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‘My background don’t define me’: Forum aims to connect employers, ex-offenders

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In a capacity crowd at the University Center Ballroom at The University of Memphis, Lori Black blended right in with the business owners, the city officials and corporate execs who gathered there on Tuesday. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland was there, as was Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. Even Gov. Bill Lee made remarks. And there Black was, rubbing shoulders with all of them, trying to network to find work.

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By Lee Eric Smith, New Tri-State Defender
lesmith@tsdmemphis.com

Lori Black is looking for work. She also knows you have to dress for the part, which is why the slim 52-year-old Memphis native made sure she was sharp in her dark pinstripe pants suit – nails done, shoulder length hair flowing.

In a capacity crowd at the University Center Ballroom at The University of Memphis, Black blended right in with the business owners, the city officials and corporate execs who gathered there on Tuesday. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland was there, as was Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. Even Gov. Bill Lee made remarks. And there Black was, rubbing shoulders with all of them, trying to network to find work.

“I look like I belong here, don’t I?” she said, with a wild gleam in her eyes.

Of course, she was in the right place to find work. The event was “How to Help Your Business and Community: A Forum Connecting Memphis Area Businesses with Sources of Skilled, Qualified Employees Who Are Ex-Offenders,” which was held Tuesday morning at The University of Memphis.

“Part of criminal justice reform, being tough on crime and smart on crime is finding ways for those who will be coming back to find meaningful employment,” Lee told media after addressing the group. “When we make reentry more successful through employment, then we save taxpayer money, because we lower the recidivism rate. And ultimately, we lower the crime (rate), right?”

Lori Black, an ex-offender determined to get a job, pleaded with employers and elected officials to help people like her become productive citizens again. “I’ve got something to contribute,” she said. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Lori Black, an ex-offender determined to get a job, pleaded with employers and elected officials to help people like her become productive citizens again. “I’ve got something to contribute,” she said. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

The idea of the forum was to get government officials, prospective employers, ex-offenders and the agencies that help them all in the same room. Government officials made the case for how jobs can reduce recidivism. Agencies laid out the hidden challenges ex-offenders face after release.

“When an offender is released, they’re already battling someone who doesn’t have a crime for $7 and $8.15 an hour,” said Stacey Books, an ex-offender who’s now a program director with Persevere, an agency that helps ex-offenders find jobs.

And ex-offenders made the case for themselves.

“Taking up the trades I did on the inside helped me build my skill set for where I am now,” said Robert Woods, who is now thriving in what he calls “probably the best job I’ve had in my life.”

But for many prospective employers, a nice suit and friendly personality won’t overcome the fact that ex-offenders are legally required to “check the box” when filling out job applications.

Despite the fact that Black said she’s 10 years sober and has left a troubled past behind her, she’s still an ex-offender. And the stigmas that go with that label has been just too much to overcome.

“I go to put an application in, but all they care about is my background,” she said. “They don’t call me back or nothing. All I hear about is my background.

“My background don’t determine me,” a defiant but determined Black said. “Not today, it don’t.”

Getting employers to see past the offense to the opportunity is paramount, Lee said.

“The key is connecting employers with those that are coming out and breaking down the stigmas and making them understand that there’s a real opportunity for them,” Lee said. “It’s actually a win-win.”

Harold Collins, who heads the Shelby County Office of Re-Entry, echoed that sentiment.

“We tell our prospective employers, we will not send you anybody that we wouldn’t support as being ready to work for you,” Collins said. “That means they have gotten trained, they’ve done the job readiness program. They’ve done the mental health part of the trauma that they’ve experienced while they were incarcerated. They’ve done some mental work about reconnecting with their families. And then they’ve also been drug screened randomly.

“So, we’re not sending you anybody that’s not ready for work. We will put our stamp on that individual let you know that this person is ready,” he continued. “And on top of that, we will bond them. So, there’s really no financial loss to you, should that employee do something wrong.”

Meanwhile, Black just wants another shot. She admits she was out in the streets in her younger years, stealing things to support her addiction to crack.

“I got to running the streets,” Black said. “Got turned out by boys and men. That’s what it was then. But I was chasing that high. I was getting it too.”

Black said she spent a year in a women’s prison but was in and out of jail repeatedly. But she says she never committed a violent crime, and she accepts responsibility for her actions. “I wasn’t doing nothing to nobody but myself,” she said. “If I hurt anybody, I hurt myself.”

So, what does she want to do now? What’s her dream job? “Own my own restaurant,” she said. “I know how to cook, clean up. Hotel work. I can do it all. I got all kinds of experience. I just ain’t been able to use it.”

She may get her chance. While being interviewed for this story, Black was approached by Phunda Sanders, an offender workforce development specialist at the Mark Luttrell Transition Center. “We have clients that we work with, and she had a need. So we had to help her with her need,” Sanders said.

“Somebody is expecting her call,” Sanders said. “It will work out for her.”

When the TSD caught up with Black later in the event, she was chatting up another contact who had asked for her information. Networking had put some pep in her step.

