Thursday, March 19, 2015

Positive Youth Development

YouthUSA’s Vision of the Future

“Yesterday was a set-up”

By Eric Stradford and Stephanie A. Walker Stradford

AMWS, March 19, 2015, Atlanta –   Poverty, not ISIL, al qaeda, or boko haram, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being.  Citizens, speaking out against violence in their call for justice, will need to prepare young Americans to speak intelligently about their evolving rolls in a majority-minority America. 

Youth Achievers USA Institute, a national 501c3 public charity this week rolled out its alternative vision of the future for the nation’s poor.  A 10-year strategic plan calls on winners from 1996 to 2015 to share their stories about growing up in America.  Since 1996, the organization’s leaders have invested time and money towards achieving that “more perfect union” envisioned in the U.S. Constitution. 

Planning for a 2016 “I’m A Winner Dinner” and “Money-n-the-Bank” Summit invites beneficiaries and caring adult stakeholders to partner on policy and budgets in support of ongoing economic programs.  Every applicant to THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS wins a chance to win.  As a YouthUSA beneficiary, with all rights and responsibilities, a child’s vision of his own future is valued in seven categories as Money-n-the-Bank.  To enter, an American citizen, assisted by a caring adult:

a) turns on a computer,
b) opens a web browser at, and
c) completes the on-line application.

The organization is calling on caring adults to help local youth positively impact their own economic futures. A CALL FOR CONTRACTORS establishes leadership in an economic conversation that includes low income Americans.   A recent visit with wealth management advisors at PNC Bank offered insight on why poor people stay poor as rich people retain wealth and become even richer. 

“It is as simple as this,” said Hyman Bookbinder.   “The poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate.”  That was fifty years ago as President Johnson declared War on Poverty.    In March 2014, as Chairman of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan released his "The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later" report, asserting that some 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans have not provided the relief intended and that there is little evidence that these efforts have been successful.

A study published in Forbes Magazine concludes that the rich became permanently richer and the poor permanently poorer from 1987 to 2009.  Five economists, including one from the U.S. Treasury and two from the Federal Reserve, used data from nearly 34,000 working age households’ 1040s, W-2s and Social Security records to figure out out how much of the much discussed rise in income inequality in the U.S. might simply reflect more volatility in earnings, with families having good and bad years.  Their unhappy conclusion: almost all of the rise in inequality is life-long.
More recently, Forbes examined state tax and inheritance laws that may unconstitutionally impede community reinvestment to benefit low income citizens. What happens to your Money-n-the-Bank when you die, can be impacted by where and how you live, learn, work and or worship.  The report, “Where Not To Die In 2014: The Changing Wealth Tax Landscape,” highlights a problem that is exacerbated by wealth management laws.     

According to the projections by the U.S. Census Bureau., the population age 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060, from 43.1 million to 92.0 million. The older population would represent just over one in five U.S. residents by the end of the period, up from one in seven today. The increase in the number of the “oldest old” would be even more dramatic — those 85 and older are projected to more than triple from 5.9 million to 18.2 million, reaching 4.3 percent of the total population.

Even though Americans are expected to live longer, people will die.  When they do, particularly elders in the 21st Century Whole Village, a beneficiary must be ready, willing and able to inherit values as well as the monetary value of an inheritance.  If you happen to be a young American between age 7 and 24, chances are you think more about your wants than your needs, and more about your needs than those of the caring adults responsible for your “positive youth development.”  Learning can be as limited as a report card grade and as comprehensive as pursuing lifelong LEARN-2-EARN goals.   Building on your own leadership strengths, might happen by following the crowed, but banking on your future will ultimately be measured by your Money-n-the-Bank. 

Youth Achievers USA Institute and 12 federal agencies of the U.S. Government define “Positive Youth Development” as an intentional, pro-social approach that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances youths' strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths.

Children under 18 years represent 23 percent of the population, but they comprise 33 percent of all people in poverty.   Among all children, 44 percent live in low-income families and approximately one in every five (22 percent) live in poor families. Being a child in a low-income or poor family does not happen by chance. Parental education and employment, race/ethnicity, and other factors are associated with children experiencing economic insecurity.

By 2020, the race card that’s been ignored for too long by too many will become less relevant in conversations on equal rights and responsibilities.   The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043. While the non-Hispanic white population will remain the largest single group, no group will make up a majority.

