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Posted by on Jun 3, 2017 in Anthony's Blog Posts (misc) | 0 comments

WITHOUT A MASK

WITHOUT A MASK

By Anthony W. Brown

The semantic shift of the word hypocrite has drastically changed from its original connotation 2,000 years ago. Today it is thought of as someone who does the opposite of what he or she says. In addition, a hypocrite can be viewed as one doing the same thing that he or she condemns. However, that was not the archaic meaning of the word. For example in the Greek or Aramaic, the word described a person who was not the person who they portrayed to be, hence, an actor.

It is socially acceptable to play the role of an actor nowadays. In this tech-driven world, we have a new dimension of social interaction we call social media. MySpace had the correct name describing the new way of socializing. Many connections and introductions have been made by way of socializing on the many platforms out there. Many times people have fell victim to a profile illusion. In fact, people can be an avatar in real life by revealing things that inflate his or her status or by becoming someone else. We even have a reality show out now that makes entertainment of people tricking others by being who they are not.

A lot of jobs today has the requirement for the applicants to provide social media links to see if he or she is a good fit for the company. Indeed, these companies have an image to protect. Many companies even have training sessions on how to use your social media appropriately. Ironically, many powerful entities are ethically flawed but pay a lot of money to promote a good image. If you have taken an ethics class in college, I am sure you may have had the project where you learn about some of these companies. However, that is not the focus of this article. The focus here is that often times in the business world we have to encounter actors. Imagine a whole conglomerate where there are but a few people who are authentic.

The underlying impetuses to this tragedy are greed and selfishness. Think about the salesman who starts small talk so he or she can get his or her pitch. Personally, if I sense that one is doing this often times I cut them short. Then there is the rhetoric. Marketing is based on psychological influences to persuade. Since the majority of society believes in the ideological view of evolution, I would propose the question, is this what we evolved into? A world where lies are called alternative facts? Sadly, this trend is progressing rapidly. Sometimes I consider if I should join this masquerade because of my understanding of humanities weaknesses surely I could climb this latter. God forbid! Instead, I choose to be myself and the same wherever I am at. Oh what a joy to be who you are without having to be a sycophant or a puppet to make a living. A joy where you can be who you are with a love for your neighbor regardless of race or belief. Alas! The Golden Rule has lost value and has become gold plated.

Thankfully, I have met some real people over the last few years who have encouraged me. I am thankful for the hypocrites too; although, I am not happy that they are trapped in such a state. One thing I promised myself on this journey called life is that when I get in the position that my destiny has called me to be in is to pay it forward to the ones who are working diligently to become a true asset to society. In other words, my ear is not to the affluent but it is to the ones often time are overlooked. This is way I having a saying “that the answer to a lot of problems is not in the box but outside of the box.” Inside of the box is a world of falsities and alternative realities, just like a Hollywood movie. Thus, a need for actors will remain in high demand. The good news is that knowing the Truth will allow you to take off the mask and be thankful for who you were created to be.

Anthony Brown
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Posted by on Jun 3, 2017 in Sources & Information | 0 comments

Victory

Victory

“I remember Chaplain David Hendricks would always say “that when you know that you know!” The funny thing about that statement I’ve learned is that the KNOW is progressive. But I will share with you what I know today. When I first got released from prison in 2013, I believed everything would just fall into place. However, our wonderful and loving God allowed me to experience a thing or two. In fact, I had stumbled no, no, no, I jumped! If it were possible for me to fall away, I would have. Then, I went through a stage where I thought that the resistance and struggle to get a job was because I was being punished for all the wrong I done. True, there are consequences for choices that we made yesterday. But I will not go into that, because to clarify the fallacy that is intertwined in that ideology will take quite a bit of expounding. I will note that God used my past to help me see things I believe I would not be able to see due to pride blinding me into thinking my accomplishments were due to my own doing. True God will not be mocked and we will reap what we sow. Along the same vein, I know God is a merciful God. Thus, I will share one of my favorite passages in the Bible because it helps us to see the character of God and Him operating in His absolute sovereignty. Romans 9:15 says “For [God] says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,2 but on God, who has mercy.”

