A Lifetime of Service

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Montel Williams has served his country for 22 years, and ever since, he’s been serving those who serve in the Armed Forces.

By Brady Rhoades

Montel Williams served his country for 22 years, and ever since, he’s been serving those who serve in the Armed Forces.

Through Military Makeover, which he produces and hosts, the Emmy-award winning TV icon has transformed the homes and lives of hundreds of veterans and their families. The show, which airs on Lifetime TV and AFN, has produced some of the most memorable moments in TV history.

In a February, 2020 episode, Montel and the Military Makeover crew helped Debi, the Gold Star widow of Operation Desert Storm veteran Chris Hixon, who was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High School in Florida while rushing in and trying to disarm the killer.

They stepped in two years after the school shooting that killed Chris and 16 others and made Debi and her two children’s lives a little brighter by, among other things, renovating her kitchen and installing long, floating shelves in several rooms. Debi placed photographs of Chris on those shelves.

Montel — no last name necessary for most people — lives by a simple creed that he learned in boot camp: “We leave no Marine behind,” he says. “I bought into the fact that once a Marine, always a Marine.”

TV personalities Rachael Ray and Montel Williams (C) pose with the 1st Marine Corps District at the 2nd Annual Variety Salute to Service in New York City.
TV personalities Rachael Ray and Montel Williams (C) pose with the 1st Marine Corps District at the 2nd Annual Variety Salute to Service in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

Montel was the first Black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy.

“In the nearly three decades since I retired from the Navy, I’ve never really taken the uniform off because standing up for those who are serving now—and those who have served—has been the greatest honor of my professional career,” he says,

Most recently, the husband and father of four joined The Balancing Act, also on Lifetime TV, as a co-host. Before that, he shot to stardom on The Montel Williams Show from 1991 to 2008, for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host.

Military Roots
There’s a lot of tinsel that goes with Hollywood fame, but beneath it are roots, and Montel’s are deep and resilient. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1974. He then graduated from the Naval Academy in 1980 with a degree in engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

Montel Williams (R) and wife Tara Williams.
Montel Williams (R) and wife Tara Williams.
(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)

He completed Naval Cryptologic Officer training, and spent 18 months in Guam as a cryptologic officer for naval intelligence. He was later a supervising cryptologic officer with the Naval Security Fleet Support Division at Fort Meade, Maryland. He left the Navy at the rank of lieutenant commander. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

As part of his work in cryptology, Montel teamed with the National Security Agency and was involved in the victory in Grenada in 1983. On several occasions, Montel has worked to get United States citizens — usually military personnel who have been captured in foreign lands — returned to America.

In the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, The Montel Williams Show was synonymous with excellence, empathy and intelligence. Some argue Montel is on the “Mt. Rushmore” of day-time talk show legends, alongside Oprah and others.

In 1999, after years of excruciating pain that, at times, had him crying during commercial breaks, Montel was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was bad and good news all at once — bad because MS is painful and debilitating; good because he finally knew what was ailing him and could move forward with treatment.

More than two decades after his diagnosis, Montel lives an active, purposeful life. A fun one, too. One of his favorite activities is snowboarding, which he says helps his balance in day-to-day living.

A Healthy Balance

Montel Williams, Debra Hixon, wife of late Navy Veteran Chris Hixon, his son Corey, and Hixon’s sister-in-law.
From left: Montel Williams, Debra Hixon, wife of late Navy Veteran Chris Hixon, his son Corey, and Hixon’s sister-in-law.

Balance is what makes him a perfect fit for The Balancing Act, a morning show that empowers viewers to live balanced, healthy lives. Montel, who suffered a stroke in 2018, and just keeps going like the Eveready Battery, knows a thing or two about balance. If success is measured by how many people you’ve helped, Montel is rich beyond his monetary millions and accomplished far beyond his worldwide fame.
He goes back again and again to those values he learned in boot camp. Take the following episode of Military Makeover:

After Aaron and Holly Middleton met at a Columbus bar after graduating Ohio State University, it was love at first sight. Though unfamiliar with the rigors of military family life, Holly went all in, giving up her own career to find fulfillment as a mother. Aaron is now a major and senior communications officer serving at USMC Forces Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

The family has faced overwhelming adversity. First, their newborn son, Kelvin, was diagnosed with holes in his lungs, requiring immediate surgeries. Then, unspeakable tragedy struck the family when the Middleton’s’ 5-year-old daughter Scarlett died from an undiagnosed illness.

