Category Archives: Lifestyle

Precinct One youth and seniors programs receive federal grants totaling nearly $150,000

Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved nearly $150,000 in federal grants for Precinct One programs that assist young people and senior citizens.

 The nonprofit Harris County Precinct One Street Olympics Inc. was awarded a $42,024 Community Development Block Grant for the Harris County Aquatics Program, $28,993 for Discovery Camp and $58,502 for the Summer Games.

The Seniors Drama Program received a $20,000 grant. The program, directed by playwright Thomas Meloncon, provides acting and dance lessons. Seniors participate as actors, understudies and costume designers. Throughout the year, they perform plays that raise awareness of crucial issues affecting seniors.

 Created in 1986, the Street Olympics implements and sustains year-round programs that provide training, support and resources that lead to healthy and productive lives for Houston-area youth.

The Aquatics Program offers swimming lessons and competitive swimming for youth. In July, Learn-to-Swim students compete in a friendly competition at the Harris County Aquatics Center.

 Discovery Camp, which runs through the summer months, offers children ages 6-13 a one-day adventure that includes educational activities, games, crafts and projects that give them hands-on experience to help understand nature in natural settings at Challenger Seven Memorial and Deussen parks.

 The Summer Games gives youth at participating agencies a chance to compete in traditional street games such as kickball, jacks, hopscotch, Hula Hoop and foot races. The best participants at the agencies – which include Houston Parks and Recreation Department sites, YMCAs, churches and other youth centers – earn the right to compete at the Final Event in August at NRG Arena, where they can win medals. For more information, call 713 991 6881.

City Pursues Strategies for Homeless, Panhandlers

Mayor Sylvester Turner on March 2nd announced what he termed  a more holistic approach to reducing homelessness and invited the community to help implement it.  The mayor’s plan involves expedited efforts to permanently house the homeless, more shelter beds, new public health and safety regulations and an anti-panhandling awareness campaign.

“Houston has achieved significant reductions in homelessness in recent years, but I am committed to doing even more,” said Mayor Turner.  “It is simply not acceptable for people to live on the streets; it is not good for them, and it is not good for the city.  We will tackle this complicated issue, and we will do it humanely with a meaningful approach that balances the needs of the homeless and the concerns of neighborhoods they impact.  We will need everyone’s patience and help to make it work.”

At the center of the mayor’s plan is expansion of The Way Home, the coordinated housing initiative of 100 public and private organizations that has reduced overall homelessness by 57 percent over the last five years.  Another 500 chronically homeless individuals will be placed in permanent supportive housing within six months.  Coupled with this aggressive goal, the community, often with direct city support, is continuing to invest in new permanent supportive housing units, but more apartments are still needed. The mayor is calling upon apartment owners and landlords with vacant units to step forward and be part of the solution.

Another 215 shelter beds will come online in August when the new Star of Hope campus on Reed Road is finished.  In addition, the city is pursuing creation of one or more secure and professionally managed covered outdoor spaces with restroom facilities where up to 75 individuals could stay temporarily.

“In this city, we are not going to abandon our most vulnerable,” said Turner.  “The goal is to get as many people as possible into permanent housing or shelters, but even with all of the assistance being offered, there will still be people who choose to stay on the streets.  It would be wrong to tell these people they cannot be here or there without providing a suitable alternative.  I am inviting the community and City Council to help identify locations in their districts we can use as temporary outdoor shelters and for feeding the hungry.”

The city will continue weekly cleanups of encampments to address health and safety concerns while the homeless are transitioning to shelters and permanent supportive housing. The Houston Police Department Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) is expanding so there can be increased interaction and assistance for the homeless. Another component is a new ordinance outlawing tents on public property.  This ordinance will prohibit people from putting up tents but will not make it illegal to sleep outdoors.  There will be a 30-day transition period during which HPD’s HOT team will work to compassionately redirect people in encampments to housing alternatives.