 

A few moments ago I was thinking about the Apostle Paul and reflected on the fact that he did not continue to beat himself up about who he was before salvation. Just last week, I learned about God’s favor and mercy to a degree because I am sure there is more. That is why today I can stand firm in knowing that I am in Jesus, thus I aim to share the hope that is within me just as Peter said in Peter 3:15 “15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” So if you ask me about the reason for the hope that I have is because I believe Jesus IS and my heart desire is to obey Him. This joy that I have, even in the midst of struggles and ALL my flaws, is because I am totally confident that Jesus has set me free! I pray that you who took your time to read this that the Lord will empower or continue to empower you to spread this Hope Message known as the Good News, in Jesus name I pray. Whatever the problem may be today think back to the hope that you have, and when you overcome strengthen your brother. The word of God is powerful, my, my, my.”

 

This is a shirt I designed that came from a Christian Mobile App idea I was working on a few months back. The name NaDab is a Hebrew name. It is some interesting facts that are connected to the name. Some are obvious and some are not. Its Hebrew name meaning is generous or the connotation being generous. You can click on it here to order or go to my biz page. I would love to get the next design out because it has flavor so be a champ and get a shirt. 🙂

NADAB Hope

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Posted by on Jun 3, 2017 in Sources & Information | 0 comments

Paying Ex-Gang Members To Go To College

Paying Ex-Gang Members To Go To College

On a Tuesday in late May, Antonio Franklin sits in a makeshift classroom in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, ten years to the day after he stepped foot inside Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk to serve nine years for aggravated assault against a cop. Pencil in hand, he looks on as instructor Ismail Abdurrashid fills a whiteboard with algebra equations. A year ago, Franklin left prison. Now, at 31, he’s brushing up on high-school-level math with about a dozen other classmates, preparing to attend Bunker Hill Community College in the fall.

Many of Franklin’s classmates dropped out of high school, and many were incarcerated. Some, like Franklin, earned their GED while serving time; some are taking this math class to prepare for the corresponding HiSET, or High School Equivalency Test (a new test, similar to the GED). Some, also like Franklin, ended up in prison after being on the streets, engaging in gunplay and selling narcotics. All of them are now being paid to attend class and go to college.

Franklin and about 40 other students are members of Boston Uncornered, a three-year pilot program launched in May and run by the education nonprofit College Bound Dorchester. The participants earn a $400 weekly stipend by attending class every day, passing their HiSETs, and matriculating to college. Once in college, the stipend continues for as long as it takes them to graduate with an associate’s degree. The program seeks to address one key factor—lack of income—that might lure ex-offenders and former gang members back on the street. “As much as we want to do good in school, we need money,” says Franklin, whose stipend goes toward his rent, groceries, and probation fees. “I love this school stuff, but how can you live life without being financially stable as well?”

Whether the program can put a dent into the overall gang activity on Boston’s streets remains to be seen. According to CBD, the city’s estimated 2,600 gang members are responsible for half the city’s homicides and close to three-quarters of all shootings. In 2016, there were 135 total homicides in Boston, a slightly higher tally than the previous year, and local law enforcement say gang feuds were responsible for the uptick.

In Dorchester, the issues of gang activity and crime in general are felt more acutely. Boston’s largest neighborhood is home to about one-quarter of the city’s impoverished residents; they are more likely to be stopped-and-frisked by police and “are jailed at about twice the rate of the city as a whole,” according to the Boston Globe.

The prospect of paying former gang members to go to school is sure to have eyes rolling far into the backs of many people’s heads. But Mark Culliton, an educator with 20 years’ experience and current CEO of College Bound Dorchester, has heard all the counterarguments. He doesn’t buy any of them.

“Financial incentives, as a society, we believe are for hedge fund guys, for Wall Street guys,” he says. “But for poor kids, we suddenly think that’s wrong. It seems to work pretty well for a lot of other industries.”

Through Boston Uncornered, the hope is that the $400 weekly stipend is enough incentive to keep kids off the corners and out of jail. Over the next three years, the nonprofit will reach out specifically to what it calls “core influencers” in a half-dozen hotspots of crime and gang activity as identified by the City of Boston’s Office of Public Safety. It’ll do this work by using current CBD employees who are themselves former gang members—they’re now college graduates or gainfully employed. The thinking is that ex-gang members can convince current ones to follow in their footsteps.

“A highly disengaged, highly disruptive group of young people makes a bad neighborhood. If you serve them, though, it’ll unlock the potential of the whole neighborhood,” Culliton says. “Boston Uncornered is not about individual transformation. It’s ultimately about, can some of these hotspots go from places of fear and violence to places of true opportunity?”

