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Global Car Designer Andre Hudson Gives Us a Peek Inside of ‘Tomorrow’s’ Self-Driving Cars

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In order to give us a peek into the future, we caught up with one of the foremost forward-thinkers and creative spirits in the field of design. Global car designer Andre Hudson, who spent the first half of his career working for both General Motors and Hyundai, recently led a team of designers and sculptors, while working at the Italy-based Icona Design, re-imagining the next wave of vehicles.

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By Jeff Fortson of JeffCars.com, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Unless you’ve been literally asleep at the wheel, no pun intended, whether you’re ready or not, both electric and self-driving vehicles are in the pipeline. This next phase of passenger transportation, which is literally one of the most significant changes the industry has experienced, since the shift from horses and buggies to gasoline engine vehicles, is literally right around the corner.

Since the 60s and the airing of the cartoon The Jetsons, we’ve been hearing about fully autonomous, flying vehicles. Well, believe it or not, we’re finally closer than we have ever been. We’re literally in the mix of mapping out the next phase of the transportation system. While infrastructure will have to be put in place to accommodate how we commute, car designers around the globe are working vigorously behind the scene to reimagine the experience of traveling in a vehicle, since the traditional means of sitting behind the steering wheel will no longer be in play.

In order to give us a peek into the future, we caught up with one of the foremost forward-thinkers and creative spirits in the field of design. Global car designer Andre Hudson, who spent the first half of his career working for both General Motors and Hyundai, recently led a team of designers and sculptors, while working at the Italy-based Icona Design, re-imagining the next wave of vehicles.

Hudson is a diamond in the rough in the field of auto design. In today’s world, one has a better chance of meeting a NBA or NFL player, as opposed to a car designer, and more specifically, a Black car designer. Globally, there are only 30 Black car designers. Hudson, who is known for adding curves and sex appeal to the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, played a key role with the stylish, hot-selling four-door sedan, generating so much cash for the Korean automaker, it gave them enough confidence to develop the Genesis luxury brand. The Korean brand’s luxury flagship sedan, the G90, was also heavily influenced by the design genius.

While serving as the design director of Icona’s only U.S. studio, Hudson worked in collaboration with their studios in Germany, China and Italy, creating a fully autonomous vehicle that would finally give the world a realistic glimpse on the auto show circuit of what’s to come. The all-new, bubble-shaped Nucleus, which kind of reminds one of a flying saucer, made its international global debut, during the spring of 2018, at the Geneva International Auto Show, and its only U.S. appearance, at last November’s L. A. Auto Show.

Being that most of us weren’t even aware such a highly evolved concept vehicle existed, we wanted to go one-on-one with Hudson, who has had a hand in reshaping the future of what we now know as “tomorrow’s” passenger vehicle.

Jeff Fortson: Is the Nucleus based on a zero emissions vehicle? 

Andre Hudson: The Nucleus is not based on a particular zero emissions vehicle but it is a zero emissions vehicle. The basic layout was designed to be fully electric, with the possibility of a hydrogen fuel cell supporting the battery system. Ultimately, it is about the pushing the usable interior space to the max. When level 5 autonomy becomes feasible, we will be able to remove the steering wheel and driver controls all together and use that space more efficiently. (Level 5 autonomy makes the vehicle completely self-driving.)

JF: What role did the U.S. studio that you oversaw play in the creation of the Nucleus? 

AH: While the Nucleus was a global project for Icona Design, the U. S. studio led the project with all of the concept sketch development, which consisted of concept ideation and clay model development for the exterior. We also began the initial digital development of the interior in the US. As the concept size grew and came into formation, we used our global resources in design, digital modeling, and engineering to complete the Nucleus.

JF: What inspired the design? 

AH: Inspiration came from many places, but most directly the idea that we wanted to make a larger mono-volume vehicle (essentially a van) into the most beautiful and sensual shape that we could. No matter what concept vehicle shapes you see produced every year, there is still no form as efficient as using a box for interior volume.

When we looked at larger vehicle designs, particularly yachts, we see this idea of a aero (or hydro) efficient shape surrounding beautifully appointed living quarters. In many ways the exterior of the Nucleus is a similar idea. On the interior we actually looked at high-end architectural spaces like those find in various premium resorts around the world and even first-class appointments found on today’s large capacity airliners.

JF: What makes the interior of the Nucleus unique? 

AH: The interior of the Nucleus was meant to surprise you as you stepped inside and took a seat. It was to be the most non-automotive feeling space one could imagine. We really wanted it to feel as though you were truly in a modern lounge or a hotel suite.

It is interesting! Pictures really do not do the space justice. You have to sit in it and take in all the lines, the light and the ambiance. We did everything possible to optimize the vehicle layout. The batteries were packaged under the floor, with full autonomy, there was no space required for the steering wheel and typical driver controls, and we packaged the motors for the drive system within each of the 28-inch wheels.

Essentially, all the mechanicals (devices normally in a vehicle) were pushed outside the passenger space. This allowed us to structure the interior more like a hotel suite or a rolling lounge. When the large single sliding door and hatch opens, you see a space that is warm and inviting. Three distinct seating areas present themselves, which are finished in cream and deep blue leather. A warm, indirect light feature leads your eye from the front to the rear (this feature also is an abstraction of our Icona logo). And a beautiful deep blue wood veneer spans the floor from front to back. We divided the space up into three key zones: the office, the lounge and the loft.

Towards the front of the vehicle you’ll find the office, with a large captain chair that greets you upon entry and rotates you around 180 degrees. This is where you’ll find a full width desk, with a built-in keyboard and iPad dock. Out of this desk also raises a full-service bar, complete with ice, champagne and flutes. The front occupant will also appreciate the surrounding terrarium, housing live plants that breathe an air of life into this modern space. Centrally, you will see a wide format display used to communicate key information to all occupants.

In the mid-section (of the vehicle), which you see first when the large door opens, you see a beautifully styled chaise lounge. Totally unexpected for a vehicle, it presents itself as being more like a piece of furniture than a car seat. It is meant to evoke a feeling of style, relaxation and modernity. This space can seat two sitting side-by-side or one occupant reclined.

And towards the rear of the Nucleus you’ll find the Loft. Another captain style chair that is elevated slight above the others on a raised, back-lit platform. This seat was designed for the ‘boss’. It has been designed with a cantilevered desk that houses an iPad and blanket. The seat can also be tilted rearward to a zero-gravity position for ultimate comfort. The view over the rest of the Nucleus interior is truly spectacular from the seat.

JF: How many people can the Nucleus transport? 

AH: The Nucleus was really designed around 3 occupants. Remember, space is luxury, and that’s what we wanted to demonstrate. We did think about the necessity to carry more than 3, and for that, we designed the desk in the rear. Not only does it disappear into the rear, it exposes a secondary seat to the left of the loft captain chair. Again, as mentioned before, the lounge area could accommodate 2, bringing the overall vehicle capacity to 5.

Click here or visit JeffCars.com to check out part two of our conversation with Andre Hudson. Since our interview, the highly sought after designer, has accepted a new career opportunity, as the head of design for the California-based Independence Electric. In his new role, Hudson will be helping to shape the future of electric cars.

About Jeff Fortson: He is the host of SiriusXM’s only multicultural automotive radio show. The show, which features one-on-one conversations with influencers like Hudson, can be heard weekly on Channel 141, Fridays at 12 PM ET. For additional air dates, new car reviews, used car buying tips and more, visit his website, JeffCars.com.

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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.

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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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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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