U.S. Army Finally Lifts Ban on Dreadlocks, Black Service Members Rejoice

(photo via atlantablackstar.com)

article by Tanasia Kenney via atlantablackstar.com

After years of being forced to chose between their hair and staying within regulation, African-American servicewomen in the United States Army are praising revised grooming policies that’ll allow them to don dreadlocks. The Army announced plans to lift the ban on locs early last month in a directive that largely focused on grooming policy changes that pertained to religious accommodations, according to The New York Times.

Buried in the memo was text stating that female service members would now be permitted to wear “dreadlocks/locs,” as long as the strands are less than 1/8 inch wide, the scalp grid is uniformed and neat, and, when gathered, all the hair fits into the authorized bun size of 3 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches deep, as stated under Army Regulation 670-1.

The change was happily welcomed by African-American servicewomen, who, in April 2014, were outraged after the Army enacted policies that explicitly prohibited locs, twists, braids and other protective hairstyles common in the African-American community. Many argued that the regulations were confusing, discriminatory and left Black servicewomen with little hairstyle options while in uniform.

To read more, go to: U.S. Army Finally Lifts Ban on Dreadlocks, Black Service Members Rejoice – Atlanta Black Star

Take Nneka, a 27 Year-Old Single Mom and Veteran, Creates Line of Black-Themed School Supplies

Innovative Supplies notebook (photo via xnnovativesupplies.net)

article by Erickka Sy Savane via madamenoire.com

You’ve been thinking about starting a business and every time you come close to doing it your mind hits the brakes. If that’s you, keep reading and you’ll think again about hesitating. Take Nneka, a 27-year-old single mom fresh out of the military for example. She recently launched Innovative Supplies, a line of Black-themed school supplies with notebooks so dope you want to buy 20 for yourself and everyone you know.

Nneka took action and her products sold out. Talk about an entrepreneur’s dream!  According to her website, Nneka is about making a positive change in the community and says that this line is her way to reach out to millennials who seek variety and want to be a part of a bigger cause.

The goals of Innovative Supplies, as stated on the site, are to:

  • Open and deposit profits into an account with black owned Citizens Trust Bank.
  • Donate 40 percent of all profits made from book bag sales to local charities.
  • Provide quality products.
  • Hire local minority youth.
  • Support other small businesses.
  • Use economically sourced materials.
  • Use environmentally friendly packaging.

To read more, go to: This Mom Created A Line Of Black-Themed School Supplies And Everything Sold Out! | MadameNoire

Formerly Homeless Veteran Alicia Watkins Now a Student at Harvard University

U.S. Veteran Alicia WatkinsAlicia Watkins is a retired Air Force staff sergeant who proudly served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She risked her life for the freedom of others, survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, and watched her colleagues die. But it wasn’t any of her combat experiences that broke Watkins’ spirit; it was the fact that she retired from the military and found herself homeless.

In 2010, Watkins’ allowed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to document her life as a homeless veteran. Her “kitchen” was a cardboard box of snacks and microwavable meals. Her bed was a car that she rented for $10 a day. Her restrooms were the toilets at various airport hotels.

Watch a clip from Watkins’ eye-opening video diary.

The 10-year veteran was struggling, but even during her low points, she believed that others were struggling more. At one point, Watkins did have housing, but she gave up her room to a homeless mother and her three kids.

“It might have been different had I not seen the children and the babies. So, I decided to be on the street and put them in the room,” Watkins told Oprah five years ago. “Why wouldn’t I?”

Since that emotional interview, a lot has changed for Watkins, who recently sent an update to “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” In the above video, she shares a surprising truth: Until her ‘Oprah Show’ interview aired, Watkins’ friends and family had no idea she was homeless.

“I had… alienated myself from everyone,” she admits now. “They really were shocked when they found out, and they were also just hurt by the fact that I was suffering.”

After the show, Watkins moved in with a family friend. Though she no longer lives in a car, Watkins says that her many health issues have prevented her from being able to work.

“I have traumatic brain injury, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, I have a spinal cord injury,” she says. “It’s a hard road. I would love to be able to work today. I have offers, I have people that are willing to help me, but they all have to take a backseat to my health. As much as I want to work, I have to acknowledge that I am a casualty of war.”