The concept behind the program echoes anti-violence efforts in other cities. Most famously, the Chicago-based organization Cure Violence, developed by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin in the mid-1990s, employs ex-felons to do street-level mediation between drug dealers and gang members in an effort to stop shootings. Variants of that model have had success in several cities. In Baltimore, for example, the city’s Safe Streets program has operated since 2007, and currently has five sites around the city. Overall, neighborhoods with Safe Streets have lower levels of homicides and less gun crime compared to other neighborhoods, according to research done by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

But where those other programs seek to stop neighborhood shootings by walking the beat, so to speak, the influencers of Boston Uncornered try to directly pull players off the street and into the classroom. Participants are paired with a College Readiness Advisor, or CRA—College Bound Dorchester team members who have successfully left behind their own troubled pasts. They work individually with participants to set up college plans, making goals for a gamut of benchmarks, including how to pass HiSETs, make it into community college, and apply for financial aid to help offset additional college costs.

“It’s a great opportunity for individuals like me who were stuck in the streets and were thinking, ‘This is it,’” says Francisco Depina, a 32-year-old CRA who’s been involved with CBD since 2006, when he was a student working toward his GED.

Now he works with students like Franklin to keep them on a path toward college. This isn’t always easy. Many of the Boston Uncornered participants under Depina’s supervision grew up like he did. At age 2 his father abandoned his family, and by high school he was involved with a gang, selling drugs. His penchant for brawling in the hallways eventually got him kicked out of the Boston public school system. “In school I remember being told that by the time I’m 18, I’ll either be dead or in jail,” Depina says. “I really believed that once—that school wasn’t for me, that education wasn’t for me, that the street was it.”

Boston Uncornered participant Alex Diaz takes notes during a math class taught by College Bound Dorchester instructor Ismail Abdurrashid. (Andrew Zaleski/CityLab)

Intervention from a CBD employee eventually turned Depina from the streets. Simple things, he says, slowly chiseled away his hard exterior: games of chess on a stoop, or casual phone calls just to check up on him. It’s those experiences Depina now draws from to go back to the corners and convince those who grew up like him to follow his lead. “When they see that someone cares for them the way someone cared for me, they’ll listen to you,” he says. “Eventually, they’ll follow.”

What College Bound Dorchester is attempting through Boston Uncornered is not without risks. As in other programs built around similar models, some participants may not have entirely left their lives of crime behind. (In 2015, for example, guns and drugs were discovered in a Safe Streets office in East Baltimore.) CBD did a trial run of the program January 2016, when it took seven core influencers who had either a GED or high school diploma and began paying them to attend classes at Bunker Hill Community College or Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. Of those seven, two were re-arrested. One had to be rushed out of the state on a Sunday morning after his former gang put a bounty on his head. Another one, as Culliton says, “just played us”: He pocketed the $400 a week and lied about going to classes. Only three stayed the course. Of those, two are still in college, while the third recently got his HVAC certificate and is now working.

Since that trial, the nonprofit has worked with about 200 core influencers. About 85 percent of them are still taking classes at CBD, and roughly half are enrolled in college. Participants so far have shown a 71 percent drop in recidivism. With the launch of Boston Uncornered in May, CBD plans on scaling this work to reach about 600 core influencers. That would cost $18 million over the three years, $5 million of which goes toward paying student stipends alone. (So far, CBD has raised $4.8 million.)

Is that money well spent? Considering that the state of Massachusetts spends about $53,000 per year on a single prison inmate, it could be. The worry from some critics is that Boston Uncornered participants who can’t stay the course might obstruct the education of their college peers. “Lots of kids spend lots of money to go to school,” Brian Kyes, chief of the Chelsea, Massachusetts, police department, told the Boston Herald. “I hope there is no disruption.”

But Culliton emphasizes the more intangible benefit of the program: He’s seen participants grab hold of the second chance they’ve been given after realizing that, for so many years, they actively played a role in destroying their own communities. “We know that when you give people the means to make a choice to focus on education, they do,” Culliton says.

As Franklin can attest, he’s now on a path he never thought he’d walk. Growing up in Dorchester, Franklin was raised by a mother and grandmother who were addicted to drugs. By age 12, he was involved in a gang. By age 21, he was in prison. A decade later, he’s getting ready to study sociology and psychology en route to earning his associate’s degree. He says he’d like to use his education to reach out to kids living the sort of hard life he knows all too well.

“I always wanted to do good in my life. I just felt like because of the area I lived in, because I got involved in gangs, I couldn’t do it,” he says. “This program is giving us a stepping stool to better our life.”

