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Justice for Maleah! 4-Year-Old Still Missing

NNPA NEWSWIRE — There have been prayer vigils, balloon releases, news conferences, community-wide searches in the area where she was staying, but there has still been no sign of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis. The disappearance of little Maleah has members of the Greater Houston community outraged, as well as fervently searching for answers as to what actually happened to her.

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By Jeffrey L. Boney, NNPA Newswire Contributor

The case involving little Maleah Davis has caused a major stir across the Greater Houston area, as the details surrounding the case have gone from disturbing to downright heart wrenching.

Brittany Bowens, mother of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis speaks (Photo: ABC News / go.com)

Brittany Bowens, mother of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis speaks (Photo: ABC News / go.com)

There have been prayer vigils, balloon releases, news conferences, community-wide searches in the area where she was staying, but there has still been no sign of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis.  The disappearance of little Maleah has members of the Greater Houston community outraged, as well as fervently searching for answers as to what actually happened to her.

It all began on Friday night, May 3rd, when 26-year-old Derion Vence, told police he was on his way to George Bush Intercontinental Airport to pick up Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who was on her way home on a return flight from a funeral in Massachusetts.  Vence was driving in the vehicle with little Maleah and his 1-year-old son. Vence was Bowens’ fiancé.

According to police, Vence told them he heard a popping noise, as if from a flat tire, and decided to pull over on the side of the road to check out the status of the vehicle.  It was at that time that Vence told police that a strange blue Chevrolet crew cab pickup truck pulled up behind them and two Hispanic gentlemen immediately hopped out, allegedly making a reference about the way little Maleah’s physical appearance caught their attention.

Vence told police that one of the men hit him on the head, causing him to lose temporary consciousness. After regaining consciousness, Vence then told police that he and the children had been abducted and found themselves riding in the back of the truck, where the two Hispanic men who confronted Vence and another Hispanic suspect, were inside the truck as well.

This is where the details of what happened to little Maleah get really murky and confusing.

Vence states that he had been going in and out of consciousness for hours, until around 6 p.m. on the following day – Saturday, May 4, and he then told police that the suspects randomly released him and his son in Sugar Land, Texas, which is located over 40 miles away in southwest Houston, but kept little Maleah.  It was upon gaining consciousness that Vence told police that he mustered up enough strength to walk with his unharmed 1-year-old son to Methodist Sugar Land Hospital nearby, where he was treated for minor injuries.

It was also at the hospital that Vence reported Maleah missing and the drama really began.

More and more, Vence’s story began to change and unravel, making him a prime suspect in the eyes of law enforcement officials, relative to the abduction of little Maleah.

After having the silver Nissan Altima with Texas paper tags that was owned by Bowens reported stolen, surveillance video later showed the same vehicle Vence had reported stolen being used to drop him off at the same hospital Vence and his son allegedly walked to.

On Thursday, May 9th, the missing silver Nissan Maxima was found by police in a parking lot in Missouri City, Texas, and what police found in the trunk increased suspicions about Vence and began to shed light on what could have possibly happened to little Maleah.

In the truck of the car, police found a laundry basket and a gas can. What makes these items that were found so significant, is the surveillance video footage that came from a neighbor’s house that appears to paint a troubling picture about Vence and the major role he may have played in little Maleah’s overall disappearance.

Disturbing images from the surveillance video footage show the last seen or known images of little Maleah from Tuesday, April 30th, where she is seen wearing a bright pink tutu and trailing behind Vence as he is headed back into their apartment.

This happened to be the same day Bowens left to go out of town for her father’s funeral.

After several days pass, little Maleah is never seen again on any of the surveillance footage.

Vence and his young son, however, can be seen coming out of the apartment on the day that the alleged abduction took place, which raises serious questions about what happened to little Maleah and why she was never seen on surveillance video again.

In one of the clips from May 3rd, Vence is seen carrying a laundry basket with a black trash bag in it, away from the apartment where the family lived. Then in another clip, Vence is seen carrying a bottle of bleach with his son following him out of the apartment, moments before they head out to allegedly go pick Bowens up from the airport.

