Thursday, May 31, 2007

A New Workout Plan

The National Center for Health Statistics has recently released figures that show 50% of all African American women are obese. In response to these statistics, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and its foundation are spearheading the 2007 Black Health Empowerment Project Tour, which aims to increase awareness of the detrimental effects of obesity, and encourage healthy living and eating.

CBC chair Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) states: "This event gives families an opportunity to learn about important health issues, speak with experts and explore available resources. It also empowers them to make informed choices that will affect them for a lifetime."

The tour begins in Detroit on June 16, 2007 and travels to Atlanta, Cleveland, Virgin Islands, Dallas and New Orleans.

Best of all, it's free and a fun family activity!


Another tour coming to a city near you is the 50 Million Pound Challenge. The challenge is a national effort spearheaded by Dr. Ian Smith, a physician, journalist and author (pictured on left-you may recognize him from Vh1's Celebrity Fit Club). The challenge is aimed at taking control of our lives and good health by getting fit and losing weight.

The website states that the number one health challenge facing African Americans is being overweight (80% of adult women and 67% of adult men). Equally worrisome is that 20% of African-American teenagers between the ages 12-19 are overweight, and this number appears to be rising.

Being overweight, which can lead to obesity, affects life expectancy, and can cause diabetes, high blood pressure and even cancer.

Numerous celebrities have joined this effort, including Patti LaBelle, Steve Harvey, Omarion, Biz Markie and other African American leaders.

Visit the website to get tools, tips, a personal weight tracker and to find out where you can pick up your own Challenge kit from your local State Farm Insurance office, the sponsor for this initiative. Upcoming tour cities are Memphis, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta and St. Louis.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

::Event: Tiger Woods 10th Annual Tiger Jam::

Tiger Woods held his 10th annual Tiger Jam, a fundraiser for his Tiger Woods Foundation. The event, sponsored by AT&T, was held at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday. Music was provided by Bon Jovi and American Idol contestant, Chris Daughtry.

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Babyface, Chris Tucker & Gabrielle Union

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Jon Bon Jovi and Tiger
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Alonzo Mourning
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Jimmy Jam with Tiger
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MC Hammer with Jimmy Jam

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Monday, May 28, 2007

"Cool-Pose Culture"

In today's Washington Post, an interesting read titled Black Culture Beyond Hip Hop, emphasizes that black culture is in trouble because it is seen as synonymous with hip hop culture.

Some quotes from the article:

"...hip-hop culture is not black culture, it's black street culture. Despite 40 years of progress since the civil rights movement, in the hip-hop era -- from the late 1970s onward -- black America, uniquely, began receiving its values, aesthetic sensibility and self-image almost entirely from the street up."

"Sociologists have a term for this pathological facet of black life. It's called "cool-pose culture." Whatever the nomenclature, "cool pose" or keeping it real or something else entirely, this peculiar aspect of the contemporary black experience -- the inverted-pyramid hierarchy of values stemming from the glorification of lower-class reality in the hip-hop era -- has quietly taken the place of white racism as the most formidable obstacle to success and equality in the black middle classes."

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I think of hip hop culture, two things that come to my mind are bling and conspicuous consumption (among other things):

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Just thought I'd give you a visual.

Read the article here.

In another Washington Post article, A Parent in Prison, a Void at Home, efforts are being made by a Chicago coalition to provide family programs and support services within the prison system.

The article features the story of Shaun Carr, who was once jailed himself, raising his two daughters while his wife is in prison. Carr is forming a support group for men with incarcerated spouses.

The article sites that in the Chicago area, where there are an estimated 90,000 children of the imprisoned and paroled, a fledgling coalition of community groups and state politicians is developing strategies to create better lines of communication between children and their jailed parents, and to diminish the severe shortage of help.

I would concur that providing supportive services for families in the prison system is important for two reasons: 1) Blacks make up 43.9 percent of the state and federal prison populations but only 12.3 percent of the U.S. population; and 2) children of prisoners are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.

Read the article here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Used to Love HER

I met this girl, when I was ten years old
And what I loved most she had so much soul
She was old school, when I was just a shorty
Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me... I see her in commercials, she's universal
She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle
Now she be in the burbs lickin rock and dressin hip
And on some dumb sh*t...

Excerpt of lyrics from I Used to Love HER by hip hop artist and actor, Common.

This is one of my fave hip hop songs of all time. Common wrote this song in 1994, and it very well reflects the state of hip hop today. Common used the metaphor HER, not referring to a woman, but to hip hop. The lyrics of the song talk about Common's early love and experiences with hip hop and how it has changed throughout the years.

