Thursday, February 22, 2018

Positive Youth Development

U.S. Secret Service Report on School Shootings

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS, February 22, 2018, Virtual – The United States Secret Service, an agency whose duties include protecting the President of the United States, might have shared with their protectee yesterday a few lessons learned about school shootings. 

In June 1999, following the attack at Columbine High School, the agency collaborated with the U.S. Department of Education on an effort to answer questions about school safety. The result was an extensive examination of 37 incidents of targeted school shootings that generated The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative.

A United States Secret Service study concluded that schools were placing false hope in physical security, when they should be paying more attention to the pre-attack behaviors of students. Zero-tolerance policies and metal detectors "are unlikely to be helpful," the Secret Service researchers found.

The researchers focused on questions concerning the reliance on SWAT teams when most attacks are over before police arrive, profiling of students who show warning signs in the absence of a definitive profile, expulsion of students for minor infractions when expulsion is the spark that push some to return to school with a gun, buying software not based on school shooting studies to evaluate threats although killers rarely make direct threats, and reliance on metal detectors and police officers in schools when shooters often make no effort to conceal their weapons.

Program officers from YouthUSA, engaged in listening sessions hosted by then U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige.   In May 2002, government published findings centered around the “playas” while ignoring “the game.” 

School safety for protectees in #OneNationUnderGod” requires common vision calling for shared values among #WeThePeople.   Closer examination of the Columbine incident reveals evidence that at least one of the attackers questioned victims about their belief in God.  Examination into more recent attacks in Connecticut and Florida apparently drive home some realities about mental health, gun control and education reform.   

#WeThePeople are missing something, and what we are missing is costing lives.

"The challenges we face today, especially those that face our children, require something of all of us -- parents, religious and community groups, business, labor organizations, schools, teachers, our great national civic and service organizations, every citizen, stated The President of the United States.  Together with other living presidents, President Clinton, on January 24, 1997, set a goal to mobilize America's citizen power in a united effort to solve our common problems, especially those that threaten our young people."

In context, it’s taken two decades and yet another 17 lost lives to measurably engage #WeThePeople in life-saving citizen service.  Comments and activism by survivors of the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida reflect inherited values from the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient for whom the school is named.  The difference in these survivors is a lineage of evidence-based activism that’s not likely to diminish after #GraduationDay.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998) was an American journalist, author, women's suffrage advocate, and conservationist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to #DrainTheSwamp and reclaim land for development.

Moving to Miami as a young woman to work for The Miami Herald, she exercised a right to #FreeSpeech as a freelance writer, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines. Her most influential work was the book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp. Its impact has been compared to that of Rachel Carson's influential book Silent Spring (1962). Her books, stories, and journalism career brought her influence in Miami, enabling her to advance her causes.

As a young woman Douglas was outspoken and politically conscious of the women's suffrage and civil rights movements. She was called upon to take a central role in the protection of the Everglades when she was 79 years old. For the remaining 29 years of her life she was "a relentless reporter and fearless crusader" for the natural preservation and restoration of South Florida.  Her tireless efforts earned her several variations of the nickname "Grande Dame of the Everglades" as well as the hostility of agricultural and business interests looking to benefit from land development in Florida. She received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was inducted into several halls of fame.

Douglas lived to 108, working until nearly the end of her life for Everglades restoration. Upon her death, an obituary in The Independent in London stated, "In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures than Marjory Stoneman Douglas."

Perpetuating the spirit of their community elders is both a right and responsibility of students in Florida and across the country, challenging the status quo about where they live and learn.  Back in the 20th Century industrial age, student achievement was, at times, measured by butts in the seats when attendance was taken.  In the 21st Century, “school” is less the noun (place) and more a verb (process) through which habits for life-long learning are 2-B shaped. 

School can become that safe place envisioned by conveners of the first and last Presidents’ Summit For America’s Future.  It will require a change in individual and collective actions and attitudes.   It is a goal, well within the reach of #OneNationUnderGod.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

HBCUs Can #TakeAKnee For Puerto Rico

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS September 28, 2017, Virtual -- After taking a knee in prayer, one historically disadvantaged American got up with a revelation. Puerto Rico needs an angel!  Or, at the very least, some enterprising neighbors thinking like angels.