“This is a best practice across the nation and is based on public health and safety concerns,” said Turner.  “We cannot have people setting up tent cities where there are no restrooms or other accommodations to meet basic human needs.  Not only is it unsanitary, but it also deters from the goal of getting people into permanent supportive housing.”

The Texas Department of Transportation is assisting by installing “no camping” signs at freeway underpasses and is working to allow the city to have access to the underpasses for parking and economic development, an idea Mayor Turner has wanted to pursue since seeing something similar during last year’s trade mission to Mexico City.

The mayor’s plan also takes aim at panhandling with a new ordinance prohibiting obstruction of roadways and an anti-panhandling media campaign involving TV, radio, print and social media ads, street signage, billboards and a way to donate to service organizations via text and online giving.  The campaign, which is being funded by 15 management districts, urges residents to help bring about “meaningful change” by donating their “spare change” directly to organizations that provide services.  The public awareness campaign will be coupled with a pilot program to connect panhandlers to employment opportunities.  The signs and ads are expected to be up and running within a month.

The mayor noted that a lot of homeless have mental health issues and have repeatedly fallen through the cracks of the social service system.  He stressed the importance of increased funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs and said that he had directed this issue to be added to the city’s legislative priorities in Austin.

“Our existing programs and the expanded ones I have outlined lead all major cities in dealing with a nationwide problem,” said Turner.  “This is a realistic, holistic approach that provides meaningful solutions.  By offering multiple choices and a little bit of tough love, we hope to convince more of our street population to get off the streets.  This plan also provides strategies for easing the pressure in neighborhoods.  We will never totally eliminate homelessness, but with the entire community’s help, we can reduce it even more.”

Six years ago, Houston had a homeless population of more than 8,500.  Today, that number has dropped to around 3,600.  Less than one-third of these people are living on the streets.  The rest take advantage of shelter beds.

Mirror of life awards set for Deluxe Theater


Mirror of Life Awards coming March 11, 2017
Mirror of Life Awards coming March 11, 2017

The People’s Workshop in collaborative partnership with the TSU Department of Music presents the 2017 MOLA Awards, formerly known at the Sammy Awards. The event will be held on March 11, 7:30 p.m. at the the Deluxe Theater¸ 3303 Lyons Avenue near downtown Houston. In Grammy fashion, award winners have already been assessed and voted upon by a panel of arts and entertainment professionals. The line-up will also feature some of the hottest guest acts and celebrities as performers and presenters.
Beyonce, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Whalum, Robert Glasper and many more from their formative years, were beneficiaries of the Peoples’ Workshop Program of providing educational activities for practical training and exposure. It all started with Professor Howard Harris and a group of pop and jazz music composers at Texas Southern University. Later joined by great co-producers, inclusive of Judy Foston, the program grew to become the first multicultural arts organization of Houston featuring all ethnicities and cultures. Thus Professor Howard Harris named it the People’ Workshop, now aka People’s Family Workshop for the Arts.
Pre-event tickets, $15 general and $30 VIP, are available online through donations for the price of the ticket at the People’s Workshop website: Ticket reservations may also be made by calling (281) 923-6057.
Special guest artists will include the electrifying group, Vostra, and more. This year’s community honoree is TSU’s Dr. Merline Pitre, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences and author of several books on African American subjects.

Juneteenth 2016 Pageant

It was gathering of splendor and pageantry as girls and boys from area Houston schools showcased their talents in hopes of being crowned Miss and Mr. Juneteenth 2016 at the 8th Annual Mildred Johnson Miss Juneteenth Pageant presented by Friends of Emancipation Park and held at Trinity United Methodist Church.

A total of 18 contestants competed in the following categories (ages 3-5) Little Miss Juneteenth, (ages 6-9) Junior Miss Juneteenth, (ages 12 and up) Miss Juneteenth for the young ladies.  The young men, fell into two categories (ages 3-5) and (ages 5-12) Mr. Juneteenth and Mr. Handsome respectfully.

