DMG Foods, which is named after the organization’s promise of “doing the most good,” opened in northeast Baltimore with the goal of providing local residents with nutritious, low-cost food as well as nutrition guidance, meal planning and job training. “If this works, Baltimore wants us to open two or three more stores,” Maj. Gene A. Hogg, the Salvation Army’s Central Maryland area commander, told HuffPost on Monday.
The store, which has an on-site butcher and deli, as well as prepared meals and salads by Maryland’s Food Bank, is in a former Salvation Army warehouse that was renovated to offer what Hogg described as “that upper-end grocery store experience” at affordable prices. Inside, it’s bright and spacious, he said, and it features food samplings, recipe ideas, cooking demonstrations and visits by guest chefs and city health department nutritionists.
Because it’s across the street from an elementary school, it also allows parents to pick up or drop off their children and shop for their family’s meals in the same trip, Hogg said. Previously, he said, people would have to travel more than a quarter of a mile to find a grocery store or market, which fits within the city’s definition of a food desert. The definition also includes more than 30% of the surrounding households having no vehicle access and the medium household income at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. “The idea is to strengthen the family table,” he said. “We want to do more than just sell groceries.”
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh attended the store’s opening ceremony to cut the ribbon. She encouraged the Salvation Army’s efforts. “This serves as a beacon for the rest of this community. If we can do this here, we can do this in other parts of the city,” she said, according to local station WJZ.
In addition to providing fresh food, the store will also offer a workforce development program that will help train prospective employees. It will also have special offers and discounts for those who are part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. Any money that is made from the operation will be donated to Catherine’s Cottage, a local facility run by the Salvation Army that offers support to human trafficking survivors, Hogg said. “What we’re trying to do is create an environment where the community feels welcome and where they’re engaging for the betterment of their community,” Hogg said.
The Baltimore store is considered the Salvation Army’s test site. It hopes to open more stores around the country if this one succeeds and there is eagerness among outside communities to get involved. Thus far, Hogg said, he’s received calls from around the world inquiring about their efforts.
“We think that we’re going to be successful, but you can’t make any judgment calls after four days of work.”
When a customer opens the well-worn door to Eric Muhammad‘s barbershop in Inglewood, he’ll be looking to relax in the comfort and camaraderie of a neighborhood meeting place and maybe to take a little off the top or sides. If that visitor is among the close to 40% of African American men with high blood pressure, he might also get a little taken off the top of that vital health reading.
New research suggests that shops like Muhammad’s A New You Barber and Beauty Salon might be just the place to rescue African American men from an epidemic that has ravaged their ranks: uncontrolled hypertension.
The study found that when a group of African American men with untreated high blood pressure got a screening and a friendly nudge from their barber, as well as a visit to the shop from a pharmacist, close to two-thirds of the men brought their blood pressure into a healthy range. Their systolic blood pressure — the top-line number that measures the pressure in your vessels when the heart beats — fell by an average of 27 points. In addition, their diastolic blood pressure — the bottom number that measures pressure on the vessels’ walls between heart beats — fell by an average of nearly 15 points.
The 132 men who got a barbershop visit from a pharmacist were almost six times more likely to bring their blood pressure under control than were those who just got a barber’s advice to eat better, exercise more and see a doctor. Fewer than 12% of the 171 men in the latter group brought their blood pressure under control. (Their average reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were too small to be considered statistically significant.)
The clinical trial was conducted from February 2015 to July 2017 in 52 black-owned barber shops across Los Angeles County. Two pharmacists specially trained to treat high blood pressure shuttled across a 450-square-mile area bringing advice and an array of medications to the study’s participants. “Bringing rigorous medicine directly to men in a barbershop, and making it so convenient for them, really made a difference,” said Dr. Ronald G. Victor, who led the new study.
“We had hoped for maybe a seven-point difference” between the two groups in their systolic blood pressure, the one that is considered a better predictor of heart attack and stroke risk, Victor said. “But this was a really big difference” — the kind that “could make an impact on a national level” if the initiative were scaled up, he said. “We were really ecstatic.”