Montel Williams with Holly and Aaron Middleton, who lost their 5-year-old daughter Scarlett, and began a foundation in her honor, “Scarlett’s Sunshine.”
From left: Montel Williams with Holly and Aaron Middleton, who lost their 5-year-old daughter Scarlett, and began a foundation in her honor, “Scarlett’s Sunshine.”

The shock and trauma of Scarlett’s passing has shaken the family to its core. Scarlett loved picking and giving away flowers, and her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” Through pain and inspiration, Holly promised to keep alive the joy Scarlett brought to everybody who knew her. The grieving mother created a charity called Scarlett’s Sunshine, using random acts of kindness with flowers to induce spontaneous smiles.

“Little did I know that when I gave people the flowers, and I saw the gratitude on their faces light up, that I would see Scarlett’s light again,” Holly says. “I found her light.” The Middletons’ home in St. Petersburg— the first they’ve owned since Aaron joined the Corps— needed a lot of help. Military Makeover worked to make it a place of healing and solace for this deserving military family.

As the cherry on top, the show donated a year’s worth of flowers to Scarlett’s Sunshine. “It feels like a miracle,” Holly said, when presented with the flowers. Which brought a smile to Montel’s face.

That’s the miracle of Montel’s life, which mirrors the lives of all U.S. veterans.

Kamala Harris speaks for the first time as vice president-elect

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Kamala Harrsie stands behind podium smiling with U.S. flags in the background

Kamala Harris addressed Americans for the first time as vice president-elect of the United States, making history as the first woman, Black American and South Asian American to win the nation’s second highest office.

At an event in Wilmington, Delaware, with President-elect Joe Biden, she nodded specifically to the work of the women who came before her, adding: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”

She spoke about an America under the Biden administration that focused on equality and justice, and reminded supporters that “America’s democracy is not guaranteed — it is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it.”

The Associated Press called the 2020 election for Biden after calling the race in Pennsylvania, giving him more than the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. “We the people have the power to build a better future,” she said.

 

Source: PBS News Hour

New Law Requires Large Corporations to Diversify Boards

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A diverse board of directors sitting around a table

By Natalie Rodgers

On August 31, California lawmakers passed a new, unnamed piece of legislature that would increase diversity and inclusion rates in big California businesses.

Under this new law, large corporations would be required to have at least one board member on their team who comes from an underrepresented community. The legislature further clarifies the definition of underrepresented communities to include: Black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, or LGBTQ+.

“Corporations have money, power, and influence,” Assemblyman and author of the law Chris Holden stated. “If we are going to address racial injustice and inequity in our society, it’s imperative that corporate boards reflect the diversity of our state.”

Holden hopes that the bill will make large representative changes resulting in racial justice, similar to the gender equality shown after the passing of the 2018 bill, requiring big-name corporations that have a certain number of women on their board.

While presenting the new legislature, lawmakers strived to prove the necessity for its existence by referring to various studies that showed a lack of diversity in big corporations and the state of California alike. One such study, done by the Deloitte and Alliance for Board Diversity in 2018, stated that out of the 1,222 new board members that were introduced to Fortune 100 companies, 940 of them identified as Caucasian, a whopping 77 percent. Another study, done by the Latino Corporate Directors Association in July 2020, stated that 87 percent of California business boards did not have Latino representation, despite making up almost 40 percent of the total population. Many large technology companies, such as Apple and Facebook, were also tested to have all-white executives in the top executive positions on the board.

“There is enough evidence to show there is discrimination,” Holden told lawmakers. “The numbers simply don’t lie.”

