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OP-ED: A SouslvilleUSA strategy for crime reduction

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Dedicated community organizations such as LeMoyne-Owen and its 160 years of educating young people; STAX Records and its historic creation of the “music of our lives” that represented an era of progress for Black people; Metropolitan Baptist Church, where Dr. King would meet and strategize; the intersection of Mississippi Boulevard and Walker Avenue, where Ida B. Wells and Peeples Grocery stood as a testament to Black business success, and the world-famous Four Way Grill were all founded on this historical ground.
The post OP-ED: A SouslvilleUSA strategy for crime reduction first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Jeffrey T. Higgs, New Tri-State Defender

As crime and the perception of crime explodes around our city, I am drawn to facts and theories I have developed over the years regarding crime, its causes and how best to reduce it.

Contrary to what you hear, crime has been reduced in our city, especially in areas where urban community economic development (UCED) has occurred and is led by community-engaged leaders, CDCs, nonprofits and churches, all working together to ensure our communities are safe places to live, work and play.

One such community is SoulsvilleUSA.

When we started this journey in 1999, community leaders like Marlon Foster, Andy Cates, Reginald Milton, Robert Lipscomb, Deannie Parker and others collaborated with LeMoyne-Owen College and Metropolitan Baptist Church, to create a place where residents felt safe, families could thrive, children could learn, and all were welcomed.

What we knew then was we were working on “holy ground.”

Dedicated community organizations such as LeMoyne-Owen and its 160 years of educating young people; STAX Records and its historic creation of the “music of our lives” that represented an era of progress for Black people; Metropolitan Baptist Church, where Dr. King would meet and strategize; the intersection of Mississippi Boulevard and Walker Avenue, where Ida B. Wells and Peeples Grocery stood as a testament to Black business success, and the world-famous Four Way Grill were all founded on this historical ground.

In this community, Al Green and Hi Records produced some of the greatest music of our time and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech at the historic Mason Temple.

How, then, does this history relate to crime reduction in our community?

Our collective belief is that the best way to reduce crime is to create equal economic development opportunities.

We know that a working person is less likely to commit a crime than a person who lives in poverty with no prospects of attaining sustainable income.

Moreover, a house that has a family living in it is not one that is blighted; clean streets create pride in the community.

Educated residents know how to call code enforcement and report crimes, and an informed community is a community that values itself and its neighbors.

Simply stated, the roots of crime are poverty, blight, neglect and lack of educational opportunities.

We do not have to live this way.

Crime and violence, then, are a result of our environment and how we train our children, how we treat our citizens and how we respect our neighbors.

The Bible speaks eloquently about loving thy neighbor as thyself. Violence, crime, and gun abuse are destroying our families and communities.

We must fight the elements of violence mentioned above. We do this simply by creating places that are livable and inviting.

It is our responsibility, as the adults, to create and show our youth the right pathways to success. No community wants violence and crime permeating the mindsets and behavior of its citizens.

We must fight these evils with aggressive policies and funding that assist communities in this work. Programs that are effective are needed to help in the fight for crime and violence reduction.

SoulsvilleUSA has taken steps to move in this direction. We recently collaborated with residents and created a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District for South Memphis/SoulsvilleUSA that was a result of hundreds of residents working together for a common goal.

The ongoing effort of the SoulsvilleUSA Neighborhoods Development District to secure a TIF (tax-increment financing) designation for South Memphis led to this December 2021 gathering. (Photos: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

The ongoing effort of the SoulsvilleUSA Neighborhoods Development District to secure a TIF (tax-increment financing) designation for South Memphis led to this December 2021 gathering. (Photos: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

We believe, as a community, we are headed in the right direction. We are incorporating lessons learned from other thriving communities that have achieved success and applying them in our own neighborhoods.

We will revitalize our community using all the tools available in the toolbox.

As we enact this revitalization, our communities, hopefully, will begin to turn on the “lights of hope.”

We then can educate, inform, engage and revitalize all areas of our community, creating jobs for residents, removing blight and replacing it with positivity and hope.

While we cannot promise a “chicken in every pot,” we can promise we will work to create healthy, open inviting spaces, where crime has no place to hide.

Our dedication to this impactful work will provide jobs to those willing to work, create innovative educational technology and workforce training opportunity for those desiring to learn new skills and bring their skillsets back to the community.

These opportunities will be for those who would rather work than rob, cheat, or steal from their neighbor.

We are our neighbors’ keeper, and we will work to revitalize our community, thus bringing everyone along with opportunities to become engaged in the process of this revitalization movement.

Please plan to walk with us at 10 a.m. April 9, starting and ending at the corner of Walker Ave. and Dr. Hollis F Price Boulevard (Metropolitan Baptist Church), as the Memphis Crime Commission, FFUN- Stop the Killing, Memphis Police Department, City of Memphis, community partners, students, residents and your neighbors walk through SoulsvilleUSA and College Park to bring awareness to gun violence in our community.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. Resource partners will be available to provide private services and assistance for residents, as well as answers and connections for the community’s needs.

(Jeffrey T. Higgs is an executive committee member of the Memphis and Shelby County Crime Commission, a founding member of the SoulsvilleUSA Neighborhoods Development District, and CEO of LeMoyne-Owen College CDC and has worked since 1999 on revitalizing communities and creating economic development opportunities for residents of Memphis.)

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Brittney Griner Sentenced to More than 9 years in Russian Prison

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision. “We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

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

WNBA Superstar Brittney Griner has been sentenced to more than 9 years in a Russian prison following her conviction on drug charges.

