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Black History

#Black Girl M-A-G-I-C: Zaila Avant-garde 1st Black American to win the Spelling Bee

In the July 8 contest held in Orlando, Fla., Zaila won on the word “murraya” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. At that moment she spun around and jumped in the air as multi-colored confetti flurried around her.

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Zaila Avant-garde competes in the first round of the the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals in Orlando, Florida on July 8, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Zaila Avant-garde, 14

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, La., is the first African American and the first student from Louisiana to win the National Spelling Bee.  (Her father changed her surname from Heard to Avant-garde in homage to saxophonist John Coltrane.)

The first person of African descent to win the contest was Jody-Anne Maxwell a 12-year-old from Jamaica in 1998.

The National Spelling Bee began in 1925.  Now known as the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the organization acknowledged in a statement that it “has not been immune from the social issues of its times, including the long-fought battle for racial equality. . . Our hope is that Zaila’s amazing accomplishments will be seen as an inspiration to other young people and another step forward in that cause.”

In the July 8 contest held in Orlando, Fla., Zaila won on the word “murraya” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. At that moment she spun around and jumped in the air as multi-colored confetti flurried around her.

“It felt really good to win because I have been working on it for like two years. So to actually win the whole thing was like a dream come true,” she told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday. “I felt like in the moment I snapped out of a surreal dream.”

Zaila also holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling, bouncing and juggling basketballs. They include: the most basketballs dribbled simultaneously (six for 30 seconds); the most basketball bounces (307 in 30 seconds); and the most bounce juggles in one minute (255 with four basketballs).

She appeared in a commercial with Golden State Warrior Steph Curry in 2018.

For her win, which was televised on ESPN, she received a trophy and a $50,000 prize.  This was only Zaila’s second time competing in a spelling bee.  In her first competition she made it to the third round.

She told Good Morning America that the Bee was a “gate-opener to being interested in education.”

Zaila was in the final round with Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans tweeted: “talk about #blackgirlmagic!”

The New York Times, CNN and BBC News were sources for this report.

Bay Area

“Youth Sports Nation” to Support Northern California Youth Baseball All-Star State Tournament in Oakland

Terry T. Butler (“Mr. Community”) and MLB-Oakland A’s legend Bip Roberts of Youth Sports Nation will host by providing ballpark entertainment and building excitement around baseball. “As alumni of the Oakland Babe Ruth Baseball League, our goal at Youth Sports Nation is to teach the conception of unification and sportsmanship through the game of baseball,” said Roberts.

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MLB-Oakland A’s Legend Bip Roberts (left) and music legend Terry T. “Mr.Community.” Photo courtesy of Youth Sports Nation.
MLB-Oakland A’s Legend Bip Roberts (left) and music legend Terry T. “Mr.Community.” Photo courtesy of Youth Sports Nation.

Special to The Post

Music & Sports Legends Group Youth Sports Nation will support the Oakland Babe Ruth Cal Ripken Baseball League as the league hosts the Northern California Youth State Baseball All-Star Tournament.

The seven-day tournament — from July 2 – 8, 2022, will take place at Oakland’s Carter Gilmore Field at 1390 66th Ave. Games begin at 9 a.m. including the holiday weekend. There is no cost to attend.

Terry T. Butler (“Mr. Community”) and MLB-Oakland A’s legend Bip Roberts of Youth Sports Nation will host by providing ballpark entertainment and building excitement around baseball.

“As alumni of the Oakland Babe Ruth Baseball League, our goal at Youth Sports Nation is to teach the conception of unification and sportsmanship through the game of baseball,” said Roberts.

Oakland is one of eight cities in northern California that will host games. The other cities are Hayward, Rohnert Park, Tracy, Woodland, Elk Grove, River Park and Windsor.

This statewide tournament, which differs from Little League baseball in that players use a regulation size field, is for 12-year-old competitors. The winners of this tournament will advance to a regional section tournament and perhaps move on to compete in the Babe Ruth Cal Ripken World Series.

“With the need to increase community activities, we’re bringing families together through the game of baseball,” say board members of Cal Ripken Babe Ruth Baseball.

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Bay Area

Community Banking to Community Building

At the heart of our business is the local community bank branch. But a local bank branch, especially in underserved neighborhoods, can be successful only when it fits the community’s needs. That’s why, over the last several years, we have shifted our approach from community banking to “community building” – a boots on the ground approach to better serve the needs of our local communities.

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As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, we are reminded of the promise and hope of the future.
As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, we are reminded of the promise and hope of the future.