These findings caused police to investigate Vence further, particularly look for clues inside the apartment and the vehicle that was allegedly stolen. Police used canine officers who are trained to identify the scent of a body and as a result, the canine officers sensed human decomposition in the trunk of the vehicle.  At the apartment, police used a chemical agent that can discover blood that cannot be viewed by the human eye, and found blood in the hallway leading to bathroom and on various surfaces in the bathroom.

As a result of their findings, police arrested Vence on Saturday, May 11th, in connection with little Maleah’s disappearance and according to court documents, he has been charged with tampering with evidence, namely a human corpse, after the smell of decomposing human remains was detected in the trunk of a car he had driven.

After holding press conferences and interviews pleading for little Maleah’s safe return, Bowens finally broke down and told investigators that Vence had been abusing little Maleah and recently said through her spokesman, civil rights activist Quanell X, that she believes Vence harmed the girl and is not fully certain that she may still be alive.

According to CPS officials, little Maleah had been removed from the home, along with her brothers, for investigated allegations of physical abuse, this past August.  Little Maleah had suffered a significant head injury, but a judge ruled that the children should be returned home under the care of Bowens and Vence in February.  Bowens states that the children were returned because it had been determined that little Maleah suffered the head injury as a result of a fall, not because of any physical abuse that had taken place.

Cases like this tend to get reported quite often, and unfortunately, it takes the entire community to help identify and recognize the signs of abuse, so as to protect these vulnerable children like little Maleah and countless others. According to the World Health Organization, child maltreatment is defined as the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. Every year, there are an estimated 41,000 homicide deaths in children under 15 years of age. It is important to emphasize that children are the victims and are never to blame for maltreatment.

One of the major characteristics of that increases the likelihood of a child being maltreated is the fact that they either under four years old or an adolescent.

There are three different types of people who carry out abductions – a family member, an acquaintance or a stranger.

According to statistics from the Children’s Assessment Center, 95 percent of victims of child abuse and who become unfortunate homicide victims, know their abuser.

According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Justice, here in the U.S., a child is abducted or turns up missing every 40 seconds, and only one out of every 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. Going further, about 20 percent of children who are reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as having been abducted by someone outside of their family are not found alive.

It is important and time-sensitive that abducted children are found immediately, because Department of Justice statistics also show that 74 percent of children who are killed, become murder victims within three hours of being abducted, and roughly 89 percent of those children are murdered 24 hours after being abducted. As it relates to little Maleah, we are well past the three hour timeframe and everyone is seeking answers and closure.

Vence was initially given a bail amount of $999,999, but this past Monday, May 13th, a judge reduced his bail to $45,000, according to Harris County Jail records.

Many members of the community are not only coming for Vence and demanding answers, many are also blaming Bowens for being complicit in the alleged abuse and the current disappearance of her daughter, with one person calling her a “murderer” as she got on the elevator and exited the courthouse on Monday.

In the meantime, the search continues for little Maleah. She is described as being 3 feet tall and weighing 30 to 40 pounds. She was last seen having a pink bow in her hair and wearing a light blue Under Armour zip-up jacket, blue jeans and some gray, pink and white Under Armour tennis shoes.  Any information about her whereabouts at this point will bring healing to a community that is in desperate need of answers and who have embraced this little 4-year-old girl.

Crime Stoppers has currently offered a $5,000 reward for anyone with information regarding little Maleah’s disappearance. Although many tips and leads have come in, nothing has panned out and led to little Maleah’s whereabouts. Anyone that has information about the overall case and little Maleah’s whereabouts are being asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.

Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and founder and CEO of the Texas Business Alliance Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.

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COMMENTARY: Telling Our Family Stories Keeps Black History Alive

We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of our favorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.

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Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.

Let’s Talk Black Education

By Dr. Margaret Fortune, President/CEO Fortune School

When we were kids, my dad would take us to football games at the University of Southern California (USC). I didn’t care much for football, but I loved it when we’d stay after the game to hear the USC marching band play. His love for marching bands is why we have a drumline at the public charter school I founded and named after my parents — Rex and Margaret Fortune Early College High School.

We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of ourfavorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.