All in all, the folks categorized as “minorities,” now 37 percent of the U.S. population, are projected to comprise 57 percent of the population in 2060. (Minorities consist of all but the single-race, non-Hispanic white population.) The total “minority” population would more than double, from 116.2 million to 241.3 million over the period.

The new and emerging argument for equal opportunity considers rights as well as responsibilities of a citizen.  The habit of responding “smh” to established logic will need to be replaced with progressive and inclusive process.

Asset-based community development (ABCD) is one approach considered for YouthUSA Corporate Leadership discussions.  ABCD differs from needs-based community development in that it focuses primarily on honing and leveraging existing strengths within a community rather than bolstering community deficiencies. Related to tenets of empowerment, it postulates that solutions to community problems already exist within a community’s assets.  Principles that guide ABCD include:

1. Everyone has gifts: each person in a community has something to contribute
2. Relationships build a community: people must be connected in order for sustainable community development to take place
3. Citizens at the center: citizens should be viewed as actors—not recipients—in development
4. Leaders involve others: community development is strongest when it involves a broad base of community action
5. People care: challenge notions of "apathy" by listening to people's interests
7. Listen: decisions should come from conversations where people are heard
8. Ask: asking for ideas is more sustainable than giving solutions

Monday, November 3, 2014

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

MBK Organizers to invest in “servant” leadership

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS -- Philadelphia, PA, November 3, 2014 – Community investors for President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Challenge are in Philadelphia this week. They are looking for opportunities to invest in youth -- and, they’ve started their search among remnant beneficiaries of the historic Free African Society. This year, the President of the United States has challenged American communities to “ensure all youth remain safe from violent crime” as one of six focus areas for My Brother’s Keeper communities.

Historically, The Free African Society has existed in the United States in various forms since 18th Century Colonial America. Organizers for a Historic Black Church commemorative event have embraced this focus area as a foundation for positive youth development. On Saturday, November 15, 2014, Youth Achievers USA Institute, a national 501c3 public charity will co-sponsor a Youth Leadership Forum for youth and caring adults commonly committed to “carrying out the spirit of the original Free African Society.” A $500 community organizing grant will be awarded to youth leaders who are ready, willing and able to be “My Brother’s Keeper.”

The Youth Leadership Forum identifies local and national efforts aimed at ENSURING ALL youth remain safe from violent crime. Online tools and social media are being used for ENGAGING ALL youth in developing their leadership strengths and INVESTING in youth, ages 7-24, as economic beneficiaries. My Brother’s Keeper Community Organizers are inviting youth and caring adults to share a legacy of values as heirs to the historic Free African Society.

Each year, YouthUSA sponsors THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS, a capacity building program that qualifies youth ages 7-24 as economic beneficiaries. To win, enterprising youth will present written goals in seven key areas known as “Money-n-the-Bank.” A free downloadable worksheet and on-line application is available at

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, November 15, 2014 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Tindley Temple United Methodist Church
750-762 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146


Thursday, April 3, 2014

YouthUSA Beneficiaries Learn-2-Earn at Civic Events

By Stephanie A. Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford, USMC Retired


AMWS, April 4, 2014, Marietta, GA -- National Learn-2-Earn partners will be on hand at Marietta Square this Saturday to invest in local youth beneficiaries. Any beneficiary or 2014 applicant to THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS qualifies for “Dollar$hip” investment from Youth Achievers USA Institute. YouthUSA awards Dollar$hips to promote economic opportunity for the “whole village.”

Award winning journalist, author and minister the Rev. Dr. Barbara Ann Reynolds and a host of Cobb County faith and civic leaders will take the stage to “Promote the Peace” at Marietta Square beginning at 9 a.m. The rally raises community awareness on domestic abuse of women and children.

The Covenant Keepers Men’s Ministry of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church is hosting the event. Organizers promote “strong spirituality to lift the mental state-of-mind of individuals” prone to acts of violence at home, as well as those in the area’s younger population engaged in bullying. “Whether it’s faith, social justice or economics, history has shown us that those who are negatively affected the most, are the ones who have to come forward and take a stand,” said Zane Watkins, a minister at Pleasant Grove. “The men of Pleasant Grove are stepping forward to leading that charge.”

Dr. H. Ben Williams, President of the Cobb County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference will join Ann Harris, Cobb County Senior Assistant District Attorney, and representatives from the YWCA, Cobb County Sheriffs and other social services and law enforcement agencies at the rally. Williams works through diverse community coalitions to demonstrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s vision of “The Beloved Community.”