The trial results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented Monday at the American College of Cardiology‘s annual meeting. Victor said that the inclusion of two pharmacists — a white woman and a woman of color, each of whom turned in similar results — was the “secret special sauce” that appeared to bring participants’ blood pressure in check. But skilled as these pharmacists were, Victor said they might not have gained the trust and influence they eventually enjoyed if they had not been welcomed into barbershops and introduced by their trusted proprietors.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much the barbers’ buy-in made all the difference,” said Victor, the associate director of Cedars-Sinai’s Smidt Heart Institute. The African American shop owners who participated in the study had been in business an average of 17 to 18 years, and the men they enrolled had typically been coming to their shops for more than a decade, typically once every two weeks.
Muhammad was among the first to sign on to the study. The proprietor of his shop for 18 years, Muhammad helped recruit nearly half of the other barbers who participated in the trial. At the busy corner of La Brea and Florence avenues, Muhammad presides over a “refuge” whose door is open “whether you’re a doctor or a gang member.” For a lot of people, he said, “just being here is a blessing.” Muhammad said he has always considered himself a potential agent of health promotion. But “it certainly surprised me for a doctor to come up with that idea,” he said.
Victor said that his own hypertension had been diagnosed by a barber during a training session for an earlier version of this study in Texas. When Victor protested that he must have been momentarily tense while getting tested, the barber gently admonished him. “If you can’t relax in my barber chair, Doc, you’ve got a problem,” the stylist told him. “Now if you’re gonna talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.”
Close to 40% of African American men have high blood pressure, a higher rate than any other ethnic group. And about one-third of those men — compared with 43% of white men and almost 50% of black women — have brought their hypertension under control with medication. This exacts a breathtaking toll among African American men in terms of death and disability. Their high rates of heart attack and stroke largely explain the 3.4-year difference in the life expectancy between blacks and whites in the United States.
Victor was optimistic that barbershops could help close that gap. “These are magical places,” he said. “They’re a window into some of the most positive aspects of black men’s social lives: loyalty, friendship, inclusiveness. There are dads bringing their sons in, customers who have come to the same place since they were children. These men were not in the clinic, that’s for sure.”
In African American communities, “we can map the places of black barbers right there alongside black ministers” as agents of trust and authority, said Vassar College history professor Quincy T. Mills.
Prospective patients might ordinarily view physicians and pharmacists with a suspicion borne of years of systemic abuses, Mills said. But in the familiar environment of their barbershop, “I suspect the men were comforted that these interactions were happening in a crowd of people, giving them space to ask others, to push back.”
Mills, the author of “Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America,” said that a man’s health is not a subject that routinely comes up while he is in the chair. But a barber’s position of leadership, his association with personal care and the connections he forges over time with his customers may allow him to stretch the bounds of what is permissible.
“That level of trust in the barber is the first critical piece here,” he said.
A jury awarded Ellen Harris, a nurse in Honolulu, Hawaii, over $3.8 million in damages after she claimed her employer ignored her reports of racial harassment, according to a press release from Harris’ lawyer.
Harris, who is black, worked in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at The Queen’s Medical Center from 2006 to 2011. During her time there, she reported a “potentially fatal event” involving another nurse who was allegedly harassing her.
When she told officials about the incident, her supervisor told her to write a statement; which she did. The day after she turned in her statement, she found a note in her work mailbox that read “LAZY *SS N*GGER B*TCH.”
Harris made another report and mentioned that the nurse who was harassing her was also acting “erratic,” and may have been under the influence. That nurse later resigned after the supervisor discovered she had been stealing “tremendous” amounts of fentanyl, a highly addictive narcotic. Harris’ supervisor and the hospital’s human resources director investigated the matter, and concluded that the note wasn’t threatening, but rather “a comment on Harris’ work ethic and communication skills.”
It took seven weeks for the investigators to interview two parties related to the note, and on Christmas Eve 2011, the night after the second person was interviewed, Harris found a picture of a noose taped to her locker. The incident was reported to Honolulu Police and investigated as terror threat.
Harris, who worked the night shift, requested a security escort to her car, additional security in the MICU, the results of any investigations and an apology. The HR department denied her security escort because the incidents didn’t occur in the parking lot.
She filed a lawsuit in 2013. Five years later, after a five week trial, Harris got her day in court. The jury declared that Harris was entitled to $630,000 in general damages and $3.2 million in punitive damages. Harris was happy with the decision and expressed that her safety, along with that of her patients, was important to her.