As the story goes, one day back in 1947, my grandma sent little Rex to the corner store to get some eggs so she could bake a cake. My dad bought the eggs and put them in his pockets. On the walk home, he encountered a marching band high-steppin’ down the dusty road to his mother’s house. Little Rex got so excited that he followed the band, beating on his legs like drums all the way home and, yes, breaking all the eggs.

“Rex and the Band” explores a day in the life of Rex, a spirited young boy who dreams of one day playing in a high-energy marching band like the ones he enjoys watching with his father during North Carolina A&T football games.

Reading my sister’s beautifully illustrated book, I cried tears of joy. Telling our family stories is such an important way for African Americans to keep our history alive. Griots, or storytellers, are the reason why we know the truths that we do know about our family history and ancestors.

I believe all of us can think back to when our grandparents would tell us stories about our ancestors who may have passed on before we were born. It was their way of making sure our stories were not only told but preserved.

The Black press has been the clearinghouse for many stories that have impacted the Black community over time. My sister published her first poem in Ebony Jr. as an elementary school student and then in high school she interned at the Sacramento Observer newspaper.

Gwen founded Cocoa Kids Books to publish books like “Rex and the Band” that encourage Black children to dream, aspire for more, and soar because they see themselves reflected in stories that are engaging, authentic, uplifting, and inspiring. I’m so proud of my big sis! You can buy Gwen’s book at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/rex-and-the-band.

Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.

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American Cancer Society and Four Historically Black Colleges and Universities Announce Groundbreaking Diversity in Cancer Research Program to Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The awards provided through the DICR program are unique in cancer research. They provide a large amount of salary support for the four colleges to select clinical faculty who need more dedicated time for their cancer research and scholarly activities. They also fund other student and postdoctoral programs and underpin the awards with career development funds and mentorship by established American Cancer Society Professors.

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These grants are designed to build capacity and enhance the competitiveness of faculty at MSIs when applying for nationally competitive grant support and aid in faculty development and retention. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

The American Cancer Society (ACS), along with four historically black medical schools including Charles Drew Medical School, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, and Morehouse School of Medicine, today announced a groundbreaking Diversity in Cancer Research (DICR) Program to help improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the cancer research field.

The inaugural initiatives of the overarching program include DICR Institutional Development Grants. The four HBCUs have received DICR grants in a pilot program for 2021-2022.

The awards provided through the DICR program are unique in cancer research.

They provide a large amount of salary support for the four colleges to select clinical faculty who need more dedicated time for their cancer research and scholarly activities.

They also fund other student and postdoctoral programs and underpin the awards with career development funds and mentorship by established American Cancer Society Professors.

The grants will build sustainability for both clinical and scientific cancer-focused careers, launching or sustaining the careers of 104 individuals by 2025.

The impactful program will create a more inclusive research environment to address health disparities more effectively and could lead to targeted recruitment efforts focused on bringing people of color into clinical research protocols.

Establishing a research community that is made up of a diverse group of people is vital to ensuring scientific excellence.

“The American Cancer Society is committed to launching the brightest minds into cancer research and to reducing health disparities,” said Dr. William Cance, American Cancer Society Chief Medical and Scientific Officer.

“To accomplish this, we believe it is essential to invest in the minority workforce and their dedicated efforts to solve disparities and establish equity in cancer care.”

“There are many reasons the Black community continues to experience disparities in cancer care outcomes. But one of the most critical factors behind the imbalance, and one of the most promising paths to closing the gap, is diversity in cancer care research. We must improve diversity and representation in our laboratories if we expect different outcomes in our hospitals,” said Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University.

“As a cancer surgeon and as the president of an HBCU, I believe the Diversity in Cancer Research Program will prove to be pivotal in altering the field of cancer care research and improving cancer care outcomes for Black Americans. I am deeply appreciative of the American Cancer Society’s efforts behind this initiative.”

Data show that African Americans and Black people, Hispanics and Latinos, indigenous people and native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in grant funding.

Fewer than 2% of applicants for the National Institute of Health’s principal grant program come from Black/African Americans, and fewer than 4% from Hispanic/Latino populations.