“It makes me feel like I’m worth something,” she said. “I know I’m worth something. I need some help. And I’m determined to get me some help. I’m determined to get me a job. And I’ma keep on till I get it.

“Somebody’s gon’ hire me.”

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Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.
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On Sunday, June 5, 2022, the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation honored 140, 8th-grade students across Chicagoland areas. Hosted at Visions Events Chicago at 11901 S. Loomis, parents, students, and schoolteachers participated in the 6th Annual CKF Scholarship Luncheon.

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

HBCU Bound Scholars-Jackson State University
Carolyn Griffin Palmer, CKF-CEO, Kevin Barber Jr., Jamari White, and Brendolyn Hart-Glover, President of the Jackson State University Chicago Alumni Chapter

Each 8th-grade student received a $100 gift card to go towards their high school fees. Additionally, two high school seniors received the CKF HBCU-Jackson State Bound Scholarship. Jamari White and Kevin Barber Jr. both received $1000 each. Two $500 scholarships were awarded to mothers who are continuing their postsecondary education.

Carolyn’s Kids Foundation has awarded over $50,000 in the past 5 years, and this year $17,000 was distributed to the Class of 2022. To support the Carolyn’s Kids Foundation and learn more, please visit their website: www.ckfchicago.org and follow them on FB @ckfchicago.

The post Carolyn’s Kids Foundation Honors Graduates appeared first on Chicago Defender.

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Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”
The post Justice Department Announces Investigation of the Louisiana State Police first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Louisiana State Police (LSP) to assess whether the law enforcement agency uses excessive force and whether it engages in racially discriminatory policing.

According to a news release, the investigation will include a comprehensive review of LSP policies, training, supervision, and force investigations, as well as LSP’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.

“Protecting the civil rights of all Americans and building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve are among the Justice Department’s most important responsibilities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the release.

“This investigation, like all of our pattern or practice investigations, will seek to promote the transparency, accountability, and public trust that is essential to public safety.”

The DOJ said it’s conducting the investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law.

The statute allows the DOJ to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation, and law enforcement practices under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Officials called the investigation separate from any federal criminal investigation of LSP troopers.

Before the announcement, DOJ officials informed Governor John Bel Edwards, Colonel Lamar Davis, and Deputy General Counsel Gail Holland of the investigation.

According to the news release, each pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

As part of the investigation, DOJ officials will reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with LSP.

The Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana are conducting the investigation jointly.

“Every American, regardless of race, has the right to constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color.”

Clarke continued:

“The Justice Department stands ready to use every tool in our arsenal to confront allegations of misconduct and to ensure legitimacy during encounters with law enforcement.”

The DOJ ask that anyone with relevant information to contact them via email at Community.Louisiana@usdoj.gov or by phone at (202) 353-0684.

Individuals can also report civil rights violations regarding this or other matters using the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal, available at civilrights.justice.gov.

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PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.
The post PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – 81 grassroots golf organizations will receive a total of $750,000 in funding to further their efforts to engage underrepresented populations of the sport. These groups (*full list below) are being awarded with a grant through Make Golf Your Thing, the industry’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in making the sport more welcome for all.

Initially introduced in 2021 (by the Make Golf Your Thing youth & adult player development work group), the grant program to date has provided 155 grants to 111 unique grassroots organizations, totaling more than $1 million overall (May 2021: 43 grants totaling $150,000; Jan. 2022: 31 grants totaling $150,000).

The program was established to support organizations dedicated to increasing participation among golf’s underrepresented populations (i.e., Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous communities, as well as women, LGBTQI+ individuals, veterans, and individuals with disabilities).

“When the game comes together and pools every resource to grow and broaden the reach of the game, only great things can happen,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA and executive sponsor of the youth & adult player development work group for Make Golf Your Thing.

“This unifying movement is helping to make a difference in communities across America and advance the game in ways none of us can do alone.”

“Access to golf in a business context is a pathway to opportunity,” said Anna Alvarez Boyd, co-founder of FairWays to Leadership (one of the 81 grant recipients).

“Our group’s mission is to increase diversity in business and in golf by teaching college students from diverse backgrounds the skills they need to become effective leaders. The financial commitment of the grant program to organizations like ours will only further golf’s collective efforts to bring new and diverse audiences into our sport.”

The grant program is part of the industry’s broader commitment to making the sport more inclusive for all. Last month, a new Make Golf Your Thing search directory was launched for consumers, consisting of more than 8,400 registered golf programs and organizations across the U.S.

The directory allows individuals to search for programs and events using filters such as location, age, ability, gender, etc., giving new and diverse audiences an opportunity to become more engaged in the sport through programs in their own community.

Formally launched in May 2021, Make Golf Your Thing is the industry’s movement to make golf accessible to individuals from all backgrounds.

Led by six cross-industry work groups, the initiative is specifically focused on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications.

Funding for the grant program is being administered by the American Golf Industry Coalition, a partnership among golf’s leading organizations to promote and advocate for the collective interests of the sport.

Financial support for the program is led by a contingent of industry supporters committed to making the sport more welcoming and inclusive for all.