But hey, you gotta love hip hop for all of its bling and conspicuous consumption. Just kidding.

The Don Imus controversy has caused the African American community to examine our language used in hip hop. Russell Simmons called for a ban of the n-word in the broadcast industry, and so far, two rappers have come forward--Chamillionaire(at left) and Master P.

Chamillionaire, a Houston rapper best known for his #1 hit Ridin' Dirty (which is another one of my fave hip hop songs), says “on my new album I don’t say the word n***a, I don’t curse nowhere on my whole album.” He told, “I don’t get caught up in the actual this word is bad because with everything you take away there’s gonna be something there to replace it...everybody needs to focus their direction on these younger kids that are looking at them. If we help raise them right this is gonna be the new generation and this new generation is gonna be more like me maybe and just don’t curse or brag about being a gangster."

No Limit Records CEO and founder Percy "Master P" Miller (on right with son Lil' Romeo), has announced that he will launch a profanity-free record label, Take A Stand Records, with his son. "Personally, I have profited millions of dollars through explicit rap lyrics," Miller told in a statement. "I can honestly say that I was once part of the problem and now it's time to be part of the solution. I am ready to take a stand by cleaning up my music and follow my son's footsteps and make a clean rap album."

"Take A Stand Records is about arming our communities with knowledge and putting money and real estate back into our communities. I am collaborating with the NAACP to do my part," said Miller, who commended fellow rap tycoon Russell Simmons on his efforts to clean up rap. Proceeds from album sales will go to scholarship funds for underprivileged youth.

In 1989, the record Self Destruction was released with big name 80's hip hop artists: Heavy D, MC Lyte, KRS-One, Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Doe and others. The song spoke about the societal ills facing the black community, specifically black on black violence. It is still a fave song of mine.

I think its time for Self Destruction Pt. II -- 2007 style that can address today's societal ills: the 50% high school dropout rate, the AIDS epidemic, poverty, Katrina...... and I know just the person to produce it -- where you at Kanye?!?

Self Destruction Video:


Monday, May 21, 2007

Dr. Oprah Receives Humanitarian Award

On May 20th,Oprah Winfrey was honored in New York by the Elie Wiesel Foundation with their Humanitarian Award. The award honors individuals who dedicate their time to fighting indifference, intolerance and injustice and whose accomplishments are consistent with the goals of the Foundation. Past recipients include First Lady Laura Bush in 2002 and Senator Hilary Clinton in 1994.

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Oprah with Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel and his wife, Marion, established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity soon after he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace. The Foundation's mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality. Source:

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Oprah, Elie Wiesel and wife

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Friday, May 18, 2007

The $14.98 Shoe

New York Knicks NBA player Stephon Marbury will appear on theOprah show today to feature his tennis shoe line, the Starbury.

The show, titled "Fab Without A Fortune", features ways to look great without spending a lot of money. What's so special about the Starbury sneaker? It retails for $14.98.

Now I'm sure you may have heard tragic stories about youth being robbed or killed over a pair of shoes. Not only is the price tag affordable (especially for lower income families), but it just might deter these senseless acts of violence.

"You see kids that don't know any better," Stephon says. "They know that the shoes cost [a certain] amount, and it's like, Okay, well, I'm going to take his sneakers and I'm going to sell them."

Stephon remembers as a youth, his family couldn't afford expensive sneakers. He tells Oprah, "My mother always said, that's grocery money. So for me, allowing kids now to be able to go to the store and spend their money on sneakers and to be able to buy it themselves, it's a movement. We've created something that everyone across the world is benefiting from."

However, Lebron James, another NBA player who has a 90 million dollar endorsement with Nike, took a cheap shot at Marbury recently saying he couldn't imagine endorsing a product that cheap and will never have a discount line. "Me being with Nike, we hold our standards high."
Whatever LeBron.

When Marbury heard about LeBron's remarks, he said "I'd rather own than be owned".
Good comeback.

On the Starbury website, there are many comments from people that are excited and thankful that Stephon has launched this venture. On the show he says:

"One lady, I felt her soul when she hugged me. She hugged me so tight, and she was like, 'You just don't know what you've done for my family, for me, for people across the world, and for me to be able to sit here and buy a pair of sneakers, it makes me feel great to be able to spend my money.'"
Source 1:
Source 2

Thursday, May 17, 2007

10 Years...Little Progress

In an article in the Washington Post, a recent report issued by a Maryland statewide task force paints a dim picture of how African American males are performing in its public school and university systems.