With a secure roof over her head, Watkins decided to focus on her education and began applying to colleges.

“I wanted to be able to care for wounded warriors, and so I decided to apply to Harvard University,” she says. “In 2012, I was accepted. My college expenses are paid by the G.I. Bill.”

Watkins’ says that her personal life has really turned around as well.

“I recently got engaged, on my birthday of all days,” she says, smiling. “It is amazing.”

“Oprah: Where Are They Now?” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

article via huffingtonpost.com

Pentagon Reverses Course: Black Soldiers won’t be Punished for Popular Hairstyles

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement that “conservative” hairstyles popular among black female soldiers will be acceptable according to military grooming standards, Army Times reports.

Last March, the Department of Defense issued new regulations that many African-American servicemen and women claimed were racially biased, especially against black women, who would be forced to use heat or chemical straighteners to achieve an acceptable hairstyle. A number of black women wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus urging them to put pressure on the Department of Defense to change the regulations — and three months later, that is what Chuck Hagel has done.

In a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus notifying them of the changes, Hagel wrote that “[e]ach service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting military requirements. These reviews were informed by a panel of military personnel of mixed demographics reflective of our diverse force. Additionally, each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements.”

The review concluded that the terms “matted and unkempt” when used in reference to African-American hair were “offensive” and eliminated them from the guidelines. The Air Force also determined that the word “dreadlocks” was offensive, and changed the prohibited hairstyle to “locs” in official grooming literature.

Congressional Black Caucus chair Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) responded to Hagel’s decision to expand the range of acceptable hairstyles for black female soldiers by saying that “[t]hese changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our Armed Forces.”

“Secretary Hagel and the Department of Defense not only show they are responsive to the individuals who serve within our military, but that he and his leadership respect them as well,” she continued. “The Congressional Black Caucus commends Secretary Hagel for his leadership in addressing this issue.”

article by Scott Kaufman via rawstory.com

Military Dad Captain Keith Robinson Surprises Daughter Ruby Robinson at her Columbia University Graduation

In video captured by the university, Captain Keith Robinson tells Ruby “Congratulations, young lady,” before giving her a massive hug.  Ruby smiles widely before bursting into tears.

“To have him here in the flesh means so much to me,” Ruby told Columbia’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs following the ceremony. “I didn’t expect it all. I didn’t think it was possible. I’m so happy about it.”

Robinson told his daughter two weeks earlier he wouldn’t be able to make it. He’s been deployed for the past six months in Afghanistan, according to the school’s post.

Robinson flew 14.5 hours from Kuwait to Washington, D.C., followed by a flight to Denver, before returning to New York for the big day.

“I haven’t had time to stop and think about it myself,” Robinson said. “But when I saw her, it was like … it was all worth it.”

article via thegrio.com

President Obama Awards Medal of Honor to 24 Overlooked Minority Veterans

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President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Melvin Morris, a Vietnam War veteran, during a ceremony in the White House. (JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES)

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama awarded 24 minority U.S. soldiers, who collectively served in three of the nation’s wars and were never rewarded for their courage, with the Medal of Honor, reports the Associated Press.  Only three of the 24 were alive for President Barack Obama to drape the medals and ribbons around their necks; the others were awarded the honor posthumously.

“Today we have the chance to set the record straight,” Obama said. “No nation is perfect, but here in America we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal.”

The three surviving recipients—Vietnam veterans Jose Rodela, Melvin Morris and Santiago Erevia—received a prolonged standing ovation as the stood by the president’s side.

According to AP, Tuesday’s ceremony is the largest since World War II, and issued by Congress in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act issue and conducted under Army review. The law required the Army to go through all of the records of each Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran who received a Distinguished Service Cross during or after World War II to determine if they could be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. From this review some the Army found 6,505 recipients and narrowed that field to an eligible pool of 600 soldiers who may have been Jewish or Hispanic, AP reports.  Of the two-dozen men honored, 18 are Latinos.

At the end of the ceremony, after a brief biography of each recipient had been recited and each medal accepted of behalf of those who had passed away, the president thanked their families for their service.  “We are so grateful to them. We are so grateful to their families. It makes us proud and it makes us inspired,” he said.

Read more at the Associated Press.

article by Stephen A. Crockett Jr. via theroot.com