Dr. King was assassinated 46 years ago today.

On Thursday, April 17, the local SCLC chapter will follow-up on the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PEACE RALLY with THE GRAVES SOCIAL JUSTICE SEMINARS, a series of interactive discussions on meeting local needs.

Youth Achievers USA Institute engages youth as economic beneficiaries. The national 501c3 public charity supports ongoing awareness of economic security concerns through The King Center’s #ChooseNonviolence campaign and The President’s #MyBrothersKeeper Initiative. YouthUSA has partnered with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to develop HEALING strategies as one of seven actions of 21st Century Southern Christian Leadership.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Getting Educators To Do The Math

Lucia McBath (aka Jordan Davis’ mom) joined a panel of presenters and scoped a national security threat. “I used to say to him: Jordan, you know, you’re just going to have to turn the other cheek, or what have you, because people nowadays will shoot you.”


By Stephanie A. Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford, USMC Retired

AMWS, March 30, 2014, Atlanta – The White House added fuel to fire for The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. Morehouse College co-hosted a two-day Summit on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The event headlined experts from the field, tweeters and streamers in the cloud, and even actors (Hosea Chanchez and Wendy Raquel Robinson) from The Game. A fortunate few even got close and personal with Usher’s New Look—making an impression, making a difference while maintaining a low profile.

Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. summed up the event proclaiming Morehouse a “national epicenter” for addressing threats to historically disadvantaged American males. “At Morehouse, we stand for scholarship, service, and spirituality. We stand for excellence in all things that we do,” said Wilson.

The Morehouse Research Institute on the African American Male facilitated an event that was heavy on psychology but weak in math and science. They headlined Michael Skolnik, who describes himself as a 21st century civil rights leader. The Political Director to hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is also President of Michael and Russell focus their work around three core themes: violence, poverty and ignorance.


Skolnick crunched some numbers that may have aroused the institute’s interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). But common logic for reframing conversations at Morehouse may come from the campus library. Young scholars, basing doctoral dissertations on the works of fellow Morehouse man, Martin Luther King, Jr., may indeed claim added value. However, they will need to do the math.

One quote from Dr. King’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here: CHAOS OR COMMUNITY” grazed the surface some 50 years ago. “The poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate,” said Hyman Bookbinder, U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. Dr. King warned that “No great victories are won in a war for the transformation of a whole people without total participation.”

No panelist or participant added more value to the conversation than Lucia McBath. The mother of murdered teenager Jordan Davis is adding value to a vision of her son’s future by helping others find value in their black sons’ lives. When viewed through the lens of an African American mother, no tool can quantify the devaluation of a child’s life. However, McBath offered one key factor. She said simply, “Jordan had value.”

The mathematical formula for countering Cradle-To-Prison Pipeline, Stand Your Ground, Voter Disenfranchisement and economic exclusion stems from the biblically-based question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” What might seem to be a logical response has been historically diluted by diverse agendas, compounded by complex lexicon, and delayed by simply denying its impact on national security.

The answer is “yes,” I am my brother’s keeper and the alternative can be devastating. For those Americans who choose CHAOS over COMMUNITY, the African American is hardly the threat to fear. You choose chaos, fear their God. It will rain and you will need a boat. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long (about 450 feet or 135 meters), fifty cubits wide (75 feet or 23 meters).

An economic capacity-building process developed by Youth Achievers USA Institute supports an affirmative choice for COMMUNITY. It values American citizens age 7-24 for their written goals in seven key areas of human development. Each seven-part vision of the future, compounded by a whole village of 20 caring adults quantifies a grassroots community reinvestment asset. The future asset can be measured by a minimum Money-n-the-Bank financial goal.

“Where do we go from here” starts with a realistic assessment of where we are. Once experts, scholars and politicians agree on what’s wrong, the rest of us can get on board to do our part. History supports a hypothesis that an African American life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is less than equal (<=) to that of a Euro-American.


This was hardly the intent of some good folks who got together on some Articles of Confederation. They later agreed on a common vision for America’s future. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Depending on the facts one chooses to believe, from John Hanson to Barack Obama, much of the American experience depends on measurable outcomes for the free Africans born here. Faced with Jim Crow segregation a short fifty years ago, We The People replaced Negro issues of that time by developing minority public policy. Today, an $18 trillion national debt shouldered by African American Barack Obama, presents another quantifiable factor for mathematical reasoning. Divide it by 300 million citizens and any math major worth his or her weight can come up with equal shares of about $60,000 per citizen.