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Posted by on Apr 29, 2017 in Activism | 0 comments

Connecticut law enforcement officials urge employers to consider ex-offenders

Connecticut law enforcement officials urge employers to consider ex-offenders

NEW HAVEN >> It’s been just over two months since Patrick Mortley, 53, left prison for what he says will be the last time.In a matter of weeks since his release on Feb. 20, Mortley got a job as the safety officer on the Green, and he couldn’t be prouder.“It’s uplifting when I can walk someone to their car at night,” he said, adding that the same people he helps now may have been scared of him on the Green in the past. “When (someone) sees my uniform now, they feel safe,” he said. “Do you know what that feels like?”

Mortley spoke on the final panel at a second chance event held for employers at Gateway Community College Thursday morning as someone who could give witness to the power of giving an ex-offender a second chance.

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Hire One: Give Someone with a Criminal Record a Second Chance was hosted by the U.S. attorney’s office and was an opportunity for employers in the private sector to hear about the work being done by law enforcement to help former offenders re-enter society, as well as testimony from people who have hired people who have previously been incarcerated.

“This is not just about doing the right thing, it’s about creating safer communities,” Deirdre Daly, U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, said in her opening remarks. “We support reentry. We believe in reentry.”

Daly said approximately 600,000 people leave state and federal prisons every year across the country and within a year of release roughly 60 percent are arrested again.

“This is not sustainable from any perspective you want to look at it,” she said.

From a law enforcement perspective, Daly said the U.S. attorney’s office has undergone a transition in the last few years to be more focused on reentry and not just processing cases of convicted felons and moving on.

The U.S. attorney’s office has a Reentry & Community Outreach Coordinator, retired New Haven police Capt. Holly Wasilewski, to assist ex-offenders.

Assistant U.S. attorneys in her office are also a part of the state’s first Reentry Court, run by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer. The program is meant for people leaving prison with a history of violent crime and provides them with resources and support in looking for jobs, managing family relationships, and readjusting to the community.

Meyer said that during Reentry Court meetings, held every other Wednesday in open court at 4:30 p.m., he does not wear a robe or take the bench. He said it’s important for him not to do that so they know that he’s not talking to them as a judge, who is tasked with determining the sentence of a criminal, but rather as a person who is concerned about their future.

“Our goal is to show them honor, dignity, and respect,” Meyer said.

At the local level, New Haven Acting Police Chief Anthony Campbell said the department is aware of when former offenders are reentering the community from prison. He said it’s a goal of the department to reach out to those individuals and support them on their journeys.

Campbell said he often tells his officers that if former offenders are arrested again, the department has failed them.

“We can be a source of hope for them,” he said. “When we talk about reentry, we’re not just talking about statistics. We’re talking about people’s lives.”

On the employer side, the event’s keynote speaker, Kevin Myatt, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Yale New Haven Health, said it’s up to employers to be willing to give people a second chance.

“The people who have been incarcerated … those individuals are looking for an opportunity,” Myatt said. “What if we said to them, ‘We believe in you.’”

Yale New Haven Health has the Having an Opportunity to Prepare for Employment (H.O.P.E.) Program that Myatt said has helped more than 400 people get trained in various jobs. About 10 percent of those participants have been former offenders, he said.

Dan Jusino, executive director of EMERGE Connecticut, also spoke at the event and said that he hires former offenders because he gets a high return on his investment. He said people coming out of prison have something to prove, families to work for and support, and are highly motivated to get their lives back on track, and all of those qualities make for good employees.

EMERGE staff are all former offenders, Jusino said, and they are willing to do work that others will not — including planting trees in the pouring rain this week or cutting concrete to help make bioswales for the city in frigid temperatures this winter.

“The more I invest in these folks, the better return I get,” Jusino said. “There’s a genuine desire and motivation to work.”

Prior to going on stage for a panel discussion about getting out of prison and trying to reenter society, Mortley said he has been in and out of prison since 1988 because of criminal activity mostly fueled by substance abuse. He said his biggest fear, even now after he has already gotten a job, is that someone will throw out a job application because he is a former offender.

“I still fear that question,” Mortley said prior to taking the stage. “It’s a stigmatization that can run you back to jail.”

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Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 in Activism | 0 comments

WORK OVER PRISON: ILLINOIS SHOULD EXPAND RECORD SEALING

WORK OVER PRISON: ILLINOIS SHOULD EXPAND RECORD SEALING

Research shows that recidivism rates drop for ex-offenders who are able to find steady employment.More than 90 percent of employers in the U.S. conduct criminal background checks for some applicants, and more than 70 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks for all job applicants, according to a 2012 study from the National Consumer Law Center.

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