The report cites troubling statistics:
Of the 32,000 African American boys in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades eligible to take an Advanced Placement exam in 2005, the report says, only 1,229 did so. The report also notes that in 2004-05, six of every 10 suspensions involved a black student.

The recommendations the report offers are strengthening mentor programs, encouraging more black men to be teachers and providing more academic support for those who need it.

This issue was studied ten years ago by a similar task group then chaired Del. Elijah E. Cummings (D), who is black, that offered recommendations for change, but little progress has been made since then.

The report notes:

"We acknowledge that at every level, there's been a fundamental failure on behalf of our African-American male students and a persistent bias against them. These recommendations are intended to rectify both."

Two controversial recommendations from the report are to place troubled students at black-majority high schools into single-sex classes and to encourage nonviolent offenders to be mentors to students.

The report says:
"For historically disadvantaged students, single-sex classes have shown a consistently positive effect on academic outcomes," the report says. "In classes where gender and racial differences are suppressed -- rather than served -- it's almost always the African-American male who loses out."

On the recommendation to encourage ex-offenders convicted of nonviolent felonies to serve as mentors, the report says: "Maybe it's counterintuitive to put children and ex-offenders together. And maybe it's exactly what each one needs. Life's lessons aren't always learned from those who lived it flawlessly."

A plan is expected to be outlined this June for implementing the recommendations.

One task member says, "I don't want this to be another report that winds up on the shelf."

Me either.


Monday, May 14, 2007

The Giving Back 30

The Giving Back 30 is a ranking of celebrities who have made the largest personal public contributions in 2006. The list, compiled by the Giving Back Fund, is an organization that seeks to cultivate and nurture a new group of philanthropists within the sports and entertainment communities and aims to help establish role models who will inspire others to give back.

Doctor Oprah Winfrey (she received an honorary doctorate in humanities from Howard University at their commencement ceremony this past weekend) tops the list at $58,300,000, donating to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, Oprah's Angel Network and other groups.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Mark Pollick, the President and Founder of the Giving Back Fund, says that “encouragement-by-example is the main reason for the Giving Back 30 list...this is the type of growth we are hoping to inspire within the sports and entertainment communities. One cannot help but be influenced by the generosity of his or her peers.”

Of the 30 on the list, six are African American/African American descent. In addition to Oprah Winfrey, they are:

#5 Tiger Woods, $9,500,000
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Tiger Woods Learning Center, Earl D. Woods, Sr. Scholarship Fund and other Tiger Woods Foundation programs

#8 Carmelo Anthony, NBA player, $4,282,000
CAF Youth Center in Baltimore, AAU Basketball , Syracuse University Recreational Center and other charities

#13 Dwayne "The Rock" and Dany Garcia Johnson, $2,000,000
University of Miami to name new Alumni Center living room

#20 Tiki and Ronde Barber and Family, $1,000,000
University of Virginia to support the McIntire School of Commerce, the Virginia Athletics Foundation, Children’s Hospital, a scholarship fund for African-American
students and the Young Alumni Council, and to challenge young alumni to participate in the capital campaign

#26 Denzel Washington, $1,000,000
Save Africa's Children


Friday, May 11, 2007

Raising Kanye - Happy Mother's Day!

I'd like to wish all the mothers, grandmothers, mother figures and mothers-to-be Happy Mothers Day this Sunday!

This post highlights hip hop superstar/music producer/Grammy award winner Kanye West and his mother, Dr. Donda West, who will release the book Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip Hop Superstar on Mother's Day.

Dr. West, a former English professor, raised Kanye as a single mom in Chicago. She previously served as the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University and is now the Chief Executive Officer of Super Good, a company of Kanye West enterprises. The book, written with Karen Hunter, features never before seen photos and personal stories she shares about raising her son. She recently gave an interview to about why she wrote the book:

"I wrote the book because a lot of people had urged me to write something single mothers would want to read. There are sides of Kanye that not too many people know about. Kanye has a persona and a person. In the book, I talk a lot about the person Kanye West. His story is bigger than mine. I came to believe that maybe there is something that I did as a parent that might be interesting enough for another parent to consider".
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I personally think this book is a must read, especially if you're a parent. I mean, with all of the recent dire statistics on black men--and Kanye being a black man--you would have to consider that statistically:

1. Kanye had a 41% chance of special education placement in school;
2. Kanye had a 50% chance of dropping out of high school; and
3. Kanye had a 1 in 3 chance of being in prison, on probation or parole

And yet despite the barriers facing her as a single mother raising a black boy, Kanye beats the odds and turns his passions into his dreams.