The pageant promotes community service, academic excellence, as well as encouraging poise and positive self-esteem.

In addition, the contestants were judge on their Juneteenth paper and poster competition. The four-judge panel also scored the contestants on their One-on-One interviews which was conducted immediately after each of them took to the stage to showcase their pageant-walk.

There were 18 contestants in four categories.  Addison DeBoest, Kainaan Jones and Faith White represented the Girls 3-5 Year Olds.  Next was the 6-9 Yearl Olds Girls.  The participants were Olivia Rogers, Symone Jones, Yanni White, Zoriyah Mack, Za’nya Forsey and Zanora Dorsey.  The older girls category 12 and Up participants were Raven Jacson, Kayla Ceasar and Terykah Lewis.

The Boys 5-12 year participants were O’ryan Rogers, Cornelius White, Jakiyea Mack, Jaylon Mack, Lawrence See and LeMarcus Thomas.

A total of five titles were awarded in the Miss Juneteenth 2016 Pageant, where Raven Jackson,12 earned the title of Miss Juneteenth, Addison DeBoest, 6 won Junior Miss Juneteenth and Kainaan Jones, 5 was named Little Miss Juneteenth. O’ryan Roger, 5 was crowned Mr. Juneteenth and Lawrence See, 9 won Mr. Handsome.

The runner-ups, Kayla Ceasar and Terykah Lewis/Miss Juneteenth, Olivia Rogers and Za’nora Dorsey/Junior Miss Juneteenth and Faith White/Little Miss Juneteenth along with Cornelius White/Mr. Juneteenth joined by Jaylon Mack and Jakiyea/Mr. Handsome will joined the title holders in the 43rd Juneteenth Parade and Music Festival.

LeMarcus Thomas, 2015 Mr. Mr. Juneteenth graciously gave his final walk recalling how it has been an honor to have carried a title in recognition of Juneteenth.

“When I won last year, I had a general idea of the significance of Juneteenth.  For instance while all of the Black enslaved people in the nation had been freed, Texas was the last state to get word,” he said.

“That means that Black folks were still in slavery. When word finally arrived in 1865 of June 19th, they rejoiced.  That is why we celebrate this day of freedom still today.”

Thomas went on to say that over the past year he has met many important people.  And that he really enjoyed being in the parade and the bike that he won.  He also said that he enjoyed meeting the Annise Parker, the mayor at the time.

“Mayor Parker told me to ‘keep doing what you are doing and to stay on the right track’.”

Thomas said that his future plans are to enjoy his summer and have fun because he will be entering high school next year.

Mrs. Mildred Johnson had a word for the audience.  She thanked the parents and gave special homage to the grandparents.  “When you trust someone with your children you trust God,” she said.

Mrs. Johnson said that it takes a lot of work to do what they do.  “All of the pretty dresses, costumes, decorations, etc.  I directed this pageant by telephone. I told everybody what to do and want needed to be done. I want to thank Dorris Ellis,  Dorcaus Robinson, the committee, the judges and KijanaWiseman.”

She went on to say she is looking forward to the parade and that Mayor Sylvester Turner is taking an active role in the parade.  Also she informed the crowd that if all goes well that the Juneteenth court could be part of the upcoming Super Bowl LI to take place in Houston.

Sponsor of the 2016 Juneteenth Pageant were Gerald and Anita Smith, This Is It Restaurant, Houston Super Bowl Committee, Ladies of Golf and Priscilla Graham Photography.


Houston Theater Opens New Lineup For Anniversary

Ensemble Theater conference logo
Ensemble Theater conference logo

Applause was the appropriate reaction in Houston’s Ensemble Theater as it held the Dawn of The Decade 40-year anniversary press conference for the lineup of this year’s performances.