Her lawyers called the verdict a disappointment and vowed to appeal.

The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

“The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea. This contradicts the existing legal practice.

“Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal,” they added.

Russian officials contended that Griner committed the crime on purpose. They also levied a fine totaling about $16,400 American dollars on the basketball star.

Authorities arrested Griner on Feb. 17 at an airport in Moscow after finding less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

She has been detained since then.

Recently, American officials revealed that the Biden-Harris administration had offered notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Biden said.

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

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Report: Human Rights Violations in Prisons Throughout Southern United States Cause Disparate and Lasting Harm in Black Communities  

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

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NNPA Newswire

NEW YORK – The Southern Prisons Coalition, a group of civil and human rights organizations, submitted a new report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the devastating consequences of incarceration on Black people throughout the southern United States.

With the long-term goal of eliminating all forms of racial discrimination in the criminal legal system, including the carceral system, the report describes the widespread, disparate harms resulting from the arrests, harsh prison sentences, and incarceration on Black communities.

The report also cites the devastating impacts of solitary confinement, prison labor, the school to prison pipeline, and incarceration of parents on Black families.

On August 8, 2022, the UN will review the United States’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for the first time since 2014.

Among the ongoing stark racial disparities throughout prisons in the southern United States, Black people are five times more likely to be incarcerated in state prisons.

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, where Black communities comprise 38% of the total population, Black individuals account for as much as 67% of the total incarcerated population.

While incarcerated, Black people are more than eight times more likely to be placed in solitary confinement, and they are 10 times more likely to be held there for exceedingly long periods of time.

By submitting the report to the United Nations, the Southern Prisons Coalition hopes to solicit concrete recommendations from the UN Committee as well as commitments from the United States delegation about their plans to address systemic issues in the United States prison system, particularly in the South.

According to the report, several states in the United States have also failed to meet several of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of incarcerated people, including:

  • Work should help to prepare incarcerated people for their release from prison, including life and job skills;
  • Safety measures and labor protections for incarcerated workers should be the same as those that cover workers who are not incarcerated;
  • Incarcerated workers should receive equitable pay, be able to send money home to their families, and have a portion of their wages set aside to be given to them upon release.

“The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We hope the Committee will help to shine a light on these very dark truths and prompt the U.S. to take its obligation to make significant improvements more seriously.”

“The abuses of forced labor are inextricably tied to racial discrimination in our nation,” said Jamila Johnson, Deputy Director at the Promise of Justice Initiative.

“In Louisiana, for instance, people are still sent into the fields to labor by hand in dangerously high heat indexes, for little to no compensation, and with brutal enforcement reminiscent of slavery and the era of ‘convict leasing’.”

“This report reveals the suffering of Black people in southern U.S. prisons, whose stories of marginalization and discrimination echo the racial subjugation of slavery and convict leasing during our country’s most shameful past,” said Antonio L. Ingram II, Assistant Counsel at the Legal Defense Fund.

“Despite widespread knowledge of the longstanding racial inequalities in the criminal legal and carceral systems, the United States continues to allow egregious human rights violations to persist for Black incarcerated people in violation of international law. This report serves as a sobering reminder of how far we need to go.”

Read the full report here.

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Celebrate your birthday with 10 free items

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

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By Angelina Liu, Entertainment Editor of The Trendsetter / Texas Metro News

Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

1. Chocolate Secrets

At Chocolate Secrets, located at 3926 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219, you can celebrate your birthday by getting one free piece of candy under their candy cases.

2. WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”

Head to WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”, located at 684 W Pioneer Pkwy Suite 100, Grand Prairie, Texas 75051, to claim a free small personal daiquiri on your birthday. Quench your thirst with signature flavors such as “Strawberry Shortcake” or “Bahama Mama.”

3. Sephora

Sign up for a free, Beauty Insider account and receive your choice of 250 bonus points, Laura Mercier, Amika or Tatcha sets on your birthday. The choice of powders, lipsticks and skincare is bound to make you look fabulous for your special day.

4. Starbucks

Need a quick pick-me-up on your birthday? Starbucks has it covered! Join the Starbucks Rewards Program seven days prior to your birthday and make one purchase. Starbucks will then email you a coupon for a free food or beverage item two days before your birthday. The birthday reward qualifies for anything on the menu, including any size handcrafted drink or food item.

5. Jersey Mike’s

In the mood for a sub? Head over to Jersey Mike’s and receive a free sub and drink. Make sure to sign up for the Jersey Mike’s Subs Email Club prior to your birthday to receive this reward. Nothing tastes quite like melted cheese and meat in between a toasted baguette, along with an icy cold drink.

6. The Cheesecake Factory

Celebrating with friends? Tell your server it’s your birthday and receive a free treat as well as a song. It may be mildly embarrassing, but hey, it’s free!

7. Culver’s

Need something cold and sweet to beat the Texas heat? Head to Culver’s for a free sundae when you sign up for their rewards program. The sweet creaminess will surely not disappoint.

8. IHOP

Want to indulge in a sweet breakfast before birthday festivities? Join the International Bank of Pancakes rewards program to receive a free stack of pancakes on your birthday. Pair your pancakes with a choice of chocolate chips, syrup, fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream.

9. McDonald’s

Need a snack before embarking on your next birthday adventure? Download the McDonald’s app and join MyMcDonald’s Rewards to receive free large fries. Mmm, the taste and smell of fresh, perfectly salted french fries.

10. Smoothie King

Want to celebrate your birthday with a healthier option? Enjoy a birthday smoothie at Smoothie King. Download the Smoothie King app to receive this offer.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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