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Smithsonian’s Black History Museum on Track for 2016 Opening

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Philip Freelon, lead architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, describes how light will travel through the still under construction museum in Washington, Thursday, May 7, 2015. (Brett Carlsen/AP Photo)

Philip Freelon, lead architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, describes how light will travel through the still under construction museum in Washington, Thursday, May 7, 2015. (Brett Carlsen/AP Photo)

BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a bronze metal and glass structure taking shape on the National Mall, the Smithsonian Institution said Thursday that its new National Museum of African American History and Culture is on track to open in 2016.

Over the past two weeks, workers have begun installing the bronze-color panels that will form the defining “corona” facade of Washington’s newest museum. The idea was inspired by an African headdress. Architects said it will appear as a glowing bronze crown in different lights.

The design is a significant departure from the mostly classical structures of Washington. Museum Director Lonnie Bunch said the idea for the metal lattice panels was meant to evoke the work of enslaved craftspeople and iron workers who created screens and designs popular in New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina.

“So much of the African-American experience is hidden in plain sight,” Bunch said during a briefing on the museum’s progress. “I thought: Wouldn’t it be powerful to take this building and in some ways make it a monument to all those people whose work shaped this country, whose work made the country possible but whose work is often forgotten.”

After 10 years of work to develop the museum, Bunch said the building has reached a milestone as its defining elements become evident. The building is 18 months from completion. Bunch said he’s determined the museum will open before President Barack Obama leaves office so that the nation’s first black president can cut the ribbon.

The Smithsonian has raised $476 million in public and private funds. Congress provided half the building funds and money for staffing, and about $200 million has been raised privately from corporations, foundations and individuals. The Smithsonian still must raise as much as $70 million more to finish the project, Bunch said.

Numerous individual donations of $25 and $50 have shown how important the museum is to so many people, Bunch said. Nearly 82,000 people have joined the museum as members to contribute to the building, representing every state.

The museum has built a collection of 40,000 artifacts, and a staff of 160 is developing the 11 major exhibits that visitors will find at the opening next year. The exhibits will trace the history of slavery, segregation, civil rights and African-Americans’ achievements in the arts, entertainment, sports, the military and the wider culture.

Bunch said it will be a museum for everyone to gain a fuller, more nuanced understanding of history.

“The strength of this museum is that it seeks to use African American culture as a lens to understand what it means to be an American,” he said. “We’re all shaped by the African-American experience.”

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National Museum of African American History and Culture: http://nmaahc.si.edu

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Black History

DeBoraha Akin-Townson: Trailblazing Cowgirl

According to the Texas State Historical Association, weekend rodeos featuring Black cowboys began in the late 1940s, thanks to the formation of the Negro Cowboys Rodeo Association in 1947.

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Rodeo is a sport in which cowboys and cowgirls showcase their skills in riding and roping. Its storied history has deep roots among many Blacks and Native Americans in the Midwest and South. 

Developed during the second half of the 19th century, events mainly took place in northern Mexico, the U.S., and western Canada. Despite the numbers of Black cowboys at that time, none were able to compete.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, weekend rodeos featuring Black cowboys began in the late 1940s, thanks to the formation of the Negro Cowboys Rodeo Association in 1947. Many from this organization would eventually pass the torch to DeBoraha Akin-Townson.
Quickly rising in the sport, Townson not only picked up the torch but made history by becoming the 1989 International Professional Rodeo Association Western Region Champion and, in 1990, the first Black cowgirl to compete in the International Professional Rodeo finals in Tulsa, Okla. 

She is also the only Black woman to compete with a professional card in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events throughout the U.S.
Very little has been recorded about Townson’s life. What is known is that she is of Native American heritage (Cherokee and Arkansas Indian) and was born in Rockford, Ill. She is about 62 years old and still married to her long-time husband, Stewart Townson. Her all-time hero, she told Indian Rodeo News, is her “maternal grandmother, who taught me to please God first through obedience and discipline. She was a true Proverbs 31 woman, and I try with all that I am to model myself after the godly example that she showed me.”
In 1980, Townson attended her first rodeo in Hemet, Calif. That’s when her interest in participating in the sport’s professional ranks was piqued.
Her event of choice was ‘barrels,’ something she had enjoyed since she was a child. In this event, a horse and rider attempt to run a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. 

