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AFRO Spotlight on Black Excellence: Peter Bug Shoe Academy, Fixing Souls and Soles

THE AFRO — A native of Southeast D.C., John “Peter Bug” Matthews is a fifth-generation Washingtonian. He started his nonprofit, Peter Bug Shoe and Leather Repair in 1977. The small shop has since doubled as a cobbler academy — known as the Peter Bug Shoe Repair Academy — for neighborhood children seeking part-time, paid employment opportunities.
The post AFRO Spotlight on Black Excellence: Peter Bug Shoe Academy, Fixing Souls and Soles first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Mennatalla Ibrahim | Special to the AFRO

As the sun sets in the nation’s capital, painting the sky vibrant shades of reds and purples, John “Peter Bug” Matthews stands proudly outside his historic shoe shop on Capitol Hill. Even on his day off, Matthews is at the shop on his own, tirelessly repairing shoes for the community.

At 75, he wears a bright orange hoodie that matches the kufi cap on his head, a long, stained leather apron and a myriad of ethnic bracelets on either wrist. As he seamlessly works his way through the sea of tattered shoes sprawled across his floor, he tells origin stories of the African décor adorning the walls.

A native of Southeast D.C., Matthews is a fifth-generation Washingtonian. He started his nonprofit, Peter Bug Shoe and Leather Repair in 1977. The small shop has since doubled as a cobbler academy — known as the Peter Bug Shoe Repair Academy — for neighborhood children seeking part-time, paid employment opportunities.

The academy trains students in Capitol Hill as young as fifth graders. The year-round programs not only encompass the art of the trade but also lessons in anatomy, professionalism, community service, leadership, entrepreneurship and mentorship.

“Our goal here is to save souls and heal people,” Matthews said, spelling out the words “souls” and “heal” to play on the homonyms of “heel” and “sole.”

In 2010, the 400 block of 13th Street in Southeast Washington, D.C., was renamed Peter Bug Matthews Way. (Courtesy photo)

In 2010, the 400 block of 13th Street in Southeast Washington, D.C., was renamed Peter Bug Matthews Way. (Courtesy photo)

Recognizing the many steps the shop and academy have taken in the past 46 years toward fulfilling that goal, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, which represents the Capitol Hill and Barney Circle neighborhoods, unanimously voted to designate the Peter Bug Shoe Repair Academy a D.C. Historical Landmark.

“The nomination recognizes and remembers the long legacy of community engagement and public service the academy represents for the Capitol Hill community,” Historic Preservation Specialist Todd Jones told the ANC’s Planning and Zoning Committee.

Aside from a grant from the African American Heritage Preservation Foundation to restore the structural integrity of the building, Matthews said that since the designation, the Academy has not received any additional funding from the city. However, he said the designation brought about something of equal importance: a sense of permanency.

“Our programs will now be memorialized, so that people can recognize that this entity and the life it has brought to this community will live in perpetuity,” said Michael Banner, executive director and a former student of the academy.

Preservation of local history is particularly important in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill where gentrification is rapidly changing its landscape.

A 2019 study conducted by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that D.C. had the greatest amount of gentrification of any United States city between 2000 and 2013, with around 20,000 Black residents displaced.

In the past two decades alone, Capitol Hill’s Black population has decreased by 47 percent, according to a 2022 report by the Politico media company.

At its inception, the academy was neighbored by a playground, a multipurpose sunken court and condos and townhouses filled with Black families. Today, the academy and the sunken court are the only remnants of the neighborhood’s past, now surrounded by new luxury residential developments and a growing White population.

Matthews said that under no circumstance would he accept getting pushed out of the community, but the landmark status is still a comforting symbol that he no longer has to fight for his space.

“Peter Bug has weathered a lot of storms — the drug infestation, the redlining, the gentrification, the entire community changing,” Banner said. “But everyone needs shoes. That is our connecting factor.”

