Sidney Keys III, 11, Founds Books N Bros to Help Other Boys Fall in Love with Reading

Sidney Keys III founded Books N Bros, a reading club that emphasizes making reading fun while lifting up works of African American literature and culture. (KELLY MOFFITT | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO)

article by Kelly Moffitt via news.stlpublicradio.org

Six months ago, 11-year-old St. Louisan Sidney Keys III started a reading club for boys his age to band together in their love of books. He calls it Books N Bros, and the club has an emphasis on making reading fun while lifting up African American literature and culture.

“Books N Bros is a book club for boys and we read books and African American literature because every time I go to the library at my school, there aren’t many African American literature books there,” said Keys in an interview on St. Louis on the Air. “I already love to read and since we don’t get that much time to read in school, we just discuss in groups. I wanted to read a book but I also wanted to discuss it with other people.”

Keys’ mom, Winnie Caldwell, said she knew Sidney had always loved to read because he’d often come to her wanting to talk about books.

About six months ago, they went to visit EyeSeeMe, a bookstore in University City focusing on African American children’s literature. While there, Winnie shot a video of Sidney reading in the store and it went viral on Facebook. Some 62,000 people have viewed the video and it has been shared 1,700 times.

Books N Bros card (KELLY MOFFITT | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO)

“He hadn’t seen [a bookstore] like that before and I certainly never had, so he was making himself comfortable on the floor, reading a book,” Caldwell said. “… When you get to a point when he is 11 years old and it was so shocking for him to relate to someone on the cover in a positive aspect rather than it be some negative urban story we see a lot. I would like to make sure he sees himself in being whatever he can be.”

After the video went viral, she and Sidney sat down to think about what he wanted to do next. A book club immediately jumped to mind.

“We specifically reach out to boys around ages 8-10 because that is statistically the age they stop reading — we wanted to combat that,” Caldwell said.

Keys added: “My motivation is I already love to read but it would be awesome, even better, to read with other people. I want to keep doing it because I don’t know what will make me stop reading because I love to read.”

The club meets once a month, discussing one book the club has voted on. While their numbers are still small, the book club has grown each month. Last month, two new members joined bringing the group to 7-10 members each month. The group is welcoming to boys of all backgrounds and races, but the club does focus on stories with African American protagonists.

Keys and Caldwell have also struck a deal with the Microsoft Store at the Galleria, where the book club meets. The boys discuss their books for an hour before each gets 30 minutes to play video games on a personal console at the store. A group called Serving with the Badge also donated 200 books to the book club so boys can take books home with them for their personal collection.

Some of the book club favorites so far have been “Danny Dollar,” “Hidden Figures” and “Supah Dupah Kid.” In February, for Black History Month, the group read “A Song for Harlem: Scraps of Time,” by Patricia McKissack, a St. Louis-based children’s book author.

For now, the book club has plans to stay boys-only, but Caldwell said there’s another book club called Nerdy Girls, which is aimed at girls between ages 6-12 and has over 75 members. Caldwell and Keys plan on partnering with Nerdy Girls in the future.

Caldwell said that if there are boys who are interested in joining the club, which costs $20 per month, they can find more information on the website https://www.booksnbros.com/ or email info@booksnbros.com.

To read full article, go to: Books N Bros’ 11-year-old founder wants to help boys love reading at an age when they often don’t | St. Louis Public Radio

R.I.P Chuck Berry, 90; Musical Legend and Architect of Rock ’n’ Roll

article by Jon Pareles via nytimes.com

Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.

The St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri confirmed his death on its Facebook page. The department said it responded to a medical emergency at a home and Mr. Berry was declared dead after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.

While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.

Chuck Berry (photo via nytimes.com)

His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment. In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Rock n Roll Music” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times.  (The Beach Boys reworked his “Sweet Little Sixteen” into “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Mr. Berry sued them and won a songwriting credit.)

Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis, he grew up in a segregated, middle-class neighborhood there, soaking up gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues, along with some country music.He spent three years in reform school after a spree of car thefts and armed robbery.