Juneteenth is a day like no other. It is both a celebration of freedom and a reminder of the work that still must be done to bring about a more equitable society. So, as we recognize Juneteenth this year, now is the time to harness what unites us and help bring about changes that benefit all communities.

Taking actions focused on racial equity, along with diversity and inclusion, requires collaboration and building trust in the community. JPMorgan Chase is helping to drive sustainable changes through its five-year $30 billion racial equity commitment. With a business-led approach, this commitment aims to help address key drivers of the racial wealth divide in Black, Latino and Hispanic communities by investing in them directly.

Since its launch in October 2020, we have deployed or committed more than $18 billion toward our $30 billion goal. To sustain this progress, we must measure this effort and listen to feedback so we can have even greater impact in closing the wealth gap.

Here is just some of the progress we’ve made toward our commitment while working alongside our community partners across the country thus far:

  • Helped homeowners save money on their monthly mortgage payments by refinancing 19,000 of our 20,000 incremental loans goal
  • Approved funding for approximately $13 billion in loans to help create and preserve more than 100,000 affordable housing and rental units across the U.S.
  • Expanded our homebuyer grant program to $5,000 to help with down payment and closing costs
  • Helped customers open over 200,000 low-cost checking accounts with no overdraft fees
  • Spent an additional $155 million with 140 Black, Hispanic and Latino suppliers
  • Invested more than $100 million of equity in 15 diverse financial institutions that serve more than 89 communities in 19 states and the District of Columbia
  • Mentored more than 1,000 Black, Hispanic and Latino small businesses

Creating Community Impact

At the heart of our business is the local community bank branch. But a local bank branch, especially in underserved neighborhoods, can be successful only when it fits the community’s needs. That’s why, over the last several years, we have shifted our approach from community banking to “community building” – a boots on the ground approach to better serve the needs of our local communities.

Our Community Center branches are the most tangible symbols of our commitment to community building, as they were created to be a unique space in the heart of urban communities that hosts grassroots community events, small business mentoring sessions and financial health seminars.

Currently, we have 12 Community Center branches in neighborhoods like in Oakland, Stony Island in the South Shore of Chicago, Crenshaw in Los Angeles, and Wards 7 and 8 in Wash., D.C.

We’ll continue to add these Community Center branches in underserved communities in Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tulsa by the end of this year. We’ve also retrofitted over 300 existing branches, to now include spaces for the community to use to help expand access to banking and boost financial health and inclusion among Black, Hispanic and Latino communities.

A More Diverse Workforce

Creating a lasting impact is just as much about the people we hire as it is about the programs we implement. More diverse teams will allow us to generate better ideas and better outcomes, enjoy a stronger corporate culture and deliver a more transformational banking experience to our customers.

Despite the pandemic and talent retention challenges, we continue to boost our representation especially among women and people of color.

We want our branches to represent the neighborhoods they serve, which is why we continue to hire from our local communities. During this time, we’ve hired more than 300 people to community-focused roles: nearly 150 Community Managers, 150 Community Home Lending Advisors, as well as 25 diverse Senior Business Consultants.

The Community Center Manager, in particular, is a new role within the bank whose main job is to serve as local ambassadors to build trust and nurture relationships with community leaders, nonprofit partners, and small businesses.

Over the last year our Community Managers have hosted more than 1,300 community events reaching more than 36,000 nationwide with discussions ranging from ways to increase homeownership, and how to build generational wealth and stability.

As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, we are reminded of the promise and hope of the future.

We are committed to ensuring that you have the resources you need to own a home, start a business, save for college – or achieve any other goals or dreams. We look forward to working together and continuing to create lasting impact for your community and family for years to come.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co

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Black History

COMMENTARY: Juneteenth Holiday Touches Collective Memory of African American: It Deserves Honor

Dec. 31, 1862, then, would become the Watch Night of all Watch Nights. Ninety-nine days earlier, Pres. Abraham Lincoln had announced his intention to free people enslaved in most of the Southern states. It was sometime late the morning of Jan. 1, 1863, when Lincoln finally signed the document known as the Emancipation Proclamation and word immediately crossed the country, tapped out in Morse code on telegraph wires.