Historic D.C. shoe shop academy is persevering through decades of changes on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy photo)

Historic D.C. shoe shop academy is persevering through decades of changes on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy photo)

The landmark status is just the most recent in a long line of city-wide recognitions for the shop and academy. Since 1997, residents of Capitol Hill have gathered every June 8 to celebrate Peter Bug Day, a community-wide event filled with music, families and opportunities to connect. And in 2010, the 400 block of 13th Street in Southeast D.C. was renamed Peter Bug Matthews Way.

Matthews’ impact on the Capitol Hill community has long preceded the city-wide recognition.

Growing up with a stutter, he said he found his life’s work after spending his early education in schools for disabled children, gaining early skills in shoe repair at Phelps Vocational High School. However, before leaving for Oklahoma Technical Institute to continue refining his craft, Matthews was put in charge of the Youth Courtesy Patrol of the District of Columbia. Run by the Department of Justice in the 1960s, this program aimed to promote safety and reduce crime in metropolitan cities like D.C.

“I was in charge of leading a bunch of 13-year-old boys in escorting older women in the community from bus stops back to their homes at night so no one would mess with them. I had no idea why they’d listen to me. I wasn’t that much older than them. But we pulled it off,” Matthews said.

After returning from Oklahoma, Matthews attended Federal City College, now known as the University of the District of Columbia, where he was given access to speech therapy. Desperate for a job after earning his sociology degree, Matthews secured a part-time role teaching shoe repair to children with disabilities at his old vocational high school.

“I understood them because I was a part of them. I was misinterpreted and misjudged, and I knew they were, too. They just needed someone to slow down a little bit. If you let them see it and put their hands on it, they can get it. It’s just a different way of learning,” Matthews said. “I realized pretty quick that my goal was to start my own school.”

In 1977, Matthews successfully petitioned the District government to transform what was then the pavilion of a freshly foreclosed elementary school plaza into his shoe repair shop and academy. Though it received some government funding in the late-’70s and early-’80s, the academy, which is in a 99-year lease agreement with the city, has primarily run on donations, money generated from the shop and his team’s personal financial contributions.

He has since cultivated deep, restorative connections with nearly five decades worth of students, who call themselves the Shoe Shop Boyz — more than 500 of whom have been through the program.

Among the most notable is Banner. One of the children in Matthews’ first group of Shoe Shop Boyz, Banner started at the academy at just 12 years old and didn’t leave until he graduated from high school.

“The first thing that caught my eye about the Academy as I was running the streets of Capitol Hill was that it was a cultural program that told me about myself. No one told me I was an African. That was the hook. It was telling me about myself and I wanted to know more,” Banner said.

Banner went on to attend three historically Black colleges and universities and earn an MBA  before returning to Peter Bug Academy as the full-time, acting executive director.

“The program instilled in me that we have to want to make things better in our community,” Banner said. “After you’ve gained additional skill sets, you have to give back to where you were planted, so that you can see things grow and flourish in a positive and loving way.”

Matthews shares this mindset and has applied it to many ventures beyond the shop and the academy.

Though he retired from teaching almost a decade ago, Matthews spent 30 years as an educator, teaching a shoe-repair class that bounced around a series of D.C. schools — most of which no longer exist. He has also had a hand in city politics, running for school board, actively participating in neighborhood council meetings and serving as a delegate for the Rev.  Jesse Jackson in his 1984 presidential campaign. His many philanthropic efforts include administering the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine out of his shop at the height of the pandemic.

He also created football and soccer teams that double as mentorship programs for school kids with good grades, and unpaid volunteer opportunities at the shop for Capitol Hill youth.

Adam Marou can attest to many of these ventures firsthand. Marou and his family moved across the street from Peter Bug Shoe and Leather Repair in 2004. He distinctly remembers his parents deeply connecting with Matthews on their African roots and the sense of excitement and community he felt on Peter Bug Day each year. In 2013, Marou volunteered at the Peter Bug Shop to accrue community-service hours toward his middle school graduation.

“I got to see how he conducts business and how passionate he is about his shop, his academy and our community. Seeing a local neighborhood guy like him and how much respect he got, opened my eyes,” Marou said.