Participants in this women-only event are known for quick turns and high speeds. The winner is determined by thousandths of a second, and Townson was fast. Yet she joked about a time when her horse finished the race before she did.
“It wasn’t so funny when it happened,” she told Indian Rodeo News, “but it became something that I could laugh about later. I fell off the back of my horse trying to pick up the third barrel. My horse finished the pattern without me with the fastest time of the rodeo. The barrel was up, but since I wasn’t on him when he crossed the finish line, it was a [disqualification].”
Today Townson works as a horse-racing instructor and has passed her love of the rodeo down to her children. She advises all youth to “dare to not just dream but dream big and find a rodeo mentor to advise you and spur you on.”

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Coronavirus

Journalist Describes Getting COVID-19 Vaccine in Taiwan

Taiwan’s office of foreign affairs contacted me to ask if I would be interested in receiving the Covid vaccine.

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Greg Taylor in Taiwan gymnasium where he received the first shot of the Moderna vaccine.

Taiwan’s office of foreign affairs contacted me to ask if I would be interested in receiving the Covid vaccine. I was told to go online and make an appointment stipulating that I worked as a foreign journalist.

This dispensation granted me full and unfettered access to the Moderna vaccine. However, I think this access had more to do with President Joe Biden’s campaign of 80 million doses dispensed around the world that sent 2.5 million doses of Moderna to Taiwan.

On the 14th of July, as instructed, I showed up at a designated gymnasium to receive the first of two shots. This was indeed an exception extended to the foreign press in Taiwan. I saw no other foreigners in the entire gymnasium while I was there; and I learned on the 15th of July, that most Southeast Asian foreign workers were to receive AZ (AstraZeneca)—a debated lesser vaccine in the Pfizer, Moderna, J&J regimen.

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Community

New Strain of COVID-19 Proving Fatal to Unvaccinated People

Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. 

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Technician holding tube of blood test identified with the label Covid-19 DELTA Variant. Doctor with a positive blood sample for the new variant detected of the coronavirus strain called DELTA/ Shutterstock

Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. 

According to medical doctors, the U.S. is currently dealing with a new strain of the virus, the Delta variant, which is more lethal and virulent than previous strains. The Delta variant originated in India toward the end of last year and was first identified in America in March.
The Los Angeles County Health Department is so worried about a new outbreak, it told residents to mask up again.
“Since the Delta variant is more infectious than other variants, Public Health recommends wearing a mask around others in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status,” said the LA County Department of Health in a tweet.
Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of Kedren Vaccines at Kedren Health in Los Angeles, has already seen signs of the new strain in the Los Angeles community. He said medical professionals are already gearing up for what he called the “fifth wave” of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s already in L.A.,” he said. “We assume the rates will go back up.”
Like other viruses, COVID-19 is constantly mutating. When the virus encounters new hosts (particularly unvaccinated bodies,) it changes and gets stronger. The best way to eliminate the disease is to vaccinate about 70% of residents in a community (herd immunity,) so the virus doesn’t have any places to grow and survive.
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Wash., D.C., emphasized this point during a recent Ethnic Media Services virtual briefing on the efficacy of continued mask use.
“The more warm bodies the virus has, the more opportunity it will have to mutate,” said Feigl-Deing, who is also the Chief Health Economist for Microclinic International, a San Francisco-based non-profit that bills itself as an organization that revolutionize how deadly diseases are prevented and managed worldwide.” 

 “If you let it spread, it will mutate,” he warned.
Feigl-Ding added that, at this stage, reaching herd immunity is not realistic, and we need to look at alternative solutions to contain the virus, such as continued mask usage, ventilation, hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces and air purification devices.
But over the last year, the debate about vaccinations became political. A large number of people who supported former Pres. Donald Trump downplayed the virus and accused Democrats of overstating the severity of the pandemic. A lot of those skeptics even refused to take the vaccines. 

Some say they don’t trust the science. Others do it to resist what they see as pressure coming from liberals. But health experts say refusing to take one of the three vaccines approved to fight COVID-19 in the U.S. is dangerous and only allows the virus to thrive. 

Data is beginning to show the effects of politicizing public health. Deaths and infections are going up in red states, while the numbers have been steadily declining in blue states.
Medical data shows that 99% of recent COVID-19 deaths were unvaccinated people, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading virologist and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Abraham is a big proponent of vaccination and estimates his clinic has given about 300,000 inoculations to people in the South Los Angeles area. But he still sees worrying trends. According to Abraham, only about 40% of Black men in the area are vaccinated.
Abraham also warned the situation would worsen during the fall when it gets colder, and people spend more time inside. “It’s not a matter of if,” said Abraham.

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