Within the city lies an instrumental one-story building which holds a mission: to preserve African American artistic expression; to enlighten, entertain and enrich a diverse community. Eileen J. Morris, who is the theater’s artistic director, stands by that mission.

“Every time we do art, we are speaking to the community,” Morris said.

“I think that the art that we do and the fact that we are connected so much with our community is what is impactful. That’s one of the traits of the Ensemble Theater, so to speak.”

So much has changed since the theater was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins, who was influenced by the African American Theatre Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Such a movement prompted Hawkins to make a company into what is now known as one of Houston’s go-to places for performing arts. Development Director Kathy L. Kelley, a longtime Houston resident, thinks the theater does make an impact in the Houston community and vice versa.

“The community comes here and they’re embracing and appreciative of what we do and understand what we’re doing and they really support what we do,” Kelley said.

Other than the theatrical arts, the theater will also hold major events such as a gala and a golf tournament to continue spreading the foundation the theater has done. Also discussed by this is Janette L. Cosley, the theater’s executive director.

“And the children who come here for those field trips? I cannot tell you how diverse those audiences are because majority of them come from the Houston Independent school District,” Cosley said.

“They know about African Americans who play sports, they know about African Americans who make music, but they don’t necessarily get to know the actors.”

Public Relations Manager Robert Ross keeps that in mind throughout the conference.

“The community gives us feedback and, as any responsible institution or business, for that matter, you really have to listen to your patron base in order to meet their needs and what their interests are,” Ross said.

Plenty of Time, one of the many plays lined up for the year, will portray the basis of what the Ensemble Theater stands for. Perhaps an appearance by the conference’s guest performer Regina Hearne may be seen at one of the plays. Their season lineup and special events can be found at their website:

Previews of the show run for two days, and the main show runs from May 12 through June 5. May 12 at 7:30 pm is the start of Plenty of Time.

Guest performer Regina Hearne
Guest performer Regina Hearne

Amber Cloud, Self-Made Musician

Amber Cloud in her studio at S.H.A.P.E. Community Center.
Amber Cloud in her studio at S.H.A.P.E. Community Center.

Developed as a Self-Help for African People through Education, or (S.H.A.P.E.), this particular community center at Live Oak Street in Houston has continued over 47-years-of-existence with hard-working staff members and volunteers. One of the new standouts of this center is Amber Cloud, who realized at a very young age that music was for her.

“I started liking music when I was ten-years-old. I knew that it was something I was passionate about,” Cloud said.

Having trouble with reading and writing at first, the Katy, Texas native broke that habit by learning to read and write music. As she read and wrote music on a day-by-day basis, she fully understood literacy. She would be able to do all she can with her literacy, only to do it more with music.

“I understood music when I read and write it. It took so much out of my time, but I enjoy doing it, and I love making music,” Cloud soundly said.

Cloud, 25, began to invest in recording equipment at 15 years old. Following her high school graduation, she initially attended Houston Community College (HCC) onto the University of Houston (UH), until constant support from Texas Southern University (TSU) convinced her to transfer and remain there until she walks the stage with a bachelor’s in Business Marketing.

“It was the mentors and the relationships at Texas Southern that led me to come and maintain my passion for music and creating it,” Cloud said.

She felt that music will keep people out of trouble. She would fulfill that feeling by making her own studio at S.H.A.P.E on Almeda Road. The Live Oak center is also called SHAPE, but without periods.

Within the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, it provides activities and programs that not only strengthen families, but also the community. Because of this, S.H.A.P.E. would eventually become an award-winning place, which includes an MLK Humanitarian Award. One individual who visits Cloud at S.H.A.P.E. is Najwa Malveaux. Najwa Malveaux, Cloud’s friend, recalls on how they became close eight months ago.

Amber Cloud's music studio
Amber Cloud’s music studio.

“I could tell she is an articulate person. I met her at a coffee shop, and when I spoke to her, she was a real introvert, and we hung out ever since,” Malveaux said.