“He’s kind of a community legend in a sense, which I guess gave me someone to look up to,” Marou said. “He’s a good role model and a very welcoming person. You feel no sort of judgment around him.”

Looking ahead, Matthews and his team are aiming for the federal historical landmark designation. They are also looking into turning the neighboring sunken-in court into an amphitheater where they can hold events and activities for the community year-round, such as concerts, poetry recitals, plays and more.

Until then, Matthews remains in his quaint corner of Capitol Hill, repairing shoes and teaching neighborhood children his craft from his shop as everything around him changes.

With a slight, inconspicuous stutter in his voice, he shares what he considers to be the craziest part of all this: “I had no interest in fixing shoes. I just had holes in mine.”

The post AFRO spotlight on Black excellence: Peter Bug Shoe Academy, fixing souls and soles appeared first on Afro American Newspapers.

The post AFRO Spotlight on Black Excellence: Peter Bug Shoe Academy, Fixing Souls and Soles first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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OP-ED – Reimagining America: Biden is Not the Only Way Democrats Can Win

NNPA NEWSWIRE: We need a leader who understands the struggles of everyday Americans and has the vision and stamina to lead for the next eight years. Vice President Kamala Harris embodies these qualities.
The post OP-ED – Reimagining America: Biden is Not the Only Way Democrats Can Win first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Rep. Ron Reynolds

After last week’s highly anticipated debate, I couldn’t shake a deep sense of unease. I watched the debate in its entirety, and I was deeply disturbed. I didn’t want to react out of frustration or emotion, so I took a night to reflect. The next day, my disappointment had not subsided. As a Biden DNC National Delegate, I firmly believe we need to make significant changes.

It’s time to replace President Biden at the convention and nominate Vice President Kamala Harris. This isn’t a cavalier statement; it’s one I stand by. I welcome debate and criticism, but my primary goal is clear: we must defeat Trump and the MAGA movement for the future of all Americans.

Recently, I have been criticized and even threatened with censure for expressing my belief that the Democratic Party might fare better against Trump with a new nominee. This perspective was formed long before recent public opinion polls supported my concerns. To be clear, I will continue to support President Biden if he remains our nominee. Nonetheless, I will persist in making good trouble, fighting, and speaking truth to power.

Democrats claim to support free speech but then criticize each other for speaking their minds. This kind of internal conflict plays right into the hands of Republicans, who benefit from our division. To truly stand united, Democrats must encourage open dialogue and respect differing opinions within our party.

Our nation faces unprecedented challenges that require fresh, dynamic leadership. To meet these challenges head-on, the Democratic Party must embrace innovation and diversity. We need a leader who understands the struggles of everyday Americans and has the vision and stamina to lead for the next eight years. Vice President Kamala Harris embodies these qualities.

The Democratic Party prides itself on being a party of inclusion, representing a broad coalition of people from all walks of life. Yet, our leadership doesn’t always reflect this diversity. It’s time for a change!

We need leaders who reflect the realities of America today and understand our unique challenges—those who can garner a wide base of supporters. Kamala Harris has a proven track record of fighting for justice and equality. She knows how to build coalitions that include people of all races, genders, and backgrounds. She can energize young voters, women, and people of color—voters crucial to our success.

Innovation is not only about who leads but also how we lead. The Democratic Party must adopt new strategies and technologies to effectively engage voters. We need to leverage social media, data analytics, and grassroots organizing to build a movement capable of countering the well-funded forces of the right. We must engage voters on the issues that matter most to them, from healthcare and education to climate change and economic inequality.

Moreover, we need leaders willing to take bold stands on critical issues. We need leaders who will fight for a living wage, affordable healthcare, and comprehensive immigration reform. Leaders who will stand up to special interests and prioritize the common good. We need leaders who will advocate for peace and stability globally, calling for ceasefires in conflict zones and working towards lasting solutions.