Television reporters use satellite phones for emergency communication, connecting citizens on the mainland with survivors in Puerto Rico.  If anything is to be learned from this year’s unprecedented disasters, it’s a lesson in healing, feeding, housing, learning, earning, living and giving.  “Carrying out the spirit of the original Free African Society” means equipping boots-on-the-ground forces with methods and means to do whatever God needs you to do—individually and collectively.

A few years back, YouthUSA's program team investigated diverse methods for deploying wireless telecommunication.  We already knew about technologies for military use—some classified.   We reached out to presidents and or institutional advancement departments in 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities with a vision of America’s future from an historically disadvantaged perspective. 

In 2002, we explored methods and means for engaging HBCU students in Small Business Technology Transfer Research through a newly established federal agency called Department of Homeland Security.

One of the technologies we had hoped to explore offered an alternative to land-based WiFi towers, which we now know might be blown down if the wind is strong enough.

Rapid deployment of HALO might have addressed an immediate communications void even for a remote Caribbean island.  Broadband wireless millimeter wavelength services provided from a High Altitude Long Operation (HALO™) Aircraft are now feasible. HALO emphasized the conceptual design of a "bandwidth-on-demand" wireless network whose data rates to and from the subscriber will measure in the multi-megabit per second range. A variety of metropolitan area spectrum bands offer the needed bandwidth. An attractive choice was the LMDS band near 28 GHz.

Can it work?  Well, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE when you believe “I can achieve whatever I believe I can achieve.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Standing For Those Who Serve

Eric Stradford, United States Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS, September 27, 2017, America -- Up to now, I’ve held my thoughts on a national conversation about honor and discipline. That was before reading a post by a military family member seeking to reconcile reality between civilian and military duty.  Mine was a pre-stated position that YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH.

Throughout history, Americans have exercised their right to free speech, often ill-informed as to how their actions might impact the life and liberty of their fellow citizens in service.

You might recall the movie, A Few Good Men.  Two U.S. Marines were on trial for the murder of Willie Santiago, and a “lesser charge” of conduct unbecoming a United States Marine.  The defendants were found guilty of Article 134, a "catch-all" for many offenses that are not covered by other specific articles of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

According to sources, these other offenses, including their elements and punishments, are spelled out in Part IV, Punitive Articles (Paragraphs 60-113) of the Manual for Courts-Martial. They vary from kidnapping (para. 92) to disloyal statements (para. 72).  As a consequence, the defendants were dishonorably discharged.

From the perspective of those who hold honor on behalf of others who die defending your rights, let’s have a real conversation about the true cost of citizenship.  Military folks do not have the luxury of debating your right to disrespect those empowered to lead.  By our own actions or inaction, #WeThePeople subject our military to stand in the midst of conflict and crisis. We share a responsibility to educate America’sFuture about the importance of history, honor and national standards. 

A professional athlete and any citizen may take a knee without consequence to themselves.  But your military family member, who swears to uphold your right to free speech, cannot legally partake in civil action that conflicts with a leader's perception of good order and discipline.  The conversation is not about a flag, but a chain of command.  It’s about the Americans, ordered to stand, salute, and if necessary, sacrifice life and or limbs defending the rights embodied by a symbol.

If you can wrap your head around the Star Spangled Banner, a.k.a. The National Anthem, a song about a flag, the only words that really matter is that rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the darkest moments that "the flag was still there."  
One Supreme Court opinion recognized limitations to the First Amendment’s broad reach that affect the legitimacy of the military’s requirement to display respect to the national colors.   When discussing the role and function of symbols of the state, the Court opined that some gestures of respect were “appropriate,” specifically citing the salute as an example.

Further, in concluding that no circumstances were present justifying an exception to the protections of the First Amendment in Barnette , the Court recognized that such an exception may exist in the military context.  As the Court noted, “The Nation may raise armies and compel citizens to give military service . . . . [I]t follows, of course, that those subject to military discipline are under many duties and may not claim many freedoms that we hold inviolable as to those in civilian life.”

The conversation is perplexing for those sworn to defend you, and your constitutional rights.  On their behalf, we only ask that you consider our contractual commitment to honorable service. 