President Obama’s vision of America’s future must build on progress to realize the nation’s full potential. A fully paid for Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative might be a good measure for where we are. The President’s $56 billion budget will add to the $18 trillion national debt, which offers some mathematically measurable point of where we go from here. We’ll also need to factor in George W. Bush’s bailout of the financial industry. The 2008 TARP program originally authorized expenditures of $700 billion. But, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act reduced the amount authorized to $475 billion.

In this case, the math supports a 395 year timeline where a black man’s value is less than fellow humans. Depending on whose keeping the books, President Obama may have saved taxpayers $225 billion from the original $700 billion authorized by his predecessor in the 2008 T.A.R.P. That $225 billion should more than enough to cover the $56 billion requested in the 2015 budget.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Soul-searching historically disadvantaged America

By Stephanie A. Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford, USMC Retired

AMWS, March 29, 2014, Atlanta – President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis this week. A conversation lasting just under an hour perhaps addressed some of the most critical issues of our times. "I would say that the largest bulk of the time was discussing two central concerns of his," said the President. "One is the issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity, and growing inequality.”

Now, 2.1 billion Christians worldwide need to be very specific about their prayers.  About 13% of the U.S. population is weighing other folks’ needs against historically unmet needs of their own. The United States Department of Education is at Morehouse College this weekend. Government hopes to engage citizens in some national soul searching. The question of the day has been asked and answered since the genesis of humankind. “Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?

Unconfirmed reports that Southern Christian Leadership National President Charles Steele also visited the Vatican this week, feeds theories that helping the least among us is front and center on the world stage. Steele’s travels across the U.S. and around the world draw attention to the reality of historically disadvantaged Americans. In a nutshell, if an African American is counted as a “minority” in the United States, that equates to less than and not equal.

As the President heads home, his 2015 budget is headed for a Congress that has yet to connect with Our Street, USA or embrace the reality, “Yes! I am my brother’s keeper.” The president’s proposed budget funds a $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, split evenly between defense and non-defense priorities. Meanwhile, America’s national debt clock is ticking from $17.5 towards $18 trillion.

When you consider the total U.S. population, estimated at 300 million, the national debt is about $60,000 per citizen. “My Brother’s Keeper” as evidence-based intervention might simply leverage a fair share of the national debt against historically unmet needs to equip all Americans as equal partners. “A half century after the fall of segregation, America has yet to fulfill Dr. King’s dream of a beloved community,” said H. Benjamin Williams, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Williams has been working with local, regional and national partners on a “boots-on-the-ground” economic security intervention. The National Learn-2-Earn Partnership specifically identifies seven key areas of human need to include giving through grassroots community reinvestment.

“A holistic approach to addressing historic threats to African American families begins with healing,” said Williams. Quoting a passage from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last book, Where Do We Go From Here: CHAOS OR COMMUNITY, Williams reiterated, “The poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate.”

In case you are really interested is understanding the problem, the data has always been there. “Boys and young men of color — regardless of where they come from — are disproportionately at risk from their youngest years through college and the early stages of their professional lives,” according to the Obama Administration.

By the time they hit fourth grade, 86 percent of African American boys and 82 percent Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels — compared to 54 percent of white fourth graders reading below proficiency levels. African American and Hispanic young men are more than six times more likely to be murder victims than their white peers — and account for almost half of the country's murder victims each year.

Each casualty counts in America’s longest running war.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America” on January 8, 1964, and within a few years oversaw the creation of an array of programs “aimed not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”

In the 1964 Economic Report of the President, President Johnson’s Council of Economic Advisers outlined the many key points of attack: “maintaining high employment, accelerating economic growth, fighting discrimination, improving regional economies, rehabilitating urban and rural communities, improving labor markets, expanding educational opportunities, enlarging job opportunities for youth, improving the Nation’s health, promoting adult education and training, and assisting the aged and disabled.”

The report ended with the declaration that, “It is time to renew our faith in the worth and capacity of all human beings; to recognize that, whatever their past history or present condition, all kinds of Americans can contribute to their country; and to allow Government to assume its responsibility for action and leadership in promoting the general welfare.”