The Democratic Party has a proud history of innovation and progress, from FDR’s New Deal to Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It’s time to renew that legacy. We need leaders who reflect our multicultural society, embrace innovation, and fight for a brighter future, not the status quo.

America deserves better than the status quo. We need leaders who can inspire and unite us. This is our moment to infuse new energy and vision into our party and country. Let’s nominate a leader who can lead us to victory with the passion and dedication that our great nation requires. It’s time for a change, and I firmly believe Vice President Kamala Harris is the leader we need.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BlackPressUSA.com or the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

 

The post OP-ED – Reimagining America: Biden is Not the Only Way Democrats Can Win first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Celebrate America’s Birthday by Thanking Those Who Teach Our Youngest Learners

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The CDA Credential is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education and it’s a key steppingstone on the path of career advancement in the sector. The CDA is based on a core set of competency standards that guide early childhood professionals toward becoming qualified educators of young children.
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Andrew Davis, Chief Operating Officer, Council for Professional Recognition

As we mark America’s Independence Day, I’m reflecting on the role education played in my family’s journey to this incredible country and the educators who helped make it happen. I was born in Antigua in the Caribbean, where my father’s family had lived for many generations. They coped with extreme poverty and many challenges — my grandmother was blind, for instance. Yet, from a very early age, teachers pushed my father to fulfill his potential. Their encouragement led him to attend university in Barbados and eventually earn his doctorate at the University of Sussex in England. Later, we settled in the United States, where my dad is a professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Each step of the way, a mentor encouraged him to keep growing and expanding his mind. Their support not only changed his life but also paved the way for future generations of our family. I was so excited to spend time recently with about 150 students at Florida International University in Miami who completed their Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential coursework through the Professional Development Institute at the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe. Through articulation agreements with higher education institutions in Florida, these students can receive college credits toward an associate or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Davis (left) met with education leaders and supporters who helped students complete their Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential coursework through the Professional Development Institute at the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.

Davis (left) met with education leaders and supporters who helped students complete their Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential coursework through the Professional Development Institute at the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.

The CDA Credential is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education and it’s a key steppingstone on the path of career advancement in the sector. The CDA is based on a core set of competency standards that guide early childhood professionals toward becoming qualified educators of young children. Our nonprofit, the Council for Professional Recognition, works to ensure that the nationally transferable CDA is a credible and valid credential, recognized by the profession as a vital part of professional development. CDA educators know how to put the CDA Competency Standards into practice and have an understanding of why those standards help children move with success from one developmental stage to another. Put simply, CDA educators know how to nurture the emotional, physical, intellectual, and social development of children.

It was an honor to recognize and celebrate these scholars, who participated in 120 hours of instruction and at least 480 hours of on-the-job training. They also compiled a professional portfolio and created a center-based capstone project. At the graduation ceremony, I told these students that they should feel proud of their achievements and be empowered to become advocates for early childhood education. I emphasized the importance of cultivating resilience in the face of challenges and embracing lifelong learning. That lifelong learning can include earning additional degrees as well as serving as CDA Professional Development Specialists, who use their expertise to assess CDA candidates’ competencies and facilitate reflective conversations with candidates for the credential.

Most importantly, the CDA scholars I met in Miami and other ceremonies this year are now serving as early childhood educators in communities across the U.S. They’re professionals who support safe and healthy learning environments, provide positive guidance, successfully engage, and interact with families and contribute to ensuring an early learning program is well run. I know their work will pay off. Years ago, my dad’s teachers had no way of imagining where their influence would lead. Indeed, when I look up to the sky on the Fourth to watch the fireworks, I’ll keep in mind the educators who help their students reach higher and higher for spectacular results and the bright futures they create.

The post Celebrate America’s Birthday by Thanking Those Who Teach Our Youngest Learners first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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LIVE! : Make it Plain at the White House

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Rev. Mark Thompson interviews Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo LIVE from the White House.
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Rev. Mark Thompson interviews Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo LIVE from the White House.

The post LIVE! : Make it Plain at the White House first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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