“I am so grateful to this jury for hearing my case and understood this is wrong. No one should be degraded or threatened like this,” Harris said. “I was only trying to make sure my patients were safe and received critical care they needed. After I found the noose on my locker, I did not think my patients or I were safe. Nurses depended on each other in the MICU. I was afraid something would happen to one of my patients or me after receiving this threat of violence.”
According to Allure, Target has partnered with the Black-owned beauty brand, The Lip Bar, and will launch their line of vegan and cruelty-free products this spring. Melissa Butler, a former Wall Street financial analyst, is the founder of the brand after spending years frustrated and dissatisfied with the lack of representation for black women in the beauty industry.
Butler states, “Everyone deserves to have representation. Without it, we are left seeking validation.”
Butler also states in the initial stages of her building her brand, The Lip Bar, she pitched it to Shark Tank. The sharks decided to pass on what is now a business she says is worth nearly half a million dollars.
The 30-year old Detroit native’s brand has skyrocketed since starting The Lip Bar in 2012 out of her own kitchen in Brooklyn, NY. Fast forward to 2018 and the entire line is already available in 44 Target stores and will be available in 100 more stores this May.
Target launched the line with two exclusive shades: Unimpressed, a liquid matte lip color, and Baddie, a lip gloss. Lipstick lovers can also choose from The Lip Bar’s Cream Lipstick ($12), which is full of moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil and vitamin E or the Liquid Matte Collection ($13) with almond oil to keep your pucker moist.
Finally, there’s the line of lip glosses ($14) which are organic, nourishing and provide a slight glaze for a touch of glamour.
Butler pledges: “Everything we do at The Lip Bar is about empowering women to be their best selves. We give representation to the underserved so that every girl has the privilege of being socially accepted as beautiful. And in in my free time, I mentor young women in the inner city of Detroit (my hometown) to show them that they are better than their surroundings and to prove that they don’t have to be a product of their environment.”
CMS said, however, that these figures are not final because they do not include those who signed up after midnight Friday, Eastern Time. These numbers also do not account for people who were in line to enroll and left their callback number.
The number of people who enrolled in the plans sold on Healthcare.gov, the federal marketplace that serves 39 states, was just about 400,000 fewer than the number that signed up during the prior enrollment season.
Exchange open enrollment for 2018 coverage ended w/ approx 8.8M people enrolling in coverage. Great job to the @CMSGov team for the work you did to make this the smoothest experience for consumers to date. We take pride in providing great customer service.
Lori Lodes, co-founder of the Get America Covered campaign, said these enrollment numbers are “huge.” She said the sign-up totals from the final week of enrollment were “likely the biggest in the history of the marketplaces.” Lodes, who served as a top health care official in the Obama administration, said these figures are an “incredible indicator of just how much people want quality, affordable coverage.”
“No wonder the administration scuttled their plans to release the enrollment numbers yesterday. Despite [President Donald] Trump declaring Obamacare dead just yesterday and all of his administration’s efforts to undermine enrollment this year, we saw record demand and enrollments,” she said.
Larry Levitt, senior vice president of special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, tweeted that he was “very surprised” that enrollment was only down slightly year over year. “That didn’t seem possible with a 90% reduction in outreach, an enrollment period cut in half, and a constant refrain that the program is dead,” Levitt said on Twitter.
There is now a chance that the final enrollment tally for all of the United States could match or exceed the 12.2 million people who signed up throughout the country in the last sign-up period.
Nine state-run Obamacare marketplaces are still selling individual health plans that take effect in 2018. Officials at a number of those exchanges have reported higher enrollment this season than last season. Washington state’s Obamacare marketplace said enrollment so far this year is 35 percent higher than the same time period last year. California’s exchange, the nation’s largest state-run marketplace, said sign-ups are 10 percent higher.
On the heels of launching the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the largest preservation campaign ever undertaken on behalf of African-American history, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a preservation easement on Madam C.J. Walker’s estate, Villa Lewaro. A powerful preservation tool, the easement prevents current and future owners from making adverse changes to or demolishing the estate’s historic, cultural and architectural features.
Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867–May 25, 1919), America’s first self-made female millionaire, commissioned Villa Lewaro, her “Dream of Dreams,” at the height of her wealth and prominence as inventor and entrepreneur of haircare products for African-American women. Constructed in 1918, alongside the Hudson River in Irvington, New York, Madam Walker’s elegant residence was built to inspire African-Americans to reach their highest potential.
Designed by Vertner Tandy—the first African-American registered architect in the state of New York and one of the seven founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.—the 34-room mansion served as the intellectual gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.
“On the 150th anniversary of her birth, we are delighted to have played a lead role in the lasting protection of Madam C.J. Walker’s tangible legacy,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust’s African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “The legal protection of irreplaceable historic sites like Villa Lewaro, one of the most significant places in women’s history, is essential in telling the full American story and inspiring future generations.”
Since designating the site as a National Treasure in 2014, the National Trust has worked with Villa Lewaro’s current owners and exceptional stewards, Ambassador and Mrs. Harold E. Doley, Jr., to recognize its architectural and historical significance and secure long-term protections before the property changes hands. The easement marks a successful culmination of those efforts.
Villa Lewaro stands as a living monument to Madam Walker’s entrepreneurial spirit and remains central to understanding her unprecedented achievement during an era when neither women nor African Americans were considered full citizens. Soon to be portrayed by award-winning actress Octavia Spencer in a series produced by LeBron James, Madam Walker’s story of persistence continues to inspire a growing number of African-American women taking leadership roles in business, politics, philanthropy, and other industries.
Kyira “Kira” Dixon Johnson and her husband Charles seemed to have it all: a healthy baby boy, flourishing entrepreneurial careers, and vibrant health. Which is why no one could have predicted that 24 hours after welcoming their second son into the world, Kyira would be dead.
The Johnsons represent an alarming reality that’s only recently gained attention in the national media: African-American women are dying in childbirth at 3-4 times the rate of their white counterparts. When I first read the statistics, I was stunned. “This isn’t the 19th century!” Yet facts prove otherwise.
For a recent Essence article, Meaghan Winter wrote:
“In some rural counties and dense cities alike, the racial disparity in maternal deaths is jaw-dropping: Chickasaw County, Mississippi, for instance, has a maternal death rate for women of color that’s higher than Rwanda’s. In New York City, Black women are 12 times more likely than White women to die of pregnancy-related causes—and the disparity has more than doubled in recent years.”
While experts agree that the causes are multi-faceted, and include factors such as diet, poor pre- and post-natal care, existing high-risk conditions (like hypertension and diabetes) and lack of access to properly trained medical staff, by far the most troubling thing I heard was this comment from Darline Turner, an Austin-based physician’s assistant and certified doula:
“This goes across socio-economic status. Even a high achieving Ph.D. – who is a six to seven figure earner – still has worse birth outcomes than a white woman without a high school education who is smoking,” she said during a phone interview.
“How is this possible?” I wondered.
Darline explained that the “issue no one wants to talk about” is the experience of chronic mental, physical and emotional stress experienced by black women living in modern America, and its negative impact on birth outcomes. (For more thoughts on this topic from Darline Turner, click here.)
Disturbed by the seeming nonchalance at what should be declared a national health emergency, she began the Healing Hands Doula project, a grassroots effort aimed at supporting healthy pregnancies and births for women of color in Texas.
Her belief that “we’ve got to return to community” is borne out by scientific studies from a variety of fields. “We know that loneliness is a major factor in disease.” According to her, a mom who isn’t connected to a strong and vital community offering robust emotional and medical support is more susceptible to complications.
The kind of purpose-driven work that birth professionals like Turner and Joseph are doing on behalf of women of color falls into the category of purposeful contribution. Over the past few years, research has shown that when you answer the “call” to do good for others, you actually strengthen your immune system.
Angela Means made it in entertainment. She walked runways for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Betsey Johnson, did stand-up and opened for Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx and Sinbad, and appeared in the Nickelodeon show Cousin Skeeter and the movie Friday. (She’s Felicia.)
If you already think she sounds like a Renaissance woman just from that, check this out: She’s currently unleashing her creativity at the King’s Donuts on Crenshaw Boulevard in the Jefferson Park area of Los Angeles. Means is using the kitchen there to operate a plant-based restaurant called Jackfruit Cafe.