About Make Golf Your Thing

A multi-faceted, multi-year movement, Make Golf Your Thing is a collaborative effort across the industry to invite more people to golf from all backgrounds.

Six cross-industry work groups are committed to making the sport more diverse, equitable and inclusive, with a specific focus on: education & skill development, talent acquisition, procurement, human resources, youth & adult player development, and marketing/communications. For more, www.makegolfyourthing.org.

About the American Golf Industry Coalition

The American Golf Industry Coalition advocates on behalf of golf’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; environmental and sustainability initiatives; contributions to the economy (local and national); health and wellness benefits, as well as charitable giving.

The organization unites the golf industry in pursuit of goals designed to enhance the vitality and diversity of both the business and recreational levels of the sport. The American Golf Industry Coalition is a division of the World Golf Foundation.

To learn more, visit www.golfcoalition.org.

Grassroots Organization City/Town State
A Perfect Swing Foundation Inc. Charlotte NC
Adaptive Golfers North Myrtle Beach SC
Annika Foundation Orlando FL
Be Counted On Foundation Gahanna OH
Black College Golf Coaches Association Vestavia AL
Button Hole Providence RI
Cameron Champ Foundation Citrus Heights CA
CitySwing Foundation Washington D.C.
County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation Alhambra CA
DC on the Green McKinney AL
Edu-Sports Academy Willingboro NJ
El Dorado High School Golf Team El Paso TX
Excel Youth Academy Lawrenceville GA
FabNewport, Inc Newport RI
FairWays to Leadership, Inc. Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Florida Orlando FL
First Tee – Central Mississippi Flowood MS
First Tee – Greater Charleston Mt. Pleasant SC
First Tee – Greater Richmond Richmond VA
First Tee – Greater Sacramento (Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association) Sacramento CA
First Tee – Greater Trenton Trenton NJ
First Tee – Greater Tyler Bullard TX
First Tee – Greater Washington, DC Washington D.C.
First Tee – Greater Wichita Wichita KS
First Tee – Indiana Indianapolis IN
First Tee – Jersey Shore Point Pleasant NJ
First Tee – North Florida (Rising Leaders of North Florida, Inc.) St. Augustine FL
First Tee – Omaha (Hogan’s Junior Golf Heroes) Omaha NE
First Tee – Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA
First Tee – Southeastern New Mexico Roswell NM
First Tee – Tennessee Knoxville TN
First Tee – Triangle Raleigh NC
First Tee – Tulsa (Youth Development of Tulsa) Tulsa OK
First Tee – West Michigan (Lake Michigan Junior Golf Association) Kentwood MI
Fore Life Inc. Lauderhill FL
Fore the Ladies Sylvania OH
Future Successors Atlanta GA
Gator Junior Golf Association Gainesville FL
Girls Golf of America, Inc. Greensboro NC
Golf. My Future. My Game. Washington D.C.
Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship Fund Bedford OH
Harris Park Midtown Sports & Activity Center Kansas City MO
Hi-Tee Junior Little League Golf Program Renton WA
Hit It Straight Golf Academy Homewood IL
I AM a Golfer Foundation Dallas TX
iGolf4VETS, Inc. Riverview FL
Inland Golf Academy Riverside CA
Inner City Youth Golfers’ Inc. Palm Beach Gardens FL
Inspiring Greatness In You Covington GA
Jackson Park Golf Association Chicago IL
Ladies of Futurity, Inc West Palm Beach FL
Latina Golfers Association Foundation Los Angeles CA
Little Linksters Sorrento FL
Matrix Human Services Detroit MI
Michigan Women’s Golf Association Detroit MI
Midnight Golf Program Bingham Farms MI
Milwaukee Area Youth Golf Academy, Inc. Glendale WI
Moore-Myers Children’s Fund Jacksonville FL
My Vision Golf Fayetteville GA
New Jersey Golf Foundation Inc. Bedminster NJ
Next 18 Fox Point WI
Northern Texas PGA Foundation – Fairway to Success Dallas TX
One Hundred Black Men, Inc. New York NY
Par Excellence Youth Development Huntsville AL
Range Fore Hope Foundation Blythewood SC
Rose Hill Schools Rose Hill KS
Southern California Golf Association – Junior Golf Foundation Studio City CA
Southern Area Youth Program, Inc. Los Angeles CA
Special Olympics Connecticut Hamden CT
SwingPals, Inc. Durham NC
Ted Rhodes Foundation, Inc. Chicago IL
The Caddie & Leadership Academy Kenosha WI
The Darby Foundation Lafayette LA
The Glove Foundation Mobile AL
The Honors Junior Golf Program Corona CA
The Pinkney Foundation Pittsburg CA
Upstate-Carolina Adaptive Golf Greenville SC
Western States Junior Golf Association Las Vegas NV
Women Golfers Give Back Plymouth Meeting PA
Women in Golf Foundation, Inc. Ellenwood GA

The post PRESS ROOM: 81 Grassroots Organizations Awarded a Total of $750,000 in Grants through Industry’s ‘Make Golf Your Thing’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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