Besides the presence of discrimination, lawmakers also showed evidence of the economic impact that diversity can have on large corporations. Companies that present a larger understanding and representation of diversity have shown to increase in profit as their target audience begins to draw in more people from various backgrounds.

Under Holden’s law, diversity would be required to increase in the coming years in California businesses. Corporations with more than nine board members would need to have a minimum of three members that come from underrepresented communities and corporations with  five to eight board members would be required to have at least two of these members. If signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, the law would also penalize those violators with fines starting at $100,000.

Air Force general confirmed as first black chief of a U.S. military service

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General Charles Q. Brown in uniform

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be the next Air Force chief of staff, making him the first African American leader of a military service as the Pentagon and the country grapple with a raft of racial issues.

The confirmation also makes Brown the second African American officer to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Chairman Gen. Colin Powell.

The 98-to-0 vote was a blowout approval for the four-star general. Vice President Mike Pence presided over the historic vote.

President Donald Trump, who nominated Brown in March, hailed the general on Twitter.

“My decision to appoint @usairforce General Charles Brown as the USA’s first-ever African American military service chief has now been approved by the Senate,” Trump said, though the tweet came before the confirmation vote. “A historic day for America! Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and Great Leader!”

Brown’s nomination had been in the works for months, yet the vote came amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Top Air Force officials led the way in speaking out over the past week and calling for dialogue on racism. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the service’s top enlisted leader, became the first senior military official to speak out, and was followed by outgoing Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

Brown, who is currently the commander of Pacific Air Forces, delivered an emotional message Friday about his experience as a black airman.

In addition to becoming the first African American service chief, Brown will be the most senior African American Pentagon leader since Powell chaired the Joint Chiefs from 1989 to 1993.

“I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion, not just for George Floyd but for the many African Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd,” Brown said. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.

“Without clear-cut answers, I just want to have the wisdom and knowledge to lead during difficult times like these,” Brown said of his nomination to be the service’s top officer. “I want the wisdom and knowledge to lead, participate in and listen to necessary conversations on racism, diversity and inclusion.”

Continue on to Politico to read the complete article.

BECOMING – OFFICIAL TRAILER

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MIchelle Obama book jacket cover

BECOMING is an intimate look into the life of former First Lady Michelle Obama during a moment of profound change, not only for her personally but also for the country she and her husband served over eight impactful years in the White House.

The film offers a rare and up-close look at her life, taking viewers behind the scenes as she embarks on a 34-city tour that highlights the power of community to bridge our divides and the spirit of connection that comes when we openly and honestly share our stories.

Film Release Date: May 6, 2020
Format: Original Documentary Feature

Directed by: Nadia Hallgren
Produced by: Katy Chevigny,
Marilyn Ness, & Lauren Cioffi
Co-Producer: Maureen A. Ryan
Executive Producers:
Priya Swaminathan & Tonia Davis

A NOTE FROM MICHELLE
I’m excited to let you know that on May 6, Netflix will release BECOMING, a documentary film directed by Nadia Hallgren that looks at my life and the experiences I had while touring following the release of my memoir. Those months I spent traveling—meeting and connecting with people in cities across the globe—drove home the idea that what we share in common is deep and real and can’t be messed with.

In groups large and small, young and old, unique and united, we came together and shared stories, filling those spaces with our joys, worries, and dreams.

*BECOMING is the third release from Higher Ground Productions and Netflix*

To view the documentary now available on Netflix visit, netflix.com/Becoming.

#IAmBecoming

Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume Wins Seat Held By Late Congressman Elijah Cummings

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Kweisi Mfume headshot

It’s finally official. Former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume will finish the term of the late Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings after winning an election for his Maryland seat Tuesday.

In a special election structured around a largely mail-in vote, Mfume, who led the NAACP from 1996 to 2004, beat Republican Kimberly Klacik for the heavily Democratic 7th Congressional District, which Cummings had held from 1996 until his death last October.

Mfume had held the seat for a decade prior to Cummings being elected, but resigned to lead the NAACP.