“All I can say is that the spirit led me. And now I have a vegan cafe in the ’hood.” That’s the short version. The longer version involves a lifetime love of cooking, a football-playing son (soon-to-be pro athletes eat so much food) and a family tragedy that jump-started Means’ interested in health.
Although she always loved to cook and enjoyed plant-based cuisine — she was vegetarian as a kid, and is now vegan — she’d never considered combining these two passions professionally until several years ago. She had stopped pursuing acting roles when her son was born so she could focus on raising him; when he got older, she started experimenting with cooking gigs. With no prior professional experience, she got hired as a personal chef and then moved on to preparing her own line of raw puddings and desserts. She started selling them at RAWkin Juice in Burbank, where she’s now a shareholder.
Last year, Means stumbled upon King’s Donuts. The space wasn’t even for rent, but she felt like it was meant to be hers. Her instincts panned out, and she opened Jackfruit Cafe on Sept. 1.
Means reports a pretty warm reception right off the bat. “People were like, ‘Oh my God, thank you. Where have you been?’” she says. “People are waking up now, watching films like What the Health. A lot of younger people are getting their older relatives to come in.”
Means describes her cuisine as soul food, and it has global influences. The Thai green curry jackfruit is rich with coconut milk and garlic and galangal. There are Jamaican jerk flavors and plays on Korean barbecue. If you’ve never had jackfruit, know that, despite the name, it doesn’t have to be sweet. When canned and brined, it’s perfect for savory dishes and shreds very much like pulled pork or crab. (There’s a cornmeal-crusted vegan fish cake on the menu that is a standout. It comes with a side of tartar sauce — vegan, of course.) You can get the jackfruit in tacos, slathered in hot sauce and slaw, or with rice and beans and collards. Prices hover around $9 for most plates.
When asked how she came up with the jackfruit concept, Means says, like so many other adventures in her life, it came to her. Now 54, she often works 13- to 14-hour days, seven days a week. (Her schedule happily fits around that of the doughnut maker, who comes in for the night just as she’s closing up.) Jackfruit Cafe is currently a one-woman show, but Means plans to bringing on prep help after the new year.
She says she couldn’t be happier. “I leave here and I can’t wait to get back. I love what I’m doing.”
2959 Crenshaw Blvd., Jefferson Park, Los Angeles, CA; (818) 694-3050, jackfruitcafe.com.
Cornelius Adewale, a doctoral student in the School of the Environment at Washington State University, has been selected to received the Bullitt Environmental Prize from the Bullitt Foundation. The prize, which comes with a $100,000 grant for continued research, is awarded to individuals who have “extraordinary potential to come powerful and effective leaders in the environmental movement.”
A native of Nigeria, Adewale’s research focuses on improving the environmental impact of agriculture. He hopes to develop methods to reduce chemical fertilizers but produce more food.
“Without food in their bellies, people have no time for anything else,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. “Cornelius is working at the leading edge of research to find ways to produce more food, even as we fight climate change and dramatically reduce the use of pesticides.”
“I am trying to change the way we farm,” said Adewale.
Viola Davis has never been afraid to speak out for what’s right — from issues like sexual assault to the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry, and beyond. Now Davis is using her star power to focus on another worthy cause: childhood hunger.
As the Ambassador for the Hunger Is campaign, “The How to Get Away With Murder” star has spearheaded a campaign that has raised more than $20 million since 2014 to help provide meals to children all over the country who normally do not have enough to eat.
“The continued success of this program is not only exciting but it’s a sign of the strength our communities possess to bring about positive change,” Davis said in a press release. “Too many children go without breakfast in this country, and it’s all of our duty to work toward fixing that problem.”
A huge number of American children struggle with hunger every day. In fact, 1 out of every 6 children in America live in a household without consistent access to adequate food and 3 out of 4 K-8 teachers say they regularly see students come to school hungry, according to the Hunger Is campaign.
1 OUT OF EVERY 6 CHILDREN IN AMERICA LIVE IN A HOUSEHOLD WITHOUT CONSISTENT ACCESS TO ADEQUATE FOOD
Providing these hungry kids with even just a daily breakfast can make a huge difference. For example, students who regularly start the day with a healthy breakfast have an average 17.5% increase in standardized math scores, according to Hunger Is.