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Acclaimed Houston Forward Times Columnist Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Admitted to ICU

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Jeffrey L. Boney, a multi-award-winning writer for the Houston Forward Times and the National Newspaper Publishers Association, is in the intensive care unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston after being diagnosed on Friday, March 27, with COVID-19.



By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

More than 825,000 people around the globe have been infected with the novel coronavirus, including at least 175,600 in America.

Now the coronavirus has hit a member of our family.

Jeffrey L. Boney, a multi-award-winning writer for the Houston Forward Times and the National Newspaper Publishers Association, is in the intensive care unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston after being diagnosed on Friday, March 27, with COVID-19.

“After experiencing several unconventional health symptoms during the early part of March, I decided to move forward with getting tested for the coronavirus – COVID-19,” Boney wrote in a text to NNPA Newswire on Tuesday, March 31.

“The results came back Friday, and I’m currently in ICU, working with some of the top infectious disease doctors who are working diligently to ensure that I get completely healed and back home,” stated Boney, who also serves as a councilman in Missouri City District B.

Boney, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Texas Business Alliance, said Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee was “extremely instrumental in connecting me to United Memorial Medical Center and Dr. Joseph Varon.”

“When Rep. Jackson-Lee found out that I wasn’t feeling well and that I had self-quarantined, she called me and asked why I hadn’t told her that I had been dealing with some symptoms,” Boney recalled.

“I told her that my primary care doctor had told me to self-quarantine. She told me to go to the hospital and that she would ensure that I got tested on the spot without delay. The chief medical officer, Dr. Varon, was there to meet me and administer the test personally.”

Boney admitted being unnerved by his status as a COVID-19 patient.

Initially, Boney said he thought he might have had a case of food poisoning because he didn’t have the traditional COVID-19 symptoms.

“This has been an extremely unnerving journey of the unknown for both me and the medical team that is treating me because none of my symptoms were respiratory in nature, but were digestive,” Boney remunerated.

“I didn’t have a fever, I didn’t have shortness of breath, and I wasn’t coughing heavily,” he said.

What Boney did experience was a loss of appetite, heavy diarrhea, and pain in his stomach.

“Naturally, one would chalk that up to something like food poisoning or a stomach virus,” Boney said. “I began coughing up blood, which disturbed the doctor who tested me for the coronavirus, and he told me to come in ASAP. It was later found that I had pneumonia on the lungs due to COVID-19. I had contracted the coronavirus.”

Boney, a graduate of Texas Southern University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, has excelled in several fields.

He has served as an adjunct professor in the school of Business Administration at Houston Community College, and he’s received numerous awards and recognitions for his business, civic and community involvement, and his leadership skills.

Boney has received honors as an inaugural Houston Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award winner; a Fort Bend Rising Star Entrepreneurs and Executives recognition by the Fort Bend Business Journal; 40/40 Series Trail Blazer Award winner; and he’s an Outstanding Texan Award recipient from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus

For more than a half-dozen years, Boney has served as the host of his own nationally-recognized daily radio program, “Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney.”

He serves as the associate editor for the historic Houston Forward Times, the largest Black-owned, independently published newspaper in the South, where he writes various feature stories and articles, including his popular weekly column, “J Boney Speaks.”

The NNPA has honored Boney with Merit Awards for “Best News Story” and “Best Column Writing,” “Best Feature Story,” and the MillerCoors Messenger Awards for “Best Commentary” for his weekly column.

“I want to be extremely clear, I am in great spirits, and I plan to overcome this temporary challenge,” Boney said.

“But, please know that this is a very serious epidemic, and anyone is susceptible. It is time for all of us not only to know that this pandemic is real and affecting lives, but it is also time for us to take seriously all of the things that we are being asked to do by our local leaders and medical professionals.”

Boney continued:

“This is serious, and it is taking lives as well. I still have a myriad of issues to overcome relative to pneumonia in my lungs and significant blood clotting in my lung. I have to overcome reducing my increased heart rate because my heart is battling hard to protect my other organs against the attack on my body from the virus.

“We can’t play with this. I am still battling over here and will see this through.”

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 



Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.



Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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