Mfume, 71, acknowledged that voters cast their ballots in the shadow of the gripping coronavirus pandemic which has sharply affected the district, including much of Baltimore.

“To them, to their families and to the families of so many others who have lost lives prematurely to this disease,” Mfume said in his address after winning, according to the Associated Press. “I want all of you to know that from day one, all of my attention, all of my energy and all of my focus in the United States Congress will be on using science, data and common sense to help get our nation through this dark hour in our history.”

Only three polling stations were open to voters because of social distancing measures. Ballots were otherwise sent weeks in advance for mail-in voting. The strategy was an alternative to voting practices a few weeks ago in the Wisconsin primary several weeks ago when voters were forced to stand in lines for hours to cast ballots, putting them at higher risk for coronavirus spread.

Continue on to BET to read the complete article.

On Being Black and ‘Disabled but Not Really’

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Smiling multiracial friends talk using sign language

Despite the criticism of the episode, Hamilton’s appearance on Queer Eye felt like a step in the right direction for better representation of the diversity of disabled people.

By Imani Barbarin

I’m in a car with my cousin, who is driving but sitting with a rolling pin from my kitchen directly beneath their hip. “Please see a doctor,” I say for the second, or maybe third, time. “It could be something serious. It’s OK to be disabled and need help,” I add.

“I don’t claim that,” my cousin replies.

My cousin is like other Black people who couch their disability (or ignore it entirely) for one reason: survival.

I was reminded of this exchange after watching a new episode of Netflix’s Queer Eye, called “Disabled but Not Really.” The season 4 episode, which features a 30-year-old Black man in a wheelchair as one of the Fab Five’s clients, has become a topic of much contention in the disability community. Yet many critical perspectives lack insight from disabled Black people. For example, many white disabled people feel like the title of the episode—derived from the name of the nonprofit organization founded by Wesley Hamilton, the man featured in the episode—is spreading internalized ableism and perpetuating a culture of shame around the disabled identity. But Black people have a long history of hiding ailments for fear of dire consequences.

Often disability is kept as a side note to a Black person’s identity for fear that references to any impairment might be taken as weakness. Harriet Tubman suffered a traumatic brain injury at the hands of a slave overseer. Fannie Lou Hamer had polio as a child. Maya Angelou had selective mutism. Yet, when we talk about our heroes as Black people, we rarely, if ever, mention the disabilities they lived with. Many current Black celebrities and leaders with disabilities feel they can only become successful by ignoring or showing they can overcome their diagnoses. It is still a shock to some that Stevie Wonder reads braille.

In his episode with the Fab Five, we learn that Hamilton’s organization is focused on getting disabled people into CrossFit and bodybuilding. Remarkably, we learn this in a scene in which he is surrounded by disabled Black men. It is rare that spaces for disabled Black people exist at all; I was in my 20s before I came across one, and I was so overwhelmed, I spent most of the time there trying not to cry.

The Disabled but Not Really website explains that its mission is to empower people to embrace a “limitless mindset,” one in which people with disabilities “know they are more than their circumstances.” The organization supports personal development with programs like the #HelpMeFit challenge, which pairs coaches with disabled people to enhance their fitness and nutrition beyond what the participants believe is possible.

Considering the ways in which ableism is used to perpetuate racism, the concept of “disabled but not really” is necessary for Hamilton to encourage other disabled Black people to access the support they need. For many people of color, claiming a disabled body and existence can feel like just another piece of their identity that can be used to marginalize them. And though it seems like internalized ableism or self-hatred to many white people with disabilities when people of color don’t claim the “disabled” label, Black, indigenous, and people of color are right to feel that way.

Black disabled people, for example, experience a unique form of racist micro- and macro-aggressions that sway into the realm of ableism. People who need supports like Medicare, Medicaid, or food stamps are “welfare queens.” Disabled Black people hear speculation as to whether they’re “crack babies,” a misleading and deeply problematic concept. Black people in search of medical care are “just looking for drugs.” Even run-of-the mill racism is steeped in ableist language: “Black people cannot think or vote for themselves” or “Black people don’t have the intelligence to have built pyramids; it has to have been aliens.”