It’s been 50 years since the Presidency committed itself to a War On Poverty. The White House today hopes to chart a course from CHAOS to COMMUNITY with, “A Roadmap for Growth, Opportunity, and Fiscal responsibility.” The President’s 2015 Budget offers a roadmap for accelerating economic growth, expanding opportunity for all Americans, and ensuring fiscal responsibility. It invests in infrastructure, job training, preschool, and pro-work tax cuts, while reducing deficits through health, tax, and immigration reform.

Recently, the President launched “My Brother’s Keeper” – a new initiative to help every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead. It establishes an interagency task force to evaluate what public and private efforts are already working, how to expand upon what works, and how the Federal Government’s own policies and programs can better support these efforts. The My Brother’s Keeper initiative aims to leverage participation from philanthropies, the business community, and elected officials to support this cross-sector effort.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fight For The Right To Vote

Common Vision for potentates and poor folk

The Ukrainian Self Reliance Federal Credit Union, a low income designated financial institution reports $263,604,142 in assets and 9,226 members sharing “multiple common bond.” Financial institutions in Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Warren, MI, and Wethersfield, CT all share the Ukrainian Self Reliance FCU brand. AMWS Photo


By Stephanie A. Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford, USMC Retired

AMWS, March 17, 2014, Philadelphia, PA – In a tale of three-legged critters, horse sense perhaps distinguishes the well-schooled horse and the stubborn mule. The right to vote, demonstrated yesterday in the Republic of Crimea, presents cause for introspection on where Ukraine has been and where it goes from here.

21st Century Youth Leaders on a bus from Selma, Alabama last week, traveled to their nation’s capital with a similar question. They came for understanding about their rights as citizens. At the end of their journey to the nation’s Capitol, they left for home with shared purpose; “to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.” The lesson from Selma’s youth is defined as “Kujichagulia” or self-determination. It is one of seven principles of African Heritage known as Nguzu Saba.

Youth Achievers USA Institute (YouthUSA), a national 501c3 public charity, has been hoping for the miracle to help historically disadvantaged Americans tap into their own heritage, their rights and responsibilities as full citizens. Here and across the U.S., informed philanthropists are lining up to help others help themselves. Their investments in faith, family values, and self improvement are making an impression while making a difference through The J.D. and Laurena Walker Fund of YouthUSA.

A Ukrainian-American presence in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and other urban metro areas offers evidence that Ukrainian Americans picked up a ball dropped by less enterprising Americans shortly after Selma “shook the conscience of the nation.” For these Americans, Self-Reliance is not just a principle; it’s an evidence-based brand, measured by Money-n-the-Bank. A little over 9,000 Ukrainian-American’s have amassed $263 million USD in the Ukrainian Self-Reliance Federal Credit Union of Philadelphia. PA.

The America, born here by rebellious subjects a short 238 years ago, shook loose from shackles of tyranny with a message to King George’s England. “Don’t Tread On Me” was among the first forgotten calls for freedom as citizens sidestepped common vision to “form a more perfect union.”

The right to vote in the United States, granted originally to white men only, perpetuated a system where potentates rule over poor folks. Ukrainians, fighting for a chance to be whole again, can perhaps teach America more than we’re ready to learn about voting rights, constitutional government, potentate policy and poor folk resilience.

Although human settlement in Ukraine and its vicinity dates back to 32,000 BC, the territory was first inhabited some 44,000 years ago. The country is credited with the domestication of the horse and for the origins of the Indo-European language.

clip_image003In the United States, the 113th Congress, one of three branches of constitutional government, might be characterized as a three-legged mule kicking itself. The Democratic Party, once symbolized by a kicking mule, evolved from the Jeffersonian Republican or Democratic-Republican Party organized by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in opposition to the Federalist party of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. The party favored republicanism, a weak federal government, states' rights, agrarian interests (especially Southern planters) and strict adherence to the Constitution. The party opposed a national bank, close ties to Great Britain, and business and banking interests. The Party came to power in the election of 1800 AD.

On February 3, 1870 AD, elected potentates ratified the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The change in public policy followed a Civil War, a presidential proclamation, assassination, and a worn-out Confederacy that was just sick and tired of being beat up. The amendment granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

The promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to unlawfully disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South could register to vote. It took only half a century for the United States Supreme Court to demonstrate behavior from under black robes that oppressors had inflicted from under white sheets.

Today’s Crimea became part of independent Ukraine with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine and is governed by the Constitution of Crimea in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. The citizens of Crimea are 58.32% Russian, 24.32% Ukrainian, and 12.10% Crimean Tatars.