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Martha Yates Jones (left) and Pinkie Yates (right), daughters of Rev. Jack Yates, in a decorated carriage parked in front of the Antioch Baptist Church located in Houston's Fourth Ward, 1908. Photo courtesy of Houston Public Library Digital Collection.Martha Yates Jones (left) and Pinkie Yates (right), daughters of Rev. Jack Yates, in a decorated carriage parked in front of the Antioch Baptist Church located in Houston's Fourth Ward, 1908. Photo courtesy of Houston Public Library Digital Collection.
Martha Yates Jones (left) and Pinkie Yates (right), daughters of Rev. Jack Yates, in a decorated carriage parked in front of the Antioch Baptist Church located in Houston's Fourth Ward, 1908. Photo courtesy of Houston Public Library Digital Collection.

By Wanda J. Ravernell

It was a long time coming.

For centuries, they had prayed, fought and died seeking freedom from slavery.

The day they had awaited they called ‘Jubilee.’

Depending on where they resided, the day of ‘Jubilee’ came in fits and starts. In New Hampshire, the last slave was freed in 1853, New York in 1827 and Pennsylvania by 1810.

Enslaved people vicariously celebrated the 1791 revolt in Haiti leading to the first Black republic in the Western Hemisphere in 1804. The 1834 manumission of Blacks in Jamaica was another milestone.

During the slave era, New Year’s Day was dreaded as it was when enslavers settled their debts with the lives of their ‘property.’ New Year’s Eve, then was not celebrated, but rather spent in fervent prayer that their loved ones not be sold away.

Dec. 31, 1862, then, would become the Watch Night of all Watch Nights. Ninety-nine days earlier, Pres. Abraham Lincoln had announced his intention to free people enslaved in most of the Southern states. It was sometime late the morning of Jan. 1, 1863, when Lincoln finally signed the document known as the Emancipation Proclamation and word immediately crossed the country, tapped out in Morse code on telegraph wires.

But news of Jubilee didn’t reach Texas.

It would be two and half years and more than two months after the Confederate army surrendered to a Union Army that included Black men that soldiers brought the news to Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865.

The date would be contracted to Juneteenth and become the most widely and continuous celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S. Other states had Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, but those observations had died out as, for the sake of assimilation, Blacks distanced themselves from that dark past.

But not Black Texans, who took their custom with them during the Great Migration that began in earnest in 1915.

In Western cities with sizeable Black populations Juneteenth observations sprang up without the sanction of local government. (Texas would declare Juneteenth a statewide holiday in 1980.)

San Francisco (48 years), Berkeley (35 years), San Jose (41 years) and Vallejo (28 years) are Bay Area cities that have formalized the observation.

In Oakland, for the third year, Councilmember Loren Taylor and Project Lend A Hand– which provides school supplies for needy children — will hold a Juneteenth fundraiser called In the Town.

Barbara Howard of Brilliant Minds Inc., has held a Juneteenth the Last Saturday of the month since 2008. It will take place on June 25, 2022 ,at 925 Brockhurst St. It is free and open to the public

Others, like American Canyon, are holding their first Juneteenths, now that it has become the latest federal holiday, signed into law by Pres. Joe Biden on June 17, 2021.

Juneteenths have typically followed the pattern of those in Texas with parades, barbecues, and festivals, but making Juneteenth a national holiday has some Black people wondering what to do.

Unlike the other holidays that mark the summer, this one has meaning closer to our collective heart.

Frederick Douglass famously asked, “to what is the slave the Fourth of July?” because they had no freedom to celebrate.

Flowers brought to gravesides mark the monuments to loss on Memorial and Veterans’ Day.

But for many of us, these holidays (holy days) are mostly opportunities to gather with loved ones, have some food, play cards, eat some ’que and dance to recorded music in the summer and sleep late on chilly November 11.

So, what do we do with this holiday? This clearly holy day for our enslaved ancestors? How do we honor those who didn’t live to see the day of Jubilee?

And then there’s the quintessential question pushing forward from the back of the collective Black mind: How free are we? With mass incarceration and the persistent ills of the modern Jim Crow era, some would say that slavery never ended.

Research shows that in the initial decades after the news reached Galveston, the formerly enslaved went to church and prayed and gave thanks for the freedom they had attained.

More than 150 years later, perhaps we can set our natural cynicism aside long enough to be happy for our ancestors’ moment.

Perhaps, we won’t go to church. But we can light a candle. We can sing a freedom song together or sing the Black National Anthem in its entirety. We can hang the black, red and green Liberation colors or the Juneteenth flag in the front window.

We can set aside a symbolic plate of ’que, potato salad and greens and pour on the ground a libation of some red drink – hibiscus or Johnny Walker Red.

We can express our gratitude that they lived so we could live.

But perhaps most important, we need to teach our children. And maybe, just maybe they’ll bless us with a freestyle rhyme in the holy names of our ancestors.

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