What Hamilton seems to understand is that in order to reach the disabled people in the community that he wants to serve, he must wheel a very fine line: He needs to talk about disability in such a way that Black people don’t feel further disenfranchised by recognizing it within themselves. Because of factors like environmental, structural, and implicit racism, as well as violent acts and poverty, Black people are one of the most likely demographics to develop disabilities. Just getting them to a supportive space can be a hurdle.

As a proud disabled Black advocate, I come across many people who try to erase my disability and think that by talking about it I am alienating the very people I need. This hurts most when it comes from my own community: Black people. From them I am told that I am already Black: “Why give them another reason to shut the door in your face.”

Black people are raised to acknowledge that every system they encounter is stacked against them. “You have to try twice as hard to get half as far,” “they are all waiting for you to fail,” and “you don’t get second chances” are shared by parents and community elders along with bedtime stories and warm milk. Any sense of vulnerability feels like a weapon that can be turned against oneself, rather than a source of strength or power.

Given Hamilton’s background—his time spent in a gang and how it led to disability—he is well aware of the racism disabled Black people face and the desire to have one less “ism” to contend with. But what’s especially powerful in his Queer Eye episode is the way Hamilton celebrates himself and his body. Never once in the episode did he begrudge his disability. Instead, he actively honored where he was mentally, as his organization encourages its participants to do.

In the episode, Hamilton also recognizes his mother, Dawn, unmasking the role parents can play in the lives of their loved ones with disabilities. Dawn was his caretaker and support system after the altercation that paralyzed him from the waist down at age 24. Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown talked with her about the sacrifices she made to care for her son. Disabled people never appreciate feeling like the burden in their loved ones’ lives. It is a stereotype that we are actively fighting against because so often, it can lead to harmful and dangerous behaviors. But, given the way many Black women and femmes so readily step in as caretakers and providers (not just for family members, but for entire communities), it makes sense why Brown would want Hamilton to actively “release” his mom with a “thank you.”

In a quintessential Karamo moment, he takes Dawn aside and discusses what her life has been like since her son’s injury. Acknowledging the difficulty they both have faced, Dawn breaks down into tears and admits they’re ready for a new chapter to begin.

Admittedly, this moment is uncomfortable for me to contend with. On the one hand, as a disabled Black woman I recognize the magnitude of responsibility that is placed upon Black women and femmes. But as a disabled person, it is insulting to be so inundated with the message that we decrease quality of life for the people around us. Even after watching the episode several times, I have no idea how I feel about that moment.

Hamilton’s role as a single father is also on full display in this episode. Given reports that parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities have their children removed from their care at rates as high as 80 percent, and knowing the stereotypes of Black fathers as “deadbeats,” Hamilton being seen as a father was critical to breaking down biases regarding the capability of Black disabled people. In watching his story, we see his daughter, Nevaeh, a chipper child of about 10 years old, marvel at the changes her father is going through with the aid of the Fab Five. She lovingly encourages her dad, and he is shown as an active figure in her life.

Despite the criticism of the episode, Hamilton’s appearance on Queer Eye felt like a step in the right direction for better representations of the diversity of disabled people. He may not have shouted loudly about his disability status, but he was still able to highlight an experience the disabled Black community needs to see acknowledged in mainstream television. He was proud of who he was and felt that his disability had saved his life. Rather than mourn his abled body for a national audience, he claimed it and gave thanks for it.

Importantly, the episode is an open invitation to Black disabled people to accept themselves as they are and seek joy in their disabled bodies. Hamilton’s language regarding his experiences should not be policed for the comfort of white disabled people or anyone else. Hamilton is just trying to get the Black disabled community through the door because, while many of them refuse to “claim disability,” disability so often claims them.

Source: Rewire.News

Nigerian artist makes dark skin prosthetics to boost patients’ confidence

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mans hand wearing a dark skin prosthetic

Michael Sunday is delighted, if a little stunned, as he admires his new right hand: a silicone glove-like prosthetic meant to help him return to normal life after he lost three fingers in a car accident a year ago.