He received a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology and worked for a time as a beautician; he married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and started a family. By the early 1950s, he was playing guitar and singing blues, pop standards and an occasional country tune with local combos. Shortly after joining Sir John’s Trio, led by the pianist Johnnie Johnson, he reshaped the group’s music and took it over.

From the Texas guitarist T-Bone Walker, Mr. Berry picked up a technique of bending two strings at once that he would rough up and turn into a rock ’n’ roll talisman, the Chuck Berry lick, which would in turn be emulated by the Rolling Stones and countless others. He also recognized the popularity of country music and added some hillbilly twang to his guitar lines. Mr. Berry’s hybrid music, along with his charisma and showmanship, drew white as well as black listeners to the Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis.

In 1955, Mr. Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, the bluesman Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where one of the owners, Leonard Chess, heard potential in Mr. Berry’s song “Ida Red.”

A variant of an old country song by the same name, “Ida Red” had a 2/4 backbeat with a hillbilly oompah, while Mr. Berry’s lyrics sketched a car chase, the narrator “motorvatin’” after an elusive girl. Mr. Chess renamed the song “Maybellene,” and in a long session on May 21, 1955, Mr. Chess and the bassist Willie Dixon got the band to punch up the rhythm.

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Mr. Chess outlined. “It was a trend and we jumped on it.”

The music was bright and clear, a hard-swinging amalgam of country and blues. More than 60 years later, it still sounds reckless and audacious.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/arts/chuck-berry-dead.html

Ferguson Hires Delrish Moss as Police Chief; Moss Promises more Diversity on Force

In this Aug. 9, 2006 photo, Miami police officer Delrish Moss, helps David Jenkins into the van taking the family to Disney in Miami. (Al Diaz/The Miami Herald via AP)

In this Aug. 9, 2006 photo, Miami police officer Delrish Moss, helps David Jenkins into the van taking the family to Disney in Miami. (Al Diaz/The Miami Herald via AP)

article by Maria Sudekum via thegrio.com

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A veteran Miami police officer with two decades of experience dealing with the media and community leaders will take over as police chief in Ferguson, hoping to help the St. Louis suburb heal as it rebounds after the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.

U.S. Justice Department Sues Ferguson, Mo., to Force Police Reform

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ce Department (Photo via newsweek.com)

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (Photo via newsweek.com)

article by Stephan A. Crockett, Jr. via theroot.com

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice has filed a federal lawsuit against Ferguson, Mo., after the City Council voted Tuesday to change the terms of a deal that would have brought sweeping changes to the city’s embattled Police Department.

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” Lynch said, according to ABC News. “They have waited nearly a year for their Police Department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights. … They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

The Justice Department launched an investigation into the Ferguson Police Department last year after the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Wilson was not charged in the shooting, but the Justice Department investigation found “systemic and systematic racial bias within the force’s policing practices,” ABC reports.

The findings of the investigation were announced last year, and the city of Ferguson and the Justice Department began negotiations that ABC notes lasted 26 weeks, seeking an agreement that would address the Justice Department’s findings.

In January it was announced that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement that was set to include a complete overhaul of basic policing practices, including “how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms and respond to demonstrations,” among other significant changes, the Associated Press reports.

ABC notes that Ferguson leaders, however, had always balked at the tentative agreement, which they estimated would cost the city $3.7 million during the first year alone.

Superintendent Tiffany Anderson Has Figured Out How to Make School Work for Low-Income Kids in Jennings, MO

— School districts don’t usually operate homeless shelters for their students. Nor do they often run food banks or have a system in place to provide whatever clothes kids need. Few offer regular access to pediatricians and mental health counselors, or make washers and dryers available to families desperate to get clean.

But the Jennings School District — serving about 3,000 students in a low-income, predominantly African-American jurisdiction just north of St. Louis — does all of these things and more. When Superintendent Tiffany Anderson arrived here 3 1/2 years ago, she was determined to clear the barriers that so often keep poor kids from learning. And her approach has helped fuel a dramatic turnaround in Jennings, which has long been among the lowest-performing school districts in Missouri.