Dr. West also mentions Kanye's early desires to give back to the community:

"Before College Dropout (his first album)even dropped, Kanye looked at me and said, “Mom, when are we going to give back?” That’s when the foundation was born, the Kanye West Foundation, and the program we have now Loop Dreams that we’re putting in the boys and girls club. That made me feel good, because I instilled in him a person that wanted to give back and was concerned with how he could help someone else. That was one of my very proudest moments".

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Dr. West and Kanye at a booksigning at Borders bookstore in Los Angeles.

A great Mother's Day gift!

Read the entire interview with Dr. West and here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"I Almost Got Lost Too"

A quote from a recent high school graduate in Rhode Island, who is black, upon hearing about her school district's 54% graduation rate.

America's Silent Epidemic
On Wednesday in Washington, First Lady Laura Bush and national education leaders unveiled a new online database that will provide an accurate picture of the actual graduation rate in communities across the country. It appears that many school systems in the nation have been using a flawed method (bad math) of determining graduation rates. They estimate the graduation rate based on the number of known students to have dropped out--and few public high schools track every student who drops out. Let me give you an example:

In Prince George's County, Maryland, (considered the wealthiest African American county in the nation), the school system reported a 90 percent graduation rate for 2003. The new database shows a graduation rate of 67 percent for that system. More than half of the dropouts, it shows, never make it to the 10th grade.

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Why is this news important to the African American community? Education Secretary Margaret Spellings states that half of the nations dropouts come from a small group of largely urban "dropout factories" (high schools) where graduation is a 50-50 shot or worse. The speakers also emphasized that dropout rates are particularly high among black and Hispanic students, especially males.

In the Washington Post series, Being A Black Man, it cites bleak statistics: In Washington, D.C., 49 percent of black males graduated from high school in 2004 compared with 95 percent of white males. That disparity represented the largest gap in the nation among school systems with 10,000 or more students.

But the story of Ballou high school students Jachin and Wayne really brings it home. Two honor students in one of D.C.'s violence plagued neighborhoods, their freshman class had 330 students in 2002; four years later, they were part of a graduating class of 130. Where did the other 200 students go you ask? School officials could account for only about 40 who were part of a program that allowed them to graduate a year early. Poof...160 students disappeared.

After reading this, you may be inclined to help address this issue. Here are some links and tips to get you started:

In October of 2006, the National Education Association presented a 12 point joint action plan to address the drop out crisis. Reg Weaver, the president of NEA, says,"this is no longer about students slipping through the cracks of our educational system. Those cracks are now craters." Visit the NEA website to learn tips for parents, families, businesses and communities.

Here are my tips:

1. Be informed. Visit here, to find out if there is a dropout crisis in your community.

2. Mentor a child. Visit Mentoring Partnership to view opportunities in your community. Also, Essence magazine recognizes the importance of mentoring and has launched Essence Cares, a new initiative that was launched recently in Atlanta. Or, you can organize your own group of dedicated adults to mentor youth.

3. If you are a parent or guardian of a school aged child, get involved in your child's schooling and education. A recent survey of nearly 500 high school drop outs revealed that 71 percent favored better communication between parents and schools and more involvement from parents. So join the PTA, regularly interact with your child's teacher and create a quiet place in your home for study.

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If you are not a parent, look at tip #2.

3. Identify and research a non profit organization to donate your money or time too. One my fave charities in the D.C. area is Means for Dreams. They have since joined forces with Donors Choose, which is a simple and easy way to fund innovative projects submitted by teachers that will help their students learn and have an enriching school experience. Last fall, I funded a project at D.C.'s Garrison elementary school titled "Good Character Promotes Good Citizenship". My funding enabled the teacher to purchase character education books for the entire class. The teacher sent me a letter stating "thank you once again for making my job less stressful by helping my students to understand the importance of building their character...I have noticed a difference in their behaviors and know that these traits will follow them in the future as they become productive citizens!"

I also received a letter from George, one of the students:

Thank you for the values code books. I love books. Cooperation is when you work together. My teacher lets us read books so we can become good readers.

Another student Dawit wrote:

Thank you for the books. They are great. They teach me something. They teach me respect. So I am respectful of others. I really appreciate you giving us the books.
How much did all of this cost you ask? A little over $100.