Friday, July 7, 2017


It’s Economic Empowerment Day --“We’re here to cash a check!”

Students at Chicago's Ariel Community Academy are breaking an historic cycle by learning to earn.

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS, July 8, 2017, Atlanta – It’s Black Economic Empowerment Day in Georgia, a moment to reflect on past efforts and chart an inclusive course toward the future for historically disadvantaged Americans.  Here and across the United States, new models for economic inclusion are emerging to make business as usual a practice of the past.

Cynthia Day, President and CEO, is the first woman to hold the post and the chief steward for the publicly traded Citizens Bancshares Corp (CZBS).  Day follows a lineage dating back to its founder Heman Perry and it’s first president Henry C. Dugas.   Perry and four other partners (collectively known as the"Fervent Five") formed Citizens Trust Bank after Perry attempted to be fitted for a pair of socks at a white-owned store and was refused.

The birth of Citizens Trust Bank on August 16, 1921 signaled an audacity of hope after some 300 African Americans lost life and livelihood in Tulsa, OK on Black Wall Street just months earlier. 

Youth Achievers USA Institute, a 501c3 public charity is banking on the shared history of financial institutions such as Atlanta’s Citizens Trust and Chicago’s Ariel Investments to join forces in building on the future by restoring generations of trust.

In Atlanta, students learn to make wise financial decisions with Financial Independence Training.  The program includes practical lessons on the importance of saving, even small amounts, regularly by budgeting as a means of achieving financial goals; basic investments; and how to navigate electronic banking, including ATMs, debit/check cards, chip-enabled cards, online banking, online bill paying, mobile banking, and mobile text banking correctly and safely.

Ariel Community Academy (ACA), a public school located on the south side of Chicago, offers classes from kindergarten through eighth grade serving 518 students and their families. Ninety-eight percent of the student body is African-American and over 85 percent of the students receive subsidized lunches. ACA promotes a model community school — where the doors are always open; where teachers, parents and members of the community work in partnership to provide world-class educational opportunities and where financial literacy is not just taught but practiced.

Youth Achievers USA Institute hopes to engage youth in Atlanta, Chicago and other markets as economic beneficiaries to a financial trust maintained at Ariel Investments and accessed through partnering financial institutions. Free on-line FDIC Money Smart Financial Literacy promotes LEARN-2-EARN opportunities where emerging entrepreneurs engage caring adults as equity stakeholders in the “whole village.”

Enterprises such as Citizens Trust have served African-American communities for the past 125 years. The crucial role these banks play in the economy is evidenced by their sustained presence. Community development banks have 67 percent of all their branches in economically disadvantaged communities, compared to 17 percent for the overall banking sector. More than that, nearly $46 of every $100 that community development banks lend goes to borrowers in economically distressed communities, compared to about 16 percent for the overall banking industry, according to information collected under the Federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

Opening a savings and checking account may very well require perseverance as well as purse.  A confident and seemingly competent Aina Ince met an optimistic Stephanie A. Stradford at the Cascade Avenue Branch of Citizens Trust Bank.  Mrs. Stradford, CEO of YouthUSA, was there in support of a “Bank-In” launched by members of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc. in partnership with other community leaders and organizations.

Stradford first landed in Atlanta back in 1998 as Generation Xers and Millennials called for a “God-Centered” Million Youth Movement.   Twenty years after she first presented Money-n-the-Bank in Georgia, the Chief Executive Officer for Youth Achievers USA Institute, found herself at destiny’s doorstep, challenged by remnant factions of a “Beloved Community” to “cash a check.”  Stradford meets with clergy and community leaders throughout the six state Atlanta Federal Reserve Region, sharing insights on helping American youth from low income families be less poor.

Community leaders connecting through Greenlight Think Tank and similar initiatives are constantly reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s thought-provoking title, “Where do we go from here?  The National Urban League, for the last 41 years has published one of the most highly-anticipated benchmarks and sources for thought leadership around racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation.

The State of Black America® includes the National Equality Index™, a quantitative tool for tracking racial equality in America.  Now in its 13th edition of the Black-White Index, the report is in its eighth edition of the Hispanic-White Index.  However, one truth remains about economic equality.  It begins with intentional community engagement that results in increased Money-n-the-Bank.