“We are incredibly excited about this new program with the American Cancer Society,” said Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., MD, President and CEO of Meharry Medical College.

“There is a significant imbalance in the representation of minority populations in clinical research which has led to poorer outcomes for specific racial and ethnic minority groups. To eradicate the varying health disparities that affect these populations, we must prioritize diversifying clinical trials and those who conduct trials to ensure treatment is safe and effective.”

This is a fantastic step to ensuring minority populations receive effective treatment and provides great opportunities for our students and faculty to engage in cancer research,” Dr. Hildreth stated.

“The development of diverse, highly competitive, and independent research faculty has been a goal at CDU since its inception 55 years ago,” shared Dr. David M. Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, located in South Los Angeles.

“This generous grant from the American Cancer Society will directly support a range of programs towards that goal, including the Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities as well as our Clinical Research and Career Development Program, which provides training and mentoring in health disparities and community-partnered participatory research to minority scholars and junior faculty at CDU. This funding will undeniably help CDU in forming a solid foundation in social justice for future cancer research leaders.”

With the DICR program, ACS has committed to a $12 million investment to support four HBCU medical schools with DICR institutional development grants to fund a four-year program that aims to increase the pool of minority cancer researchers by identifying talented students and faculty from HBCUs.

This program will inform efforts to develop a national program to boost cancer research and career development at minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

These grants are designed to build capacity and enhance the competitiveness of faculty at MSIs when applying for nationally competitive grant support and aid in faculty development and retention.

“Here in Georgia, cancer health disparities exist by age, gender, race, income, education, and access to care, among other factors, with Georgia residents in rural communities experiencing worse cancer health outcomes than their urban counterparts,” said Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, president and CEO at Morehouse School of Medicine.

“The DICR program will be a much-needed and welcome contribution to our work at the Morehouse School of Medicine Cancer Health Equity Institute, forever changing the field of cancer research. The program will not only ensure diversity and inclusion in research, but address health disparities in diverse communities, and assist in our mission in leading the creation and advancement of health equity.”

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OP-ED: Welcome Back, NLRB – America’s Workers Missed You!

NNPA NEWSWIRE — All indications show that Jennifer Abruzzo, the President’s new general counsel, is helping to lead the charge and losing no time. She has put together a list of Trump-era decisions for reconsideration and is pushing to get important cases before the board quickly. She also indicated that she is in favor of the PRO Act, the most sweeping piece of labor legislation in 50 years and re-establishing the long practice of ordering companies to bargain with unions based on signed cards of support, rather than secret ballot elections. This is a game changer for union organizing and for workers who want a voice in their workplace.

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Right now, 68% of Americans approve of labor unions. That number is at a more than 50 year high.
Right now, 68% of Americans approve of labor unions. That number is at a more than 50 year high.

By Ray Curry, President, UAW

Before I get into just what the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) means — and has
meant — to the working men and women of this nation, I want to start by citing a couple of pieces of data because I think they tell a real story.

Right now, 68% of Americans approve of labor unions. That number is at a more than 50 year high. So, what does it mean? As a union man myself, I would say it means that America’s workers are hurting, and they know they need a voice in the workplace. And they’re right. My second piece of data: According to a recent AFL-CIO analysis, the average CEO of an S&P 500 company made 299 times what the median worker made in 2020. In other sectors — like retail where Amazon lives — this number is much higher.

But this blog is not about numbers, it’s about people. Working people. And unions, the one force that has the power to close that shameful gap in earnings. The NLRB is a key player in making it possible for workers to organize and improve their lot. So I want to talk a little bit about where we’ve been and where we are going under labor friendly President Joe Biden.

Let me start with a little background on the NLRB. The president appoints this federal board, which has done so much to shape American labor practices since its inception 85 years ago. However, the board that President Biden inherited isn’t exactly what was intended.

In fact, it’s nowhere close.

Dark days

This story begins in the early ‘80s with President Ronald Reagan coming to presidential power and the shift from worker’s rights to corporate profits that his NLRB put into motion. I’ll spare you the decade of gory headlines and cut to the chase. A retrospective 1988 Washington Post article highlighting what the anti-labor, pro-management Ronald Reagan administration created put it perfectly, “It’s one of the great ironies of the day: The National Labor Relations Act, which is supposed to guarantee U.S. workers the right of unionization, is being used to deny them that vital right.”