Visit Donors Choose to fund a school project in your community.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Jay-Z's Mother Honored for Charity Work

Rapper and businessman extraordinaire Sean Carter (aka Jay-Z) watched as his mother Gloria Carter was honored by the New York City Council for her outstanding contributions to the community.

Ms. Carter oversees the Sean Carter Scholarship Fund, a charity founded in 2003 to assist those generally not serviced by traditional scholarship means. The Fund assists non-traditional high school graduates, such as GED recipients in an opportunity to fulfill their goal to attend college.

In 2005, she and others from the fund traveled to Houston to distribute toiletries and other items to displaced Katrina victims.

"Very proud of her" Jay-Z said as they left the ceremony.


Event: Cornel West CD Listening Party

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Steve McKeever, Bishop Noel Jones, Dr. West and Clifton West

Dr. Cornel West held a listening party on April 7 in LA for his CD Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations. The CD, to be released this June on Hidden Beach Recordings, includes artists such as Prince, Talib Kweli, KRS-1, Rhymefest, and the late Gerald Levert.

The grandson of a preacher, Dr. West's passion for civil rights was evident at an early age-he marched in demonstrations and organized protests at his high school demanding black studies courses. He enrolled in Harvard University at the age of 17, eventually earning a Ph.D. Primarily known as a philosopher, Cornel West is a world renowned African American scholar and currently is a professor of religion at Princeton University. He has been involved with the Million Man March and the Hip Hop Summit Action Network.

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Malcolm Jamal Warner and Dr. West

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Bishop Noel Jones, Tavis Smiley and Dr. West

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Dr. West and Omarosa

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Steve McKeever, Founder and CEO of Hidden Beach Recordings

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Albert E. Dotson, Jr., Esq.

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Tavis Smiley

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Here is the tracklisting for the album:

"Bushanomics," featuring Talib Kweli
"America," featuring Black Thought, Rah Digga, Iriz & Lucky Witherspoon
"Still Here"
"Dear Mr. Man," featuring Prince
"N Word," featuring Tavis Smiley & Michael Eric Dyson
"Welcome to Chi," featuring Rhymefest, Neo-Abassy & Malik Yosef
"Mr. President," featuring KRS-One & M-1
"Keep It PI," featuring Killer Mike, Doey, Roc & Lucky Witherspoon
"Chronometrophobia," featuring Andre 3000
"Gonne Be Alright," featuring Dave Hollister & Chuckii Booker
"Matter Of," featuring Lenny Williams
"Soul Sista," featuring Daryl Moore
"The Man's Gonna Getcha," featuring Gerald Levert

Photos by Malcolm Ali

Monday, May 7, 2007

Event: Rush Philanthropic East New York Arts Center Benefit

The Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation

Founded in 1995 by brothers Russell, Danny and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation is dedicated to providing disadvantaged urban youth with significant exposure and access to the arts, as well as providing exhibition opportunities to under-represented artists and artists of color.

In its first 11 years, Rush Philanthropic has served over 700,000 urban youth; has directed millions in funding from donors including individuals, foundations, and leading corporations to underserved youth, and established two exhibit and education facilities.

On April 11, Rush Philanthropic hosted a cocktail party benefiting their East New York Brooklyn Arts Center that is set to open in fall 2007. The building for this arts center was a gift from Ron Hershco of United Homes. In addition, Time Warner underwrote the event, allowing for all proceeds to directly benefit Rush East New York. Lisa Quiroz, Time Warner senior vice president for corporate responsibility stated ”we’re thrilled to help launch the Rush Arts Center, the new center will help broaden access to the arts, engage youth and nurture new and diverse voices which is at the heart of our arts giving.”

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Dr. Ben Chavis, Russell Simmons and Stephen Hill of BET

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Kevin Liles, Jamel Shabazz and Russell Simmons

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Al Sharpton and Russell

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Russell and Denise Rich

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Danny Simmons

East New York, Brooklyn is a neighborhood in crisis, with an unemployment rate of more than twice New York City’s average, and more than three times higher than the national average. The high school graduation rate is less than 45%. Rush East New York will become an Arts Oasis for this often overlooked neighborhood.

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Danny with Kimora Lee Simmons

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Tangie Murray

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Art work from the youth

The Brooklyn Steppers, a Rush Community Grants Recipient organization performed:

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Russell and daughter Aoki

Photos by Johnny Nunez