Her mentor, Laurence Payne, describes Cloud as a person with four P’s: passion, purpose, persistence, and perseverance.

“You have to be able to articulate your vision verbally and in writing. She articulates her vision verbally and in writing,” Payne said.

What Payne has done in the community is not only being a TV host of HCC’s Dialogue Houston, he has provided service to help individuals become successful human beings. He did the same with Amber by instilling intentionality and mindfulness to her.

“I also told her about medi-flect- that is meditation and reflect combined. If you have those two traits and medi-flect, you can do anything,” Payne said.

Angela Cloud, Amber’s mother, knows that her daughter is really trying to make it happen.

“She is a visionary. She has a love for music,” Angela said.

Amber’s mother is very, very proud of her. Her daughter is a go-getter and very focused on her music.

Amber’s ongoing project is her studio, which she plans to not only modify, but also have to create her music and record. Now that she is a musician, Cloud will be made into a successful one, and feels that musicians aren’t born, they are made.

Amber Cloud
Amber Cloud

Philanthropic experience and giving traditions of African Americans to be explored in new exhibition at Buffalo Soldiers Museum

HOUSTON, TX  — The groundbreaking exhibition Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited will open on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. The touring exhibition will explore the African-American philanthropy experience and giving traditions grounded in faith, mutuality, responsibility and social justice.
The exhibition illustrates Black philanthropy through highly innovative presentations, including luminous photographic prints on metal, iPad kiosks, video and interactive digital apps featuring music, poetry, photography, narratives and more. It comprises over a dozen vignette stories and more than 50 black-and-white images that depict facets of giving across generations. Images and stories composing the exhibit are from the book “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists” by author Valaida Fullwood and photographer Charles W. Thomas Jr. Monika Rhue, library director at Johnson C. Smith University, serves as project manager for the exhibit’s grant-funded tour, and Prairie View A&M University Office of Development and Buffalo Soldiers Museum are the host. “Centuries-old cultural customs and beliefs about giving, though rarely acknowledged as ‘philanthropy’ in African-American communities, have long been an integral and transformational force in lives and communities throughout American society,” Fullwood said.

“African Americans are often left out of the conversation around philanthropy unless fame and wealth are associated, or they are being portrayed only as beneficiaries or people in need,” said Fullwood. “But African Americans actually give a higher percentage of their discretionary income to charitable causes than any other racial group in this country. This exhibition will help reframe the discussion and reclaim the root meaning of the word philanthropy, which is ‘love of what it means to be human.’” News Release For Immediate Release Contact: Dr. Camillia Rodgers, Executive Director Buffalo Soldier National Museum 3816 Caroline, Houston, TX Tel: 713.942.8920.
The exhibition will be on display through November 13th before continuing traveling to several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and cultural institutions across the South and other regions. In addition to the exhibition, corresponding public programs will allow groups to explore a broad range of topics related to philanthropy, including the Historical Characteristics of Philanthropy in the African American Community (October 13th), Next Generation Giving (October 27th), and the Corporate Impact on Philanthropy (November 10th) at Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, 6pm. To schedule a guided tour and learn more about programs and educational forums, email the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum at Exhibition Sponsor and Partners Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited is made possible by a $96,665 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and $124,494 in matching funds and resources.