Under Reagan’s two terms, the Board reversed previous NLRB policy in more than two dozen major cases, almost totally changing the direction the board had followed since its inception under President Franklin D. Roosevelt to pro-management positions.

Instead of taking up worker complaints, Reagan’s NLRB backlog of unresolved complaints against employers rose to at least three times what it was before he took office. Delays of up to two years become common. Even more stymying to the labor force, his board took just as long to act on worker petitions to hold union representation elections and to certify fair union wins.

Fast forward almost 30 years to 2017 and President Donald Trump’s first year in office where we find his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, cheerfully announcing that Ronald Reagan, who did so very much to weaken organized labor, was voted into the Labor Hall of Fame.

There are truly no words adequate to express labor’s outrage at this. President Ronald Reagan joining the ranks of towering labor leaders like George Meany and the UAW’s own Walter Reuther! How cynical and what a harbinger of what was to come under President Trump for America’s workers.

Sadly though, he was just warming up. One could easily argue that President Trump’s NLRB went the furthest in systematically rolling back the right to form a union and engage in collective bargaining, efforts that struck a further blow to America’s wage inequality and directly harmed workers, their communities, and the economy. This board also went on to diminish worker protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA/Act) with the administration’s NLRB general counsel (GC), putting into play policies that leave fewer workers protected by the NLRB while working toward changes in the law that directly roll back workers’ rights.

In short, the whole thing was a siege on the American worker.

A new dawn for labor

And then in 2020, the working men and women of this nation had enough and made their voices heard loud and clear at the polls. The 2020 election saw a record number of Americans voting. And what did they say? Enough of the corporate, anti-labor agenda.

This record turnout sent President Joe Biden to Washington and he got to work on the first day. On Inauguration Day, within a few hours of being sworn in, the new president acted boldly and decisively by firing Peter Robb, President Trump’s appointed NLRB GC. Lynn Rhinehart, a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute and former general counsel of the AFL-CIO, characterized Robb’s anti-union activities this way: “A report by the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Robb was dismantling the agency from the inside. He reduced staff size, destroyed employee morale, and failed to spend the money appropriated by Congress. This all occurred while Robb was pursuing an anti-worker, pro-corporate agenda.”

Biden then turned to Deputy General Counsel Alice Stock, who became Acting General Counsel with Robb’s ouster and asked her to resign as well. She also refused. Two days later, she too was shown the door.

Gutsy moves. In fact, it is the first time in more than 70 years that a president has exercised that power. Thanks to President Biden’s swift actions in January, as of August 28, Democrats are now in control of the federal labor board for the first time in four years and pursuing aggressive measures to regain for unions the ground lost during the Trump administration and even looking to go beyond the limits pushed by President Barack Obama’s NLRB.

And all indications show that Jennifer Abruzzo, the President’s new general counsel, is helping to lead the charge and losing no time. She has put together a list of Trump-era decisions for reconsideration and is pushing to get important cases before the board quickly. She also indicated that she is in favor of the PRO Act, the most sweeping piece of labor legislation in 50 years, and re-establishing the long practice of ordering companies to bargain with unions based on signed cards of support, rather than secret ballot elections. This is a game changer for union organizing and for workers who want a voice in their workplace.

We’ve already seen this new NLRB in action. During the month of August alone, the board ruled that Amazon illegally discouraged union organization in Bessemer, Alabama, which may lead to a new vote; heard a case against Google for firing multiple employees for circulating a petition calling on the company to stop doing business with ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement); and filed a complaint against Home Depot for penalizing an employee for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. These are just a few examples of Biden’s new NLRB.

This new NLRB is an agency returning to its original purpose in a time when America’s workers need it most. Change for the rights and wellbeing of workers is on the way and I expect some of those numbers I cited at the beginning of this discussion are going to improve for my brothers and sisters.

We, as a nation and as a labor movement, are building back!

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