The prosthetic has a hyper-realistic feel and, unusually, is dark in color, matching perfectly the tone of Sunday’s skin.

Most fake body parts available in Nigeria until now have been white, or made from materials such as wood that also look unrealistic.

“Wow, this is lovely,” Sunday said, his voice choked with emotion, as he looked at the prosthetic for the first time.

“I have my fingers back,” said the 22-year-old student, who lost the thumb and fourth and fifth fingers on his right hand when the car he was riding in with his parents on Dec. 31, 2018, collided with another vehicle.

The artist behind the creation is John Amanam, a 32-year-old former movie special effects expert. He developed an interest in prosthetics after a family member lost a limb in an accident.

“I became emotional about amputees,” said Amanam, who is also Nigerian.

“They had this feeling of discomfort whenever they were around other people. I saw it as a challenge. If I could give back or solve this need, it would go a long way to ease that emotional trauma and loss of confidence,” he added.

“I just want them to feel at home and be whole, aesthetically.”

So he started making prosthetic fingers, hands, arms, legs and ears in 2017. Depending on the size and complexity of the prosthetic, it takes three weeks to two months to make one.

Amanam has no formal training in making prosthetics but studied sculpting as an art student. The pieces are sold for at least 40,000 naira ($111).

His company, Immortal Cosmetic Art, is part of a growing services industry that has helped Nigeria’s economy become the biggest in Africa.

Amanam said mismatched skin tone makes it more difficult for people to feel confident with their artificial limbs.

To prepare Sunday’s hand, he took measurements, made a plaster cast and mixed paints on a palette, as any artist would, searching for the right skin tone. The result was lifelike.

“You rarely find people with black skin prosthetics,” Amanam said. “I want this need to be met within Africa. I want to reach out to blacks all over the world as well, by making this process accessible, at an affordable rate.”

Continue on to Reuters to read the complete article.

Four-Star General Nominated To Become First African American Chief Of The Air Force

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Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. in uniform speaking into microphone to an audience

Nominated by the Trump administration, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. could be the first African-American chief of staff for the United States Air Force. “I am truly honored and humbled by the nomination to serve as the Air Force’s 22nd Chief of Staff,” he said. “If confirmed, Sharene and I look forward to building upon the legacy of Gen. Dave and Dawn Goldfein and the many airpower giants before who have served our Air Force and our nation with such dedication.”

Brown would also reportedly become the first African American to lead any military branch and hold the title as the first African American Pentagon leader since the 1993 retirement of Army General, Colin Powell, according to the Daily Mail.

Brown is a four-star F-16 pilot who served in combat tours in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

“[Brown] will take command of an Air Force in transition, one moving from a decades-long priority on combating and containing terrorism to a new era of Great Power Competition,” said the Air Force.

Brown will be the highest-ranking officer in the Air Force, responsible for overseeing all units in the military branch.

He will sit alongside the Joint Chief of Staff in the Department of Defense that counsels the secretary of defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council, and the President on military affairs.

Continue on to BET to read the complete article.

17-Year-Old Armani Williams Is NASCAR’s First Driver With Autism

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Armani Williams pictured smiling and sitting in NASCAR racecar

Armani Williams was born in Michigan and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. Like many children with autism, he was nonverbal during his early years. Autism is a brain disorder that affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, 1 in 42 males, and means lifelong challenges in learning, socialization, and behavior, as well as many associated medical problems.

Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is the fastest growing developmental disability. Given these epidemic numbers in the United States, almost every individual knows or cares about someone who is affected by autism.

Armani presented with extreme struggles just participating in daily life with his peers, but when he began racing at age 8 a light switch was turned on. At the end of the first session, Armani stated, “Dad, I understand.” From that moment, Armani’s family recognized that he had a special ability to drive and that they would do anything to make it happen.

Armani Williams was born in Michigan and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. Like many children with autism, he was nonverbal during his early years. Autism is a brain disorder that affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, 1 in 42 males, and means lifelong challenges in learning, socialization, and behavior, as well as many associated medical problems.

Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is the fastest growing developmental disability. Given these epidemic numbers in the United States, almost every individual knows or cares about someone who is affected by autism.

Armani presented with extreme struggles just participating in daily life with his peers, but when he began racing at age 8 a light switch was turned on. At the end of the first session, Armani stated, “Dad, I understand.” From that moment, Armani’s family recognized that he had a special ability to drive and that they would do anything to make it happen.

He has continued to demonstrate incomprehensible talent on the track, competing first in go-karts, then bandalero type vehicles, followed by late models, the ARCA Truck Pro Series, and the NASCAR Driver for Diversity Combine. To date, Armani has 18 wins and 2 championships.

With several years of success and perseverance Armani is now at the professional level and continues to develop his skills on and off the track in NASCAR Canada, driving the #28 Race4Autism Dodge for CBRT MotorSports.

Armani’s dream of winning the biggest races in NASCAR in the U.S. is well within his grasp.

Continue on to BlackDoctor.org to read the complete article.

Photo: Team Armani Racing

As she becomes Pasadena PD’s first African American deputy chief, Cheryl Moody adds to a long list of achievements

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Commander Cheryl Moody from the Pasadena Police Department pose with an award she received during black history parade festival. Cheryl is one of the founding members of the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) which started in 2003. Photo by James Carbone

The law enforcement career of Pasadena Police Department Commander Cheryl Moody has been marked by a series of “firsts.” And with each milestone, Moody has been asked to take on more responsibility and higher levels of leadership.

As Pasadena PD prepares for its first major reorganization in decades, Moody is being promoted to acting deputy chief, making the 27-year veteran of the department the first African American woman to hold the position.

When Moody was promoted from lieutenant to commander five years ago, she was Pasadena PD’s first ever African American female commander.

As acting deputy chief, Moody will help spearhead the reorganization.

If all goes well, the “acting” part of the title will disappear and she will hold the title of deputy chief.

“We’re looking forward to her meeting those expectations and getting it done and providing something that we need here … from her perspective and experience,” Police Chief John Perez said. “She is in the position and getting it done. Now that she is deputy chief, we’re looking for more from her.”

Moody is up for the challenge and why shouldn’t she be?

She’s been taking on challenges since being a kid, growing up in Long Beach on what she described as “the rough side of town.”

Even then, Moody said she could see life from the perspective of the police, who were a common site in her neighborhood, and the residents, some who weren’t always making the best choices.

Moody joined the Air Force after getting an ultimatum from her parents – either go to college or join the military.

“So I went into the military,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to college.”

Fast forward a few years and now Moody is a single mother raising two sons.

She was drawn to a career in law enforcement in 1992, when working for the Long Beach Police Department as a fingerprint classifier – a non-sworn position.

“I started watching the officers in the building and reading reports and I said I too can do this job because I want to help people,” Moody said. “I could see how people were being victimized and I’ve seen it growing up in my own experiences. So I wanted to go into law enforcement to make a difference.”

When she was hired by Pasadena PD at age 32, Moody was one of the older cadets going through rigorous police academy.

Just before getting off probation, Moody was assigned to Pasadena PD’s gang unit

“Because I had grown up around gang members, I didn’t have a problem interacting with them,” said Moody was one of two women in the 20-person unit. “They didn’t frighten me. It was just part of the community I grew up in.”

Cocaine use had been running rampant at the time, and Moody worked undercover as both a drug buyer and drug dealer.

She also worked undercover posing as a street walker during prostitution stings.

“It was hard to keep my composure when these guys would say things or try and do things,” Moody said. “It was hard to stay undercover in that capacity.”

Continue on to Behind the Badge to read the complete article.

MLK Day 2020: What to know about the civil rights icon’s legacy

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Martin Luther King JR day sign illustration

As the country observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, the civil rights icon’s daughter is challenging people to continue his fight to achieve what he called “a beloved community.”

