit-in Demanding County Supervisors Extend Eviction Protections

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms. Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

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Participants in the sit-in, which began Tuesday afternoon, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.
The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

By Post Staff

Moms 4 Housing held a sit-in in the nonviolent civil disobedience tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., to demand that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors uphold their original vote to pass permanent Just Cause eviction protections for the 60,000 tenants living in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County.

The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms.

Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

The Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), ACCE and EBHO, along with other local activists, are mobilizing outside of the Alameda County Administration Building to stand in solidarity with Moms 4 Housing, an organization focused on uniting mothers, neighbors, and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.

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Bay Area

Season 15 Winner of America’s Got Talent Set to Teach Class at Delta College

According to Delta College officials, Leake was previously an academic advisor at the college and will now teach Digital Media 31.

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San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. logo. (Photo courtesy of San Joaquin Delta College)
San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. logo. (Photo courtesy of San Joaquin Delta College)

By Victoria Franco | Bay City News Foundation

Brandon Leake, the season 15 winner of the reality TV show “America’s Got Talent” and a Stockton native, will begin teaching an evening digital media class next Monday at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

Leake debuted on the show in 2020 by reading a poem that was an ode to his sister and was the first and only spoken word poet to win the competition.

According to Delta College officials, Leake was previously an academic advisor at the college and will now teach Digital Media 31.

The class is a media performance class and lab focused on individual speech improvement, through the study and practice of voice control and manipulation, proper breathing and diction.

Students enrolled in the class will complete a digital media portfolio and the class is transferable in the California State University system.

The class will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. Students wanting to add the class to the schedule can visit their MyDelta portal.

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Activism

Following More Mass Shootings Democrats Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9. The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns. President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

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The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans
The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire

Two proposals aimed at curbing the spread of assault rifles were submitted today by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Assault Weapons Ban seeks to prohibit the commercialization, distribution, production, and importation of assault rifles and other firearms designed for use in military operations, as well as high-capacity magazines and similar devices.

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9.

The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns.

President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

Biden said that the number of mass shootings declined during the decade that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect.

“In the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was on the books, mass shootings went down,” Biden remarked.

“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” he declared.

Both houses of Congress were urged to take quick action by the president.

According to Biden, “the majority of American people agree with this rational measure.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation,” he insisted.

In the House of Representatives, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline said he plans to introduce a companion bill to the Senate’s Assault Weapons Ban.

Feinstein said assault rifles “seem to be the unifying denominator in the seemingly endless number of horrific shootings.”

“Because these firearms were created for maximum efficiency in mass murder,” the senator noted.

“They have no place in our society or educational institutions. It’s time to take a stand against the gun lobby and do something about getting these lethal weapons off the streets, or at the absolute least, out of the hands of our youth.”

Blumenthal added, as the gunman at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park demonstrated just days ago, assault weapons are designed for one and one purpose only: to murder or hurt human beings.

“These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings,” Blumenthal said.

“Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this commonsense action.”

Rep. Ciciline argued that it is long past due to reinstate an assault weapon ban and remove these “weapons of war” from civilian areas.

The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans,” Ciciline noted.

“We need to come together to enact this commonsense, effective, and proven policy to reduce gun violence and save lives. I thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership in this fight and look forward to introducing the House companion bill in the coming weeks.”

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