The James B. Duke Memorial Library at Johnson C. Smith University, in partnership with author Valaida Fullwood, photographer Charles W. Thomas Jr. and New Generation of African American Philanthropists giving circle, will manage the exhibition’s grant-funded national tour through June 2016.  The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.  Johnson C. Smith University, founded April 7, 1867, is an independent urban university located in Charlotte. Under the leadership of Dr. Ronald L. Carter, the University continues to evolve into a 21st century higher education institution, building upon its long legacy of producing compassionate and forward-thinking leaders. Ranked 17th among Historically Black Colleges and Universities by U. S. News & World Report (2014), it is recognized as one of the best comprehensive colleges in the South.  New Generation of African American Philanthropists is a giving circle founded in 2006 that promotes philanthropy—the giving of time, talent and treasure—among African Americans in the Charlotte region, with the goal of enhancing the quality of life within our communities. Additional sponsors and partners include, the Houston Arts Alliance, City of Houston, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Divinely Inspired Events, Ujima South, HiMac Center for Creative Thinking, Prairie View A&M School of Architecture, and the Office of Development.
Exhibition-related Programs • Tuesday, October 6, 2015 Exhibit Grand Opening Reception, Buffalo Soldiers Museum 6:00pm – 9:00pm Music by Kathleen Harrell and Award Winning Song Writer, Kathy Burrell, of Yourweh Music – more – After events on opening day, a series of scheduled programs at the museum will accompany the exhibition during its local run through November 13th. Dr. Lason Hines, Captain Paul Matthews, Dr. Camillia Rodgers, Phyllis Darden-Caldwell, Carmetha Williams, Nelson Bowman, and Dr. Lauretta Byars, the exhibit’s Houston Planning Team, is responsible for exhibit program development and coordination.

The Historical Characteristics of Philanthropy in the African American Community, Buffalo Soldier National Museum October 13th at 6:00pm Sponsored By: The HiMac Center for Creative Thinking, Entrepreneur Innovation & Organizational Development; and Divinely Inspired Events This discussion will center on the historical perspective of giving in the African American community, and the characteristics of giving back. The discussion moderator is Jeffrey L. Boney, Entrepreneur and Radio host.

The Next Generation of Giving, Buffalo Soldier National Museum October 27th at 6:00pm Sponsored By: Ujima South This discussion will focus on the charitable habits and engagement of generations Y and Z in giving within their communities

Hometown fame composer Jason Moran “Holed Up” in Houston

Selma's movie composer, Jason Moran playing it up on his favorite instrument.
Selma’s movie composer, Jason Moran playing it up on his favorite instrument.

If you have seen the critically acclaimed movie, Selma, then you know that the sound track is equally compelling as the film.  The arranger of the powerful sound track is composer jazz pianist and native Houstonian Jason Moran.  The songs “Bloody Sunday”, “Final Speech” and “Cager Lee” are actually performed by the musical prodigy.

            Growing up, Moran’s parents cultivated his musical and artistic talents by enrolling him into various top-notched musical training programs such as the renowned Yelena Kurinets Suzuki Music School where he received classical piano training and the Houston Symphony Young Artist Competition where he showcased his tuneful melodic talent.  His artistic gifts broaden even farther into the arts from spending time in museums and galleries.

 Now Moran is back in Houston in conjunction with Da Camera of Houston and The Menil Museum where you can see him pay homage to visual artist fellow Texans Robert Rauschenber and his “Holed Up” project.  Rauschenber has had a major influence on Moran’s work.  This event will be held at the Menil Museum on February 5th.

            In the meantime, Moran is schedule to appear and perform at several events around town starting tonight. The schedule of events is listed below: 


Saturday, January 31, 7:00 PM, Eldorado Ballroom: Listening Party with Jason Moran playing and discussing his favorite recordings, co-hosted by Tierney Malone, Homecoming Residency Host Committee member and host of KPFT’s Houston Jazz Spotlight. 2310 Elgin St. Free

Monday, February 2, 9am to Noon Special edition of KPFT’s Houston Jazz Spotlight, featuring an interview with Jason Moran and an extensive selection of his music. Hosted by Tierney Malone. KPFT radio HD-3.

Thursday February 5, 7:00 PM at The Menil Collection:Artists Talk with Jason Moran, Robert Pruitt and Sarah Rothenberg. The creators of “Holed Up” discuss their creative process. Free

Saturday, February 7, 8:00 PM, Cullen Theater, Wortham Center:  Tickets required