While King was just 39 years old when an assassin took his life in Memphis in 1968, his legacy of change through nonviolent protest is as relevant as ever, Dr. Bernice King said at a news conference announcing events to commemorate the holiday.

As she celebrates what would have been her father’s 91st birthday this month, she said the world is in desperate need to follow his example, noting that the United States is in the throes of a gun-violence epidemic, has come to the brink of war with Iran and is enduring a crisis in Washington that has led to the impeachment of the president.

“Considering the current condition of our collective conscious and the pressing need to work toward the ‘beloved community,’ it is fitting that this year’s King holiday observance theme is, ‘King 2020 Vision — The Beloved Community: The Fierce Urgency of Now’,” she announced at the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, standing in front of a blown-up photo of her father and mother, Coretta Scott King.

The theme for the holiday is derived from King’s 1967 book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”

Quoting from her father’s book, Bernice King said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted by the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”

“We don’t want to be too late,” she said.

Bernice King encouraged people to spend the day being of service to their communities and embracing her father’s “teachings in creating a more just, peaceful and humane world.”

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Blood, Sweat, Gloves: Soldier Punches Way to Success

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Mays holds up gloves in a punching manner toward the punching bag

By Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield

Puddles of sweat begin to form as the sound of 50-ounce gloves hitting a punching bag echo throughout the gym. A buzzer goes off. That’s the signal to the drenched-in-sweat Sgt. Larry Mays that the warmup has ended and the real workout is about to begin.

The unit supply NCO with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, used that warmup routine to help earn first place in the Colorado Golden Gloves heavyweight division in April.

“It’s a prestigious tournament that the state of Colorado holds on a yearly basis,” explained Mays. “I’ve been training since October of last year and it’s exciting to see that all my hard work paid off.”

Even though the Lambert, Mississippi, native began his training for the Colorado tournament in October, his journey with the sport started much earlier.

“I started fighting (when) I was in elementary school. I started with (mixed martial arts), taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu,” said Mays. “I kept fighting as a way to stay in shape and relieve stress.”

While training in those combat sports, Mays’ coach recommended he try boxing as a way to help him with his MMA skills.

“I pretty much fell in love with (boxing) after that and never went back to MMA,” he explained. “It’s not an easy sport, but I love that there is always a challenge and something new to learn.”

Although boxing was a big part of his life, Mays said he found himself working odd jobs and bringing little income into his household.

With encouragement from his coaches, friends and Family members, Mays enlisted in the Army in 2012.

“I wanted to get out of Mississippi and I always wanted to join the military, so it was the perfect time to make that change,” said Mays.

He learned to adapt quickly to the military lifestyle.

“To me, my mindset with boxing and my military career are very similar,” he said. “You have to stay disciplined, have a clear and strong mind, and never back down from a fight.”

His ability to stay committed to his passion of boxing and effectively balance his career and Family life began to inspire other Soldiers in his unit.

“I would see him working long hours, helping his Soldiers and then still see him going to the gym after work to train—that’s dedication,” said 1st Lt. Wilbert Paige, platoon leader, HHC, 704th BSB, 2nd IBCT. “He is a great example, not only to the junior Soldiers in the company but to everyone, from top to bottom.”

Paige added that he hopes to see Mays in the “big leagues” in the future.

“He is a great example of what not quitting, putting in hard work and staying dedicated to your goals looks like,” said Paige. “He is the type of person who can do whatever he puts his mind to, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”

With the support of his family and now his unit, Mays said he hopes to continue boxing and to ultimately do it professionally.

“This road of life I am on is kind of falling into place, I have come a long way,” said Mays. “I just want to be the guy who made it from nothing. I want to be the best Soldier, best NCO and best boxer I can be.”

He hopes others see his journey as a way to encourage themselves to follow their dreams, Mays added.

“I want to be an inspiration to not only Soldiers but to everyone,” he said. “You have to look at every day like a fight. Keep pushing even when you might be falling down because you can’t expect good things to happen if you don’t even try.”

Source: army.mil

Photo Credit: Mays STAFF SGT. NEYSA CANFIELD

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