“Schools can do so much to really impact poverty,” Anderson said. “Some people think if you do all this other stuff, it takes away from focusing on instruction, when really it ensures that you can take kids further academically.”

Public education has long felt like a small and fruitless weapon against this town’s generational poverty. But that’s starting to change. Academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates have improved since Anderson’s arrival, and, this month, state officials announced that as a result of the improvements, Jennings had reached full accreditation for the first time in more than a decade.

Gwen McDile, a homeless 17-year-old in Jennings, missed so much school this fall — nearly one day in three — that it seemed she would be unlikely to graduate in June. But then she was invited to move into Hope House, a shelter the school system recently opened to give students like her a stable place to live.

She arrived a few days after Thanksgiving. The 3,000-square-foot house had a private bedroom for Gwen, who loves writing and poetry; a living room with a plush sofa she could sink into; and — perhaps most importantly — a full pantry.

She’s no longer hungry. She has been making it to class. She believes she will graduate on time.

“I’ve eaten more in the last two weeks than I’ve eaten in the last two years,” Gwen said on a recent afternoon, after arriving home from school and digging into a piece of caramel chocolate. “I’m truly blessed to be in the situation I’m in right now.” Continue reading

Ferguson, U.S. Department of Justice Near Deal to Reform Police Department

US-POLICE-RACISM-UNREST

Nine months after the United States Justice Department released a damning report detailing the racial biased practices of the Ferguson Police Department, the Missouri city and DOJ officials are nearing a reform deal that will likely effect change and overhaul what has been called “unconstitutional” policing.

The report, released earlier this year, was prompted by the death of Michael Brown — a Black Ferguson teenager who was fatally shot by former police officer Darren Wilson. Last November, a grand jury elected not to indict Wilson on criminal charges.

According to the New York Times, the agreement is set to include new training for officers and new-improved record keeping. But the changes won’t come easy or cheap, the Times notes.

Completing the deal, however, will require support from diverse factions of Ferguson’s leadership, which will have to sell residents on the idea of a federal policing monitor and of huge new expenses for a city that is already struggling financially. Some officials said a local tax increase appears unavoidable, which in Missouri requires approval from voters…

The two sides have been negotiating for several months, after a scathing Justice Department report in March described Ferguson as a city where police officers often stop and arrest people without cause, where the court operates as a moneymaking venture, and where officers used excessive force almost exclusively against blacks.

The deal’s anticipated close was confirmed by Mayor James Knowles III, who, in a telephone interview, told the Times the city has made “tremendous progress.”

“We’re at a point where we have addressed any necessary issues, and assuming it is not cost prohibitive, we would like to move forward,” Mr. Knowles said.

“The talks with the city of Ferguson to develop a monitored consent decree have been productive,” Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said in a statement. “The department believes that in order to remedy the Justice Department’s findings, an agreement needs to be reached without delay.”

The agreement would allow the city to avoid a lawsuit from the Justice Department.

article via newsone.com

University of Missouri Taps Michael Middleton as Interim President

University of Missouri Interim President Michael Middleton (photo via

University of Missouri Interim President Michael Middleton (photo via latimes.com)

COLUMBIA, Missouri (AP) — One of the University of Missouri’s first black law school graduates was appointed Thursday to lead the four-campus system through a tumultuous period of racial unrest, drawing praise from students who said he’s well-equipped to confront the problems they felt his predecessor largely ignored.

Michael Middleton, 68, has spent 30 years at the university — as an undergraduate, law student, faculty member and finally, administrator. At a news conference announcing his appointment as the university system’s interim president, he vowed to take on the racial problems that inspired the protests that helped force Monday’s abrupt resignation of President Tim Wolfe and another top administrator.

Middleton takes over as black student groups, calling for change over the administration’s handling of racial issues, were given a boost last weekend when 30 black football players vowed not to take part in team activities until Wolfe was gone.

Middleton said the university “has faced its share of troubling incidents and we recognize that we must move forward as a community. We must embrace these issues as they come, and they will come to define us in the future.”

article by Summer Ballentine and Alan Scher Zagier, AP via thegrio.com

Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Jim Salter in St. Louis and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.